Friday, July 29, 2011

Is It Hockey Season Yet?

Glen Sather completed a stellar off season with the signing of Ryan Callahan to a 3 year deal this week.  Now it's time for Torts to give him the C and play some HOCKEY!

It's Funny How Musical Tastes Change (and Don't)

I grew up, both physically and musically, in the late 70's.  My musical diet was a steady dose of FM rock radio.  I started out loving the Beatles and Elton John as a middle school kid and moved on to the other classic acts of the era.  I remember a friend of my father gave me a box of cassettes one day and my world changed over night.  In that box was:

Led Zeppelin IV
Rod Stewart - Gasoline Alley
Yes - Close to the Edge
Ten Years After - A Space In Time
Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick
The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet

This music set me off. A 14 year old who thought KISS was the shit was taken in new directions (Thanks Beep!). I was off and running on my life long musical exploration.

All throughout high school I kept on listening and my list of favorites kept growing. All the Zep, Pink Floyd, The Stones, early metal from Black Sabbath, Rush and the rest were added to my collection. I dove head first into punk with the Clash and of course my life long musical obsession with Bruce Springsteen took hold around 1978.

During my college years I relocated to California where I soaked up the west coast rock along with the exploding new wave scene. I listened to all kinds of music, even extending to country out of my love of Southern Rock such as the Marshall Tucker Band. Naturally, country rock acts like The Eagles and southern California artists such as Jackson Browne had a place in my constantly growing record collection.

As I've progressed in years to my current total of 49 I have listened to all kinds of new artists and genres. I love the alt-country sounds of Uncle Tupelo and their progeny. I have become a fan of Bluegrass over the past few years and can finally appreciate the music in its purer form that I loved on Workingman's Dead. Newer Blues artists like Matt Schofield are next to John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters on my record shelves. About the only thing that I have no taste for is Heavy Metal and it's offspring (hair metal, thrash, etc.). It just doesn't do it for me. Houses of the Holy? Still love it to this day. Master of Reality? No more.

My current fixation has been on the 60's and early 70's. I recently finished David Browne's excellent new book on 1970 "Fire and Rain". It looks at this pivotal year in the music of Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and The Beatles and the albums they released. A great read. It got me pulling out those albums and others this summer.

What I guess this whole ramble is about is that this era produced music with a timeless feeling that I don't get from so many of today's artists. As I've gotten older and my tastes have changed I can appreciate so much more that I didn't "get" when I was younger. Could I have loved Sweetheart of the Rodeo at 17? Probably not. Now? Love it! So that is what I guess I am getting at. The journey never ends. And if the journey is this much fun I hope that it never does.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Steel Wheels - Live at Goose Creek

Here's a band I would love to see on the Grey Fox lineup in 2012.  The Steel Wheels are a 4 piece acoustic act out of Virginia.  They have a strong sense of how acoustic music should be made...great playing and strong singing.  It's a little bluegrass, a little jamgrass, some folk tinges, all mixed up into great American music.  This set was recorded live in an old barn that have been converted into a concert venue and the sound achieved is spectacular.

"Red Wing" is a great example of what the Steel Wheels are about.  The music is firmly routed in the sounds of Apalachia but without the sometimes excessive twang that some of these acts have.  I love all kinds of roots music but on occasion some of the more traditional outfits stick too close to the old timers.  I much more prefer a little update of the sound and the Steel Wheels achieve that on this live set.  Traditional but with just the right updating of the genre.

Check out "Walk This Way For a While" for another fine example of the Steel Wheel's sound.

I'm going to be playing this one for a while. You should too 'cause this one gets the Oldrockr1 Seal of approval.

Blame Sally - Speeding Ticket and a Valentine

Blame Sally is an Americana act that features four ladies from San Francisco.  I hate to categorize acts under a banner like Americana, but that seems to be where I would file this one.  The music is primarily acoustic with some very, very strong harmonies.  Modern folk perhaps?  Doesn't really matter because this is a very good listen.  There are several standout tracks such as the opener "Bird in Hand" and the pop inflected "Living Without You".  Styles and influences flow and merge from song to song making for a varied but most enjoyable listening experience.

The band has commented that this album has a retro feel to it and I agree with that, but there is also something very much more to this album.  It has the feel of something that is at once familiar and new at the same time.  "Parajos Sin Alas" is a genre spanning cut that combines a Latin influence with folk harmonies to create a song that is more than the sum of its parts.

Check Blame Sally...they are worth your time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival 2011

I've seen a lot of concerts.  Not as many as some, but more than most.  Several hundred over the years and I have never been to a festival much less a Bluegrass festival.  I love lots of music...classic rock, blues, country (real country) but I have only really given bluegrass a chance over the past few years.  My first exposure was to non-traditional forms that were bluegrass in spirit but not in practice...String Cheese Incident, Railroad Earth, some Dead.  I was open all these years but the traditionalists didn't do it for me.  I was more Willie and Waylon than Flatt & Scruggs.

I saw The SteelDrivers on the Opry and that changed things.  They played the traditional instruments but with a more soulful sound.  Hard to describe and instantly addictive.  I soon discovered Sam Bush on and I was off.  I would say may taste runs more towards Newgrass and Jamgrass but to me there should be room at the table for all flavors so I decided to pack up the wife and son and head out to this year's festival (my daughter wants no part of camping or bluegrass).

We had the pop-up set up about half way back by 3:30 on Wednesday and the first thing that strikes you is the number of folks pickin'.  The talent level was amazing, in fact the group behind us was as good as many of the acts featured on the festival stages.  A few beer, some great music, I was beginning to lose my apprehensions about camping in a field for 4 nights.  A word about the camping...outhouses (clean), pay showers (hot), water trucks when you run out, ice for can make do quite easily.  There were tons of vendors selling food, beer, instruments, clothing, whatever you need and there are several places close by to get what you run out of.  We enjoyed the open mic night and generally soaked up the good vibes until late in the evening.

There were artists for everyone to enjoy whether you were a traditionalist (Del McCoury) or a pickin' hippie (Yonder Mountain).  Great music was to be found all through the day and night on the main stage and at the other stages set up around the festival.  In fact some of the best performances were in the dance tent.  Some highlights for me...

Greensky Bluegrass - I've been a fan the past couple of years and they did not disappoint either in the Master's tent or on the main stage headlining Thursday night.  Great playing from a band that is not afraid to jam a bit.

The Dirty Hillbenders - Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen along with the Hillbenders (a big surprise) ripped it up in the dance tent on Friday afternoon.  Crossroads was just sick...

The SteelDrivers - two sets on Friday were a highlight for me.  The set in the dance tent was fantastic and folks were dancing up storm and singing along.  The main stage set was right up there.  Love this band and they haven't missed a step with Gary Nichols taking over on vocals and guitar.

The Infamous Stringdusters - Love these guys.  I first saw them with Railroad Earth in Williamsburg back in 2010.  They get some shit about playing with and for the rock crowd.  This is a load of crap because these guys can flat out play.  Yes they jam a bit but the songs are top notch.  Catch them if you can in the future.

Sam Bush - I've seen Sam a few times and he never disappoints.  Traditional bluegrass in the Master's tent and Newgrass on the main stage.

These were just a few highlights of many.  So much great music around you it is impossible to see and hear everything so you have to pick and choose.  After the "official" music ended there were many late night jams around the farm that were often times quite good.  A music lovers dream come true.

You may not think you are a bluegrass fan but I encourage you to check this festival out.  You just might find out you are.  I'll be back next year...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Austin Lucas - A New Home in the Old World

I've been meaning to write about this absolutely wonderful album for weeks.  Don't let my delay in writing this review lead you to believe that this is anything less than the best country record that I have heard in years.  I love country music, Nashville not so much.  Far too much emphasis on looks and production and not enough on talent.  Austin Lucas however is the real deal.  He has a voice that is all high lonesome vibrato and sweetness.  The boy can flat out sing country music.

You want your country to rock (albeit like rem) check out Thunder Rail Run Around is all Appalachian breakdown that misses nothing but the jug being passed around. Sleep Well featuring Austin's sister Chloe is another standout that folks who listen to country radio should hear.  This is what country is supposed to sound like, not the pre-packaged Rascal Flatts/Tim McGraw/Carrie Underwood crap.  Go drop the needle on Feast, which is classic country gospel.  Hallelujah and Amen indeed.  This is country music from the heart.  Each and every track on the album is a keeper.  You can grab A New Home in the Old World on CD or colored vinyl over at Last Chance Records.  Grab the sounds fantastic.

Austin Lucas has crafted a modern country masterpiece.  My son calls it folk-punk because he refuses to accept the idea that country music, when played like this, is simply great music.  Whatever you want to call this it is without a doubt one of the best albums of the year and it gets the OldRockr1 Seal of Approval!

If you like this you need to check out Bristle Ridge by Austin and Chuck Ragan from a couple of years back.  To quote Chuck Ragan “the entire record has a very strong sense of bluegrass, folk and old time gospel with a certain feel of exactly where we were and what was going on when we layed it down”.  It does and you should hear it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It Was a Good Week Ranger Fans

This past week has been a good one for the Blueshirt Faithful!  Richards and Rupp make them so much better.  The youngsters are locked up and the King is in his prime.  2011-2012 should be one fun ride folks...

Is it October yet?

Nancy Grace is a Big Fat Poo Poo Head

OK so that title is a bit juvenile.  I can't help it because to me the collective intelligence of the "press" is pretty much at a pre-K level at the moment.  The death of any child is tragic, these circumstances are almost unspeakable.  Did Casey Anthony kill her daughter?  Probably.  I hope there is a special place in hell for whomever did this vile crime however, Casey Anthony was found not guilty by a jury of her peers.  Case closed.  Time to move on folks.  This is OJ the sequel or Michael Jackson part 2.  It isn't right and we all have to live with that.  It is also how our justice system works.  Sometimes the guilty go free.  It has to happen in order to prevent the conviction of an innocent man or woman.  It's what our fore fathers had in mind, you know those wise old guys and those trivial bits of paper called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A jury of 12 peers decides guilt or innocence in this country.  It is not perfect but it is the best game in town.  About 10 years ago I sat on a jury.  We knew the guy was guilty but based on the testimony, evidence and the judge's instructions on the law we were forced to return a not guilty verdict.  No one in that jury room was happy.  After 3 weeks there were all kinds of strong emotions expressed but we had no choice but to follow the law rather than our hearts.  After the trial the judge told us about the large amount of evidence that was not allowed in court for one reason or another and he told us we did the right thing.  In fact it was so one sided in court he said he would have reversed the decision if we found him guilty.  The system works based upon the law

I don't know what the jury knew or didn't know outside of the trial.  I didn't watch that closely to begin with so this rant is based on the aftermath.  The talking heads on HLN and the like can discuss this forever, but the jury could only weigh the evidence and there was reasonable doubt in their opinion.  Do they think she is guilty...probably.  Did they listen to the law instead of their emotions...yes and good for them.

Prior to this week I thought that Nancy Grace was someone who was the brunt of jokes on the Soup.  She is something far worse that that.  She is the antithesis of what a reporter should be.  She is simply some loud mouth looking to further her career regardless of what her ranting does to lower the level of discourse in our society.  She is despicable.  She is in fact a great big poo poo head.