It’s hard to believe, but “Blue Mountain” is only Bob Weir’s third solo studio album and first since 1978’s “Heaven Help the Fool.”
Over the years, the Grateful Dead rhythm guitarist/vocalist has released several studio albums by side projects (Kingfish, 1976; Bobby and the Midnites, 1981 and 1984; Weir/Wassmerman, 1998; Ratdog, 2000), but this is the first new music under the name of just “Bob Weir” in nearly 38 years.
It took some young blood to get the old man of the “Blue Mountain” to come down to the Red River Valley and cut some new tunes — specifically Josh Kaufman, Josh Ritter and Aaron Dessner.
It was Weir’s mention of his love for cowboy music (developed while working a summer job on a Wyoming ranch when he was 15) to these pups that got the ball rolling.
Brooklyn-based Kaufman, whose résumé as a sideman includes work with Dessner’s indie-rock band The National as well as albums by folk-rocker Ritter, produced the record. Ritter — either alone or with Weir — wrote lyrics for all but a few songs, and Kaufman/Ritter/Weir supplied most of the music.
(Side note: Dessner and his brother Bryce, also in The National, curated “Day of the Dead”: this year’s 59-song compilation of exclusive Grateful Dead indie covers co-produced by Kaufman and benefiting the Red Hot Organization.)
“Blue Mountain” has an independent-Americana feel, with Weir’s central acoustic guitar often circled by Aaron Dessner’s electric. But the album — references to “Shenandoah,” “I’m an Old Cowhand” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” aside — is not a bunch of songs in the vein of “El Paso” or “Big Iron.”
Rather, the mellow and mostly slow-mo (except for “Gonesville”) music takes the listener on a surreal journey back to Weir’s 15th summer — a ride that gets more enjoyable with each trip.
1. Only A River
2. Cottonwood Lullaby
4. Lay My Lily Down
5. Gallop On The Run
6. Whatever Happened To Rose
7. Ghost Towns
8. Darkest Hour
9. Ki-Yi Bossie
10. Storm Country
11. Blue Mountain
12. One More River To Cross
Total time: 51:42
Posted October 6th, 2016
Tags: country, folk, rockNo Comments »
After six Gypsy jazz albums, Gonzalo Bergara returns to his blues-rock roots with all the zeal one would expect from someone who caught the late, great Dan Hicks’ attention.
When Bergara served as guitarist on Hicks’ 2004 release, “Selected Shorts,” the Argentinian was relatively unknown to the American public. The following year he began extensive touring as rhythm guitarist in John Jorgenson’s Gypsy jazz quintet, a gig that would last through 2008. After that he began recording a string of releases under his own name or as the Gonzalo Bergara Quartet.
Bergara told Good New Music via email how he met Hicks:
“A friend of my roommate was at the time using his studio for a project with Dan Hicks. The producer was Tim Hauser from Manhattan Transfer. This friend had heard through my roommate that I also could play not only blues but Gypsy jazz as well, and everybody at that time was not happy with the guitar player they had in the studio.
“So one day the studio owner dialed my number and had me play (Gus Kahn’s 1924 classic) ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’ through the phone. Sounds crazy, but that’s how it went. I guess (Hicks) liked it OK, because the next day I was in the studio redoing all of the guitar parts. … He was a very special man; I loved working with him.”
Although his roots are in blues, unbelievably this is Bergara’s first blues recording.
“My first gigs as a musician were at the age of 16,” he told GNM in explaining his blues beginnings. “I first joined a group when I was 12, and after four years and lots of practice, we started sounding pretty good. We were invited to national television, and played shows weekly in Buenos Aires and Argentina.
“I have always loved the format of a trio,” he said, “the freedom and space it gives me. Mariano (D’Andrea) and my brother Maximiliano (who both play on ‘Zalo’s Blues’) joined me when I was 16, and we did lots of things together, but I also played with other trios in town when I needed to.”
“Zalo’s Blues” is roughly half vocal numbers, half instrumental. The vocal tunes — Bergara’s first on record — are as good as any upper-echelon blues-rocker’s, and his singing voice carries not even a trace of an accent.
The instrumental cuts range in influence from Charlie Christian to T-Bone Walker to Stevie Ray Vaughan to the Hellecasters, and draw attention to the fact that this platter is nothing if not a tone fest.
Perhaps he was waiting until he felt his singing/songwriting skills were fully developed before “going electric,” but if Bergara’s first crack at it is this good, the listener’s imagination runs wild thinking about what lies ahead.
3. Singing My Song
4. You Don’t Have To Go (Jimmy Reed)
5. Dirty Socks
6. Gonna Go
7. No More
9. Been Runnin’
12. Won`t Stay With You
Total time: 37:30
Posted September 9th, 2016
Tags: blues, blues rock, rockNo Comments »
Mutants of the Monster: A Tribute to Black Oak Arkansas
Jim Dandy to the rescue — sort of.
“To the rescue” because all profits from the sale of “Mutants of the Monster: A Tribute to Black Oak Arkansas” will benefit Memphis-area animal rescue The Savior Foundation.
“Sort of” because it’s not a Jim Dandy or Black Oak Arkansas album, although Dandy (aka Jim Mangrum) and BOA guitarists Rickie Lee Reynolds and the late Jimmy Henderson make guest appearances.
Rather, it’s power trio Joecephus (aka Joey Killingsworth) and the George Jonestown Massacre backing a revolving cast of contributors that includes Jimbo Mathus; Shooter Jennings; and members of Nashville Pussy, Butthole Surfers, Hawkwind, Supersuckers, Lucero, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys and Dash Rip Rock.
But the abundance of punk-rock credentials can be misleading: This is Southern rock of the highest caliber, befitting one of the genre’s finest “guitar army” bands.
Mathus puts a spin on homespun “Uncle Lijiah” with a big assist from Robby Turner (Waylon Jennings, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Stimpson), whose pedal steel graces the song throughout and subs for the banjo normally found at the end. Turner also stretches the ending into a compact jam, recalling the stylings of New Riders of the Purple Sage steeler Buddy Cage.
For sheer instrumental madness, it’s hard to top “When Electricity Came to Arkansas.” ANTiSEEN singer Jeff Clayton sets it up with the song’s brief “Hey, yeah” chant before turning the song over to Reynolds, Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn and Killingsworth, who take the listener on an extended trip to triple-guitar heaven.
Shooter Jennings has fun with the double-entendre lyrics of “Hot Rod,” and Hawkwind’s Nik Turner embellishes “Swimmin’ in Quicksand” with a sax solo straddling the fence between melodic and improvisational.
An unexpected highlight lies in “The Wild Bunch,” sung by pro football player turned country singer Kyle Turley. Bolstering Turley’s performance is some amazing playing by Willie Nelson’s harmonica player, Mickey Raphael, who gets to fit more notes into a song than ever before.
1. Hey Y’all (feat. Blaine Cartwright and Ruyter Suys)
2. Uncle Lijiah (feat. Jimbo Mathus and Robby Turner)
3. Hot Rod (feat. Shooter Jennings)
4. Swimmin’ In Quicksand (feat. J.D. Pinkus and Nik Turner)
5. Hot And Nasty (feat. Eddie Spaghetti and Brian Venable)
6. When Electricity Came To Arkansas (feat. Jeff Clayton, Rickie Lee Reynolds and Greg Ginn)
7. Short Life Line (feat. Bill Davis)
8. Fever In My Mind (feat. Jim Dandy)
9. High ‘N’ Dry (feat. Whiskeydick)
10. Lord Have Mercy On My Soul (feat. Jeff Clayton and Paul Leary)
11. Mutants Of The Monster (
feat. Christopher “C.T.” Terry and Micheal Denner)
12. Mad Man
13. Strong Enough To Be Gentle (feat. Ruyter Suys and Jimmy Henderson)
14. Jim Dandy (feat. Jello Biafra and Ruyter Suys)
15. Rock ‘N’ Roll (Nine Pound Hammer, feat. Joecephus)
16. The Wild Bunch (
feat. Kyle Turley and Mickey Raphael)
17. Keep The Faith (Kentucky Bridgeburners)
Total time: 1:05:43
Posted August 25th, 2016
Tags: rockNo Comments »
Invention of Knowledge
For all intents and purposes, this is “Yes meets the Flower Kings.”
Jon Anderson has been saying for years that he wished to return to creating what he calls “Yes Music” — the long-form, epic style of progressive rock epitomized by that band on such albums as “Close to the Edge,” “Tales From Topographic Oceans” and “Relayer” in the 1970s.
In retrospect, 2011’s “Open” — a 21-minute song Anderson wrote with guitarist/arranger Stefan Podell that was only released digitally — seems to have been a way for the Yes founder and former lead singer to get his feet wet again.
For the full-album “Invention of Knowledge,” Flower Kings guitarist/vocalist Roine Stolt was enlisted to help “open the book” on compositions written a decade ago during a frenzy of online collaboration initiated by Anderson with songwriters from around the globe.
Anderson provides the album’s lead vocals and lyrics; Stolt handles guitars, arrangements and a few background vocals.
The process of “rejuvenating” the songs included sending MP3s back and forth between California (Anderson’s home) and Sweden (Stolt’s) via the information superhighway. When the demos were finished to the pair’s satisfaction, Stolt and members of the Flower Kings and Karmakanic — along with keyboardist Tom Brislin — recorded the backing tracks in Sweden.
“All basic music arrangements (had already been) laid out,” Stolt told Good New Music by email. “I had written all chord structures, bass lines, rhythms etc. Much of my guitar parts and even a few solos were recorded already.
“Much of the backing vocal arrangements were there, too — so the band recorded quite heavily arranged music. However, they were all contributing with new ideas and developed their parts further. (And) Jon … rewrote quite a lot of the lyrics and re-sang much of the vocals, and added new vocal ideas and melodies. … So it was a project in constant development.”
Three of the four songs on “Invention” consist of two to three movements. According to a Stolt interview via Skype on June 3 with That Drummer Guy, the second and fourth song (“Knowing” and “Know”) were originally a single composition that Anderson decided to split and move apart in the track listing.
A look at songwriting credits for the entire album reveals that, for some of the multipart songs, individual movements were written by different sets of people — meaning that some of the writers collaborated with each other not only in absentia, but after the fact.
The title track sets the tone, establishing Anderson’s voice and Stolt’s guitar as the two main instruments.
Anderson’s voice sounds as good as ever, and his lyrics remain dependably mystical: The overall theme deals with ley lines; crystal streams of energy; and how man invents his understanding of the world.
Stolt’s musicianship shines throughout, particularly in a crescendo of massed guitars two-thirds of the way through “Chase and Harmony,” the second movement of “Knowing.”
The rest of the supporting musicians and a small army of background singers continually dazzle and amaze, as well. To borrow a line from the album’s intro, “All the stars, just so much space.”
1. Invention of Knowledge: (i) Invention, (ii.) We Are Truth, (iii) Knowledge
2. Knowing: (i) Knowing, (ii.) Chase and Harmony
3. Everybody Heals: (i) Everybody Heals, (ii) Better by Far, (iii) Golden Light
4. Know …
Total time: 1:05:01
Posted July 8th, 2016
Jon Anderson’s site
Flower Kings site
Tags: progNo Comments »
Dreams Are Strange
The Tucson, Ariz.-based Carnivaleros have always possessed a knack for unusually interesting arrangements, often combining instruments not normally heard together.
On “Dreams Are Strange,” the band makes a swampy Appalachian acoustical foray into Americana, with an expansion of its sound due to the presence of Heather “Lil’ Mama” Hardy’s violin on most tracks.
Tying it together is the decidedly non-Tex Mex/non-polka accordion of singer-songwriter Mackender, who favors basic North American folk and, occasionally, Middle Eastern and klezmer idioms.
Six of the album’s tracks are instrumental, including “Chestnut Oak” (featuring banjo); “Tumacacori” (vibes and lap steel); and “High Speed Yard Sale” (tuba).
Highlights among the album’s eight vocal numbers are the country-and-Cajun “Hesitation Bridge”; the incredibly witty title track; the jump zydeco “Gonna Jump in a Hole”; the upbeat “Who’s to Say” (which would have been a perfect vehicle for the late Dan Hicks, with its Hot Licks-type chorus); and the hard-luck tale “Wore Out My Welcome.”
1. Hesitation Bridge
2. Dreams Are Strange
3. The Chestnut Oak
4. Gonna Jump in a Hole
5. Mamie Eisenhower
7. Who’s to Say
8. Moving On
9. The Red Maple
10. Wore Out My Welcome
11. Donna’s Song
12. Psychic Mary
13. Time Traveling
14. High Speed Yard Sale
Total time: 48:49
Posted May 31st, 2016
Tags: americana, blues, country, folk, klezmer, zydecoNo Comments »