Roots Rock: U2, Jack Black, Little Steven, Mat Kearney

u2nolineonthehorizon250U2 is currently streaming their new album, “No Line on the Horizon”, on their MySpace page (www.myspace.com/u2) more than a week before its March 3 release. The band will play five consecutive nights on Late Night With David Letterman starting March 2. No word on if this is in response to staffers at Universal Music Australia inadvertently mading the new album available digitally more than a week before release. According to reports, high-quality downloads of the album were briefly made available earlier this week on Getmusic.com.au, a digital store operated by Universal Music’s Australian affiliate. “Horizon” is also now understood to be widely distributed via peer-to-peer file sharing networks. They ended up selling the nine-million copies of 2004’s”How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb”, which was also leaked, so this may be a case study in “Leaking an album just doesn’t matter if you are U2”

School of Rock star Jack Black married into a pretty impressive musical pedigree when he wed singer Tanya Haden. Haden is one of the triplet daughters of legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden–best known for his work with Ornette Coleman. Her sisters Petra plays in the Decemberists, and Rachel is a founding member of The Rentals. Last year, the entire family, under the moniker Charlie Haden Family & Friends, collaborated on the American roots album “Rambling Boy”. They are all playing the Opry at the Ryman this weekend. Ricky Skaggs (also a guest on Rambling Boy), Del McCoury, Hal Ketchum & The Infamous Stringdusters will also be appearing.
Click on links below to listen
Opry on GAC
Opry on WSM Radio (online)

Originally expected in April, Dave Matthews Band’s as-yet-untitled new RCA album will now arrive June 2. The group has also announced its annual summer tour, beginning May 27 in Darien Center, N.Y. – They come to Indy for two nights at Verizon Wireless Music Center on Friday, July 31, and Saturday, August 1.

Mat Kearney is set to release his new album, City of Black & White, on May 19, a followup to his major label debut, “Nothing Left To Lose”, Mat recorded in his new hometown of Nashville, TN,

justin_townes_earle150CHOOSE ONLY ONE? This Week’s Indianapolis Live Show Pick: Justin Townes Earle – Saturday February 21 at Spencer’s Stadium Tavern. Earle, son of singer/songwriter Steve Earle, releases his second album, ‘Midnight at the Movies,’ in early March. He proved he has the talent to stand on his own, with or without the legendary roots-rock name. LISTEN HERE

ALBUM CHART: Taylor Swift’s album “Fearless” returns to the top of The Billboard 200. The set moved 92,000 copies on a 44% salesjump, resulting in its nine non-consecutive weeks at No. 1. The last album spend more time at the top was Santana’s “Supernatural,” which was #1 for 12 weeks in 1999 and 2000. Selling 77,000 on a whopping 715% increase, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ “Raising Sand”zoomed from 69 to 2 following its album of the year win at the Grammys. The set debuted at No. 2 in late 2007 with 112,000 and has now sold 1.26 million to date. Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends”rebounds 31-8 with 62,000 sold (+271%); the album generated three Grammys, including song of the year for “Viva La Vida.” Bruce Springsteen’s “Working on a Dream” falls from 2 to 6 with 65,000 sold.

Springsteen guitarist Steve Van Zandt is about to launch a new hard rock label, Lost Cathedral, with the May 14 release of Crown Of Thorns’ “Faith.” Van Zandt’s garage rock label, Wicked Cool will continue to exist. We basically decided to keep Wicked Cool identifiable as a garage rock label, at least for now,” he told Billboard this week. “In the last couple of years, we’ve gotten a lot of hard rock things submitted to us. A lot of it is quite good — a little bit punkier or hard rock than we do with Wicked Cool.”

bunecarlosTHE REALLY ODD PAIRINGS DEPT.: Ex-Smashing Pumpkin James Iha, Fountains Of Wayne co-founder Adam Schlesinger, Taylor Hanson of Hanson and Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos have formed a supergroup named Tinted Windows. Billboard reports the band has recorded their debut album, set for a spring release, with a SXSW showcase set on tap next month.

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Roots Rock Blog: Pat Green, Henry French, Album Charts, 20 Questions with Cross Canadian Ragweed

From my blog for NUVO  in Indianapolis (nuvo.net) – check it out there a couple times a week for show reviews and info like this:

On the Americana airplay chart from Radio & Records, Otis Gibbs was at #5 with his “Grandpa Walked A Picketline” album. The Gourds “Haymaker!” album is in the top spot, as last week’s #1 album, “Little Honey” from Lucinda Williams falls to #4.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ “Raising Sand,” which won album of the year at the Grammy’s on Sunday, re-entered the Billboard album chart at No. 68, with sales of 9,000 last week. For the chart, most gains are a result of downloads on Sunday night after the show. The Fray earned its first #1 on The Billboard 200 with its sophomore self-titled album selling 179,000. Last week’s #1, Bruce Springsteen’s “Working on a Dream”, slips to No. 2 in its second week with 102,000 sold.

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Great little “20 Questions” interview with personal fave Cody Canada of Cross Canadian Ragweed. They blew the roof of the Vogue in late 2008 and defy simple music pigeonholing – they just rock in an American rock and roll way. Check out interview here….

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Choose Only One? Live Show Pick: Henry French and the Shameless  rocked Birdy’s on Saturday night (2.14). They have a great EP “Swagger and Sway”. One of those bands (Bodeans, Swinging Steaks, Replacements) that make hook-filled, guitar-driven, songwriting-strong heartland rock records. Hear more here.

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Though he has always been my Bryan Adams of country music, I have liked Pat Green for a long time. CMT.com says his new song “Country Star” (and watch some sidestage video – they come out to “Eminance Front”…) is “hooky, catchy and funny enough to move him from edgy Texas rocker to full-on Nashville phenom. And it’s about time.”He is great live, and I love Texas music, even if Pat has watered his down for more mainstream success. Jack Ingram has done the same. Still, would rather listen to those two than most of the glossy, sugary, disposable country music that is on the radio and dominate awards shows. Dann Huff produces (Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts are two other clients) so that means no rough edges. Still, worth staying on board with Green. Oh, and I liked Bryan Adams until he started to suck.

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Randy Rogers Band received an Academy of Country Music nomination this week for vocal group of the year. They will lose to Rascal Flatts, but nice to have a rowdy Oklahoma/Texas/Red Dirt band get noticed.

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Finally, an interesting into-the-head blog from Springsteen on his official site. Bruce blogging? Multiple albums in one year? Ten years ago, who would have thought those two could happen? Actually, a terrific blog. (Read it here) Bruce rarely writes prose, instead does interviews and writes songs. So it is a bit unsettling to read. But behind-the-scenes is what we want, right? Plus a striking photo gallery from Danny Clinch.

Concert Review: Healing Sixes/The Garrison at Radio Radio

healingsixes_album1The Healing Sixes successfully rocked a good crowd of 150 at their Radio Radio show on Saturday night. The Indianapolis band, who have been active for more than a decade, seem on the verge of becoming an “it” band all these years later. So can I give one suggestion to make them even better? Make a sax player, like the one who joined Saturday, a fulltime bandmember.

The band, opening with “Beautiful One” and “Port-O-Let Monkey”, proved adept at blending 70’s rock influences with enough of their own personality to continue to forge an identity that may yet get them into territory once occupied by the Why Store.

Mixing up the setlist with cuts from 2007’s “One Less Friend” album, their work with Joe Bonamassa, and 2002’s “Enormosound”, the band paired some sugary hooks with alt-rock crunch. Plus, they had the elusive likability factor in their favor; You watch and want them to be good because they play with a palpable, relaxed confidence.

Bandmates Doug Henthorn, Eric Saylors, Wade Parish and Jeff Stone channeled Black Crowes, Collective Soul, Led Zeppelin and even a little Cheap Trick, which ain’t ever a bad thing. Their “Fine Tune”, originally recorded with Bonamassa, was another set highlight, with slamming blues riffs and Henthorn’s gruffly sweet vocals carrying the song.

A word to all bands who do mostly original material: good decision. It is the direction best traveled to being taken seriously as a band and finding long-term success. I know that. But throw in a cover song, and some inventive ways to let us know that you know it is only rock and roll. And Healing Sixes did, with a Zep cover and the inserting opening lines from The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy”). Well done. Also smart move to experiment on a couple songs with the one-night-only addition of saxophonist Max McAllister. He’s a writer and business owner in the motorcycle racing industry. And a damn good sax man. The addition of a sax gave the group a tighter connection to the crowd and an R&B edge that sparked the crowd and the band.

Now, maybe McAllister wouldn’t be the man, but if I were in Healing Sixes, adding a horn would be a discussion worth having. Sure, a fifth member is dividing the payday one more way, but how many bands are doing new, rough-edged rock with twin chunking and screaming Gibson Les Paul guitars and a sax? In Indiana? Anywhere? I’m just sayin’ think about it. It worked superbly Saturday night.

The show was presented by On the Throttle TV, a motorcycle racing show. Healing Sixes drummer Parish, as well as the lead singer for opening band The Garrison, Scott Smallwood, and his bass player Pete Cline are all racers.

The openers rampaged through 45-minutes of punk-inflected music much like motorcycle racers compete: full of energy and a bit out of control. Not necessarily a bad template, but not completely successful on this night, though they tried hard to connect with the crowd. Smallwood still needs to refine his stage banter, and use more resonating between-song comments to get the crowd motivated rather than chiding them for not getting closer to the stage. But the band was tight and plowed forward, and at their best, had hints of 70’s Police, The Cure, The Clash and even the 80’s band The Godfathers. (Remember “Birth, School,Work, Death”?) At their worst? Faith No More.

Radio Radio is a great music room, with good, clean sound again Saturday, and Healing Sixes, with a couple shows coming up with the 2009 version of the Why Store, seem to be building some nice momentum. Not an easy thing to do for any group, and impressive coming 11 years after releasing their first album, “Maple”. It could be a good 2009 for the band.

Concert Review: Jason Wilber & His Fabulous Band w/Tim Grimm/The Royal Theatre/Danville, IN

jasonwilber250It’s rare to take the three variables of every concert – venue, sound and performer – and get all three right. Saturday night, the three came together in a better-than-should-be expected way, and gave the Jason Wilber show at the Royal Theatre in Danville a magical quality.

Wilber, the fulltime guitar player for folk legend John Prine, hushed a crowd of nearly 300 at the historic theatre with his folk-inflected songs. It was a wise move to bring along a full band, featuring a sax and trumpet, drums and bass, and John Mellencamp’s keyboard player Troye Kinnett all finding the spots to sneakily shine.

It was a listening audience, less concerned with chatting up friends than they were to hang on the notes and the words of the performance. A nice change from the cacophony that can be a club show.

The musicians took advantage of the focused audience to hit their spots and serve the music. Tim Grimm and wife Jan opened the show, with 40 minutes of exquisite vocal interplay, understated and funny stories, and Tim’s great folk finger-picking. He adds a bit of percussion to his strumming and pushes the songs along, while Jan’s high harmonies would make Emmylou Harris smile. I’d drop him into a Lyle Lovett/Robert Earle Keen/James McMurtry for this night. Midway through their set, Jan pulled out an instrument she called a “spring drum” to an evocative, rumbling success, perfectly providing a unique duet to Tim’s words and guitar. A thoroughly enjoyable set.

Clean, nearly pristine sound is an element of the great little theatre. So many times at a show, I can’t hear certain instruments, or the volume is too loud or not loud enough. I am picky about the mix at a show, and am relatively unsympathetic to a room (and live sound man) that could do better, especially if it is a music venue that hosts shows regularly. Whether you have had 5 or 50 years to solve any problems with the venue sound mix, if a room sounds good, I like to think it’s an owner who cares enough to make it right. They have it right at Royal.

Wilber put together the evening with Grimm (he and Grimm and Wilber work together on many occasions, including recording a unique “soundtrack” to James Still’s play “Amber Waves” which is the story of immigrants who settle on a farm in Indiana.) and his decision to bring a band (Jason Wilber and His Fabulous Band) elevated Wilber’s music. The five other musicians were effective in pushing the energy level higher on many of Jason’s tunes. Laying down a Stax-like sound on the upbeat songs, and fitting and filling in beautifully on the slow songs, Kinnett especially shined, not just on solos, but coloring the night’s music with pretty piano and a gospel B3 sound.

Jason was generous with the providing spots for musicians to step forward, making eye contact with each in most songs, nodding for solos to start, and smiling to himself when the band put him in the musical pocket so he could close his eyes and feel the music around him.

He told stories throughout the evening, many short and simply told recollections of where he wrote a song (whether it was in St. John’s, Newfoundland, or London) and then letting the audience hear the rest of the story as he played it.

Mixing older songs off his solo records with what he revealed as new music, Wilber was comfortable, seasoned and engaged all night. His story about sitting in Russell Square in London, on his way to, but never arriving at, a famous art museum, was typical of the evening. Good stories told in a movie house. He remembered how he enjoyed the park in London and its surroundings far too much to leave, even for a museum he was informed he must see.

Emitting a nice 1970s vibe, the theatre, built in 1927 and smartly refurbished, has the letter “R” in multiple monogram-style spots on each side of a blueish/green room color. Or that’s the color to me ,with the lights low and after a visit to the hidden jewel of the night: a tiny theatre taproom. (They have area-brewed beers and wine).

Can you tell it was a good evening? A terrific night of heartland-infused music, in a cool theatre, from two Indiana singer/songwriters who represent a folk tradition that, based on this night, seems pretty healthy in Central Indiana.

The Royal Theatre has upcoming shows on the schedule; the booking of Alejandro Escovedo in April is brilliant. He’s touring behind a fantastic album and Springsteen-certified after the two dueted on Escovedo’s “Always a Friend” at a Bruce show in 2008.

Put me down for two.

Concert Review: Old Crow Medicine Show – The Vogue/Indianapolis

oldcrowvogue250The crowd at the sold out Vogue Theatre was ready for the Old Crow Medicine Show to bring the old country instrumentation and killer harmonies to town on Saturday night, and the Nashville band didn’t disappoint those packed into the club.

By the time the band hit their third song, “Humdinger” from their
recent Tennessee Pusher album, both the group and the crowd were
into high-energy mode.

Performing most of the songs off the new record, OCMS’ guitarist and singer
Willie Watson introduced “Next Go Round” as a “genuine country song,” and then singer/fiddle player Ketch Secor dedicated “I HearThem All” to Pete Seeger, who they had met the night before at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival.

Old Crow dipped generously into two of their older albums, 2006’s “Big Iron World” and 2004’s “O.C.M.S.” for “James River Blues”, a rousing “Union Made”, crowd favorite “Cocaine Habit” and
their most well-known song, “Wagon Wheel”, which got the fans of the band into full singalong gear midway through the second of two sets they played.

Their bluesy version of “C.C.Rider” was dedicated to the women in the house, and Secor spent much of the between-song moments reciting landmarks in Indianapolis, and making it known the band had studied up on Broad Ripple
and the Hoosier State. He ripped off a list of cities and towns as the encores ran down, mentioning Goshen, Richmond, Vincennes, Fort Wayne and Evansville.

Their reputation for live show preceded them, and OCMS connected Saturday night. For a rock and roll/bluegrass band that doesn’t make it onto the radio too often, and relies on word-of-mouth, the web and their reputation to build
their audience up, they did nothing to disappoint the Indy folks, most of whom obviously have the albums and/or have seen them play before, judging from the reaction to both the new and old material.

Good to see the knowledge Indianapolis has for a roots band like Old Crow Medicine
Show. A nice mix of men and women (a little more than half of the crowd was male) did their homework, knew their stuff and supported a band that, despite their lack of true mainstream success, have carved a meaningful niche
in the Americana music world, and put it into the spotlight Saturday night.