Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dixie Chicks on Howard Stern, 5/25/06

It was a big week for the Dixie Chicks, with Tuesday's release of their new album Taking the Long Way,a cover story in Time Magazine, and appearances on most major talk shows including two days on Good Morning America (interview Tuesday, live performance Friday), and this morning's visit to the Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Natalie Maines

Think what you will about Howard, but once you get past the naked girls, strippers and porn stars, once you get past the bathroom humor and foul language, deep down there is a very funny performer who is very good at what he does, and even deeper down there is a very sensitive guy who usually comes in on the caring, humanistic, and even the moral side of most social and political issues. His musician and celebrity interviews have been a mixed bag but I've got to say that this morning's appearance by the Dixie Chicks was perhaps the best musician segment I've ever heard in nearly twenty years of listening to the Stern show.

Emily Robison

Howard did a great interview, covering all the necessary topics and a great deal more. He was reverent and irreverent at the same time, allowing the Dixie Chicks to fully express themselves and open up about a good many topics in a freewheeling and always fun and humorous session. The appearance was capped by a live performance of "Landslide", the Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac classic that was a staple of the Dixie Chicks' live album. This performance with full band sounded better than I've ever heard on a radio interview segement and suggests that the technical capabilities of Sirius Satellite Radio may be as valuable to the listener as the free speech it affords its performers.

Martie Maguire

No, the Dixie Chicks didn't get away without being asked about their sex lives, but the conversation was mostly respectful, funny, and open in a way that you are not used to hearing musicians talk on the radio. All told, both the Dixie Chicks and Howard put on some great radio this morning, a grand slam home run for all concerned.

Taking the Long Way(Open Wide/Columbia, 2006)

The Dixie Chicks new album was released on Tuesday and on first listen it sounds like a winner too. Unless you read the credit that it was produced by Rick Rubin, you wouldn't necessarily be able to tell from the sound. It'll take a while to know if the songwriting has the quality and the staying power that made the Dixie Chicks' first album Wide Open Spacesa classic, but initial indications are positive. Plus you've got to love the fact that their first single, "Not Ready to Make Nice" addresses their recent political controversy by totally holding their ground while trying to bring some perspective to the whole thing. For his part, Howard offered the prediction that history considers those who speak thier mind at the potential expense of their careers as the Dixie Chicks did, to be heroes in the long run. Well said Howard. Remember to click on each photo to enlarge. All photos © 2006,

6/02/06 Update - Despite continuing resistance from country radio, Taking the Long Way debuted at #1 on both the Billboard pop and country charts.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

One Amazing Night in New York with Jackie, Melody, and Holly, 5/23/06

Any one of these three performances would have been worth the trip from Philadelphia to New York, but catching all three in one night was almost more musical joy than a person should be allowed to have. Let me start by thanking Dave for the last minute invite to take the place of someone who couldn't go to see Jackie Allen at Joe's Pub. That plan wasn't in place more than a few hours before word came via MySpace that Holly Palmer had scheduled a date at Arlene's Grocery the same night.

Only a pleasant New York walk separates the Lafayette Street location of Joe's Pub from the Lower East Side neighborhood that's home to Arlene's Grocery and the Living Room among others. The 7:30/9:30 timing seemed to make possible the doubleheader of shows; that we also got to see Melody Gardot play at Pianos involved a combination of serendipity, timing and logistics that likely could only happen in nyc.

After strategically parking the car near Arlene's Grocery, we had a little time to walk the neighborhood, enjoying the absolutely perfect weather (not unlike the last time I saw Melody at WCL). We wound up stopping for a drink at a bar/club called Pianos, located almost next door to the Living Room. The $5.00 happy hour burger special was calling so while we were sitting at the bar waiting for the food, I just happened to notice a sign on the wall saying that Melody Gardot was scheduled to play that night in the upstairs room.

Although initially it didn't seem like this could possibly fit into the schedule, when we walked back from Joe's Pub after the Jackie Allen show, we decided just to pop in to see if Melody was playing. As it happened she had just gone on, so we sat down for her set. After she finished, we got up to leave, it being already long past the start time for Holly's set, but Melody came back to perform 3 more "cross pollination" songs with Seth Kallen who had also played earlier, and she was having none of us leaving. So we sat back down, enjoyed the cross-pollination set and had a nice conversation with Melody after; she's such a sweetheart.

Then we hoofed it over to Arlene's Grocery where Holly had just gone onstage and was only just starting her second song. It was more than great to see and talk to Holly again, it being about a year and a half since her last east coast appearance. Seeing three very different but all truly amazing performers all in a space of about four hours was just a total slice of New York heaven. Will post the pictures, descriptions, and accounts of each show soon.

Melody Gardot - Pianos, NYC, 5/23/06

Pianos, located on New York's Lower East Side, a few doors down Ludlow Street from the Living Room, is notable for many things not the least of which is a terrific five dollar happy hour burger special, and a delicious gazpacho. Pianos also offers multiple music venues, with a downstairs club where the steady stream of equipment carried in suggests that the music leans more toward rock than the upstairs venue, where like the Living Room, singer-songwriters perform for free, earning their keep through voluntary donations and selling their cds.

Walking back after seeing Jackie Allen at Joe's Pub, we stopped into Pianos just in time to catch Melody Gardot who had just gone on. The second floor venue at Pianos is essentially a room with a microphone, with no stage and no lighting to speak of. Melody at one point, humorously pointed out the irony that a club called Pianos doesn't have a piano. Melody sounded great playing a number of tunes from her Some Lessons EP, including the title track, to a small but dedicated audience who were glad to be able to hear Melody above the din coming from the bar on the other side of the room. Melody also offered a few new songs, including one called "Worrisome Heart" that she mentioned might wind up as the title track on the new album she's currently recording.

Melody was performing as part of Pianos' every Tuesday Cross Pollination concert series, described on Pianos' website as:

The set-up of the Cross-Pollination event is: Two of the best singer-songwriters in NYC each play a 40 minute solo set. This is followed by a three song collaborative set during which both artists share the stage and the mic.

The other participant this night was fellow Philadelphian Seth Kallen who had played his set earlier. Melody and Seth played a thoroughly enjoyable three song duet set for Cross Pollination. It was equally nice to take a little time after the set for some conversation with both Melody and her mom. All told a very happy bit of unexpected happenstance to be able to see Melody as well as the other two shows on tonight's schedule. Remember to click on each photo to enlarge. All photos © W.Kates, 2006.

Visit Melody Gardot on MySpace.
Visit Seth Kallen on MySpace.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Victoria Vox - Grape Street, Philadelphia, 5/12/06

Victoria Vox brought her Jumping Flea Tour to Grape Street in Manayunk tonight and offered a thoroughly charming performance. Undaunted by a tiny turnout, Victoria played an excellent set of songs drawn mostly from her current album Victoria Vox and Her Jumping Flea. The stories between the songs were as engaging as the music; with a refreshing sense of humor, Victoria told about growing up in Wisconsin, living in France as an exchange student, and the travails of life on the road as a struggling musician.

Accompanying herself on guitar and ukelele (the jumping flea) she played a nice mix of original compositions and cover tunes such as an inspired medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World". The ukelele gives her music a nice retro feel, evoking the sound of the thirties and forties. Victoria embraces the Hawaiian ukelele tradition both in some of her song selections, and in her pineapple ukelele. Her original composition "America" has a beautiful melody and a touching sentiment. "Guilty" from the Amelie soundtrack sounded especially good in Victoria's rendition. Her time in France adds a really nice dimension to her music with some songs sung beautifully in French that sound cool even without understanding the words.

One of the bravest and toughest things an artist can face is to perform in front of a sparse audience, but the show tonight seemed no different than if it were performed for six hundred or six thousand instead of the six who were there when Victoria took the stage which is a huge testament to Victoria's professionalism and artistry. The venue gradually filled in and there was a more reasonable crowd listening by the end of the set. Raul Midon was previously the only artist I'd ever seen play horn without actually using an instrument, doing mouth sound that emulates a trumpet. Victoria used a similar technique on "My Darlin' Beau" a new original composition that sounds requisitely old, only her mouth sound was more like that of a french horn (naturally). Victoria was great to talk to after and as a bonus for multiple cd purchases, she includes a nice little cd sized cloth tote bag hand decorated with a thank you message.

The World Cafe Live website listing of Victoria's August 11th booking there deserves credit for bringing Victoria to our attention and a quick link to her website revealed tonight's appearance at Grape Street. Victoria Vox and Her Jumping Flea is a quality piece of work that should rightfully find an audience with just a little exposure. Now if we could only get WXPN to play the record. Visit Victoria on MySpace or at her website, and go see her when she comes to your town. Remember to click on each photo to enlarge. All photos © W.Kates, 2006.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Keane - Second Album Due June 20th

Keane's second album, Under the Iron Sea,is set for release June 12th in the U.K. and Europe, and June 20th in the U.S. and Canada. The first track from it surfaced today as a download only video. The song "Atlantic" sounds like a significant departure from their first album, being more dense, more intense, less anthemic and less hook-reliant, almost sounding like a throwback to the days of progressive rock. The excellent Austrian fansite describes "Atlantic" as an experimental track. The somewhat bizarre video can for the moment be seen here.

The first proper single will be "Is It Any Wonder?" which is set for release on May 29th. The full tracklist for the new cd has been confirmed as:

01. Atlantic
02. Is It Any Wonder?
03. Nothing In My Way
04. Leaving So Soon?
05. A Bad Dream
06. Hamburg Song
07. Put It Behind You
08. The Iron Sea
09. Crystal Ball
10. Try Again
11. Broken Toy
12. The Frog Prince

The album was produced by Andy Green and in another significant departure from their first album, advance word has it that there will be guitar on this record.