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Your Country’s Right Here: Lucinda Williams’ New Music Shines Bright

Lucinda Williams was already a multi-GRAMMY Award-winning singer songwriter in 2009 when she married music industry insider Tom Overby on stage at her Minneapolis concert prior to her .

But finding the man she calls “my best friend, my soul mate,” actually bumped her artistry up even more levels. You’ll hear that on her GRAMMY Award- nominated album Blessed and perhaps even more so in her live performances, especially when she performs songs she has just written and will soon record. At a recent sold-out show at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C., Williams did the near impossible. She and her musical partner for the evening, virtuoso guitarist Doug Pettibone, performed a two-hour show before a packed room that had the intimacy of a house concert. Continue reading ‘Your Country’s Right Here: Lucinda Williams’ New Music Shines Bright’

Recording Studio That Saw Dylan And Radiohead Might Soon Be Condos


The Church Studios is a storied recording facility in London’s delightfully named Crouch End neighborhood. Housed in a gothic chapel, the studio has hosted sessions for Bob Dylan, Radiohead, and Elvis Costello, amongst others. However, the studio’s days may be numbered.

According to the Evening Standard, current owner and UK pop singer David Gray is looking to divest himself of the property or have most or all of the site converted into “flats.” “David would be delighted to sell the Church Studios,” noted a spokesperson for the singer. “But given the current upheaval in the music business and the repercussions on commercial recording studios, it is only prudent to explore other avenues, including redevelopment.”

Continue reading ‘Recording Studio That Saw Dylan And Radiohead Might Soon Be Condos’

Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Deconstructing Elvis Costello’s Spinning Wheel

You might recall that towards the end of 2011 Elvis Costello made news by issuing a statement on his Web site discouraging fans from purchasing the deluxe box set version of his live recording The Return of the Spectacular Singing Songbook. It turns out Elvis had tried unsuccessfully to get the label to lower the price for the limited-edition set, which was going for well over $200 (and is currently selling for more than $300). Sure, it included all sorts of schmancy extras, like a vinyl EP, hardcover book, etc., but Costello nevertheless opined that “the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire,” and encouraged people to buy a Louis Armstrong box instead for less money. At the time, he also informed fans that before too long, all the elements of the box would be available individually for a less usurious fee. That day of retail redemption for Elvis and his admirers comes on April 3 with the release of Spinning Songbook in its proletariat-friendly format—the live CD and DVD are available individually or together, and even the two-disc package goes for about 10 percent (at most) of the box set’s cost.

Costello did his first Spinning Wheel tour back in 1986, bringing a big, roulette-style wheel onstage, emblazoned with the names of numerous songs from his back catalog. Audience members where invited up to give the wheel a turn, and Costello was obliged to perform whichever song the arrow landed on. Needless to say, the gimmick was a big fan favorite, and he revived the idea in 2011, capturing a couple of shows for posterity in May at The Wiltern in Los Angeles for the live release in question. Seeing as how it’s finally time for the common man to sidle up to the Spinning Songbook album, it seems like the right moment to deconstruct the track list, examining the origins of each one of the sixteen songs from The Wiltern sets that ended up on the album.

Continue reading ‘Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Deconstructing Elvis Costello’s Spinning Wheel’

Sound And Vision: Strange Bedfellows — The Best of Music’s Unlikely Collaborations

“I get high with a little help from my friends,” Ringo Starr sang on the Beatles‘ 1967 classic. These days, so do many of music’s top stars. Two’s company, and so is three and sometimes four. The more the merrier, the higher and higher they get.

On the charts, that is.

In the Top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 for the week ending December 10, seventeen songs were collaborations between separate recording entities. Four of them featured Drake, and three apiece featured Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, who both appeared on tracks with Drake and with each other. But featuring Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger—and debuting at No. 36 with “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever),” which the threesome performed on the November 20 American Music Awards—was probably the one that nobody saw coming.

Old-school Rolling Stones fans must be cringing at the idea of Jagger going anywhere near Lopez and so soon after Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera went to No. 1 by invoking his hallowed name on “Moves Like Jagger.” But for a sixty-something legend like him, hit records—even if in name only, a la Duck Sauce‘s GRAMMY-nominated “Barbra Streisand—are a near-impossible dream unless they’re in tandem with other, often younger, stars.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Strange Bedfellows — The Best of Music’s Unlikely Collaborations’

The EditoriaList: Ten Interesting Backstories To Pop Songs

Ever wonder what that song is about? Here’s what these songs are about:

“Cry Me A River” – Justin Timberlake

The video Justin Timberlake made for his solo hit, featuring a familiar-looking blonde and a glimpse of a photo in an errant frame, did nothing to dispel theories that this track was about Britney Spears’ cheating ways. Goddam you, Britney, how could you?!

Continue reading ‘The EditoriaList: Ten Interesting Backstories To Pop Songs’

Tuesday, November 30th, 2011

Korn Flight of the Conchords
Elvis Costello REM

Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Graham Parker & The Rumour’s Complicated Reunion

In these nostalgia-mad, reunion-hungry times, it seems like pretty much every band of the last forty years that could or would has already reunited, either for a one-off event, a tour or a full-fledged “second wind.” From ‘60s psychedelic sorcerers to ‘70s arena rockers, ‘80s post-punks to ‘90s alt-rock icons, this is the age of “Let’s get the band back together,” and whether you’re passionate about Pavement or screwy for Spandau Ballet, there are precious few musical experiences that haven’t been deemed ripe for revisiting over the last few years.

But even though there have been more than a few recent reunions that have rated a “Who cares?” at best, there’s one important band that has remained resolutely out of the picture, despite their historical status. Graham Parker & The Rumour are widely regarded as path-making progenitors of punk and new wave, an outfit that emerged from the mid-‘70s UK pub-rock scene with a tantalizing template that was soon followed by the likes of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, and eventually, legions of lesser-known GP&R admirers across the globe—from Aussie act Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons to Boston boys Tom Dickie & The Desires, among countless others.

Still, despite their canonical standing in the rock world, Parker and company have shunned the reunion route for decades. After five fabulous years, they parted company shortly after releasing 1980’s The Up Escalator, and that was the end of the story. Or was it? In October of 2010, there was an unadvertised show at New York’s tiny Lakeside Lounge by a band billed as Kippington Lodge Social Club. The ensemble in question turned out to include original Rumour members Bob Andrews (keyboards), Martin Belmont (guitar) and Steve Goulding (drums), blowing through a set containing mostly covers, until a certain unannounced special guest joined in. Surely you see where this story is going by now—yep, it was GP himself who led his former bandmates through a batch of the band’s old classics.

Continue reading ‘Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Graham Parker & The Rumour’s Complicated Reunion’

Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Joe Henry’s Rumbling, Rattling ‘Reverie’

Joe Henry has been exploring the relationship between songs and their aural atmosphere for a quarter of a century. His early albums cloaked his carefully crafted compositions in a variety of artful atmospheres provided by other producers, like T-Bone Burnett and Anton Fier, but he began to hit his stride in the early ‘90s, when he took the production reigns himself on a pair of albums—Short Man’s Room and Kindness of the World—that found him backed by alt-country heroes The Jayhawks. With 1996’s Fuse, Henry began pursuing an increasingly unconventional production muse, employing everything from ambient synthesizer textures to the saxophone of Ornette Coleman (the jazz giant plays on 2001’s “Richard Pryor Addresses a Tearful Nation”). With each album from Fuse up through 2009’s Blood From Stars, Henry’s production became increasingly more impressionistic, but his latest, Reverie, marks a reversal of that direction.

It should be noted, of course, that Henry has also spent the last several years as a producer for others, helming projects for a wide spectrum of artists that runs from the late, great soul man Solomon Burke to New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint. During that time, he’s had the opportunity to investigate all manner of American roots styles, which may have affected his decision to make Reverie an organic, all-acoustic, live-in-the-studio affair. Certainly Henry’s work on The River In Reverse, the collaboration Toussaint cut in the Crescent City in 2005 with Elvis Costello, had an effect on him. “We worked really, really hard on that record,” Henry recalls, “it was an incredibly intense, brief period of time. We all felt honored to be there, especially given what had just happened in New Orleans. We were all freshly awakened to how important the music of that city has been. And here’s Allen, the living patriarch of that music—to be in service to him in that moment felt like a tremendous gift.”

Continue reading ‘Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Joe Henry’s Rumbling, Rattling ‘Reverie’’

Sound And Vision: Director’s Cuts — From Lady Gaga to Kate Bush, the Mixed Results of Tampering with Your Own Songs

I’ll never forget the day Basia lied to me. Twice. I was interviewing the Polish singer (best known for her 1988 hit “Time and Tide”) shortly before the release of her 1994 album, The Sweetest Illusion, which was coming five years after her previous album, London Warsaw New York. That day, she promised me two things: First, she would never again make me wait so long for new music. Second, she’d never release a run-of-the-mill greatest hits album featuring, well, her greatest hits. She felt that at the very least, artists owed it to their fans to reprise their hits as brand-new tunes, not just repackage the same old songs.

Her next studio album, It’s That Girl Again, wouldn’t arrive until 2009, nine years after she had released Clear Horizon—The Best of Basia, one of those run-of-the-mill greatest hits albums featuring, well, her greatest hits.

The morals of this story: 1) You can’t rush inspiration. 2) The first cut isn’t only the deepest—sometimes it’s the best, too. That’s a lesson Mariah Carey may have learned last year when she scrapped plans to release Angels Advocate, a remixed version of her Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel album, after a new version of “Up Out My Face” (Memoirs‘ best song) featuring Nicki Minaj limped onto Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 100 and refused to go any further.

But apparently, Lady Gaga, the reigning queen of remix albums and EPs, still hasn’t received the memo. When she released Born This Way back in May, she put out a special edition that included a separate disc with remixes of five of the album’s songs. (Bryan Ferry did a similar thing with last year’s Olympia.) Divine inspiration or clever marketing ploy? Perhaps a little of both, but “Born This Way”-with-a-twang never would have spent six weeks at No. 1. The “Country Road Version” makes for an interesting one-time listen, but I never need to hear it again.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Director’s Cuts — From Lady Gaga to Kate Bush, the Mixed Results of Tampering with Your Own Songs’


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