Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: “Sticks & Stones” by K.J. Larsen

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones: A Cat DeLuca Mystery (Cat Deluca Mysteries)

Like Stephanie Plum on steroids. Catarina “Cat” DeLuca is on a wild and funny ride from the opening sentence. After a short lived marriage to a serial cheater Cat establishes Pants On Fire Detective Agency where she specializes in getting the goods on wayward spouses. Or, as her momma puts it, she’s a “hoochie stalker”. And she is good at it. She scales balconies, and teeters out side hotel windows to capture the Kodak Moment.

In Sticks and Stones, the follow up to Liar, Liar: A Cat DeLuca Mystery, Cat has just solved the case of the cheating husband of Cleo Jones who has become a de facto partner. Losing Walter was no loss, and Cleo had the satisfaction of filling his butt full of buck shot when they parted. But Cleo has her eyes on more than divorce court when it comes to Walter who has skipped out with Cleo’s treasured dog, her money , her clothes and worst of all Cleo’s sister, “the Ho”.

When Cleo shows up at the office driving Walter’s Corvette, Cat reluctantly agrees to help Cleo pack up some of her furniture and belongings while Walter and The Ho sister are out. Once they arrive at Walters hide out apartment, Cleo grabs her dog, her clothes, a prized Tiffany Lamp, and a designer bag full of money. Switching back to Cleo’s Camry, because it’ll carry more swag than the Vette, Cat and Cleo discover that the dog is coated in blood. Back inside they find Walter, dead.

When Cat calls the cops, they naturally suspect Cleo, and Cleo obligingly was caught on surveillance tape detailing how she was going to murder his cheating ‘heart’. And as if to aid their case, Cleo can’t keep her mouth shut and almost gets Cat arrested along with herself. Fortunately, Cat’s family are Chicago cops going back numerous generations and Cat  sets off to find the real killer. Unfortunately, Walter has screwed over everybody he has ever met, or so it seems. Among, the people he owes or has cheated or black mailed money from are loan sharks, gamblers and low life businessman.

With a cast of zany characters that are oddly believable, non stop one liners and a pace that is unrelenting, plus a  plot that, convoluted as it is, is easy to believe and follow, this is a winner.  K.J. Larsen (or maybe I should say K.J. Larsens as the author is three sisters, two in Seattle and one in Chicago) has avoided the sophomore jinx with this second novel in the series. She (they) have also justified any doubters when Larsen won 2010’s Best Mystery award from Library Journal.

Readers will be hard put not to recognize the similarities between Cat DeLuca and her zany family and friends and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, but Larsen fearlessly writes so well that the reader soon forgets that and goes along for the ride of their life. The only weakness I could find was Cat, when over her head, is all to predictably rescued by her shady FBI man lover, Chance, or her equally shady muscle man , Max. But the action is great, the dialog hardboiled, quirky and funny as hell. It’s a talent, indeed that can maintain such a high degree of one liners and comebacks, such funny, yet pertinent dialog and make it seem so real and fit the characters.

If you are new to this author, then jump on the train now while there are still seats available to fall out of laughing. Cat DeLuca, Cleo jones and the crew are setup for a long, long ride in the world of great mysteries.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Article first published as Book Review: Sticks and Stones: A Cat DeLuca Mystery by K.J. Larsen on Blogcritics.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

CD Review: “17 Pine Avenue” by New Riders Of The Purple Sage


17 Pine Avenue

“Cosmic Since 1969”

Around 1969, if you remember 1969 you weren’t there, country rock emerged on the scene with the country leanings of groups such as Dillard & Clark Band, the Clarence White-era Byrds, The Band, Gram Parsons' Flying Burrito Brothers, and Bob Dylan. For nearly a decade, Jerry Garcia (of the Grateful Dead) buddy, David Nelson and a young John “Marmaduke” Dawson (who was enamored with Bakersfield country music while still  providing a vital link between the East Coast, Timothy Leary-dominated psychedelic scene and the West.), had been performing country tinged folk music in and around San Francisco.  

Dawson and Nelson’s vision was timely as Around this time, Garcia was similarly inspired to take up the pedal steel guitar, and Dawson and Garcia began playing coffeehouse concerts together when the Grateful Dead were not touring their Psychedelic Rock act, which was the Dead’s milieu for their first couple of albums. By the summer of 1969 it was decided that a full band would be formed. The band that came to be known as the New Riders of the Purple Sage (a nod to the Zane Grey classic and the western swing combo from the 1940s led by Foy Willing) consisted of Dawson, Nelson and Garcia on pedal steel joined by Robert Hunter on electric bass and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. Hunter was soon replaced by Bob Matthews, before Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead was named bassist. The most well-known version of the New Riders, referred to as the "core" by many, was Dawson, Nelson, Dave Torbert on bass, Spencer Dryden on drums, and Buddy Cage, who joined the band after about a year and a half and replaced Jerry Garcia on pedal steel.


After a few warm-up gigs throughout the Bay Area in 1969, the New Riders began to tour in May 1970 as opening act with the Grateful Dead. This relationship continued on a regular basis until December 1971. Throughout much of 1970, the Dead would open with an acoustic set that often included Dawson and Nelson before segueing into the New Riders and then the electric Dead.

By the time the New Riders recorded their first album in late 1970, change was in the air. Dave Torbert then replaced Lesh. After Hart went on sabbatical from music in early 1971, Spencer Dryden (from Jefferson Airplane) began a ten-year relationship with the group as their drummer, and eventually manager. By the time the band cut The Adventures OF Panama Red (their 4th album in 1973 and an ‘ode to a popular brand of marijuana) they had reached their height of popularity. It remains the bands only Gold Album although they maintained a cult following second only to Dead Heads. But, they continued touring and releasing albums throughout the mid to late 1970s and early 1980s.

By ‘82, Dawson was the only original member left but with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Rusty Gauthier, who sang and played acoustic guitar, slide guitar, mandolin, banjo, and fiddle, they continued as The New Riders (having dropped the Purple Sage moniker) until ‘97 when they split up.

John "Marmaduke" Dawson died on July 21, 2009 at the age of 64 in Mexico, where he had moved to teach English. The band won a Life Time Achievement Award from High Times magazine in 2002 while  a frail Dawson suffering from emphysema was present  . Shortly after the death of Spencer Dryden, a reconstituted line-up of the New Riders began touring in late 2005. It features David Nelson and Buddy Cage, alongside guitarist Michael Falzarano (formerly of Hot Tuna), bassist Ronnie Penque, and drummer Johnny Markowski who all contribute to this great renaissance to the ground breaking psychedelic act.

“Prisoner Of Freedom” New Riders Of The Purple Sage

It includes 12 brand new songs from the originators of country-delic music (I just made that word up). And, it is like being transported back to those ‘hazy’ days of the summer of love. “Prisoner Of Freedom” not only speaks to the state of the world today, but would have been right at home at Woodstock. Not surprisingly, Robert Hunter who so long ago played with the band and will go down in history as the lyricist for so many great Grateful Dead songs does the same on seven of the tunes here.

“Message In A Bottle’ is a decidedly Zydeco/Cajun flavored ode to missing the point of messages but more than that lost chances in life and times. “ It might have peace and freedom It might have been peace and freedom, I ain’t going to grieve no more…”  “Just The Way It Goes” is a Falzarano penned tune, a good-bye to love and what was never meant to be. The title tune is a shuffle that would feel right at home in a Grateful Dead set. “Down For The Ride” is a ballad written by Markowski about love and the hope that it lasts. Are you down for the ride?

“No Time” new Riders of the Purple Sage

“No Time” reminds us that this ain’t no time to fuck around. The album is filled with great tunes that remind us how good it was back then and how pertinent those bands are still today. The lyrics and the music are still filled with double entendre and innuendo, the message is simple, the trip is fun The New Riders manage the seemingly impossible. they  remained true to the original musical vision and integrity without becoming outdated or archaic in the process. This ain’t no nostalgia act, they still have songs with messages for today.

New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Long may they ride. To 17 Pine Avenue or wherever. “ When the bullets have left the gun. There ain’t no time to duck. Do not ask what must be done. Just drive the fuckin’ truck!”.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 23, 2012

CD Review: “All The Way Home” by Cathy Jordan

All The Way Home cathy Jordan

All the Way Home

If you listen to folk music or world/roots music at all then you have heard of the Irish Traditional Folk group, Dervish. Formed in ‘91 out of the success of an ‘89 project by Liam Kelly, Shane Mitchell, Martin McGinley, Brian McDonagh and Michael Holmes. Cathy Jordan and all-Ireland champion fiddle player Shane McAleer joined the former Boys Of Sligo to complete the Dervish lineup. They released a string of critically acclaimed albums that topped charts and won awards such as  Irish Folk Music and international World/Roots music charts #1, Hot Press Folk .Album of the Year,  Irish Music Magazine , Best Overall Trad/Folk Band of the Year.

Jordan has a voice that somehow transports the mind the heart and the soul to a place that might be Ireland, but could be anywhere you love. There’s a purity and yet an irresistible power when she sings.  On this album, she sings a mix of traditional Irish folk songs along with four original compositions. She describes the songs as the soundtrack to her life. For every mile post in life's journey there was a song or series of songs. Among  memories are "The Bold Fenian Men," a favorite of her mother's, and "Eileen McMahon," a haunting song Jordan associates with her father. "Ould Ballymore" is a love song with a twist. "The Banks of the Foyle" was a favorite of an uncle, and "In Curraghroe" and "The Lark In The Clear Air" are part of family lore.  Take a listen.

Cathy Jordan “In Curraghroe” from the album “ All The Way Home

"Sliabh Gallion Braes," with its tale of hard times and tenant evictions, resonates strongly in the current economic climate. "The River Field Waltz" and "The Jordan Jig" are more recent compositions. Rounding out the collection are two songs that provide timely bookends to Cathy Jordan's life and music. Co-written by Jordan and her friend Brendan Graham, "The Road I Go" is a song about departures, searching and beginnings. According to Jordan, the country-leaning "All The Way Home," which she wrote with EndaCullen and Ian Smith, brings the journey full circle into present time.

Cathy Jordan “All The Way Home”

Cathy Jordan’s unforgettable voice was and is a big reason for Dervish’ success and no small part of their international fan base. All the Way Home is her first solo album. It’s truly an international effort. Produced in Sweden by long-time friend Roger Tallroth. Tallroth, a Swedish folk musician, composer and member of the band Väsen, also shares arranging credits with Jordan on many of the songs and contributes his talent on guitars. In addition to Tallroth, the album features some of the best known names in traditional music: Sweden's Gustaf Ljunggren (lap steel/banjo/piano), Norway's Lars Andreas Haug (tuba), Ireland's Andy Irvine (mandocello, bouzouki) and Dervish members Liam Kelly (flute), Michael McGoldrick (whose credits include Lúnasa and Capercaille on uilleann pipes) and Rick Epping (concertina/harmonica) and Seamie Ó Dowd (fiddle). Epping, a transplant to Ireland from California.

Coinciding with the release of All the Way Home in the U. S., Dervish featuring Cathy Jordan will be on tour. 

March 20-Evanston Celtic Festival, Evanston, Wyoming; March 21-Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz, CA; March 23-California State University, Chico, CA; and March 24-Sebastopol Community Cultural Center, Sebastopol, CA.

If you get a chance to hear them live, then check your local ticket outlets. You can pick up this grand CD at all the usual places. Just click the links above.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CD Review: “Hoods & Shades” by Andre Williams

hoods aand Shades

Hoods & Shades

You may not recognize this artist, but I guarantee you’ve danced to his music. He is the man who wrote “Shake A Tail Feather” which was an R&B cross over hit in the ‘60s and figured as one of the major dance scenes in The Blues Brothers movie. And, lest you think he’s a one trick pony, sang proto-punk cult classics like
"Bacon Fat" (covered by the Cramps), "Greasy Chicken," and the epitome of songs about underage girls, "Jail Bait." He paid his dues and honed his unique musical outlook at seminal labels such as Motown, Chess, and Fortune. He wrote and produced for folks Ike Turner, Parliament/Funkadelic, Edwin Starr and Stevie Wonder.

He retired way back when, but as the legend goes, it did not agree with the man. You retire from a job, not from music. Andre stormed back in the late '90s with a record of smutty garage punk called Silky, recorded with members of the Demolition Doll Rods and the Dirtbombs.


“A Good Day To Feel Bad” by Andre Williams

Here, he presents an album of what we used to call “beat poetry”…sort of . back in the ‘50s, Beat Poets would go into coffee houses that usually played folk music and read poetry to a band playing kind of hip background music. The album is full of full of that kind of ‘talkin’ cool (what we called rap before that title was taken for hip-hop music)  song poems; more poems of warning, kind of psychedelic folk. It’s a soulful croon and hustler's groove laid down with his long-time contributors Matt Smith Outrageous Cherry, Nathaniel Mayer, Volebeats), Funk Brother Dennis Coffey on guitar, Jim White (Dirty Three, Cat Power), Greasy Carlisi (Robert Gordon, Chris Spedding), Jim Diamond (Dirtbombs), and Grammy-award winning producer Don Was. For Hoods and Shades Andre ventures into a folk/psychedelic/R&B zone, in what he has dubbed "the Andre Williams folk album."


And it’s a lot of fun. Check it out. Just clickity-click on the links. Hoods & Shades


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

CD Review: Brandon Isaak “Bluesman’s Plea”

Brandon Isaak

Here is the U.S. we’ve got Keb Mo’, Sweden has Eric Bibb and up in Canada they have Brandon Isaak. Isaak showcases his love for acoustic blues, a vintage “lo fi” sound and simple arrangements on Bluesman’s Plea". It’s traditional guitar blues and it appeals to the soul as well as the ear. What’s even more impressive is that Isaak isn’t serving up old songs. These are all new, original songs written by Isaak. They 'play’ out like a biography, which is exactly what they are. True stories of love, life and death and a few stops, bumps and revelations along the way.

It’s Brandon Isaak’s life set to blues, gospel. ragtime and country sounds. An interesting touch is that on a couple of tunes there is added bits and pieces of radio broadcast news, what sounds to be audience cross talk, and other little snippets that don’t exactly fit the vintage sound, but work oh so well here to perhaps highlight the songs meaning.

Brandon plays guitar and ‘foot percussion’, harmonica and bass while his brother Chris acted as recording engineer and provides some simple drums and backup vocals. It’s ear candy, a period of life set to music. Take a listen.

“Bluesman’s Plea” by Brandon Isaak

Isaak is best known as a front man and songwriter for the Canadian Jump Band, The Twisters based out of Vancouver, B.C.. he’s been hailed as a great blues guitarist and was nominated in 2010 for Song Writer Of The Year at the Maple Blues Awards. Over the years he has also been able to fulfill the dream of performing with some of his favorite musicians and influences; Corey Harris, Guy Davis, Taj Mahal, Colin Linden, Jeff Healey, Joe Lewis Walker and Kenny Wayne to mention a few. Vocally, in place he reminds me of Delbert McClinton, other places he channels Taj, then some of the gospel infused tunes bring back some of the great country blues singers of the ‘30s and ‘40s.

“Leavin’ This Town”

There’s some great blues music coming out of the frozen north and Brandon Isaak is leading the pack. You can download the CD from Isaak’s site or iTunes of course. You can also catch him in concerts and shows all over Canada and hopefully very soon, the states. Check here for show dates.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

CD Review: “Can’t Control Myself” by Gina Sicilia

Gina Sicilia2

Can't Control Myself

Pigeon holes are for pigeons, not this Philadelphia songstress who hits me as the best American female blues singer since Susan Tedeschi, and has the soulful chops of a young Bonnie Raitt. She’s got a voice that is old and bleeds blues beyond her 25 years, she’s got an earthy quality that belies a Temple University Journalism degree. She’s got a ‘tease’ in that voice that speaks of years on the bawdy roadhouse circuit, except she hasn’t been there. She also writes songs that run the gambit from 2 beat country to jazz and  all the time reflecting on and paying tribute to song writers that aren’t immediately apparent as influence in her performance or her own songs. Stevie Wonder’s “A Place In The Sun” sung as a straight ahead, Americana ballad, Willie Dixons “Crazy Bout You”, delivered as a mid-tempo blues rocker.

The instrumentation aids in blurring the lines; Hammond B3 organ and accordion, Wurlitzer pianos with baritone and tenor sax, lap steel with toy pianos. As crazy as it sounds, it works and hooks the listeners from the start. It’s easy to see why she was nominated for a 2008 Blues Music Award in the category of 'Best New Artist Debut'.

“Addicted” by Gina Sicilia

Sicilia recorded her first album, Allow Me to Confess in 2007 and she was hailed by none other than JazzReview as "the best blues singer on the music scene today”. This led to a second album, Hey Sugar and extensive touring which culminated with an invite to the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise in 2011.

On  Can't Control Myself she seems to explore a more roots sound, while still keeping that link to the blues. Anything you want to call it, she has star quality with a powerful voice that seems to be right at home in a large number of genres. She’s also more than capable as a song writer. “Addicted” is simply, well,  addicting, and “Before The Night Is Through” sounds like something that the Great Sam Cooke could have written and it’s ‘almost reggae’ feeling would hit on many radio formats.


And if the abundant musical talent isn’t enough, she’s also got stage presences usually found in seasoned performers and is more than easy on the eye. 

Catch this lady who has shows scheduled in the New England area through May, but ventures to the Midwest in June. Here’s the schedule and while you are there, signup for her mailing list.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Review: “Too Much Stuff” by Don Bruns


Too Much Stuff

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure meets Carl Hiaasen on spring break, only the characters are even less mature responsible adults. Instead of a time travelling phone birth, out ‘heroes’ have an oil leaking box truck. The policophobic (fear of the police) James Lessor and his best friend ‘Skip’ Moore have formed the More Or Less Detective Agency. Notice I didn’t say run as these two bumbling slackers couldn’t run a pair of cheap panty hose getting them off of a beach bunny. Think of a Jimmy Buffet song about misadventure, and you will have no trouble imagining Skip and James.

Mary Trueblood, the great-granddaughter of Matthew Kriegel who is the fictional finance director for the Florida East Coast railway, which along with Kriegel, pretty much disappeared in the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. Along with roughly a ton of gold bars.

Mary has offered the boys a half a percent of the value of the gold, plus expenses, if they find it. She is in possession of a cryptic letter, supposedly written by great=granddad, that hints at the location of a map to where he stashed the gold as the hurricane approached. What Mary doesn’t disclose is that she had previously hired to other shady detectives to find the gold, and they haven’t been heard from since.

On the approach to Islamorada, Fla., the pair are menaced by a Harley-Davidson rider, sporting a gold fender (the bike) and a black-out facemask (the rider) who splashes the side of their box truck with black paint. Armed with a thousand dollars in expense money on a prepaid ATM card, and an endless supply of oil for the truck, our erstwhile detectives check in to the Pelican Cove resort and go about the business of all Florida detectives. Drink beer and hitting on every female in sight. But when a dead body is found in their room shortly after they check in, the vacation is interrupted. James is arrested for questioning, but is uncooperative due to his policophobia. So the boys call in their secret weapon. Skips girl friend, Em who has everything they’ll need to crack the case in her purse, including a nail file, scuba equipment and a Porsche Carrera…and extra oil for the truck.

Along the way, the boys with Em in tow, and with the help of local real estate broker, Maria Sanko, confront a couple of shady doctors, suspected ghosts of the first detectives, guard dogs, the aforementioned phantom Harley rider, local cops, a nearly hundred year old survivor of the hurricane, and a spooky graveyard, setout to find the gold.

The novel is pure entertainment as the pair of unlikely protagonists, quoting movie lines along the way and never passing up a chance to down a Yeungling Beer or two bumble their way through a plot that is half loosely told history and half comedy. There are many plot holes that never get plugged, but who cares? Have another drink, and did you see the bikini on that waitress?

The novel is full of satire, but not the social/ecological commentary of Hiaasen. It is more along the lines of, “did they really get away with that?” kind of satire. The events that link the scenes together are pretty weak as far as logical progression and the structure suffers for this reason, the character building suffers the same weaknesses, and the plot is as full of as many holes as a beach after a sand castle contest, but it’s still a load of fun and giggles.

don1Don Bruns is an author of four previous “Stuff” novels and also writes a slightly more serious and hardboiled,”Caribbean” series featuring music writer Mick Sever. Don also spent years as a professional musician making a scant living and he’s worked as an advertising exec. Him and some friends also run a cozy, nostalgic used book store, Bookends Used and Rare Books. he splits his time between Ohio and Florida.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Article first published as Book Review: Too Much Stuff by Don Bruns on Blogcritics.

Friday, March 16, 2012

CD Review: The Cramps “File Under Sacred Music–Early Singles 1978–1981”


File Under Sacred Music: Early Singles 1978-1981

The world missed out on perhaps its last chance at redemption when Lux Interior died a couple of years ago. Or maybe it was saved from the snarling maw of Rock a Billy Voo Doo blood sacrifices. Anyhow, as long as it never made it to mom and pops radio station, it was a sacred event.

The Cramps were part of the early CBGB punk rock movement that had emerged in New York. Their line-up rotated much over their existence, with the husband and wife duo of Interior and lead guitarist Poison Ivy the only permanent members. The addition of band members guitarist Bryan Gregory and drummer Pam Ballam comprised the first complete lineup in April 1976. The Cramps are noted as influencing a number of musical styles: not only are they one of the first garage punk bands, they are also widely recognized as one of the prime innovators of psychobilly, and they inspired many of the early Goth rock bands.

The Cramps “The Way I Walk”

It’s easy to write off Punk Music and all of it’s various incarnations, but what’s important to remember is what these bands were trying to do. By 1973, when what would be labeled ‘punk music’ morphed out of the New York scene, The Beatles were no more. The Stones had gone mainstream pop, and the kids coming up saw nothing but pretentiousness in the acts. They wanted to make it simple again. They wanted to put the fun back in it. The result was a whole slew of bands that were basically thumbing their collective noses at “the establishment”. Sound familiar? Bands like The Ramones, Patti Smith Group, The Stillettos, featuring Deborah Harry (who would go on to mainstream punk with Blondie), Mink DeVille, Talking Heads, The Shirts, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Fleshtones and The Cramps rose out of that scene.

Their music was based on rockabilly forms, played at varying tempos, with a minimal drum kit. An integral part of the early Cramps sound is dual guitars, without a bassist. The focus of their songs' lyrical content and their image is camp humor, and retro horror/sci-fi b-movie shtick.

Their sound was heavily influenced by early rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll like Link Wray and Hail Adkins, 1960s surf music acts such as The Ventures and Dick Dale (check out the first tune on the album, “Surfin’ Bird”), 1960s garage rock artists like The Standells, The Gants, The Trashmen, The Green Fuz and The Sonics.

The Mad Daddy

In turn, The Cramps have influenced countless subsequent bands in the garage, punk and rockabilly revival subgenres and helped create the psychobilly genre. "Psychobilly" was a term coined by The Cramps, although Lux Interior maintained that the term did not describe their own style.

Lindsay Hutton of the fanzine The Next Big Thing and The Cramps fan club founder speaks;

"I've no idea why
The Cramps don't seem to figure in a lot of alleged histories of punk
or just plain music in general. This could be down to them being
utterly or unpigeonhole-able (is that even a word?) or just outright
ignorance. Perhaps a bit of both, but hey, let's not concern ourselves
with that. The band changed the face of culture. Period. Without
bothering 'the charts' or playing too many stadiums, their seismic
effect on everything you hold dear will be felt for all time. This
ancient knowledge -- some of their grooviest gravy -- is presented
here for your delectation and delight. So get a crack-a-lackin' with
blasting these twisted hymns morning, noon and night. And while the
ruckus is in full swing, pray to whoever might listen that Ivy will
get around to compile the ultimate document of her undulating combo in
commemoration of their services to entertainment. The bloody gears of
this here rockin' machine will be rolling way beyond the foreseeable
future. Reasons outwith anyone's control might mean that you can't see
the band anymore but no one -- no how -- will be able to make this
thing stop. Meanwhile, dig into this feast for the little ghouls that
understood all along or indeed anyone with a decent set of ears."

The Cramps

There it is boys and girls, join in on the rockabilly riots, break out your voodoo tool and your rockin bones. Ancient knowledge, believed lost to the world can now be yours! Dig the goo goo muck from The Crusher, twist and shout. This is uranium rock!   The Cramps File Under Sacred Music: Early Singles 1978-1981

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

CD Review: Tower Of Power “40th Anniversary, The Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco”

TOP DVD_homepage_TEXT

40th Anniversary (CD & DVD)

Call it “urban soul”, call it funk, call it R&B, I have even heard them called jazz. Truth is they are all of that and much more. Here it is 43 plus years later, so let’s just call them an American Institution. It all started in the summer of 1968, when tenor saxophonist/vocalist Emilio Castillo met Stephen "Doc" Kupka, who played baritone sax. they became the backbone of the group. Gathering a few other players, they called themselves The Motowns and gigged around Oakland and Berkley. Their soul sound appealed to both minority and hipster rebellious listeners of the day.

By 1970, the now renamed Tower of Power, T.O.P. to fans, they now included trumpet/arranger Greg Adams, first trumpet Mic Gillette, first saxophone Skip Mesquite, Francis "Rocco" Prestia on bass, Willie Fulton on guitar, and drummer David Garibaldi. They signed a recording contract with Bill Graham's San Francisco Records and released their first album, East Bay Grease. Rufus Miller performed most of the lead vocals on this debut album. The single "Sparkling In The Sand" received airplay on  Bay Area soul stations.

‘So Very Hard To Go” T.O.P.s highest charting single at #5

By ‘73, Lenny Williams had joined the group as lead vocalist and it was from then until ‘74 had the period of their greatest commercial success. Their biggest hits include "You're Still A Young Man", "So Very Hard To Go", "What Is Hip?", (Which is probably their most endearing song) and "Don't Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream)." By ‘75, the band had moved more towards ‘funk’ and away from classic soul music but ballads were still a mainstay of their repertoire. By the late ‘70s, at the record company's’ request, they tried their hand at disco, but their heart, or maybe soul, wasn’t in it.

“What Is Hip Live 2010”

One thing’s for sure.  The answer to that song above is Tower Of Power. Over the years, the Tower Of Power horn section took on a life of their own. They were always in demand to support other artists who’s sound required some soul. Amongst those was Little Feat in 1977, one of the three inaugural acts to perform at the newly-opened Rockpalast studios on the song, "Rocket in my Pocket".

Other performers supported by the Tower of Power horns include The Monkees, The Grateful Dead, Santana, Elkie Brooks, Cat Stevens (on his Foreigner Suite), Luis Miguel, Elton John, Linda Lewis, rad. (Rose Ann Dimalanta), Jermaine Jackson, John Lee Hooker, Rufus, Rod Stewart, Jefferson Starship, Mickey Hart, Heart, Damn Yankees, Huey Lewis and the News, Spyro Gyra, KMFDM, Lyle Lovett, Poison, Phish, Toto, Pharoahe Monch, Brothers Johnson, and Aerosmith, among many other acts.


This DVD features extensive interviews with over 30 present and past TOP Band Members, plus special features and a tour of Oakland with Emilio, Doc, Rocco & Dave. Also Includes footage from the band's appearance at the San Mateo Fair from August 13th, 2008. Also includes a comprehensive 24 page booklet listing details on each track and interview.

In the past 40 plus years, more than sixty musicians have joined the T.O.P. family, and when they did this album, many of the distinguished alumni from all those years gathered at the Fillmore Auditorium to celebrate “Oakland Style”.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved



Natalie Merchant's Acclaimed Final Album with the Band

Gets Special Vinyl Treatment on March 13th

Marshall Blonstein, president of Audio Fidelity, has set March 13 for the release of 10,000 Maniacs' 1992 album Our Time in Eden as a deluxe vinyl LP reissue. The fifth album by the pioneering American alternative band, Our Time in Eden , was the last to feature the captivating vocals and perceptive lyrics of Natalie Merchant, described by Mojo magazine as the reigning "queen of college rock."  The record will be issued as part of Audio Fidelity's recently-launched Target Series, a line of nicely-priced classic albums that are receiving the same meticulous remastering as the company's 24K Gold CD and 180+ Vinyl releases.

Our Time in Eden was a much anticipated-and well received-recording, following

af 10000 Maniacs coverthe group's 1989 commercial breakthrough, BLIND MAN'S ZOO. Though that record climbed higher on Billboard's albums chart, Our Time in Eden (which reached No. 28) remained there almost twice as long, for a total of 56 weeks.

On Our Time in Eden , Merchant and bandmates Robert Buck, Dennis Drew, Steven Gustafson and Jerome Augustyniak essayed their signature folk-rock sound, but toughened it up by including R&B elements; James Brown brass and reed players Maceo Parker, Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley contribute, with Wesley especially prominent behind Merchant on the single "Candy Everybody Wants."  "These Are the Days" was the highest-charting of the LP's three singles, topping Billboard's Modern Rock chart and reaching No. 66 on the Hot 100, though the upbeat "Few and Far Between" also fared well on the publication's dance-singles survey.  Among OUR TIME IN EDEN's many highlights are the album-opening piano ballad "Noah's Dove," one of seven cuts that are sole Merchant compositions (she co-wrote the record's other six tracks), the sprightly "Stockton Gala Days" and the alternately reflective and rocking "Jezebel."

Other notable participants on the album are Brazilian percussionist Paulhino DaCosta and strings arranger Paul Buckmaster, best known for his work with Elton John, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones and Leonard Cohen.  Producer Paul Fox's credits include projects with Bjork, Phish and XTC.  Mary Ramsey, who would replace Merchant as lead singer on the subsequent Maniacs albums LOVE AMONG THE RUINSandEARTH PRESSED FLAT, contributes violin and viola on OUR TIME IN EDEN. Merchant announced her departure from the band in August of 1993 to embark on a solo career.

The Target Series was launched by Audio Fidelity last fall as a means of broadening the company's audience beyond its loyal audiophile base. Target titles sell at a lower price point but maintain the same commitment to superior audio quality that has earned the parent company its distinctive reputation.  OUR TIME IN EDEN was remastered by respected Audio Fidelity engineer Kevin Gray.

Founded in 2001, Audio Fidelity specializes in deluxe reissues of classic popular-music recordings for the audiophile and collector markets. The Camarillo, California-based label is best known for its 24-Karat Gold CDs and its 180-gram virgin-vinyl album editions, as well as a line of popular DVD titles.

* * * * *



AudioFidelity logo

"New World Beat and Siempre Flamenco appearing at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center


New World Beat and Siempre Flamenco

appearing at the

South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center

March 16-18 (Black Box Theater)

Friday, March 16 at 8:30pm

Saturday, March 17 at 8:30pm

Sunday, March 18 at 3:30pm

Tickets $20 in advance.

$25 on day of performance.

Senior/Student/Active Military discounts of $5 off.

New World Beat – “After Carnival”
New World Beat Mixes a Sonic Cocktail
of World and Jazz Influences in
“After Carnival” (CDM 1001)
Street Date April 3, 2012

"New World Beat and Siempre Flamenco team up to present a collaborative world music and jazz fusion performance event at the new South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center. The show, "Flamenco Jazz Jam", features vibraphonist Richard Sprince, guitarist Paco Fonta, bassist Agustin Conti and Flamenco dancers Celia Fonta and Paola Escobar, and will include original compositions from New World Beat's new CD release, "After Carnival". Three performances will take place on March 16, 17 at 8:30pm and on March 18 at 3:30pm, at SMDCAC's Black Box Theater."
More Info HERE

New World Beat Features:
Richard Sprince - vibraphone;  Matt Vashlishan – soprano & alto saxophones, EWI; Tom Lippincott - 8 String guitar; Diogo Brown – fretless bass; Goran Rista – drums; Tony Cruz, Terezinha Valois – vocals; Cezar Santana - nylon string guitar;  Dwili Dewongy –percussion; Gary Damanti – guitar solo, “The Dance Has Just Begun”; Jorge Pardo – flute solo, “Song For Brazil”;  Alejandro Pino-Sprince – tag vocal, “Last Train Home”.

Musicians are like mixologists trying to come up with the ultimate cocktail. Some strive to pour the perfect martini, while others experiment with their own innovative blend of ingredients.  On “After Carnival”, the debut release of Miami-based New World Beat, the group has invented an original sonic cocktail, artfully combining memorable melodies and introspective harmonies with the sensibility of Brazilian jazz and world rhythms. Guest artists on the date include Jorge Pardo, Spain’s leading jazz instrumentalist and Chick Corea alumnus.  Jazz fusion pioneer Othello Molineaux calls the release “exciting and refreshing…deep and passionate music.”
New World Beat is led by vibraphonist/composer Richard Sprince, who served as producer, composer and arranger for this release. A Boston native, Richard has been immersed in world music, rhythms and culture since early on in his career, playing everything from Salsa and Brazilian to African music and Jazz Flamenco, while on the road for years in Europe and South America. He has shared the stage with world class Latin Jazz and Fusion innovators including Ray Gomez, Jorge Pardo, Sammy Figueroa, Nestor Torres and Othello Molineaux.
With “After Carnival”, Sprince and his international crew of sidemen serve up nine original compositions along with two innovative Pat Metheny covers (including the hit “Last Train Home”). Throughout the release, one can discern elements of the Metheny sound, along with Brazilian flavors reminiscent of Milton Nascimiento and Airto. “I like to imagine the project as if it were the adoptive love child of Pat, Milton and Airto, maybe getting some love from Return to Forever for good measure”, Sprince muses.
On the session, up-and-coming saxophonist Matt Vashlishan shines on soprano, alto, and the EWI sax synthesizer, playing grooving, polytonal lines. Guitarist Tom Lippincott creates intricate backing textures as well as soaring improvisations, offering a counterpoint to Sprince’s percussive comping and lyrical solos on the vibraphone.  Vocalists Tony Cruz and Terezinha Valois double melodies in an evocative Brazilian style, while bassist Diogo Brown, drummer Goran Rista and guitarist Cezar Santana lay down authentic world grooves. Percussionist Dwili Dewongy adds rhythmic flavor and ambient effects, with a variety of percussion toys, bird whistles and shakers.
“After Carnival” is intended to stand as a whole, developing a story and ambience from track to track. This structure is paralleled by the through-composed nature of each number. The album opens with Beyond The Clouds, an upbeat major key tune inspired by silver linings.  On My Way, a track about journeys, sets a moodier tone. A lyrical opening melody leads to a transition followed by an edgy ensemble groove. Matt Vashlishan plays a burning featured solo on the EWI sax synthesizer.
The direction of the release becomes clear with The Dance Has Just Begun, one of the featured singles. A heroic opening melody over an active bass line and back beat leads to a Brazilian Afoxe rhythm and a memorable vocalized melody, followed by an interlude-like transitional section. A thoughtful solo by guest artist Gary Damanti is followed by a soulful soprano sax improvisation by Matt Vashlishan, channeling Wayne Shorter over a Brazilian groove. After the final interlude, the track breaks out in an infectiously uplifting samba beat, with a catchy vocalized melody and grooving vibes improvisation by Richard Sprince to take it out.
Another featured single is the title track After Carnival. While Carnival in Brazilian is famously upbeat and intense, this track is about the aftermath. (see “Black Orpheus”, the Brazilian film classic.) It starts with a plaintive melody over a samba-funk rhythm, then transitions to a nostalgic theme over a straight ahead samba. An improvised free interplay between the vibes and guitar leads to a soaring solo by Tom Lippincott. Matt Vashlishan’s solo on soprano sax takes it to another level. He sets things up with long tones and polytonal licks inspired by his mentor, Dave Liebman. Building in intensity, Matt’s cascading pyrotechnics climax over the band’s ensemble figures.
Partido Alto is an exploration of the Brazilian rhythm of the same name and a Miles-inspired bass line. A double-time samba over some Steely Dan harmonies provide the turnaround into inspired improvisations on guitar and sax. Song For Brazil is a nostalgic ballad over a bolero tinged rhythm. Inspired by the end of a romance, the sophisticated composition transitions into a hopeful 3/4 waltz, then a plaintive 6/4 vocal melody over some dark harmonies, leading back to the opening theme. The track features guest artist Jorge Pardo on flute, in a soulful and acrobatic improvisation reminiscent of Hubert Laws mixed with Pardo’s characteristic Spanish Flamenco flourishes.
Last Train Home, another featured single, is an unusual arrangement of the Pat Metheny hit. Slowed down and with Matt providing fills and flourishes on the EWI, the result is a fusion ballad in the spirit of Weather Report’s A Remark You Made. After a lyrical Metheny-inspired vibes solo by Richard Sprince, the interlude breaks out in a slow samba with vocals doubling the melody. The last head leads to a outro samba vamp with evocative Brazilian lyrics sung by Tony Cruz and Terezinha Valois. The track ends with an acapella tag vocal sung by three year old Alejandro Pino-Sprince.
Adios, Bueno Aires is a jazz tango inspired by a midnight ferry trip from Montevideo to Buenos Aires across the Rio de la Plata. The unusual form passes through a variety of sections and modal keys. Fantasia de Carnaval is about the build up to Carnival. A free jazz intro leads to an upbeat bossa rock melody. The track features a burning solo by Matt Vashlishan on alto sax. After the last head, a free group improv trails off into the reverie of each musician’s fantasy.
It’s Not Far tells an epic travel tale, going from a pastoral opening melody to a bossa groove to double time samba bridge. Short but inspired solos over dark harmonies (Diogo Brown, bass, Tom Lippincott, guitar) take the traveler off the beaten path. Richard Sprince’s extended solo on vibraphone started with sustained notes, then builds up to a climatic release and evocative samba vocal melody.
The album closes out with Sueno Con Mexico, an arrangement of an early Metheny solo guitar vehicle. The tune has been re-invented with an African groove, backed by talking drum and atmospheric bird whistles, bells and shakers. A rhythmic melody is played on vibes and alto sax over an ostinato guitar pattern. Kicking it into fifth gear, the bridge comes in over a 12/8 shuffle rhythm, with Teri Valois’ vocals doubling a heroic, prototypical Metheny melody. A lyrical vibes solo climaxes with a quote of Minnie Ripperton’s “Lovin’ You”. Vashlishan’s grooving, Sanborn-tinged solo on alto sax brings the track full circle.

Artist Website:

Artist Facebook page:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

CD Review: Del Castillo “Infinitas Rapsodias” w/Bonus HD DVD


Infinitas Rapsodias

I always write about music while listening to the CD. I couldn’t do that with this one. It would be like eating McDonalds French Fries while touring The Prado Museum while reading an Archie Comic Book (all apologies to Veronica). No worries. If you have a brain in your head, if you have a heart in your soul, the music will automatically grab you and hold you. Much more than a ‘Latin Rock’ band, they are a musical inoculation. One song and you are guaranteed to never listen to Justin Bieber again.

Taking elements form rock, Latin, Blues, Flamenco and including an opera singer – German Diva,Anna Marie Kaufmann, singing in Italian no less – on the finale, “Amor Venme a Buscar” (Tell That To My Heart), Del Castillo mixes up a sonic soup that is an old family recipe, and man, is it delicious.

Out of Austin, Texas, Del Castillo started out as a family project back in 2000. Dueling guitar virtuosos (selected by Gibson Guitars as only two out of six guitarists in the world to launch Gibson’s new Les Paul line, “Dark Fire”) brothers, Rick and Mark Del Castillo recruited lead singer Alex Ruiz, bassist extraordinaire (you know I plug bassists, right?) Albert Besteiro, Mike Zeoli on the skins and percussionist Jason Murdy. There are some tasty aromas coming out of that rhythm kitchen, I guarantee it.


They are joined by some very special guests; Austin's own Monte Montgomery on guitar, Malford Milligan and Leann Atherton on vocals and violinist/Gypsy fiddlers  Erik Hokkanen and Phoebe Hunt. Producer carl Thiel even plays piano on one tune.

Infinitas Rapsodias features five brand new tunes, as well as new arrangements of fan favorites from previous CDs.These include: “Brotherhood,” “Vida,” “Porque” and “Perdoname.” Demonstrating their global appeal, the band has even included a new take on their popular song, “Maria,” only this time with a vocal in Italian.

Del Castillo “Maria” from the Album, Brotherhood Album of the Year, 2006 at SXSW

The music on this album is stunningly beautiful, rhythmically brilliant and infectious. It includes a HI Def DVD with behind-the-scenes look at the creation of this project. It’s also got a video for the new song, “Canta de Alma” which was shot on tour in Europe in 2011. It also features three studio jam sessions of some of the bands favorite tracks.

Del Castillo has become a symbol of the cross-cultural power of music, with their eclectic blend of Flamenco, Rock, Latin, Blues and World music having made the band into a world-wide favorite of fans all over the globe. Between the release of their first CD, Brothers of the Castle in 2001, and their 2009 self-titled release, Del Castillo, the band received an astonishing 23 awards, including SXSW/Austin Music “Album of the Year” Awards for Vida (2002) and Brotherhood (2006); “Band of the Year” (2003); ASCAP’s “Best Independent Group of the Year” (2005); and Austin Music Pundits “Best Live Act’ (2004).

Del Castillo

For the past two years, Del Castillo has toured extensively in the US and Europe, both as a headliner and in support of such diverse artists as Styx, Los Lonely Boys, B.B. King, Don Henley, Buddy Guy, Los Lobos, Bela Fleck and Willie Nelson. They’ve performed at three of Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnics and Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival. Other US and international venues they’ve played include the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, Scotland; California WorldFest; Austin City Limits Festival; Strawberry Music Festival; Tropical Heatwave Festival; Vancouver Folk Festival; Wendelstein Festival; Jazzfest Gronau and Bergen Fest (Norway). They’ve also performed on BBC Radio in London and Scotland.

Acclaimed film director Robert Rodriguez became a big fan of the band after attending one of their shows in 2002 and has featured their music in such films of his as Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Sin City, Grindhouse and Spy Kids 3-D, even enlisting the group to perform with him at the premieres.  Del Castillo recently performed a beautiful, unique song with Carlos Santana, Willie Nelson and Los Lonely Boys on a CD benefitting The Hermes Music Foundation. The song, “Claro Que Suede” (“Yes We Can”) is featured on their website,


Pick this one up and pop it in, you’ll become an instant fan. The music these guys create has a passion and energy that transcends any language barriers, cultural stereotypes, or genre, which has resulted in Del Castillo becoming international touring stars. One listen and it’s not hard to see why.



The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved