Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sonny Landreth - Recorded Live in Lafayette - Electrifying Acoustic Beauty


Recorded Live in Lafayette is Sonny Landreth's first official live release in ten years, and the two CD set is made even more special by being a largely acoustic set, an acoustic set that is also very exciting. In fact, it's electrifying.

I would imagine that most Landreth fans are like myself, and have never had the opportunity to see the acoustic side of Sonny's musical mastery. Everyone knows that it's harder to keep the energy up on an acoustic gig, but it turns out that the true excitement to be found in the Louisiana native's music is in his total sense of commitment to his material.

It's all in the details: his rhythm guitar playing never takes time off, the precision and soulful nature of his rhythms keep you moving in a wonderful way, a way in which it does its job without being showy, but masterful nonetheless; when the accordion comes in for a solo on the set opening "Blues Attack" the band locks into a sophisticated syncopation that allows the solo to fly. Then it's time for Sam Broussard (yes, the same Sam Broussard who along with Sonny created the strings and soundscapes that made Landreth's instrumental album of 2012, Elemental Journey such an incredible record) to take a solo on acoustic guitar, and you instantly see why he's sharing a stage with on of the greatest living guitarists. Now it's time for Landreth to solo, and his pristine playing exhibits why he's one of the most unique and talented guitarists on the planet.


Speaking of the band, you have longtime Landreth collaborator Dave Ranson on the ukulele bass, Brian Brignac and his cajon (the box-shaped percussion instrument from Peru which has become a standard for acoustic performances), Steve Conn on the accordion, and of course, their leader Landreth. There is no question but that it's Landreth's show, but he gives ample room for everyone to display their skills and wares. These fellows move through a career covering set not just playing like their lives depended on it, but also like they are truly listening to each other. Very complex rhythms come across sounding very natural, relaxed, but also very intense.

"Back To Bayou Teche" is a Landreth setlist standard, and this full band, electric rendition is made special by the accordion and the second guitar. Then you have "Brave New Girl" which gets a relatively stripped down treatment from the string and keyboard laden studio version (Elemental Journey album), and it does not suffer from the absence of a more dense arrangement. It is, in fact, elemental and gets down to the basics of the gorgeous composition and the exquisite guitar playing. Mind you, again, the entire band is brilliant, and there are great lessons in what every member is playing.


The production on this set is stunning. Every detail is crystal clear, the tones are sumptuous and corpulent, and the mix is one that would be difficult to improve upon, and that's well worth noting in these days where it is more common to find live releases being tossed out like t-shirts at the merch booth (and with about as much care). No, this sounds like there was much thought to such things as microphone placement, tone tweaking, and once again, some very careful listening and attention to detail.

I'll wrap things up by talking about the reason we're all here, and that is the music, the songs. This is a great career spanning set, ranging from Sonny's 1981 debut album right up to 2015's "Bound By The Blues". If by some crime you've never been on the Sonny Landreth train, this is a great way to climb aboard. The songs have aged beautifully, the playing has only gotten better, and Sonny Landreth and his ace band could not be more on point.

In a time in which we are so often disappointed by the quantity and quality of the goods we're seeing, it's great to know that there are guys like Sonny Landreth, who is doing his absolute best at every turn. He's surrounded himself with excellent collaborators and bandmates, and that it's all being captured and presented in a way which is not just satisfying, but also very exciting.

Find Live In Lafayette here.
https://usa.mascotlabelgroup.com/sonny-landreth/


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo International Forum Hall A - An Instant Classic


This is without a doubt my favorite Schenker outing in decades. Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo International Forum Hall A is going to be very tough to beat as the best live DVD in 2017. It's early in the year, but this is what you call an instant classic, and for all the right reasons.

Michael Schenker has been building on his legend for years now, having left behind the days of a tougher struggle, and now he has finally to my mind once again surrounded himself with a stage full of musicians who are truly up to his game. He's never had a bad band, but that's not the point by a longshot, the point is that this band better suits his songs, his playing, and his temprament at this stage of his life. He plays the gig of a lifetime here, a performance as strong as any he has ever put on, but the beauty is that there is an amazing amount of proper attention to be paid to the whole band, and the whole experience.

The Michael Schenker Fest is a great idea that finds Schenker reunited with the three lead singers who loom largest in his solo history. Gary Barden is from the first iteration of the Michael Schenker Group, and here he seems to be experiencing a return to form that we've been waiting on for many years. He's eased into a lower toned vocal approach, and his husky phrasing and easy stage presence are just as effective as his halcyon era with the band in the early '80s. Next in line is Graham Bonnet, a man who left an indelible mark on Schenker fans with just one album, Assault Attack, in 1982, a record that is still the favorite of many a Schenker fanatic. We waited over three decades to see Graham and Michael smiling at one another onstage, and it was worth the wait. Rounding out the lineup of singers is McAuley/Schenker Group frontman Robin McAuley, who brings his unique set of melodies and still blazing vocal chops to the proceedings, giving the audience yet another flavor of the Schenker legacy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My First Band: Anacrusis 1977



I remember the beginning of Anacrusis much better than the end. I had been hanging out learning to play guitar for a couple of years with a fellow by the name of Wendell Napier. Wendell could player guitar like nobody I had ever met, and to this day I've not played with many musicians who were more natural than he. We had gotten pretty good at playing together, so we decided to form a band and do a show. All in the same week.

We were picking talent from the neighborhood in which we had went to high school, a little part of Dayton, Ohio known as Northridge. We easily figured Mitch Mitchell as our bassist, as he was the only bassist we knew. He had been playing in school variety shows, and local outfits for some time. As for a drummer, we elected Bruce "Smitty" Smith, an unlikely choice given to the fact that Bruce was a probably the least likely candidate we could imagine. Bruce Smith had an intellect, an appetite for learning that was as big as the great outdoors, stood well over six feet, and must have weighed a good deal over two hundred pounds. A large, gentle, intelligent man-child whose tastes for music we imagined must run towards jazz and classical. His glasses stated that this just must be the case. This turned out to be an inspired call, for Bruce could play the drums fantastically. I'm anxious to hear his recollection of how exactly he came to join this motley crew, as I simply don't recall the conversation or the circumstance, but it must have been a doozy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Eric Johnson - Acoustic Brilliance At The Crest Theater In Sacramento


Eric Johnson put on a quietly dazzling show at the Crest Theater in Sacramento, California last night to an adoring audience. It was an excellent turnout for a Tuesday evening, and everyone knew why they were there. No tire kickers, or lookie loos (sorry, I'm just back from the NAMM Show) - no, this crowd knew the man, and knew the music, and that made for a beautiful evening.

EJ is Eric's new acoustic album, and he played most of it and more in two sets stretched over a couple of blissful hours. Eric's easy going demeanor lends itself perfectly to the living room like setting of a chair surrounded by some acoustic guitars, and an electric keyboard a few steps away that allowed him to move easily between them as he casually worked his way through the setlist.

The night was made even more special by my meeting up with Tower Of Power organist/pianist Roger Smith, who when he was twenty years old played with a teenaged Eric Johnson and bassist Roscoe Beck in a band named Blind Mellon, which pre-dated the guitarist's days in the Electromagnets. Roger regaled us with tales of early jams, building their first studio, and even asking Eric's dad permission to take his son out on the road for gigs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Hall Of Heavy Metal History Makes An Auspicious Arrival


The Hall Of Heavy Metal History is based on big dreams. 

Pat Gesualdo dreams big. When he had his own disabilities as a youth, he unwittingly healed himself by retraining his brain synapses through learning how to play the drums, and in the process he discovered a wonderful holistic healing method of drum therapy, which led to him starting a fantastic organization called D.A.D. (Drums Against Disabilities) over twelve years ago.

Utilized by hospitals and health centers  in over fifteen countries around the world, Pat's breakthrough program helps children and adults with Autism, ADHD, Muscular Dystrophy, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, and other disabilities to develop retention, coordination, social skill interaction, sensory integration, fine motor skill, and physical and cognitive function. Pat is also the only person in America who can certify drum therapists.

Not just a world class drummer and philanthropic organizer, Pat is also a huge fan of heavy music and the musicians who make it. Over the last year he conceived and organized the Hall Of Heavy Metal History, which had its first induction on January 18, 2017 at the Anaheim Expo Center during the world renowned NAMM Show. The show was expertly hosted by Eddie Trunk, a man who has done so much to support the genre.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sidemen: Long Road To Glory - Kickstarter Campaign 2017 Begins January 30th (file under: real news)


Friends, I need your help.

On January 30, 2017 a Kickstarter campaign for the blues documentary, Sidemen: Long Road To Glory will be publicly launched. The purpose of this campaign is to raise the funds necessary to pay for the licensing of the music used in the film, in order to get the film into distribution. We need your support to do this, both financially and in other ways, which I will get to shortly.

I have been involved with this great film for almost seven years. The movie is the story of blues legends Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. But, it didn't start that way. It started off as a live concert document, inspired by the likes of The Band and Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz. Unfortunately, there could have been no foreseeing the death of these three gentlemen within eight months of each other in 2011.


This derailed the project in a variety of ways, not the least being the extreme personal burden on director/writer/producer Scott Rosenbaum, who lost not three documentary subjects, but three very dear and close friends with whom he had been traveling, living, and working with for several years. My real involvement with the film really began with a series of conversations, texts, and e-mails between myself and Scott as he worked for almost a year trying to figure out not just what to do with a half finished film, but whether the film should even live on, or be discarded.

Ultimately, it was determined that in tribute to the lives lived by these great men, that their stories must be told, and that the show must go on. I connected Scott with my friend, record producer/bassist Fabrizio Grossi, and together we all worked hard to amass an incredible list of artists willing to be a part of this film. The film segued from live concert document into an incredible telling of three life stories, stories that anyone would love to watch - this is a music documentary, but it is also a very moving tale of humanity that would move any viewer. One that ends not with the deaths of some legends, but with a path and template for both the blues and its players moving forward.

The film is completed, and played very well on the summer film festival circuit, winning many awards, citations, reviews, and accolades. It made it to the finish line, and now it must make it to market, and onto screens.

      

Rock Guitar Daily is something which has been very near and dear to my heart for almost ten years. I've written well over a thousand interviews, reviews, gig reports, and various sundry features - a labor of love by any measure, one that was motivated by my love of music and musicians. I've never sought to monetize this blog, I have only used it to support the music I love, and also to build relationships for myself (both within the industry and with readers, listeners, and other music lovers). It has always been my policy to support what I love, and to avoid negativity. I've found that I do not have the time to support everything I like, so why would I burn up energy and time with things I didn't like? Millions of eyes have read these pages, and hopefully the hundreds of musicians, bands, acts, and artists I've covered have benefitted from the work I have done. With 50,000 regular readers a month, you all can have a huge impact on helping this film come to life!

Now, it is time for me to ask something from you. Of course, the first thing I must ask for is your financial support for this campaign when it begins on January 30, 2017. Let's not try to fool anyone, this is all about raising money to get this film onto screens. This is not just a great film, it's an important film. It gets down to the true grassroots, it's all about the love of this great music, and these great men. Your cash donations will be what takes the movie to the next level. But that's only just the beginning. I'm asking for this support as a friend, not because I feel we are owed anything.

As vitally important as the money is the support you can show for the film and its makers in the way of sharing our message with your social circles. Without you reaching out along with us, we will not be able to make this happen. So, we need your help - a lot of it. Please join our sites on Facebook, Twitter, and share our links and announcements when you see them. One person, one vote? No, much better than that, your voice can reach those we have no access to, and you can help us in a very visceral way make this film happen for the world - your vote can win us hundreds of new friends and supporters that we really need to help this succeed.

Sidemen: Long Road To Glory on Facebook
https://twitter.com/sidemenfilm
http://www.sidemenfilm.com/

The Sidemen: Long Road To Glory Kickstarter campaign goes live on Monday, January 30th. You'll be able to find the campaign via the Kickstarter website (https://www.kickstarter.com), the film's website (http://www.sidemenfilm.com), or on our social media sites (see above).

Our team has developed a wonderful Kickstarter campaign, and we've got some fantastic perks lined up. Original artwork, autographed Custom Build guitars from Thin The Herd Guitars, posters, t-shirts, copies of the movie, and tremendous bundles of packages to reward your kind and generous help.

I'd like to thank each and every one of you reading this in advance for any consideration of help you can give us. Getting this film to market is just the beginning, but it is something we need to make happen before we can move on to the future, and we absolutely cannot do it without your help, and for that help we humbly thank you all.

Tony Conley, Rock Guitar Daily

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Eric Gales - Middle Of The Road - A Preview (it will blow your minds)


Yeah, over the holidays I got a glimpse. A listen to Eric Gales's new album, Middle Of The Road, soon to be released on Mascot Records. Enough to tell you this. For Eric Gales and his audience, this one is a game changer.

Eric Gales breaks it down on this album like he never has, and we have a record that evokes the memories of not just guitar heroes, but of popular music's highest points. Ray Charles. Little Richard. Miles Davis. Stevie Wonder. John Lennon.

What? John Lennon? How's that?

Well, this record is raw. Four on the floor, wall to wall, and straight to the heart. Much like Lennon's Plastic Ono Band album that laid the musician's life out in as plain a language as anyone could imagine, this album tells the truth. Fabrizio Grossi's production is brilliant - sparse and directly in your face, delivering Gale's message, which might be the most important thing about this project. This is about how we live our lives, and what we have to share with one another. A thing called love. And it's wrapped in melody, harmony, and grace.