Jane Lee Hooker not only have one of the coolest blues rock band names I can think of, but the four ladies and the gent from New York City also deliver the goods. A couple of weeks ago, they came out with their latest single White Gold, a neat acoustic blues tune from their 2022 studio album Rollin’, along with a fun video. The release comes ahead of a five-week European tour that kicks off one week from today.
Credited to all members of the group, White Gold is Jane Lee Hooker’s first acoustic blues. Traditionally, they have focused on electric blues rock, blended with rock & roll, R&B and on their latest album also some soul. “I always knew we had a song like this in us,” said Tina Gorin who played resonator guitar on the tune. “It doesn’t even feel like a departure for us to me. We always had roots in our music and this shows our purer side of that.”
White Gold is the fifth single and video off Rollin’, Jane Lee Hooker’s third studio album released in late April 2022. I reviewed it here at the time. “I can’t remember the name of the studio in Woodstock [Dreamland Recording Studios – CMM], but it was an old church,” recalled Tracy Hightop, the band’s second guitarist. Matt [producer Matt Chiaravalle – CMM] and Ron [drummer Ron Salvo – CMM] had already gone to sleep and Dana [lead vocalist Dana Athens – CMM], T-Bone [Gorin’s nickname – CMM] and I snuck back into the old dark church to practice the song. Just two guitars and Dana’s massive voice filling the church.”
If you dig live music and energetic blues rock and can get to any of the above cities in Belgium, Germany, Slovakia, France and Spain, I can highly recommend Jane Lee Hooker. I’ve seen them twice and they were killing it!
Last but not least, a shoutout to Gregg Bell of Wanted Management, who kindly gave me a heads-up on the above!
By now it’s safe to assume folks have heard of Tina Turner’s passing yesterday (April 24) at age 83 at her home near Zurich, Switzerland. While neither a notification on Turner’s Facebook page nor a statement by her publicist provided the cause, she had been in poor health in recent years. Based on concerts in Germany and the U.S. in 1985 and 1993, respectively, the Queen of Rock & Roll was among the most energetic performers I’ve seen to date, together with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and U2.
This post is all about celebrating Tina Turner’s music, which will stay with us. In case you are looking for a traditional obituary, you have plenty of other choices, such as The New York Times, CNN or Rolling Stone. My focus will be on six tunes from Turner’s 40-year-plus performing career, followed by a Spotify playlist of these and some additional songs.
River Deep – Mountain High (1966)
River Deep – Mountain High is one of my favorite tunes Tina Turner recorded with her then-husband Ike Turner as Ike & Tina Turner. Written by producer Phil Spector, together with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, River Deep – Mountain High was first released as a single in May 1966 as the title track of a studio album by Ike & Tina Turner. That album first appeared in the UK in September 1966 and three years later was also issued in the U.S.
Private Dancer (1984)
Private Dancer is the title track of Turner’s fifth solo and comeback album released in May 1984. The tune, penned by then-Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler, was one of multiple hit singles from what became Turner’s best-selling album with more than 12 million copies sold worldwide. It catapulted her to international stardom as a solo artist – eight years after she had fled from her abusive husband with just 36 cents and a Mobil card.
Proud Mary (1971)
Ike & Tina Turner’s version of Proud Mary is one of the best remakes I can think of. The song was written by John Fogerty who first recorded it with his band Creedence Clearwater Revival for their second studio album Bayou Country, released in January 1969. The tune also appeared as a single at the same time and became one of CCR’s biggest hits, climbing to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ike and Tina Turner’s version, which was included on their 1970 studio album Workin’ Together, did nearly as well, peaking at no. 4 on the U.S. pop chart. Unlike CCR, it also won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group in 1972.
What You Get Is What You See (1986)
When it comes to Tina Turner’s solo career, I tend to favor her rock over her more pop-oriented songs. One tune in this context is What You Get Is What You See, off her sixth solo studio album Break Every Rule, which came out in September 1986. Turner’s follow-on to Private Dancer was another major internal chart and commercial success. What You Get Is What You See, co-written by Terry Bitten and Graham Lyle and produced by Bitten, also became the album’s third single in February 1987.
Acid Queen (1975)
Turner recorded Acid Queen as the title track of her second solo album released in August 1975. The tune was written by Pete Townshend and first appeared as The Acid Queen on The Who’s rock opera album Tommy from May 1969. A different recording of the song was also included on the March 1975 soundtrack album to the 1975 film Tommy, in which Turner starred as the Acid Queen. Her second solo album was inspired by that performance.
Nutbush City Limits (live) (1988)
The last track I’d like to highlight is a killer live version of Nutbush City Limits that was included on Turner’s first live solo album Tina Live in Europe. Notably, part of that album was recorded at Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany on April 14, 1985 – one of the above-mentioned Tina Turner shows I attended! Written by Tina Turner, the semi-autobiographical tune about her rural hometown of Nutbush, Tenn. was the title track of a 1973 studio album by Ike & Tina Turner. It also became the duo’s most successful single and one of the last hits they released together.
Here’s the aforementioned Spotify playlist of the above and some additional tunes. The Queen of Rock & Roll sadly has left us, but her music will continue to reign!
Sources: Wikipedia; Tina Turner Facebook page; YouTube; Spotify
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
I hope everybody is spending a groovy Sunday. To all the mamas, Happy Mother’s Day! None of us would be here without you! And to the papas and the kids, remember mothers are superheroes working hard every day, so please do not only be kind to them today but also during the remaining 364 days of the year!
Why don’t we all, the mamas, the papas and the kids, have some fun with another music time travel trip? As always, the magical time machine will take us to six different decades to listen to six tracks in different flavors. Let’s fasten our seatbelts and go!
Lester Young/There Will Never Be Another You
Our first stop today is June 1954 and what feels like a bar late at night with some relaxing jazz music by Lester Young. The American jazz tenor saxophonist and occasional clarinetist was born in Woodville, Miss. in 1909 and grew up in a musical family. By the age of ten, he already had learned the basics of the trumpet, violin and drums and joined the Young Family Band, touring with carnivals and playing in regional cities in the southwestern U.S. He first picked up the tenor saxophone in the 1920s and left the Young Family Band at the age of 18, since he no longer wanted to tour in the racially segregated Jim Crow South. Eventually, Young settled in Kansas City in 1933 and gained prominence playing in Count Basie’s band. Over the next 10-plus years, he also was in various other bands and recorded with Billie Holiday and Nat “King” Cole. In the ’50s, Young recorded a series of albums as a leader. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 49 in March 1959 from internal bleeding resulting from alcoholism. There Will Never Be Another You, a popular song with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Mack Gordon, was included on Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio, one of two compilation albums with that title released in June 1954. They were subsequently combined with music from a third album, The President, and reissued in 1956 as The President Plays with the Oscar Peterson Trio.
The Tragically Hip/Bobcaygeon
Next, we set our time machine to July 1998 and music by alternative rockers The Tragically Hip. Max from PowerPop recently featured the celebrated Canadian band, who in turn had been brought to his attention by Canadian fellow bloggers Dave from A Sound Day and DeKE from deKe’s Vinyl Reviews & More… – lots of cross-pollination happening in our blogger community, which is an important reason why I dig music blogging as much as I do! The Tragically Hip, formed in Kingston, Ontario in 1984, were the best-selling band in Canada between 1996 and 2016, yet they were much less recognized in the U.S. And, yes, you can call that a tragedy! During their 33-year run, which ended in October 2017 after the death of vocalist Gord Downie, the group released 13 studio albums, one live album, one compilation album, two video albums, two extended plays and a boxed set – Wikipedia had to count them all! There were also 54 singles. Nine of the Hip’s studio albums topped the Canadian charts and eight reached Platinum or multi-Platinum status there, not to mention Canada’s Walk of Fame,Canadian Music Hall of Fame, multiple Juno Awards and all the other accolades they received – a truly extraordinary record! Bobcaygeon is a great track off the Hip’s sixth studio album Phantom Power, which appeared in July 1998. Credited to the entire band, the tune also became one of the album’s five singles and is among their most enduring and beloved signature songs.
Cream/Outside Woman Blues
On with the trip to the ’60s and music by what may well have been the best power trio of all time. In November 1967, Cream released their sophomore album Disraeli Gears, less than a year after their debut Fresh Cream. During their short, less than 2.5-year recording career, Jack Bruce (bass), Eric Clapton (guitar) and Ginger Baker (drums) released four albums. By the time their final release Goodbye came out in February 1969, they already had disbanded. Given the oftentimes violent fights between Bruce and Baker, it’s actually a miracle they lasted as long as they did and all came out alive. In case you wonder why, you can watch the 2012 documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, which I did again the other day. It’s a fascinating and pretty sad film! Let’s hear Outside Woman Blues, written by folk-blues guitarist Arthur Reynolds who also first recorded it in 1929 as Blind Joe Reynolds. Mr. Slowhand did a nice job rearranging the tune for Cream.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers/Change of Heart
Time to pay a visit to the ’80s and one of my favorite artists of all time, who sadly has been gone for five-and-a-half years: Tom Petty. It’s safe to assume most if not all readers have heard about the guitarist and vocalist who hailed from Gainesville, Fla. where in 1976 he formed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, together with Mike Campbell (lead guitar), Benmont Tench (keyboards), Ron Blair (bass) and Stan Lynch (drums). Campbell and Tench had been members of Petty’s previous group Mudcrutch, which he had started in 1970. At the time, they only released one poor-selling single before disbanding in late 1975. Petty ended up reviving Mudcrutch more than 30 years later and releasing two albums with them, Mudcrutch (2008) and Mudcrutch 2 (2016). Petty passed away in October 2017. His death was subsequently declared as “multisystem organ failure due to resuscitated cardiopulmonary arrest due to mixed drug toxicity.” Only a week earlier, Petty, who had been on potent painkillers for knee problems and a fractured hip and was also battling other health issues, had finished the final show of the Heartbreakers’ 40th-anniversary tour at the legendary Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Change of Heart, written by Petty alone, appeared on Long After Dark, the fifth studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released in November 1982. The tune also became one of three singles. Here’s a terrific live version I couldn’t resist using!
The Staple Singers/I’ll Take You There
For our next stop in the ’70s, we don’t need to set our time machine and instead can rely on The Staple Singers to take us there. Our specific destination is February 1972. That’s when the gospel, soul and R&B vocal group put out Be Altitude: Respect Yourself, which became their second-charting album, hitting no. 19 and no. 3 on the Billboard 200 and Soul charts (today known as Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums). At that time, the family group already had existed for 24 years and issued close to 20 albums. Be Altitude: Respect Yourself featured family patriarch Pops Staples and his children Cleotha Staples, Mavis Staples and Yvonne Staples. All have passed except for Mavis Staples, an amazing lady who remains active at 83 years and just embarked on a summer tour with dates until mid-September, mostly in the U.S. and a few in Europe! I’ll Take You There, written by Alvertis Isbell, became one of two no. 1 singles the group scored on the Billboard Hot 100, beating Respect Yourself, the other hit single from that album, which “only” reached no. 12 on the pop chart. Take us there!
The Lone Bellow/Gold
We have time for one more stop. Let’s finish our trip in the present, specifically in November 2022. The Lone Bellow are an Americana and roots trio that began as a song-writing project for Zach Williams (guitar, lead vocals). Following his wife’s temporary paralysis that resulted from an accident, Williams started writing a journal to cope with the situation. Urged by friends, he picked up the guitar and turned his journal entries into songs. After performing as a solo act in New York City, he joined with Brian Elmquist (guitar, vocals) and Kanene Donehey Pipkin (mandolin, bass, keyboard, vocals). In January 2013, the trio released their eponymous debut album. Fast-forward nearly 10 years to Love Songs for Losers, their fifth and most recent album. Here’s Gold, a roots rock tune with a dose of pop – quite catchy music and neat harmony singing!
This Sunday Six wouldn’t be complete without a link to a Spotify playlist of the above tracks. Hope there’s something that tickles your fancy!
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
It’s Saturday and I’d like to welcome you to the latest installment of my weekly new music revue. All featured tracks are on albums that were released yesterday (March 31).
The Hold Steady/Sixers
Kicking things off are New York indie rock band The Hold Steady, who I first featured in a January Best of What’s Newpost. Formed in 2003, their current lineup includes co-founders Craig Finn (lead vocals, guitar), Tad Kubler (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Galen Polivka (bass), along with Steve Selvidge (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Franz Nicolay (piano, keyboards, accordion, harmonica, backing vocals) and Bobby Drake (drums, percussion). Wikipedia notes The Hold Steady are known for their “lyrically dense storytelling”, “classic rock influences” and “narrative-based songs [that] frequently address themes, such as drug addiction, religion and redemption, and often feature recurring characters within the city of Minneapolis.” Since their 2004 debut Almost Killed Me, they have released eight additional studio albums, including their latest, The Price of Progress. Off that album is Sixers, penned by Finn – great tune that reminds me a bit of Son Volt.
A Certain Ratio/Holy Smoke
A Certain Ratio, aka ACR, are a post-punk group founded in 1977 in Flixton, England. The band who took their name from the lyrics of Brian Eno tune The True Wheel started out as a duo of Simon Topping (vocals, trumpet) and Peter Terrell (guitar, electronics). They were subsequently joined by Jez Kerr (bass, vocals) and Martin Moscrop (trumpet, guitar). Donald Johnson (drums), and Martha Tilson (vocals) eventually completed the line-up. After releasing eight albums over a 12-year period that began with their 1980 debut The Graveyard and the Ballroom, A Certain Ratio started to reduce their output. Since 2018, the group has picked up the pace with a string of tours and two albums including 2020’s ACR Loco and their new one, 1982. Their website characterizes Kerr, Moscrop and Johnson as the group’s core line-up, who on the latest album were joined by Tony Quigley (saxophone, keyboards), Ellen Beth Abdi (vocals) and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Steele. Here’s Holy Smoke, a cool funky tune co-written by Johnson, Kerr and Moscrop.
The New Pornographers/Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies
Next up are Canadian indie supergroup The New Pornographers. From their AllMusicbio: With their 2000 debut album, Mass Romantic, the New Pornographers established themselves as 21st century torchbearers of smart, sophisticated power pop. Hailing from Vancouver, the band’s deep roster of individual singer/songwriters and crafty instrumentalists gave them a unique, multi-voiced advantage and posed them as more of a collective or supergroup, albeit one with a surprisingly streamlined sonic identity. Spearheaded by Carl Newman, along with mainstays Neko Case, Dan Bejar, John Collins, and Todd Fancey, the New Pornographers were consistent critical favorites throughout the decade with standout releases like 2005’s Twin Cinema and 2007’s Challengers. Even as membership began to fluctuate over the coming years, they reached a new commercial peak with 2014’s Brill Bruisers. The band ended their second decade with 2019’s In the Morse Code of Brake Lights. From their ninth and latest album Continue as a Guest, here’s Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies, written by Newman.
This brings me to my final pick for this week, Eddie Chacon, who first became prominent in 1992 as part of Charles & Eddie, a soul music duo he had formed two years earlier with Charles Pettigrew. Their song Would I Lie to You?, off their debut album Duophonic, became a massive international hit following its release as their debut single in August 1992. Two years after their 1995 sophomore album Chocolate MilkCharles & Eddie split, and Chacon worked as a photographer and creative director. Pettigrew continued his music career but was diagnosed with cancer in the late ’90s and passed away in April 2001 at the age of 37. After an extended absence from music, Chacon performed and recorded in the late 2000s and early 2010s together with his wife Sissy Sainte-Marie in a duo called The Polyamorous Affair. In July 2020, he released his solo debut, Pleasure, Joy and Happiness. Now he’s back with his second solo album Sundown. Here’s the title track, which has a nice retro ’70s soul vibe reminiscent of Marvin Gaye – pretty neat!
Last but not least, following is a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tracks by the featured artists.
Sources: Wikipedia; A Certain Ratio website; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify
My most recent Best of What’s New installment featured songs from the latest albums by The Nude Party and The War And Treaty. Typically, the picks for my weekly new music revues are informed by sampling just a few tunes from each album. Oftentimes, it’s only after these posts have been published that I find an opportunity to listen to the albums more closely.
Lately, I’ve realized more than once that some of these new releases clearly would deserve dedicated reviews. Since I rarely have the time to do that, I’ve decided to introduce The Follow-Up. The idea is to pair two albums I first highlighted in Best of What’s New and do abbreviated reviews of each in one post. Since much of the blog’s content already revolves around weekly features, I currently envisage publishing The Follow-Up on an irregular basis.
The Nude Party – Rides On
Rides On is the fourth studio album by The Nude Party, a band from North Carolina with a cool retro ’60s style sound. They were formed in 2012 by Patton Magee (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Shaun Couture (guitar, vocals), Don Merrill (piano, vocals), Alexander Castillo (bass, vocals), Austin Brose (percussion, vocals) and Connor Mikita (drums), who at the time were freshmen at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. At the end of their freshman year, they all moved together to a house outside of town and learned how to play their instruments.
The group quickly gained a following in Boone where they oftentimes performed in the nude at a local party venue. They became known as “the naked party band,” which in turn inspired their name The Nude Party. In 2014, they met Oakley Munson, the drummer of garage rock band Black Lips, who recorded their debut EP Hot Tub EP, released in early 2016. By early 2018, The Nude Party had secured a deal with New West Records, which was followed by their eponymous debut album in July 2018. Fast forward to March 10, 2023 and Rides On.
Since I just covered the excellent opener Word Gets Around in Best of What’s New, I’m skipping it here and go right to the next track, Hard Times (All Around). Like other tunes on the album, it’s credited to the band. I can hear some Rolling Stones in here. Apple Music characterizes The Nude Party’s music as “frat rock of the ’60s as well as the Velvet Underground.” I guess in some of the tunes I can detect traces of the latter as well.
Here’s another sample: Cherry Red Boots. I love the great guitar sound on this one. Check it out!
Other tunes on the album I dig in particular include Hey Monet, Polly Anne, Ride On and Somebody Tryin’ to Hoodoo Me. Frankly, I also could have called out any of the other tracks. I will say there isn’t a lot of musical variety but since the band’s style is right up my alley, I don’t mind! If you’re into ’60s rock music, you should give The Nude Party a spin. Here’s a Spotify link to the album:
The War And Treaty – Lover’s Game
The War And Treaty is the amazing husband and wife duo of Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter (born Tanya Blount). From their website: Their name alone conjures images of struggle. Of epic conflict, sacrifice and the eventual birth of a lasting peace. For UMG Nashville’s The War And Treaty, that struggle is found within love itself…Founded in Michigan in 2014, hints of that truth have always been present…Wielding a sound which cuts through the whole of Southern music tradition – from blues, soul and R&B, to gospel, country, folk and rock – the duo has dominated stages across the globe, headlining their own shows and opening for a diverse group of living legends; Al Green, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, John Legend, Lauren Daigle, and Van Morrison among them.
Lover’s Game, which came out on March 10, is their third studio album. Apple Music notes Michael and Tanya co-wrote the songs rather than writing separately, which they apparently had done in the past. Lover’s Game was produced by Dave Cobb who has also worked with Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, John Prine, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, The Highwomen and Rival Sons, among others.
Again, I’m skipping the tune I included in my most recent Best of What’s New, the smoking hot Ike & Tina Turner-reminiscent opener and title track, and highlight Blank Page, a powerful ballad. Check out this warm sound and the sweet soulful harmony singing – so good it gives me chills!
Most tunes on Lover’s Game are on the slow side except for the opener and the following mid-tempo song Ain’t No Harmin’ Me.
Other songs I’d like to call out include That’s How Love Is Made, The Best That I Have, Angel and Have You a Heart. Lover’s Game is a rich-sounding and pretty personal album. Going back one last time to The War And Treaty’s website: Spurred on by the anxiety of a pandemic, a surging career and all the couple stood to lose after years of hard work, their story plays out amid a transcendent sonic landscape, with both members crediting Cobb for their most elemental, stripped-down album to date. Here’s a Spotify link to it:
Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; The War And Treaty website; YouTube; Spotify
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
It’s Saturday, and I’d like to welcome everybody to another installment of my weekly new music revue. According to my count, this is the 150th Best of What’s New post. All four highlighted tunes are on albums that were released yesterday (March 10).
The Nude Party/Word Gets Around
Kicking things off is a great tune from the third and latest studio album Rides On by The Nude Party. I first featured this North Carolina group in January 2022 when covering their eponymous debut from July 2018. As I wrote at the time: The Nude Party were formed in 2012 when freshman students at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. decided to start a band. Their members are Patton Magee (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Shaun Couture (guitar, vocals), Don Merrill (piano, vocals), Alexander Castillo (bass, vocals), Austin Brose (percussion, vocals) and Connor Mikita (drums). At the end of their freshman year, they all moved together to a house outside of town and learned how to play their instruments. It still almost sounds a bit like a fairytale! What’s very real is Word Gets Around, a cool-sounding rocker with a ’60s vibe, credited to the entire band!
The War and Treaty/Lover’s Game
And we’re on to The War and Treaty, a hot-sounding husband and wife duo of Michael Trotter, Jr. and Tanya Blount – and I’m happy to say another act I featured before, in October 2020. Borrowing from that post: Apple Music describes their style as impassioned soul music that draws on traditional folk, country, R&B, and spirituals, often combining them all. Initially known as Trotter & Blount, they released their debut album Love Affair under that name in 2016. This was followed by the EP Down to the River in July 2017, their first music appearing as The War and Treaty. Healing Tide, the first full-fledged studio album under the current moniker, came out in August 2018. The record, which featured a guest appearance of Emmylou Harris, was well received and reached no. 11 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers Albums and no. 26 on the Independent Albums charts. Blount first became prominent in 1993, when she performed a duet with Lauryn Hill in the comedy picture Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. The following year, she released her solo debut album Natural Thing. This brings me to Lover’s Game, the smoking title track and opener of The War and Treaty’s third and new album. It’s credited to the duo and producer Dave Cobb who has also worked with the likes of Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, John Prine, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, The Highwomen and Rival Sons.
Meet Me @ The Altar/Same Language
Meet Me @ The Altar is a pop punk trio who has been around since 2015. Initially, Téa Campbell (guitar, bass) and Ada Juarez (drums) met on YouTube and developed a bond that led to their decision to form a band. Following an online audition, Edith Victoria (vocals) joined them in 2017. Three years later after they had publically been endorsed by pop punk veterans Alex Gaskarth and Dan Campbell, of the bands All Time Low and The Wonder Years, respectively, Meet Me @ The Altar went viral and were signed by label Fueled by Ramen in October of the same year. Their debut EP Model Citizen appeared in August 2021. Now Meet Me @ The Altar are out with their first full-length album Past // Present // Future. Here’s Same Language, a catchy tune.
The Luka State/Bring Us Down
Wrapping up this week’s Best of What’s New are English indie rock group The Luka State. From their AllMusicbio: A British indie rock band with a solid guitar attack and urgent melodies that are both catchy and powerful, the Luka State burst out of the mining town of Winsford, Cheshire in 2013, scoring an early success with the song “30 Minute Break.” A change in drummers coincided with a shift in the Luka State’s creative approach, as synthesizer lines began winding their way into their guitar-based arrangements on their 2015 EP The Price of Education. A steady stream of tracks followed before the band scored another success with 2018 single “Feel It.” Fast forward to March 10, 2023, and the band’s sophomore album More Than This. Here’s the opener Bring Us Down, credited to all four members of the band: Conrad Ellis (lead vocals), Lewis Pusey (guitar), Sam Bell (bass, vocals) and Jake Barnabas (drums).
This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of the above tracks, as well as a few additional tunes by each of the featured artists.
Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; AllMusic; The Luka State website; YouTube; Spotify
The band from East L.A. shines at Pollak Theatre in New Jersey
Until a few years ago, I only had known Los Lobos because of their 1987 rendition of Ritchie Valens’La Bamba. The title track of the motion picture about the Mexican-American Chicano rock & roll star topped the charts in the U.S. and many other countries around the world. While they disappeared from the charts almost as quickly as they had conquered them, Los Lobos continued to record great music and perform live. This year, they are celebrating their 50th anniversary with an extended U.S. tour. I was fortunate to catch their gig last Friday at Pollak Theatre, a 700-seat performance venue on the campus of Monmouth Univesity in West Long Branch, N.J.
Before getting to the great concert, I’d like to provide a bit of background on the group. Los Lobos, who blend rock & roll, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, R&B, blues and soul with traditional Spanish music like cumbia, bolero and norteño, were founded by David Hidalgo (vocals, guitar) and Louie Pérez (drums) in East Los Angeles, Calif. in 1973. When Hidalgo and Pérez met in high school, they realized they liked the same artists, such as Fairport Convention, Randy Newman and Ry Cooder. Subsequently, they asked their fellow students Frank Gonzalez (vocals, mandolin, arpa jarocha), Cesar Rosas (vocals, guitar, bajo sexto) and Conrad Lozano (bass, guitarron, vocals) to join them, completing the band’s first line-up.
In early 1978, the group, then still known as Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles, self-released their eponymous debut album in Spanish. By the time of their October 1984 sophomore album and first major label release, How Will the Wolf Survive?, they had shortened their name to Los Lobos and started to write songs in English. Then, the group featured Hidalgo, Pérez, Rosas, Lozano and Steve Berlin (keyboards, woodwinds) who had joined in 1982, the same members Los Lobos have to this day – how many other bands can you name who have had a constant line-up for 40 years?
To date, Los Lobos have released 17 studio albums, four live records, three compilations and a couple of EPs. Their most recent album, Native Sons from July 2021, is largely a covers collection, which I reviewed here. It won a Grammy Award for Best Americana album in April 2022, the group’s fourth Grammy so far. Time to turn to the concert!
In some regards, writing this review is a bit of a challenge, since I’m only familiar with some of Los Lobos’ music. Moreover, if you check setlist.fm, you quickly notice the band varies their setlists from gig to gig – one sign of their great musicianship. As of the writing of this post, no setlist for this specific gig has been posted on setlist.fm. Thanks to notes I took on my phone during the show and some research, I’ve been able to figure out 60 percent of the songs they played- not too shabby I suppose.
Based on my insights, Los Lobos’ setlist spanned their entire career. Apart from their own songs, they played a number of covers, drawing on the studio albums How Will the Wolf Survive? (1984), The Neighborhood (1990), Kiko (1992), Colossal Head (1996), The Ride (2004), The Town and the City (2006) and Native Sons (2021), among others. The band not only demonstrated great musicianship but also their stylistic versatility, including rock, blues, Tex Mex, cumbia, pop and jazz.
Los Lobos kicked off the show with Is This All There Is?, co-written by Hidalgo and Pérez. The mid-tempo rocker is from their 2004 studio album The Ride, which featured numerous guests. For this tune, it was Little Willie G. (Willie Garcia) of Thee Midniters, one of the first successful Chicano rock bands. Check out Steve Berlin’s massive saxophone and its crunchy sound – I love it!
Chuco’s Cumbia, penned by Rosas, is a great example of a groovy Latin tune by Los Lobos. Cumbia is a folkloric genre and dance from Columbia. Originally, the song appeared on their 12th studio album The Town and the City, released in September 2006.
Another great performance was Love Special Delivery, a garage rock tune originally recorded by Thee Midniters in 1966. Los Lobos included a nice cover on the aforementioned Native Sons album.
To me, a highlight of the night was Kiko and the Lavender Moon, an original I’ve come to dig. Another one was a fantastic cover of Cream’sPolitician, which I missed capturing. Co-written by Hidalgo and Pérez as well, Kiko and the Lavender Moon tune was included on Kiko, the sixth studio album by Los Lobos, released in May 1992. It’s an unusual song with traces of retro jazz and a Latin groove. I’ve heard nothing like it before.
Next, I’d like to highlight a one-two punch, starting with Don’t Worry Baby, one of my favorite Los Lobos tunes, off their above-mentioned October 1984 sophomore album How Will the Wolf Survive? The smoking blues-rocker was co-written by Rosas, Pérez and the album’s co-producer, T-Bone Burnett. Immediately following is Mas y Mas, another great rock song half sung in Spanish, half in English. This track is from their 1996 album Colossal Head. The wolves were fully unleashed!
And then the time had come for the encore: a nice medley of La Bamba, which I had not intended to record initially, but I started and then just kept going, especially when I noticed the combination with Good Lovin’. The latter was co-written by Rudy Clark and Arthur Resnick and became a no. 1 single for The Young Rascals in 1966.
Following is a partial setlist: • Is This All There Is? • Emily • Chuco’s Cumbia • Misery • A Matter of Time • Love Special Delivery (Thee Midniters cover) • Politician (Cream cover) • Kiko and the Lavender Moon • Don’t Worry Baby • Mas y Mas Encore: • Medley: La Bamba (Ritchie Valens cover) & Good Lovin’ (The Young Rascals cover)
Eight tracks are missing from the above setlist.
Getting a ticket for Los Lobos was a relatively spontaneous decision, which I’m glad I made since I had not seen them before, plus it was pretty affordable. Since the show, Los Lobos played The Gordon Center of the Performing Arts in Owings Mills, Md. and The Paramount Theatre in Charlottesville, Va. Tonight, they perform at The Ramkat in Winston-Salem, N.C. Then they are taking a short break before heading to Arizona where they play the Fox Tucson Theatre in Tucson (March 10) and the Chandler Center for the Arts in Chandler (March 11). The full tour schedule is here. If you like their music, I can recommend seeing them.
Longtime singer-songwriter and guitarist delivers rich collection of blues, soul, funk and jazz
It only took listening to the first few bars of Weight of the World, the title track of Joe Louis Walker’s new album, to get a feeling I would love the music. It turns out my gut was right. Weight of the World, released on February 12, is a warm-sounding and rich collection of original songs, including soul, funk, blues and jazz.
If you happened to catch my latest Best of What’s Newinstallment from Saturday, you may recall I highlighted one of the album’s tracks, Is It a Matter of Time? As I noted in the post, while I had featured Walker once before in June 2020, I hadn’t explored him any further then. Well, I’m glad I paid more attention this time!
Before getting to the album, I’d like to provide some background on Walker who picked up the guitar as a child and already started performing during his young teenage years in the mid-’60s. It appears for the first two decades as a professional musician, Walker was a sideman before launching a recording career in the mid-’80s.
From his current web bio: Walker has recorded with Ike Turner, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, and Steve Cropper, opened for Muddy Waters and Thelonious Monk, hung out with Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and was a close friend and roommate of Mike Bloomfield.
Walker’s 1986 debut album Cold Is the Night on HighTone announced his arrival in stunning fashion, and his subsequent output for Verve, Alligator, HighTone, and others only served to further establish Walker as one of today’s leading bluesmen. The New York Times raved, “Walker is a singer with a Cadillac of a voice. His guitar solos are fast, wiry, and incisive, moaning with bluesy despair.” Rolling Stone calls him “ferocious.”
Walker, who is in the Blues Hall of Fame and has won various blues awards, is primarily known as an electric blues guitarist. But his latest album demonstrates his influences extend beyond the blues. Time to take a closer look!
I’d like to kick things off with the great aforementioned title track The Weight of the World. The beautiful soul tune was penned by album producer Eric Corne who shared writing duties with Walker and provided guitar and backing vocals. Corne is a Canada-born and Los Angeles-based producer, engineer and singer-songwriter. His bio reveals impressive recording credits, including John Mayall, Glen Campbell, Kim Deal (The Pixies), Lucinda Williams and Walter Trout, among others.
I’m skipping the previously noted Is It a Matter of Time? and go right to Hello, It’s the Blues. The soulful ballad was written by Walker. Beautiful!
Don’t Walk Out That Door is another standout on the album and may in fact be my early favorite. This gem, which was co-written by Walker and Gabriel Jagger, sounds like sweet “old-fashioned” soul you could picture having come out of Stax – so good!
Next things turn funky on Count Your Chickens. This is another track written by Corne -groovy stuff!
How ’bout some kickass rock & roll? Look no further than Blue Mirror, penned by Walker. Yeah, baby, it’s only rock & roll but I like it. Check out the neat guitar and honky tonk piano action!
Let’s do one more. Did I mention jazz? Here’s the album’s fun closer You Got Me Whipped, another track written by Walker.
Weight of the World, which appears on Forty Below Records, was recorded “just outside of Woodstock, NY.” This review wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the fine musicians who backed Walker. In addition to Corne, they include Scott Milici (keyboards), Marc Pender (trumpet), David Ralicke (saxophone), Eric Gorfain (violins), Gia Ciambotti (backing vocals), Geoff Murfitt (bass), Eddie Jackson (bongos) and John Medeiros Jr. (drums).
Here’s a Spotify link to the album:
Walker is supporting the album with a tour that is kicking off this Friday (February 24) in Beacon, N.Y. After a few additional dates in Woonsocket, R.I.; Northhampton, Mass. and Boston, Mass., he’s going to Europe, including France, Switzerland and Norway. The current schedule is here. I would love to see him, but unfortunately, none of the current dates work for me. I’m hoping for a second U.S. leg later this year or catch him some other time!
Sources: Wikipedia; Joe Louis Walker website; YouTube; Spotify
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
I hope everybody is spending a nice weekend and would like to welcome you to another Sunday Six. While I love blogging about music, this weekly recurring feature has been my favorite since its inaugural post in January 2021. Unlike most other more thematic posts, I feel The Sunday Six allows me to write about any type of music I dig within the same post. As tempting as it may look to broaden the series to other days of the week, I think it would lose its appeal to me, not to mention many if not most readers. With that said, let’s jump in the time machine and embark on another fun trip!
Charles Mingus/Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Our first stop today takes us back to October 1959 and Mingus Ah Um, a studio album by Charles Mingus. Over a 30-year career, the double bassist, pianist, composer and bandleader played with many other jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and released about 50 albums as a bandleader. Initially, Mingus started on the trombone and later studied the cello before picking up the double bass. As a teenager, he felt excluded from the classical music world since he couldn’t join a youth orchestra because of his inability to read musical notation quickly enough due to a poor education. These experiences, along with lifelong racism Mingus encountered influenced his music that oftentimes focused on themes like racial discrimination and injustice. By the mid-70s, sadly, Mingus had developed ALS. Eventually, this heinous disease made it impossible for him to play bass. Mingus continued to compose music until his untimely death in January 1979 at the age of 56. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is a Mingus composition that first appeared on his above-mentioned 1959 album. Apart from Mingus (double bass), the track featured John Handy (alto saxophone), Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone), Horace Parlan (piano) and Dannie Richmond (drums) – so beautiful and relaxing!
Teresa James/Ticket to Ride
From the past, we shall jump to the present: January 20, 2023. That’s when Teresa James released her latest album With a Little Help from Her Friends, a collection of Beatles covers with a twist. In case you’ve never heard of James before, neither had I. According to her website, the vocalist and keyboarder is a Los Angeles-based contemporary blues artist who has released albums with her band The Rhythm Tramps since 1998. She has also recorded with the likes of Walter Trout, Eric Burdon, Spencer Davis, Tommy Castro and Randy Newman, and been a featured act on Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruises for more than twenty years. This brings me back to With a Little Help from Her Friends, which features fun bluesy renditions of Beatles tunes. Let’s check out Ticket to Ride. Primarily written by John Lennon and, as usual, credited to him and Paul McCartney, the original first appeared as a single in April 1965. It was also included on the studio album Help! released in August of the same year. I like that bluesy take!
Bob Dylan/Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
For this next tune, we travel to January 1975 and Bob Dylan’s 15th studio album Blood On the Tracks. Initially received by critics with mixed reviews, it has subsequently been acclaimed as one of the maestro’s greatest – haven’t we seen that movie before? Anyway, I was reminded of Mr. Zimmerman’s gem the other day when my streaming music provider served up Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. It immediately occurred to me the epic story ballad would make a great pick for a Sunday Six. Wikipedia notes the tune was one of five songs on the album, which Dylan initially recorded in New York City in September 1974 and then re-recorded in Minneapolis in December of the same year. It’s the latter version that became the album track. Dylan (vocals, guitar and harmonica) was backed by Gregg Inhofer (Hammond), Billy Peterson (bass) and Bill Berg (drums). Man, I love this tune, including Dylan’s vocals, the cinematic lyrics and the sound, especially the Hammond organ!
Otis Redding/I’ve Been Loving You For Too Long
Time for some sweet soul music. And when it comes to that genre, I always enjoy going back to the heyday of Stax. I’ve Been Loving You For Too Long is a gem co-written by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler. It was included on Redding’s third studio album Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul, released in September 1965. Sadly, it would mark more than the half point of the five-year recording career of the man nicknamed the “King of Soul”. By the time Redding died in a plane crash in December 1967, he had become Stax’s biggest star and just recorded what became his biggest hit, (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay. He was only 26 years old. Like his two previous albums, Redding recorded Otis Blue with Stax house band Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Isaac Hayes on piano, and a horn section consisting of members of the Mar-Keys and the Memphis Horns. What a killer backing band, and what a voice and soulful performance!
Matchbox Twenty/3 AM
Some of you may be surprised to see me feature a tune by post-grunge pop rock band Matchbox Twenty. I didn’t see that one coming myself until I recently came across 3 AM and remembered I’ve always liked this tune. It was included on their debut album Yourself or Someone Like You, which came out in October 1996. Co-written by the group’s lead vocalist and bassist Rob Thomas and Brian Yale, respectively, together with John Leslie Goff and John Joseph Stanley, 3 AM also became the album’s third single in November 1997 – and their first no. 1 in the U.S. on Billboard’sAdult Pop Play and the Adult Alternative Airplay charts. It also topped the Canadian singles chart. Elsewhere, it performed more moderately, reaching no. 31 and 64 in Australia and the UK, respectively. While I hadn’t heard the name Matchbox Twenty in many years, they are still together, evidently as a touring act, with Thomas, Yale and two other co-founding members comprising the current line-up.
Bryan Adams/Summer Of ’69
And we’re off to our final stop on this trip. If some readers perhaps were less surprised about Matchbox Twenty than I thought, it’s safe to assume my final pick will lead some to roll their eyes. I’ve said it before and fully stand behind these words, I do like a good number of songs by Bryan Adams, especially from his first five albums the Canadian artist released between 1980 and 1987. This includes Summer Of ’69, one of multiple charting singles off his fourth and most successful album Reckless from November 1984. For fair balance, I will add I’m not a fan of his big hit ballads (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, Please Forgive Me (-I will but the song is an atrocity) and Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? At the same time, I recognize big hits help artists sustain themselves. If I see this correctly, Bryan Adams hasn’t had any comparable hits since 1995, yet he continues to march on nearly 30 years later.
This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of all the above tunes. Even if Bryan Adams and Matchbox Twenty aren’t your cup of tea, I still hope there’s something you dig!
Sources: Wikipedia; Teresa James website; YouTube; Spotify
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. All featured tracks are on brand-new albums that appeared yesterday (February 17).
Inhaler/Just to Keep You Satisfied
My first pick is a tune from the latest album by Inhaler, an Irish indie pop rock band from Dublin I first featured in July 2021. Initially founded as a trio in 2012, they adopted the name Inhaler in 2015 and shortly thereafter became a four-piece. The current line-up includes co-founders Elijah Hewson (lead vocals, guitar), Robert Keating (bass, backing vocals) and Ryan McMahon (drums), together with Josh Jenkinson (guitar) who has been with the group since 2015. And, yep, Hewson is one of the sons of U2 frontman Bono. In 2018, the band self-released their debut single I Want You. Inhaler were voted no. 5 in BBC’s “Sound of 2020” poll and were also included in the NME 100: Essential New Artists for 2020 list. Just to Keep You Satisfied is the pleasant opener of their new sophomore album Cuts & Bruises. The song is credited to British musician and composer Antony Genn and all four members of the band. My initial impression of Inhaler hasn’t changed: While they don’t sound like U2, there’s definitely some Bono in Elijah’s vocals.
Screaming Females/Morning Dove
Screaming Females are an indie rock trio right from my backyard of New Brunswick, N.J. From their AllMusicbio: New Jersey’s Screaming Females combine scorching guitars, straightforward but melodic tunes, and a clever approach to dynamics with a firmly D.I.Y. approach to create their own brand of punk-infused indie rock. Mixing equal parts Dinosaur Jr. and Sleater-Kinney, the Brunswick trio of Marissa Paternoster (guitar/vocals), Michael Abbate (bass), and Jarrett Dougherty (drums) strive to embody the spirit of indie rock in its purest form, pringing their guitar-driven rock to the people without compromise. The straightforward swagger of their first album, 2007’s Baby Teeth, would give way to more ambitious structures and greater guitar heroics from Paternoster by the time of 2012’s Ugly, 2018’s All at Once, and 2023’s Desire Pathway showed that trickier song structures and more full-bodied production didn’t sap their passion and energy. Off their eighth and latest album, here’s Morning Dove, credited to all three members of the band – pretty good tune!
Grade 2/Fast Pace
Grade 2 are a British punk rock band. From their website: 50 years after the genre turned the music world upside-down, Grade 2 bring the raw power of old school punk to a new generation…Formed on their native Isle of Wight when they were just 14 years old, Jack Chatfield (guitar & vocals), Jacob Hull (drums) and Sid Ryan (bass & vocals) honed their craft covering punk pioneers before creating a sound uniquely theirs: ten years on, the eponymous ‘Grade 2’ is their magnus opus. From the complex rhythms and brutal two-note guitar of opening track ‘Judgement Day’, the record grabs by the scruff of the neck and never lets up. With a commitment to the cause, lead single ‘Doing Time’ is a thunderous hardcore punk track…Intertwined are upbeat bangers (‘Under the Streetlight’, ‘Celine’), classic pop-punk (‘Don’t Stand Alone’, ‘Fast Pace’), and savage old-school grit (‘Parasite’, ‘Gaslight’). The result is a bone-crunching 35-minutes that agitates, intoxicates and liberates in equal measure. Here’s Fast Pace, credited to the group – my kind of punk combining hard-charging rock with a decent melody!
Joe Louis Walker/Is It a Matter of Time?
My last pick for this week is another artist I featured previously, in June 2020: Joe Louis Walker. From his previous web bio: Joe Louis Walker, a Blues Hall of Fame inductee and four-time Blues Music Award winner celebrates a career that exceeds a half a century…A true powerhouse guitar virtuoso, unique singer and prolific songwriter, he has toured extensively throughout his career, performed at the world’s most renowned music festivals, and earned a legion of dedicated fans…Born on December 25, 1949 in San Francisco, at age 14, he took up the guitar. Just two years later, he was a known quantity on the Bay Area music scene, playing blues with an occasional foray into psychedelic rock. For a while, he roomed with Mike Bloomfield, who introduced him to Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead. If my math is correct, the above means Walker has been performing since the mid-’60s. Yet it wasn’t until 1986 that he released his debut album Cold Is the Night. Since then he has recorded more than 20 additional albums. Apple Music tags his latest, Weight of the World, as R&B and soul. While it also has some blues, I would agree with that characterization. Here’s Is It a Matter of Time? penned by Walker – love this!
Last but not least, following is a Spotify playlist of the above tracks and a few additional songs by the featured bands and artists.