2015 Grammy Nominees – American Roots

Rummaging through the 2015 Grammy nominees, the American Roots category stands out as a catch all for great tracks and albums by artists from many genres.  Across its Best Performance, Best Song and Best Album sub-categories, Roseanne Cash is nominated in all three (see our earlier post), and John Hiatt in two (see our earlier post)

The most dramatic song on the Best Performance list comes from the album “Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro”.  It’s a cover of “And When I Die” performed by pianist Billy Childs (who’s responsible for the album project), with vocals by Alison Krauss and guitar by Jerry Douglas. You have to love when artists take a song in a unique new direction. Listen to the new version alongside Laura’s original. You may also want to remember the Blood, Sweat & Tears hit version.

Another nominee from the Best Performance list is “Statesboro Blues” from the concert “All My Friends – Celebrating The Songs and Voice of Gregg Allman” that took place back in January. The track features Taj Mahal and Gregg Allman sharing the vocals, and that is a significant pairing. Taj Mahal performed the song on his eponymous 1968 debut album, featuring slide guitar by Jesse Ed Davis. The story goes that Gregg Allman gave the Taj Mahal record to his brother Duane along with a glass pill bottle one day, and that was the beginning of Duane’s slide guitar playing. Give a listen to the nominated performance and Taj’s earlier version.

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Stockholm Take Two – The Boss of Sweden?

Last week we scoured a concert series poster from Stockholm and came up with a Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute singer/player covering Stevie Ray’s version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” – a song that Jimi Hendrix himself played in Stockholm in 1969.   This week, more covers by acts on this poster trace back to Bruce Springsteen in 1979.

Stockholm Music Poster

Abalone Dots is a trio of three Swedish women who play bluegrass and country tunes.  Last year in a TV performance, the band covered Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” from his 1980 album of the same name.  Abalone Dots delivered an abbreviated version, but they sang the lyrics straight up: getting Mary pregnant, working construction and all.  Bravo ladies! The band has been a quartet at times, and if you’d like to hear them get their bluegrass on, check out “The Ballad of Lee McKay”.

Believe it or not, another artist on this same poster covered “The River” on a TV show last year too! Micke Rickfors is The Boss’ contemporary, born in December 1948.  Though mostly a solo artist throughout his career, Rickfors was a member of The Hollies in the early ’70’s, replacing their original lead singer Allan Clarke. After you watch Micke perform another abbreviated version of “The River”, you can check out his work with The Hollies on “Magic Woman Touch”.

It’s not clear why the Swedes have such affection for “The River”, but while the song never charted as a single in the U.S. it was the biggest hit up to that time for Bruce in both Sweden and Norway. Here is Bruce playing the whole song at the “No Nukes” concert in 1979, a few months before the album was released. The Swedes leave out the break with perhaps the best line in the song, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse …”

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A Guitar Thread Beginning and Ending in Stockholm – Jimi to Stevie Ray to Chris.

A friend just returned from a trip to Stockholm and sent a photo of this poster featuring upcoming acts for, as best we can tell, a series of boat cruises around Stockholm Harbor. Thanks, Rainer!

Stockholm Music Poster

The first act to catch our eye was “Chris Hiatt Band (US), Stevie Ray Vaughn Comes Alive”.   A solid singer and guitarist (check out this video that starts off with a couple of original compositions), Chris usually plays with his band in and around Daytona Beach, Florida.   Somewhere along the line his more than faint resemblance to Stevie Ray Vaughn was noticed, as was his ability to throw down a pretty fair imitation of Stevie Ray both as a singer and guitarist.  Over the years Hiatt’s tribute concerts to Stevie Ray have become popular in Sweden where he is about to complete his 16th tour.

Here is Chris, dressed a la mode, covering Stevie Ray covering Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile”.  Check out the behind the back playing at 7:30.  As good as Chris is, certainly check out the real McCoy in an amazing Austin City Limits performance (and if you want to see Stevie Ray play behind his back, watch this video beginning at about 3:20).

Here’s an interesting coincidence: the YouTube video with the most views of Jimi himself playing Voodoo Chile is from a 1969 concert in … Stockholm!

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Sean Lennon, Charlotte Kemp Muhl and The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

Sean Lennon, youngest son of John, together with Sean’s collaborator and long-time girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl, are about to release their third full-length album “Midnight Sun” later this month.  Their work together is put out as The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (GOASTT), and the first track released from the new album is “Moth to the Flame”.  The video has a strange and elaborate story line, and it might be best to close your eyes to really hear the music which is equally as elaborate (the song kicks in about 2:00 into the video).

Kemp Muhl began a modeling career as a teenager, and she is possessed of a beautiful singing voice that meshes perfectly with Sean’s and of the ability to make simple, tasteful contributions on a wide range of instruments. These live studio performances of “Jardin de Luxumbourg” and “Lavender Road” show off the pair’s vocals, subtle backing instrumentation, and cerebral lyrics. Try taking your eyes off Kemp Muhl – Sean can’t.

Both Lennon and Kemp Muhl have other projects. One of Lennon’s is Mystical Weapons, where he teamed up with drummer Greg Saunier of Deerhoof for an album of psychedelic instrumental tunes in 2013. The video for “Colony Collapse Disorder” has all the right visuals – especially to accompany the retro guitar riffs that come in at about 2:00. Kemp Muhl and childhood friend Eden Rice combined their ethereal vocals on the album “Black Hole Lace” in 2012.

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Our Beatles Homage – “And I Love Her”

Over the past few weeks the Beatles have been celebrated and remembered as the 50th anniversaries of their Ed Sullivan Show appearance and first U.S. concerts were observed.  So, we’ve got to do our Beatles homage too!

Thanks to Dave for turning us on to this clip from the Late Show with David Letterman featuring Broken Bells covering “And I Love Her”. The ballad is from the Fab Four’s third album “A Hard Day’s Night”.  The TV set featuring Ringo Starr’s drumming is a cute idea.

But wait, that TV set may be more than just a cute idea.  I’m guessing that Danger Mouse and James Mercer saw this video as they planned their staging. It’s a clip from the movie “A Hard Day’s Night”.

This beautiful song was covered by many, many artists over the years. Here’s an interesting cover from the late jazz legend Sarah Vaughn taped in 1969. She recorded a totally different arrangement of the song on a 1981 album of Beatles covers.

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