Monday, October 24, 2016

Danielia Cotton, Sellersville Theater, 10/06/2016; It Was A Family Affair As Danielia Rocked the Sellersville

Danielia Cotton brought her band to the Sellersville Theater on Thursday, October 6th for a headline show. A native of nearby Hopewell, New Jersey, Cotton performs an energy rich brand of rock that includes strands of jazz, blues, gospel and R & B. Cotton is an accomplished songwriter, musician, and singer with a voice that falls somewhere between Joan Osborne and Melissa Etheridge.

With a career now spanning over a decade, I count four albums and four EPs. She played four of the five songs on her latest release, which is called A Prayer. This EP is the first half to a two-part album, the second half will be out early next year. She also played one selection, "You", from that upcoming release. Her last full length was called The Real Book (2014), which was a collection of excellent cover songs. From it, she performed a powerful "Gimme Shelter". This song was an inspired choice, not just because it's a great Stones tune, but Cotton embodied the soulful gospel tinged voice of Clydie King, who sang with Mick Jagger on the original.

She drew three songs from her The Gun In Your Hand album (2012). Cotton opened the show with two of them and closed her set with an enormously emotional cover of Prince's "Purple Rain" which, by the way, was not the only Prince tune in the set. She also sang the quieter, more singer-songwriterly "Sometimes It Snows In April".

"Bound" and "Testify" came from the Rare Child album (2008). Cotton dedicated "Testify" to her 96 year old grandmother, "This one's for Nana". From her 2005 breakthrough album Small White Town came "Shame" and "It's Only Life" (that's the one XPN played quite a bit). Cotton also included a rarity, "Wasted", a song not found on any of her records.

Cotton's band came ready to rock, and rock they did. "Deep Dark Love" opened the show with the band going full tilt. Chris Anderson played bass, Greg Gonzales played drums, Kareem Devlin and Emmett O'Malley played guitars. I've got to say that the guitar work was phenomenal, every texture, every tempo, and some of the sweetest solos you'll ever hear.

Being that this was something of a hometown show, Danielia brought up her mom Wenonah Brooks and her aunt Jeannie Brooks, both jazz singers, to accompany her. Jeannie joined her on "Shame", then Wenonah joined Jeannie and Danielia to sing on "Bye Bye Blackbird". For an encore, Danielia and Jeannie sang a beautiful a cappella version of the jazz standard "Nature Boy", putting a perfect ending on an incredible night of music.

Watch "Gimme Shelter"

Setlist: Click name to watch.

01. Deep Dark Love
02. Easy
03. Gimme Shelter
04. Wasted
05. A Prayer
06. Testify (for Nana)
07. Shame featuring Jeannie Brooks
08. Bye Bye Blackbird featuring Wenonah Brooks and Jeannie Brooks
09. You
10. Afraid to Burn
11. It's Only Life
12. Sometimes It Snows In April
13. Seesaw
14. Bound
15. Purple Rain
16. Nature Boy featuring Jeannie Brooks

Many thanks to the Sellersville Theater for the excellent sound and lighting, to Beverly Kates for camera work, and to Lindsey Mitchell for video production assistance.

Watch "Nature Boy"

Danielia Cotton - A Prayer
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Friday, October 21, 2016

Chrissi Poland, Sellersville Theater, 10/06/2016; Plus Chrissi Update: Performing With Sam Moore, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Loggins, Will Lee

Even though I had recently gone to NYC to see Chrissi Poland's album release show for Waking Hour at Joe's Pub, and even though that show had a full band including the musicians who played on the record, when I saw that Chrissi was booked to play the Sellersville Theater (in the greater Philadelphia area) I had to come out.

Full disclosure: Whatever it is about music that has kept me obsessed since the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan when I was ten years old, whatever that is about music that causes enjoyment in me, I have never been able to pinpoint it exactly, but it is still working on me totally when I hear her sing.

With most other artists, I prefer a band or at least one or two backing musicians. But her show, when she performs solo, has it all. She's one of the rare performers whose voice can command a room.

Accompanying herself on an electric piano, with a few songs on acoustic guitar, Poland's voice is so rich and so soulful that such a performance allows the audience a level of intimacy with her songs such as you might have at one of the small clubs on New York's Lower East Side, like the Rockwood Music Hall where she performs regularly.

When she plays her keyboard, the sound she uses makes such a nice vibe. For you technophiles, the keyboard is a Nord Electro, used with the Wurlitzer patch with distortion and reverb. If you'd like to see how great that sounds, watch the video below.

She sang most of her latest album Waking Hour, two songs from Reckless Ones, plus one that caught me by complete surprise, one I had never heard her do before. It was called "Bird" and it's one that she said she has never recorded, and may not ever. If you watch the video (by clicking on the interactive setlist), you will hear Chrissi tell the story.

At the end of the set, my friend Emily turned to me and said, "You didn't tell me...her voice is f-ing amazing, I've never seen anything like that." She's right. Quite an evening.

Watch "Shaky Man"

Setlist: Click song name to watch video.
01. Why Lie
02. Lonely Light
03. Shaky Man
04. Angel Weep for Me
05. Tether Me
06. Love Fool
07. Bird
08. Silhouette
09. Airplane
10. Dawn

Watch "Silhouette"

Many thanks to the Sellersville Theater for the excellent sound and lighting, Beverly Kates for camerawork, and Lindsey Mitchell for video production assistance.

When Chrissi appeared at Sellersville, she was still riding high from an appearance two nights before where her long term association with Sam Moore (Sam & Dave) and Will Lee brought her to a stage in NYC with Smokey Robinson.

Photo: Billboard

Billboard Magazine: New York – October 6, 2016 - Rock and roll royalty filled the majestic Capitale last night as the national nonprofit, Little Kids Rock, hosted its eighth annual benefit in Lower Manhattan to support public school students and music teachers with donated instruments, curricular resources, and training. The sold-out event featured performances from musical greats led by Musical Director Will Lee and generated over one million dollars in donations.

"Music changes kids and kids change the world,” shared David Wish, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Little Kids Rock. Those sentiments were echoed by Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins who received the organization’s Humanitarian Award. Loggins spoke about being able to express himself through music as a teen when words failed and how he has watched the same in his daughter. “Music speaks to the heart,” Loggins said. “ It taught her who she is, and it taught me who I am."

Tears of joy. Photo: Chrissi Poland

Chrissi described it in the following post.
"I could go on forever about this moment. And yes, I am actually in the middle of an ugly cry right here. Smokey Robinson! Singing with him last night was everything, hearing that one-and-only voice, witnessing that smile, those eyes, one inch away! In this embrace I thought of the Temptations, The Jackson 5, all of Motown, The Miracles, wrapped up in the loving hug of the man who wrote their greatest hits...the man who gave us "My Girl" and so many more. I'll never get over this one. Smokey, I love you, I'll sing your songs forever and always revel in the depth of your brilliance, the sparkle of your undeniable cool. 馃挏馃挏馃挏馃挏馃挏"

Chrissi Poland - Waking Hour
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Saturday, October 08, 2016

Raul Mid贸n - Sellersville Theater, 9/21/2016; Mid贸n Is a Brilliant Performer and a True Inspiration

Let me say right at the top that Raul Mid贸n's music is so good and blends so many genres that by rights it should be receiving airplay on many different types of radio stations, both terrestrial and satellite, and as such, his concert appearances should be selling out everywhere.

Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world, one in which I've yet to hear his latest on the radio, and when Mid贸n took the stage at the Sellersville Theater the audience would have fit into a venue like the Rockwood Music Hall (NYC) or Burlap and Bean (Newtown Square, PA). I can safely speak for that small but adoring crowd when I say that I'm filled with gratitude that Mid贸n played the date and didn't cancel like many others might have. Even though Mid贸n didn't play anything from Soul Eyes, he gave a brilliant performance, had a great rapport with the crowd, and I found him to be truly inspiring.

I like it a lot when an artist offers up new material such as tracks that have yet to be recorded or released. Mid贸n opened the show with a composition that he said would be on his next album, due in March 2017, with the terrific title of Badass and Blind. Mid贸n, performing solo on acoustic guitar played some mind blowing guitar leads on this song titled "Pedal To The Metal".

Mid贸n very generously and very endearingly took the time to explain each song as he introduced it. Aided by the theatre's camera policy (no flash), I captured some quite nice video of the show. Despite its look and sound, this is not a professional video shoot; Bev did the camera work using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20, a pocket digital still camera. Bev's camera work was as good as the performance and video production assistant Lindsey kept saying, "I love this guy" every time he introduced a song. On the setlist below, click on the name of the song to watch the video.

01. Pedal to the Metal - A superb set opener with tremendous guitar work and a really cool guitar solo.

02. Sunshine (I Can Fly) - This song begins with a solo on the mouth trumpet, a skill that knocked me out when I first saw him do it in 2005. Playing mouth trumpet involves using the mouth in the same way that you would if you were actually playing a trumpet, but there's no instrument. It's quite amazing how Mid贸n makes it sound like an actual trumpet. I had gone to the North Star Bar in Philadelphia to see Shelby Lynne and Mid贸n was the opening act. At the time, I was not aware of Mid贸n, but I so enjoyed his set that I became a fan. It's interesting that the comments I made about him in 2005 are all consistent with the experience of seeing him now. This song comes from his first album.

03.Was it Ever Really Love - Mid贸n is as good a storyteller as he is a singer, songwriter, and musician. This tune is about a hypothetical couple in love.

04. If Only - Another great sounding song from his next album. This one also has some mighty impressive guitar work. Just based on these two songs, I'm already excited about the prospect of his release of Badass and Blind.

05. Invisible Chains - Mid贸n described this one as Rock Steady (reggae), and he played both the guitar part and the bass line as he sang, even throwing in a little rhythm. The songwriting blended perfectly with the style and I would call this a highlight except that all of Mid贸n's set was that good.

06. Love is Blind - This is a lovely tune that Mid贸n wrote for a collaboration project that was backed by the Dutch Metropole Orchestra, which Mid贸n pointed out is one of the few jazz orchestras in the world.

07. If I Could See - In addition to his other talents, Mid贸n also writes some poetry. This is a poem set to music, which is different from a song as Mid贸n explained.

08. Separate Identity - Mid贸n is a man with many musical projects. This is an instrumental, which Mid贸n said will be part of an all guitar album that he is working on to sharpen his already prodigious guitar skills.

09. Listen to the Rain - Mid贸n told an interesting story about working with Rickie Lee Jones and about the reason that she performs on both guitar and piano, saying, "I tell better stories on piano." This is Mid贸n's piano song.

10. Mi Amigo Cubano - Mid贸n co-wrote this with Bill Withers and told a very amusing story about their songwriting process. He also noted that they can be seen working on this song during the film documentary about Bill Withers called Still Bill.

11. Red Green Yellow - Both Mid贸n and his brother became blind as premature newborns when they were placed in an incubator without eye protection (Wikipedia). It's really disarming to think about what the concepts of color means to a person who has never seen. That's what this song is about.

12. Waited All My Life - This one comes with a most endearing story about writing this song for the girl who later became his wife. He talked about his state of mind at the time, lamenting the various things that he could not do. Then he realized that he could focus on the things he could do, primarily the ability to write a song. He sang this at the time of their second or third date, I'll leave the completion of the story to Mid贸n, click and watch the video. We all have things that we cannot do and I find this song, Mid贸n's entire set actually, to be truly inspiring.

13. State of Mind - The very memorable "State of Mind" is the title track of Mid贸n's 1985 release, which was produced by legendary A&R man and producer Arif Mardin working together with his brother Joe. The song contains more of Mid贸n's incendiary acoustic guitar work. The impressive drum solo introduction was played, in part, using one hand on the bongo drums with the other slapping his guitar body.

14. 'Round Midnight (Thelonious Monk) - Mid贸n closed his set in style with a passionate performance of the jazz classic "'Round Midnight" composed by Thelonious Monk.

Many thanks to Sellersville Theater for the excellent sound and lights, Beverly Kates for the camera work, and Lindsey Mitchell for the video production assistance.

Bonus Video: Acoustic Guitar Sessions Presents Raul Midon (Acoustic Guitar Magazine, 2014).

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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Bob Weir - Blue Mountain; On His New Album, Weir Channels His Inner Cowboy

Photo courtesy of Dead & Co.

It was a good New Music Friday. With the dog days of summer and Labor Day in our rearview mirror, the new music is coming on strong. The last day of September saw new releases from Van Morrison (New Studio album), Eric Clapton (2007 Live w/J.J. Cale), Jimi Hendrix (Historic Live), The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (Live 50th Anniversary w/guests), and more including Blue Mountain, a new studio album from Bob Weir.

It's great to hear Weir again. It seems like ages since he has recorded a solo album. He's had many side projects such as Rat Dog, Kingfish, and Weir and Wasserman, not to mention lots of Dead activity. The last few years have definitely seen a Dead resurgence. There was the 50th Anniversary with all the attendant hoopla including a spate of lives shows and a gargantuan box set. For the last year we've had Dead & Company out on tour with John Mayer, revitalizing the Dead canon. Not that it needed revitalizing mind you. The association with Mayer is a win-win. For him it underscores his ability to do anything in music that he wants. For the Dead, it shows the depth, resilience and vitality of the Grateful Dead's repertoire, reputed to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 songs. So with all the side projects and all the various incarnations of the post Garcia Dead, I don't think we've had a proper Bob Weir solo album since 1978's Heaven Help the Fool.

The new album sounds trendless; he has not "gone country", it's not his hard rock album, he doesn't have name guests on every track, and thankfully, he doesn't redo his earlier works. Blue Mountain defies genres to a point, but if I had to specify, I would call this folk with some ingredients from rock, from country, from blues, and from western, but mostly western. It's a most genial blend.

If you've listened to the Dead as long as I have, this new record sounds like a visit from an old friend. The first thing you'll notice when you play Blue Mountain is that Weir sounds different. That said, you would definitely recognize that it's him singing, but now he sounds a little bit older, sounding like the elder statesman of rock that we know he is; perish the thought. It's a small difference, I don't know whether they are recording him differently (mic, EQ, reverb), or whether his voice has actually changed. Maybe he's just trying to sound like an old cowboy.

Blue Mountain you see, is Weir's cowboy album. He explains in the Relix video (below) that at the age of fifteen he thought it would be romantic to leave home and become a cowboy. So he did. He wound up on a ranch in Wyoming. These cowboys basically made their own entertainment each evening, telling stories and singing songs. This somewhat explains why Weir has always liked cowboy songs ("Big River"), some of which he performed regularly with the Dead.

He wanted to make an album inspired by this music, thought about it for decades even. It all came together when Josh Kaufman contacted him and suggested doing just that sort of album with some musicians from The National.

Listen to "Only a River", "Gonesville", and "Blue Mountain".

Bob Weir - Blue Mountain
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Tracklist: Click song title to listen.

01. Only a River
02. Cottonwood Lullaby
03. Gonesville
04. Lay My Lily Down
05. Gallop on the Run
06. Whatever Happened to Rose
07. Ghost Towns
08. Darkest Hour
09. Ki-Yi Bossie
10. Storm Country
11. Blue Mountain
12. One More River To Cross

Personnel: All songs written by Bob Weir, Josh Kaufman, and Josh Ritter. Album produced by Josh Kaufman with Bob Weir.

Bob Weir - Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals
Josh Kaufman - Guitars, Mandolin, Banjo, Keyboards, Bass, Drums, Vocals
Aaron Dessner - Guitarist
Scott Devendorf - Bass, Vocals
Steve Kimock - Lap Steel Guitar
Joe Russo - Drums, Percussion
Rob Burger - Keyboards
Nate Martinez - Guitars, Shruti Box, Vocals
Jon Shaw - Upright Bass, Piano, Vocals
Robin Sylvester - Basses, Hammond Organ, Vocals
Jay Lane - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Ray Rizzo - Percussion, Harmonica, Shruti Box, Vocals
Sam Cohen - Electric Guitar, Pedal Steel, Vocals
Dan Goodwin - Vocals
The Bandana Splits - Vocals
Annie Nero - Vocals

Bonus Video: Watch Weir talk about the concept behind the album, including a live performance of Blue Mountain (courtesy of Relix Magazine).

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