To get 2015 off on the right foot, some great suggestions have floated in from friends and other bloggers. But before we get started, happy to say that two of the artists we featured when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees were announced made it through (see the post)!
First up is Snarky Puppy. Thanks, Ben! This Brooklyn based group of jazz fusion musicians, a self described “quasi-collective”, migrated from the University of North Texas . Their website lists a dozen members, but the video below makes you wonder if that number grows on some tracks. The video for “What About Me?” is from the live performance set-up they used to record their latest CD “We Like It Here”. If you find the beginning of the guitar solo at 3:00 a bit ethereal for your tastes, hang in there till things pick up at about 3:45. And if you want to hear one of the other guitarists strut his stuff, check out “Jambone”.
Meanwhile, on another street in Brooklyn we find the alt-country trio The Lone Bellow. Thanks Dennis and Maureen! They are about to release their second album, “Then Came the Morning”, and will apparently be on Jimmy Kimmel tomorrow night to play “Cold As It Is” from that album. Hear that track before everybody else, and also try out the album’s title track. No shortage of great backing musicians in the Big Apple!
Last but not least is the duo Polaris Rose from Los Angeles. They were mentioned on the excellent blog “The Delete Bin”. Thanks, Rob! No matter how cold a winter you’re dealing with, these harmonies and lush guitar tones will make you feel like you’re in the California warmth of the videos. “Perfect View” is from their new album “Telescopes”, and “Chartreuse” is from their debut EP “The Moon & Its Secrets”.
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.
Last night’s Grammy awards may have delivered a few surprises in the major categories, but our enthusiasm for Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” and its hit song “Get Lucky” were matched by the Recording Academy’s. It was also nice to see a couple of awards go to Dave Grohl for the “Sound City” CD, including one to him and Paul McCartney for the track “Cut Me Some Slack”.
But scrolling way down the nominees and winners list on the Grammy website, you can find some gems that didn’t make the telecast or the mainstream media coverage.
In the Best American Roots Song category, comic genius and banjo player Steve Martin teamed up with Edie Brickell, wife of Paul Simon and former chanteuse of the New Bohemians, to write and perform “Love Has Come For You”.
In the category of Best Instrumental Arrangement, Gordon Goodwin put out a very nice take of the jazz classic “On Green Dolphin Street” performed by his Big Phat Band. Goodwin has won a Grammy before and picked up 13 nominations, and is also a three-time Emmy Award winner for his compositions and arrangements.
Twenty years after the release of Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Cracked Rear View”, the 16th best selling album in U.S. history, frontman Darius Rucker won this year’s Best Country Solo Performance for “Wagon Wheel”.
And finally, Best Traditional R&B Performance went to Gary Clark, Jr. for “Please Come Home”. Though most celebrated for his guitar playing (the solo comes at about 1:35), he shows off a fine falsetto on this tune. To hear Clark at his bluesy, guitar-slinging best (sans falsetto), check out his performance at the White House.