Sunday, June 25, 2006

Stephen Bruton / From The Five

I discovered this gentleman via the Publik Music website. I played the tune they had on there for my listening pleasure, said I gotta have that one and promptly ordered it. Well, after living with it for the last 6 weeks I don't regret my rash decision. Sometimes it's best to go with your gut instinct. This is a great set of tunes. Ole Stephen knows how to write a catchy lyric and what he may lack in vocal skills he more than makes up for in guitar work. The few negatives on this disc, in my opinion, are far outweighed by the stellar musicianship and the great lyrics on every song. What are the negatives you ask? well, he ain't the worlds best singer and there's a couple spots where I cringe when he gets off key, but lets not be picky here, some of the best vocalists I know can't "sing".......Joe Walsh and Danny Okeefe come to mind as far as not being your garden variety traditional style singers, but I'd rather listen to them than 99.9% of the crap that passes on the radio for singing these days.

The backup band for Mr Bruton is stellar too....he has Tom Petty's drummer, Steve Ferrone, keeping time. Bill Payne, keyboardist par excellance from Little Feat doing his thing and other very capable folks that have names I'm not familiar with laying down a groove that is very good. If you want/need to know more about this cat I'd suggest going to the publik Music site and do some reading there or his personal website probably has some info too :-)
Myself, I'm looking to see if Stephen has other CD's out there floating around somwhere that I need to give a home to............Humor me here while I go thru this album a tune at a time.
Bigger Wheel - Yeah!, first time I heard this tune I was sold on this dude. Starts out with a great acoustic guitar riff and then a wailing harmonica, from there it just gets better. Damn near impossible to not move the feet around during this one. "I ain't no good at this, I'm tired of being afraid. Took a long time getting to the decision I've made......white flag, surrender, right here, right now, I'm out, game over, this down and out high roller has found a better deal, what I've got left, from here on out, I'm giving it up, to the bigger wheel".........
This Old World - Another Rockin' tune with a message. the guy can write a Chorus....."This old world needs love, let it rain down from the stars above, Get on board that train, 'cause this old world needs love".

Walk By Faith - first time I heard this cut the name Randall Bramblett came to mind. Who's he? well he's someone else you should be listening to also. He put out a couple solo albums in the "70's that I stumbled across and then he joined and fronted a great band called Sea Level and put out 4 or 5 albums with them. The piano on this cut sounds like a lot of the piano on the Bramblett albums and when I looked up the credits for the cut it turns out Bill Payne, the keyboard man for Little Feat does the honors.

Fading Man - Things slow down a bit for this great tune and another great chorus to sing along with is born...."Is anybody here? Can you find my shadow? Like a slow burning candle, I thought it would last. Seems like I've lost, what was too hard to handle, Now there's less of my future and more of my past"

Every Once In A While - Slowly the tempo starts to pick back up for this one......"I wouldn't recognize, the man I was before, if he was standing at my door, but every once in awhile in reflection, I see the shadow that's been following me, just a soul with no sense of direction, every once in a while I see, the man I used to be". More great keyboard work by Bill Payne and a tasty guitar interlude by Mr Bruton himself make this one another keeper.

The Clock - A great, great tune about this dead end road we're heading down.......This one is chock full of great one liners all tied up together. "And you want to know the future?....just keep repeating the past" and the ending lines made me chuckle the first time I heard 'em...."Night Night, Jammies on, doomsday clock". Some great wah wah pedal work by Mr. Bruton and great drumming and percussion really stand out in this cut.

Treasured Wounds - A nice slow waltz time tune with a great horn section about the scars that are a result of living life. " Now memories and shadows, grow long with the day, and come back to life when night has it's way, We're all old soldiers, we won the war, only to fall on our swords".

Put Me Out of Your Misery - Up beat and uptempo with more great horns and lyrics that'll make just about anybody smile if not outright laugh. "If we choose to stay, and trudge on through this life, I got a feeling, when I'm dead and gone, you'll make a better widow, than you ever would a wife" The one liners that he rattles off at the end of the tune over the great music are hilarious..."I'm so miserable without you it's almost like having you here" "The next time the phone don't ring....that'll be me".

The Halo Effect - I'm not embarrassed to admit I don't know what this song is about, although I have an idea. It gives me chills nevertheless to hear him sing it. I've considered writing and asking for clarification, but I'm pretty sure if he did answer me it'd be something along the lines of "it's all in there bud" or "if you don't get it, you just don't get it". At any rate I keep playing it and hope a light comes on that can't be suspected. "And what I choose to remember, is not what I regret, the halo effect"

That Moment When - Like I said, this album is chock full of great tunes and here's another one. To say I can relate to this tune would be an understatement. "Where were you headed, when life passed you by? Staring at the tail lights, as you started to cry" & "What was the instant that sealed your fate, froze the hands on the clock at a minute too late". Some big name could make a monster hit out of this tune, but I'd rather see the guy who wrote it, get the chance. Not likely it's gonna happen though....things being the way they are these days. Just glad I found it.

Ordinary Man - A rocker from the git go! "You quit your job and they call you crazy, some people say you're outa your mind, You quit your job and they call you lazy, but they'll take the credit, when you hit the big time, any ordinary man would've given it up by now"

In The Wind - A great closing tune for record or concert. This is one I'd like to learn the chords to so I can play it myself. Maybe I'll write him for the chords and then ask him about "The Halo Effect" as an afterthought "There's a lot of life still left ahead, there's a lot I can do without, and it feels like I've just begun, all that matters is from here on out......"

Think I'll play it one more time before I give it up for the day and go to bed. Great Stuff.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Crooked Creek At The Porch, Shenendoah Farms, Virginia May 28th, 2006

This entry should've been made several weeks ago after we got home from the bike trip to Virgina but the day is only so long and I've only got so much time to devote to the things I enjoy doing so this is a case of better late than never.

Over the Memorial Day weekend myself and my son, Chris, took the bike out to visit my longtime Friend, David, in his new home in Front Royal, VA. He suggested that we check out a bluegrass concert being held on Sunday at a place called John Shipe Park in Boyce Va., outside of Front Royal a ways. So, on Sunday afternoon, after spending the morning touring the hallowed ground of Manassas, we showed up at the park to hear what we could hear.

The first group was good but their entire repertoire was gospel tinged, to put it mildly and after a half hour it was starting to wear on us so we went and got lunch. When we came back from eating there was a new band on stage and this group caught my ear(s) right away. After listening from a distance for a couple tunes I decided to go up front (in the shade of the stage) and get a bit more involved in what was going on. From then until we had to go I enjoyed what I was hearing and it really made me want to pick up my guitar and join in.

When we got back home from Virginia I Emailed the gentleman who put on the show and asked about the availability of CDs. He responded by telling me that they'd recorded that concert at the park and he'd send me a copy of the whole performance in a couple days. True to his word, within a week I had not 1 but 3 CD's of this groups material that I've been enjoying immensely since it arrived. While I can't share with you the entire concert I can, if this will work, share a tune with you that I recorded on my camera. The sound quality is not nearly as good as the CD's of course, but it should still give you an idea of what I'm talking about......

To listen to a bit of downhome, true to it's roots bluegrass, just click on the picture below. If it's going to work for you, you should see Windows Media Player, or whatever you use to view .mpg files, pop up and load the file. If for some reason it doesn't do that, then I don't know what to tell ya........
UPDATE 6/22/06
Well, it seems that all the free sites I use won't hold a file the size of the one that I'd like to share and I haven't gotten around to upgrading my package yet to where I have to pay a monthly fee so until I do there won't be anything here to hear.......
Stay tuned.

Here's a couple sites to check out for information on the Virginia Bluegrass scene.

This is the organization that put on the concert we attended.


This is a Virginia sponsored site that covers the bluegrass hot spots in the state

the Lonesome River Band has several members that also play in Crooked Creek


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cindy Bullens / Somewhere Between Heaven & Earth

The reason for this review now is that Cindy just released a new album called "Dream 29". I've got it and have actually been holding off on playing it for the first time until I get this done.....

I've been a fan of Cindy Bullens since the '70's when I picked up a copy of her first album "Desire Wire". (Actually, I probably should write a review of that great album too....) It took one play of "Desire Wire" to be sold on Cindy and her talent. this girl was / still is, the real deal. She sings, plays guitar and writes all the tunes she sings. I played "Desire Wire" frequently and when album #2 "Steal The Night" came out it was a no brainer to pick up a copy. Unfortunately, it was overproduced, very "popish" and had nothing even close to the strength of "Desire Wire" on it.....pretty much a disappointment for me. I never saw another album come out in my travels and figured that another good one had been produced / managed right out of a career.

Now, jump ahead to 1999. I had played Cindy's albums for my wife so she knew who she was and one day she came home from the store with an album called "Somewhere Between Heaven & Earth". Man, the last time I had seen a Cindy Bullens recording nobody had even heard of CD's yet and now here was this one.....20 years after the last one that I knew of.......I put it in the machine and over the next 50 minutes I went thru a variety of emotions.....all of them powerful and positive. Cindy Bullens was back from where ever she'd been and just like fine wine, had gotten better with time.

The theme for this album is a less than happy one although ultimately it's a very positive one. It centers around the cancer battle and ultimate death of Cindy's 2nd daughter, 11 year old Jessie. Although these songs are about something very painful to go thru and emotional to the point of tears at times, the overall impact of the words and music here is very positive. This is an album of healing, an album for other people who've been thru something similar who need to know that it's ok to grieve and it's ok to go on with your life.........I still play this album frequently and it's been out 6 years now. The power of it cannot be understated.

Thanks to the internet I wrote to Cindy several years ago, on Chistmas eve no less, to share our own story of loss and the next morning I had a reply from Cindy that I thought was very cool. I hadn't really thought about getting a response, just wanted to share our story. I wish I still had those emails but they got lost during an upgrade to a new computer. Then just a couple years ago me and my wife got to meet Cindy at a concert in South Bend In. where she was the warm-up act for Dan Fogelberg. She did a short set and even mentioned when she did Boxing with God, that it was for some friends up in Michigan. After the show we got to talk with her for a couple minutes and had her sign the booklet from the CD.

I don't profess to know what Cindy was thinking when she wrote these songs, but Indulge me a couple lines from each one and what they say to me.......

In Better Hands.....What hands could be better for a child than that of it's mother? Only one that I can think of and it requires quite a leap of faith to believe. What mother would willingly give up her child to someone else's care and protection, no matter what they're qualifications? "The sky is in your shoes tonight, you can finally fly. All I can do is trust that you're all right, and I left you, in better hands, in better hands"
The Lights Of Paris.....a comparision between the beauty of manmade art and the higher beauty of a human soul. "I stood in a room full of Vincent VanGogh's, I could not tear myself away, struck by light and color, pure genius on display, but even the art of Paris, somewhere has to have a price, unlike the fire in your hair of red, and the passion in your eyes".
I Gotta Believe In Something.....coming to grips with the cold hard facts that life sometimes deals us a hand we don't want to play and finding a way to deal with the things that can't be changed. "Some days just breathing is all that I can do, and I curse the disappearance of everything I knew, but there's only so many tears I can cry, I need to point my soul to the light so I can see, and I gotta believe in something, that there's just plain nothing don't seem right to me".
Somewhere Between Heaven & Earth.....A time of confusion and fustration. Purgatory on earth. Knowing that there is life on the other side, but being stuck in the great expanse of wasteland in the middle "but there's no rhythm in the rain, there's no magic in the moon, there's no power in this pain, till somewhere between heaven and earth, I can find you again".
A Thousand Shades Of Grey.....A period of not so much acceptance of things that can't be changed as the resignation that there's no way to go back. Returning to the better days of before is not an option. These are days that blend together and that are endured, not lived. "Well you never kept your distance, you always told the truth, if there are such things as angels, then you're my living proof, but now you live on higher ground, and I have lost my way, well I'd settle for your shadow, for my thousand shades of grey"
Water On The Moon.....The desire to believe that if one holds onto a dream tight enough that it might yet become reality. "If they find water on the moon, if they discover life on Mars, does that mean you'll be home soon, can I hold you in my arms, I want to believe in miracles".
Boxing With God.....Life begins to return to the soul and the realization sets in that although I may not win, I won't just stand here and not fight back. Not being complacent means one's heart is strong and ready to go forward, no matter the outcome. "I'm boxing with God, I'm showing all my stuff, It's probably not enough, but I'm a fighter. I'm boxing with God, I'm going round for round, I might be going down, but I'm not a quitter".
The End Of Wishful Thinking.....Healing of the soul takes time and acceptance of things that we don't want to accept is a sign that the healing is taking place. "And it's too early in the morning, and too late in my life, to write a different story, to hope for different lines, and I guess it's finally hit me, what forever really means, that no amount of dreaming, is gonna bring you back to me".
As Long As You Love (Scarlet Wings).....A certain kind of peace in knowing that there are places yet to go and that those who go ahead of us will be watching out for us while we're here and waiting for us when it's our time to arrive. "As long as you love, You will feel me in the sun, in the warming of the sun, I will be there".
Better Than I've Ever Been.....The final stage of the healing process...gathering strength from the struggles to get thru the adversity and the sorrow of loss and coming out the other side a whole person again with more facets to the personality than there were previously............"I laugh louder, cry harder, take less time to make up my mind, and I think smarter, go slower, I know what I want, and what I don't and I'll be better than I've ever been".

An excellent album in every way, great arrangements, vocals, lyrics and great backup from the musicians that make these extremely personal songs come alive. This album is as much a work of art as anything you'll find under the lights of Paris.