Tag Archives: 2008

North by Midwest, Day 3

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Glad you’re back for Day 3 of NXMW 2009, our little festival celebrating music from our corner of America.

(If you’re wondering why Day 2 was on Thursday and Day 3 is on Saturday, well, that’s just how we roll. Friday was lost to an evening with Emily Hurd, whom we featured on Day 1.)

As with Emily, we’re long overdue in introducing you to Copper Box.

Straight outta Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and fronted by the husband-and-wife team of Danny and Michelle Jerabek, this band takes a lot of influences, tosses them into the blender and comes up with a distinctive sound. It’s mostly rock, Zydeco and polka, but there’s also some blues, country and Tejano.

The Jerabeks are veteran performers. Their considerable skills were honed in their families’ polka bands, which they joined as kids. Think of the accordian replacing the Hammond organ, yet sounding a bit like it, and you get an idea of Danny’s skills. Michelle plays sax, flute and guitar and is a terrific singer. They’re flanked by bass player Kevin Junemann and drummer Jason Van Ryzin, and it’s tight.

Copper Box — CBx for short — is no novelty act. It’s been around for seven years and four albums. Tonight, CBx is headlining at Shank Hall, one of Milwaukee’s best clubs for Americana/roots music. Two weeks from tonight, CBx opens for kindred spirits Brave Combo at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn, Illinois, another great club in the same vein.

Summer in Wisconsin, of course, brings plenty of outdoor gigs. They’ll be as busy this summer as last summer, when their publicist sent me some mp3s. They offered the whole CD, but I said, nah, I’ll just get it at one of their shows in Green Bay. And then, of course, I never saw them. I hope to make up for that this summer.

No reason for you to miss out. Enjoy a little bit of Copper Box, a delight from our corner of Wisconsin.

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“Need A Little Squeezin'” and “Apple Of Your Eye,” Copper Box, from “Need A Little Squeezin’,” 2008. (Also available on iTunes.)

The title tune is a slide blues-rocker written and sung by Michelle. The latter is a Zydeco-meets-jazz number written and sung by Danny. It reminds me a lot of the Iguanas.

These are the first two of 15 cuts on the CD, which was released about a year ago and by all accounts gets pretty close to their live sound.

Speaking of which, enjoy this video. Copper Box covers Creedence’s “Born on the Bayou,” recorded last July 4 at the Sawdust City Days festival in their hometown, Oshkosh.

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Filed under March 2009, Sounds

The other music festival

Does it seem to you as if all the cool kids are at SXSW in Austin?

If so, feel free to soak in the vibe for the next few nights here at …

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Yeah, we spent hours on the logo.

Welcome to NXMW — North by Midwest — 2009.

We’ll celebrate music from our part of America here at NXMW 2009. Some old, some new. Might as well start in that indie spirit.

We’re long overdue in introducing you to Emily Hurd.

She e-mailed me last fall, saying a friend had pointed her my way. She hails from Rockford, Illinois, where we have a mutual friend in my old pal Meat.

Hurd is a songwriter who isn’t shy about billing herself as a soul singer. Among her influences: Hoagy Carmichael, Solomon Burke, Kris Kristofferson, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Ray Charles and Mavis Staples. She’s working on her sixth album, due out this year.

She sent along a video and a couple of mp3s. You’ll certainly hear those influences.

Video: “The Likes of You.”

Tunes: “Give It Time” and “Make A Bed,” all by Emily Hurd, from “A Cache in the Warehouse Floor,” 2008.

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This is what Hurd says about this record:

“Some of these songs sound like Aretha Franklin singing Tom Waits and others dip into the same well that fed Cooke, Redding, Charles, Witherspoon and Sykes. With the help of the organ and electric guitar, the sounds on this record are as huge as the lyrics.”

“Make A Bed” uses that organ and guitar to deliver a bit of a gospel sound. “Give It Time” works a little harder, with a nice horn chart that sounds like it came from Muscle Shoals.

I hope to hear more on Friday night, when she plays a gig at a coffee house not too far from us.

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Filed under March 2008, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 28

And so we come to Christmas Eve, to the end of our series for another year.

The three under the tree tonight have a valedictory feel to them.

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“Silent Night,” the Blackhearts and special guests, from “A Blackheart Christmas,” 2008.

This is one of the songs that will define 2008. Listen to the special guests, and you’ll know why.

(This record is a compilation of Christmas tunes by artists on Blackheart Records label. It includes Joan Jett’s version of “The Little Drummer Boy,” originally released on early vinyl pressings of “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” in 1981.)

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“The Silent Night Sermon,” Robert Banks with the Golden Voices Ensemble, from “Christmas Gospelodium,” 1967. It’s out of print and apparently rare.

From the liner notes:

“(‘Silent Night’) is not generally used in gospel singing, except when it is treated as the background to a sermon. The performance here, wherein Robert Banks throws the lines to the choir, is exceptionally soulful.”

Indeed.

As the night grows increasingly quiet, as Christmas draws near …

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“The Night Before Christmas (A Poem),” Louis Armstrong, 1971,  from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print, but you can find the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) on eBay.

No music. Just Satchmo’s warm, gravelly voice and Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem.

Armstrong cut this in the den at his home in Corona, Queens, New York, on Feb. 26, 1971. It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo was 69 when he died that summer.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’

“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”

After all the gifts are opened, stop back on Christmas Day. We’ll be returning to our regular programming here at AM, Then FM.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 27

“O Holy Night,” written in 1847 by French composer Adolphe Adam, is one of those Christmas standards that frequently receives a reverent treatment, yet all too often a treatment that turns an epic sonic blast.

Tonight, we find three under the tree that treat “O Holy Night” a little differently, a little more downbeat.

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“O Holy Night,” Easy Anthems, from “Hark!” 2007.

Remarkably, this record was a free download last year, and I was delighted to have found it. Easy Anthems is an Americana group led by the Long Island husband-and-wife team of Philip A. Jimenez and Vanesa Alvero Jimenez. Theirs is a laid-back version featuring Vanesa’s strong, soulful vocals, Philip’s gentle guitar and Paul Loren’s Wurlitzer electric piano.

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“O Night Divine,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008.

This is the only new Christmas record I bought this year. It has its moments, and this is one. While not “O Holy Night,” this tune incorporates bits of it. You hear it in Philip Sayce’s long, sizzling guitar solo, which starts about a minute in. You hear it again about two-thirds of the way through, when Etheridge winds up her scorching vocals. It’s different — music from long ago, lyrics for today — but I like it.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print and much in demand.

Last year, our fellow music blogger Jason Hare’s Mellowmas series (since moved to Popdose) offered Jim Nabors’ take on this tune. In the comments was this tip from a reader named Rob:

“For a GREAT take on this song, check out Irma Thomas’ version on a compilation called ‘A Creole Christmas.’ Goosebump-inducing stuff.”

Rob was correct, and we posted it over here at AM, Then FM.

Reverent but thrilling, this version is done as a New Orleans dirge with some terrific Hammond organ. Still the best.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds

Going shopping?

As Thanksgiving draws near, I’m thankful for the handful of record and marketing companies who’ve seen fit to share tunes with AM, Then FM over the course of this year.

Their generosity and their willingness to work with music blogs make the following recommendations possible. These are things I’ve heard and liked, and things you might like.

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AC/DC: “Black Ice,” the new record, and “No Bull: The Director’s Cut,” a live concert DVD.

Neither breaks any new ground, but if you like AC/DC, you’ll like these. I put “Black Ice” to the usual Car Test, spinning it several times as I was driving. None of the songs struck me as being great, and its 15 songs are at least five too many, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The following cut most of all, I think.

“Spoilin’ For A Fight,” AC/DC. from “Black Ice,” 2008.

It really made me want to see them again. AC/DC is best experienced live. “No Bull” gives that a go, with a July 1996 show set against the spectacular backdrop of the Plaza De Toros De Las Ventas in Madrid. This DVD will give you a taste of what an AC/DC show is like, but you really have to be there. The venue is the best thing about this DVD. The production and sound quality leave a bit to be desired.

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Sammy Hagar: “Cosmic Universal Fashion,” the new record.

As I wrote a year ago, Hagar is an acquired taste, but I’ve really come to dig his shows. After listening to this record, I’d really rather see him live. This records is like one of Hagar’s shows — not for everyone, but full of energy, full of attitude, with some new stuff, some old stuff and even a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right To Party.” Which, of course, is better heard live.

The following cut has a nice, laid-back vibe to it. The Wabos sing it as they warm up for shows. That’s his bassist, Mona, on the harmonies.

“When The Sun Don’t Shine,” Sammy Hagar, from “Cosmic Universal Fashion,” 2008.

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Lindsey Buckingham: “Gift of Screws,” his latest record.

As I wrote last month, I wasn’t all that familiar with Buckingham as a solo artist, but this one passed the Car Test with flying colors.

“Love Runs Deeper,” Lindsey Buckingham, from “Gift of Screws,” 2008. Worth another listen. Buckingham wrote it with his wife, Kristen.

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Steve Winwood: “Nine Lives,” his latest record.

I am a bit more familiar with Winwood as a solo artist. As I wrote earlier this year, this one also passed the Car Test with flying colors.

“We’re All Looking,” Steve Winwood, from “Nine Lives,” 2008. Lots of nice Hammond organ on this one.

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Alan Wilkis: “Babies Dream Big,” his debut record.

AM, Then FM is mostly about rediscovering veteran artists rather than discovering new indie artists. However, we were part of the first wave of good buzz about this Brooklyn artist when we interviewed him earlier this year. Wilkis takes all kinds of ’60s, ’70s and ’80s influences, throws them in the blender and creates something new, yet it still sounds familiar. He plays almost everything himself and does all the vocals.

“I Love The Way,” Alan Wilkis, from “Babies Dream Big,” 2008. A little blue-eyed soul, anyone?

We exchanged e-mails earlier today, and Alan says he’s “working a lot these days, pluggin’ away on a new EP. Hopefully going to be six songs, hopefully ready in the next two months.” Looking forward to it.

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The Boxing Lesson: “Wild Streaks & Windy Days,” its first full-length record.

If you wondered whether anyone still makes music to get stoned to, the answer is yes. This Austin, Texas-based band does the job quite nicely. Heavy, moody, dreamy.

“Muerta,” The Boxing Lesson, from “Wild Streaks & Windy Days,” 2008.

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Filed under November 2008, Sounds

Halloween with the Jersey Devil

If you were here last Halloween, you know Halloween is not my thing.

But I don’t want you coming to my door and going away empty-handed.

I received this note this morning:

So please knock on Mr. Bruce Springsteen’s door and download “A Night With The Jersey Devil” into your trick-or-treat bag.

It’s a blues dirge appropriate for the day.

The tune and its video will be posted there until late Sunday night.

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Filed under October 2008, Sounds

I heard it in the car

We’re flattered whenever music publicists want to share something new with us. Especially when those acts are among those we’ve long known. As one publicist put it, “adult-facing artists.”

If we’re lucky enough to get a review copy, it gets put to The Car Test. I put it in the car and play it whenever I’m driving. That way, it gets heard more than once. That way, I get a good sense of the album.

That said, a few words about “Gift of Screws,” the new album from Lindsey Buckingham.

A confession: I don’t know much about Lindsey Buckingham beyond his work in Fleetwood Mac. I have none of his previous solo albums.

However, after giving it a few spins in the car, I’ve enjoyed his new album, “Gift of Screws.” Especially three songs at mid-CD: “Love Runs Deeper,” “Bel Air Rain” and “The Right Place To Fade.”

“Love Runs Deeper” and “The Right Place To Fade” have a classic mid-’70s Fleetwood Mac vibe. Mick Fleetwood and John McVie join Buckingham on the latter. “Bel Air Rain” is more moody, more edgy, infused with an L.A. vibe and some fine guitar work by Buckingham.

“This is probably the most rock ‘n’ roll album I’ve ever made,” Buckingham told John Soeder of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

That could be why I like it so much.

“Love Runs Deeper” and “Bel Air Rain,” Lindsey Buckingham, from “Gift of Screws,” 2008.

(Postscript: If you’re wondering why there are so few details, I was working without liner notes or production notes or a lyric sheet. Most of the details came from other reviews and interviews.)

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Filed under October 2008, Sounds