At the very peak of the Hippie movement, here comes Sha Na Na to remind everyone that “Rock n’ Roll is Here to Stay.” They were the second to last performers at Woodstock, opening for their friend (and fan of the band) Jimi Hendrix.
After that prime slot, the band went on to high-profile gigs at the Fillmore, best-selling albums, and even a hit TV show in the mid-Seventies. Sha Na Na ushered in a rock revival that continued with the films American Graffiti, Grease (which they were featured in), and the long-running TV show Happy Days.
20 years after their Woodstock performance, Sha Na Na, along with other performers of the original festival, gathered in California for a reunion concert. For the first time, that historic event has been put on DVD as Sha Na Na’s Woodstock: 20 Years After from Liberation Hall. It’s also available on CD and download.
We talk with founding member, drummer & vocalist, Jocko, from the the band. He walks us through the crazy path Sha Na Na took from college vocal group to the Woodstock stage in just a few short months. He also gives his memories of that crazy festival, and the reunion concert that followed.
Nicki Bluhm hails from Lafayette, California. The singer/songwriter released her first album in 2008. She also was a a part of Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. Her latest project, Avondale Drive, deals a lot with making a fresh start in life – after a divorce and a relocation to Nashville, Bluhm is ready to make music on her own terms.
The new album was produced by Jesse Noah Wilson and features guest appearances from folks like AJ Croce, Oliver Wood, Eric Slick and Jay Bellerose. After listening to her previous work, we think it’s her strongest album to date.
Note: the chirping you hear throughout the interview is a baby duck that decided to make friends while Bluhm was talking!
Sass Jordan hit pay dirt in the early 90’s with rock radio hit albums like Racine and Rats, and songs like “Make You a Believer” and “You Don’t Have to Remind Me.” But, she also garnered a Juno award in 1989, and even portrayed Janis Joplin in an off-Broadway musical.
While Covid was raging, Sass issued her first all-blues album called Rebel Moon Blues to critical acclaim. Now, she’s put together another collection, some originals, some covers, called Bitches Blues from Stony Plain Records.
We chat with Sass about playing live in a post-Covid world – how both musicians and the audience both need to relearn how to have fun. Plus, how she dug back to her childhood to pick some of the songs on her new record.
Face it, there’s going to be a time in the not-so-distant future when all the musicians who sang our favorite songs are gone. That’s what makes good tribute bands important.
After seeing Evil Woman – The American ELO at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering, I give them an A+
They’re hands down one of the best tribute bands I’ve ever seen.
The original Electric Light Orchestra last toured America in 1978, so lots of people (including yours truly) missed out on seeing their favorite band in concert. But, the music of Jeff Lynne & company is about as sophisticated as popular music ever got, so pulling this off live is no easy task.
Enter Nigel Holland. He created this project, and wow.
First of all, it wouldn’t be ELO without the ORCHESTRA, and they had a four-piece string section that was fabulous. Holland was one of two keyboardists, who were joined by two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, and an operatic, energetic backup singer. For those keeping score, that’s eleven musicians so far.
But wait, what about Jeff Lynne? Well, they got a guy that looks and sounds like him too (oh, and he plays guitar).
Total: TWELVE musicians
If that’s what it takes to pull this music off live, well then..rock on!
They opened with “Tight Rope,” an album cut off of A New World Record, before launching into a bulletproof set of ELO standards. “Do Ya,” and “Hold On Tight” both sounded big and rocked plenty, while ballads like “Strange Magic” were done with care. “Jungle,” off of the Out of the Blue album was the other “deep cut.”
All along the way, they nailed it. The twin lead guitars on “Showdown,” the big drum sound on “Don’t Bring Me Down,” the operatic voice on “Rockaria!” Oh, and let’s not forget the Vocoder – yes, we heard it on “Mr. Blue Sky,” but also on “All Over the World” and “Confusion.”
The solos, the vocals, the strings – everything was faithful to the original recording.
I was fortunate enough to see Jeff Lynne’s ELO back in 2018, and while watching the guy that actually sang and created the songs was fabulous, I have to say Evil Woman: The American ELO is better. Lynne’s stage show and lights were breathtaking, but Evil Woman had an attention to detail that even the meticulous Lynne couldn’t match.
We are going to want to sing the music of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s for generations to come. The bands that can faithfully pull off the classic sounds stand in a class by themselves.
Evil Woman: The American ELO is one such band.
I’m a very picky music fan – and I was thoroughly impressed.
They were the first Queen tribute band: Killer Queen was formed in 1993, just a year after Freddie Mercury’s passing, and they’ve been celebrating the legacy of Queen ever since.
We chat with frontman Patrick Myers about what got him to form the band in the first place, plus admiring Freddie’s moves, and how timeless Queen’s music really is. Amazingly, Killer Queen has managed to play some of the very same places that Queen did back in the day.
Killer Queen is making a stop at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Wednesday, June 29th.
Seth Walker has been issuing music for almost a quarter century. His albums have charted on the blues, Americana and folk charts, showing his diversity as an artist. His latest release, I Hope I Know, is his 11th album, once again produced by longtime collaborator, Jano Rix.
We discuss why he chose to relocate from Nashville to Asheville, NC, how an end to a relationship mixed with the worldwide pandemic caused him to look inward, and his excitement of playing overseas.
Michigan born singer/songwriter May Erlewine has been putting out her own music for almost 20 years. She’s also issued albums with the Sweet Water Warblers.
Her music has been covered by many artists, including Sawyer Fredericks, who performed her song, “Shine On,” on NBC’s The Voice.
Her brand new album, Tiny Beautiful Things, deals a lot with the connections between people – something sorely missing during the worldwide pandemic. In her own words, she says “this album is an invitation to connect with the many ways that love appears in our lives.”
We chat with Erlewine about the challenges around having to record the new album remotely. She also reveals the inspiration behind many of the songs on the new record.
Black Swan, a hard rock supergroup featuring Robin McAuley of MSG, Jeff Pilson of Dokken, Reb Beach of Winger and Matt Starr of Mr. Big.
The band issued their debut album in 2020 called Shake the World to critical acclaim. Now they’re back with their sophomore release, Generation Mind, once again recorded at Pilson’s home studio in L.A.
McAuley talks about how Jeff Wayne’s musical of War of the Worlds inspired one song, while Jack the Ripper inspired another. He also discusses the difficulty of getting all four (busy) members together to make music.
Known by the masses for their monster 90’s hit, “Roll to Me,” but known by their devoted fans as expert songsmiths, the Scottish band, Del Amitri, just wrapped up their first tour of the US in 25 years with a stop in Cleveland.
Mainstays Justin Currie (bass/lead vocals) and Iain Harvie (lead guitar) were joined by longtime keyboardist, Andy Alston (who also played accordion), Kris Dollimore on guitar and Ash Soan on drums. Currie still looked great, dressed in denim and sporting his long hair (a little gray now), while Harvie still had the long hair and beard that made him look more like a member of Motorhead, even in the band’s heyday.
They opened with a fitting, acoustic version of “When You Were Young,” before launching into “Musicians and Beer,” one of seven songs they played from their recent (and excellent) album, Fatal Mistakes. “All Hail Blind Love,” also new, had great harmonies. “Always the Last to Know,” a single that got considerable MTV play back in the day, was a solid rocker that sounded great. They played “Kiss This Thing Goodbye,” which was the band’s first hit in the US, at an even faster pace than the record.
Surprises included the Twisted ballad, “It Might as Well Be You,” and a stripped down version of “Empty” off of Waking Hours. “Spit in the Rain,” which was only available as an import single for years, was a welcome addition. The ballad, “Driving With the Brakes On,” should’ve been a bigger hit when it came out in the mid-Nineties.
They played their signature, Beatles’ knockoff, “Roll to Me,” in the middle of the set, which was surprising, but that left room for more interesting songs like “Stone Cold Sober,” and aggressive “Crashing Down”
They encored with a very dark, new song, “I’m So Scared of Dying,” before ending with a stripped-down run through of “Be My Downfall.”
In an era where concertgoers are overpaying to see musicians that can’t sing or play anymore, Del Amitri was a welcome change.
Currie was in fine voice throughout, and the interplay between guitarists Harvie and Dollimore was great, as well as Alston’s tasteful additions of keyboards and accordion.
25 years is a long time to wait for a band. But, I believe everyone in attendance got their money’s worth. There were rumors throughout the crowd that the band might be back next year, perhaps after completing another album. All hail Del Amitri! —Tony Peters
Stellar live recording of the Delta bluesman, previously unreleased
There is no music as raw and pure as that of blues legend, Son House. His unique voice, steeped from years in the church and working in the Delta, cuts straight to the soul. And, his slide guitar playing sends shivers down the spine.
Forever on My Mind documents a never-before-released performance at Wabash College in Indiana in November of 1964. It marks the earliest known recording of House’s “rediscovery” period.
House grew up in the Delta and recorded sporadically in 1930 for Paramount Records, but those records were not successful. In 1941, Alan Lomax taped House for the Library of Congress. Both recordings were reissued in the mid-sixties, and became part of the “folk-blues revival.” House was “rediscovered” by a trio of blues fans, including Dick Waterman, who convinced him to start performing again and became his manager.
Waterman owns these recordings and licensed them to Easy Eye Sound, run by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.
The title track, “Forever on My Mind,” has never been on a Son House album before, and features a moaning vocal, where he sings “I gets up in the morning / at the break of day / I be hugging the pillow / where you used to lay.”
Of the eight tracks from this sparsely-attended show (maybe 50 people), five of them would end up on his Columbia album, Father of Folk Blues, released several months later in 1965. Comparing these two recordings bring some interesting discoveries.
“Preachin’ Blues” is more immediate here, you can hear him breathing, grunting, clearing his throat, and his slide work seems to be channeling lightning. He also makes the crowd laugh when he sings “I wanna be a Baptist preacher / so I won’t have to work.” On “Empire State Express” he just sounds possessed and that descending guitar line is utterly hypnotic.
“Death Letter Blues” is slower that the frenetic, studio recording, but is just as chilling.
He also tackles “Pony Blues,” done by his contemporary, Charlie Patton, and the blues standard, “Motherless Children” (here, listed as “The Way Mother Did”).
The restoration work here is incredible. These recordings, almost 60 years old, and taken from 1/4-inch reels, sound phenomenal. And, although it’s a “live” recording, you rarely can tell. The album producers decided to fade each song out before any applause (either that, or they were not impressed with his playing, which seems highly unlikely!).
The set comes with in-depth liner notes, featuring quotes from both Waterman and Auerbach. It’s Waterman, who traveled extensively with House, that points out how special these recordings are, noting that later concerts featured the bluesman telling stories, and hamming it up with the crowd. Here, it’s just Son House and his guitar, with very little talking.
Lastly, the collection is heightened by the groovy picture of House in a Cardigan sweater on the cover.
Waterman has said to have many other recordings like these in his possession. Let’s hope more come out like this real soon.
Forever on My Mind is a fantastic addition to the legacy of one of the true pillars of the blues, Son House. —Tony Peters