Mar 312015
 

I had high hopes for Robert Earl Keen’s new album, Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions. My first exposure to REK was 1989’s West Textures, still for me his best work, partly because the acoustic band accompanying him on that is a bluegrass band, even if the songs aren’t. Keen’s style, for me, has never quite suited electricity. Combine this with my love of bluegrass, and surely this would be a no-brainer?

Well, I liked it, but if I’m honest, I only liked it some. Positives first: Keen has the ideal woebegone plaintiveness for this sort of material (think Droopy with a recording contract), as he plumbs death, prison and heartbreak in turn. (Have you ever heard a truly happy bluegrass song?) The band, including Danny Barnes of Bad Livers repute on banjo, underpin his singing with zest and vim, and a plethora of guests add to an agreeable mix. Of these, special mention to erstwhile Dixie Chick Natalie Maines (daughter of Lloyd Maines, the album’s producer), bringing more sprightliness to the oft-covered “Lonesome Stranger” than can be found on some of the album’s other numbers.
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Mar 312015
 

When it comes to Brandon Flowers, there are two types of people: 1) those that like him for his music and 2) those that are so over-the-top infatuated with him that it’s borderline psychotic.  (Think “Deadheads” who shower regularly and have less body hair.)

I only say this because I have multiple family members and friends that fit into the latter category. Continue reading »

Mar 302015
 

Eagle-Eye Cherry came on the scene in 1998.  I was working at a Top 40 station at the time and pretty much the only thing I knew about him was:

  1. His dad was famous jazz trumpeter, Don Cherry (who also co-wrote and performed on Lou Reed’s “All Through the Night”)
  2. His half-sister was Neneh Cherry, who had a huge hit in 1989 with the song “Buffalo Stance”

Still, his debut album, Desireless, went platinum and the first single, “Save Tonight”, went to #5 on the U.S. charts.  Not a bad way to start to a career.  Unfortunately, that was pretty much as far as it went for Eagle-Eye.  He has since released three more albums, but he is what we in radio call a “One Hit Wonder”. Continue reading »

Mar 272015
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Lemmy has admitted to being more of a slot machine man than a poker one, but the Motorhead bassist knew which topic would make a better lyric (“when it comes to that sort of thing… you can’t really sing about spinning fruit”). “Ace of Spades,” his paean to gambling that sure sounds like it’s about more than your typical deck of cards, is his band’s signature work and the proto-speed metal song. Anyone can perform it and sound dynamic – even a bunch of plastic dolls.
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Mar 262015
 

When I say, “Name a singer or band from Seattle”, I’m sure that bands like Heart, Modest Mouse, Nirvana or Pearl Jam might be the first to pop in your head.  Some of you may even think Hendrix or Judy Collins.  I will even give extra credit to anyone who first thought of Kenny G or Queensrÿche.

Let me add one more to the list: Fly Moon Royalty. Continue reading »