Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Steve Winwood at the Majestic

I saw Steve Winwood at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio last night. The Majestic is one the best music venues anywhere. Built in the 1920's, completely renovated and reopened in 1989, it is beautiful inside and has excellent sound. A great place for a show.

Winwood opened with the classic Spencer Davis hit I'm a Man and from the first notes he had that Hammond B-3 singing. His voice is still pitch perfect and as recognizable as it was in 1967 when I'm a Man was all over the radio.

From there, he covered Can't Find My Way Home, which is one of my favorites from the tiny Blind Faith catalogue. After the first few notes, I turned to my friend and said: "Hearing this, I can die a happy man."

Another highlight was a spirited Low Spark of High Heel Boys which segued into Empty Pages, a standout from 1970's John Barleycorn Must Die. Taking up a mandolin, Winwood came to the front and led an inspired Back in the High Life Again. An extended version of Light Up or Leave Me Alone gave the band a chance to stretch out and show their licks. Every player in the band was amazing.

The first encore was a hard rocking Dear Mr. Fantasy with Winwood playing an excellent lead guitar. The show finished with the other signature Spencer Davis hit Gimme Some Lovin', which had the 60 year olds dancing in the aisles.

I left the Majestic in awe of the musical genius of Steve Winwood and realizing that the last time I saw him was a Traffic show at the Boston Tea Party in November of 1970. That's just over 42 years ago. Fuck, I am older than dirt.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Covered By Bob: Big River

From the Basement Tapes, here are three Johnny Cash songs that Bob and the Band covered at Big Pink in the summer of 1967.

Big River

Written by Cash and recorded at Sun Studios in 1958, Big River went to #4 on the country charts. It has been covered by the Grateful Dead, Hank Williams and many others.


 This is an obscure Cash song that was also recorded at Sun Studios in 1957.

Folsom Prison Blues

One of the most recognizable Cash song, it was originally recorded in 1955 at Sun Studios.  Released again in 1968 as part of the At Folsom Prison album, it went to #1 on the country charts.

There is a lot of history between Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. They reportedly met several times during the 1960's, including at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. There Dylan played Cash It Ain't Me, Babe and Mama, You Been on my Mind which Cash covered on his 1965 release Orange Blossom Special.

In Dylan's movie of Tour 66, Eat the Document, Cash turned up backstage before a show at the Capital Theater in Cardiff, Wales. As I remember it, Cash looked a little jumpy and resisted Bob's suggestion of a impromptu duet in the dressing room.

During the Nashville Skyline sessions in February of 1969, Cash joined Dylan in the studio. They sang a series of duets on country standards. When the album was released the Cash/Dylan version of Girl From the North Country was the first track on the album.

Later that year, Dylan was a guest on the first episode of the Johnny Cash TV Show. He sang I Threw It All Away, Living the Blues and Girl from the North Country with Cash. I remember watching the show very clearly. Bob looked great. Here is a clip from that night:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Covered By Bob: You Win Again

When you are the most prolific songwriter of this century, there is little need to cover the songs of other writers. After his first album, Bob Dylan recorded 9 albums before he put another cover song on an official release (Self Portrait 1970). That said, there are many unofficial Dylan recordings that pay homage to Bob's musical taste and early influences.

With that thought in mind, I would like to inaugurate a new series of posts on the blog called Covered By Bob. To start off, let's turn to a song from the legendary Basement Tapes. This version of You Win Again was recorded with members of The Band in the summer of 1967 at the little house in Woodstock, NY that was later immortalized by the album Music from Big Pink.

It is a classic tune by Hank Williams, who was on of Dylan's earliest music influences. Dylan mentions Williams in Chronicles Volume One: "Even at a young age, I identified with him. In time, I became aware that Hank's recorded songs were the archetype rules of poetic songwriting." There is a good chance that Bob was listening to 78rpm versions of Hank's hit as a boy in Hibbing, MN

 You Win Again is great example of Hank's sad songs of heartbreak and unanswered love. It is a personal favorite and always a choice when I hit the jukebox at Frank's Cafe.

 Ray Charles covered the song on his groundbreaking country album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Bob occasional plays it live on the Never Ending Tour. There is a live version from Bonneroo 2004 in circulation.

You Win Again

Monday, October 29, 2012

Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran

If you have been reading this blog, you know I am a big fan of Jamey Johnson. He is one the few country artists around today who is writing and making music that has a connection to the great country music of the past. With his music, Johnson has been quick to acknowledge the great artists that influenced him and with this album he recognizes one of the great songwriters of all time Hank Cochran.

In my post from Dec of 2008, I wrote: "Stop the presses. I have found the country album of the year. It is That Lonesome Song by Jamey Johnson. As much as I hate to admit that anything good could come out of Nashville, this album has and it is the real deal."

In March of 2009, I had a chance to see Jamey live and this is part of what I wrote at the time:
"In 1974, Jon Landau saw 25 year old Bruce Springsteen play at the Harvard Square Theatre. Afterward in an often quoted article in the Real Paper, he wrote: " I saw rock and roll's future and it's name is Bruce Springsteen." Well, tonight I saw the future of country music and his name is Jamey Johnson. 

This past week, Jamey released his tribute to the great songwriter Hank Cochran called Living For a Song. On the record, Jamey duets with the likes of Alison Krauss, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Elvis Costello, Leon Russell and Willie Nelson on 16 classic Cochran compositions. Every song on the record is stunning.

Cochran who died in 2010 at age 74 is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and is the author of many country classics. I Fall To Pieces, Make The World Go Away, The Chair, It Ain't Love (But It Ain't Bad) are among his 30 Top Ten hits. Along with Harlan Howard (his co-Author on I Fall To Pieces), Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson, Cochran set the standard for the modern country ballad. Cochran songs are concise, lyrical and often heart-wrenching. His ability to convey the subject with a minimum of words is the root of his genius. His influence is heard in almost every song Johnson has written.

Fans of traditional country music will love this album. If you are curious about this genre, there isn't a better place to start. Available on iTunes and from Amazon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Long Black Veil

 Since I first heard  Long Black Veil on Music From Big Pink in the summer of 1968, it has been one of my favorite songs. I have heard it played many times by many artists and it always sounds good. It is close to being the perfect country song. Long Black Veil was featured in a post I wrote in July 2008.

 Written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin, the song was originally recorded by Left Frizzell. It went to #6 on country charts for Lefty in 1959 and has since been recorded by Johnny Cash, The Kingston Trio, Joan Baez, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and of course, The Band.

While researching a post about Jamey Johnson and his new tribute album to Hank Cochran, I came across this video of Jamey, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson playing Long Black Veil at a recent Merle Haggard show. The video has some focus issues, but it is worth checking out. My post on the Hank Cochran record is coming soon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Larry Keenan 1943-2012

I just read that Larry Keenan died on August 12th. Keenan was the photographer who took the iconic picture of Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Michael McClure and Allen Ginsburg in the alley behind the City Lights Books Store on Dec 5, 1965.

There is a great story behind the session. Keenan was a 22 year old art student who got a call from McClure to shoot a portrait of Bob Dylan for his soon to be released album Blonde on Blonde. Dylan was in San Fransisco playing his first tour with an band behind him.

 Although none of Keenan's shots ultimately made the album, he did capture a wonderful moment in time that day. Jim Marshall, another famous rock and roll photographer, was there as well, but Keenan came away with the best images.

In 2001, I found Keenan's information on the Internet and gave him a call. I was interested in adding one of his prints from that day to my rock and roll photo collection. He was very friendly on the phone and mentioned that he had a shot that included Robbie that had never been published. The most reproduced photo from the session is this one which crops Robbie out on the left side:

The one of a kind photograph which includes Robbie hangs in my man cave today. It is one of my favorite rock and roll images.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On The Road Day Three

I woke too early again. The first thought in mind was a realization that I had left one of my bags at the hotel in Aspen. Problem. Paul was down on the couch looking like a wounded animal and Davis was hiding in the basement, so I caught up on the real world for a bit. 

We got going after a while and headed out to see what Denver could deliver in the egg department. After one false start we ended up at Breakfast King, an old school classic 24 hour breakfast joint. No latte served, but orange vinyl booths and a waitress older than me and dirt combined. The day got brighter. We schemed. Paul got excited and the F-bomber took off and started dropping a few charges. No one in the crowded joint batted an eye. Guess that's the difference between Denver and Aspen. We schemed some more until 'Milk came to our rescue. 

Off to the mall for costumes with T. Browne as DJ. Nothing better than some Jimi in the morning. The author got to flash his rock and roll photo collection and found a new audience for his stories. After the mall, we picked up the rest of the band and Denver was in our rear view mirror. The trip to Boulder was a breeze. Paul was the wheel man and I was up front keeping an eye on the road and the band mascots. Spirits were high and we all buzzed knowing that tonight was a big moment for the band. 

Pulling up to the St Julien, we immediately found Marty in the lobby doing what Marty does best. The place was crawling with musicians, radio and record people. Hunting and gathering music style. Marty was excited and the games began. I went back to my hotel to check in and when I returned everyone was at a cocktail party under a tent by the hotel. It seemed a little early for cocktails, but when in Rome. There was a band playing that couldn't decide if it wanted to be Greg Allman or Led Zeppelin. Not much competition there.

 Then we went to sound check and to see our spot which turned out to be a stage in a parking lot across from the Ritz Theatre. We had a quick dinner and watched the Ritz filling with fans. We were worried, but Marty was cool. We hung in the green room and checked out another band in the theatre while the boys tried their hands at international diplomacy. 

Finally it was time to play. Magically, the parking lot was full of a bunch of old guys with badges. Marty had worked his magic. 

 With the original set list still smoldering in the ashtray back stage, the band kicked off with Big Diamond Waltz. Ok, I'm a believer now. There is a lot of energy in that song. Pogo was jumping like a madman and hollering the fills. Digin's Done was next and it filled a big piece of the night sky. Tony's guitar was demanding the audience to light their lighters. Evil Ways drew the audience in and they started to move. Paul had his intensity set to 11. I had never seen him give more. Mammel called for Burning Days with his skating rink organ intro. When the rest of band kicked in, the song went to the top. I could see the audience drawing in closer. Paul doubled down on What's To Come Of Me and the house seemed stunned by what they had just witnessed. Church let out and then the new jazz intro to Sons of Fathers began. David got down on his girl friend's neck for all she was worth to begin and after everyone was heard from, T. Browne's fireworks ended the show. The crowd dispersed knowing that they had just witnessed a "tell your friend's moment." 

In 30 minutes it was over. Paul, the man in black, looked like he had run a marathon. Paul was wearing his happy face and everyone in the band knew they had played a killer set. The gear was loaded and the night awaited.

 There was an ebb and flow from the street to the green room and back. We watched the band Fun and shook our heads. We heard Paloma Faith who was actually quite good. I liked her voice a lot. Dusty in 2012. 

Paul, Monty, Pepper and I lit out for a quieter venue. The back room at Johnny's Cigar Bar served us well. It had comfortable chair, decent wine and was a good place to brainstorm. It would have been near perfect if Pepper had kept his mouth shut.The dream team + 1 got together and came up with lots of good ideas and plans. The future looked very bright. 

After a while it seemed like a good idea to find the rest of the band. Monty's phone was off and that brought down the wrath of the preacher. After a while the lost were found and we ended up back at the hotel. Most of the band was in front of the hotel engaged in more international diplomacy. Deals were being offered. Settlement negotiated. All was in flux. It became evident that I had run my race and it was back to the hotel For me. I crashed hard. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

On The Road Day Two

At 6 am, I woke out of a deep sleep and a dream of robbery, blood and large stacks of cash. Buttermilk was featured prominently in the dream. Now I'm dreaming SOF? Oh no. The air was cool in the mountains. It was another perfect summer day in Aspen.

Around 8:30, Paul called the room and suggested breakfast. We met downstairs at the hotel and ordered some Aspen fake Mexican tacos. Paul listened politely as I gave him my uneducated take on last night's show. Soon the coffee kicked in, the volume increased and the F-bombs were dropping. Suddenly, this Paul Simon wannabe from the next table was up in our grill about language and behavior. I thought he was coming over for an autograph. Silly me. Being early in the day with no alcohol involved, we took it in stride, did our best to comply while making threats and muttered Fuck New York under our breaths.

Later our host from last night arrived to take me on a tour of Aspen medical marijuana stores. Sweet child of Miley Cyrus! My mind was totally blown by the intersection of weed and modern commerce: brand name designer weed, pre-rolled blunts in tubes, eatable products of all descriptions, hash, even massage oil loaded with THC. Are you kidding me? The next place even had a "pro shop" with caps and logo shirts for sale. Oh how the world has changed since Floyd's Hotel.

My tour continued with a look at the winners of the Aspen big house contest. Interesting but I was getting jumpy as our departure time was getting near. With minutes to spare, I got back to the hotel, gathered up most of my stuff and jumped on 'Milk. Being last on board, my seat was 4B, but it was a good view from the back of the bus. David was in 4A and he helped a SOF tour rookie feel at home.

'Milk huffed and puffed as we climbed out of Aspen and up Independence Pass. It was hard to tell if we were going any faster than the bikers at times, but in the end we made the summit. There was a long fall to the bottom on the other side where we stopped for the heart-healthy food the band survives on. Oh my, Betty Crocker would not approve. The rest of the trip went quickly with limited visibility even in the flat lands. I got to see the literary creativity of the band as the group story unfolded. David took the wheel and proved to be a better driver than DJ. "Brandy", my ass. Paul came to the back to sit with me and Monty was snoozing in his little bunk dreaming of JENNIFERS.

We made it to Denver and stopped at Tony Brown's Aunt's house. Nice people and very hospitable. The band had dinner and got ready for the show.

An old friend from Hill School picked me up and I stuck my head back into the real world for a bit. We went back to his house and met another inmate from the Pottstown School for Wayward Boys. A great dinner followed and we got to Herman's Hideaway just as another band was clearing the room with its puzzling act.

Tonight the set was only 60 minutes, but still a good one. Small crowd, but there were a few enthusiastic drunks in the house who keep up entertained. Again, Water was cool and the set varied a lot from the night before. She Was Good To Me worked well. The Country from the first album rocked hard and stood out.

After some conversation on the street and the load out, Paul, David and I went back to the stash house for a pool tournament and a couple of beers. The SOF team exhibited good hand eye coordination and misspent youth. They won and I crashed hard.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On The Road Again

I had a few open days and decided to get back out on the road with my favorite band Sons of Fathers.  When the band is traveling, David Beck writes a daily travelogue. I thought it would be fun to write my own version. Here it goes:

Mountain Tour Summer 2012 Day One:

I woke up early after a restless night. Doesn't that always happen before any early morning flight? It was cool and the ocean was calm as I pulled away from the house. Southwest was kind to me. Off on time and the fat lady from the circus had no interest in the seat next to me. We landed in Denver and I made a mad dash down the longest concourse I have ever seen and snagged the earlier flight to Aspen. 

I arrived into a beautiful mountain day. Cool air and bright sun.  A friend of the band picked me up and brought me to the Sky Hotel. Cool place. After a quick check in, I was riding in the legendary Buttermilk with David, Paul and Monty to a radio appearance in KDNK in Carbondale. The DJ had the Colorado version of the Willie pigtails that were joined together in a braid. New to me. Nice guy and a big fan of the Sons. There was some chatter and then "Cool Water" live on the radio. First time live for me and it sounded great. 

We made a short stop to give 'Milk some beauty treatments so we sat outside at a nearby cafe and caught a bite.

Next stop was a radio station in Aspen which was a step up from Carbondale. Instead of the full Willie, the DJ had a $5000 mountain bike in the hall. A little conversation on the air, another Cool Water and we were out the door. 

After some brainstorming around the pool back at the Sky, we geared up for a major conference call. However, the gods of Hollywood did not smile on us and it didn't happen.
A little downtime and Paul, David and I set out for dinner at Cache Cache. Our host's sister owns this highly regarded Aspen eatery. It turned out to be one of the best meals of my life. Our host was lively, free with the wine and a pleasure to be around. He did initially mistake me for David's father, which didn't hurt my feelings too much. Obviously, he has never heard me play guitar. (Sorry, Bill W)

With minutes to spare, among low hanging clouds, we sprinted to the Belly Up. Arriving just as the opening act was finishing the last song, the boys were on stage in a flash. Not sure how they do that. 

The show opened with Cool Water which was a great choice. Next up was Down Below another good one. The club was starting to fill up and the band was taking charge. The show is a bit of a blur at this point, but here are a few impressions: In the last 60 days, the band has really grown and come together. T. Browne has found his place and is a budding rock guitar god. Mammel's keys are now up in the mix and adding color and texture to the songs. Look out when he jumps up from that bench, things are getting serious then. Ray is growing braver by the day. He is getting some high, beautiful screams out of the flat white bitch. He owns Almost There

Paul, David and Dees are the heart and guts of the band and this night they rose with the intensity of the love and excitement of the crowd. 

The big songs: Burning Days and Diggin's Done were large and are auditioning for stadium venues to come. There was good ebb and flow to the set and at the end the Beatles cover had the little girls and drunks dancing their asses off. Sons of Fathers will become The Road Goes On Forever of this band. It is the signature and history in the making. 

At the very end, Paul threw down the East Texas, church going gauntlet. Channeling Al Green meeting Elvis, he dropped the guitar and laid me down in sweat and tears. 

Reluctantly the crowd filled out. Monty pushed some merch, the equipment went to the trailer and the night was done. 

High on the crowd and the music, we laughed all the way to the Sky Hotel. Plans were being discussed back at the pool. Looking at my watch, I realized I had been up for 23 hours. My first trip around the hook in many moons. I said good night.   

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bob Dylan, Newport and the Stratocaster

Bob Dylan and the guitar that he reportedly played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 have been in the news this week. A show called History Detectives aired a segment last night about a Fender Stratocaster now owned by a New Jersey woman that may be the guitar that Bob played that historic night in Newport when he turned the folk world upside down. Of course Bob's people dispute the claim.

This much is known for sure: on July 25, 1965, Bob took the stage with Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and the rhythm section from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. They played a loud, raucous three song set that showcased the new direction of Bob's music and signaled the death of the folk music movement. Here is Maggie's Farm from that night:

If Bob's leather jacket and new look didn't blow the folkies' minds,  I'm sure the sound of the band, particularly Mike Bloomfield's leads, must have sent them over the edge. It sounds pretty raw and edgy today. Can you image it at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965? Oh my.

How about the choice of Maggie's Farm? I wonder if Bob was sending a message with the these lyrics:

                             Well, I try my best
                             To be just like I am
                             But everybody wants you
                             To be just like them
                             They say sing while you slave and I just get bored
                             I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July by Dave Alvin

4th of July by Dave Alvin is the perfect song to kick off the holiday weekend. Written and performed by an Americana music icon Dave Alvin, it is a lyrical music poem of longing and unrequited love set to the background of our national holiday.

Since I first heard it covered by Robert Earl Keen on his outstanding 1997 release Picnic, 4th of July has held a permanent spot on my short list of favorite contemporary songs. It also opened up my ears to the impressive musical catalogue of Dave Alvin. My dive into Alvin’s music began when I bought his 1994 release King of California. It is a great album.

Alvin also ranks high on my list of great modern singer songwriters who are not getting the recognition they deserve. With a career that started 30 years ago as a founding member of the Blasters and X, Alvin has gone on to develop a sound that might be best described as Alt-California Country. Whatever you call it, the music is based on great songwriting and stylish guitar playing. Rolling Stone Magazine has called Alvin "an under recognized guitar hero" and I agree. Watch him rip it up at the end of the video above.

The Best of the Hightone Years released in 2008 includes several hits from  King of California as well as California Snow and Abilene, which are two of his great songs. It would be a great place to start your Alvin collection.

Eleven Eleven released in 2011 begins with the rocking Harlan County Line, which was heard on the show Justified this past season and includes several other great tunes.

Add some Alvin to your playlist and have a great 4th.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I was an English major is college. I hope the writing on this blog is a positive reflection of that education. Modern American fiction has always been my biggest interest. That’s what I collect and like to read the most. I am always looking for a great new book or author.

When I hear about summer reading or a "beach read" book, I am immediately suspicious. Most books with that description have very low literary content. I do end up reading a few of these books, but more often than not I am disappointed in the end. Every year the bestseller list is littered with summer books that are not that good.

I picked up Gone Girl with limited expectations. I saw that Gilliam Flynn had written two other best sellers, but I was not familiar with either of them. I did read a positive review of Gone Girl, so I decided to give it a try. After a few chapters, it was clear that this was a very unusual book. In fact, I was having a hard time putting it down.

Gone Girl is a gripping book of crime fiction about a very dysfunctional marriage. Nick and Amy have been married for five years and it is not going well. The book reveals their story in alternating points of view. Back and forth, it is a very twisted version of "he said, she said."

When Amy disappears suddenly without explanation, the mystery begins. Did Nick kill her? It sure looks like it at first. Ultimately, it is not that simple and the twists keep coming. Trust me, you will not figure this one out before the last page.

For a good summer book written with style, interesting characters and a plot that needs a road map, pick up Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We Didn't Have Another

The Belmont Stakes lost much of its luster when I'll Have Another was scratched and retired on Friday morning. In spite of the disappointment of having no triple crown possibilities which reduced the crowd by 30,000 people and busted out every ticket scalper in the city, Saturday was still a beautiful day of racing at Belmont Park.

 In the end there was a feel-good story to remember as Union Rags brought the prize home to a very deserving owner Phyllis Wyeth and trainer Michael Matz tasted success again at the highest level. It is always good to see nice people win the big ones.

In a dramatic finish that echoed this year's Derby and Preakness, the front running Paytner was caught in the last strides by a very game Union Rags. For the third triple crown race in a row, a horse trained by Bob Baffert (Bob Blaffert as he is known in certain circles) was denied at the wire. I had most of my money on Paytner and was initially disappointed that the rider (pinhead) let Rags get by on the rail. In the end, I was happy Union Rags won and holding a saver exacta 3-9, we didn't have to go back to the city by railroad.

I had not been to a Belmont since War Emblem's failed bid in 2002. It really is a beautiful track with a size and scope that is breathtaking. The New York crowd included a good selection of mini wise guys and Soprano wannabes who kept us entertained all day. There also was a girl who was topless at the paddock while they were saddling the horses for the Belmont:

 It was a great day of racing. Our group parted ways after a great dinner in the city with plans to meet again at Del Mar, Saratoga or Breeders Cup for more racing later in the year.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A High Five From Bob Dylan

Ever since my fascination with Bob Dylan and his music began in the mid-60's, there has been one other great friend who has shared this passion with me from the very beginning. I have referred to him as BobCat Numero Uno on this blog many times.

You could say that we spent the Bob formative years together. We went on trips to Roberts Records with Guitar Johnny Nicholas to buy our first Dylan albums. We have bought, shared and discussed hundreds of Dylan bootlegs since the release of the Great White Wonder. Beginning in 1974, we have seen Bob live countless times. Over the years, these live experiences have included some of the best and some of the worst of Bob, but we remember and enjoyed them all. If we hadn't spent all this time on Bob, we might have invented Facebook or something like that.

 Here in his own words is the BobCat's story from last Tuesday:

"So I caught a glimpse of Dylan receiving his medal live on CNN last Tuesday as I was finishing up an appointment in downtown DC. I decided to walk by the White House on my way back to the office to check out the action. From previous visits, I knew to cut through the tree lined walkway by the Treasury Department to get a less crowded look.

As I looked up from my iPhone halfway down the walkway, who was walking right at me not 20 feet away with that unique semi- shuffle, but Bob himself. He had his shades on and was fully buttoned up in 90 degree heat. I blurted out a quick: "Congrats on the medal, Bob." At which point, he pivoted toward me and stuck out his hand. We high-fived and I added: "If this was in London, I'd have to call you Sir Bob." We had a good laugh at that and he kept pointing back at me and smiling as he walked to his car."

What a great story and don't think I'm not a little bit jealous. After all, I'm a guy that dreams at least once a year about meeting Bob. I have had some close experiences in real life (See my post from July 22, 2009), but I haven't met him yet. I guess it is good to have something to look forward to. BobCat Numero Uno, you are a lucky guy.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bob Dylan in shades at the White House

Bob Dylan was at the White House on Tuesday receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In true Bob fashion, he showed up for the ceremony in his dark glasses. Bob sporting shades at the White House. That is classic. Hello Mr. President, good to be here. Sorry you can’t see my eyes.

For those too young to remember, Bob Dylan invented cool. Before Bob there were a few cool cats like Frank Sinatra, James Dean and Marlon Brando. In the 60's, Bob took a bit from each of them and then took cool to a whole different level.

While his music was setting the folk world on its ear, he was also starting fashion and style trends. He did it without the help of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or social media sites. His influence on our culture was enormous.

Here he is on the cover of Highway 61 Revisited:

Here is that signature dot shirt on the Tour 66:

And don’t forget the houndstooth check suit from the same tour:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On tour with Sons of Fathers

What is a 60 year old man doing out on tour with a rock and roll band? That's a good question. The answer is: having a hell of a good time, hearing some incredible music and watching history in the making.

It's no secret that I am very high on a new band called Sons of Fathers. Since last fall when I first heard their debut album, I have been spreading the word about this very talented group. In spite of my enthusiasm for the band, I had only been to one live show until recently.

 Last week with a few days to kill, I decided to sign on to the tour as photographer, unpaid roadie and life coach. I began with a show in Washington DC at the Hill Country BBQ. Can't say much about the food at that joint, but the room was good and the show was excellent. The after party in the wine cellar at the Mansion on O was even better. BobCat Numero Uno is still talking about it.

The unique sound of Sons of Fathers comes from the blended vocals of Paul Cauthen and David Beck. On the record, this sound sets them apart from anything being played on the radio today. Seeing them live is even better. On stage, the visual combination of Cauthen's inspired guitar work and Beck's love dance with his upright bass is captivating. When you add the rest of the band to the sound, you have something that is about to explode. Listen to this song from the DC show which will be their next single:

From DC, the tour moved on to Asbury Park, NJ. With visions of Bruce in my head, I walked the boardwalk and admired the sights. What a funky, interesting old town.

 The band played at The Saint which is nice old venue. Once again Paul and David delivered the goods, but that night I was also struck by the playing of the band. Dees was channeling his best Levon on the drum kit and the addition of Bryan Mammel on keyboards gave the band a fatter live sound. Considering that Bryan just joined the band on this tour, I can't wait to hear him once he really gets settled in.

Another recent addition to the band is Tony Browne. His lead and slide guitar adds punch and depth to the SOF sound. His playing and contribution is growing nightly. I hear a young Jimmy Page in the making.

Here is another song from the upcoming album Big Diamond Waltz recorded at The Saint:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kentucky Derby, Animal Kingdom, Larry Redmon and Mint Juleps

 The first Saturday in May is the best day of the year. It is better than Christmas, birthday, golf weekend or the first day of quail season. It is even better than hearing the Sons of Fathers live. Sorry guys.  If you have to ask what happens on the first Saturday in May.....hit delete now.

 Derby 2011 was especially exciting for me since I was all over Animal Kingdom who was the long shot winner. I am studying hard trying to catch lightning in a bottle two years in a row, but I'm not counting on it. Nevertheless, it is going to be a great weekend. Read below what I wrote in a post on Derby a few years back. Good luck. I hope you pick the winner.

The Kentucky Derby is one of the premier sporting event in the world. For 135 years, the race has showcased top equine athletes at Churchill Downs, which is one of the great race tracks in the country. In addition to the horse racing, the Derby is a great spectacle of people watching. On Saturday, over 100,000 people from all walks of life will be at the track. There will be movie stars, rock stars, racing fans, show ponies and drunken college kids in the infield who might not even watch the race. There is a very wide range of fashion on display at the event.

I was lucky to be introduced to Derby in 1983 by a true gentleman and good friend from Louisville, Bill Blodgett. It was a great start on a lifetime of Derby experiences, because Bill has a true love for the Derby and everything that goes with it. Bill had access to a great box and the best parties in Louisville. He showed me the ropes of Derby, included how to "sweeten" a mint julep from a hip flask of bourbon. 30 years later, I am looking forward to seeing him at the track on Saturday.

In 1987, I joined the Walmac Farm Derby posse. Since this group is based in Lexington, the Derby schedule is slightly different. It might seem strange to do the Derby from another city (Check with Perry S on this), but it does open up some other social events. When the Madden Party was still in existence, it was the only way to go. I could tell you more about the Madden Party, but this is a family blog. Seriously, it was a huge charity party on the night before Derby every year. Held at Hamburg Place Farm, the party was an extravagant event that included interesting costumes and usually some kind of nudity. Many lasting friendships were made under those big tents.

Part of our Derby routine is going to see Larry Redmon play on Thursday night. I have seen Larry at many places over the years, but recently he has been playing at his own club called Redmon's in downtown Lexington. If you have never heard Larry, you are missing a great live act.

Before a crowd of rowdy college kids with only an acoustic guitar, he holds court. Drawing on a lifetime in the Bluegrass and a love of real country music, he puts together a set that includes original songs like Garth Brooks Ain't Playing Here Tonight, Last Kiss, Another Blue Grass Morning, and Propane. The later is my personal favorite. Sung to the tune of Cocaine, it is a comic tale of white trash country life that includes the memorable lines: When your hands are hot/And your cousin's not/Propane. Redmon's show is a celebration of the music of the American South and it is damn good. He plays real country music and calls bullsh*t on what Nashville is putting out these days.

In the live show, Larry also covers a number of classic songs by John Prine, Chuck Berry, John Fogerty, Steve Earle and David Allan Coe. Every night ends with the unfurling of the confederate flag and a rousing version of Dixie that morphs into Sweet Home Alabama. I hope to see you there on Thursday night.

Being a wine and vodka drinker, I don't drink bourbon during the rest of the year. I guess I am scared if I drink any of that dirty water, I might end up on the ground or dancing that old Saratoga no-step. Mint juleps at the Derby are a different thing. I don't know what they put in those drinks, but they taste good and do enhance the whole Derby experience. I am looking forward to have more than one this weekend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Father and Son

 My father was into sports. He had very little interest in music. In fact, I'm not sure he ever owned an album or a CD in his life. I remember trying to introduce him to the music I liked back in the late 60's. Once I played him all four sides of Blonde on Blonde in one sitting. That didn't go over that well. "That guy can't sing" was his take on Bob Dylan. His reaction to the picture of Jimi and the band on the cover of Are You Experienced was the 1968 equivalent of WTF? That was the beginning of the realization that my music was not going to be our music.

Fast forward 40 years and I am now the father trying to get the kids interested in my music. This hasn't been easy. They are developing a taste in music from YouTube videos, the Disney channel and their mother. Nothing good there. I am trying to have an impact, but it has been hard so far.

With mom out of town, I saw an opportunity for the kids to have a live concert experience. This past Saturday we went to the J. W. Marriott Hill Country. Robert Earl Keen was playing a show as part of the Texas Open festivities. After a day at the pool, it was show time.

 It was a beautiful night to be outdoors in the Hill Country. Robert and the band seemed fired up and I think the kids had a great time. When my son wasn't begging to go out into the crowd, he did sit in front of the stage and seemed to enjoy the music. My daughter wanted to hear Ready For Confetti and "that song about Toby Keith." Robert played both of those as well as Man Behind The Drums, which is his tribute to Levon Helm. It was very moving under the circumstances.

It was a great night. Hopefully I got my two students on the right track. I'm thinking of starting them on the Basement Tapes next.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

LEVON HELM 1940-2012

Levon Helm at the Electric Factory 1969

It is very sad that Levon Helm died today. I was lucky to see The Band twice early on in their history. The first show was at the old Electric Factory in Philadelphia in the spring of 1969. The second was at Tufts University in the fall of 1970. Both times the music was excellent and I was lucky to see them in very intimate venues.

 My love affair with The Band began after a trip to Roberts Records in New London, CT with Guitar Johnny Nicholas in the summer of 1968. I was already a committed Dylan fan at the time, so an album by his former backing band was a natural fit for me. Johnny had seen Dylan play in Hartford in 1965 and had met Robbie and some of the other band members after the show, so he knew the album had a good chance to be great. He was right. On his recommendation, I bought the record.

I took home Music From Big Pink with a lot of anticipation and immediately fell in love. From the opening notes of Tears of Rage, I was drawn into The Band's slice of musical Americana. Although at the time I didn't know or understand the background and relationship between the music on Music From Big Pink, John Wesley Harding and the Basement Tapes, I knew I liked what I heard on that record.

 The first Band records took a lot of listening. Although the music was simple, it was also dense and complex at the same time. There were layers of instruments with multiple voices that needed to be sorted out over time. Rick and Richard often sounded alike, but from the beginning there was no mistaking Levon's vocals. He was the voice that made The Band unique. Although he only sang lead on The Weight on the first album, he left his vocal mark with that classic song.

Later, his vocal contributions on Rag Mama RagUp On Cripple CreekThe Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, King Harvest (Has Surely Come) and Strawberry Wine defined the sound and the soul of the group. Levon was the heart of the rhythm section, but he was more than that. He was a symbol of the connection of the group to America and the rural values and events that they sang about so well. No song captures this better than King Harvest:

Recently I had a chance to go to the Ramble when Robert Earl Keen and his band played there. I didn't do it. I am really kicking myself now. Let's all have a drink tonight for the Man Behind the Drums and remember all the great music he left us. Thank you, Levon.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Isle of Wight: Bootlegs & My Life Part 6

It was August of 1969 at the Isle of Wight. Bob Dylan was in his white suit. With The Band at his back, he took the stage and opened with She Belongs to Me. After the first song, he uttered the famous words of his comeback: "Thank you very much. Great to be here. Sure is."

 Except for a short appearance at the tribute to Woody Guthrie, three songs on the Johnny Cash show and a cameo with The Band in 1969, Bob had been off the stage since the Tour 66 ended in April of 1966. Three years is a very long time in the Rock and Roll business.

His performance at the Isle of Wight was greatly anticipated and was covered widely by the English press. The audience of 150,000 included the cream of English rock and roll royalty: all of the Beatles except for Paul, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, and Eric Clapton. It was even front page news in the New York papers. I can remember reading all about it. It was very exciting time for a Dylan fan who was starved for live music or news from Bob.

Bob played a 17 song set that mixed his old songs with two covers: Wild Mountain Thyme and Minstrel Boy and five songs from John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline: I Threw Is All Away, I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, Lay Lady Lay and I Pity the Poor Immigrant. Although the entire show lasted less than 60 minutes, it was well received by the crowd and sounds very good today.

My first taste of the concert came when Self Portrait was released in June of 1970. That controversial Dylan record included four songs from the show.  The complete set was not available in the United States until this bootleg was released on the TMQ label in 1972. The sound quality of the record reflected the improvement of the bootleg industry. Bootlegs had come a long way since the Great White Wonder.

I can remember listening to this record at Floyd's hotel. Being a big fan of The Band at the time, I loved the playing between Bob, Robbie and the rest of the group. There is some great energy on the Mighty Quinn. I love when Bob calls out for Robbie's guitar part after the third verse and Robbie blisters it.

 When I listen today and compared these tracks to the frightened, speed freak versions of many of the same songs that were delivered on the 1974 tour, the Isle of Wight tracks sound like gold to my ears. Bob might have been rusty that night, but he delivered a great show.

If you don't own this record or have a turntable to play it on, the concert can be found on several different bootleg CDs. There is a copy called the JTT Master Reel Copy that has very good sound. That's the version that I have on my ipod.

 Here is some audience video from that night. It starts with The Band playing The Weight, but stay tuned the Bob tunes come next: