Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesday Night Music Blog: It's Teitur Time

Teitur is the name of a man, not a band. So don’t go getting him mixed up with T’pau. Teitur (pronounced “tie-tor”) is from the Faroe Islands. Any idea? I had to look it up. It’s somewhere triangulated between Iceland, Scotland and Norway. Talk about the middle of nowhere. But his music has something. It holds an overcast quality that doesn’t succumb to being bleak or dour. He bears some similarities to Swedish (and labelmate) singer/songwriter Tobias Froberg or Jose Gonzales (another Swede) with his low-key, frequently spare sound – Scandinavian folk-pop, as it were.
Teitur’s new disc, The Singer, didn’t bowl me over. It’s a little bit too quiet and miniature in song, although several songs do blossom with some color: “Stop Wasting My Time” (which name drops Dido and Madonna) and “Legendary Afterparty”, while the title track offers an interesting perspective of a singer’s life.
The reason that this album is worth mentioning is the song “Catherine The Waitress” which stands out like the first flower of spring. It glides along on a wave of “ooh-oohs” and a percolating percussion line (marimba?) that conjures up images of the Cure during their poppy singles prime. An ode to a waitress who the singer admits: “you haven’t noticed me/but you are so good to me.” Teitur also tosses off a couple other winning couplets: “I’m not a resident. I’m not a regular/But if I lived here this would be my favorite bar,” and “Cross my heart and hope to die/I’m not drunk and I’m not high” that turns this tune totally charmer. Something like “When The Night Turns Cold” heated up Froberg’s 2006 Somewhere in the City CD (check that song out too!)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tuesday Night Music Blog: Favorite Song of the Year, Part One

I thought I’d try something that I want to call the Tuesday night Music Blog. Not that I am such a fan of a certain S. Crow album but because I thought I’d try to do a regular Tuesday night blog. My apologies now if someone already has lassoed this name.
Anyway, on to the point of this. The song that currently stands as my favorite single song so far this year is Ari Hest’s “I’ll Be There (to Make You Miserable)”.
Yes, I am surprised too to state this. I know I had gotten Hest’s earlier album and I’m sure that I played it. But I recall very little of it, beyond that it just wasn’t that memorable to me. Probably solid but unexceptional singer/songwriter stuff. I didn’t bother to go back and dig it out to test my theory.
So when I got this new release, Songs from 52 (his goal is to record a song a week for the year) I didn’t get particularly excited. The first tune was okay but then the second one really knocked me out. “I’ll Be There” couples a wonderfully chimey melody with a darkly sardonic heart. It’s sounds like a cross between Richard Thompson and the Fountains of Wayne. As the title suggests, Heist is taking a jab at an ex-love but he sets it up as if he’s there to help (the “I’ll be there” part) before pulling out the rug (the “to make you miserable”). It makes for a terrific tune, the sweetest sounding of bitter songs.
Several other tunes on this 7-track EP also make a good impression. “Yes Man” is a rocker with a good sense of humor and “In A Rush” hits a nice bossa nova groove. The slower songs still don’t make a strong impact on me but they do benefit for the good wish the other songs engender.
So if you’re a fan or Hest’s or not, check out Songs from 52 at arihest.com and see if you can hunt down “I’ll Be There’ there.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Carlene Carter's comeback trail

The other night, I was able to catch Carlene Carter in concert. For those familiar with her music, you probably also could connect that Musical Shapes refers to one of her earlier albums. I am pleased to report that she was in fine form. Fiesty, rockin’, twangy but most of all honest, as a performer and a person. I never saw her back in the day but have now seen her twice while on the comeback trail and haven’t been disappointed either time. And it has been quite the comeback trail. She has survived more than her share of death around her (her mom June Carter, her stepdad Johnny Cash, her boyfriend Howie Epstein) as well as her own nearly fatal addictions. It would be a nice story that she’s simply alive, let alone in such fine form. And I couldn’t help but notice that there was a reserved table in front of the stage (for those keeping track, this was at the Mint in L.A.) with the name Lowe on the reservation card. It was for her daughter Tiffany, who Carlene had with Nick Lowe. Coincidentally, both now are on Yep Roc Records and both recently have come through town (Lowe put on a terrific, albeit lower key show with Robyn Hitchcock at L.A.’s El Rey Theater). Btw, Carter’s fine new album is entitled Stronger, a very aptly named album.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hail, Hail the Ash Grove

Over this past weekend, UCLA hosted a big, old 50th anniversary tribute to the legendary local music club the Ash Grove. The Ash Grove was, in its 60s heyday, an epicenter for music and social consciousness in LA. Head Grover Ed Pearl booked a wide variety of what is now called roots music: folk, country, blues, etc, etc. His club, which was located in a less-than-trendy spot on Melrose Ave, was seen a special place by many, although others didn’t share this feeling (the club was firebombed several times). While its doors have long been closed (expect for a brief revival in a different location in the mid-90s), it is still fondly remembered.
While I didn’t go the big evening shows, I was able to make it over to the campus on Sunday morning and drop in on a couple of the closing free shows. Sunday morning started with a gospel concert that opened with Eddie Kendricks (the LA gospel pianoman not the late Temptations singer) leading some singers from his church in song. The fabled civil rights group The Freedom Singers then performed several stirring songs including We Shall Not Be Moved. Pharaoh Sanders vocalist Dwight Trible showed off his tremendous voice along with his uniquely expressive performance style. Then Michelle Shocked came out and did some songs, including a soulful rendition of the Band’s The Weight, along with telling some tales in her own humorous way.
I then slipped across the hall to another finale show in another auditorium. This early afternoon’s bill was topped by Taj Majal and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. I was hoping to catch one of them in the 90 minutes that I could stay. I was thrilled when Taj Mahal, resplendent in a white suit, came out first and performed some blues in his own unique style – starting with Baby, Please Don’t Go. After a nice little set by bassist Laura Love, out came Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. He certainly lived up to his name; he was quite rambling indeed. But in charming albeit irascible way. His brief set featured Louie Jordan’s Salt Pork, West Virginia and Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice it’s All Right.
It was interesting although not that surprising that the audience at these shows seemed like survivors from the Ash Grove’s era. It might have been nice to see a few more younger faces getting exposed to this historic event (maybe there were more youngsters at the nighttime shows). But maybe it all seemed too "kumbaya" for the kids.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lauderdale, Louvin, Lucinda and Kathleen Edwards too

So I got to partake in a little post-Grammy partying last night at the Americana Music Association party at the Mint. The highlight - something well worth staying up late for - was when newly minted Grammy winner Jim Lauderdale (who won in the bluegrass category) brought onto the stage his old pal Lucinda Williams and bluegrass living legend Charlie Louvin. Louvin and Lucinda first did a rendition of "When I Stop Dreaming" and then Louvin and Lauderdale teamed up for See The Big Man Cry and I Still Miss Somebody. The 80 year old Louvin was in fine voice, all things considered.
speaking of in fine voice, I started to listen to the new Kathleen Edwards disc today. I found two standouts in the first five tracks alone: the rocking The Cheapest Key and just as tart I Make the Dough, You Get The Glory (which she rhymes with onetime NHL player Marty McSorley - and makes it work). The album isn't out yet but look for it when it does.
that's all for now.