Monday, March 28, 2016

Lily Elise - "I Don't Know Why", New Single & Video Released, Oliver EP Due Soon

Lily Elise Update: Soul-Pop artist Lily Elise has released her fourth single "I Don't Know Why" on both video and MP3. When we last wrote about Lily in March of 2015, she had released three singles so far, "Generator", "Suitcases", and "Taken". Those singles plus two additional tracks were set for an EP called Taken to be released later in 2015. One of those remaining tracks, "I Don't Know Why", has become Elise's fourth single.

Watch "I Don't Know Why"

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"I Don't Know Why" was written by Lily Elise with Rosina “Soaky” Russell & Daniel Nigro. Daniel Nigro played all instruments, produced, and engineered the track. On "I Don't Know Why" the music supports some well written lyrics which deal with a relationship gone wrong. The song bubbles with tension but never breaks loose.

The still unreleased EP has been retitled Oliver and is due later this spring. The track listing has not yet been announced, but most of the songs deal with a failed relationship; the guy's name was Oliver.

At the time of my last writing, Lily's third single, "Taken", had only been released on MP3. An official video was subsequently released.

Watch "Taken"

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"Taken" was written by Lily Elise with Jenn Decilveo and Felix Snow. This track is the work of studio virtuoso Snow who played all the instruments, produced, and engineered the track. Like the first two singles, it has dramatic production and a compelling vocal by Lily.

Lily Elise has a terrific voice, and such an ability to express her thoughts and feelings in her songwriting, that her career has enormous potential. Call me impatient, but because of that, four songs in a year and a half only whets the appetite. I'm looking forward to that eventual full length album; hope it doesn't take too long. Of course Lily has been quite busy these last few years, songwriting every day and honing her craft. She even co-wrote a song, "What If It's You", which was featured on the ABC TV show Nashville; it was sung by the character Juliette Barnes (played by Hayden Panettiere). Elise has also sung as a featured vocalist on a good number of tracks by other artists.

Lily talked about her influences with The Daily Californian (April 6, 2015).
Growing up, I really loved old-school music like Stevie Wonder and Aretha (Franklin), but then on the flip side, I was listening to Spice Girls and Christina Aguilera, and I also am obsessed with John Mayer. Some songs are more alternative-sounding with just guitars, some songs are more urban-sounding, and some songs are more pop, so I would say that you can really hear all my influences.
Bonus Video: On this live, in-studio performance, Lily let's loose her soulful side. Here, she performs an acoustic cover of Usher's "Make Me Wanna" with Sebastien Betley on guitar. Video shot & directed by Emma Sheffer in December 2013.

Photos courtesy of Lily Elise

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Amy LaVere, World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, 3/02/2016, Performing with Will Sexton, "Here's your damn love song"

Amy LaVere played the World Cafe Live (upstairs) on Wednesday, March 2nd as an opening act for Luther Dickinson. She played upright bass and sang, accompanied by husband Will Sexton on acoustic guitar.

The all acoustic set was very different, but no less enjoyable, than times I've seen her perform in a power trio setting with drums and electric guitar. The first time I saw Amy LaVere she was playing at Antone's, a legendary blues club in Austin, Texas as part of SXSW 2008. She is the only female singer-songwriter musician I can think of who performs playing upright bass. She has an easy rapport with the crowd and her stories add quite a bit to her uniquely endearing songwriting.

Her acoustic set mirrors the direction she took on her latest album, Hallelujah I'm a Dreamer, which she said was produced by Jim Dickinson with help from Luther. As much as I loved the guitar work of Steve Selvidge in Amy's electric band, I was completely knocked out by Sexton's acoustic guitar prowess; the experience of LaVere's music played acoustically took on a whole new dimension.

She drew some of her set from her latest album and she also played favorites from throughout her career such as "Killing Him", "Washing Machine", and "Damn Love Song".

Watch "Damn Love Song"

"Lesson" featured lead vocals by Sexton. For her last song "Rabbit", she brought out Sharde Thomas to play drums, saying that she was "Luther Dickinson's secret weapon".

Amy LaVere is a headliner in her own right, so it was a treat to see her do a full set as the opening act for Luther Dickinson. Even though the show was originally scheduled for the downstairs venue, upstairs provided some nice club like ambience and it was totally packed with an enthusiastic crowd.

Setlist: (click song title for video)
1. Last Rock N Roll Boy To Dance (Recorded at Levitt Shell, Memphis, June 8, 2014, Courtesy of ArcherRecords)
2. Dreamer
3. Washing Machine
4. Big Sister
5. Killing Him
6. Cricket (At Night I Can Fly)
7. Lesson
8. Day Like Any
9. Damn Love Song
10. Rabbit

Lighting & Sound by World Cafe Live (upstairs). Many thanks for the camera work by Beverly Kates and the video production by Lindsey Mitchell and Carolyn Orth.

From the Archive: Live at Antone's Austin, Texas, SXSW, 3/13/2008.

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Luther Dickinson, World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, 3/02/2016, An Amazing Night of Music

Luther Dickinson played the World Cafe Live, upstairs venue, on Wednesday March 2nd. Luther is touring behind his latest solo album, Blues & Ballads. That album is extraordinary. And as good as it is, Luther uses it as a jumping off point. His performance is so good that the difference between live and the album is the reason that I will always keep coming out to see live music. He plays the blues so well that I sat there thinking that I could listen to him play the guitar all night. And I thought the same about his vocals. That thought was rewarded with an unusually long show, his set lasted at least two hours.

Watch "Let It Roll"

Watch more video from the show:
A Stone's Throw
Bang Bang LuLu
Yard Man
Up Over Yonder

Sharde Thomas

Backing him on drums, vocals, and fife was Sharde Thomas and it was great seeing her; her excellent drumming is only exceeded by the quality of her vocals. Joining this pair on stage were Amy LaVere on upright bass and Will Sexton on guitar. LaVere and Sexton also opened the show with an hour long set, making for an amazing night of music.

[Left to right] Amy LaVere, Sharde Thomas, Luther Dickinson, Will Sexton

Even though the show was originally scheduled for the downstairs venue, upstairs provided some nice club like ambience and it was totally packed with an enthusiastic crowd. To the audience's delight, Luther brought up guest Amos Lee to sing one song, saying that he had never played with Lee on stage before. Dickinson drew from his newest Blues & Ballads, his last album Rock 'n Blues, plus he did a good sounding cover of Rufus Thomas'"Little Sally Walker".

Luther Dickinson and Amos Lee (Photo: Beverly Kates)

Lighting & Sound by World Cafe Live (upstairs). Many thanks for the camera work by Carolyn Orth and the video production by Lindsey Mitchell and Carolyn Orth.

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

SiriusXM's The Bridge Has A New Expanded Playlist With The Likes Of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and More

SiriusXM's The Bridge bills itself as playing mellow rock and folk/rock from the 70s. Even though I mostly prefer SiriusXM's moderated music channels (with DJs), The Bridge was always one of their more listenable automated channels. It used to be that they played mostly soft rock singles from the 70s. It used to be that you couldn't listen too long or too often because you were bound to hear repeats.

I'm happy to report that sometime in the last six months or so lots of great tracks have been added to The Bridge, and not just singles but album tracks too. A Friday morning listen was quite enjoyable for over three hours with no songs repeated. There were repeat artists, such as Simon & Garfunkel, John Lennon, and Joni Mitchell. Having not listened to The Bridge for awhile, even the expected songs sounded good, songs like "Deacon Blues" by Steely Dan, "New Kid In Town" by the Eagles, and "Ventura Highway" by America.

More exciting were songs which one would not expect to hear on The Bridge, as well as numerous album tracks. They actually played "Forever Young" by Bob Dylan and "Guinevere" by Crosby, Stills, & Nash from their first album. It was great hearing "Rocky Raccoon" by the Beatles off the White Album. Then there was "Another Day" by Paul McCartney. How about that, mellow, deep tracks on The Bridge.

I'm going to share with you a few tracks that sounded especially good. In the 60s, The Classics IV had a hit with the song "Spooky". The lead singer for that group was Buddy Buie, recently deceased, and he went on in the 70s to form the Atlanta Rhythm Section. ARS recorded a phenomenal version of "Spooky" and I was delighted to hear it on The Bridge.

It was encouraging that when artists did repeat, the songs did not. The Simon & Garfunkel songs were "Homeward Bound" and "Mrs. Robinson". The two by Jackson Browne were a very nice surprise, "Running On Empty" and qualifying as another mellow deep track "These Days" from Jackson's For Everyman album. From Joni Mitchell we heard "Help Me" from her Court and Spark album. The other Joni song was "Chelsea Morning" from her second album Clouds. There was a single released by Judy Collins, but Joni's own version was an album track. Even though I've heard this hundreds of times before, it was good to listen again and hear new things that I had never noticed before, like lyrics such as "It came a-reeling up like Christmas bells, and rapping up like pipes and drums". Thank goodness no one has tried to turn this into a Christmas song. [SHHH...]

Even selections that would come as no surprise on The Bridge sounded good. "Your Smiling Face" by James Taylor for example, and "Whenever I Call You Friend" by Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks. But the one of these I most got a kick out of hearing was 1974's "Please Come To Boston" by Dave Loggins.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Carrie Rodriguez - Lola, Austin Singer-Songwriter's Latest Is A Work Of Bilingual Beauty

Carrie Rodriguez released her fifth solo album, Lola, on February 19th. I took an immediate liking to it as I listened for the first time. The vocals were immediately appealing, the violin too, and the guitar work struck me as falling somewhere between jazz and country; clearly this was something special. This genre-bending music is decidedly Tex-Mex influenced country with elements of folk, jazz, and pop.

A couple of other thoughts occurred to me during that first listen. This seemed to be an album that Vin Scelsa would have played on his Idiot's Delight program (SiriusXM or WFUV) had he not retired about a year ago. I wasn't recalling any special connection with Vin, this just sounded like a record that he would have pulled from the new release pile and played two or three tracks; I do miss that show. The other thought that occurred to me was that this would be at the top of my list to see if I were going to Austin for SXSW this year.

Carrie Rodriguez is a Mexican-American singer-songwriter and violinist based in Austin, Texas. Some songs are in Spanish, some are in English, and even though I don't speak Spanish that didn't interfere with my enjoyment. If you've ever listened to music with lyrics in a foreign language, you may have found that this allows you to get even further into the song. In this case, Spanish has become such a part of our culture that some of the words are already familiar; not knowing what the song is about is not a deterrent.

"Inspired by the 1940’s-era recordings of Carrie’s great aunt, Chicana singing sensation Eva Garza, the album is a mixture of new and old songs" explained Rodriguez's website. "It features Spanish songs written by some of Carrie’s favorite Mexican composers, as well as her own Ranchera-inspired original songs written in English, Spanish and 'Spanglish.'"

Watch Carrie talk about the album and its influences and inspirations.

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Tracklist: (titles linked to songs)
1 Perfidia
2 Llano Estacado
3 I Dreamed I Was Lola Beltrán
4 La Última Vez
5 Que Manera De Perder
6 Frío En El Alma
7 Z
8 Noche De Ronda
9 Caricias
10 The West Side
11 Si No Te Vas (Instrumental)
12 Si No Te Vas

From Carrie's Instagram, "Sacred Heart Band @arlynstudios- our smiles are undeniable..."

This record has many pleasures, starting with the songs. I knew Track 1,"Perfidia", as soon as I heard it. It's a standard, composed by Alberto Domínguez, it was first recorded by Xavier Cugat in 1940. It has been covered many times over the years by artists ranging from Nat King Cole to Linda Ronstadt (who sang it both in Spanish and in English). I'm liking this version the best; this has a beautiful arrangement and I love the sound of the guitars.

Rodriguez co-wrote a number of songs including "I Dreamed I Was Lola Beltrán" which she wrote with Susan Gibson. In the video above, she talks about Lola being her Spanish singing alter-ego.

"Que Manera de Perder" is a gorgeous bilingual duet with Rodriguez singing in Spanish and her husband, guitarist Luke Jacobs, singing in English; the song was co-written by Jacobs with Cuco Sánchez.

Rodriguez wrote "The West Side", as she describes in the above video, inspired by her childhood experiences at school. This highly personal remembrance sounds as delightful as it is thought provoking.

Lola ends with two versions of "Si No Te Vas", written by Cuco Sánchez. First, an instrumental version with some beautiful guitar work and violin. Next, the vocal version in which Rodriguez sounds a lot like Linda Rondstadt in her prime. I was reminded of Rondstadt's Spanish version of "Blue Bayou".

Producer Lee Townsend had lots to work with in the creation of this album. In addition to the inspired set of songs, we have Rodriquez' violin and her vocals; I love both her tone and the way that she delivers a song, whether it be in Spanish or in English. Recorded in Austin, the album has extraordinary sound quality and some first rate musicians. I've mentioned that the guitar work drew me in on first listen. This group of musicians, dubbed The Sacred Hearts for this project, featured guitar work by Luke Jacobs on pedal steel, David Pulkingham on nylon and electric guitars and Bill Frisell on electric. I've been hearing Frisell more and more in recent years; he's rapidly becoming one of my favorite guitar players. In addition I have been a fan of bassist Viktor Krauss for a long time; he's done some exceptional work both as a solo artist and as a producer. Brannen Temple rounded out the rhythm section playing drums and percussion.

Lola is a beautiful, bilingual, piece of work that succeeds on every level. This is music that lifts my mood whenever I play it; I am loving it. Rodriguez self-released Lola and financed the recording with DIY crowdfunding. She recently gave an in-depth interview to Texas Monthly in which she talked about working with her husband, Luke Jacobs, on this project.
Luke was very instrumental in helping me get the seeds of these songs a bit more fleshed out, getting the grooves, especially for the ranchera tunes. It’s so wonderful to be able to sit in your living room with a glass of wine in the evening and work on material for an album versus going to some rehearsal room. It’s the sweetest thing in the world. And then all that pedal steel he played on the album, it’s one of my favorite things. I love how it bridges country music and ranchera. It’s so much fun to hear pedal steel on “Perfidia,” for example, a classic Mexican song. [Texas Monthly, February 2016, interview by Jeff Salamon]

Every time I listen to this album, I am blown away by: the sound of the record(superb production), the guitars(this is arguably as much a guitar record as it is an excellent concept album), and the vocals, violin, and songwriting of Carrie Rodriquez. Lola dropped quite unexpectedly into my life, and I'm so glad.

Photos courtesy of Carrie Rodriguez

3/19/2016 Update: At the top of this article, I wrote that one of my first reactions to hearing this record was that it would be first on my list to see at this year's SXSW. Although I couldn't go to Austin this year, I just had the pleasure of listening to one of Carrie's SXSW sets. She played at The Backstage @ El Mercado, which was broadcast locally and streamed to the web by Sun Radio live. It was a good sounding acoustic set with Rodriguez on vocals, guitar, and violin and husband Luke Jacobs on guitar. Her violin sounded especially good, including a lengthy solo on the last song. All four songs were drawn from Lola.

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