Cason’s Latest LP Has Plenty Of “Heart”

Courtesy:  Plowboy Records

Courtesy: Plowboy Records

Singer/Songwriter Buzz Cason has spent some six decades making music. He started his career by starting the very first rock and roll band in Nashville, Tennessee. He has founded his own recording studio where greats such as Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and The Doobie Brothers have recorded hit songs among many other major names. He has also spent much of his career making his own music. He has continued making his own music up to this year. As a matter of fact, Cason released his latest record, Troubadour Heart earlier this year. The album is quite aptly titled considering Cason’s storied career. And for those audiences that might not be so familiar with Cason’s body of work, Troubadour Heart serves as quite the first impression, too. The album exhibits quite the number of influences. The laid back bluesy ‘Goin’ Back To Alabama’ presents an influence from the likes of Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, and Robert Johnson. This applies both musically and lyrically. And then there’s the southern rock styling of ‘Something I Can Dance To.’ This song shows Cason’s Nashville roots and his rock leanings at the same time. Troubadour Heart’s penultimate tune ‘Cowboys & Indians’ exhibits more of Cason’s southern rock influences. Audiences more familiar with the history of modern rock will hear tinges of Eagles and even George Thorogood to a slightly lesser extent. There are also hints of The Grateful Dead and Dire Straits peppered throughout the course of Cason’s latest release. All of these influences together make Troubadour Heart one of 2014’s more interesting new records.

Troubadour Heart is one of this year’s more interesting records. That’s because of the range of influences exhibited throughout the course of the album’s fifteen total tracks. One prime example of this comes in the laid back bluesy ‘Goin’ Back To Alabama.’ The song—the album’s only blues-influenced piece—conjures thoughts of Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, and even Robert Johnson thanks both to its music and lyrics. Cason sings of a subject reminiscing of his younger days in Alabama. He sings, “When my world/Comes unraveled/I know it’s time/For me to travel/Going ‘round the bend/Gettin’ in that Dixieland.” He goes on in the song’s chorus to sing in semi-celebratory fashion about going back to Alabama. The most interesting aspect of this song is that not only does it exhibit classic blues influence, but that guest singer Dan Penn actually sounds just like Eric Clapton. If one were to hear this song without knowing that it was Penn backing Cason here, one would swear that one was hearing Eric Clapton. The similarity between the pair’s vocals is incredible. That and the song’s easygoing lyrics and music show just why ‘Going’ to Alabama’ is such a solid example of what makes Troubadour Heart such an interesting listen.

‘Goin’ Back To Alabama’ is an excellent example of the diversity of Cason’s talent on his latest record. It is just one example of that talent, too. Another equally impressive example of that diversity is in the more up-tempo southern rock tinged song ‘Something I Can Dance To.’ It clearly reflects Cason’s early days growing up in Nashville with its sound. That up-tempo sound and the song’s lyrics—which are slightly sexually charged in their own right—make this song a perfect fit for so many country-western style bars and clubs. The energy exuded by this piece will have listeners up and dancing in no time regardless of whether or not there’s a formal dance floor.

‘Cowboys & Indians’ is the penultimate track included in Troubadour Heart’s fifteen total tracks. It is also one more fitting example of the diversity of music presented on this record. This song presents a pretty obvious country-western influence as Cason sings about a Romeo and Juliet style story. Cason’s story here presents the love story of a Native American woman falling in love with a seemingly White male. Despite the fact that one’s parents doesn’t approve of the other, the couple doesn’t let that stop them. They end up happily ever after and having their own family together. It’s a fun story and an equally fun final blast from Cason before he gently closes out the album with the aptly titled beachy tune ‘Pacific Blue.’ That final song is a fitting closer as it is one more song showing the pure vastness of Cason’s talent and influences. Having taken in this song and those mentioned before it, listeners will agree once more that Troubadour Heart is without a doubt one of the year’s most intriguing records.

Troubadour Heart is available now in stores and online. It can be downloaded via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HGTNKAK/ref=s9_simh_gw_p15_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1RG9YQMJV0C4KG1XBKVB&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846. His new album can also be purchased at any of his upcoming live shows. Cason is scheduled to perform live Wednesday, Jun e18th in Okoboji, IA. He also has a pair of shows scheduled in Nashville and one in Lincolnton, North Carolina. That concert is scheduled for Saturday, August 16th. Audiences can get a complete list of Buzz Cason’s live events and news online at http://www.facebook.com/buzzcasonmusic, http://www.buzzcason.com, and http://twitter.com/buzzcason. 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.

Bonamassa Still On A Roll With His Latest Live Release

Courtesy:  J&R Adventures

Courtesy: J&R Adventures

Joe Bonamassa has been on quite the roll as of late.  After having released what was one of 2012’s Top 10 Live Recordings last year, Bonamassa has picked up 2013 exactly where he left 2012; with one of this year’s top live recordings.  That recording is An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House.

An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House has been released both on Blu-ray and DVD as well as double CD set.  That audiences have been offered so many options alone makes this new recording one of 2013’s best.  The audio companion to the Blu-ray and DVD portion is nice to have.  Though, the Blu-ray and DVD offer audiences the best experience.  The video and audio are both top notch, especially on the Blu-ray.  That is especially the case for those with a home surround sound theater system.  Collected here in this performance are stripped down versions of songs from Bonamassa’s previously released albums.  Long time fans will recognize: ‘The Ballad of John Henry’, ‘Jelly Roll’, ‘Seagull’, ‘Dust Bowl’, ‘Sloe Gin’, and the title track from his most recent album, ‘Driving Toward The Daylight’ just to name a handful.  They are just part of the enjoyment that audiences get from this latest live release from one of the music industry’s current top guitarists.

The songs performed in this set are enjoyable in and of themselves.  But it’s not just the songs that are enjoyable.  The concert’s setting adds to the enjoyment factor.  It’s a basic, stripped down set with J.B. sitting calmly out front, singing and playing his instrument, and his band mates backing him.  There are no special effects, no pyrotechnics, and no special lighting rigs.  It’s just a group of musicians, their instruments, and the audience.  It’s music as it should be experienced.  Watching J.B. with nothing but his shades and his guitar, sweating as he played the blues echoed hints of legends the likes of Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt.  It is simply put a pure, raw experience.  And thanks to those behind the cameras, the experience is that much more incredible.

Thanks to producer Kevin Shirley, director Philippe Klose, and all others involved, the recorded performance has made for one of 2013’s Top 10 Live Recordings.  Both the video and audio presented in the Blu-ray disc are crystal clear.  The performance here is presented in widescreen, adding yet another touch to the overall product.  That the performance was recorded at the Vienna Opera House makes it even more special.  The juxtaposition of this modern artist performing a mix of modern and classic blues pieces in one of Vienna’s most famed structures puts the whole thing over the top.  Now, had the CD, DVD and Blu-ray been released in one large box as an option, it might have made its way to the very top of the year’s Top 10 Live Recordings list.  Regardless, considering all of what has been noted, it still remains one of this year’s top Live Recordings.  It is both an excellent introduction to Joe Bonamassa’s music for new audiences, and a must have for long time fans.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the official Joe Bonamassa website at http://jbstore.jbonamassa.com/blu-ray/an-acoustic-evening-at-the-vienna-opera-house-blu-ray/.

For those itching to see Joe live, he is currently touring in support of this new live release.  He is currently finishing up a string of U.K. dates and will be returning to the U.S. on April 12th at the Paramount Theater in Seattle, Washington.  Fans in North Carolina will possibly get the chance to see him later this year as he is scheduled to perform at the Crown Theatre in Fayetteville, North Carolina on November 10th.  That performance will be followed up by a performance at the Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 12th.  For a full listing of tour dates and all the latest news, go online to the official Joe Bonamassa website, http://www.jbonamassa.com or his official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/JoeBonamassa.

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Peter Green & Co. Bring Back The Best Of The Blues On New Compilation

Courtesy: eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

The blues is one of the purest forms of American music that exists, next to jazz.  The blues is the root of so much of the most popular music throughout the ages.  Elvis, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and AC/DC all have their music steeped in this classic music, just to name a handful of acts.  Along with those acts, fans might recognize the name of former Fleetwood Mac front man Peter Green among the masses of blues fans out there, too.  Green and his band, Peter Green Splinter Group, have a brand new record out now titled, “Blues Don’t Change.” 

“Blues Don’t Change” is a wonderful record that longtime fans will love more and more with every listen.  The record opens with a cover of Robert Johnson’s timeless classic, ‘I Believe My Time Ain’t’ Long.’  The song brings up memories of a dusty, darkly lit blues club.  It’s almost a musical time capsule.  Green’s musicianship takes listeners back in time with this opener, paying homage to one of the greatest names in the blues.  There is also a rendition of Muddy waters’ famed twelve bar blues hit, ‘Honey Bee.’  Again, it has that quiet intensity for which old school blues is known.  It has that same feeling as ‘I Believe My Time Ain’t Long.’

‘Little Red Rooster’ is another great addition to this new compilation of blues hits.  The gritty feel of the vocals and subtlety of the classic Willie Dixon piece will keep listeners in that musical time warp, back to the days of the old juke joints that dotted the country’s landscape. 

For all the slower pieces on this record, “Blues Don’t Change” does change up here and there.  ‘Don’t Start Me Talking’ is just as impressive as every other piece on the record.  It’s noticeably more up-tempo than other pieces.  But it doesn’t lose any of the flare of the original in Green’s interpretation. 

“Blues Don’t Change” is loaded with so many incredible blues standards that it would take far too long to go into all eleven songs in the playlist.  Needless to say, this record is more than just a compilation of songs.  It’s a musical history lesson of one of America’s greatest musical genres.  “Blues Don’t Change” is available both in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online at http://www.eagle-rock.com.

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It’s About You stands alone among music documentaries

Courtesy: MPI media group/MPI Home Video

Good morning once again, fans.  I told you that things would be busy today.  I think I am finally on track…or at least close to it with the last of today’s new reviews.  To finish off the morning and make my way into the weekend (by the way next week’s going to be real busy too.  So stay tuned and spread the word), I’ve got a look at John Mellencamp’s brand new documentary, “It’s About You.”  The documentary was released on dvd and blu-ray last week.  Director Kurt Markus and his son Ian shot the entire documentary on a Super 8 Camera and a more modern rig, too.  the combination of the two, mixed with the finished product, make it quite the interesting work.  So without further ado, I offer for your consideration, dear readers, John Mellencamp’s new documentary, “It’s About You.”

John Mellencamp’s voice is one of the most distinctive in the music business.  And so is his sound.  The Indiana born musician has been a mainstay in the business ever since the release of his debut 1976 album, “Chestnut Street Incident.”  He recorded that album under the moniker, Johnny Cougar.  Nearly four decades since that release, John Mellencamp is still one of rock’s great names.  His most recent album, “No Better Than This” was released in 2010.  And last week, MPI Home Video/MPI media group released a dvd and blu-ray titled, “It’s About You” that follows the creation of that album and his tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.

“It’s About You” is an intriguing documentary.  It was shot both on Super 8 and on a more modern camera.  The raw shooting style by father and son duo Kurt and Ian Markus sets the documentary apart from so many of the spit shined and streamlined documentaries that are currently on the market.  Kurt even goes so far as to comment on the work by himself and his son.  He notes that Mellencamp had told him at one point that regardless of what the duo did, there was other stuff that would be better.  Whether or not Mellencamp was joking on this comment is anyone’s guess.  But Markus was right in noting how staying out of Mellencamp’s way gave the documentary a much more real feeling.  It helped to pull in audiences.

As an added bonus, the commentary is actually included as part of the documentary, rather than being kept aside as a bonus feature.  Kurt, the elder of the Markus duo, has a tone in his commentary that is a wondeful compliment to the shooting style.  He comes across almost like “This American Life” Ira Glass. The elder Markus’ writing/speaking style is almost poetic in its style and delivery.  It’s especially hard hitting as audiences listen to him discuss the demise of small town America’s “downtown” regions.Americans already know that small town America is dying.  But the way in which Markus delivers his commentary reminds viewers of how devastating it is to communities.  That’s especially the case set against footage of empty buildings once busting ages ago.  He notes how all the businesses have moved to more suburban regions, thus leading to the deaths of the once shining hubs of commerce.

Of course, the commentary and filming aren’t all that make the documentary so interesting.  There is one moment as Mellencamp and company are recording one of the songs for “No Better Than This” in which one of the band members discusses the instruments’ “voices”.  He discusses the balance of each musician playing his instrument at a given level, and the impact that it has on a song.  It nearly mirrors Black Label Society frontman Zakk Wylde’s comment years ago regarding the ability of heavy music to be soft and vice versa.

“It’s About You” runs just shy of an hour and a half.  As a matter of fact, the actual run time is just under the eighty-minute run time on the case for the disc.  Why does this matter, one might ask?  It matters in that even in just under that eighty-minutes, viewers will feel like the documentary flies right by.  When a documentarian can make a film that keeps the audience’s attention for just over an hour (especially with a music documentary), that’s proof of a well made documentary.  And that’s exactly what this work is.  “It’s About You” isn’t for everyone.  But for anyone that’s into classic rock and who is simply a fan of John Mellencamp, it’s an insightful look into how this music legend makes music, and his life on the road.

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Bonamassa’s “Driving Toward The Daylight” is a great ride

Joe Bonamassa recently celebrated his thirty-fifth birthday.  Typically, the one celebrating the birthday is the one getting the gifts.  But in Bonamassa’s case, he is giving his fans a gift, albeit it just a little bit after his birthday.  The gift in question is his new upcoming album, “Driving Towards The Daylight.”  The album hits stores next Tuesday.  And whether one is a fan of JB himself or a fan of the blues, this new album is a wonderful addition to any music lover’s library.

“Driving Towards The Daylight” is a great bookend to an already positive start to the year for Joe Bonamassa.  He started the year with the outstanding blu-ray and double disc dvd release of “Beacon Theatre:  Live at Beacon Theatre.”  Then, he recently celebrated his birthday.  This new release is just one more addition for his fans.  The album is a solid mix of blues and blues-based rock that will have any listener tapping his or her feet.  It takes a handful of new material and throws in classics from the likes of Howlin Wolf (‘Who’s Been Talking?’) and Robert Johnson (‘Stones in My Passway’) for good measure.  There’s even a rendition of Willie Dixon’s ‘I Got All You Need’ and Tom Waits’ hit, ‘New Coat of Paint.’ 

The covers included on “Driving Towards The Daylight” are great additions to the album.  But J.B.’s originals shouldn’t and can’t be ignored, either.  The album’s opener, ‘Dislocated Boy’ is a modern blues hit. Bonamassa shows yet again with this song that even as young as he is, he’s just as talented as legends the likes of: Warren Haynes, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Satriani, and so many others.  That’s the case both with his vocals and his guitar work.  His talent is just as evident in the album’s more rock oriented title track.  What’s really interesting about this song is that the title might make one think it’s an up-tempo hard rocking piece.  But the reality is that it’s actually more of a borderline ballad of sorts.  That’s not a bad thing, either.  It’s an easily accessible song that any listener will enjoy.  Add in guest musicians, Anton Fig (drums) Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford and his son, Harrison, and audiences get a song that is arguably one of the major highlights of this album.  Famed drummer Anton Fig helps out throughout the album.  He and Whitford are also joined by producer Kevin Shirley (Dream Theater).  Shirley adds in his own contributions on guitar, percussion, and even toy piano on different songs.   

The guest musicians and cover songs do their part to make “Driving Towards The Daylight” a great new release from Joe Bonamassa.  The production by Kevin Shirley makes the album that much better.  Add in the raw talent of Joe Bonamassa himself, and audiences get what is not just one of the best blues records of the year, but one of the best albums of the year, too.

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