Tag Archives: Blues

Bhi Bhiman has both Rhythm and Reason

21 May

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Back in April of 2012 I came across a magical cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” done by a Sri Lankan-American folk-rock singer/songwriter named Bhi Bhiman. To say I was hooked is an understatement. Bhiman’s powerful vocals blew me away, and I spread the word about Bhiman to whoever was listening. It is now 3 years later – somehow; gosh, time moves by quickly – and Bhiman just released his new album Rhythm & Reason, which is a continued testament to how amazingly talented he is. Thus, on the heels of this release, I will make an impassioned plea to many wonderful people who read this blog consistently. Spread the word of Bhi Bhiman. Simply put, more people need to know about this voice.

Bhiman released a self-titled album to much critical fan-fare in 2012, and it featured several tracks that accentuated his deep croon and acoustic stylings. His new album is similar in its intentions: blow you away with well-written folk rock tunes that are sung with ardor and boldness. The tracks move gracefully, blues-tinged and melody-soaked; each featuring Bhiman’s unique stylings. One such song is “Moving to Brussels,” which, while itself is a classic Bhiman track, was recently provided with a humorous video with a cameo from Key & Peele star Keegan-Michael Key.

Key plays a good J.K. Simmons impression with his volatile music lesson for Bhiman. The “Whiplash”-inspired video is hilarious. It does speak for itself, so I will let it do so … play the video now! It doesn’t hurt that “Moving to Brussels” is an energetic folk hit that moves with an infectious effervescence that draws you in. Key doesn’t hurt.

And, if you need some more Bhiman convincing, here is my favorite track by the musician. It is called “Crime of Passion” and while it is not from the new album it is still worth a listen, or two, or three!

Demo-lished: Quincy LePalm

30 Apr

Not often can you catch my attention with a demo version of a track that I already love. Or even demos of things I don’t already love, really. (Sorry, Karen O.) But there is always an exception to the rule. Our exception this time is Quincy LePalm, a genuine songsmith. He is gearing up to release his debut EP, but has released several demos that are sure to catch your attention.

My personal favorite, “Mazinaw Blues,” channels the soul of Son House, with the songwriting reminiscent of Jack White’s ballads. This metaphor goes deeper though; White is conspicuously influenced by Son House- he plays a Son House LP during It Might Get Loud, and the Son House edition of the Heroes of the Blues CD series has a quote from White right on the back of the jewel case. I like to think that not only is LePalm influenced by both of them, he is their new form. Son House was the master of the blues, then Jack came and renewed rock and roll as we knew it with The White Stripes, then The Raconteurs, and then The Dead Weather. Okay, so I’m getting ahead of myself; LePalm has no interest in fundamentally changing the folk or blues music scenes as we know them. But he is interested in telling you a compelling story, just him and his guitar. The paradigm shifts will come later.

There is an EP in the works, due out this summer. For more information on Quincy LePalm, follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Top Albums of 2014 – #2: Turn Blue by The Black Keys

24 Dec

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To be honest I was not sure where to start with this post on the #2 album of 2014: The Black Keys’ epic LP Turn Blue, an album eagerly awaited by a substantial fan base since the uber-successful release of the band’s 2011 album El Camino. My loss of words is directly caused by the plethora of topics I can discuss concerning this album. There is the continued partnership with producer Danger Mouse (who always finds his way onto the Music Court’s end-of-the-year charts with multiple bands), the Mike Tyson aided release announcement in March of this year, the Ghoulardi-inspired album title and the blue and pink Twilight Zone-esque spiral album cover, and, of course, the powerful 11 tracks that features sounds that range from psychedelic, low-key Broken Bells inspired keys to the upbeat blues rock that the Black Keys became famous for.

I’ll stick with the music.

The Black Keys, the baby of two childhood friends Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, has produced excellent scratchy garage rock since the band’s inception in 2001, and since then the band has continued to evolve as an inventive propagator of engaging, catchy rock music, and this has helped the duo develop a loyal fan base. Turn Blue, the band’s 8th studio album, involved some tenseness (as expected in the creation of any album) and a lot of new exploration for the band, which helped produce some fascinating tunes that take the Black Keys out of its comfort zone.

“Weight of Love” is a perfect indication of this. The inception of the song draws out two chords, distorted guitar, and distended percussion.  The first two minutes plays like pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd mixed with Burton’s spaghetti-western inspired Rome. The song then transforms to a sprawling rock piece with echoed harmonies and wall-of-sound keys. There are so many elements magically combined into this piece and this combination is done incredibly well. It is masterful. The fear was that it would be too self-indulgent, but, instead, the song actually blends 50 years of rock music elements and takes on past and present with ferocity and listenability. Excellent piece.

“Gotta Get Away” is refreshing. It’s a jaunty on traditional Black Keys garage rock. It is an infectious song with drawn-out keys and jocular instrumentation. It’s just a joy to listen to, so do so, and have a wonderful holiday!

Listen to more – Black Keys Website

The Recovery Blues – Dave Powell and the Lonely Gales

18 May

Dave Powell and the Lonely Gales

I am typing this with one hand. That is the major reason why I have not posted in a week. Shoulder surgery has left my left arm unavailable for use. One-handed typing is cumbersome! That being said, I plan on trying to post as often as I am able despite this temporary disability. For now, I am encountering the recovery blues.

Dave Powell, a wayworn blues musician from the swamplands for Louisiana, is part of the true blues movement among young musicians, and his most recent EP Recovery Blues is a 5-track EP that “catalogues his descent into substance abuse and depression, and the ragged road he trudged back home to health and happiness.” (http://noisetrade.com/davepowell). 

I apologize for the blurriness of the video, but just listen to this fast-paced blues ditty. Powell features a rich vocal that is time-tested, gritty, and passionate. The guitars have a voice of their own and complement Powell’s croon effectively. The swinging rhythm is toe-tapping goodness. A great song and EP to listen to when you are stuck on the couch longing to move!

Live at The Cafe Au Go Go – The Blues Project

25 Apr

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During a four-day stretch of concerts in November of 1965 at the revered Cafe Au Go Go, a band of New York-based blues musicians recorded its first album. The club, which was the first New York venue for the Grateful Dead, also featured an often weekly collection of uber-talented blues artists entitled the Blues Project. I mention the Dead because the Blues Project was known as the New York response to the Grateful Dead, which was also a collection of incredibly talented blues musicians. Unfortunately, the Blues Project lacked the staying power and fell into 60s music history – although two members did form Blood Sweat & Tears. I bring the band back today on the Music Court because the debut live collection of covers is a sparkling example of true 60s blues music that engendered the propagation of the genre stateside.

The Blues Project was a jam band at its finest. The album was actually a cut version of several longer covers of famous blues songs like “Back Door Man” and “Goin’ Down Louisiana.” These covers were fresh and inspirational, as several British blues musicians would also come to cover these songs with similar aptitude. The big three members of the Blues Project were guitarists Danny Kalb (also vocals) and Steve Katz and organist Al Kooper. Tommy Flanders kicked in some vocals, and the band also included Andy Kulberg on bass and Roy Blumenfeld on drums. Al Kooper actually joined the group after its failed audition for Columbia Records; Kooper was a session musician and liked what he heard. It didn’t take long for the band to secure a record deal with Verve Records and record its first album. 

So, let’s talk a bit about Live at the Cafe Au Go Go. One of the interesting components of the album is that it blends classic 60s folk with pre-60s blues. For example, The Blues Project performs a version of “Violets of Dawn,” a piece by Greenwich Village folk staple Eric Andersen.

The piece is quintessential psychedelic folk, which was developing at the time with bands like the Byrds. The mellow song features a bright guitar that provides a consistent lead while the percussion and bass hold down the subdued rhythm. It’s the type of song that does not stand out to the listener but easily flows like a narrow stream. It’s hard to believe that the next track on Side 2 of the album is a version of Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man,” which sounds like this:

Just a killer version of this classic. It moves with vigor: effortless percussion, whining blues guitar, efficient bass, and fitting vocals. It is gritty and more true to real rock n’ roll blues. It also demonstrates The Blues Project’s ability to successfully swap between folk and rocking blues with ease. A truly talented band that deserved more listerners and success.

 

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