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November 26, 2010

QUICK SPINS: November 2010

Jimi Hendrix, Jim Byrnes and Edie Carey

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* Jimi HendrixWest Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology (Experience Hendrix/Legacy)

It's been a banner year for archival Jimi Hendrix releases. First came Valleys of Neptune, and now there’s West Coast Seattle Boy (out now), a five-disc anthology (four CDs and one DVD) of mostly previously unreleased studio and concert recordings. This is a true career-spanning collection; the first CD contains 15 songs from Hendrix's days as a sideman for The Isley Brothers, Little Richard and others. Also included are top-shelf takes of familiar tunes such as "Fire" and "Are You Experienced?" (with Experience band mates Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell), choice concert performances and several recordings from 1970 that show Hendrix had plenty left in the tank when he died that September.

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* Jim ByrnesEverywhere West (Black Hen Music)

Raised in St. Louis, blues singer/guitarist Jim Byrnes has called Canada home for years. But his weary, soulful voice has the influence of the Deep South written all over it, and Byrnes is in fine form on his latest album, Everywhere West (out now). Standouts include the Byrnes original "Hot As a Pistol," a New Orleans-flavored take on Robert Johnson's "From Four Until Late" and a juke-joint-suitable rendition of the Jimmy Reed tune "Take Out Some Insurance on Me."

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* Edie CareyBring the Sea (self-released)

There's plenty to like about Edie Carey's voice, which is smooth and classy. What's lacking on Bring the Sea (out now) is rhythmic variety to her adult contemporary/folk-rock material: The album is in dire need of a few upbeat numbers. Highlights include "Easy Now" and "Come Inside." Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket fame guests on "Waiting," and Shawn Mullins sings harmony on "So Wrong for Me."

— By Chris M. Junior

November 15, 2010

FOREVER FREEWHEELIN'

Bob Dylan and His Band
Monmouth University — West Long Branch, N.J.
Nov. 14, 2010

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For Bob Dylan fans, taking in one of his concerts these days is a bit like having a friend next to you in the car, butchering one of your favorite songs on the radio. The best course might be to politely overlook the fact that this person probably has little business singing, and try to focus on the brilliance lying beneath the creaky vocals.

Such was the experience for much of this performance by Dylan and His Band, featuring plenty of classics that only sometimes sounded like they were being sung — to use the term loosely — by the man himself. More often, Dylan, his voice ravaged for years now, barked out lyrics in a gruff, staccato fashion, but if any audience members were taken aback or put off by this, they didn’t complain (at least not too loudly), as the crowd continually offered up adoring applause for the 69-year-old songsmith and his five-piece ensemble.

Still, with Dylan’s usual off-kilter phrasing and propensity to tweak song arrangements, it frequently was a challenge to recognize exactly which tune was being played until he got through verse or began a chorus. It’s doubtful most of the 5,000 in the small basketball arena recognized that the musicians were airing a revamped "Tangled Up in Blue" for the tune’s first minute or so as Dylan rapped his way through the opening lines. Sometimes the rearrangements were counterproductive, as with the breezy, waltz-like take on "A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall," on which the laid-back approach and Dylan’s weak-throated vocals rendered it toothless.

On some nights on his so-called "never-ending tour," this all probably has the makings of a disaster, yet the inspired, fluid playing of Dylan and his band salvaged the show and made it surprisingly enjoyable in spite of his limitations. Dylan’s lack of banter notwithstanding — he didn’t address the crowd until just before the final number, sneaking in a "Thank you, fans” before introducing his band — he had plenty of enthusiasm, bopping behind his keyboard at stage left while extending a few jams with lead guitarist Charlie Sexton, and at other points belting out frequent harmonica blasts from center stage. "Highway 61 Revisited" marked one successfully retooled number, as Sexton fired off sharp licks over a Booker T. & The MG's-style boogie.

Meanwhile, another standard, "Ballad of a Thin Man" was delivered fairly faithfully but powerfully, the only twist being that Dylan’s shattered vocal chords — plus appropriately dim stage lighting — were actually an asset and gave an already menacing song a wholly sinister tone. Overall, though, to embellish that song's best known line, one way to summarize the 100-minute show would be: Something is being sung here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

— By George Henn

SET LIST:

"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"

"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"

"Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again"

"Just Like a Woman"

"The Levee's Gonna Break"

"Tangled Up in Blue"

"Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum"

"A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall"

"Cold Irons Bound"

"Forgetful Heart"

"Highway 61 Revisited"

"Not Dark Yet"

"Thunder on the Mountain"

"Ballad of a Thin Man"

ENCORES:
"Jolene"
"Like a Rolling Stone"

November 14, 2010

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND

Trump Taj Mahal -- Atlantic City, N.J.
Nov. 13, 2010

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Derek Trucks

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Gregg Allman

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Warren Haynes

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Derek Trucks

-- Photos by Chris M. Junior

November 09, 2010

Q&A: DWIGHT TWILLEY

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During the heyday of major record labels, album promotion was part of the system and handled by a designated staff.

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Dwight Twilley remembers that era very well, but he doesn’t benefit from that kind of luxury anymore. Nowadays he has his own label, Big Oak Records, so that means the task of funding and executing the promotion of new releases goes directly through him.

Looking to raise money for the promotion of his latest album, Green Blimp, Twilley turned to the fan-funding site Kickstarter, through which he was connected with 92 backers who pledged more than $7,000.

Twilley recently checked in from his home in Oklahoma to talk about using Kickstarter, how the music business used to be, the documentary that’s being made about his career and other subjects.

Medleyville.us: You've talked recently about enjoying the freedom to create music on your own terms. But is there anything about the way the music industry used to be — pre-Internet — that you miss and wish was still around to help artists?
Dwight Twilley: "Well, of course, I feel fortunate I was in those days, when radio was really more music-oriented instead of money-oriented. And when there were actual record men — guys whose main important thing to them was the record, making a great record and giving the artists the freedom to make a record.

"At some point, in the late '70s, there would be maybe the president of the label, and he would be a record man. And then when there was some business to do, they'd say, 'Well, I guess it's time for you to see an attorney,' to get a contract signed or something. Then some weird thing happened along the way where the record presidents started being the attorneys, and I think that's when things started going awry."

It's been five years since you released 47 Moons, your last new studio album of original material. Were you working on Green Blimp for most of that time, or did the album come together more recently and quickly?
Twilley: "Other things came out [in between] — there was the live album [2006's All Access], and then we did a compilation package of cover songs [2009's Out of the Box]. But in between it all, we were chipping away at Green Blimp, and I’m very sure that it won't be five years until the next one."

How did you learn about Kickstarter, and did you have any qualms or reservations about using it?
Twilley: "The engineer who mixed the album turned us on to it—John Schroeder. We did it spontaneously; I think the thing we enjoyed the most about it was making the video. We were all cracking up. We had a lot of fun with that."

You reached your financial goal and then some with Kickstarter. Is it safe to say you'd use Kickstarter again?
Twilley: "We might do it again — you never know."

Talk about the documentary on your career that's in the works.
Twilley: "The most important thing I should tell you is I'm not doing it (laughs). It's not under my control; [it’s being done by] some filmmakers here in Tulsa. They do interviews with me, and I make my archival video footage and photographs available to them.

"The involvement that I do have is I’m doing the soundtrack. We're 11 songs into that now, so that’s why I’m saying you can be pretty well assured it won’t be five years before the next studio album."

Tom Petty put out a new album earlier this year, and Leon Russell's project with Elton John came out this fall, as did your new album. Do you ever stop to think how many years have gone by since you first crossed paths with Petty and Russell?
Twilley: "It does seem like it’s gone by fast (laughs). And I guess the important thing is that we're still working. You certainly have to respect people who will continue to work because [the powers that be] are always in the business of trying to find a way to get rid of you, one way or the other."

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Dwight Twilley from the Medleyville.us archives:
THE FIRE STILL BURNS (Feb. 1, 2005)

November 01, 2010

AN INDIE INSTITUTION

Frontier Records celebrates its 30th anniversary

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It officially started in March 1980 with a self-titled EP by the Los Angeles punk band the Flyboys. After that came releases by the Circle Jerks, The Long Ryders, The Three O’Clock, American Music Club, Thin White Rope and the Young Fresh Fellows, among other acts.

Independent labels have come and gone, but the California-based Frontier Records is still alive and kicking, and founder Lisa Fancher is still running the show.

On Nov. 7, Frontier will celebrate its 30 anniversary with a concert at the Echoplex in Los Angeles, and the bill includes such Frontier alums as TSOL, The Pontiac Brothers and the aforementioned Flyboys.

Fancher recently checked in to talk about some of her experiences running the label, which today focuses on reissuing out-of-print titles.

Medleyville.us: What was your initial financial investment, and did you have investors, or was all of the money you were working with your own?
Lisa Fancher: "I never had any investors at all. … I worked at Bomp Records, which made it easy because that way I knew where you made jackets, and I knew how to master a record. The nature of indie labels is that Bomp rarely got paid on time, so I would get four or five or six paychecks at the same time. Believe me, they weren’t much: I’d maybe have $1,200 or $1,500 at one time.

"So when I decided to put out the Flyboys record, I was just waiting until I had enough money to pay for some recording or whatever needed to be done at that particular moment in time. And then if I ran out of money or if I didn’t have money to do the next thing, I’d just wait until I had some more or somebody paid Bomp. And things are really not that much different after all these years."

So it's always been that way? There was never a time where you said, "We need to put out X-many releases this year," and had a formal business plan?
Fancher: "No, that’s the thing; that was my dilemma. Somewhere in the late '80s, I tried to be a real label. I had an office on the East Coast with one person working there, and I had retail, marketing and a college radio person. But you have to put out enough records to constantly have enough cash flow to pay your overhead, and if the records don’t do well, then you still have the same overhead.

"I pretty much gave up on that quickly. I never felt like there were that many good records to put out, so I went back to being a fairly small operation. There’s never been more than two or three people, tops – including me – since the early '90s.

"[Right now] it's me and one other employee, until things improve. We're managing OK. Pretty much all I have to do now is repress the old punk records; that’s pretty much what people want."

Talk about the year-plus before the release of the Flyboys EP. What were some of the memorable moments during the process leading up to it getting pressed and into stores, and what happened after that?
Fancher: "We recorded it at Leon Russell’s studio in the San Fernando Valley. We recorded it after hours, and oddly enough, Jim Mankey from Sparks was the engineer on the record. I just idolized Sparks so much; they were my favorite band when I was growing up. … Because it was such a bargain rate, we probably took a lot longer recording that record than we should have. It was a learning experience.

"Somehow the record got finished. I can't remember how I got it mastered. And because I worked at Bomp, [the label's graphic artist] did the cover art, which I think is really great. And somehow, I had enough money to press a thousand copies, then I took them around to local stores. But it was D.O.A. because the band broke up before it was released.

"I don't remember where the phone calls started or how I heard, but I heard that the Circle Jerks had a finished record. I absolutely loved the Circle Jerks; I was into the whole hardcore scene. … [later] I approached their drummer, and he was kind of frosty to me. I thought that was weird, so I asked some other people who knew him what the deal was, [and the feeling was], 'No girl is putting out our record.' I think I called him [to discuss it], and then he checked me out and called up people, and they vouched for my authenticity. We made a deal, and that record [Group Sex] came out in November 1980."

Through the years, Frontier was pretty eclectic, genre-wise. What qualities did you look for in a band?
Fancher: "Honestly, my taste in music is pretty simple. Number one, I like good songs – I don't care if it's ABBA or Jawbreaker. I'm just looking for somebody who can actually write songs. I don't care if people are really great musicians; I don’t care about people being ELP or prog-rock. I’m pretty much a guitar/bass/drums/lead singer kind of person. I don’t think it ever really has veered much.

"After the initial punk thing, my interests kind of changed. There always was punk bands, and there always will be punk bands. But it seemed like there wasn’t that many great ones after a certain point, so I moved on. I always loved pop music, so I worked with the Three O'Clock, and I absolutely Thin White Rope. I just thought they were the greatest thing in the world. And also American Music Club and, of course, the Young Fresh Fellows. I don’t know what the theme is through that stuff."

The simple answer is just good songs, and that can be pretty broad: You know it when you hear it, but you can't really explain it to somebody.
Fancher: "There was no doubt when I wanted to sign a band; there was no hesitation on my part. It was never, 'Should I do this? Will I make my money back?' It was like, 'I have to do this.' "

-- Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior