Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Review: ”The Cut” by George Pelecanos

The Cut

The Cut (Spero Lucas)

There was a rumor going around that George Pelecanos was done with crime fiction. I, for one, am glad he put that rumor soundly away with the writing of The Cut , the first novel in the Spero Lucas (pronounced Spee-row) series. Whether it was the Derek Strange and Terry Quinn novels or stand alones such as Drama City from 2005 Pelecanos brings a certain poetry, a certain literary touch to the crime fiction genre.

The Cut is no exception. Pelecanos understands the genre like Monet understood paint and landscape. He instinctively knows which clichés, which ‘norms’ of the genre will work and which to avoid to maintain that literary height.  First, the ones he uses and uses oh, so well; Spero Lucas is, like many protagonists of crime fiction, a war veteran. He served as a Marine in Iraq and was an obvious man of action choosing to be the first in the door at ‘clearing houses’ in the streets of Fallujah. Secondly, like Sam Spade or Philip Marlow, Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder or Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Spero is a loner.

He also maintains that  ambiguous place between the cops and the criminals and has his own set of values based in common sense and not writ in stone laws. And probably most important, Pelecanos’ subject matter is very socially aware and pertinent in making some social issues a part of the back story i.e. a feeling of detachment of returning vets, how disabled vets get lost in society, the complicated racial relations of our nations capital, which in and of itself is a microcosm of the nation as a whole. Even marijuana laws and the duplicity and corruption of law enforcement lends itself to make the story more than realistic.

After returning from Iraq, Spero wasn’t drawn to college not being able to see himself wearing a suit and tie or bound to a desk and office. He drifted into investigative work employing a keen sense of observation that allowed him to survive the war. He writes and diagrams everything he sees in a moleskin note book or takes endless photos with his iPhone – the new gun for the 21st century detective.

He also does ‘side jobs’ finding lost or stolen property that the official authorities wouldn’t bother to look for or retrieve for the owners. Oft time the owners won’t even report these things because they in themselves may be illegal – unreported income, or a drug stash for instance. He preforms this for the arbitrarily arrived at fee of 40% of the value. Hence the title, The Cut.

George Pelecanos reads from “The Cut” with the Nighthawks providing music.

The clichés he avoids are, endless, senseless violence  that only show how tough the tough guy hero is. Spero comes off as more a thinking mans tough guy with his minute analysis of everything from a street to a crime scene to a legal problem.Yet, there is this quiet sense of menace underneath the skin. And almost a recklessness in his approach at times.

He is also a very good reader of character. The author  avoids the obvious cliché of too cute dialog. In fact I, who loves the one liners, cynicism and sarcasm of Phillip Marlow, was pleasantly amazed that there is no attempt of that forced elements in the book. Instead, the dialog not only drives the character development but the story and plot.

And, if nailing all the other story elements isn’t enough, Pelecanos’ gives a sense of place, Washington DC, that is superb. He takes you through alleys, and down streets, observes buildings, architecture, row houses and school yards, history and the seasons in detail and makes it endlessly interesting. It’s a side of the city you don’t see often in fiction. It’s not a DC of movers and shakers and thousand dollar suits and limos. It’s a city diverse in it’s racial make up, rich in it small bars, night clubs and restaurants. It’s a city of the homeless living in the shadows of our greatest monuments to a promised land. In short, he gives the city to average everyday people. The politicians just work there.

Cardozo High Schhol

A lot of the action and story takes place within sight of Cardozo High School, a school known as Central before Brown vs. Board of Education and after was renamed to Cardozo and became an all-black high school. When it was Central it boasted of graduating J. Edgar Hoover. As Cardozo it graduated Marvin Gaye and Maury Wills. Spero’s brother teaches there, as does the author on occasion. It’s this kind of detail that breathes life into Pelecanos’ writing and into The Cut.

The story line for this first entry into what we can only hope is a long series has Spero finishing a job for a lawyer he works for on a regular basis. Through his observation of the street scene and neighborhood where a couple of black teenagers were arrested for auto theft he discovers that the police had to be lying in their report about what they witnessed to give them probable cause to apprehend the kids, who had ditched the car. This evidence is at best, proof of racial profiling by the police and at worst evidence of a general conspiracy by the police. It gets the charges dropped.

One of the kids father turns out to be a somewhat high level marijuana dealer who is in jail awaiting his own date before the judge.

Anwan Hawkins has a problem. As he awaits trafficking charges in the DC jail, he is still running his marijuana business by proxy through two very young but seemingly trustworthy street kids. He has a sweet deal set up as he is the only one who knows the identity of his supplier and he is FedExing the pot to anonymous houses that are occupied by innocent people. The timing is such that Anwan has his people look for addresses where the occupant isn’t home during delivery times. The addresses chosen are on quiet streets and it is unlikely that anyone will report suspicious activity since the FedEx drivers are watched and the packages picked up off the porch within moments of being delivered.

Here’s the problem. Some one is grabbing the packages of pot before Anwan’s lieutenants can pick them up. He has ‘lost’ two packages, roughly $130,000 per package. Forty percent means to net Spero around $140,000. Spero lays out for Anwan that he won’t participate in any kind of retaliation and Anwan makes it clear he is only interested in recovering the product or the cash. Further, he wants the cash delivered to his ex-wife.  Anwan puts Spero in touch with his seconds on the street.

They’re pot dealers, but basically good kids, early twenties and doing what will make the buck now instead of struggling through colleges where they will have to fight an up hill fight. They also seem to be willing to follow the lead of Anwan, no violence, none of the gangster shoot ‘em up, and no hard drugs.

But some things just don’t add up for Spero as he gets to know intimately the streets where the pot packages were stolen. The residents of the street, their habits, where their kids go to school – same place his brother teaches – and the route of the FedEx driver. He even gets to observe the cop that patrols the neighborhood. As Spero learns these details, we get a glimpse of his life. His veteran friends who he employs on a limited basis to help further his knowledge of the area, his mixed race adopted family, especially with his brother, the teacher. And his love life as he explores a young mans fantasy come true in his easy attraction of various women.

As Spero starts to feel frustration in not being able to get closer to the thieves, he starts to question his ability to do this job as a profession, but then a third package is stolen and Anwan’s lieutenants are found murdered execution style.

Spero follows this only remaining lead and soon comes to suspect a conspiracy that runs deeper than your average drug rip off. And it becomes clear that it could endanger those close to him. His brother, his mother, his various dates and romantic interests, even those he has taken an interest in during the investigation. Then one night an attempt is made on Spero’s life and as he zeros in on those he suspects, he must distance himself from those who could possibly help him.

What Pelecanos’ has done here is to fashion a first class crime story that stands head and shoulders above the genre and contains all the right elements to be considered literary fiction as well as popular fiction. Then he wraps it up as the opening of a series that should keep any reader ecstatic for years to come. It’s a masters hand at work here, and a master that not only knows the craft of writing but the art of life in the heart of America’s capital.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Article first published as Book Review: The Cut by George Pelecanos on Blogcritics.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

CD Review: Cinque “Catch A Corner”


Catch a Corner

New kids on the “jazz” block? Never heard of them? Well think again. Cinque is five heavy hitters laying down a vibe that is both mellow and funky and oh, so welcome.

Cinque may be a Latin word denoting ‘five’ in Italian but the connotation hear is the collective brilliance of Joey DeFrancesco, considered by some to be  the best Hammond B3 player in jazz, Steve Gadd, the first call drummer for such legends as Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Paul Simon and Chick Corea. Then there’s Robi Botos who was Oscar Peterson’s daughter’s piano teacher…at the request of Oscar himself. Botos has tickled the ivories for the likes  of Chaka Khan and James Blood Ulmer. John Johnson is laying down that soulful sax just the way he has for Aretha Franklin, The Queen Of Soul, Dianne Reeves and Diana Krall. We are saving the best for last, which is quite naturally the bass player. Hey, being a bass player, I always say they are the best,but I actually might be on the mark this time. Peter Cardinali is the master of the lowdown on this great album. He also is the producer and arranger and has worked with some monsters of the art. Oscar Peterson, Rick James, The Brecker Brothers, Ray Charles, Toots Thielmans etc…

The tunes? You wanna hear about the tunes? Fine. We have eight tracks of ear candy, six of them, I am told, were written collectively on the fly, in the studio, which CAN happen when you have a bass player in charge, …and you have filled the band with pure genius. And those tunes feel spontaneous, vibrant and alive.

“Bolivia” by Cinque

From the opening, “Conflicting Advice” which contrary to the title, feels anything but conflicting. It’s a funky little, danceable display of what’s to come. The sax led arrangement is airy and open, and Mr. Gadd lays down a solid beat, the piano solo is perfect and the bass, naturally holds down the bottom end with just enough slap and growl. The organ, ahh, the organ. tasty fellers. “Geppetto’s Blues” is as the title would suggest, bluesy and the sax gets low and dirty. “Saturday Night, Sunday Morning” is going to church with a hangover, but you don’t regret it one damn bit.

Then comes “Two Worlds”. This one has a Latin feel to it, as Gadd does all the right things and pulls out some percussion toys. Then comes the title song, “Catch A Corner”, Catch a corner is a euphemism for finding a place to hang out with friends, and that pretty much describes the album. Five guys, relaxed and doing what they do best.

“Over The Humpty Dump” is the last of the one take, recorded live off the floor original tunes. It allows two giants of the keys, albeit on different types of keys, to trade licks but never step on each others, errr….fingers.

They finish the album off with a Cedar Walton tune, “Bolivia” which is a great little tune with a quick little pater rhythm where Gadd and Cardinali really lock on to each other to produce a little magic that only the most in touch drums/bass can do. The last tune is Paul Simons “Still Crazy After All These Years” in a funky little treatment that Paul maybe wouldn’t have envisioned, but but would love.

Do your ears a big favor, go Catch a Corner and kick it with some friends.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Music Review: Dominique Eade and Ran Blake “Whirlpool”


Ran Blake delivers some of the most studied mergers of classical piano technique and performance in a jazz setting that it is hard to understand how he has escaped popular audiences attention. Teamed with the amazing vocal dexterity of vocalist, composer, lyricist and instrumental arranger Dominique Eade Whirlpool is a stunning display of jazz virtuosity. Dominique Eade delivers a vocal master class.

In the late ‘60’s / early ‘70s there was a melding of rock music with jazz, funk and R&B music giving birth to “Fusion” with artists like Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Gary Burton and even jazz luminaries such as Mile’s Davis embracing this melding of styles. Probably the most lasting effect of this marriage of jazz virtuosity and improvisation with rock music was the embrace of electronic instruments such as electric piano and synthesizer as well as effects into the jazz world. Even then, rather than being a codified musical style, fusion can be viewed as a musical tradition or approach.

More than a decade earlier, there was another kind of ‘fusion’ taking place. In 1957 composer Gunther Schuller, during a lecture at Brandeis University described a musical genre which is a synthesis of classical music and jazz. he coined this new genre of music located about halfway between jazz and classical music as “Third Stream”. Probably the most important element of Third Stream was the introduction of jazz-like improvisation into classical music.

Purists on both sides of Third Stream objected to tainting their favorite music with the other, oddly, the most vocal objections were typically made by jazz musicians who felt this was"an assault on their traditions." Schuller writes that "by designating the music as a 'separate, Third Stream,' the other two mainstreams could go about their way unaffected by the attempts at fusion." Because Third Stream draws on classical as much as jazz, it is generally required that composers and performers be proficient in both genres.

Critics have argued that Third Stream—by drawing on two very different styles—dilutes the power of each in combining them. Others reject such notions, and consider Third Stream an interesting musical development. One of these adherents was Ran Blake. And thank the muses for his vision.

Blake’s career has spanned a half century and more since he cut his first album with vocalist Jeanne Lee in 1961 with the ground breaking The Newest Sound Around. Lee was a not a rangy singer with an operatic voice, but like Billy Holiday, she could wring ever single bit of meaning and emotion from a tune. It was a perfect match since Blake, a Schuller mentored pianist,  brought the power of jazz improvisation to the music and was a perfect compliment to Lee’s voice. Since that time, Blake has redefined, or, maybe refined would be closer to the truth, the Third Stream genre. As the New England Entertainment Digest put it a few months back, “[Blake] solo piano language that blends audacious harmonic and rhythmic ideas with gospel-like fervor; a redefinition of "Third Stream" that has effectively globalized his mentor Gunther Schuller's original concept of jazz/classical merger to encompass all cultural sources; and a sonic translation of the expressionistic gestures and subconscious motivations of classic film noir.”

Thirty years or so ago, Blake was teaching at the New England Conservatory  when a young Dominique Eade arrived from Vassar at the Berklee School of Music and first heard Blake play. She was so impressed that she transferred to NEC. She says of Blake, “I was immediately attracted to his molten creativity. As surprising as his music can be, it also somehow felt inevitable." Blake was just as impressed with his soon to become vocal partner, saying that her voice was full of as many surprises as most horn players.


Together it becomes apparent that these two are as in tuned with each other as they are with the music. The harmony between Eade’s voice and Blake deft piano work is awe-inspiring, but it is the way they nail the melody, never gliding through a note and never leaving out a nuance to bring a song alive. Eade is not an actress, delivering a tune as if it was drama, but  her voice strives to be an instrument in that each word is a musical note or phrase, and she brings that to the song in such a satisfying way.

This album will be just as satisfying to the casual listener, who may at first expect that drama; that display of visual virtuosity usually associated with vocalists in this day of MTV and mass market appeal, but once you get over that, you will be hooked.

The student and serious aficionado of jazz also will not want to miss it. You can get Whirlpool at CD Baby starting today.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 24, 2011

PDX Jazz @ The Mission Theater Presents Cuong Vu, October 26


PDX Jazz @ The Mission Theater Presents Cuong Vu, October 26

PDX Jazz Logo Mission Theater KMHD Logo

PDX Jazz @ The Mission Theater Offers $2 Discount

for Trumpeter Cuong Vu and Quartet, Burn List

October 26 @ 8pm


**Name your favorite pho restaurant at the door

and receive a special $2 off promotion**

Cuong Vu

Sideman to the Stars to Make Debut Performance With New Band

PDX Jazz, the presenting organization of the Portland Jazz Festival in partnership with The Mission Theater, along with The Crystal Hotel and our media sponsor KMHD Radio, is set to continue the PDX Jazz @ The Mission Theater series with Cuong Vu on Wednesday, October 26th at 8pm. The world renowned Vietnamese trumpeter will be performing with the Seattle-based quartet, Burn List. Vu and his band will be interviewed live on KMHD Radio this Wednesday, October 26 at 4pm.

Burn List is a new collaboration out of Seattle featuring Vu on trumpet, tenor saxophonist Greg Sinibaldi, keyboardist Aaron Otheim, and drummer Chris Icasiano. The group plays incredibly diverse styles, with influences ranging from Albert Ayler to Aphex Twin and Ligeti to Messhuggah, amongst their many other sounds. Expect a truly unique listening experience.

Cuong Vu's most recent album, Leaps of Faith, was released in February and was met with Vu's customary positive reviews. "Leaps of Faith is a musical paradox, conveying stillness and serenity through blatant expressions of noise. The results are brilliant." - "That the band is able to make so many disparate elements intersect at all, let alone with cohesion and vitality, speak to Vu and the Band's marvelous imagination." - JazzTimes.

Watch Video Featuring Cuong Vu Performing With

the Pat Metheny Group - "The Way Up Tour" (2005)

Trumpeter Cuong Vu and Burn List @ The Mission Theater

October 26 starting at 8 PM

Cuong Vu - trumpet

Greg Sinibaldi - tenor saxophone

Aaron Otheim - keyboard

Chris Icasiano - drums


World Jazz Wednesdays:

October 26 · Cuong Vu · 8pm

"Vu composes and plays a kind of music that is both jazz and not-jazz, post-rock without the pretention, metal without the cookie monster voice. Whatever it is, it's brilliant..."

- Matt Cibula,

November 16 · Miguel Zenón · 8pm

"This young musician [Miguel Zenón] and composer is at once reestablishing the artistic, cultural, and social tradition of jazz while creating an entirely new jazz language for the 21st century."

- MacArthur Foundation, 2008

Final PDX Jazz @ Mission Theater Performance of 2011:

Tuesday, December 13 · George Colligan · 8pm
The New York native, pianist/composer recently joined the music faculty at PSU and
will premiere a program of original works along with performing the music by the iconic pianist, former PSU professor and Blue Note Records recording artist, Andrew Hill. Colligan will be

joined by guest pianist Kerry Politzer, guest guitarist Dan Balmer,

bassist Eric Gruber, and drummer Todd Strait.

Tickets for shows ticketed by Cascade Tickets may be purchased at the

Crystal box office or other McMenamins outlet

(Bagdad Theater, Edgefield, East 19th St. Café in Eugene)

At these locations the convenience charge is only $1.

Or you can order by phone at 1-800-514-ETIX,

or by clicking the "Buy Tickets" link located at the event

listing on the McMenamins schedules.

Tickets are $15 advance/day of show.

*PDX Jazz members will receive a $2 discount at the door

for naming their favorite Pho restaurant. Offer available at the door only*

**reserved seating is available for PDX Jazz members

The Mission Theater is located at

1624 N.W. Glisan, Portland, OR

(503) 223-4527

Located within walking distance of the Mission Theater,

McMenamins Crystal Hotel & Ballroom is ideal for concert-goers

For more info about McMenamins Hotel & Ballroom, visit:

For further information contact

Don Lucoff @

CD Review: “Ballads…Searching for peace” by Michael Pedicin


                                        Ballads. Searching For Peace.

There is a power in beauty, calm moments, elegance. And that is what you will find on this, Michael Pedicin’s tenth disc as a leader. You’ll also find a mastering of the tenor saxophone and a dedication to conveying and creating an emotional mood that is rarely found in the day of ‘soft jazz’.

Ballads. Searching For Peace is seven beautifully rendered tunes, four classic and  timeless numbers; plus two of guitarist John Valentino’s and an original by Pedicin that are destined to become so.

Pedicin tells us that the inspiration for the album is John Coltrane’s 1962 masterpiece Ballads, which in and of itself tells us something about the confidence that Pedicin has in his ability.

True to the spirit of that muse, you’ll find Don Raye and Gene De Paul’s You Don’t Know What Love Is, a song that has a history as crazy as it is beautiful. Written for the 1941 film starring Abbott & Costelo, Keep ‘em Flying, it was eventually cut from the flick. It eventually ended up in Behind the Eight Ball (1942), starring the Ritz Brothers. From its beginnings as an outtake in an A picture and an introduction in a B, both by the same singer, no one could have predicted that in later years the song would emerge as a masterpiece--a jazz standard to be recorded several hundreds of times, starting when Miles Davis and other jazz musicians. And there is a reason. It is simply a marvelous tune. Pedicin opens and closes with some beautiful ornamental free rhythmic styling's that display his virtuosity on his instrument and sets the mood for you, and the album.

Michael Pedicin “You Don’t Know What Love Is”

Next up is guitarist John Valentino’s  Blame It On Your Heart. Fittingly, Valentino plays guitar throughout the album. This is a ballad that will make you want to light some candles, turn the electric lights off, mix your favorite adult beverage and put your arm around that certain someone and watch a sunset.  Next up is hard bop sax player, Hank Mobley’s Home At Last. Mobley’s tone on the sax was never known for it’s aggressiveness, called by Leonard Feather, The Middle Weight Champion of the Tenor Sax, because he fit somewhere between Stan Getz mellowness and Coltrane’s heavy hitting style. The tune is pure silk.

Next up is the other Valentino number represented here, Few Moments which shows Valentino to be as good a composer as he is a guitarist. Virgo is a Wayne Shorter piece that I have always loved. It’s from one of Shorter’s first recordings as a front man for Blue Note in 1964. It’s a rich,  eloquent and gorgeous ballad whose notes convey a soulful beauty and Pedicin performs it true to the original.

Next is Pedicin’s own composition, Tell Me which in it’s title alone alludes to Pedicin’s other line of work. You see, he is also a psychologist. He certainly understand what searching for peace means and he chose here to make the albums title the last tune. It was written by McCoy Tyner it’s a gorgeous ballad and brings the album to a close. But, thanks to the magic of technology, you don’t have to get up and flip the album over to keep the mood alive. Just hit repeat before you light those candles.

M Pedicin images

Michael Pedicin is currently supporting the album release with a tour, check his website for dates.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Saturday, October 22, 2011

CD Review: “Stark” by Cherri Bomb

Cherri Bomb

                                                   Cherri Bomb Stark

They have been hailed as one of the hottest up and coming bands out of Los Angles. Kerrang Magazine called them “10 New Bands You Must See”. They are hard rockers, in your face, they had the music media industry falling over themselves on the recent European Festival tour. And they are one of the youngest bands on the scene.

Did I mention they are an all girl band? Sure, it’s been done before. The Runaways, with Joan Jett comes to mind right away. And in many ways Cherri Bomb share a similar music approach. And, it might be mentioned that the song that first set the young crowds on fire from the Runaways was titled, Cheery Bomb. Of course, The Runaways were originally a power trio and Cherri Bomb are a quartet. Julia Pierce, lead singer and guitarist , Nia Lovelis – the fearless, hard-hitting drummer, Rena Lovelis, Nia's younger sister on the bass, and Miranda Miller on keys, guitar and vocal harmonies. Together, they are an exciting band channeling punk, hard rock, and just enough pop to grab the attention of the DJs and radio listener.

Cherri Bomb “The Pretender from Stark the debut EP”

Fresh off that European tour I mentioned above, they have released Stark their debut EP, released on Oct 18, here in the states. It’s a helluva an intro for a band we can only hope to hear more from.

Don’t think these ladies are riding the wave of the novelty of an all girl band to the top. They are amazingly musical, creative and you have to love their originals as well as the covers. They open with the hard driving, loud “Mirror Mirror” then comes one of my favorites, “Already Dead” which opens with a shuffle rhythm in stop time before the vocals kick in amongst the distorted guitars. Kind of reminds you a a Joan Jett tune. It’s an ode to love that is “Already dead..” then comes a no hold barred, wide open drag race into “Let It Go”. There are some good lyrics here, and the tune should get the attention of the FM Radio crowd. Great guitar work here that just soars. then comes one of the more head banging tunes on the EP, “Spin” had the mosh pit over flowing at the U.K.’s Sonisphere. This is another that is ‘single’ ready.

This impressive debut ends up with a cover of The Foo Fighters “The Pretender” which I am afraid to say, they made their own. The keyboard intro is nice, the vocals scream, and the guitar hook is well done. I’ve included the official video above.

I have a feeling these girls are going to go far, and Hollywood Records hit a homerun by grabbing them up. They’ll soon be back in L.A. to cut a full length LP for 2012 debut. mean time, get this EP and follow along at their website.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

I think we’re

Friday, October 21, 2011

Music Tour News: Kinky Friedman announces Hanukkah U.S. tour 2011

Kinky F

The Jewish troubadour: lighting candles for America, city by city.

AUSTIN, Texas - The Kinkster is back on the road this holiday season
with his Hanukkah Tour of 2011. Taking time off from finishing up a
book with Billy Bob Thornton and formulating one with Willie Nelson,
Kinky Friedman will visit 14 cities in the Midwest, West and
Southwest, starting November 29. In addition, the tour is bookended
with two fundraisers in Salado, TX, for the Utopia Animal Rescue
Ranch, one on November 26th featuring BJ Thomas (with Kinky as host),
and the other on December 17 with Rodney Crowell and Billy Joe Shaver
(Kinky will perform a full show on this one).

Like any good Jewish troubadour, Kinky will be selling his latest
books, hawking hilarious new tour posters and touting the impending
arrival of the kinkiest of new Kinky products, high-grade, top-shelf
tequila. Perhaps more importantly, Kinky is finally stepping into the
21st century with the ultra new Kinky Nano, which contains more than
200 of his songs, as well as snatches from his extraordinary live
performances. He will also have with him the just-as-exciting Kinky
Jump Drive, which holds three complete Kinky Friedman audio books (all
read by Kinky himself). Kinky fans well know of Kinky's abhorrence of
computers and the Internet - yes, he still writes on a portable
typewriter - but he has firmly committed to co-existing with the 21st
century. For those who, like the Kinkster, still prefer curling up
with a real book, Kinky will also be carrying . . . real books.

Kinky Friedman

To promote and celebrate Hanukkah, the tour, and all these new
products, look for a new Kinky "single" to be released to radio in
front of the holidays, a hysterical and poignant reading from one of
the audio books. As he has proven with recent such releases, radio
listeners still love a good laugh every now and then. And, with Kinky
doing the reading, it's all music to the ears.

On the tour, Kinky will be performing solo, singing all the tunes for
which he is famed, including "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus
Anymore," and "Ride 'Em Jewboy," and, naturally, he will continue his
long-running commentary on current politics and the state of the
union, as well as give a book reading. An official signing party will
occur after each performance. Kinky vows he "will sign anything but
bad legislation." Test him on this.

As thousand of folks have discovered or rediscovered over his last
tours, Kinky Friedman is the real deal, an amazing performer, and one
of America's brightest literary lights. Kinky Friedman is the
troubadour of our times.
The dates:
Tues., Nov. 29 FORT WORTH, TX The Aardvark
Wed., Nov. 30 MEMPHIS, TN Memphis Studios; fundraiser for Folk Alliance
Thurs., Dec. 1 KANSAS City, MO Knuckleheads
Fri., Dec. 2 ST. LOUIS, MO Off Broadway
Sat., Dec. 3 MINNEAPOLIS, MN 400 Bar
Sun., Dec. 4 OKLAHOMA CITY, OK The Blue Door
Mon., Dec. 5 TULSA, OK Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame; fundraiser for Hall of Fame
Sun., Dec. 6 DES MOINES, IA Vaudeville Mews
Tues., Dec. 8 DENVER, CO Oriental Theater
Wed., Dec. 9 TUCSON, AZ Plush
Thurs., Dec. 10 SANTA FE, NM Santa Fe Sol Live (T)
Fri., Dec. 11 ASPEN, CO Belly Up
Sun., Dec. 13 HOUSTON, TX Mucky Duck


For further info on the Kinky Friedman Hanukkah Tour contact:
Cary Baker Conqueroo (323) 656-1600


The Dirty Lowdown

Thursday, October 20, 2011

CD Review: “Just As I Am’ by Sandy Carroll


                                                   Just As I Am

Jim Gaines has got a lot more going for himself than a bunch of Grammy’s for his engineering and production. He even has a lot more going on than a career spent shaping the sound of legends like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Buddy Guy, Santana, George Throughgood, Herbie Hancock, The Blues Travelers and Huey Lewis.

Maybe his biggest accomplishment was landing Sandy Carroll for a wife. And proving you can mix (pun intended) business with pleasure he produced this fine album of contemporary blues, mostly penned by his wife, and featuring her deep soulful southern kissed voice along with a virtual who’s-who of first call  musicians.

By the way, if the title of the album, Just As I Am sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the tune was made popular by the late, great Luther Allison and written by Carroll, Luther Allison and James Solberg. Carroll had a long professional relationship with Allison (and many more huge blues stars such as Albert King and Reba Russell) during her time as a preeminent contemporary blues song writer. The tune closes out the album and is a touching, tender blues ballad given here a pinch of Louisiana country flavor.


But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, the album is packed with great tunes. From the opening “Blessed Be” which, as the title might confer, is marinated in a Gospel feeling, complete with harmonies that are choir like in a song Carroll says is “a song of gratitude. Even with the blues, there is always something to be thankful for.” Track two, “Help Mother Nature” at first has this same feeling with a pinch of Cajun country tossed in the pot, but listen to the lyric.The music maybe similar, but the song is a comedic, tongue in cheek take on the aging process. Think of it as a love song for liposuction.

Track three, “Heart Fixin’ Man” is a straight ahead blues rocker with some nice organ work and one of my favorites. “Waitin’ for The Storm” is a slow, Chicago feeling blues, complete with a great guitar solo. It’s a relationship song, where you can just feel one of you are just about to rain all over the other. It’s another that’s going to get a lot of air play. “Romeo and Juliet” is a retro feeling tune about young love and has a flavor that will appeal to the FM disc jockeys.

“Running Out Of Grace” is a funky, R&B influenced rocker and “Slow Kisses” is a fun little piano teaser that almost feels like a Randy Newman tune. Then we slide into one of the funkiest tunes on the album, “Messin With Me” which has great up tempo dance beat and some nice guitar, soaked in tasteful effects.

“Baby Comin’ Home” is the last track before the wrap on the title tune. It’s got a kind of zydeco/country feel in this tune about the prodigal girl friend returning after sowing a few wild oats.

All in all, a fun disc showcasing Sandy Carroll’s song writing, bluesy pipes and touch on the piano. throw this in the middle of your mix and have a little fun.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CD Review: “Evening” by Sugar Ray & the Bluetones

Sugar Ray_Evening

“I Was Reading About The Evils Of Hard Drinking, I’m Just Going To Have To Give Up Reading”

What’s a Connecticut Yankee to do when your father’s a voice teacher and your mothers a jazz singer? Well, you become a monster with a blues harp, and one of the baddest blues singers on the planet of course!

From a high school blues band caller Linseed Sam and the Oilers to seven fruitful years fronting Roomful of Blues, with stops in between sharing stages with the likes of Pinetop Perkins, Ronnie Earl, Otis Grand, Big Walter Horton, Ann Peebles, Duke Robillard and Sax Gordon. And side trips for Grammy nominations with harp legends James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite and Bill Branch – Superharps, “Best Traditional Blues” 1999. Sugar Ray Norcia is now back with his band, The Bluetones and still touring the world.

Sugar Ray & the Bluetones - Evening brings the band back into the studio, “Monster” Mike Welch – Guitar, Neil Gouvin – drums, the killer bassist Michael “Mudcat” Ward and Anthony Geraci on piano, led by Sugar Ray of course, have cut an album in the old fashioned way. It has a live feel and it’s obvious that the band is so comfortable together that most cuts were done with no charts, and in one take.


Sugar Ray “The Last Blues Song”

What an album it is, consisting of mostly originals but stopping to visit some old favorites. Opening the set is a great cover of Johnny Young’s I’m having A Ball. The Willie Dixon tune, made famous by Otis Rush, You Know My Love is a favorite in concerts. And the blues ballad treatment of the title track, Evening by the great Song Writer Hall Of Fame duo of Mitchell Parish and Harry White may just be the highlight of the album, Rays voice is a slow grinding caress, and ‘Monster’ Mike plays some guitar for the ages on this soulful tune, but…Sugar Ray banner

…. it’s the great original blues tunes that keep drawing the crowds in Europe and America whenever Sugar Ray shows up. Songs like the slow talking blues, Too Many Rules and Regulations – maybe my favorite tune, it’s a playful and comedic take on getting’ old in todays world. The piano is just so sweet on this one. And then there is country blues, Dear John, soaked in reverb and a guitar hook that holds the line as Sugar Ray preaches the blues on the harp.

I Like What You Got will take you back to the ‘50s blues rockers and ‘Monster Mike’ earns his moniker on that telecaster guitar. There’s a tune that closes out the album, XO, is an instrumental that not only gives you am hug and a kiss to send you home, but allows the band to really shine and show off just how tight, together they are on this, their fifth release from Severn Records.

Sugar ray &the Bluetones are currently playing date in in New England, here’s some dates, but check Severn Records website for updates:


Sat 10/22/11
Cambridge, MA
The Regatta Bar - Sugar Ray and the Bluetones CD Release Party special guest Darrell Nulisch

Sun 10/23/11
Shirley, MA

Sat 11/12/11
Woonsocket, RI
Chan’s- Special guest with Lori Urso

Sat 02/25/12
Framingham, MA
Amazing Things Art Center


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Book Review; “A Black Girls Poetry For The World” by Kimberly Larocca

A Black Girls Poetry

                              A Black Girls Poetry For the World (Volume 1)

Poetry can be an intense and deeply personal art form. It can celebrate nature, the human condition, love, loss and almost anything in the human imagination. It can be high and lofty and full of flowery language, or it can be as simple as a tear drop, a laugh, a quiet smile.

Kimberly LaRocca’s very touching, insightful book of poetry is all of that and more. It’s a celebration of love, desire, anger, need and many more thoughts and feelings that we all may experience in a single day of living. Yet, it feels a lifetimes worth of soulful expression.

I read these poems over two nights….the first time. Then I reread them over the past two weeks as I found them drifting into my thoughts during the day and felt a need to revisit them.

I needed to make sure I wasn’t forgetting a line, or remembering it incorrectly. I needed to see if that was what the author, the poet meant. Whether I was interpreting it correctly. Then I realized, that  you really couldn’t misunderstand them, that they were personal, yet universal,  and allowed the reader to let them translate themselves. A Black Girls Poetry For the World . Really, it is simply Poetry For The World, simple and elegant, reflecting on love and desire and harsh reality. Melancholy and joy, laughter and tears. A days  journey, a years journey and all the emotion, large and small.

This isn’t the clever language of Shakespeare, or even the lofty words of Frost. This is thoughts and feelings in words we might speak to each other, but with a deeper meaning than we ever do. LaRocca bares her soul, and by doing so bares ours. She shows us her pain, her joy, her love and shows us our own.

Maybe that is what poetry is supposed to be. Poetry is what happens when nothing else can. Poetry is what happens when life happens and LaRocca understands that and conveys it to us so very well.

The Dirty Lowdown

Article first published as Book Review: A Black Girls Poetry For The World by Kimberly Larocca on Blogcritics.

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

CD Review: ‘Live At Scullers Jazz Club’ by Yoko Miwa Trio


Lately I find myself wishing I had made the decision to attend The Berklee School of Music instead of studying computer science and engineering. Of course, if I had I’d not be writing this blog, but looking for a ten year old to show me how to turn on the computer. But lately I have had the good luck to discover some marvelous musicians, from many facets of music, that are Berklee grads and instructors.

The beauty, and indeed, attraction of this, Miwa’s fifth release, Yoko Miwa Trio- Live At Scullers Jazz Club, is in it’s masterful execution and conception. It’s mood firmly planted in traditional post bop jazz, while acknowledging it’s debt to the standards – the blues (Art Farmers minor blues signature tune, Mox Nix), samba (The Brazilian guitarist, Milton Nascimento’s A Festa) and jazz-pop (Steve Allen’s This Could Be The Start Of Something). But then…

Staying within that same atmosphere of acoustic piano/bass/drums with long time collaborators, Greg Loughman (bass) and Scott Goulding (drums), she covers some unusual ground. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith hard rock fame has his Season Of Wither transposed into an evocative jazz ballad that sounds, in Miwa’s hands, as if it was written for jazz trio. I could listen to her treatment of this tune for hours on end.

“Season Of Wither” Yoko Miwa Trio

Another dip into the “popular” music world is Lou Reed’s Who Loves the Sun which gets an almost classical performance treatment. The tune is lyrical as the tempo moves around and the arrangement explores all the emotion of the words Lou Reed and Velvet Underground put into it the song so long ago. Her piano work is both  impressive and daring and her interpretation, again, makes the song at home in the jazz world.

If this broad spectrum of the music world is not enough, Miwa includes three originals that seem to bring these disparate worlds together. Mr. B.G. is a tribute to the hard bop pianist and composer, Benny Green. And, as to be expected, the song is both playful, funky and exceptional. Wheel Of Life is a circular in form piece that is almost wily in its simplicity seeming to go from calm to chaos and back again. Much as the title suggests.Then comes the introspective Silent Promise, which reminds me of a rainy day in its melancholy. Make yourself a cup of tea and watch the rain fall, calm in your self assurance that you can keep that Silent Promise. Yoko Miwa is not just a masterful performer but a modern jazz composer to be reckoned with.

The three originals expertly tie the jazz tributes together with the daring and new treatments of the Tyler and Reed tunes and I’m not sure I’ve heard it done so well before.Yoko Miwa Trio

Yoko Miwa has previously released four discs on Japanese labels over the past decade and she has been wowing jazz fans in Boston and gaining a large following while perfecting her voice and expression with the trio. It shows as they exhibit all the makings of one of the Best Jazz Acts in America today. You can check her tour schedule and don’t miss her if you are in NY on Friday, she’ll be celebrating the CD release at Miles Café (aka Somethin’ Jazz Club). If you can’t catch her live, or indeed even if you can, you’ll want to pickup the CD which is available at CD Baby as of today, Tuesday the 18th.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review: “Power Ballads” by Will Boast

Power Ballads

                                   Power Ballads (Iowa Short Fiction Award)

Did you ever yearn for life as a musician? Ecstatic fans, groupie falling all over themselves, roadies jumping and a fetching to serve your genius and record companies lining up to sign you to the deal of a life time?

Then read this book because that isn’t how it goes. Will Boast, winner of the prestigious Iowa Short Fiction Award, bestowed on a first time author for short fiction by the Iowa Writers Workshop has written a collection of stories that are powerful, moving and explore the real life of a musician. From the moment you are bitten by the muse, to that moment you first play in public. From your first paying gig, to the  ego of the other players that will compliment your life.

The stories also explore the complications a musicians life takes on with relationships, romance, his own ego and priorities. The necessity of ‘selling out’ to pay the rent. It’s all here, from the hotel barroom gigs to the stadiums, the sound studios of legendary status to sleeping in your practice space. And underneath it all, like the steady thrum of a bass, is the muse, the ‘high’, the addiction of your need to play music.

The stories read with a rhythm worthy of a great piece of music. The pace, collectively and individually is that of a symphony. Thought provoking, emotionally moving bring tears of loss and joyful laughs the next moment. The stories and the plot – all fiction must have a plot – seem to write themselves. They don’t seem contrived or made up, but pulled from the lives of real road worn musicians. And the characters, ah the characters. I know these guys. I have shaken my head at some of them and punched out others. I have high-fived them on dive-bar stage, and bought them drinks at the Ramada Inn at 2 am. I’ve sabotaged their gear and sat in awe of what they could do with a piece of wood or brass.

Power Ballads is a keeper, so treat it well when you receive it. you’ll want to pull this one down from the shelf over and over again and revisit it from time to time.

Will Boast

Will Boast is an Englishman who grew up in Ireland and Wisconsin, and I have a feeling, knew some musicians. He has a wonderful eye for detail in his stories which have graced the pages of such publications as Best New American Voices 2009, Narrative, Glimmer Train, The Southern Review, The American Scholar, and Five Points and the way he writes he his fated to grace the pages of even more. Until 2010 he was a Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford University and by now he is back in England as the Charles Pick Fellow at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, not far from the  cottage I lived in back in the ‘70s. Rumor has it that he is currently working on a novel and a memoir, so write down his name, you will want to remember it.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Article first published as Book Review: Power Ballads by Will Boast on Blogcritics.

Music Review: “The Surrounding Hours” by The GoldRoom

Cover Art Square

Rock music with a twist. I put this on while I was in my basement, packing up old books. The light down there hasn’t worked in awhile, so it is dark, damp and smells of rats nests. Spider webs in your hair is a given. What’s that rustling in the corner?  Is that an extension cord I left lying around when this was my work shop, or has a snake come out of the woods to hibernate? You could grow mushrooms down here.


That sound… It’s organic, disturbing and delightful. It’s both melodic and discordant and stands with anything so far from Green Day.This band is aggressive, loud (the amps are at 11, never fear) and packed with talent. Hailing from Nashville, these guys play hard rock in the Indie style so reminiscent of the early ‘90s. Shane Ball, Darin Ledford, Kevin Torbett and Joey Campbell are The GoldRoom and they write lyrics that are both angry and pleading, dark and as rough around the edges as the sound they incorporate into the music itself. “Es Verdad” is one of my favorites and probably comes under the heading of hard  pop. “My Darling” is another favorite with it’s almost tribal, hypnotic delivery as they work their selves around an ascending scale that seems like it is clawing its way out of the damp earth only to find it was more comfortable residing in that cave, that grave.

“My Darlin”g Performed by The GoldRoom

It’s visceral, its dark, their reality whistles a different tune. Time and space are wadded up like old gym socks.There is a light inside their music, but it is a far cry from the light that we all know and love... it is the light by which the reaper reads his list, it is a sound that says wake up there is a monster under your bed. And it is addictive. Give ‘em a listen. But stay out of basements when you do.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Music Review: Lira–new EP Available Now

Lira EP


She’s the top selling musical artist in Africa and was recently featured on African Idol (the equivalent of American Idol). She possesses a voice that is soulful, jazzy and stands on the ladder with the best of the Pop- R&B world. And she is about to come to the U.S. with a tour schedule for February.

Lira–Feel Good

Her voice and delivery reminds me of one of my favorite modern jazz vocalists, Randy Crawford of “Street Life” fame. What’s more her music is pertinent and has a social awareness that makes it even better.Not just a pop songstress but a voice for the world as well as her home. Listen to “Rise Again” and you’ll see what I mean:

Lira “Rise Again”

You can get the EP here: Lira and The full length 14 song album, Rise Again will be released January 31st.  I have listened to the album, before final mastering and it is just out of this world, so put it on your calendar and go up and click “Follow” or sign up for the Email notifications and you’ll hear it here, first.

I’ll keep you informed of concert dates and venues as well. This lady just knocks me out, and I am told – or perhaps enticed – that she’ll be playing Portland in February…that’s…

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved