In Indiana for a show in Fort Wayne, Keith Urban and his band (with opener Jake Owen) crash through a ragged but spirited version of Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane”. Gotta give Urban credit for diving into the tune, and then having an understanding where to let the audience pick up the vocals.
At Rockforward, we live right in the middle of Indiana, and fan our reach outward from Indianapolis. Here’s the best of what we heard this year from (mostly) Hoosier roots-rock artists.
2010 Local Roots Rock/Americana Album of the Year
Cara Jean Wahlers/”Goodnight Charlotte” – How did this quiet, intelligent, duet-like release from an acoustic guitar player and cello player get to the top of my roots-rock/Americana list full of worthy candidates? Especially coming from a guy (me) who unabashedly enjoys the gritty side of loud guitars, drums and a sweet Hammond B-3? It happened because this is a deserving place for “Goodnight Charlotte”, as Wahlers’ and Grover Parido’s cello quietly cuts into your heart with hauntingly beautiful music and lyrics that evoke black and white movies. Continue reading “Best of Indiana: Roots-Rock in 2010”
John Mellencamp announced the first leg of the No Better Than This Tour will begin in late October. The tour will be “an evening with,” type of show, and will play mostly theater-sized venues, although one of the most interesting bookings announced is a November 11 show at Hinkle Fieldhouse, one of five Indiana shows. The tour, anticipated to continue through the Spring of 2011, will begin on October 29 in Bloomington.
The format of the show is three pieces: an acoustic set, Mellencamp fronting a small combo, and a full rock band segment. The tour’s opening act is a documentary film by Kurt Markus called It’s About You. Shot on Super8 film over the course of last year’s Bob Dylan-John Mellencamp-Willie Nelson tour of minor league baseball stadiums, it chronicles the creation of the album No Better Than This. which comes out August 17.
Oct. 29 – Bloomington, IN – Indiana University Auditorium
Nov. 1 – Cincinnati, OH – Music Hall
Nov. 3 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium
Nov. 5 – Kansas City, MO — The Midland
Nov. 6 – St. Louis, MO – The Fabulous Fox Theatre
Nov. 8 – Indianapolis, IN – Clowes Memorial Hall
Nov. 11 – Indianapolis, IN – Hinkle Fieldhouse
Nov. 13 – South Bend, IN – Morris Performing Arts Center
Nov. 16 – Fort Wayne, IN – Embassy Theatre
Nov. 17 – Cleveland, OH – Palace Theatre
Nov. 19 – Detroit, MI – Fox Theatre
Nov. 20 – Pittsburgh, PA – Heinz Hall
Nov. 22 – Minneapolis, MN – Orpheum Theatre
Nov. 23 – Minneapolis, MN – Orpheum Theatre
Nov. 26 – Chicago, IL – Chicago Theatre
Nov. 27 – Chicago, IL – Chicago Theatre
Tickets to all shows except in Pittsburgh and Chicago go on sale this Saturday (August 14) at 10am.
John Mellencamp – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – In 1987, Mellencamp was at the height of his musical trajectory. His “Lonesome Jubilee” album synthesized rock, country, folk and old-timey instruments into a peculiar (though accessible) piece of art. The shows that supported the record put on display one of the best bands I have ever seen live, and I’ve seen hundreds, both great and crappy. I saw John first in ’85 at Detroit’s Cobo Hall during the “Scarecrow” tour and it was my first real taste of what kind of power a band that behaved like that could have; it was the combination of 60’s Mitch Ryder-like rock and roll, Kinks-via-America blue collar lyrical poetry and really loud guitars and drums. Two years later, in ’87, that same band had become even more nuanced without losing its power or its garage rock backbone, while adding a fiddle and accordian to the mix. So when I found myself deep in the lawn at Pine Knob Music Theater (again, Detroit) for the second leg of that tour, the intensity, James Brown-ish polish and the momentum of a bunch of radio singles made it one of the best five shows I have seen in my life. The “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” video was recorded during that tour, before one of the shows. It captures that unique-for-the-times Mellencamp sound – rustic, rootsy rock and roll. I would call it brilliant. It is a Mellencamp era that I miss to this day.
He’s had a helluva career, still does what he wants – with integrity – and has moved into a more traditional rock sound for his live shows, though the fiddle still plays an important part in defining the Mellencamp concert sound. Rewind to a era captured on video, of an Indiana punk grown up just enough to build himself one of the great, underrated live bands of the rock era, successfully reinventing a holiday classic.
You will notice, if you are a longtime reader, I throw in a fair amount of unsubstantiated opinion on my way to passing along facts. In reality, if you have read the blog posts over the past year, you already know – via these little nuggets of insight that roll out of my brain, into my fingers and onto the computer – what I like. And trust me, this has everything to do with the song at #16.
If you listed the six (I needed six – five wasn’t enough) musical sounds/songs/albums/artists that are the influences behind this here Rockforward site, it would read like this:
1. The trio of Mellencamp albums in the mid 80’s – “Uh-Huh”, “Scarecrow” and “The Lonseome Jubilee”. Anyone who is 35+ that likes the music we do should recognize how much these albums – especially “Scarecrow” – influenced tons of Americana and roots-rock bands and fans.
2. Tom Petty. Anything Tom Petty.
3. Those late 80’s bands that came on the heels of Petty and Mellencamp (including Gear Daddies, Uncle Tupelo, BoDeans, Del Fuegos, Georgia Satellites, Jason & The Scorchers, Lone Justice, and regional/Indiana artists like Larry Crane, Duke Tomatoe, The Hammerheads, and Henry Lee Summer. That is some and there are more ) Alt-country before they called it that. Heartland rock at the time.
4. Springsteen – for the majesty of the rock and roll, the brilliance of the lyrics, and the passion of the live show. And for the lineage to bar band rock and R&B (like the outstanding J. Geils Band)
5. Power Pop. I think Cheap Trick is woefully underappreciated. Rick Springfield’s “Working Class Dog ” album should be considered great power pop/rock. The Cars debut album is one of the best records in the rock music era. Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend ” record was killer. I saw the Romantics live at a bar in 1989 and they were loud, into the performance, and rocked hard, fast and righteously.
6. The current crop of bands that carry on the sounds: Bottle Rockets, Todd Snider, James McMurtry, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and Will Hoge among many more…
So that’s where I come from. And it leads to #16 on our countdown of 20 Christmas roots-rock songs. Indiana’s Rusty Bladen has been working for the past 20 years in the bars, clubs and parties throughout the state. I’ve known him that long, first meeting him when I was a radio jock down at WORX in Madison, Indiana – I was just out of college and had a Sunday night radio show and eventually did mornings for a couple years. He was just starting his solo career after a few years in cover bands. He now plays mainly solo live shows that are always high energy. His sound hits all of the influences I already cited. His writing is blue collar.
About a year ago, he released “Feels Like Christmas”, a holiday album of 11 classic Christmas songs and one original – the title cut. That’s the one we have here. Mellencamp drummer Dane Clark produced the effort, and made it all sound really good. A great country rock/heartland/Americana record. The record is simply my favorite Christmas album of all time. Overstatement? Nah. Listen to the album.
Here’s the song, with it’s fun, quaint, and homegrown video.