From sweet and smooth classics, to new names, to old names with new music...the focus here, is to shine a little light on some damn fine music.

I'll find it. You can listen, review, or tell me I wouldn't know good music if it kicked me in the ass. I personally don't give a shit.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Hoochie Coochie Man: Just Muddy

Ok, so I have featured him before. Trust me, ain't nobody gonna complain that I'm featuring him again today. Thirty years ago he went to sleep and never woke up. I hope that last dream was a doozy, god knows he had a life and career most people can only dream of.

McKinley Morganfield, better know as Muddy Waters, was born in Mississippi but became known as the King of Chicago Blues... a title he shares with another blues legend Howlin Wolf. And really, who can choose the better of the two.

Whatever the music genre, Muddy had an influence on it. Whoever the band, they were influenced by him. One of the first to play the blues electric, there is no mistaking the Muddy Waters sound.

Just a little taste to get your "mojo working"...

"I'm A Man"

Doesn't get much better than that.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Howlin' Brothers at Hill Country, NYC

I remember thinking as I walked into Hill Country in NYC, this is a good place to have in your neighborhood. A Texas BBQ restaurant/market upstairs, where you can buy your meat of choice one piece at a time, and downstairs a bar/restaurant/club all in one. Works for me.

This night it was all about the music. The Howlin' Brothers were in Manhattan for one night and no way would I miss it. The first time I heard their new album, Howl, I felt in my gut they were destined to break out "Big Time." Right before Howl's release, I was able to talk with Jared Green, the guitar/harmonica playing third of the Brothers, about their beginnings, and excitement over a new release. Soon after, they traveled to Austin for SXSW where they played 13 shows and garnered enough buzz to pick up a large amount of good publicity all around the country.

Taking their positions on stage, Ian Craft (banjo/fiddle/mandolin) on the left, Ben Plasse (upright bass) in the center and Jared Green on the right, they launched right into "Big Time." That's when the howling began, and that's also when my foot started tapping. The howling stopped, my foot did not.

Unassuming and very laid back, the Howlin' Brothers have taken the good stuff from blues, bluegrass, Americana and roots, and mixed it into a concoction of sweet pickin' and savory fiddlin'. As a band, they have been together since their college days in Ithaca NY, they have a real deep comfort zone and can pull out some old chestnuts as easily as introducing their new stuff.

Alternating vocals between the three, Ian Craft offers the sweetest sound, while Jared and Ben bring the necessary old-time timbre to their newgrass sound. At one point an old friend Ben Nugent joined the trio, picking up the violin, allowing Ian to add in some banjo. Jared livened up the set with his simultaneous guitar playing/dancing both onstage and down the aisles. And while a square dance might have been a good accompaniment, it was waltzing that was encouraged by the band... and damn if there weren't several couples willing to oblige.

The Howlin' Brothers are making their way around the country, working the press circuits, radio stations and the clubs. Working hard at making music with substance. Seeing them is nothing but fun. Seeing them in venues this intimate is only going to happen this time around. Destiny is calling and she's telling the Brothers they're about to take a much faster ride. Don't miss the train if it's in your town. But don't listen for wailing of an engine's horn. The sound you'll hear is a little more like howlin' at the moon.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Corner of Bowery and Canal: Ho Hey

A little folk, a little roots and a whole lot of nice listening. The Lumineers began as a group in Denver, created one really well done debut album and have been reaping the rewards of hard work ever since. Nominated for two Grammy awards, their first two singles "Ho Hey" and "Stubborn Love" have received a lot of commercial play.

One of those songs, "Ho Hey" is the choice of this week's 100 Word Song Challenge over at Lance's My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog. Since I've been meaning to showcase The Lumineers, this seemed as good a time as any. And because it's a pretty upbeat song, I didn't go over to the dark side. Maybe next week.

Using the song as a prompt, exactly 100 words later, here's what I came up with.

"Ho Hey"

Corner of Bowery and Canal; usually a good spot. Plenty of tourists, and locals who were young and willing to help support their own.

Trey watched her get off the bus. The evening sun shone off her auburn hair, her green eyes caught its fire. Who are you?  He longed to scream “Hey,” but kept singing instead.

“I belong with you, you belong with me.”

For an instant his voice drew her attention, until thoughts of home or work or something more significant pulled her away.

Losing her in the rush hour crowd, Trey knew where he'd be singing tomorrow.

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Enjoying "The Beat" with Boney James

I'm not a huge fan of jazz. There, I've said it. I've probably said it before.

Old jazz: Ella, Sarah, Billie, Nina, Dizzy, Coltrane, Brubeck... them I got and like a lot of it. The newer fusion stuff... not so much. I don't get the structure, the math, the feel...hell I don't get the soul of it. But last night I went to see a little jazz concert and... I liked it.

My friend Jim Wood did an interview with Smooth Jazz Saxophonist Boney James a few weeks ago, and his take on Boney's new album The Beat got me interested. I knew he was going to play at the local Performing Arts Center, the Bergen PAC, but the show was last night and I knowing I had a late show to attend in Manhattan tonight, I thought I'd pass. Then fate stepped in. The PAC held an impromptu give-away on Facebook and I won a pair of tickets to the show. Suck it up Kat, time to return to the old days of back-to-back concerts.

From the moment Boney James strode onstage, I liked what I saw. Young, confident with both style and swagger. Yeah, if I didn't know better, I'd say he was Jersey all the way. Black jacket, pants, sneaks, white shirt, red tie and black fedora.

His show consisted of jazz yes, but he brings in some R &B along with Latin influences. Very, very nice. Not being a student of jazz, I won't try to review the show in terms of what works or doesn't from a technical point of view. Let's just talk about how it made me feel. Normally at a show, my feet are moving and my head is keeping beat, from the first note. This took me a while to get into the groove. Not because he was wonderfully talented and very fun to watch onstage, but because I just had to acclimate myself to a totally different type of energy. And the energy is plentiful.

Quite the showman, James knows how to keep the crowd interested. Encouraging audience interaction throughout the show, he was even part of the crowd at one point. Taking his sax, he wandered through the orchestra section, pausing to dance with various audience members (mostly females, as far as I could see.)

Switching between sax and clarinet, James dances, plays off his band and seems like he is having one hell of a good time. His just released album The Beat, was served up quite nicely. The title song, originally done by Sergio Mendes, was given a new life. He takes Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry About A Thing," even a little more Latin than the original. "Sunset Boulevard," another song from the new release, just like the street in LA, is a long smooth ride. In Boney James' hands, Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" doesn't need a vocal.

The night ended with an encore of "Grazing In The Grass," the old Hugh Masekela classic. It was still buzzing in my brain this morning. If you're a fan of jazz, chances are you know Boney James, with his Grammy nominations and all. The audience definitely did and several standing ovations throughout the night showed he gave them what they expected.

But even if you're like me, a casual jazz listener and are looking for a taste of new music, go see him. It was a sweet way to taste something different musically and who knows, maybe I do like jazz after all.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Richie Havens... And I Say, It's Alright

Richie Havens died today.

While most people have heard the name and many are familiar with his iconic set at Woodstock, where his ad lib performance of "Freedom" became one of the enduring portraits of the festival, Richie Havens was so much more.

Over his career he cut a bunch of records, but Richie Havens was a live performer. A singer mostly known for covering other songwriters, he was also an actor and environmentalist. About a year ago, after undergoing kidney surgery, Havens called it quits on the touring portion of his career. Tonight, a heart attack became his final curtain call.

Let's taste a few covers, including my favorite. I don't think anyone does this song better than Richie Havens. Written by Bob Dylan, Havens was born to sing it.

"Just Like A Woman"

Another Dylan song most notably done by Joan Baez, Havens cover is remarkably intense.

"Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"

And from The Beatles, one smoking version of  "Here Comes The Sun"

...and I say it's alright.

Easy Journey Richie.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Looking Evil In The Eye: Lucretia MacEvil

This was not a great week in our country.

How do you make sense of senseless evil? You can't, so you look it in the eye and spit at it. And you start to live again, start to feel again, start to breathe again. Good luck Boston.

It's a Saturday night and I have taken off writing for a couple of days, I'm tired. Spent the day cleaning and doing the winter clothes out, summer clothes in routine. I hate that shit. After which I went to the mall, and I never go to the mall anymore. Then I went back to the liquor store I wrote about in a post titled "In A Wine Store It's Not All Rose." I hate that damn store. So here I am, ready to nod off, but needing to write a little something.

So I did.

Over at Lance's My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog, the pick for this week's 100 Word Song Challenge is from a band I featured not too long ago, Blood, Sweat and Tears. My post featured a song called "Sometimes in Winter." with the lead vocal by Steve Katz. But BS&T had most of their hits with David Clayton Thomas as the front man, and today's pick is one of them.

The story of an evil, man-stealing, wild, wicked woman, "Lucretia MacEvil" reached the Top 30 in 1970, and it features great horns and a great arrangement,

As always, we use exactly 100 words, using the song as a prompt, to write a story, poem, grocery list, whatever inspiration you get from the song.

Here's mine:

“She’s losing blood quickly, time to decide.” 

All his mistakes raced through his mind. It was time to pay up. It wasn't supposed to be this way. There should have been time to re-negotiate the contract. Out of time and out of options.

“What’s your choice? Do you raise this child alone, or do I let your wife live? Personally, I don’t think it’s much to ask. Seeing how you've turned out, it’s not a stretch to think your baby girl would follow me anyway. This just seals the deal.”

John MacEvil spit at the demon and whispered “Save her.”

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston: The Sky Is Cryin'

"The sky is cryin.... 
Can't you see the tears roll down the street"

In 1959 blues legend Elmore James wrote a song which would become a standard, performed by... well, just about everyone. And while the song will be featured, today it's not about the song. It's about Boston.

For me, the day was filled with anticipation. I was going into the city for a show I will be reviewing. I'm sure the day was filled with anticipation for the runners in the Boston marathon, their families and friends. As it was Patriot's Day and a holiday in the city, I'm sure thousands of people anticipated a beautiful spring day where the possibilities were endless.

I'm not sure anyone anticipated loss of life, limb and another layer of innocence.

Surely not the father of an eight-year old boy who was waiting at the finish line to smile with love and pride at his dad. A smile that father will now only see in his dreams. As time goes on we will hear the stories of courage, of almosts, of if onlys. Boston has now joined the group in which no city wants to belong. And if you're not from Atlanta, New York, Oklahoma City, D.C., and a few others, you can empathize, you can feel, but you can't quite grasp what it does to your heart, your guts, your soul. And your innocence.

Times heals, and raw emotions slip away. But for today, for Boston, for a little boy's dad and for all of us...
the sky is cryin'

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Beth Hart: Bang Bang Boom Boom

Some artists work for years to achieve success and never attain it. Some attain it and lose themselves in the process. Only the really lucky and determined ones reach the top of the mountain a second time.

Such appears to be the case with Beth Hart. Back in the 90's her star was on the rise with a breakout song, "LA Song (Out of This Town)" appearing on Beverly Hills 90210 and she was headlining a tour. Inner conflicts of drugs, alcohol and an undiagnosed bi-polar disorder turned a successful career into a downward spiral. It was only through good fortune, love and determination that she has emerged from the depths stronger and more capable of singing the blues.

Her new album Bang Bang Boom Boom has just been released and Beth is touring again as a headline act. Playing last night at the Crossroads Festival at Madison Square Garden with some of the biggest names in the music world, Beth Hart has come full circle.

Bang Bang Boom Boom is an interesting blues ride. For my full review, please jump over to Beth Hart's "Bang Bang Boom Boom" Album Review at


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Talkin' Basketball on the Music Blog?

So the college basketball journey is over, Congratulations to Louisville... not that I really care. But I woke up this morning thinking of a bouncing basketball (don't ask) and my mind went to the song, "Red Rubber Ball." And yes I know a basketball is orange. A little bit of writer's privilege is exaggeration.

Today's song goes back, way back. It was a hit in the mid 60's, was co-written by one of the greatest songwriters of his generation and it is incredibly infectious. Even though it's a melancholy song, there's no way to not smile when you hear it.

Totally pop in sound, the organ sounds like it came out of the circus. But is has a wonderful tempo and the lyrics are nearly spot-on perfect in the way they convey the message: You treated me like shit, I'm over it and movin' on.

Written by Paul Simon and, Bruce Woodley of The Seekers, the song hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a band called The Cyrkle.

"I should have known you'd bid me farewell
There's a lesson to be learned from this and I learned it very well
Now, I know you're not the only starfish in the sea
If I never hear your name again, it's all the same to me

And I think it's gonna be alright
Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin' sun is shinin' like a red rubber ball

You never care for secrets I confide
For you, I'm just an ornament, somethin' for your pride
Always runnin', never carin', that's the life you live
Stolen minutes of your time were all you had to give

And I think it's gonna be alright
Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin' sun is shinin' like a red rubber ball

The story's in the past with nothin' to recall
I've got my life to live and I don't need you at all
The roller-coaster ride we took is nearly at an end
I bought my ticket with my tears, that's all I'm gonna spend

And I think it's gonna be alright
Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin' sun is shinin' like a red rubber ball

Oh, I think it's gonna be alright
Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin' sun is shinin' like a red rubber ball"

So much fun.
"The roller-coaster ride we took is nearly at an end
I bought my ticket with my tears, that's all I'm gonna spend" 
Perfect. Now take a listen.

Written by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 5, 2013

It's A Dirty Job But...

Well, we all made it to the weekend. LOTS to do. The next month or so will be insanely busy and wildly fun. Much music to be enjoyed and the summer concert season hasn't even begun.

Going to tell another story today. This weeks 100 Word Song Challenge has Lance and Rene picking an old classic song by Steely Dan. For newbies, the challenge is to use the song as a prompt... either the title, lyrics or imagery, and write a story, poem or laundry list in exactly 100 words.

The pick this week is "Dirty Work"

"At nine years old Emmie hated her life.

She could smell her mother’s perfume and knew why she was wearing it. She also knew it would be another night of watching her five year old brother. Which bar would it be this time and which man?

Emmie followed her once, to see where she worked. At first, her mother’s job seemed exciting. Drinks and cigarettes and men being attentive. Much too attentive. Horrible men were touching her, kissing her... still, she smiled. But her smile lied as much as her tongue. She was not a hostess. She was a whore."

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It Took Me By Surprise, I Must Say

"ooh, I bet you're wondering how I knew."

We all know that opening line. And whether we know the version by Gladys, Marvin, Creedence or the California Raisins, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" is one of those songs that will live on for generations.

The version by Marvin Gaye held the #1 spot on Billboard's Pop chart for seven weeks starting in December 1968. Marvin Gaye would have turned 74 today, but one day before his 45th birthday he was shot to death by his father. While the Grapevine was one of his most successful records, his music encompassed so much more.

From smooth Motown classics to exquisite duets with Tammi Terrell, to sensual albums like "Let's Get It On," Marvin Gaye took his three-octave range and caressed each vocal with restrained passion. Marvin Gaye not only interpreted songs, he wrote some good ones too. He wrote or co-wrote " Beechwood 4-5789," "Dancing' in the Streets," "Hitch-Hike," "What's Going on," and "Sexual Healing" to name a few. He started out as a drummer and played on some of early Motown's biggest hits.

He led a troubled life with bad relationships, drug and financial problems. But through it all he was the "Prince of Soul."

A few samples of the talent of Mr. Marvin Gaye

"You're All I Need To Get By" Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell. Every song they recorded together was perfection.
"Distant Lover"
"Pride and Joy"

and well, because...
"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" go on, sing it.