Captivating – Ruthie Foster goes solo in Cincinnati

2/17/17 – Southgate House Revival, Newport, KY

I’ve seen my share of solo acoustic shows, yet few have the ability to keep an audience’s attention quite like Ruthie Foster. Chalk it up to her Texas roots – there’s just so much diversity in music down there, and it was on full display during her show Friday night. There was plenty of blues – her own “Singing the Blues,” Mississippi John Hurt’s “Richland Woman Blues,” and even something she called a “Texas Two-Step Blues.”

Those were coupled with soulful numbers like “The Ghetto” by the Staple Singers, a surprise arrangement of “Oh Susannah,” and a vast re-working of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Several gospel songs allowed her an opportunity to belt things out, even stepping back from the microphone to sing, like Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head” and a blues-holler-meets-the-pupit in “Runaway Spirit.”

But the one song that stood out was a moving version of her life-affirming anthem, “Phenomenal Woman” – that one made the entire crowd leap up for a spontaneous, rousing ovation. She encored with a taste of her forthcoming album, “Joy Comes Back.”

Foster, who usually is accompanied by a band, admitted between songs that it was a bigger challenge up there by herself, but delighted when the crowd helped sing her songs.

The best news of the night came from the Cincinnati Blues Society, who announced that Foster would be back, this time with a full band, for the Cincy Blues Fest in August.

Icon Fetch did an audio interview with Ruthie Foster which will be posted soon.  –Tony Peters

Show #291 – John Mayall (2/13/17)

He’s 83 years old and is playing 130 shows this year – how does John Mayall keep going?

He’s been called the Godfather of the Blues, John Mayall is into his 8th decade of life and yet is showing no sign of slowing down.  His band has been a proving ground for some of the greatest musicians of all time – guitarists like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor and Sonny Landreth, plus Aynsley Dunbar, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Jack Bruce.

His brand new record is called Talk About That, and it’s a diverse affair, encapsulating the many twists and turns of his career, giving Mayall a chance to play organ, piano, harmonica and guitar.  Out of the 11 tracks, eight are recent songs composed by him.  As is with every Mayall record, there’s a surprise, this time he’s joined by guitar great Joe Walsh for a couple of tracks, including the searing “The Devil Must Be Laughing.”

Mayall unbelievably has 130 shows scheduled for this year – he shares what keeps him going.  Plus, how not surprisingly, he prefers vinyl over digital music.

Harry Belafonte – When Colors Come Together

Harry Belafonte – When Colors Come Together: The Legacy of Harry Belafonte (RCA/Legacy) review

Now, more than ever, his music and message need to be heard

There is truly only one Harry Belafonte.

Singer, actor, political activist; he is a towering figure whose message of equality for all seems more relevant now in these turbulent times than ever before. Legacy Recordings is celebrating the singular artist’s 90th birthday with a brand-new collection called When Colors Come Together: The Legacy of Harry Belafonte (to be released February 24th).

Few young people could pick Belafonte’s music out by name. Yet, the refrain “Day-O” from his “Banana Boat Song” is one of the most-recognizable pieces in the history of recorded music, getting played at sporting and entertainment events worldwide; very few nonagenarians can say they’ve recorded such timeless music. Yet, equally important is Belafonte’s tireless activism for racial harmony. This hope for a peaceful world is reflected in the accompanying booklet, which features quotes from the legendary singer, alongside interviews with children of all races, augmented by images of ways all races can co-exist peacefully. Continue reading Harry Belafonte – When Colors Come Together

Dennis Coffey – Hot Coffey in the D (review)

Dennis Coffey – Hot Coffey in the D: Burnin’ at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge (Resonance Records) review

A never-before heard jazz/funk club offering from one of Motown’s unsung heroes

Dennis Coffey’s list of credits is enough to make your head spin.  He’s responsible for helping Motown Records take a huge leap forward with his innovative guitar playing on singles like “Psychedelic Shack” from the Temptations and “War” from Edwin Starr.  He also helped discover Rodriguez, the enigmatic singer that was profiled in the recent documentary, Searching For Sugarman.  But this live recording predates all of that, finding Coffey flanked by Lyman Woodard on Hammond B3 organ and Melvin Davis on drums; both were also veterans of the Motown stable of session musicians.

The set begins with the band original, “Fuzz,” an extended jam which showcases Coffey’s  melodic, yet trailblazing style.  This particular track is more rock than anything else here (and the closest to his big solo instrumental hit, “Scorpio,” which he had in 1971).  He always sounds like he’s about to lift off into the stratosphere, but then brings things back down just in time.

Continue reading Dennis Coffey – Hot Coffey in the D (review)

Show # 290 – Peter Holsapple (2/3/17)

Legendary melodic songwriter Peter Holsapple is back with a new vinyl 45, his first new solo project in 20 years.

Peter was a touring musician for both R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish

If you trace the roots of Power Pop,  in the Seventies you had the Raspberries, Badfinger & Big Star.  Later in the Nineties you had artists like Matthew Sweet, the Gin Blossoms & Weezer that were able to have commercial success.  But, during the decade in the middle there – the Eighties, it was all about funny hair and keyboards, and it was hard going for the power pop guys.  There were bands like North Carolina’s the dB’s, who released a string of hook-laden albums that gained only a cult following, but are now considered classics.

Singer/guitarist Peter Holsapple not only led the dB’s, he’s also been a member of the alternative supergroup the Continental Drifters, and was a touring member of R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish during their peak years.  Holsapple has just issued a vinyl 45, his first new solo outing in 20 years called “Don’t Mention the War.”

We talk, the project that helped spur on this recent burst of creativity, plus the excellent music video that accompanies the song.

Show #289 – Stephen Pearcy (2/1/17)

Stephen Pearcy fronted Ratt through several platinum albums in the Eighties and early Nineties, including Out of the Cellar, Invasion of Your Privacy, Dancing Undercover and Reach For the Sky.  The band had success on the pop charts as well, hitting #12 in 1984 with “Round and Round,” also a huge MTV hit.  In the early 2000’s, Pearcy embarked on a solo career, and he’s just issued his fourth solo long-player called Smash.  The new album sees him returning to his riff-heavy roots of classic Ratt, while also breaking new ground – there’s some strong Led Zeppelin influences here as well.  He’s also planning a reunion with his bandmates in Ratt for a tour later this year.

Buck Owens – The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957-1966 (review)

Buck Owens and the Buckaroos – The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957-1966 (Omnivore Recordings) review

All of Owens’ trailblazing singles compiled

Buck Owens helped rewrite the rules of country music, wrestling away the monopoly that Nashville had on the genre and setting up camp in Bakersfield, California. Owens redefined what a country record could be – stripping away the studio polish and putting his signature Telecaster guitar upfront. Omnivore Recordings has just issued The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957-1966, collecting every A and B side he recorded during that span.

This phenomenal, two-disc set marks the first time the original 45 rpm single versions have been available digitally. Owens purposely mixed his singles with an abundance of high end. This served two purposes: one, his Telecaster was even more prominent, and two, he made sure that his records sounded like nothing else on the radio.

Continue reading Buck Owens – The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957-1966 (review)

Hayley Reardon – Good (review)

Hayley Reardon – Good (Hayley Reardon) review

Good is her best yet

It’s been an amazing journey for Hayley Reardon. She got an early start, writing her first song at eleven, so she’s already been releasing music and playing out live for years. Reardon has never been scared of baring her soul, even if some of her teenage drama now seems a little trivial. Now, she’s attending college and has recently issued her new album, Good.

Right off, there’s a more relaxed feel to these tracks – she’s certainly been here before. Yet, there’s also a hint of weariness, as if the realities of adulthood have hit her in unexpected ways. This is especially apparent in songs like “Would You Wait,” where she confesses “I don’t need to be different / I just need to be ok.” She’s enamored with a boy in “Good,” yet she reveals later in the song that she still digs him “even if you don’t love me.”

This album sounds like growth and not a reinvention, and part of that can be attributed to producer Lorne Entress, who was brought back to once again elevate these songs to acoustic soundscapes. Take the sparse, spine-tingling “Ghost,” led by Reardon’s simple guitar line. Entress adds tremelo guitar, piano and sound effects, yet leaves the track sparse, allowing the track to really breathe, as she reveals “I am not lonely / I just miss the old me.”

One of the best tracks is “Paper Mache’,” which is propelled by gentle funky percussion. Her voice has grown richer, and deepened a little. We get a break from mid tempo with the bouncy “The High Road” and it’s some of her best wordplay to date.

Reardon has been heavily involved in talking with students all over the country, as she was one herself. It’s interesting to hear her look at things from a more grown up perspective now, as on the poignant “Fourth Grade,” where she interacts with a little girl who wants to be all grown up – it could easily be her talking to her younger self.

The album ends with just Reardon and her guitar with “Work More.”

Hayley Reardon originally got noticed because she was so young. Now that that’s no longer a thing, it’s time to take her more seriously as an artist. Good is a big leap forward, and it shows that she isn’t done growing as a songwriter.  –Tony Peters

Show #288 – Dennis Coffey (1/24/17)

Legendary Motown Guitarist Talks New Archival Jazz Funk Release

Dennis Coffey is truly one of the unsung heroes of the guitar.  In the late Sixties, he became a member of the famed “Funk Brothers” – the backing musicians that played on all the Motown hit singles.  His unique style can be heard on “Ball of Confusion” by the Temptations, “War” by Edwin Starr, and  “Someday We’ll Be Together” by the Supremes,  just to name a few. He also had a solo career, scoring the million-selling instrumental “Scorpio” in 1971.

Resonance Records, usually known for their excellent jazz releases, has just issued “Hot Coffey in the D: Burnin’ at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge,” a previously-unheard live album from 1968, featuring Coffey, plus Lyman Woodard on organ and Melvin Davis on drums.

We talk why it took so long for this fantastic recording to see a proper release.  Plus, he tells us how he first got involved with Motown Records, and how he helped discover the enigmatic singer, Rodriguez.

Alex Clare – Tail of Lions (review)

Alex Clare – Tail of Lions (ETC Recordings) review

His third album was recorded on a boat!

It can be hard to find inspiration when we’re constantly bombarded by technology. Alex Clare discovered the perfect solution: laying tracks down for his new record on a boat, with bassist Chris Hargreaves. The resulting long-player, Tail of Lions, finds the British singer maturing as a songwriter, while keeping in tact his signature sound that catapulted him to worldwide acclaim in 2011 with the double platinum smash, “Too Close.”

He tackles a wide array of topics on his third album – from the difficulties of mental illness, with the pulsating “Basic,” to the struggles of daily life, on the excellent, hard funk of “Surviving Ain’t Living,” which features a nice guitar solo at the end.

Clare, who is married, with two small children, addresses the difficulties of keeping a relationship together in the leadoff single, “Tell Me What You Need.” The song starts with heavy percussion before giving way to a synth-laden chorus.

Clare converted to Orthodox Judaism over the last few years and the title of the disc, Tail of Lions, references an old Jewish saying that “it’s better to be the tail of a lion, than the head of a fox.” Several songs, like “Get Real,” and “Gotta Get Up,” deal with the tension between his faith and the pulls of the real world. A pleasant surprise is the all-voices, no instruments ending on the midtempo “Tired From the Fire.”

The disc ends with the contemplative “You’ll Be Fine.” After he questions “what are you hiding from” and “what are you fighting for,” he reassures that “you’ll be fine,” repeating over and over, a mantra as the disc closes.

Clare had a contentious relationship with his previous record label (Island), who never truly supported his second album (the more earthy Three Hearts). It’s a shame too – Clare is a fine vocalist and melodic songwriter, and if you strip away the electronics, as in this “Stripped Version” of “Tell Me What You Need,” it still stands on its own:

Handling topics of spirituality and mature relationships may seem like heady material, yet Alex Clare’s gravelly, yet soaring vocals pull you in, making Tail of Lions more than a typical pop record. It’s one that reveals more, each time you play it. –Tony Peters