Take a step into serenity mixed with melancholic happiness when you take a listen to Bonomo. Phases characterizes an individual’s journey and meaning of home, memories, and self. Comparing to the lovely sounds of Copeland and Iron & Wine, Bonomo crafts an exemplary sound within his album that’s on the path of evolving, filled with humility and authenticity. The duo characterizes alternative folk with a new sound in the album Phases. Their lead single Water, really shows this unique sound by the effective uses of the variety of instruments in their sound. Think Devendra Banhart meets John Mayer and you have Bonomo. Although two different genres, a mix of such sounds proves auditory greatness.
Doesn’t it seem that summer passes by quicker than any other season? For those (like me) who live in a state that experiences distinct climates, it is easy to become ensconced in the warm weather just to have it ripped away from you quickly. I should stop complaining. Summer still has more than a month to bathe us in beach weather. As we continue to enjoy the fading rays of summer, let’s take a glimpse at some end-of-summer albums music lovers should be looking forward to.
John Mayer – Paradise Valley
The crooning bluesman is fully recovered from his vocal surgery and has hit the ground running after the delayed (2012) release of his fifth studio album Born and Raised. Paradise Valley abides by a similar formula as his last release: mixture of folk and country rock. The first single is evident of that.
Mayer’s airy croon does not disappoint and the song carries a relaxed rhythm. It’s a pleasant listen – and the embedded video is hilariously odd.
Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
It has been almost a decade since “Take Me Out” hit #3 on the UK charts. Wow. The 2004 self-titled album sold more than three million copies and engendered worldwide popularity for the Scottish band. The band has always been able to stay relevant with its tunes, but the music has not been frequent. After a quick follow-up in 2005 it took the band four years to release its third LP and another four years to release the most recent album. The early reviews are proclaiming that it is well worth the wait.
Five For Fighting – Bookmarks
John Ondrasik – a.k.a. Five For Fighting – has penned some pretty substantial hits on his piano including: “Superman,” “100 Years,” and “The Riddle.” Slice, his last album, was released four years ago, and it is about time for the lifelong L.A. Kings fan to release a new album (I wonder if Bookmarks will celebrate the Kings 2012 Stanley Cup victory). One thing I can presume is that the new album will feature Ondrasik’s original, infectious piano pop that continues to impress.
MGMT – MGMT
It is not usual for a band to have a self-titled third album, but, well, MGMT is not usual. This eccentric psychedelic rock band is on the cusp of the much awaited release of its unique third album, and fans of the band are in for a wacky treat. The band did tell Rolling Stone that they “are not trying to make music that everyone understands the first time they hear it.” It is refreshing to see two musicians carrying on the rich tradition of good psychedelic rock, and I have always been keen to the band. Just recently the band released its second single from the album, “Your Life is a Lie,” and…it’s…uhh…this:
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.
Willie Mitchell knows soul music. In 1969, a little known R&B singer named Al Green came into contact with Mitchell after struggling with his first release. After hearing Green’s voice, Mitchell quickly scooped him up as a vocalist. His instrumental piece of advice? Find your own voice. Be unique.
David Lee is unique. Born in South Korea in 1986, Lee and his family moved to Virginia when he was eight. After voraciously diving into new music, Lee borrowed an acoustic guitar from a friend and played it until his fingertips were frayed and the guitar was worn. He devoted his time to writing and recording several songs, but, like Al Green, he had difficulty defining a sound after years in the studio. Enter Willie Mitchell, who almost 40 years after discovering Al Green, was inspired by Lee’s smooth voice and perspicacious sense of melody. Mitchell took Lee under his wing as one of his last projects before his death in 2010.
Without Any Guard, the culmination of five years of labor (three with Mitchell), will be released in February 2013.
David Lee’s endearing voice carries his tunes. In “Stay Away From You,” the last song on his 11-track debut, his sweet John Mayer-like croon washes over a tranquil blues rhythm. There is a coffee-shop quiescence to the track; a touching sentimentality best suited for a quiet venue. It’s an impressive song despite seeming so effortless. This is one of Lee’s best attributes. He makes good music seem so easy. And as any wise musician will tell you, this is not an effortless task.
“Happy Birthday” begins with a picked riff – comparable to a bit of a Pachelbel’s canon/Always on My Mind mixture – proceeding into the main rhythm, a toe-tapping beat. The vocals are laid-back, but they remain subtly powerful and delicate. Lee balances power and control. His singing is skillful. In the CD version of this song, Lee is joined by a chorus that echoes “don’t let your heart down” and adds even more power to the piece without ever seeming overdone.
Lee’s music is engaging, melodic, and bluesy. He is a soul singer with his roots now fully embedded into a soul culture that Willie Mitchell first thrived in more than 40 years ago. Lee is an exciting new artist, and I fully endorse his new album. Don’t miss out!
I’d like to take you on musical journey, more specifically my musical journey, from a tiny dweeb with a mix CD of songs downloaded from Kazaa to this post pubescent humanoid interested enough in music to volunteer to write for this esteemed music blog.
I envision this category as an exploration of musical genres that I enjoy, handpicking artists, albums and even specific songs that are part of my musical gospel. These music genres and how I divide and subdivide them are really of my own creation and bear no resemblance to what you may or may not have read on wikipedia. Also, I haven’t decided yet if I will crossover artists between genres. You’ll just have to stay tuned to find that tantalizing bit of knowledge out.
With that administration stuff out of the way, we can now make way on this exploration. I’d like to start with my longest obsession: the blues!
The Blues: Great Guitarists
My guess is if you’re here, you’ve at least heard of the greats. Perhaps you enjoy listening to the Pioneers of Blues, like Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry, the three Kings (BB, Freddie and Albert), Buddy Guy, or Hendrix. Or maybe you rock out with the blues guitarists of the British Invasion, try Jeff Beck, Mr. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or Keith Richards. Perhaps, (like myself), you find something really cool about Southern Blues like SRV, Duane Allman, Dickey Betts or Gary Rossington. Those guys are the greats for many reasons but they certainly are not the only great players out there.
I’m sure you’ve heard of a guy named John Mayer. Tall, skinny white dude who only seems like a prick until you actually hear him speak and you can confirm it. Everytime I used to hear the man’s songs I had the sudden and barely controllable urge to break things. Sometimes I still do. However, that doesn’t change the fact that although he may have the voice of a pop singer who injects himself with estrogen, Mr. Mayer plays like a guitar god on steriods with three hands who will be killed painfully when and if he stops playing with a healthy does of skill and soul. Just check out the mans solo and even compare it to the great Eric Clapton’s.
As amazing as some of these guys are, I’ve never wanted to learn to kick ass and take names on guitar more than seeing a guy by the name of Davy Knowles play live. I was standing next to another act, a pretty good guitarist himself by the name of Evan Watson (checkout this video) who was standing there, mouth open, shaking his head as Davy fretted and played with one hand. Check out his album Coming up For Air to understand just how talented he is.
Just watched Davy? The song he just played isn’t actually his. It’s by a guy by the name of Rory Gallagher. I know, wimpy first name, not wimpy player. The bad boys of rock and roll themselves,, those Rolling Stones even asked this guy to play for them. That’s how good. Check out the Irish 74 tour live double album for a legend in tippy top shape.