Friday, May 28, 2010

ASIA's 'An Extraordinary Life' to be heard again

ASIA's critically acclaimed single "An Extraordinary Life” chosen to promote hit NBC show 'America's Got Talent'


HOLLYWOOD, CA (May 27, 2010) - ASIA's critically acclaimed rock track "An Extraordinary Life," was chosen as the soundtrack for promotional spots announcing the 2010 season of AMERICA'S GOT TALENT. This show is among the most popular entertainment reality shows of all time. Last season the show peaked at the #1 position in overall viewership.

AMERICA’S GOT TALENT producers specifically sought out the rights to use the famed ASIA song, which was written by members John Wetton and Geoff Downes. The track was recorded shortly after Wetton survived open heart surgery, in 2007. The song celebrates "carpe diem": each person's ability to seize each day, living life to the fullest. The promotional spots for America ’s Got Talent featuring “An Extraordinary Life,” begin airing on NBC in prime time, Wednesday, May 26th.

English band ASIA recently released OMEGA, their fifth album since 1982's multi-platinum world best-selling debut, and the third release since reuniting in 2006. The band will launch a new North American tour in August, 2010. The already well-received album OMEGA is distributed by Frontiers Records ( EMI released ASIA’s best-selling album Phoenix [under license from Frontiers Record], containing the hit “An Extraordinary Life”. Both albums are available at and other fine retailers.

(On a related note, ASIA is scheduled to perform at The Grove of Anaheim here in Orange County on Saturday night, Aug. 28, 2010. I definitely plan to attend this show!)

The original members of ASIA are rock n’ roll superstars Geoff Downes (keyboards), Steve Howe (guitars), Carl Palmer (drums) and John Wetton (lead vocals and bass). More about the band can be found at .

Thursday, May 27, 2010

More standout sets at Doheny Blues Fest

Here is my review of day 2 of the 13th annual Doheny Blues Festival. My review was originally published on the O.C. Register Web site (Soundcheck Blog) on Monday, May 24, 2010.

After catching the majority of the dozen-plus artists who performed Saturday at the first half of the 13th annual Doheny Blues Festival, I returned to Dana Point on Sunday ready for more.

Day 2 delivered a mostly different lineup, though several standouts from Day 1 returned, albeit in changed roles and settings.

Taj Mahal, who turned in a fantastic set Saturday with his Phantom Blues Band on the main stage, kicked things off Sunday morning by fronting his self-named trio on the more intimate Backporch Stage.

The 68-year-old singer-songwriter is a true pioneer, widely recognized as one of the first blues musicians to fuse those roots with sounds from Africa, Hawaii and the Caribbean. While he demonstrated that range of influences with his Saturday set, Mahal’s stripped-down approach on Sunday was focused squarely on the blues, his mighty voice and strong personality making this second performance a winner whether he played guitar, keyboards or banjo. Among the highlights were “TV Mama,” his fretwork sterling throughout the tune, and the playful “Fishin’ Blues.”

Jackie Greene, who had the finest set on Saturday, also performed scaled-back as part of a trio on Sunday. Word must have got out quickly about the power of Greene, because there was the same excitement and capacity-crowd dynamics in the area around the Backporch that greeted Taj Mahal earlier that morning.
Indeed, though Greene performed several songs he had spotlighted the day before, this time the vibe was entirely different. Acoustic renditions of “Gone Wanderin’” and “Uphill Mountain” allowed his voice to shine, while songs such as “Don’t Let the Devil Take Your Mind” in this up-close setting showcased his impressive skills as a songwriter in the tradition of Dylan, Springsteen and Mellencamp.

Kim Wilson was one of the busiest musicians of the weekend, as the harmonica virtuoso led the Fabulous Thunderbirds through a full-length set on Saturday before returning Sunday morning for an hour-long set with Nathan James, as well as a guest appearance with the Otis Taylor Band.

Just as Greene’s Saturday set was one of those captivating appearances fans will remember for years to come, so was Taylor’s performance Sunday afternoon. There was such power to the way he connected with the audience, heightening the encounter with cameos (including Eric Lindell at one point). Taylor is a gifted guitarist, his chops and arrangements enhanced here by the teamwork of fiddler Anne Harris, lead guitarist J.P. Johnson, drummer Larry Thompson, bassist/mandolin player Nick Amodeo and pedal steel whiz Chuck Campbell.

My other favorite performance from Day 2 came from John Németh — backed by his seven-man revue, fully capable of bringing the singer-songwriter-harmonica player’s fusion of soul and traditional R&B to life, he could seemingly do no wrong. Young performers are often afraid to slow things down too much at a fest, lest audiences wander off. Not Németh (pictured above). The audience that crowded around the Renaissance Stage seemed to love soulful ballads like “Why Not Me” as much as more powerful stuff, like the self-explanatory “Funky Feelin’.”

Coming in near the top of the pack was a wonderful appearance from veteran singer Bettye LaVette, featuring some of the sharp covers featured on her new album Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, due Tuesday. It was refreshing to see the talented singer sit down on stage (not on a chair, but on the stage) to sing a fully reworked blues version of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” then follow that up later in the set with a jaw-dropping version of the Who classic “Love Reign O’er Me,” with LaVette’s incredible voice more than capable of the heavy lifting that song requires.

Surprisingly, the day’s final three performers didn’t impress as much as they should. After watching excellent guitarist and vocalist Duke Robillard jam through a few songs, I wanted to make sure I caught the Robert Cray Band. Yet, perhaps because I have seen Cray & Co. so many times over the years, I found myself not particularly interested in his set — even during his signature hit “Smoking Gun.”

Meanwhile, Booker T. performed a pleasing set of classic R&B and instrumental material, naturally featuring his 1962 staple “Green Onions” — but the ensemble had the misfortune of following Taylor’s mind-blowing set, and suffered by comparison.

Finally, as much as I remain a fan of classic material from Crosby, Stills & Nash, including many of the titles they performed in their 90-minute headlining appearance on Sunday, watching the trio struggle to hit many of the notes that bind together those famous harmonies … well, maybe it was better that they were sometimes drowned out by the party people around me.

There were moments of magic in the set, particularly during the nine-minute rendition of “Wooden Ships.” But “Southern Cross” and “Our House,” for instance, lacked the precision and beauty that should now be routine for these Hall of Famers.

Stretching the limits at the Doheny Blues Festival

The following review was originally posted on the Orange County Register/Soundcheck blog on Sunday, May 23, 2010. I took the photo of Jackie Greene on May 22 at the 13th annual Doheny Blues Festival.

Maybe “13″ is lucky after all — seeing as the first half of the 13th annual Doheny Blues Festival played out superbly on a beautiful Saturday (May 22, 2010) in Dana Point filled with sunshine and cool breezes, while a parade of classic acts and rising stars heated things up across the event’s three stages.

Blues may have been the sonic glue holding together this far-flung lineup, but the truth is that many of the artists featured during Day 1 use traditional blues as only one small ingredient in their respective stews. Indeed, the day’s five best sets came from acts not normally associated with the blues.

The Black Crowes have always blended the loose, rootsy rock of Exile on Main St.-era Rolling Stones with Southern rock heroes like the Allman Brothers, and there were plenty of blues-influenced licks in the guitar solos that enhanced their jams. Yet few fans of the band think of it as primarily a blues band. Nevertheless, brothers Chris and Rich Robinson led their troupe, due to go on indefinite hiatus at the end of the year, through an energetic and wide-ranging 90-minute set of old and new stuff.

While the bulk of the crowd went crazy for the group’s hits (“Jealous Again,” “She Talks to Angels”), it was also invigorating to hear the band tear through fare like “Been a Long Time (Waiting on Love),” a nuanced blues-rocker off its terrific double-album from last year, Before the Frost … Until the Freeze.

But as strong as the Crowes were in their full-length performance, I thought several newcomers were equally stirring earlier in the afternoon.

Delivering the last performance of the day on the Renaissance Stage, San Francisco-based Jackie Greene blended rock, blues, alt-country, folk and more in an outstanding 75-minute set that really allowed him to introduce his wealth of talents and range as an artist.

The last time I had seen Greene was at the Doheny Heritage Music Festival in May 2004, where he performed solo and seemed destined to remain only a folkie singer-songwriter. Returning to Dana Point for two sets this weekend (he played again Sunday), Greene has proved that he hasn’t let his gifts go to waste.
Backed by a top-notch trio on Saturday, he primarily touched on material from his 2008 album Giving Up the Ghost plus new gems from the forthcoming Till the Light Comes, due June 29 from 429 Records. Opening with “I Don’t Live in a Dream,” a fantastic original song that has a dreamy, neo-psychedelic quality yet retains folk roots, Greene later performed a short medley of Beatles songs, including a reworked version of “Taxman” with an extended jam at the end.

Also standing out: Big Sam’s Funky Nation, who instantly made it clear they came to party. Booked on the Backporch Stage, which typically hosts acoustic performances, the Louisiana-based quintet launched into a high-octane blend of soul, funk and a bit of blues that soon had young and old attendees on their feet and moving to the music. The highlight of their set was a funked-out take on the Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle” (written by Otis Redding, of course) which is also featured on the Nation’s King of the Party disc.

Earlier on the Backporch Stage, Burbank-based James Intveld mined country and rockabilly of the ’40s and ‘50s without sounding like a knock-off. Highlights included the pretty country-folk of “Cryin’ Over You” and the up-tempo “Something You Can’t Buy.”

Speaking of acts that weren’t strictly blues, Lisa Haley and the Zydekats brought a decidedly Cajun flavor to the Doheny Stage early on. An effective singer and fiddle player, Haley made her set a celebration of Louisiana roots music via material sung in both English and French.

And no assessment of Doheny Day 1 would be complete without mentioning the powerhouse appearance by Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. Mixing James Brown with Otis Redding and then injecting that sound with steroids, Lewis and his band roared through almost two dozen songs in about an hour. At times they seemed like a straight-up soul band, at others they evoked a more proper blues vibe — but no matter the approach, the infectious energy of the group was undeniable.

Of course, the event still featured many well-known blues heroes, too, including a frequent name at Doheny that seldom disappoints: the Fabulous Thunderbirds. As his Texas blues troupe churned up the crowd with upbeat hits (“Tuff Enuff,” “Wrap It Up”), frontman Kim Wilson reminded that he’s still one of the genre’s most skilled harp players.

Other winning and more blues-based performances came courtesy of Brazil’s Igor Prado, who has a mighty baritone voice and guitar skills to match, and Flat Top Tom, who kicked things off at the 11:15 a.m. start.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

DEVO reveal results of first-ever song study focus group

For fellow fans of DEVO, I wanted to share the good news that many of the excellent new tracks the legendary band has been performing in concert are set to be included in an upcoming release. I saw the band perform "Fresh" and other new stuff at Coachella last month and I can't wait!

12 Tracks selected for band's June 15, 2010 album 'Something for Everbody,' by fans and critics

Catch DEVO performing live on the "Late Show With David Letterman," "The Colbert Report" and "Live With Regis & Kelly" the week of June 14

Burbank, CA –At last, DEVO have announced the results of their first-ever online Song Study, which has determined which 12 songs are included on their upcoming album Something For Everybody, due from Warner Bros. Records on Tuesday, June 15, 2010.

In a bold maneuver, never before attempted by any band, DEVO invited fans and members of the music media to take part in the album’s final song selections process by casting their vote for their favorite 12 of 16 recorded tracks that would ultimately comprise SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY. The results of the Song Study, in order of votes, were announced via a May 18th online press conference with band members Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale. They are as follows: "Something For Everybody," in order of fan votes: "Watch Us Work It, " "Fresh, " "Sumthin'," "Don't Shoot, (I'm A Man)," "Step Up," "Signal Ready," "What We Do," "Please Baby Please," "Let's Get To It," "Mind Games," "Later is Now," and "Human Rocket." Watch the online press conference, announcing the results of the online Song Study here:

Though the songs recorded for Something for Everybody are built on DEVO’s signature mechanized swing, the recording and presentation of the album saw the band experimenting with an entirely new approach. Greg Scholl was brought in to serve as COO for Devo, Inc., and — working with the advertising agency Mother LA — conducted a series of studies through the band’s official site,, to help the band with its creative decisions, from color selection to song mixes. To illustrate this fact, fans and music critics were invited to listen to snippets of 16 songs and vote on which 12 should make the final cut for Something for Everybody.

"We decided to actively seek comment and criticism from outside people and use that as a tool, rather than shunning or ignoring it," says Gerald Casale. "Our experiences participating in secondary creativity — things like corporate consensus building, focus groups — make you appreciate the connection that an artist has to society."

The long-rumored, wildly-anticipated album (which was launched with a pair memorable performances in Vancouver at the Winter Olympics and also at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, CA.) features the band's classic line-up—Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, Gerald and Bob Casale—joined by drummer Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, Guns n' Roses, Weezer). Produced by Greg Kurstin (The Bird & The Bee), the album also includes contributions from John Hill and Santi White (better known as hip-hop star Santigold), John King of the Dust Brothers, and the Teddybears.

DEVO will be making several high-profile television appearances the week that Something for Everybody is released. They will perform on The Late Show With David Letterman on June 15th, The Colbert Report on June 16th, and Regis & Kelly on June 18th.

DEVO will also kick off their summer tour with a performance at the 2010 KROQ Weenie Roast on Saturday, June 5, in Irvine, CA. Confirmed DEVO tour dates are as follows:

Sat June 5 Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Irvine, CA
Sat June 19 The Crown Theatre Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV
Sat July 3 Zoo Amphitheater Minneapolis, MN
Sun July 4 Summerfest-Miller Stage Milwaukee, MI
Tues July 6 Power Center for the Performing Arts Ann Arbor, MI
Thurs July 8 The Town Ballroom Buffalo, NY
Fri July 9 Amphitheatre at Station Square Pittsburgh, PA
Sat July 10 Forecastle Festival Louisville, KY
Wed July 28 TBA
Sun Aug 1 Osheaga Festival Montreal, QC
Wed Aug 4 Ohio City Fair Columbus, OH
Fri Aug 6 Lollapalooza Chicago, IL
Sat Sept 18 Tempe Beach Park Tempe, AZ


13th Annual Doheny Blues Fest is coming!

Jackie Greene Photo credit: Jay Blakesburg

Here is a reposting of my full-length feature published on the Orange County Register Soundcheck blog on May 18, 2010. I hope to see many of you at the festival this weekend!

New faces, old friends slated to perform this weekend at 13th annual Doheny Blues Festival

For those who might be on the fence, still determining whether it would be better to attend the annual Doheny Blues Festival on Saturday or Sunday this weekend, there’s an easy answer:

Go both days.

With such a wide-ranging lineup of legendary veterans, blues-fest favorites and powerful, genre-defying up-and-comers scheduled to play across three stages, the fact that the O.C.-based concert promoter staging the event hasn’t raised ticket prices enables die-hards and lookie-loos alike to take in the whole relaxed shebang next weekend just off the sand at Doheny State Beach.

That said, act fast: VIP and Gold tickets for both days are already gone, “the earliest sell out in our 13-year history,” reports Rich Sherman, president of Omega Events.

This year’s star-packed lineup pretty much guarantees that both days will attract record crowds. The Black Crowes headline Saturday, topping a bill that includes Taj Mahal, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and touted newcomers Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, while the decidedly un-blues Hall of Fame group Crosby, Stills & Nash will close out the proceedings Sunday evening, after performances from soul legends Booker T. and Bettye LaVette as well as blues greats Robert Cray, Otis Taylor and Duke Robillard.

Neither the Crowes nor CS&N has ever appeared at Doheny Blues. “Both were on our radar for years,” Sherman explained, “but each had a significant end to 2009, which is the timeframe when we begin sending offers.”

The Crowes, riding high off last year’s critically lauded double-album Before the Frost … Under the Freeze, recorded at Levon Helm’s barn studio in upstate New York, are arguably the weekend’s chief attraction, heightened by the recent announcement that the band will go on indefinite hiatus at the end of the year, following a December show at the Hollywood Palladium.

“The Crowes released one of their finest albums in years,” Sherman believes, “and they are definitely as vital a blues-rock outfit as any in the U.S.” As for CS&N’s inclusion: “In October, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary concerts, (they) stood out as a pillar of American music … a band that was as important to the growth of the California music scene as any.”


Yet, beyond standard offerings that keep concert-goers coming back year after year — the laid-back atmosphere, tasty food choices and unusually scenic location — there are smaller though no less significant reasons to check out both days of Doheny Blues this year.

For starters, San Francisco-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jackie Greene — one of the sharpest new figures on the Americana scene — will perform with his band on Saturday, then return to play an early-afternoon acoustic set on the Backporch stage on Sunday.

Greene is accustomed to performing for huge crowds as a sideman with the Dead and bassist Phil Lesh, yet his own work finds him filling intimate clubs. “It was my goal to present both sides of Jackie’s music,” Sherman says, “so our offer was firm — it’s two sets of music or none.”

Greene will likely spotlight material from his outstanding 2008 disc, Giving Up the Ghost, as well as his wonderful forthcoming disc, Till the Light Comes (due June 29 from 429 Records). Those who have seen the 29-year-old Salinas native as he’s come up through the ranks (notably opening for hotshot guitarist Jonny Lang throughout this past decade) may recall how much his focus had been on acoustic material, especially from his 2002 album Gone Wanderin’. Fans who haven’t seen him since then may be floored by his phenomenal growth as a songwriter and musician.

“It’s funny — if somebody had Gone Wanderin’ and then heard this (new) record, they wouldn’t even think it was the same person,” Greene explained in a recent phone interview while he was putting finishing touches on his latest album at the San Francisco studio Mission Bells.

Now, after spending much of his first decade in music playing as many live shows as possible, Greene’s undeniable talent and work ethic are paying off, leading not only to high-profile slots like his coming Doheny sets but collaborations with many of his musical heroes. Thus far, he has shared the stage with Lesh, Bob Weir’s RatDog ensemble, Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule, as well as former Band drummer and singer Helm.

Given so much work with such jam-leaning friends, it’s not unthinkable that Greene’s Doheny performances will be somewhat stretched-out. “We definitely have more of a psychedelic element where we experiment on stage,” he admits. “We tie songs together, kind of like the Grateful Dead,” though the extent of such out-there forays “depends on our set time. If we only have one hour, we may not get too crazy. It really depends how I’m feeling … I don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s what makes it fun for me.”

As does ditching the jams and going for a mellower approach instead — for instance, last year’s acoustic tour that found Greene performing with one of his closest friends, Mother Hips frontman Tim Bluhm, under the moniker Skinny Singers. The guitarist also has a prominent role on Greene’s next disc.

“I had a whole group of songs that I needed some help with to finish,” Greene explains, “so Tim and I took a retreat up the coast and he helped me.” It’s the first time Greene has included co-written songs on one of his albums. “Sometimes you need someone else to help you step back from yourself. You need the perspective of someone you trust to step back from your own work and then give you new perspective on it and inspire you to do different things. That was definitely the case with Tim.”


Here’s one more Bay Area-based reason to head to Dana Point next weekend: John Németh, a rising star known for his triple-threat talents as a soul singer, harmonica virtuoso and songwriter.

Németh first appeared at Doheny Blues in 2007, performing with guitarist Junior Watson on the heels of his debut, Magic Touch. He also shared the stage with Elvin Bishop in 2009, but finally arrives this year as a featured performer, bringing his John Németh Revue to the Renaissance Stage Sunday afternoon in support of Name the Day!, due Tuesday from blues mainstay Blind Pig Records.

Admirers of the giants of traditional R&B — Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke — should definitely arrive early to catch Németh’s set, as he boasted during a recent chat from his Oakland home that he’ll be playing his latest album in its entirety.

“Fortunately, the musicians who like recording with me also tour with me, (so) I have the same most of the time.” That also enables him to cut records down and dirty and in a hurry. “I book a couple of days and knock out 12-13 cuts. Then I take a couple of days to mix it up …I like that. If you spend (too much time) to work on it, maybe you should work on it before you go in.”

But Németh realizes that if it weren’t for events like Doheny Blues, he might languish even longer in relative obscurity. At a time when it’s harder than ever for blues artists to find supportive audiences, Németh says the contributions of Sherman and other champions of the live circuit are inestimable. It’s because of such growing festivals that he’s been introduced to potential fans.

“The only reason I’m around and doing it (is) there are people who want to support the musicians and the music,” he says. “The records I make aren’t commercial tools; they are made to present cool music.” For them to ever get heard, then, “You have to have people who support cool music … like Rich Sherman.”

Monday, May 03, 2010

Walter Trout's 'Common Ground' set for release on Tuesday, July 6

Photo cutline: I caught this image of singer-songwriter-guitarist Walter Trout at the Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point, California on May 21, 2005.

New York --- Provogue Records has announced a July 6 street date for Walter Trout’s 19th solo album COMMON GROUND. From the origins of his career as a sideman for Percy Mayfield and John Lee Hooker, through his tenure with Canned Heat and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and then a successful solo career that has seen the release of 18 albums thus far, Walter Trout has emerged as one of America’s musical treasures. The Huntington Beach, California resident has enjoyed a career that spans 35 years, and has performed in front of millions. BBC Radio One placed Trout at number six on their Top 20 guitarists of all-time, offering tribute to a player whose place in history continues to become more significant as the years go on. On titling the album COMMON GROUND, Trout shares, “In this modern world which seems to be so filled with polarization, disagreements, and cruelty, I feel that it is important that we try to find SOME place where we can bond and come together in our common humanity!”

Trout’s forthcoming solo album COMMON GROUND was produced by John Porter (The Smiths, B.B. King, Buddy Guy), and straddles the worlds of Rock and Blues. His vocal intonation and affinity for timeless riffs deliver a collection of tracks that are destined to be instant classics. These songs simply are the core essence of feeling, and demonstrate Trout’s keen ability to craft moving compositions as a songwriter and lyricist. On working with Porter, the musician reflects, “John Porter has an uncanny ability to draw performances from me that I didn't know that I was capable of. I would play a solo or sing a song and think that I had done well, and John would just say to me: ‘that was good - but I know you can do better!’ And I would try it again, only to find out that he was right! He is really brilliant at what he does.” Drummer Kenny Aronoff, bassist Hutch Hutchinson and pianist John Cleary join Trout as his backing band for the sessions that delivered this special recording.

Trout just wrapped up the first-leg of his worldwide tour, and returns to the road May 19th with a string of dates overseas before returning to the U.S. in June. Visit or for more details.

The complete track listing for COMMON GROUND is:

Maybe A Fool
Open Book
Her Other Man
Song For My Guitar
Excess Baggage
Hudson Had Help
Common Ground
Danger Zone
Eyes Of A Child
No Regrets
Loaded Gun
Wrapped Up In The Blues