The Band Perry makes songwriting a group effort

(From left) Neil, Kimberly and Reid Perry, perform at the Boots and Hearts Canadian Country Music Festival, Saturday, August 3, 2013, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario.  The Canadian Press Images PHOTO/Boots and Hearts Music Festival
(From left) Neil, Kimberly and Reid Perry, perform at the Boots and Hearts Canadian Country Music Festival, Saturday, August 3, 2013, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. The Canadian Press Images PHOTO/Boots and Hearts Music Festival

AUGUST 15, 2013 9:00 AM

BY BARRY GILBERT
SPECIAL TO GO! MAGAZINE

The sibling country group the Band Perry has had some dramatic successes, with five hit singles from its first two albums. Yet the song that has taken on a life of its own — “Pioneer,” the title track from the group’s sophomore release — is not one of the singles.

Lead singer Kimberly, 30, bassist Reid, 24, and mandolinist Neil, 23, finished the song with their friends the Henningsens, another family band (this one a father-daughter-son combo). But the song and the album had its birth on a hilltop in Santa Fe, N.M., where the trio stopped on a Nashville-to-California road trip.

They sat down, took out their guitars and started working through “the questions that were in our head at the time,” Neil Perry says, speaking with his brother and sister from a tour stop at Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyo. The Perrys and Rascal Flatts play Friday night at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

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Open Highway festival brings musical genres together

By Barry Gilbert
Special to the St. Louis Beacon

(Published here on Friday, Aug. 2, 2013)

For some bands, the tour highway doesn’t run through St. Louis. The Open Highway Music Festival is trying to put the city on the maps of more musicians.

Lucero

John Henry of the St. Louis band John Henry and the Engine, and Steve Pohlman of the Off Broadway nightclub on Lemp Avenue came up with the idea for the festival last year, and they initially planned to focus on a fairly narrow genre of music. But by the time the curtain went up on the first of three nights of music last fall, their scope had widened.

For this year’s second edition, which runs for four nights beginning Wednesday ((Aug 7)) at Off Broadway, it’s wider still, and no better example can be found than the bill for Friday night: J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound, a soul and R&B show band that recalls the stage shows of James Brown and Otis Redding; and Those Darlins, a trio of women from Kentucky who mix country, rock and punk into a high-energy stew.

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Curtis McMurtry, third-generation storyteller, begins his journey

By Barry Gilbert

curtis mcmurtry Jul 27, 2013 9-39 PM About six years ago, Kelly House Concerts in St. Louis presented Justin Townes Earle, a young man who was all but unknown save for his famous last name. On Saturday night, KHC presented Curtis McMurtry – son of musician James, grandson of novelist Larry – and it will be interesting to see whether this young college grad travels a career arc similar to that of the son of Steve Earle.

It shouldn’t be ruled out. As with the Earle show, a small audience of about 30 gathered in Kelly’s listening space, drawn by the enthusiasm of the hostess and curiosity about McMurtry. Would his voice hint of the droll, deadpan delivery of his dad? Would his songs convey details of time and place like the writing of both dad and granddad?

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Having a wild weekend: Dylan, Gangstagrass, Ian Anderson & more

By Barry Gilbert

We endured nine hours of traffic hell on our way to Chicago on Friday, a trip that should have taken six hours tops. Every time I was tempted to bail from the 5 mph-lanes of misery, I kept myself on track by repeating: “But we’re going to see Bob … we’re going to see Bob … we’re …”

Dylan’s unfortunately named AmericanaramA tour stopped at Toyota Park – and really, what more can be added irony-wise to a celebration of American roots music held in a suburban Chicago soccer stadium on a stage flanked by two giant pedestals topped by full-size vehicles made by a Japanese car company?

What we thought were great seats – field level, first section, stage right – weren’t so much, thanks to acres of standing room between us and the stage. That made it tough to see anything – and we were “close.” And there were no video screens.

Because we were two hours late, we missed the great Richard Thompson and My Morning Jacket, arriving during setup time for Wilco.

But Dylan was worth all the torture. Some people began to walk out after the third song, offended by the artist’s gravel-ravaged voice or not recognizing rearranged classics as well as the new songs – but, well, at this point what did they expect? The funny thing is, Dylan had more than a few moments when his voice veered toward the gentle – if not “Nashville Skyline” Dylan, then the expressive instrument displayed on “Tempest,” his newest album.

And keeping with Dylan’s penchant for expending no effort whatsoever to overtly please anybody, the majority of the songs in his 15-tune set were from the relatively recent past, leaning heavily on last year’s “Tempest” for gems such as “Duquesne Whistle” and “Early Roman Kings.” “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” from 2009’s “Together Through Life,” was a highlight, delivered with some edge and anger.

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Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson continues his story in Peabody Opera House show

Ian Anderson
Ian Anderson

July 15, 2013 12:10 pm

By Barry Gilbert
Special to the Post-Dispatch

Gerald Bostock, the fictional 8-year-old protagonist of Jethro Tull’s 1972 epic “Thick as a Brick,” is alive and — perhaps? — as well as can be expected 40 years later. Gerald’s creator, British rock flutist Ian Anderson, is doing splendidly, as he proved before ardent fans in a packed Peabody Opera House on Sunday night.

Anderson is touring behind the 40th anniversary of “Thick as a Brick,” a tour begun late last year after Anderson’s solo release of “Thick as a Brick 2.” The sequel imagines what might have happened to young Gerald after a scandal that befell him in Part 1. The rock opera is well-suited to the acoustics of the opera house, and praise goes to Anderson’s sound engineer, Mike Downs, and the Peabody tech staff for one of the best-sounding rock shows this concertgoer has ever heard.

Every nuance of the dynamic music was exquisitely presented, showcasing the virtuoso talents of Anderson, drummer Scott Hammond, guitarist Florian Ophale, bassist David Goodier and keyboardist John O’Hara (the latter two also members of recent Jethro Tull incarnations).

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Sidesaddle pianist Marcia Ball still loves those roadside attractions

Marcia Ball

(This interview was conducted in advance of a Marcia Ball show scheduled for July 7, 2013, at the Old Rock House in St. Louis. Alas, the show was cancelled by the venue.)

By Barry Gilbert

Over almost four decades, a lot of amazing, funny and just plain weird stuff has floated by the windows of Marcia Ball’s tour vehicles. And the Texas-born and Lousiana-reared roadhouse R&B singer and pianist has stopped and gawked at most of them.

Among them, as chronicled in her song “Roadside Attractions,” are a concrete dinosaur, Jesus in a screen door, a blue ox, chimney rocks, two-headed livestock, “Alligator Jumparoo,” the corn palace, the fair in Dallas, redwood trees, a giant strawberry, a 2-ton ball of string, snake farms, longhorns and rock star millionaires.

And, Ball says, a telephone booth.

A telephone booth?

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

mccartney1

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.

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