Thursday, August 27, 2009

Awesome Skynyrd Cover Album

I picked up the album Under The Influence: A Jam Band Tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd on a whim last month. It's been in my CD changer ever since. New purchases have entered the changer and left and Under the Influence remains.

D Vlad Hippy's negative review on stunned me. I agree that Les Claypool's "They Call Me The Breeze" sounds less than stellar. It's the only track on the album I dislike. Vlad's correct that JJ Cale wrote the song. In defense of the album, though, most would associate it with Skynyrd, which justifies it's existence on a Skynyrd tribute album.

Galactic's "Saturday Night Special" has a great groove. Of course, Gov't Mule's "Simple Man" really jams. How could it not. Hiatt's "The Ballad of Curtis Loewe" and Drive By Trucker's "Every Mother's Son", rival or outdo Skynyrd themselves. "The Ballad of Curtis Lowe" has become my newest favorite Hiatt song.

I also dig the North Mississippi Allstars rendition of "Whiskey Rock a Roller" and the Yonder Mountain String Band's "Four Walls of Raiford". I find myself skipping through to listen to "Every Mother's Son," "Simple Man" and "Four Walls of Raiford".

In total contrast to Vlad, I find the Blues Traveler's version of "Freebird" to be a perfect sounding Blues Traveler song. When I hear it I forget that it's not even their song. Popper kicks ass on the mouth harp. There's no way to deny that greatness.

I could do without Big Head Todd's "Sweet Home Alabama". On the other hand, The Disco Biscuits bring a fresh, original funkiness to "Gimme Three Steps". Likewise, Particle jams out keeps a true Skynyrd feel with a fresh sound for their rendition of "Workin for MCA".

Buy the album. Heck, buy 2. Give one to a friend.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Fillmore

I had the good fortune to see Tracy Chapman at The Fillmore in San Francisco last night. Tracy and her three band mates delivered a soulful, nostalgic show that had the audience screaming and dancing with pleasure. Her funkified ending to "Give Me One Reason" brought the house down, as did her punk paced cover of "Proud Mary." Her cover of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" inspired awe. She delivered a barrel-full helping of her greatest hits like "Change" and "Talkin About a Revolution."

I have to say that no other venue compares to The Fillmore. Here are 10 reasons why
  1. Free apples.
  2. Artists want to be there. Chapman mentioned several times how relieved she was to be back in San Francisco and how comforting it was to be back home, playing at such a historic venue.
  3. So many great live albums have been recorded there. From my collection, Ozomatli and Lucinda Williams come to mind first. The Grateful Dead's Live-Dead compilation of 4 nights at The Fillmore in 1969 goes down as one of the greatest live rock albums of all time. Artists feel inspired there by the souls of Jerry Garcia, Bill Graham, John Lee Hooker and Janis Joplin still living there.
  4. It's so easy to get there from the South Bay. Just get on the 101 , turn left on Geary, and park when you get to Fillmore.
  5. There's always parking on Geary. On the street. For free.
  6. It's across the street from John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom Room.
  7. There's tons of delictable food on Fillmore and the food in the Fillmore bar is great and affordable. Plus you get to eat under all those historic, priceless psychedelic concert posters. Last night we stumbled into Kati's Kitchen around the corner. I highly recommend it. Sure it's theme is that trite word--fusion--that I hear way too much in SF, but, hey, generalities are true in general for a reason, right?
  8. Everyone dances all the time at The Fillmore because there's no seats. And this makes the artists play better because they look out and see an audience digging their music.
  9. Free concert posters handed out after selected sold out shows.
  10. And the guy who says, "Welcome to The Fillmore," when you walk in always makes me smile. Especially right before I grab a free apple.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More Great Shows

In the last two weeks I caught both Ozomatli and the Indigo Girls shows again. Many of my friends know and love Ozomatli. They are out of this world good.

The same friends giggle and give me a quizzical look when I tell them I also went to see Indigo Girls. I don't understand--the Indigo Girls have such incredible talent. Very few performers sound better than their studio album when they perform. The Indigo Girls always do, even songs they first recorded 20 years ago. They harmonize perfectly and consistently. They both are master guitar players. They write their own material, songs that have become hits over the course of two decades. They are in a league that very few musicians reach. As Kim Ruehl wrote on, "They still have a hauntingly impressive grasp on their mad skills as polyphonic harmonizers."

So I remain confused why my friends deride them. Give me insight between black and white.

Greatest Going Home Song Ever

All evening I've pondered: What is the greatest Going Home song of all time? After hours and hours of thought (equivalent to microseconds of thought for the average person) and a bit of ipodding, I think I have an answer.

Here's the top four, in no particular order
  1. "Sloop John B" by the Beach Boys
  2. "Homeward Bound" by Simon & Garfunkel
  3. Aimee Mann and Michael Penn's cover of The Beatles' "Two of Us"
  4. "Comin' Home" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
  5. "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel
What do you think?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

High Sierra Music Festival

We went to check out the High Sierra Music Festival over Fourth of July weekend. I had never been--never even heard of it--but do hope to return again in the future. It's a pretty low-key festival with big name artists. Plus we escaped Sunday morning for awhile and had a beautiful and perfect hike along the Pacific Crest Trail from Bucks Summit to Spanish Peak.

A Banghra-House-Celtic fusion group from Vancouver called Delhi 2 Dublin brought down the house on Friday morning. To get a bunch of hippies moshing before noon on a Friday takes supreme talent. These guys are the real deal. We loved them. Check them out if you can.

We arrived almost too late on Thursday to catch any of John Butler. Luckily we caught the last song of the main set and the entire encore. He was incredible, too. For the few songs we heard he played solo or just had a drummer but no matter. I was blown away by how one man can create such a sound. I hear a lot of singer-songwriters with just an acoustic guitar and a lot of times after a song or two all their material starts to sound the same. Not the case with Butler. I argue that no solo artist can match Butler's dynamic performance.

The other surprise of the weekend was Paper Bird from Colorado. These guys play Folk/Americana and just had fantastic energy. I loved their ode to Colorado. They have 3 women lead singing whose harmonies harken to a past era and put a smile on your face.

I hadn't seen Ani DiFranco in years. She had a great performance and the crowd loved her.

So what's with the coconut craze? Everything at the festival involved coconuts. There was a dread-locked overall wearing hippie wandering around selling them with rum. There was a vendor in the food court selling them and the ice cream vendor had replaced cow's cream with coconut milk in their ice cream. I don't recommend the coconut ice cream. Plus, at $3 for about an ounce of ice cream, it's way out of my hippie budget. Did I miss something? Are coconuts the next Big Thing?

A lot of folks camp right in the fairgrounds. Some even sleep right in the horse stalls. No thanks. We chose to take the less cramped free camping about a mile east of the fairgrounds. They had a free shuttle running between the festival and the campground but honestly we never took it. Even though it was pretty hot we still enjoyed the walk...except when I dropped the car key in the middle of the festival and we had to walk back and look for it and then back to the car again. Luckily someone turned it in to Lost and Found! Thank you, whoever you are!

Next time, and there will be a next time, I aim to try and camp in the trees just to the left and just outside of the main entrance.