Rock News: Music's high and low notes

JOHN SWENSON, United Press International


Warren Haynes of Gov't Mule and the Allman Brothers has finalized the list for his annual Christmas benefit show. The guitarist's 14th annual Christmas Jam, Dec. 21 in Asheville, N.C., will feature performances by Gov't Mule, John Hiatt & the Goners, moe., Robert Randolph & the Family Band, and Bob Weir. Proceeds will benefit Habitat for Humanity.


Haynes also will be joined by special guests, including Edwin McCain, Kevin Kinney, former Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed, DJ Logic, Rob Barraco, Jerry Joseph, John Molo, Dave Schools, and more.

Gov't Mule recently released "The Deep End Volume 2" (ATO), the second CD of a two-part tribute to former Mule bassist Allen Woody, who died of a heart attack in 2000. It features a who's who of the world's greatest bassists. Phish bassist Mike Gordon, one contributor to "The Deep End," also directed a documentary, "Rising Low," about the recording of the two albums.


This year's Soul Train Christmas StarFest will be a montage of the best of past StarFest performances and new holiday greetings from a variety of celebrities. The Soul Train Christmas StarFest will air in syndication via Tribune Entertainment during the window of Saturday thru Sunday, Dec. 22. Arsenio Hall hosts the star studded celebration.


Performances include Babyface doing "The Little Drummer Boy," Kenny Loggins singing "Angels In The Snow," Luther Vandross and Chaka Khan performing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," Mary J. Blige doing "Someday At Christmas" and Patti LaBelle with "Born In A Manger." Special personal holiday greetings from celebrities will include cameos from Aretha Franklin, Shaquille O'Neil, the Cast of Boomtown, Beyonce Knowles, the Cast of The George Lopez Show, Kobe Bryant, and Shemar Moore.


Tipitina's, the venerable New Orleans nightclub, has announced a special New Year's Eve bash with Robert Randolph and the Family Band plus John Mooney and Bluesiana. Pedal steel guitar whiz Randolph exploded on the modern music scene in 2000 playing his first club dates in New York City after being discovered at the first Sacred Steel Convention in Florida that year. Sacred Steel is a church music tradition that began in the '30s, with the pedal steel being introduced during the '70s. Randolph started playing the pedal steel as a teenager at The House of God Church in Orange, N.J., outside of Newark. After opening for the North Mississippi Allstars at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, Randolph became a favorite performer of musicians and music fans. A unique relationship was forged with John Medeski (of Medeski, Martin and Wood), prompting the groundbreaking album "The Word" (Ropeadope), a collaboration with keyboardist Medeski, Luther and Cody Dickinson, and bassist Chris Chew of the Allstars.


Randolph's group, The Family Band, is comprised of cousins Danyell Morgan and Marcus Randolph (bass and drums), and John Ginty on Hammond B3 organ.


Tampa Heavy Metal band Kamelot will release a new album, "Epica," Feb. 4, 2003, on Sanctuary/NOISE records. The concept album takes the listener through a journey around the world inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's "Faust." Formed in Tampa, Fla., in 1991, Kamelot's charter members are vocalist Khan, guitarist Thomas Youngblood, bassist Glenn Barry, and drummer Casey Grillo. The band garnered critical acclaim with 1999's "The Fourth Legacy" and went on to commercial success with 2001's "Karma," a huge hit in Europe.

"Epica" expands the gothic rock sound of the band to include Gregorian chants, choirs, archaic European rhythmic ingredients and unusual instruments like the djembe, d-bass and bandoneĆ³n. The album was produced at Gate and Pathway Studios in Germany under the production supervision of Sascha Paeth and Miro (Angra, Rhapsody, Heavens Gate, Virgo). Guest appearances on "Epica" include guitarist Luca Turilli (Rhapsody), vocalist Ian Parry (Elegy), and vocalist/drummer/bassist Robert Hunecke-Rizzo (Virgo, Heavens Gate).


John Hammond's 2001 release "Wicked Grin" interpreted the songs of his long-time friend and collaborator, Tom Waits. Waits returned the favor by writing the liner notes for Hammond's new album "Ready For Love," set for a Feb. 11, 2003, release on Back Porch Records and featuring material from the Rolling Stones, George Jones, Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters, and the album's producer, David Hidalgo, among others.


"Used to be songs weren't written down, they circulated like rumors or humor, scary stories, bad news, good news, and everyone whose hands they passed through put their mark on them and the songs put their mark on you," Waits wrote. "Songs that were filled with truths that are as true today as they were in Muddy Waters' day, songs about cheap wine, prison, women, depression, desire, liquor, trains, death, and mamma. Songs that grew wild all over this country, along ridges, under bridges, in road houses, and train yards, in creek beds, in motel beds, along highways.

"John Hammond learned from the masters, Muddy, John Lee Hooker, Skip James, Son House, Johnny Shines, Sonny and Brownie, Albert King, Hendrix, James Cotton, and now he is a master. John Hammond has made all these songs his own songs that carry secrets and cautions, truths, confessions and shadows," Waits continued. "Hollered, shouted out and moaning low. Songs have finger prints on them and there are places where they are worn down or broken in, like a shovel or a saddle or a guitar or a gun. Because songs migrate like seeds do on the wind, in the water, and in birds. John is one of those birds that picks up a song here and carries it to another town and like the wind, like the water, like the birds, he carries them with him and sings them from New York to Tampa along Highway 95, Highway 61 to Slidell, Baton Rouge, Hattiesburg, Winona, San Berdu, Sulphur Springs, Cleveland, Rochester, Buffalo, Ann Arbor and Detroit."


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