Friday, June 28, 2013

Bobby "Blue" Bland, 1930-2013

I was astounded the first time I saw Bobby "Blue" Bland.  I don’t recall many details about the performance at his co-headlining appearance with B.B. King at the Uptown Theater in in 1979 or 1980.  It was the composition of the audience that surprised me.  I was one of just a few white people at the show. 

Even a surly teenager from the suburbs could recognize that Bland’s music was universal.  Yet aside from his appearances at festivals, the six or seven Bland concerts I attended were barely integrated even after the blues boom of the mid-’80s reacquainted white audiences with the form.   I still fail to comprehend why- unlike his longtime associate B.B. King- Bland never crossed over to a mainstream audience. 

Bland’s presentation- squall and all- was impeccable.  He always carried a large band.  Maybe Bland’s health stood in the way.   Even back at that show at the Uptown over thirty years ago, Bland seemed frail.  In spite of the physical challenges he faced, Bland never failed to deliver.  Even his final Kansas City appearance at the 2011 edition of the Rhythm & Ribs Jazz & Blues Festival was solid.  I envy those who saw him in his prime.

My review of Widespread Panic’s concert last weekend has displeased a lot of people.

I participated in a discussion of the Best Kansas City Music of 2013 (so far) on KCUR’s Up To Date.

KCUR catches up with Charles Love of Bloodstone.

A collabo between Tech N9ne and the Doors?  Makes sense to me.

I have no idea what's going on in this weird art film about Don Cherry.

There Stands the Glass reader Phil turned me on to the East River String Band podcast.

I don’t care for most of what's in Julieta Venegas' bag.

Dear Diary, I grew up hearing David Allan Coe’s ”If That Ain’t Country” played in my home. I didn’t think anything of it when I was a kid.

I'm looking forward to spending quality time with this week's new releases by Amon Amarth, Andy Bey, Booker T, Bosnian Rainbows, India.Arie, Smith Westerns, Mavis Staples, Transplants, Wale and Yellowjackets after I listen to Dessa’s Parts of Speech's  album.

Ornette Coleman’s 1970 album Friends and Neighbors has been reissued.  RIYL: proof of the existence of a higher power, genius, America.

Kansas City Click:  My official picks are published here.  Bonus pick: Adam Marsland appears at the RecordBar on Friday. He's RIYL Billy Vera, Alex Chilton, Har Mar Superstar.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Where Are We Now? Music Midway in 2013

Best Albums (Spotify playlist)
Thanks to seamless streaming services, I've listened to over 225 new releases in their entirety during the first six months of 2013.  These are indeed "the days of miracle and wonder."

1. Pat Metheny- Tap: John Zorn’s Book of Angels, vol. 20
2. The Grisly Hand- Country Singles
3. Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge- Twelve Reasons To Die
4. Kvelertak- Meir
5. Kanye West- Yeezus
6. José James- No Beginning No End
7. Mark Lowrey- Tangos for 18th Street
8. A$AP Rocky- Long Live A$AP
9. Barbara Hannigan and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France- Dutilleux: Correspondances
10. Fidlar- Fidlar
11. Joe Lovano & Us Five- Cross Culture
12. Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba- Jama Ko
13. Baptists- Bushcraft
14. Rudresh Mahanthappa- Gamak
15. George Strait- Love Is Everything
16. Bill Frisell- Big Sur
17. James Blake- Overgrown
18. Cherokee Rock Rifle- Ta-Li
19. Terri Lyne Carrington- Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue
20. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds- Push the Sky Away
21. Soweto Kinch- The Legend of Mike Smith
22. Alaturka- Yalniz
23. The Haxan Cloak- Excavation
24. DJ Muggs- Bass For Your Face
25. Pat Metheny- The Orchestrion Project

Best Singles (Spotify playlist)
My car may not have heat or air conditioning, but it has a radio.

1. B.o.B- "We Still In This Bitch"
2. Janelle Monae- "Q.U.E.E.N."
3. Justin Timberlake- "Suit & Tie"
4. David Bowie- "Where Are We Now?"
5. Marc Anthony- "Vivir Mi Vida"
6. Tamar Braxton- "Love and War"
7. Pusha T- "Numbers On the Boards"
8. José James- "Trouble"
9. Black Sabbath- "God Is Dead?"
10. Kutt Calhoun- "I Been Dope"
11. Charlie Wilson- "My Love Is All I Have"
12. Robin Thicke- "Blurred Lines"
13. Ashley Monroe- "Like a Rose"
14. Chris Brown- "Fine China"
15. Florida Georgia Line featuring Nelly- "Cruise (Remix)"
16. Carlos Vives- "Como Le Gusta a Tu Cuerpo"
17. Alice In Chains- "Stone"
18. Future- "Karate Chop (Remix)"
19. Kelly Rowland- "Dirty Laundry"
20. Rittz- "Switch Lanes"
21. Ms. Jody- "Still Strokin'"
22. Kenny Chesney- "When I See This Bar"
23. Dr#ke- "Started From the Bott#m"
24. Frank Turner- "Recovery"
25. Deftones- "Swerve City"

Best Shows
I've taken in 163 performances during the first six months of 2013.

1. Bobby Rush- Living Room at Knuckleheads
2. Mary J. Blige- Sprint Center
3. The Grisly Hand- Take Five Coffee + Bar
4. Rakim- Riot Room
5. Julian Lage and Jorge Roeder- Yardley Hall
6. Grizzly Bear- Uptown Theater
7. Diana Krall- Midland Theater
8. Volbeat- Penn Valley Park
9. Dave Douglas- Blue Room
10. Limp Bizkit- Granada
11. The Appleseed Cast- Riot Room
12. Making Movies- Yardley Hall
13. Kurt Elling- Gem Theater
14. They Might Be Giants- Crossroads KC
15. The Matt Otto/Alan Ferber Quartet- Westport Coffee House
16. Sweet Honey In the Rock- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
17. Gov't Mule- Uptown Theater
18. James Carter- Folly Theater
19. A Celebration of the Poetry of Langston Hughes with Vinson Cole- White Recital Hall
20. People's Liberation Big Band- RecordBar
21. Elena Urioste and Gabriela Martinez- Folly Theater
22. Diverse with Tony Tixier- house party
23. C.J. Boyd- Psychfest HQ
24.  Eliane Elias- Folly Theater
25. Jason Isbell and 400 Unit- Crossroads KC

(Original image of Regina Carter and Yacouba Sissoko at the American Jazz Museum on April 4 by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Concert Review: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at Crossroads KC

I'd worked up a mean thirst by the time Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit hit the stage at Crossroads KC last night.  Yet I'd already determined that I wasn't going to have a single drink.

After writing a few of the most harrowing songs about substance abuse of the past twenty years, Isbell has gone straight.  An excellent profile in The New York Times examined Isbell's recovery.  Out of respect for Isbell's bold change of course (as well as for the sake of my bank account), I abstained.

Based on the strength of the new album Southeastern, I knew Isbell and his band would be solid.  I wasn't sure, however, if he'd be willing to dip into his past work.  Much to my delight, he sang the disturbing ode to suicide-in-slow-motion "Goddamn Lonely Love" from the Drive-By Truckers' classic The Dirty South album with conviction.  "Codeine" and "Outfit" were similarly exceptional examinations of the dark side of life. 

As if to offer further proof that he wouldn't let his new perspective prevent him from addressing songs about decadence, he and his band covered the Stones' sordid "Can't You Hear Me Knocking."  Isbell is a hero.

A remarkable footnote regarding last night's concert: Almost 1,000 people paid $18 or more to hear Isbell, American Aquarium and the Turnpike Troubadours even though the show conflicted with two free performances by country notables- current Nashville hit-makers Gloriana at the KC Live! stage and BR549's Chuck Mead at a suburban shopping center.  Kansas City really loves its country.

Slim Whitman has died.  His 1951 version of "Indian Love Call," of course, is one of the most amazing documents of the 20th century.  And gee, does anyone else remember these Whitman infomercials?

Let You Tell It is Stik Figa's new three-song EP.  RIYL: Mos Def, Tech N9ne, Topeka.

The Guardian takes notice of Radkey.

TIm Finn checks in with the Pedaljets.

The jazz trio of Massot, Florizoone and Horbaczewski is RIYL Astor Piazzolla, Howard Johnson, travel.

Regular reader BGO shared an amazing document with There Stands the Glass.  In an essay published by Negro Digest in 1961, Duke Ellington suggests that "Rock-and-roll is the most raucous form of jazz, beyond a doubt; it maintains a link with the folk origins, and I believe that no other form of jazz has ever been accepted so enthusiastically by so many."

Are we living in the golden age of French pop music?  Maître Gims' "J'me tire" is RIYL: Akon, Wyclef Jean, Justin Timberlake.

Have you heard ELEW, aka Eric Lewis? RIYL: Scott Joplin, Art Tatum, Brad Mehldau.

Bill Frisell's Big Sur is spectacular.  RIYL: string quartets, Charlie Haden, Eric Dolphy.

Gummy Soul created a mashup of Big Boi and Otis Redding.

Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Album Review: Kanye West- Yeezus

Yeezus, the relentlessly jarring new album by Kanye "I Am a God" West, is brilliantly profane and alarmingly vulgar.  And I love it.

The album sounds as if the tapes from all of Rick Rubin's productions were put into a blender and reassembled randomly in order to provide West with something interesting to rap over.  A constant barrage of sonic shards reminiscent of Danzig, LL Cool J, Lords of Acid, American Head Charge, Johnny Cash and the Mars Volta make Yeezus an avant-garde art project.  Needless to say, I don't hear a single.

Not only is West angry, he seems to be inspired by intoxicants.  A dizzying drug album, Yeezus could be considered an angry response to Frank Ocean's equally groundbreaking Channel OrangeYeezus is the next logical step in West's nearly unprecedented artistic quest.  The album affirms his status as the most vital artist in popular music of the last ten years. 

Mary J. Blige and Kem are the recipients of the most positive concert review I've ever written.

There Stands the Glass reader Gary Shindler wrote an accurate review of Blue Öyster Cult's appearance at Old Shawnee Days.

The Kansas City Dance Festival is June 28-29 at the Spencer Theater.

Here's a 78-minute performance by Don Byron's New Gospel Quartet.  RIYL: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Steve Coleman, Duke Ellington.

The disturbing video for Poliça's "Tiff" is almost unwatchable.  I don't want to hear anyone wonder why Poliça isn't more popular.

I just got around to listening to Jimmy Herring's impressive 2012 instrumental album Subject To Change Without Notice.  RIYL: John McLaughlin, Steve Morse, Widespread Panic.

The kids in internet sensation Unlocking the Truth are delightful.

In addition to Yeezus, this week's new releases include albums from Billy Bang (his final session), Kenny Barron, Beady Eye, Bester Quartet, J. Cole, Donna the Buffalo, Bill Frisell, High On Fire (two live albums), Locash Cowboys, Maysa, Delbert McClinton and Glen Clark, Mac Miller, Kelly Rowland, Sigor Ros, Wadada Leo Smith, Eddie Spaghetti and Valient Thorr.

Kansas City Click: The Czar Bar hosts Steady Breather on Monday.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band plays Crossroads KC on Tuesday.

Duke Robillard appears at Knuckleheads on Wednesday.

Gloriana entertain in the Power & Light district on Thursday.

Matt Otto returns to the Blue Room on Friday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Album Review: The Grisly Hand- Country Singles

Singers and songs.  That's what country's all about.  Even when the two essential elements are pitted against hideous arrangements- as is often the case with in many of the otherwise classic hits by the likes of Ray Price and George Jones- the singers and the songs carry the day. 

Fortunately, the brilliant songs and stellar singing featured on Country Singles, the latest release by Kansas City's The Grisly Hand, are supported by immaculately tasteful playing by the likes of Mike Stover. 

I'd been impressed by Country Singles since its release several weeks ago, but it wasn't until Tuesday night that I gave the album my undivided attention.  I was floored.  Country Singles is almost certainly my favorite non-jazz/non-hip hop album to originate in Kansas City in years.  A few highlights of the consistently great project: the boozer's lament of "Municipal Farm Blues," the domestic strife of "(If You're Leavin') Take the Trash Out (When You Go)" and the exhausted "Coup De Coeur." 

The title track evokes the spark-filled duets of both Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn and John Doe and Exene Cervenka.   Anyone who appreciates those essential partnerships, Grievous Angel, Dave Alvin's solo work or any number of insurgent country albums released by Bloodshot Records will adore Country Singles.

Darondo has died.

KCUR aired a profile of Betse Ellis.

Hammerlord's new We Live EP is brutal.

The video for Gee Watts' "Nasty" has racked up over 40,000 views in a week.

Mac Lethal's "Wiggaz That's Hairless" is an amusing novelty.

MilkDrop made a video for "Let It Drop/Daily Bread".

Hospital Ships' Jordan Geiger shares his favorite things about Lawrence with CMJ.

French jazz pianist Tony Tixier, an occasional visitor to Kansas City, is featured in an excellent performance video.

I discovered Kylesa's solid Ultraviolet via a couple of new best-of 2013 lists.  RIYL: Kyuss, Jane's Addiction, Isis.

David Murray's Be My Monster Love could be the loudest jazz album of 2013.  That's a good thing.  Macy Gray and Gregory Porter are guests.  That's also a good thing.  The project seems deliberately manic.  That's a bad thing.  The loopy and inane lyrical content could have been written in 1973.  That's a really bad thing.  Maybe I'll come around, but as of now I consider Be My Monster Love to be one of the year's major disappointments. 

Charlie Musselwhite is looking good these days.

I was charmed by Paula Cole last night.  Accompanied only by Mark Erelli, the 1998 recipient of the Grammy's Best New Artist award performed with taste and elegance.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the untimely death of Esbjorn Svensson.  What might have been…

Melodic Warrior is the title of Terje Rypdal's new album.

Demon Queen combines the attacks of Death Grips and Die Antwoord on "Demon Practice".  (Warning- the video contains nudity and blood in equal measure.)

I can't muster much enthusiasm for the Replacements' reunion.  I hope the shows go well and that everyone has a good time.   After being all about the Replacements from 1983-87, I'm just unable to go back to that place.

It took a while, but The Uncluded finally won me over.  In fact, I'm not sure we can be friends if you don't like "Delicate Cycle".

Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Love My Way: Saluting the New Wave of Classic Rock

In the last 28 days I've attended concerts by Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Cheap Trick, Urge Overkill, Limp Bizkit, They Might Be Giants, Blue Öyster Cult and the Psychedelic Furs.   Scheduling conflicts kept me away from performances by the Smithereens and Greg Ginn's Black Flag.

With the possible exception of They Might Be Giants and Soundgarden, these bands are well past their artistic and/or commercial primes.  And while I'm far more interested in contemporary sounds than in music from past decades, I enjoyed all but one of these nostalgia-fueled events.  A ranking of the shows in the order of my appreciation of each performance follows.

1. Limp Bizkit Ticket price: $32.  Audience: 800.  Look, I'm not particularly fond of Limp Bizkit, but there was no denying the electrifying nature of its performance at the Granada.

2. They Might Be Giants Ticket price: $24.  Audience: 500.  I have great memories of seeing They Might Be Giants and Poi Dog Pondering at the Grand Emporium on Halloween in 1988.  TMBG is an even better band 25 years later.

3. The Psychedelic Furs Ticket price: $13.65.  Audience: 800.  As Tim Finn's review of last night's concert suggests, the band's enthusiasm was infectious. 

4. Blue Öyster Cult Ticket price: free. Audience: 3,000.  The oldest band in this grouping opened its headlining performance at Old Shawnee Days with the proto-speed metal classic "The Red & the Black".  Aside from dodgy drum and bass solos, the underrated band's 90-minute set remained taut.   BOC deserve to be as revered as Judas Priest, Kiss and Motörhead.

5. Cheap Trick Ticket price: $50.  Audience: 500.  Cheap Trick has returned to its roots.  The band played early influential jams like "Heaven Tonight" with childlike glee. 

6. Alice In Chains Ticket price: $50.  Audience: 40,000.  Alice In Chains' headlining appearance at Rockfest was a slick, by-the-numbers effort.  The songs are great but the polished approach was too slick for me.

7. Urge Overkill Ticket price: free.  Audience: 500.  Like a poor man's version of Cheap Trick, this woulda-shoulda-coulda band played with exuberance. 

8.  Soundgarden Ticket price: $40.  Audience: 3,000.  Soundgarden is my favorite of these eight bands, but their concert was spoiled by nightmarish sound. 

While I'm not too cool to appreciate REO Speedwagon, Styx and Ted Nugent, I passed on their triple-bill appearance at Starlight Theatre last month.  The new and surprisingly vital face of classic rock with roots in the '80s, '90s and 00's has overtaken the previous generations of rock and rollers. 

Chad Kassem and his Salina-based Acoustic Sounds are featured in a The New York Times story about the vinyl resurgence.  

The newly announced Buzz Beach Ball concert doesn't replace Kanrocksas- it lacks the hip hop and R&B acts I was most eager to see at the ill-fated festival- but it boasts a pretty darn impressive lineup nonetheless.

As evidenced by this telling fan footage of the Shy Boys, people standing near the stage would not STFU at the Crossroads Summer Block Party last weekend. 

Damir Out Loud consists of "eight Berlin-based musicians from five different countries."  The band's new Graduation Day album is RIYL Balkan brass bands, Bobby Hutcherson, ECM. 

King Khan & the Shrines' "Born to Die" is mindblowingly great.  RIYL: Cream, Nuggets, Ty Segall.

Who doesn't love Wayne Coyne?

A video for Dessa's "Call Off Your Ghost" was released today.  RIYL: Ani DiFranco, Doomtree, Alanis Morissette. 

I can't wait to hear the new album by David Murray Infinity Quartet featuring Macy Gary and Gregory Porter.  Also out this week are new releases from Joseph Arthur, The Black Dahlia Murder, Black Sabbath, Boards of Canada, Marc Cary, Children of Bodom, Davell Crawford, Jason Isbell, Chrisette Michele, Aoife O'Donovan, Gary Peacock and Marilyn Crispell, Carmen Souza and Hezekiah Walker.

Kansas City Click: The Riot Room hosts Lord Huron on Monday.

David Ramirez appears at the Czar Bar on Tuesday.

David Nail sings at Kanza Hall on Wednesday.

Gee Watts hits the Czar Bar on Thursday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Concert Review: Elena Urioste and Gabriela Martinez at the Folly Theater

A pair of staggeringly beautiful women who happen to be accomplished musicians made Leoš Janáček's harrowing "Sonata for Violin and Piano" the centerpiece of their concert Friday at the Folly Theater.  What's not to love?  Over 900 people took advantage of the 25th installment of the free Discovery Concert of the Harriman-Jewell Series.  I was completely smitten by the performances of violinist Elena Urioste and pianist Gabriela Martinez.  A sensitive reading of Claude Debussy's "Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor" served as a secondary highlight.  By the time the inspired rendition of the piece concluded, I more fully understood why jazz musicians including Charlie Parker adored the French composer. 

I reviewed the There Might Be Giants at Crossroads KC on Thursday.  "Doctor Worm" refuses to crawl out of my noggin- "I'm not a real doctor but I am a real worm- I am an actual worm!"

Much of the video for Not a Planet's "Kingdom Come" was shot on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

Nico Yoch has an ambitious video for "Ain't Stoppin'".  RIYL: Ces Cru, Atmosphere, 9th Wonder.  (Via Tony's Kansas City.)

Sister Wife is the latest recording by power pop maestros Hidden Pictures.

Doby Watson and Margo May's Watson & May is RIYL the Head and the Heart, Grouplove, NPR.

"I'm basically a product of my record collection."  Learning that Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth is a fellow obsessive geek makes me happy. 

I'm delighted and surprised to see that Azymuth is being reclaimed by fashionable DJs.

Bonnie Prince Billy and Dawn McCarthy's cover of "Omaha" floors me.

Light In the Attic put together a nice miniature documentary on Bobby Whitlock.

The end is nigh.

Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Selena Gomez!

I stood behind a couple of bros during a portion of Limp Bizkit's concert Sunday at the Granada.  (Here's my review.)  Not only did they know every word to every song, the ecstatic dudes appeared to associate specific memories from high school with hits like "My Way."  Limp Bizkit was obviously their favorite band- then, now and always. 

I envy that sort of single-minded dedication.  My love of most everything makes obsessing on just one thing impossible.

That's why I was delighted when I encountered the handiwork of a kid in my neighborhood.  I can't remember the last time I scrawled a musician's name on a driveway in pink chalk.

Mac Lethal is an author.

Making Movies made a video for "Cuna De Vida".

"The Loon" is a new name-your-own-price track by The Jinxed.  RIYL: Ben Folds Five, Pablo Cruise, Ha Ha Tonka.

I'm digging Made To Break's Provoke.  RIYL:  Ken Vandermark, Matthew Shipp, skronk. 

Maybe I'm not taking the right drugs, but I'm not hearing what everybody else is hearing in Daft Punk's Random Access Memories.  While I enjoy the acclaimed album, it's just an homage to the dance music of 1976.

Remember Urge Overkill?  The band's free concert at a suburban shopping mall last weekend was superb.

The week's new releases of the most interest to me come from David Binney, Camera Obscura, Future Bible Heroes, the Giovanni Guidi Trio, Megadeth, Luis Perdomo, Queens of the Stone Age, Quercus (June Tabor, Iain Ballamy and Huw Warren) and Third Reel.  I'll get to those albums after I tire of my sordid little fling with Gretchen Wilson's new album of cover songs.

Kansas City Click: The XX appear at the Uptown Theater on Tuesday.

The Bryant Carter Band perform before The Royals' game on Wednesday.

Richard Thompson may perform the bleakest song ever written at the Folly Theater on Thursday.

Cowboy Indian Bear headline the free Crossroads Block Party on Friday.

(Original images by There Stands the Glass.)