Parents, Children Alike Will Love “Love Bug”

Courtesy:  Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records/Shoreline Records

Veteran children’s entertainer Raffi has been one of the most well-known and respected artists within both his genre and the music industry in whole for near four decades. He has of course also been the butt of some jokes here and there. The reason for both of these scenarios is actually a good one. The reason in question is that throughout the course of his career, Raffi (whose real name is Raffi Cavoukian) has constantly re-invented his sound on every one of his records. His latest release Love Bug is no exception to that rule. Love Bug presents a decidedly country/folk sound throughout the course of its sixteen songs. Though later in the album’s run, Raffi also includes a fun little reggae style piece in ‘Cool Down Reggae’ and a somewhat gospel-tinged piece in the album’s bonus closer ‘Turn This World Around.’ This is an especially enjoyable piece because a close listen reveals a comparison to Peter Gabriel’s anti-apartheid song ‘Biko.’ Given, the stylistic and lyrical similarities might not have been entirely intentional. But they are there. And they are welcome, too. They make the song one of the album’s best pieces if not the best of the album’s available selections. Along with the likes of ‘Cool Down Reggae,’ the short but still fun instrumental Pete’s Banjo,’ and the album’s other songs not noted here, this record proves once again why Raffi is still one of the music industry’s most respected artists to this day.

Raffi has remained one of the top names in both children’s music and the music industry in whole for nearly four decades. The reason being that he has constantly re-invented his sound on every one of his new studio releases. Love Bug, his latest full-length studio effort, is no exception to that rule. The album is dominated largely by a country/folk sound. While that country/folk sound is the album’s most prominent sound, he also branches out some and includes a reggae piece in the aptly titled ‘Cool Down Reggae.’ This piece is a complete change of pace from the rest of the songs that make up the body of Love Bug. This song will have parents and children alike relaxing and jamming along as Raffi sings, “In the rhythm of the jangily day/Time for enjoyment/In the sway of the come and go/So nice to take it slow/With the cool down reggae/Slow down reggae/ Cool down reggae/Slow down reggae.” Even without the steel drums, this song still works and is a welcome change of pace from the rest of the album’s songs. It definitely makes for one of the highest of points on this record. Another of those high points comes in the album’s gospel-tinged closer ‘Turn This World Around.

‘Turn This World Around’ is considered a bonus addition to Love Bug. This means that for all intents and purposes that it is not technically the album’s closer. Regardless of which side one takes on that issue, everyone can agree that it stands out more than any other song included as part of the album’s whole. A close listen to this song reveals a close stylistic similarity to Peter Gabriel’s famed anti-apartheid anthem ‘Biko’ both musically and lyrically. ‘Biko’ is about black anti-apartheid leader Stephen Biko. Biko rose to fame as the head of the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1960s and ‘70s. ‘Turn This World Around’ on the other hand, is not about a specific individual but rather the world needing to make social change for the next generation. While ‘Turn This World Around’ isn’t as anthemic as ‘Biko’ lyrically speaking, it still very much maintains that same social sensibility within its lyrical content. That is noted as Raffi sings, “Honoring the children is what we’re here to do/Now is the hour/And we’ve got the power/To turn, turn, turn/Turn this world around/For the children/Turn this world around.” When he wrote ‘Biko,’ Gabriel had very much the same mindset. He wrote about ending apartheid for the sake of the present and the future. Raffi’s song is broader. But it also discusses making sweeping social changes for the present and future, too. Such a powerful social message coupled with an equally enjoyable musical backing easily makes this song the best moment by far from Love Bug.

‘Turn This World Around’ is the most memorable of moments off of Love Bug. Its mix of social consciousness and equally enjoyable music a la Peter Gabriel is to thank for that. Just as enjoyable for audiences is the laid back sound and vibe of ‘Cool Down Reggae.’ As enjoyable as both sounds are collectively, one would be remiss to omit the obvious country/folk sound that largely dominates this record. And one of the best of those country/folk songs featured in this record is the instrumental ‘Pete’s Banjo.’ This song boasts a fun, old school Appalachian style sound that will have children and their parents dancing together with its simple banjo picking and fiddle playing. It conjures thoughts of an old mountain country store where people would gather to talk and sometimes even dance. And even at only two minutes and fourteen seconds long, it is no less enjoyable. If anything, it makes a person yearn for even more of that old mountain sound. There is a little bit more of said sound peppered throughout the record, too. Audiences will hear it for themselves when they pick up this album for themselves or order it online. They will hear that and much more for that matter. In hearing the album in whole, audiences will understand for themselves why after so many decades, Raffi remains more than deserving of being called one of the best in his genre and in the industry in whole.

Love Bug is available in stores and online now. Raffi already has a pair of live dates scheduled for the new year where audiences will get to hear the songs from Love Bug and from Raffi’s rich body of work. He will perform live in Seattle, WA on January 31st at 1pm and in Portland on February 1st.  He has two performance times on that date.  He is scheduled to perform at 1pm and 4pm on that day. Parents can find out when his next live dates are and keep up with all of his latest updates online now at:

Website: http://www.childhonouring.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Raffi.Cavoukian

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Carter’s New LP Is A Wonderful Tribute To Her Family’s Musical Legacy

Courtesy:  Rounder Records/Concord Music Group/Carter Music

Courtesy: Rounder Records/Concord Music Group/Carter Music

Veteran country musician Carlene Carter has crafted in her latest release Carter Girl an album that is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the top new country albums of 2014. The album, which was released early this month on Rounder Records, is one that in her own words, she had wanted to make for some time. She explained that “the songs on the album cover three generations of Carter Family music.” She pays homage to her family’s history, too in her take of ‘Lonesome Valley.’ Another of the album’s highest moments comes in the more up tempo take of the standard ‘Gold Watch and Chain.’ ‘Poor Old Heartsick Me’ will also impress listeners as its more upbeat sound is totally contrary to the song’s lyrics. These are just a few examples of why audiences will enjoy Carter’s new album. Audiences will each have their own reason for enjoying it. Regardless of which song or songs one chooses as one’s favorite, every listener will agree that this record is one of the best new country albums of 2014.

Carlene Carter noted in interviews that she had wanted to make Carter Girl for some time. That’s because, as she said, “the songs on the album cover three generations of Carter Family music.” The most obvious thought in terms of paying tribute to musicians is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But Carter’s updated rendition of the Carter Family classic isn’t just imitation. She partnered with fellow veteran Vince Gill on this song to make a heartbreaking piece that pays tribute to both her own mother and stepfather. Gill’s vocals blend almost seamlessly with those of Carter in the song’s chorus to make it seem almost like he’s not even there. The vocals are that tight in those sections. Even when Carter is singing by herself, she holds her own, singing, “Well Junie never knew a stranger/She was friendly like that/So we stood with our relations/And a bunch of strangers dressed in black/Me and Rosey wore bright colors/Momma woulda liked it like that/We laid her near her momma/Sing ‘Circle Be’/She always said she wanted that.” She sings these lines not so much with pained recollection, but more with a certain bittersweet feeling. That vocal style evokes so much emotion and makes this song one of the album’s best moments.

Carter’s update on ‘Lonesome Valley’ is such a powerful moment because of the emotion that it evokes. That is thanks to the musicianship of both Carter and Gill. An equally powerful but less bittersweet moment that Carter shares with her listeners on this album is her cover of ‘Poor Old Heartsick Me.’ Considering the song’s sad, standard lyrics of love lost, the song’s more up-tempo musical side gives the song a whole new identity. It starts off sounding like it’ll be the most commonly known down-tempo, woeful song. But the increased energy in this rendition makes it difficult to be down. If anything it almost makes it uplifting as it lets listeners know they aren’t the only ones to have ever gone through heartache in their lives.

‘Lonesome Valley’ and ‘Poor Old Heartsick Me’ are both excellent examples of what makes Carlene Carter’s new tribute album of sorts such an impressive release. Listeners can take away from Carter Girl at least one more example of what makes this such an impressive release. That example is Carter’s cover of ‘Gold Watch and Chain.’ This is typically a much slower and more somber piece when performed by most artists and bands. In Carter’s case though, it is more up-tempo. And the addition of Carter’s cousin Lorrie Carter Bennett makes the song even more enjoyable in this rendition. The two-part harmonies crafted between the women are just as subtle as those in her duet with Vince Gill on ‘Lonesome Valley 2003.’ Those harmonies set alongside other subtleties such as the addition of a mandolin part and what sounds like an old organ in the background round out this wonderful addition to Carter’s album. It is one more wonderful addition to Carter’s new album. And it isn’t the only one, either. Audiences can find their own favorites now that Carter Girl is available in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from the Rounder Records website at http://www.rounder.com/2014/02/new-releases/carter-girl . It can also be downloaded via iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/carter-girl/id828726425 and Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Carter-Girl-Carlene/dp/B00HYCINKQ/?tag=concordreco0c-20.

More information on Carlene Carter, her new album and future tour dates is available online at http://www.facebook.com/officialcarlenecarter and http://www.carlenecarterfanclub.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Carlene Carter Announces Release Date For New Album

Courtesy:  Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Carlene Carter, the daughter of the late June Carter Cash and country music legend Carl Smith, will release her latest album this Spring.  Carter will release Carter Girl on Tuesday, April 8th via Rounder Records.  The album is Carter’s first collection of new material in a decade.  The album was produced by Don Was and mixed by Bob Clearmountain.  Along with producing the record, Was also handles bass duties on some of the songs included on the album, too.

Carter explained in a recent interview that she has anticipated making this record for many years.  She explains that she has wanted to make this record for so long because in her own words, “The songs on the album cover three generations of Carter Family music.”  She even shares writing credit with A.P. Carter on the update of the classic Carter song, ‘Lonesome Valley’ in ‘Lonesome Valley 2003.’  The update is a musical expression of her reaction to the loss of her mother, sister and legendary stepfather, Johnny Cash eleven years ago.  It isn’t the only Carter classic that is re-visited on her new record.  She also included a handful of songs from the Carter Family songbook next to her own original works.

The songs that were culled for this album are just part of that which audiences have to look forward.  Major names such as Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, the late “Cowboy” Jack Clement, and Elizabeth Cook  each make appearances throughout the album’s dozen total tracks.  Lorrie Carter Bennett, daughter of Anita Carta also adds her talents, as does Carlene Carter’s own husband, Joe Breen.  They were joined by session musicians Jim Keltner, Rami Jaffee, Greg Leisz, Sam Bush, Mickey Rafael, and Blake Mills.

‘Little Black Train’, the lead single off of Carter Girl is streaming now online at USA Today’s official website.  Audiences can hear it now at http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2014/02/10/song-premiere-carlene-carter-little-black-train/5325175/http://.  The complete track listing for Carter Girl is listed below.

Carter Girl track listing

1. Little Black Train

(A.P. Carter)

2. Give Me The Roses

(A.P. Carter)

3. Me and The Wildwood Rose

(Carlene Carter)

4. Blackie’s Gunman (duet with Elizabeth Cook)

(A.P. Carter)

5. I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight

(A.P. Carter)

6. Poor Old Heartsick Me

(Helen Carter)

7. Troublesome Waters (duet with Willie Nelson)

(Maybelle Carter/Ezra Carter/Dixie Dean Hall)

8. Lonesome Valley 2003 (with special guest Vince Gill)

(Carlene Carter/A.P. Carter/Al Anderson)

9. Tall Lover Man

(June Carter Cash)

10. Gold Watch and Chain

(A.P. Carter)

11. Blackjack David (duet with Kris Kristofferson)

(A.P. Carter)

12. I Ain’ Gonna Work Tomorrow (featuring Helen Carter, Anita Carter, June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash)

(A.P. Carter)

More information on Carlene Carter, her new album, tour and more is available online at http://www.facebook.com/officialcarlenecarter.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.