Tag Archives: Allman Brothers Band

A True Guitar Festival – Crossroads Night One (4/12/13)

21 Apr

Eric Clapton Crossroads (DAVID HANDSCHUH/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Within the first ten minutes of the first night of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, I turned to my buddy and exclaimed, well, “that was better than an encore. Do we go home now?” Behind the attempted humor, I was serious in my sentiments.To open the show, Eric Clapton and guests greeted an enthusiastic full house at Madison Square Garden with a five-song acoustic set that drifted and jived through Clapton staples like “Lay Down Sally” and “Wonderful Tonight.” Clapton invited artists like Vince Gill and Andy Fairweather Low on stage, the latter of which sang tremendous lead vocals on his song “Spider Jivin” – the second song of the night. Clapton began the concert with “Driftin.” In the middle of his opening set, Clapton performed “Tears in Heaven,” which he has unearthed for his 50th Anniversary Tour. The song, written in response to the death of Clapton’s four-year-old son, is as potent as it is simple. Because of its subject, Clapton rarely plays it (last time before this tour was in 2003). Hearing him perform the song live was well worth the price of admission.

At the helm of the show was emcee and original Blues Brother, Dan Akroyd, who introduced artists and, prior to the concluding set by the Allman Brothers, performed a rousing version of “Got My Mojo Working” with Keb ‘Mo. In reviewing my notes from the show – and recalling my euphoric loquaciousness during/after the show, I realize now that despite my pre-show expectation to see a slew of revered guitar gods, I couldn’t quite grasp how overwhelming and ethereal the concert would be. Perhaps the “kid in a candy store” axiom might suffice in describing the crowd’s zeal, but I believe it may be a little weak. There was an infectious gregariousness to the crowd; this wonderful atmosphere of musical passion and friendship. It was as if the guitar community was coming together for a convention, a mind-blowing convention.

Let’s face it; the entire five-hour concert was a highlight. It was a virtual all-star game of guitarists. I intended on marking down some highlights of the night, but I ended up typing furiously on my cell phone (and then my friend’s cell phone after my battery depleted) just to keep up with the plethora of highlights. For your reading pleasure, I have narrowed down my thumb-tiring list of typed highlights to just three major performances during the show. Before I get to the top three of the night (not counting the Clapton solo set I mentioned above), let me commend Booker T and Steve Cropper for their set (the first after Clapton’s acoustic opener). Paired with Blake Mills, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Keb Mo, Booker T and the NEW MG’s played a five-song set (concluding with “Green Onions) that featured a strong version of “Born Under a Bad Sign.”

Now on to the top 3…

3.) “Everyday I Have the Blues” with Robert Cray, B.B. King, Jimmie Vaughn & Eric Clapton

Blues royalty. Yeah, something like that. B.B. King, who is in possession of a personal fountain of youth, was electric for the few songs he sat in on. I particularly like this performance because it highlights the spirit of the festival. As these legends (King, Cray, Vaughn, and Clapton) playfully swapped and stole solos from each other, the crowd could almost smell the aroma of blues – which to me is a mixture of hard scotch and worn guitar strings. This jam is about as authentic as you can get. It is the blues. Strip away the stage, crowd, and allure, and there would still be four individuals playing the blues.

2.) “Don’t Let me Down” with John Mayer and Keith Urban

After a small set of original pieces, John Mayer summoned Keith Urban onto stage to complete a guitar duo for an electric performance of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let me Down.” There are so many things to like about this performance. A.) It’s an awesome cover of a Beatles’ song. B.) John Mayer and Keith Urban can flat-out kill it on the guitar. C.) They also can sing pretty damn well. D.) If you listen closely, the band adds several interesting influences into the song (country hints mixed with traditional blues). E.) Go to the 3:00 minute mark, refer back to B, and enjoy.

1.) “Whipping Post” with The Allman Brothers Band

12 minutes of pure, unadulterated, brilliance. Watching the Allman Brothers Band is always a treat, but they brought it to a completely different level for this concluding performance at Crossroads. The solos were that much more inspired, and the band played with some extra fire and oomph that propelled the song to the apex of awesome. Listening to the jam-packed crowd, five hours into the concert, belt out the familiar lyrics like it was the opening song was also spectacular.

Legendary show! And, all for a good cause.

Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 is Coming to NYC

27 Nov

In Middle/High school, my friend Josh and I were firmly in the musical minority. While the musical tastes of others impulsively changed with the charts, we were staunch in our love for classic Blues. That love was engendered by Eric Clapton. As teens, we created a “Clapton is God” AOL blog page expressing our adoration for the guitar legend. It was crudely done, but the purpose was clear. While others looked up to Eminem, we looked up to Eric Clapton.

Clapton has always represented a prodigious musical skill that transcends music itself. Not many musicians can transform from musician to icon, and those that do are often outspoken and flashy. With the power of a remarkably proficient playing style and a granular, experienced voice, Clapton has shaped and transformed the Blues. He has carried the torch of his inspirations to a new generation of music lovers and players. Heck, when Josh first learned guitar he immediately explored hammer-ons and pull-offs because of the seminal opening riff of “Layla.”

Thus, when Josh and I have the opportunity to see Eric Clapton, we do. We are only in our early 20s, though, so we have seen Clapton three times (we are lucky that we are located in a concert hub like New York). Soon we will add a fourth concert to the list, and, wow, what a concert it will be.

I will say I am not sure any concert can trump the Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood show at the Izod Center (6/10/09). That concert also sparked my first review for the Music Court (can be accessed there).

The Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 is coming to Madison Square Garden in April of 2013. Oddly enough, the first night of the two-night event falls on April 12, my friend Josh’s birthday. Quite a present, indeed. The Crossroads Guitar Festival is a triennial musical festival and benefit concert that features a hand-picked line-up of guitarists at Clapton’s discretion – so you can be assured it will be epic. The line-up has transformed since the first show in 2004. In 2010, the Festival was held in Chicago (also held in Illinois in 2007), and many of the artists that appeared in the 2010 show will perform at MSG in April.

The full list of performers (brace yourself) is:

  • Jeff Beck
  • Dave Biller
  • Booker T
  • Doyle Bramhall II
  • Allman Brothers Band
  • Gary Clark Jr.
  • Eric Clapton
  • Citizen Cope
  • Robert Cray
  • Andy Fairweather Low
  • Vince Gill
  • John Mayer
  • Blake Mills
  • Keb Mo
  • Brad Paisley
  • Robert Randolph
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Robbie Robertson
  • John Scofield
  • Keith Urban
  • Jimmy Vaughan
  • Buddy Guy
  • Allan Holdsworth
  • BB King
  • Earl Klugh
  • Sonny Landreth
  • Jonny Lang
  • Albert Lee
  • Los Lobos
  • Taj Mahal

Where do I begin? Seriously, it is like Thanksgiving dinner. There is turkey, stuffing, and sweet potato, and you just don’t know where to start. Luckily, the MSG stage will serve as a large plate and the audience will be able to feast their eyes AND ears on the music of these great musicians. Some artists serve obvious excitement. B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, and Albert Lee are legends. The Allman Brothers Band will make their first appearance at the Festival, and that has serious blow-your-socks off potential. Can I please ask for a rendition of “Layla” with Derek Trucks reprising Duane Allman’s role on slide guitar? I am also excited to see rising star Gary Clark Jr. play upon his Jimi Hendrix influence. I can just keep on saying I am also because I am excited about all acts.

It should be noted that all acts will NOT appear on both nights. With the amount of talent present, though, you will listen to something great! You will also be supporting a worthy cause. The Crossroads Centre, Antigua, was founded in 1998 to provide treatment to addicted individuals. As Clapton was once afflicted with addiction, this is a personal cause.

For those with tickets to the show, there will be free admission to a “Guitar Center Road to Crossroads Exhibition” which will feature a diverse display of guitar-related memorabilia including the “Legends Guitar Walk,” which will display some of the most expensive guitars in history. It’s like a mini Rock n’ Roll Hall-of-Fame exhibit on the Terrace Level of MSG. The exhibit opens at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 12 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.

Like the Guitar Fest on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.

TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets go on sale to the public this Friday (11/30) at Noon EST. They can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com. I will be on Ticketmaster frantically refreshing the page for tickets at 11:55 a.m.! See you there.

The Evolution of the Statesboro Blues

11 Apr

List five of the most famous blues songs you can think of. Was “Statesboro Blues” on your list? It is a mainstay on most lists not only because of its excellence as a song, but also because of its proliferation – i.e. the song was re-recorded by the right people. Even if “Statesboro Blues” didn’t find a spot on your list, it is certainly a staple of blues history and a widely recognized song today. You hear the opening few notes of the riff and hear “Wake up Mama, turn your lamp down low” and you just know you are traveling to Georgia to experience the Statesboro blues. But with whom are you traveling with. The original creator of the famous blues piece, the first modernizer, or the performers with arguably the best version of the song? I think we are in need of a Blues Evolution.

By the way, before I continue, if you are interested in the blues and want to learn more about famous originators check out the list that John Phillips is compiling over at the Real Canadian Music Blog. His Let’s Explore the Blues section offers a deep dive into pre-rock blues (http://therealcanadianmusicblog.wordpress.com/category/blues/)

The best way to explore the evolution of “Statesboro Blues” is to work backwards. Instead of starting in 1928, let’s start 43 years later at the Fillmore East in March of 1971. The Allman Brothers recorded a version of blues piece for their live album At Fillmore East, which is one of the most extraordinary live albums ever released. The song is now a staple during Allman Brothers’ concerts. Why did the song succeed initially? One name. Duane Allman. His slide work on “Statesboro Blues” is some of the greatest ever done by any guitarist ever. It is spine-tingling, goose-bump inducing, holy sh*t how is he making that sound, good. You can listen to it over and over again, transcribe it and play it until your fingers are blue and pulsating, NO ONE will ever play the slide guitar and this song like Duane Allman. Let’s not forget Dickey Betts who also creates a magical tone with his guitar. The riff is heavenly, the blues solo scary good, and the vocals fresh and original. The Allman Brothers makes the song theirs, which is partly why everyone thinks it is their song!

But it’s not. And it is not Taj Mahal’s either, who recorded a modernized version of the song for his eponymous debut album in 1968. The version, slower than the Allman Brothers piece, clearly influenced the Brothers. Taj Mahal’s voice is the strength of his version. I give him a whole lot of credit for turning this song into a late 60s blues piece, but he knocks the piece out with his chops. Listen here:

Will the real Statesboro Bluesman please stand up? Name is Willie McTell, Blind Willie Mctell. McTell was an early 20th century blues singer/songwriter/guitarist, with tremendous skill on the 12-string guitar – fingerstyle and slide (Allman inspiration of course). His music is more Eastern than Delta Blues. It is more ragtimey and his voice is not as granular as the deep south Delta blues performers like Big Joe Williams and Charley Patton.

The original lyric is different from the Taj Mahal and Allman Brothers versions of the song. The covers splice together parts of McTell’s original lyric, a narrative about some family struck with the Statesboro, Georgia blues. One of the most influential portions of the song is McTell’s fast-paced verse progression later in the song which is a bit atypical and certainly much appreciated. Anybody out there have the “Statesboro Blues?”

Tangled Up in Blue: The Bands

8 Sep

The Beatles were the most popular rock band throughout the 60s, and many believed their reign of supreme rock band could not be challenged. Well, I’m going to give you two bands that definitely could put up a legitimate fight.

Led Zeppelin wasn’t just a band of musicians, but a conduit to the dark side.  They didn’t have to tune down to ungodly low notes or play loud or fast for their music to be bad ass because they weren’t mere mortals.  Jimmy Page wasn’t a guitar god, Robert Plant didn’t sing like an angel, John Bonham didn’t play drums like a sissy and John Paul Jones’ bass lines weren’t stairways to heaven.  Page was a demon, Plant howled like a Viking warrior, Bonham played like he was at war with his drum set and Jones’ bass lines were chutes to hell.  Check out How the West Was Won for 10 minute drum and guitar solos from some of the most talented musicians who ever lived!

The Rolling Stones are one of the few bands that could compete with Zeppelin and the Beatles for popularity.  In fact, the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll band was formed as an anti-Beatles (despite singing Lennon/McCartney songs on their first few albums). They contrasted the Beatles’ finely tailored suits and mop-tops with rugged and dirty looks.  Their image, however, wasn’t just a front.  Their music was the blues with attitude and I don’t mean Tony Robbins keep a positive outlook on life attitude.  It was at times mean (check out “Bitch” on Sticky Fingers) and at times tender (check out “Angie” on Goat’s Head Soup) but they always played with Attitude with a capital A.  The Stones are recognized for their sustained popularity, but I want to bring up a band that was just as good.

Faces played a similar Honky Tonk blues style and they played it exceptionally well, albeit for lesser years.  Check out pre-pop Rod Stewart on vocals and Ronnie Wood (future member of the Stones) on guitar as they play a no-nonsense song about a one night stand.

The Stones and Zeppelin sold millions of studio records in their rise to popularity, but it was a live album that skyrocketed the Allman Brothers Band to stardom.  Unlike the previous bands, the Allman Brothers’ blend of blues was purely Southern and helped to create a Southern Rock sound emulated by many.  That album, Live at the Fillmore East, features two of the greats in the line of talented Allman Brothers Band guitarists.  Duane Allman’s slide guitar is unmatched and the interplay with Dickey Betts defines early Allman Brothers’ sound.  Current guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks are no slouches either.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey guys, Matt here. I just wanted to give Aaron Shipper, the author of this post, a full Music Court welcome. Aaron, a blues aficionado and lover of good music, has joined the small editorial staff at the Music Court and will be bringing you music posts in his “A Different Drummer” category two days a week. So, everyone please make Aaron feel at home!

The Allman Brothers At The Beacon – A Review

23 Mar

Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks - Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images North America

When you go see a band like the Allman Brothers, a band that plays with effortless technical proficiency, it is easy to make the assumption that you will hear excellent music. There is no doubt about that. But it would be a wide misconception to believe that the music will not be tinged with passion. Even with several dates at the Beacon Theatre, The Allman Brothers vary set-lists and demonstrate true fervent blues playing, without jeopardizing what made them a great band in the first place, pure talent.

The Beacon Theatre is a perfect venue for the Brothers. It maintains the feel of an old city playhouse with its intricate wall designs and large statues. The venue shoots you back in time. The vintage playhouse juxtaposed wonderfully with the Allman Brothers ode to blues that became a pervasive force in Tuesday night’s set-list.

The concert began with “Statesboro Blues,” a blues staple written by Blind Willie McTell turned into a huge Allman Brothers hit. The band came out immediately on fire with a wall-of-sound that combined Gregg Allman‘s voice with the three-man percussion brigade and Trucks and Haynes’ guitar work.

This was my first time seeing the Allman Brothers and I was unsure how Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes balanced the skill that both have. Haynes played rhythm for most of the night, but shared some solos with Derek on extended jams. Haynes’ voice never tired through the show, which was good because Gregg Allman faded as the show went on.

Allman’s lack of participation in the show was my only complaint. He sat behind the piano/keyboard for the entirety of the show and sang only a few times. Allman does have the best voice of the bunch. When he did call and response with Haynes, Allman won the vocal chops battle. Luckily, Allman picked an excellent band to support him, and they did for the majority of the show.

The band played nine songs during the first set, including a jazzy rendition of “The Weight” which included Steve Molitz on keys and Rich Robinson on guitar. Molitz, for those who don’t remember, was actually featured on this blog before with his side project Headtronics. He is an excellent keyboard player and it was awesome to see him live. (Check out that post here: https://musiccourt.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/open-your-mind-for-headtronics/)

A classic rendition of Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell” dominated the first set. It was not only an ode to a favorite blues musician, but, it displayed the wide range of musical talent that the band shares. Joining the Allman Brothers on stage was the Juke Horns, a group of talented horn players. They provided a wave of sound that complimented the backbone guitar riff. It was a bluesy rendition that blew the top off the Beacon.

The jams were on target all night and Trucks did an excellent job leading guests into solos and then whipping them at the solo game. During a lengthy jam, Trucks paired himself against Haynes and guest guitarist Tom Guarna in a three-way guitar duel, that Trucks won hands down. He is an astounding slide guitarist and a worthy successor to Duane Allman, who was honored along with Berry Oakley at the closing visual slideshow.

By the way, Derek Trucks totally teased “Norwegian Wood” in his solo for “Jessica” which was hilarious and awesome.

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