AT&T Audience Network’s Weekly Concert To Feature Darius Rucker Tonight

Courtesy: Liberty Records/Capitol Records Nashville

AT&T Audience Network’s weekly live concert series has another big name for this week’s show.

Darius Rucker is this week’s featured artist. The broadcast, set to air at 9 p.m. ET/PT will be available on DIRECTV Channel 239, AT&T U-Verse Channel 1114 and on-demand through DIRECTV NOW. The hour-long concert, which is part of Rucker’s current tour in support of his latest album When Was The Last Time, was recorded at the Apollo Theater in New York City and features a set list that reaches back to Rucker’s solo debut album and all the way to his most recent album When Was The Last Time. It also features some fan favorites from his days as front man of Hootie & The Blowfish.

As if the songs themselves are not enough for audiences, the concert also features a guest appearance by Robert Randolph (front man of Robert Randolph and the Family Band) for performances of ‘Love What You Do’ and ‘Hold My Hand’ alongside Rucker.

Ted Stryker, host of AT&T Audience Network’s weekly concert series kicks off tonight’s broadcast with an on-stage interview with Rucker ahead of the concert’s broadcast.

More information on AT&T Audience Network’s weekly concert series is available online now along with all of the series’ latest news at:

Website: http://www.directv.com/premiums/audience

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/audiencemusic

More information on Darius Rucker is available online now along with all of his latest news and more at:

Website: http://www.dariusrucker.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/dariusrucker

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.

POJ’s Latest Full-Length Album Is A Joy For Every Listener

Courtesy:   Write Home Records

Courtesy: Write Home Records

Jukestone Paradise, the latest full-length studio effort from Pimps of Joytime, is one of this year’s best new independent albums. In the case of this review, independent refers to the fact that the album, which is available now, has been released via an independent record label, Write Home Records. Having noted this, anyone that is a fan of Robert Randolph, Sly and the Family Stone and others of that ilk will especially enjoy this record. That is thanks in large part to the album’s mix of blues, funk, soul, and pop. Lyrically the album reaches into a number of different topics, which in its own right makes the album just as interesting a new release for the Brooklyn, New York-based act. One example of the its various musical and lyrical reaches comes in the old school funk-influenced ‘Body Party.’ This celebratory piece is laid back, musically speaking. Yet the coupling of its musical and lyrical side gives it a certain energy that is sure to get listeners on their feet, singing and dancing along whether at a party or at home. POJ (as it will henceforth be called) also touches on a more personal matter early on in the form of ‘Heart is Wild.’ Musically, this song also exhibits an obvious old-school influence that is just as certain to catch audiences’ ears. Lyrically, it comes across as a declaration of self-worth despite the view of others on a person. It is a declaration that comes across in a wholly positive fashion not just lyrically but musically, too. Such uplifting lyrics set alongside the song’s equally almost celebratory musical side makes this song one of the highest points of Jukestone Paradise. ‘Freedom Dancer,’ the album’s closer presents its own positive lyrical message and equally positive music that once again is certain to put just as much of a smile on listeners’ faces as they dance and sing along. It’s just one more example of why audiences will enjoy this record. It isn’t the last, either. The album’s obviously Robert Randolph-influenced opener ‘Red Golden,’ is another of the album’s high points as is the laid back groove of ‘Waiting for My Ride.’ Those familiar with their music history may even recognize the keyboard line that serves as the song’s foundation. It’s one more way in which this record proves to be a record that any listener will love and a record that is entirely deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new independent albums.

POJ’s new album Jukestone Paradise boasts a total of ten tracks and tops off at no more than forty-five minutes. That really is not that long of a run time considering the album’s total makeup. Even at such a relatively average run time, it still offers so much enjoyment that at no one point does the album ever feel like it passes by too quickly or slowly. One of its best offerings comes in the form of its celebratory party-perfect song ‘Body Party.’ This piece is one that audiences will love whether at a party or pumping on the radio. Vocalist Mayteana Morales sings over he song’s funk-influenced musical side, “It don’t matter what shoes you wear/Long as you show up and you don’t care/I might have said care/But I meant don’t give a f***/Cause at the end of the night/Got a bunch of lugs who show up.” Lyrically and musically the song continues on in the same positive fashion straight through to the end. Its musical side grooves so solidly that it will instantly have any listener on his or her feet instantly. The song taken wholly into consideration, it shows to be one of the year’s top new party anthems. And given the proper support it will be one of the year’s top new party anthems playing at clubs and parties across the country. It is just one song from this album that proves the support that the album in whole deserves, too. ‘Heart is Wild,’ which comes earlier in the record, is another excellent example of what makes this album so enjoyable.

‘Heart Is Wild’ is another interesting part of the whole of Jukestone Paradise that makes this album such an enjoyable work. The song is a piece that comes across as a statement of self-worth so to speak. That interpretation comes across as lead vocalist Brian J sings over the song’s funky guitar line and equally grooving bongo line, “People say/That I need/To get my s*** together/They don’t know/They don’t understand/You can’t feel/What I do/Or who I am/My heart is wild/Well I don’t forget/I won’t forfeit/Got a fire burning inside/Haters hate and I keep creatin’/Don’t have to question why/I’m a laid back jack…Paid the cost to be my own boss/Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that y’all.” That’s a pretty clear statement. It leaves very little to the imagination in terms of interpretation. And that’s not a bad thing, either. Lyrically and musically, Brian J and company keep the positive vibes coming right to the end. Those positive vibes will inspire any listener and move them to dance and sing along again and again. Considering the general makeup of so many funk and R&B songs out there, it’s a fully welcome change of pace. And such a change of pace makes it all the more reason for audiences to hear not just this song but Jukestone Paradise in whole.

Both ‘Heart is Wild’ and ‘Body Party’ are excellent examples of the joy that POJ offers listeners with its latest full-length studio effort. They are both but a tiny glimpse into what the group has to offer listeners on this its latest album. The album’s closer ‘Freedom Dancer’ is one more clear look at what makes Jukestone Paradise such a joy. At well over eight minutes in length, it is the longest of the album’s compositions. That doesn’t take anything away from the song, though. It will make listeners feel just as good as either of the album’s previously noted songs. That’s thanks to its musical mix of modern and old school influences and equally inspiring lyrics. The group sings together over the song’s old school funk sound, “Stepped outside/Of the way that I used to be/Stepped outside/Of the way that I used to see/Can’t stop the clock/When your heart is blocked/You gotta push on through/You know you gotta bring it on up on this/It’s the only thing left to do/Some people/Always trying to be putting you down/They ain’t gonna feel it/I ain’t gonna feel it/When the spirit gone’ come around/I’m a freedom dancer/I’m gonna dance awhile.” This lead verse along speaks volumes. The group is saying clearly to audiences that if you feel moved to dance, then dance. Don’t let anyone stop you whether they be dance critics, hipsters who think they’re too good for anyone, or any other type. When the spirit moves a person to dance, it does just that. No one can predict when it’s going to happen. The spirit obviously moved the band in the second half of this song (and will move listeners just as much). That’s because the entire second half of the eight-minute plus song is a full on instrumental jam that will move listeners to dance till they sweat. It’s just one more way that POJ proves how much the group has to offer audiences on this record. It most certainly isn’t the last, either. The album’s obviously Robert Randolph-influenced opener ‘Red Golden’ and the laid back groove of ‘Waiting For My Ride’ are two more examples of what makes this album so enjoyable. Whether for those two tracks, the other compositions noted here or those not noted Jukestone Paradise in whole proves itself to be an album that everybody will enjoy. It is an album that is more than deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new independent releases at the very least.

Jukestone Paradise proves over the course of ten tracks and roughly forty-five minutes that it is deserving of being added to any critic’s list of 2015’s top new independent releases at the very least. It is possible that it could even be added to any critic’s list with its old school musical vibe and its equally inspiring and enlightening lyrics. This applies both to the songs noted here and those not noted. POJ is scheduled to hit the road again beginning May 14th in Atlanta, Georgia in support of Jukestone Paradise. Fans can pick up Jukestone Paradise at any of the group’s upcoming shows, in stores and online, too. Fans can get a full list of the group’s upcoming tour dates online now along with the group’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.pimpsofjoytime.com

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

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.

Randy Bachman’s Latest LP Is A Whole Different And Enjoyable Kind Of Heavy

Courtesy:  Linus Entertainment/Paquin Entertainment Group/Ontario Media Development Corporation

Courtesy: Linus Entertainment/Paquin Entertainment Group/Ontario Media Development Corporation

Veteran musician Randy Bachman has spent the better part of his adult life crafting songs that are known today as some of the rock realm’s greatest compositions. Whether as a member of Bachman Turner Overdrive, The Guess Who, or as a solo musician, Randy Bachman’s music is considered by rockers of all ages to be some of rock’s greatest even to this day. And with his latest solo effort Heavy Blues Bachman continues to justify that reputation even more. Heavy Blues will hit store shelves on Tuesday, April 14th. it is an aptly titled record considering the blues-based rock that makes up most of the album’s eleven total tracks. Perhaps the only exception to that rule is the album’s deeply emotional closer ‘We Need To Talk.’ That song aside, Heavy Blues still stands as a record that every rock purist should add to his or her own music library. From its straight forward, seemingly Steve Miller/The Who-inspired opener ‘The Edge,’ to the gospel and blues-infused ‘Oh My Lord’ to that much deeper, more moving closer, there is plenty for rock purists to appreciate in this album. That includes the pieces not noted here, either. All eleven tracks taken fully into consideration, Heavy Blues proves itself to be a record that is a full breath of fresh air and reminder of all that once made rock great and always will.

Randy Bachman’s latest full length effort Heavy Blues is, as already noted, a breath of fresh air in an age in which rock seems continually dominated by cookie cutter bands dominating mainstream rock radio stations and equally sound-alike acts dominating the heavier side of the rock realm; bands whose songs consist of indecipherable, cookie monster-like growls, machine-gun speed drumming, and crunching, down-tuned guitars. It is a reminder of all that once made rock great and always will regardless of which bands dominate the airwaves and the underground. This is exhibited right off the top in the album’s bombastic opener ‘The Edge.’ The song boasts quite the similarity to works from the likes of both The Who and The Steve Miller Band among others stylistically speaking. Whether or not that was intentional is known only by Bachman himself. Regardless, the combination of those influences in this song serve to make it the perfect choice for Heavy Blues’ opener and a great addition to the album overall. That bombastic style is an equally fitting match for the song’s lyrical side. Lyrically speaking, the song presents a figure that is looking at the world with eyes wide open and a bright spirit. He is someone that is ready to break out and explore the big, wide world with so much gusto. He sings to his mother, “Goodbye mama/I ain’t comin’ home/There’s a big world out there/I’m goin’ it alone/Leave behind the knockers/I just gotta chase the dream/I wanna be somebody and I gotta be free.” He goes on to sing in the song’s closing verse, “I might be wrong/But I’ll take that chance/Falling down and getting up/Is part of the dance/Wanderin’ in circles/Trying to find a place to be/I wanna be somebody and I gotta be free.” Whether male or female, such mindset and energy is something to which even today’s youths can relate. The song’s ability to reach across the generations with such lyrics and musical power makes it a great opener for Heavy Blues and just one of many examples of why every rock purist should have Heavy Blues in their music library.

‘The Edge’ is a great start for Randy Bachman’s new album. It is a song that stretches across generations both with its music and its equally positive and explosive lyrics. It isn’t the only positive boasted by Heavy Blues, either. The hybrid blues/gospel-infused ‘Oh My Lord’ is another great example of what makes this record such a standout opus. Fellow veteran musician Robert Randolph (Robert Randolph and the Family Band) joins Bachman on this song to make for a piece that is one of the highest of the album’s highs. While Randolph provides no vocals for the song, his added talents on the steel pedal add quite a bit of spice to the song. Lyrically, it offers just as much depth for listeners. It notes that for all the bad times in life, a person has to endure and push through, no matter what. As Bachman sings, “Young and restless, outta control/You gotta let the bad times roll/Be careful what you wish for, diamonds or gold/You gotta let the bad times roll/Life is just a gamble, you gotta take control/You gotta face the storm and let the four winds blow/When you roll the dice, it’s all about the throw/You gotta let the bad times roll.” Bachman comes across as saying that people have to take the bad with the good and just face it all rather than try to run and hide from it. Hiding from the bad times only makes things worse. Facing the bad times is tough, but it makes a person stronger for having done it. As with ‘The Edge,’ these are lyrics that cross generations. They are words that are just as relevant to today’s youths as to those that were youths when Bachman was himself younger. Once more, that combination of infectious blues and gospel-infused music coupled with equally substantive lyrics shows why Heavy Blues is such an enjoyable record for rock purists of every age and why it in whole proves to be potentially one of this year’s best new rock records.

Both ‘The Edge’ and Oh My Lord’ serve in their own way as prime examples of why every rock purist should hear Heavy Blues if not have it in his or her own music library. Both songs present wholly different sounds yet sounds that will impress rock fans of all ages. The lyrical content of each song makes each one even more enjoyable and impactful. While both songs provide a certain amount of substance to the album in whole, they certainly are not all that make Heavy Blues so impressive. The album’s closer ‘We Need To Talk’ stands out completely from the rest of the album’s compositions. Yet it shows in its own way one more way that this album shines. Given it probably should not have served as the album’s closer considering the energy exuded by the rest of the album’s songs. But stylistically and lyrically speaking, it is a powerful and moving song in its own right. The song’s musical side presents a figure going through the sadness and uncertainty that comes with an impending breakup. The gentility in Bachman’s voice coupled with the song’s reserved sound set against its 3/4 time signature makes it a song that will tug at listeners’ heart strings like no other. The song’s lyrical side will tug at listeners’ emotions just as powerfully as Bachman sings, “I braced myself for the worst/Whenever you hear those words/Something don’t fit/Something went wrong/Something don’t work and something’s all gone/That’s just the way it is, we need to talk, she said.” Just as with ‘The Edge’ and ‘Oh My Lord,’ the lyrical content presented here is content that transcends generations. Bachman paints a vivid picture of a young woman trying not to hurt a man as she tells him that their relationship has come to its end. There are thousands of songs about breakups that have been crafted by acts across music’s many genres throughout the modern history of music. But few tell the actual story of the breakup. And just as few tell the story of that moment with such clarity and emotion. Because of that, ‘We Need To Talk’ proves itself to be one more of the most important moments of Heavy Blues even as much as it stands out from the rest of the album’s songs. It isn’t heavy in the traditional sense. But its combination of moving lyrics and music make it a heavy song in its own right. And it makes it one more great examples of what makes Heavy Blues such an important addition to any rock purist’s music collection regardless of said listeners’ age. Together with the likes of ‘The Edge’ and ‘Oh My Lord,’ the combination of all three songs( and those not noted here) shows exactly why this record could potentially be one of the year’s best new rock records.

Randy Bachman has proven time and again throughout his career why he remains one of the most respected figures in the rock community decades after he first rose to fame. And as the songs noted here show, he has proven yet again exactly why he is held on one of those pedestals of rock’s greatest icons. The songs not noted here prove that just as much, not to ignore them, either. The combination of those songs with the compositions noted here show Heavy Blues as an example of how rock can be heavy without being heavy metal. It shows why this record is one that every rock purist should have in his or her music library. And it shows why it is potentially one of the best new rock records of the year. Randy Bachman will tour in support of Heavy Blues beginning April 1st in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The tour includes a stint on the 2016 installment of the Rock Legends Cruise. His current tour schedule is available online now along with all of his latest news at:

Website: http://randybachman.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Randy-Bachman/186355994906457

Twitter: http://twitter.com/randysvinyltap

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.

ACL Celebrates 40 Years Is A Wonderful Celebration Of A Show And Of Music Itself

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS and its hit concert series Austin City Limits celebrated two major landmarks for the series this fall. This past October Austin City Limits celebrated forty years on the air. That landmark makes the concert series the longest-running concert series on television to date. Making the anniversary even more special is the fact that this October, the show’s original studio was added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s tenth Rock and Roll landmark. Both of these marks are big honors for ACL and for PBS. In honor of these honors, PBS released on DVD today the brand new concert recording Austin City Limits 40 Years. There is a lot to like about this concert recording starting with the show’s all-star lineup. Featured in the concert is a who’s who of the music industry. It features legendary names such as: Willie Nelson, Buddy guy, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Foo Fighters, and even the original members of Double Trouble among so many others. There are even performances from up-and-coming blues/rock band Alabama Shakes. It’s a display in its own way of how many generations this series has reached over the course of its four decades on the air. Making the set even better is the concert’s set list. Emmylou Harris covers Willie Nelson’s hit ‘Crazy.’ There’s also an all-star tribute to Sam & Dave with a performance of ‘Wrap It Up.’ And just as enjoyable is the multi-song, all-star tribute to blues legend and Austin native, the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan. These are just some of the examples of what makes the show’s set list so important to the presentation in whole. Last but hardly least noteworthy regarding the recording’s success is its bonus material. Included as bonus material, is forty-five minutes of bonus performances. There is also a bonus behind-the-scenes look at the work that went in to making Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years a reality. It’s all set against a great performance of SRV’s hit song ‘Texas Flood.’ These bonuses, partnered with the show’s all-star list of performers and its equally wonderful set list, serve to help make Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years one of this year’s surprise best new live recordings of 2014. It also serves to show yet again why PBS is the last bastion of worthwhile programming on television today.

Austin City Limits has been on television for forty years this year. That is a huge landmark for PBS’ concert series. It has outlived MTV’s Unplugged Series. It has also outlived VH1’s Storytellers and CMT’s Crossroads. In the four decades since it made its debut, ACL has gone from focusing on just one or two genres of music to being one of the preeminent destinations for some of the music industry’s biggest names. Elvis Costello has been on the show. Kings of Leon appeared just last year. And even none other than Nine Inch Nails appeared this year. It just goes to show how much this show has grown since its earliest days as has its importance in the music industry. That is shown just as much in the list of performers tapped to appear on Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years. The list of performers tapped to appear on this recording is a who’s who of the music industry from past, present, and even the future. It includes the likes of Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Foo Fighters, Sheryl Crow, Guy Clarke, Jr., Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Emmylou Harris, and up-and-coming blues/rock band Alabama Shakes and so many others. With such a wide swatch of performers, that list becomes for all intents and purposes a music history lesson live on stage. It shows not only where ACL has been and where it is going but where music itself started and to where it has come today. And every act tapped to perform is an excellent example of both histories. It’s just one of plenty of reasons that audiences will enjoy this DVD.

The list of performers tapped to perform on Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years is itself plenty of reason for audiences to pick up this brand new release from PBS. That list is itself a music history lesson and a lesson on the history of ACL. The performers themselves serve as plenty of reason for any music lover to check out this DVD. The songs that they perform make the recording just as enjoyable if not more so. Audiences will love Willie Nelson’s performance of the classic song ‘On The Road Again,’ and Emmylou Harris’ cover of Willie Nelson’s ‘Crazy.’ If that’s not enough, there is a star-studded, multi-song tribute to Austin, Texas’ own Stevie Ray Vaughan. That tribute features performances from Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and almost every member of the a-list cast of performers. There is also a special tribute to Sam & Dave in the performance of ‘Wrap It Up.’ That song is handled by Bonnie Raitt, Jimmie Vaughan, Gary Clark, Jr. and Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes. As if all of that wasn’t enough, the star-studded tribute to SRV is complemented with an equally gran tribute to Buddy Holly. These are just some of the performances included in the concert that audiences will enjoy in watching this recording. There are plenty of other great performances along the way that audiences will enjoy just as much. Collectively, all of those performances make for yet another wonderful reason for every music lover to see this concert.

If the who’s who list of performers tapped for this concert and their performances aren’t enough for audiences, the bonus material included on the DVD will convince audiences. PBS has included forty-five minutes of performance footage as bonus material on this DVD. That forty-five minutes includes a performance of ‘Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die’ from Willie Nelson and ‘Freight Train’ from Gary Clark, Jr. and Sheryl Crow among the bonus performances. Robert Earl Keen handles ‘I Gotta Go’ and Joe Ely covers ‘All Just To Get To You’ as part of the bonus performances, too. Partnered with that is a special behind-the-scenes look at the concert set against a performance of SRV’s hit song ‘Texas Flood’ by Buddy Guy, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Robert Randolph, and others. It’s a double whammy for audiences. Not only does it give audiences a behind-the-scenes look at the concert from pre-pro to show but it also offers audiences a bonus performance. Audiences are given another bonus performance by Bonnie Raitt and company in their rehearsal for their performance of ‘Wrap it Up.’ It’s a nice finisher to a concert recording has already more than proven itself one of this year’s best. Together with the aforementioned list of performers and set list, it pushes this recording over the top, once again proving why ACL has run so successfully for forty years and why its original studio is now part of music history thanks to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It shows once more why PBS is the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming.

So much can be said of what makes Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years a success and a total enjoyment. And so much has been said, obviously. It goes without saying that the show’s production values are just as impressive as everything else already noted here. Whether one is taking in the concert on a regular TV or one with a high-priced surround sound home theater system, every viewer will agree that all of the other positives noted here would be nothing without those top notch production values. The concert looks and sounds just as good as other performances recorded over the years. It is that proverbial cherry on top of the musical sundae that is this recording. It is that last part that makes this recording well worth the listen by music lovers of every age.

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=50214636&cp=&sr=1&kw=austin+city+limits&origkw=Austin+City+Limits&parentPage=search. More information on this and other recordings from Austin City Limits over the years is available online at:

Website: http://acltv.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/acltv

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.

PBS Celebrates Four Decades Of ACL With Special Anniversary Concert

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ Austin City Limits hit a major milestone this year.  The network’s hit music series celebrated forty-years with PBS.  In celebration, PBS is releasing a special DVD celebrating the long-running series next month.

PBS will release Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years on Tuesday, December 2nd.  Austin City Limits’ four-decade long run on PBS is especially important to both the network and to music lovers alike.  In the four decades that Austin City Limits has been on PBS, it remains the only TV series to be awarded the Medal of Arts.  Also in that time, MTV’s Unplugged and VH1’s Storytellers have gone by the wayside.  And even CMT’s on Crossroads series has failed to maintain the stability and reputation of ACL.  Throughout its now forty-years on television, ACL has seen and continues to see some of the industry’s biggest names take to the stage.  Those names include the likes of Elvis Costello, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, and so many others.  Many more names are sure to be added to that list as there appears to be no end to this landmark series.

In honor of the series’ fortieth anniversary, many of those same big names have come on board for this celebratory concert.  Bonnie Raitt joins Jimmie Vaughan, Gary Clark, Jr and Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes for a performance of the Sam & Dave classic ‘Wrap It Up’ to open the concert.  Howard returns later in the show alongside Gary Clark, Jr. for a special performance.  Willie Nelson, the red-headed stranger himself, joins Emmylou Harris for a performance of Nelson’s ‘Crazy.’  Singer/actor Kris Kristofferson and Sheryl Crow team up for a performance of Kristofferson’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee.  Foo Fighters even make an appearance to perform Roky Erickson’s ‘Two-Headed Dog.’  That performance was recorded at the original ACL television studio especially for the concert.  Actor Jeff Bridges hosts the night’s festivities.  He also performs a special rendition of ‘What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do’ from the late singer-songwriter Stephen Bruton.  Bruton was a big influence on Bridges’ Oscar-winning role in the movie ‘Crazy Heart.’  As if all of this isn’t enough, Joe Ely and fellow local legend Robert Earl Keen make an appearance.  Blues legend Buddy Guy rounds out the show with a performance of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb.’  And finishing off the whole thing is a star-studded tribute to Buddy Holly and the one and only Stevie Ray Vaughan.  A who’s who of guitarists performs Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away’ and SRV’s ‘Texas Flood’ for the night’s biggest finish.

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years was taped live at the ACL Live at the Moody Theater and the show’s original studio, Austin PBS affiliate KLRU’s Studio 6A.  The complete list of performers is: Alabama Shakes, Doyle Bramhall II, Jeff Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Sheryl Crow, Double Trouble, Joe Ely, Mike Farris, Foo Fighters, Grupo Fantasma, Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris, Robert Earl Keen, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Randolph, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jimmie Vaughan.

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years will be available Tuesday, December 2nd.  It will retail for MSRP of $24.99.  It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=50214636&cp=&sr=1&kw=austin+city+limits&origkw=Austin+City+Limits&parentPage=search.  More information on Austin City Limits is available online at

Website: http://acltv.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/acltv

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.

Lickety Split Rocks Its Way Into The Year’s Best New Records List

Courtesy:  Blue Note Records

Courtesy: Blue Note Records

Robert Randolph and the Family Band are back.  And they are back in grand fashion on their first album in three years.  The new record, Lickety Split is one of the best new records of 2013, hands down.  This twelve-song musical masterpiece mixes lots of fun anthems with some more subdued pieces and tosses in a pair of covers and a famous guest spot to make it an album that audiences will find themselves enjoying even more with each listen. 

Among the best of the album’s more full on songs is its opener, ‘Amped Up.’  This was the perfect choice with which to open the album.  It wastes no time at all getting listeners moving.  The energy kicks right into gear at one thousand percent, making listeners want to pump the volume on their stereos and iPods to eleven.  It’s just a fun, full on song that anyone will enjoy.  Randolph sings cheerfully, You’ve only got one life to live/So give it everything you’ve got to give/If anybody asks you why/Look ‘em in the eye and say/I’m about to get amped up/Everybody throw your hands up/Come on and get cranked up/Everybody get amped up.”  The energy from the lyrics mixes with the song’s music to easily achieve its goal at getting audiences amped up and moving.  Once the song ends, Randolph and company pull back, but not too much, in the bluesy/gospel hybrid ‘Born Again.’ 

‘Born Again’ isn’t as high energy as ‘Amped Up.’  But, it still has its own energy.  The song’s bluesy/gospel hybrid sound is just like something that one might actually hear in a church.  Ironically enough Randolph himself stated of the song that this song was originally a love song.  “It’s about finding the joy again,” he said.  “At first, it was more of a love song, about the sense you get when you find the right person.  Then as we were recording this new music with a whole new sense of direction and feeling free again it all came together.  It’s not a religious thing, it’s just new energy—which is really the old energy that I had at the beginning of my career.”   It’s interesting that he notes that it not only started out as a love song, but that it was also not a religious thing.  That’s because with its hybrid sound, it could just as easily pass for a song one might hear in a church.  Regardless, it’s a song that any listener will enjoy.  Vocalist Lenesha Randolph’s vocals are so strong throughout the song.  And the addition of a choir to back the band serves to make the song that much better.  It’s such an impressive follow-up to the album’s opener that by its end, some listeners might even find themselves out of breath and energy having danced their way through both songs.  Thankfully, the band pulls back just a little more on the next song, ‘New Orleans.’

New Orleans is even more pulled back than the first two songs on Lickety Split.  After all of the energy carried by those two songs, this seeming love letter to one of America’s greatest cities is perfectly placed in the album’s overall sequencing.  Again, Lenesha Randolph takes center stage, her vocals so gentle and calming.  Set again Robert Randolph’s slightly more upbeat sections, the two make for a wonderful juxtaposition celebrating Nola.  Lenesha sings fondly of the city, “I heard a sound/Sweet soulful sound/And a happy song/In my dreams/A marching band/Piano man/And that soul…/So sad and sweet.”  The tone in her singing instantly creates such a sense of nostalgia among listeners.  This includes even listeners who have maybe never been to New Orleans.  One can almost see images in sepia tone in their minds, everything of which she sings.  Robert Randolph’s counterpoint, on the other hand, brings everything into full color.  It helps to paint a massive, happy picture of a city that has done and meant so much to America.  It’s one more wonderful addition to an album that boasts so many high points. 

The joy of this album doesn’t end with its first trio of songs.  As soon as ‘New Orleans’ fades gently away, the party gets moving again with the aptly titled, ‘Take The Party.’  This piece brings back the energy of the album’s opener before easing into the more old school funk influenced ‘Brand New Wayo.’  The fun doesn’t end here, either.  Randolph and company keep listeners’ ears throughout the rest of this album. This is thanks in large part to the band’s continued talent and skill as musicians.  Credit will be given where credit is due here.  The people behind the boards are also to thank for this album’s fun factor, as well as guest guitarist Carlos Santana and trombone player, Trombone Shorty. 

Engineer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin) and mixer Jim Scott (Tedeschi Trucks Band) deserve their own credit for the work behind the boards on this record.  It’s no wonder that Lickety Split bears significance to the Tedeschi Trucks Band with Scott on board.  If one didn’t know any better, one would think that one of the husband/wife duo of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks was in fact guesting, hearing the guitar work throughout the record.  Though having fellow legend Carlos Santana on board, helping with guitar duties doesn’t hurt, either.  That bonus, and the work of everybody else involved on this record makes Lickety Split a must hear for any long-time Robert Randolph fan and for anyone that is new to the work of this highly accomplished musician and his family.  It will be available tomorrow, July 16th in stores and online. Audiences can keep an eye out for it in the official Robert Randolph online store at http://www.robertrandolph.net.  Fans can also go here and the band’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/rrtfb and “Like” it to keep up with all of the latest news and tour information from the band.

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.    

Love For Levon Could Be The Year’s Best Live Recording

Courtesy:  Time Life Entertainment/StarVista

Courtesy: Time Life Entertainment/StarVista

Drummer Levon Helm was no ordinary drummer.  He was a musician.  He was a musician among musicians and a musician of the people.  When he finally lost his battle with throat cancer in 2012, the world knew that it had lost not just a man but a legend.  It was Helm that made Midnight Rambles so famous.  And it was those concerts and Helms’ own music that made him the beloved figure that he is today even though he remains only in spirit.  Now thanks to Time Life and StarVista, fans of Helm and his music get to experience one of the greatest tributes to his legacy in the newly released concert, Love For Levon: A Benefit To Save The Barn.

Love For Levon: A Benefit To Save The Barn was released this past March.  It was released in five different formats: Double-Disc CD, Double-Disc CD/Double-Disc DVD, Double-Disc CD/Double-Disc Blu-ray, Double-Disc DVD, and Double Disc Blu-ray.  Regardless of whether audiences pick up the solo DVD or Blu-ray sets or the deluxe sets including both the CD and DVD or CD and Blu-ray, they will be getting in this concert what is among the year’s best live recordings.  It is more than deserving of that honor first and foremost because of the variety of options from which audiences can choose in experiencing this concert.  It is also more than deserving of the honor of being on the list of the year’s top live recordings thanks to its production values.  The all-star line-up and equally extensive set list adds even more reason to praise the performance.  The packaging for the deluxe sets is another interesting addition to the overall presentation that is worthy of note, too.  All assembled together, it makes this recording one that any fan of Americana and music lover in general will find entertaining each time they turn it on.

The very first thing to note about Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save The Barn is the variety of platforms on which it is available.  It is available in two deluxe packages that include both a double-disc CD portion and double-disc video portion.  Those that have HDTVs and Blu-ray players are offered the set with a double-Blu-ray video portion.  Those with DVD players are offered the deluxe package that includes the video recording on DVD along with the double-disc CD accompaniment.  There are also the stand alone DVD and Blu-ray sets as well as a stand-alone double-disc CD set from which audiences can choose.  This vast amount of options may not seem like much to some.  But the reality is that it plays a much bigger role in the overall presentation of this set than some might believe.  Depending on one’s budget or perhaps access to one format or another, Time Life Entertainment has given audiences as many possibilities as possible to be able to enjoy this performance.  Generally when it comes to live recordings, it seems the standard is to present the recording either on one format or another and leave it at that.  Time Life Entertainment has done the exact opposite.  It has offered this iconic performance in every format possible, save for digital.  Though, that will likely come.  For this alone, the people at Time Life Entertainment are to be highly commended.

The multi-format packaging for Love For Levon (as it will be simply known from here on out) is a major positive to the overall positive outlook on this concert.  Moving forward, one must also take into account its production values in determining its success or failure.  Obviously, the good people at Time Life Entertainment maintained the mantra that failure is not an option even with the recording’s production values.  The audio and video were expertly mixed.  Audiences will notice this both on the DVD and Blu-ray presentations as well as on the CD presentation.  This is a factor that is just as important as the number of formats from which audiences to have choose in experiencing the concert.  It is just as important because without proper mixing, there is no reason to buy the recording on any platform.  There are live recordings out there that leave audiences wondering what those behind the boards and cameras were thinking and were they awake at their posts.  Obviously, those behind the board s and cameras were well awake at this concert.  It looks and sounds excellent all the way around.  Even the lighting on stage itself was just right.  When blues great Mavis Staples takes the stage to sing ‘Move Along Train’ every note from Ms. Staples and the backing musicians is crystal clear. This expert mixing is handled throughout the near three-hour long concert.

Having taken into account the production values of Love for Levon, the next logical step is to take a slightly broader examination in looking at the show’s set list and its equally vast array of performers.  These too, are boons to this recording.  Mavis Staples is just one of the many superstars that made appearances for the benefit.  Also on hand were the likes of: Jakob Dylan, John Mayer, Roger Waters, Eric Church, My Morning Jacket, Dierks Bentley, Ray LaMontagne, and a whole who’s who of music past and present.  That so many artists from so many different corners of the music world came together for this performance shows the impact that Levon Helm had in his life and still has even though he remains only in spirit.  While the conglomeration of artists was in itself quite impressive, one must agree that the performance’s set list was just as incredible.  The bluesy feel of ‘Trouble in Mind’ and ‘Move Along Train’ is just a pair of the highlights from the performance.  ‘Little Birds’ and ‘Listening to Levon’ are just impressive in their more subdued, emotional tones.  These are just a handful of the songs that audiences will enjoy throughout the course of what is one of the year’s must have live recordings.  During the concert, the performers and their songs will send audiences on an emotional and musical journey that they will not forget.  It is a journey that after it’s over, audiences know they will want to take again.

So much work went into bringing Love for Levon to the masses.  The performances in this recording are outstanding, as are the performers and the songs.  The show’s production values are well above par.  And that Time Life Entertainment and StarVista have given audiences so many options from which to choose in deciding on how to best take in the concert sweetens the deal even more.  There is one final piece to the puzzle that makes this recording one of the year’s best live recordings, if not the best of the year.  That piece of the puzzle is the packaging.  This critic had the honor of receiving a screener of the deluxe double-disc CD/double-disc DVD set for review.  The packaging for this deluxe is impressive in its own right.  All four discs in the set are placed into their own mini-sleeve so to speak within the larger package that also includes a bonus booklet.  The bonus booklet includes very moving tributes written by Charles McCardell and Keith Wortman.  Wortman writes so eloquently of Helm in his addition to the included booklet, “In this age of artificially constructed music, Levon was the genuine article…in how he played, sang, and carried himself.”  He goes on to include a quote by Bruce Springsteen about Helm that is just as touching.  McCardell adds his own touch, expressing the joyous air that filled the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ, where the tribute concert was held.  His writing that, “From the energy generated in the building, it’s hard to tell who was more excited—the audience or the performers.”  Home audiences will see exactly what McCardell means when they watch this concert.  That single note echoes everything that has already been noted here.  And it can all be experienced now.  The concert is available now.  It can be ordered direct online via the Time Life Entertainment website at http://timelife.com/products/love-for-levon or via Amazon.

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.