Archive for the ‘otherside of country’ Category

Everything You Need To Know – The Don Passman Interview

November 18, 2009

Written By: Jeff Markunas
(Americana/Country Editor)

Donald S. Passman’s ‘All You Need To Know About The Music Business.’

Musicians hate to read music, let alone books about music or the music business, so listen up, Dude – Unless you are 150% certain that you will never leave the basement, never perform for pay, never distribute your music in any way and never be heard by anybody but your girlfriend and your Mother – You Need This Book!
If you have any involvement in the music business or even any interest in it – Read This Book!

Any market-place/business can only run smoothly when everyone is fully aware of the rules and is playing by them. We musicians have a tendency to play first and ask questions later. But… conducting any business without knowing the vital information in ‘All You Need To Know About The Music Business’ is like playing in the NFL without your helmet – you’re going to get hurt.

The book is now in its eighth edition and I have used information in previous editions to guide me and prevent many costly mistakes, so I know personally how valuable the information contained here is.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to talk to Don in person to gather background for this review. Our discussion focused on several areas, one of which was the evolution/revolution in digital rights and its associated issues. This area was one of the reasons for this edition as well as various industry and legal changes. Don is committed to keeping his book and information as timely as possible, which becomes increasingly important in a digital age, when losing control of your ‘Bits’ can come back to ‘Byte’ you. – Use his experience and make it your own.

As for timeless advice, Don reminded me/us to “Be careful what you sign” – simple but truer than ever. Industry giants such as John Fogerty and Prince have lived to regret contracts signed in haste. You don’t have to be small to be screwed by the ‘Biz,’ you only have to be uninformed – Buy this book!

Rock Bottom Line:
Philosophically, I like to think of the Music Business as a battle fought on a world-wide stage with a hell of a theme song that sounds like all the musicians on the planet playing and singing at one time. Realistically, educate and inform yourself – knowledge is power, and it makes pretty good battle armor too.

CWG Rating – 4 Guns

Lynyrd Skynyrd – God & Guns

November 15, 2009
 Lynyrd Skynyrd - God & Guns

Written By: Jeff Markunas
(Americana/Country Editor)

Label: Roadrunner – Rating:

You know ‘em, You love ‘em – Ladies and Gentlemen, Lynyrd Skynyrd!

Yes they may be older, grayer, thinner on top and thicker in the middle, but they can still ROCK. There comes a time in life when that gets hard to do (personal experience); the road is a long and weary grind intended for the young and foolish, not the young- at –heart…

Even stars as meteorically famous as the Stones have been know to hit the wall. Skynyrd has weathered (literally) crash and burn tragedies and managed to emerge, if not unscathed, at least determined to keep on keeping on. At this point in their life/career even a mediocre album would be a triumph.

Fortunately for both you and me, this album aims, shoots and scores – the best metaphoric use of a Gun and the most practical use of an electric guitar I’ve heard as of lately. Listen to the strong performances on “Still Unbroken,” “Skynyrd Nation” (Thank God for Les Pauls and Gibson Explorers) and “Comin’ Back For More.” Skynyrd may not be as intricate as the famous 3 guitar attack of the past, but they rock with an extremely mature sense of power that only experience can bring. These guys ain’t no beginners so they have the experience to play up their strengths and blur their flaws.

Overall, God & Guns is a prime example of old school Southern Rock craftsmanship as smooth and sweet as Southern Comfort but… JOHNNY – Lighten up, Dude! Since my last column I’ve decided to ‘dispense’ with dispensing free advice, so Johnny – I’ll be billing you.

I’ve spent a lifetime challenging all comers to “out cynic” me, so listen up: Nobody is trying to take your Gun or your God! We all became musicians for only one fundamental reason – The Music – everything else will pass. Politics and Times change, only Music remains so all YOU have to do is Keep On Rockin’.

Rock Bottom Line:
True Masters of their genre, proving their merit and their grit, marred only slightly by pop philosophy and politics.

Overall it’s good to have the boys back in town!

CWG Rating: 3.5 Guns

Lyle Lovett – Natural Forces

November 7, 2009
 Lyle Lovett - Natural Forces

Written By: Jeff Markunas
(Americana/Country Editor)

Label: Lost Highway – Rating:

The most frustrating thing about sitting in the Reviewer’s chair rather than the Producer’s chair is that I can’t pull down the master fader, leave the control room, walk into the studio and take care of business.

Reviewers can only deal with the horrible aftermath of a musical meltdown – Producers can grab the offending musician by the collar while yelling in his ear – GET OUT or I’ll call your mother and have her play guitar on this album – you stupid – no talent, S.O.B!!!!! And judging by what crosses my desk, musicians who think they have talent, but don’t, are like sand in the Sahara.

What keeps me in my chair are the Lyle Lovett’s of the musical world. The true, working-man, professionals who buckle down and get the job done with great form and style.

Listen to “(keep it in your) Pantry” for a start, an old school romp that takes it back to a great night at the Opry, or old time Country radio, when even the commercials were great songs. Pay close attention to the band that swings in and out with perfect timing and exquisite sound, as if they were a seven headed, one-man band playing with one heart, one mind and one pair of hands.

Lyle has a superb talent for crafting a song the way a master mason might build a cathedral. One perfectly cut note placed after another that crescendos into a five minute master built song. “Bohemia” fits this blueprint like the perfect church spire.
And then he has musical characters like Farmer Brown, who inhabit his songs, but can’t move to the city for fear of exposure.

Perfection and an incredibly droll sense of humor – not your average pompadour with a guitar.

Alright – you knew it was coming – I’d rather be tied up, gagged, hung upside down in the worst sewer of the 3rd world and left for dead then to ever listen to a ballad (just a small personal quirk.) However, Lyle is a Balladeer of the first water, who makes pathos seem totally natural and appealing. Although to me, one Ballad is twelve too many, a couple more medium and up-tempo tunes probably couldn’t have hurt.

Rock Bottom Line
A true Talent in top form backed by giant size musicians and besides some people like Ballads.

CWG Rating – 3.5 Guns

Blackberry Smoke – Little Piece Of Dixie

October 13, 2009
blackberry smoke

Written By: Jeff Markunas
(Americana/Country Editor)

Label: Adrenaline – Rating:

I wish I could take my Tele, slip into the Blackberry backline, plug into a nice Fender Blackface and jam with these guys for a week before they realized they had another guitar player.

I know these guys up, down and inside out. To me this IS Mom, Apple Pie and COUNTRY MUSIC!

It should be obvious at this point that I like this band… Your question is, “What’s in it for me?” Well as Blackberry Smoke would say themselves there’s a “Good One Comin’,” which is the opening cut on Little Piece of Dixie, and a true shit kickin’ country rave-up. Think .38 Special crossed with Travis Tritt. 
This album is bursting with unequal parts of Testosterone, wailing guitars, smoking vocals and clever lyrics, which as everyone knows, is the secret formula for great country/rock music.

Imagine taking a swig from an ice-cold, long-neck covered in condensation on a hot summer day and then rolling the bottle across your forehead while listening to “Up in Smoke” – It don’t get no better. Hell, even the ballads like “Who invented The Wheel” kick ass.

Other stand-out cuts include, “Freedom Song,” “Shake Your Magnolia” and “Like I Am.”

Rock Bottom Line:
Any genius at work here? Any new musical ground broken that will change the face of Country? Any radical instrumentation or incredible production values?

The answer to all the above is – NO. 
Blackberry Smoke promised a “Little Piece Of Dixie” and they delivered. Dead on Southern Rock cleverly voiced and muscularly delivered. Prepare to meet your new favorite Southern Rock Band.

CWG Rating – 3.5 Guns

Uncle Kracker – Happy Hour

October 1, 2009
uncle kracker happy hour

Written By: Jeff Markunas
(Americana/Country Editor)

Label: Atlantic – Rating:

If somebody has invented a better job than “Rock Star” I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT!

Rock stars come in two basic incarnations – The ‘I’m Famous, please notice me, as I have some groupies and trash my hotel room,’ or The ‘Strap on the guitars, fire up the amps, lay down the beat on the double bass, and Let’s Rock-type.’

The Midwest is particularly fertile ground for producing the latter.

Bob Seeger and John Mellencamp long ago cut a path out of the cornfields and car factories to arena stages world wide. Uncle Kracker is the Midwest’s current great rock hope and carries the torch quite well.

Now some might say that U.K. is a Country Artist, but experience tells us that hangin’ with Kid Rock and Kenny Chesney changed that. Kid and especially Kenny are to Country what a Bentley is to a NASCAR winner’s circle.

Everyone knows that Country and Rock grew up together, and like fraternal twins, they’re sometimes very hard to separate or tell apart. I like the feel and the sensibilities of Happy Hour – it rocks with out screaming in your face.
The production values are extremely sophisticated, and there’s a lot going on in the background, but it never detracts from Kracker’s even-and-steady performance.

A picker will have a great appreciation for what’s going on here. The average listener will only be aware of a comfortable and satisfying performance. Lyrically, Uncle Kracker reminds us that although Americans can be badly bent, they can never be broken. 
Like, “Take my house ,Take my car but you can’t take my seat at the corner bar,” from “Corner Bar.”

Yes, these are hard times in the Heartland, but fortunately you can’t stop the heart of Rock and Roll from beatin’ – that’s a good thing for all of us!

Rock Bottom Line:
Steady, in-the-pocket performance, every song hits its mark. Bull’s-eye, not Bullshit.

CWG Rating – 4 Guns