Rock News Two: The week in pop

JOHN SWENSON, United Press International


Madonna, a music industry beacon for the past 20 years, is pointing the way toward a new cooperation between retail and online marketers. Copies of her latest single, "American Life," already notorious for its provocative anti-war message, are being distributed on the Internet for $1.49 per download, roughly half the price of the CD single in stores. Madonna and her record company, Warner Music, collaborated on the "Madonna Project," which rewards any Web site including a link to the MP3 of "American Life" with credit toward purchasing Madonna merchandise. This strategy has turned thousands of Madonna fans into online distributors of the single, an electronic version of that tried and true music industry promotional tool, word of mouth.



British blues and roots rock legend Tony DeMeur, of the Fabulous Poodles and Ronnie and the Rex, is hitting New Orleans during The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which takes place between April 23 and May 4. DeMeur is in the City That Care Forgot for Jazzfest to do a residence at Melvin's, part of the burgeoning Ninth Ward music strip that includes Sweet Lorraine's and the Hi Ho Lounge. Demeur will play Thursday to Sunday both weekends.



Steve Wynn, fresh from show-stopping performances at the South By Southwest Music festival, has a new album, "Static Transmission," ready for July 8 release on his own Down There label in conjunction with DBK Works Records and Runt Distribution. Like its immediate predecessor, the critically acclaimed double album "Here Come The Miracles," "Transmission" was recorded in Tucson at Wavelab Studios with producer/engineer Craig Schumacher (Calexico, Giant Sand). Performing on the album are Steve's core band -- dubbed the Miracle 3 -- of Jason Victor (guitars), Dave DeCastro (bass) and Linda Pitmon (drums), along with guest keyboardist Chris Cacavas (Green On Red, Giant Sand). "I had never been more satisfied or had as much fun at a recording session as I did during 'Here Come The Miracles,'" said Wynn. "So, it made sense that I would want to go back to the same studio in the same city with the same people that I worked with on that record. It's not like I wanted or expected a carbon copy of the last album, but I'm really happy that 'Static Transmission' is a natural extension and follow-up -- kind of the darker, sweeter, freakier, more disturbed and complicated younger brother to 'Here Come The Miracles'' swaggering, arrogant older sibling."



Blue South Records has announced a May 27 release date for "Southern Comfort," the new album from Georgia-based singer/songwriter EG Kight. For her fourth CD on Blue South, Kight brings a southern soul/blues feel that rings throughout the album's 12 cuts, which include nine originals plus her unique take on such songs as "Angel From Montgomery" and "Cry Like a Rainy Day." Special guests on "Southern Comfort" include Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell on piano, guitarist Lee Roy Parnell, singer Chris Hicks and Grammy-nominated producer Paul Hornsby on organ, piano and backing vocals. Kight's career has continued to blossom with each successive release. Koko Taylor, a major influence and personal favorite of Kight's, sang a duet with her on the last CD, "Trouble." Taylor returned the favor by recording one of Kight's songs, "Fuel to Burn," on the Grammy-nominated "Royal Blue" in 2000. "Let the Healing Begin," a song co-written by Kight, was included on a Blues Music Association/National Association of Record Merchandisers compilation, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard blues chart and has sold over 86,000 copies to date. Joining her on that compilation were Stevie Ray Vaughan, Delbert McClinton, Robert Cray and Keb' Mo'.



Fans pick the ending to "Para Que La Vida," the third video from Enrique Iglesias' platinum album "Quizas." Directed by Simon Brand, the video to "Para Que La Vida" was filmed at the Production House in Los Angeles last month with two endings: One in which the object of Enrique's affection boards a train and leaves him forever, and another in which she stays. Enrique and his team decided to let his fans have the last word. "I can't say enough about my fans," Iglesias said. "I feel they have accompanied me through every album. They are loyal and so this time around they get to decide what happens."


The 24th Annual W.C. Handy Blues Awards are set for May 22 in Memphis. Shemekia Copeland, daughter of the late blues giant Johnny Copeland, received five nominations, including Contemporary Blues Album and Blues Album for the Dr. John-produced "Talking To Strangers." John Mooney and Marcia Ball each pulled down two nominations. Other nominees include Larry Garner, Chris Thomas King, Mighty Sam McClain, Irma Thomas, Henry Butler, Dr. John, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and Mighty Joe Young.



The DIY Convention: Do It Yourself in Film, Music and Books has set the lineup for the first date in a monthly club series spotlighting the top works from its DIY Film Festival and DIY Music Festival. On Thursday, April 3, the new Club DIY will present an evening of live music, a film screening and a panel discussion at the Derby nightclub in Hollywood. Club DIY will be held on the first Thursday of each month at the Derby and will announce a schedule of dates in other cities shortly. The Club DIY topic April 3 will be "How To Sell 10,000 CDs In The Next Year -- Or Still Make Money If You Don't." The panel discussion will be moderated by DIY Convention Chairman Bruce Haring and will feature Derek Sivers, the founder of leading online retailer; independent radio promoter Bryan Farrish; Sea Level Records co- founder Todd Clifford; The Militia Group's Rory Felton; and Steve Levesque of Luck Media and Marketing. The discussion will focus on practical advice and actual strategies to reach a sales goal that will support a full-time music career and act as a springboard for greater success. Live music performances will follow the panel. Featured will be 2003 DIY Songwriter of the Year Al Lay; 2002 DIY Song of the Year writer Tom Freund; the independent band CutOut, featuring Jimmy Allen, one of the co-founders of Puddle of Mudd; and the Ace Copasetic Trip, a Zappa-esque neo-jazz ensemble. The night also will feature a screening of the 2003 DIY Film Festival Best Drama Feature, "Closer To Death."



Alligator Records has set an April 22 release date for "So Many Rivers," the new CD from Texas pianist/vocalist Marcia Ball. The album is the follow-up to Ball's 2001 Alligator Records debut, "Presumed Innocent," the best-selling record in Ball's career. That album took home the W.C. Handy Blues Award for Blues Album Of The Year. "So Many Rivers" features Ball's trademark mix of raucous boogie and heart-melting ballads, but also explores a wider variety of rhythms, lyrics and song structures. Produced by Stephen Bruton, who also plays guitar and mandolin on the album, and recorded at The Hit Shack in Austin, Texas, the album's 14 songs include six Ball originals. Ball is scheduled to appear in "Piano Blues," the film directed by Clint Eastwood included in Martin Scorsese's "The Blues" series to air on PBS television nationwide this fall.


The first set of tour dates for British folk-rock musician Richard Thompson have been announced, beginning April 21 in Boulder, Colo., in support of his forthcoming album "The Old Kit Bag," to be released May 6 on spinART/Cooking Vinyl. Thompson is in Minneapolis April 24, Madison, Wis., on April 25 and Chicago April 26. The tour also includes May 2-3 at New York's Town Hall, May 5 in Washington, D.C., May 7 in Atlanta, May 9 in St. Louis and wraps up May 25 in Groveland, Calif., at Camp Mather. More tour dates will be announced shortly. Released to top-notch reviews in England in February -- and called "his best album in nearly a decade" by the London Times -- the album is Thompson's first since 1999's "Mock Tudor" and his first release for Cooking Vinyl/spinART.



Delmark Records' year-long procession of 50th Anniversary celebrations, "The Year of the Blues," continues at the world famous Buddy Guy's Legends blues club Friday, May 9. An all-star cast of Delmark blues artists will share the stage, including Jimmy Dawkins, Willie Kent, Bonnie Lee, Shirley Johnson, Johnny B. Moore, Jimmy Burns, Tail Dragger and Little Arthur Duncan. This event will showcase some of Chicago's finest blues musicians to record for the Delmark label. Highlighting the night will be a rare club performance by legendary guitarist/vocalist Dawkins, winner of the Grand Prix du Disque de Jazz from the Hot Club of France for his 1969 debut album "Blisterstring" on Delmark. The 2003 nominee and six-time W.C. Handy Award winner Kent will fill the bass guitar role with rock-solid bass lines and bellowing, Mississippi-seasoned, vocals. Female vocalists Lee and 2003 W.C. Handy nominee Johnson will deliver their lionhearted growls beside guitarists/vocalists Moore and Burns.


Formed in 1968 following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Plastic People of the Universe went on to become the most celebrated underground band in Eastern Europe. The band's recordings have been collected in a comprehensive package for the first time. "Plastic People of the Universe: 1969-2001" is out on Globus Music and available through the Tamizdat Web site. Globus Music has been working on the package for almost a decade, and it's finally finished: packed in a wooden box, this 16-CD collection, complete with copious liner notes and photos, compiles almost every known recording by the Plastic People. The album ranges from live recordings in the band's first year through the latest studio release, and includes an otherwise unavailable live recording from 1997, "SOS for Kosovo."



The Derailers, based in Austin, Texas, release "Genuine" Tuesday on Sony Nashville's Lucky Dog imprint. Their second release on the label -- fifth studio disc overall -- "Genuine" again finds the hard-working quartet deftly merging Bakersfield giddy-up, classic Roy Orbison-style crooning, Marty Robbins' bordertown sizzle, Possum-inspired honky-tonkers and the Fab Four's knack for mixing it all up and kicking it back out fresh. Or, as lead guitarist Brian Hofeldt calls it, "our Bakerpool/Liversfield thing."


Ape Breaks is the new Ubiquity Records drum break series from Mr. Shawn Lee, formerly of Kansas, now based in London. Lee is a mad producer and vocalist -- and an awesome drummer. He's the man behind the hugely successful "Planet Of The Breaks" volumes 1 and 2, and his full-length "Monkey Boy" album earned respect worldwide. "Ape Breaks No. 5" is the final volume in the Ape Break Series. "Ape Breaks" is a back-to-basics drum break record, with 22 breaks on CD, 20 on vinyl (to keep it loud for the DJs). Each drum loop lasts up to two minutes with occasional pattern changes as the track unfolds. BPMs or beats per minute are listed for easy reference on the CD/LP artwork and range from 68 to 116 -- something for everyone from the slo-mo' Portishead fans to the disco heads. All the beats are recorded live and loud and in typical Lee fashion they are tight, bright and bouncy. Because Lee always drops the fat beats, effects and processing tricks are kept to a bare minimum so producers can sample and apply their own flavor as necessary. There's plenty of opportunity to sneak individual drum hits and deconstruct the raw beats.



The Boston-based NEMO showcase will take place on Sept. 4-7, taking advantage of Boston's warm fall weather by adding outdoor events to the schedule. Music industry professionals and enthusiasts will converge on Boston for three days and nights, taking in panels, clinics, workshops, mentor sessions, a trade show exhibition area, industry parties and 250 artist showcases. NEMO also includes the prestigious Boston Music Awards show on the first night of festivities. NEMO showcases 250 of the hottest major label, indie label, and unsigned new bands and solo artists from all over the world in a wide variety of genres. Creating a unique platform for new talent to perform in front of some of the most influential decision-makers in the music industry -- as well as almost 15,000 music-loving fans -- NEMO is a celebration of today's best new music and continues to be the place for people to discover new and emerging talent.


Danny Wood will kick off a series of live appearances with a concert in Fort Lauderdale Friday, April 11, in support of his debut solo CD "Second Face" (Empire Music Werks/Damage/BMG Records). Wood will unveil his stage act and new rock band when he performs at Fort Lauderdale's latest rock venue, Club 84. The former New Kid On The Block star has spent the past 10 years developing his own Damage Records label and producing other artists -- Joey McIntyre, Mark Wahlberg. "I can't wait to get out there and perform again," said Wood during a break from rehearsals with his new band. "In New Kids, I toured all over the world and played at sold out arenas filled with screaming fans. Now I want to move on and show people who I am today through my music."



Bruce Springsteen is among the legions of fans looking forward to the April 8 release of Soozie Tyrell's debut album "White Lines" (Treasure Records). The multi-talented violinist, singer and songwriter currently plays in Springsteen's E Street band as a featured violinist and vocalist. "Soozie Tyrell has been one of the best kept secrets of the New York and New Jersey musicians' community for a long time," Springsteen said. "This year she brought the raw beauty of her voice and violin to the E Street band. Here on 'White Lines' she gets a chance to step out and shine on her own. Check it out."


The Isley Brothers' new album "Body Kiss," is scheduled for release May 6 on DreamWorks Records. R. Kelly contributes to 11 of album's 12 tracks as writer, arranger and producer. Snoop Dogg is featured on "I Like" and 'Lil Kim is on the title track. Featuring Ronald Isley's distinctively soulful voice and cadence, and Ernie Isley's funky guitar licks, the record's 12 tracks are in step with both the Isleys' 1960s and '70s classics and 2003's hottest urban music, highlighting just how much contemporary R and B is imbued with the Isleys' influence. "What Would You Do?," the seductive first single written, produced and arranged by Kelly, already is climbing the Urban charts, debuting as the No. 1 most added song on Urban AC. The song's video was directed by Bille Woodruff (Ashanti, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys) and filmed in front of a live audience at Chicago's Congress Theatre. Isley appears in his playful "Mr. Biggs" alter ego first devised for a Kelly video in 1996 -- a guise appropriate to the provocative pick-up lines of "What Would You Do?" -- and Kelly continues the ongoing relationship, making a guest appearance in the Isleys' new video.



Rock the Vote and Lenny Kravitz have announced a new song by Kravitz called "We Want Peace," which will be available exclusively at Rock the Vote's Web site. The song, which says, "There won't be peace if we don't try" is a call from Kravitz for America to be a peaceful leader in the world. Kravitz wrote the song and performed it with Kadim Al Sahir, Iraq's No. 1 pop music artist, who is better known as the Iraqi Diplomatic Ambassador of the world and a true legend of Arabic Music. In addition, the song features Palestinian musician Simon Shaheen on strings and Lebanese artist Jamey Hadded on percussion.

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