Friday, May 30, 2008

K.T. Oslin- Down In the Valley

Filled in.

I never "got" Sex and the City. I tried watching an episode once or twice, but the show made me want to claw my eyes out. The barrage of publicity behind the release of the film this week, not surprisingly, is also driving me batty. As a straight male, I guess I'm not the target demographic. But that doesn't mean I've never been one of the girls. I gladly sang along to "Hold Me", "This Woman" and "80s Ladies" when K.T. Oslin was a country music headliner. I even bought My Roots Are Showing, her 1996 "comeback" album. As suggested by the title, it's a collection of covers. It's so solid that some tracks could be mistaken for the new Cat Power release by unattentive listeners. In addition to album closer "Down In the Valley," highlights include Richard Thompson's "A Heart Needs a Home" and Jimmy Martin's "Hold Whatcha Got."

I went to Dierks Bentley's concert last night. My friend Tim reviewed the show.

Few of my buddies share my enthusiasm for the project, but I'm loving the new Atmosphere.

Kansas City Click: There Stands the Glass favorite Rodney Crowell returns to the Kansas City area for a free show tonight. His 2007 appearance at Knuckleheads floored me.

The Winard Harper Sextet perform at the Blue Room both Friday and Saturday night.

Raheem DeVaughn, Chrisette Michele and Solange Knowles (yes, she's the little sister of you-know-who) are booked at the Beaumont Sunday. Let's hope Michelle's set is more substantial than her disappointing spot opening for Musiq Soulchild in the same venue last year.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hilario Duran- Harlem Nocturne


When my pal BGO sent me notice of Earle Hagen's passing, I was stunned. You mean to tell me, I thought, that someone actually wrote "Harlem Nocturne"? Surely the standard is just a natural part of the cosmos, like wind or gravity. Anyone who's held their lover on a dance floor when a baritone saxophone launches into the devastatingly romantic introduction to "Harlem Nocturne" knows just what I mean. (Earl Bostic's is a typical treatment.) It gets even stranger. Hagen wrote the theme songs to The Andy Griffith Show, The Mod Squad, That Girl and best of all, The Dick Van Dyke Show. Genius, I tell you! Hilario Duran's refreshingly unconventional version comes from his first-rate Latin jazz effort Habana Nocturna. Duran tours throughout Canada this summer.

Connie Vitale died May 25. She was 61. Vitale's many ventures included co-ownership of Kansas City's Love Records and Autograph Records.

My friends Bill and Corky have added a blog component to Village Records.

Kansas City Click: Dierks Bentley plays a free show at the Power & Light District.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jimmy McGriff, 1936-2008

Goodbye, Jimmy

In December of 2005 I noted the passing of Jimmy Smith, the greatest of all jazz organists. Along with an elite handful of others- Shirley Scott and Big John Patton come to mind- Jimmy McGriff stood atop the second tier. He died May 24. It's awful to see these giants depart. Yet most every city still has a premier jazz organist. In my town it's Everette DeVan. In fact, I might stop in to see him tonight. I'll bet he even knows "Red Sails In the Sunset." This funky version is from the most obscure McGriff disc in my collection. The liner notes to Georgia On My Mind are somewhat sketchy; the music it contained on the 1989 release, however, is glorious.

Kansas City jazz great Earl Robinson, co-founder of the Scamps, died May 19.

Utah Phillips died May 23.

Franz Jackson died May 26. (Tip via BGO.)

I'll bet you haven't heard this version of "Kansas City." Trojan Records!

Oh my dear Lord! Goose Creek Symphony hadn't crossed my mind in over ten years. Incredibly, the country-rock pioneers are on tour.

I've previously confessed that I don't dislike the Jonas Brothers. So I was mildly shocked to see the kids' new sound and different look as I monitored MTV Hits last night. What? That's not the Jonas Brothers? It's Tokio Hotel? Nevermind.

Kansas City Click: The Dresden Dolls and their obsessive fans bond tonight at the Beaumont. "Rad", by opening act Smoosh, is #723 on my all-time favorite song list.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Barclay Martin- Queen of This Town


I recently attended a swank cocktail party in a gated community. The mansion's synchronized media system was playing a music mix labeled "Really Good Songs." Tasteful selections by Fleetwood Mac, Alison Krauss, Sheryl Crow, Joe Cocker, Santana and Norah Jones provided elegant background music.

"Queen of This Town" is no less immaculate than the familiar hits by those established artists. The highly refined and mildly playful sound of the Barclay Martin ensemble is perfectly encapsulated by this publicity photo. And don't think the perfect shimmer of the brand new "Queen of This Town" is a fluke; "The Age of Information" is no less breathtaking.

The CD release concert for the Kansas City-based act's new project is June 7 at the appropriately upscale Spencer Theater.

Anyone disappointed by the new Gnarls Barkley needs to hear Idle Warship.

Kansas City Click: Bluegrass great Roland White picks at the Mountain Music Shoppe tonight.

Even non-breeders might attend Saturday's Jiggle Jam. The line-up includes They Might Be Giants and the always-delightful Trout Fishing In America.

A jazz jam memorializing the contributions of the late Ed Fenner will take place Sunday at Jardine's.

Betty Wright- If I Ever Do Wrong

No Wright or wrong.

It's funny the way a jazz blog can lead to a posting dedicated to soul great Betty Wright, but that's the state of music in 2008. A pal asked me to recommend acts at my city's forthcoming Rhythm & Ribs festival. Angie Stone is at the top of my list. She collaborates with Wright on "Baby", the first single from Stone's most recent album. It seems the climate is ideal for a big Wright comeback. "If I Ever Do Wrong," a minor hit in 1976, is contained on the excellent The T.K. Years compilation.

Congratulations, David Cook! You now own this town. I'll pay tribute by offering you a little unsolicited A&R advice. You might be pressured into chasing Daughtry's extraordinary success by adopting a style similar to Creed, Filter and Nickelback. Resist that suggestion. Instead, consider reviving '70s rock. The material would be brand new to your young fans, and your most avid supporters- women in their thirties and forties- would be ecstatic if you covered the James Gang's "Walk Away", added some edge to Steve Miller's "Keep Rocking Me Baby" or made classic BTO sound fresh. You're welcome.

I guess I'm a humorless crank. Not only was I not amused by the shenanigans during Idol's Gladys Knight segment, I thought the parody was borderline racist.

The Barclay Martin ensemble, a Kansas City folk-jazz-pop act, just posted a nice promotional video.

Kansas City Click: The Asylum Street Spankers entertain at Knuckleheads.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jelly Roll Morton- Pretty Baby

Cracked mirror.

I'm a physical product kind of guy. Yet when Amazon offers a deal like the Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Jelly Roll Morton on MP3 for $19.98, my trigger finger gets itchy. I own much but not all of the hundreds of selections; this piece is from Volume 1. It's not a conventional recording- the hours of material include lots of interviews and outtakes. That's what makes it so compelling. "Pretty Baby," documented by Alan Lomax in 1938, is a representative snippet. Even if Morton didn't "invent jazz" as he claimed, this piece demonstrates his unique melding of ragtime, blues, minstrelsy and European classical music with a distinctly American sense of lust and braggadocio.

At least for today, American Idol finalist David Cook is bigger than either George Brett or Charlie Parker in the Kansas City area. I like the dude, but the mania surrounding him is a bit unsettling.

I'm so relieved that there are only two more Tuesdays in which I'll be obligated to tell unbelieving shoppers that Tha Carter III isn't out yet.

I fell hard for "Sequestered In Memphis" when I heard the Hold Steady perform it live in 2007. Alas, I'm not sold on the production of the official recording.

A buddy posted this Muxtape of an American Legion band competition. Call it "contrarian cool."

Kansas City Click: Dan Sanchez brings his Louisiana blues band to Blayney's tonight.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Busy Bee, Mac Lethal and Reach At Liberty Hall

Show's over.

It should have been an easy layup.

Start with an impressive assortment of the area's best hip hop acts. Toss in old school legend Busy Bee. Then imply that fans ponying up for the $15 cover charge would be rubbing elbows on the dance floor with Russell Robinson and other members of the national champion men's basketball team.

It didn't quite work out that way.

Toward the end of the night I spotted the Kansas guard with his pop in the back of the room. The star student-athlete looked exceedingly uncomfortable.

I don't blame him. It was an awkward evening.

As far as I could tell the only other athletes inside Liberty Hall on Saturday night were the handful of talented B-boys who danced energetically for hours as DJs spun in the largely empty concert hall.

Here's the night's stat sheet- Reach, Mac Lethal and Busy Bee played entertaining but abbreviated sets. The five or six individual DJs who took turns at the turntables were also good, but the five-hour night consisted of three-and-a-half hours of DJ-ing and ninety minutes of rapping. Thank goodness for Liberty Hall's liberal in-and-out policy.

Reach and the Soul Providers weren't in top form. They played early in the night for about a dozen people. Reach said it was the second of three shows he'd booked that day. The meager audience and the sticky room temperature also flustered him.

Even before he hit the stage, Busy Bee worked the room like a politician. He easily befriended me and the other old-timers who remembered him from back in the day. He made a vague reference to an imminent tour that would feature himself, Rob Base and others. (Incidentally, it's pretty amazing that Liberty Hall hosted both Busy Bee and the Egyptian Lover last week.)

"The Chief Rocker," a.k.a. "the backbone of the microphone," a.k.a. "hip hop's first solo MC" delighted enthusiastic diehards with old favorites including "Suicide" and "Running Thangs." He also extensively worked over the bass line and intro to Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines." When he wasn't instigating old school fun, Busy Bee made the distinction between MCs and rappers and carefully differentiated hip hop from rap music.

"Happy birthday, Russell Robinson!" Mac Lethal sardonically shouted as his set began after midnight.

I wrote a detailed review of a Mac show last month, so I'll simply note here that Mac was particularly unhinged Saturday. While he performed several of his most popular songs, they were topped by his stream-of-consciousness chatter. It resembled spoken word performance art, but without the pretentious implications the phrase usually implies.

He riffed on R. Kelly's trial (leave the man alone), M.I.A.'s fan base (trend-chasing young women annoy him), the small crowd size ("Happy Birthday, Russell!") and the absence of Sku, his DJ and running buddy ("He's fired!")

As Russell Robinson knows, sometimes you just have to grind it out.

Kansas City Click: It sounds crazy but it's true- The Cure are scheduled to perform at Starlight Theater Monday night. I'll bet you can guess my favorite Cure song without even clicking the link.

(Original photos- Reach (top) and Busy Bee (bottom) by There Stands the Glass. MP3 via

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dr. Hook- Judy


Dr. Hook is a band sorely in need of a critical career reassessment. While Lowell George and Gram Parsons continue to rightfully rake in recognition, the dudes of Hook are written off as novelty goofs- or worse, are completely ignored. They're playing a "Garden Party" of sorts in my town tonight. It's an excuse for me to initiate a new revisionist perspective on the '70s hit makers. Along with the Eagles, they were among the first bands to bring country music to rock radio. Unlike the early Eagles, however, Dr. Hook never took themselves too seriously. Loose and raw, their 1973 debut included great songs like Shel Silverstein's "Sylvia's Mother", the wooly Marie Lavaux and "Judy." I have no idea which original members are in the current incarnation of the touring band, but fans of Ryan Adams, Arcade Fire and Wilco should ignore the conventional wisdom and dare to dig into the Dr. Hook catalog.

M.I.A. kept me out until 1:00 a.m. a couple nights ago. Here's my review of her show.

While no further evidence confirming the brilliance of AC/DC's formula is necessary, Airborne's new hit "Too Much Too Young Too Fast" sounds incredible blaring out of car speakers.

Oh man. The new Nas is surely the most important song of 2008. I've already had a few lively discussions about it. But for all the controversy, the craziest thing for me is the shout-out to the late Lucky Dube.

As someone who will never get enough of people talking about their favorite albums, I love Amoeba's "What's In My Bag?" profiles. The episodes starring Subtitle and Keith Morris are particularly amusing.

I posted a Muxtape of my favorite recent songs by Kansas City and Lawrence artists. It includes The Abracadabras, Tech N9ne, Fourth of July, OK Jones, Olympic Size, Mac Lethal, Reach, Approach, The Architects, Kristie Stremel, The New Tragedies and Deep Thinkers.

Kansas City Click: Reach, Approach and Deep Thinkers- all featured on my Muxtape- perform at the Brick tonight.

The mighty BellRays visit the Riot Room Saturday.

A tribute to Grant McClennan and the Go-Betweens goes down Sunday at The Record Bar. As I've written previously in this space, I don't quite get why the Go-Betweens weren't as big as Fleetwood Mac. With tiny production tweaks, "Right Here" could be a hit for John Mayer or Sara Bareilles this summer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Syd Nathan- Talks About His European Trip

Passport expired.

2008 marks the 65th anniversary of the founding of King Records. Two panel discussions were conducted last Saturday in Cincinnati to commemorate the legacy of the independent record label. I would have loved to have attended. Instead of any of King's official recordings from the likes of Bill Doggett, Little Willie John or the Delmore Brothers, here's a snippet of company founder Syd Nathan holding court in 1952. By today's standards, his chatter is racist, sexist, vulgar and provincial. But like everything included in the four-disc The King R&B Box Set, it's essential stuff.

For the first time all year, my Tuesday new release purchases didn't include any jazz or hip hop titles. Music industry folk may want to take note of my consumer logic. I picked up the new Duffy. I hadn't bothered to listen to a note of her music, but my friend BGO has been raving about her for months. So I took a chance for $6.99. It's a treat- Duffy is a Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick throwback. I also bought the gorgeous reissue of Frank Sinatra hits. I already owned most of the 22 songs, but I couldn't lay off the deluxe packaging; it's shiny. It too was well under ten dollars. Bun B and James Carter top my list for next week.

My friend Tim tirelessly documents American Idol at The Other Door, a virtual live blog. His take is smart and funny.

Kansas City Click: The Iguanas ignite a party at Knuckleheads tonight.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Last Town Chorus and Kathleen Edwards at Knuckleheads

Knocked out.

About 100 people packed into the roofed portion of Knuckleheads last Wednesday night. That's about the same number of goofy smiles that lit up the roadhouse.

Kathleen Edwards and a full band looked and sounded impeccable. My friends Richard and Tim wrote proper reviews. Like them, I appreciated Edwards' wonderful effort. Still, she was too rehearsed and unspontaneous for my raucous mood that night. I wanted more ragged and less right.

The Last Town Chorus fit the bill.

Even though she sang and played lap steel to a backing track, Megan Hickey packed more improvisational flourishes and interesting concepts into her set than the headliner. Hickey's guitar work explored the commonalities between Robert Fripp and Robert Randolph, although she later confided that Jimi Hendrix is her primary inspiration. The Last Town Chorus is refreshingly delightful.

Edwards and her husband Colin Cripps contribute vocal and production assistance to "Punches," a great song from Texan Collin Herring's new Past Life Crashing. He sounds uncannily like a young Freedy Johnston- high praise coming from this Kansan.

(Original photos of The Last Town Chorus, top, and Kathleen Edwards, bottom, by There Stands the Glass.)

Kansas City Click: Kevin Cerovich plays host at the Blue Room.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Eddy Arnold, 1918-2008

Goodbye, Mr. Arnold.

"Once we cut out the by-cracky nonsense and give respect to our music," Eddy Arnold once said, "Then people will respect us." He was often foreced to defend the countrypolitan sound he created with Chet Atkins. It's not an appropriate time to criticize the consequences of the seismic shift Arnold delivered to American music. Arnold died yesterday. He was just days shy of reaching 90. In hindsight, the crossover style represented by "You Still Got a Hold On Me" seems entirely inevitable. The smooth-as-silk song is from the out-of-print My World.

I'm all hopped up on former Kansas City-area resident Janelle Monae's "Many Moons". It's like a mashup of "B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)", "Hey Ya," "Hollaback Girl" and "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." Turn off the sound and watch this live fan video. Yow!

I'm really enjoying The Slip, the new (free) release from Nine Inch Nails. That guy gets it.

Kansas City Click: Watch this Grupo Control video before you tell me you're not attending tonight's Fiesta event at Crown Center.

Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander performs at the Folly Theater Saturday.

Sunday brings at opportunity to tug on Pepe Tovar's mustache at Fiesta Kansas City.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

American Music Club and Olympic Size At the Record Bar


It was a night of not-so-quiet desperation.

Almost twenty years have passed since I first saw American Music Club perform in Kansas City. The memory of Mark Eitzel hurling himself into the floor of Harling's in 1989 continues to disturb me.

The 49-year-old Eitzel no longer no attempts to break his bones during his performances, but his self-loathing and bleak world view remain intact. Part poet and part rocker, Eitzel bridges the gap between Charles Bukowski and John Fogerty. He's a classic embittered idealist.

His wry wit was in fine form Monday night at the Record Bar. Complimented by a remarkable onslaught of noise by guitarist Vudi, Eitzel's 70-minute performance was predictably devastating.

Like Eitzel, the members of Olympic Size are no strangers to disappointment. A few of them were in bands that came tantalizingly close to achieving mainstream success.

Olympic Size's hazy narcotic drone completely mesmerized me. Their melancholy gloom evokes the weariness that strikes just before dawn. The best example is "Friends", one of my favorite songs to come of Kansas City in recent years.

Particularly noteworthy was the enchanting vocal interplay between Kirsten Paluden and Billy Smith, while the trombone of ex-Doris Henson member Mike Walker added unexpected ambience. A whopping five additional musicians crowded onto the stage.

"I thought Olympic Size was a great band," Eitzel later joked. "But they need another member. I want to be the middle-aged guy dancing shirtless."

Kansas City Click: Try the UMKC jazz happy hour this afternoon at Mike's Tavern.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass. The MP3 was obtained from Present Magazine. )

The Last Town Chorus- Loud and Clear


I was charmed last year by The Last Town Chorus' blissfully lethargic cover of David Bowie's "Modern Love". But it's "Loud and Clear" that has made me sit up and take notice of Megan Hickey's artistry. The song is from The Last Town Chorus' forthcoming release on Hacktone Records. Its sweet but spooky self-referential wistfulness is a revelation. Reminiscent of early '80s jangle pop, "Loud and Clear" is like an indie-roots update of "Every Breathe You Take." Here's a live version of the song filmed in Indianapolis last week. The Last Town Chorus' 2007 release is Wire Waltz.

While it's unlikely that anyone but me is keeping score, I just noticed that There Stands the Glass just passed a milestone of sorts. Since November 2005, I've now posted 601 times. In keeping with my initial plan, no artist has ever been featured twice. Well, almost none. Tellingly, the exception is Ike Turner. I wrote about him a second time when he passed away last year. The Last Town Chorus represents the 600th artist I've spotlighted in 601 posts.

I can't say I'm a fan of Clay Aiken's, but I wasn't surprised to see his advocates turn out in droves to purchase his new release yesterday. I doubt that any artist in 2008 has more devoted followers.

Kansas City Click: Last Town Chorus and Kathleen Edwards are at Knuckleheads tonight.

(As indicated, the image is by Robert Loerzel.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mark Eitzel- Saved

But no longer here.

60 Watt Silver Lining is one of my favorite albums. While its jazz-inflected vibe turns off a lot of American Music Club stalwarts, the noirish 1996 release perfectly suits my sensibilities. That's not to say that I want to hang out with Mark Eitzel. The memory of an encounter I had with him back in the '80s still gives me the willies. For all I know, he feels the same way. Here he is on stage last week with American Music Club.

Clark Terry canceled his appearance in Kansas City last night. Send good thoughts his way.

Have you missed me? I've been hanging out at Wrigley Field and Millennium Park.

Kanas City Click: Eitzel and American Music Club are at the Record Bar tonight. Olympic Size is an ideal opening act.