The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: country blues

Potter & Nocturnals ignite a slow burn at Ridgefield

by on Sep.17, 2010, under Music


It’s not often I get to see an act twice in a calendar year. Last year, The Derek Trucks Band; this year Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. We saw Potter at the Infinity Music Hall in January, when I knew virtually nothing about them, and this past Sunday at the Ridgefield Playhouse, knowing a little bit more, well considerably more.

The performance Sunday was every bit as good as back in January but it was quite different. The Playhouse is a nice venue, my first time. It looks a little like a refurbished auditorium with a proscenium style stage, which in fact it is, being the auditorium of the old Ridgefield High School. A very high ceiling helps provide excellent acoustics and there isn’t a bad seat in the house, which holds about 500. We were about seventh row left on the aisle.

Grace Potter Red Dress GuitarThe main difference in this set was that it was more of a slow burn building into a fiery peak rather than a hit-you-over-the head, drive-it-right-at-you affair right from the beginning. In contrast to the Infinity opener Medicine, an infectious blues-rock tour de force, the group opened with That Phone, a nice tune but a strange opener with guitarist Scott Tournet doubling with Matthew Burr on drums.

Much of the first set was filled with tunes from the group’s latest self-titled album. It included Oasis, another moderate to low-key tune, which was given an extraordinary arrangement featuring an extended vocal vamp by Potter; Apologies; Money, more of an upbeat tune; the country-flavored One Short Night and the others listed below, including Tiny Light. If you are at all familiar with their material, you get the idea.

The second set opened low-key as well with a two-song acoustic coupling, featuring Potter, Tournet and second guitarist Benny Yurco, but after the reggae-inflected Goodbye Kiss, the group started cranking it up with the scorching Hot Summer Night from the latest and building to a climax with Stop the Bus and Medicine to finish off the set. The group returned for an 18-minute encore leading off with White Rabbit, then Paris, and what was the regular set closer at the Infinity, Nothing But The Water to end the proceedings.

Check my earlier review of the Infinity show for more details on some of the live renditions of these tunes. The band, which also includes bassist Catherine Popper, was in fine form at The Playhouse. Potter’s voice and stage presence are still impressive and hot, one of the best voices around today in rock. The band plays very well together as a unit, and Tournet does some nice soloing. And Potter’s songwriting is inspiring.

Lacking any photos from the gig without a watermark, I give you two performances from Jimmy Kimmel Live in July, which give you an idea of what to expect if you haven’t seen this outfit, and a video of Paris. One of my favorite new bands, I love how they mesh the roots of American blues-rock and country with a modern day musical sensibility. Catch them.

First set
That Phone
One Short Night
Low road
Ah Mary
Tiny Light
Second set
Ain’t No Time
Treat Me Right
Fooling Myself
Goodbye Kiss
Only Love
Hot Summer Night
Stop The Bus
White Rabbit
Nothing But The Water

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Les Dudek blazing a trail on tour

by on Aug.14, 2010, under Music

Les Dudek Live 2 Large










I had always wanted to see Les Dudek in concert but never had the opportunity during the time he released four of the best solo albums of the late 1970s and early ’80s. Thursday night at The Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Conn., I got my chance.

Dudek, a somewhat unheralded and almost forgotten guitar master, has played on much more music than many might realize. He recorded those four extraordinary solo albums and was also a member of DFK with keyboardist Mike Finnigan and guitarist Jim Krueger, before virtually disappearing for a big portion of the ’80s. He reappeared with two more solo efforts, the brilliant Deeper Shades Of Blues in 1994 and Freestyle (2002), an assortment of tracks he had never released but that hold together as a cohesive album.

He’s worked with a plethora of other artists as well. Predating his solo career, Dudek played on The Allman Brothers album Brothers & Sisters (1972), on which he provided the emblematic solo of Ramblin’ Man and co-wrote Jessica with Dickey Betts. He worked with Boz Scaggs for six years, including on the top-selling Silk Degrees, then played and toured with Steve Miller, writing What A Sacrifice for Miller’s classic Fly Like An Eagle album. He also worked with Cher in the short-lived rock band Black Rose and toured with and co-wrote tunes with Stevie Nicks in the early ’90s. Add to his resume that he provided some very hot guitar parts to TV themes for Law & Order, Extra, Friends, ESPN and many, many more.

At the Infinity, Dudek played with a trio that included Dan Walters, who provided rock solid and imaginative bass playing and background vocals, and the seemingly tireless and gifted drummer Gary Ferguson. The three ran through many tunes familiar to Dudek’s following from his solo albums as well as songs he’s collaborated on and some new material.

These three put on a a smokin’ show that never let up. Dudek plays a Fender Strat and he easily fills out the sound of the trio. The tone of his guitar sounds like it always has a slight bit of a chorus effect (or perhaps it was just the acoustics of Infinity’s nearly all wood interior), giving it a full, rich sound that almost sounds churchy.

Dudek’s single-string playing is simply jaw-dropping. There is no player in rock that has better chops. He mixes amazing flights of extremely adept and technically difficult runs with sweet, melodic phrasing. Add to this his rhythmic and exacting chord playing, often during and in between his solos, and a voice that is both pleasing and powerful with a wonderful range and Dudek is a tour de force by himself.

With Walters and Ferguson in support the band is electrifying and ferocious at times, as when Walters takes a solo flight that culminates with him expertly keeping up with Dudek on trade-offs, and as Ferguson provides deep grooves that drive the band relentlessly. (continue reading…)

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Exiled with The Stones

by on Jun.10, 2010, under Music

Around the time a re-mastering of The Rolling Stones early ’70s work Exile On Main Street was announced, I finally decided to read a book about the period I had picked up a few months prior.

Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street CoverA Season In Hell With The Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield is the perfect companion to what many Stones fans believe is the group’s greatest album. There’s no doubt it comes from the group’s last great era, and although it’s one of my favorite Stones records, I don’t believe it’s their best.

Nonetheless, it has a fascinating story behind it and the album comes into sharper focus by reading what led up to its making. In short, because of the extreme tax laws at the time in England, much too complicated to recount, The Stones were forced to move to the south of France for an extended period and that would become the site of their recording for Exile.

Having exhausted most possible locations for the recording, The Stones settled on Villa Nellcote, where Keith Richards and girlfriend Anita Pallenberg were staying. The group set up in a room in the basement and with their trusty mobile recording studio outside set about recording a good deal of the album.

It is, however, pointed out in Greenfield’s book that it was a herky-jerky, start-and stop affair at best. What with Richards’ and Pallenberg’s drug indulgences, the celebrity-charged atmosphere that saw among others Gram Parsons settle in for an extended stay and in general an uneasiness between the group’s leaders, Richards and Mick Jagger, it’s a wonder this album was ever finished.

Still, with supplemental tracks and overdubs cut in Los Angeles and previous tracks recorded at Olympic Studios in London, the album was pieced together and remains one of The Stones most interesting, resting comfortably among it influences: blues, R&B, country blues, Motown and rock.

Richards is in all ways the main player in this saga, both in the book and it’s fairly detailed recounting of his life during this period, and the recording, during which despite his drug abuse he was essentially the creative force behind the songs.
(continue reading…)

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Return of the Beehive Queen

by on Nov.09, 2009, under Music

Christine Ohlman hasn’t really been away. In the past five years, she has continued to work with her band Rebel Montez and as a singer for the Saturday Night Live Band, and released the retrospective Re-Hive last year.

the_deep_end_coverBut The Deep End, released this month, is her first record of new material since Strip in 2004. It is certainly worth the wait. A collection of bluesy and soul-infused rockers and ballads with emotional, heartfelt lyrics of love and loss, The Deep End is Ohlman’s most complete and accomplished work.

The album benefits from an impressive cast of guests who each add something special. Al Anderson plays guitar on two tunes, including the title track, Dion, Ian Hunter and Marshall Crenshaw each sing duet vocals with Chris, and Levon Helm, G.E. Smith, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, Catherine Russell, Paul Ossola and Andy York, guitarist from the John Mellencamp Band who also produces with Chris, are among the many contributors.

Chris and her band will debut the album at Cafe Nine in New Haven on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Chris sets the scene on the opener, There Ain’t No Cure, a gritty, infectious rocking track that features York on lead guitar and Hunter adding a duet vocal. The title track, one of Ohlman’s best compositions, follows with its Latin feel in the verse, interesting melodic twists in the chorus and telling lyrics that speak of loss, something Chris has endured in these past five years losing her mate and producer Doc Cavalier and longtime guitarist and collaborator Eric Fletcher. Anderson provides the lead work on the track in his signature country-blues style.

All the uptempo material is a delight. The grooves are deep and the playing exemplary. Ohlman is in fine form vocally throughout, bringing her unique soulful delivery that ranges from smooth as glass to rough and raspy. Among them — Love Make You Do Stupid Things, driven by Ambel’s chord-flavored lead style, the country-rock feel of Love You Right, again with Anderson, Bring It With You When You Come, which sees Rebel Montez guitarist Cliff Goodwin take a fiery, spitting solo, and Born To Be Together, on which Goodwin is again featured this time playing off the melody through what sounds like a Leslie speaker — are all highlights. (continue reading…)

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BonTaj traveling blues show

by on Aug.11, 2009, under Music

At one point Sunday night at the Oakdale Theatre, Bonnie Raitt said it’s taken 40 years to get Taj Mahal and her together for a tour. Too bad it took that long.

bontaj-rouletIt’s understandable of course. Both have had successful careers in their own right, particularly Raitt, whose career exploded in the late 1980s and early ’90s with not only chart success but also a plethora of somewhat unexpected Grammy Awards.

Well, they’re together now. And their third show of the one-month BonTaj Roulet Summer Tour was a blues explosion with each playing with their own bands, Taj joining Bonnie for a couple of acoustic numbers and then both bands playing together to seal the deal.

Taj came out first at the Wallingford, Connecticut venue and cruised through a bluesy 45 minutes with his swinging Phantom Blues Band, which includes Mike Finnigan, who has played with everyone from Dave Mason to Jimi Hendrix to Les Dudek, on keyboards, soulful guitar player Johnny Lee Schell, horn players Joe Sublett (sax) and Darrell Leonard (trumpet) and bass player Larry Fulcher. (continue reading…)

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Electrified Levon

by on Jul.20, 2009, under Music

Two years ago, Levon Helm, legendary singer and drummer for The Band, released his first solo album in 25 years, Dirt Farmer. A bluegrass leaning record with elements of country, blues and R&B, it brought Helm back in a big way after his bout with cancer of the vocal cords in the early 2000s.

levon-helm-electric-dirtHis voice had changed somewhat but the trademark quality that graced so many of The Band’s signature tunes was intact with a slightly raspier flavor.

Now Helm has followed up the Grammy winner with Electric Dirt, on which he comes a little closer to the style of The Band while retaining his own musical identity. With the help of extraordinary guitarist/producer Larry Campbell, who among many other projects has played with Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour band, Helm’s daughter Amy of Olabelle and a host of other distinguished musicians, Helm has shaped a rocking, bluesy, down home sounding record that is about as earthy as it gets when it comes to roots music.

There are tracks as good but none better than the opener Tennessee Jed, a Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter tune, on which Campbell plays an infectious slide riff in answer to Helm’s vocal. It’s augmented by a full horn section that includes Howard Johnson on tuba. An easy rocking groove makes this a song you can’t sit still to. (continue reading…)

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Neil Young Archives: The Concerts

by on Jun.23, 2009, under Music

Three live performances are included in the Neil Young Archives Vol. 1 box set, two of which were actually released in 2008. Of course, that doesn’t include live video footage you can find in hidden tracks and the video log, usually tucked underneath track listing screens, throughout the set.

neil-young-riverboatIf you pre-ordered the set, you also received another previously released concert on DVD/CD, Sugar Mountain Live At the Canterbury House 1968, which I wrote about back in December in this post. Also in that piece, I mentioned a bit about one of the other discs, Live At Massey Hall 1971, which I picked up last year. Live At The Fillmore East 1970 with Crazy Horse and Live At The Riverboat 1969 are the other two performances in the set.

Suffice to say Massey Hall is Young’s best overall performance of these discs. He appears to have fully realized himself as a solo performer by this time despite touring with a rather serious back injury and playing in a brace. But he had found the perfect balance between polished performer and humorous and engaging stage personality.

As is revealed in an Archives meeting elsewhere in the set, he intended to release a live acoustic album from this tour at the time but it was ditched when sessions for the Harvest album began in February 1971. (continue reading…)

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The clock is ticking

by on May.05, 2009, under Music

The Felice Brothers have to rank right up there with all-time camera-shy bands. On their second Team Love release, Yonder Is The Clock, there are no photos and scant information about the band, similar to their eponymous first record for the label.

felice-yonderThere is no lack of creative, roots-imbued songs with thought-provoking lyrics though. Channeling Americana as direct descendants of The Band, at its most sparse, and vocally reminiscent of Bob Dylan, the group from the Catskills of three brothers and two friends runs through 13 songs that at times hearken back to what sounds like music that may have been around during the time of the Civil War.

With a core of guitar, accordion, fiddle, piano, drums and bass, augmented on occasion with several horns, they give their music and influences a fresh take, putting a personal stamp of a country-based style. And much like The Band the songs come first in all of the Felice Brothers arrangements.

Lyrically this album is obsessed with death. Perhaps that’s a bit too strong. But all the songs are about death, albeit some with an unnerving sense of humor. If you read the lyrics out loud it’s hard not to start laughing.

From the opener The Big Surprise:
Grab your shovel, let’s get to it
There’s no one way how to do it
And there will be no woes or sad goodbyes
On the day of the big surprise
(continue reading…)

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