Top Ranking Albums of June 2013

Jimmy CliffThe KCRW Sessions [Universal 2013]

SizzlaThe Messiah [VP Records 2013]

Bob Marley & the WailersLegend Remixed [Tuff Gong 2013]

Various ArtistsLove for Levon [Time 2013]

Various ArtistsLet Us In Americana [Reviver Records 2013]

Steve EarleThe Low Highway [New West 2013]

Sean NelsonMake Good Choices [Really Records 2013]

Slaid CleavesStill Fighting the War [Music Road Records 2013]

Bob SchneiderBurden of Proof [Kirtland Records 2013]

Dale Watson & His TroopersEl Rancho Azul [Red House Records 2013]

Shiny Ribs Gulf Coast Museum [Nine Mile Records 2013]

Patty GriffinAmerican Kid [New West Records 2013]

Billy BraggTooth and Nail [Essential Music 2013]

John FogertyWrote A Song For Everyone [Vanguard 2013]

Warren Hood BandWarren Hood Band [Red Parlor Records 2013]

The Carper FamilyOld-Fashioned Gal [The Carper Family 2013]

Mavis Staples One True Vine [Anti/Epitaph 2013]

Booker TSound the Alarm [Stax 2013]

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Top Ranking Albums of June 2013

Austin City Limits Festival – DAY ONE

I went to ACL yesterday and saw some great bands, including Sahara Smith, Asleep at the Wheel, Blues Traveler, Kings Go Forth, the Black Keys, Pat GreenSlightly Stoopid, Vampire Weekend, and Phish. Wimberly, Texas-based Sahara Smith opened on the Austin Ventures stage and I liked the song “Are You Lonely.” But, it was Asleep at the Wheel that set the mood for the rest of my ACL experience. Ray Benson and his friends rocked. With steel guitar, fiddles, piano, guitars, bass, and drums The Wheel blazed through a hot set of western swing and classic country. The band opened with “Miles and Miles of Texas” and “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.”

Bob Wills Is Still The King

Asleep at the Wheel has been an institution in Texas since the 1970s. The band paid tribute to their heroes Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys with a Waylon Jennings song “Bob Wills Is Still The King.” From there they played the Bob Wills super-hit  “New San Antonio Rose.” Often Asleep at the Wheel teams up with a famous artist. For example, Leon Rausch recorded a new album with the Wheel called It’s A Good Day. At ACL Asleep at the Wheel played the title track from the album. The swinging musicians also played tracks from the Willie And The Wheel album recorded with Texas icon Willie Nelson, including “Hesitation Blues,” “Sweet Jennie Lee,” “Oh! You Pretty Woman,” and “I’m Sittin’ on Top of the World.”

I'm Sittin' on Top of the World

The rollicking Asleep at the Wheel set got even better with the hilariously titled song “Big Balls in Cowtown.” Followed by one of my favorite tunes of all time: “Hot Rod Lincoln.” I am a big fan of the post-1960s western swing revivalists. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen are another fine band that fits into the mold–a band that also played a wild version of “Hot Rod Lincoln,” as well as a great version of “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette.” Commander Cody appealed to the west coast hippies paying homage to the Cowboy Code. Long haired Ray Benson fits in with these western swing revivialists, but Asleep at the Wheel is more than all that. They have become an institution in Texas keeping musical traditions alive. Plus Texas music history owes a debt of gratitude to the band. The excellent theatre production A Ride with Bob featured Asleep at the Wheel and the amazing Ruby Jane playing a young Bob Wills. From pure western swing to boogie woogie the Wheel wrapped up their set with “Boogie Back to Texas” and “Bump Bounce Boogie.”

Free

Donavon Frankenreiter followed the Wheel with a fun set including “Move By Yourself” and “Free.” Frankenreiter played a sweet song written for his son titled “Call Me Papa.” He then covered Tom Petty’sAmerican Girl,” putting a chill twist on the Classic Rock gem. The mustached singer played his hit single “Glow” and the catchy “It Don’t Matter.”

Blues Travelerkilled with their old school single “But Anyway” and a cover version of Radiohead‘sCreep.” The hit singles “Run-Around and “The Mountains Win Again” were followed by an amazing jam with the 15-year-old fiddle player Ruby Jane. Jon Popper and his tight jam band also covered the Sublime song “What I Got” ending with the mega-hit “Hook.”

The Outsiders Are Back

The Kings Go Forthwere the great surprise band for me on Friday. Their 1970s funky disco sounds were groovy. This 10-piece American soul band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin has an incredible stage presence to accompany jams like “One Day,” “I Don’t Love You No More,” and “Don’t Take My Shadow.”  We all know what made Milwaukee famous, but now we know why it is funky!

The Black Keys powered through a garage rock and blues set that included “Thickfreakness,” Strange Times,”Tighten Up,” “Your Touch,” and “Everlasting Light.” While Texas country artist Pat Green transitioned from the anthem  “Wave on Wave” into a nice cover of U2‘sAll I Want Is You.”

Chronchitis

I have seen Slightly Stoopid at ACL at least three times now. And I have liked every show. The dubby grooves are infectious. The reggae-punk rock formula originally perfected by Long Beach’s Sublime works well. Plus the lads from San Diego have mastered their vocals and guitar playing and their brand of stoner rock is always welcome in Austin. Among the songs played at the festival were “I Would Do For You” and “Till It Gets Wet” and the extremely danceable “Somebody.” Slightly Stoopid plays party songs interlaced by the occasional punk rock explosion like “Punk Rock Billy.” But don’t think there is not a message in the music. Just take a close listen to the politically charged “Runnin’ With A Gun.” 

Vampire Weekend provided a nice segue between the dub of Slightly Stoopid and the jam rock of Phish. The Columbia graduates sound like Paul Simon’s Graceland with strong hints of The Clash and various other world music sounds mashed together into a refreshing pop sound. The set list included: “Horchata,” “Cousins,” “Oxford Comma,” “White Sky,” “Holiday,” “California English,” “I Think Ur A Contra,” and “Walcott.”

Phish played a classic set opening with a rocking “Down With Disease.” They followed up that original song with a cover of the Talking Heads track “Cities.” Phish is Mike Gordon on bass, Trey Anastasio on guitar, Jon Fishman on drums, and Page McConnellon keys. But at times it seems like there might be twenty people on stage. The sound is full and lush and really meant to be listened to at a venue like Zilker Park. Following the Talking Heads cover, Phish geared up for a funky-driving “Possum.”

Wolfman’s Brother” brought people to their dancing feet while a jammed out version of “Chalk Dust Torture” awed the crowd. My favorite moment was an unexpected Velvet Underground cover. I dig Lou Reedand the Velvet Underground, so a bad ass version of “Rock And Roll” is alright with me. From this foray into the underground  Phish smoothly transitioned into an almost symphonic spaced out “2001.” I am also a big fan of the newest album Joy, from which Phish played the excellent track “Backwards Down The Number Line .”

Joy (Amazon MP3 Exclusive Version)

After a reggafied “Harry Hood” the boys played another one from Joy called “Light.” I am not as familiar with this song, but it provided a nice pallet cleanser for a rockin’ “Suzy Greenberg.” The set concluded with an extended “You Enjoy Myself.”  The encore rocked with a killer version of “Cavern” and a crowd-pleasing “First Tube.”

Quite frankly, Phish put on a hell of a show. It was nice to see Phish in Texas again. I hadn’t seen Phish in Austin since they played at South Park Meadows in the late 1990s. Hopefully, Phish will return to Texas in the near future. People forget Trey Anastasio was born in Fort Worth, Texas. So come on boys, bring it on back to Texas sometime. Why not? I guarantee a sold out crowd at the Bass Performance Hall in downtown Fort Worth. Come rip our faces off with a howling version of The Edgar Winter Group‘sFrankenstein.”

Austin City Limits Festival – DAY ONE

Phish 3D

Phish image

I got to see the Phish 3D movie this last Friday night in Dallas, Texas. The film captured the 2009 Halloween sets from the Live 8 Festival in Indio, California. This movie is not a documentary. When the film starts the music begins. It is simply Phish doing what they do best, making music. Trey Anastasio shreds his guitar, twisting the strings and producing electrifying wails. Page McConnell tickles the ivory, textures the jams, and takes off on his own solos. Mike Gordon, the soloing bassist, drops deep thudding bass lines while the drummer John Fishman wears a polka-dotted dress behind a drum set pounding out tight rhythms. All four musicians sing. Blending funk, bluegrass, rock, reggae, and jazz, Phish defies genres fusing all into a bag of joy.

This was my first 3D concert experience. And it was better than expected. The beach balls, glow sticks, and balloons fluttered through the crowd and seemingly throughout the movie theatre. It was like being at a live concert, but with better views. In fact, it might be better than an actual concert in terms of visibility. because you get to see so many different perspectives. Perhaps the live music concert is better because you get to experience the music in the moment, in the heat of the spontaneous jam sessions, and among the Phishhead culture, but in the movie theatre Trey leaps off the screen as I sit sipping a beer and eating nachos.

As the film begins Phish goes into one of their old school jams “AC/DC Bag.” Then the band plays a track from the new album Joy entitled “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan.” Next, I really liked the rockin’ version of “Undermind.” The light show was spectacular at this festival. Smoke floated by in 3D with lights piercing and slicing through the smoke into the movie theatre. As the song “Tweezer” started the lights turned a cold blue and Fishman donned a toboggan. We stepped inside a freezer and ceased her with a tweezer! From out of the freezer we emerged into the “Maze,” building and building until we eventually exploded out into space. Then we returned to earth with “Mike’s Song,” which rounded out a very strong night-time set.

The film then briefly shows some daytime scenes of the festival grounds, including the large piece of art known as the Squirming Coil. From there it cuts to the band taking to the stage with acoustic instruments. They embark on an acoustic jam that starts with “Back On The Train” from 2000’s release Farmhouse. From there the boys dig back into their catalog for a sweet version of “Strange Design.” Then Phish picks up the pace on “The Curtain With.” A trippy “Sleep Again” is followed by a sensational climaxing “Wilson.” The set concludes with “Train Song” from 1996’s release Billy Breathes.

In the third and final set Phish 3D explores a staple in the Phish phenomena, covering an album in its entirety. In this case Phish covers the legendary Rolling Stones album Exile on Main Street. Unfortunately there is not enough time for the film to cover the entire album or “musical costume”  in a short movie, but we do get to see some of the highlights. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings join the band for this wonderful set of music. First we see Phish playing “Loving Cup,” which must be one of their favorites. I actually saw Phish play this song in the 1990s at Southpark Meadows in Austin, Texas. The Exile on Main Street set also includes rollicking soulful versions of “Happy,” “Shine A Light,” and “Soul Survivor.” The film winds down with a fired up version of “Suzy Greenberg” anchored by the horns and electric voices of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. Phish’s big screen adventure concludes with the crowd pleasing “Tweezer Reprise.”

Phish 3D