Rock News Two: The week in pop

By JOHN SWENSON, United Press International  |  May 24, 2003 at 3:00 AM
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Coldplay will kick off the second leg of its 2003 North American tour Tuesday in Edmonton, Alberta. The sold-out run of major arenas and amphitheaters will include two headline shows each at the Hollywood Bowl, May 31 and June 2, and Red Rocks Amphitheatre on June 5-6. The tour will end June 13 with a performance at Madison Square Garden. On this 17-date tour, Coldplay will play in front of more than 200,000 fans. On Saturday, May 31, at 6 p.m. ET, radio listeners across America will be treated to a special Westwood One broadcast of "Coldplay: Live From the Hollywood Bowl." The two-hour special will air on more than 150 stations nationwide, including WXRK-FM in New York and KROQ in Los Angeles. Check local listings for station information. Coldplay's "A Rush of Blood to the Head" has sold more than 1.5 million units in America and won a pair of Grammys, for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Performance by Duo or Group with Vocal. Coldplay's debut album, "Parachutes," also won the former award last year, making Coldplay the only band to have won the Best Alternative Music Album award in two consecutive years.


This summer's festival-jammed schedule adds another interesting twist with The Great Bamboozle, featuring The Roots, Medeski Martin and Wood, Keller Williams, Dark Star Orchestra and the David Grisman Quintet in a three-day bash that will kick off the New Jersey shore summer season May 30-June 1. The festival will take place on the grounds of New Jersey's most famous music venue, the Stone Pony, known as headquarters for Bruce Springsteen, who often plays impromptu jams at the club. Other national acts on the bill include Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, DJ Logic, Topaz, Antigone Rising, Seth Yacovone Band, Mike Farris of the Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies and, leading a Drum Circle, Jim Donovan of Rusted Root. Balancing out the national list is a considerable local talent roster: Juggling Suns, J. Pat, Unexplained Bacon, New Blood Revival, Borialis, Bamm Hollow, Sunny Daze, Under New Ownership, Mike Brody, the Remedy, Secret Sound, Bugg, Moroccan Sheep Herders, Jaski and One-Eyed Jack. "The jambands brought out our first loyal fan base after I purchased the club and we reopened at the beginning of the 2000 summer season," says Stone Pony owner Domenic Santana. "That first year was really tough, but their fans were fearless in trekking where no man would go, and they helped establish a regular scene here. And when we needed support during our Save the Pony campaign, those were the fans who came out and marched for us. It's no coincidence that we named our street team the Hippie Army. They have been fiercely loyal."


Quetzal, the groundbreaking band stemming from the barrios of Los Angeles, has a new album, "Worksongs," set for worldwide release on Vanguard Records July 8. The release also marks the band's 10-year anniversary of creating real heartfelt Latin folk and roots-rock music. "Worksongs," an 11-track collection of powerful songs collaborated on by the six band members, follows their critically acclaimed album "Sing The Real." Quetzal takes a grassroots approach to fusing the folk styles of Mexico and Cuba in son and bolero along with elements of rock and blues. The album was produced by longtime Los Lobos saxophonist Steve Berlin, whose playing and production credits include Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker, Sheryl Crow, Faith No More and Paul Simon. "It's profound, there's not enough articulation about what's going on in East L.A.," Berlin said. "'Worksongs' is not just a record; they are the voice of the culture. We've (Los Lobos) carried the torch long enough, and I think Quetzal is the next to step up and speak for the community."


On Monday, June 9, at 8 p.m., guitar legend Les Paul will celebrate his 88th birthday at his long-time New York City home, The Iridium. To help him celebrate special friends, Al DiMeola, Russell Malone, Pat Martino, Bucky Pizzarelli, Jon Paris and many more surprise guests, will be in the house. Paul is a living legend and an icon of the music world. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, received multiple Grammy Awards, pioneered the modern electric guitar and invented numerous recording techniques. He has influenced countless musicians and guitarists. Paul's regular Monday night appearances at The Iridium Jazz Club since April 1995 attract devoted fans from all over the world. Musicians such as Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Tony Bennett, Steve Miller, George Benson, Pat Metheny, Jeff Beck, Slash and countless others come to pay homage, making this the music industry's most important regular music gig in New York.


Rodney Crowell's 11th full-length recording, "Fate's Right Hand," is due in stores July 29 on DMZ/Columbia. While Crowell's last album, "The Houston Kid," explored the complex and myriad aspects of a Texas youth finding his way in the world, "Fate's Right Hand" flips up the rear-view mirror and takes a hard look at the here-and-now. Written in Nashville, Ireland, New York, Texas and California, "Fate's Right Hand" is the rumination of a man spreading his wings and finding a higher place among the rising waters. For the American roots songwriter -- whose songs have been covered by everyone from Waylon Jennings to the Grateful Dead, Willie Nelson to Foghat, Bob Seger to George Strait -- a union with taste-making producer/writer/artist T-Bone Burnett was just the catalyst to create Crowell's most personal and inspiring record to date.


Gene Loves Jezebel, featuring founding member/lead singer/songwriter Michael Aston, will mark its 21-year anniversary with the Aug. 12 release of the band's ninth album, "Exploding Girls," on Aston's BlessMomma Records label. The album was produced by Aston along with Michael Rozen, and written by Aston and guitarist Michael Ciravolo. Aston makes his debut as a guitar player on the song "Aire (Buenos Aires)." "Exploding Girls" is about "women I've loved, women I've admired, women I've detested, women who have elevated me and others who have half-destroyed me," Aston said. "Every single song on this record is about someone who has had a great impact on my life -- they're all 'exploding girls.'"


When Asleep at the Wheel played a sold-out show recently in Bakersfield, Calif., at the Crystal Palace, the legendary Buck Owens presented Wheel leader/guitarist Ray Benson with one of his custom-made "Buck Owens" metal-flake red, white and blue collector's edition Fender Telecaster guitars. Owens also thanked Benson for his efforts all these years in keeping Western Swing and the music of Bob Wills alive. Owens was returning the favor of two years ago, when Benson gave Buck one of his own signature "Texas" guitars, which is on display at the club. "Buck Owens has been an inspiration to me since my earliest days," said Benson in accepting the guitar. "His singing, writing and musical style have been one of the cornerstones of my band, Asleep at the Wheel, from the beginning to the present day. For Buck to give me one of his famous red, white and blue Telecasters is like winning a gold medal in the Olympics -- the Pickin' Olympics! Thanks, Buck, I am truly touched and grateful."


Alternate-rock duo the Cash Brothers will put out their new album, "A Brand New Night," Aug. 12 on Zoë/Rounder Records. Produced and written entirely by Andrew and Peter Cash, "A Brand New Night" features the brothers' intertwined harmonies mixed with acoustic and electric guitar hooks, creating melodic roots-rock on songs ranging from the pulsating "Shadow of Doubt," "You're It," and "Sweet" to the contemplative "Dealing with the Distance" and title track "Into a Brand New Night." David Leonard, known for his work with artists such as the Indigo Girls, Dwight Yoakam and Shawn Colvin, mixed the album. "A Brand New Night" follows up the successful 2001 release of their U.S. debut, "How Was Tomorrow."


Legendary guitarist Steve Hackett will release his latest solo album "To Watch the Storms" June 3 on InsideOut Music America. It's his first new material in four years. "To Watch the Storms" is a notable addition to Hackett's canon because he used his current touring band in the studio. "It's been awhile since I had a band on a record," said the former Genesis axeman. "There has been a very nice atmosphere, a camaraderie that exists. In fact, we all met up for a drink recently, just to socialize." A broad range of musical styles is covered on "To Watch the Storms," from progressive rock and hard rock to jazz, classical, folk and music hall styles. Deliberately humorous elements and dry British wit are found as well, specifically on the droll "The Devil Is An Englishman," which was written by Thomas Dolby ("She Blinded Me With Science"). "This was a two-year project in all, but most of the recording was done in one year," Hackett said. "I have a home studio but I wanted to get away from the domestic din so I recorded this album in my new studio, which is not too far from my house. Things tend to be sketched out when I make a new album. I make pretty elaborate demos. For me, songwriting is like baking a cake and playing guitar is the icing on the cake."


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."


Following on the heels of two Grammy-nominated albums, the critically acclaimed North Mississippi Allstars will release a third album, "Polaris," Sept. 9. "Polaris" will be the first record released as a part of the North Mississippi Allstars' new deal with Tone-Cool/ATO Records. "The first records were building blocks," guitarist Luther Dickinson said. "We've been thinking and talking about Polaris since 1999. We were on a three-record plan and we always knew that No. 3 would be our most ambitious album." The North Mississippi Allstars built a reputation as the most intriguing act to emerge from the loam of Southern blues and roots rock, before even starting on its first album. Work, at that point, was largely a matter of imagination, but even as the group's first album, "Shake Hands With Shorty," was inspiring writers like Nick Tosches to hail the band as "a formidable and mesmerizing force," Luther Dickinson (guitar and vocals), bassist Chris Chew, and drummer/pianist/singer Cody Dickinson realized "Polaris" was their ultimate ambition -- the album that would reveal a kind of creativity that Shorty and the follow-up, "51 Phantom," only touched upon. During the recording of "Polaris" the band drew more deeply from its roots -- roots that stem from growing up in the hills of Mississippi and from watching dad, legendary producer Jim Dickinson, produce albums for some of rock's most groundbreaking acts like The Replacements, Big Star and Spiritualized.


Crown Prince of Reggae Dennis Brown was once more popular than his hero Bob Marley in their Jamaica homeland. Brown's three biggest albums finally will make their U.S. CD debuts, 20 years after being originally issued on "Dennis Brown: The Complete A&M Years" (A&M/UME), scheduled for release June 24. All 30 tracks, each digitally remastered, are heard once again from his early '80s albums "Foul Play," "Love Has Found Its Way" and "The Prophet Rides Again." The Complete A&M Years also features liner notes by reggae historian and author David Katz. Brown scored numerous hits through the '70s, gaining fame in Jamaica and England. His move to A&M was a major step seeking more widespread success and his albums there reflect a more commercial approach. Brown passed away at age 42 in 1999.

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