Friday, January 31, 2014

NAMM 2014 Roundup: Robby Krieger, JOHNNYSWIM, Blue Öyster Cult, Sony Music Video Recorder, Taylor Guitars Compact T5z, Rickenbacker W Series

Robby Krieger on the GoPro Stage.
Photo: Robert Kinsler
Every NAMM Show has its highlights, and the 2014 staging of the world's largest music trade show lived up that hype throughout its fast-moving run. Without exception the number of musicians, music manufacturers and music fans I spoke with throughout the four busy days I spent in Anaheim all found reasons to celebrate the mix of technology and innovations that were showcased at the trade show on Jan. 22 (Media Preview Day) and during the show's regular run (Jan. 23-26, 2014).

Last weekend and earlier this week, I posted some initial coverage, mostly related to the range of strong and sterling concert sets I caught throughout the daytime and evening hours, including Blue Öyster Cult, Jonny Lang, Otis Taylor and from legendary Doors guitarist Robby Krieger

But I also caught partial sets from a fantastic young Americana-styled duo JOHNNYSWIM at the Taylor Guitars booth on Thursday; because I didn't know much about the group or their music when I caught their set, I didn't write anything immediately; but when I happened to get a media release earlier this week about the band it was perfect timing since I then had a few details to layer atop my memories of JOHNNYSWIM's strong afternoon set.

JOHNNYSWIM performing at Taylor Guitars.
Photo: Robert Kinsler
Fronted by the husband and wife team of singer-guitarist Abner Ramirez and singer Amanda Sudano, JOHNNYSWIM featured songs off a 2013 EP titled Heart Beats and an upcoming full-length debut album Diamonds (set for release on April 29 on Big Picnic Records). Highlights from the group's set included the spirited uptempo "Diamonds" and tender acoustic guitar- and vocal harmonies-layered "Annie."

I would encourage everyone to learn more about this promising new duo that blends rock, soul, folk, blues and roots music by reading George A. Paul's more in-depth review of the show published on his Music Minded blog here.

Sony HDR-MV1 Music Video Recorder
A major part of NAMM continues to be great gear. Both my Music Worth Buying co-host TJR and yours truly were very impressed by Sony's HDR-MV1 Music Video Recorder. Although very compact, the video camera is designed for artists to "shoot and share every performance with superb" full high definition video quality and true studio-quality audio.

More specifically geared for musicians looking to chronicle and share their performances than the wonderful line of Sony bloggie cameras I've been using since 2010 or so, a band can record a performance and immediately distribute that content via their smart phone too courtesy of built-in Wi-Fi.  Boasting a 120-degree X-Y stereo microphone that captures recordings free of distortion, external mics or instruments can also be directly connected to the little device. What's even more amazing the HDR-MV1 retails for a suggested retail price of $299.99. Click here to learn more.

Taylor Guitars' new Compact T5z made its debut at NAMM
What would NAMM be without great guitars? Several caught my eye (and my hands, since the show affords visitors to play the instruments too, including Taylor Guitars' new Compact T5z.

Saturday morning I made it a point to get up to Taylor's booth on the second floor of the Anaheim Convention Center early so I could spend some time playing the new electric/acoustic hollowbody, the latest release in the company's T5 Series. The T5z has a 12-inch fretboard radius (compared to the T5's 15-inch radius), and proved to be significantly easier for me to play than the T5. 

For 2014, both the T5z and T5 are being released in a series of four models.

For more information on any of Taylor's fine guitars, visit

Rickenbacker's Model 360-12W
Another favorite new instrument I caught at the show was Rickenbacker's new walnut-made W Series. It's unusual for the company to release new instruments at NAMM; indeed, as company CEO John Hall noted in a chat at the show, the legendary, Santa Ana, California-based company focuses on making and selling the same fine instruments that first attracted the Fab Four to begin using the guitars more than 50 years ago. 

The new walnut Rickenbackers feature the same full, lush and warm tones that the manufacturer's instruments are known for, while "adding the strength and natural character of walnut polished with an oil finish." The full model lineup for the W Series includes the 330, 330/12, 360, 360/12 and 4003. All are outfitted with necks made of Maple. 

Visit Rickenbacker International's official Web site  at for more details.

Finally, here is a full-length performance by Blue Öyster Cult and Alex Skolnick performing (Don't Fear) The Reaper" at the Peavey booth on Jan. 23. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The 50th anniversary celebration of The Beatles arrival in the U.S. isn't until February, but you wouldn't know it from the wonderful week that Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney are having in the wake of their performances at the GRAMMYs at the beginning of this week!


Eagle Rock Entertainment is proud to celebrate two Grammy wins at Sunday night’s Grammy Award Ceremony (January 26, 2014). Paul McCartney’s Live Kisses, which was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 13, 2012, received “Best Surround Sound Album” and “Best Music Film.”
“It is with an incredible sense of pride that Eagle Rock joins in celebrating the huge talent that is Sir Paul McCartney,” states Mike Carden, President Of Operations North America. “We work very hard to ensure that everyone gets to enjoy the fantastic works that this great artist creates. I am proud to play a part in the team that is Eagle Rock Entertainment Worldwide. Congratulations to all for achieving the honor of not one but two Grammys.”

Executive Chairman and CEO of Eagle Rock Entertainment Terry Shand, and Geoff Kempin, Executive Director of Eagle Rock Entertainment said "We are delighted to win these awards for this great film with Paul McCartney. It was a very exciting and groundbreaking project!"
Directed by Jonas Åkerlund, Live Kisses is a stunning 13-song film, capturing Paul McCartney performing his Kisses On The Bottom album live in the intimate surroundings of Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. The film tells the story of how, with the help of Grammy Award-winning producer Tommy LiPumaDiana Krall and her band, Paul created a critically acclaimed album, which featured guest appearances from Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder. Without his famous Höfner bass in hand or in fact any musical instruments, Paul took his place behind the same microphone that has captured some of the most iconic voices in history to focus on his vocal delivery as he led the assembled A-list group of musicians through a collection of the standards he grew up listening to in his childhood, as well as his own original composition “My Valentine.” Live Kisses is an intimate and charming concert film which offers an insight into the music and songwriters that inspired Paul to go on to become the most successful songwriter and performer in modern history.

For a glimpse of Live Kisses, view this video clip of “I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter”

Eagle Rock Entertainment is the largest producer and distributor of music programming for DVD, Blu-Ray, TV, Audio and Digital Media in the world.  Eagle works directly alongside talent to produce top quality, High Definition and 3D programs, both concerts and documentaries, including The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, Queen, The Doors, Jeff Beck, U2, Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney and Ozzy Osbourne. Eagle is a Grammy Award winning company and has received over 30 multi-platinum, over 50 platinum and over 90 gold discs, worldwide.  Eagle Rock Entertainment has offices in London, New York, Toronto, Paris and Hamburg.

Follow Eagle Rock Entertainment at:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band extends tour with new 2014 dates

Beatles fans have had an exciting week that began Sunday with Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney performing together at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, and then teaming up together again last night for the taping of the upcoming CBS-TV special 'The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles' at the Los Angeles Convention Center (somehow they forgot to send me an invite!) that will be aired at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) on Feb. 9, 2014, exactly 50 years after the Fab Four's legendary debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. 

Now comes exciting news that Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band are getting ready to embark on another tour this summer! Here is the official release:


Left to right: Richard Page, Steve Lukather, Ringo Starr, Todd Rundgren, Gregg Bissonette, Gregg Rolie
Photo by Rob Shanahan

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 – Today, Variety magazine revealed Ringo will launch another leg with this current All Starr Band from Casinorama in Rama, Ontario on June 6.  They will do two shows at New York’s Beacon Theater June 17 and 18, and finish in Los Angeles at The Greek on July 19.   On July 7, Ringo’s birthday, he will be in Los Angeles and invites everyone everywhere to join him at a Peace & Love celebration. Details to be announced closer to the date.
This is the same line up Ringo has played with since 2012 and features Steve Lukather, Richard Page, Gregg Rolie, Todd Rundgren and Gregg Bissonette.
“I love playing with this band,” Ringo said, “and I can’t wait to get back out and play with them again.”

Here’s where you can catch them:
June 6- Ontario - Ontario Rama Casino
June 7- Canandaigua, NY- Sands Pavilion
June 8- Williamsport, PA- Community Arts Theater
June 10- Albany, NY- Palace Theater
June 11- Westbury, NY - Theater at Westbury 
June 12 - Vienna, VA - Wolftrap 
June 14 - Oakdale Theater, Wallingford, CT 
June 15- Providence, RI - Performing Arts Center
June 17- New York, NY- Beacon Theater
June 18- New York, NY- Beacon Theater
June 20- Red Bank, NJ - Count Basie Theater
June 21 - Atlantic City, NJ - Caesars Circus Maximus
June 22- Durham, NC - Durham PAC
June 24 – Buffalo, NY - ArtPark
June 25 Verona NY - Turning Stone Casino
June 27 - Detroit, MI - DTE Energy Center
June 28- Chicago, IL- Chicago Theater
June 29 Cleveland, OH - Jacobs Pavillion Nautica  
July 1 Toledo, OH - Toledo Zoo Ampitheater
July 3 Tunica MS - Horseshoe Casino 
July 5 Dallas, TX - Windstar World Casino 
July 9 Albuquerque, NM - Sandia Pavillion
July 11- San Diego, CA- Humphrey's
July 12 - Santa Barbara, CA - Santa Barbara Bowl
July 13 San Jose CA -  City National Civic of San Jose
July 15 Vancouver BC - Hard Rock 
July 16 Woodenvile, WA – Chateau Ste Michelle
July 19- Los Angeles, CA- Greek Theatre
Check local listings for on sale dates and for more information please visit:

On January 20, 2014 Ringo's musical legacy was celebrated when The David Lynch Foundation honored Ringo with the "Lifetime of Peace & Love Award". The event included a star-studded tribute performing from Ringo’s extensive catalog. January 26 saw Ringo perform his song “Photograph” on the GRAMMYS, followed by him jumping on the kit during his old bandmate, Paul McCartney’s performance. The two then performed together again the following evening, this time for several songs for the CBS taping of The Beatles Tribute celebrating the 50th Anniversary of their first U.S. visit and appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  It will be broadcast on the exact date, February 9.
In February 2014, Simon & Shuster will publish "Octopus's Garden", a children's book based on Ringo's lyrics. This book comes on the heels of December of last year's PHOTOGRAPH, the Genesis Publications book  (http://www.genesis- by-ringo-starr-the-signed- limited-edition/). PHOTOGRAPH was first released as an e-book in conjunction with The GRAMMY Museum exhibit "Ringo: Peace & Love," a record-breaking exhibit that opened in June 2013. The exhibit has had more than 90,000 visitors already and is the first major exhibit to focus on a drummer. It will remain open through March 2014. ( on-display/special-exhibits/ri ngo-peace-love)
2013 also saw Ringo tour with his All Starr Band, first in February to the Pacific Rim and then in October in Latin America, concluding with two Stateside shows at the Palms in Las Vegas. In September 2013 Ringo was awarded the prestigious French Medal of Honor, being appointed Commander of Arts & Letters in recognition of his musical and artistic contributions. Ringo's most recent solo release was Ringo 2012 (Hip-O Records/UMe). In January 2013 UMe released the live DVD "Ringo at the Ryman."  April 20, 2013, in conjunction with Record Store Day, UMe released a Ringo Starr seven-inch vinyl singles collection, featuring “Photograph,” “It Don’t Come Easy” and “(It’s All Down To) Goodnight Vienna.” 

Inbox Update: Brian May & Kerry Ellis; 'Endless Love' Soundtrack announced; 'The Secret Policeman's Ball - USA'

Still recovering from the countless hours I spent over the course of four exhausting (but fun!) days at the NAMM Show, but there is plenty of other music news to catch up on too!

THE CANDLELIGHT CONCERTS – LIVE AT MONTREUX 2013 set for release April 1, 2014 

On April 1, 2014, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release The Candlelight Concerts – Live At Montreux 2013 from Queen legend Brian May and West End and Broadway sensation Kerry Ellis as a DVD + CD set, Blu-ray + CD and digital formats.  This release features a great mix of classic songs including “Born Free,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “I Who Have Nothing,” “Tie Your Mother Down,” “The Way We Were,” “We Will Rock You,” and more.
Filmed at the renowned Stravinski Auditorium during the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 2013, The Candlelight Concerts – Live At Montreux 2013 is a wonderfully intimate show that blends Kerry Ellis’ beautiful voice with the extraordinary guitar playing of Brian May. Throughout a largely acoustic performance of standards, ballads, Queen songs and cover songs, May’s guitar style perfectly compliments Ellis’ theatrical vocals. Also included in the set is the Acoustic By Candlelight CD, recorded live on the UK leg of their tour in Autumn 2012.  As a bonus feature, the DVD includes a performance of “Nothing Really Has Changed” with Virginia McKenna.
Brian May and Kerry Ellis are on tour in the UK in February, followed by dates in Russia, Latvia and Belarus in March. The Candlelight Concerts – Live At Montreux 2013 proves beyond a doubt this pairing of talents is a match made in musical heaven.
Follow Eagle Rock Entertainment at:
1) I Who Have Nothing  
2) Dust In The Wind  
3) Born Free  
4) Somebody To Love      
5) Nothing Really Has Changed  
6) Life Is Real  
7) The Way We Were  
8) ’39  
9) Something   
10) Last Horizon 
11) Love Of My Life  
12) The Kissing Me Song  
13) Tie Your Mother Down  
14) We Will Rock You  
15) No One But You  
16) Crazy Little Thing Called Love
1) Born Free  
2) I Loved A Butterfly  
3) I Who Have Nothing  
4) Dust In The Wind         
5) The Kissing Me Song  
6) Nothing Really Has Changed  
7) Life Is Real  
8) The Way We Were  
9) Something  
10) Love Of My Life  
11) I’m Not That Girl  
12) I Can’t Be Your Friend  
13) In The Bleak Midwinter  
14) Crazy Little Thing Called Love  
15) No One But You (Only The Good Die Young)



Warner Bros. Records will release the original motion picture soundtrack to Universal Pictures' Endless Love on February 11, 2014. The romantic drama will hit theaters nationwide on Valentine's Day.

The soundtrack features music from an array of celebrated bands, including the Top 40 hit-in-the-making "Pumpin Blood" by NONONO, as well as The Bird and The Bee featuring Matt BerningerEchosmithFranz FerdinandTanlinesGuards, and Tegan and Sara, who perform the track "Don't Find Another Love," which was written specifically for the movie. Please see below for the full track-listing.

Endless Love stars Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike) and Gabriella Wilde (The Three Musketeers) in the story of a privileged girl and a charismatic boy whose instant desire sparks a love affair made only more reckless by parents trying to keep them apart. Directed by Shana Feste (Country Strong), the romantic drama co-stars Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick and Rhys Wakefield. Scott Stuber (Ted) of Bluegrass Films and Pamela Abdy (Identity Thief) are joined by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (Gossip Girl) of Fake Empire to produce the film from writers Feste and Joshua Safran (Gossip Girl).

The track-listing for Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Endless Love is as follows:

1 Pumpin Blood - NONONO
2 Don't Find Another Love - Tegan And Sara
3 All Our Endless Love - The Bird and The Bee featuring Matt Berninger
4 I Know It's You - Guards
5 All Of Me - Tanlines
6 Go Outside - Cults
7 Right Action - Franz Ferdinand
8 Crickets - Drop City Yacht Club
9 Peaches - In The Valley Below
10 Leading Me Now - The Tallest Man On Earth
11 Surround You - Echosmith
12 Ends of the Earth - Lord Huron
13 Endless Love Suite - Christophe Beck
14 Pumpin Blood (The Jane Doze Remix) (Bonus Track) - NONONO 

For more about Endless Love visit:


Eagle Rock Entertainment USA is very proud to announce the US Blu-ray and DVD release on February 25th 2014 of the Amnesty International comedy extravaganza "The Secret Policeman's Ball - USA". 
The 137-minute show features the cream of contemporary US and UK comedy stars - performing brand-new, specially-created material tailored to the theme of freedom of expression - shot in high-definition at New York's Radio City Music Hall.  
Among the 50 comedic talents seen in the show are major stars such as Jon Stewart, Ben Stiller, Eddie Izzard, Russell Brand, Sarah Silverman,John Oliver and no less than ten comics who have made their names as performers and writers on "Saturday Night Live" including Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Jason SudeikisBobby Moynihan, Kristen Wiig and Seth Meyers.
In the grand tradition of the long-running Amnesty benefit series, there are also musical performances by Coldplay and Mumford & Sons - and an impressive array of cameo appearances including members of Monty Python and several major movie stars.
Until this latest show, every edition of the "Ball" since its 1976 birth had taken place in London.  This show at Radio City was the first show to be held outside Britain and it became a summit meeting-cum-gala of the comedy giants of the two nations.
The featured performers are:
• Jon Stewart and John Oliver both of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show".  (Oliver starts his own new HBO weekly talk show this April)
• Comedic acting giants Ben Stiller and Paul Rudd
• British stand-up stars Eddie Izzard and Russell Brand
• Ten current and past members of the "Saturday Night Live" family:  Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Seth Meyers, Bobby Moynihan, Kristen Wiig, Rachel Dratch, Jay Pharoah, Taran Killam and Hannibal Buress 
• "Mr. Show" creators/writers/stars David Cross & Bob Odenkirk
• Popular US talents Sarah Silverman, Rashida Jones, Rex Lee and Reggie Watts
• Top UK stand-ups making their US debut:  Noel Fielding, Jimmy Carr, Micky Flanagan, Jack Whitehall
• Highly-rated UK comedic actors: David Walliams, Matt Berry, Chris O’Dowd, Catherine Tate, Peter Serafinowicz 
• Cameo appearances by actors and personalities:  Liam Neeson, Tim Roth, Richard Branson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Burmese comedian and human rights activist Zarganar 
• The disc includes on-camera live-snarking of the show by two sets of notable curmudgeons Statler & Waldorf from the Muppets and Beavis & Butthead
• Live music by Coldplay and Mumford & Sons
• Drawing on the show's Pythonic roots, members of Monty Python (Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones) make appearances to explain why they cannot appear!
• A bonus sequence not seen at Radio City is a brand-new Pythonic skit specially created for the Blu-ray/DVD edition - "The Python Legacy!" (written by Michael Palin & Martin Lewis) - that stars Robert De Niro, Whoopi Goldberg, Kyra Sedgwick and Annette O'Toole.
Bonus material on the disc includes backstage interviews with many of the stars.
"The Secret Policeman's Ball - USA" - filmed in New York in 2012 - was created by a team that includes Executive Producers: Lily Sobhani, Kit Hawkins, Al Maccuish, Beth Earl, Aaron Grosky; Supervising Producer: DJ Javerbaum; Creative Producer: James Serafinowicz; Producer Patrick Wall; Director Ryan Polito.  Executive Producers For Amnesty International: Andy Hackman, Sarah Ben-Tovim, Kerry Moscogiuri; Executive Producers for Eagle Rock: Terry Shand & Geoff Kempin; Producer Emeritus: Martin Lewis.
The "Secret Policeman's Ball" benefit series started 38 years ago in England - initially spearheaded by Monty Python's John Cleese – to raise funds for, and awareness of, the human rights work of the Noble Peace Prize-winning organization Amnesty International.  The shows developed a formidable reputation for presenting the cream of Britain's comedic performers and rock musicians.  Widely distributed via films, TV specials, videos and albums the “Ball” has helped Amnesty spread its message worldwide.  The iconic “Secret Policeman's Ball” title that became the collective name for the series, was used for the first time in 1979. Cleese credits series co-creator Martin Lewis (co-producer of the shows, movies and albums between 1976-1984) with coining the title.
Eagle Rock Entertainment is the largest producer and distributor of music programming for DVD, Blu-Ray, TV, Audio and Digital Media in the world.  Eagle works directly alongside talent to produce top quality, High Definition and 3D programs, both concerts and documentaries, including The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, Queen, The Doors, Jeff Beck, U2, Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney and Ozzy Osbourne. Eagle is a Grammy Award winning company and has received over 30 multi-platinum, over 50 platinum and over 90 gold discs, worldwide.  Eagle Rock Entertainment has offices in London, New York, Toronto, Paris and Hamburg.

Follow Eagle Rock Entertainment at:
More about Amnesty International at:

NAMM 2014: From Robby Krieger and Jonny Lang to a new Springsteen

A shorter version of my story was originally posted on The Orange County Register site on Monday morning, Jan. 27, 2014. More coverage of NAMM 2014 is on the way soon!

The blues-rocker Jonny Lang, the 13-year-old upstart Alana Springsteen (no relation to the Boss), the Doors’ Robby Krieger and others provided standout performances at the annual Anaheim gathering.

Jonny Lang in action on the GoPro Stage Jan. 23. Photo credit: Bob Steshetz
A couple of decades ago, on-site performances at the National Association of Music Merchants show, or NAMM, were definitely not a key part of the event held every January at the Anaheim Convention Center.
But once again this year performances were front-and-center throughout the show, held Jan 23-26, with the far-flung likes of bluesmen old (Otis Taylor) and younger (Jonny Lang), Americana trio the Kruger Brothers and classic rockers Blue Oyster Cult and Robby Krieger of the Doors among the artists who could be spied at the event.
In an interview before he took the stage to headline the GoPro Stage Saturday night, Krieger discussed the importance of NAMM in helping keep a wide variety of music-making alive, especially via each developing generation. As early as the Doors’ landmark 1967 debut, the guitar great, now 68, was already incorporating flamenco and jazz with blues and rock.
“It’s all important to me,” he says. “I fear today kids don’t check out all that stuff; they just listen to Eddie Van Halen and try to copy that. Back in the day, we went as far back as we could.”
In addition to rock’s earliest six-stringers, Krieger was influenced by the likes of masters like Wes Montgomery, Albert King and Larry Carlton, as well as jazz innovator Miles Davis. Many of those sources found their way into enduring staples such as “Light My Fire,” “Love Me Two Times,” “Love Her Madly” and “Touch Me.” “Jim wanted it to be a mystery,” he explained why the legendary band’s songs were credited to all four Doors. “I wrote most of the music and Jim wrote most of the words.”

Robby Krieger headlined on the GoPro Stage.
Krieger's subsequent performance was outstanding, with the legendary and fast-fingered guitarist displaying his equal love of jazz and rock during the set. Doors fans cheered with the performance of the gem "You're Lost Little Girl," (from the band's sophomore effort Strange Days) and then a few songs later, the radio staple "Love Me Two Times" where Krieger's vocals were as potent when I first heard him sing the song in a memorable performance at Cal State Fullerton.
While Krieger's 90-minute set was among NAMM’s brightest highlights, plenty of other worthwhile acts performed of the course of NAMM 2014. Right off the bat, Day 1 provided opportunities to see Lang and BÖC, as well as several under-the-radar talents.
Lang brought his powerful fusion of rock, soul and gospel to the official opening night concert held on the outdoor GoPro stage, positioned in front of the convention center. His 90-minute turn was another ideal setting to take in the 32-year-old’s ongoing celebration of blues-rock.
Opening with “(Blew Up) The House,” from his latest album Fight for My Soul, the guitarist and his band fired up the chilly evening with his distinctive mix of rousing vocals (notably on “Turn Around” and “Red Light”) and blazing fretwork that just keeps getting better as he matures, as evidenced by “A Quitter Never Wins.” He closed with the jam-ready “We Are the Same” before offering a fitting Muddy Waters cover, “Forty Days and Forty Nights,” as an encore.
Blue Öyster Cult isn’t known as an acoustic band, so the curiosity factor was palpable when the group took the stage inside Peavey’s booth armed only with such guitars. With the space (a large room on the convention center’s second level) maxed out at 200 capacity, many fans simply couldn’t get into the showcase if they hadn’t arrived early for the 2 p.m. set.
BÖC didn't disappoint: lead singer-guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser led the outfit through fiery stripped-down versions of some of the band’s most beloved material. Opening with the 1981 hit “Burnin’ for You,” it was clear Roeser’s talents translate just fine to the unplugged setting, while harmonies provided by Eric Bloom and Richie Castellano brought the ambitious songs, long a mix of progressive and hard rock, to sparkling life.
They had one other surprise in store for the lucky gathering: a cameo from Alex Skolnick, lead guitarist of pioneering thrash metal band Testament. With four talented axe-wielders on stage, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was given the ultimate NAMM treatment in an extended version that featured Skolnick and Roeser trading licks and the crowd singing along to the choruses.
Shawn Jones frequently performs in Orange County, but his appearance in Anaheim at the GHS Strings booth was something special. He performed instrumental versions of four original songs, showcasing chops frequently on display as lead guitarist for singer Deana Carter, including on her just-released album Southern Way of Life. At NAMM, Jones illustrated his love of the blues with a potent take on “Bottom of the Bottle” and a nuanced, graceful version of the Celtic-styled “Missing the Mourns,” bolstered by some beautiful harmonics.
Alana Springsteen. Photo credit: Robert Kinsler
There was nothing short of genuine surprise and awe, however, when 13-year-old Alana Springsteen began to perform her song “Waste of Time” in the lobby of the Anaheim Marriott. She had been invited to participate in a “Song Round” set with well-known area artists Tim Moyer and Kerry Getz.
After Springsteen (no relation to the Boss) played her first song, it was clear her shining soprano, effortless acoustic guitar playing and warm personality are an enchanting package. She was instructed to play another song – and it was equally powerful, casting an obvious spell on the large crowd seated around the stage. Then she was told by the veterans sharing the stage that she should go ahead and finish out the session with her tunes.
Those next songs suggest not only that Springsteen’s talent is for real but that her depth clearly outdistances her youth. The Norfolk, Va., native closed with an original ballad, “What I Wouldn’t Give,” featuring her textured fretwork and a strong message of thanks to the military. She earned a standing ovation, something I can’t recall ever seeing happen in these intimate afternoon sessions.
Friday brought more action, including an afternoon visit from guitar virtuoso Gary Hoey and former Runaways riff-crafter Lita Ford, who performed at the Monster Cables booth for a crowd that stretched out far in every direction. Although her vocals were mostly buried, the duo’s guitar work pleased fans as they played two tracks off Ford’s Hoey-produced album Living Like a Runaway.
Hoey noted that when he learned Ford was looking for a producer, he suggested they record the album at his studio in New Hampshire. “We had an instant working chemistry,” he recalled. “Lita Ford is a pioneer as far as women in rock go; she’s just a dynamo. She stays true to who she is. (The new album) is still building some momentum and a lot of great reviews.”
Hoey also praised NAMM’s diverse atmosphere, which draws musicians and music manufacturers from every part of the globe to Anaheim. “I love it because it’s like a secret club for musicians and bands to get together and talk about music.”
The rest of Friday played out with additional strong turns from Jeff Campbell (whose sound evokes Toad the Wet Sprocket), North Carolina’s Kruger Brothers and Colorado bluesman Otis Taylor. The latter’s NAMM sets are the stuff of legend; his performance inside the Anaheim Marriott was likely one of the most robust of the weekend. His version of the murderous “Hey Joe” and his own “Rain So Hard” had fans transfixed by a hypnotic blues-rock laced with Native American and African rhythms, Anne Harris’ ferocious fiddle and heavy grooves. There is a power in Taylor's performances that bridges the power of strong blues, Hendrix rock and even alternative that is intoxicating in ways that are magic and the eclectic crowd gathered in front of the stage reflected the power of his set.
And at least one day at NAMM, it’s smart to merely walk the floor and stumble upon musicians checking out the latest gear. On Saturday, I was blown away first by Andy Rau playing some of his original compositions on a Deering banjo, and later by Latin Grammy winner Gabby Moreno’s brief but exciting appearance on the main stage, blurring the lines between Spanish and blues-rock material.

Monday, January 27, 2014

New U2 single 'Invisible' to be available for free during the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 2

Although U2's forthcoming new album doesn't yet have a title (at least one announced to the world), the first single off the Danger Mouse-produced disc will be released as a free download during the Super Bowl.

Thank the generosity of Bank Of America because not only will anybody be able to download the single from iTunes for 24 hours staring during the Super Bowl this coming Sunday, but for every free download of "Invisible" Bank Of America will donate $1 to the AIDS-fighting charity (RED).

U2 has also filed a Super Bowl commercial, so make sure to tune in during "The Big Game" for more news on U2 2014 album, reportedly set to land this spring.

Visit U2's Web site for more information.

Music Worth Buying: NAMM Show episodes aplenty

Before you say goodbye to NAMM 2014, check out a series of episode of Music Worth Buying segments we recorded at the show last week!

Our first video is a showcase of things we heard and saw on Thursday, Jan. 23, the first official day of NAMM. We were both especially impressed by the Sony HDR-MV1 Music Video Recorder, and a number of innovations we caught at IK Multimedia's booth:

Our second video is a showcase of the action we caught on Friday, including Robert Kinsler's interview with bassist Rich Cole and lead guitarist Mike Skill of The Romantics, as well as a performance from guitar virtuoso Gary Hoey and singer-songwriter Lita Ford:

Finally, don't miss this performance from  a 13-year-old classical pianist captured performing:

Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 1 at NAMM 2014: Jonny Lang, Blue Öyster Cult, Shawn Jones, Alana Springsteen, more

While NAMM certainly offers a great place to discover the latest innovations in music making-related technology and the rollout of new instruments, it is also a wonderful way to catch established and up-and-comers performing in front of the most discerning of audiences.

Day 1 at the 2014 NAMM Show (Jan. 23, 2014) offered the chance to see established acts such as Jonny Lang and Blue Oyster Cult, as well as talented under-the-radar and rising stars. Believe me, this post will not be the last time you hear the name Alana Springsteen.
Jonny Lang in sonic flight at NAMM. Photo: Robert Kinsler

Jonny Lang brought his powerful fusion of blues-rock, soul and gospel to the official opening night concert held on the GoPro stage on the outdoor plaza positioned in front of the Anaheim Convention Center. His 90-minute set was another ideal setting for the 32-year-old artist to make a case to celebrate the power of blues-rock. Opening with "(Blew Up) The House," the single from his latest album Fight for my Soul, Lang and his band fired up the chilly evening with his distinctive mix of powerful vocals (notably on "Turn Around" and "Red Light") and blazing guitar work that just keeps getting better (as evidenced by "A Quitter Never Wins"). He closed out his concert with the jam-minded "We Are the Same" (with several of his band mates featured) before offering up a Muddy Waters cover, "Forty Days and Forty Nights," as a fitting encore.

Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser of Blue Öyster Cult 
Photo: Robert Kinsler

Blue Öyster Cult is not known as an acoustic band, so the curiosity factor was palpable when the band took the stage inside Peavey's booth armed only with acoustic guitars. With the Peavey booth (actually a large room on the second level of the convention center) having a capacity of only 200, many fans simply couldn't get into the showcase if they didn't arrive early for the 2 p.m. set. BÖC didn't disappoint; lead singer-guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser led the classic rock outfit through fiery acoustic versions of some of the band's most beloved material. Opening with the 1981 hit "Burnin' for You," it was clear that Roeser's talents on guitar translated just fine to via the unplugged setting, and harmonies provided by Eric Bloom and Richie Castellano brought the ambitious songs (which have always featured a mix of progressive and hard rock strains) to life. The crowd positioned right up against the stage greeted the announcement the band was going to play "Then Came the Last Days of May" (off the group's 1972 debut) with wild cheers, and the masterwork allowed the group to flex its musical muscles in full; the song's shifting tempos, blend of sterling guitar work from Roeser and Castellano, and lush textures of all three guitars together was outstanding.
From left, Alex Skolnick with Blue Öyster Cult members Eric
Bloom, Donald 
"Buck Dharma" Roeser and Richie Castellano.

BÖC had still one other surprise for the fortunate gathering, with the announcement that lead guitarist Alex Skolnick (of the pioneering metal band Testament) was going to join the band for their final song. With four talented guitarists on stage, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" was given the ultimate NAMM treatment with an extended version that featured Skolnick and Roeser trading licks, and the crowd getting in on the act with a sing-along of the "Don't Fear the Reaper" chorus.

Shawn Jones frequently performs in Orange County, but his appearance at the GHS Strings booth was something special. He performed instrumental versions of four of his original songs, showcasing his chops that are frequently on display as lead guitarist for singer Deana Carter (including on her just-released album Southern Way of Life). At NAMM, Jones  showcased his love of the blues with a potent take on "Bottom of the Bottle" and a nuanced, graceful version of the Celtic-styled "Missing the Mourns" featuring some beautiful harmonics.

Alana Springsteen at NAMM. Photo: Robert Kinsler
There was nothing short of genuine surprise and awe when 13-year-old Alana Springsteen began to perform her song "Waste of Time" in the lobby of the Anaheim Marriott. She had been invited to participate in a "Song Round" performance with well-known area artists Tim Moyer and Kerry Getz. After Springsteen (no relation to the Boss) played her first song, it was clear her shining soprano, effortless acoustic guitar work and warm personality are a potent package. She was then instructed she should play another song which was equally powerful and cast an obvious spell on the large crowd seated around the stage. She was then told by the veterans sharing the stage she should go ahead and just play her songs for the remainder of the session.

Her next songs provided a glimpse that Springsteen's talent is for real and the depth of her collective talents clearly outdistance her youth. The Norfolk, Virginia native closed her set with the original ballad, "What I Wouldn't Give," which featured her textured acoustic guitar work and a powerful lyrical message of thanks to the military. She was then given a standing ovation, something that I can't recall seeing happen in the intimate afternoon showcases that feature top-tier songwriters from around the world during NAMM. 

Although I never checked in with the media folks to see what other surprises were at NAMM, I did literally walk into Vintage Trouble guitarist Nalle Colt, whose band blew away this writer in an afternoon set at Coachella last year. He broke the news that the band will be going back into the studio later this month to begin work on their sophomore album and followup to 2012's The Bomb Shelter Sessions.