Monday, March 31, 2008

Karen Matheson- Rithill Aill

Washed away.

I attended a Celtic Woman concert last night. It was about what one would expect. I sensed that most of the performers, most notably Orla Fallon, would prefer to attempt more adventurous fare. But that doesn't always pay the bills, does it? A few might aspire to do something along the lines of Karen Matheson's The Dreaming Sea. While it always keeps its Gaelic roots within striking distance, the project's creator's explore jazz concepts and the romantic lushness of Roxy Music's Avalon. (Yes, I realize that Matheson is Scottish, but the same principle applies.)

My review of Friday's Saliva, Drowning Pool and Since October show is here.

The ludicrous psychedelic pop of The Ruby Suns makes me smile.

I guess when you have as many albums as Van Morrison, it's inevitable that they're going to start looking alike. The cover of the new release Keep It Simple is indistinguishable from Into the Music at first glance.

Another Levert died. Awful.

Kansas City Click: The Trews open for Ace freakin' Frehley tonight at the VooDoo.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Paul Grabowsky- Silverland


I don't deserve my friends. While I'm often cantankerous and aloof, they're usually understanding and generous. My buddy L. even ordered me a couple jazz CDs last Christmas. One is Tales of Time and Space by Australian pianist Paul Grabowsky. It features jaw-dropping interplay between saxophonists Joe Lovano and Branford Marsalis. Buy the album to hear those tracks. According to the liner notes, this composition is named for the Australian rock band Silverchair. I'm not sure I believe it, though- the nifty melody is more Chick Corea than Kurt Cobain. Thanks, pal.

Day 26 are moving units in these parts.

Trust me, guys. You'll want to take a look at this Grace Potter site.

Kansas City Click: The gift shop at Harrah's does not sell gum or ear plugs. Prepare accordingly for Drowning Pool and Saliva at the casino's VooDoo Lounge tonight.

The Clash were my gateway band to punk, reggae and dub. And I'll admit to owning that first Generation X album. It'll be a big thrill for fans of a certain age to see Mick Jones and Tony James, now working as Carbon/Silicon, at the Record Bar on Saturday. "Sing, Michael sing!"

Three of the Clash's musical progeny- Anti-Flag, the Briggs and Street Dogs tear up the Beaumont on Sunday.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Loituma- Viimesen Kerran

No more beauty.

Call me Mr. Jones. Something is happening here, but I don't know what it is.

I have no earthly idea why a live performance video of Finnish folk group Loituma has been viewed over three million times at YouTube. I suppose it has something to do with the popularity of this techno remix. And then there's this nonsense. There's no end to the phenomenon. I suppose the sheer randomness is much of the appeal, but even so, WTF!.

While Things of Beauty concludes with the accidental culprit, it's actually a traditional Finnish folk album. Fans of Trio Mediaeval and Anonymous 4 should be all over the Finnish group's gorgeous sound.

It's taken a valiant effort, but I've succeeded in avoiding disclosing my relationship with The Network at There Stands the Glass. The genius of the Foxboro Hot Tubs is making it increasingly difficult not to divulge the darkest of secrets.

KPRS and KQRC are my favorite commercial radio stations in Kansas City. Both cultivate a strong sense of community. A large part of that social contract includes airing local talent. I'm thrilled that "The Rock" currently has Red Line Chemistry in heavy rotation.

Kansas City Click: Alas, the Backsliders playing tonight at Crosstown Station aren't the Backsliders. This group with the same name sound as if they could have opened for the Knack in 1979.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Wave Pictures- Now You Are Pregnant

No more art.

I owe the staff of Artrocker an apology. Assuming it was the deranged product of a misguided music journalist, I've been automatically deleting the publication's artless email bulletins for a couple years.

So I was shocked to spot the magazine on a newstand on my recent trip to London. And it's great. Better yet, the free CD packaged with the March issue is loaded with spectacular music from the Moshi Moshi label. My favorite is this sentimental song by The Wave Pictures.

The trio somehow balances the epic emotional sweep of the Smiths with the sweet naivete of Jonathan Richman. "Now You Are Pregnant" is a worthy successor to Squeeze's "Up the Junction" and Billy Bragg's "Greetings To the New Brunette."

Here's a video for their current single. I haven't been so utterly gobsmacked by a European pop act since I discovered Aberfeldy and Camera Obscura a couple years ago. I'm swooning.

I attended a painfully awkward in-store by Five Times August earlier this week. The guy's getting 30,000-plus plays a day at MySpace but drew only a dozen people to a local Borders store on a Monday night. One of the singer-songwriter's fans took some representative footage.

Rifftides pointed me to this obituary of jazz musician Patti Bown. It sounds like she was quite a character.

Please don't misconstrue this link as an endorsement, but reggae star Coco Tea has released a credible song endorsing Barack Obama.

Kansas City Click: Mike Doughty will undoubtedly provide a sufficient soundtrack for a memorable party tonight at the Beaumont.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Israel "Cachao" Lopez, 1918-2008


Israel "Cachao" Lopez died in Florida on Saturday. He was 89. He was to mambo what Bill Monroe was to bluegrass. Even if Cachao wasn't the inventor of the sound, he was an integral participant in its creation. Master Sessions, Volume 1 was released to great acclaim in 1994. Three years later a similar project, Buena Vista Social Club, surpassed the commercial success of Cachao's comeback album. As heard here, the Master Sessions are unspeakably joyous. Now's a great chance to rediscover Cachao. Here's a video of one of his '90s recording sessions. Yes, that's actor Andy Garcia, who served as Cachao's sponsor in his final years.

Kansas City Click: I've long contended that Armor For Sleep are one of the rare Warped Tour-style bands that stands a strong shot at enjoying a prolonged mainstream career. They play an early show for the kids tonight at the Record Bar. A Cursive Memory open.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mikey Dread, 1954-2008

Farewell, friend.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the distinctive sound of Mikey Dread spilling out of storefronts and from market boomboxes when I visited Brixton last week. I hadn't yet learned that the reggae legend died March 15.

While Dread was Jamaican, I'll always associate him with England. It was Dread's work with the Clash brought him to my attention. And he produced acts like UB40 while he lived in London.

I pulled this track from a compilation titled Strictly Rockers, but it's most readily available on World War III, available as a British import. Here's a video of Dread performing the song.

A public bus took me from central London to Brixton. Schools had just let out, and I was secretly delighted to hear kids talking in the accent and using the slang I knew primarily through Dizzee Rascal. In this video, the young lion speaks of his collaboration with the Arctic Monkeys. Whether he knows it or not, Dizzee is deeply indebted to Dread.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Paul Brady- You're the One

No more.

The proverbial luck of the Irish found me drinking beer in London's Trafalgar Square on St. Patrick's Day. When my associates asked me the name of the Irish folk singer performing before the throng of revelers, I mistakenly told them it was Paul Brady.

Blame it on Vincent Van Gogh. My head was swimming less from beer than from seeing many of the world's most famous paintings in the adjacent National Gallery. The entertainer was actually Luka Bloom. He annoyed much of the crowd by endorsing the reelection of Mayor Ken Livingstone and by playing too many morose songs. And it was "feckin'" cold, to borrow one of Bloom's phrases. He did manage to inspire the crowd with a mean cover of Bob Marley's "Natural Mystic." I'd moved on by the time this fan footage was shot.

Brady is best known to Americans as a hit songwriter for Bonnie Raitt, Brooks & Dunn and other mainstream acts. But he has a long history in traditional Irish music. This song from 1995's Spirits Colliding combines those elements.

Renaissance man Peter Lubin recounts signing Steve, Bob & Rich (a.k.a. The Rainmakers) in this wonderful tale.

Kansas City Click: I'm so ashamed! I just discovered that I've never recommended an Eddie Delahunt gig at There Stands the Glass. Our city's most celebrated Irish troubadour is at Mike Kelly's Westsider this evening.

Saturday's concert at the Gem Theater with Mary Stallings, Karrin Allyson and Bobby Watson holds extraordinary promise.

The Record Bar claims that legendary second wave British ska band Bad Manners will appear on their stage Sunday night. No offense guys, but I won't believe it until I see Buster Bloodvessel's distinctive mug with my own two eyes.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

I'm Gone

I'm leaving you with Bobby Rush's finest ambassador while I take a blogging sabbatical.

Little Beirut- Love During Wartime

War is over.

Little Beirut thinks big. Several moments on High Dive, the Portland band's new release, resemble the bombastic arena rock of Oasis and Pink Floyd. And that's a good thing. Such elevated songwriting craft, with its emphasis on melody and difficult subject matter, is a valuable commodity in the realm of indie rock. One of the more intimate songs on High Dive, "Life During Wartime" features a characteristically clever arrangement. It concerns Condoleeza Rice and features a fetching trumpet solo. This unlikely combination almost guarantees the band a place on year-end best-of lists.

My review of Friday's Gipsy Kings concert is here.

Is the Washington Post reading There Stands the Glass? A big weekend think piece about the state of smooth jazz expanded on my March 5 comments.

44 Long lives! I'm delighted to have stumbled across their MySpace page via fellow Portland band Little Beirut. I adored these guys back in '99. Fans of Tommy Womack, Elvis Costello and the Bottle Rockets are advised to download the four songs at the link immediately.

Kansas City Click: The woefully undervalued Cloud Cult visits Davey's tonight.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Syl and Syleena Johnson- They Can't See Your Good Side

Turned away.

A couple of MCs at last weekend's big soul-blues concert in Kansas City made a running joke out of the scarcity of white people attending the event. It bugged me. Oh, I didn't mind getting playfully elbowed every time the subject came up between acts.

But the enormous musical divide between demographic groups troubles me. I really like Amy Winehouse too, but why is she a superstar in a community that treats the late Luther Vandross like a virtual nonentity? And how is it that 99% of the people who buy tickets to see Mel Waiters and Marvin Sease are of one race?

I don't doubt for a second that Winehouse would have gladly attended the show, just as she would appreciate this wonderful 1995 track from This Time Together by Syl Johnson and his daughter Syleena. Syleena Johnson has a fledgling career of her own. Here she is with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West on his "All Falls Down."

With that in mind, a likely Winehouse arena tour of North America in 2009 has the potential to bring people together. Just for grins, I'm proposing two possible lineups. "The Women of R&B Tour": Mary J. Blige, Winehouse, Etta James and Keyshia Cole. Or... "The New 'Old School' R&B Tour": Winehouse, Fantasia, Robin Thicke and Sir Charles Jones. Whattaya think?

The Riverfront Times did a nice cover story on Rockwell Knuckles. The St. Louisian's Rhymesayers-style sound deserves a national audience.

Kansas City Click: Pat Metheny, Christian McBride and Antonio Sanchez perform tonight in Lee's Summit. The concert is sold out.

There Stands the Glass favorite Paul Kelly opens for Big Head Todd and the Monsters at the Uptown on Saturday.

Blues harp veteran Sugar Blue hits Knuckleheads on Sunday.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ralph Towner- The Lizards of Eraclea

Under a rock.

Remember how a calculated air of mystery hung over Belle & Sebastian as the band rose to fame? Details about their appearance and personnel were kept carefully under wraps. That's how the ECM roster of the 1970s seemed to me. Terje Rypdal? Jan Garbarek? Ralph Towner? Who were these guys? The label's album art provided no clues. To a Kansas boy in the pre-internet days, they might as well have been Martians. Now it's all too easy to discover that Towner looks like this. Time Line, the guitarist's most recent release, is typically ravishing.

I just received a promotional email from Live Nation offering VIP premium access to concerts. It looks like little more than a "seat license program." (It's available at Starlight Theater in my town.) I don't begrudge promoters, venues, artists and labels for exploring new ways to make money. In fact, kudos to Trent Reznor. Be it NIN selling 2,500 units of a limited edition package at $300 a whack, or a power pop artist with a strong cult following selling personalized songs for $100 each, we're all going to have to figure out new ways to earn a living.

Kansas City Click: It's gypsy punk night at the Beaumont. How will Gogol Bordello resist the mechanical bull?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Herbie Mann- The Purple Grotto

Gone black.

Allow me a culturally uncool assertion: The world needs more Kenny Gs, Grover Washington, Jr.s, Chris Bottis, and yes, Herbie Manns. Believe me, I understand why these crossover jazz artists are mercilessly ridiculed by elitist taste-makers. And while I don't spend my days listening to Dave Koz, I know that his instrumental pop has never pulled a single fan away from "real" jazz. To the contrary- it ultimately leads to additional sales of A Love Supreme. So goof on Herbie Mann all you like. I'll be unapologetically grooving on his 1954 Plays session.

Speaking of easy targets, how about the recently announced line-up for Rocklahoma? It's an army of '80s hair metal acts. Say what you will, but fans of bands like Tora Tora are loyal consumers of physical music product. That makes them my heroes. And come to think of it, the festival campgrounds are a mere five hours drive away... Roadtrip!

Kansas City Click: This Will Destroy You canceled tonight's show at the Record Bar, but you can still catch Bob Walkenhorst's weekly matinee.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Jeff Healey, 1966-2008


There was no avoiding the Jeff Healey Band during the last big blues boom. Healey had a radio and MTV hit, a role in a classic cable TV movie, and he toured constantly. Even though I didn't particularly care for his heavy-handed power trio style, I remember seeing him two or three times during that era. Healey was so personable that it was hard to not to like his music at least a little bit, even if albums like Feel This sounded eerily similar to the latest efforts by Bad Company and .38 Special. Healey died yesterday. He was 41.

I caught this year's big soul-blues package tour Saturday night. Shirley Brown and Bobby Rush were particularly good, and it was my first time seeing Mel Waiters. My review is here.

Kansas City Click: Take solace on a stormy Monday at Jardine's with the organ jazz of OJT with Bukeka Shoals.