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Moors and McCumber - Pandemonium Print E-mail
Saturday Listening
Written by James Killen   
Apr 04, 2015 at 08:00 AM

ImageSinger/ songwriter duo, Moors and McCumber, has been touring the folk music circuit, promoting their latest disc, "Pandemonium". This effort represents a departure from the work on the last three albums in that the production has brought the music in from the campfire to the studio world of pop music.

First let me go on record as a "campfire music" fan. I grew up going to scout camps and church camps and just plain camp camps, singing old standards around the fire pit. There is a simple beauty to the interplay of acoustic instruments and blended voices without a lot of orchestration and effects. "Against the Grain", "Gravity" and the M&M debut disc were all excellent "campfire music" collections and I highly recommend them.

"Pandemonium" is produced by Gary Louris, whom some will recognize as the guitarist and vocalist from the Jayhawks. Louris layered the instrumental parts of the song to take best advantage of Kort and James's multi-instrument abilities.  The vocals are employed in complex harmonies more often, rather than the lead and backing vocal arrangements of the earlier works. The more prominent use of keyboards (piano and organs) adds a depth as well. In addition to the fresh production, these songs feature some very solid songwriting and catchy hooks. Gary recognizes and exploits the talents that Moors and McCumber exhibit to produce recordings that would fit smartly into any pop radio set list.

 A recurring theme in the lyrics is the desire to return to a simpler state of being where we don't allow the pesky aggravations of life to obfuscate what is really important, especially on "Crack a Smile", "Everything", and "If Living Was Easy". "You Take Me Somewhere" has a bluegrass sound and features the additional harmonies of Jim Gilmour, Ray Smith, and Carl Minor behind James Moors and Kort McCumber. "No Way to Live" voices the theme with some tasteful orchestration and subtle special effects.

"Take Me Away" is a personal account of Kort McCumber's experiences as he lost his home during the Colorado floods of the fall of 2013. "Bend or be Broken" features an electric lead guitar part by Gary Louris which brings the works of the Jayhawks to mind. "Buried in the Earth" has a haunting feel to it as it deals with the inner conflict of a soldier dealing with guilt and duty.

"Best of Intentions" reminded me of a Lennon/McCartney vocal blending accompanied by piano. The title track, "Pandemonium" was left for the last position on the disc. It featured an organ fugue and an almost choir-like back up furthering the theme by depicting a man caught up in the rat race and squelching the urge to escape.

Choosing "Pandemonium" as a title strikes me as a bit ironic in that the layering of instrument tracks and the weaving of complex harmonies have been so carefully designed and executed. I think that M&M fans and Jayhawks fans would find this disc worth the investment in time and money. Any time that these guys book a gig near you, make an effort to get there. You won't be disappointed.           

Last Updated ( Mar 31, 2015 at 02:50 PM )
Lewis Hutcheson - Soundtrack for Wandering Minds Print E-mail
Saturday Listening
Written by Mike Pittman   
Apr 02, 2015 at 08:00 AM

ImageHow many long lost friends have you gotten back in touch with because of all the social media?

Stepping way back in time to the high school years there were a bunch of us..and I mean a bunch that played together in bands.   This was in north Dallas and we were in and out of each other's bands, playing and jamming constantly..a way of life really. Those were some great times..some of the best of my life.

Coming back to the present, I recently caught up with an old friend and it's a sincere pleasure to write this piece. Lewis Hutcheson kept playing and has kept playing for all these years. When he sent me a copy of his latest CD I was thrilled to not only hear it, but to tell a Houston audience about the masterful guitar of Lewis Hutcheson.

Lewis will tell you he enjoys playing just about any kind of music, but lives and breaths jazz. Soundtrack For Wandering Minds is the culmination of years of effort and study and in my mind rises to world class rank.

Writing all the songs, Hutcheson displays a genius for overlapping themes, rhythms and melodies. The complex is handled with ease and the textures that emerge are nothing short of world class.

The 1st track called Frisellian Jelly (http://www.amazon.com/Frisellian-Jelly/dp/B000QLNO7E) sets the tone for the rest of the record. It's a slightly dissonant soft jazz song which sounds like it should be a sound track to a mystery thriller.

Kim Stone (bass, Spyro Gyra, Rippingtons) is featured on tracks 3 and 8 with the late Austin keyboard virtuoso Doug Hall appearing on tracks 1,2,5 and 6.

Track 4 is called New York and it's playing now on my player...I'm thinking it's after hours and I've stopped into a slow little corner club to catch a nightcap. You know the kind, where the music is dark and free. No one notices you while the veteran players paint layer upon layer of sonic textures. The song fades...and the silence caves in.

Of particular note is the last song on the record called Ditty Gone Wild which is a classy duet between Lewis on acoustic guitar and Chris Maresh on acoustic bass. Both musicians display a mastery of their instruments and to hear them interplay is phenominal.

The entire record plays in the best traditions of Miles, Zawinul, Monk and DiMeola and is truly a work of art. Connect with Lewis on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lewis.hutcheson.92. Let's see if we can bring him to Houston.

Last Updated ( Apr 08, 2015 at 12:01 PM )
Black Beehive - Big Head Todd and the Monsters Print E-mail
Saturday Listening
Written by Administrator   
Aug 10, 2014 at 10:00 AM

ImageSince their formation in the mid-'80s, Big Head Todd & the Monsters have continued to evolve and explore, moving beyond their Colorado club circuit roots to become one of the most adventurous, respected and durable bands in America. Through constant touring and a zeal to travel down new musical avenues in the studio, BHTM (as their dedicated fans call them) have honed their collective stew of influences into a trademark hybrid sound that's immediately recognizable. Now, with Black Beehive, their maiden release on Shout! Factory (February 4, 2014), the quartet has made its most personal and poignant album to date, a collection of new studio tracks that, says co-founder and figurehead Todd Park Mohr, "allows us to truly reach our audience through the language of the blues."

Recorded at Butcher Boy Studios in Chicago, Mohr's hometown of the past seven years, and produced and mixed by Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist Steve Jordan (whose previous production credits include John Mayer, Buddy Guy, Solomon Burke and Robert Cray), Black Beehive arrives a quarter-century after the group's debut album, Another Mayberry, first put Big Head Todd & the Monsters on the map beyond their home base. Today, the original trio-Mohr on guitar and vocals, Brian Nevin on drums and vocals and Rob Squires on bass and vocals-along with keyboardist/pedal steel guitarist Jeremy Lawton, who joined in 2004, are still opening themselves to new possibilities even as they further explore their roots. "It has some contemporary elements that bridge a gap between alternative pop and traditional blues," says Mohr about Black Beehive, whose title refers to the late British soul singer Amy Winehouse, the inspiration behind the album's title track.

The band approached the recording in an old-school organic fashion, playing together in the studio, which Mohr describes as "a big open space," and sticking to the basics. "I played resonator guitar on almost every song and most of the album is kind of simple: guitar, slide guitar, drums and bass," he says. "We only had two guests on the album. One was Eddie Shaw, who was Howlin' Wolf's harmonica player for many years, and Ronnie Baker Brooks, who played guitar. And Steve Jordan played on almost every track-various things, percussion, rhythm guitar."

Jordan, whose incredible career began when he joined Stevie Wonder's band as a teenager, later going on to perform in the Saturday Night Live band, Paul Shaffer's World's Most Dangerous Band on Late Night with David Letterman, and backing John Belushi and Dan Akroyd when they toured as The Blues Brothers, has an unbelievable production roster but is also well-known as a drummer. A member of the John Mayer Trio, Jordan also toured and recorded with Keith Richards and the X-pensive Winos, joined Eric Clapton for his 2006 European tour, and has also worked with Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, James Brown and more.

Mohr first met Jordan through the legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin, who died in 2011. "We were planning to have an 80th birthday party for Hubert," says Todd, "and Steve was the musical director. When Hubert passed away it ended up being a tribute at the Apollo Theater: Eric Clapton and Billy Gibbons and Keith Richards-there were probably 35 incredible musicians at this thing. I was immediately awestruck by Steve's command of the material and his understanding of it and his ability to get it done on short notice with all these people. I thought this guy would be an unbelievable producer for me to work with. I sent him some demos and he was up for it."

As he began writing material for the album, Mohr drew from both his own life experiences and events in the news. The title track was written following Winehouse's death. "I love her voice and her performances, and obviously her shenanigans were part of her persona," says Mohr. Several other songs were also ripped from the headlines, including "We Won't Go Back," which Mohr penned about the 2010 Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East, and "Fear, Greed and Ignorance," whose topical lyrics declare that it's those three dishonorable traits that are "driving you America off the edge of the road."

Not every track is quite so pointed, however. "Hubert's Dream," is a nod to the late Mr. Sumlin, while album opener "Hey Delila" is Mohr's tribute to another blues giant, Memphis Minnie. "I happened to acquire a great example of her instrument, which was a 1941 Spanish National resonator guitar. Plus, she has an incredible life story," he says. "Everything About You" is dedicated to NASA, who called upon BHTM to awaken the Discovery space shuttle crew with their song "Blue Sky" in 2011, marking the first time live music was ever used for that purpose.

Among the album's other tunes, "Josephina" and "Seven State Lines" are what Mohr describes simply as "blues-based themes," while "I Get Smooth" is "a comedy piece." The cautionary tale "Travelin' Light" is the story of lovers who "threw away our hearts and fled" and the moving "Forever Bonnie" is based on a true story of a "gentleman who got a love letter delivered to him 53 years later by the Postal Service." Black Beehive also includes, as a bonus track, Big Head Todd & the Monsters' burning take on the Jimmy Reed blues classic "Baby What You Want Me To Do," a song that Jordan requested they cut.

For BHTM, Black Beehive serves as both a reaffirmation of the band's roots and a step into the next 25 years. Founded as a trio in Boulder, Colorado in 1986, Big Head Todd & the Monsters quickly built a strong reputation on the local club circuit. As word of their soulful and intense live show traveled around the nation they found themselves filling larger and larger venues. BHTM have now played Denver's historic Red Rocks Amphitheatre more than 20 times, and are embedded in the fabric of Colorado's music scene.

Beginning with Another Mayberry in 1989, critics noticed what audiences at BHTM live shows already knew. The All Music Guide praised the "subtlety of Mohr's lyrics" and his "individual world view." But it was the follow-up, 1990's Midnight Radio, that truly established the band as a creative force to be reckoned with. Its popularity led to a major label contract and the release of the platinum-selling Sister Sweetly in 1993. With subsequent albums such as 1994's Strategem and 1997's Beautiful World, the band earned a place among the top names on the jam band circuit, solidified by 1998's Live Monsters, the first official concert recording by Big Head Todd & the Monsters. Riviera was released in 2002, followed by 2004's Crimes of Passion, of which The London Times stated "American rock doesn't get anymore classy than this." Later that year, Live at the Fillmore was released to critical praise. All Music Guide called the release, the band's first with Jeremy Lawton, "loud, proud, and full of righteous raw ambience."

The band, which has always proudly controlled its own business dealings and marketing, gave away 2007's All the Love You Need through their email list, radio stations, and magazines. Their ninth studio album, Rocksteady, followed in 2010. Said Examiner.com, "With Rocksteady, the Colorado boys prove they can sprinkle in a plethora of differing music styles and still rock." 2011's 100 Years of Robert Johnson, the album preceding Black Beehive, found the group paying tribute to the pioneering bluesman while performing as Big Head Blues Club (along with other notable blues legends, including B. B. King, Charlie Musselwhite, Cedric Burnside, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Sumlin, Ruthie Foster, and Lightnin' Malcolm). The band toured behind the album with a few of the guest artists, marking some of the final performances by both Edwards and Sumlin. Mohr paid tribute to Sumlin in 2012 when he served as a featured artist at his tribute show at the Apollo Theatre.

With all of that history behind them, it would be easy for Big Head Todd & the Monsters to play the nostalgia card and fall back on past glories, but that's of no interest to them. BHTM still performs, and devoutly loves, the material that first brought them to their fans - material they now approach with a fresh, seasoned perspective. "As a writer and as a human being there's a big difference between being 21 and 47," says Mohr. "Having said that, I think a lot of those compositions are still lyrically sound, even though it's hard for me to imagine that I would have had the experience to write about the stuff I did. Obviously, I think the band has gotten better over the years because when you develop yourself you continue to improve, and I think we have improved musically. As a writer, I'm really pleased with where I'm at right now."

"A lot of it had to do with my experience with the Robert Johnson project," he adds. "That had a large impact on how I looked at music. For a large portion of my career, I've been trying to reproduce the success of Sister Sweetly, just as a touchstone of ‘this is a pop song, or rock-pop.' Pop songs have pretty narrow rules when it comes down to it. Generally you need a chorus and a bridge. The blues material from Robert Johnson's day, the prewar blues, was so fascinating to me because of the fact that it is pop music but there are no choruses. It's a different way of having repetition and themes and a different goal for a pop song. The music is shared by everybody because it's passed down through tradition. The whole spirit of what one is going for is radically different than pop and that really became exciting for me because I could see a new way to reach people."

When Big Head Todd & the Monsters launch their extensive national tour behind Black Beehive in January-which will continue through the summer and hit most major markets-they will be honing the album's ageless blues along the way, and simultaneously affirming their own longevity. It's clear that they possess a rare musical wholeness that has not only survived for 25 plus years, but still has them looking forward to creating music together night after night. "The other guys have shown great support of my songwriting and what I'm able to do, and all of the band members bring a lot to the plate, both musically and as a unit," says Mohr. "No one ever expects a band to last this long. We're very, very lucky."


Last Updated ( Aug 30, 2014 at 01:02 PM )
On A Dark Highway - Jubal Lee Young Print E-mail
Saturday Listening
Written by Michael Pittman   
Jul 31, 2014 at 03:00 PM

ImageUsually, if you’re anything like me, you have to listen to an entire CD before beginning to get into the point, but there are times those times when you just can’t wait. Maybe you listen for a theme..or a streak of inspiration that helps you gauge the dimension of the project. Can’t do it this time, WELCOME BACK Jubal Lee Young! 

Right out of the chute comes Texas Pirate Radio and I can feel the night air against my skin and the wind whipping my hair into unrecognizable shapes as I rocket down the highway in an old Cadillac complete with those tricked out fins and the top down burning through the gas like a Sherman tank on a faraway battlefield.  

And that’s just for starters. 

Jubal Lee Young scores huge with On A Dark Highway. Sometimes hard and driving, sometimes reflective, often flavored with humor this is always gut-level honest music from a man whose musical heritage was forged in his genes and tempered by the endless road.  

Dad Steve Young and mom Terrye Newkirk long ago laid the foundations and Jubal almost has no choice in the matter, the music is as much a part of him as breathing.  

In the tradition of Roseanne Cash’s reverence for her father comes Jubal’s version of Steve’s White Trash Song and Terrye’s My Oklahoma. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting both parents and I’m not sure there are any two songs that capture them like these two songs do.  

Ghosts of the Buffalo conjures up visions of the dusty boots and faded black hats of outlaw riders who probably felt the pain of the disappearing frontier as sharply as the native tribes did. 

There’s no doubt in any Texans’ mind that Texas girls are ohhh sooo somethin special and bragging on em just comes natural in Texas Girls while Under A Rock In Arkansas makes ya wanna sling a guitar over your shoulder and chew on the words right along with Young.  

The final track is also the title cut. Imagine you’re on the road reflecting on life, love and all things possible. Sometimes, maybe that reality isn’t all you hoped it might be.. “When you're on a dark highway/Static on the radio/Losing on your mind/And a woman from long ago/Things that might have been/People that walked away/With only the stars left shining/On a dark highway”.   

ImageSays Jubal, “I think that the title song is the essence of the album. It’s a bit of a travel log of the last few years. The underlying motif is the states I frequent and the people and places I have encountered. When the lights are out and the crowds have gone home; when the tour is over it’s just you riding down the highway, alone with your thoughts, being human.”  Well said, to which he adds, “I played 99% of the guitar on this record and I think it made a big difference.  I finally captured myself on an album”.  

Personnel on this record include Amanda Preslar. Originally from Mississippi she came to Oklahoma as a teen where she majored in music composition and now owns Preslar Music in Tulsa, OK. Having appeared on various projects in the past, this is the first time she has stepped into the limelight as a part of a duo. Her soulful voice lifts majestically above Jubal’s grit..with the pair able to almost create a third voice in the mix.  

If you’re already a Jubal fan, I don’t need to tell you that this, like his previous projects is a step down the road. I also don’t need to tell you that each record is better than the previous…and so it is with On A Dark Highway. Check him out at www.juballeeyoung.com.





Last Updated ( Aug 10, 2014 at 03:34 PM )
Around the Edge: 2014 New Orleans Wine and Food Experience Print E-mail
Written by Eddie Ferranti   
May 24, 2014 at 08:00 PM

ImageThey have a saying in Louisiana that goes "Laissez les bons temps rouler" that basically says "Let the good times roll". Not a better way to describe our recent trip to the great city of New Orleans for the 22nd Annual New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. Over the last two decades this classic event has raised more than 1 million dollars for local charities and educational causes. 

 It spans four days and there is something to enjoy at every turn in the form of swirlin', smellin', sippin' and all out food stuffin' of the most delicious varities! All of it presented in nothing short of First Class treatment from the Hotel Monteleone where we stayed and they hosted a killer kick-off Happy Hour on Thursday chocked full of supreme tidbits like giant shrimp, oysters, ribs , eggplant, chicken waffles and of course wine flowing like rivers. 

 Walk out the front door and the Royal Street Stroll encompassing the 200-900 blocks was on! For 3 hours you got to engage in a French Quarter street party amid the Vieux Carre's most opulent and venerable shops. The weather was not as hot and humid as Nawlins can be at this time of year and it added to the fun.

 It is hard to describe if you've never been, but you wear a wrist band and you get to sample everything from over 100 wineries to countless mouth watering delectables in generous portions. Music is featured on this night at every other block or so from big bands marching featuring the Krewe of Cork to horn playing foursomes to a sweet lady named Elli Perry who we got to have a nice chat with and will see her again! Rose and I covered every inch (including the 4-5 food truck lot) that we could and collapsed in the room with big smiles on our mugs! 

Image Friday was extra cool because we had a double dip of deliciousness on hand. Barefoot Wine rolled out the red carpet and invited us to thee epic Galatoire's where a five course luncheon was served complete with a different wine for each segment. Talk about flat out top notch treatment full of stories behind the creations of the wines themselves to the history of this great company. They've been around since 1986 and what they've accomplished is quite cool. The name Barefoot itself spawned from the stomping of the grapes to kickin' off your shoes and enjoying life and as winemaker Jen Wall says : "We like to cork a vacation in every bottle!" Dug that girl! Randy Arnold is another head cheese with Barefoot and you couldn't meet a finer group of fun loving people loving their jobs. Barefoot has created a charity program worldwide called Beach Rescue Projects where they get up to 300 volunteers to clean up trash and such while offering a party to go along with it. Their passion is making the world a better place through wine. Houston Music Review has already booked their venture in Austin, Texas cleaning up Lady Bird lake! Hats off big time to Marieke Bianchi and her side kick sweet Lauren Castelluzzo for hooking us up without a hitch.

Image Just when we thought we were having a great time, Friday and Saturday at the Convention Center happened for the Grand Tastings! Talk about traveling into the land of "skrump- diddley- umpshish!! Ladies get all dolled up and the party is on major for three hours each day. Extensive offerings from 75 chefs and selections of wines from around the world were bestowed upon us. This event is also handled in first class fashion with most of the selections having small wait times if not just walk up and partake of whatever you desire. And do not forget that Guiness 1800 Tequila and Stella Artois are represented also. Impossible to give credit to all of the fantastic grub we stuffed in our jowls, but I'll try to give some major standouts (which were many!): 

 -Hot shrimp and crawfish at Redfish Grille

-Sea scallops at Broussard's 

-Braised Chappapeela pork cheek fantastic @ Hyatt Regency New Orleans 8 Block Kitchen & Bar

 -Champagne Sorbet at The Creole Creamery 

-Ceviche Coctail at Victory NOLA 

-Bourbon and brown sugar glazed salmon at Dick & Jenny's

 -Eggplant stuffed with shrimp, crabmeat, and ham @ Pascal's Manale 

-Veal osso buco ravioli at Ruth Chris Steak House 

-Chicken shrimp marengo pasta at Sodexo-Tulane University 

-Chocolate pecan crunch was outstanding at Bourbon House 

-Smoked gouda mac n' cheese at Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse 

-Superb lobster bisque at Galatoire's 

-Mouth watering grilled hanger steak @ Besh Steak 

-Yaka mein @ Ralph's on the Park 

-Plus plenty of refreshing Mountain Valley Spring Water all three days Just reading this list makes me long to be back there to relive how bad ass this event is! Also they have the "King of Louisiana Seafood" crowned at the 7th Annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off going on ,too.

Image On Friday and Saturday they hold multiple cool seminars ranging from 10:30am until 4:45pm covering every inch of wine making inside and out. By the time Sunday rolled around were were definitely shell shocked from all the lavish love that was bestowed upon us and we went to St Loius Cathedral to Thank the Lord for the experience! 

 In closing, I would like to send out a BIG hugaroo to sweet hard working Liz Bodet who made it all happen for us in a beyond professional manner indeed. Her new side kick Jessica was a peach, too along with all the employees at family owned Hotel Monteleone, especially Jani, Stephani and Raoul. In today's stress filled world we live in vacations are cherished more than ever when we get to take them. This one has happened three times for us and we can only pray that it comes our way again in the future. "Come To Your Senses" is their slogan and it fits quite well. Highly recommend this chance to enjoy one of the most fun loving cities in the USA.............It's worth every penny and goes to a good cause. 

Last Updated ( Sep 30, 2014 at 03:46 PM )
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