Music Review

Song of the Week: Benjamin Booker - "Have You Seen My Son?"

The afro bluesy punk rock 'n' roll stylings of New Orleans-based singer-songwriter Booker are a breath of fresh air. (Think The Black Keys meet The Strokes.) Produced by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff), this lean 'n' mean guitar/bass/drums track is a gut punch to the over-processed pop crap currently being force-fed by automated DJs. His self-titled debut album was released a few weeks ago via ATO Records. Buy it now! And my wish is that he and Ty Segall record and/or tour together. Now that would be one badass collision of rawk!

Song of the Day: Hilary Scott - "Flowers on Mars"

A pure, honest voice currently deserving a much wider audience, Missouri-based Hilary Scott's a natural talent, and her heartfelt Americana tunes have an infectious and growing quality. "Flowers on Mars" is from her latest album, Freight Train Love (Belltown). Give this veteran singer-songwriter a watch and listen and become a believer.

ANNIVERSARIES: Dinah Washington Born 90 Years Ago

Dinah Washington (8/29/24-12/14/63) was one of the last great examples of female blues singers regularly working in a jazz band context. Many aficionados would say that she was surpassed in this style only by Bessie Smith. First Issue: The Dinah Washington Story, the two-CD set that proudly features the commemorative stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 1993 to mark the 30th anniversary of her premature death at age 39 (from an overdose of alcohol and diet pills), offers the finest overview of Washington's artistry, ranging from her first records under her own name in 1943 to her classic material for the Verve, Mercury, EmArcy, and Wing labels from 1946 through 1961 (with at least one item from every year in that span), missing only her last two years, when she was on Roulette. Read more »

Song of the Day: First Aid Kit - "Master Pretender"

Loyal readers know my profound affection for Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit. Here's a wonderful live acoustic take on a tune from their latest long player Stay Gold (Sony Records). Catch them live.

ANNIVERSARIES: William "Count" Basie Born 110 Years Ago

Born on August 21, 1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey, William James Basie was taught piano by his mother. At age 20 he moved to Harlem, center of the jazz piano world at that time, and soon began touring with various groups. He first gained fame in Bennie Moten's band, based in Kansas City; when Moten died in 1935, Basie formed his own group incorporating many Moten men.

Columbia Records producer/A&R man John Hammond heard Basie's band on the radio and made the first recordings of the band in 1936, but it was when Basie started recording for Decca in 1937 that he made his most classic records. The three-CD set The Complete Decca Recordings is the crucial documentation of what may have been the hardest-swinging big band, and additionally shows why Lester Young became an icon of the tenor saxophone. Each of the three discs in this set is devoted to one year of the period 1937-39, after Basie and his band had moved to New York City. Read more »

Song of the Day: Joseph Arthur - "Robin"

Singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur shares his poignant and heartfelt tribute to Robin Williams. Please listen and share. As Robin once said, "No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world."

Frans Brüggen R.I.P. October 30, 1934 – August 13, 2014

Frans Brüggen, who died today at age 79, co-founded the Dutch period-performance collective ensemble The Orchestra of the 18th Century in 1981 and continued to lead it even after he had to do so while seated. He was quoted in 2008 as saying that he planned to conduct until he dropped dead, and he did. And before his conducting career, he arguably did more to return the recorder (AKA flûte à bec, flauto dolce, Blockflöte) to prominence than anybody else in the 20th century. Brüggen's talents and intellectual devotion to period performance were recognized early; at age 21, he was appointed professor at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. He was one of the pioneers of "early music"/"period performance," a giant in his field, and his prolific recording career enriched the world immeasurably. Here are a few samples of his virtuosity. Read more »

Farmers by Nature: Love and Ghosts

Farmers by Nature: Love and Ghosts (AUM Fidelity)

Farmers by Nature is an all-star trio: pianist Craig Taborn, bassist William Parker, and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Though it is sonically inevitable that the piano tends to dominate such a group's sound, these guys are truly equals. All the tracks on this two-CD set (containing a pair of French concerts) were spontaneously generated by all three individuals listening acutely to each other. The 18-minute title track that kicks off the set does find Taborn most prominent, by a narrow margin, but then the quiet rhythmic etude "Without a Name" tilts the balance toward Cleaver and Parker. Read more »

Song of the Week: I Am Giant - "Transmission"

Okay, so this is cool. A little proggy, a little metalish, and a pinch of 4-on-floor rock. The London-based via New Zealand quartet I Am Giant performing "Transmission" from their sophomore album Science & Survival, co-produced by Forrester Saville (Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus, Helmut), bassist Paul Matthews and drummer Shelton Woolright, is a righteous way to start your weekend. Rawk on, dudes!


Tim Sommer, rock raconteur extraordinaire, recently wrote a playlist for Tim Broun's blog Stupefaction. (#1 choice shown above.) Mr. Sommer has lately been writing a daily column in The Brooklyn Bugle (motto: "On the Web because paper is expensive") that immediately became the one thing that I read every day, just so I can enjoy his combination of cultural erudition and lunatic whimsy. In one of his Bugle columns he wrote about making the list. And in that article he posited other approaches/lists that I found myself wishing he had made as well. But he's undoubtedly got better things to do with his time. I apparently do not, however (okay, I do, I just have poor impulse control), and made my own lists based on his criteria. Read more »

Seventies Supergroup's Stadium Tour Revisited

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: CSNY 1974 (Rhino)

In my youth, which was their prime, I thought CSNY was the greatest band in the world. Now I hear more to nitpick than I used to, but still, I knew I'd only be satisfied by the three-CD-plus-DVD edition of this release, which also includes a 188-page booklet (there's also a one-CD distillation available). It draws from nine concerts on their epochal 1974 stadium tour (plus a tenth, a December benefit appearance) to construct an ideal show of 40 songs, 21 with the full electric band on the first and third CDs and 19 acoustic (caveat: electric bass on a few) performances on the second CD. Read more »

Song of the Week: Fierce Bad Rabbit - "Dreaming of Things To Be"

Don't know much about this American pop-rock quartet, but I'm sucker for a nice clean guitar hook and tight pop song structure. Apparently their lead vocalist Chris Anderson now makes Boston his home, moving from the band's homebase in Fort Collins, Colorado, but I couldn't tell you if that will be an issue moving forward, Check out two stellar tracks from their forthcoming September release, Living Asleep. Suffice it to say, if you're into Band of Horses, The Shins, or Arcade Fire, Fierce Bad Rabbit will most certainly appeal to you.

Johnny Winter R.I.P.

Song of the Week: Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas - "Caught Up"

Love the primal roots-rock Wanda Jackson-like flavor of Ms. Hernandez and her Deltas. "Caught Up" from her soon-to-be-released album Secret Evil. It's top shelf -- all big beats with no filler, no unnecessary bass moves, or guitar licks. And the black & white dance party antic adds to a terrific throwback vibe. This is on my weekend playlist. Play it loud & often.

Lorin Maazel, March 6, 1930 - July 13, 2014

Lorin Maazel, who died at age 84 on Sunday, from complications of pneumonia, was a true Renaissance man of music: a child prodigy as a conductor and violinist, and later a composer as well. Read more »

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