Friday, September 30, 2005

Never-Speechless Bruce Cockburn, Thunderhand Joe

On Wednesday morning, Sept. 28th, I had the chance to chat with Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn for about 20 minutes or so. It marked the second time I've been able to interview him, and my preview story built around that insightful phone interview should be published on Nov. 3 in the Dana Point News and Capistrano Valley News, both published by the Orange County Register. After the story runs, I'll also check back with you here; I hope to catch his solo acoustic show at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Friday night, Nov. 4th.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to run out and purchase his latest album, "Speechless," released this past Tuesday. It is a wonderful all-instrumentals CD that fully casts the spotlight on his amazing skills as a guitarist and composer. In addition to featuring instrumentals stretching back throughout his 30+ career, the Rounders Records release features three new tracks that showcase an artist who keeps exploring new sonic territory. And the results are never less than wonderful. My story will focus on a discussion of his latest CD, "Speechless," as well as a bit about his participation at the Canadian Live 8 Concert held July 2, 2005 in Toronto. Other artists who played at the show included Bryan Adams, the Tragically Hip, Gordon Lightfood and Neil Young...

Also, check out today's edition of the Show section of the Orange County Register. I have a full-length story on one-time Redbone drummer Thunderhand Joe. His story is inspiring. Writing the feature earlier this week, it struck me how few Native Americans have their musical voices heard. For more information on Thunderhand Joe, or to hear selections from his debut CD, check out:

Looking ahead, I'll be checking out the Keane show at the Greek Theatre tonight. I loved the trio's set at Coachella earlier this year; some critics don't appreciate the band. I for one think they're crazy... This will also mark my first time seeing the openers, the Long Winters. I'll report back on the show next week. Promise.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dead Can Dance, indeed

On Sunday, Sept. 25, I was fortunate to see another great show. Dead Can Dance, the Australia-based duo that crafted music that truly defied all genres in the 1980s and 1990s, came to the Hollywood Bowl as part of their first tour since 1994 or something.

Amazing. Performing with the LA Philharmonic, singer-guitarist Brendan Perry and vocalist Lisa Gerrard sounded perfect and performed a mix of Celtic, Renaissance-tinged folk, goth and Middle Eastern-flavored music to lasting and emotional impact. The concert was like being immersed in a sonic dream. Any of the songs performed, including well-known selections such as "How Fortunate the Man With None" and the sparse reworking of the traditional "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," would have been a highlight at any show. But across the more than two hours on Sunday that the concert stretched, it would be impossible to find an artistic element that didn't work.

Lisa Gerrard has a voice that recalls an opera diva, but with the otherworldly sound of a singer one might hear in a Irish pub. And Brendan Perry's far-reaching baritone also hit its marks whether singing alone or with Lisa. A simply wonderful experience.

Now, if only Cocteau Twins might return for another run.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hall of Confusion

Okay, let me get this. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has just announced its next list of those being considered for induction. I get John Mellencamp; put him in pronto. The Sex Pistols and Lynyrd Skynyrd likely should be included, although their contributions don't match the likes of the Fab Four, Elvis and Stones.

But Miles Davis. Wasn't he jazz? Put him in the Jazz hall or something. Should they include opera tenor Placido Domingo too? Or Luciano Pavarotti?

And while they didn't put in Gram Parsons (the most significant alt country rock architect of the 20th century), they also have Blondie, the J. Geils Band and Cat Stevens on the list of those eligible. And the J. Geils Band. If they are simply looking at well-known names, shouldn't they have put in Hall & Oates? They scored a ton of hits and they have crafted great Blue-Eyed soul since the 1970s; put them in...

The Percy Sledge and O'Jays thing drove me crazy. Each had one hit that people know today. Shouldn't the Chantays ("Pipeline") and Surfaris ("Wipe Out") get in too?

By putting in weaker artists, the Hall of Confusion waters down the contributions of those pioneering artists who deserve a spot there. There is a reason the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young have crafted rock music that has lasted. If it doesn't meet that test, flunk it...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Smithereens, Katrina concerts keep me listening

I think I heard so much music over the weekend, my eardrums are buzzing!

It started Friday night, Sept. 9th. There was a long night at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. After listening to two opening bands (one was awful, bad, ughh!), the Smithereens finally came on well after 10 p.m. - I think it was actually around 10:30 or something. But the good news is they rocked so hard and so effectively, I forgot how tired I was.

They performed all their classic cuts, including "Blood and Roses," "Behind the Wall of Sleep," "Only a Memory," etc. Although their bassist Mike Mesaros was not there (his wife just had a baby and he was busy being dad), the fill-in guy was good and the show was loose and indicitive of the magic the ultimate bar band delivers everytime I see them.

Pat DiNizio remains a strong singer, while lead guitarist Jim Babjak smiles as he plays distinctive licks and Dennis Diken still plays with fury when the song ("Room Without a View" notably) demands. A great show.

On Saturday, I caught up and watched the tape of the hour-long "Shelter from the Storm" concert broadcast on Friday, as well as the four-hour benefit videocast by Vh1 and MTV. The highlights were in short supply. Neil Young was great both days, performing material off his forthcoming "Prairie Wind" CD. On Saturday he performed the beautiful "When God Made Me," a song that songs like it could have been penned another time. Especially the way he played it at the piano, with the beautiful but sparse backing efforts of a choir.

On Saturday, he was joined by Emmylou Harris and sang "This Old Guitar," a simple but authentic-sounding country western song. Can't wait to hear this CD when it's released later this month.

Also turning in solid entries were the Foo Fighters, with the flannel shirt-attired Dave Grohl leading the quartet through CCR's "Born on the Bayou," and Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood teaming up for CCR's "Who'll Stop the Rain?"

The important thing about the Hurricane Katrina efforts is obviously helping get people to donate and help out. But I'm just nitpicking about the music here. Mary J. Blige ruined U2's version of "One." I repeat, she ruined it. She has a vast range and big voice, but her voice was not up to the emotional challenge of singing the song.

At the Sunday event, leaders included U2 powering through "Love and Peace or Else," while Trent Reznor - in a hushed performance featuring him alone at his piano - brought chills with an emotive "Hurt." Pearl Jam ("Given to Fly") and Coldplay ("Fix You") also played well in support of the Gulf Coast suffering.

My thoughts were also with the survivors of 9/11 and their loved ones. Where have the four years gone, and have we forgotten?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hurricane relief

Many of you are worn out by the endless coverage of Hurricane Katrina-related news 24/7. Of course, that is nothing compared to those who have endured the tragedy. My heart really goes out to them; the loss is simply beyond words or pictures or anything I've experienced.

There have already been countless efforts on behalf of the victims and I really believe most Americans do want to help, and many have. It's great that the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Neil Young are among those going to perform this weekend on MTV/VH1. I hope in addition to asking us poor folk to give, they do something themselves. Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger wouldn't miss $1 million, so lets hope they are willing to give a bit. Neil Young's assistance with Farm Aid and his Bridge School Benefit demonstrates clearly where his heart and wallet are. America has been pretty good to them, so it would be great for them to go the extra mile this weekend! I don't expect Motley Crue, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge or Usher to be any good, but then they might look pretty fine compared to Kid Rock!

I didn't need to have a rock star tell me to give. I did it twice last weekend on my own, and I'll give more when I can. I did after 9/11 too. I'll be watching.