Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Album Review: Jim James - Uniform Distortion

Jim James
Uniform Distortion
**** out of *****
The title of Jim James most recent solo album is a good indication of the sound contained within, as Uniform Distortion is filled with guitar/bass feedback on all of the tracks. Perhaps more accurate though is a title of the fourth song on the album, "Throwback". While James solo records of original material have found him playing with digital loops, retro-soul, and futuristic Marvin Gaye topical/political screeds, Uniformed Distortion returns him to his early My Morning Jacket era with screeching solos, rock and roll cliches, soaring songs and heavy drumming.

Recorded at Louisville, KY’s La La Land with production from Kevin Ratterman and James himself, the album vibrates in a retro confident way. Opening with two excellently swaggering fuzzed up rockers with in your face riffs, "Just a Fool" and "You Get To Rome" are the double barrel openers. Instantly engaging with gorgeous backing vocals (Dear Lemon Trees’ Leslie Stevens, Jamie Drake and Kathleen Grace) the ripping guitar runs somehow managing to both be reminiscent of Cheap Trick's best and LA's country rock scene from the 70's.

"Out of Time" appears to be treading that same path but drops into a deep groove around fiery soloing and layers of sound which call to mind "Another Brick in the Wall" Pink Floyd; James gets a ton of mileage out of a song that runs just under three minutes, just one highlight among many on the album.
The two tracks most reminiscent of James early My Morning Jacket period are "Throwback" and "No Secrets" while "All In Your Head" has a modern Phish taste, each will be huge live. Stout drumming (from Dave Givan), clean and distorted guitars, positive sounding arena ready formulas, with seize the moment lyrics, cycle through all of these tunes. His spin on the modern day cultural climate takes a back seat to his fuzz tone and guitar work on this record, but he still manages to proclaim we better get together on "No Use Waiting" and a spin on why can't we simply all be friends for "Over and Over Again".

In fact James talked about the record:
“My head feels like it is exploding with the amount of information we are forced to consume on a daily basis, and how that information is so DISTORTED there is almost no longer any tangible truth. The name of my new record is UNIFORM DISTORTION because I feel like there is this blanket distortion on society/media and the way we gather our news and important information. More and more of us are feeling lost and looking for new ways out of this distortion and back to the truth… and finding hope in places like the desert where I write this now... finding hope in the land and in the water and in old books offering new ideas and most importantly in each other and love.”
Hearing him discuss this, doesn't sound as good as his six string on the record, but it shines a light on the artist and elevates the cover art, The Illuminated Man from photographer Duane Michaels. While James grapples with too much in his head, he certainly seems happy on Uniform Distortion as he is actually laughing on at least three songs here, some of which may be laughs of exasperation, but the humor and human feeling is palpable.

There is a looseness that hasn't been present in his solo work as well, album closer "Too Good To Be True" sounds like a successful first take from the players. While James is always searching, finding sonic inspiration from his past has served him well in these modern times.
RtBE has reviewed all of Jim James solo albums of original material and while Regions of Light and Sound and God and Eternally Even both were OK-to-Good, Uniform Distortion is our favorite from James.

Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

Monday, August 13, 2018

Dylan Cover #337 Barkin' Iron Band "What Was It You Wanted?"

In this ongoing Monday Series we will be exploring various artists versions of Bob Dylan song's. Today's tune is a cover by Barkin' Iron Band of the Dylan tune "What Was It You Wanted?"

Thoughts On Original:
From the first time we tackled a cover of this song:
Oh Mercy brought Dylan back in from the creative wasteland that was his 1980's. It had an eerie sense of foreboding, helped by producer Daniel Lanois and the ghosts of New Orleans. The irritable old man in Dylan came out a bit here as well, and "What Was It You Wanted" is a good example of that, a confused searching that colors the lyrics as the protagonist just can't seem to get it right.

Thoughts on Cover Artist:
Have not heard of Barkin' Iron Band before. They are an Americana group from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Thoughts on Cover:
Musically the track is spooky and rolling. The production is a bit tight and the singer has a bit of Dylan put on which we don't care for but the track moves along nicely with a well played guitar solos highlighting things.    

Friday, August 10, 2018

Full Show Friday: Steve Miller Band 10/10/92 - Shoreline Amphitheatre

We search the murky back waters of youtube to find full concerts and post them to the site weekly, come back every seven days to help us celebrate Full Show Friday's. These shows are of varying quality and may not be here for long so enjoy them while you can...As always, please support the artist every which way, but especially by seeing them live (if they are still playing)...This week...Steve Miller Band!
Some months our Full Show Friday's will focus on specific artistsyearsvenues, festivals or some combo of it all. This month we focus on summer concert standby's who always played the picturesque Saratoga Performing Arts Center over the years. 

August always makes RtBE think of upstate New York, specifically the town of Saratoga. Going to high school just a few miles from the town, we would spend many August days at the beautiful horse track and hot nights in the state park watching bands from all over. A few years back we presented shows from the venue itself. This month we will highlight some bands who always seemed to roll through and we (mostly) got to see live.  

This week we showcase the Steve Miller Band set from 1992 at Shoreline Amphitheatre. In the early 90's Miller was a touring powerhouse, every summer he would sell out SPAC and for some reason it would be THE summer concert until Dave Matthews somehow took over.

Kind of surprising but also kind of obvious as both are lighthearted, middle of the road, semi-fun nights out for the middle aged upstate (white) fan.

Here is where that caveat mostly from above comes into play; we never went to Saratoga to catch Steve Miller, but I will guarantee he rolled through their in 92 and we passed...weren't into his style, but can't bag on his professionalism.

Pro Shot, Pro Sound, Full Setlist and LOTS of Info Below. Enjoy:

Steve Miller Band - Full Concert Recorded Live: 10/10/1992 - Shoreline Amphitheatre (Mountain View, CA)

Setlist: 0:00:00 - Fly Like An Eagle 0:04:51 - Seasons 0:08:33 - You're So Fine 0:12:09 - Mercury Blues 0:15:36 - I'm Tore Down 0:18:38 - Gangster Of Love 0:20:53 - Livin' In The USA 0:25:15 - Dance, Dance, Dance 0:28:16 - Rock'n Me 0:33:41 - Take The Money And Run 0:37:21 - Jet Airliner 0:42:14 - Monologue 0:44:23 - The Joker Personnel: Steve Miller - guitar, lead vocals Norton Buffalo - harmonica Keith Allen - guitar Byron Allred - keyboards Summary:

Steve Miller was among the major artists who lined up on this 1992 weekend to pay homage to indigenous peoples for an event billed as "All Our Colors: The Good Road Concert, A Benefit for the Traditional Circle of Elders and Youth." Held over two days at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, the concerts commemorated 500 years of survival of the native peoples of the western hemisphere, with appearances by Ry Cooder, Jackson Browne and Santana presented alongside a traditional pow-wow and music from indigenous artists.

Miller used his set to highlight his blues roots: after all, he'd spent his early years on the Chicago club scene, learning the music from the masters. Eventually, he headed to San Francisco where he formed the Steve Miller Band in 1967 and explored the blues within the context of the city's vibrant music scene. Their debut, Children of the Future, received little commercial notice upon its release in 1968. Over the course of continued recordings however, the Miller Band and its leader honed their guitar jam and riff style, and eventually lost the psychedelic tones; by 1973, they'd found themselves a hit with the The Joker. He followed up that album with an even bigger hit, Fly Like An Eagle in 1976, a multi-platinum rock standard, and its companion, Book of Dreams, in 1977.

For much of the '80s and '90s, Miller largely worked as a road dog, touring behind greatest hits collections. For this set, he turned in fresh, acoustic rearrangements of the catalog material on which he'd made his name. A fairly sparse "Fly Like An Eagle," mingled with "par-tay" tunes, as he called them, like "You're So Fine" and K.C. Douglas' "Mercury Blues," which he dedicates to John Lee Hooker, also featured on the bill that day. He dedicated Freddie King's "I'm Tore Down," to Ry Cooder, while throughout his set, Miller was accompanied by his trusty sideman Norton Buffalo, on harmonica. They turn out "Gangster of Love," Miller's own homage to the old time blues styles that inspired him, and "Living in the U.S.A.," his high-energy jam about the American dream, as it was once known. Saving the crowd-pleaser for last, the self-referential "The Joker" can still bring a crowd to its feet, no matter when or where Miller performs it.

Miller would soon record new material on Wide River (1993); in 2010 he finally cut another studio album, Bingo!, to add to his catalog, but the mid-to-late '70s were truly his most prolific years. And yet, this '90s set finds "The Gangster of Love" and the "Space Cowboy" finding new ways to perform old tricks: "The Joker" rides again...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Shannon & The Clams to Tour This Fall, Playing Brooklyn

Our friends over at Brooklyn Vegan rounded up some recently announced tour dates for the Fall. While their headline is for the Yeah Yeah Yeah's and others, RtBE is most interested in Shannon & The Clams shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg this November.

Having completely enjoyed their newest release, dug catching them live, so another round of tunes are in order for early November.

Feel free to grab tickets for any of the bands in BV's post, and peep some video of Shannon and The Clams below.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Album Review: Father John Misty - God's Favorite Customer

Father John Misty
God's Favorite Customer
****and1/2 out of *****

On Father John Misty's last album Pure Comedy, the bleakness and stark/dull instrumentation was part of the overall aesthetic, now he returns with God's Favorite Customer and while the music is clearly more rich (like on his breakthrough I Love You, Honeybear) he has returned to his best subject, himself. Things are incredibly fragile and raw as God's Favorite Customer is the true relationship followup record to the madly in love Honeybear as things age, change and fall the fuck apart.

In the past Josh Tillman's Father John Misty character had very easy comparable in Harry Nilsson with his grandiose barque pop, cutting lyrics and humor mixed with brutal honesty. Now on God's Favorite Customer the comparison lies closer with Nilsson's partner in crime John Lennon and his solo records.

Misty wrote much of God's Favorite Customer while sequestered in a hotel room for two months "on the straits"  after misadventures and a life altering event blew up his life. The parallel with Lennon's "lost weekend" phase is direct, but it is not just the personal/honest songwriting about chaos, morality and heartache, but also evident in self producing and working with Josh Rado as the instrumentation and production has a warm Beatles like vibe from the start.

Opening with "Hangout at the Gallows" the rich bass and drums roll out instantly more inviting than anything on Pure Comedy; even though the specter of death is near at hand as politics and religion stab at a drowning man. There are strings, glockenspiels and dramatic swells but the core of the album is a 70's rock and roll confidence. "Just Dumb Enough To Try" injects a saxophone solo that is distorted, crackling through the speaker, foreboding cracks in his relationship.

The first world paranoia hotel blues of "Mr. Tillman" is illuminating to his frail mental state during the writing of this record, while also including his dark wit. Unfortunately death, suicide and mortality seem to be heavy on his mind as the hangover come down lonesomeness of "The Palace" (or "I Love You But No, You're Not") is cold, naked and piercing while closer "We're Only People (And There's Not Much Anyone Can Do About That)" imagines death a lot like birth and finishes the album with dynamic flair, singing in the face of the eternal unknown. Misty always closes his records with some take on the frailty of man and relationships between us all and this one is another great addition to his catalog.

The best overall song, and toughest to reconcile, is the gorgeous "Please Don't Die". The track uses an easy strum and folk rock framework to tackle relationship fears in devastating fashion, falsetto singing and an honest yearning that is wrenching. The beautiful sounds, surround suicidal thoughts, promises to "quit the morbid stuff" before asking who will handle the funeral arraignments for the singers target (very possibly himself). It is one of the best tracks of Misty's career and while the line between Tillman and his character is always blurred it is hard not to want to reach out and ask both if they are OK?       

Even when not trying to make a theme album Misty falls into one with a broken heart that is dripping over and around every song. He delivers on a break up tune that flips the songwriter microphone around to his lost love (conveniently titled "The Songwriter") while questioning if love that lives for ever is really all that special on the upbeat banging "Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All" which has bass slides, sax work, fuzzed guitars and expert singing with the only downside is that it ends too early.

The title track is a great example of this using electric keyboards and expert backing vocals from Natalie Mering while dropping, "I'm in the business of living. Yeah, that's something I'd say" which again blurs the artistic line, but let's hope he keeps living and things get better as God's Favorite Customer proves that Tillman can craft beauty out of personal pain and depression.

Tillman hasn't mentioned the exact cause of his hotel experience and the album is better for it. When the focus is on Tillman's life, with expert musicality surrounding his confessional lyrics things are extremely affecting. Pure Comedy tried to tackle humanity as a whole, Tillman was forced this outing deal with his more personal world (as performance and reality collides) and shows that however painful, he has enough material on his own.
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Album Review: Jon Cleary - Dyna-Mite

Hey all, got a new review up @glidemag which you can read Right C'here!!!

It is of Jon Cleary's newest release, Dyna-Mite.

Having recently reviewed his live solo record from Chickee Wah-Wah's it is good to hear Cleary switch it up a bit to releasing more band focused music.

Not to say his solo piano stuff is bad by any stretch, but he captured some magic with the title track. The tune should be a staple for the Crescent City as it is dynamic...err or just "Dyna-Mite".

Support the artist, buy the album, read the review and peep some video below:

Monday, August 6, 2018

Dylan Cover #336 Tyler Hilton "Boots Of Spanish Leather" Live

In this ongoing Monday Series we will be exploring various artists versions of Bob Dylan song's. Today's tune is a live cover by Tyler Hilton of the Dylan tune "Boots Of Spanish Leather"

Thoughts On Original:
From the first time we highlighted someone covering this tune:
One of the first Dylan songs that really bowled me over. I know on the Times They Are a-Changin' there are a ton of epic songs but this was the track that stayed with me the longest. It is ghostly in it's presentation and still just as dynamic now as when he wrote it back in 1963. My favorite show I have seen Dylan play live was back in 1999 at the RPI Fieldhouse. The whole night was great, my favorite backing band of his since The Band, a tiny venue and a setlist that was magical. One of the major highlights was "Boots of Spanish Leather", I need to break out that bootleg this week and re-live that great night.

Thoughts on Cover Artist:
We had not heard of Tyler Hilton before, but realized we have actually seen his work, he plays Elvis Presley in Walk The Line. Pretty cool.
Thoughts on Cover:
A duet with Alexa (from the band Chic Gamine) the two singers work beautifully together. The simple strumming and closeness perfectly accentuates their voices. A really pretty cover.