“My mother was a feminist, which makes me not a feminist—that’s a rule of nature, you end up the opposite of your parents—but it’s really frustrating. You get a lot of discrimination from sound guys. I have a lot of gear. I research it, I know how to use it—you have to know how to use it—but they refuse to trust you. They’re like, ‘You don’t know how to use it; you’re a girl.’ I get that maybe one out of every four nights on tour. I’m like, ‘I don’t want to be a feminist, but you’re turning me into one.’”
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American Nomad is a disappointing new disc from live sensations New Primitives, says Dwight Hobbes.
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Homelessness is not what it used to be. Nowadays you can find families with one, two wage earners, some working extra jobs, who simply cannot pay what landlords are charging for rent. Not even at so-called affordable rates. So, people who, before the economy went to hell, managed to make ends meet even if they did have to keep an eye out for the wolf coming down the block, headed for their door, these days have neither a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out.
Which makes producer Tyler Blanski’s compilationThink Out Loud: Music Serving the Homeless in the Twin Cities (Ezekial Records and Creative Group) a recording worth paying attention to. Every dime it brings in, as the liner notes say, goes to those in need. Of course, another reason is the lineup of local heavyweights like Blanksi, Chastity Brown, Cloud Cult, members of Trampled by Turtles, Charlie Parr and more. National artist Pieta Brown’s on board, too. In all, 15 alternative acts weigh in, contributing their chops to the cause. With singer-songwriter-guitarist-arranger Tyler Blanski doing, by far, the lion’s share of the work.
Tyler Blanski is not to the most arresting vocalist in the world or the most interesting lyricist, but does have a nice feel for a laid-back groove. Worthwhile examples are the Cajun-blues spiced “Bourbon” and “Peter Pan,” an intricate piece of somber reflection. An initial inclination is ask what in the holy hell is he doing playing a hillbilly rendition of the Ray Charles classic, “Hallelujah.” Until you remember, Charles started out as a country singer. Amazingly original singer-songwriter, steadily rising star Chastity Brown, who usually plays guitar, switches to piano for “Woke Up This Morning.” It’s characteristic of Brown, mournful without getting maudlin, a beautifully raw-edge ballad that stays with you long after the listening is done. Anyone who dug seminal L.A. rockers Love will perk up their ears to Cloud Cult’s “A Place,” revisiting the heart and mind of Bryan MacLean. It’s an ethereal delight. Pieta Brown coyly intrigues with “King of My Heart,” a quiet cut with her on vocals and guitar accompanied by Don Was (who produced this number) on acoustic bass.
Were it not for a worthy cause, Think Out Loud: Music Serving the Homeless in the Twin Cities still should move you to pony up and reach in your wallet. This is not just a reason to do the right thing. It’s an opportunity to take enjoyable sounds home and give them a good listen.
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Million Dollar Quartet (now playing at the State Theatre) isn’t your run-of-the-mill revue. Granted, it doesn’t have much of a book, but, by the time the evening’s over you don’t mind. At all.
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At only 30 years old, Nico Muhly has accomplished more than any artist can hope to in a lifetime. (In situations like this, it’s better to not compare yourself to him at all.) Accompanying Muhly to form The 802 Tour are fellow prodigies (and, incidentally, good friends) Sam Amidon, Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett, and Nadia Sirota for an exclusive collaboration at the Walker Art Center Friday and Saturday night. Together, their music “blurs the lines between contemporary classical, deeply rooted folk, and modern pop.” As proof of Muhly’s excitement for coming to Minneapolis, he recently tweeted, “My hands always end up smelling like Ethiopian bread, too, a nice side effect.”
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There are a lot of cool things about being Colin Hay, but one of the coolest is the fact that his name is recognized by a whole new generation who may not even realize he was the voice of 80s monster hits like “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Down Under.” Though he still tours occasionally with his band Men at Work, Hay has developed a large and wide-ranging solo catalog that includes the song “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Get Over You,” a favorite from the Garden State soundtrack. Hay is a fine raconteur as well, as he’ll surely demonstrate March 6 at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.
The Small Cities follow their well-received EP debut,The Small Cities, with the full-length With Fire (Princess Records).
The songwriting—mellow rock with an edge to it—is uneven, hitting incredible peaks, slumping at times to pedestrian. The band’s chops, though, consistently kill, including the songs that don’t work, are beautifully produced by Bmoen. There’s a great deal of potential in With Fire. Some of it realized to a tantalizing degree. For instance, “Abraham” and “Home Is Where The Start Is” start things off in a one-two punch that captures your attention right away. They’re both superior, upbeat ballads as suitable to the dance floor as they are to simply hanging around the house, lifting a glass or lighting a bowl and letting them take you into a real relaxed space where you’re content to tap your foot and nod your head along ‘til the cows come home. “Wonder Years” is the same bag, just a bit subdued, strong but subtle. It’d make an excellent single, having radio airplay stamped all over it thanks to a brilliant arrangement.
On the other hand, “Wise Blood” squanders a rousing, funk-tight intro, following it up with artless whining set to a clutter of faux rock. “Hospital” is just plain trite, the only real gaff in the songwriting, marred by self-sorry lyrics (the one song you can hear the words to is a clunky rant from a guy whose busier having a temper tantrum than he is actually worrying about his buddy who’s laid up on an emergency room ward).
The package doesn’t have a lyric sheet (in fact, there’re no songwriting credits). Who’d care except the bits and pieces you can make out are interesting, like, from “Laughter Song,” you’ve got anthemic music evoking strong feeling. And lines like, “It wasn’t a complete disaster…” followed by words you can’t figure out except for “fits of laughter.” You stay with the song, anyway, because it’s got fine, lilting vocals sung over driving drums that could punch a hole in a brick wall and some very smart, lyrical guitar work.
The personnel are Wes Burdine on guitar, keys and vocals, Jimmy Osterhold on bass, Leif Bjornson on vocals and guitar and David Osborn on vocals and drums, collection of very gifted cats. Ultimately, With Fire is well worth taking off the shelf and bringing home with you. Just don’t expect perfection.
“She’s the one who would have taken me to my first all-ages show,” sings Juliana Hatfield in “My Sister” (1993). “It was the Violent Femmes and the Del Fuegos, before they had a record out, before they went gold.” That would have been about 30 years ago now; the Boston garage rockers led by brothers Dan and Warren Zanes started playing together in 1980, hit it beer-commercial big in 1984, and broke up in 1990. Last year the Del Fuegos got back together for the first time since the breakup, and their reunion tour stops at the Varsity Theater on February 28. Catch ‘em while you can.
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There’s a fantastic new Friday option in town for music lovers. The Maxx Band, a group of accomplished and seasoned musicians (and often special guests), has crafted an after-work experience that helps you usher in the weekend with rhythm, blues, rhythm, food, and yes, more rhythm! It’s been too long, in my opinion, since the Twin Cities had a regular, accessible R&B gig. There are a few great places for the bigger, national acts of course, but sometimes, you just want to be able to look forward to hearing consistently good music with a few, great local surprises. Arnellia’s in St. Paul hosts The Maxx Band on Friday nights from 7:30-9:30 p.m., making it a regular gig.
The night I went, Arnellia’s was laid back but decorated for Mardi Gras. When the cover charge kicked it, it was affordable (thus, more happy!) at $5 (cover starts at 6 p.m.). Food is available via a walk-up window, but there’s also a complimentary buffet from 5:30- ‘til it’s gone. The cajun-style buffet featured (red beans and rice, fried chicken, hot wings) was all good. It was nice to get a quick bite before sitting down for a few cocktails (2-for-1 rail drinks from 5-8). A floor for dancing and steppin’ is open throughout the performance and during the breaks.
The Maxx Band came on strong in the first set with fantastic guitar and keyboard features provided by Jeffrey Craig, Vernon Odom, Wendell Anderson, Will Hutchinson. Laurence “Bo” Mack was on drums with percussion-perfect accompaniment. That night, Kendra Glenn sang lead vocals that were so clear, they hung in the air like chandelier crystals! The entire act was tight and worked together highlighting each other’s strengths throughout the performance.
After a strong guitar introduction, the 1st set included “Escapade,” “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” “No One,” which featured a vocal and guitar bridge feature that was piercing and heartfelt, “Candy,” that included a duet highlighting the vocals of Jeffrey Craig, and “Just Got Paid” that wrapped up the set with funk. The second set featured guest vocalist Kevin Jackson. Fantastic! And not that it was needed, but the new energy mix was visible as the band ripped through “Just Be Good,” “Take Your Time,” Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” and more.
Get your groove on and your weekend started by trying this new “later” happy hour that ends in time to either head home and create your own sweet rhythms, or head back out for a little rock-n-roll. A highly recommended way to end the work week and start a fantastically blue weekend.