Well, I can no longer belabor my exile from the blogosphere. In case you were wondering where I disappeared to, my June was mostly consumed by a move to a new home (still in Houston, though John C. will rightly dispute my claim to that based on my new zip code). There was a good three weeks or so where I was mostly checked out from a musical standpoint. Some odd shifts have occurred in my listening habits as of late, brought on by my now-standard summertime obsession over guitars. A few of you might be appalled to find out what I’ve been obsessing over lately, and we’ll get to that in short order. So in the interest of getting back to some regular blogging, let’s get a few bullet points out of the way…
- Grace Potter & The Nocturnals’ self-titled new album is still my fave of the year so far. In fact, some of the credit/blame for my recent classic rock obsession should be laid at their feet for conjuring such a 1970’s vibe. It’s been a bit disheartening to see that the record hasn’t really caught fire, despite the standard recent appearances on Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel (they did manage not to slip from the #184 slot on Billboard’s Top 200 Album chart last week). There’s really no reason this album shouldn’t be some kind of hit, but it certainly exemplifies how ineffective the major-label bag of tricks is these days. Here’s hoping there are still plenty of fans out there to be won over by GPN’s best record yet. Will a second music video make any difference (even one with French strippers)? Probably not.
- Alejandro Escovedo’s new record Street Songs Of Love is probably my second favorite of the year and similarly evokes a certain golden era of rock and roll. If you thought Real Animal was an unapologetic rock album, you ain’t heard nothing to you hear this thing blast from your speakers.
- The Black Crowes are celebrating their 20th Anniversary in high style with the release of Croweology, a double CD collection of acoustic versions of songs mostly from their first four albums. It’s indulgent and overly long, and also a real treat for longtime fans. It’s kind of interesting how smoothly they’ve locked into this Band-like vibe between this and their last album Before The Frost… Certainly not for the casual listener but obviously a must-have for fans. And make special note that their upcoming tour will be the band’s last for some time while the Crowes take an indefinite hiatus after enjoying a creative resurgence over the past few years.
- Sheryl Crow’s new album 100 Miles From Memphis was co-produced by guitar great Doyle Bramhall II, and it does indeed often capture the soulful spirit of the city in the title. It’s my favorite Crow record in a long while, and maybe sometime I’ll bore you with a post about how I’m slavishly devoted to the idea that Sheryl Crow is capable of another great record. This one is better in small doses – none of the tracks are anything less than solid, but they tend to mine the same territory repeatedly. Still, it’s a mildly adventurous album by Crow’s standards, and it’s to her great credit that she’s still giving it her best effort.
- Okay, I admit I’ve been really diving headlong into guitar-hero music lately, and it’s probably not an exaggeration to claim that I’ve listened to almost nothing but Clapton, Hendrix and Stevie Ray for almost a solid three week stretch. I finally picked up Hendrix’s recent Valleys Of Neptune, which is a fantastic album of unreleased stuff featuring several alternate versions of well-known tracks. Even better is the just-released Sony Legacy Edition of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Couldn’t Stand The Weather, which features a few unreleased tracks and an entire show recorded in Montreal. I’d also like to note that Craig Hopkins has created a fantastic tribute book to SRV. He has had 3000 copies self-published, and it will be published by Hal Leonard/BackBeat Books in two parts starting in the fall of this year (pre-order from Amazon here). But the full volume is probably worth grabbing now as a collector’s item. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the new guitar is a Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster.
- I caught Robert Plant & The Band of Joy out at The Woodlands about two weeks ago. Since the new record is not yet out (due Sept. 14), I was sort of expecting a lot of laid-back material in the vein of Raising Sand. I was also expecting an open revolt of Zep-heads. On both fronts, I was pleasantly surprised. Plant was in awesome form, and I guess it goes without saying that his band – which features Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin and Darrell Scott – was unreal. Plant was generous with the spotlight, and the crowd was deliriously enthralled. Oh, and Bettye LaVette opened the show and I’m pretty sure conjured a violent thunderstorm with her set-closing rendition of The Who’s “Love Reign Over Me”. Incredible.
- I’ve actually been listening The Allman Brothers. Dear God help us all.
- The Derek Trucks Band will be taking a break while Trucks works on music with his wife, Susan Tedeschi (!). The band’s parting shot is a double live album Roadsongs recorded in Chicago last year. It’s fantastic – everything I admire about Trucks’ band amped up to 11.
- Lest you think I’ve lost all touch with my roots, next weekend I’ll be heading to North Adams, MA, for the Solid Sound Festival, aka the Wilco Super-Dork Fest. My good friend Babalugats and I also have designs on visiting the Martin Guitar Factory in Nazareth, PA (which is close to ‘Lugats’ home in PA). He really wants me to try to weasel a “press credential” or something, but I think it’s safe to assume that every attendee at Solid Sound will be a music blogger.