Rock News: Music's high and low notes

By JOHN SWENSON, United Press International  |  April 30, 2003 at 3:00 AM
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Robert Cray has signed with Sanctuary Records and is putting finishing touches on his new album, "Time Will Tell," set for a July 1 street date. Cray is moving in several new directions with the album. "Time Will Tell" marks the first co-production by Cray with his long-time keyboardist Jim Pugh. Cray's touring band is augmented on the album by featured guest musicians including Sly and the Family Stone's Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini on trumpet and sax respectively on "Your Pal," plus the Turtle Island String Quartet, heard on "Up In The Sky" and "Time Makes Two." Luis Conte (Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Arturo Sandoval) contributes percussion. The album was engineered and mixed by Mark Needham (Fleetwood Mac, Michelle Branch, Chris Isaak, Cake.) Cray also recorded for the first time with an electric sitar -- "Up In The Sky." Cray also ventures into politically charged songwriting for the first time with the anti-war songs "Survivor" and "Distant Shore."

"We went outside of what people might perceive as our boundaries," Cray said. "Jim Pugh and myself both had a lot of ideas, and we really cut loose. It might be different for us, but it all flowed naturally. Personally, I feel it's one of the best things we've done. And I hope our fans agree when they hear the record."


Details for Wednesday's funeral for rock 'n' roll and R&B legend Earl King have been set, including a star-studded list of New Orleans musicians who will perform at a special tribute. The funeral will take place at Gallier Hall, 545 St. Charles Ave., with a visitation from 9-11:30 a.m., followed by the funeral at 11:30 a.m. Dr. John, Art and Aaron Neville, Deacon John and Willie T will perform at the funeral, which will be followed by a street procession to Congo Square in Armstrong Park. King was a lifelong resident of New Orleans and his 50-year career produced the hits "Trick Bag," "Big Chief," "Street Parade" and "Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)."


Taj Mahal, who was based in Hawaii from 1981 until 1996, returns to the island sounds of Kauai for the American release of "Hanapepe Dream," his second CD with the Hula Blues. The album, a joint venture between Tone-Cool Records and Mahal's own Kan-Du Records, will be released June 10. The follow up to 1998's acclaimed "Sacred Island," "Hanapepe Dream" has 11 tracks that feature Mahal's all-acoustic string band sound along with his signature slack-key blend of the blues and Pacific-Caribbean music.

Album highlights include an extended Hula Blues version of "Blackjack Davey," a song from Mahal's 1974 reggae-infused "Mo Roots" album, and the signature Taj Mahal sound of "Stagger Lee," "All Along the Watchtower," and Mississippi John Hurt's "My Creole Belle." The American release of "Hanapepe Dream" will offer bonus video footage including live performances of "The Calypsonians" and "The New Hula Blues." Following the release, the first Taj Mahal and the Hula Blues U.S. tour will take place during summer, kicking off June 20 in Chicago.

"My perspective is cultural and world-based," Mahal said. "It's always been a global perspective. Even in the early days when nobody knew me, they'd go, 'Well, that album is perfect, but what was that calypso song doing on there? What does that got to do with it?' I think that the way music is played (in America), it's terribly narrow cast. I relate to these various traditions that I feel are connected through family, extended family, and influenced by influence."


The Matthew Shipp-curated Blue Series on Thirsty Ear records is embarking on an ongoing and open-ended project called the Blues Series Continuum. It will focus on a rotating cast of musicians rather than emphasizing leader-driven projects. The Blue Series Continuum aims to incorporate diverse styles that will be encouraged to mingle in unpredictable ways. The inaugural Blue Series Continuum project brings in the production duo GoodandEvil. This production team has worked with a variety of musicians, including Medeski, Martin & Wood and C&C Music Factory. Featured musicians include Shipp on piano, Danny Blume (guitar), Roy Campbell (trumpet), Chris Kelly (guitar, percussion), Alex Lodico (trombone), Miso (turntables), William Parker (bass) and Josh Roseman (trombone).


Heavy metal veterans Metallica will play four nights -- May 18, 19, 21 and 22 -- at the Fillmore in San Francisco to preview the band's new album, "St. Anger," and warm up for the summer tour. The shows will be Metallica's first with bass player Robert Trujillo, added from Ozzy Osbourne's band to replace Jason Newsted, who since has filled Trujillo's old spot backing Ozzy. "St. Anger," Metallica's eighth album and follow-up to 1997's "Reload," is due June 10. The next day, as part of its June European outing, the band plans to play three club shows in Paris. After finishing in Europe June 28, the band kicks off the Summer Sanitarium tour with Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and the Deftones on Independence Day.

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