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.


Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Joe Henry's Rumbling, Rattling 'Reverie'

Joe Henry has been exploring the relationship between songs and their aural atmosphere for a quarter of a century. His early albums cloaked his carefully crafted compositions in a variety of artful atmospheres provided by other producers, like T-Bone Burnett and Anton Fier, but he began to hit his stride in the early ˜90s, when he took the production reigns himself on a pair of albums”Short Man’s Room and Kindness of the World”that found him backed by alt-country heroes The Jayhawks. With 1996’s Fuse, Henry began pursuing an increasingly unconventional production muse, employing everything from ambient synthesizer textures to the saxophone of Ornette Coleman (the jazz giant plays on 2001’s Richard Pryor Addresses a Tearful Nation). With each album from Fuse up through 2009’s Blood From Stars, Henry’s production became increasingly more impressionistic, but his latest, Reverie, marks a reversal of that direction.

It should be noted, of course, that Henry has also spent the last several years as a producer for others, helming projects for a wide spectrum of artists that runs from the late, great soul man Solomon Burke to New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint. During that time, he’s had the opportunity to investigate all manner of American roots styles, which may have affected his decision to make Reverie an organic, all-acoustic, live-in-the-studio affair. Certainly Henry’s work on The River In Reverse, the collaboration Toussaint cut in the Crescent City in 2005 with Elvis Costello, had an effect on him. We worked really, really hard on that record, Henry recalls, it was an incredibly intense, brief period of time. We all felt honored to be there, especially given what had just happened in New Orleans. We were all freshly awakened to how important the music of that city has been. And here’s Allen, the living patriarch of that music”to be in service to him in that moment felt like a tremendous gift.


Your Country's Right Here: The Secret Sisters Dish About Fame, Fans And 'Mama's Cooking'

In the months since famed producer T-Bone Burnett introduced The Secret Sisters, the Muscle Shoals, Alabama sisters have won thousands of hearts”and fans”with their brand of country music and their down-home personalities.

I have been making music for over 40 years and The Secret Sisters album is as close to pure as it gets,” Burnett has said.

“Listening to The Secret Sisters sing, you hear in their voices a sound that is timeless and of the moment. You hear the history of rural American music from the 1920s and a reverence for every musical genre this country has produced. Popular music requires the absolute honesty of The Secret Sisters, and I’m thrilled to be involved in presenting them to the world.

Laura and Lydia Rogers have spent a great deal of time talking to the news media about their backgrounds (harmonizing in church; a musically inclined family), their influences (everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Everly Brothers to classic country stars including Johnny Cash), to the happenstance Nashville audition that led to their discovery, but fans hunger for more about the just-turned-20-something sisters.

Now touring with Amos Lee, Loretta Lynn and others behind their self-titled debut album, the sisters chatted with OurStage to answer a bevy of questions about their backgrounds, their new-found fame, and just what inspired their classic style.

OS: What is the first song you ever heard that you wanted to buy?

Laura: When we were younger, our parents had the music we were raised on. I think the first one I bought”back in the days of cassette tapes”was a [Frankie Valli & the] Four Seasons tape.

Lydia: I was all into Mariah Carey and Hanson and Paula Abdul. I didn’t have any money, but when I did I probably bought one of those.

OS: Who was your first celebrity crush?

Laura: Mine was Michael Jackson. I would sit and cry because I loved him so much.

Lydia: Mine was the Backstreet Boys. I loved Nick Carter and all the guys from that band.

OS: What is your guilty musical pleasure?

Laura: I have the tendency turn my nose up at pop and have a bad attitude (about it) but I’m telling you when I come across Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, I love their music.

Lydia: I am a fan of Lil’ Wayne. He’s the only hip hop rapper guy I can stand all the time. That’s a confession!

OS: Where is your favorite place to shop?

Laura: I’m one of those weird girls who loves to furnish my house rather than buy clothes. I go shop for kitchen utensils, new plates, pillows. I always spend money on house things. I love Crate & Barrel.

Lydia: Urban Outfitters. I’m a big fan of that store. And I love Target. I don’t mind saying that. They have good bargains and it’s a great place to shop.

OS: What is your oddest fan encounter?

Lydia: I think both of our oddest was when we were in Texas on tour with Willie Nelson. This lady was pregnant and she wanted us to sign her belly! She came up and said “Would you sign my baby?” I was looking around for a kid and she pulled her shirt up. We do what we have got to do!

OS: Who is the most famous person’s email address that you have?

Lydia: We have Jack White’s email address. What’s even weirder to have is cell phone numbers. We have Martina McBride’s.

OS: When you are on tour, what’s the main item you miss from home?

Laura: Our mama’s country cooking! When we were in Europe we were sitting in fancy restaurants eating nice European meals. Lydia asked me if I could eat anything what would it be? I said fried potatoes and corn bread.

OS: What’s the one negative about fame that people don’t realize?

Lydia: How much time it takes! You lose so much time and you work about 30 minutes a day. Everybody sees that and thinks your job is so easy because you perform 30 minutes, you travel so many places and it’s a unique job. But you’re also never in your own bed, you live out of a suitcase and you are homesick and exhausted. I think that has been a really tough adjustment.

OS: Have you ever asked another musician for an autograph?

Laura: When you’re a musician it feels strange, but we have definitely done it.

Before we started [as musicians] we were huge Brandi Carlile fans. We went to see her a few years back and did the whole thing fan. Now we’re going on tour with her! I hope she doesn’t remember I took a picture with her and was a total fan girl!

The Secret Sister are on tour. Find out concert and other news on their Web site.

Day 2: Future of Music Coalition's Policy Summit 2010

The second day of The Future of Music Coalition’s Policy Summit covered a ton of topics for musicians and music entrepreneurs alike. On paper, some of the sessions may have seemed unrelated, but it was great to see how it all wove together by the end.

Rocco Landesman, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and a powerhouse Broadway producer”who pleased many in the art world when he took on the new role”gave a terrific keynote speech about the value of arts in both the cultural and economic communities.

Landesman’s talk was followed by a closer look at the spread of broadband to rural communities, housing for artists and opportunities for musicians to perform overseas as part of cultural programs organized by the US Department of State. The session featured presentations from Jonathan Adelstein (Administrator, Rural Utility Service, US Department of Agriculture), Maura Pally (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Professional and Cultural Exchanges, US Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs) and Ron Sims (Deputy Secretary, US Department of Housing and Urban Development) and a subsequent conversation with attendees at the summit. The session helped explain why the current administration’s support of broadband expansion into rural areas matters to musicians (more online reach, more potential fans), cultural exchange programs (reaching new audiences while traveling the world and representing the US as peaceful musical representatives) and affordable housing (recognizing that not all musicians or artists can afford fair market prices”even if neighborhoods often like to tout their artistic population). The session helped connect the dots about why we, as citizens, need to be support public servants and representatives who understand the value of the arts in our greater culture. Subsequent conversation featured some fascinating stories (that would make any musician jealous) from Amy Blackman, the manager of Ozomatli, about the joys and challenges of their trips overseas to Asia and Africa.

The FMC is all about creating a “middle class of musicians” that is more sustainable. In continuing the thread of “musicians running themselves as a small business,” sessions covered subjects like managing and understanding all the data available now for anyone who has a web site or manages their presence on third party sites. This particular panel included Danah Boyd, the Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research; Eric Garland, Founder/CEO at BigChampagne Media Measurement (a new media and data measurement site) and musicians Erin McKeown and Tim Quirk.

In “Who’s Your Ticket Master Now? The Magical Mashup Between Live Music and Social Networks,” attendees learned how quickly Ticket Master”and its service fees”is being out-maneuvered by web ticket start-ups like Ticketweb, Ticketfly and Tickets.com. There was also talk of an interesting idea from Australia called Posse, where musicians and venues can utilize fans to help sell tickets and receive a commission. The session included Ian Hogarth, co-founder and CEO of Songkick, a free service where you can track bands who are coming to your town. One of the most interesting comments came from Donna Westmoreland, the COO of Washington, DC’s 9:30 club about how many of their concerts are selling out simply by being announced to their email subscribers, reducing their need for additional advertising or marketing.

The latter part of the day included two interviews and conversations. First was Kara Swisher of All Things Digital speaking with Tim Westergren, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of  Pandora about his company’s strategy and where people will likely be using the service in the near future”from desktops to laptops, iPhones and Android, to iPad and tablets to cars and seemingly everywhere in between. Westergren laid out the company’s plans more as an advertiser-funded model than any other source, and acknowledged that the platform’s success.  According to a third-party study, the site simply helps sell more recorded music”43% of users bought more music after they used Pandora while only 1% bought less music, which is a great stat for those who assume online music is cannibalizing other music revenue sources.

The second conversation was a great reality check amid all of this digital change. Greg Kot, music critic at The Chicago Tribune and co-host of Sound Opinions interviewed T. Bone Burnett, the musician, composer and producer who has worked with Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Sam Phillips, John Mellencamp and many more. Burnett, as a consummate audio producer, is weary about how online delivery of music has greatly degraded the quality and experience of the music we consume and provided a great reminder that the most important thing in being a musician is to make great musicš to aim there first and let the marketing be secondary as you make great art. You can read more about the interview from Kot’s page in The Chicago Tribune.

Learn more about the Future of Music Coalition’s 2010 Policy Summit speakers. Find more links and follow us live at The Future of Music Coalition’s Summit 2010. Search the hashtag #fmc10 to read up on this and more.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Eminem and Jay-Z rock Yankee Stadium

Part one of Jay-Z and Eminem’s Home and Home Tour, which took place last week in Eminem’s hometown of Detroit, was a success (to put it mildly). And Part two, which took place this past Tuesday at Yankee Stadium in Jay-Z’s home turf, looks like it was just as epic, if not more so. Featuring repeat guest performances by Drake, Kanye West and Dr. Dre, the concert also featured surprise guests Swizz Beatz, Nicki Minaj and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who joined buddy Jay-Z for a medley that included snippets of Clocks and Viva La Vida. Check out the clip below”goosebumps on the house.

Ted Leo + Paul F. Tompkins = Bottled in Cork video

Lampooning the archetypal rise and fall of a rock star, this new video from Ted Leo is a real hoot, thanks to a comically rich performance by Paul F. Tompkins, who plays the part of Leo’s would-be manager, Reginald Van Voorst. Enjoy the LOLs.

The Bad

Hootie and the Blowfish to get SC monument

It seems mean-spirited to throw this in the Bad section, but we didn’t have room for it anywhere else. Honest. And even if we were griping about the expense of funding such a monstrosity (your words, not ours), it wouldn’t change the fact that Hootie and the Blowfish are getting a big monument in Columbus, South Carolina. The band formed there on the campus of USC nearly 25 years ago, and went on to sell 16 million copies of their record, Cracked Rear View. The monument will be unveiled on October 21. Put that spray can down.

Weezer autotunes the news

If you have a sour Hootie aftertaste in your mouth, cleanse your palate with this video wherein Weezer autotunes current events. Catchy and informational!

The Ugly

George Michael sentenced to prison

George Michael was sentenced to eight weeks in jail and a five-year suspension of his driver’s license after he drove his Range Rover into a Snappy Snaps photo store (real name) on July 4th. Somebody won’t be singing Freedom anytime soon.