Monday, January 29, 2018

Strawberry Champagne All Night - Or Why The Grammys Don't Matter Anymore

Following the Grammys professionally for about 30 years, I didn't even tune in anymore, rather watching "Dirty Money" on Netflix. They actually should make an episode about the music business. I volunteer to be a consultant. Music has become like food, GMO mass-produced lowest common denominator cRap preferred over a home-cooked meal. What once used to be an award with respect, even so often delayed in the game, when artists who were ready to "retire", got bestowed with a gazillion of awards, decades into their careers. 

Don't get me wrong, I love the late Leonard Cohen, but "You Want It Darker" of the album with the same title is great but it's not a rock song, Snubbing R.L. Boyce or Guy Davis and Fabrizio Poggi for traditional blues and giving that award to British import The Rolling Stones, really. Nothing against the club of septuagenarians, they always made a living siphoning of the blues, but they are a rock band and not a traditional blues band. To have a Michael Jackson wannabe in Bruno Mars winning best R&B album and ignoring PJ Morton just adds to my point. Even in country music, I do like Chris Stapleton and I do love the fresh approach he is infusing into what by now is nothing but a bubble-gum genre. I even had his two albums in my 10 of 2017. And I like the fact that the jokesters Nashville is producing, got snubbed by him. But he's a great Americana artist, with some country influences at best.

Artists in every genre were always influenced by artists before them, there is always a chip of the old block, who gets you inspired, started. But Bruno Mars, who also tries to impress as wannabe Elvis and Prince may best deserve a pop recognition, but not Record, Album and Song of the year. Due to a lawsuit, he had to add the Gap Band as co-creators to his big hit with Mark Ronson "Uptown Funk" and there are still two other lawsuits pending. Female Rap-Trio The Sequence claim their "Funk You Up" as well as Zapp & Roger saying their "More Bounce To The Ounce" were both used in that Grammy-winning composition. Talking about copying and pasting, RME Ed Sheeran who won Best Pop Song for "Shape Of You" had to add the writers of TLC‘s 1999 hit “No Scrubs” to the song, after he got sued.

But I guess it's all well suited, considering the red carpet and how artists were dressed, getting more press today than actual memorable performances at the award show. Case in point, why take Eric Clapton's beautiful ballad "Tears In Heaven" to honor the victims of the recent shooting in Las Vegas. The sparse production was all right, but why not choose a country song like Vince Gill's "Go Rest High On That Mountain," or even Steve Wariner's "Hole In The Floor Of Heaven" or as outlandish as it sounds actually write a tribute song to these victims. Maybe ask Alan Jackson for some help, his showstopper "Where Were You, When The World Stop Turning" about the fall of the Twin Towers in New York, premiered just two months later at the CMA Awards. Talking about the CMA Awards, Little Big Town sang "Better Man" there in 2016, so they won with it almost two years later at the Grammys and I'm sure that Taylor Swift's penning the song had nothing to do with the band winning.
It is nice to see Chris Stapleton and Emmylou Harris pairing up for a tribute to the late Tom Petty, but why not asking Chris Hillman, Herb Pederson, and John Jorgenson, who recorded "Wildflowers" with Petty as the producer for Hillman's "BIDIN' MY TIME?"

And then there is, what the genius' call "American Roots Music," now as the words imply this has a foundation, but it is shunned by the telecast. May it be string music from Appalachia, singer/songwriters, too a certain degree country, blues, folk, bluegrass and the hodgepodge called Americana, it's mostly music that matters, lyrical-, regional- or music-wise. But it has become the collection basin of what used to be in the Rock, the Country, and the Blues or even the Pop-Charts. If Bonnie Raitt would have released "Nick of Time" in 2017 instead of 1989, she wouldn't have won album of the year but would have been nominated as Best American Roots Performance.
Another point - the Rolling Stones won their, can you quick guess it, their THIRD Grammy. Talking about relevance and how screwed up this whole gramophone business is.

So from the pond of love here are some "rootsy" winners - Alabama Shakes took away the Performance category with "Killer Diller Blues," "If We Were Vampires" by Jason Isbell the song honors and best album for "THE NASHVILLE SOUND." The Infamous Stringdusters couldn't count on the "LAWS OF GRAVITY" and had to share the best Bluegrass album with Rhonda Vincent And The Rage's live album "IN CONCERT VOLUME ONE."

So below are a couple of videos you may have missed and which may have deserved that golden gramophone more than the actual winners. As people are tuning out, like me - the early ratings-game speaks volumes, overall viewership sunk by several millions, numbers indicating the show fell 26% in the key demo, meaning adults 18-49 years old. So be it, let it go.

Sources:, wire services, youtube,

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Anderson East - Fulminate Start Into The New Year With "ENCORE" - Album Review

Anderson East's sophomore album "ENCORE" - released on Friday (1/12) - lives up to the expectations the title may suggest, it's a great follow up to his major debut "DELILAH." Miranda Lambert's new beau is suddenly all over the map, from NPR's First Listen to the HuffPost and he deserves it. He and producer Dave Cobb are setting a high standard, for what's coming out from the music city on the Cumberland, very early 2018. 

Even though Nashville-based, Alabamian Michael Anderson aka  East is not a country artist, the only thing remotely country is his romantical relationship and him covering Willie Nelson's 20-year old standout from "TEATRO" "Somebody Pick Up My Pieces." which with its background choir and arrangement sounds more Joe Cocker than the subdued Texas troubadour. Yes, Anderson digs deeper into the swampy soundscape, like a Delbert McClinton, a Tony Joe White or Irishman Van Morrison his music has no boundaries, he embeds Southern Soul, R&B, Gospel and even Pop into his oeuvre.
The folk-bluesy Ted Hawkins song, the funny "Sorry You're Sick," from the '82 debut album "WATCH YOUR STEP" with its lyrics:
What do want from the liquor store
Something sour or something sweet
I'll buy all that your belly can hold.
You can be sure you won't suffer no more.
now roars and make the offer to help out as a doctor even more insisting.

On six of the nine originals, East again partners with songwriter Aaron Raitiere, who now writes for producer Dave Cobb's stable, as does Adam Hood who appears as the third co-writer on "Surrender," a song that could be straight out of Ike and Tina Turner's songbook. 
Natalie Hemby, who had ten songs recorded by Lambert "FOR THE WEIGHT OF THESE WINGS" and released her own album 'PUXICO" last year, completes the trio on "This Too Shall Last" and "House Is A Building." latter a song that life is only complete when the partner is in it, where the house as a building becomes a home with feeling.
Old friend Chris Stapleton helped on the slow heartbreaker "If You Keep Leaving Me"/I keep loving you and he and his wife Morgane got together with Anderson to write "King For A Day" while they were on tour together. Even though not a boiler, the simmering piece with Stapleton as a guest on the six-string, is one of best songs on the album.
And even if your heart can't
Look my way
Even if our love can't
Stay together
I'd rather be king for a day
Than a fool forever 

"All On My Mind" was a sketch brought to East by Ed Sheeran and Johnny McDaid from Snow Patrol and that song does not fit on "Encore." With its lush strings and a subdued Anderson, it sounds like this is the one song the record label will push onto the radio to make Anderson East into the star they want him to be. He's better than that.
At the very end of the album is another outstanding, yet somber storyteller "Cabinet Door"; from the perspective of an elderly widower trying to cope with the loss of his wife, East and Jillia Jackson wrote a lyrical gem of how to try to cope with everyday life after your partner of many years has passed:
I found your old cook books but the biscuits ain't right
How do you work this damn coffee pot?
And all my shirt tails are wrinkled but the bed is still made
Cause your smell still lingers on where you laid

Again pairing with non-mainstream producer Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell) the album seems to have an organic feel to it, still embracing the tradition but with an updated more modern approach to it. Cobb was not only at the helm of the board, but also participated as a musician and a co-writer on "Girlfriend" with help from Swedish pop icon Avicii, Raitiere and East. With its infatuation lyrics and it's lush synth (Moog) sound, lusting after a friend's fiancee is a romp on the disc. Too bad he couldn't transfer that energy to the live performance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Brother, we might have a problem
Cause she’s staring me down and I’m tempted
And I ain’t going to say I’m sorry now
I think I’m in love with your girlfriend

****/***** 4/5

Anderson starts his tour behind "ENCORE" in Europe, so friends in the UK, Germany, and Sweden take notice. He will then come back and tour in the US, starting in Dallas in February. You find his touring schedule on his website.

JAN 24 - Omera - London, UK (sold out)
JAN 26 - Blaues Zimmer, Musik & Frieden - Berlin, D
JAN 27 - Nochtspeicher - Hamburg, D (sold out)
JAN 28 - Music Hall - Worpswede, D
JAN30 - Kagalbanan Soedra Teatern, Stockholm, S

Sources: Anderson East, NPR First Listen,

Friday, January 12, 2018

Ryan Bingham - Live From Texas - Album Review

"RYAN BINGHAM LIVE" is his first live album. Recorded at the Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, Texas on August 6, 2016, this compilation only features part of that almost two-hour concert, which at the time was live-streamed on gaming platform Twitch in connection with Amazon - I blogged about it here. The whole concert is still available on Amazon Prime as a stream or as a video download. 

It seems that some versions (digital & CD) of this album were available through Amazon, but now have a national distributor in Thirty Tigers and added the LP format. The album is now also available on iTunes and Spotify.

The Oscar, Gloden Globe and Grammy winner, who came to prominence with his co-write of "The Weary Kind" with T-Bone Burnett for the 2009 movie "Crazy Heart" (which won Jeff Bridges also the Oscar for best actor) was touring behind his studio album "FEAR AND SATURDAY NIGHT," when he made his stop outside of New Braunfels.

Playing in front of a solid rhythm section, Nate Barnes on drums and Shawn Davis on bass, backed by guitarists Daniel Sproul and Jedd Hughes, latter also on mandolin and as special guest Richard Bowden (Maines Brothers Band, Austin Lounge Lizards) providing all those hot fiddle licks, Bingham went through 19 tracks in this almost two-hour show. Most hailed from his major 2007 debut "MESCALITO," including a great version of his single "Southside of Heaven." Four songs stem from "FEAR AND SATURDAY NIGHT" and two each from "ROADHOUSE SUN" and "JUNKY STAR."

Besides his album cuts Ryan also included covers by Townes Van Zandt "Pancho & Lefty," Guy Clark "Dublin Blues," and Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried." It was really nice to see, Bingham including two songs of the then recently departed Clark and Haggard in front of such an enthusiastic crowd. Unfortunately, these cover versions are missing from the audio releases, as well as two "MESCALITO" compositions, the original opening song of the evening "Dollar A Day" and "Ever Wonder Why." Available though for the first time outside of the official soundtrack, is the above-mentioned theme song of the Grammy-winning movie "Crazy Heart," "The Weary Kind."

The clip below is from the live recording, the song "Radio" was originally released on "FEAR AND SATURDAY NIGHT."

Live-Concert ****(*)/***** 4.5/5
Audio products ***/*****3/5 (due to missing songs)

Sources: Amazon Concert Live Stream, Ryan Bingham, Releases.Red

Monday, January 8, 2018

Happy Birthday David Bowie - Let's Dance (Demo) released today

Original flyer for "Let's Dance"
Happy 71st birthday, David Bowie. 
To celebrate it right, record company, Parlophone, released the until now, unreleased, original demo for "Let's Dance" recorded in 1982 in Switzerland.

According to the press release from Parlophone, Nile Rodgers was visiting David at his home in Switzerland to talk about the songs which would be on his then-new album "LET'S DANCE"

Nile remembers: "This recording was the first indication of what we could do together as I took his 'folk song' and arranged it into something that the entire world would soon be dancing to and seemingly has not stopped dancing to for the last 35 years! It became the blueprint not only for Let’s Dance the song but for the entire album as well."

On a creative high and inspired by all the new compositions that Bowie had written, Nile and David decided to record some demos, but they had no band to do so. With the help of the late Montreux Jazz Festival organizer "funky" Claude Nobs, they secured rock band Queen's Mountain Studio (now a museum) then still inside the Montreux Casino. Claude was also responsible to provide the duo with some additional musicians to record the demos. One was Turkish born Erdal Kizilcay, who would later work extensively with Bowie on "LABYRINTH" (86), "THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA" (93) and "1. OUTSIDE" (95).

Speaking of those early “Let’s Dance” pre-production sessions, Nile Rodgers commented: “I’ve been blessed with a wonderful career but my creative partnership with David Bowie ranks very, very, very high on the list of my most important and rewarding collaborations. This demo gives you, the fans, a bird's eye view of the very start of it! I woke up on my first morning in Montreux with David peering over me. He had an acoustic guitar in his hands and exclaimed, ‘Nile, darling, I think this is a hit!’"

So 35 years later Nile Rodgers and Russell Graham mixed the demo at Nile’s Le Crib Studios in Westport, Connecticut to be able to release the song demo for the first time.

By the way - the record company, not knowing who played drums and the 2nd guitar, is looking for the musicians that were involved in this legendary recording at Mountain Studios in Montreux, on December, 19th & 20th, 1982, engineered by the late David Richards, the famous Queen producer.
At the end of the track, Bowie’s voice can be heard laughing saying "That’s it, that’s it! Got it, got it!”. And Bowie was right, it became a huge hit all over the world.

Sources: David Bowie (flyer), Parlophone, Spotify