The French Quarter Festival, Louisiana's largest free music festival, takes place this weekend with nearly 140 live performances featured throughout the French Quarter, from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from Bourbon Street to the Mississippi River. Many of the performers featured at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in two weeks
will be playing for free on the 15 stages of French Quarter Fest. Performers include such New Orleans legends as Pete Fountain, Kipori Woods, Ingrid Lucia, Joe Krown Organ Combo, the Little Freddie King Blues Band, Irvin Mayfield, Coco Robicheaux and Spiritland, the Brint Anderson Band, the Irene Sage Band, Papa Grows Funk, the Leslie Smith Band, All That, Theresa Andersson, Marva Wright, Willie Tee, Bonerama, Olympia Brass Band, Soul Rebels Brass Band, New Orleans Nightcrawlers, the Rockin' Jake Band, Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Walter "Wolfman" Washington and the Roadmasters, Donald Harrison Jr. Quintet, Dr. Michael White's Liberty Brass Band, Original Pin-Stripe Brass Band, Jimmy Thibodeaux, the Hackberry Ramblers, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, John Autin, the Pfister Sisters, Washboard Chaz Blues Trio, Leigh "Little Queenie" Harris, Dukes of Dixieland, Michael Ray and the Cosmic Krewe, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers, Wardell Quezerque Big Band, The Revealers and George Porter, Jr. and the Pardners.
STEELY DAN MUST GO
Steely Dan will hit the road this year for the first time since 2000 to promote the band's upcoming Reprise release, "Everything Must Go." The tour starts July 23 in Costa Mesa, Calif., and runs through Aug. 31 in Syracuse, N.Y., where they will play the New York State Fair. The album, originally scheduled for May 6 release, has been pushed back to June 10. Steely Dan co-founders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker have assembled a group featuring drummer Keith Carlock, keyboardists Ted Baker and Bill Charlap, and guitarists Jon Herrington and Hugh McCracken for the tour.
CHRIS THOMAS KING IN RAY CHARLES BIOPIC
Louisiana blues and hip-hop legend Chris Thomas King has joined the cast for the upcoming film, "Unchain My Heart," which will depict the life of singer Ray Charles as a child and young man. Actor Jamie Foxx will play the leading role and King will play Lowell Fulson, a successful bluesman who gives Charles his first big break. King also
played blues singer Tommy Johnson in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" King returned from Los Angeles recently after recording his character's songs for the film with Ray Charles himself. The film will be directed by Taylor Hackford, whose credits include "Devils Advocate," "Dolores Claiborne," "An Officer and a Gentleman," and "Against All
Odds," as well as the boxing documentary "When We Were Kings." Paramount Pictures has scheduled the movie to hit theaters in December and Warner Brothers Records will release the soundtrack. Shooting will take place in Louisiana beginning in April. "What's really important about this is that most of the scenes are not set in New Orleans, so all of the locations will be doubling as locations elsewhere," said New Orleans Film Commissioner Stephanie Dupuy.
NEW WEST SIGNS DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS
New West Records has signed one of the country's top touring bands, the Drive-By Truckers, and set a June 17 release date for the band's label debut, "Decoration Day." Based in Athens, Ga., Drive-By Truckers consists of Mike Cooley on guitar and vocals, Earl Hicks on bass, Patterson Hood on guitar and vocals, Jason Isbell on guitar and vocals and Brad Morgan on drums. Since forming in 1998, Drive-By Truckers has become one of the most talked about bands in the United States. Fans and critics alike have embraced their take-no-prisoners approach that recalls the heyday of Southern rock. The excitement generated by their first three indie-released CDs took a major leap with the release of their 2001 opus, "Southern Rock Opera," which garnered a four-star review in Rolling Stone and wound up on many Best of 2001 CD lists. "Decoration Day" was produced by David Barbe (Sugar, Son Volt, The Glands) and recorded at Chase Park Transduction Studios in Athens over a two-week period. "We are thrilled to be signing with New West Records," Hood said. "They are a class act from the ground up on every level. We are very proud to be a part of their fantastic roster. There is absolutely no better home for 'Decoration Day' and we look forward to a long and prosperous relationship. We also must note our elation at being label mates with our very dear friends, Slobberbone."
OTIS TAYLOR'S TRUTH
W.C. Handy award winner Otis Taylor has a new album, "Truth Is Not Fiction" ready for release June 24 on Telarc Records. "Truth..." marks a significant shift in style from the minimalist, acoustic-driven approach of his previous discs to the electrified sound of the new material, which Taylor describes as "trance-blues." "For me, in order to define truth, one must seek out the edges, and that's exactly where our music went," said Taylor. "By incorporating unusual instrumentation like cello, electric banjo, violin and mandolin, we were able to explore different textures and really stretch the music to, you know, the outer limits. That's sort of what this music is like for me."
MICHAEL HURLEY AT KNITTING FACTORY
Folk music Michael Hurley will perform a rare New York show April 16 at the Knitting Factory. Hurley is one of the last remaining American rambling folk troubadours. Hoboing around the country, making music since the days Bob Dylan first set foot in New York's Gaslight club, Hurley recorded his first album for Moses Ash's Folkways label in 1964. This debut album, "First Songs," has recently been reissued on Locust Music under the "new" and originally intended title, "Blubeberry Wine." Hurley continued to release albums for both Warner Brothers and Rounder. Hurley's latest albums -- "Weatherhole" and "Sweetkorn" -- show no sign of artistic decline and garnered rave reviews. While many of his contemporaries are long past their prime or have expired, Hurley's muse is still intact.
Rhythm and blues singer Ginuwine says he ready to graduate with the release of his fourth album, "The Senior." Following three consecutive multi-platinum albums, Ginuwine has come up with a 16-song master thesis. "Just like in high school, you're not the same person as a senior that you were as a freshman," he said. "This is my fourth album -- and I'm ready to graduate!" The album's first single, "Hell Yeah," was produced and written especially for Ginuwine by renowned hit maker R. Kelly. The glitzy video, lensed in Las Vegas by director Erik White, is tricked out with guests Baby (aka The Birdman) and Snoop Dog, who also makes an unforgettable appearance on the opening track of "The Senior," "N****s Get Ready."
PHIL ROY'S ISSUES
It's not often a musician calls a radio station and asks them not to play his new CD. But veteran singer/songwriter Phil Roy recently did just that when his forthcoming album "Issues + Options" started generating Top 10 spins and requests on influential radio stations such as WXPN, in his hometown of Philadelphia, and WFUV in New York. So why did Roy put on the brakes? "I want to do this right," he explained. "I didn't feel like it was fair that people weren't able to find my music in stores, when they were hearing it on the radio." That problem will be solved May 6 when "Issues + Options" is released on growing New York City indie label Or Music. Though "Issues + Options" is his first national release, Roy is a veteran artist who spent years as a successful staff songwriter for several major music publishers. About three years ago, however, something changed. "Suddenly it occurred to me that I was writing songs to get on commercial radio when I wasn't even listening to commercial radio," he said. "I was making music for everyone but myself. Making my own albums gives me a sense of renewal, as if, creatively, I'm being reborn."
THE ART OF LOVE
Singer-songwriter Michael Franks gets his first comprehensive career overview May 13 with the release of "The Michael Franks Anthology: The Art of Love" on Warner/Rhino music. Produced with Franks' direct involvement, the 31 digitally remastered tracks include all of his most popular songs, such as "Popsicle Toes," "Eggplant," "Antonio's
Song (The Rainbow)," and the hit duet with Brenda Russell, "When I Give My Love To You." The collection spans nearly three decades and includes cuts from every one of his Warner-Reprise albums, as well as his 1999 Windham Hill album "Barefoot On The Beach." The set also includes tracks from the import-only "Live -- With Crossfire" -- his
collaboration with the Australian sextet -- the Joe Sample album "Spellbound," and "Live Wires" featuring Franks in concert with The Yellowjackets. Along with these fusion greats, such talents as David Sanborn, Kenny Rankin, and Earl Klugh offer support.
YES NEW YORK
The Strokes, Interpol, The Rapture, Radio 4, The Walkmen and Unitard are among the contributors to "Yes New York," an anthology of the new New York rock scheduled for release June 3 on Wolfgang Morden Records. Some of the most exciting music on the globe right now is coming out of small clubs in lower Manhattan and run-down studios in
Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Led by The Strokes, the post-punk/art-garage rock explosion in New York City is breathing new life, new style, and a new attitude into music. "Yes New York" (named in tribute to "No New York," the Brian Eno-produced, New York rock scene compilation from 1978) features 16 tracks by the new guard, the leaders of the New York rock scene in 2003. Bookending the record are two exclusives: a live Strokes recording of a song never before released in the United States, and the first ever released track from Unitard, the secret alter egos of a band who's song they are "covering." Also noteworthy are four productions by architects of the New York dance-rock sound the
DFA with songs by the Rapture, Radio 4, lcd soundsystem, and a Le Tigre remix. Proceeds from "Yes New York" will benefit Musicians On Call, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing music and musicians into hospitals. All the songs collected here were donated by the artists.
Fans of Tori Amos will get the opportunity to create a music video for her next single, "Taxi Ride." Epic Records, in partnership with Apple QuickTime and RollingStone.com, has created the online contest, "Tori's Taxivision." Participants are invited to visit toriamos.com, rollingstone.com or apple.com for the opportunity to submit their most unique ideas via any moving medium -- animation, video, etc. All submissions must be received by May 16. A "short list" of finalists, chosen personally by Amos, will be announced on toriamos.com. Fans then will be able to vote for their favorites from May 23-30, and the winning video, selected by Amos, will be broadcast by QuickTime exclusively in the industry standard Mpeg-4 format for 30 days on toriamos.com. A top prize of $2,000 will be given to the person with the most creative and inspired interpretation of "Taxi Ride."
Rhino Records, which started out selling old vinyl records, has come full circle with the announcement of a new imprint, Rhino Vinyl, a label dedicated to making classic recordings available again in the format of their original release. The first titles, a trio of albums by the Grateful Dead, arrive at retail April 22. Rhino Vinyl releases
will be carefully mastered and pressed on 180-gram vinyl for best-quality analog reproduction. Featuring deluxe packaging that reflects the original issue -- and takes full advantage of the medium's 12-inch sleeves -- Rhino Vinyl albums will be distributed through the Alternative Distribution Alliance to retail stores and sold directly to consumers at rhino.com. The initial batch of releases on Rhino Vinyl are three of the most popular titles from the Grateful Dead: "Live/Dead," "Workingman's Dead," and "American Beauty."
RHONDA VINCENT STEPS AHEAD
Rounder Records has set an April 29 release date for "One Step Ahead," the new studio album from multi-award winning bluegrass artist Rhonda Vincent. Produced by Rhonda and her brother Darrin Vincent, now a member of Ricky Skaggs' band, Kentucky Thunder, "One Step Ahead" features five originals and a variety of bluegrass tunes showcasing Vincent
as a singer, songwriter, producer and instrumentalist. "Kentucky Borderline" kicks off the album with a bluegrass breakdown featuring the work of Aubrey Haynie on mandolin, Bryan Sutton on guitar, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Darrin Vincent on acoustic bass and fellow Rounder recording artist Ronnie Stewart on banjo. On "Caught in the Crossfire," Vincent writes about the tribulations of divorce, while on "Ridin' the Red Line" she sings of a hard-working traveler making her way home to her love. On "One Step Ahead of the Blues" Vincent is backed by the distinctive harmony vocals of Alison Krauss. Vincent will kick off a national tour in support of the album April 24 at the MerleFest bluegrass festival in Wilkesboro, N.C.
NEW LIMP BIZKIT GUITARIST
Limp Bizkit's attempt to find a new guitarist from its legions of fans by holding an open audition for the spot has failed and the band decided to enlist Mike Smith of Snot for the role. Smith joined the group last week in Seattle during a Wrestlemania performance. The band announced Smith was officially in on its Web site. "We really like jamming with Mike," said head Bizkit Fred Durst. "He's dope. This you will find out soon enough." Limp Bizkit is working on songs for an album on Flip/Interscope due out June 17. Tentative title have been rumored to be "Bipolar," "Less Is More," and "The Search for Teddy Swoes." The band plans an unannounced tour in May similar to the one in 2000.
STONES AT JAZZ STANDARD
Saxophonist Tim Ries will be using a bit of time off from the Rolling Stones "Licks" tour to debut music from his upcoming release of jazz interpretations of songs by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Ries' role in the Stones includes playing solos that originally were performed on Stones records by Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins and more.
Before heading to Toronto for rehearsals for the Stones tour, Ries dropped into a studio in New York with an all-star ensemble of first-call jazz players and began work on his next project, an album of jazz arrangements of Rolling Stones material. Reinventing the incendiary edges of "Gimme Shelter," the beautifully melodic "As Tears Go By" and a 10-minute exploration of "Paint It Black," Ries' arrangements recast the classic rock material in a new light. The contributions of pianist Bill Charlap, drummer Brian Blade, bassist John Patitucci and guitarist Ben Monder complement Ries' unique perspective and insightful saxophone mastery. When an enthusiastic Stones drummer Charlie Watts heard the tracks and agreed to take part in the project, Tim booked some studio time in Los Angeles on a rare day off for the band. When Watts showed up with Keith Richards and Ron Wood in tow a memorable session was guaranteed. Joined by fellow Stones bandmate bassist Darryl Jones (Miles Davis, Sting) and jazz organist/pianist Larry Goldings, the band laid down a fiery take of the classic "Honky Tonk Woman." Tim, Charlie and Larry also cut a version of the tune in a swinging jazz trio format. The first performance of this music will be at New York City's Jazz Standard April 30.
ROCK AND REALITY
Bret Michaels has created and is producing the reality show "American Rock Star." The show follows no script and allows no track or lip syncing. Each week the show focuses on a variety of different rock bands, from alternative to classic, competing in night clubs in major cities across America. The shows judges are a panel of revolving celebrity musicians, a special celebrity guest (actor, athlete, playmate) who will be known as the "band breaker" in the event of a tie and a local DJ emcee who has a real knowledge of what bands are hot in that city. "I have been conceptualizing this show for a long time," Michaels said. "The reason for 'American Rock Star' is simple. In my
18 years touring I have run into so many talented and hard working local rock bands that as of late have been virtually ignored due to the fact that most labels are looking for quick fix, pop slick, manufactured one hit wonders. 'American Rock Star' is about the band's energy, attitude, the ability to play their instruments and most of
all a chance to make it big by being themselves."