Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Album Review: Deanna Bogart, Real Time

Artist: Deanna Bogart
Title: Real Time
Writer: Rick Galusha

When a radio station or a record review gets the latest offering from a recording label it’s usually accompanied with a “sell sheet” or biography. Few things exemplify the waste of the music industry better than “sell sheets.” Crammed with factoids and usless hype these one sheet bios bend the truth and include stupid phrases like, “writes like Bob Dylan,” as if anyone ever could.

Blind Pig recording artist Deanna Bogart’s latest album, ‘Real Time’ came with a sell sheet – which I promptly set aside in order to listen and let the music do the talking. Usually the San Fran / Chicago based Blind Pig records contemporary “blues” acts with a heavy 70’s rock music texture. Keyboardist, horn player and singer Deanna Bogart sure ain’t no blues artist – at least not in the common vernacular use of the word. “Gosh” methinks, “What’s the sell sheet say?” …”Adding the energy of boogie-woogie contemporary blues, country and Nora Jones-like-jazz, Bogart has created a unique fusion of musical styles.” I nearly fell over: the sell sheet was accurate.

Bogart began her musical career in a Maryland based band, ‘Cowboy Jazz’ where she learned to play western swing rhythms. Later Bogart moved over to the D.C. based, ‘Root Boy Slim’ band where she learned to play a suburban R n’ B sound. Subsquently, ‘Real Time,’ her seventh album, is all over the musical genre map but throughout the journey the playing is excellent, the songs have clear melody lines, and the arrangements are more than quick studio jams per most “blues” recordings.

On the track, “Bite the Bullet” Bogart plays a jumpin’ piano ala Marsha Ball that rollicks with a fast tempo and panoramic solos. ‘Table for Three’ borders on a Vince Guaraldi (Charlie Brown) like pianoscape that is jazzy yet very approachable for the nonJazz fan palate. The opening (and title) track is a well written tribute to the history of “good music” as Bogart sings about Lester Young’s days in Kansas City, The Woodstock festival, and ever her own tours in Europe. The second track, ‘Everybody Has a Story’ is very Gregg Allman-like in that it seems to be moving and once the song ends the listener has been transported along the journey.

This is a very good album – it is hardly a “blues” album - but rather a sound that transcends genre classification and is simply, “good music” and as Duke Ellington is atrtributed to having said, “There are only two kinds of music; good music and bad music.” The latest offering by Bogart is really good music and would make an excellent gift for your over-35 friend that loves music – and yes, that friend, could be yourself.

A life in Rock n' Roll...

I am submitting Rick Galusha as a 2007 Nominee for The Nebraska Music Hall of Fame.

The national music marketing machine creates an illusion that the only important music is major label, putting us in the “passive role of being only entertained.” Rick Galusha connects Midwest musicians, listeners, and concert goers to their own sense of place, identity, personal history and “active participation” through inspired expression, talent, volunteerism and creative dedication.

–Paul Ehernberger, Schuyler musician, film-maker & owner of Digital Ranch: 402-615-0532

A Chronological Musical Bio of Rick Galusha

(*) Rick Galusha with John Mayer and Mike Fratt (photo omitted)

1978 University of Wyoming
- KUWR Radio, Laramie, Wyoming, host (Rock)
- Branding Iron writer, University of Wyoming Student newspaper
- Student Programming Staff; Freddie Hubbard, Foreigner, Helen Reddy

(*) Rick Galusha with Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac (photo omitted)

1979 – 1983, Homer’s Music Stores

1979 – 1983, Concert Security Services

1979 – 1983, University of Nebraska at Omaha
- 1979 – 1982, air Host, KVNO (Classical, Jazz, Blues)
- 1979 – 1980, Student Programming,
Day Time Bands committee: Pat Metheny,
- 1979 – 1980, Music writer,
Gateway Student newspaper
1980 – 1981, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, (England)
- ‘Hall Ball Committee’ Music coordinator, - Eddie & the Hotrods, Dr. Feelgood

1986–2005 President, Homer’s Music Stores Independent music chain, with six locations in Omaha, Bellevue & Lincoln

(*) Rick & Barb Galusha with Pete Townsend of “The Who” (photo can be seen at www.KIWRBLues.PodOMatic.com)

1995 – 2005, Board, National Association of Retail Merchandisers
Retail Advisory Board Member

1995 – 2004, Independent Music Association Board Member

1995 – 2005, Member, Coalition of Independent Music Stores

1988 – 2000, KRCK, cable radio, hosting in my his basement, (no charge)

(*) Rick Galusha with The Rolling Stones (Photo on this site)

1989–Present: Radio Host, Pacific Street Blues

1989 – 1995, KKVU, KKCD

1995–Present: KIWR 89.7 fm (Sunday Mornings 9:00 to 12:00)

2004 – Launched podcast of PS Blues at www.KIWRBlues.PodOMatic.com

(*) Rick Galusha & Peter Frampton (photo omitted)
(*) Rick Galusha & Ian McLagan (photo omitted)

1990–Present - Writer, Print Media:

Blues Revue, Bluewax, Roots Music Report, www.HomersMusic.com, Metropolitan, Red Shark, City Weekly, Omaha World Herald, Smooth Review, Express, Billboard Magzine, Counter-Intelligence, The Rock, Reader,

- www.BluesWax.com
- www.RootsMusicReport.com
- www.HomersMusic.com
- www.BillWyman.com (guest)

(*) Rick Galusha & Alice Cooper (photo omitted)
(*) Rick & Barb Galusha with Aerosmith (photo omitted)

Concert / Event Promoter

1990 Earth Day Omaha, 17000 guests (Co-Chairman)
Jackson Berkey, Rick Kuethe,

1991 Earth Day Omaha, 17000 guests (Chairman)

1999 Indigenous Jam, 2500 guests (Co-Founder, Promoter)
Jackson Browne, Wavy Gravy (Woodstock), Indigenous, others

2000 Indigenous Jam, 6000 guests (Promoter)
Double Trouble w/ Malford Milligan, Sue Foley, Melvin Taylor,
Billy Lee Riley (Sun Records), Chris Duarte, The Hoax
The Samples, Indigenous, others

Note: Broadcast on NETV in nine 60 minute episodes

2001 Indigenous Jam, 3000 guests (Promoter)
Rory Block, Davey Brothers, Corey Harris, Joe Bonamassa,
Chris Duarte, Indigenous, Kris Lager Band, Blue House, others

2002 Indigenous Jam, 3000 guests (Promoter)
Robben Ford, Davey Brothers, Corey Harris, Harry Manx, others

2004 Playing With Fire Concert Series (Co-Founder, Promoter)
Bernard Allison, others

2005 Playing With Fire Concert Series (Promoter)
Bernard Allison, Deborah Coleman, Hadden Sayers, others

Scottish Rites Hall series (Founder, Promoter)
Shelby Lynne, Jerry Garcia Band, Joe Bonamassa,
Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins, others

2006 Playing With Fire Concert Series
Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers, Joe Bonamassa, others

Radio Interviews:

Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones,

(*) Rick Galusha with BB King (3 interviews), (photo omitted)

Dr. John (3 interviews),
Ian McLagan (2 interviews)
(*) Rick Galusha with Bonnie Raitt, (photo omitted)
Robben Ford,
Jerry Wexler (2),
Shemekia Copeland,
Smoking Joe Kubeck,
Sue Foley (3),
(*) J. Geils & Magic Dick, (photo omitted)
Johnny Winter,
Jonny Lang,
(*) Mato Nanji (4), (photo can be seen at www.KIWRBlues.PodOMatic.com)
(*) Joe Bonamassa (3), (photo can be seen at www.KIWRBlues.PodOMatic.com)
(*) Little Milton, (photo omitted)
(*) Charlie Musselwhite (2), (photo omitted)
Luther Allison,
Tommy Castro (2),
Ana Popovic,
John Trudell,
Deanna Bogart,
John Wesley Harding,
Otis Taylor,
Johnny Bolin,
John Wooler (Pointblank),
Sean Costello,
Bruce Lundvall (Bluenote),
Anthony Gomes,
...And dozens of others

Rick Galusha, currently attending Bellevue University in the MBA rogram

(*) Rick & Barb Galusha with The Everly Brothers (photo omitted)

Music Favourites include: Kris Lager Band, The Rolling Stones, Louis Jordan, Joe Bonamassa, Indigenous, Graham Parsons, Sarah Benck & the Robbers, Anonymous American, Radney Foster, Jimmy D. Lane, Rodney Crowell, The Jam, Buddah Head Band, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Johnny Winter, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes.

Great unknown favorites; db Cooper, The Dancing Hoods, The Screaming Cheetha Wheelies, Jack the Lad (Lindesfarne), Tommy Bolin

Favourite albums include;

"Exile on Main Street" by the Rolling Stones;
"Supersonic" by Hadden Sayers;
"Blues Deluxe" by Joe Bonamassa;
"Derek and the Dominos Live" by Derek & the Dominos;
"Houston Kid" by Rodney Crowell;
"Kim Richey" by Kim Richey;
"Quadrophenia" by The Who;
"Ronnie Lane Live in Austin" by Ronnie Lane;
"The Mercury Years" by Rod Stewart (and Ian McLagan, Ron Wood et al...)
"Don't Be Late" Anonymous American;

(*) Rick Galusha with Miami Steve Van Zant of The Bruce Springsteen Band, and actor in the HBO series, The Sopranos (photo omitted)

Favourite concerts:
1. Southside Johnny & the Ashbury Jukes, Music Box bar, Omaha, 1980,
2. The Kinks, Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kan., 1981,
3. Rolling Stones, Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, 2004,
4. Pearl Jam, Easy Street Records, Seattle, 2005,
5. Joe Bonamassa fronting Indigenous, Mick's Music & Bar, 2004,
6. Billy Lee Riley w/ Chris Duarte Band @ Indigenous Jam, Omaha, 2000
7. Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Orlando Marriott, Room 328,
8. Freddie Hubbard Band, Union Pacific Cocktails car, enroute Laramie to Denver, Nov. '78,
9. Rockpile, University of Newcastle Student Union, fall '80,
10. Sue Foley, "Lawnstock" (my front lawn), 2006,
11. The Jam, Aragon Ballroom, (Chicago) "fucking brilliant" Paul Weller, 1981,

(*) Rick Galusha, Joel Waldo, John Timmons & Mike Fratt with Kim Richey, Portland (photo omitted)

2007, nominee for Keeping the Blues Alive radio award
2007, nominee for Nebraska Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame

Album Review: Charlie Feravola, Charlie Jones

Artist: Charlie Feravola
Title: Charlie Jones
Writer: Rick Galusha

They say that if you listen long enough to an album you’ll begin to like it. That may be true but I have yet to comprehend the artistry of Don Cherry. That said, I must have listened to the Charlie Jones record a dozen times before it made any sense to me. It’s not that it’s not a good album, a really good album; it’s just schizophrenic. Half of the tracks haven’t a shred of blues in them. And when you’re expecting a “blues” album – well it’s confusing to say the least.

The 12th track, Half My Age, is a blues track begins with Pete Townshend’s guitar riff from, ‘Shaking All Over’ off their Live at Leeds album and then goes straight into a heavy blues jam that resolves into your standard table rocking blues song. The thirteenth track, ‘Ass Blackout / She’s Too Hip’ is a Texas shuffle feel and blistering guitar solo. On the song, ‘Too High to Cry’ Charlie Jones takes an enjoyable go at a B. B. King guitar and organ simmering blues number.

I would venture that 98% of the Contemporary blues audience come to the genre by way of the Rolling Stones or the Allman Brothers and the other two percent are chronic liars. That said, assuming you are still with me, Charlie Jones’ album is a golf ball off-the-fairway and lying in the rough. With every listen spin my enjoyment grows. Jones is using a very diverse basis of references to come up with something rare – a good rock record. For example the closing track on the album, ‘Jessica Emmers’ begins with a descending Nick Lowe like bass line and then moves into a Cheap Trick meets The Dancing Hoods pop sensibility. The lyrical 12 string guitar solo ala George Harrison, driving drums, crisp and clean sound are very Beatlesque. The second track, ‘Don’t Know How to Get to You’ has a strong ‘80’s ‘Beserkley Records / British wave ala a poppier Flamin’ Groovies or Rubinoos.

The band covers Norman Greenbaum’s, ‘Spirit in the Sky’ (recently covered by the Blind Boys of Alabama on their album, ‘Atom Bomb.’) With that catchy melody line in tact the band slows the song down until it hurts and then throws in a mean, nasty, psychedelic Hendrix like guitar solo. By the time the trumpet solo comes in at the end of the song the beat is at a heavy Z. Z. Hill’s ‘Downhome Blues’ pace that drives the song into your brain. God it hurts so good!

On the song ‘Charlie Jones is Dead’ the band sound very Mind Games era John Lennon as he sings some of the coolest lyrics I’ve heard in decades, “You know the one about Jesus Christ, He didn’t mind dying if the cause was right. He stepped right out of his shallow grave and he left behind a shroud with his laughing face. That’s good for him. But it ain’t no good for me. Cause if you kill me honey, dead is all I’ll ever be. Elvis was the King of Rock n’ Roll before he blew his top down in Tupelo. He died in the bathroom from prescription dope. But I saw him pumping gas down in Roanoke. That’s good for him. But it ain’t no good for me, Cause if you kill me honey, Dead is all I’ll ever be.” The song then breaks into a series of rapid fire single note fuzzed-up guitar solo that aches and soars amid a heavy curtain of rhythm and sound.

‘Sigh’ is Pink Floyd meets “Strawberry Fields Forever’ in a slow and languid pop setting replete with a heavy psychoactive ‘60’s drug-sound. Fresh and so totally out of place that two brief chaotic piano breaks that resolve into an acoustic strumming guitar and bongo closing are perfect textures to the highly considered structure.

The track ‘Sunday’ is a phenomenal track that sounds to me to be a bit ‘Sgt. Pepper era Paul McCartney, a dash of Robert Fripp’s abutting chordal dissonance with some Andy Sommers (The Police) thrown in. See? Schizophrenic and magnificent all at the same time.

This album is a highly niched exceptionally good rock-with-blues album. Because it defies a comfortable genre definition it’s not for everyone. It is well worth the time invested if you ears and your mind are WIDE open. No question this is one of the most interesting Contemporary rock albums I have ever heard!

Album Review: Carle Thomas, The Queen Alone

Artist: Carla Thomas
Title: The Queen Alone
Writer: Rick Galusha

While soon to be revived, The Stax recording label is a blip, albeit a wonderful blip, in the history of recorded music. But a few know the label beyond its biggest artists; Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. That Carla Thomas and her deejay father Rufus Thomas were there when Stax was still the Satellite recording label is the thing that trivia games are made of. Initially Carla was one half of the singing duo that included her father. As the title of this reissue indicates, this is a solo effort for her. (The ‘Queen’ reference actually refers to an early duet album with Otis Redding entitled, ‘King and Queen.’)

If one considers James Brown to be the Godfather of Soul and Aretha Franklin to be its Queen, it is reasonable to think of Thomas as one of Soul’s Lady’s-in-Waiting. This is a very good album, and it is wonderful to have a chance to hear it again, but it is neither earth moving nor precedent setting in that Carla Thomas’ hits, such as, ‘B-A-B-Y’ and others are unheard today and essentially obscure. Her talents are unremarkable but warm and pleasant; she is a crafted artisan that makes the most of her skills. The songwriting is classic Stax including compositions by the stables finest including; Issac Hayes, David Porter, Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Eddie Floyd and others. Replete with strings and interesting rhythms, as heard on the 16th (bonus) track, I Wonder, these albums shows the interested and inquisitive how the Stax artists would come together and produces albums for their stars.

The album opens with the Burt Bacharach co-written tune, Any Day Now, and proceeds to become more soulful. The heavy Memphis Stax soul sound is wonderful and vibrant but it is not for everyone and nearly everyone will want to give this album a pass, not because it isn’t good (see my rating) but because it is outside the interest of most. There are no flashy guitars or rough hewn edges – this is pure pop music ala ‘1960’s. During its heyday Stax recording some of pop music's most interesting catalogue of songs, at least as far as I am concerned, and clearly Carla Thomas was an active player during that period. This is a well done album and with repeated listens there are those that will come to appreciate the foils of Carla Thomas but it is a small audience in search of great missing Soul nuggets.

Album Review: Danny Bryant's Red Eye Band, Days Like This

Artist: Danny Bryant’s Red Eye Band
Title: Days Like This
Writer: Rick Galusha

Danny Bryant’s Redeye Band fourth album, Days Like This, is on Britain’s largest independent blues label, Blues Matter – which is also a magazine in the United Kingdom. Concisely, Bryant is a protégé of American Walter Trout.

Heavy handed and immediately apparent, Bryant’s ten track album is drenched with loud guitars and songs that serve as platforms for extended solos. There are glimmers of songwriting as well as apparent references to Bryant’s influences. On the title track Bryant duets with Trout with complex arching solos that prolong notes and cascade back and forth between clashing cymbals. Bryant’s vocals are average and the lyrics are awash with clichés and too predictable.

On the track, Working Overtime, the band winds up the engines to use a Motley Crue-like riff to build into a late period Humble Pie-like arena rock anthem. This is a good entrance album for younger rock listeners branching into the blues genre although this is only a “blues” album in the broadest definition. Well played within a twang-bar genre the band cooks and compliments Bryant’s style which is often without texture or emotional depth. Too often Bryant goes for the rock god lick and thus ‘quelches’ a moment when less could be more. Like his mentor Bryant’s songs are vapid but entertaining and-of-the-moment.

Album Review: Jimmie Bratcher, red

Artist: Jimmie Bratcher
Title: Red
Writer: Rick Galusha

Since its inception the Blues have been closely intertwined with the Christian religion. None the less Kansas City based blues rocking Christian artist Reverend Jimmie Bratcher’s album took me a bit by surprise. This level has two levels; one level is a super smoking blues album that has tasty horn driven arrangements over a tight band and pretty good vocals. On another level Bratcher has a Christian orientated message and he’s going to beat that particular drum throughout the album.

Least I confuse you, let me say this differently, if you do not subscribe to Bratcher’s overt Christian lyrics you are probably not going to indulge this album; however, if you are willing to look past the insubtleness of the message, or if you are in agreement with The Word, this is a terrific album. Much like the Son House, Bratcher is also a minister that uses the blues to project his calling. And much like the much ballyhooed Jonny Lang, who’s latest album, turn around’ is clearly his best, replete with Christian message, Bratcher also uses his art to a higher calling.

The opening track of the album, ‘Bad Religion’ nails the listener with an exceptionally good track that is high energy, horn based and driving. On the third track, ‘Red’ which refrains Sammy Hagar’s song of the same name by repeating, “I see Red,” Bratcher burns slowly and then, with a rumble of the drums and some power chords, he amps up the energy with a guitar driven rocker that, well, would make The Red Rocker himself proud. Bratcher’s sassy guitar licks are minimal and spacious. This is no twang bar king but a competent artist writing good songs and also happens to be able to play and write at an A level.

On ‘Drive’ Bratcher’s pushes the piano playing of Eric Stark up front until saxophone player T. J. Herrick’s solos come into play. Once again the band plays the song using solos to add texture and suspense rather than using the song as a platform to show off. Refreshingly different!

Bratcher’s band dips into a harder pop country styling with an edge not heard on contemporary Nashville radio on, Dance With Me. Uber-producer Jim Gaines lends his many talents to the recording of this Kansas City based album. On ‘Restless for the Son’ Bratcher pulls out a seeped cocktail bluesy jazz number ala ‘Nothing Like the Sun’ era Sting.

By the eighth track, Three Chords’ Bratcher is show casing his songwriting skills when he musters an early Lyle Lovett style song with a Memphis horn swath and heavy, heavy blues guitar riffs. “Lend me three chords, three chords and no more. Somebody play me three chords and no more.”

Anyone’s that soaked in House’s ‘Grinnin’ in Your Face’ will recognize the power that a faith based blues artist can muster. Bratcher’s album is no different albeit his is a loud electric blues that is well written with an ear for texture and space. I would describe this as a niche album for guitar lovers that have a thirst for well written songs played by patient musicians that know, sometimes, less really is actually more. Wisely, Bratcher allows website visitors to stream his music at www.JimmieBratcher.com.

Interview: Robb Nansel and JAson Kulbel, label & club owner/ operators

When the Waiting Room opened in Benson earlier this year the words “revival” were on the lips of music fans and Benson merchants. When Saddle Creek Records opens their new music venue, Slowdown, this week the City of Omaha is hoping to keep the fire of north Omaha development burning. The opening of the Slowdown Club is the first in a series of planned events in the area including Filmstream Movie Theatre, Blueline Coffee Shop, Urban Outfitters clothing store and a restaurant to be named. The backdoor plan of providing a taxpayer baseball stadium for Creighton University at the expense of historic Rosenblatt Stadium has also been floated recently.

To an outsider the success of Omaha based Saddle Creek Records could be traced to the rise of Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes. As Oberst traverses the eye of the recording industry needle his momentum affords other label acts including The Faint and Cursive to gander opportunity. At a time when recording labels are downsizing and laying off thousands of employees Saddle Creek Records owner Robb Nansel, along with Jason Kulbel, is opening a club in Omaha’s NoDo (North of Downtown) area. The club will is Slowdown (“one word.”) Nansel’s reticent nature is legendary and off set by Kulbel’s easier demeanor.

CW: How do you define the music you are recording?

JK: Rock n’ roll.

CW: Some would call it “indie rock.”

JK: Yeah.

CW: What is indie rock?

JK: It’s changed but basically non-major label music. Indie labels were forming before the ‘90’s with labels like SubPop, Matador and Merge.

RN: (The band) Pavement is what indie rock meant, you know, quirky slacker rock.

CW: So tell me about the club. How do you know if it’s a success?

RN: By keeping the door open. We put a lot of thought and time into this…

JK: Rock clubs, good rock clubs, are usually in an old space, but Slowdown is being built from the ground-up. We want the bands that play there to have a great experience. We’ve worked hard to get it right; from the people that run it, to the layout, to the load-in area. We’ve got a wall so that it can be a larger club or just a small bar.

RN: We got lots of feedback from artists and we’ve been in a lot of clubs over the years. What we wanted to do was take an artist’s point of view; what’s the backstage area look like, how’s the load-in area work, what’s the quality of the sound. To use your term we wanted to define the “culture” inside the club. Even if an artist has a crappy show we want them to feel good about playing here, you know, do their laundry and feel we took good care of them – that playing Omaha was a good experience.

JK: I think it will be things like a full bar when we don’t have a show. We’ll have other things going on besides what’s going-on on the stage.

CW: So how is the (proposed) Creighton baseball stadium going to affect you?

JK: It’s going to help a lot.

RN: There’s a bunch more stuff coming down here. That’s why we chose this neighborhood. We have The Blueline Coffee Shop, Filmstreams Movie Theatres. Right now we’re looking for a restaurant.

CW: You picked your tenants right?

JK: We recruited them, yeah.

RN: Rachael (Friedman w/ Filmstreams) was a friend. We’d heard she was looking for some space in Omaha so that kinda fell into place. We just asked her about opening her theatre down here.

CW: What about Urban Outfitters Clothing Store?

JK: Robb knew a fellow that is their music supervisor.

RN: I’ve known Drew for a few years through shows like CMJ and SXSW. He gets records into their shops and we got a few into their stores. So I approached him, he understood the culture of what we wanted to do. I asked him if he thought there would be any interest. “There should be” he said so we asked their President – Tedford Marlow. Ted came to town to check it out. At first he didn’t want to do it but I’ve been badgering him for months.

JK: Robb went to Philadelphia for a music convention and met up with Ted while he was there.

RN: We met for a beer and he agreed to do it.

JK: They start building in July and plan on a fall opening.

CW: So is this the fulfillment of an aspiration?

RN: Sure. (smiles). As a kid all we had was the Cog Factory or a Legion Hall – not an ideal place to see bands, really. We knew how it could be done: what a benefit a decent rock club could be. So we wanted to have a better place for people to play.

JK: There are going to be more show and better shows in Omaha. You know in 2, 3, 4 years things are going to be so much better in terms of the number of shows coming to town and the quality of the shows. You are going to see a lot more people coming out to see live music

CW: Did you set out to put Omaha on the map sorta speak?

JK: Not intentionally. We just wanted to be successful; put out these records. Omaha happen to be where we were but no, we had no intention to change the cultural landscape or anything. Robb?

RN: We’re proud for Omaha to be known for music. Really the label was just to document the music our friends were making and that’s really all we were trying to do, document the music. Nowadays the label is a success – it has grown beyond our documentation.

CW: Surprised?

RN: Definitely. If anyone of us suspected or said this is where we’d be today we’d have said ‘you’re crazy.’ I supposed in the back of your mind this is what you hope happens.

CW: So how do you manage all this? A label, a merchandise company and the club?

JK: It’s just a natural management. I don’t really think about it. Working as close to each other as we do we have ‘meetings’ all day long and usually just end up talking about something in the doorway…

RN: I don’t know what peoples perception is but there isn’t a strategic plan. It’s very casual – if it feels right we do it: if it doesn’t, we don’t. I mean we do have structured weekly meetings but we’re pretty small, only eight employees.

CW: What about risk?

JK: We don’t think about it. You can’t or it will overwhelm you.

CW: Did you ever see the film, ‘Shiny Happy People?’ The movie about Factory Records (in Manchester, England). They opened a club and it ended up bringing down the label and everything…

RN: I have a slight fear…

CW: But.

RN: We’ve learned from some of those labels. Things to watch out for: things to avoid. In the late 90’s SubPop and Matador had outgrown themselves with too many records getting put out. They became too eclectic. For example SubPop overcame it by downsizing their roster and creating a new identity.

CW: So the lesson is?

RN: Don’t put out too much stuff?

JK: Thankfully there have been examples. We have relationships with all those labels (SubPop, Matador, Merge) so we can ask them questions.

RN: All of those labels have been super open with us. Jonathan Pearlman came out here once for a party. Super open guy – he will tell us what we want to know.

CW: So where did the name ‘Slowdown’ come from?

JK: Do you remember the band Slowdown Virginia? It was an earlier band with Tim Kasher, Matt McGuinn, Steve and Casey.

RN: That was our inspiration.

The Slowdown Club is located at 14th & Webster Streets just west of the Qwest Arena and north of the downtown area. The club is slated to open on June 8th. Originally the club was proposed to open on Saddlecreek Road near the Homy Inn and Sgt. Pfeffers Restaurant but the neighborhood protested over concerns of noise, trash and parking concerns. It was during this process that the City of Omaha engaged Nansel and Kulbel to help find a suitable location for the “picky” entrepreneurs. The Filmstreams Theatre will open on July 27th. Tickets for Slowdown will be available at www.Etix.com and Homer’s Music Stores.

Album Review: Joe Bonamassa, You & Me

Artist: Joe Bonamassa
Album: You & Me
Writer: Rick Galusha

Album by album Joe Bonamassa has shown improvement in his vocal and songwriting performances. Already a world class blues-rock guitar player, ‘You & Me’ shows this native New Yorker at the height of his game. Particularly evident are his two primary roots; B.B. King’s and a deep knowledge of the great “Classic Rock” guitar players.

A tireless road warrior Bonamassa is laying the foundation for a successful independent artist career. His latest album ‘You & Me’ is as much Mid-70’s arena rock in sound as it is contemporary electric blues. This latest effort slips into his discography as a earnest side project where Joe covers new ground and breaks away from his strong blues background leaning more towards an up-tempo rock n’ roll record.

As his songwriting skills improve Bonamassa’s skill base round out; allowing him to pull away from the vanilla pack of electric blues guitar players. The third track on the album, ‘Asking Around for You’ is a classic blues song in the finest electric tradition. Bonamassa sings “If I get to heaven, first thing I’m gonna do, before I meet my Maker, I’m gonna ask around for you.” With stretching solo breaks and strong organ backing, Asking Around for You, has all the makings for a “great” blues song that may well graduate into a standard – it is that strong.

Amid a personnel changes in the band Bonamassa used some heavyweights on this latest effort including; Jason Bonham (Healing Sixes) on drums, son of the late John Henry Bonham of Led Zeppelin fame, Carmine Rojas (Rod Stewart, David Bowie) on bass and Rick Melick (Air Supply, Andy Gibb) on organ and tambourine. Pat Thrall (Pat Travers Band, Glenn Hughes, Meatloaf) duets on guitar with Bonamassa on the track, ‘Bridge to Better Days.” Bonamassa covers the Led Zeppelin track, ‘Tea for One’ (from the Presence album) using guest vocalist Doug Henthorn (Healing Sixes).

This is a strong album with one incredible track and ten very good songs which make for an interesting but not yet fully cooked delivery from perhaps one of the blues genres finest players.

Album Review: Harry Bodine, Which Way Home

Artist: Harry Bodine
Title: Which Way Home
Writer: Rick Galusha

Austin based swamp & steel player Harry Bodine released his first solo effort in late 2006. Formerly a member of the Austin band, Delta Roux, Bodine appears to have been able to set himself apart of the wide girth of talent that resides in the that Texas hill country town. Known as a songwriter’s songwriter, Bodine has written some fine tunes for this album. While the playing and vocals are quite good perhaps the strongest suit for this album is the arrangements. Songs are full with strong instrumentation and yet enough space is lent to the song to allow a dusty kind of texture to rise up.

On the opening title track Bodine snaps the album open with a ‘Wake Up Little Susie” kind of guitar lick that is quickly supported with organ and layered vocal back-up. Opening the album with, ‘Which Way to My Home’ alerts the listener that Bodine is going back to the roots and searching for his musical home. Tasty guitar fills interlaced with a brief organ solo by Nick Connolly is exceptionally tasty. Bodine uses his national steel to refrain the breaks and bring the song and chorus back, building energy as he does.

Whereas say a John Hammond may elect to play sans’ band, Bodine frequently employs a wide range of instrumentation behind his music and it seems to serve the songs well. On, ‘Time on My Hands’ Bodine begins the track with just vocal and steel guitar then gently opens it up to drums, bass, keys and vocals. The song builds slowly as the percussion accents every twist and turn of the melody line. Bodine breaks the song open for a gentle, tasty guitar duet between featuring a slide sound set behind an acoustic picking.

Sounding haunting like Neil Young’s, ‘Needle and the Damage Done,’ Bodine’s, ‘What Would I Do’ is a laid back ballad which meticulously weaves in and out of the singers query, “What would I do without you?” With a bluesy piano breaks that flow into early period Elton John fills (you remember when Elton was great don’t you?), Bodine casts a wonderful albeit hardly “blues” ballad that is at once familiar and comfortable.

What Bodine seems to understand so many others miss; that often less is more. While Bodine fills the audio spectrum with plenty of interesting bits and pieces, gone are the wailing guitars and over-bearing vocals. Tasty. Pure. Delicious. Harry Bodine’s album, ‘Which Way Home,’ available at www.CDBaby.com, could be an exciting find for those that love a really good song presented by high class players with a bent toward underplaying and subtle nuisances. This is far from a “blues” album but relies heavily on the ‘sounds’ and themes that blues fans will quickly recognize and appreciate. Radio programmers may find the song, ‘Shufflin’ Shoes’ to be a catchy way into the album with a Little Feat style refrain. This really is a very good album.

Interview: Dave Alvin, musician

On his recently released album, West of the West, roots rocker Dave Alvin covers a collection of songs written by other famed California songwriters including; Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Jackson Browne, Merle Haggard, Tom Waits, and others. Recently Dave phoned in to discuss his new album.

RG: Another album of covers?

DA: I am a real strict writer for my albums: my solo career is pretty intense. So [Public Domain and West of the West] are like vacations for me. That and getting to play with other bands like the Knitters.

RG: How did you go about picking the songs?

DA: I went ferreting. So many great songwriters live out here. Some guys, like Captain Beefheart, can’t be done so we eliminated them right away. Diane Warren’s a pop singer so I knew that wasn’t going to work either. I wanted artists with a roots background: songwriters that are close and had a direct affect on me as a songwriter. I also knew I had to be able to sing their song…like Jackson Browne’s, ‘Redneck Friend.’

RG: Of the thirteen tracks I know most of the writers but who is Jim Ringer? (Ringer’s track, ‘Tramps and Hawkers’ is included on the album.)

DA: You mean who was Jim Ringer. Jim passed away in the late ‘80’s. Along with Kate Wolf, Jim Ringer kept the folk music flame alive during the musical drought known as the 1970’s. Tom Waits was one of the people I talked to when I was putting together this album. Waits was the doorman at a club in San Diego where Ringer would play. Waits’ track, ‘Blind Love’ also appears on the album.

RG: The song, ‘Sonora’s Death Row’ is by Kevin ‘Blackie’ Farrell. What can you tell me about Blackie Ferrell?

DA: Well he’s still alive! Ha. My producer Greg Leisz grew up with Ferrell and knew him when Asleep At the Wheel began as a Bay Area band. Ferrell is a bit of a Cowboy Poet and worked with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen and Michael Martin ‘Wildfire’ Murphy.

RG: I hear you’re in the radio business now too.

DA: Yeah. I have a show in production for XM satellite radio. It will only be one hour a month

RG: Why?
DA: Why not?

RG: I see you’re going to be playing this area in late June; including Lincoln’s final July Jamm.
DA: Yes. We are touring quite a bit these days. We’ll be playing songs from the new album as well as some of the older material too. Fans will be pleased.

RG: Aren’t they always?
DA: You’d be surprised.

RG: So this project reminds me of Lyle Lovett’s, Step Inside This House.’

DA: Yes, I had that in mind but I’ve actually been thinking about doing this album for some time. The turning point was when K.D. Lang released her album where she covers songs by famous Canadian songwriters; Neil Young, Joni Mitchell. I have to add this, nic that most of those songs she chose were written when these artists were living in California.

RG: So how does the new label treat you?

DA: I love it. Glenn and Tor are both looking out toward 2015. They both began as musicians so they know you can’t play Denver the day after playing Nashville. They have a passion to work with great music. It’s real nice.

RG: Have you always been a songwriter?

DA: When I was 13 or 14 I wrote a song for Big Joe Turner. I was so excited. I said “Big Joe, I wrote a song for you.” Joe said, “Let’s hear it,” but I couldn’t remember it. “Must not be much of a song if you can’t remember it” he said. And he was right. So these days I walk around the house for weeks singing a song before I’ll record it. I want to make sure I like it before I ask someone else to listen to it.

Other songwriters on the album include Jerry Garcia with Robert Hunter, John Fogerty from Credence Clearwater Revival, David Hildago (Los Lobos), soul singer Richard Berry, and John Stewart.

Album Review: Dave Alvin, Live from Austin, Texas

Artist: Dave Alvin
Title: Live from Austin, Tx
Writer: Rick Galusha

This latest release featuring the music of Dave Alvin is on the New West recording label and a part is their series, ‘live from Austin, tx.’ The series includes DVDs & CDs performances of a wide variety of artists on the famed public broadcasting television series, ‘Austin City Limits.’ Recorded in 1999 this 13 track album includes songs from across Alvin’s career including slices from the then current ‘Blackjack David’ album. Within the album’s liner notes the writer notes that Alvin is considered by Rolling Stone magazine to be among the masters “of small town laments,” (along with Springsteen, Hiatt and Dylan). It’s no wonder then that Alvin covers the depression era, ‘Do-Re-Me’ by Woody Guthrie.

Listening to Alvin’s music, or having the opportunity to speak with him, it quickly becomes apparent that he has vast knowledge of the music that came before him. This musical largess may be where Alvin’s credibility comes from; knowing the proper arrangement that allows the listeners into a 3 minute song that fully depicts someone’s defining moment.

On, ‘Out in California’ the band rolls into a late period Las Vegas style Elvis romp where pianist Joe Terry drops in fills that propel the song along. At a midpoint Rick Shea’s pedal steel slows the song down as Alvin laments over the top only to pick-up the tempo and ‘roll on down a musical highway.’ The every catchy ‘Abilene’ is an epic bus journey song where the female figure, a table dancer, leaves the Pacific Northwest heading towards Abilene in order to get away; “Staring out the window at the long cold night, there on the horizon is another string of bright lights, dreaming of a man she’s gonna meet…” Alvin’s songs are infested with characters that, I suppose, most of his record buying public would take the long way around to avoid. Reviews of his work inevitably include phrases like “dusty streets,” “hard luck” and “desperate.” To me, while I cannot honestly relate through experience, his songs speak of hope amid hopelessness and of loneliness & want in a land of plenty.

If you already enjoy Alvin’s music this is an excellent compliment to an already remarkably body of work. Throughout the album Alvin changes tempos and adds flairs such as including’ Guthrie’s ‘Do-Re-Me’ and Chuck Berry’s ‘Promised Land’ in to Alvin’s own ‘Jubliee Train.’ Ted Roddy’s harmonica and Chris Gaffney’s accordion rev-up an already powerful the song into a revivalist’s creedo, “Get on board there’s a New Deal coming, heard about a Jubilee Train.”

If you’re not a fan of Alvin’s music I would encourage your to ignore the rabidity of his fans and listen to the fifth track on this album, ‘Dry River.’ This was the song that, for me, really kicked open the door to Alvin’s music. Alvin’s unique ability to take the listener to orange groves that would later be plowed down for a suburbanizing Los Angles and contrast them against a love for a “woman” where the singer’s heart is “just as dry as that river and as dead as those old trees” but “some day it’s gonna rain, someday is gonna pour, and that old dry river, it ain’t gonna be dry no more.” As stunning an allegory as popular music may be able to muster.

Album Review: Rhythm & Groove Club feat: Allen Toussaint and Jeff Cook

Title: Rhythm & Groove Club
Artists: Jeff Cook & Allen Toussaint
Writer: Rick Galusha

As a kid from the Midwest Iowa’s Tommy Bolin eventually played in some of the ‘70’s biggest bands including; The James Gang, Deep Purple and Moxy as well as working with artists like; Billy Cobham (Spectrum album), Phil Collins, and Jeff Beck. Sioux City guitarist Tommy Bolin’s career ended with his drug overdose death in Miami on December 4, 1976. He was twenty-five years old. In some ways Jeff Cook’s recent release, ‘Rhythm & Groove Club’ lives in the shadow of Bolin’s short career. Jeff Cook, who organized and headed up the recording of, ‘The Rhythm & Groove Club,’ along with New Orleans’ uber-musician Allen Toussaint, played in bands with Bolin (Energy) along with writing or co-authoring many of his best songs including; Dreamer, Savannah Woman, Teaser (Teaser album) and Sweet Burgundy, Shake the Devil, Gypsy Soul and Hello Again (Private Eyes album). These days Jeff Cook is now an executive with the Americana label New West.

In a world of marathon 16 track CDs, Cook’s album is a pleasantly brief at only nine songs. Three of the tracks are penned by Toussaint while the others are a mish-mash of known covers including the Lieber/Stroller, ‘Down Home Girl’ (also covered on the 1965 release, The Rolling Stones Now!), Booker T Jones & William Bell’s, ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ and Roscoe Gordon’s, ‘Just a Little Bit.’ Over all this is a nice album with no surprise’s and unfortunately nothing remarkable. It’s a groovy little independent record put together by two significant footnotes in music history; both admirable and both successful within the circle of serious music fans. The music is exemplary of the very finest of tasty musicianship and Cook’s vocals are deep and lyrical. There is nothing wrong with this album but there’s nothing demanding your attention. While a fan of Cook’s songwriting skills, I have to describe this as a vanity project that will haunt the collections of some but remain anonymous to most. If you’re a complete music geek and you happen to be looking for that perfect album to play for your less-informed friends, maybe at a party or BBQ, you know, that album that is the perfect balance between songs they’ve heard before but are still fresh enough to be interesting, this could be an excellent fit. While writing this review I’ve been compelled to pull out the James Gangs’ ‘Bang’ album where Cook co-writes many of the songs with Bolin; who had stepped in for the recently departed Joel Walsh. While the nonsensical drug death of Bolin will never make sense, one can only hope that very talented Cook will find a ‘Lennon’ to his ‘McCartney’ and begin writing seriously, once again.

Album Review: Harry Manx & Kevin Breit, In Good We Trust

Artists: Harry Manx & Kevin Breit
Title: In Good We Trust
Label: Stony Plain
Writer: Rick Galusha

Canadian Harry Manx is the kind of artist that blues purists love to loathe. On his first album, Dog My Cat, Manx explored a mixture of American blues using instruments from India including the 20 string mohan veena. Manx’s explorations would take the listener through cascading stringed textures and crevices where the music cast a haunting illumination twixt blues and a subcontinent wail. It was beautiful. By his second album, ‘Wise & Otherwise’ he continued to push the limits of the art with wondrous juxtaposition such as the song, ‘The Gist of Madhuvanti / The Thrill is Gone.’ During this period Manx played Omaha’s Indigenous Jam. One could have heard a pin drop during his main stage performance where thousands gathered in the tin shed. It was mysterious and intriguing.

His latest album, “In Good We Trust” is the second collaboration between Manx and fellow Canadian Kevin Breit; the first being, ‘Jubilee.’ In his own right Breit is a noted multi-instrumentalist playing with Norah Jone, k. d. Lang and Casssandra Wilson. While the album is still a refreshing blast of Manx’s sound, I find it more difficult to embrace as Manx’s art is compromised and less focused with poorly composed songs to platform their performances on. Opening the album is the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s, ‘I’m on Fire’ (Born in the USA). This is a calling card that songwriting plays a backseat on the album. I enjoy a well placed cover when the artist is adding something to the tune. In this instance Manx seems to be choosing the cover as a door for a mass audience raised on rock n’ roll but shifting towards retirement and the contemporary blues idiom. Sadly the song clunks with dull surprise.

On the title track Manx and Breit explore Muddy Water’s ‘I’m a Man’ riff using mandolin and ‘cigar box’ guitar. This tune may play well in a live setting but in my listening room it is lifeless and intentionally oblique; subsequently, far from interesting but, again, an easy calling card for the modern blues crowd looking for something to grab onto.

By the tenth track, ‘Don’t Swim, Float’ Manx and Breit come together for a jumpin’ bluesgrass-ish instrumental. The playing is quite capable as the artist exchange leads to n’ fro. One song doesn’t make an album – it justifies a download.

Manx’s skills are forthright and many of his previous albums are exemplary of a highly talented and creative musician exploring untested avenues of where the blues could be taken. On ‘In Good We Trust’ there are a couple of songs worthy of Manx’s catalogue while the rest of the album languishes without direction. If Manx ever visits, he is a must see artist but this album will live in the shadows of older, better albums by Manx.

Album Review: Blue Voodoo, Hot Wire (my heart)

Artist: Blue Voodoo
Title: Hot Wire (My Heart)
Writing: Rick Galusha

BJ Allen’s band, ‘Blue Voodoo’ is the perfect embodiment of contemporary blues. While their proposed idiom is the blues genre this band has more in common with early 70’s rock radio than with Muddy Waters. Yes, the band had adopted the “blues” textures that Muddy pioneered when he and The Headhunters plugged-in in order to be heard over the recent immigrants to the industrial north. And yes, Blue Voodoo does what so many others are doing today; singing about being blues musicians while nary a 12-bar can be heard. If it sounds like I am complaining, I am not. Much like the political phrase, “Family Values,” in today’s musical landscape “The Blues” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. There are honest to goodness “Blues” players that rely on the traditional art-form including 12 bars with the ‘Call, Call, Response’ format. And there are ‘blues’ players that use the sounds, textures and themes, often delving into clichés, of the blues yet play a rock n’ roll structure behind it. I am not a purist but I do feel the need to differentiate the ‘until-now-hidden-secret’ behind “Blues” and “blues.” Now you know!

Blue Voodoo is a terrific band capable of fine grace; revving up when necessary and then tempering the volume when the song calls for it. With Allen on vocals the band includes; Jerry Fuller on Guitar, Piano & Organ; JP Hurd on Bass & Harp; and David Daniels on Drums. Instrumentally the band is tight and Fuller fingers can fandango on the fret boards with the best of saloon players. The band is very good and struts like a barnyard cock on the instrumental track, ‘Sounds Like “L”

Vocally, for my taste, Allen relies too heavily on the late period Etta James “grrr” as if digging deep into the soul. Amid an album that is lyrically awash with cliché lyrics Allen’s style of guttural delivery versus precision and texture wears thin. There are times when her base skills exhibit the ability to deliver clear lines but those are too seldom. With lyric lines like “Baby, hot wire my heart” and the unimaginative ‘Gypsy Woman’ which includes, “She the mad dog from Arkansas, And her bite is worse than her bark,” I pined for something more real lyrically. On the track, ‘Blue as Blue Can Get’ Allen flashes her capability which is quite adequate and really shines on ‘Written on My Heart.”

In regard to the album artwork, Blue Voodoo, like so many regional bands, makes a critical artwork faux pas. Many times inexperienced bands will include their photo on the cover and compound the misstep by including a car and an attempt at humor. Nonprofessional photos connote an amateurish venture and weaken the reception of the albums content; ever professional artists sometime make this error as seen on the new Toni Price, ‘Talk Memphis’ album cover. Consider the album artwork to be the front door of your house and, at least on the first album, you must give the listener a reason to come in rather than an excuse to walk on by. So spend money and time on the artwork (a plain white cover is better than a bad cover) least first impressions give your hard earned art a brush off.

Blue Voodoo’s Hot Wire (My Heart) shows genuine promise as the band is quite good and Allen’s vocals, currently the weak link of the album, if given time to try different deliveries and build a greater sense of comfort in the studio, will mature and show a less predictable generic style. I’d look for this band’s next effort to be well above average as the songs and arrangement indicate a fresh approach. This initial album is best suited for local fans and friends although there are a few songs which a friendly radio station could have some fun with. Depending on the bands live performances it could also be a fine ‘off-the-stage’ piece to recall a fun evening of good ‘blues’ (but not Blues.)

Interview: Peter Buffett, musician

Peter Buffett
Gold Star interview

Being the son of famous parents or the reputed cousin of a world renowned musician may open some doors but it also casts a very long shadow which could easily overwhelm. From the outset Omaha born Peter Buffett has created his own “little bumpy road” which has earned this soft spoken man his own place in the sun and away from other’s shadows. While you won’t find it on his own website, Buffett’s Wikipedia site reports he has won an Academy Award (Oscar), an Emmy Award, and a nod from New Age Reporter for Vocal Album of the year. He has worked with some of Hollywood’s best known actors including Kevin Costner and Demi Moore. In the 80’s he worked with upstart Mtv and wrote the music for use in commercials by the number one trademark company in the world, Coca Cola. And like the other members of his family, talking to the unassuming Buffett is bit like leaning on your fence and talking to a friendly neighbor.

With the release of his latest album, Gold Star, Buffett further explores a significant musical career that encompasses three genres; New Age music, a contemporary spin on indigenous American music and now pop music.

RG: You latest album, Gold Star, is kind of a pop record but I became familiar with your albums on the Narada Label where you were recorded a new age artist.

PB: I only started doing the new age genre because I’d written music for commercials forever. In the mid-80’s I seen some guys get into film work by putting out records. They’d get their music put into films, the director would fall in love with their music, and now everyone’s a “composer.” So I thought, ‘I got to get a record deal!’

I have four albums out on the Narada label, a couple out on Hollywood Records, my ‘500 Nations’ album out on Epic and then a few out on my own. I’d bounced around a little and then thought I’ll just put them out on my own.

RG: Which more and more artists are doing.

PB: Yes. These days it doesn’t make any sense to not do it on your own. But the tricky part is that a lot of people think, ‘If I just put it out a record everyone will know how wonderful I am and buy my record’ but you know the recording labels still provide a service. They still provide you with tour support or a video or something. Its not as easy as just putting out a record but it sure makes a lot more sense these days to just do it yourself.

RG: After your New Age period you got into ‘Native American’ music and you won an Oscar for your work on Kevin Costner’s, ‘Dances With Wolves’ soundtrack.

PB: Well I think I actually won a chip of the Oscar. I’d scored the two minute ‘Fire Dance’ scene where Kevin dances around the campfire. Its considered the “title scene” of that movie and I happen to have been lucky enough to have scored that two minutes of that scene: which launched my interest in Native Americans.

The next project was ‘500 Nations.’ After Dances With Wolves Costner hired me to score his eight hour series ‘500 Nations’ and that just got me further and further into the Native American scene where I met people and that eventually turned into ‘Spirits of Fire’ which debuted in Omaha in 2004. You’re right, I don’t know how to describe it exactly; it’s film, it’s a story, it’s a live concert all under a tent.

RG: You used a terrific number of Native American actors, dancers and musicians in that project. It had to have been massively expensive to take that on the road.

PB: It was and that was what killed its first incarnation. We toured five cities including the National Mall in Washington D.C. That was probably the great moment for the show but the logistics were incredible. All of the performers were Native American and the road crew were mostly native as well. Because of the critical acclaim in the USA it appears we will be touring Europe in 2008.

RG: And now we have what I would describe as a musical period that I would describe as a cross between Tears for Fears and Kraftwerk.

PB: I like it! Ha ha. I mean there are definitely those distinct sections of my career. While I was working on the ‘500 Nations’ project for PBS I was also working on a side project in Milwaukee writing songs for a female singer and created a band around that. So that was the first time I’d written songs in a long time. So when my wife and I moved to New York two years ago now I got into writing songs again. But I didn’t know anybody so I thought I’d sign them myself and see what happens.

RG: I notice you put an effect on the vocals which I thought was really cool.

PB: Thanks. Most of that is double and triple tracking. Back in the old days the Beatles did that too. I’m actually singing along with myself to make it sound like I want it to sound. You know you made those references to some other artists, another one I get a lot is Alan Parsons.

RG: People will recognize Alan Parsons, who had his own career, as the coffee boy for the Beatles and George Martin back in the famed Abbey Road recording studio. And wasn’t he a big player for Pink Floyd for awhile?

PB: Yes, I think the album Abbey Road (Beatles) kind of launched and then he did do a lot of work with Pink Floyd.

RG: As an independent artist how are you going to go about marketing this record? Its got to be a really interesting challenge for you.

PB: It is absolutely. Certainly people that know me through the other work will know me so I contact them through email blasts. And then I went to the same stations that played my New Age music. So there’s a group of about 200 deejays that will currently play my instrumental work. Actually, through New Age Reporter magazine the album got nominated as Vocal Abum of the Year. I didn’t actually win but I got nominated into the last five.

RG: As you create your music, because you have so many diversified styles, and all of them you’ve done well in, when you sit down to write do you say, ‘Today I am going to write a new age song and tomorrow I will write a pop song’?

PB: No. I never really thought of myself as a singer. I just followed a path that lead me to ‘Dances With Wolves’ but I consider myself on this bumpy little road of a career and it tends to take me to places that I don’t really expect or know but this vocal sound is fun and I think I’ll be sticking to that for awhile.

RG: So you are related somewhat related albeit distantly to (MCA recording artist) Jimmy Buffett.

PB: I say that somewhat definitively, I mean we’re not exactly sure but it goes way back to the 1600’s. There is an island in the South Pacific where there are 100’s of Buffetts. We think that our common ancestor got off the ship, The Bounty’ before the mutiny and had 14 wives in the South Pacific.

RG: I know if that guy was smart or suicidal?

PB: I don’t know either but at least it was a smart place to be hanging out I think.

RG: Have you ever casually gotten together with Jimmy Buffett?

PB: Yes. We’ve never played music but he is exactly what he appears to be. He’s a very nice guy.

RG: Are you going to go out and tour behind the Gold Star album?

PB: As far as promotion I am not ready to go out and tour yet although I think I’d like to. The new radio is television and movies. If you can get your songs played in a tv show or in a movie its as good as some commercial radio. I mean the Average Joe can’t get onto commercial radio. Which is why public radio and program like your’s are tremendous. I mean it gives so many people a chance. So we do have people working that aspect of the business. So aside from touring all you do is get into some other broadcast medium and seize promotional opportunities. So local (public) radio is so valuable.

RG: One of the things we try to do on PS Blues is, I’m gonna call you a local guy that done good!

PB: I’ll take that thank-you!

RG: Omaha, musically, has really blossomed and I think people may be unaware of that. So I say this in the kindest regards, Chip Davis is kind of a new age artist and you kind of are too but in a different category. I use this term respectfully but I think Mannheim Steamroller is kind of a Hallmark artist while you are a bit more…

PB: I think Chip has found a niche and he’s mined it and that is to be much admired. I like to think of myself as someone that is always trying to push my limits very hard. When you look back and say you’ve been this kind of artist or that kind of artist, I just keep trying to get better and keep the listener interested rather than annoyed.

RG: There has to be a risk that if you change too much your audience won’t know what to do with you, right?

PB: Yes. I think that’s the fun of the vocal recordings. I think people hear elements of my instrumental style in my vocals and it seems to work. So that people that are familiar with my work hear something familiar in it.

RG: So did you go to Central High School?

PB: I did.

RG: Did you participate in their music program?

PB: I did not. Ha ha. I played piano since I can remember. I played with Lars Erickson who is an extraordinary player. He and his kids play as the Burt Street Boys now in Omaha. Lars is so good that I never took myself seriously. And then I went to college and I took everything that ended in 101 or “ology” and then I discovered it really was music so after that I never took any career path too seriously until I was into my college years.

RG: So I understand that you did play with Bono (U2) once?

PB: Actually I did not. Bono played at my Mom’s service (Susan A. Buffett). It was incredibly powerful and it was incredible that he was there. But it was my nephew that played with Bono. My sister’s son is an extraordinary musician that plays guitar and drums and bass and he’s just starting to sing now. He played with him which was amazing and did it. It was pretty amazing. I certainly have had the chance to sit with Bono and talk but our discussion will fall back into my show and my experiences working with Native Americans. You know how Bono is. That is a fabulous opportunity to sit down and talk with someone like him.

RG: So tell us about the albums title.

PB: I was imerged into the ‘500 Nations’ project and one night I was going to sleep when I said to my wife, Jennifer, “You know, you really deserve a gold star” and I thought, well wait a minute, that would be a great title for a song. So that song amongst others is dedicated to my wife and her ability to put up with me.

Album Review: Mike Anderson, tomorrow

Artist: Mike Andersen Band
Title: Tomorrow
Writer: Rick Galusha

This is not a blues album; however, it is a good album.

European Mike Andersen slants his second album, Tomorrow, with a strong Black American R n’ B feel and like many talented artists tries to amalgamate several genres into one unique voice. Andersen ties together horn driven blues as heard on the track, ‘One More’ together with rap, as heard on the opening track, ‘Same Damm Time’ with a highly rhythmatic, organ driven B.B. King ballad as heard on, ‘Lessons.’

On initial listens Tomorrow is a rich, diversified album and Andersen, a vocal crooner with short cropped hair and dark suit, very Robert Palmer like in his delivery, as heard on the beautiful ‘We Don’t Make Love.’ It may be that Andersen’s effort is hampered by trying to grab too many styles and fit them into one sound. The first listen was slow but the album quickly opened up.

This is an album with excellent musicianship, songs, and arrangements. It touches several musical bases which may put off some listeners: I quickly skipped over the opening track, Same Damm Thing, as Andersen’s use of “rap” has no appeal to me. This record is not rootsy on any level but is rather a polished album that will appeal more to the recreational listener as opposed to a “musicologist.” To put it another way, in the early-80’s millions of Americans bought Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. Packed with hit singles Bruce’s album managed to encapsulate an era; however, today, among my friends at least, they are more prone to throw on, ‘The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle.’ Andersen is akin to Springsteen’s second release in that it is not formula-like in its execution and subsequently more likely to have a longer shelf life and listened to with greater enjoyment.

Tomorrow is a niche release with faux-pop(ular) songs that swing with familiar blues instrumentation and playing. This is an excellent album to play while driving your car and should be heard, loudly, on a high end stereo as it is mixed to fill the room with tasty melodies and wonderful vocal lines. Andersen’s efforts to leap the pond and develop an audience in North America may or may not work but I would advise keeping an eye on this guy as whatever “it” is, he has “it.”

Album Review: Paul McCartney, memory half full

Artist: Paul McCartney
Title: memory almost full
Writer: Rick Galusha

These days there’s always some trepidation when opening a new album by an older artist. Yes, the Rolling Stones are releasing vibrant studio albums but they ain’t writing, ‘Gimme Shelter’ anymore. So you never know how good the album will be but there’s a very high percentage your favorite Classic Rock artist’s best days are still behind them.

As solo artists none of the Beatles reached the critical or mass popularity that their synergy gave them as a band. Paul McCartney’s, “Band on the Run” album defined a moment and while Ringo may have had the most post-Beatle hit singles, McCartney scored the best solo album. Unlike so many others, I thought his more recent effort, “Flaming Pie” was quite good and I actually still play two or three times a year. McCartney’s, “Memory Almost Full” gives the listener a glimmer of the best that Paul has to offer.

“Memory Almost Full” is McCartney’s first album after the financially costly divorce from model Heather Mills. As Neil Young once said, referring to a sax player in his band after a broken marriage, “I don’t know about the rest of the band but he’s gonna play his heart out tonight.” Like that ambiguous broken hearted saxman, McCartney has released a very fine album that, like any album destine for longevity, slowly opens after repeated listens. But before we discuss this album, let’s have an agreement; if McCartney, or any of the other three guys, had wanted to “sound” like the Beatles they very likely would have reformed the band or at least made a more serious effort to replicate that Every Brothers meets English seaside vaudeville sing-a-long sound that the Beatles spawned. Instead, it appears to me, that McCartney took some of his finest musical moments and recaptured them in vibrant settings. Heck, if Bob Dylan can awaken from a thirty year sonic slumber why not Paulie McCartney?

The opening track on the album, ‘Dance Tonight’ is pure contemporary McCartney, a mandolin perky tune that is well arranged; tooth-sweet and radio friendly. ‘Ever Present Past’ is a reduex version of a previous hit, ‘My Brave Face.’ The third track, ‘See You Sunshine’ is a perfect pop song that only a brilliant writer such as McCartney could muster – very English, light, fresh and while the issue is that ever-present pop topic, love, McCartney takes the listener along for a audio walk along a park path in spring sunshine. “Look what you do to me baby, You make me feel so fine. Step out in front of me baby, they want you in the front line, they want to see your sunshine.” This is an excellent pop song that Baby Boomers will appreciate.

On, ‘Only Mama Knows’ McCartney intro’s the song ala ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and quickly vamps the track into a higher energy Silver Beatles era style rocker with heavy pulsating bass and crashing high-hat that escalates into a somewhat exasperate chorus, “Only Mama knows why she laid me down in the God forsaken town, She was running too, What she ran from I never knew…Got to hold on, I got to hold on.” In the end the song transmogrifies back into a symphony of strings and slowly fades into the next track.
‘You Tell Me’ uses a chorus setting ala’ ‘You Never Give Me My Money’ while the singer clearly muses his memory as if asking a former lover, don’t I remember all these greats times? What happen to them then?

This is a very good album that, for some, will be a most gratifying listening experience. When McCartney sang, “Will you still love me when I’m sixty-four’ the song’s reference was beyond most listeners ability to realistically relate. Today, as many of the Beatles fans are amid that age range, the song has a whole new relevance. On ‘Memory Almost Full’ McCartney pens the tune, ‘The End of the End’ where he sings of his own death. “No need to be sad. On the day that I die I’d like jokes to be told and stories of old to be rolled out like carpets that children have played on and laid on while listening to stories of old.” In many ways McCartney brings his career full circle with this track. It is meaningful and sad yet wonderful. This is an excellent album full of melody line, textures and musical reference points.

Album Review: Anthony Gomes, Music is the Medicine

Artist: Anthony Gomes
Title: Music is the Medicine
Writer: Rick Galusha

The latest album by Anthony Gomes, Music is the Medicine’ leans heavily into the rock genre with just the occasional whisper to blues. Produced by uber-dialman Jim Gaines this good time party album sounds wonderful. Gomes’ songs are well paced, highly textured and more about the song than the flash. Interestingly Gomes uses his latest platter to approach contemporary issues such as war, ‘War on War,” co-written with Mark Selby, and universal peace. Granted his lyrics aren’t providing any fodder for grey matter when he sings, “How different can we really be, From the colors of the war machine, Where the blood is red and the money’s green.” However simplicity set against the pulsing push of the band and Gomes’ doodling guitar sound-texturing is admittedly cool.

On the next track, “Love is the Answer” Gomes revs up a faux-gospel sing-a-long anthem that evokes, “People all over the world, Come together, Rise Up, Take a Stand, We got the power in our hands, Understand, Love is the Answer.” Okay, John Lennon he isn’t but he’s making in-roads to issues and singing about something other than back door love and clichéd bluesman braggadocio. Gomes uses the building crescendo to step out of the moment in order to take a tasty nylon string guitar solo only to come back with a well paced guitar solo that will lend itself kindly to live performances.

Gomes’ latest is a highly polished rock n’ roll record that breaks into a “play that funky music white boy” with the song, ‘Everyday Superstar.’ Superstar is a toe-tapping commercial ‘70’s radio friendly soul sound with rock overtones and rich melody lines. On “Testify” Gomes revs up a Kiss-like-riff and a ‘party all night’ when he sings, ‘Kick the door open let the party begin...We’re going right for your ear hole, Then we’re gonna penetrate your soul.” So its not art: put this one in your guilty pleasures stack, clear the chairs out of the room and grab your tennis racket. Its fun, it has a positive message, its far from art and its packed with energy. This is a, ‘roll-down-the-windows-and-let-wind-blow-through-your-hair’ album that fills a niche… but it ain’t blues.
A reply to Chick Willis open letter
By Rick Galusha

Recently Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. published the column, “The Rules? There’s only one rule: Whatever you say, avoid bullying.” In it Pitts makes the point, it’s valid for the less powerful to take a swipe at the more powerful. Specifically, in contemporary society blacks are allowed to say things about whites that are patently unfair but it is expected to be tolerated.

In his open letter entitled, “A Real Blues Artist and Inventor (part one)” the noted blues musician Chick Willis makes several points; blacks in America continue to be at a disadvantage, blues was born of hardship within the African American culture and more and more “the blues” is really nothing more than 70’s rock being repackaged to aging white suburban baby boomers.

However, I think several of Willis’ comments deserve to be addressed.

In his thesis Willis writes, “”There is no way that a person that has not had the experiences of the blues or has lived the blues can know anything about the blues. Those people are copying what they have heard, not what they have experienced.” Willis then goes on to acknowledge some legitimate white blues players including Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton. Within the blues tradition there is a passing-of-the-torch process where older musicians school younger musicians. Clapton very probably was schooled by listening to records and by playing with John Mayall. Stevie was schooled by emulating his older brother and others on the Dallas music scene. What Willis goes on to infer is that White musicians who pay homage to black performers or at least lend their economic might to help them “know that they will forever be imitators of the blues” but he likes’em anyway.

There are two things I’m learning as I get older; 1.) No one gets out of life alive, and 2.) The longer you live the more suffering you are going to experience. There are several fallacies in Willis argument. For example, if one were to weigh the suffering of Jews over their 4,000 years of recorded history is their cultural pain sufficient to allow them to play the blues? If one were to examine the system of serfdom in Medieval Europe, a time when a vast majority of whites were enslaved by landowners, wouldn’t this cultural sense of suffering equate to at least some white boys being able to play the blues? Or does the passage of time marginalize cultural suffering? Do Mr. Willis’ rules apply to indigenous Americans? As a group their suffering is significant. Can they play the blues? (I’m thinking of Mato Nanji of Indigneous.) Either way Willis had better accept that fact that based upon his argument there are going to be some super badass Muslim blues players in the next decade because I can’t imagine anyone in the world suffering more than the average Joe living in today’s Middle East.

To paraphrase a paragraph from Willis, “There are a few white people that are giving these White Blues lovers phony blues all because they want to take advantage of them by giving them watered down blues…a music that was invented by Black people…it seems like slavery all over again.” Another thing I’ve learned over the past three decades of involvement in the music industry is that some people just don’t care that much about music. Music is little more than audio wallpaper to most. At a recent concert Bonnie Raitt (someone omitted from Willis’ list of legitimate white players) mentioned Memphis Minnie. The crowd whooped its support for the late singer. But a month later when two other progenitors of Memphis Minnie came to town, Sue Foley & Maria Muldaur, those “whoopers” were at home on the couch. AS the old saying goes, “The masses are asses” and don’t really know much about what comes out of their mouths but they’re willing to act like they do. Don’t take someone else’s ignorance personally – they probably didn’t mean to offend you. There are a handful of fans that see music as a bona fide art form but not many as a percentage of the whole population.

B. B. King figured out how to make a good living playing the blues and I doubt that Willis has the chutzpah to say that B. B. King did not live the blues life. The fact that Willis struggled all his life playing the blues is not a cultural form of racism as much as it is the fact that his music lacks mass appeal. People vote with their dollars. That Willis hasn’t achieved stature outside of the hardcore blues genre is hardly a sign of racism – it’s simply economics. (And why isn’t Willis inferring King’s a racist for not offering him one of those precious opening slots on his tour?)

Let’s look at it another way, a white man invented basketball; however, today it’s a sport that on the professional level is dominated by black men. Using Willis’ argument should a rule be passed that regardless of skill, regardless of the ability to sell tickets, at least one white man should be on the floor at all times for both teams in a professional basketball game? To even propose such a nutty idea borders on “bullyism” not to mention the fact that the game would suffer under such an idiotic rule. African Americans clearly invented the blues; however, this was a music that was heavily influenced by the Christian church. History shows that Jews founded the theology of African American churches. The guitar is a Spanish instrument and the piano was invented in Europe. Therefore, using Willis’ arguments, a Spanish Messianic Jew is by definition a legitimate blues player. I do of course have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek but I think you get my point.

When the Beatles hit American shores the blues were inadvertently changed forever. Purist may not like it but more of them drive cars to work than ride a horse to the office. So change and adaptation is just a part of the life; is hypocritical to embrace the changes you like but condemn other changes because you don’t happen to like it? One thing is for certain, to make such a statement sure is human but that doesn’t make it accurate.

Willis may also be well served to realize that most blues fans today came to the genre via The Rolling Stones or the Allman Brothers. An aspect of many rock fans bring with them is that “cover bands” do not get the same respect that the original songwriter/performer gets. How many times can someone roll out Crossroads Blues and expect to taken seriously? If I can put on the master playing Hell Hound on My Trail why would I want to hear some heretofore unknown Jack cover it? For me, if an artist wants to record a cover I think they need to add something special to it; otherwise its just a nice party favor. Chris Duarte once said to me, “You can always tell how bad a festival is by the number of times you hear “Sweet Home Chicago.” Admittedly a well chosen cover during a live performance can energize an audience.

Willis equates the judges of the IBC to the murders of Medgar Evans, Emmit Teal, The Birmingham Bombings and the Jim Crow courts of the South. I sympathize with Willis in that his contribution to the art form is virtually unrecognized today. I acknowledge his pain that many blues fans are ignorant of Willis’ music. That is truly sad and unfortunate but please Willis must recant such an offensive remark designed to be hurtful and divisive. Society didn’t accept this kind of crap from radio talk show Don Imus so why would anyone accept this kind of buffoonery from anyone else?

As with any art form, there will always be experts that have an opinion and there will always be an audience to disagree with them. As a friend once said to me, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Willis may have lived a life of the blues but he is hardly the sole determinant of its definition. In the end two things and only two things will rule on this issue; “There are only two kinds of music; good music and bad music,” and you simply cannot pass a rule about what someone else must enjoy listening to. What Willis likes is probably not what most Americans are willing to spend their money on.

As Leonard Pitts Jr. said, “don’t be a bully.” Racism espoused by a Euro-Centric or Afro-Centric person is ugly. American’s blacks do not have the market on pain and suffering. Admittedly blacks faced hurdles that many whites do not comprehend but anyone can play the blues and whether Willis recognizes that or not is longer determinant to the discussion. Club owners are going to book bands that make them money. Record labels are going to release albums by acts that make them money. Clubs that book acts that people don’t want to see go broke. Its not racism: its economics. Contrary to what Willis thinks, there are plenty of recitals every day that do not include a black performer but are, by contemporary definition, blues. There will always be a contingency of the audience that agrees with Willis’ politically correct arguments. I say enjoy whatever you like but be open to new musical experiences. Chris Thomas King is musically all over the board; some I like, some I don’t, but I am always game to hear what he’s come up.

If Willis wants to see more black performers on blues stages I suggest Willis heed the fundamental rules of economics by adapting and changing in order to provide a “product” that the audience will spend their money on. Yes, money corrupts art but it really is the only unbiased measurement of the value people place on something. I don’t base my listening habits on best seller charts but I do know you can’t educate the public by implying they’re stupid “wet behind the ears” racists.

If Willis doesn’t want to take a look at what audiences are responding to and adjust his act to meet the demands of a wider audience then he needs to accept his choice. There is no societal obligation for people to seek him out: especially if he chooses to downplay their apparent tastes. If Willis doesn’t want to adapt and change (and who isn’t having change shoved down their throat at work these days) then he needs to accept the consequences of his choice rather than bemoaning the amount of melanin in someone’s epidermis.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Book Review: Ron Wood's Autobiography

Book Review: Ronnie
Author: Ronnie Wood
Writer: Rick Galusha

“When it rains, it pours.” This Christmas Season is the year of the rock autobiography. There are releases by Eric Clapton, Patti Boyd (the former Mrs. George Harrison/ Mrs. Eric Clapton) and now Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood; as well as a long threatened Keith Richards tome later in ’08. In 1990 the Rolling Stone’s bassist Bill Wyman left the band and quickly released his autobiography, and perhaps the finest Stones’ insider book, ‘Stone Alone.’ In 1998 former Small Faces and Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan released, ‘All the Rage’ which included his many years as a significant sideman in the Rolling Stones as well as with Dylan, Raitt, Billy Bragg and of course the ever “frugal” Rod Stewart. As a member of the Faces along with Ron Wood, McLagan’s book offered a raw look into the playful antics of a band of imbibing youth who eventually became hopeless drug addicts dabbling in music.

Set-up in a chronological read, Wood’s book begins with his youth as the first member of the Wood family to be born on land; as opposed to the canal barges that still populate portions of the London area. Like many of us, with two older brothers, the young ‘Woody’ was introduced at an early age to pre-rock music, ‘young birds’ and the gang mentality cocoon that many bands develop. Woods story is no different than many of his era, successful band signs contract with crooked manager, get screwed to the wall, find themselves broke and are forced to start all over again. Whether it’s the Stones or the Beatles, Ronnie’s first band, ‘The Birds’ or McLagan’s Small Faces, eventually one is left wondering how so many musicians could have been so repeatedly duped, drunk and broke. It was a different time and the ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ lexicon of business was being written by kids that grew up with nothing, found success, fame and money, and had no idea how to manage it.

Eventually Ron Wood joins as a bass player with former Yardbird guitarist Jeff Beck along with Mickey Waller (drums) and Rod Stewart in the now legendary Jeff Beck Group. While history shows it was studio musicians Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones that sought out then unknown Robert Plant and John Henry Bonham to form Led Zeppelin, Wood’s book spins the lore that Manager Peter Grant first approached Wood to form, ‘The New Yardbirds’ band with Plant and Bonham. Obviously that doesn’t make sense since Plant and Bonham were plucked from obscurity by Page but it makes for good reading. Life with Peter Grant proved unbearable for Wood and, according to his perspective, he rung up Small Faces bass player Ronnie Lane who’s band had just lost Steve Marriott to Peter Frampton to form Humble Pie. Wood’s account pretty much mirror’s McLagan’s as a super shy Rod Stewart eventually relents, joins the band, renames themselves ‘The Faces’ and for the next eight year’s becomes one of the best “rock n’ roll” bands most people never heard of. After the Stones release the seminal album, ‘Its Only Rock n’ Roll’ then guitar player Mick Taylor leaves the band whereupon Jagger “borrows” Wood for a world tour creating resentment among The Faces and in 1975 The Faces split up and Wood becomes a member of the Rolling Stones. Like many, I think of Wood as “the new guy” in the band although the reality is that from 1963 to 1975, twelve years, Mick and Keith had three guitar players (Dick Taylor, Brian Jones and Mick Taylor) but for the last 32 years Ron Wood has been the steadfast anchor to Keith’s engine.

Oh but the drugs. Make no mistake, like McLagan, Wood’s book is awash of tales regarding drugs and alcohol. By the later half of the book the use of “blow,” “freebase,” “smack,” and Guiness becomes overbearing and, with much irony, Wood is told to clean up or he’d be kicked out of the Stones for drug abuse just before the ’40 Licks Tour.’ Wood winds down the book with clarity, something lacking in most of the book, as he struggles to right his ship and recover from bankruptcy during the ‘90’s not once but three times. At one point he seems to indicate a freebasing habit during his Los Angles years of nearly $70,000 over six weeks and that such abuse went on for five years or a $2,000,000 habit. I can recall reading Musician Magazine in the late 80’s when Keith Richards expressed shock and concern about Wood’s current consumption. The famed Woody Woodpecker of rock notes that he drew strength in his struggle towards sobriety from his wife’s Jo own effort as well as from Stones drummer Charlie Watts who simply decided one day to end his dependence on heroin and alcohol after falling down his stairs at home.

Throughout his book Wood makes reference to two cages in his life; one being the gilded trap members of the band find themselves in when the show goes on the road. There is money, luxury and fame at the cost of loneliness and the inability to do regultar things like walk down the street. The other reference regards a phrase Keith uses when on stage just before the curtain goes up and, “the cage is open.” This is a pretty well written book that is thin on specifics but long on debauchery. Wood finally gives an interesting glimpse into the Stone’s dark period from ’81 to ’89 when the band had essentially broken up due to Jagger and Richards infighting. ‘Ronnie’ would make a terrific Christmas gift for baby boomer Stones fanatics as well as other classic rock fans. Long a prized pursuit of collectors and bootleggers, Wood also recently released a live double CD set of his solo band, ‘The New Barbarians’ (named by Neil Young) which included Keith Richards, Ian McLagan, Stanley Clark (bass) and Jospeh ‘Zigaboo’ Modeliste (Meters, Neville Brothers) on the drums along with Bobby Keys on saxophone. The album is titled, ‘Buried Alive’ and is a barely adequate recording of a sloppy band playing in Maryland.

Book Review: Patti Boyd's Autobiography

Book Review: Wonderful Tonight
George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me

Writer: Patti Boyd
Reviewer: Rick Galusha

Patti Boyd was a fashion model in the early ‘60’s when ‘Swinging London’s’ cool factor was at its height. As a child I can vividly recall the ‘Max Factor’ ads that were filmed in London and aired during ‘The Monkees’ program on television.

Not surprisingly Boyd and Clapton’s autobiographies were released within weeks of each other. After completing Patti Boyd’s autobiography, ‘Wonderful Tonight’ a friend lent me his super rare copy of Derek & the Dominos, ‘In Concert.’ Of all the Clapton albums I’ve heard his playing was never comparable to this – not even close.

Although she was a British citizen, Patti Boyd was born in Africa. The eldest child in her family, Boyd moved back to England at a young age. The product of a broken home, twice, Boyd’s tells the life of an emotionally crippled ‘Child of the ‘60’s’ that lands not one but two of rock’s superstars in matrimony; Beatle George Harrison and Eric ‘Slowhand’ Clapton. Outwardly Boyd lives a dream life; at the center of London’s hip scene, making money as a high paid model, meeting pop stars and traveling the globe meeting celebrities and artists. On the dark side Boyd survives overt spousal promiscuity, drug induced abusive relationships, interlopers & hanger-oners, and an on going saga of egos suffering due to the ups and downs of stardom.

As a ‘hand picked’ model for a role in the Beatles film, ‘Hard Days Night’ Boyd meets and eventually marries the Harrison. Together they stumble through the drug haze of the ‘60’s, go to Wales and then India to hang with the Mariharishi, survive the break-up of The Beatles and then begin to fight as Harrison stumbles to define his post-Beatle life. While Boyd later identifies herself as Harrison “soul mate” she finds time to accept the advances of Harrison’s good friend Eric Clapton. The book is awash with love notes sent from Clapton to Boyd including one signed, ‘Slowhand.’

Boyd eventually leaves Harrison drug dabbling for Clapton’s more serious substance abuse problems with heroin and then alcohol. While Harrison’s life was somewhat cloistered but peaceful, Clapton’s was abusive, self-centered and possessive. Amid the anguish of an alcoholic marriage gone astray Boyd relates how young Conor Clapton, the illegitimate son of Eric Clapton, breaks up her co-dependent marriage. An oblivious husband, Clapton, relates the joy of his new found fatherhood with his barren wife. It is the height of sadness and simultaneous weirdness as the former Patrick Clapham was so self absorbed as to reportedly completely miss her sorrow. The sage continues when the infant falls to his death and subsequently inspires the Grammy award winning song, ‘Tears in Heaven.’

Boyd was certainly one of the ‘In Crowd’ and relates a perspective on many pivotal music moments that Boomers will recognize; including Live Aid, The Concert for Bangladesh and the Apple Records debacle. On one hand it is refreshing as the books spoons away the years to a time of fewer obligations and life’s future beckoned. On the other hand Boyd is a brat that has the gumption to ask Clapton, well after their divorce, for 600,000 English pounds ($1,500,000) for a “cottage with a view” so that Boyd and her new love may reside in.

The book moves very quickly and includes cameos by Mick Jagger, John & Paul, Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac (who was married to her sister twice), Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, David Gilmore, Roger Waters and The Who’s Pete Townshend. It is both insightful and gossipy at the same time. This book is fun for fans albeit with little more to offer than moments inside one of rock music’s most famous enclave. It is delicious but shallow and completely entertaining.

Book Review: Neil Young's Biography, Shakey

Title: Shakey
Neil Young’s Biography
Writer: Jimmy McDonough
Review: Rick Galusha

By 1975 Stephen Stills had already established his bad habits. After playing with Neil Young in the highly touted band Buffalo Springfield, the relationship between Stills and Young was rocky. Despite the on-again, off-again nature of Young’s commitment to Stills’ new band, ‘Crosby, Stills and Nash,’ Young had agreed to record and tour the album, ‘Long May You Run’ with Stills. While Young’s substance abuse is well documented in Jimmy McDonough’s authorized biography, ‘Shakey’ he was in control and disliked being around junkies. At the Charlotte, North Caroline show Stephen Stills berated soundman and Young’s confident Tim Mulligan from the stage microphone. After the show an already distant Young got on his bus, ‘Pocahontas, and headed to the next gig in Atlanta. As the bus rolled down the highway that night an inebriated Stills got on the CB from his bus and demanded to speak to Neil. Initially ignoring Stills blathering Young eventually tore the CB out of the dash and told the driver to go to Nashville where he caught a plane and flew home to Malibu. The now legendary note was sent to a confused Stills, “Dear Stephen, funny how things that start spontaneously end that way, Eat a peach. Neil” And so the saga of being Neil Young continued.

In 2002 Jimmy McDonough first published the authorized biography of one of rock’s least predictable characters. Throughout his career McDonough documents Young’s ability to repeatedly thrash vast commercial appeal in favor of his musical art. A complicated man, McDonough’s interviews over the years with Young document an artist that is careful to not revel or define too much. Perhaps the most “innaresting” aspect of Young’s phobia of selling out is his choice to counter-balance the vast commercial success of ‘Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’ with the barely able to play Crazy Horse band. Young is meticulous in his efforts to play with less competent players in order to capture a rawer, less commercially viable rendition of his songs. It must work since, unlike other “Classic Rock” artists, Young continues to release critically acclaimed albums late in career including; ‘Harvest Moon’ (’92), ‘Mirror Ball’ w/ Pearl Jam (’95), ‘Living with War’ (’06) and this year’s exceptional album, ‘Chrome Dreams II.’

McDonough’s book is a chronological look at Young’s career beginning in the village of OmeMee in Canada. McDonough gets Young to discuss his epilepsy and subsequent seizures but tiptoes around the polio that affected him in his youth. Throughout the book McDonough presents his research; based on bootlegs, interviews and clippings and asks Young to comment. Ever a ‘Shakey’ operator Young often avoid direct answers but gives insight into his state of mind. Often the discussion includes Young’s dismissal of others feelings in the past and today’s remorse such as the time Crosby and Nash were fired from a recording session. “Well, that was an easy way of doin’ it – but I still did it. I still went from place to place, and I just left a trail of destruction behind me, ya’ know. But the older you get, the more you realize how much that hurts people…Those records wouldn’t be there – and those people would still be as pissed off as they were in the first place. I chose to put the energy into the records.”
Once quoted in Rolling Stone magazine, Young indicated he had at least 600 albums in the can for posthumous release. Included in the vault is the album, ‘Homegrown.’ Homegrown was an album that legendary record industry mogul Mo Ostin predicted, in the early 70’s would sell five million albums. The album regards Young’s split with actress Carrie Snodgrass (The Fury) with whom Young had his first child Zeke. Young indicated the album is too honest, too close to the artist. “It was a little too personal…it scared me” said Young. Eventually tracks from the session would show up on other albums including; “Little Wing” and “Old Homestead” on ‘Hawks & Doves,’ “Star of Bethlehem” on ‘American Stars and Bars,’ and “Love is a Rose” and “Deep Forbidden Lake” on Decade but, according to the author, “to hear Homegrown in its entirety is to hear Neil Young at his best.” Another famed unreleased but heavily bootlegged album is “Chrome Dreams” (Chrome Dreams II came out in ’07) which was recorded in ’75-’76 and included the songs, “Pocahontas,” “Too Far Gone,” “Sedan Delivery,” and “Powderfinger.”

Like so many of his period, the drug references and abuse becomes carte blanche in the book. Young’s fear of needles and LSD possibly saved him from the hardcore abuse that others fell into and in retrospect he had harsh words about the drug culture he frequently found himself in, “But cocaine and music don’t really go together, and they never did…Drugs are great until you realize they work against you…Cocaine is a destructive drug. It takes you in, you need more if it all the time. It’s addicting.”

‘Shakey’ is an exceptionally well done rock biography where the artist interacts with the documented past and gives an additional insight on events and recordings rather than the traditional myopic rock-bio where just the author or the artist give a sweeping input. Young’s role in the band’s Buffalo Springfield and CSN&Y predated today’s ‘Americana’ music movement while his ‘three chords and a cloud of dust’ work with the band Crazy Horse and the album, ‘Everybody Knows this is Nowhere’ laid the groundwork for the grunge sound. Unquestionably Neil Young is as significant an artist as rock has seen ranking as a peer to Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson. This book is available at Omaha’s Public Library and is required reading for any true Neil Young fan or budding musicologist. This is an excellent book about one of rock’s few uncompromised artists, Neil Young.

Book Review: Eric Clapton's Autobiography

Book Review
Title: Clapton, The Autobiography (of Eric Clapton)
Writer: Rick Galusha

In a spate of high profile rock n’ roll autobiography’s Eric Clapton’s book leans on stark honesty including his now twenty year sobriety. With three inductions into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Clapton’s musical history is long and storied: he has a lot of ground to cover in a relatively short book. Unlike the meticulously documented ‘Shakey’ biography on Neil Young, Clapton’s book relies on memories and his diaries. Compared to Rolling Stone Bill Wyman’s tome, Clapton’s book is too short for this reader.

Due to his lengthy career Clapton is forced to briefly deal with his historic past including playing a pivotal role in the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek & the Domino’s, Bonnie & Delaney, and his solo career. While I’ve never considered myself a Clapton fan(atic), I find I have numerous albums - so there must be something to this guy. What’s most interesting about Eric Clapton’s career is his resiliency; the ability to pen &/or perform tunes that embed themselves into rock’s lexicon while being a member of a myriad of successful bands. Virtually any band he’s been a part of would have guaranteed his position in rock history but to have been a significant member of at least six bands as well as building a platinum solo career is a staggering feat.

In many ways Clapton’s life can be boiled down to three facets that impacted the other; music, substance abuse and miscarriages of love. As the bastard son of a Canadian airman, young Ric Clapp is raised by his Grandparents in post-war Britain unaware that his “Aunt Pat” is actually his mother. A youthful incident regarding sex and his mother’s apparent rejection of him seems to lead Clapton to an unsettled life pursuing rejection while walking away from stability – exemplified in his shifting band memberships and vast myriad of women.

The book is filled with woeful recollections leading to heroin addiction which is replaced with alcoholism, a relapse and eventually love and sobriety. Freshly sober Clapton’s only son, two year old Conor dies tragically in a fall out of a skyscraper window. Clapton recounts the numbness of his son’s death and the struggle to find balance in his life. While mourning for his son he writes his only (to date) self penned number one tune, ‘Tears in Heaven’ about his loss. Clapton shares that his best selling album, ‘Unplugged’ was perhaps due to fans wanting to express their shared grief in his son’s death.

He recounts the decision to open ‘The Crossroads’ treatment center in an effort to offer sobriety to other addicts including the concerts and guitar auctions which raised nearly $13,000,000 for the clinic; his albums with BB King and then JJ Cale. Clapton also shares his close friendship with the late George Harrison with readers including marrying his wife. With a life filled with significant events and people there is a lack of depth and detail in the book; however, as Clapton’s own life defogs his recollection and sharing becomes stronger. He states his primary purpose in life is remaining sober and helping others in their struggle. He shares the dilemma of being ‘an old dad’ with a young wife and raising three daughters. The book leaves you sharing a hope for the future and a feeling that you know a bit more about an otherwise private person and the events and obstacles in his life. It is a quick and entertaining read.