Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Upcoming New Releases

Looks like it's shaping up to be another great year for new music releases:

Jakob Dylan - Women & Country

The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Mojo

The Dead Weather - Sea Of Cowards

The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang

Court Yard Hounds (2/3 of the Dixie Chicks) - Court Yard Hounds

The National - High Violet

Arcade Fire - TBA

Social Distortion - TBA

The Stooges - Raw Power (Reissue)

The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street (Reissue)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Johnny Cash aka The Man In Black

'Ain't no grave gonna bring me down.' Amen Johnny Cash. If he were still alive, he'd definitely be making music. Even during his final months in 2003, he still pressed on writing and recording songs, despite his wife's June Carter's death that same year. Johnny Cash had possibly the best comeback of any artist in music history. From the 90's onwards, he worked with Rick Rubin to craft the now legendary American Series. In additon, The Unearthed box set makes you realise how creative his last decade of his life was. Not only did he do traditional songs, he also covered songs from different genres, including Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, U2, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Hank Williams and many others. He also worked with some of the best session musicians around, and also used Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers as his backing band on Unchained. And finally not forgetting the duets he did with other great musicians, including Joe Strummer (my favorite Redemption Song), Nick Cave, Carl Perkins, Willie Nelson and Glen Campbell.

Everything Johnny Cash touched became gold. There's just a way about his singing; he takes someone else's song and turns it into his, something that's incredibly hard to achieve in music today. One great example is taking a loud grunge song like Rusty Cage and transforming it into an alt-country sounding song. Believe me, this cover is totally fucking different from the original.

Anyway, his latest posthumous release is perhaps the last in the series, Vol. 6, appropriately titled Ain't No Grave. I was surprised there was still some more stuff in the vault. But this collection of ten songs stands shoulder to shoulder with his previous American releases. I shall not delve into the lyrical and musical content of the songs, but one of the standout tracks is his own interpretation of a bible passage. Seriously, only a person like Johnny Cash can do this. Anyone else singing off from the bible only spells cheesiness.

Personally for me, listening to Johnny Cash is like listening to God; not in the Christian sense, but someone who's been through the worst things imaginable, and has survived to tell the tale.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Update: Hard Rock Calling 2010 Lineup

So after weeks of waiting, Saturday's headliner has finally been announced: the legendary Stevie Wonder is gonna play Hyde Park on his 60th birthday. Though it seems really tempting to travel to UK for this; I'm gonna pass this time. Besides, I've already seen Pearl Jam, Ben Harper, Gaslight Anthem and James Morrison (and why the hell is he playing again???). And I'm sure Sir Paul is not gonna stop touring anytime soon. So hopefully I'll still get my chance to see him, perhaps down under. Looks like it's gonna be another year with very few gigs for me. The only thing to do now is save up and wait for U2 next year!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another fucking great band: Drive-By Truckers

Like so many other great American bands from the 90's and early 00's, it took me a few years before discovering Drive-By Truckers, a Southern Rock outfit hailing from Athens, Georgia. Three albums I bought so far: The Big To-Do (2010), The Dirty South (2004) and Decoration Day (2003). You can really hear the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd influence in the songs, but at the same time it's fresh. Upon further listening (and some reading up), I discovered their style is to use three guitars, or the "three axe attack". Listening to this band makes me happy there's still some pretty fucking good Rock & Roll in the world today.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dinosaur Jr. Gig Review

Seeing the number of Marshall guitar amps on stage, I thought it was gonna be a very loud show. Turned out it wasn't as loud as I'd expect. But still, it was a fun, laid-back performance, full of melodic guitar distortion. There weren't a lot of songs played, and I only recognized one quarter of them. The trio closed the show with a very weird cover of The Cure's Just Like Heaven, kinda like a punk metal version.

Friday, March 12, 2010

iTunes Shopping List

Yay, I finally got to purchase songs from the iTunes Store, with my new 100 bucks gift card!! Thank you Lord!! Seriously, this is the best music shop in the world. So much to choose from, yet so little time. My list so far includes The Gaslight Anthem's early stuff and Ryan Bingham's two albums. I also got the iTunes exclusive Springsteen EPs, Girls In Their Summer Clothes and Wrecking Ball. I honestly believe Wrecking Ball is a great Springsteen song; a very funny but sad tribute to the now former Giants Stadium. Watching that live video certainly got me looking forward to the upcoming WOAD Tour DVD, which is still taking a hell of long time to get released.

Individual songs cost at least .99 cents; finally bought Neil Young's Philadelphia (remember that final scene in the film with the song playing over it?). Speaking of Ol' Neil, his latest live album Dreamin' Man is another fantastic musical journey. All ten songs from Harvest Moon played in front of audiences before its release back in the early 90's. I'm not really a big fan of that album, but listening to those songs in their most stripped down version gave me the goosebumps.

Finally, I just discovered this band from New Orleans; the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band. I couldn't resist getting their new album -- featuring many outstanding musicians and singers playing with the band in their hometown. Most of the songs here are all traditional American tunes, but the band and the singers take 'em to a whole new level, turning them into joyful occasions. This is raw, hot blues and jazz, melting pot of American music. And buying this album also benefits the Preservation Hall Music & Outreach Program.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Weary Kind

And the Best Actor Oscar goes to THE DUDE!!!!
Ok, I admit I haven't seen Crazy Heart yet, but I like the fact that Jeff Bridges is in it, and it has country music written all over it.

The song from the film, The Weary Kind, won the Oscar for Best Original Song. Very simple tune with fine lyrics; the kinda song I've always dreamed about writing. It was written by T-Bone Burnett and this alt-country singer called Ryan Bingham. I only just started listening to his music, but my God, it's really fucking good Americana music. Plus his somewhat ragged voice and southern drawl adds more authenticity to his music. I'm really starting to get back into this fantastic genre of alt-country, thanks to Ryan Bingham.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Long May You Run

Neil Young performs at the Vancouver Winter Olympics closing ceremony.
Another heartbreaking but truly memorable performance by Shakey.