March 29, 2008

She Makes the Dough, I Got the Video

For any one who thinks that Kathleen Edwards is just a nice little country singer from Canada, I say go see her in concert. Last night I caught her show at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston and, let me tell you, she and her band rock. Edwards is an absolute dynamo, moving around the stage beating on her beaten acoustic and even playing some stellar electric leads. She also has an amazing band, which features her husband Colin Cripps on lead guitar and Jim Bryson on keys and lead guitar. Both dudes can play! The band looks like it's having a blast as Kathleen smiles and swears the whole way through. They played for a better part of two hours playing songs mostly from "Back to Me" and "Asking for Flowers," her new album. She rocked out on the new uptempo tunes "The Cheapest Key" and "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory."
Before the latter song, she jubilantly told the us that she had heard earlier in the day from hockey thug Marty McSorley, who she namechecks in the tune, and that he agreed to be in her video and may even bring along The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, to join in. Being from Canada, she's an avid hockey fan and asked the crowd if there were any Bruins fans out there. When a big cheer went up, she brought out a box and offered up gingerbread man cookies dressed in Ottawa Senators uniforms. She and the band finished up with a pair of encores, first her alone playing what looked like an electric mandolin on new song "Sure as Shit" and then the whole band returned, blowing out "Back to Me" for the finale. A great night.
A couple of videos below. For more pics, click HERE.

March 25, 2008

Smither rocks

If you are a Chris Smither fan and live in the Boston area, here's a chance to see him perform like you've never before. Check out this note from the Smither camp:

Chris Smither: Bluesman Turned Rocker for a Night?
On Thursday, March 27, a relatively unknown local band, Leroy Purcell and the Motivators, will perform at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge. Thing is, they aren't actually unknown musicians. The 8 p.m. show will feature the normally-solo American roots and blues master Chris Smither, performing with a band featuring multi-instrumentalist David Goodrich and drummer Zak Trojano. Tickets are $10.
The show will be a little more amplified, a little more instrumentally diverse, and a whole lot of fun."I just finished writing a short story about a Texas highway patrolman I met on the road a few years ago, and thought it would be fun to play a show, that is so different from my normal style, billed under his name."

Should be a fun night.

March 19, 2008

So you wanna be a rock 'n' roll star?

For everyone that has ever wanted to be in a rock band and travel the country playing to adoring fans, please watch the youtube video below. Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles are currently touring the States and have kindly been documenting life on the road. Their show are always a blast, but if you ever thought rock 'n' roll was a glamorous lifestyle, just take in a few minutes of this video. Enjoy!

March 18, 2008

A good page turn-turn-turner

While toiling away at the next issue of Modern Acoustic (tentatively scheduled for early April), I've been spending my late nights with an interesting read on the beginnings of folk-rock. As many baby boomers do, I have a soft spot for that mid-'60s-early '70s rock -- though I certainly don't have a big desire to listen to the music constantly. But I do enjoy reading about its history. Last year I read about the whole Laurel Canyon scene in a book by Michael Walker. Actually, I thought that the book, "Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood," was quite lacking, especially multiple sources, but it gave a flavor of the era.
A much better read is "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by Richie Unterberger. It delves into the folk scene of the '50s and takes you through the folk-rock boom of the '60s. Among those interviewed for the book are Roger McGuinn, Judy Collins, Donovan, John Sebastian, Arlo Guthrie and Richie Furay -- all major players in the changing folk scene. There are secondary-source interviews from Dylan and members of the Beatles -- major players in the "revolution." He does a great job of setting the scene, getting inside the recording sessions (via interviews), and offering multiple sources for his major points.
Most of the major stuff is common knowledge, but is was important to have it reiterated in such detail. Among them:
*The album "Meet the Beatles" was the most influential album to any folkie who converted to folk-rock. Apparently just about every musician who heard the album was stopped dead in their tracks and went out and bought an electric guitar. A quote from Roy Marinell, who went on to co-write "Excitable Boy" with Warren Zevon: "I heard 'I Want to Hold My Hand.' That was the turning point for me. When they hit that lick" -- he mimes the riff George Harrison plays during the verses -- "Oh my God, what is that? That was when it changed for everybody. Everybody started playing the Beatles."
*The electric 12-string, first heard on record in "A Hard Day's Night," became the folk-rock instrument of choice. Roger McGuinn, of course, made it famous with the Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man."
*Dylan really did shock the world going electric at Newport (though the Pete Seeger/axe thing is still up for debate). It provided the incentive for bands to get louder and more adventurous. Dylan's albums "Bringing It All Back Home" and "Highway 61 Revisted" blew the doors off even folk-rockers, and completely alienated his folkie fans. One critic called "Like a Rolling Stone" "the longest six minutes since the invention of time" and predicted it would "offend folk purists" and "is unlikely to appeal to pop fans because of its length, monotony, and uncommericial lyric."
I love that stuff.

The Byrds, circa 1965

March 4, 2008

WUMB plugs in

OK, my original headline was going to be: "Following in Dylan's Footsteps, WUMB goes electric." For those who don't know, public radio station WUMB-FM (91.9), affiliated with UMass-Boston, has been Boston's preeminent force in folk music for as long as I can remember. For the most part, it has remained true to its traditional folk mantra, though it would dip into contemporary singer-songwriters to help keep the music current. It also airs great programs like the World Cafe and E-Town, which give voice to up-and-coming musicians.
This week, WUMB began its new format, called a music mix, which according to station officials, was going to add some electricity to their sound. The idea was to not so much change the artists they were playing, but allow songs by those artists that had a more electric sound -- to give the sound a little "kick."
Personally, I love the idea. At times, WUMB dragged a bit with its song selection. I'm all for Greg Brown, Townes Van Zandt, Cheryl Wheeler... but give me some electric Lucinda Williams, throw in a rockin' Sarah Borges song, and don't forget to add a dose of Neko Case, Crooked Still, Ryan Adams, and, gasp!, Iron & Wine.
Well, I tuned in on Monday for a bit, and will do it again throughout the week. To my disappointment, I did not hear what I expected. Maybe they are trying to bridge the gap slowly so they don't offend the longstanding fans of the station. In the hour I listened to, I heard only one upbeat number, you know, something with a fast beat, and I don't believe I heard any electric guitar that stood out. They have not posted a playlist yet from that day, but it should be up soon. I will study it when it is posted and see if I'm right.
Anyway, I'm sure it takes a while to get something like this going, so we'll just keep tuning to see what's happening.
On a larger scale, there is an interesting trend going on here on Boston radio. WERS, Emerson College's radio station, changed their formats last year, also dropping its pure folk show as well as its jazz show for a more eclectic mix of everything. The format is great and they play great music. But what does it say about those genres in Boston and probably across the country? Is jazz dead? Is traditional folk following suit? It's worth exploring. Stay tuned.