As the A&R guy who signed the trashcantastic Delta Spirit to Rounder Records earlier this year, we have a lot to thank Dave Godowski for. So we were psyched to see him have his own taste of stardom Wednesday night when his Guns n Roses cover band Mr. Brownstonewas invited to perform “Welcome To the Jungle” on Letterman! We think Godowski makes a pretty convincing Izzy Stradlin.
And to think it took a whole year to make this song a hit back in 1987!
Thursday November 20th 2008, 8:13 am
Filed under: Podcasts
Posted by: Melanie
Don’t look now, but Akron, Ohio has developed quite a music scene. Sure, Chrissie Hynde emerged from there years ago, but she jumped at the chance to leave town and never looked back. Actually, strike that — never say never. Hynde has recently moved back to help care for her mom, has opened a vegan restaurant there, and has been spotted giving props to her hometown, wearing a rotating cast of Akron t-shirts of late. The Black Keys and Joseph Arthur have both made their ways from Akron into rotation. And now comes young Jessica Lea Mayfield, who grew up in nearby Kent. Her new record, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, comes with high praise from the Avett Brothers and collaborations with the Black Keys and Dr. Dog. Get a feel for its sound by checking out this podcast.
Wednesday November 19th 2008, 5:25 pm
Filed under: Livewire
Posted by: Julia
Though â€œpredictableâ€ is surely not a word used in reference to Ryan Adams very often — try instead: â€œerratic,â€ â€œtroubledâ€ and â€œprolificâ€ — he is in fact just that in at least two respects: his annual NYC Halloween show (okay, two years running anyway), and in his unpredictability.
This Halloween, The Cardinals (as he and his band are now collectively known) took the stage at Harlemâ€™s famed Apollo, an intimate seated venue, to celebrate the release of Cardinology. In stark contrast to the past few years, what followed was an impressive show that presented Adams as an artist focused and at ease, establishing an infallible integrity that has hitherto been missing from him in action and reputation.
It was four days before Adamsâ€™ 34th birthday, a relatively short life span in which to have released an impressive ten full-length studio albums either solo or with The Cardinals (counting Love & Hell as one release), not to mention three albums with Whiskeytown. I own every one of these albums on CD, and a few on vinyl as well. I have maintained that he is my favorite contemporary artist ever since discovering Gold in 2001 during my first radio gig, and have every intention of keeping him atop my musical pedestal.
But until the Apollo show, Iâ€™d never seen him give a really great live performance. The first time I saw him was an opening slot for Alanis Morissette (yes, really) in Kansas City in the summer of 2002. It was Adams solo, playing songs from Gold and Heartbreaker that would be swallowed up in the large, open-air amphitheater, amongst the excited chatter of college girls waiting for a different brand of angst. Even then there were whispers that this was an artist who could be really great if he survived the excesses of his existence.
Three albums later, in 2004, I tried to see him again at the Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri. But, he broke his wrist falling off stage in Liverpool, resulting in a cancelled tour and much speculation as to the reason for his fall. By the time he made up the date, Iâ€™d moved to Vermont, and when I saw him there in 2005 on the Cold Roses tour, it was the experience of watching a musical genius fight his demons that stuck in my mind more than the music. Between his visible intoxication and the antagonism of the crowd, it was a night of rapid fire verbal insults between musician and audience punctuated by shouts for more vodka and red wine to be brought to the stage. I remember his refusal to play â€œChicagoâ€ despite the incessant urgings, but I donâ€™t remember a single song he actually played.
For me, the first glimmer of hope that he might be on the road to delivering live performances as great as his recordings came last year in Louisville, shortly before the release of Easy Tiger. I wonâ€™t deny that the show was unusual; Adams requested the lights be dimmed almost completely, and those who were able to see him in the obscurity reported he was wearing a shower cap on stage, but I think we were mostly in agreement that he sounded better than he had in a long time, boasting a voice that shone with the clarity of a year of sobriety.
On Halloween night, I finally saw the show Iâ€™ve been waiting to see for eight years. Set against the backdrop of one enormous blue cardinal thatâ€™s featured on the cover of Cardinology, the Cardinals seamlessly set upon a large portion Adamsâ€™ catalog of rock and roll, alt-country and haunting blues, balancing the disparity of his material with highly accomplished musicianship. Instead of commandeering center stage, Adams took a spot slightly to the left of center, alternating between his guitar and keyboards, even turning the spotlight on guitarist Neal Casal who sang lead on his own original composition â€œFreeway to the Canyon.â€
Where Adams historically and at times aggressively has refused to perform songs from any album prior to the one heâ€™s currently promoting, this night he compromised with complete reworkings of older songs like â€œRescue Blues.â€ He dressed smartly and ignored the occasional obnoxious cat call from a frat boy urging him to drink. Instead of turning the lights out to mask his stage fright, he interacted very little with the crowd, but let us know he hasnâ€™t changed beyond recognition with the occasional dry allusion to his trodden-upon heart (“This next song is another song in the long line of songs about how I’m so fucking happy in my romantic life. I’m so happy I’m dancing for fucking joy. I’m gonna die under a stack of comic books alone”).
In short, the show lacked in nothing but melodrama and distraction. Adams’ greatest career accomplishment may well be finding the balance between knowing heâ€™s a great musician and proving it.
Lisa Hannigan’s US fans got some good news yesterday with the announcement that her debut album Sea Sew will be released stateside on ATO January 20th after earning rave reviews in Ireland. She’s earned a name for herself as the fragile vocal sidekick to Damien Rice, but this song “Lille” proves, not surprisingly, that her lovely voice is a gift unto itself.
Californian singer-songwriter Brett Dennen’s star has risen quickly, and will surely continue its ascent with the release of his latest, Hope for the Hopeless. He’s just announced a three-month-long headlining tour commencing in early January. To find out whether he’s coming to a venue near you, check his dates. To get a sense of the album, listen to this podcast.
While the LA Times is compiling a list for John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Jason Bonham containing 5 Ways to Avert a Disasterif they really do reunite Led Zeppelin with a singer who is not Plant, I’m content with getting my list of Top 10 albums of 2008 together, and Conor Oberst’s solo debut will most assuredly be near the top.
Recorded with his Mystic Valley Band in Tepoztlan, Mexico, Conor Oberst showcases Oberst’s skillful songwriting in a more stripped down country rock setting than we’ve become accustomed to with his Bright Eyes projects. The band stopped by Conan recently and their inclusion of several new songs not on the album, including the gorgeous “Ten Women,” has me pretty much prepared for the eventuality of them making the 2009 list as well.
Friday November 07th 2008, 8:45 am
Filed under: Podcasts
Posted by: Melanie
An unashamed romantic, young British songwriter James Morrison has attacked the difficult task of “the sophomore record” with gusto. Not content to sit back on his haunches after the success of his debut, Undiscovered (the album went to #1 in the U.K., sold 2 million copies worldwide and earned him a Brit Award), he offers up more of his trademark raw soul on his latest, Songs for You, Truths for Me. Check out some tracks in this podcast.
Many of the musicians we’ve worked with over 2008 have been inspired to voice their political beliefs in creative ways in the long march towards this historic day, but possibly none moved us as much as Ben Sollee‘s poignant interpretation of “A Change Is Gonna” come. The Louisville cellist rewrote the 1964 Sam Cooke song to reflect his own personal stance in modern times without losing the sentiment injected by Cooke as he wrote it during the Civil Rights movement. This juxtaposition of new and old reflects, perhaps, how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.
“A lot of bands have something to say,” explains TV On The Radio producer/multi-instrumentalist David Sitek. “We have something to ask.” Whether or not you care what that might be, there’s a lot to love on this band’s latest effort, Dear Science,. We can promise that it’s not like any other record you’ll hear this year, and that it’ll stick with you. Curious? Check out some samples in this edition of the Songlines podcast.