The Blasters brought “American Music” back to St. Louis on Sunday night (May 11, 2014), and like the song says, “it was a howl from the desert (and) a scream from the slums,” with “the Mississippi rollin’ to the beat of the drums” just a few blocks away from the Off Broadway music club.
Phil Alvin’s stoked rhythm & rockabilly band from Downey, Calif., doesn’t make it to the Midwest very often, so it’s always a treat to see them. Unfortunately, Sunday was also Mother’s Day, and the crowd numbered only about 50. But they were largely hard-core fans, and they had their dancing shoes on.
ST. LOUIS – The saying “good things come to those who wait” epitomizes folk singer Iris DeMent as well as her fans. It took 16 years for DeMent to release her fourth studio CD, last year’s “Sing the Delta.” And that gap says volumes about DeMent and, as she put it, “my music career, if you want to call it that.”
DeMent, who performs with a full band Friday (Nov. 22, 2013) at the Sheldon Concert Hall, is a perfectionist of spirit. If her writing doesn’t move her, she won’t record it.
As the years passed after the release of “The Way I Should” in 1996, “I kept trying to write, but there was just no life to it,” DeMent says by phone from her home in Iowa City, Iowa. “And I didn’t feel like making a record that was just a bunch of songs that didn’t have life and spirit to them. … My secret fear is that I’m a lazy ass, but I don’t think that’s it, because I (put in the work).”
CHICAGO (Nov. 16, 2013) // Some fans had waited for years, even decades, to see Garland Jeffreys on Saturday night. And that wait was more than worth it when the veteran rocker took the stage at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.
Jeffreys, who wears his New York City hometown like a suit of armor, came out at full speed with “Coney Island Winter” from his 2011 comeback album, “The King of in Between”: “Politician kiss my ass/ your promises break like glass,” he sang, the poetry and beat slamming at a country in crumbling decline.
But every song about liars, scam artists and abusers also showed the way toward redemption, truth and love. Jeffreys is ultimately a powerful, positive artist who radiates warmth and honesty and gets it back in kind from his audience. This show ended in a love fest that included a spontaneous third encore – his band had already tossed set lists into the crowd, and it took a few minutes for the players to heed the boss’ call to return.
Jeffreys, 70, also made a deal with his audience regarding his daughter Savannah, 16 (yes, 16!): “When my daughter comes to Northwestern (University), I expect you all to watch out for her.”
“We will,” the crowd answered.
Jeffreys is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-born singer/songwriter who has released just 12 studio albums in his 43-year career. His mixed heritage – Puerto Rican and African-American – is mirrored in his music, which embraces rock, soul, R&B and reggae. His lyrics often deal with the challenges and responsibilities of being “other,” such as in “I May Not Be Your Kind,” “It’s What I Am” (“… too white to be black, too black to be white … I’m one of them, it’s what I am”) and in “Hail Hail Rock ‘n Roll”:
Father of coal, mother of pearl/
Never too black to blush to pick up a white girl/
The color of you, the color of me/
You can’t judge a man by looking at the marque/
His set spanned 16 songs and almost 90 minutes, backed by an excellent four-piece band featuring Mark Bosch on guitar, Brian Stanley on bass, Tom Curiano on drums and Gray Reinhard on keyboards.
A chance to interview Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top? Hell, yeah.
Unfortunately, Gibbons is not crazy about doing phone interviews, so we had to settle for an email exchange. That’s good, because it sure is easier. But that’s bad, because there’s no give and take, followup questions or a chance to salvage unresponsive answers. (Not that Billy really did that.)
That little ol’ band from Texas has been on the road for 43 years, and that road was taking it to St. Louis on Aug. 24. A concert advance based on this interview for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch can be found here.
Following is our email exchange, with editing only for punctuation and clarity.
BG: I’m sure you get asked this every day, but here it is again: How is it possible for a band to be together for so long with no personnel changes, no breakups and reunions, no tabloid dirt dishing? How do you all handle conflict?
Gibbons: First, and foremost, we embrace the continual good time doing the ‘whatever’…! We like to keep on keepin’ on with, as we like to say, ‘the same three guys and the same three chords.’ Maybe it’s that we’re a trio as it’s an odd number (very odd in our case) so no ties in the case of a vote. We like playing and recording, so no reason to stop. OK, most bands break up and, inevitably, get back together, so if you’d like to think of the past 10, 20 or 30 years as a ‘reunion tour,’ feel free to do so.
To call Dwight Yoakam a country singer really doesn’t do him justice. If that were strictly true, Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring of Fire” wouldn’t have the sound and rhythms of T Rex’s classic “Bang a Gong” when played by Yoakam and his hard-rocking band.
As Yoakam told the Post-Dispatch in the days leading up to Sunday night’s concert at the Pageant, genre is something music marketers worry about, “but it’s not a boundary for musicians.”
And that was true throughout the generous 32-song, two-hour-plus show. “Trying” from last year’s “3 Pears” CD, rode on Jonathan Clark’s bass line and rhythm, which would be at home on many a Memphis soul record. Other songs took on a similar vibe with washes of organ by multi-instrumentalist Brian Whelan.
Another new song, “Rock It All Away,” was built on power chords any rock fan would love, and early Elvis Presley hovered over the stage during a cover of “Little Sister” and in the Jordanaires-like background vocals of “Always Late With Your Kisses.” (Missing was his rave-up cover of Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds.”)
Dwight Yoakam was part of what Steve Earle has called the Great Credibility Scare of the late ’80s, when so-called New Traditionalists filled the country radio charts post-“Urban Cowboy” and pre-Garth Brooks. But Yoakam’s career has been anything but traditional.
A Kentucky native reared in Ohio, Yoakam was embraced by Los Angeles roots rockers and punk rockers despite channeling the Bakersfield vibe of country icons Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Even while racking up hits on mainstream country radio, his music drew from other genres and was unlike most of what was being played.
Most recently, after spending some time on independent labels, he returned to his original home at Warner Reprise — but to the label’s Nashville office, where expectations turned upside down again and he became a hit on the Americana radio chart.
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?
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.
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).
(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.