A thousand bands playing in 50 clubs for tens of thousands of music industry moguls, other musicians and just plain fans began their four-day marathon in high style this week at the South By Southwest Conference and music festival in Austin, Texas. At the Austin convention center a series of workshops concentrated on issues like publishing, management, merchandising and publicity. Down on Guadeloupe Shandon Sahm, the youngest son of the late Texas music legend Doug Sahm, led his full throttle heavy metal band through a breakneck set that included the best cover of his dad's classic 1960s rock anthem, "She's About A Mover," I've ever heard. After the gig he was surrounded by young well wishers and I was struck by the sense he brought the same kind of wide-eyed innocence and love for the game that characterized his father's approach to music. He talked a blue streak while constantly fidgeting with excess energy, telling his fans how proud he was of his debut album, signing autographs, giving out promo photos. While most artists try to sell their CDs to fans after the gigs, Sahm was just handing them out for free -- "Here, have a couple of 'em, I've got 750 left!" Across town at BD Riley's the outstanding songwriter Ronny Elliott had the packed house in the palm of his hand playing a different kind of rock 'n' roll, a matter of three chords, an attitude and a storyteller's passion for a timeless tale. Elliot sang a song called "South By So What" about his first visit to SXSW with a chorus that ended, "Tell Sir Doug I said hello." Sahm's band was called the Sir Douglas Quintet.
A LITTLE BIT MONKEES, A LITTLE BIT YOU
Rhino Records has set an April 29 release date for its new version of "The Best of the Monkees." The twist in this version of the familiar package is the inclusion of a five-song karaoke disc. Featuring three No. 1 hits -- "Last Train To Clarksville," "I'm A Believer" and "Daydream Believer" -- this 25-track single-volume release compiles all of the essential Top 40 hits as well as classic album cuts like "She" and "Mary, Mary." The collection is packaged with a bonus karaoke disc that includes the actual backing tracks to five of The Monkees' most famous recordings: "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "I'm A Believer," "Daydream Believer," "(Theme From) The Monkees," and "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone." The bonus disc is playable on all home karaoke machines and features follow-along lyrics. The Monkees were formed in 1966 following a casting call for a quartet of musicians to portray a rock group on television. Long before "American Idol" and "Making The Band," The Monkees were turning TV exposure into hit records; a total of five Monkees albums have been RIAA-certified multiplatinum. The liner notes to the album reveal a history of the band with behind-the-scenes details about how The Monkees were conceived and created, along with commentary from Mike Nesmith.
SONNY VINCENT HITS THE ROAD
Sonny Vincent will be touring with Rocket From The Crypt in support of his new CD "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" (Acetate Records), slated for release March 18. The tour, which begins in Denver Saturday and crisscrosses the country before winding up in Los Angeles April 24, marks Vincent's first American concert appearances in six years. The band on this tour will be three members of Rocket From The Crypt: John "Speedo" Reis on guitar, The Notorious N.D. on bass, and Mario Rubalcaba on drums. Former leader of the original New York City punks The Testors, Vincent has performed or toured with bands including The Cramps, Suicide and The Dead Boys. His infamous history encompasses solo records and tours featuring lineups including Scott Asheton (The Stooges), Greg Norton (Husker Du) and Bob Stinson (The Replacements), as well as playing in a band with Moe Tucker and Sterling Morrison of The Velvet Underground. "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" features Vincent on vocals and guitar, with Asheton on drums and Captain Sensible (The Damned) on bass. Special guests are Wayne Kramer (MC5), Scott Morgan (Sonic Rendezvous), Walter Lure (The Heartbreakers), Robert Quine and Ivan Julian (Richard Hell and the Voidoids), Richard Lloyd (Television), Brian James (Damned/Lords of the New Church), Bob "Derwood" Andrews (Generation X), James Escavedo (The Zeros), Cliff Roman (The Weirdos), Kim Shattuck (The Muffs), Thurston Moore and Jim O'Rourke (Sonic Youth), and newcomers Jimmy James (The Hangmen), Tony Fate (The Bellrays) and Dave James (The Superbees).
MOLLY HATCHET LOCKED AND LOADED
Southern rock hell-raisers Molly Hatchet will release the double live CD "Locked and Loaded" March 18 on SPV Records. The 22-track album runs nearly two hours. It's the band's first live release in 18 years. Band leader and lead/acoustic guitarist Bobby Ingram, vocalist Phil McCormack, keyboardist John Galvin, guitarist Russ Maxwell, bass guitarist Jerry Scott and drummer Shawn Beamer recorded "Locked and Loaded" in Germany in 2002. The songs are taken from concerts in Hamburg and Bremen and the famous Wacken Festival. Molly Hatchet's previous release was the studio album "Kingdom of XII."
Heavy metal icon Ronnie James Dio's career gets a 29 track, two-disc overview on "Stand Up and Shout: The Dio Anthology," set for a May 27 release. The set contains tracks from Dio's eras with Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Elf and his solo work. Dio's own detailed track-by-track notes and remembrances are included. Growing up in Cortemland, N.Y., Ronald Padavona, the man who became one of hard rock's all-time most distinctive voices, began his career with a series of high-school garage and doo-wop groups. By the time Dio formed Elf in 1970, he'd already had 13 years of experience playing rock 'n' roll. Elf was signed to Epic in 1972, and the debut album was produced by Deep Purple's Roger Glover and Ian Paice. As Deep Purple's opening act, he came to know Ritchie Blackmore, and later formed Rainbow with the guitar master. Rainbow built a reputation as one of the world's most popular hard rock bands, but musical differences between Blackmore and Dio led to Dio's leaving after only a handful of albums to join Black Sabbath after the departure of founding singer Ozzy Osbourne.
New West Records has announced the signing of singer/songwriter John Hiatt and a May 6 release date for his label debut, "Beneath This Gruff Exterior." Recorded live in the studio, "Beneath This Gruff Exterior" is the first of his 18 albums to be credited to the alliance known as "John Hiatt and the Goners," which refers to his long-time band consisting of guitarist Sonny Landreth, bassist Dave Ranson and drummer Kenneth Blevins. Hiatt and the Goners reunited for the first time in almost 10 years for the recording of his last album, "The Tiki Bar is Open," released in 2001. The new disc was co-produced by Don Smith, who worked with Hiatt on his 1995 album, "Walk On," and has engineered albums for such artists as the Rolling Stones and Tom Petty. "Beneath This Gruff Exterior" is Hiatt's most rocking album to date, and features some amazing musical interplay among the band members, a by-product of the energy level achieved by the live-in-the-studio set up.
SHAPE OF A TEAR
Rounder Records released a new album by the Lynn Morris Band this week, "Shape of a Tear." A three-time International Bluegrass Music Association award winner for Female Vocalist of the Year, Morris is one of the treasures of traditional bluegrass, with 15 years as the leader of one of the tightest and most soulful bands in the business. With IBMA award-winning fiddler/banjoist Ron Stewart, bassist Marshall Wilborn and mandolinist Jesse Brock stoking the fire behind Lynn's guitar and clawhammer banjo, genuine bluegrass doesn't come any finer. Following up "You'll Never Be the Sun" -- the band's last studio album released in 1999 -- "Shape of a Tear" features guest appearances by some of the hottest bluegrass and country musicians today, including Junior Brown, who performs pedal steel and harmony vocals on Buck Owens' "Gonna Have Love."
SONGS FOR THE RESTLESS
Miami-based rock quartet Endo is set to release "Songs for the Restless" May 13 on DV8/Columbia, preceded by the first single, "Simple Lies," which will be released to radio April 15. A video will follow shortly after. "Simple Lies" also appears on the "Daredevil" soundtrack, which recently cracked the Top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. "Songs for the Restless," recorded in Los Angeles with producer David Schiffman (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty), exhibits a more focused sound than the band's last album, "Evolve." "I recently embraced different styles of music, from Diamanda Galas to Leonard Cohen, and they inspired me to sing more," said vocalist Gil Bitton, who was born in Israel and moved to Florida as a child. "The last album relied on more screaming, but the new album is darker and more melodic yet retains the same intensity. I feel that we really reinvented ourselves, but most importantly, the album doesn't sound contrived. It came from us, and you can hear it."
BRET MICHAELS AT 40
Poison's Bret Michaels is having a ball. In an unusually titled article in the April issue of Jane Magazine called "Is That An Ego In Your Pants," Bret's lower half is prominently featured. Access Hollywood ran a one-hour special with Bret talking about his hits, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and "Nothin' But A Good Time" and ending with host Pat O'Brien plugging Michaels' upcoming record. In early April, Michaels releases his first solo single and video for the song, "Raine," written about and inspired by the birth of his daughter, who was born May 20, 2000. The single is from his upcoming solo album "Songs Of Life," scheduled for release on his daughter's third birthday. Fans can pre-purchase the album prior to its release on either Amazon.com or bretmichaels.com.
THERESA ANDERSSON AT BMI BASH
Swedish-born, New Orleans-based singer-songwriter Theresa Andersson opened the festivities at the "Howdy Texas" pre-SXSW bash at Stubbs restaurant in Austin on the eve of one of the world's largest music celebrations. Andersson, considered a can't miss young star after numerous appearances in New Orleans, Nashville, and Austin, is also an accomplished violinist. Andersson was joined on the bill by the Old Crow Medicine Show to kick off the SXSW music festival week. Described as "The Strokes of Bluegrass," Old Crow performs songs from some of the earliest traditions of American music -- jug bands, traveling shows, southern Appalachian string music and Memphis blues. "This is our annual dinner that started out as a press dinner and we just kept expanding on it year to year," explains BMI's Mark Mason. "It's a great way to see everyone before the festival gets going as well as be able to say thank you for all the support the Austin and Texas music communities have given us."
SOUR GRAPES AT ROCK HALL
The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame annual induction dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York Monday night has become a dyspeptic circus of bad feelings. Elvis Costello's induction was marred by bad feelings between Costello and an original member of the band who refused to participate in a reunion show. Costello flipped him the bird as he left the stage after accepting his award. The Police, who did reunite, bickered over which songs to play and didn't hide their contempt for each other in public. The biggest display of sour grapes on a night dedicated to the British punk rock movement came when U2's The Edge, in comments inducting The Clash, whined that if The Clash had come along 10 years earlier they would have given The Who, The Kinks et al a run for their money. That's like equating the White Stripes with the Velvet Underground. Without those groups there wouldn't have been a Clash -- the band's signature hit, "Should I Stay Or Should I Go," is a blatant Kinks rip-off (not that there's anything wrong with that). For that matter, U2 itself owes a tremendous debt to The Who, a fact even The Edge might have to own up to. Bono certainly does.
BRIAN WILSON SOLO DVD
The work of Brian Wilson, the artistic force behind the legendary Beach Boys, will be celebrated in the DVD release "Brian Wilson On Tour," a documentary that chronicles Wilson's first-ever solo tour. Sanctuary Visual Entertainment, a division of the Sanctuary Records Group, will release the DVD on April 1. The 77-minute DVD features DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and stereo sound audio configurations. Wilson is seen in the role of band leader -- selecting songs and then teaching them to his 10-piece backing group.
MOUNTAIN CLASSICS REISSUED
Mountain thundered onto the music scene in 1969 and laid the foundation for the future of hard rock and heavy metal. Columbia/Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music, is releasing three of the groups classic albums, 1970's "Climbing!" and 1971's "Nantucket Sleighride" and "The Best of Mountain." All of these Mountain reissues feature bonus tracks, state-of-the-art remastered sound and detailed liner notes, including essays by West and Laing. "I'm very happy with these reissues. They show what Mountain is all about," West says. "When we started, people thought we were an English band because of (bassist) Felix Pappalardi's work with Cream. We built a strong following in New York and were known more as a live band rather than a recording band. But we did make great records."
'BEHIND THE MUSIC THAT SUCKS'
"Behind the Music That Sucks" appears to be on a fast track to success. The industry is buzzing over this tongue-in-cheek takeoff on VH1's tendentious "Behind the Music" series. "Behind the Music that Sucks" follows the rags-to riches-to rags-to-redemption arcs in the careers of pop music notables. This high-octane, no-holds-barred parody spins sardonic comedy with career miscalculations while profiling the ups-and-downs of six stars in each episode, versus VH-1's one star/per episode formula. The first episode of the weekly series profiled the career victories and scandals of Eminem, Dr. Dre, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Britney Spears and Bon Jovi. Forthcoming episodes will generate laughs from the dubious achievements of urban music greats Puff Daddy, Sisqo and Bloodhound Gang, rap-rockers Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, pop divas Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera, metal madmen Kiss and Van Halen, jam band Phish and actors-turned-singers David Hasselhoff and William Shatner. "Musicians are a wonderfully creative bunch, with both the art they create and the oversized adventures and myths they generate as they travel the ladder of fame," said muchmusic usa President Marc Juris. "This series pokes fun at their outrageous behavior and the television institution that makes a business of amplifying their climb, crash and burn, and ultimate redemption. For the stars, it's a chance to laugh at themselves; for the creators of 'Behind the Music' it shows that imitation and exaggeration of their stock and trade is the most sincere form of flattery."
YOUSSOU N'DOUR CANCELS U.S. TOUR
Youssou N'Dour, the acclaimed Senegalese singer, bandleader and UNICEF ambassador, has canceled his seven-week tour of North America, originally scheduled for March 26 to May 15. The 38-city tour was to have been the most extensive series of performances in North America in his career. N'Dour did not mince words when explaining why he canceled the tour. "It is my strong conviction that the responsibility for disarming Iraq should rest with the United Nations," he said. "As a matter of conscience I question the United States government's apparent intention to commence war in Iraq. I believe that coming to America at this time would be perceived in many parts of the world -- rightly or wrongly -- as support for this policy, and that, as a consequence, it is inappropriate to perform in the U.S. at this juncture." N'Dour said he regretted the difficulties his cancellation causes for his fans and added he would return to the United States "in better times."