Monday, January 31, 2011

Go See Hear In L.A.: Feb. 1-6

It’s hard to believe that the first month of 2011 has come and gone. February is starting off on an eclectic note.
There are hip young acts like Baths (Amoeba in-store Feb. 1), School of Seven Bells (Conga Room, Feb. 1) and Tennis (the Echo, 2/4) arriving in town as well as reunited hipsters (of the cocktail nation variety) Love Jones (Largo, Feb. 2). The 2nd also is the night when Amoeba hosts JD Samson’s new project Men.
The terrific, somewhat underappreciated Australian rock band, the Church puts on a mega-show at the El Rey on 2/2 in which they plan to play a trifecta of albums (Untitled #23, Priest=Aura and Starfish).
Thursday the 3rd offers an opportunity to see Bobby Long, whose impressive ATO debut, A Winter’s Tale, comes out on the 1st. On this disc, Long shows that he is long on talent, with his literate tunes and his rich voice.
Thursday also is the night that Shadow Shadow Shade start its month-long residency at the Satellite. Their always inventive debut disc was one of my favorite rock albums of 2010.
Friday holds a handful of good concert-going choices. Popular local singer-songwriter Tom Freund checks into the Hotel Café. Another local favorite Kristian Hoffman has a big, guest-studded show at the Steve Allen Theater.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals bring their rootsy tunes to the El Rey and cool Icelandic chamber popster Ólafur Arnalds will be playing the Echoplex.
Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses show at the El Rey tops Saturday night’s shows. Bingham, who grabbed last year’s Oscar for Song of the Year, is one of the best young Americana songwriters. Another good young singer/songwriter Tony Lucca will be playing the Hotel Café.
Shawn Colvin and Loudon Wainwright III bring their impressive catalog on songs to the newly opened Valley Performing Arts Center. Over at Harvelle’s, blues master Guitar Shorty will be showing why he’s been such influential guitarist.
Another notable show on the 5th is the Autumn Defense’s appearance at the Troubadour. The Autumn Defense is the side project for Wilco mates John Stirratt and Patrick Sansone. Their recently released Yep Roc disc Once Around comes stocked with low-key but sophisticated music.
Last but not least, the intriguing, unpredictable Cat Power closes out the first week of February with a show at the Music Box.

Keepin' An Eye On: Lynn Miles

Lynn Miles is a name from my listening past. I recall her early albums in the late ‘90s - Slightly Haunted and Night In A Strange Town as being really strong country-rock outings. I have lost track of her along the way but I was glad to get an email announcing a new album (Fall For Beauty) was just released on True North Records.

Here is the press release:

"Fall For Beauty" is the eighth album from songstress Lynn Miles, just
release on True North Records. There is something to be said for
experience, for taking the time to grow into your own skin. All sturdy
things need time to root firmly into the ground to find their strength.
Lynn Miles is one of Canada's most accomplished singer/songwriters,
oftened compared to the likes of Emmy Lou Harris and Lucinda Williams.
With seven albums to her credit, the winner of multiple Canadian Folk
Music Awards, and a 2003 Juno Award for Roots & Traditional Solo Album of the Year, she has certainly found her strength over time.

Through a career that has seen her move from Ottawa to Los Angeles and
back again, with stops in Nashville and Austin, she has always written
music with unbridled feeling and vulnerability. Miles has consistently
been unflinching in putting herself out there. Now with her eighth studio
offering Fall For Beauty the voice of her experience has truly elevated
her songwriting to its richest depth of emotion.

While her melodies undulate between traditional country and folk roots, on
Fall For Beauty, it's her sensitivity to the world around her that pours
itself directly into Miles' music to make it stand out. “Love Doesn't
Hurt” was written as an emotional plea for people in abusive
relationships. “I wrote this song after watching Oprah do a show about
domestic violence. She kept repeating "love doesn't hurt", and even though
I've written plenty of songs about how emotionally painful love can be, I
wanted to put this crucial idea right up there beside my other songs, for
balance, and clarity.” says Miles. “I've been playing the song live and
have been approached by several people who work at women's shelters who
tell me it's a powerful song, and that they want to play it for their
clients. There's no better compliment than that.”

Therein is the powerful secret behind Miles' music - her astute
observations of life, its trials and triumphs, are the hallmark of
sincerity in her music. The gritty honesty of her music never falters –
neither does her unshakeable ability to make even the most melancholy
lyrics sound as if they are brimming with hope and grace. “Little Bird”
infuses her lyrics with an assertive and encouraging voice. “I wrote this
song after reading "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts" by Gabor Mate. It's the
best book on addiction and articulates the need for compassion when
dealing with addictions. The song about what I call The X Factor, the
initial source of pain that can cause a person to seek solace in alcohol
and drugs.”

Lynn Miles is a musician in the rarest sense of the word, an unmistakable
talent, an eye for both the subtle and sweet that can only be unearthed
with experience.

For more information and materials contact:
Howard Wuelfing
Howlin' Wuelf Media 215-428-9119

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Go See Hear In L.A.: Jan. 18-25-31

It’s just a busy week that I am only getting to this on Tuesday (it makes sense in my mind).

Iron & Wine will be showcasing their new, full-bodied album Kiss Each Other Clean with shows at the Wiltern Jan. 25-26 (are they sold out already?). Great but different openers each night. Laura Marling on the 25th and Low Anthem on the 26th.

The terrific WPA (that’s some Watkins, Glen Phillips and whoever else they pull in to play) is at the Hotel Café on the 25th.

Lizz Wright plays the Roxy on the 26th. A wonderful singer and song stylist, Wright doesn’t get enough recognization. Check out her fantastic recent release Fellowship.

Social Distortion celebrates Hard Time and Nursery Rhymes with a string of shows at the Palladium Feb. 27-29. Chuck Ragan opes all the shows with the Aggrolites playing on the 27th and the awesome Lucero on the 28-29.

Ty Segall is an interesting cat, playing weird, distorted punkabilly as far as I can tell. See for yourself at the Echoplex on the 27th. Other interesting shows to catch on the 27th: Grouplove’s Amoeba instore, Amos Lee at the Music Box and Wovenhands at the Bootleg.

Daniel Lanois
brings his new project Black Dub to the El Rey on the 28th.

The fun and energetic Free Energy returns to town to play the Roxy on the 28th too,

The husband and wife duo called Hymn to Her pull into Molly Malone’s on Friday while more Americana can be found that night at the Mint’s Sin City’s Cosmic American Road Show.

The Handsome Family has a pair of shows this weekend. Eastside at the Bootleg on the 28th and Westside at McCabes on the 29th. Opening for them at McCabes is Sean Rowe, who also plays the Hotel Café on the Feb. 1. His cool debut disc Magic is out on Anti.

Other options Friday are Peter Case at the McCabes, Deena Carter at the Hotel Café, Les Savy Fav at the Echoplex and Ween at the Wiltern (although that one seems to be sold out).

The legendary Ian Hunter has a “Saturday Gig” at the El Rey

On the 29th, Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Hall hosts Blues at the Crossroads: The Robert Johnson Centennial Concert with living blues heroes Honeyboy Edwards and Hubert Sumlin along with Cedric Burnside, Lightnin’ Malcolm and Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

Also, Yann Tiersen performs at UCLA’s Luckman Auditorium, Darwin Deez is at the Satellite with (the band) Friends and Ari Shines plays Labries in Glendale.

Peaking into next week, singer/songwriter John Shipe showcases his new disc Villains with the CD release show at the Viper Room on Monday night.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

CD Review: Alexa Woodward - Weary

CD Review: Alexa Woodward - Weary

Back in 2009, I was taken by Alexa Woodward’s album Speck. While she is New York City-based, Woodward’s spare, rustic sound feels drawn from her Southern roots (she grew up in Virginia and South Carolina).
Her latest offering It's a Good Life, Honey, If You Don't Grow Weary (available online in February) is a joy to listen to. She does a terrific job of gently fleshing out her sound while retaining its delicate Americana sound. Woodward plays banjo and ukulele; however, her songs make use of vibephones, cello, washboard, percussions and even some electric instruments. An electric guitar, for instance, howls in the background of “Wolves” to compliment its title and its eerie tale.
Her music nicely balances old-timey and contemporary elements. Her songs, which are frequently relationship-based, mix images of the past and the present “All That Sugar” holds the line “and I bet you don’t have good sex/when your blood’s all full of gold,“ while in “Elephant,” she tells an ex-lover that “I hope Nina treats you right/that Copenhagen’s kind /that you sleep sound every night” among fanciful imagery of traveling over mountains and water.
Throughout the disc, Woodward displays a strong lyrical command. She begins “O Tornado” with “drive across the county line/Salinger and Andrew Wyeth/betwixt, between the time/where the frozen clocks are awful quiet” and doesn’t come across as a freshman lit major. “Pillar of Salt” similarly shows a deft poetic touch as she mixes biblical references and emotional revelations.
When Woodward harmonizes with frequent collaborator Linky Dickson, they suggest a more rural version of the Roches. Abigail Washburn and Gillian Welch also serve as touch points here; however, Woodward forges her own sound – something that’s modern and timeless, lilting and melancholic - during this thoroughly delightful disc. With her exquisitely crafted third effort, Woodward seems on poised for big things.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Go See Hear In L.A.: Jan. 18-23

Where has this week gone to? Since I am late here, I will just be brief and to the point.

The Infamous Stringdusters – super Americana pickers – are at the Mint 1/19

The highly talented, locally based singer/songwriter Tom Freund plays the Hotel Café 1/21. The 21st is also when Cowboy Mouth and Dash Rip Rock rip things up at the Mint (they will be at Hermosa Beach’s Sainte Rocke on the 19th). Also, the Old 97’s will be at the Music Box that night. I did a Q&A with Rhett Miller that you can find at

Legendary folkie Tom Paxton has two night at McCabe’s 1/21-22, while a slightly younger folkie Ellis Paul is there on Sunday night.

Suzanne Vega will be re-interpreting her catalog in a series of acoustic CDs, so you can expect a sampling of this project at her Largo show 1/22.

Wanda Jackson is experiencing a welcome career revival courtesy of a new Jack White-produced CD. She has shows at the El Rey 1/23-24.

Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl bring their beguiling The Ghost of the Saber Tooth Tiger project to the Troubadour on 1/23.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Back When Clapton Was “God”

DVD Review: Eric Clapton: The 1960’s Review

The DVD Eric Clapton: The 1960’s Review came out last fall and, despite its rather vanilla title, it does make for interesting viewing. The 2-hour documentary covers arguably the most exciting time in Clapton’s illustrious career – his formative years from the start of the Yardbirds to Cream and Blind Faith and ending with Derek And The Dominos. The era when “Clapton Is God” was a familiar rallying cry.

Even without the advantage of new Clapton material, the filmmakers utilize well-chosen old Clapton clips, new interviews from Clapton’s musician colleagues (like John Mayall, Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones and Bonzo Dog’s Neil Innes) and journalists (including Cream biographer Chris Welch and Yardbirds biographer Alan Clayson) to stitch together an insightful and engaging look into this very exciting, greatly influential time period of Clapton’s career. It’s hard to imagine that he was just 24 at the end of Cream.

The unauthorized biography also is jammed with some marvelous archival footage, from photos of Clapton as a kid through his time in Blind Faith. There also are some nice vintage clips of Clapton influences Muddy Waters, Freddie King and Jimi Hendrix, as well as a special segment on Sonny Boy Williamson in the Extras. Also, you can have fun of seeing Clapton’s wide range of Sixties hairstyles (short crop, long locks and curly afro) too.

The DVD doesn’t pretend to be a definitive look at Clapton’s storied career. It does, however, prove to be a highly successful look at his early career – packed with information and an entertaining array of footage. Any Clapton fan, and fan of Sixties rock ‘n’ roll, would find this DVD a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening flashback to this golden musical era.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Go See Hear In L.A.: Jan. 9-16

This week starts off on a relatively quiet note. The Hotel Café has a couple interesting shows during the week. Singer/songwriter Henry Wolfe, whom the LA Times hailed as one of their people to watch in 2011, plays there with the local band Willoughby on Tuesday night. Then on Thursday night, Nicole Simone has a gig there. Her music reminds me of Eleni Mandell’s Tom Waits-style chanteuse vibe.

Things really pick up when the weekend comes. Largo hosts a tremendous songwriter summit on Friday night when Jesse Winchester, Jimmy Webb and Tom Russell share the stage and share songs. There isn't enough space to mention all of the classic tunes that they have written. If you appreciate expert songwriting, then this is a can't miss show.

Otis Taylor has a show out at the Arcadia Blues Club on the 14th. Taylor is a creative, unique bluesman. A banjo player, Taylor fills his albums (which he gives names like Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs) with non-traditional blues instruments to bring to life his compelling, heartfelt, hard-lived tunes.

Jake La Botz also plays the blues - blues inspired by Delta blues and Chicago blues. While he once did a tour of tattoo parlors, this Friday, he’ll be at the Redwood Bar with his band.

John Doe will be performing at McCabe’s Friday and Saturday night. The X and Knitters frontman has put out a string of potent solo efforts, including 2009’s covers-based collaboration with the Sadies, Country Club.

Andrew Bird
has a pair of sold-out solo shows at Largo this weekend. So if you want to see him, hopefully you have a ticket already.

The Bad Books is a collaboration between the Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull and Kevin Devine that has drawn a lot of critical raves. They’ll bring this new project to the Troubadour on 1/15.

Midwestern folk-rocker Lissie will be headlining the Music Box on the 15th. Her Catching A Tiger disc garnered a lot of praise last year and she has become a KCRW favorite.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Newbie Quickie: The Daylights "I Hope This Gets To You"

The Very Short List clued me into a terrific video and song by the L.A. band, the Daylights, entitled "I Hope This Gets To You." The song is wonderful love letter, full of aching longing and jangly urgency. The song is a little like Brit pop with a pinch of grit. It also clocks in a classic pop length: 2:33. The video is equally marvelous in its minimalistic simplicity - hands "acting out" the songs. Watch it here:

Go See Hear In L.A.: Jan. 3-8

Hope everyone had a fine holiday time and fun New Year.
It’s only the third day of the year but it seems like already there is so much to do.

I am probably too late to get the word out on Guards'’ show at the Bootleg Theatre Monday night but I wanted to mention the band anyway because their sound is as vibrant as their name is commonplace. The brainchild of Richie James Follin, Guards creates glorious rock that is arty but hooky, and vice versa. You can check out their music at

Drivin’ N Cryin’ make a couple of stops in Southern California this week. They’ll pull into the Mint on 1/5, the Brixton on 1/16 and Anaheim’s House of Blues on 1/7. Kevn Kinney has been leading these roots rock road warriors since the ‘80s. They were part of the REM-led movement of Southern college rock bands and are still going strong. In 2009, they released the terrific Great American Bubble Factory, a disc well worth tracking down.

Exene Cervenka
was recently in town playing with her X mates. She’ll be at McCabes for a show on 1/8, where she’ll probably play some music from her upcoming The Excitement of Maybe. In an interview that I did for City’s Best LA, she described it as folk/pop with some twang along with horns and violin. The fine Paul Burch opens the show.

It’s be like the old days at Molly Malone’s when the Sin City All-Star play there on Saturday night. Molly’s was the All-Stars’ home for many a moon. Joining them on the bill will be Old Californio and Gaucho Gil. Making for a terrific trio of Americana music.