Monday, December 20, 2010

Tis The Season - For Christmas Albums

Christmas CDs have turned into something of a cottage industry, although the results are often cottage cheese. This year, however, several Americana-friendly artists are serving up some rather tasty musical treats for the holidays.

Shelby Lynne – Merry Christmas (Everso Records). On this 11-song set, Lynne gives a torchy touch to some holiday standards (“Silent Night” and “Sleigh Ride/Winter Wonderland”) with her rendition of “Silver Bells” really shining. The disc’s middle section is particularly strong as Lynne delivers a moving “O Holy Night” to a festive “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and follows it with a powerful original “Xmas.”

Indigo Girls – Holly Happy Days (IG Recordings). Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have put together a dozen holiday tunes – some old, some new, some borrowed and some originals (sorry, that it doesn’t rhyme). They display an entertaining range of music, from traditional choral tunes (“Angels We have Heard On High”) to more down-home efforts (the bluegrassy “I Feel The Christmas Spirit”). The gentle Amy Ray original “Mistletoe” is a lovely tune no matter the season, but the Girls really shine on the uptempo tunes (“I Feel The Christmas Spirit,” “It Really Is (A Wonderful Life),” and “The Wonder Song). They even give a shout-out to hillbilly Hebrews with a spirited rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Happy Joyous Hanukkah.”

Scott Miller - Christmas Gift (Fay Recordings). This Xmas CD presents one of the more unusual song credits – Miller, R.B. Morris and T.S. Eliot - which appears on the opening track medley “The Kingdom Has Come/Journey of the Magi.” Miller’s 7 song seasonal offering serves up an entertaining mix of reverence and irreverence. His front porch arrangements of “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “Joyful, Joyful” fill the former while his original “Yes, Virginia” and the Roger Miller (no relation) “Old Toy Train” supply the latter. And anytime John Prine’s wonderful wry “Christmas In Prison” gets recorded, it is time to celebrate.

Dan Hicks – Crazy For Christmas (Surfdog Records). It’s should come a no surprise that Hicks’ Christmas offering is a fun, spirited affair. Using his signature hot jazz/western swing/vaudevillian rock hybrid, Hicks and his Hot Licks mix oldies but goodies (“Run Run Rudolph,” and “Here Comes Santa Claus”) with good-humored originals (“Christmas Mornin’” and “I’ve Got Christmas By The Tail”). It all makes for a merry Xmas party album.

So when you are looking for a new Christmas disc, you don’t have to settle for Susan Boyle or Katherine MacPhee, but seek out one of these alternative Christmas albums.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Go See Hear In L.A.: Dec. 20-Jan. 2

In the holiday spirit of giving, I will be giving you two weeks of picks instead of one. While maybe it has to do with giving myself a break during this winter break time period.
Either way, onto the shows.
On Dec. 20, Middle Brother, a band formed by members of the Dawes, Delta Spirit and Deer Tick, will be playing a benefit show at the Troubadour. Don’t know much about the band, but they have a good pedigree.
Also, on the 20th the Blind Boys of Alabama will be filling Disney Hall with their sweet sounds.
That rockabilly filly Rosie Flores will be playing a trio of shows before the year’s end. Her shows on the 22 at the Cat Club and the 23rd at the Redwood Bar will be Christmas-themed while her 29th show at the Cat Club will regular rocking affair.
On the 27th, the Long Tangles out of New Orleans come to the Silverlake Lounge for a show. They are one of those boy-girl duos and they have a lovely poppy sound with some appealing dark shading. Watch out for them.
When it comes to New Year’s Eve, the top bet is the Lucinda Williams show at the Viper Room, if you can snag tickets. There’ll also be a swinging time at the Mint with the Royal Crown Revue and Donovan Frankenreiter headlines at the Grove of Anaheim

Have a great holiday. Thanks for reading. And see you in ’11.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Go See Hear In L.A.: Dec. 13-19

This week the holiday season swings into full steam. Local country angel Lynda Kay hosts a holiday show at the Variety on Monday night. Los Lobos will be appearing at the Grammy Museum on Tuesday before their big local show on Sunday the 19th at the House of Blues. X has its Xmas gigs at the House of Blues on the 15th and the Ventura Theatre on the 16th. Ozomatli celebrates its Quinceañera at Club Nokia on Saturday night.
There are other notable shows at well. The White Buffalo will be appearing at Costa Mesa’s Detroit Bar on Dec. 14 and the next night at the Mint. The Rescues continues its Hotel Café residency with shows on Dec. 14 and 15, with Garrison Starr also playing on the 14th. Mike Viola and Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger will be sharing some sweet pop tunes at the Hotel Café on 12/15, while things will be more “low” key at Spaceland when Low plays there.
Badly Drawn Boy has a pair of shows at the Troubadour 12/15-16 with up & comer Justin Jones opening.
NYC-based soul-funksters Soulive will be at the Roxy on the 16th in support of its new disc Rubber Soulive. For funkiness from the rock side, there's Head Like A Kite at Spaceland/Satellite on 12/16. Check out their super catchy "We're Always On The Wrong Side Of Sunrise" to hear one of the band's shiny moments.
John Grant, whose Queen of Denmark disc is well worth checking out, performs at the Gene Autry Museum on 12/16, along with the Chapin Sisters
The eclectic and acclaimed banjo wizard Bela Fleck brings his Flecktones to the Orpheum on Dec. 18

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Go See Hear In L.A.: Dec. 6-12

It’s been a busy week, which is why I am only getting to this now.

Hopefully it’s not too late to get either the rugged Texas country rock band Reckless Kelly at the Mint or folk chanteuse Edie Carey and Americana-rooted Sarah Sample at Genghis Cohen on Tuesday. Both women have new albums to celebrate, Bring The Sea and Someday, Someday (respectively). I was familiar with Carey from her earlier work but Sample was a pleasant surprise

The one and only Jonathan Richman starts his two night stand at the Troubadour on 12/7; Gail Davies is his opener.

Wednesday finds up and coming local rocker Delta Spirit at the Music Box while the Silverlake Lounge hosts Western States Motel (shouldn’t they be at the Hotel Café?). Jokes aside, they have a jaunty, engaging indie rock sound that is worth exploring.

The Bad Plus sets a spell at the Mint 12/9-11, with them doing an acoustic show on the 11th.

The Bird and the Bee lands at the Mondrian on the 10th. That same night, You Tube starlet Kina Grannis plays the El Rey.

The show of the week probably is at McCabe’s on the 10th, where NEeMA shares the bill with Anais Mitchell (presenting her Hadestown show). I am not familiar with Mitchell, but my No Depression colleague Kim Ruehl raves about her which is an good endorsement for me. NEeMa is a cool singer-songwriter whose CD Watching You Think comes out in Feb (and hopefully I can write it about more but it holds several really memorable tunes). A guy named Leonard Cohen co-produced her disc, by the way.

The Black Crowes farewell tour comes to the Palladium on Saturday. Say what you will about them, but the band has done some good things with and for roots rock. Opening for them is a fine L.A. country rock group, The Truth & Salvage Company.

Saturday night also is the night at Dan Hicks has a Christmas Show at McCabe’s (he has a new Christmas CD just out). I remember as kid liking Hicks’ “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away.” He too has a place in Americana history.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Go See Hear In L.A.: Nov. 30-Dec. 5

It’s looks to be a rather subdued post-Thanksgiving week. More time to get over your holiday indulgences and make up for the short work week.
But there are several notable shows.
Ranking at the top show of the week is the Posies/Brendan Benson double bill at Club Nokia on Fri. Dec. 3. The Posies have long been one of the top melodic rock (don’t just pigeon-hole them as power pop) around. In you need convincing, Posies frontmen Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow served as Big Star sidemen before Alex Chilton’s untimely death. Benson now is known as a Jack White sidekick in the Raconteurs but he could my ear when he released One Mississippi back in ’96.
On Wednesday, the cool vocal group Sonos performs at the Hotel Café. They are known for their covers of indie rock tunes (like Bjork or Bon Iver) but they will showcasing the seasonal songs from their new December Songs CD.
The Hotel Café will also be the site for Julian Velard’s show on Sunday Dec. 6. The young NYC-based singer/songwriter will be at the piano there to play songs off of his quite tuneful debut, The Planeteer.
And just peeking into next week, I wanted to say that Jack White-head should be aware that the Greenhornes, who formed the rest of the Raconteurs with White and Benson, will be that the Troubadours. Their new disc Four Stars is a vibrant slice of garage rock.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Go See Hear In L.A.: Nov. 23-29 - The Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s one of the quieter weeks around town.

The big show to recommend is the Dawes/Moondoggies/Romany Rye concert at the El Rey on 11/26. Both Dawes and Moondoggies venture out through country rock into interesting territory. Dawes is working on a follow up to their strong debut North Hills, while Moondoggies have just released the wonderfully appealing Tidelands, which was an airy Neil Young vibe

Another good show along the Americana rock lines is Lucero and Drag The River at the Troubadour on Nov. 27. The gritty 1372 Overton Park was one of my favorite discs of 2009.

and of course there are the Weezer/Best Coast shows (Gibson Amphitheatre 11/27-11/28) with the intrigue of whether the young upstarts can hold their own with Rivers Cuomo.

It's probably too late in the game to mention that Dar Williams is closing her two night stand the Hotel Cafe on Monday night, so I will say that her new album, Many Great Companions contains some really great guests (Gary Louris, Patty Larkin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Sean & Sara Watkins.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Go See Hear In L.A.: Nov. 15-22 - A Miniature Tiger, A Pepper Rabbit and mre.

Yes, I am day late, and probably more than a dollar short
So it’ll be a skinny version this time around.
I have to mention first the Richard Thompson “Cabaret of Souls” show at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Friday. I did a Q&A with him for City’s Best ( that was quite fun.
A couple terrific double bills to trumpet. The Freelance Whales and Miniature Tigers, two worth-the-buzz bands who have come through town regularly, return with a show at the Troubadour on the 18th.
Tift Merritt and Elizabeth & The Catapult make for a marvelous bill at the Troubadour the next night, Nov. 19th. Merritt had a great show there a few years that I had the pleasure to see.
John Doe and the Sadies ride into the Plaza Del Sol at CSUN on the 20th for a show that probably will feature sets separate and combined. Doe has made some fine recordings with the Sadies for Yep Roc.

Among the other notable shows
The Lonely Forest – Spaceland – Nov. 16
Olof Arnalds opening for Blonde Redhead at the Music Box Nov. 16-17
Pomegranates and Oh No Oh My – Bootleg – nov. 16
Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger – Largo – Nov. 17
Pepper Rabbit – Echo – Nov. 18
Kings Go Forth – Mint – Nov. 18
Luisa Maita – Congo Room – Nov. 19
Wild Flag (Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony, Rebecca Cole, and Janet Weiss) – Spaceland – Nov. 19
Tunng – Bootleg – Nov. 19
Bob Mould – Bootleg – Nov. 20
Dar Williams – Hotel Café – Nov. 21-22

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Go See Hear In L.A.: Nov. 8-14 - Sheepdogs, Mojo Monkeys, Or, The Whale

I’ve been really taken with the Canadian band the Sheepdogs, who have a wonderful Southern rock/UK pub rock thing going on. Loose, rockin', tuneful - all the things you can ask of a rootsy bar band. They come to the Cat Club on Tuesday, and they stand out as my "must-see" band of the week.

I did a Q&A with Over The Rhine (, they play the Troubadour on 11/12 in advance of their upcoming Joe Henry-produced disc.

On Monday, you can learn about the legendary Elektra Records from founder Jac Holzman and other guests at the Grammy Museum.

Besides the Sheepdogs on Tuesday, you can head back down to the Grammy Museum for an appearance by Jimmie Vaughan. Not much on the radar for Wednesday, but Thursday offers a trio of talented singer/songwriters around town: Erin McKeown at Largo, Kris Gruen at Molly Malone’s and Darren Hanlon at the Bootleg.

On Friday, the Bootleg hosts Teitur, while the Mother Hips have an acoustic show at McCabe’s and Dengue Fever will be performing the soundtrack for the silent film The Lost World at UCLA’s Royce Hall (which sounds like a particularly intriguing concept). And, of course, Over The Rhine at the Troub.

The Mojo Monkeys
have a record release show downtown at Syrup on Saturday. Andrew Belle shares his songs at the Hotel Café on Saturday while Or, The Whale surface at Spaceland. Best Coast will be enlivening the Troubadour both Saturday and Sunday, and the Echoplex gets Margot And The Nuclear So and So’s on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Megamind = Megafunny

While I generally concentrate on music, I had a chance to see the new Dreamworks/Paramount animated family film Megamind last weekend and wanted to report in on it. The movie was mega-clever, mega-fun and mega-entertaining.
The terrific team of comic actors (Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and, don’t forget, David Cross) wonderfully handles all of funny things to do and say – which isn’t always the case on film or animated comedies. Brad Pitt also seems to be having a fun time with his heroic role.
It’s one of those animated films that offer plenty of laughs for young and old alike. Parents will be having just as much fun as their kids.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Go See Hear In L.A.: Nov. 1-7

Welcome to November. Wow, somehow we're only weeks from Thanksgiving and only days from seeing Christmas decorations.
Anyway, it's another fine week with a wealth of musical choices and here is what I recommend.

This week’s top shows offer two cool pairings. Elton John and Leon Russell play the Palladium on Nov. 3 to support their new duet disc, The Union. It’s nice to see both musicians making relevant music again.

Mavis Staples and Billy Bragg haven’t made an album together but they are touring together (with a show at Royce Hall Nov. 5) and a common friend, Jeff Tweedy. The Wilco frontman produced Staples new album You Are Not Alone and teamed up with Bragg a few back on the Woody Guthrie project Mermaid Avenue.

Several shows this week I highlighted already in a piece I wrote for City’s Best Los Angeles ( The concerts include Paul Weller’s appearance at the Wiltern Nov. 3. His “check-them-out too” opening act, Alessi’s Ark ( at the Mint Nov. 2. UK troubadour Johnny Flynn ( is at the Hotel Café Nov. 5-6 with Americana chanteuse Cheyenne Marie Mize ( Massive Attack headlines the LA101 show at the Gibson Nov. 7.

Nov. 7 also is the big Frontier Records Anniversary show that Part Time Punks is hosting at the Echoplex. A number of old Frontier Records bands will be back to play, with the Pontiac Brothers being a particular favorite of this writer.

On the 5th, the Wiltern hosts a terrific double bill featuring Dr. Dog ( and Here We Go Magic ( – yes, another Brooklyn band but their song “Collecter” is indeed magical.

Other shows to recommend this week include The Apples In Stereo at the Echoplex Monday 11/1, where they’ll be showcasing their new delightful new offering, Travellers in Space And Time.

Fans of female singer/songwriters have a pair of choices on Nov. 3. With Ingrid Michaelson having a show at the Music Box and impressive newcomer Kelli Scarr (, whom I have recommended before, at the Hotel Café. If you time it right, you might be able to see both.

Nov. 4’s choice involves Loch & Key (, an enchanting local outfit that I have also praised here in the past, at the Silverlake Lounge and chamber folk artist Emily Wells ( at Largo with singer-songwriter Henry Wolfe.

Largo hosts Paula Cole on Friday the 5th, while the House of Blues welcomes Great Big Sea and Mississippi’s punkish
Colour Revolt ( comes to the Bootleg.

Blues fan should head to the Brixton in Redondo Beach on Nov. 6 because that’s where blues giant Charlie Musselwhite will be performing.

The eclectic UK dance-pop group Florence and the Machine ( has a string of shows at the Wiltern Nov. 6-8,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Go See Hear In L.A.: Oct. 25-31

Only have the chance to do a super brief roundup this week
A couple really interesting shows to start off with.
Free Energy and Foxy Shazam at the Troubadour on 10/28.
Kate Nash with openers Peggy Sue at the Music Box on 10/29
Stew and the Negro Problem at the Getty on Sat 10/30 and the Echoplex on Nov. 2.
The Icelandic Americana group Seabear plays the Troub with Grandchildren 10/26
Also notable are
JP, Chrissie & The Fairground Boys at the Sunset Blvd House of Blues on 10/25 and the Anaheim HoB 10/27
The Reigning Sound and the Ettes at the Echoplex 10/26 and Spaceland 10/27
Corinne Bailey Rae at the Avalon 10/28
The Secret Sisters at McCabes 10/29
Blame Sally at Boulevard Music 10/29
Joe Pug – Spaceland – 10/31

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Go See Hear In L.A.: Oct. 18-24: from Mt. Desolation to Gold Motel

If you are headed to the sold out Mumford & Sons show (and you have to love it these roots rock UK band has become such an under-the-radar hit), get there earlier enough to see Mt. Desolation (, another British country rock band featuring guys from Keane. Their debut actually comes out on Tuesday.

The Canadian collective Broken Social Scene sets up shop at the Wiltern on Oct. 19 in support of their latest effort, Forgiveness Rock Record. Who will be playing at this show? You’re never totally sure already frontman Kevin Drew should be leading the Scene.

Ra Ra Riot ( will be creating a “quiet storm” (and I don’t mean the soft rock radio format) at the Music Box on the 20th. This upstate NY band crafts elegant chamber-style indie rock that’s a joy to listen to.

It’s Irish night at the Hotel Café Oct. 20 Yep Roc/Bella Union recording artists Bell X1 ( is doing an acoustic tour, which is a great way to hear their sweet/bittersweet hooky pop tunes. Sharing the bill is the introspective Irish singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow ( who is on his first American tour.

UCLALive offers a very special musical summit on Friday Oct. 22. when Taj Mahal and Vieux Farka Touré share the stage for a show that will undoubtedly be a unique exploration of the intertwined elements of American blues and African music.

Friday night finds the Ryan Montbleau Band ( at the Mint. Last month, the Boston-based band released Heavy On The Vine, which is heavy with fine and lively soulful folk-rock. Montbleau also penned “Something Beautiful” that is Trombone Shorty’s current hit single.

Texas honky tonker Wayne "The Train" Hancock rolls through Southern California again with shows at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Oct. 22 (with the Blasters) and Redondo Beach’s Brixton on Oct. 23.

Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor have reconstituted Azure Ray ( Their latest set of gentle, haunting music. Drawing Down The Moon, was released by Saddle Creek last month. They will be at the Troubador Oct. 22 along Tim Fite (, whose more abrasive music is a compelling combination of folk, rock and rap.

For jam band fans Oct. 22 means the return to town of the great live band, Widespread Panic, who will be putting on one of their customary epic shows at the Greek that night.

It’s tempting to say that Brooklyn’s The Defibulators ( play such lively music that they raise the dead. It is true that their music, which'll be on display at Molly Malone’s Sat. the 23rd, is spirited roots music that ties together the past and present.

L.A.’s own Juliette Commagere ( commemorates her solo album The Procession by opening for Air at the Shirne on the 23rd. The disc is filled with airy atmospheric but subtly textured music that makes for an enchanting listen.

NEeMA ( is an exotic, unusual name but she can create straightforward and enchanting melodic pop tunes. A Canadian of Middle Eastern decent, NEeMA has traveled around the globe and there is a worldly, philosophical side. Beautiful songs like “Escape” and “Elsa’s Lullaby” are about all you can ask for from a singer-songwriter. She has a show at the Hotel Café on Saturday.

The White Buffalo ( is man, not band nor beast. On his new EP, Prepare For Black & Blue, he plays his acoustic music with a fierce physicality that recalls a harder-edged Ray Lamontagne or an unplugged Eddie Vedder. He’ll be appearing at Hermosa Beach’s St. Rocke on Oct. 24.

I became instantly enamored with Gold Motel ( upon listening to their tunes. The Chicago pop-rockers, fronted by singer Greta Morgan, serve up a delightful sunny sound on the aptly named Summer House album that recalls Blondie in their prime. Hooky, energizing and hard to resist. They play the Echo Sunday Oct. 24 with Michael Runion and Family of the Year.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: Oct. 11-17 - Danielle Ate The Sandwich to Hoodoo Gurus

Danielle Anderson goes by the stage name Danielle Ate The Sandwich (, so it’s not surprising that her music is quirky and eclectic. However, The intriguing uke-playing singer-songwriter can also be soul-searching and heartfelt – she’s something like those low-budget indie films chronicling twentysomethings’ lives but more charming than pretentious. You can find Danielle at the Hotel Café on Monday the 11th.

David Olney ( is a one of those singer-songwriter better known to his peers than the general public. He’s been recording albums over nearly 30 years and draws together various Americana strands – folk, rock, country, blues and even standards (he covered “I Only Have Eyes For You” on his last album) into something quite special. A sagacious, witty storyteller, Olney is something like John Prine with a bit more of an old school rock ‘n’ roll soul. He’ll be at the Coffee Gallery Backstage on the 11th and the Cinema Bar on the 13th.

The Ottawa-based quintet the Acorn ( is a band well worth digging up. On their CD, No Ghost (Bella Union) they reveal themselves as a really cool mix of woodsy-meets-city indie rock. While they aren’t at the anthemic state of fellow Canadian The Arcade Fire, the band’s music has a strong visceral pull. They are appearing at the Echo on Oct. 13.

Shadow Shadow Shade ( has created a lot of buzz around town (since the days when they were known as the Afternoons) and listening to their debut disc it is clear that they are deserving of all the praise. A swirling of colorful rock ‘n’ roll with patches of psyche., prog and other fuzzy guitar rock, SSS falls somewhere between the Flaming Lips and MGMT. “Say Yes” stands out as a rousing triumph while “Your Perfect Wilderness” is a rich Dark Forest rock exploration. Their 10/14 show at the Echoplex should be quite the record release party.

The Legendary Shack Shakers ( will bring their rip-roaring redneck-a-billy to Spaceland on 10/14 behind their latest offering Agridustrial. The band’s new guitarist Duane Denison comes from Hank III and Jesus Lizard, so expect the Shack Shakers to raise more of a racket.

Baltimore-based, Merge Recording artists Wye Oak (, who are basically the duo Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack) returns to town with their cool soft/loud sound that has a bluesy bottom and a freak folk-rocky topside. They share a bill with ex-Pedro The Lion frontman David Bazan at Spaceland on Oct. 15.

Armed with her comical, twangy bluesy tunes (her latest CD is entitled Donald Trump’s Hair), Kacey Jones ( comes from Nashville to Coffee Gallery Backstage on Friday night for her only Southern California show for the year.

Vincent Minor ( celebrates his recently released self-titled album with a gig at the Bootleg Theatre. His cleverly composed, Tin Pan Ally-ish tunes suggest Rufus Wainwright without the operatic aspirations. Seek out his delightful ditty “Late Night Show” to get a good taste of what he’s all about

Hoodoo Gurus ( hit the Viper Room on Oct. 17. These Aussies have been cranking out some wonderful garage rock-y music for many years. Tunes like “I Want You Back,” “What’s My Scene” and “Bittersweet” are a joy to hear any day. This Aussie outfit is still going strong as their latest Purity Of Essence (released earlier this year) amply proves.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: Oct. 4-Oct. 10 - Tired Pony To Bearfoot

The first full week of October starts off with a Tired Pony and ends with a Bearfoot – sorta.

Tired Pony is the new collaboration between Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and REM”s Peter Buck. Place We Ran From is filled with pretty shimmery, textured pop-rock that makes for a quick pleasant listen – more Snow Patrol than REM if you’re curious where on the sound spectrum they fall.

Tuesday night offers Van the Man at the Greek. A cool autumn evening should match up well with Morrison’s melancholic music and often stormy (always mercurial) performing style.

The Stones will play the El Rey on Tuesday. Not the Rolling Stones, but Angus & Julia Stone ( These awesome Aussie siblings have been making compelling music together for the past few years – this year they released their sophomore album Down The Way - and it’s only a matter of time before they become better known for the hippie-ish folk-rock.

The Grammy Museum has another one of their fabulous events as it hosts a sit-down with Rosanne Cash. She has a new memoir, a rather current album, the List, and a totally fascinating life.

On Tuesday night too, First Aid Kit ( plays the Echo. Another band that I don’t know much about, but are very high on. The Swedish Soderberg sisters create fragile folkie music that’s quite alluring. Also on the bill is the Canadian autoharp-playing singer-songwriter Basia Bulat as well as Ferraby Lionheart (seek out the gorgeous tune, “Harry And Bess.”).

The Lee Boys ( might not be as well known as the Randolph Family Band but they too have been something special with sacred steel music. The Miami-based band bring together a number of styles (R&B, rock, hip-hop and country) in their energizing music. They’ll be at the Mint on Thursday night and Hermosa Beach’s Saint Rocke on Friday.

John Wicks and Paul Collins are two longtime figures in the power pop world. Wicks led the wonderful Records, who had such cool tunes as “Starry Eyes,” “Teenarama” and “Girls That Don’t Exist.” Paul Collins fronts the Beat (not the UK Beat), which was one of the key players in LA’s ‘70s pop scene. He also was in the Nerves with a pre-Plimsoul Peter Case. They share the stage at Genghis Cohen on Oct. 7.

Judy Collins is not just an American folk music legend but an American music legend. In the mid-Sixties, for example, she explored an innovative art-folk sound on albums like In My Life and Who Know Where The Time Goes. On this year’s Paradise, she still reveals her strong interpretative skills covering the likes of Harold Arlen, Tim Buckley and Jimmy Webb. She’s at the Broad Stage on Friday night.

Marley’s Ghost ( has been making acoustic-based music for over 20 years. They are skilled craftsmen who expertly mix together a range of styles into their music. This year they put out Ghost Town, produced by Cowboy Jack Clement, while their prior one Spooky was done with Van Dyke Parks. So if you judge people by the company that they keep, then you’ll have hold this band with respect. They’ll be at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium on Saturday night.

Bearfoot ( is a one of those acoustic outfits that has enlivened the bluegrass scene in recent years (like Nickel Creek, Crooked Still, the Duhks, etc). I am not that familiar with this Compass Records artists, but was impressed with what I have heard. They play up at Ojai’s Matilija Auditorium on Saturday. Check them out if you're in that neighborhood.

Remember the Tom Tom Club? The beat-happy Talking Heads spinoff fronted by the Heads’ married rhythm section, bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Franz. They are on the road again as they’ve reissued their classic Genius of Love album. They will be at the non-club-like Getty on Sat. 10/9 and the more club-y Echoplex on Sunday the 10th. Will they have new music too? I can’t say.

Another couple, Deb Talen and Steve Tannen, does have a new album out. Better known as the Weepies (, they have filled the delightful Be My Thrill, their fourth full-length, with more smart pop tunes about life and love. It’s hard not to smile while listening to “I Was Made For Sunny Days.” They headline the El Rey on Sunday.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How To Survive The LA County Fair

The L.A. County Fair is a real Southern California treat. Packing Pomona’s Fairplex each fall with carnival rides and games, fried food and cold drinks, animals and people. It’s something to make sure that you experience at least once, if not more so. We ventured out there during its opening weekend and here are tips based on our experiences.

Arrive early. Not only does this give more time at the Fair, but it also let you enjoy some time before it gets too hot. Plus you can usually find a pretty decent parking spot in the general parking lot so you don’t have too long of a walk at the end of a day spent walking.

A nice way to start your day is by going on their sky lift, which offers a fantastic aerial view of the Fair and lets you pick out some spots you want to go to. It is also good to do in the morning before temperatures heat up.

Another nice thing to do if it looks like it will be a hot day is to get over to the Hot Dog On A Stick stand and buy a big souvenir glass of lemonade, which you can refill throughout the day at a discounted price.

Among the best rides were the giant ferris wheel (well worth the ticket price) and the faux canoe water ride (which is very refreshing, particularly after a long wait in line). On the other hand, the Ghost Pirate – a blink-and-you-are-done ride – definitely wasn’t worth its tickets.

The “best” carnival game (if “best” equals “easiest to get a prize”) would be the Pop The Balloon game since it’s a pretty simple to win a prize there (although it isn’t much of one). Conversely, there are a lot of shoot-a-basketball game booths but I didn’t see one person win one of the fine jerseys that they have hanging up so you shouldn’t get your hopes up too high at these games. Maybe it’s because the fine print on their signs state that something to the effect that the basketball hoops aren’t regulations size.

Another big attraction at the Fair is the food, and there is plenty of it. We didn’t go whole hog during our day there, but we did order up some BBQ and roasted corn on the cob for lunch, where were pretty good Fair grub. The main disappointment was a soggy piece of spanakopita, while the big highlight was the deep-fried Klondike Bar that we got at Chicken Charlie’s. It was warm and crispy on the outside and soft and cool on the inside.

While you can try to cover the entire Fair in one day, it’s nice just to be more relaxed about it, and stroll around and see what you can discover. One of the most memorable things we did was to stop at the Hollywood Aerial Arts setup. Our 8-year-old daughter got to go up and swing from a trapeze, which was a thrill for all of us. Although we didn’t see everything (the Pig Races will have to be for another visit), it was a full and fun day.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: Sept.27-Oct. 3

With this early autumn heatwave in L.A. it’s hard to think about doing much beyond sitting in front of your fan. But there is a wave of hot shows this week (sorry for the easy pun) that go beyond the big Pavement/Sonic Youth Hollywood Bowl concert (Sept, 30) and Tom Petty local appearances at the Bowl and the Verizon Amphitheatre (Oct. 1 and 2, respectively).
There’s something exciting every night

Monday: the sensational soul songtress Bettye LaVette starts her two-night stand at Largo. Pete Yorn showcases his new album at Roxy.

Tuesday: Outlaw country star Jamey Johnson will play his “Guitar Songs” at the House of Blues. Sara Barellies has a show downtown at the Orpheum Theatre. But the 5-star event is the Jerry Lee Lewis appearance at the Grammy Museum.

Wednesday: The Drums will make some New Wave-y noise at the Music Box. The Felice Brothers delivers their rugged Americana rock at the Echo. Folk-popster Sarah Harmer has new disc Oh Little Fire that will be the probable focus for her Spaceland gig.

Thurday: The legendary John Cale commences this year’s UCLA Live concert series. Unfortunately, the Autry show headlining Justin Townes Earle has been cancelled since he has postponed his tour plans.

Friday: Ludo will rock up the Key Club with “Whipped Cream.” The School of Seven Bells will chill out the Echoplex. The Fountains of Wayne team up Jill Sobule for a night of catchy pop at the Troubadour while the Avett Brothers, Brandi Carlile and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals make for a rootsy triple bill at Nokia LA Live. Aimee Mann, who is reportedly penning a musical based on her The Forgotten Arm album, returns to Largo. As part of the OohLaLA Fest of French rockers at Spaceland, Bewitched Hands (who like a more dream-poppy Arcade Fire) will play. Check out the band’s fine tune “Work”. The Miniature Tigers swings through L.A. again with a show at the Henry Fonda Theatre with Neon Indian and Perfuse 73.

Saturday: Matt And Kim have a weekend stand at the Henry Fonda Theatre. The Truth & Salvage Co. set up shop at the Troubadour. My top choice, however, is Hayes Carll at McCabes. He is one of the best young songwriters around, IMHO.

Sunday: The week winds down with one big show. The Hollywood Palladium, welcomes the reunited Belle & Sebastian, with the talented duo Jenny And Johnny opening. J & J also have a show at the Troubadour on 10/6.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: Sept.20-26

Just a quick run through this week this time around.

Monday finds the Ranchero Brothers (the Old 97’s Rhett Miller and Murry Hammond) ride into Largo while Miller has a solo gig on Tuesday.

Henry Wagons, an Australian with a real feel for American country rock, has a solo outing at the Hotel Café on Monday. His disc The Rise And Fall Of Goodtown, with his band Wagons is worth seeking out.

Power pop icon Tommy Keene has a special gig on the 22nd. He’ll be playing this landmark Songs From The Film album in its entirety as well as other old tunes from his new retrospective.

James McMurtry brings this highly charged tales to the Mint on Wednesday. Come early to catch Jonny Burke, a terrific young musician whose debut full length Distance & Fortune is one to keep an eye out early next year.

Thursday night finds the wonderful Robyn Hitchcock and legendary producer Joe Boyd teaming up for an evening of music and stories at Largo.

Sean Lennon’s current project The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger will be showcases its tunes (which has been described as recalling Syd Barrett and Simon & Garfunkel) at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on the 24th.

Another dynamic duo – Ryan Bingham opening for Willie Nelson - will be the Greek Theatre that night, while Friday also finds the New Orleans outfit BeauSoleil at McCabe’s.

I have liked, and reviewed, Jeffrey Halford’s music in the past. He’ll be coming down from the Bay Area for a gig at the Coffee Gallery Backstage on Friday and San Pedro’s Warner Annex on Saturday.

“He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” Kris Kristofferson wrote this great line, and many more. He’s at the Cerritos Center on Saturday and Thousand Oaks on Sunday.

The wonderful Jon Langford (Waco Brothers, Mekons, etc.) will entertain folks with a free show at Amoeba on Saturday and then west to McCabe’s to play there on Sunday.

Singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves should be better known than he is. You can get to know him and his songs better at Claremont’s Folk Music Center on Saturday and McCabe’s on Sunday.

Darryl Holter’s new CD West Bank Gone takes an interesting look back to his roots in the Minneapolis roots/folk scene, before he headed out to L.A. He’ll be at the Hotel Café on 9/26

Monday, September 13, 2010

David Gray, Ray LaMontagne & Tift Merritt at Greek Theatre, Los Angeles

David Gray, Ray LaMontagne & Tift Merritt at Greek Theatre, Los Angeles
September 7, 2010
By Michael Berick

Fall was in air for this evening and it seemed appropriate for this autumnal sounds delivered by this triumvirate of talented singer-songwriters.
Opening the show was Tift Merritt, who hit the stage sharply at 7 p.m. while most of the audience was still lounging at the Greek’s plaza, looking for parking or still in traffic. Her set was short (only around 20 minutes) and pleasant, but didn’t really showcase her talents fully. She, more or less, played solo (a bassist sometimes played with her), accompanying herself on the guitar or piano. The stripped down set-up didn’t do her justice, and her voice also got lost some in the largely empty amphitheatre.
As a longtime Merritt fan, I was a little disappointed; however, it was more due to the circumstances than the performance. It was nothing like her powerful show I saw her give at L.A.’s Troubadour a few years back in support of Tambourine. But this show did get her introduced to a wider audience who might seek out her fine, sophisticated new album, See You On The Moon.
Ray LaMontagne came out next, and he had an interesting set-up with his band basically on one side and him on the other. The ever-modest LaMontagne seemed to enjoy hanging in the stage shadows, coming out just to sing. He was a man of few words, although the one time he did talk was a funny reaction to the proverbial “Free Bird” request.
What he concentrated on was his singing. The raspy-voiced romantic easily won over the receptive crowd with his soulful, folk-rocky tunes, which mixed old numbers with new ones from his recently released, God Willin & The Creek Don’t Rise. Old favorites like “Trouble,” on which his inspiration felt drawn from Otis Redding and Richie Havens, provoked a big reaction from the audience.
His newer material, however, worked very well live. This is due in no small part for the talented folks in his band, The Pariah Dogs, which features such session stalwarts as guitarist/pedal steel player Eric Haywood, drummer Jay Bellerose and bassist Jennifer Condos. They worked up a fine funkiness to “Repo Man,” which recalled the Americana jamminess of LaMontagne’s idol Stephen Stills. They really got things cooking near the end of his 65 minute set with a rousing rendition of “Like Rock & Roll And Radio” that he followed with his encore, “You Are The Best Thing.”
David Gray served as this evening’s headliner, although it seems like it could have been a coin flip between LaMontagne and him over the honors. Gray is definitely more animated performer than LaMontagne. Backed by a rock combo (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards), he started his set off quite energetically; however, the songs seemed to fall just short of being truly memorable. The hooks and melodies just weren’t quite strong enough to win you over. Granted I am not such a Gray fan that I knew his new songs well but if they were really strong tunes that would have succeeded more with me.
In fact, it was his older tunes, “Flame Turns Blue,” “Sail Away” and his breakthrough hit “Babylon” seemed to shine the brightest for him. This set overall felt tasteful but tame folk-rock. It was a nice touch when he did an enthusiastic version of the second-tier Beatles tune “Dig A Pony” during his encore, but it’s telling that the tune was the most fun song of the night.
At the show’s end, I felt each performer could have benefited from a slightly grander sound. Maybe it was the outdoor setting and its proximity to the even larger Hollywood Bowl, but I thought it might have nice for Gray to have a string section to fill out his elegant tunes, if LaMontagne had horns to punctuate his songs’ soulfulness and if Merritt simply had a band behind her to bolster his sound.
That said, you have to take what the musicians give you – not what you wish they had done – and LaMontagne, Gray and Merritt all showed themselves to be accomplished singer-songwriters even if the latter two in particularly weren’t as compelling as they could have been.

Go See Hear in L.A.: Sept.13-19

The top story for this week is the trio of talented female performers making appearances in town.

On Monday, Clare Burson ( arrives at the Hotel Café in support of Silver & Ash, which will be released by Rounder on Tuesday. The Memphis-bred, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter has a sophisticated, assured sound. The history-mind Burson has crafted a song cycle about her grandmother’s life in Europe before the start of WW11. While tackling dark issues, she also creates some splendid chimey-ness on “I Will/With You.” She also was recently chronicled in the New Yorker for having an ancient piece of cheese (a story too intricate to synopsize.

On Friday, Nicole Simone ( has a show at the Hotel Café. I praised the L.A.-based singer-songwriter here last month, so just to briefly restate: she has a cool chanteuse vibe that recalls early Eleni Mandell.

The wonderful Elizabeth Cook ( comes to town from Nashville for a show at McCabe’s on Saturday. One of my favorite Americana female singers, Cook is a fun and feisty performer who can pen memorable tunes like “El Camino” and “Heroin Addict Sister” that are country without being country clichés.

There are several other interesting shows during this week too.
Tracy Bonham teams up with the duo KaiserCartel ( for a show at the Hotel Café on Tuesday. While I haven’t kept up much Bonham over the years, her new disc Masts of Manhatta has gotten some good notices. The KaiserCartel also have a new disc, Secret Transit, which I have heard and is a fine slice of indie pop.

Dan Mangan (, who is at the Henry Fonda on the 15th, hails from Vancouver (New Pornographers) and is on the Arts & Craft (Broken Social Scene, Feist) – and if that isn’t enough to make you curious. His album Nice, Nice, Very Nice lives up to its name with its nicely crafted literate folk-pop like the laidback but majestic “Fair Verona” and the cracked humor fanboy lament “Tina’s Glorious Comeback.”

JBM’s ( return to town, with a Spaceland show on 9/15. I had recommended his Hotel Café show earlier this month and I will recommend him again.

Blues icon Buddy Guy has a sit-down at the Grammy Museum on Thursday night the 16th; it's a rare chance to have an up-close opportunity to hear a living legend talk a little talking and play a little. Thursday too is when The Chapin Sisters ( bring their delightful harmonies and a full band to the Echo Lounge on the 16th to showcase their new one, Two. On that night, Roy Jay ( opens up for Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers at the Troubadour. He has named his new album with a more locally significant title, Fairfax Avenue.

The esteemed (yet still somewhat underappreciated) Eliza Gilkyson ( plays McCabe’s on Friday the 17th. The same night, Hanson will be at the House of Blues. Their latest Shout It Out comes stocked with savvy, soul-infused pop-rock.

This weekend’s Los Angeles Lobster Festival boosts a particularly strong music line with Leslie & the Badgers, We Barbarians, Fitz & The Tantrums and Dengue Fever among Saturday’s performers and John Doe & Exene headlining Sunday.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Newbie Quickie: those darling Darlings

I came across the NYC band Darlings (not to be confused with the Tennessee punky twangsters Those Darlins) today and so glad I did. These Darlings have a wonderful trashy garage rock vibe, something that combines early CBGB’s clever punk with Weezer-y power pop. I’ve only listened to their myspace trio of tracks ( but they were compelling enough to make me listen a couple times. The buzzy-riffed “Big Girl” is the most Weezer-like of the three, not that’s there’s anything wrong with hooky, slightly snarky power pop. I like “Eviction Party” better with its Fountains-of-Wayne-doing-the-Strokes-in-a-Village-bar feel and “If This Is Love” is noisy fun too with its “Don’t bother me ‘cuz I’m surfing” outro. Familiar while still fabulously fresh, the Darlings are a new garage pop crush.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: Sept.6-12

After a relaxing Labor Day Monday, the week gets off to a tremendous start. This week there isn't a "show of the week" but a "night of the week" and the night is Tuesday.
The Philly retro rockers Free Energy ( will be lighting things up Tuesday night at the Viper Room. Their Stuck On Nothing is a wonderful blast of ‘70s-style big riff rock ‘n’ roll.

The Mynabirds (, meanwhile, will be arriving at Spaceland. Laura Burhenn and her new band put out one of my favorite albums of the year, What We Lose In The Fire We Gain in The Flood, a gorgeous dose of Memphis country soul with a dash of indie rock.

Hotel Café plays host to Luke Doucet (, who comes to showcase his highly anticipated new album, Steel City Traweler. If you are not familiar with the talented Canadian, then check out Broken (And Other Rogue States), his fantastic 2005 disc.

As if those aren’t enough choices, then you can head to the Greek Theatre for the first night of the David Gray/Ray Lamontagne/Tift Merritt 2-night stand there. This wonderful feast of classy singer-songwriters offers a selection of soulfulness: Merritt’s Southern style, Lamontagne’s rustic New England variety and Gray’s English folk version. It's hard to pick just one but any one of them are worth getting out to see.

On Thursday, Loch & Key ( starts their Redwood residency. The LA-based group, which will also be there 9/23 and 9/30, blend an European artiness with a laidback Southern Cal pop vibe. I saw them a couple weeks ago at Room 5, and, despite some rough live edges, they are definitely worth checking out.

Also, on the 9th, the Gibson Amphitheatre welcomes two popular country artists who aren’t the typical hat acts. Jack Ingram spend many years in the Texas music scene mining a Steve Earle-like sound. A few years back he signed with Toby Keith’s Big Machine label and garnered more popularity. Headliner Gary Allan is a Calfiornia-bred honky tonker whose brings an outlaw sense of real-ness to the Nashville mainstream.

The English art-pop ensemble The Clientele returns to L.A. for a show at the Echoplex. They have put out a series of dark and interesting discs on Merge, including this year’s Minotaur.

Those lovely singing sisters, The Watson Twins ( have another local show; this time it’s Friday at the Bootleg. Earlier this year, they released their second effort for Vanguard, Talking To You, Talking To Me.

The legendary songwriter Jesse Winchester comes to McCabe’s on Saturday. His songs became hits for folks like Jimmy Buffett and Emmylou Harris and he spent many years in Canada resisting the draft. Last year, he released Love Filling Station (his first release in over a decade) and appeared on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle show.

Welcome Home Walker ( is a side project of Colin Jarrell from the NW glam rock-y group The Nice Boys. WHW’s retro sound is based more in the garage. Seek out their tune, “Suds,” a glorious slice of dumb fun rock. They come to the Redwood on 9/11.

Neil Finn, who recently came through town fronting his long-time band, Crowded House, comes back for a pair of lower-key shows at Largo on Sat.-Sun.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: Aug.31-Sept.5

August is closing up shop and September is putting up the “Now Open” sign. And there are a number of shows to see was Summer transitions to Autumn.

Before we hit the clubs, the Grammy Museum has a trio of excellent events this week. The sensational soul singer Mavis Staples, who has been returning to prominence in recent years, will be at the Museum on Monday night. On Tuesday night, Ray Benson, long a leader of the modern Western Swing movement, comes to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his band, Asleep At The Wheel. Then on Wednesday night, Oscar-winning Texas troubadour Ryan Bingham will be there to showcase his new album Junky Star (which I am reviewing for Country Standard Time). Get to as many of this wonderful events as you can.

Now onto the clubs:

On Tuesday night there are two notable shows on the East Side. The Submarines (Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti) surface at the Bootleg, along with Sea of Bees and Obi Best, to play some of their lovely, bittersweet indie pop in advance of their next disc slated for a fall release (
Over at the the Echo, Bobby Bare Jr ( does has a new release, A Storm-A Tree-My Mother’s Head, another in his fine line of endearingly ramshackled country rock efforts. Blue Giant will open as well as serve as his backing band.

On Wednesday Sept. 1, Colin Gilmore ( comes to town for a show at Molly Malones. Besides being the son of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Colin is a talented musician in his own right with Goodnight Lane being the most recent example of his work.

The right place to be on Thursday night is at the Santa Monica Pier for the incomparable Dr. John. The New Orleans music legend is still going strong. Earlier this year, he released the terrific Tribal album and did a colorful performance at the Grammy Museum.

Friday night finds JBM (Jesse Marchant) performing at the Hotel Café. JBM’s ( new album Not Even In July has more of an autumnal flavor with its handcrafted melancholic tunes that subtly warm your soul.
If you are looking for a lively (and inexpensive) way to usher in the weekend, you can enjoy a free show from Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys at the Farmer’s Market.

Sara Randle ( begins a Saturday night residency at Casey’s Irish Pub on the 4th. The former Rental’s vocalist has a new album, Four, of shimmering indie pop to share.
Meanwhile, the Detroit-based Deadstring Brothers ( will be bring things to live at the Hotel Café with their rough ‘n’ tumble roots rock that I have drawn comparisons to the twangier side of the Rolling Stones.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Newbie Quickie: Unicycle Loves You

I don’t know much about this band, Unicycle Loves You. At least not yet, but one thing I do know that I love their new tune, "Mirror, Mirror." It’s a summer slice of sublime goodness. Thrift store pop reminiscent of early Blondie and those ‘90s girl-fronted Brit pop groups like the Primitives. Not all of their tunes have this quality but they do seem to hold a quirky garage pop appeal. Until I get a song link, here is where you find them on myspace -

Monday, August 23, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: Aug. 23-30

Before highlighting shows from the final full week of August, I wanted to talk about the bands I saw this past Tuesday at Room 5. The local outfit Loch & Key opened the show with a short but alluring set drawn from their debut Jupiter’s Guide For Submariners. Frontwoman Leyla Akdogan has a very cool, somewhat Deborah Harry-gone-Euro chanteuse quality to her. Most of their songs project an interesting SoCal “chanson” quality sparked by the interplay between Akdogan singing and guitarist Sean Hoffman’s quiet but nimble playing. A little stiff as a performer, Akdogan acknowledged that she does need to work on her stage presence.
I wasn’t familiar with the local band The Minor Canon, who played next, but came away impressed with their enthusiastic performance. They reminded me of one of those bands you’d see in a ‘60s “youth movie” with their soul-fueled rock ‘n’ roll, only a step or two up in quality.
The headliner was the Grownup Noise and they definitely have stepped things up.
Their set displayed a tougher, rockier sound that they have shown on disc, which is undoubtedly due to the unavailability of their cellist Katie French for this tour. As a compact unit of guitar, bass, keys and drums, they churned out an invigorating 9 song set plus an encore that slightly rearranged their terrific tune, Grey Skies. Frontman Paul Hansen has a warmer, softer voice than you’d expect from his lumberjack size. It’s sorta like a young James Taylor fronting an indie rock outfit like a stripped down Arcade Fire. This Massachusetts-based band serves up melancholic tunes with just enough edge and hooks to make for compelling music.

This week’s recommend shows start off Monday with Austin singer/songwriter Bettysoo ( at Genghis Cohen. I’m rather smitten with her new disc Heat Sin Water Skin, which serves up Lucinda-style, gritty Texas tunes.

Another tough, twangy lady, Manda Mosher ( has a show on Tuesday night at the Hotel Café where she is celebrating the release of her new EP City of Clowns. I reviewed her impressive debut Everything You Need for All Music Guide a year or so ago.

On Wednesday night, you can squeeze into Amoeba to catch a free set for local heroes Los Lobos, who have another fine release Tin Can Trust now out on Shout! Factory.
Then you have either try to see the legendary Jimmy Webb at Largo or Oscar winning upstart Ryan Bingham ( at the Bootleg Theatre. I’ll be reviewing Bingham’s new disc Junky Star for Country Standard Time.

Thursday night you can head down to Long Beach’s Queen Mary Park for a “sounds-too-good-to-be-true” pairing of Lucinda Williams with Chrissie Hynde, who is on tour with her new project, JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys.
Also, on the 26th, the marvelous guitarist John Jorgenson ( will be doing a free performance in front of the Culver City City Hall. He also has a show on the 28th at Boulevard Music. The one-time Desert Rose Band member recently released a pair of terrific Django Reinhardt-inspired disc.

McCabe’s offers a pair of excellent shows this week featuring musicians who came to prominence in the ‘90s. Mark Olson ( helped to usher in the scene as co-leader of the Jayhawks. Still making vital music as his 2010 disc Many Colored Kite reveals, Olson will be playing McCabe’s on Friday night. The following night Matthew Sweet has a show there. His 1991 album Girlfriend remains one of the decade’s best disc. Over the last few years, he has been collaborating with Susannah Hoffs on covers discs, so it will be interesting to see what he offers up tonight.
Also on Saturday, Cyndi Lauper will be at the Greek. While she has a new blues-based disc, this show is notable because New Orleans icon Allen Toussaint is sharing the stage with her.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: Aug. 16-22

We’re zooming through August with another big week of concerts.

The week starts off with a blast as the Ruby Friedman Orchestra ( will be shaking up with Bootleg Theater on Monday night with their high-energy show.

Things turn a little quieter on Tuesday night with an excellent showcase at Room 5. The local duo Loch & Key (singer Leyla Akdogan and ex-American Music Club guitarist Sean Hoffman) will be kicking off a string of area shows, including a September Redwood Bar residency ( Their disc Jupiter’s Guide To Submariners presents a quirky yet beguiling sound that combines a bit of Europe with California. Also populating Room 5 is the talented Boston group GrownUp Noise ( who craft sophisticated melodic indie rock that’s warm and inviting. “Grey Skies,” a soaring song about depression off their self-titled full length is a fine place to start with the band.

The Grammy Museum hosts an evening with John Mellencamp to celebrate his new offering, the T Bone Burnett-produced No Better Than This, which I reviewed for Country Standard Time. These intimate evenings always provide a great glimpse into a performer, and I have a feeling that Mellencamp won’t be shy up on stage.

Wednesday bring a great big bit of New Orleans to the Hollywood Bowl with an all-star lineup featuring Neville Brothers, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

Star Anna & The Laughing Dogs ( swing down from the State of Washington to show off their rugged, earthy rock ‘n’ roll. Their sophomore album The Only Thing That Matters shows that they are a band that matters, with feisty frontwoman Star Anna exhibits some real star quality.

Another impressive young band comes to town on Thursday when the Bay Area Gwyneth and Monko ( ) come to Molly Malones. Their EP Good Old Horse contains a fine, old timey folk sound that doesn’t sound lost in time. You can also catch them at Santa Monica’s Dakota Lounge on the 20th and Altadena’s Coffee Gallery Backstage on the 23rd.

If you are looking to blues by the blue water, head to the Santa Monica Pier for a special Twilight concert with one-time Rolling Stone guitarist Mick Taylor headlining the evening’s show.

It’s a Wainwright night at the Greek on the 20th when Rufus and Martha put on a show, while over at Spaceland, Springfield Missouri’s own Ha Ha Tonka serve up their rugged Midwestern brand of rock ‘n’ roll. Crowded House will be filling Club Nokia that night with their catalog of pop gems, but come early to catch Lawrence Arabia. Their soon-to-be released Yep Roc debut is a truly impressive piece of melodic pop-rock. Coincidentally, the band’s leader James Milne has a side project BARB with Neil Finn’s musical son Liam.

Saturday the 21st holds a pair of terrific shows from which to choose: Celllist Ben Sollee ( brings his soulful Americana to the Bootleg, Texas singer-songwriter Sarah Jaffe ( swings through town again stopping at the Hotel Cafe to showcase her wonderful tunes off her smart and assured debut Suburban Nature, which stands as one of this year's better debuts.

The weekend wraps up in a particularly “crooked” way Sunday with the well-respected Darrell Scott (Robert Plant nabbed him for his new Americana project Band of Joy) will be performed songs from his new double disc A Crooked Road at the Waterfront in Marina Del Rey. Slightly inland at McCabes it will be an evening of eclectic acoustic music from Crooked Still (, a talented Massachusetts-based outfit who have put several worth-discovering album on Signature Sounds including Some Strange Country, which came out earlier this year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: Aug. 9-15 - Two Whales, A Lone Wolf and A Band Of Heathens

I am running a bit late this week but wanted to get the word out on a couple shows before that they happened. See why it’s a “whale” of a week for local gigs.

Tuesday has a trio of interesting shows. There’s the B.B. King/Buddy Guy celebration of the blues at the Hollywood Bowl. Over at the El Rey, Alejandro Escovedo will unleash tune from his dynamic new disc, Street Songs of Love (this marvelous re-teaming with Real Animal’s producer Tony Visconti and co-writer Chuck Prophet has garnered Alejandro has much deserved accolades), with L.A.-gone-Texas singer-songwriter Amy Cook opening the show.

I wanted to add a few more words to the Frazey Ford show at the Hotel Café on the 11th. Ford, who is part of the Be Good Tanyas, recently put out an impressive solo outing that I reviewed for ( I really enjoyed that way blended acoustic Americana thread with more soulful ones. Also on the bill there that night is Snow & Voices, a So Cal ensemble that mines a warm yet chilled out folk-pop sound.

On Thursday evening, you can enjoy a free show from the Hot Club of Cowtown at the Culver City City Hall. The Hot Club has long crafted a wonderful blend of gypsy jazz and western swing. Elena James, who has played in Dylan’s band, is a particularly fiery fiddle player while Whit Smith is also nimble on guitar.
The Freelance Whales share a bill with the Tokyo Police Club at the El Rey on 12th too. Even though they hail from the trendy Brooklyn rock scene, I really like the Freelance Whales’ debut Weathervanes, with its quirky but well crafted indie rock.

Friday the 13th offers a wide range of shows. On the softer side, Natalie Merchant (hmm, an ex-10,000 Maniac performing on Friday the 13th…) has a show at the Orpheum Theatre. Meanwhile, down in Long Beach at Queen Mary Park, folk legend Joan Baez shares a bill with folk/rock legend Roger McGuinn (how many Dylan covers will done there?)
Speaking of legends, the one and only Dave Alvin will be performing with steel guitar whiz Cindy Cashdollar at McCabe’s, although I’ll be surprised if tickets are still available.
If you can’t get in there and have a hankering for Americana music, you can catch Or The Whale (yes, the second Whale band to surface in town this week) at Spaceland. This San Francisco outfit offers an appealing country-rock sound that’s mostly laidback and harmony-laden but they also play with enough zest to make for a lively time. They share the bill with Americana eccentrics These United States.
Or you can check out the quietly compelling orchestral bedroom pop sound of Lone Wolf, the brainchild of U.K. musician Paul Marshall. Lone Wolf will be at the El Rey where the bill is topped by its countrymates The Wild Beasts.
The wildest show, and probably the most fitting for Friday the 13th will take place at the House of Blues where the Reverend Horton Heat, Hillstomp and Split Lip Rayfield will join forces for a riotous night of revved up bluegrass, raucous rockabilly and other root rock shenanigans.
And if that isn’t enough, Cambodian-flavored psyche rockers Dengue Fever will have a free show at California Plaza as part of the Grand Performances Summer Series.

If you have something left for the weekend, Saturday brings Eleni Mandell and Ana Egge to the Center for Folk Music and the awesome Austin country rockers, The Band of Heathens will ripping things up at the Viper Room. No doubt they will play their terrific tune, “L.A. County Blues.”

The weekend wraps up with a wonderful show Suunday at the Greek Theater, where music icon Levon Helm will share the stage with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis (who will presumably accent her twangier material) along with some special guests (like some up-and-coming singer-songwriter named Steve Earle).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Go See Hear In LA: Aug 2-8

Before I get to the recommended shows for this week, I want to reflect on a couple shows that I actually was able to attend this past week.
On Thursday, I have the pleasure of attending the Squeeze show at the Gibson Amphitheatre, and it definitely was a pleasure. I wrote a full review that I posted here earlier this week. However, I will reiterate that Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford were in magnificent form, playing their songs with vivacity and flair. It’s always a treat to hear the terrific tunes, particularly when they are played so well and so enthusiastically.
I also was able to check out a little of the big Roots Roadhouse on Saturday at the Echo and the Echoplex. Unfortunately, I only had the opportunity to stay for around an hour but it was a great hour. First off, I got to see a couple songs from Frontier Ruckus. This Michigan-based band crafted songs that are rather linear but also wonderfully literate. Frontman Matthew Milia has a real way with words (my current favorite couplet is “back when our tongue thrust/all of our young lust” but his lyrics, as found on FR’s new disc, Deadmalls & Nightfalls, is populated with a lot of great lines) and his bandmates include banjo player David Winston Jones and saw/trumpet player (yes, those are his instruments) Zachary Nichols.
After catching the end of Pete Anderson’s set of muscular blues tunes, I stayed to see Chatham County Line. These North Carolina boys look like trad. Bluegrass guys, dress in suits and ties and huddling around a single microphone. While they are talented bluegrass players, they have expanded their music into a broader acoustic-based sound that also gets displayed impressively on their new Yep Roc album. Wildwood.
And now onto this week’s shows.
The L.A.-based singer-songwriter Nicole Simone has a gig opening up for Ferraby Lionheart at the Bootleg Theatre on Aug. 2. I wasn’t familiar with her before hearing her debut EP but it was a real attention-grabber. Simone was a soft but alluring vocal sound that she pairs with a Tom Waits-like junkyard saloon arrangements. Reminiscent of Eleni Mandell’s early work, the EP marks an impressive introduction by Simone, and suggests that she is someone to keep an eye on.
This week’s Twilight Dance Concert at the Santa Monica Pier offers up the Southern California treasure Rickie Lee Jones. It should be interesting to see what she will be playing – her old crowd pleasers or her more recent, more adventurous fare.
Also on the 5th, the Redwood hosts the dynamic duo of Rosie Flores and Ruby James. Flores is the well-known rockabilly filly (who used to be a regular around these parts), while Ruby James is another L.A. native gone Austin with a mighty fine debut Happy Now that is well worth the listen.
The Henry Clay People have a big show at the Greek Theatre on Friday the 6th. Their vibrant new album, Somewhere On The Golden Coast, is something like Pavement with more of an easy-going yet still aggressive spirit. It’s something to be heard.
Lost In The Trees comes to L.A. for a series to shows to commemorate its Anti- album, All Alone In An Empty House. This N.C. band emphasizes the chamber in their chamber-folk-rock blend. LITT’s main man Ari Picker can create some intriguing dynamics in his songs – numbers like “Fireplace” and the title track caught my ear – and it’ll be interesting to see how this quiet, string-based music translates live. They have shows at McCabe’s on the 7th, Spaceland on the 9th, Amoeba on the 10th, and the Hotel Café on the 12th – if I got it all right.
Down at the Pacific Amphitheatre on the 8th is a show headlined by Blondie with an opening set by Gorevette, a garage rock outfit put together by Amy Gore and Nikki Corvette. While Blondie has been a longtime fave, seeing them now seems like an exercise in nostalgia; however, Gorevette’s music does some fun, greasy, Motor City rock ‘n’ roll.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Squeeze Live At The Gibson Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, 7/28/10

Summertime concert-going can be an exercise in “pick your nostalgia.” Do you want to see Heart or Pavement? The Scorpions or Cheap Trick? Last night, I chose the early ‘80s New Wave-y variety of nostalgia, going to see a double bill of the English Beat and Squeeze at Los Angeles’ Gibson Amphitheatre.

Opening the show was the English Beat, which is now original frontman Dave Wakeling and a younger supporting cast. While professing to having some “weak knees” about playing in front of his adopted hometown audience, Wakeling enthusiastically ran through a set featuring key Beat tunes: “I Confess,” “Save It For Later, “Can’t Get Use To Losing You,” and their version of “Tears of a Clown.” His supporting cast was game, with toaster Antonee particularly enlivening the festivities with some nimble wordplay. Wakeling’s voice came off a little thin and got swallowed up a bit by the Gibson’s acoustics; however, the appreciative audience didn’t seem to mind. The band wrapped up their nearly hour-long performance with an especially energetic performance of “Mirror In The Bathroom,” which stood out as a set highlight.

Squeeze got the crowd on its feet from the opening notes of their lead-off tune, “Take Me I’m Yours.” It was a rousing rendition that set the tone for the rest of the evening. Lead singer Glenn Tilbrook showed that his voice is still as strong as ever, and he also flashed some aggressive guitar playing, which signaled that this just wasn’t a night for rote renditions by a band reuniting for a cash-grab. Tilbrook’s guitar work is something that often gets overlooked in the praise for his songwriter skills with longtime musical partner Chris Difford.

The band didn’t overlook their popular numbers; they filled the night with many fan favorites, like “Goodbye Girl,” “Black Coffee in Bed,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Tempted,” “Slap & Tickle” and the Difford showpiece “Cool For Cats.” They also displayed a genuinely fun vibe to their performance. In “Black Coffee,” for instance, Tilbrook sparred instrumentally with keyboardist Stephen Large. In fact, one of the show’s surprises was the strength of the band beyond Tilbrook and Difford. Large was a not only talented on the keys (his karate chops keyboard moves on “Slap & Tickle” were quite impressive) but also revealed an endearingly humorous presence. Both he and drummer Simon Hanson play in Tilbrook’s “other” band, the Fluffers, so it’s easy to see how they slip in naturally as Squeeze men. Similarly, the bassist John Bentley is a familiar face having played in the band back in the ‘80s.

The thoroughly entertaining concert also served as a reminder of the massively impressive song library that Difford and Tilbrook built over the years. Not only have they composed hooky, literate tunes like “Tempted” or “Is That Love” but they really crafted some truly unique numbers. It’s hard to think of rock songs that are crafted as inventively as “Up The Junction” “Pulling Mussels From A Shell” or “Cool For Cats” that are also catchy and memorable.

Although Difford and Tilbrook have had some rough patches in their professional relationship over the years, they now seem to be enjoying playing together. Tilbrook, in fact, told the crowd that they “love each other again,” while Difford said that standing next to Tilbrook on stage was one reason that his job was one of the best in the world. The band is releasing soon a disc entitled Spot The Difference, on which they re-recorded their classic tunes. While this could seem like another way to repackage their greatest hits and regain some publishing rights, the skill and enthusiasm that the band brought to this concert suggests that the album should also be just as joyous a journey down memory lane as the show was.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: July 25-Aug. 1

This week I want to start at the end as the “Show of the Week” takes place on Saturday. The big Roots Roadhouse ( takes over the Echo and the Echoplex. The headliners are California honky tonk icon Red Simpson, legendary bluesman Model-T Ford, and the “King of California” Dave Alvin. If this trio isn’t enticing enough, the lineup also boasts terrific local acts as the Chapin Sisters, Leslie and the Badgers, Old Californio, I See Hawks In LA and Pete Anderson, as well as visiting dignitaries like Chatham County Line and Frontier Ruckus. It shapes up to be a fantastic day of American roots music.

There will also be another visiting dignitary performing on Saturday night who deserves "Show of the Week" considerations. The one and only Kinky Friedman ( will be making his first LA appearance in nearly 20 years with a show at McCabe's. The Kinkster certainly has been busy over the years, becoming a celebrated mystery author and running for Governor in Texas. But he first got notoriety as a singer/songwriter and, with the help of two members of his old Texas Jewboy band, he’ll playing tunes that made him infamous (like “Sold American” and “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore.”).

For those in a different mood, freak folk goddess Joanna Newsom ( also plays in town July 31 at the Orpheum Theatre.

Now, going back to earlier in the week. The Troubadour presents a terrific bill on the 27th featuring J. Tillman ( and Phosphorescent ( Tillman, who playing in the Fleet Foxes, crafts lovely spare music on his own while Alabama-born, Brooklyn-based Matthew Houck (aka Phosphorescent) really impressed him with the songs that I’ve heard off on his critically acclaimed new disc Here’s To Taking It Easy.

Another expert crafter of quiet tunes, Peter Bradley Adams ( returns to LA for a show at the Hotel Café on 7/28. Adams, who now lives in the Nashville area, has a way with gently alluring, intimately heartfelt tunes. If you want to get Peter's music, you can go here Also playing that night will be the Guggenheim Grotto (, continuing their July Wednesday Hotel Café residency.

On the 28th, the Gibson Amphitheatre hosts two key members of the ‘80s UK New Wave scene: Squeeze ( and English Beat ( The English Beat’s debut is one of the liveliest, more dance-happy albums of its era (or maybe any era), while Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford have a true gift for writing literate and hooky tunes. They have made a “new” disc Spot The Difference, where they re-do some of their greatest hits.

Paul Thorn ( is a wonderful Southern storyteller with a uniquely colorful past (he has been a prizefighter and a skydiver). Touring behind his powerful Pimps & Preachers album, Thorn appears at the Mint on July 28 and the Brixton in Redondo Beach on the 29th.

Here We Go Magic’s “Collector” ( is one of my favorite tunes of the year. Its infectious melody and pulsating rhythms recalls the ‘80s dance-pop without sounding like they just want to be the next hip thing from Brooklyn. They bring their eclectic beats to the Troubadour on 7/29.

The Pousette-Dart Band was an act from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s that I associate with folk-pop-country acts like Pure Prairie League, Firefall and, particularly, Jonathan Edwards. The PDB tune that I remember best is the dandy, humor-filled number, “Amnesia,” which still holds up very well. I don’t know what Jon Pousette-Dart ( has been doing over the years, but he will be playing Genghis Cohen on July 30.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: July 19-25

Yes, yes, yes, The New Pornographers and The Dodos make for a fine bill at the Henry Fonda Theater, but if you looking for an alternative, and still coming down from the She & Him, The Bird & The Bee, Swell Season Hollywood Bowl show, then check out Kaiser Cartel (, who have a show at the Hotel Café on 7/19 and at the Echo on the 20th. This Brooklyn-based duo is another delightful boy-girl indie pop couple. They are presenting their new disc, Secret Transit, the follow-up to their impressive March Forth.

Also on the 20th, Ben Taylor ( and Katie Herzig ( share a bill at Largo. On his last disc, The Legend of Kung Fu Part 1, Taylor favored an agreeably funky folk sound that suggested that he’s emerging out of the shadow of his parents (James Taylor and Carly Simon). I really enjoyed Herzig’s last disc, Apple Tree, which featured a winning set of winsome folk-pop.

Come on out to the Mint Friday night and be treated to the record release show by local troubadour Tony Lucca ( His new disc, Rendezvous With the Angels, boasts a strong of collection of his signature soul-folk tunes. David & Devine and The Chris Parish Band round out the bill.

What can be said more about Lyle Lovett? So, let me just tell you where his show is: Walt Disney Hall on July 23.

I’ve been intrigued by Kelli Scarr’s upcoming debut Piece ( The sometime Moby collaborator has crafted a disc of generally gentle, subtly lush music that floats into your ears and lingers in your brain. She has a gig at the Hotel Café on July 24 with the fellow NYC rockers The Shivers. Playing earlier in the evening there is another talented, up-and-coming (and also from New York) singer-songwriter Amy Regan ( whose full-length debut isn’t scheduled for release until later this year.

The Miniature Tigers’ debut Tell It To The Volcano ( was one of my favorite rock albums on the last couple years. They have a new disc out on the 27th, Fortress, which expands upon the Weezer/Fountain of Wayne like qualities of that disc. They form a nifty bill with the eclectic rockers, the Spinto Band ( at Spaceland on July 24.

Get introduced to Nashville singer-songwriter Shane Lamb ( at Venice’s Talking Stick on July 24. The talented Tennessee troubadour will be performing tunes from his impressive debut, Disengage. Although he hails from Music City, his music is something like a rootsier Tommy Keane than Nashville country.