Thursday, January 31, 2008

Road Kill Kings celebrate America's music in SJC

What happens when a band blends traditional country-western, rockabilly and bluegrass with rock 'n' roll?
The results more than likely sound something like the intoxicating sound made by Orange County's own Road Kill Kings. The band will perform a free show at 8 p.m. tonight (Jan. 31, 2008) at the Swallow's Inn in San Juan Capistrano.

Given the group's wide range of influences and original sound, it's no wonder that the Road Kill Kings have played in support of such well-known artists as Hank Williams III, Junior Brown, Robert Earl Keen, the Knitters and Big Sandy.
The quintet features fiddle player Mike Stave, singer-guitarist Darren Ellis (a founding member of the James Theroux Band), drummer Mark Obey, lead guitarist Jeremy Long and upright bass fiddle player Randy Cochran. The group's original songs and energetic remakes celebrate its Americana influences, with songs such as "Truck Driving Man," "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Thrown Out of the Bar" favorites with the band's fans.
Admission is free.
Information: 949-493-3188.

Over at the Renaissance
Renaissance Dana Point is offering several tribute shows this weekend for those who want to enjoy some live entertainment in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.
Beatles tribute band Help will perform at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1 at Renaissance Dana Point, 24701 Del Prado, Dana Point, while the Oreo Divas will celebrate the sounds of Motown with a full-length showcase at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2.
Information: 949-661-6003.

Monday, January 28, 2008

'U2 3D' is the best concert movie of the decade

Photo information: U2 at the premiere of 'U2 3D' held at the Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Jan. 19, 2008.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that “U2 3D” is the best concert movie I’ve seen this decade (maybe ever!). With every frame on its breathtaking 85-minute trajectory through a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy-filled trip, this epic experience fully showcases why U2 is the greatest band today.

The technology displayed in the film I saw at the Edwards IMAX Theatre at the Irvine Spectrum on Saturday afternoon (Jan. 26, 2008) is wonderful, but it would be nothing but a high-tech curiosity without the riveting performances put together using a dozen or so 3-D cameras used to shoot this film shot on U2’s “Vertigo” tour at a number of locations in South America.

Directors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington, National Geographic, 3ALITY Digital and everyone else who developed and utilized the 3-D digital technology used to bring the concert to the screen deserve credit.

And the quartet’s performance of classics such as “New Year’s Day,” “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “With or Without You,” as well as more recent gems such as “Vertigo” and “Beautiful Day” are also extraordinary. When Bono displays his operatic tenor on “Miss Sarajevo,” just try not to cry.

Do yourself and everyone you really care about a big favor. Go catch “U2 3D” on the big screen. Now.

More NAMM images and thoughts

Before NAMM fades into memory, I wanted to post a few other photos from my visits to the music trade show.

The first photo is off Rickenbacker Sales Manager Kenny Howes (left) and the company's owner and CEO John C. Hall. There is nothing as beautiful as a display of Rickenbacker guitars, bass guitars and mandolins.

There is also a photo here of violinist Lisa Viscuglia, who demonstrated the sound and ease of using Yamaha's "Silent Violin." I always feel like I'm stepping into the future when I go to the Anaheim Convention Center every January.

Too much cool stuff: NAMM 2008

Photo information: The photo I took shows a working prototype of the POCKETRAK 2G Pocket Recorder. The Yamaha-made device is on my wish list of things to get in 2008!

With Yamaha Corporation of America being the world's largest music products manufacturer, its not surprising the Buena Park-based company is celebrated for digital and acoustic keyboards, state-of-the-art mixing boards, as well as drums, guitars and an assortment of band and orchestral instruments.
However, it was the smallest of products that created a bona fide buzz at the 106th NAMM show (NAMM is the acronym for the International Music Products Association's previous name, but is still used for the convention) held at the Anaheim Convention Center, Jan. 17-20.
The POCKETRAK 2G Pocket Recorder seems poised to do for the home recording industry what Apple's portable iPod digital player did for those who enjoy listening to music.
Weighing a mere 1.7 ounces, the 1/2-inch wide gizmo has a built-in USB 2.0 computer connection, a high-sensitivity tilt-up microphone and a built-in speaker. The device is able to record three hours of CD-quality music, while several MP3 modes provide up to 19 hours of continuous recording with a single rechargeable battery.
"It is a built-in studio that doubles as data storage. This allows you to record lectures, record music and then drag and drop (the files) into your computer," said Athan Billias, who is a member of the Yamaha team that developed the revolutionary product that is scheduled to hit the market in April 2008.

But just as impressive were a number of digital drum kits and a Concert Silent Violin that Yamaha unveiled at the show.
"This is a prototype. It will come out in July '08. Every string player will want one," said Las Vegas-based violinist Lisa Viscuglia of the SV-150K Concert Silent Violin. "It's more comfortable to play than my 200-year-old Italian violin."
The new SV-150K Silent Electric Practice Plus Violin takes silent practice to the final frontier, thanks to a built-in tuner, metronome and approximately 25 processed effects including reverb, distortion and vibrato. It will retail for $1,295.

Local multi-instrumentalist Kevin Moran of Gypsy's Kiss saw a number of things that impressed him this year.
"I got to demo an acoustic guitar preamp from Seymour Duncan that neutralizes the pick-up and restores a natural acoustic guitar sound. It's definitely something I'd like to try with the band," Moran said.
Moran also made it a point to swing by the Martin Guitar Company's large exhibit, an impressive celebration of America's oldest guitar manufacturer's 175th anniversary.
"It's always great to see what's new at NAMM. I always check out the guitars and Martin had some beautiful stuff, as always, including a reproduction of one of Elvis' guitars," Moran said of the new D-28M Elvis Presley leather-covered acoustic guitar.
Gypsy's Kiss will perform at the Harp Inn, 130 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, from 4-7 p.m. on Jan. 27. Admission is free.

No trip to NAMM would be complete without a visit to the Rickenbacker booth. The Santa Ana-based company continues to be celebrated for its wonderful line of guitars, bass guitars and mandolins. Tom Petty and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck are among the famed modern-day players who champion Rickenbacker instruments.
"We have a two-year backlog. Everything is made in Santa Ana; we have more than 60 employees and they all work in Orange County," said John C. Hall, owner and CEO of Rickenbacker.

Huntington Beach-based singer-songwriter James Grey is a longtime user of acoustic Taylor Guitars and has an endorsement deal with the El Cajon-based company, so he had to check out the company's first solid body electric guitar that made its debut at the NAMM show.
"The buzz this year is that Taylor came out with a full-on electric guitar," Grey said of the Taylor SolidBody.
Indeed, the Taylor SolidBody boasts an original design and uses magnetic pickups developed specifically for the electric guitar. "I'm a lefty and they are talking about doing this (making a left-handed model) for me. What I liked is it is well balanced and light."
Checking out the latest in high tech gear and old school style is not the only draw for those hitting NAMM. The trade show has increasingly become a place to see pop icons in a more intimate setting (Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Jon Anderson headlined at a Yamaha dealer show for 2,000 at Disney's California Adventure Park's Hyperion Theater on Jan. 18, while John Mayer played in front of an invitation-only crowd at the nearby Hilton the same night), as well as up-and-coming artists.
Among the young artists making their first appearance at NAMM was Jacob Jeffries, a superb 19-year-old singer-songwriter-keyboardist based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who appeared on Jan. 19. Performing on a prototype of a new Baldwin Gallery Series piano, Jeffries tore through a 25-minute set of brilliant original songs, including the infectious "Wonderful," confessional "And I Say" and poetic "Fairfax."
And despite the wealth of high-tech keyboards and digital pianos on display at NAMM, Jeffries takes a decidedly-retro approach when it comes to writing his songs.
"I write them all on the (acoustic) piano," he admitted.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Streamline fines Brian Ireland back in the sonic game

Drummer Brian Ireland, seen here second from right, will play with his newest project Streamline at the Coach House on Friday night, Jan. 11.

Brian Ireland is no stranger to success, having served as one of the founding members and the full-time drummer of Dana Point-based Something Corporate during the band’s successful run from 1998 to 2004.
Now, Ireland is once again in the spotlight thanks to Streamline.

Something Corporate was a winning, alternative rock band fronted by Andrew McMahon (now leader of the successful Jack’s Mannequin) that found favor with a mostly teenage and early-twenties crowd.
Streamline, however, is aiming for discerning listeners of all ages.

Indeed, songs such as the infectious “All I Need” and driving “Higher” from the group’s recently-issued debut have the accessible sound charted by recent tastemakers such as John Mayer and Maroon 5. Other strong songs on the band’s heartfelt release include “Flicker” and “The Only Thing That Matters.”

In a phone interview earlier this week, Ireland noted he is excited to perform and be a full-time member of Streamline during Something Corporate’s continuing hiatus.
“Really, we’re still together. I’m close with all the guys,” said Ireland, noting he recently got together with McMahon. “Jack’s Mannequin came out at a time when morale (in Something Corporate) was low. We had been touring four plus years. But we’re all still really close and everything is good amongst us.”
The good news for fans of Ireland’s strong skills behind a drum kit is he is bringing that same energy and enthusiasm to Streamline. That rock quintet performs at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano tonight.
In addition to Ireland, Streamline also includes singer-guitarist Mike Hogan, keyboardist-vocalist Jon Scholl, bassist John Viavattine and guitarist Brad Ourso.
It was Ireland’s high-profile role in Something Corporate that ultimately led to his joining Streamline in December 2006.
Ireland recalled he was just as he was arriving on the first day of recording drum tracks for Something Corporate guitarist William Tell’s 2007 solo debut “You Can Hold Me Down” when he ran into Hogan and Scholl as they were leaving the studio.
“They knew who I was. Later they phoned me at the studio and asked if I would sit in and do a drumming session…It was for ‘All I Need.’ I was so impressed with them. They are great players and have a real sensibility for music.”
Ireland is back to where he was a decade ago, when Something Corporate was just a largely-unknown outfit writing and rehearsing songs, as well as out playing daytime gigs at colleges and nights at small clubs.
“For me, it doesn’t matter if you are playing in front of 2,000 or 20 people, it’s all the same,” Ireland said.

Streamline was originally launched out of Upstate New York, but is now based in Los Angeles. Ireland, 27, still lives in Dana Point. He noted Streamline went on several tours earlier this year and has a strong fan base in Baton Rouge; the rock troupe is tentatively planning on relocating to Louisiana to take advantage of fan support in that region to nurture the band.
“It’s definitely still fun,” Ireland said of playing in a band full-time. “I learned a lot from that experience (playing with Something Corporate).”

Streamline, Get Back Loretta, Knockout Charlies and Space Pilot perform at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, at 8 p.m. on Jan. 11.
Admission to the all ages-welcome show is $10.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Best Albums of 2007 (my list, anyway...)

Never heard of Band of Horses? Neither had I until a few months ago, but the Seattle group floored me this year with "Cease to Begin," rating number one. Read all my top picks below and have a great 2008!

Band of Horses “Cease to Begin” (Sub Pop) – This South Carolina-based outfit may recall Neil Young and My Morning Jacket, but Ben Bridwell and company crafted an original masterpiece with “Cease to Begin.” Bridwell’s soaring voice is perfectly suited to material that is beautiful and majestic (“Ode to LRC,” “No One’s Gonna Love You”), rousing sing-alongs (“The General Specific”) and country-styled sorties (“Marry Song”).

Arcade Fire “Neon Bible” (Merge Records) – Arcade Fire is one of modern rock’s best bands and it comes as no surprise that “Neon Bible” is one of the best albums of 2007. From the anthemic “No Cars Go” to the driving “The Well and the Lighthouse,” Arcade Fire’s second full-length effort is arena rock for the 21st century.

Bruce Springsteen “Magic” (Sony) – The boss has released so many wonderful CDs, it’s easy to shelve his current work. Don’t. “Magic” sounds great in 2007 and this collection that should continue to resonate as long as there are those who love rock ‘n’ roll.

Radiohead “In Rainbows” (TBD Records/ATO Records Group) – Forget about the endless insider industry chatter about “In Rainbows” being offered for download at whatever fans wanted to pay, Radiohead’s music plays front and center across “In Rainbows.” From the guitar-driven “Bodysnatchers” hypnotic “Reckoner” to the beautiful “Nude” and “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” Radiohead continues to thrill.

Neil Young “Chrome Dreams II” (Reprise) – Rock’s most consistently- and prolific-songwriter checked in with one of the most eclectic efforts of his long career. Beautiful ballads (“Shining Light,” “The Way”), extended rockers (“Ordinary People,” “Spirit Road”) and country-tinged confessionals (“The Believer,” “Ever After”) all get equal billing here.

John Fogerty “Revival” (Fantasy) – Although there are times when John Fogerty sounds as if he is simply mining the past, at least he is tilling the sonic soil that gave rise to his own legacy. Fogerty’s latest is actually one of the strongest releases of 2007, highlighted by the hopeful “Don’t You Wish It Was True,” retro-styled “Summer of Love” and country-tinged “Broken Down Cowboy.”

Paul McCartney “Memory Almost Full” (Hear Music) – Sir Paul followed up his wonderful 2005 album “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” with an even strong disc this year. “Only Mama Knows” is McCartney’s best rocker since his “Live and Let Die” and his Beatles-styled magic touch enlivens the genuine mood on “Ever Present Past” and “See Your Sunshine.”

Gary Allan “Living Hard” (MCA Nashville) – Modern country and cliché-free introspection don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, which makes Gary Allan’s “Living Hard” such a prize. In the wake of the suicide death of his wife, nuggets such as “We Touched the Sun” and “Yesterday’s Rain” express a rare power.

Travis “The Boy with No Name” (Sony) – The band that paved the way for Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Keane seemingly re-materialized in 2007 with “The Boy with No Name.” There is plenty to recommend on this effort, notably “Closer” and “My Eyes.”

Jars of Clay “Christmas Songs” (Nettwerk Records) – Modern Christian outfit Jars of Clay waited until the release of their 10th full-length effort to focus on Christmas. But “Christmas Songs” was worth the wait. The group offers up a few artfully-reworked covers into the mix (McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” the traditional “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”), but many of the songs are originals that drive home that the band approached this fantastic project with purpose of their other acclaimed works.

Top 10 Local (Orange County area) of 2007 named

Dusty Rhodes and the River Band released the sterling debut “First You Live” in October 2007.

Photo credit: Brent Murrell

With 2008 officially here, it’s time to rate and highlight my favorite local releases of 2007.

Dusty Rhodes and the River Band “First You Live” (SideOneDummy Records) – If members of the Band and progressive rock’s Yes had decided to fuse their distinct styles, it might sound a bit like Dusty Rhodes and the River Band. From the country-western shout along “Keys to the Truck” and the 1970s-styled prog rocker “Street Fighter” to the shimmering alt country gem “Goodnight, Moonshine,” “First You Live” is a wonderful debut.
You might like if you enjoy: Arcade Fire, Neil Young, the Band.

Michael Ubaldini “Storybook” (Blackwater Records) – Michael Ubaldini is likely Orange County’s most prolific recording artist, issuing a winning album every year. “Storybook” finds the Fountain Valley artist exploring themes such as life, death, love and war set against timeless American landscapes. “Apricot Wind” looks at the Civil War and is a standout, and other gems focus on graveyards, riverboats and other images that fit nicely into his Americana sound.
You might like if you enjoy: John Fogerty, Johnny Cash, Neil Young.

Fletcher Harrington “Under the Shadow of the San Gabriel” (Lopie Records) –Fletcher Harrington’s “Under the Shadow of the San Gabriel” marks another leap forward for the Tustin resident, with indie rockers (“Clean Desire,” “Who Won?”), beautiful acoustic ballads (“If I Could Say Where to Begin”) and authentic alt country (“Let’s Get Liquored Up,” “Sweet Jezebel”) that explore the vast stretches of Harrington’s creative range.
You might like if you enjoy: Gram Parsons, Neil Young.

The Attraction “The Attraction Presents…” (Econo Records) – The release of the Attraction’s sophomore release just weeks before the death of 36-year-old frontman Lance “Romance” Faulk, “The Attraction Presents…” serves as a touching and lasting memorial to the lead singer and his wonderful band.
The Attraction’s modern rock approach is wide enough to include melodic 80s-tinged tunes (“Home Again”), reggae (“Cruisin’”), Irish-flavored pub rock (“Happi”) and forceful punk (“Can’t Wait,” “Steps of the Dakota”).

Limbeck “Limbeck” (Doghouse Records) – The ghost of Gram Parsons may haunt Joshua Tree in the Mohave Desert, but his musical offspring are alive and well thanks to modern-day proponents such as Limbeck. The band’s 2007 release is a wonderful 11-song set highlighted by the Tom Petty-styled “Keepin’ Busy” and glorious “Let Me Come Home.”
You might like if you enjoy: Gram Parsons, Wilco, Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings.

Cowboy Buddha “Just Enough To…” (Lopie Records) –Fans of Cowboy Buddha were introduced to the alt country outfit courtesy of the band’s first two discs (1999’s “Guns Ammo Bait Film Gifts Snacks Maps” and 2000’s “Cement Pond”), but likely had given up on the troupe releasing any new music in the wake of frontman Fletcher Harrington’s recent solo career.
However, based on the strength of 2007’s “Just Enough To…,” it was well worth the wait to hear tracks such as the evocative “Sweetheart Smile,” Neil Young-styled country rocker “Crying Shame” and shining “Big Dixie Rain.”
You might like if you enjoy: Gram Parsons, Limbeck, Son Volt.

The Dear & Departed “Something Quite Peculiar” (Science Records) – The Dear & Departed play ‘80s-tinged rock that recalls the best of the Cure and the Church courtesy of original tracks such as the melodic “I Will Love Again” and propulsive “Fly Me Away.” Singer Dan Under has a voice that brings strength to all of the material.
You might like if you enjoy: the Cure, the Church, early U2.

Micah Dahlberg “Matter of Time” (independent) – Fans of 1970s-influenced melodic songwriting will be thrilled by the strong acoustic folk rock delivered by Macah Dahlberg on “Matter of Time.” From the sensitive “Poetry in Sand” and upbeat “What Am I” (both co-penned with Tyrone Wells) to the breezy title track, Dahlberg’s wonderful tenor and emotive songs make “Matter of Time” a collection that deserves airplay at home or on the road.

Loose Logic “Before the Storm” (Passion Play Productions) – Writing songs centered on personal experiences is a winning formula for Loose Logic, the moniker for Dana Point-based hip-hop artist Ian Westbrook. Romance (“Love You”), faith (“Take ‘Em to Church”) and death (“R.I.P.”) are among the many weighty areas he tackles with a mix of rap and modern R&B.
The disc’s crown is the haunting “This Dream,” which effectively finds the young singer rapping about social and economic injustice against a lush musical landscape as noteworthy for lush keyboards as the intoxicating rhythm.
Information: and
You might like if you enjoy: Dr. Dre, Loose Logic’s first two releases.

Bayadera “Rotation of the Earth” (Bitemark) – There is a joyful spirit on Bayadera’s latest release, with world music, outstanding performances and strong songwriting all playing major roles on the 13-song disc.