Rock News Two: The week in pop

By JOHN SWENSON, United Press International
Subscribe | UPI Odd Newsletter


Music fans discouraged by the lightweight nature of new millennium pop music got terrific news this week when "Come Away With Me," the sensational debut album from the talented young singer/songwriter Norah Jones, elbowed Eminem out of the top slot on the Billboard charts. If 2002 was the year of Eminem, 2003 could well be Jones' time -- she is well-backed to win the Best New Artist Grammy award and "Come Away With Me" is nominated in the Album of the Year category. Eminem's "8 Mile" soundtrack finally ran out of gas, falling to No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.



Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers kick off an acoustic duo tour Feb. 1 in support of their eighth studio album, "Become You" (Epic). The album was produced by Peter Collins, producer of the Indigo Girls' 1992 platinum album "Rites of Passage" and the 1994 Grammy-nominated "Swamp Ophelia," and mixed by Bob Clearmountain, who has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Shelby Lynn and Rufus Wainwright. The Girls will be backed by their versatile touring group: Carol Isaacs (Hammond B-3, Wurlitzer, piano, accordion, pennywhistle, recorder, percussion); Clare Kenny (acoustic and electric bass); and Brady Blade (drums and percussion). The great songwriter Kim Richey will open for Indigo Girls on the first leg of the tour, which runs from Feb. 1 in Urbana, Ill., to Feb. 10 in Bloomington, Ind. Cordero will be the support act beginning Feb. 11 in Lexington, Ky., until Feb. 17 in Pittsburgh. Paul Melancon will open the final two dates in Wilmington, Del., and Cleveland.



Vanguard records is releasing a new set from blues icon Skip James featuring 19 previously unreleased songs from a 1967 recording session. The Feb. 11 release of "Skip James Studio Sessions, Rare and Unreleased," features a session recorded at Vanguard's Apostolic Studios on 23rd street in Manhattan. Originally produced by Maynard Solomon and Jack Lothrop, the reissue was produced by Tom Vickers with liner notes from Billy Altman. James sings the blues with an intensity and sophistication that ranks him among the finest. From the slashing guitar riffs cutting through "Jack of Diamonds" to the endless inventions underpinning "One Dime Was All I Had" to Hoagy Carmichael's "Lazy Bones," the album showcases James' eerie, falsetto vocals and intriguingly unique guitar style. The country blues pioneer's gospel side also is featured on "I Want To Be More Like Jesus," "Let My Jesus Lead You," and "Oh, Mary Don't You Weep." James was a primary musical influence for a young Robert Johnson, whose cover of James' "It Must Have Been The Devil" became the basis for Johnson's "Hellhound On My Trail," and Eric Clapton, who recorded James' "I'm So Glad" on the first Cream album in 1967.



New York-based blues band The Tonemasters, winner of the New York Blues and Jazz Society's "Battle of the Bands," will prepare for the journey to Memphis to compete in the annual International Blues Challenge next month with a party Sunday at Tribeca Blues. The "Sendoff to Memphis" party is a fundraiser to help the band with the cost of traveling to and staying in Memphis to participate in the three-day competition. In addition to The Tonemasters, the Tribeca show will feature Michael Hill's Blues Mob, Dave Keyes (2000 NYBS Regional Winner, 2001 International Blues Challenge Winner), and The Aces. Recognized as the nation's best search for undiscovered blues talent, the International Blues Challenge enters its 19th year in 2003.


Multiple Grammy Award winner Celine Dion will sing "God Bless America" prior to Super Bowl XXXVII at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on Sunday, Jan. 26, the NFL announced. Dion will perform as part of the pre-game show before the Dixie Chicks rendition of the National Anthem. The game will be televised by ABC to an expected 130 million viewers in the United States and 800 million viewers worldwide. The Super Bowl annually is the nation's highest-rated TV program and the most-watched single-day sporting event. David Foster, who has won 14 Grammy Awards, will create the arrangement to "God Bless America" for Dion. Dion's performance marks the first time "God Bless America" has been performed at the Super Bowl. Last year, Marc Anthony and Mary J. Blige sang "America the Beautiful." That same song was performed previously at Super Bowl XXXV by Ray Charles and at Super Bowl XI by Vicki Carr. "I'm honored to be asked to sing this meaningful song at the Super Bowl," Dion said. "I hope that this new year brings peace to the world."



Nonesuch Records has released the second set of discs from its historic Explorer series, 12 CDs from Indonesia and the South Pacific. The first of the recordings of the Nonesuch Explorer Series were released on vinyl in 1967. It was a moment in time when the scholarship of classical recordings had reached a new high point and American music fans were interested in exploring roots music. It also was a time when many indigenous cultures were disappearing or rapidly adapting their music to outside influences. Documentation of the music and its cultural context was essential, and photos of the performers and locale were encouraged. Recordings were to be the optimum obtainable. The second set of reissues include "Music from the Morning of the World," one of the first commercial releases of gamelan music. Nine of the 12 titles feature gamelan music from Bali and Java. Other recordings in the set feature drums made from shark bellies and stingrays, music from the famous Indonesian shadow play, Tahitian love songs and war chants, a popular vocal style from West Java, and a survey of music from throughout the South Pacific.


World famous Tipitina's nightclub, the crown jewel of New Orleans live music venues, began a 10-day celebration of its 25th anniversary Wednesday with a who's who of New Orleans musicians working under the name of The Tip's Allstars, featuring Leo Nocentelli, Willie Green, Ben Ellman, John Gros and Tony Hall. Also on the bill was Walter "Wolfman" Washington and The Roadmasters. Thursday it was the "Horns and Hatchets" show, a bill combining the best in New Orleans brass bands with Mardi Gras Indians krewes. Stars of this show are the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Rebirth Brass Band, the Lil Rascals Brass Band, the Wild Magnolias and Big Chief Peppy and The Golden Arrows. Friday featured the "Founder's Ball," with Robert Randolph, Cyril Neville, Ivan Neville, George Porter Jr, Stanton Moore and June Yamagishi. Also on that bill was The Quartet, featuring Johnny Vidacovich, Brian Seeger, Rich Vogel and Ben Ellman. Saturday's show is the Funky Meters and Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. Sunday is the Anniversary Cajun Fais Do Do featuring Bruce Daigrepont, with special guests Steve Riley and David Doucet.



Last week Joe Jackson performed with Ben Folds at the latter's sold out Beacon Theater show in New York City. They played two Jackson songs and one Folds song. Jackson's "Volume 4" is coming out March 11 on Restless/Ryko Records. A full national tour will follow, beginning in New Orleans on March 14 and then moving on to Austin, Texas, for a special SXSW performance. "Volume 4" brings together Jackson's original band for the first time since 1980 in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the seminal "Look Sharp."


Avant-hardcore band The Blood Brothers bring their abrasive brand of punk music to DVD Feb. 4 with the release of "Jungle Rules Live." Filmed on Sept. 27, 2002, in front of a rabid hometown audience at the 10-year anniversary of the Old Fire House, the band's local teen center in Seattle, "Jungle Rules Live" encapsulates the intensity that defines The Blood Brothers. "Jungle Rules Live" features 11 live-in-concert tracks, as well as three audio-only bonus tracks -- "Ambulance vs. Ambulance" and "USA Nails," from "Burn Piano Island, Burn," and "Meet Me at the Water Front After the Social" from the band's recent indie release, "March On Electric Children." The "Jungle Rules Live" DVD precedes "Burn Piano Island, Burn," The Blood Brothers' debut CD scheduled for release March 18. The Blood Brothers have built an ever-growing buzz by spending the past year touring steadily with bands like Glassjaw, Pretty Girls Make Graves, and Cadillac Blindside, and have just kicked 2003 off with a 14-date run with The Used that will be followed by headline dates in February, and a co-headline tour with Milemarker beginning mid-February.



Veteran Heavy Metal veterans Dokken is joining with Whitesnake and Scorpions for a tour that begins Jan. 29 in Jacksonville, Fla., and continues through late March. "To me, this is my dream tour," said vocalist Don Dokken. "Whitesnake and Scorpions are bands that I really respect and love. I'm excited about this tour. It's going to be great and the fans will be thrilled with this triple bill. I've never played any concerts with Whitesnake before, but I love the band and I've known David Coverdale socially for years. Of course, the Scorpions have been close friends for a long time and they helped launch my career when I sang background vocals on their 'Blackout' album." Dokken, guitarist Alex De Rosso, bass guitarist Barry Sparks and drummer Mick Brown will play a hits-heavy set also featuring music from the 2002 album "Long Way Home" on CMC International Records, a division of the Sanctuary Records Group. The tour will move from Florida through Texas and out to California before heading for the Midwest, where it will wrap up in Chicago Feb. 28.


Stacie Orrico has an astonishingly powerful voice for a 16-year-old girl and she uses it to dramatic effect on her major label debut, scheduled for release March 25 on Virgin Records. The eponymous release will lead off with the single "Stuck," co-written by Orrico and produced by heavyweights Dallas Austin (TLC, Pink, Madonna) and Virgin Chief Executive Officer Matt Serletic (Carlos Santana, Matchbox 20, Aerosmith). Orrico's first record, 2000's "Genuine," released on ForeFront Records when she was 14, quickly rocketed to No. 1 on Billboard's "Heatseekers" chart with sales nearing gold status. The record's success caught the attention of Destiny's Child, who asked Orrico to tour with them throughout 2001. This connection continues with her major-label debut as Anthony Dent, who produced the mega-hit "Survivor," adds his signature touch to Orrico's "Bounce Back."



Eminem dominated the winners at the 30th annual American Music Awards Monday night but the controversial rapper never showed up to collect his prizes. Eminem won Best Male Artist in the Pop-Rock and Soul-Rhythm and Blues categories. "The Eminem Show" was voted Best Soul-Rhythm and Blues album. Other winners in the Pop-Rock category were: Female Artist: Sheryl Crow; Band, Duo or Group: Creed; and, New Artist: Ashanti. In the Soul-Rhythm and Blues category: Female Artist: Mary J. Blige; Band, Duo or Group: OutKast; and, New Artist: Ashanti. In Country: Male Artist: Tim McGraw; Female Artist: Martina McBride; Band, Duo or Group: Dixie Chicks; Album: "Home," Dixie Chicks; and, New Artist: Carolyn Dawn Johnson.


All-girl teen rockers Lillix will hit the streets in May supporting their debut album on Maverick Records, "Falling Uphill." The band already is getting high profile exposure from its cover version of the Romantics song "What I Like About You," the theme song to the television comedy series of the same name. Trading off lead vocal and songwriting duties among guitarist Tasha-Ray Evin, sister and keyboardist Lacey-Lee Evin and bassist Louise Burns, the Cranbrook, British Columbia, natives are as adept at tearing through power pop hooks as they are at finessing sugary three-part harmonies. With influences that include alt-rockers Radiohead and Weezer, along with the classic rock of Queen, Lillix's collaborative approach results in an engaging mix of dynamics on their debut. The band's ability to add soulful vocal wrinkles to a variety of compositional styles places gems like "It's About Time," "Tomorrow," "24/7," and "Quicksand" in a league of their own on the power pop landscape. "It's About Time" is the band's first single. The record's punchy, high-voltage sound is a testament to Lillix's energy, and to the expert work of several renowned producers, including The Matrix (Avril Lavigne), Philip Steir (No Doubt), Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette, No Doubt, Dave Matthews Band), Linda Perry (Pink) and John Shanks (Michelle Branch.)



New West Records has announced a Jan. 28 release date for CD reissues of Slobberbone's "Crow Pot Pie" and "Barrel Chested," Jon Dee Graham's "Escape From Monster Island" and Stan Ridgway's "Black Diamond." Slobberbone is riding high with its critically acclaimed fourth album, "Slippage." Originally released in 1996 ("Crow Pot Pie") and 1997 ("Barrel Chested") on Doolittle Records, both Slobberbone albums include several songs that the band still performs onstage, including "Whiskey Glass Eye" and "I Can Tell Your Love Is Waning" from "Crow Pot Pie" and "Engine Joe" and the title track from "Barrel Chested." Since joining New West Records, former True Believers member Jon Dee Graham has released two albums: "Summerland" (1999) and "Hooray For The Moon" (2002). With the release of his last CD, the popular singer/songwriter/guitarist did his first extensive national touring, as well as a number of European dates, which expanded his fan base tremendously. "Escape From Monster Island" originally was released in 1997 on Freedom Records. Los Angeles-based Stan Ridgway has released two previous albums for New West: "Anatomy" (1999) and "Holiday In Dirt" (2002). The former Wall of Voodoo lead singer also has established himself as an in-demand film composer/performer, having written songs for a number of both major and independent movies. Originally released in 1995 by indie label Birdcage Records, "Black Diamond" represents another rock noir gem from Ridgway that's been long sought-after by his fans.



Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band continue their world barnstorming tour this year with February and March concerts in U.S. cities, including Atlantic City, N.J., to take place before the band heads to Australia and Europe, where a series of stadium shows in June already are sold out. The 2003 U.S. dates currently scheduled include: Feb. 28, Duluth, Ga.; March 2, Austin, Texas; March 4, Jacksonville, Fla.; March 6, Richmond, Va.; March 7, Atlantic City; March 10, Providence, R.I.; and, March 11, Rochester, N.Y. Following these shows, Springsteen and the Band will travel to Australia for dates in Sydney, Auckland, Brisbane and Melbourne, then trek to Canada for several dates, followed by a European stadium tour spanning 20 cities throughout May and June.


"The Maytones' Greatest Hits" (Heartbeat) hits the stores this week. The Maytones were one of the biggest groups in Jamaica during the 1970s, scoring No. 1 hits with "Africa We Want to Go," "Madness" and "Money Worries." The roots duo was accompanied by some of Jamaica's best musicians, including the Revolutionaries. This collection includes many of the group's hits released only in Jamaica and available here for the first time on CD. Also included are previously unreleased extended mixes of "Africa We Want to Go," "Sha La La Disco" and "Come Along." The set was produced by Alvin Ranglin for Kingston-based G.G. Records.



The Juliana Theory hit the road this week in support of the band's Epic Records debut, "Love," originally scheduled for release last October. The album's first single, "Do You Believe Me?" currently is at radio. "Love" is a 14-track recording produced by former Talking Head Jerry Harrison (Live, No Doubt) and co-produced by lead vocalist Brett Detar with engineer Dave Schiffman (System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine) behind the knobs. The five Pennsylvania natives became an indie sensation before signing with Epic, selling more than 150,000 albums without major distribution. The group consists of Brett Detar (lead vocals, guitar), Chad Alan (bass), Josh Fiedler (guitar), Josh Kosker (guitar), and Josh Walters (drums).


Multi-platinum guitarist Joe Satriani opens the second leg of his "Evening With..." tour in support of his latest release, "Strange Beautiful Music," Jan. 29 in Reno, Nev., and wraps it up in Albuquerque, N.M., Feb. 7. The tour includes a two-night engagement at San Francisco's Fillmore, where Satriani recorded the "Live In San Francisco" DVD in December 2000. The San Francisco Chapter of the Recording Academy will honor Satriani with the Governors' Award for Creative Excellence and Outstanding Achievement in a ceremony to take place Feb. 9. Satriani was nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for the song "Starry Night."



Zoë/Rounder recording artist Kathleen Edwards will join Ryan Adams and alternative folk/pop band Shivaree for a performance at Housing Works Used Book Café's new monthly acoustic music series, Live From Home, Friday at 7:30 p.m. in New York City. It will benefit homeless HIV/AIDS victims. This performance sits in the middle of a full week of promotion and television appearances for Edwards as she kicks off the release of her U.S. debut album, "Failer." Appearances include "The Late Show" with David Letterman on Friday, "CNN Headline News" and the "CBS Saturday Early Show" on Saturday, and "Last Call" with Carson Daly on Jan. 23.

Latest Headlines