Monday, September 10, 2012

Your Country's Right Here: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Rolls On

Watching Nathan and Jonathan McEuen open a recent show for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was something close to a religious experience for many fans of the iconic roots band.

The brothers are sons of the highly-lauded String Master and Dirt Band co-founder John McEuen (and nephews of its other co-founder Jeff Hanna) so their talent is almost a given. What was moving, though wasn’t their musical [and extensive] musical skills but the emotion they brought to the songs, many of which were reminiscent of the sound that brought the Dirt Band to international fame “ and has kept it there “ for more than 45 years.

As all fans know, the Dirt Band made its name and then some with a host of brilliant albums including the 1972 release Will the Circle Be Unbroken, that includes collaborations with such country greats as Hank Williams and Roy Acuff.

What’s perhaps most refreshing is that while the band pays due diligence to its heritage, it also looks to advance it with everything from new studio albums to fresh arrangements on classic songs.

That’s why its history includes collaborations not just with country luminaries such as Mother Maybelle Carter but rockers including Aerosmith.


Riffs, Rants and Rumors: The dB's Amp It Up Again

It only took Francis Ford Coppola two years to follow The Godfather with Godfather II. Even less time separated Charles Dickens’ last serialized installment of David Copperfield and his first for Bleak House. Sometimes artists are able to pick up where they left off pretty quickly, even if their previous project was one of the key works of their career. Other times, however, one has to wait a while for the follow-up to come around. The original lineup of The dB’s definitely fall into the latter camp. It’s taken thirty years for frontmen Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple”along with bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby”to finally concoct a successor to Repercussion, their second record together, but now that Falling Off The Sky is set to arrive at last, the faithful are breathing heavy sighs of relief.

All four dB’s were North Carolina boys who grew up playing together in various bands throughout the ’70s before deciding to search for the brass ring in New York in 1978. Heavily influenced by Big Star”Stamey had briefly worked with that band’s mastermind, Alex Chilton, and Holsapple had recorded with Big Star sideman Richard Rosebrough”The dB’s already had a distinct power-pop orientation when they arrived on New York’s nascent new wave scene. So were The dB’s a new wave band? “I guess so, yeah,” allows Holsapple in retrospect, “for lack of a better word. I mean, we’d been making records [in other incarnations] before there was a new wave, back when new wave was a French cinema term, so I guess we sort of fell into that. We certainly weren’t new romantics. For years we sort of rejected the power-pop moniker, just because it seems very limiting, but realistically I guess you would have to say that’s exactly what we were. At this point you can call it anything, I mainly just want people to enjoy it and hear it for what it is.”


Monday, February 13th, 2012


  • Adele is done being bitter.
  • Alter egos and sacrilege: Is Nicki the new Gaga?
  • The battle rages: Weezy takes another shot at HOV!
  • J.Hud does Whitney proud.
  • Well, this has to be one of the laziest music videos ever made.
  • GNR (or should we say “Axl and co.?”) return…
  • Blue Ivy makes her grand debut!
  • Sound And Vision: The Year in Review — What Was Hot and Not in Pop (and Beyond) in 2011?

    No discussion of the last twelve months in music would be complete without a proper shout out to Adele, the blue-eyed, soulful Brit who ruled 2011 with one album (the multiply GRAMMY-nominated 21) and two No. 1 singles (“Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You”), so here we go.


    Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s what was hot and not about the rest.


    1. Drake: Last year, he called his debut album Thank Me Later, so now feels like the right time to express our genuine appreciation for the Canadian rapper who balances tough and tender so perfectly. With his second album, Take Care, and two of its key cuts, in particular”the fantastic first single “Headlines” and the title track (featuring Rihanna)”he brought sexy back to rap for the first time since ladies loved (LL) Cool J.

    2. Girls on film: From Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends” to Lady Gaga’s “Judas” to Jennifer Lopez’s “I’m Into You” to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” it was an excellent year for women in pop videos. But it was Ke$ha in “Blow,” Kelly Rowland in “Motivation” and Rihanna in “We Found Love” that injected new energy into a decades-old art form and elevated it above and beyond promotional tool to indispensable companion piece.

    3. Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams “Moanin'” on American Idol: I didn’t love the bulk of their solo performances during the 10th season of Idol, but when Reinhart and Abrams came together on the Top 8 results show for the vocalese version of Charles Mingus’ “Moanin’,” the unexpected result was the best musical moment I saw all season.

    4. Diana DeGarmo on The Young and the Restless: Speaking of Idol losers, season three’s runner-up’s stint as Angelina on daytime’s No. 1 soap hasn’t been so well-received by critics or fans, but I dissent. There’s both artistry and comedic gold in DeGarmo’s portrayal of a tone-deaf “singer” and daughter of a New Jersey mob boss, and I’m looking forward to being as wowed by her Pygmalion-style makeover as I was by her Idol rendition of “Don’t Cry Out Loud” all those years ago.


    Most Memorable Music News of 2011

    It was a big year in the world of music. The past twelve months were filled with huge collaborations, new releases across every genre and some drama as well. The year also brought us lots of new talent to go crazy over, and the loss of some incredibly influential artists. So, let’s review 2011 and highlight the top stories that affected the world of music”from concerts to television; technology to YouTube sensations.

    • Jay-Z and Kanye West teamed up to release their much-anticipated collaboration album, Watch The Throne, in the beginning of August. They’re currently on tour across the United States and Canada promoting the album, which has already been certified Platinum.
    • Tragedy struck big music festivals in a couple countries, when severe weather caused stages to collapse. Ottawa Bluesfest and Pukkelpop Festival were two of the events affected.
    • Ryan Murphy apparently took it personally when artists such as Slash, Kings of Leon and and Foo Fighters didn’t want their songs to be used on Glee. Dave Grohl was especially pissed, calling out Murphy for thinking every artist would want their songs featured on his show.
    • Speaking of drama, some artists learned the hard way that Twitter is not all fun and games. For example, rapper The Game almost got himself in trouble with the authorities, when he tweeted a number for fans to call, which happened to be the phone number of the  Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. (more…)

    Riffs, Rants & Rumors: 2011 in the Rearview Mirror

    You didn’t think RR&R would torture you with anything as tedious as another year-end Best-of list, did you? Granted, we do have a piece in the works that will inform you of some excellent albums you might have missed along the way, but that’s as close as we’re willing to get. Instead, this time around we’ll simply take stock of both the magic moments and the missteps that the last twelve months have brought us”works that delivered delight and dismay in equal measure.

    Old Punks Never Die

    Wire “ Red Barked Tree

    As the original post-punk outfit, Wire has always lived or died by how well they balanced their arty side with their edgy side. Their discography isn’t without its share of miscalculations in that area, but thirty-four years down the line from their debut album, this one is right on the money.

    Gang of Four – Content

    The Gang were right on the heels of Wire in first-gen U.K. post-punk, and were just as groundbreaking, but their twenty-first century revitalization has been marred by some dodgy moves. First they re-recorded a batch of their classics on 2005’s Return the Gift, and then they made matters worse with this irksome outing, which is considerably more annoying than the output of the worst third-hand Go4 copyists.

    Social Distortion  – Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes

    True survivors, old-school SoCal punks Social Distortion have been through every rock & roll tribulation”death, drugs, you name it (How did VH1’s Behind the Music miss these guys?)”but not only are they still going strong, they added some extra bluesy swing and Stonesy swagger to their latest.

    The EditoriaList: Top Ten Musical Crimes Perpetrated By Great Artists

    Top 5 musical crimes perpetrated by Stevie Wonder in the ’80s and ’90s. Go.

    Sub-question: Is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins… is it better to burn out or fade awaaay?

    “ Barry, High Fidelity (2000)

    I wish they’d actually discussed this in the film, especially the latter bit. For my part, I say great artists have proven that, somewhere inside, they know better, and so should be held accountable for their sins.

    Stevie makes this list, but not for I Just Called To Say I Love You. Not even for The Woman In Red…

    10. “Freeway of Love” “ Aretha Franklin

    The Queen of Soul abdicated her throne when, in 1985, she recorded this mechanized, synth-driven offense.


    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    The EditoriaList: Eight Great EPs

    EP stands for Extended Play. The word left off at the end is Single, as these were originally all about singles with some bonus material. This list, however, is about the EP as an artistic statement unto itself. Like a great short story, the EP can thrill you in a way that a full-length LP (Long Player) can’t; its succinctness and concentrated power leaving you excited and needing more. On this list, the EPs may or may not be based on an album single, as long as it hangs together as its own listening experience.

    8. Jim James (as Yim Yames) “ Tribute To¦

    Shortly after George Harrison’s death in 2001, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James went into the studio and cut a handful of George’s songs, selecting several of the best solo and Beatle compositions (drawing heavily from The White Album and All Things Must Pass). The resulting EP was not released until 2009. James is solo here, with acoustic guitar, multitracked voice, and a shitload of reverb; the sum of which lends a lonely, timeless air to Harrison’s already mystical songs. The recordings are pretty true to the original arrangements, but James has such a unique style (particularly in this spare environment) that the songs are reinvented. AMG’s Andrew Leahey puts it well: “˜My Sweet Lord,’ once a communal hymn, is stripped of its choral arrangement and turned into a solitary prayer, while The Beatles’ ˜Love You To’ leaves its Indian homeland in favor of the swampy American backwoods.”

    7. Mission of Burma “ Signals, Calls, and Marches

    This EP was originally released (in 1981) with six songs, including the seething That’s When I Reach For My Revolver, then was amended and re-released in 1997 with the anthemic Academy Fight Song and Max Ernst. Signals, Calls, and Marches is probably the most accessible MoB recording (Roger Miller called it mild mannered in comparison with their aggressive live show) and, as such, helped propel into the 80s the gospel of post-punk / underground / college rock / whatever you want to call it (long before “alternative”). Like most of the EPs on this list, it should not be treated by any fans or curious listeners as an afterthought or any less important than their LPs, but instead as an integral part of the Burma catalog.