Rock News: Music's high and low notes

By JOHN SWENSON, United Press International  |  April 17, 2003 at 3:00 AM
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Kenny Chesney's Margaritas'n'Senoritas Tour is the No. 1 ticket seller for the first quarter of 2003, according to Pollstar figures. It is in front of Bon Jovi, Phish, Shakira, Cher and Tim McGraw, among others.

"You're out there, playing the dates, singing the songs -- and truthfully, you're not even thinking about it," Chesney said. "You get out there, you hear those fans and you just go for it. Who knew so many people were coming? Because it's not about the head count... for us, it's all about how loud they get! We said all last year, 'You can sit down if you want to... or you can stand up and get rowdy with the rest of us.' Hearing about this Pollstar thing makes me think a whole lot more people were getting rowdy with us than we ever realized."

Having set several venue attendance records -- including Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., -- and maintaining a feverish road pace, Margaritas'N'Senoritas kicked off with the first ever advance sell-out of Nashville's annual Gaylord Center's New Year's Eve show. With the arena leg winding up, Chesney and new tourmates Keith Urban and Deana Carter get ready for the outdoor sheds.

"We try to bring a little bit of the islands to the fans," said the triple-platinum-plus superstar, whose "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" knocked Ashanti out of the Billboard's No. 1 slot on the Top 200 Albums chart.

"In the winter, that's a pretty big deal... especially in places like North Dakota and Minneapolis," he said. "But come the summer, there's nothing like being outside under the stars and kinda getting into that groove."


Since leaving Bob Weir's Ratdog in 2000 after a four-year stint -- during which he also toured with the Other Ones and Phil Lesh & Friends -- Dave Ellis has been concentrating on music closer to his heart. His new album, "State of Mind" (Milestone) is a commanding showcase for the distinctive tenor saxophonist with an outstanding support band consisting of Mulgrew Miller, Christian McBride, Vincent Herring, Lewis Nash, Peter Washington, and Carl Allen.

"I wanted to do things that were challenging and hadn't been heard all that much," Ellis said. "I like songs -- tunes that can be played on a kazoo or by an orchestra and remain intact. And in approaching an album, I like to think I'm good at constructing an entity, something you want to listen to from start to finish. I'm very proud of this record in that regard."


Charmaine Neville, Jon Cleary, Kelly Love Jones, the Friendly Travelers and Juanita Brooks are just a few of the artists who will perform at the first annual MO Fest in New Orleans. MO Fest -- the Mayor's Office Festival -- will be held April 28-29 at the Hibernia Pavilion in Woldenberg Park. That's the Monday and Tuesday between weekends of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. MO Fest is a free, outdoor festival that's an additional showcase opportunity for New Orleans artists at a time when the global music industry is in town for Jazz Fest. Eight of the 12 acts at MO Fest do not have Jazz Fest gigs this year. For the full lineup, including artist bios and booking contact info, see


Artist manager Janet Walden of Blue Cobra Music from San Antonio has started a campaign against the boycott of French products. Walden has circulated the following message to the blues community: "The music business has a friend in the French. The French record company Dixie Frog Records has signed American blues artists such as Neal Black, Johnny Winter, Tommy Castro, Popa Chubby, Chris Duarte, Coco Montoya, Charlie Musselwhite, Calvin Russell, Duke Robillard, Buddy Guy and a slew of other non-French artists. So those Americans who choose to boycott French products are also choosing to boycott these American artists. These artists are welcomed with open arms in the French culture. Especially artists from Texas. It's a big deal for Texas artists to perform in France. The French embrace the American artists, when those same artists may have a hard time filling a room with 200 seats in some areas of this country..."

Walden has gotten a wide range of responses. "A lot of people support my position," she said. "One musician said we should boycott French products except Dixie Frog records. But I'm amazed at the level of anger, violence and hatred expressed by people who don't agree with me."


Aretha Franklin, Jefferson Airplane, Thompson Twins, Ace of Base and Perry Como are among the artists who'll be represented on the BMG Heritage "Platinum & Gold Collection," which launches May 6. The series of compilations will be drawn from the diverse BMG family of labels, featuring some of the music industry's hitmakers and the

chart-topping songs that made them world renowned. Collections from artists as diverse as The Guess Who, Harry Belafonte and Evelyn "Champagne" King are in the works. There will be 20 to 30 planned releases each year. Kicking off the series will be collections by Ace of Base, the Delfonics, Aretha Franklin, Hot Tuna, the Thompson Twins, Dionne Warwick and Perry Como. Coming June 17 are collections by Willie Nelson, Jefferson Starship, Gladys Knight, Angela Bofill, Real McCoy, SWV, Carly Simon, Taylor Dayne, Neil Sedaka, and The Alan Parsons Project.

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