Audiences Of All Musical Tastes Will Enjoy Enjoy Eagle Rock Entertainment’s New Dylan Documentary

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new music documentary Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued is an interesting new presentation. Regardless of whether audiences are fans of Bob Dylan and his body of work or fans of the artists recruited to resurrect Dylan’s “long lost” there is plenty for audiences of all ages and tastes to like throughout the program beginning fittingly with its virtual music history lesson. The program’s very presentation style is another element of the documentary that audiences will appreciate. Despite essentially being a standard “making of” feature, it doesn’t come across like so many other guerilla style making of peices thrown together by so many other acts just to sell records. And then of course there is the bonus material. In the case of this Blu-ray, the bonus material lives up to its name as it brings the whole presentation full circle. It doesn’t present the finished product of each song rehearsed in the main feature. But it does give audiences a look at the finished product of half of the noted songs. And that’s only the beginning of what makes the bonus material a true bonus. That will be discussed later. Taking into consideration everything noted here, Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued proves itself a music documentary well worth the watch by audiences of any musical taste.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new music documentary Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued is an interesting work that audiences of any musical taste should see. It should be noted right off the top that it is not a piece that audiences of any age should see. that is because there is some language older audiences might find questionable for some younger viewers. There is also one scene from some vintage 1960s film that shows a topless woman dancing with a group of other people. None of this seems to be noted anywhere on the documentariy’s casing. So it would be irresponsible if this critic didn’t note these issues right off the bat. Having gotten that out of the way, this program is still one that older audiences of any musical taste will want to see. The central reason for that is that it is within itself a virtual music history lesson. The lesson is centered on a group of previously “undiscovered” writings from none other than legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan. Audiences get a glimpse into where the writings came from, how they originally came into being so many decades ago and even their original intent. Some of this information is provided by Dylan himself even though the only time that Dylan actually appears on camera is in vintage footage of Dylan with his band mates collected for the documentary. Audiences will be surprised to learn that many of the writings if not all of them were never even intended for mass consumtion by fans. Audiences will be just as interested to learn why Dylan and company opted to record the original songs literally in the basement of a house instead of the sterility of a studio as they watch. That little factoid is in itself quite enlightening. there is even more information thrown out throughout the program that audiences will find interesting. So that will be left to viewers to discover for themselves. That information coupled with the information noted here shows clearly to be a history lesson that intended or not serves as one of the most important elements of Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued in its enjoyment. It is only part of the program that makes it a joy for fans. The documentary’s overall shooting and presentation style make for their own enjoyment in this case, too.

The overall shooting style and manner of presentation in Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued make for just as much reason for audiences to check out the program as its virtual music history lesson. “Making of documentaries” are all too commonplace in today’s music industry. The problem with all of the “documentaries” is that few prove to be memorable in any form or fashion. More often than not they are throwaway extras used to convince audiences to purchase already overpriced albums that are themselves forgettable. They are typically shot in guerilla, home-video style and presented as such, too. Thankfully none of this applies to Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued. What audiences get in this program is a piece that fully lives up to the title of music documentary. It is an expertly shot and edited program that ties together music’s past and present and will in turn keep audiences engaged from beginning to end. There are no fast moving pans or tilts from the camera crew. And the music being rehearsed makes the presentation emotionally moving and powerful both as the recruited artists–who are themselves some of the music world’s biggest names today–work together and by themselves. There are no jump cuts. And while some special effects are used, they are used sparingly throughout, making the presentation all the more worth the watch.

Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued more than lives up to the title of music documentary. It is the total antithesis of the largely forgettable throwaway pieces out there that masquerade as making of documentaries. This includes the standalone pieces and the ones that are thrown in with albums that are themselves largely forgettable. It stands out from those presentations thanks in large part to its professional production values and its virtual music history lesson. Both elements play their own important part in the success and enjoyment of Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued. As important as each element proves in the long run, there is one more element to note that brings the presentation full circle. That element is the documentary’s collective bonus material. The bonus material in this case is a presentation of some of the songs featured in the main feature in their entirety. While not all twelve of the featured songs are included as bonus material. No fewer than half of the songs are featured, though. Having gone through the rehersals and creative process presented in the program’s main feature, the half dozen songs featured as bonus material are essentially a reward for audiences that watched the creative process that led to the songs. Again, while not all twelve songs presented in the main feature are included with the bonus material, the half dozen that are featured bring the presentation in whole full circle.

The full song “performances” featured in the bonus features of Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued are themselves bonus for audiences. They are bonuses in large part because they finally let audiences hear at least some of the presented songs in their identity. That isn’t the only reason that they are bonuses, though. They are bonuses also because of the fact that each song features one of the recruited artists leading the given songs in his or her own style. Because each of the recruited artists gets to lead at least one song included in the bonus features, not one of the noted songs sounds like the other. Each comopsition has a sound and style completely separate from the others. It shows each artist’s own musical roots and influences thus deepening the program in whole even more. It is within itself a bonus of the bonus material and one more reason that audiences will want to watch Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued.

Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued is one of the more interesting music documentaries that has been released so far this year. For that matter, it is one of the only presentations released so far this year that rightfully deserves to be called a documentary. That is thanks in large part to its virtual music history lesson. Whether or not the history lesson was intended, it is there. The program’s production values set it apart from all of thoe throwaway pieces that try to pretend to be documentaries, too. And the bonus material rewards audiences that stayed and watched Bob Dylan’s “long lost” slowly come to life in more than one way. All three elements together show why audiences of all musical tastes, if not ages, will want to watch this documentary. Together, they show that while Eagle Rock is known largely as the leader in live recordings, it holds its own in the world of music documentaries, too. Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued will be available in stores and online Tuesday, May 26th. More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Yardbirds Announce Makeup Dates, Welcome New Member

Courtesy:  Kayos Productions

Courtesy: Kayos Productions

The Yardbirds will fly again this fall!

Yardbirds founding member and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Jim McCarty announced today that the band will hit the road this fall and make up a string of North American dates that had to be postponed earlier this year. Along with those make-up dates, the band—with McCarty , bassist Kenny Aaronson (Bob Dylan, Billy Idol, Brian Setzer, Mick Taylor), guitarist/singer John Idan, and Myke Scavone (Ram & The Doughboys) on blues harp, vocals, and percussion—will also play additional dates later this fall. Those dates have not yet been confirmed. Though, they will confirmed at a later date. It has also been announced that fellow founding member Chris Dreja will be unable to make the upcoming dates but will be with the band in mind and spirit. Longtime David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick will join the band on its upcoming tour as well.

The band’s currently confirmed tour dates are listed below.

Tour Dates:

October

30                                           Infinity Hall                      Norfolk CT

31                                           Musicfest Café                  Bethlehem PA

 

November

01                                           Newton Theatre                  Newton NJ

02                                           BB King’s                             NYC

06                                           Harrah’s Casino                 Phoenix AZ

07                                           Harrah’s Casino                 Lake Tahoe NV

10                                           Harrah’s Casino                 Loughlin NV

 

The Yardbirds’ fans can keep up with all of the latest updates to the band’s tour schedule and get all of the latest news from the band online at:

 

Website: http://www.theyardbirds.com

 

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

StarVista, Time Life Announce Release Date, Specs For The Wonder Years Season 2

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Kevin, Paul, Winnie and the rest of the characters from ABC’s beloved classic drama The Wonder Years are coming back.

StarVista Entertainment announced Monday that it will release the complete second season of The Wonder Years on DVD on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015. The series’ second season consists of seventeen half-hour episodes spread across four discs. Also included in the upcoming second season set are a number of bonuses for fans. There are also more than four dozen classic songs from artists such as: Bob Dylan, Carol King, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, Cream, Bing Crosby, Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel, Traffic, Diana Ross and the Supremes, James Taylor, Nat King Cole, The Miracles, Judy Collins, Donovan, and a number of others. The full list of songs and artists featured in season Two is noted below.

“Heart of Darkness”

  • You Make Me Feel So Young
  • Sunshine of Your Love-Cream

“Our Miss White”

  • Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)-The Temptations
  • The Times They Are A-Changin’-Bob Dylan

“Christmas”

  • Jingle Bell Rock-Instrumental
  • White Christmas-Bing Crosby
  • River-Joni Mitchell
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas-Instrumental

“Steady as She Goes”

  • Yellow Bird-On-Screen Character Performance
  • Somewhere-On-Screen Character Performance
  • Ooo Baby Baby-The Miracles
  • The Thrill Is Gone-B.B. King
  • Will You Love Me Tomorrow-Carole King

“Just between Me and You and Kirk and Paul and Carla and Becky”

  • I Am a Rock-Simon & Garfunkel
  • Someday We’ll Be Together-Diana Ross and the Supremes
  • Some Enchanted Evening-On-Screen Character Performance

“Pottery Will Get You Nowhere”

  • It’s Not Unusual
  • When I Fall in Love-Nat King Cole

“Hiroshima, Mon Frère”

  • Wild Thing-The Troggs
  • Brother, Brother-Carole King

“Loosiers”

  • You’ve Got a Friend-James Taylor
  • Sweet Georgia Brown-Brother Bones

“Walk Out”

  • I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man-Muddy Waters
  • The Tracks of My Tears-The Miracles
  • I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die-Rag-Country Joe and the Fish
  • Give Peace A Chance-On-Screen Character Performance

“Nemesis”

  • My Girl-The Temptations
  • Theme from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

“Fate”

  • Born under a Bad Sign-Cream
  • Respect-Aretha Franklin

“Birthday Boy”

  • Happy, Happy Birthday Baby-The Tune Weavers
  • Bookends-Simon & Garfunkel
  • Yummy, Yummy, Yummy-On-Screen Character Performance
  • Hava Nagila-Karmon Israeli Singers

“Brightwing”

  • Subterranean Homesick Blues-Bob Dylan
  • In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida-Iron Butterfly
  • You Can All Join In-Traffic
  • Catch the Wind-Donovan

“Square Dance”

  • Star Flicker-Houston Ramblers
  • Turkey In The Straw-Ralph Pierce
  • Comin’ round the Mountain-The Sundowners Band

“Whose Woods Are These?”

  • Happy Days Are Here Again-The Banjo Barons
  • In My Life-Judy Collins

“How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation”

  • The Theme from “A Summer Place”-Percy Faith and His Orchestra
  • Smoke Gets in Your Eyes-The Platters
  • Never on Sunday-The Chordettes
  • I Only Have Eyes for You-The Flamingos
  • La Vie En Rose-Edith Piaf
  • Scarborough Fair/Canticle-Simon & Garfunkel

The second season of The Wonder Years sees Kevin, his friends, and his family all grow together as throughout all of the turmoil of the age. Kevin’s personal growth comes as he starts standing up to his older brother Wayne (Jason Hervey) and as he takes part in a class walkout to protest the Vietnam War. He, Paul (Josh Saviano), and Winnie (Danica McKellar) also fight to stop developers from plowing over Harper Woods, where the trio shared many of their favorite childhood memories.

The bonus materials included on the upcoming Season 2 box set are noted below.

BONUS FEATURES 

  • School Days: Roundtable with Danica McKellar, Fred Savage and Josh Saviano
  • Featurette: The Times They Are A-Changin’: The Era
  • Interviews with: Dan Lauria (Jack Arnold), Alley Mills (Norma Arnold), Daniel Stern (Narrator)

The Wonder Years: Season Two will retail for MSRP of $39.95. More information on the box set’s upcoming release and other titles from Star Vista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://timelife.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUs

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimeLifeUS

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Loner’s Society Impresses On Autumn + Colour Debut

Courtesy: Autumn + Colour

Courtesy: Autumn + Colour

The Charleston, South Carolina based indie band Loner’s Society is set to release its new live EP King City Sessions next month. The five-track recording is a good introduction for those that might be less familiar with the band and just as enjoyable for those that are more familiar with its works. What’s most interesting about the band’s new release is the sound of the songs included in the recording. The songs are interesting in their own right because of their musical and emotional depth. But they don’t exactly sound like the description of the band’s sound on its official Facebook page. According to the band’s official Facebook page, the band is “comparable to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers if The Heartbreakers had been comprised from members of: Pearl Jam, Rancid, and The Temptations.” That wording comes verbatim from the band’s Facebook page. And it’s quite a mix of influences. But as listeners will notice right from the recording’s outset, its sound is more comparable to Bob Dylan and certain classic Country Western acts than any of the acts noted on the band’s Facebook page. Where Loner’s Society does finally start to bear more of the Pearl Jam meets Rancid sound is on the recording’s fourth song, ‘Autum Breeze.’ These two songs (and the recording’s remaining trio of live tracks) make King City Sessions quite the live recording even as short as it is.

Loner’s Society opens its upcoming live EP with the song ‘LaGrange.’ This song is an interesting introduction because of the throwback vibe that it conjures up among listeners. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Megrue openly states in the song in almost Lou Reed style, “And we recorded a record/Then we loaded the van/The last thing the world needed was another punk rock band/So I spent the next five years just barely getting’ by/Cause as time goes by it’s certain/That certain things’ll change/And you can spend your whole life working/Trying to stay the same/But plan on doin’ doubles till you die/At that diner in LaGrange. The line about the last thing the world needing was another punk rock band is very telling. It goes back to the previously noted difference in the sound of the songs included on this recording versus the band’s own description of its sound. This song sounds anything like a punk rock band. It’s more of a Country Western style piece interestingly enough. Even that first verse’s remaining lines line up more with old school Country Western than punk, Pearl Jam, and especially The Temptations. For all of its deep introspection, there is one funny moment in this song in which Megrue sings about things he’s seen in his life. He sings “I’ve seen marriages, divorces, babies, and divorces.” That must be one heck of a lot of divorces. Whether or not it was meant to be joking, it’s such a subtle joke that one can’t help but laugh a little bit hearing the emphasis on divorces that have been seen. That subtlety set alongside the song’s more heartfelt introspective musical and lyrical elements make it an excellent introduction for the band in every sense of the word.

‘LaGrange’ is a solid opener for the band’s new upcoming live recording.  It’s just one of the recording’s most interesting of points.  The recording’s penultimate performance of ‘Autumn Breeze’ is another of those high points.  It is more along the lines of the band’s described sound.  It starts off gently enough, but eventually picks up and bears more of an indie-folk/rock sound.  Listeners can feel such emotion as Megrue sings, “I can feel that Autumn breeze/Blowing in from Tennessee/It soaks my nights in whiskey dreams/Old cruel winds just speak to me.”  There’s a certain pain in Megue’s voice as he sings this verse that tugs at the heart.  The song takes a more driving feel from there.  Even with that more up-tempo feel, the song doesn’t lose the pained emotional state established early on in its near five-minute run time.  It all makes for what is easily one of the highest of this live EP’s performances.

‘Autumn Breeze’ and ‘LaGrange’ are both great additions to King City Sessions.  Regardless of whether or not audiences are familiar with these songs or the others included in this new EP, every listener will agree that they and the EP’s other trio of songs make this recording a welcome new release from the band.  If the five songs contained on this EP aren’t enough for some, then fans need not worry as they’ll get their chance to hear the band live in person, too.  Loner’s Society is currently scheduled to perform at the Deep South Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina this Saturday, January 18th.  The performance is an 18+ show.  Tickets are $5.  They can be  purchased online at http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/428839?__utmx=-&__utmv=-&__utmk=206623635&__utmz=1.1387914625.3.3.utmcsr%3Dgoogle%7Cutmccn%3D%28organic%29%7Cutmcmd%3Dorganic%7Cutmctr%3D%28not+provided%29&__utma=1.1393594094.1385825001.1387914625.1387926374.4&__utmc=1&__utmb=1.1.10.1387926374&wrKey=28A0D047C3315AD262485FE7F569EDFE.  The show is currently scheduled to begin at 6pm.  Fans of Loner’s Society can find out about all of the band’s tour updates, news and more online at http://www.lonerssociety.com, http://www.facebook.com/lonerssociety and http://twitter.com/lonerssociety.  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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Eagle Rock Keeps Soaring With Santana’s Latest Live Release

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Montreux Sounds

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Montreux Sounds

Thank goodness for Carlos Santana.  And Thank goodness for Eagle Rock Entertainment.  This has been stated before already with the 2012 release of Carlos Santana: Greatest Hits Live at Montreux 2011.  Now Eagle Rock has finished what it started with the release of Santana’s performance that same year with fellow guitar legend John McLaughlin (The Mahavishnu Orchestra).  It has already been noted of seeing Carlos Santana and company live before that to see these musicians perform live is to not just see a concert.  Seeing Carlos Santana and his band mates live is to truly take part in a musical experience.  That applies in this brand new release just as much as in Eagle Rock’s previous live Santana Blu-ray.  The musical experience is just one portion of what makes Santana & McLaughlin: Live at Montreux 2011 such a joy for music aficionados.  Tied directly into the experience is the show’s set list.  Just as with Santana’s previous live release via Eagle Rock, this show’s set list feels more like one giant jam session than a specifically structured set list.  This is far better than anyone could realize.  And lastly, audiences with HDTVs will appreciate the clarity of the recording’s sound and picture.  Those with surround sound home theater systems will especially appreciate that clarity.  Together with the set list and the general performance, it is one more factor that reminds audiences why Eagle Rock Entertainment is the leader of the pack in live recordings.

Taking in a performance of Carlos Santana and his band mates is more than simply taking in a performance from the highly talented musicians.  Taking in a performance of these individuals is taking in a full musical experience.  This is just as true in Santana & McLaughlin: Invitation to Illumination as it was on Carlos Santana: Greatest Hits Live at Montreux 2011.  It is incredible to see Santana and his band mates sharing the stage throughout the two-hour plus performance.  Unlike so many other bands out there today, Santana steps back on multiple occasions, allowing his band mates to get their fair share of time in the limelight.  Simply put, he not only talks the talk, but walks the walk, too.  Such humility, willingness to share the spotlight, and talent shows why Santana is still one of the greatest guitarists in modern music history.  Audiences that have not yet gotten to see Eagle Rock’s previous performance from Santana and company will be in awe at the talent of both drummers Dennis Chambers and Santana’s own wife, Cyndi Blackman Santana.  Blackman Santana’s skill with the sticks is unparalleled.  Watching her perform whether with the rest of the band or by herself on her drum solo is like watching controlled chaos.  By contrast, Chambers’ own performance behind his kit is the picture of talent and composure.  Chambers’ body language is one of someone that is entirely relaxed.  Yet his playing would seem otherwise.  It’s an amazing juxtaposition.  The band overall presents such talent throughout its performance. 

The band’s performance throughout the two-hour plus concert is the central point of the recording.  Also to be taken into consideration in the overall presentation is the show’s set list.  The set list for this concert was comprised largely of songs from the classic 1973 album, Love Devotion Surrender.  However, fans will also take note early on of the medley of songs including covers of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ and saxophonist John Coletrane’s ‘Peace on Earth’.  It even contains a cover of Albert Ayler’s ‘Our Prayer.’  The cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was the highest of highlights throughout the medley of tunes.  From the guitar work of both Santana and McLaughlin to David K. Matthews’ keyboards to every part in between, it is a cover that would make both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant proud if they see this performance.  The same can be said of the late John Bonham’s son, Jason, too.  While it’s a cover, one can’t help but think to one’s own self, which version is really better?  Zeppelin’s version or this updated take on the classic song?  That’s a tough call.  But what can be said is that it is just as good as the original, if not better.  It is an amazing point in the overall performance.  Audiences will of course each find their own moment that they will call their favorite.  This is just one of so many from which audiences will be able to choose.  And it’s just one of so many that make Invitation to Illumination such a joy for audiences of all ages.

The set list and the general performance work together with this new release to make it one of the year’s best live recordings.  There is one more factor that audiences should consider in examining what makes it one more expert release from Eagle Rock Entertainment.  That factor is the presentation’s audio and video mix.  The audio and video mix of this presentation is right on par with each live recording already released so far by Eagle Rock Entertainment this year.  Those with home theater surround sound systems and the ability to set the audio on their HDTVs to a music setting will especially appreciate this.  Those audiences will be entirely enveloped by the concert and see just why taking in a performance by Carlos Santana and his band mates is in fact not just taking in a performance, but being part of a true musical experience.  Santana & McLaughlin: Invitation to Illumination Live at Montreux 2011 is available now in stores and online.  Fans can keep up with the latest news and more from Carlos Santana online at http://www.santana.com and http://www.facebook.com/carlossantana

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

American Playground Another Enjoyable Compilation From Putumayo Kids

Courtesy:  Putumayo World Music

Courtesy: Putumayo World Music

Putumayo Kids has taken young listeners all around the world all from the safety of their own homes and classrooms thanks to its series of compilations featuring music from different regions of America and Europe.  With the release of its latest compilation, American Playground, Putomayo continues that well-established tradition this time by examining a number of children’s favorites set to bluegrass, folk, and gospel settings. 

The ten track compilation includes a solid mix of folk, bluegrass and blues pieces along with a trio of adaptations of hits from Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and jazz composer Irving Berlin.  The cover of Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ stands out as it’s the only jazz piece on the compilation.  But it is still an impressive rendition of the jazz classic nonetheless.  The pairing of Aaron Watson and Elizabeth McQueen for the song is especially interesting considering that both singers are more versed in country music than jazz.  Had listeners not known this, they would never have known that the pair had no background in jazz.  This is in itself a tribute to the choice of artists and songs picked for the compilation’s sequencing.  Watson and McQueen’s take on Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ is a solid interpretation of the jazz classic.  It is impressive enough that one wonders if Putumayo will eventually release a compilation of jazz standards for both kids and their parents.  There is rumor that another album is due out before 2013 is over.  So it would be interesting to see if that in fact becomes the alleged new compilation.

The cover of Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ is a nice touch to this compilation that is otherwise centered largely on roots music.  Of course the roots music compiled for this release is enjoyable in its own right, too.  The cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ is a fitting and touching song.  It shows a side of Dylan that many casual listeners might not otherwise have known about.  Most people know Dylan for his protest songs.  This song is the exact antithesis of those works.  Singer/songwriter Randy Kaplan makes the song even more interesting with his rendition of the song both with this musicianship and his voice.  He actually sounds very similar to a young Bob Dylan with this record.  Its slight gravelly sound and gentility perfectly complements what sounds like a mandolin used in the place of a guitar.  He gives the song a whole new meaning with his rendition that is still powerful in its own way.  It is one more enjoyable piece that parents and children alike will enjoy.

The cover of Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ is another high point to this instantly enjoyable record.  It’s not the last, either.  The compilation closes out fittingly with a cover of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land.’  After taking listeners on a musical journey across the country on the previous songs, this song is a good bookend companion to the compilation’s opening number, ‘She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain.’  Listeners are taken from up high in the mountains in the compilation’s opener, down to the plains, looking up at the blue skies and across the heartland to the final notes of Guthrie’s classic song.  Younger listeners won’t catch it.  But older listeners might catch that one specific line was removed from this rendition of the song.  Why that was done is anyone’s guess.  Even with one specific portion of the song omitted in this rendition—intentionally or not—it doesn’t lose any of its enjoyment.  Along with the remaining material on this compilation, it serves as just one more impressive addition to what is an overall enjoyable compilation for listeners of all ages.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from the Putumayo online store at http://www.putumayo.com/americanplayground?section=kids

Parents and kids can keep up with all of the latest releases from Putumayo and Putumayo Kids online at http://www.facebook.com/putukids, http://www.putumayokids.com, and http://twitter.com/putumayokids

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Crain’s Third Record One of 2013’s Early Sleeper Hits

Courtesy:  Ramseur Records

Courtesy: Ramseur Records

Samantha Crain is one of the music industry’s best kept secrets.  This twenty-six year old Oklahoman has been making waves with her upcoming third full length studio release, Kid Face.  Crain’s new album has been getting attention from both the public sphere and that of public broadcasting with positive reviews from Rolling Stone magazine, Spin, and National Public Radio.  What’s most intriguing about the album isn’t so much its songs, but the ability of the songs to keep listeners’ attention throughout the course of the record.  Considering that the album was recorded and mix over the course of just nine days, the album becomes that much more impressive.

Crain’s third album is a solid piece of county/folk that not only Crain’s fans will enjoy but also those of fellow female artists Nora Jones, and Regina Specktor among a handful of others.  Its opener, ‘Never Going Back’ makes for quite the interesting starting point for Crain on this album.  The song, as Crain herself writes of it, is about an individual who had been involved in an affair but has made the life altering decision to not go back; thus the song’s title.  It goes completely against the mold of the stereotypical country song.  Instead of someone singing about having lost a partner, this is an empowering song about someone who has made the decision to get out of a relationship that would have otherwise led to such a country song.  She writes in ‘Never Going Back’, “The ending of ten thousand dreams/My soul has finally been set free/From his cool eyes/I’ll hide myself in softer storms/Crawl out of holes/Become reborn/To my surprise…I’ve stayed afloat in quicker sand/But now I have a place to stand and call my own/I had a deal with man and God/One let me down and one did not/So I made my way back home.”  The uplifting and infectious sound of the song and the equally positive lyrics make this a good start to this record.  On top of that, the two together make for a song that is sure to be an instant hit for Crain’s fans.

Crain doesn’t note in writing about the songs on this album the roots of ‘Never Going Back.’  More than likely, it had no influence from any personal bearings.  Though in reading through what she had to note about other songs, many of the other songs on this album did in fact come from personal experience.  And one of the best of those songs is another song that goes almost completely against the grain of standard pop song writing.  That song comes late on the album in the form of ‘Somewhere All The Time.’  Crain writes of this song that its influence comes from her life on the road.  She notes that travelling is in fact, her “obsession and her method.” Although sometimes she does need a break.  And thus this song was born.  It’s a response to the people who ask her if being on the road so much is difficult.  She writes of those who ask her, “Everybody wants to go somewhere/Everybody wants to go all the time/Don’t you ever want to sit down some/Take a little time.”  Her response is two-fold.  By and large, she writes of the joys of touring despite things like vehicles breaking down and people who seemingly get paranoid when she’s out on the road.  For everything that she loves of being on the road, Crain does explain that need to get away as she sings, “Somebody better say a prayer for me/Cause I need a break from this whole scene/Spend some time in the grasslands/And my man to love me/Could you forget about me for a while.”  As with the album’s opener, this is another nice upbeat piece all the way around that fans will instantly enjoy.  It’s really one of those classic storytelling style songs that will especially impress fans of singer songwriters the likes of Neil Young and Bob Dylan.  And it makes for one more piece of the whole that will make this album a favorite both for long-time fans and for those who are new to Samantha Crain’s music.

As has already been noted here, a big part of what makes Samantha Crain’s new album so impressive is her ability and seeming drive to go against the grain of standard music and general human standards.  As the album nears its final notes, listeners get one more song proving that in ‘Ax.’  It really comes across as a song of social commentary, so to speak.  Crain writes about the song that ‘Ax’ is her response to the seemingly increasing negativity in the world today and that while it seems “against her own nature most days”, she wrote this as her own “call to try and be one of the giving and humane.”  In simple terms, ‘Ax’ is proof that people can be good.  They just have to try.  She writes, “You can put your ax back in its place/Your face is wearing all that awful hate/It’s tough to be afraid/But you have to let it lay.”  This is such a short verse in an equally short song.  But being such a short song and short verse, it proves that less is more.  She says so much in so few words.  The gentility of the song’s musical backing adds even more emotion to the song.  It’s just her singing along with a piano and guitar.  The minimalist approach—both lyrically and musically–harkens back to another era of music’s greatest eras past.  That being considered too, one can’t help but appreciate this song even more both in itself and as a part of the bigger picture that is Crain’s new album.

Samantha Crain offers audiences a lot of impressive material, both musically and lyrically, as has been noted here.  The songs already mentioned are just a tiny picture of what audiences can expect from her upcoming release.  It offers eight more tracks of which listeners will each find their own favorite.  The album will be available February 19th on Ramseur Records.  In celebration of its upcoming release, Samantha Crain will be touring in support of the album.  Her tour starts January 23rd in Raleigh, North Carolina at the Berkeley Café.  Doors open at 7pm and the show begins at 8pm.  For full information on the show, including ticket information, go online to http://www.berkeleycafe.net.

Her performance in Raleigh will be followed up by a set of dates in Wilmington, North Carolina and Pembroke, North Carolina between January 24th and 26th.  From there, she will be heading up to New York before making her way through the Midwest.  Fans can get a full tour itinerary online at http://www.facebook.com/Samanthacrainmusic and http://www.samanthacrain.com.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.