Friday, May 27, 2011

Sarah Jarosz | Follow Me Down

Sarah Jarosz has just turned 20 and the musical maturity that she displays on her new CD "Follow Me Down" reveals a talent that sounds and feels much older, more seasoned than her years. She commands the space on the record with her confident singing and proficient playing on mandolin, banjo and guitar. Her youth is not lost, and comes through in the wonder and joy of discovery that is evident in each song.

Some of the best players in the folk, country and bluegrass world provide support. Vince Gill, Jerry Douglas, Dan Tyminksi, Victor Krauss, Shawn Colvin, Stuart Duncan join in. Most of the songs are written by Sarah and the covers are well chosen. Chris Thile and The Punch Brothers collaborate on Radiohead's "The Tourist" and Vince Gill and Jerry Douglas bring it on home with Sarah on Bob Dylan's "Ring Them Bells". Gary Paczosa produces with great care.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adele and The Civil Wars in Boston 5/15/11

There was a seemingly endless line that snaked down Landsdowne Street this past Sunday night as Adele fans waited to walk into The House of Blues for the British singer's show that sold out months ago. These were people WITH tickets! and everybody wanted get in early to claim a spot for the night.

At other shows at HOB, I have found a place in the back near the sound board, but Sunday we made our way to the front of the floor section and found room, stage right with a great view of what would be an unforgettable night of music.

From this vantage point, I was able to see the roadies set up for Adele's set and this was a part of the show that I didn't expect to witness. They were getting everything just right. The straight mic stand, the stool, the table with water and tea, the fan, and the four (or was it five?) monitor wedges that would surround Adele with her voice, the voice that everyone was coming to hear.

When we did hear her, it was from off-stage. And when she appeared, it was simply, with her trademark openness, humility and thankfulness, and to great applause and cheers.

The talent that Adele displays is equally matched with the love, admiration and appreciation that her fans have for her. The appreciation is the main thing. Adele does something for her fans beyond just dazzling them with her vocal prowess and stunning presence; it seems that she holds a mirror to their best qualities.

"Rumor Has It" was one of the highlights of the show. Adele tells the story behind the song

The Civil Wars opened the show and...WOW! It was great to finally see them live to get the full picture of what they do and how well they do it. Joy Williams sang with every part of her being, using her entire body to deliver the songs. John Paul White kept the set going with his confident guitar playing and his precise vocals. They moved together in a most unusual way, an intimate musical and familial conversation that we all were part of.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hot Tuna | Steady As She Goes

It's been 20 years since Hot Tuna released an album, so the new "Steady As She Goes" is a welcome arrival and well worth the wait.
Produced by Larry Campbell at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock NY, the album is firmly fixed in the 60's and 70's acoustic/electric rock n' roll that Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady first established in The Jefferson Airplane and their early days in Hot Tuna.

According to Kaukonen, both he and Casady felt very comfortable and free to create in the recording process due Campbell's support of their vision and the producer's clear view of what the final product would sound like. Not only did Campbell produce the record, but he plays multiple instruments, including fiddle and violin, recalling the great sounds of Papa John Creach. Barry Mitterhoff is on mandolins and Skoota Warner on the drums, making this a real band album. Teresa Williams provides harmony vocals, and in a couple of songs sounds like The Airplane's Grace Slick. The effect is perfect, and it's one of the many fine touches that serve to recapture a sound that could well be lost and forgotten but lives on in their music making.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Alison Krauss and Union Station | Paper Airplane

The sepia tone of the picture of Alison Krauss and Union Station on the cover of their new album "Paper Airplane" sends a message before the first notes of the record sound. Tradition is important here. Over the course of the past thirty of her thirty-nine years, Krauss has mined the folk and bluegrass traditions of American roots music, recording for the first time when she was fourteen. She has stayed true to her original record label, Massachusetts based Rounder Records, signing with them in 1985. She has worked with Union Station since the early 80's

This album flows like a rolling river, steady and strong, mighty, but contained. There is a depth of experience, a certain world weariness in Krauss' voice that ever so softly permeates the songs she sings here. The twenty plus years of playing with Union Station secures the music so there is not one false note. Dan Tyminski confidently takes the lead vocal on a couple of the tracks. Richard Thompson's "Dimming of the Day' and Jackson Browne's "My Opening Farewell" are nice additions to the new material written for the record.