Tuesday, June 20, 2017

North Mississippi Allstars - Prayer For Peace; "Honoring the Process" with Cody and Luther Dickinson, This Album Rocks

Photo courtesy of Premiere Guitar

When I first got into Luther Dickinson's latest solo album Blues & Ballads last year, it sounded so good that I went off in search of whatever else Dickinson was involved with, Shardé Thomas too. Dickinson's "day job" was in his family's band The North Mississippi Allstars.

A quick listen to that group's latest release at the time didn't quite do it for me, not like Blues & Ballads. I went to see Dickinson when he came to Philadelphia's World Cafe Live and his live performance was all that (Thomas' too).

The North Mississippi Allstars just released a new album Prayer For Peace on Friday, June 2nd. I just finished listening to it and I am pleased to say that it is a record with many of the same attributes that I couldn't get enough of on the Luther solo album, plus the heavy drums and bass on this record could rock any arena in the land.

Prayer For Peace is the epitome of roots and Americana, if we must attach a label to it. There are lots of rockin' blues and it's electric all the way, except for one acoustic number, "Stealin". I may be new to the Allstars but it seems that Luther's participation on this record is more than previous. Thomas also appears playing fife and singing on the lead track, "Prayer For Peace".

I would be remiss if I didn't mention, at this point, just what the record is all about. The album opens with the title track, and no matter what your politics may be, I think we can all agree that we need a prayer for peace and we need it now.

NMA/Press Photo

The blues classics that inspired the likes of the Rolling Stones are here in force. A prime example is their version of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Got to Move" which sounds amazing in the gifted hands of the Allstars.

I also hear a lot of Jerry Garcia in Luther Dickinson. Not specifically his style of playing or singing, but the breadth of his knowledge of American music; he knows all the roots of rock from blues to gospel to country to soul and jazz. Garcia's encyclopedic repertoire included all of these forms of music, and more. Garcia used many incarnations to express the well of music that was within him, from duets to bluegrass and old-timey ensembles to the Jerry Garcia Band and the Grateful Dead.

The Dead comparisons to Prayer For Peace will be inevitable, what with the Allstars playing "Deep Ellum". When I think of this song, my first thought is the Dead's iconic version from their all acoustic live album Reckoning. But this "Deep Ellum" is solidly electric, it is sung by drummer Cody Dickinson, and is a highlight of the album.

Another reminder of Garcia and Company comes in the form of "Bid You Goodnight"; I've heard this song, or a variant, close out many a Dead show. This song has a guitar tone as sweet as on any George Benson album, with superb slide guitar. It sounds amazingly good the way it's sequenced on the record coming after a piece of rockin' blues, "Long Haired Doney", that is just as impressive for its gritty rootsiness.

All this leaves me with just one thought, if you're into electric guitar, this is heaven. The guitars growl, purr, pound, and soar. There is slide guitar that would make even Nashville's best players weep. And all this is in the service of making some rootsy rural blues sound both old and new at the same time. Whether it's the North Mississippi Allstars or the next chapters of Luther's solo career, I say bring it on. I still can't get enough.

Introduction to "Prayer for Peace" by North Mississippi Allstars on VEVO.

Tracklist: Click on each song title to listen.
01. Prayer for Peace
02. Need to be Free
03. Miss Maybelle
04. Run Red Rooster
05. Stealin
06. Deep Ellum
07. Bird Without a Feather
08. You Got to Move
09. 61 Highway
10. Long Haired Doney
11. Bid You Goodnight
12. P4P 2017

North Mississippi Allstars - Prayer For Peace
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The Press Release:
Prayer for Peace is the 8th studio album for North Mississippi Allstars. The album is self-produced by the Dickinson Brothers. It was recorded across the US at 6 different studios including the famous Royal Studios in Memphis with Boo Mitchell & their legendary father Jim Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch in Hernando, MS. Special guests on the album include bassist Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band, Dead & Company), Graeme Lesh (Midnight North, The Terrapin Family Band), vocalist Sharisse Norman, bassist Dominic Davis (Jack White), and singer/fife player Shardé Thomas, daughter of Mississippi blues giant Otha Turner. North Mississippi Allstars is a 3 time Grammy nominated band for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

Photo courtesy of Grateful Web

Luther Dickinson talked with Chuck Armstrong about the making of Prayer For Peace for the Boot on June 2, 2017 (excerpts):
One of the biggest turning points in Luther Dickinson’s life was when he was befriended and mentored by one of the greatest blues fife players of all time, Otha Turner. Turner took Dickinson under his wing, and though Turner died in 2003, Dickinson is still connected to him, as he and Turner’s granddaughter, Shardé Turner, remain partners in crime.

“You know, we mixed our first record, [Shake Hands With Shorty], on a piece-of-crap board, and it changed our lives,” Luther Dickinson remembers. “But this new one, we really honored the whole process.”

“This record has been the smoothest ever,” Dickinson says with a huge smile on his face. “We made the record on the road: We recorded for a few hours in Brooklyn, a few hours in New Orleans, a few hours in St. Louis, a day at Royal Studios in Memphis.”

It was that session at Royal Studios that was actually the beginning of Prayer for Peace: The great Boo Mitchell sat behind the board while the Dickinsons recorded, and Dickinson gives Mitchell the credit for injecting the perfect vibe into the album.

“You know, he was “Uptown Funk,” man,” Dickinson tells The Boot. “That was recorded right there. Boo is just magical.”

Another guy to whom Dickinson is quick to dole out credit for the Allstars’ new LP’s sound is Buddy Miller: “He’s the one who showed me the light,” Dickinson admits.

“Not only are we playing live in the studio, but we’re singing live. A while ago, [Miller] told us to not overdub: If you need a banjo, call the banjo player; if you need voices, call the girls and wait for them. Get everyone together and do it,” Dickson continues. “And the underlying theme of all of that is actually committing to live vocals. If the artist commits to that, 98 percent of the problems are solved — the record is made! All the classic music that I like, that’s how it was all made.”

While some artists might struggle putting a record together in a number of different studios and cities, the North Mississippi Allstars seemed to thrive in those conditions.

“For us — especially being sons of a record producer — for us to come in and casually record while being in the mindset of being on the road, that was actually really easy,” Dickinson explains. “That’s smooth, you know? We’re in and out with that live spirit.”

The process, though, wasn’t just about Luther and Cody: “Chris Bell mixed the record, and he glued it all together. Jeff Powell, who cut the vinyl at Sam Phillips Recording, he’s got a lathe in there and did it all, and they even cleaned out the old Sam Phillips echo chamber,” Dickinson notes. “That echo chamber, it’s this organic wall of magic, man; I get goosebumps thinking about it. My whole career, I never had a real echo chamber. I knew about it, but it never dawned on me that it was the tangible, physical thing that’s always been missing.”

As he reflects on the journey of Prayer for Peace, Dickinson remembers the advice his dad always shared: “Our father used to say, ‘Honor the process. Trust the process,'” he says. “On this one, we let everybody do their jobs. The process was honored.”

And when the process is honored, everything works out.

“I believe, in my heart, that music is a realm in which we can commune with musical spirits,” Dickinson announces. “It’s a place where we can all transcend. It’s in my heart. It’s what I believe, and that’s what I’m doing when I’m playing music.”

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tedeschi-Trucks Band Rocked Philadelphia; Marc Broussard Played a Sizzling Opening Set; 6/08/2017

On June 8th, the Merriam Theater was very nearly sold out; only single straggler tickets remained. Thursday night was the first of a three night stand for the Tedeschi-Trucks Band. This night was the only one with an opening act, Marc Broussard, and he made sure that this jam band crowd was glad that they got Thursday tickets. I suspect that many of Tedeschi-Trucks Band's fans bought tickets for more than one show. The Friday and Saturday concerts featured the Tedeschi-Trucks Band playing both sets.

Marc Broussard took the stage promptly at 8pm and delivered a tight forty minute set. Accompanied by Joe Stark on lead guitar, DJ Raymond on bass and Chad Gilmore on drums, Broussard sang and played guitar. After his opening number, the next three songs fit perfectly together forming one long track (11:09). "Try Me" nicely turned into "Fire on the Bayou" (covering The Meters), which led into a cover of Al Green's "Love and Happiness"; watch the video below. Next up was a preview of his next album. It was "Baton Rouge", Broussard mentioned that this was an old Frankie Miller song.

Broussard played a good mix of originals and covers, all showing his Louisiana roots. Next two more songs together, "Dyin' Man" and "Home" to make another eleven plus+ minute track. Broussard closed his set with a nice cover of Solomon Burke's "Cry To Me". This came from Broussard's last album S.O.S. 2 (Save Our Soul), his second collection of old soul covers. I would have liked to hear him do some more of the soul songs, but that's not a complaint. I had been wanting to see this guy for years, and he quite made the most out of his forty minutes.

Watch "Try Me/Fire on the Bayou/Love and Happiness"

Setlist: Click linked song titles to watch.
01. Lonely Night in Georgia
02. Try Me>>
03. Fire on the Bayou (The Meters cover)>>
04. Love and Happiness (Al Green cover)
05. Baton Rogue (Frankie Miller cover)
06. Dyin' Man>>
07. Home>>
08. Cry To Me (Solomon Burke cover)

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I find it remarkable that the Tedeschi-Trucks Band has found such a large and loyal following, without the benefit of even one hit record. On this tour they filled the Merriam Theater for three consecutive nights, capacity 1,870. Friday and Saturday night's shows were scheduled for two sets each night by the TTB, but Thursday night's crowd was warmed up by a red hot set by Marc Broussard.

After about a twenty-five minute break, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band opened their part of the night's proceedings with "Laugh About It". The band's most recent release is a two CD live album, Live from the Fox Oakland, and a check of Thursday night's setlist reveals that they only did four songs that appear on that album. Further examination of the three Merriam setlists shows that there was only one song played all three nights, a new song called "Shame". "Shame" was so new, in fact, that Setlist.fm reports that it made its live debut at Thursday night's show. Beyond that, there were six more songs from Thursday's set that were repeated one time, mostly at Saturday's show. In addition to giving their fans reason to see all of their Philadelphia shows, they are firmly in the jam band tradition of significantly changing their sets from night to night.

The show offered a mix of originals and imaginative covers that ranged from Derek and the Dominos to Foghat to George Jones and also included Allen Toussaint, Billy Taylor, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and they even added a Santana's "Soul Sacrifice" finish to "I Want More". That finish worked brilliantly for Santana at Woodstock and it sounded just as good at the Merriam. While they played "Anyday" I thought to myself that I might call this article "The New Derek and the Dominos".

In addition to the terrific setlist, the show had lots of great bluesy vocals by Susan Tedeschi. There were plenty of nice long songs with plenty of room for the musicians to stretch out with extended solos. There were a couple of flute solos, I loved the organ solos, there were trumpet solos and a short drum solo. But the main event was clearly birthday boy Derek Trucks' amazing slide guitar with tons of room for his screaming solos. Case and point, the almost self fulfilling title "I Want More" clocking in at nearly 19 minutes.

Many thanks to The Merriam Theater for the lighting and sound. Thanks also to Beverly Kates for camera work and to Lindsey Mitchell for video production.

Watch "Bound For Glory"

Setlist: Click linked song titles to watch.
01. Laugh About It
02. Do I Look Worried
03. Chevrolet (Foghat cover)
04. Anyday (Derek and the Dominos cover)
05. It's So Heavy
06. Let Me Get By
07. Get Out of My Life, Woman (Allen Toussaint cover)
08. Color of the Blues (George Jones cover)
09. Right on Time
10. Shame
11. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free (Billy Taylor cover)
12. I Pity the Fool (Bobby “Blue” Bland cover)
13. I Want More>>Soul Sacrifice (Santana) outro
14. Bound for Glory

Bonus Video: Watch a thirteen year old Derek Trucks play the Coda to Derek and the Domino's "Layla", July 4, 1993, Walnut Creek Ampitheater, Raleigh , NC, opening for The Allman Brothers Band.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Art Pepper - The Art Pepper Quartet (feat. Russ Freeman, Ben Tucker & Gary Frommer) [2017 Remaster]; A Sixtieth Anniversary Celebration of a Jazz Master Work

Photo courtesy of Tampa Records

Art Pepper was an iconic jazz saxophonist who was fifty-six when he died in 1982. Laurie Pepper has made it her mission to maintain Art's legacy and to keep his work available. She has acquired many of his master recordings and oversees the reissues, sometimes with bonus material.

The Art Pepper Quartet is one of those classic albums that has just been remastered in honor of its sixtieth anniversary. This outing is one of Art's masterpieces, showing the range of his prodigious talent. The three other musicians in the quartet are also extremely high caliber: Russ Freeman on piano, Ben Tucker on bass and Gary Frommer on drums. "Diane" is a gorgeous composition that, we learn from the liner notes, was written about one of Art's previous wives. "Blues at Twilight", in addition to having some beautiful saxophone, also features extended solos by Freeman and Tucker.

The bonus tracks offered here take a terrific album and make it even better. Being able to hear the studio process, recording "Val's Pals" with the false starts and alternate takes, is utterly fascinating.

Pepper was a master saxophonist in all of his styles, but I want to draw your attention to the second bonus track, "Blues at Twilight" (track #9). I love, love, love when Pepper plays blues, ballads, and mood pieces. I can't think of anyone who is better at painting an emotion or mood with a sax. The released version of "Blues at Twilight" excels in all the ways I've described, and even though the bonus track is an alternate take of the same song, you can hear a difference of interpretation. While I love the original, the alternate take positively blows my mind.

I thank Laurie Pepper for this remarkable reissue. This album is extraordinary in a number of ways. It sounds absolutely amazing. You would never know that these sessions are sixty plus years old: this record sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday. I want to specifically recommend either the CD or the iTunes download of the 2017 remaster because they both come with the CD booklet. It contains the liner notes that Don Clark wrote for the original album cover. There are also new liner notes penned by Laurie Pepper, and in an excellent essay she describes buying the master from the original label as they were about to go out of business. She talks about all the labels who fail to pay royalties and she weaves a compelling tale. Laurie has become a musicologist and a jazz historian with a most unique vantage point from which she is able to describe events first-hand. Her piece gives context to the music with insight that is very rare. In Laurie's notes we also learn that this album is her personal favorite of all Art Pepper's career. I think that with some repeat listening, it could become mine as well.

Art Pepper - Art Pepper Quartet (2017 Remaster)

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Stream on Spotify

About the versions: This article refers to the 2017 remaster. There is also a 2015 release of this album, which is still available at Bandcamp. That version has the tracks in a different sequence with the bonus tracks first. It also contains fewer takes of "Val's Pals". And although I don't have definitive information on this, in my estimation the 2017 remaster has upgraded sound quality. There is just one more difference; the 2015 version has an additional track that is not contained on the 2017 remaster. That is track #13, which is labeled "Bésame snip, stream." For the sake of completeness, I will mention that iTunes also has a bargain priced download of the original seven track album, which is credited to the K-Tel record label. It is unclear whether this is the 2015 version of the album or some prior master.

Tracklist: Click song title to listen
01 Art's Opus
02 I Surrender Dear
03 Diane
04 Pepper Pot
05 Bésame Mucho
06 Blues At Twilight
07 Val's Pal
08 Pepper Pot
09 Blues At Twilight
10 Val's Pal (Take 1)
11 Val's Pal (Take 2, Take 3 False Start & Take 4)
12 Val's Pal (Take 5 & Take 6 False Start)

A. Warhol (http://revolverauctions.com/)

The Press Release:
Recorded in late 1956 and released in early 1957, the same year as the landmark Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section, The Art Pepper Quartet (Art Pepper: saxophone, Russ Freeman: piano, Ben Tucker: bass, Gary Frommer: drums) is back for its 60th anniversary. Mastered from the original mono tapes by Grammy®-winning engineer Michael Graves, this CD and Digital edition was overseen by Art’s widow, Laurie Pepper, and Grammy®-winning producer, Cheryl Pawelski. In addition to the album’s 7 classics, this remaster includes 5 bonus tracks—alternate takes of “Pepper Pot” and “Blues At Twilight” (originally issued in 1990 in Japan) and a journey through the creation of “Val’s Pal” (including previously unheard incomplete takes and false starts) via 3 more tracks. New liner notes from Laurie Pepper trace the story of how her (and many folks’) favorite Art Pepper record was not only conceived, but ended up back where it belongs—with Art’s estate, and in the eyes, ears, and hands of jazz lovers everywhere. A gem on all fronts—this is how Jazz (and its history) should be experienced. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome back The Art Pepper Quartet.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Laura Marling - TLA, Philadelphia, 5/18/2017; Marling's Semper Femina Tour Stopped On South Street, Valley Queen Opened

Laura Marling played the Theater of the Living Arts (TLA) on South Street Friday, May 18th. The show may not have sold out, but Marling drew a good size crowd of her faithful. Marling began her set by doing seven consecutive songs from her new album, Semper Femina.

Often when the artist has a new album the audience sits politely through the new stuff waiting for the old favorites that they came to hear. Judging by the crowd reaction to Marling's new material, I was certainly not alone in coming to the show specifically to hear tracks from Semper Femina. She returned to the album later in the set for a total of eight out of its nine songs. The only one off the new album that she didn't play is "Nouel".

Over the course of six albums, Marling has perfected a rather unique style of talk-singing. The songs on Semper Femina are mostly more singing than talking, and most include her band. At the TLA, her touring band was excellent, consisting of musicians who played on the record, Simon Ribchester on guitar, Nick Pini on double bass and Matt Ingram on drums. Marling also had two backup singers, Tamsin Topolski and Emma Topolski. I'd never seen Marling perform with backing vocalists, but the addition was really nice.

After those first seven songs, Marling played solo acoustic on the next three, dipping back into Once I Was An Eagle for "Pray for Me". She followed that with a Townes Van Zandt cover "For The Sake Of The Song". Next, she played "Wild Once" which was one of my favorite tracks from Semper Femina; this was perhaps the highlight of the show for me. It is most unusual to hear any form of a regional accent in a singer, however in "Wild Once" Marling sounds thoroughly British, and that is one of the things I love about the song.

The Topolski sisters returned to the stage to accompany Marling on "Daisy", a quasi-rarity from the Short Movie album. Originally only available on the vinyl version, "Daisy" was contained on a bonus 7" single. Subsequently, Short Movie has been reissued in a "Director's Cut" deluxe edition with four bonus tracks. These tracks are essential for fans, two of them are alternate versions of songs on the album, although you've never heard Marling rock out as much as she does on these two tracks. The other two are the songs from that bonus 7" vinyl, "David" and "Daisy". If you already got the Short Movie album, the bonus tracks are available separately at iTunes.

Staying with Short Movie, the band returned to the stage as Marling played "How Can I". "Sophia" was mostly solo acoustic then the band joined in for a high intensity ending that sounded terrific. After "Once" (from Once I Was An Eagle), Marling gave her "no encore" policy explaining that if you wanted an encore, that was the last song and the next will be the encore. If not, she continued, this will be my last song, and with that she played "Rambling Man" from I Speak Because I Can, closing the show with her oldest song of the night.

Many thanks to the TLA for the lighting and the sound. Thanks also to Beverly Kates for the camera work and to Lindsey Mitchell for video production.

Watch "Wild Once"

Setlist: Click linked songs to watch video
01. Soothing
02. Wild Fire
03. The Valley
04. Don't Pass Me By
05. Always This Way
06. Next Time
07. Nothing, Not Nearly
08. Pray For Me
09. For The Sake Of The Song (Townes Van Zandt cover)
10. Wild Once
11. Daisy
12. How Can I
13. Sophia
14. Once
15. Rambling Man

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Opening the show was Valley Queen, a group that front woman Natalie Carol describes as an "L.A. based California soul/psychedelic country band." With Carol playing guitar and singing lead, her band consisted of Shawn Morones on guitar, Neil Wogensen on bass, and Gerry Doot on drums. Their debut EP was released earlier this year and contains five tracks, six if you use their Bandcamp page. Their seven song set was warmly received by the TLA crowd.

About Valley Queen, The Village Voice said, "...Carol has stayed true to her roots while embracing the psychedelia of California rock--and making some damn good music along the way." Check out their TLA performance in the following videos.

Watch "Gems and Rubies"

Setlist - Click linked songs to watch video
01. Carnival
02. In My Place
03. Hold On You
04. Stars Align
05. My Man
06. Gems & Rubies
07. Ride

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Chris Botti - The Merriam Theater, Philadelphia, 5/06/2017; Botti Elevates the Art of the Trumpet; Also Reviewed: Impressions (2012)

Photo courtesy of chrisbotti.com

When Chris Botti played the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia, Saturday night the sixth of May, I could not help but think how much has changed in the sixteen years since I last saw him. Back then, in a venue located just a few doors up the street, Botti wowed the crowd with a tight set of the jazz rock that he had just released on the album Night Moves. That was one fantastic show.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Botti had a female Israeli drummer who played so well with the bassist that they seemed connected in some fashion. The guitarist, Marc Shulman, was a phenomenal player we had seen many times before. Botti played his trumpet and was cooler than cool, Chet Baker reincarnate.

Fast forward to 2017. With a series of albums featuring a diverse array of duet partners, Chris Botti has expanded his music to include both pop and classical. In the process, he has become a major star at the level of Yo-Yo Ma, Sting, and Andrea Bocelli, to name just three of the artists with whom Botti plays regularly.

The sound system at the Merriam was loud, filling the theater with sound; and on top of the mix was Botti's trumpet, clear and true. After a couple of numbers, Botti began to introduce the songs. He seemed to relish the job of emceeing the concert, giving background on the songs, telling stories, cracking jokes, and talking about the other players in his band.

Botti is one of the most generous band leaders in that he gives ample time for his players to do solos and perform pieces devoted to their instrument. There were songs featuring Geoffrey Keezer on the piano. He sounded especially good duetting with Botti on "My Funny Valentine" to end the show. Lee Pearson got to rock out with a serious drum solo. Sy Smith was the featured vocalist on a number of selections. She did a fine jazz vocal on "The Very Thought of You". Later she and the rest of the band delivered a high energy cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together", which featured some fiery lead guitar by Leo Amuedo. Botti's superb band also included Richie Goods on bass and Rachel Eckroth on keys.

Several songs included the beautiful violin work of Caroline Campbell. One piece she performed was introduced by Chris as an epic jam; you can watch the video below and see her develop this improvisation which crescendos into a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir". It's both dramatic and satisfying. Botti spoke at length about playing with Andrea Bocelli and his search for a classical tenor. He then introduced Rafael Moras who proceeded to sing a phenomenal take on "Time To Say Goodbye". That song was, I thought, the high point of the entire show. Watch the performance below.

See more videos from this show:

The Very Thought Of You

Epic Violin Solo/Kashmir (Led Zep cover) feat. Caroline Campbell

Let's Stay Together (Al Green cover)

My Funny Valentine

Bonus Videos:

EPK: All about the making of his most recent album, Impressions, 2012

Roy Firestone Interview, Part 1 (mislabeled on video)

Roy Firestone Interview, Part 2 (mislabeled on video)

Chris Botti - Impressions (2012)
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Chris Botti's latest album is Impressions. The fact that it's from 2012 just means that we can probably expect something new from him anytime. If you don't have, or haven't heard Impressions, it is a really brilliant record, perhaps Botti's best yet. One track features Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill sings on another, and Herbie Hancock plays on another. Caroline Campbell, who dazzled the audience at the Merriam (video above), was also the featured violonist on this album. There is a gorgeous instrumental version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". The album ends with a track that, for my money, is worth the price of the album. Mark Knopfler guests on "A Wonderful World", which he not only sings, he also plays his guitar. Combined with Botti's trumpet, that's pure brilliance.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Joey Landreth - Whiskey; Joey's Excellent EP is a Worthy Follow-Up to 2015's Brilliant Debut by the Bros. Landreth

Photo: Cadence Music Group
"When Dave and I tossed out the idea of making music together, just for fun, over four years ago, we had no concept of how it would shape, enhance, and ultimately transform our lives. We never imagined in our loftiest of dreams that it would take us on the ride that it has. We didn’t think we’d ever finish a single song, never mind a whole record. Yet, almost unbelievably, and at long last, we want to introduce you to our second.

It’s an EP called Whiskey and we’re going to be releasing it under my name, Joey Landreth, as my big brother Dave is going to be taking a bit of a breather from life on the road to throw some roots down with his amazing new wife! We will still be playing some shows as The Bros. Landreth while we prepare to record more new music in the new year, so please do stay tuned to our band calendar too!

We humbly submit to you that it may well be the best thing we’ve done."
Let It Lie is the name of the brilliant debut album by the Bros. Landreth. In addition to placing on my Ten Best list for 2015, the Winnipeg group so homered in their first time at bat that Let It Lie also won the Juno Award for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year, Group, in 2015.

Maybe Joey Landreth found the prospect of moving from group member to solo artist on the second album daunting, but you'd never know it listening to Whiskey, Landreth's new seven track EP. “It’s different in the sense that I think it kind of showcases the progress of a band of guys that have been playing together for the last four years. And I really do think it’s a continuation of the work we sort of set out doing at the beginning with The Bros. Landreth.” [Joey Landreth, Rossland News, Feb 23, 2017]

Watch "Gone Girl" live from Stereobus Recording

Joey Landreth - Whiskey
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Stream on Spotify (N/A)

All of what was great about Let It Lie continues on Whiskey: top notch guitar work, superb blending of acoustic and electric guitars, excellent songwriting and vocal performances, and perhaps of equal importance, Whiskey was recorded using the same production team as the debut album.

Let's start with that. The Whiskey EP sounds different (read better) than other records. There is definitely something to the sound quality achieved by Paul Yee in his studio. That, combined with the skill of producer Murray Pulver, begins to get to the heart of just what it is that makes this EP sound so good. It occurred to me during "Still Feel Gone" that Pulver has something that's quite rare among producers, commercial or otherwise. That illusive quality is a sense of space, actually building silence into a recording, giving the elements that are there some room to breathe. Play track five and you'll see what I mean. You hear the relaxed pace of the drums and bass allowing the slow guitar solo the room it needs in the mix to seemingly luxuriate in its own tonal quality as it slowly escalates to a perfect storm. You can hear evidence of that sort of thinking all through the Whiskey EP. There is one more production touch I'll mention, then we'll move on. I love the way that the ending of the song "Whiskey" segues with the beginning of "Hard As I Can".

Photo: Joey Landreth

At first glance, perhaps the most impressive attribute of this record is the guitar work. It is exceptional. When the electric guitars kick in, the production shines again because the sound gets very muscular and it doesn't sacrifice any of the character of the music, let's call it North Americana. In a way, this EP brings to mind the slightly harder edge The Eagles had on their third album On The Border. With that thought in mind, it's hard not to pick up the similarities in the vocal between Joey Landreth and Glenn Frey.

Landreth talked about taking this EP out on the road.
Landreth will be accompanied on tour by Voth and bassist Meg Dolovich in what will be a kind of reunion tour for the trio.

“My very first band ever was with Ryan and Meg and a singer by the name of Alexa Dirks, who plays in a band called Begonia now, and so we had our very first band together. And then the offshoot of that band was a three-piece band with me and Ryan and Meg called The Dirty Denominators, and we just played pub dates playing rock ’n’ roll cover tunes, explained Landreth." [Chelsea Novak, Rossland News, Feb 23, 2017]

Photo: CBC Music


1. Whiskey
2. Hard As I Can
3. Gone Girl
4. Time Served
5. Still Feel Gone
6. Better Together
7. Remember

Watch "Whiskey" live from Stereobus Recording

Note: The Whiskey EP by Joey Landreth is still awaiting a U.S. release. It is not available for download, Amazon, or iTunes, and it is not available to stream on Spotify. Watch the videos for "Gone Girl", "Whiskey", and the EPK and you'll have a good idea of what this EP sounds like. Amazon is carrying the CD as an import, the link is above. When I last heard from Landreth, his team was shopping for a U.S. label. He said that they were looking for more than just a U.S. distributor, what they really want is an American label partner. As soon as there is further news regarding the status of a U.S. release, I will update this article.

Bonus Video: Watch the EPK

Joey Landreth Website
Joey Landreth Facebook
Joey Landreth Twitter
Joey Landreth Instagram

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Clean Bandit, Zara Larsson, & Starley - Union Transfer, 4/22/2017; "No Place I'd Rather Be"

In a time when the internet and modern technology has splintered the music audience down to every possible genre, surprisingly, the conventional wisdom still holds: hit singles equal crowds. Clean Bandit has had quite a few, Zara Larsson (the nineteen year old pop star from Sweden) has had any number of worldwide hits, even opener Starley seems to have dented the airways judging by the crowd response she got on Saturday night, April 22nd at Union Transfer. The upshot of all this was a sold-out Union Transfer and a most receptive packed house.

Singer-songwriter Starley went first. Starley Hope hails from Sydney, Australia and she defines her genre as "basically just whatever I feel at the time. I write about my life... ;)". Her debut single "Call On Me" reached the top ten Down Under as well as all over Europe. In Sweden it reached number one.

She played a quite listenable set of mostly originals plus a nice cover of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car". Her second to last song was "Into You". She was the featured singer on this Odd Mob single, which also had its share of chart success. Following that, Starley told a very personal story about pursuing a music career in London. She was writing songs for others because she supposedly didn't fit the profile of a lead singer. Starley talked about grappling with her weight, even thoughts of suicide, leading to an obsession with going to the gym and giving up music to became a personal trainer. Eventually, she wound up back in Australia with a new found singing career. Her message was "never give up on your dreams". That said, she ended her set with "Call On Me", with a good assist from the crowd who sang along. Atlantic City Beats posted a video of Starley doing "Call On Me".

Swedish pop sensation Zara Larsson was next. Larsson first gained notoriety for her singing at the age of ten when she won the Swedish equivalent of America's Got Talent. In 2013 (when she was fifteen), her first Swedish EP, Introducing, sold a million copies in the first month; six months in, it had gone triple platinum. Her second Swedish EP, Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself, was also released in 2013 with similar results. Now at the age of nineteen, Zara Larsson is a true phenom; everything she releases goes platinum in Sweden. She is huge in Denmark and Norway, too, with increasing worldwide popularity.

Larsson's many hit singles populated both her set and her international debut album, released this past March. They included "Never Forget You", "Ain't My Fault", "I Would Like", "So Good", and "Lush Life", much to the delight of the capacity crowd. In addition, she sang several covers of songs by Tinie Tempah, David Guetta, and Ed Sheeran; when she said Sheeran's name, she got a huge crowd reaction. Atlantic City Beats posted three videos from Larsson's set; click to watch. "It Ain't My Fault", "I Would Like", and "I Know What Boys Like". The beats were pounding, and the synths were soaring for a sound so loud that it made the floor physically vibrate (the heavy duty sound may have been needed to drown out the din coming from the audience). The vocals were nicely mixed to be loud and clear on top of the pulsating pop. Zara was well loved by the crowd who sang along to many of her songs. Her set did not contain "Symphony", but she returned to the stage during Clean Bandit's set to sing it.

Clean Bandit took the stage with their 2017 touring configuration of original members Grace Chatto on cello, percussion and vocals, Jack Patterson on keyboard and electronic clarinet, and Luke Patterson on drums, plus Stephanie Benedetti on violin, Kristin Child and Yasmin Green on vocals.

Clean Bandit's main draw is their uniqueness, the way they stretch classical music until it becomes pop, and then they put a dance beat to it. That together with excellence in songwriting, arrangements, and production, with a series of guest vocalists, begins to explain their popularity. So far, their recording career consists of one full length album New Eyes (2014), three EPs, and at least nine singles including their current hits "Symphony" feat. Zara Larsson and "Rockabye" feat. Sean Paul & Anne-Marie.

"Rockabye" was #1 in the UK for a total of nine weeks, including seven consecutive weeks during which it also earned the coveted Christmas number one honor for 2016. On their debut album, Clean Bandit worked with a number of guest vocalists: Rae Morris, Jess Glynne, Sharna Bass, Noonie Bao, Kandaka Moore, Nikki Cislyn, Stylo G, Javeon, Love Ssega, Elisabeth Troy, Lizzo, and Eliza Shaddad. Jess Glynne was the vocalist on their other UK #1 hit, "Rather Be", a crowd favorite that closed the show at Union Transfer. Both "Rather Be" and "Rockabye" charted top ten in the US. The live version of "Rockabye" featured Kristin (supported by Yasmin) sounding so good that nothing was lost in the absence of Sean Paul and Anne-Marie. The same goes for "Rather Be".

Performing live, Clean Bandit did not disappoint with virtually every song seeming like a highlight. Check out the setlist below and click on the song titles to watch their Union Transfer performance.

Even though it was louder than loud, the sound mix was excellent with every instrument clearly heard. The two singers, Yasmin and Kristin, were both phenomenal. Songs, which on record featured other vocalists, sounded great in their hands. Zara Larsson returned to the stage to sing on "Symphony" and the crowd loved it.

They ended their set with "Real Love", while at the same time receiving plenty of same from the crowd. This brought them back for a two song encore culminating with "Rather Be", which got the full audience sing-along treatment.

There seemed to be complete audience cross-over between Zara Larsson and Clean Bandit. Starley also held a great deal of appeal for this audience. This was another fine night of music at Union Transfer.

Photo: Clean Bandit's Instagram "Chilly Fease Cakes ! ! !"

I may not be in the target demographic for this music. I thought we'd get another opinion from someone who is. Take it away, Breanne.
Starley: I was not familiar with this artist before going to the concert; in fact, I did not even realize that she would be an opener! However, after listening to a few of her songs, I feel as though she was the perfect person to open the show. She had wonderful stage presence and brought so much energy to her performance. She definitely looks like the stage is where is she is meant to be. Vocally, I found her voice to be very soulful and sultry, with a lower register that was particularly strong. When she began to sing "Call on Me", i immediately recognized it as being a song I frequently listen to Spotify without knowing who sings it. It received a huge reaction from the crowd, rightfully so as it is a song with both a catchy melody and inspirational lyrics.

Zara Larsson: Zara has been one of my favorite up and coming artists for a while now, so I was understandably very excited to see her perform live. Having heard from several people that her live performances are amazing, she definitely lived up to my expectations. Though she sang several catchy songs and made the show a lot of fun to watch, I was most impressed by the strength and maturity of her voice. I feel as though she could take any song and sing it well. Her voice never waivers, despite doing choreographed dancing the majority of the set. I can definitely see her becoming a household name in the near future.

Clean Bandit: Going into the concert, I only knew a few of their more popular songs (Rockabye, Rather Be, and most recently, Symphony), but this show made me a huge fan. Being a violinist, I love listening to classical music, so this classical crossover group (which I didn't even realize was a musical genre) was right up my alley. I feel like any time string instruments are included in pop songs, it adds so much depth and beauty. The two singers, Kristen and Jasmine, each brought something different to the table and really did the original songs justice.

Overall, I had a wonderful time at the show! I felt that the three groups complimented each other perfectly. My favorite part of the concert, by far, was when Zara Larsson and Clean Bandit joined forces to play "Symphony", their newest single. I am absolutely obsessed with this song right now and have been playing it on repeat for the past few weeks, so it was amazing to see it played live. I haven't been to a great deal of concerts, but of all the ones I have been to, this was by far my favorite. I can't wait to see what each of these three artists come out with next!
Many thanks to Breanne Pottie the second opinion. Many thanks to Union Transfer for the booking and the powerful sound and lighting. Thanks also to Beverly Kates for camera work and to Lindsey Mitchell for video production.
Thanks again to Atlantic City Beats for the additional videos.

Watch Clean Bandit & Zara Larsson - Symphony

01. UK Shanty
02. Stronger
03. Cologne
04. Symphony (with Zara Larsson)
05. Extraordinary
06. Heart on Fire (Courtesy of Atlantic City Beats)
07. A+E
08. Birch
09. Come Over
10. Rockabye
11. Telephone Banking
12. Should've Known Better
13. Piece of You
14. Real Love
15. Tears(with band introductions)
16. Rather Be

Bonus Videos:

The day before Union Transfer, they played Webster Hall in NYC. Watch Clean Bandit with Zara Larsson perform "Symphony" on LIVE with Kelly on 4/21/2017

Watch Clean Bandit perform "Rather Be" on Elvis Duran Live on 3/8/2017

Watch Clean Bandit with Jess Glynne perform "Rather Be On" on Later with Jools Holland on 5/10/14

Clean Bandit's Website
Clean Bandit's Facebook
Clean Bandit's Twitter
Clean Bandit's Instagram

Zara Larsson's Website
Zara Larsson's Facebook
Zara Larsson's Twitter
Zara Larsson's Instagram

Starley's Facebook
Starley's Twitter
Starley's Instagram

Friday, April 14, 2017

Livingston Taylor - The Colonial Theater, Phoenixville, PA, 4/01/2017; Taylor is a Total Charmer as He Celebrates His Fifty Year Career

After Susan Werner and an intermission, it was time for Livingston Taylor. Taylor's set was either a delightful batch of songs performed in celebration of his now fifty year career, or his set may have been a master class in the popular song, giving the crowd a taste of what it might be like taking one of his courses at Berklee College of Music in Boston. In actuality, Taylor's set was a little of both.

A little more than half of his selections were originals, and although he didn't draw many songs from his early days, Taylor's compositions showcased his finely tuned sense of melody with all the lyrical humor and poignancy that his fans have come to expect.

After leading off with "Blame It On Me", Taylor got right to it, talking about Jerome Kern (1885-1945). "He was the grandmaster of the popular song. All he wanted to be was a pop writer, and boy was he ever. He had so much grace and so much dignity that all the young pops that came after him, Richard Rogers, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, they looked at Jerome Kern and said, 'Well if he wants to be a pop writer, so do I', and boy weren't they too."

With that he sang the delightful "Pick Yourself Up", which the more you hear it, the more you realize that it is a perfect pop song. As a standard, it's been done by most of the major pop singers over the years; I've always been partial to the Nat King Cole version. During the set, Taylor came back to this subject a number of times.

Some of the other pop standards in Taylor's set came from the movies, "Never Never Land" from Peter Pan, "It Might As Well Be Spring" from State Fair, and "Merry Old Land Of Oz" and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" both from The Wizard of Oz. Singer-songwriter Susan Werner, who performed earlier, came back out to join Taylor on "It Might As Well Be Spring" contributing vocals and piano. For the final encore song Taylor sang the medley from The Wizard of Oz and Werner added guitar.

There was so much humor in this set it was the kind of concert that keeps you smiling. Taylor's "Olympic Guitar" never gets old and the same can be said for "Railroad Bill", which had the crowd howling with laughter. There were also plenty of favorites from Taylor's records such as "Life is Good", "Pajamas", and "City Lights".

During the introduction to "I Must Be Doing Something Right", Taylor talked about the joy he gets from teaching, then he brought out singer-songriter, musician, and arranger Matt Cusson. Cusson played piano for the rest of Taylor's set, adding his vocals to "City Lights". He returned to the stage during the encore for a rousing version of Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely". Cusson did the lead vocals and if you weren't looking at the stage, you might have thought that Stevie himself had dropped by to sing. Cusson is highly regarded as an artist and collaborator. He released his self-tittled debut album in 2009.

Livingston Taylor has achieved a body of work in his fifty year career with the excellence of both his songwriting and his cover choices. In any given concert, he can only scratch the surface. Earlier when Taylor was describing Jerome Kern he used the terms grace and dignity, I think that these terms apply equally well to Livingston Taylor. I can say without reservation, after having seen Taylor any number of times, that in performance he is always nothing less than charming.

Many thanks to the Colonial Theater for the sound and lights. Thanks to Beverly Kates for camera work and to Lindsey Mitchell for video production.

Watch "Pick Yourself Up"

Setlist: Click linked song titles to watch
01. Blame It On Me
02. Pick Yourself Up (Jerome Kern)
03. There I'll Be
04. Never Never Land (Peter Pan)
05. Everybody's Just Like Me
06. I'm Writing A Book
07. Never Lose Hope
08. Olympic Guitar
09. Pajamas
10. Railroad Bill (Andy Breckman)
11. I Must Be Doing Something Right w/ MC
12. Penny Lane (Beatles) w/ MC
13. City Lights w/ MC
14. Life is Good w/ MC
15. It Might As Well Be Spring (State Fair) w/ SW
16. Isn't She Lovely (Stevie Wonder)
17. Would You Mind w/ SW & MC
18. Merry Old Land Of Oz (Wizard of Oz)
19. Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Wizard of Oz) w/ SW & MC

Livingston Taylor's Website
Livingston Taylor's Facebook
Livingston Taylor's Twitter
Livingston Taylor's Instagram

Matt Cusson's Website
Matt Cusson's Facebook
Matt Cusson's Twitter
Matt Cusson's Instagram

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Susan Werner - The Colonial Theater, Phoenixville, PA, 4/01/2017; A Superb Set of Decidedly Necessary Songs

The Colonial Theater crowd was the beneficiary Saturday night April 1st as Point Entertainment booked a pair of headliners to perform, Livingston Taylor and Susan Werner.

Susan Werner did the opening set, even though she's been headlining her own shows for many years. I've been to her shows a number of times, but as she played this time it occurred to me that I had somehow forgotten just how good she is. At the outset, Livingston Taylor came out and introduced her with tons of praise.

Werner started strong with "Kicking the Beehive," the lead track from the album of the same name (2010). She followed with "The Last of the Good, Straight Girls", which led into "I Can't Be New", all three seeming like signature songs, in a way.

One of the things I like best about Werner is the way that she unapologetically writes her views into her material, no matter whether the topic is political, religious, or social. Her next two songs opened a few eyes (and ears), the first one coming from an album called Eight Unnecessary Songs. "Just what you don’t need! Eight little tunes on topics ranging from cosmetic surgery to the extraordinary properties of cheap beer to global warming. At turns facile, petty and uncharitable, these songs offer a kind of comfort to those of us falling wayyy short of Mother Teresa out here." Watch Susan perform "Dog" and you'll see what I mean. Although "Herbicides" comes from her latest album Hayseed, she introduced it saying something about it also being unnecessary. I thought about quoting some lyrics here, but just watch the video.

After "Red Dress" her set got even more topical starting with a track from her The Gospel Truth album, one that she considers “agnostic gospel”. From that album she drew "(Why Is Your) Heaven So Small", a song that hits the nail on the head in so many ways. While she sang it, I kept thinking that the song could not be more relevant now. Then I realized that I thought the exact same thing when she first released that album in 2007, which may be the last time I'd seen her. But then that's the beauty of songwriting like this, it's timeless.

Her set culminated in another true Werner gem, "My Strange Nation". Based on recent events, she has updated the song with a new verse about Donald Trump. See video below.

There was a lot of love in the Colonial Theater for Werner. She stuck around and came back out to sing a couple of tunes with Livingston Taylor at the end of his set. If you haven't seen Susan Werner, or haven't seen her lately, I heartily recommend going to her website and catching up with her.

Many thanks to the Colonial Theater for the sound and lights. Thanks to Beverly Kates for camera work and to Lindsey Mitchell for video production.

Bonus video: Werner posted her 2017 version of "My Strange Nation".

Susan Werner's Website
Susan Werner's Facebook
Susan Werner's Twitter

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Anuhea - World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, 3/22/2017: A Delightful Bit Of Hawaii Heats Up A Frigid Night, Plus Sets By Mahi & WonderBoy

Anuhea played at the upstairs venue of World Cafe Live for the second time on Wednesday, March 22nd. It was four years less one day since her last show there on March 23, 2013. We arrived nice and early, which was good for a couple of reasons. We got a great location right up front, which you'll see in the videos. We had time for a leisurely dinner. The World Cafe menu is always interesting, and the food is always good. And finally, as we sat down, Anuhea began her soundcheck, which was a nice and lengthy version of "Higher Than the Clouds", the song that she chose to close her set. She left the stage to her guitarist Mahi, who played some dazzling lead guitar.

The show began with an opening set by Philly local BoyWonder (Andre Coles), who sang accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. According to his bio, he grew up in West Philadelphia, "Andre was exposed to a myriad of music genres Blues, Jazz, Motown, Philly International, and Gospel yet the Police remained his number one inspiration." He did a wide ranging set of mostly originals that was quite enjoyable; watch the videos of "Love Struck" and "Toxic (Britney Spears cover)" shot at the show.

After a break, Anuhea's band took the stage. Guitarist Mahi warmed up the crowd, accompanied by Jason on bass and Revelation on drums. Mahi played "Kissing You", a great sounding original, composition and a number of soul covers starting with a terrific version of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly". Even if he was possibly covering The Fugees version, the result was excellent just the same. Jason then began the iconic bass riff that opens "My Girl" (Temptations) and Mahi knew he had another crowd pleaser. In light of the music's innate appeal, Mahi perhaps didn't need to come on so strong with audience participation, but the crowd liked him regardless. When taking requests some fan who knew his music made him a happy man by asking for another of his original tunes, but the request he wound up settling on was a Jackson 5 oldie. Check out videos "Killing Me Softly (Roberta Flack cover)", "Kissing You", "I Want You Back (Jackson Five cover)", and Shining Star (The Manhattans cover).

When the band started the next number, Mahi introduced Anuhea who launched into her set with "Come Over Love". Her set was so well constructed that it seemed like, for the first half hour, each new song began as the previous song ended, some even overlapping like a good radio segue.

Anuhea's band was superb. Jason on bass and Revelation on drums were so rock steady that I think they could have given any song the full Jamaican reggae treatment. They played some mighty fine "riddim". Mahi is an enormously gifted guitarist whether he's dazzling on his Fender Stratocaster or voicing beautiful moodswings on his acoustic. He also sang with Anuhea on a couple of tunes. This band is talented, tight, and you can see why Anuhea brings them with her from Hawaii.

When she played "Island Inside Me" from her first album, she mentioned that it had been eight years since that debut was released in 2009. That record put her on my map, making my list of the ten best albums of that year. She has a great singing voice with a facility for rap, which she busts out from time to time, like on the encore when she introduced and invited each band member to take a solo. Anuhea is naturally at ease with the audience, telling long stories over the intros, which sounds quite like an old friend bringing you up to date on what she's been up to.

Anuhea is also a super songwriter. Her music blends rock, pop, soul, and reggae into something that comes out decidedly Hawaiian. She can more than hold her own with more well-known singer songwriters. Anuhea said that she's been doing some recording in L.A. for her next album and she plans to go back next month to do more. She also mentioned that it will be on a new label (her third). I think that with the right exposure, Anuhea could see the breakthrough that her music deserves.

Many thanks to World Cafe Live for the excellent lighting and sound.
Many thanks also to Beverly Kates for camera work and to Lindsey Mitchell for video production.

Watch "Come Over Love"

Setlist: Click song to watch.
01. Come Over Love
02. Only Man in the World
03. Looking for Love
04. Big Deal
05. I Just Want You Around (including Drop, Baby Drop)
06. Forever Summer
07. Sweet Thing
08. Island Inside Me
09. Simple Love Song
10. Shoulders
11. Higher Than The Clouds
12. Send My Love (to your new lover)[Adele Cover] w/ band solos

Anuhea's Website
Anuhea's Facebook
Anuhea's Twitter

Mahi's Facebook
Mahi's Twitter

BoyWonder's Facebook
BoyWonder's Twitter

Monday, March 20, 2017

Murray McLauchlan – Love Can't Tell Time; McLauchlan Delivers An Exquisite Set Of "New" Standards

Photos courtesy of Murray McLauchlan

New Music Friday: Many singers, at some point in their career, find their way to the Great American Songbook. Some go to that well more than once, such as Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan. Of all the standards albums I've heard, I don't think that anyone has produced one more enjoyable than Love Can't Tell Time by Murray McLauchlan, released Friday, March 17th. And this isn't even a standards album, it only sounds like one.

Murray McLauchlan is a Scottish born Canadian singer, songwriter, and musician with eighteen previous albums to his credit. I started listening to him back in the early 70s when men were men and records were made of vinyl. I enjoyed a number of visits to Montreal in those days, including a mid January honeymoon. There is a lot to like in Montreal: there's the food, the metro system, the diversity of international cultures, and the shopping, not the least of which is some fine record shopping.

Among my many finds there, I usually came home with McLauchlan's latest LP. I don't know if it was the switch to CDs in the 80s, or if I just didn't get into Montreal that often, but I lost track of McLauchlan... until last Friday when I noticed his familiar name on the list of new releases. Listening to it this morning flooded me with good feeling, hence this article.

The concept could not be simpler, or more well done. A batch of first rate material gets a thoroughly organic arrangement of acoustic guitar, voice, and bass with some of the sweetest swinging violin you've ever heard. McLauchlan says that the basic tracks where recorded "live off the floor" with the violin and some pedal steel added later. Click either the Spotify link or a track below to listen and you'll see what I mean.

The first track is "Pick Yourself Up", written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields. This version is so good that McLauchlan actually reclaims the song from Breaking Bad, which used it to soundtrack a sequence of prison killings with Nat King Cole's version. That image was so disturbing that I hadn't been able to disassociate the scene from the song, at least until now.

Next up is the title track plus two more originals that are so well written, and so well played, that the first time through I didn't even realize that these were not simply standards that I didn't recognize.
"Of the songs I wrote or co wrote," says McLauchlan, "Love Just Can't Tell Time and Little White Lies have a special place in my heart. They were co written with my friend Alison Gordon, a take-no-prisoners gal who was a sportswriter, a novelist, a broadcaster and a great critic when any of us got off the rails. She passed away before I finished this record but she lives on in these songs."

"Hey There" and "Come Fly With Me" are two more covers of standards that are every bit as delightful as "Pick Yourself Up". Regarding those three covers, McLauchlan says, “They’ve been around for quite a while but they are my songs, in so much as I have made them my own. They’ve seen me through some dark times and helped me celebrate seeing the clouds from the other side..."

The album concludes with a string of four more originals. Beyond the beauty of the performances, arrangements, and production, the real genius of this album is the relentlessly high quality of the songwriting. The lyrics are wordy and use the language in a way that we don't hear much anymore. Combined with melodies that seem to be of a piece with the classics, it's no accident that this album plays like a standards collection; it can be hard to tell the difference. What I'm getting at is that Murray McLauchlan's Love Can't Tell Time offers seven original songs on par with the three standards he covers, so let's just refer to this as an album of "new" standards.

Murray McLauchlan – Love Can't Tell Time
Buy at Amazon
Buy at iTunes
Stream on Spotify

Tracklist: Click song name to listen.
01. Pick Yourself Up
02. Love Just Can't Tell Time
03. The Luckiest Guy
04. My Martini
05. Hey There
06. Come Fly With Me
07. Little White Lies
08. I'm Not Gonna Waste a Minute of My Life
09. The Second Half of Life
10. When You're At The Top

Bonus Interview: by Lynn Saxberg, Ottawa Citizen, February 23, 2017
Murray McLauchlan preview: 'The most important thing is always the song'

Canadian singer-songwriter Murray McLauchlan is gearing up to release his 18th studio album this spring. Lynn Saxberg talked to the veteran musician, 68, about the no-frills recording, and how a sojourn in Italy rekindled his love of playing guitar.

Q: Tell me about the new record.

A: It’s called Love Can’t Tell Time. It’s related in a way to the last one I did, Human Writes, insomuch as it’s recorded in a very basic way. My motto is, “As the world gets noisier, I keep getting quieter.”

Q: Did you work with a producer?

A: Are you kidding? I’m Canadian. What would I do with a producer?

Q: I don’t know. Maybe take orders?

A: Well, no.

Q: Fair enough. What was your goal in the studio?

A: I wasn’t really planning so much on making a record. I was just going in to lay down some stuff in this really kind of no-frills, no-artificial-preservatives-or-flavours manner, which is the way I like to hear music. I like to hear that it’s not possible to fake the fact that you can actually play.

Q: You’ve reworked some old songs and written new ones, including some co-writes with Alison Gordon, who’s not known as a musician.

A: Alison was a really dear friend who passed away before it got finished. She was a journalist, the first woman journalist on the baseball circuit. They nicknamed her the pecker checker. We wrote songs kind of on a bet. We’d been sitting on a patio at Allen’s restaurant on the Danforth, with some friends, and Alison sorta got on to the subject of how hard can it be to write songs. So I brought her into the process, and she fell in love with it. The title song is a co-write with her, and the idea of the song is that love just doesn’t happen for people who are the age of Romeo and Juliet. It can happen in a Chartwell home to people who are 85, and it’s just as intense.

Q: What about the song, The Luckiest Guy?

A: I wrote it for Denise (Donlon, his wife). It’s straight and simple: I am the luckiest guy. There’s a lot I could say about how quality of a person she’s been in my life. It’s not the first song I’ve written for her, but it’s one of the best. I like that line, “You stand out in any crowd of thoroughbred city girls.”

Q: It also has some cool guitar playing on it. Where’d that come from?

A: It’s sort of a progression of what started in early 2013, when I was living in Italy. I had time to reflect a bit, and fell in love with playing guitar and music again. During that time, I started learning this whole new language on guitar, which dovetailed nicely with my love of great guitar heroes, like Django Reinhardt. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Paris Hot Club records, and I’ve always loved Texas swing music. Now I find I can sit down and play along with Count Basie and his orchestra and I’m a very happy guy.

Q: Why were you living in Italy?

A: Well, I don’t know if you need a reason to go and live in Italy. It’s one of the greatest places in the world to hang out. It wasn’t that I was mad at Canada or anything, but I just wanted to get out of here for a while because if you’re here too long, it becomes too small a place and you have to get out every so often to get some perspective on different ways of living, and different thoughts. I also really wanted to try to get past the journeyman Rosetta Stone Italian I’ve been working on so I figured the best way was to go live there for a few months. And Denise had some time because she was working on her book.

Q: You weren’t planning to write songs there?

A: Nope. I didn’t have a plan other than to stretch out and open up my head. I absolutely fell in love with the place. It was not the first time I’d been there.

Q: What made you realize the recordings were turning into an album?

A: The results. The songs came out much better than I ever hoped they would. To me, the most important thing is always the songs. They’re at the centre. Whatever the technology, whatever you dress it up with, if there isn’t a good song at the centre of the exercise, it isn’t really worth it.

Q: You’re still touring consistently. Is it still fun?

A: I don’t not like it. I like playing music. That’s what I do. If I don’t do that, all kinds of bad things could happen.

Q: Anything else on the go?

A: Well, as a footnote to the “why do you record?” thing, I’ve been talking to a lot of people in the recent past and a lot of the conversation is, “How are you surviving?” It wasn’t really by any particular instinct, but suddenly when everyone is running around with their hair on fire, I made a little record, that if you sit down and listen to it for 45 minutes, it’s a chance to actually feel good.

Murray McLauchlan Facebook

True North Records Website
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