Monthly Archives: June 2013

Q&A: James McCartney ventures out from father Paul McCartney’s shadow

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Photo By Barry Gilbert

By Barry Gilbert

James McCartney, son of former Beatle Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney, carts around a daunting amount of baggage.

At 35, he is just now beginning a music career, with help from Sir Dad. What was unclear to me after a face-to-face interview recently is how much he really wants it.

As I wrote in a story for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch based on that interview and a performance later the same day, McCartney “is understandably reticent, and seems a bit uncomfortable on stage, as he was earlier that afternoon during a conversation at one of the empty venue’s bistro tables. He talked about his music and his megafamous father, his career goals and his struggle with maintaining his privacy.”

To that point, McCartney had not done much press in the United States, but I was lucky enough to be on vacation in the Boston area May 20, when McCartney was to perform at the legendary Club Passim in Cambridge, Mass. The stars aligned, and I was granted an interview.

The following Q&A has been edited only for length and clarity.

BG: Are you tired of all of the questions about the Beatles, and the comparisons?

McCartney: No I don’t mind, but it depends on how far we go into it. It’s me, it’s comparisons, it’s all of that, but then it just becomes … like talking on behalf of someone else, which is not what I’m here to do, for my dad.

BG: Audiences in the States are less familiar with your work, I’d imagine, than people back home, so those are the kinds of first questions –

McCartney: That’s fair enough, just as long as it’s not like a kiss and tell.

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Ha Ha Tonka teaches new “Lessons” in St. Louis house concert

From left: Brian Roberts, Brett Anderson, Lennon Bone and Lucas Long perform "Hangman" at a Wood House Concerts show. (Photos by Barry Gilbert)
From left: Brian Roberts, Brett Anderson, Lennon Bone and Lucas Long perform "Hangman" at a Wood House Concerts show. (Photos by Barry Gilbert)

By Barry Gilbert

I will stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table — or Steve Earle’s — and tell the world that Ha Ha Tonka is a great band. I can’t think of another band that simultaneously rocks as hard, writes as well and sings four-part harmonies as exquisitely as does this Ozarks-based quartet.

Brian Roberts, Brett Anderson, Lucas Long and Lennon Bone pulled into Clayton, Mo., last night (June 19, 2013) for their second house-concert date ever and wowed the 70 or so folks in Wood House Concerts’ kitchen/family room.

Lead-vocalist Roberts admitted it was terrifying playing within arm’s reach of an audience. Then he doubled down on the terror by devoting the first of two sets to new material: 10 songs from the band’s upcoming fourth album, Lessons, due for release on Bloodshot Records on Sept. 24. Most of the tunes had not been played previously in public, and some not since they were recorded.

But that was the second surprise. The first was the unusual move of beginning the show by playing an interview with the late children’s book author Maurice Sendak. The interview was conducted by NPR’s Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” in December 2011, less than five months before Sendak’s death at age 83. In the interview, Sendak talks about his then-just-published “Bumble-Ardy,” the story of a 9-year-old boy — well, a pig — who has never had a birthday party.

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Crenshaw, Bottle Rockets close a packed Twangfest

THIS STORY WAS PUBLISHED IN THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH ON JUNE 10, 2013, BUT WAS SEVERELY TRIMMED. THIS IS THE UNTRIMMED VERSION.

By Barry Gilbert

Singer-songwriter Marshall Crenshaw, backed by the muscle of St. Louis’ Bottle Rockets, on Saturday night (June 8, 2013) brought a sweat-drenched end to Twangfest, one of the most successful editions in the festival’s 17-year run.

Among the 13 acts that performed last week, three – Crenshaw, Asleep at the Wheel and Ray Wylie Hubbard – are bonafide music legends, and two more – Joe Pug and Todd Snider – may earn that status someday.

In addition, the four-night celebration of American roots music sold out three of the four shows (one at Plush and two at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room), and set a record with fans buying 70 four-night passes. The festival ran smoothly, and even the technical gremlins took a year off.

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Bottle Rockets power Marshall Crenshaw’s Twangfest pop

Marshall Crenshaw and the Bottle Rockets at Twangfest 17
Marshall Crenshaw and the Bottle Rockets at Twangfest 17. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT

By Barry Gilbert

St. Louis’ Bottle Rockets put the power into Marshall Crenshaw’s legendary power-pop Saturday night to close the most successful edition of Twangfest in the 17-year run of the roots-rock festival.

Night 4 of the KDHX-sponsored festival featured a generous portion of accessible alt-country, rock and power pop, first from opening act Dolly Varden, then for an hourlong set by the Bottle Rockets and finally a 90-minute set by Crenshaw, backed by the Bottle Rockets.

The show at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room was sold out, the third sell-out of the four night festival and the first three-night sell-out in its history.

Continue reading Bottle Rockets power Marshall Crenshaw’s Twangfest pop

Asleep at the Wheel and Eilen Jewell sparkle on Twangfest’s Night 3

Principal Asleep at the Wheel singers Ray Benson, Jason Roberts and Elizabeth McQueen at Twangfest 17. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT
Asleep at the Wheel singers Ray Benson, Jason Roberts and Elizabeth McQueen at Twangfest 17. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT

By Barry Gilbert

It’s a rare night when a music fan can see Texas-swing legends Asleep at the Wheel in an intimate venue, but that happened Friday at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room on the third night of Twangfest 17.

And the Wheel found a well primed crowd, taking the stage after a knockout set by singer Eilen Jewell and her fine band, featuring guitarist Jerry Miller.

The seven-member Asleep at the Wheel, founded in 1970 and still led by singer-guitarist Ray Benson, has always been a force onstage, and the latest incarnation continues the tradition. Blasting through 23 songs in nearly 90 minutes, the band crossed genres from Western swing and boogie woogie to blues, rockabilly and country.

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Joe Pug, tiny piano player spark Twangfest Day 2

By Barry Gilbert

If Joe Pug had started out in the ’70s, some mainstream record company or fired-up rock critic surely would have hung a “new Dylan” tag around his neck. Unfair as such a label might be in any era – check back with us in 50 years, or even 25, Joe – his songs are worthy of such hyperbole. And live on a stage is the place to hear them.

Joe Pug headlines Day 2 of Twangfest 17 at the Duck Room in St. Louis. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT
Joe Pug headlines Day 2 of Twangfest 17 at the Duck Room in St. Louis. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT

Pug headlined the second night of the KDHX-sponsored Twangfest 17 on Thursday, capping a four-act bill that sadly drew only half a house to Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room after a sold-out opening night Wednesday at Plush (Friday and Saturday night at the Duck Room are sold out, too).

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Todd Snider, Ray Wylie Hubbard deliver at Twangfest 17

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Ray Wylie Hubbard performs at Plush on Twangfest 17 opening night. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT

By Barry Gilbert

“I’m gonna share some of my opinions with you tonight,” singer-songwriter Todd Snider warned the Twangfest 17 opening night crowd, “not because I think you should hear them … but because they rhyme.”

The wisecrack, offered with the same stoner drawl and twinkling eye as Snider uses in his songs, also applied to Ray Wylie Hubbard, the Texas troubadour who preceded Snider on the bill Monday night at Plush in midtown St. Louis. But where Snider is laid back and nuanced under a funky hat adorned by a flower, a folk singer at his core, the scruffy Hubbard is an in-your-face chronicler of life in the margins, all snarling rock ‘n’ roll and country blues.

Twangfest’s move to Plush from its traditional opening night venue, Schlafly’s Tap Room, was a success by any measure. The festival, supported by primary sponsor KDHX (881. FM), sold out the room with fans of each artist – the billing order easily could have been reversed – and sing-alongs were happening even when not requested by the artist.

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Despite famous name, James McCartney tries to stay private

James McCartney
James McCartney

June 04, 2013 6:00 am

By Barry Gilbert
Special to the Post-Dispatch

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. • James McCartney sat behind a piano on the cramped stage of the legendary Club Passim last month and introduced the song “Bluebell.”

“It’s about my Mum, it’s about different things,” he said. He then misplayed the opening chords, smiled, apologized, and started again as the half-full room of about 75 people murmured and chuckled in support, seemingly trying to will McCartney to succeed.

It was a telling moment during the late show May 20 (an early show was sold out), because it was one of the few times he revealed just a sliver of himself: the only son of Sir Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney, out front, solo and vulnerable, in support of “Me,” his first full-length CD.

Continue reading at stltoday.com