Rock News: Music's high and low notes

By JOHN SWENSON, United Press International
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In August 2002, Bluebird inaugurated "When The Sun Goes Down," one of the most important reissue series of the compact disc era. In its first four volumes, "When The Sun Goes Down" presented roots-music treasures from the archives of the RCA Victor and Bluebird record labels in beautifully remastered sound.


These various-artists collections featured artists ranging from the Carter Family and Blind Willie McTell to Lil Green and Little Richard. They included the original recorded versions of such blues and rock standards as "Catfish Blues," "Frankie and Johnny," "Trouble In Mind," and "Statesboro Blues."

"Poor Man's Heaven: Blues & Tales of The Great Depression" adds another chapter to the series with an eye-opening multi-artist collection of country, blues, jazz and pop songs from and about the decade-long economic slump that began with the stock market crash of Oct. 29, 1929. The album compiles 24 songs recorded by as many different artists in the period from 1929 to 1940. The themes of hard times and fervent hope bind together remarkably diverse performances by artists as famous as Eddie Cantor with "Eddie Cantor's Tips On The Stock Market" and Sonny Boy Williamson with "Welfare Store Blues."


More obscure offerings include Julia Gerity with "Sittin' On A Rubbish Can" and Wilmoth Houdini with "Poor But Ambitious."

"Poor Man's Heaven" includes the original versions of two songs later recorded by Ry Cooder: Blind Alfred Reed's "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?" (1929) and Fiddlin' John Carson's "Taxes on the Farmer Feeds Us All" (1934). The E.Y. Harburg/Jay Gorney classic "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" heard here in a 1932 recording by Leo Reisman & His Orchestra, vocals by Milton Douglas, later was covered by Dave Brubeck, Judy Collins, Tom Jones, Abbey Lincoln, and Luciano Pavarotti, among other singers.


West Coast record label Favored Nations Acoustic, along with founder and President Steve Vai, is launching the inaugural "Favored Nations Acoustic Tour" featuring Tommy Emmanuel, Peter Huttlinger and Peppino D'Agostino. The tour will span 10 days in June from Chicago to Philadelphia showcasing the genius of these lone instrumentalists.

"To dedicate oneself to playing an instrument solo and creating inspired music is usually a result of being compelled by an inner desire to express true artistry," Vai said. "When an artist does this it's a gift to the rest of us. Favored Nations Acoustic was set up to seek out and cultivate these treasures."


Emmanuel has been referred to as "one of the greatest guitar players on the planet" by his longtime friend, collaborator and mentor Chet Atkins. Emmanuel's recording career spans from the late '70s in his homeland of Australia to his most recent release "Only."

Huttlinger has established himself as a topnotch session player, composer, arranger and songwriter, having been involved in several Grammy and Emmy nominated projects. His album "Naked Pop" is a breathtaking instrumental showcase of original compositions, traditional fare and songs made famous by The Beatles, Sting, Steely Dan, The Allman Brothers and Stevie Wonder.

D'Agostino's unique sound seems impossible for one guitar. "Every Step Of The Way" contains a collection of instrumental guitar solos written over the span of his 35 year career, as well as two brand new pieces.


"Dirt on the Angel," the second album from singer/musician Danny Barnes, is scheduled for an Aug. 12 release on Terminus Records. Joining Barnes on the album are Bill Frisell on guitar, Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell on piano and organ, Darol Anger on violin, Dirk Powell on banjo, guitar and accordion, Garey Shelton on bass and Carlton Jackson on drums. "Dirt on the Angel" was produced by Barnes and recorded primarily at Shelton's studio in Seattle. The album features 11 original songs by Barnes, one co-written with Anger, and three covers: a down-home version of the traditional tune "Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy," a Barnes-ified treatment of the Small Faces classic, "Ooh La La" and an improvisational extension on the Beck song, "Loser."


"The poetry of this album touches on various themes of joy, being lonesome, simple word play, being a country boy, good cooking, eating, pretty women, fishing, motorcycles, sex, playing lots of five-string banjo, of not having enough money to get your wants met but having enough love to get your needs met, of living life on the raw edge," Barnes said.


On April 28 Tipitina's hosted the second annual "Instrument's A Comin'," a benefit for the Carter G. Woodson Learning Academy and Eleanor McMain Secondary School band programs featuring an all-star New Orleans musical lineup and outdoor cultural festival with food, art and music. The event raised $21,179 from door proceeds, an art auction, and donations with over 800 patrons attending the indoor benefit show. New Orleans Music Exchange owner Jimmy Glickman will begin purchasing instruments next week from the wish list provided by both schools. Highlights from the "Instruments A Comin'" 2003 benefit included an opening solo set by Cowboy Mouth's Fred Leblanc; a special New Orleans super-group created by Tipitina's known as the Founder's Band with Ivan Neville, George Porter, Jr, Stanton Moore, June Yamagishi, and the Dirty Dozen Horns, with special guest Dr. John; and a searing set by another Tipitina's creation, the Tip's Allstars featuring Leo Nocentelli, Mean Willie Green, Tony Hall, and Ben Ellman with special guests Cyril Neville and Ivan Neville.


The all-star benefit also included great performances by the Radiators, Galactic, Anders Osborne/Henry Butler, Lil Rascals, Rebirth and more. The outdoor cultural festival hosted over 1,000 patrons with food by Dunbar's Creole Cooking; photography exhibits by Michael P. Smith, Jenny Bagert, Zack Smith, Earl Perry, and Bob Compton; a painting demonstration by J. Pierre; performances by last year's recipients the Joseph S. Clark Marching Band; and, sets by the Hot 8 and Lil Stooges brass band.


iMUSIC recording artist John Doe has announced two solo East Coast dates in between his tour schedule with X. While Doe perhaps is best known as the co-founder of seminal Los Angeles punk band X, this multi-talented artist is also an actor and accomplished solo musician. His current solo release "Dim Stars, Bright Sky" was co-produced by Doe's friend and fellow musician Joe Henry and features vocal collaborations with Aimee Mann, Jakob Dylan, Juliana Hatfield, Jane Wiedlin and Rhett Miller. For the tour dates, Doe will perform solo with acoustic guitar. On June 18 Doe will perform at Manhattan's Fez in New York, followed by a June 19 appearance at Maxwell's in Hoboken, N.J.


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