The Trick Is To Keep Going

Archive for December, 2009

The 10 best for ’09

by on Dec.22, 2009, under Music

Last year I picked five albums I considered the best of the year. This time I’m upping it to 10 with a few bubbling under and some added tidbits.

Derek Trucks Band Already Free1. Already Free, The Derek Trucks Band: Traditional blues with modern sensibilities and influences from jazz, roots and world music, all played by an array of accomplished musicians and one of the best slide players of our time.

2. The Deep End, Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez: Stellar songwriting, impassioned vocals and infectious grooves highlight Ohlman’s fifth album, which also features an impressive roster of guests. Her best yet.

3. Electric Dirt, Levon Helm: On this electrified followup to his comeback album Dirt Farmer, Helm blends traditional roots music with elements of folk, blues, soul and gospel. The mix of new original material and classic covers works perfectly. The arrangements are clean and to the point and musicianship impeccable.

 4. Middle Cyclone, Neko Case: A wonderful concoction of folk, rock, country and pop interlaced with enigmatic lyrics and penetrating melodies. All topped with Case’s crystal clear voice.

bebel-gilberto-all-in-one5. All In One, Bebel Gilberto: Her best since Tanta Tempo in 2000, this work is alive with beautiful songwriting and Gilberto’s gorgeous, hushed, cool vocals. Aided by her pals Carlhinos Brown and Didi Gutman among others.

6. Soul On Ten, Robben Ford: A ripping, rocking live set with two live-in-the-studio cuts, filled with Ford’s interesting blues-based originals, some classic covers and his unique take on blues, rock and jazz playing.

7. The List, Rosanne Cash: A love letter to her father Johnny and her audience, giving back songs from his list of 100 that he gave to his teen-age daughter. Arrangements and execution by Cash and husband John Levanthal are enthralling. (continue reading…)

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Jackie and Ry at The Ash Grove

by on Dec.17, 2009, under Music

As I’ve mentioned a few times in the past year I’m an avid fan of Wolfgang’s Vault.

jackie-deshannon-early-with-guitar-smallThe site never ceases to surprise me by unearthing rare, interesting and previously unavailable concerts from its vast treasure hold.

This one is truly an unexpected delight, Jackie DeShannon and Ry Cooder playing as an acoustic duo at the legendary Ash Grove in Los Angeles on September 3, 1963, long before either had achieved any type of widespread notoriety. DeShannon was 19 at the time and although she had released a string of singles, it was before her opening stint on the first Beatles tour of the U.S. in 1964 and her first hits, Needles & Pins and When You Walk In The Room.

ry-cooder-youngI’ve come to really love her earthy, soulful and gospel-inspired vocals from this era of her career. As for Cooder, he’s 16, yet still shows an amazing virtuosity on acoustic guitar. One of the great players of our time.

Despite being a fan of both artists, I never knew this show existed on tape or that these two made any type of collaboration during this period, which is what makes the Vault such a valuable resource and an unending source of enjoyment. Below is a track from the show. The concert can be accessed here.

To listen to the entire show, you’ll need to register at the site, which is an easy process and free.

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Esperanza Spalding interprets Nascimento

by on Dec.14, 2009, under Music

Speaking of bass players. If you haven’t seen or heard Esperanza Spalding, who I mentioned in my favorite albums from 2008, you must. So here is the young wunderkind bassist/vocalist playing a Milton Nascimento tune, Ponta De Areia, one of my favorites from the legendary Brazilian composer.

It’s, of course, unusual seeing a young woman play with such expertise on what has been primarily a man’s instrument in the annals of jazz, but that she also is an extraordinary singer and does both on stage with such ease is inspiring. Obviously, the world of music is changing and for the better.

What strikes me about this performance is her virtuosity on the doublebasse and that she also sings so naturally when it is one of the most difficult instruments to play while singing simultaneously, because you are creating counter patterns with your hands and your voice. And it’s kind of an awkward instrument to sing with. She has no problems.

The performance is from October, 2008 in Rio.

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Jeff Beck gives Tal a hand

by on Dec.10, 2009, under Music

Back in April, I wrote about a remarkable concert given by Jeff Beck and his group at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Connecticut.

One of the sequences of the show that was absolutely startling was a solo taken by Tal Wilkenfeld, a 23-year-old bassist from Australia who looks no more than about 17, during which Beck takes off his guitar, walks over to the bass player and proceeds to accompany her by playing on just the E and A strings of her bass.

This video, produced by an astute videographer at the Fillmore at Irving Plaza in New York gig the night before I saw Beck at Foxwoods, shows the duet. They play it fast and loose, having a lot of fun with it as they did at the Grand. Her virtuosity is overwhelming for someone so young. Just a treat to watch.

Can you pick out the melody and changes Tal plays at the end of the solo?

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Under The Radar, No. 3: Fleetwood Mac, the forgotten years

by on Dec.03, 2009, under Music

Between the departure of Peter Green and the arrival of Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac soldiered on in the early-to-mid 1970s re-fashioning their sound over six albums, a span of time and music that is largely forgotten by the general music listening audience.

Fleetwood Mac circa Heroes Are Hard To Find Band: Bob Welch, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie.

Fleetwood Mac circa Heroes Are Hard To Find Band: Bob Welch, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie.

On those six releases, there are nuggets worth discovering or revisiting and an indication of where the band would eventually wind up artistically, considerably distant from where it started.

Fleetwood Mac quickly became a British blues institution in the late 1960s with a lineup that included the rock solid rhythm section of John McVie, bass, and Mick Fleetwood, drums, along with Green, one of the U.K.’s preeminent blues guitarists and Jeremy Spencer, an Elmore James loyalist and early rock ‘n roll enthusiast.

Mac enjoyed single and album chart success in the U.K. and enjoyed good album numbers in the States for their self-titled debut, second release Mr. Wonderful, augmented by horns and guitarist Danny Kirwan, and third record English Rose, along with the compilation Pious Bird Of Good Omen.

After Green’s semi-involvement with an excellent fourth record, Then Play On, which has a muddled history of its own, founder Green left. It wasn’t until 1975 that Mac found mega-million selling worldwide success with Buckingham, Nicks and Christine McVie with the release of Fleetwood Mac and then Rumours in ’77, music in a much more pop-oriented vein but executed beautifully.

The years in between saw the release of Kiln House (1970), same as the lineup for the second album minus Green, Future Games (1971), which saw the departure of Spencer, the additions of American guitarist Bob Welch and singer/songwriter/pianist Christine McVie and the emergence of Kirwan as an equal if not dominant writer in the group, Bare Trees (1972), Penguin (1973), goodbye Kirwan, hello singer Dave Walker and guitarist Bob Weston, Mystery To Me (1973), so long Walker, and Heroes Are Hard To Find (1974), adios Weston.

Welch left after Heroes and a year later came the Buckingham-Nicks era. (continue reading…)

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