VIDEO: Son Volt – LA 2009

Though this great song has been covered by hundreds (thousands?) of bands, this take by Son Volt (coming to Indianapolis on August 8 for a Vogue show) on “Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way?” burns in a deeper way.  Superbly shot audience video with great sound, captured in LA in July.  Worth checkin’ out, I say….

Concert Review: Old 97’s at The Vogue in Indianapolis

Longtime Texas alt-country pop-rockers make noise at the Vogue
Longtime Texas alt-country pop-rockers make noise at the Vogue (photo: NUVO)

 Here’s one fact we can agree on: Old 97’s leader Rhett Miller is a young looking 38 years-old. Full of rock star bravado wrapped in an alt-country package, Miller played the arm-swinging, hair-thrashing, jump-off-the drum riser role with aplomb on Thursday night at the Vogue.

The band, formed in Dallas in 1993 (Miller is an Austin native) powered through 90 minutes of music, mixing a healthy portion of older tunes with many from their 2008 release “Blame It On Gravity” and also from Miller’s self-titled solo album that he put out this year.

In concert, they didn’t let their beyond-uptempo songs from the 1990’s go unplayed, and it helped elevate the energy level of the audience. Yet some of their most hearfelt and effective songs come from the recent band catalog.

Following 30-minute solo sets from both Miller and bassist Murry Hammond, the band hustled on stage and cranked up “Won’t Be Home” from 2004’s “Drag it Up” album. Flashing Telecaster guitars, Miller and guitarist Ken Bethea set the tone for a rock and roll kind of night, with Bethea’s buzzsaw playing turned up in the sound mix. Miller sported a Fogerty-esque red shirt, halfway unbuttoned, and was a natural draw for the audience eye.

Early in the show, they hopped between 1997’s “Too Far to Care” record and recent “Blame It On Gravity”. “Niteclub” reminded more of Social Distortion than anything country. The early sound, and this album in particular, would be constant throughout the show.

They then jumped ahead to 2008’s “Dance With Me” that was messy like a not-too-drunk Replacements performance, and bordered on frantic.

“W. TX Teardrops” led to a smoldering “No Baby I” and “This Beautiful Thing”, the latter two from the new record, with the wall of guitar sound and pop sensibilities replacing the thrash-and-bash of the punkier old material. For the new stuff, they ripped a sound from the Jeff-Lynne influenced Petty years that outdoes Tom.

But it was “Roller Skate Skinny” that showed to be a long-lost pop song for the group. The track, from 2001’s “Satellite Rides”, is kissed by great chord changes that can be as rough, or as pop-influenced as the guys want to play it. Thursday at the Vogue, they straddled the line perfectly, and made it one of the best performances of the night.

It also explains why they haven’t become more popular and continue to fall into the category of critic favorite. They are punk. They are obviously familiar with Texas Country. They are a garage rock band, and have some brilliant 60s pop echoes. They are also an unquestioned early influence in the alt-country genre, along with Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, and Drive-By-Truckers. I even hear some Jason and the Scorchers sounds in them, especially when Miller yelps and yells and screams.

That’s a lot of ingredients for a music mix. Though they are shiny enough to get songs on TV shows, they are, especially live, a rough-and tumble rock band, descended more from the Replacements and similar-sounding groups than from anything else. The rocking “Four Leaf Clover”, again going back to the “Too Far To Care” album, was a perfect example, as it thrashed to a conclusion.

Another mid-show highlight was a band version of Miller’s solo “I Need to Know Where I Stand”, and again it fell into Petty territory (and I’m not complaining). “Barrier Reef” had Miller swinging his hips to the rhythm of the band, with his back to the crowd. “Smokers” from “Drag it Up” (the song that contains the phrase that named the album) somehow grabbed and hung onto an Eric Burdon and the Animals vibe. Who could have known, right? Subtle and terrific, and even if the band didn’t try to do it, I heard it.

“Big Brown Eyes” was a crowd pleaser, while an effective five-song encore kicked off with “Bloomington” (a song that Miller intonated was about Indiana), followed by the nugget “Doreen” (from 1995’s “Wreck Your Life”), and a cover of R.E.M.’s “Driver 8” that Miller said would be on an upcoming covers EP.

“King Of All Of The World”, in all it’s glossy glory, and “Time Bomb” closed the show, with the crowd happy, jumping up and down, and the band standing on the front of the stage coaxing more from the Vogue audience.

There were times the band could have done more of this, letting themselves really go, instead of the control they tended to show, even when crashing through some of their speedier songs. Still, it was a good show from a band that has hung together far longer than most bands of their generation. It’s tough to find too many faults with the good performance. The three-quarter full Vogue crowd left with a keen retrospective of the band’s music, Rhett Miller’s red shirt ended the night nearly completely covered with sweat, and, for better or worse, the Old 97’s proved that they aren’t an easily pigeonholed one-trick rock and roll band.

Long Player: Bryan Adams/”Into the Fire” – In the age of the digital single download, Rob Nichols rediscovers albums…

This edition: Should Bryan Adams be remembered or forgotten?
We look back at the follow-up to his mega-successful “Reckless” album

Here’s the question: is Bryan Adams an overrated rocker, tainted by three or 12 too many vapid soundtrack songs?

Or is he underrated and prematurely forgotten? How safe is his legacy of loud rock and roll, filled with generic lyrics, cranking guitars, slamming drums, and hooks made of bubblegum? How has time treated the music of a guy who best took the Mellencamp/Springsteen template and covered it with a bunch of sugar?

Bryan_Adams_Into_the_FireHere’s what I did. I slapped the 1987 album (yep, the vinyl LP) “Into the Fire” on the turntable Friday night, and gave the volume knob a pretty good twist.

It’s the album that followed “Reckless”, which ranks as one of the 10 best rock albums of the 80’s. (Argue if you want. “Summer of ’69?” “Run to You”? That shit sounded great coming out of the car radio. And the album tracks on it were just as good). The problem in 1987 was “Into the Fire” came at the point when Adams had worked hard for about 10 years, with probably too few breaks.

“Into the Fire” is a loud, excessive, indulgent record, with more 80’s reverb lacquered into grooves than necessary. But turned up, with a beer in hand (which is how Bryan Adams music should be consumed,right?), something about the music is righteous. Or so I hoped…

Side 1
Track 1 “Heat of the Night” was the song first sent to radio; this was also the first chance to hear him since the previous album’s smashing success. Not enough soul, but the sound is trademark Bryan Adams.The song didn’t soar like the tunes on the previous record. A little leaden.

Track 2 “Into the Fire” – Everything said about track one applies here – overwrought.

Track 3 “Victim of Love” is a forgotten power ballad that could be his best; nicely straddling a line of schmaltz and balls.

Track 4 “Another Day” is the first tune on side one that gets a little loose, and harkens back to the “Cuts Like Knife” era. I dig it when the band goes nuts at the end before Bryan pulls them back together.

Track 5 “Native Son” really sounds Canadian. Reminds me of Tragically Hip and a lot of the other 80’s and 90’s rock bands out of Canada. (Remember Honeymoon Suite?) It’s one of two similary-themed songs on the album, along with “Rememberence Day” on side two. Bryan is shooting for an anthem. Didn’t quite make it. But dammit, the drums sound good.

Bryan Adams legacy?  Sugar-coated rock and roll.
Bryan Adams legacy? Sugar-coated rock and roll.

This record echoes those snares on the U2/Alarm/Simple Minds albums that had a slammin’, gated reverb sound. So did Phil Collins, Springsteen, Prince and nearly every band that made rock records from 1983-1987. I’m just a fuckin’ sucker for that crack. It reminds me of being 20, working nights at a radio station, drinking beer and staying up late. It resonates with part of my soul that responds to sounds, especially that specific sound, in the midst of rootsy guitars and raspy vocals.

So, when Bryan lets “Native Son” die down, before kicking back in, it occurs to me that the record may have gotten beaten up a bit too much by critics. Hell, it still sold. It got radio play. But I remember disappointment after the hits on “Reckless”.

Side 2
Track 1 “Only the Strong Survive” is all uptempo plodding, if that’s possible.  Bryan again straining; it doesn’t connect.

Track 2 “Rebel” trying to replicate his a “Heaven” ballad gene, and it proves to be a rewrite that sounds OK yet isn’t a home run. But again, the drums sound good.

Track 3 The aforementioned “Rememberence Day” continues the anthem push. A bit of Canada seeps in, with namechecks of Kingston and Brighton. I’m from Indiana, so trying to make the regional connection is a bit tough. The guitars panned left and right are killer. And the strings at the end work. Adams’ voice is one of his gifts; the whole raspy Rod Stewart roar.

Track 4 “Hearts on Fire” was always my favorite, though buried on side two. It’s the “Summer of 69” rewrite for the album, and I don’t care if it sounds like a ripoff. The cut is the perfect blend of all that is good about Bryan Adams, before Mutt Lange got to him and “Def Lepperd-ed” the sound. You’ve got keyboards emulating a Hammond B3. It is start-stop chunking twin guitars from longtime band guitarist Keith Scott and Adams. The music pushes forward with the best energy on the record. And I hear cowbell too.  The song was actually written for the “Reckless” album…

Track 5 “Home Again” tries to hard too, and ends the record with a bit of a thud.

RECAP:  I saw Bryan Adams on this album’s tour, with The Hooters (!) opening up, at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. My buddy Tom and I would go see live music every weekend, either at a club or a concert. I spent every bit of my money on music. And Adams was part of a rush of 25 or so national artists we would end up seeing over the course of a year. Bryan’s energy didn’t disappoint. We were standing on chairs in the 22nd row. I still recall “Hearts on Fire” as three minutes of meaningless rock and roll that meant everything.

Adams came back after this release with another couple records, teaming with producer Lange, and had hits with the post-Def Lepperd, pre-Shania Twain recipe of sound. By the mid 90’s, Bryan was essentially musically spent. His later records echo the classic sound but have never quite recaptured the mystery of what made him memorable, as the embodiment of 80’s pop-rock.

So is where is Bryan Adams’ place in rock and roll? In the end, his music holds up because it is tightly constructed rock and roll. It is ear candy, done well. And it certainly sounds like American rock music. I listened to the whole record, and never wanted to turn it off. Even the mediocre songs contain moments of rock band thrills and noise that make my dumb rock fan heart expand. Whatever you think that is worth, I would argue there is great value in hearing music that penetrates to your musical soul, whether it stays forever or for just a few moments.

Here’s Bryan at Abbey Road in 2008. He still has the voice, man. and the last line he sings on here, “Cuts like a …nah nah nah, na na na na nah”, is brilliant. No shit. Underrated.

Summer of ’69 recent – in Lisbon.

Twang Roots Rock News: Ryan Bingham comes to Indy, U2 rocks opening night, Charlie Robison’s new album and video, and more

Ryan Bingham steps out the field...and hits Indy with a live show
Ryan Bingham steps out the hit Indianapolis with a live show

Ryan’s Bingham is headed to Indianapolis
Lost Highway Records signed Bingham and issued his major-label debut, Mescalito (featuring production by Marc Ford, former guitarist for the Black Crowes), was released in October 2007. Rolling Stone compared Bingham’s raw, scratchy voice to that of “Steve Earle’s dad.” Ford has also produced Bingham’s latest record “Roadhouse Sun”, out earlier this year. The Indianapolis Songwriters Cafe is bringing Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses with Jesse Dayton to Radio Radio on July 10. It should be really good…

U2 began their U2 360 tour in Barcelona last week, in front 90,000 fans.
The show unveiled the band’s new outdoor stage setup, dubbed “The Claw.” The dual archway extends around the stage in the middle of the stadium, to allow for maximum capacity at the shows, with the sound system for the band mounted within its legs.

Kicking off opening night with “Breathe,” the band played 21 songs and dedicated “Angel Of Harlem” to Michael Jackson, with Bono singing snippets of “Man In The Mirror” and “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”. Enjoy the confidence, command and musical flexibility U2 shows when Bono switches to a short Michael Jackson medley near the end.

In typical Bono bombast, he connected with astronauts on the International Space Station via the tour’s 360 screen. “Commander, can you see Barcelona?” asked Bono. The set list also included a few rarities, including the title track to The Unforgettable Fire, which hadn’t been played live since 1990.

U2 opening night - with the "claw"stage
U2 opening night - with the "claw"stage

– setlist – Barcelona/6.30.09:
“No Line on the Horizon”
“Get On Your Boots”
“Beautiful Day”
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
“Angel Of Harlem”
“In A Little While”
“Unknown Caller”
“The Unforgettable Fire”
“City Of Blinding Lights”
“I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”
“Sunday Bloody Sunday”
“Pride (In The Name Of Love)”
“Walk On”
“Where The Streets Have No Name”
“Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”
“With Or Without You”
“Moment Of Surrender”

The band mixed up the set list for the second show in Barcelona on July 2 – “Desire”, “Party Girl” and “Electrical Storm” all were additions – plus two different versions of ‘Crazy’ filmed for a video. The tour moves to Milan, Italy this week for shows on July 7 and 8. The tour comes to the United States September 12 with the first of two shows in Chicago. The first night is sold out, and the second show has tickets remaining.


One of the best Texas country/roots/rockers, Charlie Robison has a new album
One of the best Texas country/roots/rockers, Charlie Robison smiles 'cause he knows his new record is good

→ New Charlie Robison album – Beautiful Day – is out
(Interview excerpt from
“If I give it to someone while I’m driving or something, people that maybe don’t know me real well will go through it and be like, “Man, I would have never, ever thought that you’d be into this stuff.” I consider myself a country artist, I consider myself a rock artist, I consider myself an Americana artist. Doug Sahm was … I keep going back to influences, but how would you classify him? I think being somewhat unclassifiable is probably the greatest compliment I could get as a musician. So I kind of like that, and I certainly can’t classify myself, because I never know what’s coming out next.”
Read entire interview here
Watch album release party concert video of “Nothin’ Better to Do”

→ Newly recorded live performances of some songs from John Mellencamp’s 2008 release Life, Death, Love and Freedom are out, in conjunction with his trek across the country with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. His website says the live versions are presented with no overdubs or studio enhancements.

Related Bob Dylan note:
Though Mellencamp did not join Willie Nelson and Dylan at the recent Rothbury Festival, Dylan still rocked a 90-minute, 17-song show to close out the festival’s Odeum main stage. For the fourth show of his U.S. tour promoting his latest album, “Together Through Life,” Dylan offered up just one song from the new album, “Jolene,” instead pulling favorites out for the crowd. He played “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” a slinky treatment of “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again,” “Like A Rolling Stone” and fierce “All Along The Watchtower.”
–>read review of Mellncamp/Dylan/Willie show in St. Louis

Lots of the Jayhawks greatness on one album
Lots of The Jayhawks greatness on one album

The Jayhawks recently announced the release of their anthology Music from the North Country. The retrospective will be available as a single disc featuring the best of the Jayhawks’ studio albums, or as a double-disc set with an additional CD full of b-sides, rare tracks and previously-unreleased material.

Old Crow Medicine Show will release Live at the Orange Peel and Tennessee Theatre, their first live concert DVD on August 18. It was recorded last December and is scheduled to have 20 songs. The DVD also includes five tracks not found on their three studio albums: “Wheeling Breakdown,” “Raise A Ruckus,” “Reuben’s Train,” “Sally Anne” and “Shack #9.” all are live songs that OCMS play.

Delbert McClinton’s first album in four years, Acquired Taste, on that same date

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will release their first studio album in five years on September 22. Titled Speed of Life, the album will be released on the band’s own record label and distributed by Sugar Hill.


19Clark25 headlines at the Big Roots Show this week
19Clark25 headlines at the Big Roots Show

Indianapolis roots rockers that we really like,19Clark25, will play The Big Roots Show at Local Only this week (7.9.09) along with Varmit and Nick Ivanovich.
go to 19Clark25 website

Go and watch a three song live performance (roots-rock/raspy vocals/sweet harmonies/ partly electric, mostly acoustic/well-miked drummer) from John Shelly and the Creatures. Formed in 2007, they released their first EP Big Day Out and single “Angeline”. The track got airplay on BBC Radio. Two members are from Dublin and two from “the North of Ireland” as they call it. The band recorded their new single “Long May You Reign” in 2009 and it is online in audio and video…
Quick sample of their sound…