Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Grace Potter Concert Experience

When I decide to write about a show, it's about the experience. It's not a review. I bought the ticket because I like the artist. I don't feel compelled to expound on every show I see. This one was special.

I'm also very aware that I hear music differently from most people and don't experience shows like others. I have a few happy places in my life, but nothing brings me joy like a great concert.

Devon Gilfillian opened. Dude can sing. Opened the show with the song he should have closed with, in my opinion. Was good, but some was not really my to my liking.

Then Grace Potter took the stage and the only time I stopped smiling was when she made us all cry.

A little backstory. Grace Potter had effectively decided not to do music anymore after the dissolution of her band, the Nocturnals, her divorce, and ill-fated solo album Midnight. Then she got remarried, had a kid and got the music jones again, much to our benefit. What came of that was her latest album Daylight and subsequent tour. And we should all be grateful.

Grace gave us a healthy dose of songs from the new album, hit all the high notes of her catalog with the Nocturnals along with a couple of covers. She sounded fantastic, her band was great and the cover of Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind" as a duet with the aforementioned Devon Gilfillian was superb.

She was very personable, engaging with the audience and going off script (i.e. changing the set list on the fly). She went with the flow. One off script moment, she told the band to GTFOH while she did a solo acoustic song. The tables were turned later.

I've been to a lot of shows. This one was top five. It was that good. 90% of that was Grace Potter and her band, but the crowd was awesome as well. In recent memory, this was the least cell-phoned show I've been to. Everybody was there for the artist and into the music. Sure, everybody got their pic or video, but it wasn't constant.

Speaking of the crowd, off script and going with the flow, three songs were played for the encore. After they finished those three, they did their bows, etc. The crowd was going nuts. Grace mouthed "Wow". The band huddled up, apparently deciding what other song they should do. The band decided they were going to GTFOH and left Grace to do a solo. She said that this was going to be great or the band was going to be fired.

Apparently the band talked her into doing "Release" solo. As she was introducing it she told a story about how it came to be. She was listening, in the bath, to Dolly Parton's version of "I Will Always Love You" and thought she needed a song like that. (Before anyone cries blasphemy, she was not comparing quality, just content, and admitted that this ain't no Dolly song.) She cried. We all cried when she sang it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Favorite Albums from April 2019

OK, I think I like this format of posting what I've been listening to over the past month. So, we'll see how this goes.

There was a lot of good stuff to come out in April, but these three albums really stuck with me.

First up is Rod Melancon's Pinkville. It's at times manic, laid back, country, rock, punk and uncatergorizical (I may have made that word up). Melancon has a unique voice that one could either love or hate. A few times, there is more narrative telling than singing, but it works. The closest comp I can come up with is John Mellencamp deep tracks. Here is "Westgate":

I've been a Melissa Etheridge fan since her first self-titled album came out in 1988. Her latest release, The Medicine Show, may be my favorite since that debut. For this listener, this album seems to recapture the feel of her first two albums. It's not as raw as those first two, but for whatever reason, the edge is back.

The third album is the self-titled debut from Jade Bird. This was not even on my radar until my fellow blogger Megan clued me in. And I'm so glad she did. The 21-year-old singer/songwriter from the UK weaves together a perfect amalgam of country, roots rock, folk and young angst. Think of an Amanda Shires/Lucie Silvas/Alanis Morisette mashup. Yeah, it's diverse and interesting, if you're into that.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Favorite Albums At the Quarter Pole

I admit, I have not written about music for a while. Sorry folks. Life happens. I have been listening.

I'm going to reimagine this blog, maybe. Gonna try to do this monthly, but for now, this is what I've been digging for the first quarter of 2019. Bear with me. I'll try to do better.

In no particular order:

Jenny Lewis - On The Line

Admittedly, this is outside of my wheelhouse. There is not enough swamp there, but the songs are so damned good I could not include it. It's eclectic enough to keep me interested, yet never strays outside of her zone.

Here is one of my favorite songs:

Alice Wallace - Into The Blue

Alice Wallace puts the Western in Country and Western. Specifically California Western. I love that it is unapologetically California. Artists who write albums that encompasses where they're from usually comes off as very authentic. Wallace does it well on Into The Blue. "Echo Canyon" may be the best song I've heard where the music, mood and lyrics mesh so effortlessly and beautifully.

Rival Sons - Feral Roots

By far Feral Roots is the best rock album I've heard this year. I read about a new (to me) term recently: NWOCR, which stands for new wave of classic rock. Rival Sons have nailed it.  Feral Roots is an amalgam of 70s classic rock, Soundgarden and some sounds from doom metal. And it has elements of swamp.

Elles Bailey - Road I Call Home

Elles Bailey's sophomore effort, Road I Call Home, has been called blues or country or roots rock among other things. What it actually is, is a badass collection of 11 songs. Yeah, there are blues elements, country elements, rock elements, but it doesn't really matter. What matters are the songs. And the songs are there in spades.

Adia Victoria - Silences

Adia wants to characterize this album as a blues album. OK. It's not what I think of when I think blues. To my ears it's more in line with the weird, trippy, uncategorical vibes of Kate Vargas. And that's a good thing. I'm a music first guy, if you're music isn't interesting, I don't care about your message/lyrics (and those are for every individual listener to interpret). Silences is interesting and good.

Vandoliers - Forever

Vandoiers debut album The Native was an almost perfect representation of their home state of Texas. They have continued that with their sophomore effort, Forever. It's a fun album and a great listen. And it has more depth than their debut.

Austin Meade - Waves

I've waffled on this album. There is nothing bad, but there is nothing that stands out. But there is enough there there to warrant inclusion. Full disclosure here, I saw him live before I ever heard anything from him. Great live. So that clouds my vision. I understand the restraints of recording. Make the best of what you can with the budget you have. I'll be interested in following his career to see what comes next.

Lauren Jenkins - No Saint

This may be my favorite album early in 2019. The songs are so well-crafted. Even the songs I don't particularly like have redeeming qualities. There's a groove or a hook that can't be denied. And that voice. It has that Stevie Nicks quality that can't be quantified, it just is. This song just resonates with me, dammit it's MY bar. This is from the EP, but you get it.

Diamond Dogs - Honked! All Over Again

OK, this is kind of cheating. This is a 25 year anniversary release to digital. In other words, this is the first time the debut album from the Diamond Dogs is available to stream. It contains some B-sides and extras, I don't know which is what since I just discovered them recently. This Swedish band, heavily influenced by Honky Tonk Woman era Rolling Stones, does it well. It's a fun listen and they seem to be self-aware. From the original album:

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Album Spotlight: Sari Schorr - Never Say Never

Sari Schorr's 2018 release Never Say Never is the kind of blues-infused hard rock that I love. Schorrr's raspy, powerful, badass vocals are definitely the star. But if you've been reading my blog at all, you know it's all about the music first.

Never Say Never reminds me most of an album that not many have heard: When The Blackbird Sings by Saraya. That is a compliment.

Schorr evokes the best of the 80s. Reminiscent of Bonnie Tyler, Stevie Nicks and bluesy hard rock, in the best way. It also has a 70s vibe to it.

Forget what you've heard about rock being dead. It's just being repackaged.

Here's a live clip of "Valentina". Enjoy.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Some Personal Stuff

For those of you that actually read this blog, thank you. And I think I owe you all an explanation.

2018, personally, has been a trying year. A couple of major life events. Some heartache and loss. I won't burden you with the details.

Due to life stuff happening, I have not been able to write as much as I would have liked. Rest assured that I have been listening to music, just not writing.

Music is healing. Music is cathartic. Music is always there when you need it. Sometimes I didn't feel like writing, but I was always listening.

I will do a year end list early after the new year. In the past I've only considered albums I've written about. This year, there is so much good stuff that I never got around to writing about, I'm not following that rule.

I also will not do it typical list style; it will come in the form as a narrative.

2018 was a good year for music. I thank you all for following along and wish I had done more writing.

Here's to a fantastic 2019.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Album Spotlight: Bri Bagwell - In My Defense

First of all, full transparency. Bri Bagwell granted me a Q&A. I've met her a couple of times. We've had exchanges on the tweeter machine. I like her. You can accuse me of bias, and that would be fair. But I also thought when I started doing Q&A's I would not write about an artists music after because of perceived bias. I've changed my stance.

In My Defense, Bagwell's latest album, is too good not to write about. She's got hooks. And more hooks.y

It's a country album from start to finish with tinges of Southern Rock sprinkled in, but it's mostly country from instrumentation to style.

It's an album that is personal and cohesive from start to finish. I know, you've heard it all before "this is my most personal album ever." In this case, it seems legitimate. Bri told me in an email that she wrote a party song, which she said she performs live, but it didn't fit the album.

That's what I mean by cohesive. How many times have you listened to an album and wondered why the hell this song was included? There's none of that here.

I usually focus on sound here, leaving the listener to interpret the lyrics in their own, however I will expound on one song this time. "Cheat On Me" is a song most people can relate to at some point in their lives. Bagwell does an excellent job of telling it from a female perspective, but it's very relatable for the dudes in the audience. I've been there.

Go buy the album. Stream it. See her live. You won't be disappointed.

A live version of my favorite song. Even with technical difficulties and bad camera work, it's good.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Album Spotlight: Jessica Meuse - Halfhearted

I've been sitting on this for a while. Why? Because, for the most part, it's a lot of the same song, thematically, over and over. And it's 15 songs long.

The theme? I'm better off without you since you treated me like garbage. The length? Nine to 11 is the sweet spot for me as far as album length, but since this was four years in the making...

I could easily dismiss Jessica Meuse's debut album Halfhearted on either of the aforementioned premises. But here's the thing: The songs are so damned good musically.

Halfhearted definitely leans Country. But not in the way one would expect. There are songs that would comfortably fit into the modern definition of Country Radio (though she has no chance, because she's a "she"). Then there are the songs that would nestle nicely into late 70s/early 80s country. That and the Southern Rock influence.

Jessica's voice is not soaring vocal gymnastics ala Carrie Underwood, but it suits the songs. Much like Stevie Nicks.

Probably not the best way to introduce an album that I really, really like. But despite what I said above, Jessica Meuse has put together a great album.

Halfhearted is diverse (and regular readers know how I love diversity), And here is the thing, I'm an album guy, and this album, you can put it on and listen to it start to finish and be satisfied. Does that sound like a ringing endorsement? Nope. But it is.

I like the album. Here are some songs. Judge for yourself.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Album Spotlight: Kate Vargas - For The Wolfish and Wandering

Kate Vargas doesn't follow any of your silly rules or conventions.

Song structure? Screw that, let the song go where the song goes. Don't clean up the string noise. Leave in the imperfections. Let the songs speak for themselves.

For The Wolfish & Wandering is a masterpiece of imperfections and genius. And we haven't even gotten to the voice. That voice.

Kate Vargas has one of the most unique voices in music today. Combine the voice with the weird, trippy songs and just enjoy.

I could write 500 words on each song, but that would be going too deep in the weeds.

Kate Vargas cannot be placed in any genre, except maybe the genre of good music. She is weird, trippy, spooky, elegant, beautiful, raw, real and current.

Here is the vid for "Affliction". Enjoy

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Album Spotlight: Amanda Shires - To the Sunset

Amanda Shires put out a damned rock album. Deal with it because To the Sunset is great.

I could go into details here, but I have something in the works. A collaboration.

Here is what I'll say now because I've heard some rumblings that producer Dave Cobb has gone outside his box to produce a rock album. Cobb produced the last two Europe albums (yes, "The Final Countdown" Europe), and he has also produced Southern rockers Whiskey Myers.

Amanda Shires, rock goddess. In the realm of Janis Joplin, Joan Jett, Stevie Nicks and Grace Slick.

Here's a vid:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

ZZ Ward Show Experience

Saw ZZ Ward on 5/18/18 in Austin at Emo's.

First of all, never miss the opening act, you never know what you might miss. Opening for ZZ Ward was the trio consisting of brothers from the UK with an American drummer called the Ruen Brothers. They were a blast.

I don't know how to exactly to describe what they did. It was kind of a rockabilly/country/California surf punk/50s/Brit pop mashup. Go figure. I'd never heard any of their songs before, as I'm sure a large percentage of the crowd had not, but they kept everyone engaged throughout their 40 minute set.

To me, that's what separates the good live entertainers from the bad; if no one knows the songs, is the crowd still engaged? They did that.

I'm a recent fan of ZZ Ward since hearing her most recent album The Storm, which I wrote about.

Ward is an exceptional performer, vocally fantastic with her unique voice, playing harmonica, guitar and keys at various points throughout the show. She transitioned smoothly between full band and acoustic, blues and beats.

I'l admit, I'm not fully versed in her full catalog, but the songs I didn't recognize had me just as engaged as the songs I was familiar with. See above, but to me, that's what makes an artist truly great in a live setting.

Ward is heavily influenced by the blues, and that is where she and her band really shined. More blues rock than straight blues, but her set was heavy in that area and the crowd (and I) really dug that.

I understand the draw to recreate the album as close as possible, but the only criticism I have of the show is the use of pre-recorded music for a few songs. She, and her band, are good enough to pull off the songs without it. It was obvious, and they didn't try to hide it. It did not take away from the enjoyment of most patrons, but as a music nerd, it bothered me. I'd rather hear a stripped down version of the song than trying to emulate the album exactly, but that's just me.

Other than that, the show was awesome. She commands the stage. Her band is fantastic. Packed in the music, not much banter, one song to the next. You get your money's worth at a ZZ Ward show.