amazing icon

Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Gregg Allman's Triumphs and Trip-Ups

In Gregg Allman‘s new autobiography, My Cross To Bear, the man who has helmed The Allman Brothers Band since their inception in 1969 reflects on the wins, losses and draws he has experienced in his four decades of rock stardom. Having Allman’s history put into this kind of historical focus provides an excellent opportunity for slightly less objective parties (ahem) to tally up the home runs and strikeouts Allman has racked up in his long reign on the Southern rock throne. Some of them are as obvious as the beard on Gregg’s mug, but a few of them just might come as news to you.

1. The Hour Glass

Allman hit the ground running with The Hour Glass, the band he formed with his guitar virtuoso brother Duane. Their first album was released before Gregg was even out of his teens, and both of the band’s records featured an appealing blend of soul and psychedelic rock, including everything from an R&B-soaked take on Carole King‘s “No Easy Way Down” to a paisley-patterned adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe‘s “The Bells” alongside original material.

(more…)

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Your Country's Right Here: John Hiatt Gives Voice to the Everyman

John Hiatt believes in miracles.

And why not? It doesn’t seem that long ago that he was just coming off weeks on the road and found that he and his wife were each at the end of their ropes, trying to cope with their long periods of separation while raising a family. Since that time, the much-lauded singer-songwriter has stayed on the road but actively works to carve out a somewhat more forgiving schedule. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, he heeds the words his wife offered at one such point.

“I came home angry and lonely and tired and [my family] had gone on with their lives,” said Hiatt. “I complained to my wife that there is no place for me in the family. She told me to make one.”

Hiatt chuckles as he relates that he did just that, though it isn’t always easy.

“It can be very hard; the reentry is tough. But we just celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in June,” said Hiatt, pausing for a few beats. “It’s a miracle.”

That sensitivity is arguably why the much-lauded Hiatt, who is a member of the prestigious Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, has created heart tugging music even before his first solo album Hangin’ Around the Observatory, was released in 1974. His true breakthrough came about a decade later with the 1987 album Bring the Family.

You may well be more familiar with Hiatt’s songs that have been covered by a host of artists than those he recorded himself. Some of these songs include “Have a Little Faith in Me,” (covered by Bon Jovi, Joe Cocker, Kenny Rogers and Jewel); “Icy Blue Heart” (covered by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris); “Memphis in the Meantime” (covered by  Gregg Allman, Sam Bush and Chris Smither); “Thing Called Love,” (covered by Bonnie Raitt); “Through Your Hands” (covered by Joan Baez, David Crosby and Don Henley)”and that’s just for starters.

(more…)

Riffs, Rants & Rumours: How 2011 Is Shaping Up So Far

Okay, so early July may not mark the precise midpoint of the year, but it’s pretty damn close, and when you factor in for time lost lolling about in summer-vacation mode on and around Independence Day weekend, hell, it’s practically still June. In other words, it’s as good a time as any for a mid-year assessment of the aural delights that 2011 has offered us up to now. By the time the rest of the year has come and gone, and a final accounting is demanded in order to determine which releases truly reigned supreme, many of these worthy offerings will be tragically sacrificed on the bloody altar of elimination’s process. Hopefully, though, a few as-yet-unexpected items will also swoop in from out of nowhere, knocking our socks off, and ascending to their own undeniable place in the 2011 pantheon of monumental musical statements. For now, here’s a quick rundown of some of the desperately needed reasons to be cheerful that presented themselves over the last six or seven months.

NEW FACES

Neville Skelly “ Poet and the Dreamer

British baritone Skelly was previously a swing-style crooner, but he has completely reinvented himself here with help from his cousins in The Coral, who play, produce and co-write what might have amounted to a secret Coral album with a different singer if not for Neville’s commanding presence and way with covers of everyone from Dion to Jackson C. Frank.

Amor de Dias “ Street of the Love of Days

The lead singers for The Clientele and Pipas put their heads together and came up with a dreamy, breezy sound that mixes the former’s hazy psych-pop tendencies with the latter’s Astrud Gilberto-fronting-Velocity Girl feel.

Foxtails Brigade “ The Bread and the Bait

Chamber-folk with poppy trappings”or is it vice-versa”that’s bound to live or die by Laura Weinbach’s quirky, artful songwriting. It lives, and then some.

Julianna Barwick “ The Magic Place

Hey, you got your ambient soundscapes in my ethereal, post-Cocteau Twins song stylings!

About Group – Start and Complete

Don’t even try telling us you expected a summit meeting between members of Hot Chip, This Heat and Springheel Jack to sound like a lost Robert Wyatt album.

SECOND TIME AROUND

Battles – Gloss Drop

Post-rock for a new generation, doing just fine after the departure of mainman Tyondai Braxton, thank you very much.

Tune-Yards “ WHOKILL

If you haven’t already found plenty of plaudits floating around for this one, you’ve probably got a spotty Internet connection or something. Believe the hype.

Burlap to Cashmere “ Burlap to Cashmere

Over a decade ago, these guys were Christian folk-rockers with a torrid touch of Gypsy Kings. Things happened. Now they’re back as shockingly subtle purveyors of Paul Simon-esque tunes with a spectral sheen.

White Fence “ Is Growing Faith

This is probably what the ˜60s would sound like inside Syd Barrett‘s head if he were still alive today.

OLD GUARD

Gregg Allman “ Low Country Blues

Who expected to end up loving a Gregg Allman album of blues covers in 2011? Hands? Anyone? Bueller?

Shriekback “ Life In The Loading Bay

All right, so technically this is a 2010 release, but come on”it came out at the ass-end of the year, on December 14”what possible chance did it have of getting the fair shake it deserved? It never even got a US release. Nevertheless, these reconstituted ˜80s new wavers have matured remarkably well, and we’re counting this as one of 2011’s most addictive items.

The Decemberists “ The King Is Dead

After all the literary inventions and Jethro Tull riffs were exhausted, who guessed that all they ever wanted was to be R.E.M.?

SONGSMITHS

Paul Simon “ So Beautiful Or So What

The man who penned the line How terribly strange to be 70 over four decades ago achieves septuagenarian status this year, and only a fool would count him out of the game now.

Richard X. Heyman “ Tiers & Other Stories

He’s been kicking around as a power-pop hero for a good long while, but he not only shows his ambitions here by tackling a double-length batch of epic orchestral-pop ballads, he justifies them, with a touch of something like genius flickering in between the lines.

Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter “ Marble Son

Ever wondered what Marianne Faithfull might sound like backed by Jerry Garcia? Neither did we, but this dusty desert rock rings some sweetly psychedelic chimes nonetheless.

Ward White “ Done With The Talking Cure

When Elvis Costello was still an enfant terrible, he brazenly declared that guilt and revenge were his main motivations. Ward White doesn’t need to broadcast such inspirations, they’re right there in songs whose expert craft stands up alongside El’s, delivered in a voice EC could only ever dream about.

Tim Robinson “ Helena’s Radio

John Prine. Greg Brown. Joe Henry. If these names mean nothing to you, go out and educate yourself immediately. Then come back and we’ll talk. If they get your ears all atremble, however, you’ll make a natural convert to the cult of this powerfully poetic Empire State balladeer.

THE POP LIFE

Peter Bjorn and John “ Gimme Some

Armed with more hooks than a Peter Pan convention, these guys set for themselves the impossible task of finding a new way to make guitar, bass, and drums percolate in an alt-pop context. Whether or not they literally succeed, the results sure do resonate.

The Crookes “ Chasing After Ghosts

These young Brits will either send your mind spinning back to the UK guitar-pop glory days of The Housemartins, Mighty Lemondrops, Bluebells, et al, or get you started on an urgent exploratory mission through the archives of the aforementioned acts.

Buddy Love “ Buddy Love

They were short-lived new wave-era power-poppers, but now they’re reunited elder statesmen of the pure, powerful pop hook, strikingly unaffected by the ravages of time and armed with songs to die”or kill”for, like the alarmingly infectious single Crying Time.

FROM THE VAULTS

The Beau Brummels “ Bradley’s Barn

This deluxe reissue of the 1968 cult classic not only revisits an underappreciated piece of early country-rock history, it adds an overwhelming array of tantalizing bonus material, and arrives in a handsomely illustrated and annotated hardcover book that makes the whole package an objet d’art on its own terms.

Neil Young/The International Harvesters “ A Treasure

These 1985 live cuts might find Neil burning down the bunkhouse with the hotshot band he assembled for his contemporaneous country album, Old Ways, but it visits only two songs from that record, along with a bunch of unrecorded gems and a killer reinterpretation of Young’s Buffalo Springfield classic, Flying on the Ground Is Wrong.

The Hollies “ The Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years

They may not have the same iconic place in history as The Beatles or The Kinks but they boasted harmonies on a par with the former and songcraft that stood up easily alongside the latter. This box boasts every track from their most fertile period”not a bad deal.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Timbaland announces Timbo Thursdays

First Kanye West announced he would release a free download every Friday, dubbing them G.O.O.D. Fridays. Then Swizz Beats jumped on board with Monster Mondays, wherein HE would ALSO release a free track. Now Timbaland is getting in on the free-for-all with Timbo Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter to see if he puts his music where his mouth is.

New album, free track from The Decemberists

The Decemberists have announced the release date and title of their new album. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, so head over to their Web site for all the details, and a free MP3 of Down By The Water. Off you go now.

The Bad

Kanye West considered the worst thing about Dubya’s presidency

Of all the many less-than-stellar moments of George W. Bush’s tenure in the Oval Office, it was Kanye West calling him racist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that really stuck in his craw. In his new book, Bush recalls telling his wife it was the worst moment of his presidency. Let’s be clear, that would be worse than 9-11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the actual devastation of Katrina. Words. From a rapper. Were the worst. To quote West himself, no one man should have all that power.

John Mayer links malaria to Justin Bieber in PSA

Funny, and a little inappropriate”in other words, your typical John Mayer public speaking engagement. In this PSA for Malaria No More, Mayer urges donors to help African children reach Justin Bieber’s age. With your help, by buying a malaria net for just $1, we can help, by the end of the year, to get these kids to Bieber. Next year we’ll go Jonas Brothers; after that Twilight kids, but baby steps, baby steps. Let’s get them to Bieber. See the PSA in its entirety below.

The Ugly

King Hammer releases terrible video

Oh boy. OK, so here’s the back story again for those who missed it. In Jay-Z’s track So Appalled, he took a swipe at MC Hammer with the lyric, Unlike Hammer $30 million can’t hurt me. Hammer wasn’t having that, and went straight to work crafting a bush league rebuttal called Better Run Run. The cringe-worthy video is below. Watch a dude who is supposed to be Jay-Z get chased through the woods by a devil, and then get baptized by Hammer. Which part is scarier? You tell us.

Demi Lovato throws down in airport

When Disney stars go bad, they go real bad. Teen sweetheart Demi Lovato dropped off the Jonas Brothers tour after a physical altercation with a backup dancer in an airport in Peru this week. Lovato, who is reported to have battled bulimia, promptly checked herself into a treatment facility.

Miscellany

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Weezer go World Cup crazy in new video

The song may sound a tad like Rob Thomas Lonely No More, but the video for Weezer’s Represent is a rousing homage to the U.S. Men’s soccer team. Consisting of mostly action shots from various matches and intense profiles of Landon Donovan, Represent will have you singing louder than a vuvuzela.

Eminem and Jay Z tear the roof off Ed Sullivan Theater

Two kingpins of rap united this week on top of the Ed Sullivan Theater for a concert for 100 lucky fans. Jay-Z, who was slated to perform on the same rooftop a week earlier, but whose show was cancelled due to crowd safety concerns, returned for a surprise rescheduled performance. With him this time was Eminem, who has just performed a surprise show of his own at the Bowery Ballroom. The performance will air tonight on the Late Show with David Letterman.

The Bad

Michael Jackson’s estate earns $1 billion in past year

Michael Jackson

Proving he was indeed worth more dead than alive, it was reported this week that Michael Jackson’s estate earned $1 billion in the year since his death. A sizable chunk of the income came from Sony Music, who inked a $250 million recording deal, giving them exclusive rights to the singer’s music. It’s great news for the Jackson clan, but a sad realization that the only way Jackson could relieve himself of the bankruptcy looming over him in his final years would be through his own death.

The Ugly

Seinfeld wonders what’s the deal with “jerk” Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

One would think that an unruly woman in a studded bra, swilling beer and flipping the bird, would give be a source of unlimited entertainment. Not so for Mets fans, who were turned off by Lady Gaga’s front-row antics during a game last week. And, when the finger-flipping singer was moved to Jerry Seinfeld’s unoccupied private box to avoid the flash of photographers, the comedian was, shall we say, nonplussed. During a WFAN radio interview Seinfeld let loose, calling Lady Gaga a jerk and declaring, I hate her. You give people the finger and you get upgraded? he continued. Is that the world we’re living in now? If so, we’re going to be exercising our middle digit a lot more frequently.

Miscellany