Archives for category: The Rolling Stones

A year in Exile

If there was any kind of recurrent theme this year, The Rolling Stones kept popping up on the radar. It started when I bought the Deadstring Brothers album Sao Paulo an obvious well done Stones influenced work of art. It would be in my Top Ten if it had come out in 2010 but it actually was released in 2009. It is a great album and when I saw them live at The Basement it came across really well.

It didn’t stop there; Exile on Main Street had been remastered with bonus tracks where The Stones actually brought in Mick Taylor to play his parts on some unfinished tracks. The Rolling Stones released a new single “Plundered My Soul” from the found tracks and released several versions of the album.

Grimey’s did a midnight screening of the Documentary Stones in Exile that took photographs, film, new interviews with the band as well as Bobby Keyes and others about recording Exile on Main Street in the south of France way back when at The Belcourt Theatre. “Exile” is now considered a pivotal record but at the time “Tumbling Dice” was considered a difficult single on a rather un-commercial record.

During the Americana Conference the Long Players augmented with Stones Sax Player Bobby Keyes, Dan Baird and several singers like Mike Farris, Grace Potter and others did the entire album live at The Cannery Ballroom. 

The Theatre release Ladies and Gentlemen The Rolling Stones which was filmed during the Exile promotional tour in the States was remastered and released on DVD in the fall. The set featured many of the songs from Exile that are not played much by latter day Stones such as “Sweet Virginia”. The sound and film looked phenomenal and it was good to see Mick Taylor at his best, an integral part of The Stones during that period and in truth is really missed nowadays.

Finally, to finish off the year of The Stones, Keith Richard’s Autobiography Life was released in November along with a compilation of his X-Pensive Winos recordings from the late Eighties.  The Rolling Stones managed to keep in the music news almost as much as Taylor Swift.

Original cover for Straight Up

It also seemed to be the year for catalog re-releases as Apple Records remastered most of the Apple back catalog of non-Beatles recordings by Badfinger, Mary Hopkins, James Taylor and released all of them at the same time.

FnA Records continued to not only re-release 80’s metal catalog but also unearthed several recordings that were set to release but never were by labels such as A&M and Geffen when the Seattle scene took over.  There were several recordings by different artists from The Thirteenth Floor Elevators 45’s to Carnival Season vinyl that saw their material released on CD for the first time.

Janie Hendrix continues exquisite releases of all things Jimi Hendrix with the release of West Coast Seattle Boy that not only has yet another Bob Dylan song done by Hendrix but goes back to the background of what he was doing before going to England with expanded packages that include a disc full of Isley Brothers and other nuggets, pre-Experience as well as a DVD Voodoo Child that even talks about his Nashville days.

Country continues to sell big, but real, traditional or Texas Country has been swallowed up by the Americana scene. At least it has found a home. As far as innovation in current pop country the last leap forward was Miranda Lambert’s Revolution and that was released last year.

Here are few honorable no less worthy than the list:

Ratt – Infestation

Merle Haggard – I Am What I Am

Kort – Invariable Heartache

Charlie Louvin – The Battles Rage On

Marty Stuart – Ghost Train

Jim Lauderdale – Patchwork River

Crazy Heart – (Soundtrack) Various Artists

Okay, now for my Top Ten. In making my choices, I not only looked at material, but innovation and game changers, records that made things interesting.

10- Carnival Season / Misguided Promises / ARRCO

This represents not only a re-issue on CD for the first time of regional Birmingham band Carnival Season that features local legend Tim Boykin, but, painstakingly includes every recording the band made during their short time together as well as extensive liner notes that tell the whole story of the late 80’s rockers. It sits well on the shelf with bands like Redd Kross as well as The Replacements. The band has been doing occasional reunion gigs playing not only this set but some new stuff as well over the last couple of years. This was one of the first alternative rock bands out of Birmingham, Alabama.

Featured tracks: “Misguided Promises”, “Please Don’t Send me to Heaven”

9- Robert Plant / Band of Joy / Rounder –Esparanza

Robert was in the middle of recording the follow up to Raising Sand with Allison Krauss when he pulled the plug when he felt the magic wasn’t there. He retreated to Nashville and entrusted Buddy Miller to put together a band that features Darrell Scott, Byron House, Marco Giovino and Patty Griffin and secluded into Woodland Studio to see what they would come up with. The result is obscure covers as well as a Plant-Page piece from Walking into Clarksdale that shows some Zeppelin flavor with uncharted Americana territory which sonically could have only happened with Nashville session players in such a short time. The band gelled in the studio and continues to roll across Europe and Stateside. This is probably Buddy Miller’s best Production effort yet.

Featured tracks:  “Angel Dance”, “You Can’t Buy My Love”, “House of Cards”

8 – Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses / Junky Star / Lost Highway

Ryan tends to write like a modern day Dylan but his voice is more like John Kay from Steppenwolf. Ryan who comes from the red dirt scene of West Texas and now lives in so-L.A. got national notice with the Grammy winning “The Weary Kind” from the Crazy Heart soundtrack defiantly writes about a drifter leaving behind a dead end life to go to California only to end up sleeping on the Santa Monica pier.

Featured tracks: “The Wandering”, “Junky Star”

7- Sweet Apple / Love & Desperation / Tee Pee

Put together by members of Dinosaur Jr. and Witch, this little known defiantly Hard Rock and other worldly idea collection of songs with its Roxy Music rip off style album cover is actually closer to something between an early Alice Cooper (when they were a band) and Ziggy Stardust era Bowie. The album kicks off like a Raspberries send off with Guidedbyvoices production and then the desperation begins with some morbid love lost desperation with a chugging Alice Cooper band style with lyrics like ”Looking out the window, watching people fall, how I wish I could fall to death”. It’s a rock and roll gem this year.

Featured tracks: “Do You Remember”, “I’ve Got a Feeling (That Won’t Change)”

6 – Preservation Hall Jazz Band / Preservation / Preservation Hall Recordings

What a fantastic album. A collection of well-known New Orleans Ragtime with this important Horn based band where the tuba still carries much of the bass part, mashes PHJB with an all-star cast of vocalists such as Andrew Bird, Pete Seeger, Ani DiFranco, Ritchie Havens, Steve Earle as well as the sultry vocals of Memphis’ Amy LaVere.  The band ended up on tour with Maroon 5 this year.

Featured tracks: “Blue Skies”, “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home”

5- John Mellencamp / No Better Than This / Rounder

Recorded for the most part at Sun Studios with one RCA 44 ribbon mic into vintage Ampex Analog gear, John not only sounds like the old Sun recordings, this sounds like old tape that had to be baked in a microwave to finally put it on digital media. It was not only a great idea with equal parts Cash country, Rockabilly and blues but probably his best album since Scarecrow. The T Bone Burnett produced masterpiece even got airtime on WSM.

Featured tracks: “No Better Than This”, “Coming Down the Road”

4- Justin Townes Earle / Harlem River Blues / Bloodshot

If you missed it, Justin just rolled a third strike in three years. Every album has been decidedly Justin with marked differences and excellent songwriting. This would be his “Ode to New York City” where he now calls his second home.  Jason Isbell (Drive by Truckers, The 400 Unit) puts in guitar duties and gives this more of an edgy guitar feel as well as some straight up Rockabilly. It really would be cool to see a pure Rockabilly album in the future.

Featured tracks: “Move Over Mama”, “Workin’ for the MTA”, “Christchurch Woman”

3- Black Mountain / Wilderness Heart / Jagjaguwar

This album sometimes feels like Led Zep III and Deep Purple Fireball at the same time. The duality vocals of Stephen and Amber still remind me of a haunting Jefferson Airplane with the production sounding very early 70’s analog, sometimes acoustic but when they rock it’s got Jon Lord style Hammond B3 all over the place. Although the first album by this Vancouver band may have been a defining moment this is the one that makes me wants to crank the stereo full blast on road trips.

Featured tracks:  “The Hair Song”, “Old Fangs”, “Let Spirits Ride”

2- Mike Farris and The Cumberland Saints / The Night The Cumberland Came Alive / Entertainment One

Recorded in just six hours just two weeks after the Nashville Flood in a downtown Nashville church just blocks from the flooding, Mike shows that his bluesy/gospel voice can sound fantastic over anywhere he wants to go. Mike has been everywhere from Indie Rock, Blues, Gospel, working with Double Trouble to now this pre-war Gospel Blues style gem working with The McCrary Sisters, Sam Bush, Byron House and members of The Old Crow Medicine Show, his originals mesh well with the rare covers. He showcased the album at Cannery Ballroom during the Americana Music Festival and it was electrifying.

Featured tracks: “Wrapped Up, Tangled Up”, “Down on Me”

1-She & Him /Volume Two / Merge

Zooey Deschannel & M. Ward are some kind of modern Indie Captain and Tennille and somehow it works. Zooey has a sunny California breeze running through her muse that translates into a digital era take on The Beach Boys versus Phil Spector. Even though the material is fresh it makes me daydream of being back on the beach in Santa Cruz when I was six with my Mom and little sister.

Featured tracks: “In The Sun”, “Don’t Look Back”,”Lingering Still”

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

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courtesy Brian Cade Photgraphy

November 19th, mark it on your calendar, will be a big night for Rock City Angels performing live with a forward march and a look back to the storyteller past, where they will be celebrating the release of Midnight Confessions on FnA Records, a collection of songs recorded from Memphis to England with Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy fame on what would have been their second Geffen Records release.

Bobby Durango  talked about Midnight Confessions;  a collection of songs spanning three years after the release of their first Geffen album Young Man’s Blues. “We had the same A&R as Guns n Roses at Geffen and that is where they put their money and promotion”.  

The label didn’t give them an idea of when they would drop the second record, “The A&R guy just kept saying “This stuff is great but I don’t hear THAT SONG” it was almost like Geffen was saying we are not going to put money into this”.

Rock City Angels went through several lineup changes that even included Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy featured on “Heart and Soul” between 1989 and 1992 before they were sold a bad idea. “Bands are much more savvy now. I just wanted to be a musician, not a businessman. Our lawyer was in collusion with the label. He was the one who sold us on the idea of declaring Bankruptcy.”

Rock City Angels were told at the time by their own Lawyer that when it was done Geffen  Records would sign them again, when in actuality it was a way to wash their hands of the band without having to buy them out of their contract. The tracks that make up Midnight Confessions are works in progress that would have eventually made up their second Geffen release.

Bobby isn’t bitter, “If you listen to the record (Young Man’s Blues) it still holds up, a lot of bands can’t say the same thing.” Bobby hates being lumped in with the hair band scene, “We were more like The Stones. It’s time to clear the record. For the most part our fans know the difference”.

Rock City Angels has been busy this last year after the release of their newest material “Use Once and Destroy” a straight ahead rocker, “We were never about going after that elusive hit. We were after an overall theme like Aerosmith Rocks:  A great album. Use Once and Destroy is what would be an official follow up to their first album.

They will feature at least two gems from Midnight Confessions, ““Sweet Ambition” sounds killer and we have never done it live. We have an updated arrangement of “Shattered Shake””. Neither song has ever been performed live and will make their debut on November 19th at The Muse in Nashville.

They will perform songs from all of their releases, making sure to mix crowd favorites with newer material and diamonds from the past.  It will be a night that kicks off renewed interest in the band especially in Europe. “We just had a five page article come out in Popular One in Spain. We hope to get over to Europe; we have a lot of fans over there.”

There is still a lot of unreleased music as well as new stuff to the forefront. “Geffen spent a lot of money on the first album. We actually recorded it once with Producer Jim Dickinson (The Replacements, Big Star, Mudhoney, Mojo Nixon) and Geffen decided we had to re-record it and the second recording became Young Man’s Blues. I still have that first recording”. Okay, it’s time for Geffen to consider a re-release with both mixes.

The current lineup of Bobby Durango, Pagan Raygun, Jorge Hernandez, Mark Binko and Adam Keller is primed and ready for a killer show. “We have a great future ahead of us, so… fuck ‘em”. Enough said.

Rock City Angels - Midnight Confessions

–          Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Blue Giant , out on support of their new release on Vanguard Records, opened it up, wide open at about 10Pm Saturday night at The Basement in Nashville. Kevin and Anita Robinson who also are Viva Voce  and The full 5 piece band which is an all star band as far as the Portland Scene goes cranked it up quickly. 

Anita is a fantastic guitarist who makes full use of her sonic range on a Fender Jazzmaster and Red, White and Blue screened Fender Amp. Her ability at both feedback and lead lines is sublime. They are now on tour in support of Bobby Bare Jr., a little departure from the Viva Voce days playing on dates with The Shins. Viva Voce, Anita and Kevin, have made their home in Portland, Oregon in the alternative market of The Dandy Warhols and The Decemberists.

In an interesting turn of events, Kevin and Anita started the new project back a couple of years ago and self released in true indie fashion a vinyl EP as well as CD last year at the same time Viva Voce’ “Rose City” was released and Blue Giant was picked up by an eclectic label, Vanguard Records that may be considered more Folk and Americana than the Indie Rock past of Kevin and Anita.

They jumped into a set with long time drummer,Evan Railton as well  as current members W.C. Beck and Jesse Bates. The interplay was cool between Anita on Guitar and the utility guy with The El Camino College Shirt. She was able to go from lead line to sonic landscape ala Sonic Youth with Pedal Steel, Mountain Dulcimer or Mandolin to round out Country, Southern and the for the most part Cosmic Cowboy music accessible by some of the older folks there to see Bobby Bare Jr. as well as the East Nashville experimenters.

Kevin had a few call outs since he was back in Nashville that were both reflective “It was dark days when I lived here before” to the current mood “it’s great to see family, old friends and new friends out here tonight”.

New Vanguard Records Release

Anita gave a shout out to family who probably travelled up from Alabama. It seemed that the farther they got into the set the more the music became comfortable and strong. It was like I would have liked to hear the first three songs again at the end to see if they could have been even more there.

Before they announced the last three songs they took a lineup that featured Kevin on Banjo, El Camino College guy (from Arkansas) on Mandolin, Bass, Drums and featured Anita on her long time Viva Voce companion, a 3/4 scale Rickenbacker black and white that absolutely sounded killer as she played slide the rest of the evening.

Kevin and Anita, Viva Voce days

I got a chance to talk with Kevin afterwards and he said this was the best time he had in Nashville in a long time. I talked to him about how things had changed in Nashville, things are a little bit more wide open.

 He is  from Muscle Shoals, Alabama  an important chapter for not only Lynyrd Skynyrd, but also Bob SeegerThe Rolling StonesBob Dylan and even Cher. He did know one of the Muscle Shoals Rythmn Section, David Hood. They had to be back on as they were hired to be Bobby Bare Jr.’s backing band on this tour. 

In talking to Anita I found out she was from Decatur, Alabama. That is a double plus for me since I consider Birmingham, Alabama my other hometown outside of growing up in California. I talked to her about Vanguard, how they had also signed Mindy Smith, one of the greatest current Singer/Songwriters from Nashville. 

She said the label picnics were unbelievable when you think of the other Artists currently on Vanguard, especially Merle Haggard, Levon Helm and even Indigenous.  They are definitely in good company and their album dropped at a good time. In a way, Blue Giant is full circle, it allows them to not only throw in some of the sonic qualities of Viva Voce but also take from the past, the things they grew up on. In a way it is another band that makes the statement that Graham Parsons was right, Southern and Country Music can be opened up and the possibilities are endless.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN      thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

American Bang at The Nick, Birmingham

It’s no wonder that the major labels are in a quandery and end up making bad calls like an investor who rode his stocks all the way to the beginning of 2009 instead of selling in mid 2007. First off, if a label like Maverick or Reprise feels the need to change a bands name they should have pushed the release date way to the front of the line.

American Bang, who cut their teeth in the Nashville scene as Bang Bang Bang back in 2006-2007, were a part of a thread of bands from American Minor (who got “Jive”d) to my band Furthermore doing our Humble Pie-est in Birmingham.  A major could have exploited a scene quickly the way they used to during the L.A. and Seattle things while it was fresh and make it roll out across the airwaves.

American Minor/photo-Josh Victor Rothstein

But no, let’s wait till all things change as they do in a three year period and quietly release product while College Radio is playing Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend.  American Bang is a great band with a great album.  A great write up in the local Metromix was a prelude to their CD Release party at Mercy Lounge last Thursday.  Rolling Stone or whatever  is nowhere to be seen.

A quick glance around town at the generics,  Borders and FYE find no copies of a great local band finally getting their day. No doubt, Grimeys will do their best. If you can’t find the CD locally what does that mean nationally? It appears that now that the product is available it’s back to the road.

Major labels need to move a little faster and get back to making rock and roll records. If I had to take a guess, American Bang will get a big welcome in England. England seems to get what we aren’t spoon fed here. The Ramones went there in 1976 and started a revolution. The Stray Cats left New York and did what Robert Gordon couldn’t do by staying here.  The Drive-By Truckers are The Rolling Stones in England. England has been building a caudre of I guess one could call Hard Rock Roots bands for several years that get featured along the original genre heroes such as Thin Lizzy and Uriah Heep in Classic Rock magazines. England has the scene.

The best examples of getting it out while its hot right now are labels like Bloodshot Records that have released a great album the last three years by Justin Townes Earle, along with some real gems in their catalog.

Real Rock and Roll is not Rocket Science. A Neve Console, An Ampex 2 inch 16 Track Reel to Reel and a pile of Neumann and Shure Microphones. Write songs on the road and get it recorded well and quickly with few over dubs, then put it out every 8-12 months. I guess I didn’t mention Pro Tools and for good reason. That is how you build a Rock Bands history. The releases keep the momentum building while a band is on the road.

Van Halen, Texas Jam, 1979

Van Halen, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and just about every band did that when Rock was fresh. Gee, a 3 year development deal with an album every 2-3 years doesn’t seem to work. No kidding. Is anybody listening at Warner Brothers or Sony? I didn’t think so. Go buy American Bang.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN      thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com