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Thursday, December 20, 2012

CD Review: On the Record with the Kinsey Report

The Kinsey Report has always approached the blues with a boisterous mood. Perhaps they’re just trying to be heard above the clamor and din of their hometown Gary IN steel mills. Those inescapable industrial sounds add nothing to a rehearsal over at the house. Simpler yet, it could be the Kinsey's still possess a power trio mind-set. If hard hitting blues is what your soul seeks, give a listen to On the Record with the Kinsey Report. Take note of their version of the blues staple “Rock Me.” Everything you’ve ever heard about the Kinsey Report is here: blues tradition coupled with a dynamic unleashed as rock-n-roll. For some blues music lovers, the jolt is akin to walking around the corner into a stiff Chicago wind. But for longtime followers of the Kinsey brothers this revelation comes as no surprise.  Featuring Chicago blues and Kinsey originals, On the Record is inundated with a reggae groove--island rock-rhythms on lasting authority from brother Donald’s days with Peter Tosh. The influence for Donald's sure-handed lead guitar work was infused during his formative time alongside Albert King (Breaking Up Somebody's Home) and Albert Collins. Recorded on location in Bowling Green, Ohio, this CD/vinyl package offers a documentation of contemporary blues as rendered by veterans with a steadfast grit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The World Famous Pontani Sisters at the Tip Top Dec 12

Burlesque star Angie Pontani earned the go-getter label early on. As a youngster she persevered through 5 nights of dance school every week. She was only 17 when she began making Carmen Miranda fruit headdresses and mambo costumes, putting them on her sisters, and wearing them when they did their act on Coney Island. Then they came up with a name: The World Famous Pontani Sisters. After realizing she might have a future in the entertainment business, Pontani set out to find a local burlesque scene in NYC. However the burlesque style which Pontani most related to fell on hard times 50 years ago. “In the 1960s more people had televisions and strip clubs became more popular,” Pontani said. “I like to say burlesque stepped out for a while.” Whether she knew it or not, Pontani was about to become a major player in the burlesque revival of the 1990s. “There really wasn’t anything going on when we started. We decided we'd better get something going,” Pontani said. “I was definitely a member of the group of people that helped bring this back simultaneously.” The scene really started swinging for Pontani and others when they started creating more staged performances. “We took influence from the golden era of entertainment in the 1940s and 50s.” A reviewer from Village Voice caught the Sisters act on the boardwalk. The rest, as they say, is history. “The recognition happened pretty quickly for us,” Pontani said. “No one else was really doing it like we were. We were contacted by many different venues to bring our show to various nightclubs and restaurants. Fairly early on in our career we had regular shows at places like Windows on the World in the World Trade Center.” Audiences are treated to a 90 minutes of  fast moving versatile revue. If you're naughty and not nice, Pontani promises stockings filled with sexy fun. “While we’re not directly taking scenes from the movie Holiday Inn, the inspiration is there,” Pontani said. “Particularly in the form of the over-the-top 1950s style entertainment featured in the film. We’ve got big dance numbers and group production elements. Everything revolves around the theme of the holidays. You can expect fabulous guest stars, solos, and duets.” Pontani points out that the show is also very classic burlesque. “We incorporate slight skit elements as a tip of the hat to the burlesque of mid-century.” Angie Pontani may have found businesswoman success as an adult but in her heart there is still a little girl in tap shoes. “I’m just doing what I’ve always loved,” Pontani said. “And that is dressing up as fabulously as I can and dancing around.”
The World Famous Pontani Sisters Burlesque-A-Pades Holiday Inn, 8pm, Dec 12, Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill. 

The Dram House Rounders String Band plays live music afterwards. 

$10 Advance, $15 Day Of 


More information on the Pontani Sisters website.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

BOP (harvey) reunion at Rick's American Cafe in East Lansing Dec 1

Singer Steve Sarder recalls an era when selling an album bundled with a tee-shirt was a good day. Adding a new name to the mailing list was even better. For bands like East Lansing’s BOP (harvey)--in the pre-Internet world of music sales and marketing—those numbers meant everything. And BOP put up some solid numbers: approximately 150,000 records and 50,000 shirts sold. When they threw in the towel the first time in 1994, they had some 17,000 names on the mailing list. “The mailing list alone cost us hundreds of dollars to mail out each time,” Sarder said. The prevailing thought was if you have good sales and good loyalty among your fans, you’re on your way. Although they might not get a postcard in the mail this week, music lovers from all over Michigan are looking forward to this weekend. BOP (Harvey) plays a reunion show Saturday at Rick’s American Café in East Lansing.
Today the download has changed the music buying game. “Nowadays kids just want to buy the music by the song,” Sarder aka Word E Smith said. “Kids feel like they’re getting ripped off if they have to buy the whole album. They say ‘I don’t want all that music. I just want the one song.’” So it seems like a complete CD is too much to invest in these days. Longtime music lovers know you have to hear the whole album to get the full effect. “The idea of the concept album has been lost,” Sarder said. “Albums used to be made with a thought to flow. If you’re into a CD for only one or two songs you’re missing a lot of good music in between. BOP used to put a lot of time into segues and connections between songs.”
Music lovers from the 80s-90s and today know how BOP’s reggae-fueled soca rock makes them entirely dance floor-friendly. “We were definitely a hybrid,” Sarder aka Joe Six-Pack said. “We had strong reggae influence. But there were other influences too with so many people in the band; and with the band being a democracy and all we tended to venture into different areas. We’d have a reggae tune next to a calypso next to a ska tune. We’d experiment with all the Caribbean and African rhythms. We even got into some Nigerian juju-style songwriting.”
The popularity of the infectious grooves of the band allowed them to share the stage with just about every notable world music performer of the day: Steel Pulse, Yellowman, Eek-a Mouse, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, and Ziggy Marley. “Just about everybody and anybody that was known in the reggae world,” Sarder said. “We had come to work with all of them at one time or another; that was just terrific. Toots & the Maytals were one of my all time favorites.”

After 650,000 miles on the road (two cars, four vans, one motor home, and a Greyhound coach) BOP seemed poised to make a break-through. As burnout set in, nerves became brittle. The end was prolonged by the opportunity to play campaign rallies for then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. “We played rallies at MSU, Ann Arbor, and a pre-election night rally in an airport hangar in Romulus,” Sarder said. “On all three occasions we got to shake hands with the candidate. But on the last one, we got to go backstage, rub elbows and talk it up a little more and some photographs taken.” After Clinton won the election the band was invited to DC for the inaugural festivities. “We got to play in a tent on the Washington Mall with Blues Traveler, Taj Mahal, and Little Feat. For two days there was entertainment from 10am to 5pm. It was quite an experience. After we were done with our set we had passes to go all over. We got to meet a lot of professional musicians and see a lot of shows. We saw Fleetwood Mac from basically backstage.” They also played the Hard Rock Café that week which led to more shoulder rubbing with famous people.
BOP’s next big break—they had stopped touring by then--came when they appeared in the first season of the Conan O’Brien Show. Their bass player (Dan Stechow aka Danny St Echo) had been hired as an assistant on the program. And it didn’t hurt they were on Max Weinberg’s (The E-Street Band) label at the time. “We went on Conan the last week we were touring in April 1994,” Sarder said. “Having those two connections is what allowed us to get on there, particularly since we weren’t really a national phenomenon. We really ought to have stayed together a little longer and worked that first national exposure more. By then we knew we were packing it in; it was a bittersweet moment. Our last show was at the Majestic Theater in Detroit the same week we were on Conan.” BOP (harvey)’s music lives on still in the hearts of many. Ever familiar to hawking merch out of the trunk, Sarder says copies of  their Bread & Circuses CD will be available for purchase at the gig on Saturday. Among other things, BOP (harvey) promises to be in rich form; whooping it up in what may well be The End of the World Party--Mayan-style.“Rick’s American Café was our birthplace,” Sarder said. “We’ll play all our classic tunes there; the one’s that we’ve been playing the longest--like the more rootsy selections.”  
BOP (harvey) wsg Roland Remington, 9:30pm, Saturday at Rick's American Cafe in East Lansing. BOP shows at 10:30 and 12a.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jorma Kaukonen at Bell's Brewery (Eccentric Cafe) in Kalamazoo Nov 15

Don’t be surprised if Jorma Kaukonen’s solo act feels a teensy bit like Hot Tuna. Only a single constant remains, however, from the venerable Jefferson Airplane offshoot: Barry Mitterhoff and the kitchen sink. “People always wonder about this stuff,” Kaukonen said of the potential confusion over his solo shows. “Barry and I started playing together eleven years ago. In fact he played with me before we co-opted him into Hot Tuna.” Acclaimed finger-style blues guitarist Kaukonen plays a Nov 15 acoustic show at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo. Multi-instrumentalist Mitterhoff--octave mandolin, tenor banjo, tenor guitar--gives  Kaukonen the jump needed to cover all the elemental styles of American music. “Barry and I play a bunch of songs we don’t play with Hot Tuna” Kaukonen said. “He sings a little bit more and we do some of his songs." Kind of like Hot Tuna but not really. Clearly the omission of Tuna bassist Jack Casady gives into the latter. Kaukonen meanwhile sounds unfazed. “The good news is we do things a little bit differently when Jack’s not here—obviously--because Jack has such a huge musical presence.” When Kaukonen was getting ready to do River of Time, his most recent solo record, people asked him why he didn’t get Casady to play bass. Kaukonen replied, well, then it's just a Hot Tuna record. This sentiment carries over to Kaukonen’s solo tours. “When I do a solo show the emphasis is on my songwriting instead of the dynamic interaction between Jack and myself.” An integral part of the Kaukonen’s musical posse riding along this week to Kalamazoo is guitarist/lap steel player Steve Kimock. “Kimock is arguably one of the great living guitar players in the world today,” Kaukonen said. “The thing that makes him a great fit in almost any setting is that his musical sensibilities are really flawless. When he’s sitting in with us he does his own thing but it's within our context. Steve does a lot of different things. He plays everything so well it's as if that was his bag.” Sure he gets out and gigs around solo and with Hot Tuna but Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch music camp in southeastern Ohio is really his focus as of late. The camp teaches kids and adults of all ages on weekends March through November. Hot Tuna last week played the closing weekend for this year. Instructors and performers have included Roger McGuinn, John Hammond, and Mary Gauthier. Fur Peace even has its own NPR radio program on WOUB-FM. Kaukonen is taking Fur Peace on the road again to San Diego early next year. “We have something for everybody,” Kaukonen said of the learning experience. “A single person or a family can participate in the workshops; some can do the workshop and others hang on the beach or take a walk to SeaWorld.”

Jorma Kaukonen at Bell's Brewery on Nov 15 at 9:30pm.

Tickets available at Bell's website

Learn more about the Fur Peace Ranch at furpeaceranch.com 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Coming Soon: Interview with Jorma Kaukonen

Finger-picking blues guitarist Jorma Kaukonen is perhaps best known as a member of Jefferson Airplane (Woodstock) and founder of the group Hot Tuna. Kaukonen also operates the Fur Peace Ranch music and guitar camp in Ohio. Kaukonen performs at Bell's Brewery with Steve Kimock on Thursday Nov 15.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Scott Holt at the Tip Top Nov 8

You’re on stage and six-feet away from the most significant blues guitarist in the world. For guitarist Scott Holt, 10 years of musical lessons imparted nightly by Buddy Guy at that distance were pivotal. Sure there were other dayside life lessons with Guy that Holt found pertinent. Holt he learned how to be on time; what to do about two or three different wake up calls lined up when on the road; what to order for lunch. “I learned that if you’ve never been to a restaurant before you should always order the most expensive item on the menu because odds are that’s the best thing they’ll have,” Holt said with a laugh. “Buddy said ‘Man, order the most expensive thing because you know it’s got to be good if they got the nerve to charge that much.’” No truer words of wisdom spoken from Guy, a man with proud southern sharecropper lineage. Scott Holt appears at the Tip Top in Grand Rapids on Nov. 8. Holt is quick to point out that he’s not trying to take Buddy’s place. “I’m sure I learned a lot of of my stage mannerisms from him,” Holt said from Nashville. “He was such a profound influence. You can’t become that good of friends and not have it rub off on you.” Holt says he learned from Guy how to be an entertainer first. “The first time I saw Buddy he jumped off the stage and walked out in the street,” Holt said of Guy’s stage antics. But perhaps the most important thing Guy ever told Holt was that you have to win over a crowd--all over again--every time. “He taught me to be an entertainer; my job is to entertain people when in a live situation.” There are many blues purists who poo-poo the idea of a bluesman with the stature of Buddy Guy ever doing cover songs. But Guy had the answer for those critics. “A lot of times when an audience doesn’t know you as an artist they don’t know your material,” Holt said with a soft Tennessee drawl. “And when you try to hit them over the head with your original stuff you get blank looks. They don’t recognize that stuff anyway. So you got to shake ‘em up and play some stuff that they do know.” While that was largely Guy’s shtick, Holt admits to having a weird sense of humor of his own. “We’ll cover an Elmore James song or a Jimi Hendrix song but every once and a while a Sex Pistol or Elton John tune pops in there,” Holt said. Holt arrives in Grand Rapids as part of a trio featuring bassist Calvin Johnson, formerly of Anthony Gomes outfit. “I’ve got a great band. They can play anything.” What does that feel like anyway? “It’s like having a really nice race car,” Holt said with a chuckle. “It’ll do whatever you want to do and look good doing it.” For all his exposure to the big time world of blues, Scott Holt still sounds grounded. “I’m definitely not the guitar player Buddy is. I’m not the singer or entertainer he is. But I learned a lot of what I do from him.”
Scott Holt at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids tonight. Doors at 7.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Marti Brom & Rosie Flores at the Tip Top Nov 4

Photo by Rodney Bursiel
Renowned rockabilly vixen Rosie Flores only knows how to do things one way. “I like to do things right. I don’t like to do things half-ass,” Flores said. “I don’t let any recordings out until they are 100 percent Rosie approved.” This is just part of the reason Flores finds herself currently on tour promoting two new releases: her own Working Girls Guitar and the late Janis Martin's The Blanco Sessions. Marti Brom & Rosie Flores make a stop at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill on Nov 4. Flores recently wrapped up the Janis Martin project which had consumed her life for 4 years. In 2011 she finished the recordings she produced with rockabilly pioneer Martin in 2007. Of course, the process couldn't go smoothly. The disc idea had to be turned down by numerous labels at first. “Most record labels are resistant to taking the risk on an artist who has passed on and who didn't have a name since the 1950s," Flores said while waiting on last minute repairs to her touring van. She recounted how she worked tirelessly with no money and then had to raise more money to see it done. She said she had to get Cow Island Music involved so she could actually do things the right way. In the end, Flores friends were there to help. "A lot of people put their time in for free on this project," Flores said. "A lot of my good friends donated time and money because they saw how difficult it was because I had to do a lot of it by myself." She was able to get the recordings done with the help of Kickstarter. "I'm just glad this whole thing didn't kill me," Flores said wryly. "Now I can get out there and tour." Sticking together with the girls in her life is more than just a motto for Flores. She talks fondly of the friendship she shared with both the late Martin and Wanda Jackson. After all it was Flores who brought back Martin and Jackson from the brink of obscurity in the 90s. Now with the release of Martin's CD The Blanco Sessions she is able to spread the gospel word about Janis Martin, who died 4 months after the tapes rolled. "We’re promoting this record for her and getting her name out there,” Flores said. “Part of it is for her to have a voice on the radio now. It’s also for the Kickstarter people who pitched in to see the record completed. I just wish I could call Janis now and let her know how well we're doing." In between all this she recorded and produced Working Girls Guitar, the first one on which she plays all of the guitar parts. The Rockabilly Filly has a twang of her own and—among a crowded field of guitarists all chasing the same thing--that’s saying something. Her notable Texas vibrato comes courtesy of her latest custom turquoise guitar: a Telecaster body with a metal plate on top called a SteeltopCaster. "It looks like it's ready for battle," she said laughing. Ever modest she finds the whole experience a big privilege. “I get to play behind Marti who is a great singer," Flores said adding that she feels they're pretty unique. "There’s nothing like us out there at all." And with a finger on a dimple and one heel up, she might be right. "This ain’t the Judds," she said with a laugh."There's a little bit of naughtiness involved. It’s not clean country." Once a rockabilly kitten, always a rockabilly kitten; this wouldn't be true rockabilly if it didn't have a little dissenting attitude about it. "We’re bringing that rebellious flavor back," Flores said. "It’s rock n roll. It’s sexy. And it’s really great to dance to." Rosie Flores, a true American original, seems to have her heart in the right place. "We really just want to show how much we care about what Janis did in the past and what she did recently before she died," Flores said. "And to show what we have in our back pocket today.”

Marti Brom & Rosie Flores and band wsg Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill on Nov 4. Doors at 6 pm.

Ticket information: http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=4884305&pl=tiptop

Click here purchase and listen to samples of The Blanco Sessions at the Cow Island Music website:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pete Anderson at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill Oct 17

About 4 years ago Pete Anderson heard the call for a new challenge. The Detroit-born blues guitarist and record label owner had accomplished just about every goal set in his varied musical career. For instance, he was a member of Dwight Yoakam's touring band during the frenzy of their 1990s popularity. The work served him well on many levels but he knew his future would dead-end as a touring musician. “I didn’t want to be in anybody’s band any more even if they were on my label,” Anderson said in a recent interview. “I didn’t want to work behind a singer again. I didn’t want to be in a situation where anybody could stop me.” Already the process of taking over his destiny had begun. The Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids welcomes the return of guitarist Pete Anderson on Oct 17. Anderson says that even if you have a signed contract you can’t force people to do things. “A singer could say ‘I don’t want to go. I’m sick. I want more money. I don’t want to do this anymore.’ There’s nothing you can do about it.” Pete Anderson says he puts a lot work into forming a band and creating a record. If he can get things going his way, he stands a better chance of cutting down on the inherent flakey human element. “I didn’t want anyone to even have the potential to say ‘I don’t want to play tonight.’” So he and his wife downsized their recording operations in Los Angeles and set up shop in his 4-car garage at home. By this time he had become a noted producer by working with Buck Owens, Roy Orbison, and the Meat Puppets. “I used to think I’d like to work with a bunch of different people but I look around now and I have worked with a bunch of different people,” Anderson said with a laugh. “I’ve had a pretty broad career working with William Norman Edwards, Rosie Flores, and k.d. Lang. I’ve got a long legacy of stuff I’ve produced and I’m proud of the majority of it.” But what he’s focused on now hits a little closer to home. “I told my wife I’m going to start my own band,” Anderson said. “I’ll work on my singing. I just want to play guitar. I’ve always been a producer who played guitar. Now I want to be a guitar player who makes his own records and tours. During time off I’ll produce other artist’s records. I’ve flipped the paradigm from producer-guitarist to guitarist-producer.” Amid all this productivity he found time to establish a demand for himself as a studio session guitarist (Michelle Shocked, Tanya Tucker, Flaco Jimenez). Of all the success achieved so far Anderson sounds most proud of running his own label. The story of Little Dog Records best illustrates his hands-on, from-the-ground-up approach to things in general. “In 1992 it was pre-internet, pre-No Depression magazine, and we had an 800 number telephone line in the office,” Anderson said. “I started it in the spawn of the infancy of independent record companies.” His method of going it alone but not solo seems to have paid off. “I always wanted to do my own thing,” Anderson said. “I love to play live. Left to my own devices as an artist where I am singing and writing, the blues is where I stand.”

Pete Anderson live at the Tip Top on Oct 17. Doors at 7:00 pm.

Ticket info:  http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=4813175&pl=tiptop

Listen to 3 full-length songs at Pete Anderson.com

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wayne "The Train" Hancock at the Tip Top

Wayne Hancock looks and sounds like he wears a throw-back jersey with a GPS in the pocket. That's how in touch he is with the tradition of yesteryear and the vibe of today. He can tell what it feels like to get sweat and dirt in your eye at the same time. Feeling overwhelmed with life? Hancock's got just the thing for that. Call it caring the country & western sort of way. To get yourself on the road to recovery grab your wig-hat and find a live set of Hancock’s signature hillbilly jazz sound; then pick out a spot on the adjacent dance floor. Now you've got it. Let it move you by the soul. “Dancing is the best expression to release that bad energy,” Hancock said. Just what the folks have been grooving to, in particular, for the past 17 years is Hancock’s version of Texas dance hall and jump blues. “Whether it was the hand clapping or what, the originals played jump blues so people could dance,” Hancock said on his way to a sold out gig Urbana, IL. “I like it upbeat. If you can swing your blues then you’re there.” Ever the humanitarian Hancock has everybody's interest in mind but his own. “When people leave my shows I want them to feel like they got a leg up on some of their worst times.” Wayne Hancock, appearing at the Tip Top on Oct 9, presents a roots music experience as it was first intended. He cites Bob Wills as a contributor of some of the best blues he’s heard. “He conveyed the down side of how he was feeling,” Hancock said. “But he put a swing to his music that made it seem like that no matter how bad things got, you still had the upper hand.” He writes the lyrics of a laborer but delivers with a vocal style that's more uppity big city. Hancock admits to an affinity for vocalists like Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra. He has a penchant for gems from the American song book. Thus he records a version of “Midnight, the Stars, and You” (Ray Noble) on his disc Viper of Melody (2009). “My parents were born in the 1920s," Hancock said. "I grew up listening to “Stardust” and Hoagy Carmichael. No matter what they had on the radio I never was happy with it.” He says he thinks the blues ain’t nothing you need to be afraid of. “Blues are expressions of life,” Hancock said. “They’re like feeling good and having sex. It’s just another emotion.” The hillbilly portion of hillbilly jazz is all Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams, perhaps Hancock's most handy comparison. Hancock is putting out new disc in early 2013 called Ride. Songs topics are expected to include a new found love of riding motorcycles and the ever trusty murder ballad. Hancock recently hired a manager after many years without one. He is reported to be very pleased so far with a new booking agency. If things are looking up for Wayne The Train then the rest of us might have a chance. “I’ve gone through some changes in the past two years,” Hancock said. “But now I feel like I’ve got my yodel back.” 

Wayne "The Train" Hancock wsg The True Falsettos at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill tonight. Show at 8 pm.  

Ticket information at:  


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys at the Tip Top

Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys core rockabilly sound is full of truthfulness.  Attendees for any show are likely to feel transported back in time as if witnessing the evolution of country boogie into rock-n-roll. Some might feel as though they’re listening to guitar-driven surf from a beach movie on the TCM channel. Their brand of authentic western swing has few equivalents. The Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill welcomes for the first time a genuine Rockabilly Hall of Fame inductee in Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys on Sept 30. As accomplished and identifiable as their sound has been for 25 years now, the act wouldn’t be the same without Big Sandy’s front man presence. There are only so many ways to describe the onstage chutzpah of Big Sandy (aka Robert Williams). One of them is to say that Big Sandy the entertainer looks to invigorate a fading show biz tradition every night: the one where laughs are earned the old fashioned way with lively stage banter and wit. “I do like the entertainment aspect,” Big Sandy said. “Some artists just play as in ‘we let the music do the talking.’ I like the entertainment side of the business and the way you present it. It’s kind of a lost art, the whole show business part of it.” Here’s the tip to that success: he got jokes. A little wit in between songs can go a long way. Improvisation helps makes songs sound fresh a little longer; Big Sandy says he tries to keep it interesting by mixing up the set list and doing songs just a little bit different from night to night. Between the music and the stage show it’s safe to say Big Sandy is left to carry on tradition to the unwashed masses. “It becomes second nature after all these years,” Big Sandy said. “We try not to think too hard about it. We don’t want it to be just an old fashioned retro thing but still relevant to now.” Early next year in celebration of their 25th anniversary in show business Big Sandy plans on releasing a new album. “We’ve just finished recording it and we’ll be mixing it when we get back home,” Big Sandy said. “We’ve taken songs off of each our albums and reworked some of them with acoustic versions.” If they were ever to bestow a Country Boogie Entertainer of the Year, Big Sandy  would be a favorite to win. Although currently on tour with Los Straitjackets, BS&FRB Grand Rapids show is theirs to mess up all alone. “This will be first show on this trip without Los Straitjackets,” Big Sandy said. “That’s not the good part. It just means we’ll get to play a little longer.”
Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys wsg Delilah DeWlyde & the Lost Boys at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids today at 6:00pm.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

TMGR Publisher Wins Award

Taste Makers Grand Rapids publisher Chet Eagleman Jr. was recently recognized for work in multimedia journalism. The news slideshow "Art Prize 2011," featured on the website of The Collegiate newspaper at GRCC, won a MCCPA award for reporting.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Interview with Doug Deming: Remembering Gary Primich

When jump blues guitarist Doug Deming's band was hired in 2006 to back up harmonica master Gary Primich, Deming was already an admirer of Primich's music. "I liked his approach," Deming said. "We shared a musical vision. It was a pleasure to meet him and an honor to play with him." After that it didn't take long for Deming to become an equally ardent fan of the man himself. "He was one of the guys. It wasn't about any ego or star time. Gary was about getting the job done." Continuing a longstanding connection to Primich and his music Doug Deming and his band the Jewel Tones take part in the First Annual Grand Rapids Harmonica Summit, a Tribute to Gary Primich, on Sept 6 in Grand Rapids. Deming will play the original songs of  Primich and then back some of the brightest names in the blues harmonica world today. The harp players expected to descend on the St Cecilia Music Society for this one day event include Dennis Gruenling, Peter Madcat Ruth, and Hank Mowery. Deming and Primich shared a musical camaraderie before they ever met. Deming's buoyant, bouncy hollow-body guitar turned into a perfect match for the Tiny Grimes side of Primich, who passed away in 2007. Deming's dart tip emotion-loaded solid body guitar had pinpoint accuracy on the slow blues. "Within the blues genre Gary did a real variety of traditional styles," Deming said on the way to a tour stop in Springfield IL. "That's kind of where I live as well. I'm a fan of all the early American music which is largely blues based. It has a jump blues feel and we throw in a little jazz with a touch of rockabilly. It all filters into to a style we've developed." Deming, who ended up being the last guitar player for Gary Primich, has fond memories of their time together. "I was his last guitar player for his last few tours. We did a Midwest tour up into Canada in the spring before he passed. He was a great guy, always fun to be around. He liked nothing more than to hang out, listen or play some good music, and watch a football game." 

The First Annual Grand Rapids Harmonica Summit, Sept 6, St. Cecilia Music Society, 7 pm. $10 at the door.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Conversation with Nathan Kalish

Nathan Kalish just wants everyone to have good start to the school year. It doesn't matter to him if you're done with school or you've just signed up for classes, Kalish and his band the Wildfire look to return rested and tan for a show at the Pyramid Scheme on August 31. This particular back-to-school special, featuring up-and-comers Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys, is one that Kalish hopes will appeal to the professional student in all of us. "We wanted to do a back to school show for the college kids," Kalish said en route to a recording session. "Our music fits real well with Gunnar's. Each band has a similar fan base so this should be a good ticket." Furthermore Kalish (pictured third from left) can sense the potential of the evening by the relevant musical styles of these two bands. "Both of our bands are guitar driven," Kalish said. "Gunnar comes from the modern country side with some pop rock sound thrown in. The Wildfire is outlaw country with pop sensibilities." The show at the Pyramid Scheme, along with the Legal Immigrants, marks the return of Nathan Kalish the promoter. "I promoted all our home shows here in the past seven years," Kalish said. "It can be kind of stressful to say the least. Gunnar is such a powerful band live it makes more sense for us to open up for them. Fans of this guitar forward kind of sound might take this opportunity to see Kalish and company perform before he embarks on a 2 1/2 month long tour with Nashville's Deadstring Brothers. "I'm going to be the opening act for them," Kalish said. "I'll be solo playing my originals. I've toured with them before as a guitar player and a bass player."

Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys wsg Nathan Kalish and the Wildfire and Legal Immigrants, Friday, Aug 31, Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids. Doors 9:00pm, show 10. More information at Pyramid Scheme dot com.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Interview with Dave Alvin: Survivor of the Fittest

Photo by Beth Herzhaft

Dave Alvin is the first to admit he's not the most prolific of songwriters. He is still, however, a highly regarded writer of life-scape songs. It seems the hectic time-oriented pace of a traveling musician doesn't always allow for quiet corner time.  "There just isn't a lot of time for critical, creative, or any kind of thinking," Alvin said with a gruff little chuckle. "The way I tour it's very hard to write on the road; I've been touring the same way for 30 years." Despite the rigors of this work situation Alvin's songs have been covered by Dwight Yoakam, James McMurtry, and Alejandro Escovedo. Alvin's on-the-go writing process changed slightly in 2009 when he toured with the Guilty Women. "At full force it was an eight piece band," Alvin said. This time around the extra drivers got him out of some wheel duty. "I love to drive one of the vehicles and it's relaxing for me," Alvin said. "But now I could say, 'Here, you drive for a while. I'm going to sit and write some songs.'" The reprieve granted him much needed space to write. Soon after he was bringing in tunes from the road and making things happen once he got home. "I'd have a week or two off back home in California. I'd call up some friends, go in the recording studio, and cut a song. Then I'd go back out on the road." These recordings became the basis for his esteemed Eleven Eleven release. But there is something more to learn about Alvin in that he's something of survivor. So other than having former Blaster saxophonist Lee Allen as an early adviser in the music scene, he seems all right. "Lee taught a lot of us guys life survival techniques," Alvin said. "He showed us how to survive bad times and good times. Both have their pitfalls and perils. He said, try to show up on time--all those little things," Alvin said with a laugh. He says the importance of going into the music business with a sound frame of mind cannot be understated. "It's a weird surreal life sometimes," he admits. "When you're around long term survivors of this lifestyle it will either send you running toward the exits or into more of a full blown embrace of trying to make a living doing this," Alvin said. "Musically it affects you one way but when you know guys personally it affects you another way. The thing Lee taught me and Steve Berlin (Alvin's former band mate in Blasters) of Los Lobos is how to still love doing this." Alvin, with a career spanning thirty-plus years, knows how rough it is out there. "Something you learn from survivors is how to pack up all your blues and troubles and keep moving ahead," Alvin noted. "Whether there's hope or not you have to keep telling yourself there is or you're not getting out of bed in the morning." To his credit Dave Alvin has done several albums of acoustic music and several electric rock releases. He says that in concert, just like Richard Thompson, he tries to negotiate the heady rapids between the two presentations. "It's all the same to me," Alvin said of the songs performed each night. "They are the same notes on the guitar whether they're loud or quiet. But it boils down to what the song wants. I know that sounds crazy but it's the truth. A lot of good songs can be played anyway you want to play them. Night and Day by Cole Porter can be played in a variety of formats. You can do it as a rock-n-roll song or a polka," Alvin said. After all that does he still plan on turning it up in Grand Rapids on March 6? "They'll be some quiet moments but otherwise it will be rocking," Alvin said with a slight laugh. "You better bring your earplugs just in case." 

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones at Tip Top Deluxe Bar and Grill on March 6. Doors at 7:00 pm, show at 8.
More info at Dave Alvin's website.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Interview with Anders Osborne

Photo credit: John McCusker/The Times-Picayune

When you're at sea sometimes it feels like the sun never sets. This was the apparent case for blues musician Anders Osborne, fresh off a jam band cruise from the previous week, as he continued to soak up the musical sunshine.

"They had this boat going in the Caribbean with a bunch of people playing and another big slew of people dancing," Anders said with a laugh from his home in New Orleans.

To know the very essence of Osborne is to know the cruise must have been a spectacle of styles. The Osborne view of the jam band scene on the boat included funk, roots rock, and electronica.

"It was quite the hodge-podge," Osborne said of the various bands. "But mostly it's the after-life of the Grateful Dead following. Only now the new generation is jumping on board. I got into playing those crowds in the early 90s with folks like Joan Osborne, Rusted Root, and The Radiators." 

If there was one musician of the hundreds aboard the jam band cruise befitting the Artist at Large title--as he was known on the boat--it's Osborne. 

"People get to invite me to be a special guest on their shows," Osborne said. "This time I played with Toots & the Maytals and Bruce Hornsby. I was featured in George Porter's band (original bassist with the Meters). I also got up there with Bill Kreutzmann's (Grateful Dead drummer) band called 7 Walkers."

For artists like Anders Osborne defining oneself in the crowded jam band landscape can be tricky. When you talk stylistic presentation, Osborne likes the combination of improvisational music skills and a wallop of showmanship.

"People respond to my improvisation when I do my full band," Osborne said. "We rock and create on the spot. I grew up around a lot of jazz. But at the same time I came up with Neil Young and the hard driving rock and roll shows of the day."  

A good song knows no boundary. Not to be content with singular musical scene credit, Osborne is known for his original compositions across multiple genres.

"I've always tried to spend a little time on the songs and craft them to the best of my ability," Osborne said. "From time to time you get a little recognition for what you do and that's cool." 

One form of respect he wakes up to everyday is the diversity of artists who recorded his songs: Tim McGraw, Tab Benoit, Kim Carnes. What is it about Osborne's compositions that make them so worthy?

"I have never directly heard any comments from these people who have cut them," Anders said. "The decision to record is a very personal one. It varies. If you're not a songwriter you receive a bunch of songs and you go through them with your producer. The timing of everything just has to work out. You have to be in a certain place, maybe going through a divorce or something. Songs relating to that are more natural to sing. I don't think there's a method to this madness. Sometimes as a writer I get lucky."

Originally from Sweden, Anders Osborne says he was sixteen years old "full of energy and displeased with my position in life" when he left home. Osborne started to hitchhike, and--over the course of about three years--ended up in Northern Africa and Egypt.

"I met someone from New Orleans on the way and eventually made it down here," Osborne said from his home of twenty-seven years on The Ridge (original high point above sea level) in New Orleans. "It felt like home so I decided to stay here."

On this current tour with Keb' Mo' which makes a stop in Grand Rapids on Jan 21 at the Intersection, Osborne plans on performing an acoustic guitar set. 

"I haven't done it in a while but hopefully I'll be up to speed with it," Osborne said with a chuckle. "I think I'm going to try to stick with an acoustic. Other times I'll sit down with my amp and play an electric (guitar). What I'm trying to do this time is to find a specific tone for my performance and stick with that. The idea for me is more of a complete show. It starts with me and goes into Keb' so that there are no fuzzy lines. I want the audience to go from one thing to the next and feel that it was a nice transition for their entertainment."

Keb' Mo' and his band with Anders Osborne, 7pm, Saturday at the Intersection. 

More information at sectionlive.com