Friday, November 27, 2009

Best of the 00's: Broken Boy Soldiers

Find yourself a girl, and settle down; Live a simple life in a quiet town; Steady as she goes... (The Raconteurs - Steady As She Goes)
Jack White's side project The Raconteurs featuring fellow Michiganer Brendan Benson on guitar and vocals, Jack Lawrence on bass and Patrick Keeler on drums caught me by surprise in 2006 with Broken Boy Soldiers. I was just getting into Jack White's music when I saw the cover of the cd which intrigued me enough that I bought the cd and after my first listen I was pleasantly surprised. They sounded like a band that had been around together. The music inside was fresh yet it could have been from the late 60's or mid-70's.

The opening song Steady As She Goes should have been a hit single; a perfect rock song; "Find yourself a girl and settle down; live a simple life in a quiet town, Steady as she goes"

Hands is a real rocker with Who like power chords at the beginning; "Girl you got those hands that heal help me get in touch with what I feel"

Level begins with sort of a Twilight Zone kind of start and then turns into another rocker; "My baby's on the level, I try to read her mind, She's on the straight and narrow, I'm guessing all the time";

Intimate Secretary is one of those catchy pop songs with interesting rhymes; "Venerable obscurest malarkey, Doulocracy, Ecclesiarchy, Our fellow's craft is just not for sharing, He's not an intimate secretary";

Broken Boy Soldiers is solid all the way through; Blue Veins is a powerful blues song; Together, Call It a Day and Yellow Sun are upbeat pop nuggets; and Broken Boy Soldiers and Store Bought Bones are classic rockers. Broken Boy Soldiers came out of nowhere to become one of the best of the 00's.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Best of the 00's: Satelite Rides

I got a book of poems that's gonna set you free... (Old 97's - Book of Poems)

I discovered the Old 97's back during the early part of the 00's and maybe the hey-day of the Alternative Country, No Depression, Y'alternative, Americana or whatever you called it. This was a great period for music; this is when I first heard Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Wilco, The Jayhawks, Whiskeytown, Ryan Adam, Alejandro Escovedo and others. Old 97's rank with the best of them; led by Rhett Miller's impassioned singing, Ken Bethea on lead guitar, Murry Hammond on bass and Philip Peebles on drums. My favorite of theirs is the 2001's rocking Satelite Rides.

The cd starts of with a bang in King of All of the World, a lively pure perfect rock song; "I was in a real bad way when you turned the power on and you made me feel for all the world like I was the king of all the world";

The cd rolls along with solid songs Rollerskate Skinny (from a line in The Catcher in the Rye), Buick City Complex and the nice ballad Question;

The cd is consistent all the way through and other highlights include the great What I Wouldn't Do, Can't Get a Line, the outstanding Nervous Guy and Book of Poems.

The Old 97's became one of my favorite bands in the 00's.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Best of the 00's: All That You Can't Leave Behind

The last of the rock stars, when hip-hop drove the big cars; In the time when new media was the big idea, That was the big idea... (U2 - Kite)

After the disappointing Pop in 1997, U2 went back in the studios with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. The result was U2's great comeback album 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind (and the first of a great trio of cds by U2).
The cd opens with the perfect single (which U2 seems to have a knack for) Beautiful Day, a positive affirmation of life... "It's a beautiful day, Sky falls, you feel like it's a beautiful day, Don't let it get away".

One of the highlights of the cd is the song Kite. The lyrics for me are about a parent having to let a child go independently on their own..."I want you to know that you don't need me anymore; I want you to know you don't need anyone, or anything at all" and "Who's to say where the wind will take you, who's to say what it is will break you, I don't know, which way the wind will blow"; an awesome song

Another great song, the rocking New York; "In New York freedom looks like too many choices, In New York I found a friend to drown out the other voices, Voices on the cell phone, Voices from home, Voices of the hard sell, Voices down the stairwell" and "In New York summers get hot well into the hundreds, You can walk around the block without a change of clothing, Hot as a hair dryer in your face, Hot as handbag and a can of mace".

Another great rocker, the uplifting Elevation; "High, higher than the sun, You shoot me from a gun, I need you to elevate me here, At the corner of your lips, As the orbit of your hips, Eclipse, you elevate my soul".

Other great songs on ATYCLB include Walk On, In a Little While and Stuck in a Moment. U2 continued with quality output througout the 00's.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Best of the 00's: Evil Urges

I'm amazed at the quiet ocean, I'm amazed at your warm devotion, I'm amazed at what the people sayin'... (My Morning Jacket - I'm Amazed)

Louisville, Kentucky's My Morning Jacket has been one of the exciting new bands of the 00's. They caught my ear with 2003's haunting Neil Young folkish It Still Moves and then with 2005's more rocking Z. The band really steeped oun on an edge with 2008's diverse Evil Urges which featured MMJ's successful takes on rock and folk to soul, funk and disco.

Highlights from Evil Urges include the beautiful yearning ballad called Librarian which features the lyrics "Duck into the men's room, Combing through my hair; When God gave us mirrors he had no idea" and "Karen of the Carpenters, Singing in the rain; Another lovely victim of the mirror's evil way; Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Part 1 and Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Part 2, it's disco counterpart... "If you touch me; Well I just think I'll scream; Cause its been so long; Since someone caressed me";

the gorgeous soulful Thank You Too; the title track Evil Urges, with Jim James in full falsetto mode; and I'm Amazed, a great tune.

MMJ has gotten heavy rotation on my playlist this past decade. I look forward to see which direction that the band goes in the future.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Best of the 00's: The Rising

Come on up for the rising; Come on up, lay your hands in mine; Come on up for the rising; Come on up for the rising tonight... (Bruce Springsteen - The Rising)

As the famous story goes; just after the events of September 11, 2001 a fan in a car sees Bruce Springsteen, stops, rolls down his window and says “we need you now”; kind of like the commissioner shining the giant Bat-light into the sky. Bruce began writing for what would become The Rising. Although some of the songs were written prior to those events and some were not about those events, the collection of songs is cohesive and inspired. It was also an exciting release because it was the first non-live album with The E Street Band since 1984's Born in the U.S.A.

The cd opens with a great song Lonesome Day; which on the surface seems to be kind of a break up song, but I think it sets the tone for the 911 theme... "A little revenge and this too shall pass, This too shall pass, I'm gonna pray, Right now all I got's this lonesome day".

The next song is directly about the events, Into The Fire. The song is about a firefighter that goes up into one of the towers; "The sky was falling and streaked with bloodI heard you calling me then you disappeared into the dust, up the stairs into the fire"; but like the rest of The Rising the tone is hopeful "May your strength give us strength, May your faith give us faith, May your hope give us hope, May your love give us love".

Empty Sky is another song that deals with the loss; "I woke up this morning I could barely breathe, Just an empty impression in the bed where you used to be"; Your Missing - "Pictures on the nightstand, TV's on in the den, Your house is waiting, your house is waiting, For you to walk in, for you to walk in, But you're missing"; in the title track The Rising, Bruce again captures the image of a firefighter climbing to his death; "Lost track of how far I've gone, How far I've gone, how high I've climbed, On my back's a sixty pound stone,On my shoulder a half mile line" but again hope and redemption flows "Come on up for the rising, Come on up, lay your hands in mine".

The song My City of Ruins was written prior to 911 about the decline of Asbury Park, New Jersey, but transposed into a song about the events in New York; the song was played on the benefit show America: A Tribute to Heroes:

Other terrific songs from The Rising include Mary's Place, Further On Up the Road (coverd by Johnny Cash on one of his last cds) , Waitin' On a Sunny Day (in the mode of the classic Hungry Heart)...

The Rising was Bruce's great tribute to 911, Bruce's great comeback with The E Street Band and Bruce's great album on the 00's.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Best of the 00's: A Ghost is Born

I'm going away where you will look for me; Where I'm going you cannot come; No one's ever gonna take my life from me, I lay it down; A ghost is born... (Wilco - Theolgians)

Wilco followed up their 2002 break through cd Yankee Hotel Foxtrot with 2004’s solid A Ghost is Born. Ghost continued in the experimental direction that was started on Summerteeth and continued on YHF. Ghost is an amazing diverse collection of songs.

The cd opens with a great song, the jaw dropping At Least That’s What You Said; it starts softly, but then the Neil Young style guitar kicks in and the song becomes a powerful tune in the mode of Wilco's great tune Misunderstood.

Spiders (Kidsmoke) is built around a hypnotic rythym that seems to pull you into it's web as Jeff Tweedy tells you about spiders filling out their tax forms; Muzzle of Bees and Hummingbird are those brilliant melodic tunes that Jeff Tweedy writes in his sleep; "His goal is life was to be an echo" from Hummingbird.

Other great songs on the cd include Company in My Back, I'm a Wheel and Theologians; the later is maybe my favorite song of the last decade.

Wilco cds have been in heavy rotation in my players this decade. Ghost is probably my favorite Wilco cd since Being There.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Best of the 00's: Big Iron World

On the cool flow, floatin down, down below the bridge to the waters edge from the ridge to the ledge from the hills to the sea, I'll become a memory James River Blues... (Old Crow Medicine Show - James River Blues)
The first decade of the 21st century is coming to a close. I am going to blog about some of my favorite cd's, concerts, songs of the 00's.

A friend of mine gave me a copy of the Old Crow Medicine Show's O.C.M.S. and from my first listen it struck me as something completely different; not quite bluegrass, more of old time string band music played by punk rockers. I caught a live concert of the Old Crows where they opened for Nickelcreek. I was hooked and I have seen them a couple times since.

Both O.C.M.S. and the follow up Big Iron World are great listens, but I favor Big Iron World, only slightly. Released in 2006 and produced by David Rawlings (Gillian Welch's musical partner) the cd strikes the right ballance of covers and originals. It has an old time sound, but yet sounds new and origianl.

The opening song, Down Home Girl written by Leiber and Butler was also featured on an early Rolling Stones album. The song is so seductive and Willie Watson singing just fits the blues sound; Ketch Secor turns in a great performance on the the loose concert favorite and believe it or not an old traditional tune called Cocaine Habit; Minglewood Blues is an up tempo bluegrass tour de force; My Good Gal written by Ketch Secor is nice slower pace with interesting lyrics;

James River Blues is the highlight of cd. The song is about how a boatman and his boat being replace by train and rail system: "I think I'll flow on down to Richmond town, They don't need us anymore, Haulin' freight from shore to shore, That big iron hauls much more than we ever could before". The song strikes the perfect tone for the story that it is telling; great, great song.

New Virginia Creeper is a bouncy little ditty with sexual overtones about the train line that begins in North Carolina and heads down the mountains of Virginia; note that now the train tracks have been taken up and the trail has been turned into a beautiful bicycle trail. Union Maid is a typical Woody Guthrie song about the plight of the little man (in this case little woman); Let It Alone is another traditional song that Willie Watson nails; Don't Ride That Horse is a laid back song with a tall tale that may be about the band on tour; Bobcat Tracks is one of those perfect tunes for the real life kind of ordinary story that it is telling.

Old Crow Medicine Show has been in my cd player or on my ipod alot this decade. I suggest that you find Big Iron World and prepare to travel back in time or to the future, I'm not exactly sure.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

John Fogerty Rides Again

Hey, it's good to be back home again; Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend; Yes, 'n, hey it's good to be back home again ... [John Denver - Back Home Again (as covered by John Fogerty)]

When you first hear John Fogerty's voice it always takes you back to hearing Creedence Clearwater Revival's classic songs. From 1968 to 1971 CCR produced an impressive number of hit songs that stand among the greats. From Fortunate Son to Proud Mary, John Fogerty and the band were in the zone. By 1972 it all came crashing down for CCR; Fogerty and the band fell out over the usuall stuff, the song writer always make more than the band, the band wants more input, well you know the rest...they split up and never got back together.

In 1973 John Fogerty began his solo career with a sort of country rock band and album entitled The Blue Ridge Rangers. It was very different from the CCR sound and the joke was there was no band; even though the cover shows a country band in silhouette, John played all the instruments and sang all parts. The songs were country standards by Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Merle Haggard and even old tradional songs.

Well it's 2009, 36 years later and John Fogerty has released the follow up with the title The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again. On this cd, John is backed by a tight band that includes among others Buddy Miller and Kenny Arnoff. The songs are well chosen country and country rock songs that are suited for the "voice".

The cd starts off with John Prine's Paradise and flows along into Delaney and Bonnie's Never Ending Song of Love. The Eagles' Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit guest on Ricky Nelson's Garden Party. Other standouts include Buck Owen's I Don't Care (Just As Long As You Love Me), John Denver's Back Home Again and a fun cover of Jumpin' Gene Simmons' Haunted House. The cd closes with a cover of The Everly Brothers When Will I Be Loved that features the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen.

The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again is like going home again to the old homeplace. Hey, it's good to be home again.