Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Jon Randall, The Living Room, NYC, 8/31/05

It's always great to check out new music, in this case it was Jon Randall, performing at the Living Room, courtesy of Dave and Sony/BMG. Randall is a talented singer-songwriter of the country persuasion, and Walking Among the Livinghis Epic Records debut due out on September 20th is his fourth album and he's got something of an interesting history.

A native of Texas, by age twenty he had found work playing guitar with Emmylou Harris' band, the Nash Ramblers, a gig which ultimately won him a Grammy for their At the Ryman live album, released in 1992. His solo debut, What You Don't Know followed in 1995 on RCA; seeing him now, the long hair on the cover of that first album looks a little humorous.

His second album, Cold Coffee Morning, initially delayed by a label shakeup at Asylum, ultimately came out in 1998 and included duets with Willie Nelson and Lorrie Morgan (who he was married to at the time). His third effort, Willin' was released in 1999 on the Eminent label.

In addition to his experience in Emmylou Harris' band, he's worked with Trisha Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack, Patty Loveless, Susan Werner, Lyle Lovett, and Bill Anderson, and he's toured in support of Vince Gill and the Dixie Chicks. Current squeeze and labelmate Jessi Alexander did not appear to sing backup this night, but Randall brought an excellent band to play with him consisting of a bassist and an acoustic lead guitarist.

His set was most enjoyable, at times bringing to mind Lyle Lovett and occasionally Jesse Winchester, but most of the set reminded me of Vince Gill, who he not only sounds like vocally, including some nice falsetto, but his guitar work and even his appearance bears something of a resemblance to country's premier singer-songwriter. He'll be opening for Vince Gill all this fall on a major tour, so if you're so inclined you can see a direct comparison.

His material was all pretty interesting, but I remember thinking that his song about cheating seemed maybe a bit too remorseful (although he might be ahead of the curve on this occasionally disturbing new trend in country), and the thought occurred during it that he would sound great covering the old Billy Paul classic, "Me and Mrs. Jones" (just a thought). While the Living Room is not a place where you would expect to find a major label country artist, it's great to be able to see someone like Randall in such an intimate and informal setting, and I'm looking forward to checking out Walking Among the Living when it comes out.

Jess Klein, The Living Room, NYC, 8/31/05

We stayed to check out Jess Klein as her set followed Jon Randall's at the Living Room and we were treated to a somewhat rare full band performance by this singer-songwriter, previously only familiar to me by way of two songs on Peter Malick's Norah Jones album, Chance and Circumstancewhich expanded the Norah Jones mini-album to a full length by adding two songs each by four additional female singer-songwriters.

Strawberry Loverher latest and fourth full lenghth CD contains a song (the title track) that the New York Daily News has deemed "one of the top ten sexiest songs of the moment." On first listen one might think that the Daily News may have overstated the case; it sounded more like a love song to strawberries than anything too terribly sexy, unless you're into that sort of thing (not that there's anything wrong with that). The first half of the set was fairly soft singer-songwriterly tunes, some with band and some solo acoustic.

When they shifted gears on "Soda Water" it was surprising not only because the song was already familiar from WXPN airplay (without knowing who it was) but it almost seemed like a different singer had taken over Jess' body. The slightly tentative soft singing voice that characterized the first part of the set, was transformed into that of an experienced, confident blues singer, reminiscent of Susan Tedeschi or early Bonnie Raitt. The excellent band, consisting of bass, drums, and Marc Copely on guitar totally killed on the bluesy material as well. Maybe it was partially due to having heard the tune before, but "Soda Water" really sounded great, performed live with this band.

The set took off from there, with the singer and the band seemingly inspiring each other to new heights on each successive song. "Willing to Change" came next, also sounding great, followed by a cover of Willie Dixon's "The Same Thing" which was a total knockout by both Jess and band, with some superb guitar work by Copely. "Little White Dove" ended the set quite nicely and I for one was impressed. Thanks to Jess for providing the setlist.

Sink My Teeth In
Strawberry Lover
All I Ever Had
Soda Water
Willing to Change
The Same Thing (Willie Dixon)
Little White Dove

According to Jess, the version of "Soda Water" playing on WXPN prior to the release of the current album was most likely a live version that she and Copely played during a visit to the station. The title track notwithstanding, I'm definitely interested in hearing the rest of Strawberry Lover as well as the earlier albums. Here's hoping to hear lots more blues from Jess Klein.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Juliana Hatfield, North Star Bar, Philadelphia, 8/17/05

.Juliana Rocks!

Juliana Hatfield may be conflicted about her place in the scheme of the music biz (check the excellent rant on her website), but man can she sing and play the guitar. Writes a great tune too. Plus, reading her diatribe you've got to love her attitude and spirit. With Del Amitri defunct and Springsteen turning into Woody Guthrie, she might be my favorite rocker. Her set tonight was well worth putting up with two rather noisy opening bands and all the time it took. Just now heading for bed (4am).

She may be best known for the songs she writes, but she is truly one of our great guitarists plus the combination of her electric guitar work with the sweetness of her voice has always been a potent combination. For this tour it's a three piece with Juliana carrying every song with her guitar and voice, backed only by bass and drums. Pete Caldes did a nice job behind the kit, and Ed Valuaskas played some superb Fender bass and also provided backing vocals.

Juliana mixes her rhythm and leads so effectively that every song equals or exceeds the studio versions. Tonight's set was comfortably long and cooked with a relentless intensity that was a joy to behold. She played a wealth of tunes, including most if not all of the new album, Made in China. After a two song encore, she thanked the small but incredibly enthusiastic crowd at the North Star by coming back for a second encore.

Juliana may not want to be thought of as "alterna-waif" (understandable), but she is so incredibly thin that Kate Moss might look at her and think twice about ordering dessert. The short hair looks great but I totally didn't recognize it was her that I was handing my $12 to when I bought her new cd before the show. I did get the chance a few minutes later to say how much I enjoy her work. There was one audience member who seemed like she was working to understudy Juliana, sharing a sort of similar look and singing every word of every song, including everything off the new album which is impressive (scary) since the album's only been out about a week.

Will post more pictures soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Summer Mix - 2005

Submitted for your approval, and not a minute too soon, to help wring the last few drops of unwind out of summer, this mix nicely fits on one blank cd.

  1. Patti Page – Old Cape Cod (Single, 1957)
  2. Chris Rea – On the Beach (On the Beach, 1986)
  3. Swing Out Sister – When the Laughter is Over (Where Our Love Grows, 2004)
  4. Ivy – Ocean City Girl (In the Clear, 2005)
  5. Air – Cherry Blossom Girl (Talkie Walkie, 2004)
  6. Chris Rea – King of the Beach (King of the Beach, 2000)
  7. Tina Dico – Warm Sand (In the Red, 2005)
  8. k.d. lang – Summerfling (Invincible Summer, 2000)
  9. Texas – Summer Son (The Hush, 1999)
  10. The Corrs – Summer Sunshine (Borrowed Heaven, 2004)
  11. Nellie McKay – The Dog Song (Get Away From Me, 2004)
  12. The Blackbyrds – Walking in Rhythm (Flying Start, 1974)
  13. D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince – Summertime (Homebase, 1991)
  14. Chris Rea – All Summer Long (King of the Beach, 2000)
  15. James Taylor – That's Why I'm Here (That's Why I'm Here, 1985)
  16. Joni Mitchell – You Turn Me On I'm a Radio (For the Roses, 1972)
  17. Bruce Springsteen – 4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy) (The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, 1973)
  18. Scott Merritt – Burning Train (Violet and Black, 1989)
  19. Dido – Sand in My Shoes (Life for Rent, 2003)

Graphics - Chris Rea, King of the Beach & On the Beach.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Average White Band - Wiggins Park, Camden, NJ, 8/02/05

The following was posted to the AWB discussion board immediately after the show.

It was another great AWB performance tonight, outdoors in a beautiful setting by the Delaware River with the City of Philadelphia providing the backdrop for this free show. It's always great to hear AWB play live but there's something special about an outdoor show in the summer - this reminded me of another great summer show a few years ago at Kahunaville in Wilmington. It's always great when the audience is multi-racial and multi-generational as it often is for AWB; when all sorts of folks can relate to and enjoy this wonderful music. I should note that tonight's show had the largest black attendance I've ever seen for AWB and the group came with one of the tightest, funkiest sets ever. Here's the setlist.
  • The Jugglers (getting right off on the funky foot)
  • Whatcha' Gonna Do For Me (referencing Chaka Kahn's hit cover)
  • Oh Maceo (Freddy killed as he always does)
  • Walk on By (Super funky version with lengthy funk intro, such a great song)
  • Schoolboy Crush (burning hot crush)
  • A Love of Your Own (beautiful slow jam)
  • Work to Do (Nu-jazz version giving way to the original)
  • Person to Person (smokin' hot, especially Onnie)
  • I'm the One (hot groove rolls on)
  • Cut the Cake (white hot Klyde bass solo)
  • Encore:
  • Cloudy (all hitting new highs of soulfulness)
  • Pick up the Pieces (long and funky!)
It just doesn't get any better than this - I know I say that every time, but it's true. I got some great photos tonight, I'll post some in the next couple days. According to the tour list, they're scheduled for another park show this Saturday in Chester, PA which is also in the Philadlephia area, so anyone who missed tonight's show needs to get down to Chester this Saturday. Cheers to all. - William Kates (also class of '75)

..Onnie at soundcheck, incognito without his cap.

..Freddy as Maceo

..Alan walks on by at sunset

..Onnie walking too

..The anchor, Brian Dunne

..Klyde groovin' on bass

..Klyde with some work to do on jazz guitar

..Alan gets cloudy

..Freddy picks up the pieces

Monday, August 01, 2005

Douglas D. Halsey (1952-2005)

The following was written for the newsletter of the college radio station where I had the privilege of working with Doug many years ago.

Doug Halsey, A Memorial Remembrance

Douglas D. Halsey, Earlham Class of 1974 andWECI staffer, died April 18, 2005 of complications related to Multiple Myeloma. Doug was born in Bronxville, New York on June 4, 1952. He graduated Earlham with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and pursued a career in sales which led to the plastics industry culminating in a long term position as Director of Midwest Regional Operations for the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc.

At WECI, Doug hosted classical music programs as well as shows featuring other types of music. Doug had a good sounding voice for radio that was equally well suited to delivering the news. Doug had a great sense of humor which also found an outlet at WECI, including numerous character voices that he used for recording station IDs and show promos. He eventually hosted a long-form comedy special that mixed British humor from sources like the Bonzo Dog Band (an early precursor of Monty Python) with then cutting-edge rock by Frank Zappa and Roy Wood (the Move and early Electric Light Orchestra). His impressions of Ed Sullivan and Broderick Crawford were legendary; he even threw in the occasional comedy bit from Don Imus who had then just released a radio comedy album. Doug's professionalism on and off the air, combined with his musical and comedic sensibilities made him a huge asset to WECI and the Earlham community.

Doug's love of music never wavered throughout his life; he was partial to artists such as Little Feat, John Hiatt, Bruce Cockburn, early Genesis, and Julia Fordham. Doug played acoustic guitar and held a special appreciation for guitar players such as Alan Holdsworth and Sonny Landreth, but his all time favorite artist throughout his life, to whom he introduced many WECI staffers and listeners, was acoustic guitar master Leo Kottke. As recently as the summer of 2004 when Doug, Dave Curtis (Class of '75 and former WECI Station Manager) and I met in Chicago, Doug brought along the latest Leo Kottke cd for us to hear.

Doug fought a long and valiant battle against the cancer that ultimately consumed him, engaging in experimental treatments that together with his energy and spirit, afforded him many more years of life than might have been expected. He leaves behind a wife, Deadra and an eleven year old son Zachary in Elmhurst, Illinois. Doug took a special joy in the 2004 World Series win by his beloved Boston Red Sox, and according to Deadra he has passed that passion on to Zach. Doug is sorely missed by all who knew him.

by William Kates (Class of '75 and former WECI Station Manager)

Doug Halsey at the Duke of Perth Pub in Chicago, shortly after a
Cubs game in August 2002