Thursday, June 30, 2011



Viva Satellite was the finale of Todd Snider's three-CD deal with MCA, and maybe since they used to have a certain Wilbury brother on their roster that accounts for the Tom Petty vibe on this album. Heck, on "Out All Night" and "Yesterdays And Used To Be's," Todd is doing a spot-on Petty imitation, although it leaves Viva as the most rockin' of Snider's albums.

True to pattern, Snider tacks another hidden track onto the last song, "Nervous Wreck," which is another Petty homage and a rocker. It could be the influence of switching from Jimmy Buffet's producer to John Hampton, who had previously worked with the Gin Blossoms and no stranger to a more mainstream radio sound.

With his tongue planted firmly in cheek, Snider draws his masterpieces of trailer parks and troubled times, creating characters that come alive, his knack for storytelling and writing lyrics, while not quite up to the bar set by his debut, still sets him apart from the competition.

Unlike the debut, this album has its flaws, and the first sign that you're "Jumping The Shark" in music is a useless cover of a song that was fairly useless to begin with, like maybe Steve Miller's "The Joker." The cover, while quite entertaining, really adds nothing to the album and I'd have rather seen another original (or make the cover the hidden track). I can only assume the label was looking for a single with this one.

When Snider and his band are on, it's hard to find songs that are much better, and there are some essentials here ("Can't Complain", "Doublewide Blues"). The more polished rock sound does not fit his "storyteller" persona as the production on the first two albums, but Snider still has put together some fine songs with a punkish persona that masks the great sensitivity which he isn't quite mature enough to reveal. Sadly, his subsequent work for the "Oh Boy" label would be even more firmly rooted in the country genre, and while still quite good, simply not in the same class as the first three albums.

Another exceptional CD by Todd Snider, although not as essential as Songs For The Daily Planet.

Yesterdays And Used-To-Be's (acoustic)

Can't Complain (live)

Doublewide Blues

Late Last Night (this is from the second album, but features the band from the old days)

Monday, June 27, 2011



...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead have consistently specialized in soundtracking the breaking of the seventh seal, while seemingly reinventing itself with each new album.

Tao Of The Dead finds the band channeling prog-rock affectations into a remarkably cohesive set of songs that works best when listened to as two epic song cycles.

At nearly forty minutes, part one almost feels too brief, but just before you hit the replay button, the equally impressive sixteen and half minute second act moves from roaring punk anthems to beautiful, shimmering soundscapes, adding up to one fantastic listening experience, that progs in the vein of your favorite Rush or Yes record, if Rush or Yes had had an upbringing in full-throated punk and feedback-drenched indie rock.

There's a fluidity to this record that instinctively dips into haunting atmospherics and rises back up into anthemic tracks, a crucial ebb and flow that Trail of Dead has mastered. These carefully crafted progressions give Tao of the Dead that continuous 52-minute feeling that Keely was aiming for.

Keely has stated in interviews that it's this kind of record that he grew up listening to and wanted to emulate, and maybe that's why Tao of the Dead ends up being the most focused Trail of Dead effort in years. I can't recommend this album highly enough.

But I’m still not sure whether to file them under “A” or under “T.” The local record chain has them under “T.”


Sunday, June 26, 2011



Stephen T. McCarthy's post about the passing of one of his jazz heroes had a few excerpts from Wikipedia that reminded me of the two jazz musicians in my family.

Adolph and Dennis Sandole were my uncles, and growing up I had no idea how well known and respected they were in musician circles.

Of course, my mother would tell me, but I was interested in rock-I really didn't know what jazz was.

When Uncle Adolph died in the ealy eighties, I was stunned at some of the people who attended the services. There were big musical names, including rockers that even I recognized.

A few years after that, I tried to learn guitar, and my teacher, coincidentally, was one of Dennis' students. He would tell me stories of how Uncle D would threaten to cut off his thumb if it hung over the fretboard. He'd also tell me of the musicians who studied at my uncle's studio, and try to demonstrate some of the musical concepts my uncle had created, which mostly were far too complex for me to appreciate.

Years later, I was helping my uncle with something around his house, and he asked me why I never stuck with guitar. I commented how it was a mistake to start playing when I was working for a CPA firm-the demands of the profession do not allow for much practice time. I'd mentioned how I'd always asked my mother for lessons as a kid, and we just could not afford them. He said "I'd have taught you for free."

Now he tells me!

Sadly, I never heard my uncles play while theu were alive.

When Uncle Dennis died, his obituary ran in Rolling Stone, Time and People, among other publications. Here are links to a couple of stories:

After Uncle Dennis died, I decided to try to find some of my uncles' recorded music. Unfortunately, the vinyl had long since gone out of print, and was nearly impossible to find. When I did find a copy, it was priced at hundreds of dollars.

Fantasy Records to the rescue! In 2001, Fantasy released this compilation featuring two mid-50s sessions, the original LPs issued as "Modern Music from Philadelphia by the Brothers Sandole" and "The Clarinet Artistry of John LaPorta."

The "Guests" joining the Sandole Brothers (guitarist Dennis and baritone saxophonist Adolph for the record) include Art Farmer, Teo Macero, George Barrow, Wendell Marshall and Milt Hinton among others.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this title on CD, and ordered two copies (one for me, one for my mother).

I can't do much justice on a review, because I simply have not listened to enough jazz to have a perspective on this. I have been told that the music is highly original and very forward thinking, and that you can hear what students like John Coltrane garnered from Dennis the teacher. 

My uncles shared stages with Tommy Dorsey and Charlie Barnet, backed Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday in the studio, and taught a few people students may have heard of, including John Coltrane, James Moody, Pat Martino, Rob Brown, Matthew Shipp, and Michael Brecker. I think their resume holds up, so I would encourage jazz fans to give this a listen.

This is the only piece of their recorded music I've been able to find, and it has a lot of sentimental value for me. Anyone who comes across other titles, if you would not mind picking up a copy for me...

Thanks, Stephen T for the inspiration to post this.  And make sure to leave me a good note about the CD after I lend it to ya, because you'll be writing the review!

And to Uncles Adolph and Dennis, who if you're watching me type this and can hear that I am listening to The Smithereens instead of jazz-I hope you guys will still put in a good word or two for me at the gate! I miss you both.

This one's for you, Mom!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Rock guitarist Leslie West, who rose to fame in the '70s power trio Mountain, has had his lower right leg amputated in a life-saving operation related to his diabetes, his wife said on Monday. West, 65, underwent the emergency surgery after being admitted to a hospital in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Saturday when his leg started to swell and his foot went septic.

"The doctors tried for two days to save it to no avail. The decision to amputate was one that was necessary to save his life as the infection was spreading throughout his body," his wife, Jenni West, said in an email. "The nursing staff and doctors have taken excellent care of him and should be called angels for their efforts and tenderness they showed us in this time of crisis." West is expected to recover but faces extensive rehabilitation, a spokesman said.

Mountain is probably best known for its debut 1970 single "Mississippi Queen," a staple of classic rock radio. West has long struggled with his weight and type 2 diabetes. He named one of his solo albums "The Great Fatsby."

His next album, "The Unusual Suspects," featuring such guitarists as Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Slash of Guns N' Roses and Joe Bonamassa, does not yet have a release date. "Leslie will, no doubt, bounce back with his unusually bionic blitz of guitarosciousness," Gibbons said in an email. "Leslie will always be playing and standing on higher ground."

Best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to Leslie.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


He may be 63...but he's just getting his second wind!

It's his anniversary as well, so happy anniversary to Todd and Michelle!



Lyrics are important to me. Sometimes a song will have it all, great melody, great singing and playing, but the lyrics just aren’t there.

Case in point is “Paris,” the opening track and lead single from Grace Potter And The Nocturnals’ eponymous CD.

The track rocks, it really does.

Grace is bluesy, steamy and sexy. I listened to this song for the first time, and I had to loosen my collar to let the steam out as the bluesy music and lyrics led up to a climax.

“If I was a man I'd make my move
If I was a blade I'd shave you smooth
If I was a judge I'd break the law”

And then you get to the chorus:

"If I was from Paris
I would say ooh la la la la la la la”

Letdown-all of the sizzle faded with that line.

Really? That’s the lyric? That's the best ya got?

Okay, so call me fussy. I just wish the song that broke GP was not so….DUMB.

But break her it did.

This lineup of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are like a modern-day version of Tina Turner stroking the microphone in a spangled mini-dress while fronting the Rolling Stones circa Sticky Fingers.

The band's third album for Hollywood Records marks an artistic and commercial breakthrough for a vital young band. Titled, oddly enough, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, the band has crafted a truly great album, with tracks that rock like an earthquake.

Potter may be showing off her legs in a short skirt, but what you wear ain't the point.Not that her legs don’t look good, but don’t forget to leave room for music that is genuine, tight and has just enough grit. This album combines a sexy mixture of rock and soul and as long as you can get past that silly chorus, you’re going to like this album.

If you don’t, I’ll say “ooh la la la la la la la”

And that'll show ya!

Sunday, June 19, 2011



"When the change was made uptown

And the Big Man joined the band
From the coastline to the city
All the little pretties raise their hands"

Very sad news today.

The Jersey Shore music scene has lost an icon.

The E Street Band's legendary saxophone player Clarence Clemons died Saturday of complications from a stroke at age 69.

Clemons was, of course, Bruce Springsteen's main onstage foil and the first among equals in the E Street Band.

No other E Streeter got such an explicit mention in any of Springsteen's songs as he did in "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out," where everybody knows what happens when the change was made uptown.

And with Born To Run, he was the only one to ever share focus with Springsteen on the cover of an album.

In that photo, Springsteen is leaning on him for support, sure, but he's also implicitly asking for his approval.

He was the person that the Boss wanted to impress.

Springsteen issued a statement on his longtime friend and bandmate's death Saturday night, writing:

"He was my great friend, my partner, and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band."

Friday, June 17, 2011



Some albums you have to let sink in, you know? Let it percolate, distill and spread to the far corners of your brain.

Go Go Boots, the eleventh album from Drive-By Truckers, is exactly as described in the band's promotional material - country soul, pulling from both strains equally but still managing that unique and distinctive sound that the DBT’s are known for.

The songs tell stories that are engaging and captivating while maintaining a simple directness and a ring of ripped-from-the-headlines truth. The music is gritty and raw, taking a slower pace than the band's earlier albums, with a running order that keeps the listener engaged. This is not a return to "Dirty South/Southern Rock Opera" form. The electric guitars are turned down yet the album still possesses a slow burning intensity, building on their roots in the old Muscle Shoals country-and-soul sound.

Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley continue to be the chief songwriters of the group, continuing a musical partnership that has lasted over twenty-three years. Bassist, Shonna Trucker, flexes her songwriting muscles once again by contributing two original songs to the album. Brad Morgan (drums), John Neff (guitar/pedal steel) and Jay Gonzalez (keyboards) round out the current Drive-By Truckers lineup.

Overall, this is an album that gets better with each listen.



Monday, June 13, 2011


Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist who has played for 40 years with Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, has suffered a serious stroke, according to a Springsteen fan Web site with close connections to the band and tweets by associates of Mr. Clemons. The site,, said that Mr. Clemons, 69, had undergone two brain surgeries at a hospital near his home in Florida after the stroke, which was described as “massive,” but is “responsive and in stable condition.”

Quoting an unnamed friend of Mr. Clemons, the site said the saxophonist’s situation “did not look good at all” on Sunday, but that Mr. Clemons, known as “the Big Man,” had rallied and his vital signs were improving. “He was paralyzed on his left side, but now he’s squeezing with his left hand,” the account said. “The next five days will still be critical. But he’s a fighter.”

Though Mr. Clemons is a mainstay in the Springsteen band, so much so that songs like “Tenth Avenue Freezeout” refer explicitly to him and he is a focus of the group’s live shows, he has been getting attention lately because of his work on the new Lady Gaga album, “Born This Way.” This morning Lady Gaga tweeted that “my very close friend + musician on The Edge of Glory, Clarence Clemons, is very sick. Can we all make some get well videos?”

Drummer and music industry executive Narada Michael Walden, whom Clemons has called a close friend and spiritual adviser, replied to an e-mail query today about Clemons by responding, “Love and prayers to the Big Man! He is our Hero!”

Mr. Clemons has also worked with artists as diverse as Ringo Starr, Aretha Franklin, Joe Cocker and Roy Orbison, had a hit single under his own name with “You’re A Friend of Mine” in 1985 and performed in films and on television. On his Facebook page, Mr. Clemons’s nephew Jake, also a saxophonist, made this statement to fans today: “Please do not lose hope!”

Sunday, June 12, 2011



Here We Rest is the second album from Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, and Isbell s third since parting ways with the Drive-By Truckers. An Alabama native, Isbell comes from a tradition of Southern music, and from the playing to the arrangements to the lyrical depth of emotion on display, it is apparent here.

This platter is a scorcher, with rich Southern soul vibe coaxed from the if-walls-could-talk confines of Muscle Shoals Fame Studios. Isbell's thoughtful songwriting and warm, soulful voice shine through in his songs and are nicely augmented by the 400 Unit - keyboardist Derry deBorja, guitarist Browan Lollar, drummer Chad Gamble and bassist Jimbo Hart.

Lyrically, this album is concerned with relationships, whether between a man and a woman, between a father and son, or between a man and his own past. The album explores this theme from multiple angles. The characters that populate Here We Rest are wrung out, often finding themselves on the outside of the life they once knew. Isbell’s turf has been hit especially hard in the recent economic downturn, and the mood of these songs is considerably dark.

Jason Isbell has assembled an impressive catalog, from his work with Drive By Truckers, to his "solo" albums, and this is another dependable entry, simply a collection of good songs, written and performed by people who are in it for the music, and it shows.


Saturday, June 11, 2011


Born in Philadelphia, David Bromberg began studying guitar-playing when he was 13 and eventually enrolled in Columbia University as a musicology major.

The call of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the mid-'60s drew David to the downtown clubs and coffeehouses, where he could watch and learn from the best performers, and his sensitive, blues-based approach to guitar-playing earned him jobs playing the Village "basket houses" for tips, the occasional paying gig, and lots of employment as a backing musician for Tom Paxton, Jerry Jeff Walker and Rosalie Sorrels, among others.

He became a first-call, "hired gun" guitarist for recording sessions, playing on hundreds of records by artists including Bob Dylan (New Morning, Self Portrait, Dylan), Link Wray, The Eagles, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, and Carly Simon. In the early '90s, David produced an as-yet-unreleased Dylan album, although two tracks have been issued as part of Dylan's "Bootleg Series."

A solo deal with Columbia Records followed, with several songs becoming FM radio staples, and guest musicians including George Harrison and Jerry Garcia. .

Bromberg's range of material, based in the folk and blues idioms, continually expanded with each new album, but despite a string of acclaimed albums on the Fantasy label, Bromberg found himself exhausted by the logistics of the music business. Though he still toured periodically, the recordings slowed to a trickle and then stopped.

Bromberg emerged from a recording hiatus of 17 years in 2007 (Try Me One More Time) that thrilled fans and critics alike and was rewarded with a Grammy nomination.

His follow-up album, Use Me, due on July 12, takes a different approach, allowing some of his favorite singer-songwriters and musicians to write, produce, and perform on songs with him.

Musicians answering David's call include John Hiatt, Dr. John; Widespread Panic, Levon Helm, Linda Ronstadt and Keb' Mo'

Rather than collating individual instrumental parts literally phoned in to a central location, the recording sessions for Use Me generally took place on each guest artists' home turf - in Woodstock (Levon Helm), New Orleans (Dr. John), Nashville (John Hiatt) and so on, to retain their regional flavors.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Now in his fifth decade in the music business, Jonathan Edwards shows no sign of slowing down. With a new album set to release this Tuesday (June 14), I was already looking forward to next week. Those of you who remember such things will remember that Mr. Edwards' debut CD made my list of desert island discs AND my list of best debut albums. My Love Will Keep (Appleseed Recordings), is Jonathan's first studio CD in 14 years.

Now, can you imagine my surprise when I popped onto Jonathan's website and found that he was doing a show in Phoenix AZ next Wednesday?

Needless to say, I got my grubby hands on some tickets (bargain price-$25, a little coffeehouse for a venue).

I have not seen him live for almost two decades, the last time in Portland, Maine in 1993. If you have never seen him live, let me tell you, the man simply delivers. Songs of passion, songs of insight, songs of humor, all rendered in that pure and powerful tenor which, like fine wine, has only grown sweeter with age.

His signature hit, "Sunshine," almost did not make it onto his debut album. That song ushered in an era of celebrity in Jonathan’s life and career, sweeping him up in a current of “overnight” success. As Jonathan recalls decades later, “All of a sudden I was a huge celeb for fifteen minutes and riding around in limos … and I was trying my best, trying really hard to keep it at bay."

Following the success of “Sunshine,” Jonathan sought a haven from the probing spotlights and the demands of the road. The seemingly endless grind of touring took its toll, and a life-threatening illness served to bring everything sharply into focus.

While recovering, he decided to abandon his career and relocate to a farm he’d bought in Nova Scotia. “The illness straightened me out about my priorities regarding life."

Fortunately, Jonathan figured out a way to balance career and life, got back into the music business and continues to record and tour. He has amassed a catalog of sixteen albums (counting the new one), and is still a vital and relevant artist in today’s folk and Americana scenes, continuing the journey that has brought him to towns and theaters all over the globe.

Jonathan is much more likely to be found looking forward rather than back, and he continues to make good on that promise he made all the way back in 1971:

“Sunshine, come on back another day … I promise you I’ll still be singing.”

Thursday, June 9, 2011



Al Kooper, along with Leon Russell, belong to a select group musician-composers whose mark in popular music is indelible although they never achieved the commercial success you would have expected based on their talent. His resume is impressive: Kooper is not just part of rock's history, he helped shape it.. Kooper founded Blood, Sweat & Tears back in the sixties, although he left after their first album. Kooper was also known for legendary jams with Michael Bloomfield, and supporting that Dylan feller when he pissed off the folkies and went electric (remember that organ riff in "Like A Rolling Stone?"). Later, Kooper found success as a producer (Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Tubes) and kept busy as a session musician, playing on hundreds of records. Finally, Kooper taught songwriting and record production at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, which is where our sordid tale begins.

While at Berklee, Al Kooper assembled a new band comprised of fellow instructors, dubbing them The Funky Faculty. Al and the band cut the majority of this album, Black Coffee, live without overdubs to capture their spontaneity. The 14 tracks on Black Coffee, nine originals and five covers, lyrically deal with the harsh realities of life (hence the album title) and musically open a window into the sounds that have touched him throughout his storied career, from Motown to the blues.

The Funky Faculty are an airtight band, with skill, soul and a tight connection to the music that makes it shine, and the background singers are extraordinary. Kooper's vocals are imperfect, yet that makes them sound perfect on this release.

For many years his presence and influence has been limited, in part due to his frustration with the music business (his autobiography is called "Back Stage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards"). Black Coffee may be Kooper's most solid release since that legendary first Blood, Sweat and Tears album so many moons ago-a glorious return to form..

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