I just discovered Alabama Shakes. They’re a new group with an old-time bluesy rock sound, complete with complex music and raw vocals. Take a listen–you’ll like them!
Green here. The hubby and I went to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Flowers After Five last week. The garden stays open late every Thursday, and features a local music group. This Thursday The Flying Sulsers owned the stage.
The Flying Sulsers are a Richmond cover band. They describe themselves as a “raucous mix of Swing and Country peppered with strains of Hillbilly and Bluegrass”. The show Thursday was characterized by high energy, and what I am calling “loose harmony.” The vocal blends fit together beautifully, but not in a barbershop quartet way. It feels like the musical equivalent of doing stunts on runaway horses–beautiful, technically spot-on, but with a sense of messy adventure that is appealing.
They covered a bunch of stuff, and–silly me!–I didn’t jot down the playlist. A few of the songs included “Blue Moon,” “Undecided,” “A-Tiskey, A-Tasket,” and “Two to Tango.” It was obvious the group loved what they were doing, and the best word to describe their style is “fun.” The group is led by Brian Sulser, who plays the upright bass (and even though I had 7 years of orchestra, I didn’t know until today that was called a doghouse bass), with Marty Flipman on guitar, and Aimee Sulser leading the vocals. They remind me of the Texas swing band Asleep at the Wheel. They have the same casual competence that fools you into thinking their performance is easy.
We enjoyed their performance immensely. You can bump into them all over Richmond, but I’ve had a hard time finding their dates ahead of time. In addition to yearly appearances at Lewis Ginter, they’ve played at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art’s jazz nights, and Taste of Richmond. Lewis Ginter had the sound done perfectly. If you were anywhere near the show, you could hear every note clearly in spite of the happy kids dancing and talking.
The rest of the Flowers After Five schedule is available at Lewis Ginter’s website. The second and third Thursdays each month are also Fidos after Five, when you can bring your pets on their leash to enjoy the garden. So look for the Flying Sulsers around town, and come to Lewis Ginter on Thursday for more great music.
So. . . Hen got to go to a Keb’Mo concert. Because he lives in San Di-frickin’-Paradisi-AY-go. He got some great pictures, because he’s good like that.
I got to see Keb’Mo once, too, long ago. It was in Austin, which should have made it wonderful. But it was so long ago he was opening for Lyle Lovett. In an outdoor venue. And my cheap seats were by concessions. Now I think Lyle Lovett is one of music’s true gentlemen, and will challenge you to a duel if you think differently. But his fans. . .well, the ones at the concession stand evidently did not realize Keb’Mo was the same caliber of genius as Lyle, and made a ton of noise. So I didn’t get as much enjoyment out of my Keb’Mo concert as Mr. Third-Row-in-the-Intimate-Venue-of-Belly Up. Not that I’m bitter. . .or anything.
Here’s a tiny snippet of the concert, compliments of Lucky Hen:
Since I want to have some part in the Kevin Moore adventure, I’m writing a review of his latest album, BluesAmericana. It has everything I love about Keb’Mo. It’s equal parts touching and humorous, upbeat and heartbreaking. It has a beat. Perhaps, most importantly, it meets my requirement for blues–you may be talking about how life is low-down and dirty, but you can’t help smiling, because you’re having so much fun making music about it. Here’s a quick run-down of the songs, and more of Hen’s great pics. Because, you know, none of us got to go.
“The Worst is Yet to Come” I nominate this song as the official song for Mondays. It has everything–starting off wrong with a hangover, broke down car, lost job, lost woman who was no good to begin with. Everyone has days like this–and if you haven’t, just put this album back. You ain’t ready to listen to the blues yet. But here’s the thing about blues in general, and especially Keb’Mo’s blues, and even more especially his particular mix of blues/folk/funk/americana–he doesn’t dwell in the dumps. “I take a look around me. . .guess I”m doing pretty good.”
“Somebody Hurt You” I loved Keb’Mo from the first time my husband introduced me to his music because he writes songs that are good to women. He has a sweet tenderness, and many of his songs, just like this one, promise to make the past sweeter with his devotion in the present. The song has a gospel quality that raises the comfort quotient on it. This is a song to sing to the person you love when they’ve had the day in “The Worst is Yet to Come”.
“Do It Right” The perfect song for new love. Or an anniversary. Or a wedding. It’s goes beyond “I got the hots for you” to a mature look at the gentle hope, tenderness, and willingness to grow that love needs. My husband and I have a wedding songlist that we have grown over each anniversary. This song is going on the list.
“I’m Gonna Be Your Man” A true devotion song in the blues tradition. John Lee Hooker wanders through when Keb’Mo says “I’m a man, I’m a full grown man.” I love the confident certainty in this song–he’s gonna get his girl in the end. And that’s that. Shooby-doo-whap-whappa. . . .
“Move” Some great vocal wails start this one out. A good song for transitions, especially the ones you have to make because your world has broken beneath you. This song gives you the courage to face unpleasant facts and MOVE. It also has plenty of the wry humor that brings me back to Keb’Mo for feel good music.
“For Better or Worse” Most of this album is upbeat. This song has Keb’Mo’s quiet tenderness. If he wasn’t such an amazing musician, he could have been a great marriage counselor. Play this song when you know you’re with the right person but you’re having a hard time. It reminds you that good things take work, and that’s ok.
“That’s Alright” The best blues song on this album. It’s got the beat, it’s got the hard times, it’s got the raw loneliness of wondering what your once-love is doing with that other person. And like all blues songs, it’s got the stand up and be counted, take no prisoners, make justice happen ending.
“Old Me Better” This song got a lot of attention when the album first came out. It has a great sense of humor and triumph. Sometimes the changes you have to make to be with another person are just too much. This song reminds you that you don’t need to be with anyone that won’t let you be yourself.
“More for Your Money” Nostalgia songs are great, and this one brings the Americana-folk feel squarely into the album. It’s got the plucky acoustic strumming, an aw-shucks tone, and the sense that yesterday was better.
“So Long Goodbye” Keb’Mo can break a heart more gently than any singer I’ve ever heard. This song about a love that just won’t work is shattering, but brushes your tears with a feather-softness. I hope this song doesn’t resonate with you. But if it does, the kind resignation of the song will help you begin the process of moving on.
Keb’Mo is an American treasure. If you haven’t heard him, this album is a great place to start. If you have, this album will remind you why you love him so much. He’s still on tour. You can see if you can still catch him near you here.
The Honeycutters have a laid-back sound. “Me Oh My” is about living your life as best you can, trying to ignore the judgements around you. You can buy their album of the same name on their website.
From the Americana Music Association Playlist this week:
That Green Hen posts the Americana Music Association’s Top 25 Airplay list on our Facebook page. Green’s decided to post something by at least one of the artists featured on the list each week. Since the ownership of YouTube videos is sometimes sketchy, she’s decided to randomly pick someone off the list, then post the first video by them that is from a reliable source on YouTube. Unless she hates it; then she’ll try something else. This weeks’ winner: Sonny Landreth. His “Provogue” on his album Down With the Blues made the Airplay list. That Green Hen is highlighting “Zydeco Shuffle” from a KRVS music video.
You can buy the his music here. Down With the Blues is available for pre-order.
Just found a site of “Random Music Facts” sure to keep you happy. Have a look!
Today I posted a link to an interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti with his musings on San Francisco over the past 60 years. It got me thinking about poetry as song. When I searched for Ferlinghetti music, I found this cool song by Holden Forrest, who promises “more Ferlinghetti collaborations in the near future.” You can visit Holden’s YouTube page here.
Just heard Anna and Elizabeth, a duet of two beautiful voices that resurrects the old music from the hills. Their voices are haunting; their music simple and elegant. And they tell stories. Stories from the past, sometimes illustrated with Annie’s “crankies”–little tableaux she makes of cloth and paper. She has a hand-cranked rolling screen with the crankies loaded on, and runs them throughout the ballads. It is a nostalgic gesture that takes you out of the iPhone age, back to sitting around the fire at night after a hard day’s work.
The ladies are musicians, actresses, crafters, and story tellers. They would not be lost if thrown back in time to the little town of Floyd, Virginia where they host The Floyd Radio Show. Before cars, interstates, and electricity made it possible to connect outside your holler, people entertained themselves. They taught each other to play the instruments they carried west or made at home, and used the materials around them to express the emotions of their lives. Anna and Elizabeth, though only in their 20’s, have dedicated their lives to bringing back those musical stories.
Like Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons of Carolina Chocolate Drops fame, these women are not dabblers in music history. They regularly search archives of old music, including the living archives. One of the “projects” listed on their website is “visits with old folks.” Some of the old folks include Paul David Smith, Anna’s late mentor, Jimmy Costa, and the Kentucky Clodhoppers. Anna and Elizabeth tell some stories from their conversation with a neighbor of Lella Todd in their Tiny Desk Concert. Todd was a musician who “could play anything with strings.” She accepted all her neighbors as family. She played her music for them and with them, and brought food, flowers, and comfort when tragedy struck those around her.
Anna and Elizabeth remind me of Tasha Tudor, the writer and illustrator who chose to live out her days in a house without electricity until her death in 2008. She wrote by candlelight, made her own home-spun clothes and cooked by wood fire. She lived day-to-day in a world free of technological white noise, and brought a taste of that life to her audience. Anna and Elizabeth’s songs, crafts, and outreach to the older musicians around them brings that world to life today. Like Tudor, who wrote children’s books, A&E take their music to kids by playing music and doing versions of their radio shows in schools in their local area. I hope the children take home the idea that music is not something you download on your ipod, but something you make together with friends.
Here’s “The Lost Gander,” complete with a crankie:
Anna and Elizabeth’s second album is self-titled, and can be ordered from Free Dirt Records. The next Floyd Radio Show is June 20; you can stream it live or buy tickets to see it in person in Floyd, VA.
Thanks to Dylon Locke and Anna and Elizabeth for the photos used in this post.
There is a dirty-little-not-so-secret here at TGH. Green (that’s me!) doesn’t actually PLAY an instrument.
Well, I have played in the past. I took lessons on viola, violin, and piano, and sing off and on in church choirs. But I’m not a “real” musician. I’m the writer in the group. So even though I love listening to all kinds of music, I have only reviewed albums with vocals. I can talk about lyrics. And talk. But there are a lot of wonderful instrumental albums out there. Having half the website be an amazing musician makes me realize I’m missing a lot in my word-centric world.
I had to find a way to write about music my way. I feel like the old guy using the kids’ slang talking about gigs and licks and shredding guitars–or is it shredding music on guitars? Anyway, I usually focus on the poetry of lyrics and the overall feel of the music. Today, I decided to take on one album that is a wordless wonder: In the Moment by Jimmy and Enrique. Jimmy and Enrique are friends and colleagues of Hen, so that’s our full disclosure. In spite of that possible handicap, their album has me dancing in my seat as I type. The album has a strong Latin sound, and mixes all kinds of other influences.
Latin music has roots in a lot of different cultures. The guitar itself, recognized as a major instrument in Spanish and Latin music, descends from the Persian tar, a lute-like instrument named for the Persian word for “string.” Or so I’m told by Wikipedia. The troubadours, the original touring bands, have been connected to William of Aquitane and his influence from Muslim prisoners he captured on a crusade. Troubadour music highlighted loves lost and gained, amorous conquests, and evidently ribald poetry. The gyrating rhythms in Spanish, Latin, and Arab music are all perfect accompaniment for such subject matter. Jimmy and Enrique manage to get a lot of feeling across without needing words, which I guess is what great musicians do.
After listening to the album for the first time, I read another review. I was terribly pleased with myself to have noticed the Middle Eastern and of course, Latin influences in the music. Looking at the album now, I realize the song titles would have provided context clues. I dare you to listen to this album and sit still. Here are some highlights:
“Las Dos Vidoras” (“The Two Vipers”) is, well. . .serpentine. If a couple of snakes decided to start a flamenco, this is the song they would want as background. I can’t listen to it without trying to do a little “S” wiggle with my spine. Good luck managing better than me.
“Sandstorm” started and my first image was a camel ride with dervishes whirling around a caravan. That was before I checked the title of the song. So J&E have done a masterful job evoking the feel of the desert. I want some Morroccan tea, which I have now discovered is much more complex than it looks. Not unlike most music, but especially the subtle layers throughout this album.
As we continue our world-tour-in-an-album, we come to “Calypso Coronado.” Since I’m not a California girl, I did not recognize the (possible?) reference to Coronado, CA. The calypso feel, however, came through loud and clear.
“Chocolate Eyes” has a smooth sound. I hear a little island, a little jazz, a little Latin, and a little sitting on a veranda with a microbrew and enjoying life. And dancing. Definitely dancing.
J&E are some of the best musicians in San Diego. Jimmy Patton is a top-class guitarist, currently signed with Pacific Records. He is acknowledged as one of the best guitarists in the country, and has opened for jazz greats Stanley Jordan and Terrance Blanchard. Enrique Platas is a world-renowned drummer and percussionist. He has played on albums from Sony Mexico, and has opened for the B-52s and trumpeter Chris Botti.
You can buy In the Moment on their website.