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Candles For Opry

Grand_ole_opry_logo_2005Happy birthday to the Grand Ole Opry, which turns 82 years old today. Probably the best lookin’ 82-year-old we know, outside of Joan Rivers.

Seriously though, folks, the Opry is still a relevant and unique place. On any given Friday or Saturday night (and Tuesdays in the fall and winter), you can see a new act like the totally fab Lady Antebellum play right before someone like the late, great Porter Wagoner. One of our favorites, roots country artist Elizabeth Cook, is a regular on the Opry and we love watching her do her thing... mainly 'cuz she's so durn unpredictable. You might get a tender ballad or an uptempo scorcher that ends with an impromptu clogging demonstration by Miz Cook. Where else does that happen? Nowhere. Night in and night out it's a great place to experience music.
And if you can’t catch it live, it's also on GAC on Saturday nights and on WSM-AM all across the East Coast. Heck, you can even listen on your new-fangled XM satellite radio. We should look so good at 82.

November 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sensual Snoop

Snoop_dogg_06l Eight albums in and the D-O double-Gizzle is still rocking out.

Snoop Dogg is set to release his ninth solo LP, "Ego Trippin," in March 2008 via Doggystyle/Geffen. The premier single titled "Sensual Seduction," is produced by Shawty Redd and features Snoop in a completely different light than ever before - playing both a rapper and a singer while crooning about sexual wickedness over an 80s-inspired melody. 

The video for the single, which world-premieres today on MTV, was directed by Melina (Eve's "Tambourine," Ludacris' "Money Maker"). In it, Snoop uses a talk box machine, inspired by the sounds of Roger and Zapp as he channels Rick James, Prince and others from that era. Meanwhile, the video vixens emulate Vanity 6 and Mary Jane Girls.

"'Sensual Seduction' is like a throwback feel-good song," said Snoop in a statement. "I wanted to have fun with this one... and the video is crazy!"

Like In Living Color's "Men On Film" would say, Jaded Insider gives it "the yet unheard of Zorro snap, in Z formation!" Classic!

Snoop Dogg - Sensual Seduction [EXCLU]
Uploaded by PeteRock">"Sensual Seduction"

November 28, 2007 in Hip Hop | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Random Encounter With The Hepburns

Hepburns There are plenty of bands that catch J.I.’s attention for all the usual reasons: blog buzz, peer recommendations, catching a snippet on Morning Becomes Eclectic. Then there are bands that catch our attention for the strangest things; in the case of the Hepburns, we first saw their poster on a telephone pole while jogging in San Francisco a few weeks back. It wasn’t the name or the label that grabbed our eye – it was the band’s hometown, Llanelli, Wales, a village close to one of J.I.’s former stomping grounds.

The band is touring the country along with Tasmanian act Anthony Rochester, and J.I. caught them at Galapagos in Brooklyn last night. We were held up at another event and didn’t manage to catch the whole set, but what we did see was excellent. The Hepburns are an unabashed pop band – gleefully recalling Bacharach and Morricone with their shiny guitars and chirping keyboard. The band has been around for twenty years, gaining a little local fame when they signed to Cherry Red, then completely disappearing for most of the nineties. After forming a relationship with indie label Radio Khartoum, they’ve started writing again, and have released a handful of albums and seven inches in the last few years.

On stage last night, they looked like the four middle-aged Welsh dudes that they are; there was no pose or pretense in sight. They swung through their set, which included tracks like “My Brother the Submariner,” a horn-filled track about a wayward sibling, and another song about getting drunk and wandering around a carpark. J.I. didn’t catch the name of the latter track, but can confirm that they are describing an almost universal experience in South Wales.

The Hepburns strike was as one of those great random discoveries that make music fandom so special – anyone can follow the coolest blog around and let that determine your taste, but when you take a chance on something unknown, you usually come away with a big reward.

November 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Create Your Own Song Adventure

Merritt As part of its re-launch, the NPR Music site has kicked off a new series, All Songs Considered's Project Song. "The challenge: Write and record a song — in two days. (We provide the studio and the inspiration.)"

Their first victim, Magnetic Fields mastermind Stephin Merritt, draws his attention to a photo of a man covered chin to shoes in plastic babies and the term "1974" as his muse for the track, which in the end, sounds pretty neat. Check it out on their site. The report follows Merritt through each step of the project, from the lyrics, to melodies, to laying down drum tracks (even if he doesn't really play drums).

The next Project Song is due Dec. 1, with Georgie James. We'd be tickled if they scored a rapper for the follow-up.

Sufjan Another make-a-new-song experience making the rounds on the interwebs is one from prolific pop eccentric Sufjan Stevens. On the heels of his Christmas music boxed set from last year, the songwriter has started the Great Sufjan Song Xmas Xchange!, a contest to which people to submit original Christmas songs. And get this:

"The winner of this Contest will receive all rights in an original Sufjan Stevens' recording and musical composition. In exchange, the winner agrees to transfer to Sponsor all rights in his or her submitted recording and musical composition. This is not your ordinary corporate promotion -- we are actually giving you Sufjan’s recording and composition to use however you like - no strings attached!"

If we had our choice, we'd want "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." because it made our mom cry.

It's an interesting concept, equivocating the value of one song with the value of another from a reputable artist. On top of that, the ability to brandish a Sufjan song around -- license it to Target, add it to every jukebox on the planet, chop it and screw it into your own remix... with great power comes great responsibility... or sometimes great cash...

November 15, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Heard 'Ya Missed Us .. We're Back!!

Halen It's all so unlikely, or is it? I'm talking about the fact that David Lee Roth, at 53, has a lustrous, full head of hair, a mind-bogglingly ripped physique and enough command over his voice to lead Van Halen through a truly incredible, triumphant return to New York's sold-out Madison Square Garden in the year 2007.

This tour has been met with a healthy dose of cynicism by observers, and for obvious reasons. For one, Roth's many prior attempts to rejoin the group he quit in 1985 have met with disaster, and he was last seen singing bluegrass versions of Van Halen hits on "The Tonight Show."

For another, beloved bassist Michael Anthony was unceremoniously booted from the band and replaced by Eddie Van Halen's 16-year-old son, Wolfgang. Eddie's stint in rehab earlier this year nearly scotched the tour in the first place, but here they all are anyway, rocking out with a power rarely seen among current acts.

In New York, the show consistently teetered between ridiculous and ridiculously awesome, and was often some of each. Eddie Van Halen, bare-chested and in drawstring pants as if he was just sprung from prison, might not have been much to look at, but his playing was astounding. Any time his handiwork began to border on pure self-indulgence (the vaguely planetarium-esque noodling from "Cathedral," excerpted during his solo), he quickly shifted gears into displays of undeniable virtuosity (the fret-tapping evergreen "Eruption," cue devil horns).

Roth was the consummate rock frontman, employing a full arsenal of hats, microphones wedged into the top of his tight pants and garish top coats to accent the belting out of classics like "Beautiful Girls," "Runnin' With the Devil" and "Hot for Teacher."

Even when he "forgot the f*ckin' words" during a cover of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" and ran around the stage waving a giant red flag during "1984," you couldn't help but smile. "Three-quarters original and one-quarter inevitable," he bellowed when introducing the band.

As for Wolfgang, well, he's a 16-year-old kid, and he looks like it. His stage presence is nearly non-existent, but he played well. It was pretty clear the backing vocals once so identifiable as Anthony's were being piped in through the PA (as were all the keyboard parts), but Wolfie was dutifully on the mic and on cue every time he needed to be.

That leaves drummer Alex Van Halen, who looks much older than his 54 years but managed to deliver all the signature fills fans were expecting, particularly on "Hot for Teacher." And hardly any fans hit the bathroom during his solo between "Pretty Woman" and "Unchained" -- take that, Neil Peart!

The set list wisely ignored the Sammy Hagar era, hitting most of the high points of Van Halen's first period ("Panama," "Jamie's Cryin'," "I'll Wait"). One of the more left-field moments came when Roth began "Ice Cream Man" solo on acoustic guitar, while telling stories from his pot-smoking, lady-chasing days in the early '70s.

The bottom line, and it ain't hyperbole: on this crisp fall night, Van Halen was, if only for two hours, once again the greatest rock band in the world. And that was the greatest surprise of all.

Here is Van Halen's set list:

"You Really Got Me"
"I'm the One"
"Runnin' With the Devil"
"Romeo Delight"
"Somebody Get Me a Doctor"
"Beautiful Girls"
"Dance the Night Away"
"Everybody Wants Some!!"
"So This Is Love?"
"Mean Street"
"Pretty Woman"
Drum solo
"I'll Wait"
"And the Cradle Will Rock"
"Hot for Teacher"
"Little Dreamer"
"Little Guitars"
"Jamie's Cryin'"
"Ice Cream Man"
Guitar solo
"Ain't Talkin' Bout Love"
"1984" -> "Jump"

Bonus photo: Billboard's own Chris M. Walsh in the MSG will call line with "actor" Ed Burns.

November 14, 2007 in In Concert | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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