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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rick Estrin & the Nightcats at 411 Club Kalamazoo MI 3/27

If Rick Estrin & the Nightcats have it their way music like theirs, a swinging set of time honored jump blues, will never go out of style. Estrin and the Nightcats appeared at the 411 Club in Kalamazoo laying it out with enough energy to keep the joint jumping and the dance floor dust-free. The second set began with a jazzy instrumental number which featured multifaceted bassist Lorenzo Farrell on Hammond B-3 organ just ahead the tasteful highlight reel guitar of Kid Andersen. It wasn't long before Estrin--snazzy shoes and all--was launching into the soulful Little Milton number "Never Trust a Woman." His showmanship needs appreciation. Not too many know the real art of front-man entertainer-ship but Estrin makes it look easy. Sporting the style with suits and pompadours, the period look of the Nightcats is from a simpler time when bands actually cared to dress up. Featuring songs from their most recent disc, Twisted (Alligator) Estrin and company did "A Ton of Money" to shouts of approval from the audience. From his days with former band mates in Little Charlie & the Nightcats, Estrin got busy with his signature tune of sorts, "My Next Ex-Wife." Soon after Andersen got the nod for the original surf-like "Earthquake," an instrumental which showed why he can rightfully inherit the once-revered spot held by "Little Charlie" Baty. Here's hoping they put a copy of the Rick Estrin & the Nightcats Twisted CD in the next time capsule so that future generations of music lovers may enjoy. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Tuttle)

Los Lobos "Acoustic En Vivo"

35 years ago Los Lobos was not long out of East L.A.'s Jefferson High School. It didn't take long to realize that they should learn traditional Mexican music, polkas and folk songs. This way they could get more gigs playing Mexican quinciarras and other cultural occasions where traditional sounds were in demand. So they raided their parents’ record collections and scooped up traditional instruments, like the bajo sexto, for study at pawnshops. The young Wolves even made a pilgrimage to Mexico to see if they could really feel the historic vibe. According to Los Lobos founding member Louie Perez, this was the once in a lifetime opportunity “to learn first-hand the integrity of our culture.” Other musicians talk about how deep Los Lobos is; Acoustic En Vivo is what they’re talking about. Acoustic En Vivo spotlights a vibrant strumming technique complimented by the distinct blend of harmony voices that is unmatched when filling up the sound space in the finest concert halls world wide. Songs with such historical quality just aren't written anymore. Using the same fingers that wield wide respect on plugged-in instrumentation, Los Lobos finds an instant touch with soft hands on vintage Mexican jarana and tres guitars. There will simply never be a band like this again. Acoustic En Vivo is the finest documentation of their folklorico presentation that is available today. Click on the link below for a sample of this disc, the song "Colas."


Saturday, March 27, 2010

BB's Lawnside Bar-B-Q, Kansas City MO

From the outside BBs Lawnside Bar-B-Q looks as inconspicuous roadhouses get. Once inside though the south Kansas City restaurant continues the unpretentious attitude right down to the red and white plaid tablecloths amid the smell of real barbecue aromas wafting from the back. Eight-foot long bingo hall style tables greet you with appropriately mismatched chairs--some folding and others hard plastic like you might find in the driveway at a graduation party--serve as invitation to pull up and take a load off. Cold bottled beer is still served without a glass while nearby diners munch on a combo plates of smoked turkey, ribs, and homemade sausage. The accompanying battered fries, lightly dusted length-wise cut, fresh deep fried potatoes, were right on the money. All this down-home eating fun happens underneath a large wall mural of notable blues music greats including Professor Longhair, B.B. King, and Muddy Waters. The wooden floor looks well-seasoned, comfortably so, as the brisket out back in the smoker.

Performing on this night was the five-piece KC-area band Lee McBee and the Confessors. It didn't take long for McBee and company to find a nice groove with their harp-based roots music show. Early in the second set things got rolling with a couple of Little Walter numbers, including the audience favorite "My Babe" and "Oh Baby," the latter featuring bassist Patrick Recob (Gary Primich band) on vocals. With Recob still at the microphone, they did a Smiley Lewis gem from Patrick's days with Primich, "Down the Road." Another highlight was Lee's own version of Bo Diddley's smash hit "I Can Tell." The best was saved for last as McBee performed "Come On In My Kitchen" as a solo chromatic harp piece for an encore. Afterward the ever amiable Lee McBee took the time to sign posters for all wanted one.

Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas, Lawrence KS

Allen Fieldhouse is located on the campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence KS. It is home to the Kansas men's and women's basketball teams with a capacity of 16,300. The classic Kansan building is made of lime stone from the nearby prairie. It is named after legendary Kansas basketball coach Dr. Forrest Clare "Phog" Allen. "Phog" Allen coached at KU from 1919-1956 winning national championships in 1922, 1923, and 1952. As a student at KU Allen played for the inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, beginning in 1904. Allen coached players who would go on to become Hall of Fame college coaches in their own right, among them Dean Smith (North Carolina) and Adolph Rupp (Kentucky). Between Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky, the three schools are members of an elite club to have notched 2,000 wins each. In that light, it seems like the fundamentals of both playing and winning were taught at Allen Fieldhouse. Allen also recruited Wilt Chamberlain to Kansas, and even coached former United States Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. Allen was instrumental in basketball being accepted as an Olympic sport in 1936. Allen Fieldhouse was dedicated on March 1, 1955 when the Kansas Jayhawks defeated their in-state rival, the Kansas State Wildcats, 77-67. The actual playing surface at Allen is the James Naismith Court

Allen Fieldhouse has hosted several NCAA tournament regional and NBA exhibition games. Occasional concerts there have featured The Beach Boys, Elton John, Sonny and Cher, Leon Russell, Alice Cooper, ZZ Top, Tina Turner, Harry Belafonte, Henry Mancini, The Doobie Brothers, Kansas and Bob Hope. It has also hosted various speakers, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2004, U.S. presidential candidate Senator Robert F. Kennedy (which drew over 20,000) in 1968, and activist Abbie Hoffman in 1970. More recently a group of American Indian singers and dancers from nearby Haskell Indian Nations University performed at half time of a women's basketball game.

Just getting to the Allen Fieldhouse location on campus can feel like a pilgrimage completed. Basketball fans from all over the United States seek this gym out, to look around and breathe the air; they travel just to touch the hallowed walls. Stepping into a non-game day darkened arena is like entering a basketball shrine. It's so quiet you might think you have to take your shoes off. When you walk around the concourse there is a palatable mystique that is hard mistake. With such an aura you might expect to see votive candles burning quietly in the corner. Allen is very clean and mostly untouched since the early days. Residing in the nondescript campus building underneath the vintage architecture of curved iron roof supports are the spirits of former players like Chamberlain, Jo Jo White, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce, and Kirk Heinrich. So much so you can almost feel their presence standing next to you.

The nearest top flight collegiate facility that is comparable in stature would be the now-retired Jenison Fieldhouse (MSU, East Lansing MI). Others in proximity include Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler University, Indianapolis IN) and Welsh-Ryan Arena (Northwestern University, Evanston IL). Allen Fieldhouse is one of the few classic structures still hosting basketball games today.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

North Mississippi Allstars 3/11/10 at The Bottleneck, Lawrence KS

The all-encompassing hybrid music of the North Mississippi All Stars is good bet for today's roots music connoisseurs: one part Southern blues band, one part jam band trio, the rest rock-n-roll kids just having fun. Imagine if the Jelly Roll Kings with Junior Kimbrough strung together their favorite songs into one complete barrage; that's what you get with NMA. The multifunctional band appearing at The Bottleneck in downtown Lawrence KS on March 11 featured lead guitarist and singer Luther Dickinson (who also gigs with the Black Crowes); bassist/vocalist Chris "Big Cheese" Chew; Luther's brother, drummer and washboard player Cody Dickinson.

Entering the stage to the theme song from Sanford & Son, the plaid work-shirted Luther Dickinson began the night authentically enough by running through a series of R.L. Burnside-inspired tunes on slide guitar. Early on Dickinson implored the audience to "shake what yo' mama gave you" and many happily obliged. Next up was the bluesy "I'd Love to Be a Hippy," from the NMA release Hernando featuring the rich vocals of Mr. Chew. About midpoint through the show, just after the drum solo, members of opening act Hill Country Revue hopped onstage for some jamming. "Shake Em On Down" spotlighted the singing of tattooed (and apparent Lucero fan) Hill Country Revue vocalist Daniel Coburn. During the later portion of the set, Luther got behind the drum kit for a spin on the sticks while Cody emerged to strum the washboard. The noticeable thing this night was how NMA looked to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, almost like it wasn't just another Thursday night in the heartland. So much fun was had that Luther Dickinson at one point gave a holler and said, "Man, I feel like cussing," and proceeded to do just that.

The Bottleneck is non-smoking club in downtown Lawrence home to some of the best live music anywhere and features a sizable wooden dance floor plus two sections of flat board bleachers for convenient viewing or standing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

TMGR EXCLUSIVE: Organissimo last gig in GR 4/10 at Founders

TMGR has just learned that Lansing-area jazz funk jam band Organissimo will play their last gig in Grand Rapids on April 10 at Founders Brewery. First word is that Hammond B-3 player Jim Alfredson has landed a full-time gig with blues singer Janiva Magness. Stay tuned for further details.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lee McBee w/Mike Morgan & the Crawl in Europe summer 2010

#TMGR has learned soul singer extraordinaire and harp player Lee McBee will be reuniting with his former band mates in Mike Morgan & the Crawl for a summer tour. Lee McBee says there are two outings on the books in Europe for May and July this year. Joining Mike Morgan on guitar will be drummer Kevin Schimmelhorn and bassist Drew Allain. McBee played with the Dallas-based Morgan & the Crawl for about 10 years beginning in the early 90s. Together they appeared locally at the Rhythm Kitchen Cafe in downtown GR and in Rockford. The Lawrence KS-area Lee McBee & the Confessors can be found most Sunday nights at BB's Lawnside Bar-B-Q in nearby Kansas City MO. He was recently honored as a 2009 inductee into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame.

Listen to the featured track "Twelve Hours From You" at: