Al Staehley Debuts Updated Take Of His Song, ‘Wide Eyed & Innocent’; New Compilation Due Out This Fall

Courtesy: Earshot Media

Al Staehley brought audiences an updated take of his classic song, ‘Wide Eyed & Innocent‘ Thursday.

The song is expected for inclusion in his forthcoming compilation record, Post Spirit 1974 – 1978 Vol. 1. The record is scheduled for release Oct. 7. The musical arrangement featured in the song is a catchy classic rock style composition that immediately lends itself to comparison to works from the likes of the Eagles.

The lyrical theme that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement is an introspective message that finds Staehley looking back on his and his friends’ younger days. That gentle thought pairs with the song’s musical arrangement to make the song even more appealing to audiences.

The video for ‘Wide Eyed & Innocent’ matches its musical and lyrical content. It features footage of people looking at old photo albums, vintage footage of people at a beach, and other visuals, adding to the song’s emotional impact.

Staehley is most well-known for his work as singer for the band Spirit on its fifth album, 1972’s Feedback. He also notoriety as a member of The Staehley Brothers, The Nick Gravenites/John Cipollina Band, and Bobbie Gentry.

Additionally, he has worked as legal counsel for blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan.

More information on Al Staehley’s new updated take of his classic song, his forthcoming compilation record and all of his latest news is available at:



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Illumination Road Debuts New Single, ‘It Looks Like They Got To You (Too)’

Independent rock band Illumination Road debuted its new single and music video this week.

The band premiered its new single, ‘It Looks Like They Got To You (Too)‘ Tuesday. It is available to stream and download through all digital platforms.

The song’s premiere comes more than two months after the premiere of the band’s then latest single, ‘the Modern World’ and its video. That song is available to stream and download through SpotifyiTunes, and Apple Music.

Courtesy: Earshot Media

The musical arrangement featured in ‘It Looks Like They Got To You (Too)’ changes things up from the band’s previous single. Instead of the classic rock approach and sound featured in that song, this song is more of a blues rock style composition. It is easily comparable in its sound and style to works from the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Bonamassa, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

The lyrical theme featured alongside that blues-rock musical arrangement is left up to interpretation. Bassist Chad Shlosser discussed the song’s lyrical theme in a somewhat cryptic fashion during an interview with Elmore Magazine, stating, “This cut, ‘It Looks Like They Got To You (Too),’ is the smashing yet groovy second single. Following the story line from the first single, where we’re introduced to ‘The Modern World,’ we’re now feeling the effects of this new way of life and how it’s cutting to the core of all of us.”

More information on Illumination Road’s new single is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:



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Neal Schon’s Latest LP Is A “Universal” Success

Courtesy: Neal Schon Music, Inc.

It goes without saying that guitarist Neal Schon is one of the most well-known and respected figures in the music industry today.  A founding member of legendary rock band Journey, Schon has also worked with fellow rock legend Carlos Santana, and is also a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee.  The band he helped found has sold millions of records the world over, too, thanks in part to his own performances on said records.  Schon added yet another proverbial notch in his belt this month when he released his new solo album Universe.  The 15-song record is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation that will appeal equally to fans of Journey, Schon and to real rock musicianship in general.  This is proven in no small part to the musical arrangements that make up the body of the 70-minute record.  They will be discussed shortly.  The arrangements’ sequencing builds on the foundation built by the songs themselves and will be discussed a little later.  The record’s production rounds out its most important elements.  It will also be examined later.  All three elements noted here are important in their own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make Universe more proof of why Neal Schon is in fact one of the most respected and well-known figures in the entire musical universe.  Yes, that awful pun was intended.

Neal Schon’s new solo album Universe is a strong new musical statement from a musician who has already so many laurels over the course of his career.  It is a presentation that will appeal widely not only to his fans, but to those of Journey and of real pure guitar rock, too.  That is proven continuously throughout the course of the album’s hour-plus run time in large part because of its featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements are wide spread in terms of their influences and comparison.  The record opens with a decidedly Joe Satriani style composition in ‘Something in the Heart.’  The song finds Schon playing so subtly against an orchestral backing and slow, steady drum beat to open the song.  The picture that it paints is like something that belongs in the end credits of some blockbuster drama on the big screen (E.g. the sun setting on the lead characters, their silhouettes the only part of them visible following the events of the story).  The subtlety in Schon’s performance alongside that of the song’s orchestral element is such a powerful presentation.  On a distinctly different note, Schon takes listeners in a completely different direction in ‘She’s For Real.’  The use of the strings in this song’s arrangement pairs with the piano arrangement to create something of a vintage disco type of style approach.  The aforementioned Joe Satriani-esque guitar work and the solid time keeping that accompany the strings and piano come into play here to enhance the arrangement even more, and make it that much more engaging and entertaining.   Not only that, but it also adds to the discussion on the diversity of the album’s musical arrangements.  It strengthens that discussion and in turn the importance of that element.  Showing even more, the diversity in the record’s musical arrangements is the frantic ‘Be Happy,’ which comes late in the album’s run.  The high-energy composition clocks in at just under three-and-a-half minutes, and makes full use of that time, too.  Schon’s fingers run their way all over his guitar’s fret board while the bass line and time keeping add an extra layer to the work.  The ghost notes and cymbal crashes from the percussion give just the right accent along with the bass drum.  The repetition of the almost walking bass line makes for a solid counterpoint to Schon’s fiery guitar work.  The addition of the strings to the mix adds its own unique touch to the whole, too.  By the time the song ends, listeners themselves will be left feeling breathless just from hearing the whole of the noted elements.  The composition is that intense, but in the best way possible.  It is just one more way in which the diversity in the album’s musical arrangements come through so clearly.  Between this work, the others addressed here, the likes of others, such as the slow jam style ‘Silent Voyage,’ the powerhouse cover of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain,’ and the bluesy, almost Pink Floyd-esque ‘Caruso,’ that diversity becomes even clearer.  When all of this is considered along with the rest of the album’s works, that diversity shines through even more, leaving zero doubt as to its importance.  It is of course just one of the key elements that makes Universe such a surprisingly successful album.  The sequencing of the album’s featured musical arrangements adds even more impact to the album’s presentation.

The sequencing of Universe is important to examine because it plays directly into listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  As already noted, the album opens on a somewhat somber note in ‘Something in the Heart.’  From there, the album’s energy only barely picks up as it progresses through ‘The Eye of God’ and ‘The Universe.’  From there, ‘Caruso’ pulls things back again before finally really letting loose in the cover of ‘Voodoo Child.’  The energy in that song carries through to ‘Third Stone From the Sun’ before really pulling back again in Schon’s cover of ‘Purple Rain.’  Listeners will be glad to know that things do not stay reserved for too long, as the album starts to pick back up again immediately after in ‘She’s For Real.’  The rises and falls in the album’s energy continues from here with full stability, ensuring just as much, that noted engagement and entertainment for audiences.  The bigger picture, looking back, is that of sequencing that took into full account, the songs’ energies and impact thereof.  The result of that attention to detail makes an album that listeners will find just as enjoyable to hear for this aspect as for the songs themselves.  Keeping all of this in mind, now it is even clearer why Universe is such a successful new offering from Schon.  It still is just one more aspect of the album that listeners will appreciate.  The production of Schon’s new album puts the finishing touch to the presentation.

As has already been noted more than once here, there is a lot going on in many of the songs featured in Universe.  This means that a lot of attention had to be paid to detail in each song.  That is so that the sound is balanced to the best degree possible in each work.  Those efforts paid off, too.  Schon takes center stage throughout the album, and with good cause.  At the same time though, Schon’s fellow musicians each get their own attention in each song.  The string arrangements are balanced so well each time they are incorporated into the songs.  The bass line, which far too often is under used by bands across the board, gets its own time in the light throughout the album, too.  Even the drums sound so rich, but never overpowering at any point. Simply put, throughout the course of Universe’s one hour, 10-minute presentation, each instrument and performance is expertly balanced in each song.  The result is that the album sounds that much more appealing.  When this is considered along with the appeal just from the diversity in the album’s musical arrangements and the effect of the arrangements’ sequencing, the album in whole becomes a presentation that is another presentation from Schon that will appeal just as much to his fans as to those of Journey and guitar rock.

Neal Schon’s newly released solo album Universe is a positive new offering from the guitarist, whose accolades are already numerous.  Its diverse musical arrangements in themselves are certain to appeal to the noted wide range of listeners, along with the sequencing of those arrangements.  The production of the arrangements puts the finishing touch to the album’s presentation, giving them the aesthetic that makes their sound just as appealing as their general content.  It puts the final touch to the album’s whole.  When it is considered with the songs and their sequencing, that whole makes the album a presentation that will appeal just as much to Schon’s fans as to those of journey and pure guitar rock.  Universe is available now.  More information on the album is available along with all of Schon’s latest news at:



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Foghat Shows Real Rock and Roll Is Still Alive And Well On Its New LP

Courtesy:  Foghat Records

Courtesy: Foghat Records

2016 has been quite the year for the rock community.  Over the nearly eight months that have already pass, the rock community has seen a number of impressive new releases with plenty more on the way.  Those impressive releases have come from both independent acts such as Buffalo Summer, Love and a .38, and Resurrection Kings and from more well-known acts the likes of Santana, Rich Robinson, and the focus of today’s review, Foghat.  The veteran rock band released its latest album Under The Influence late last month.  The album, the band’s seventeenth full-length studio recording, is also one of the year’s top new rock records so far.  From beginning to end, this twelve-song record presents everything that is right with rock.  That includes both the musical arrangements that form the foundation of each song and their lyrical content.  One of the songs that best exemplifies this is ‘The Upside of Lonely.’  It is the antithesis of the breakup song.  ‘Knock It Off’ exemplifies it just as much.  Much the same can be said of ‘Hot Mama.’  Each song shows in its own way what makes Under The Influence everything right about rock.  Those songs join with the album’s other nine offerings to make the album in whole, one of 2016s top new rock records so far and one of the year’s top new albums overall, too.

Being considered “under the influence” is typically considered a bad thing.  It means that someone has in his or system something that he or she shouldn’t have.  However in the case of Foghat’s new album, being “under the influence” of the band’s music is a good thing.  It is in fact a very good thing.  That is because over the course of its twelve total songs, the only high that listeners will get is a musical high.  That is because this record exhibits over that span everything that is right with rock and roll today.  It proves that true blue-collar rock and roll is still alive and well.  This is exhibited clearly in the form of ‘The Upside of Lonely.’  The playful, blues-infused tune is the complete antithesis of the breakup song.  Charlie Huhn’s bluesy licks and Scott Holt’s vocal delivery couple with Craig MacGregor’s bass line to form a solid foundation for the song.  Their work conjures thoughts of an upscale jazz and blues club.  Drummer Roger Earl’s equally solid timekeeping strengthens that foundation even more.  The combination of these elements instantly makes the arrangement in whole infectious and a favorite among the album’s overall arrangements.  It is just one part of what makes the song stand out.  The song’s lyrical content is just as important.  Lyrically speaking, the song is the total antithesis of the breakup song.  Holt sings here about all the positives of being alone versus being in a relationship.  He sings, “The good thing about you being gone/I can watch the game all day long/I can stretch my legs out in the bed/Extra pillows underneath my head/Don’t know why nobody told me about the upside of lonely/I got a lot more room for all my stuff/And I only have to wash one cup/I can stay up late and play my guitar/And the groceries go twice as far/Don’t know why nobody told me about the upside of lonely/You girlfriends ain’t ringin’ the phone off the wall/And I never have to hear from my mothering-law/I ain’t cut the grass since the middle of June/I smoke a big cigar in my living room/I don’t know why nobody told me about the upside of lonely.”  What man won’t smile and pump his first in the air in agreement with this sentiment?  Listeners should keep in mind that Holt sings these lines with his tongue planted firmly in cheek.  There’s not a single hint of animosity as he sings these lines or the lines that follow.  Keeping that in mind, the song’s Stevie Ray Vaughan style musical arrangement and its playful lyrical content couple here to make this song a clear example of why Foghat’s new album its own collective example of all that is right with rock and roll today and why the album is also one of the year’s top new rock and overall records.  It is just one of the album’s key compositions, too.  ‘Knock It off’ also serves to help UTI (as it will henceforth be known) stand out in whole.

‘Upside of Lonely’ is a clear example of what makes UTI stand out among its counterparts in the rock community this year.  That is due to its bluesy, Stevie Ray Vaughan style musical arrangement and its playful lyrical content.  It is just one of the record’s key compositions.  ‘Knock It Off’ serves to show what makes UTI stand out just as much as ‘Upside of Lonely.’  Only it does so in a different way.  In listening to this song, listeners that know their music history will instantly note the stylistic similarity to AC/DC in terms of the song’s musical arrangement.  It is a driving, straight-forward 4/4 rocker that is infectious in its very own way.  It does plenty to make the song stand out among the rest of the album’s offerings.  It is just one part of what makes the song stand out, too.  The song’s lyrical content is just as important to note here as its musical content.  Huhn makes no bones about the song’s message here.  He (or the song’s subject) is addressing someone whose sole intent in life seems solely to be making trouble and making others miserable.  He sings to that person in a very matter of fact fashion, “Don’t need no excuses/You like stirrin’ my cup/And pullin’ my strings/You keep winding me up/You think I’m overreacting/There’s a line you cross over/Just give me a reason/I got a chip on my shoulder/So knock it off/Knock it off/You’d better knock it off/I’ve got a chip on my shoulder…so knock it off.”  He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “You keep pushin’ and pushin’/You just won’t let up/We gotta settle this quickly/And get out of this rut/I see you lookin’ for trouble/Well I desire some, too/Well just give me a reason/Double dare you to knock it off.”  Who out there hasn’t dealt with someone such as the subject being addressed here?  Exactly.  Considering this, the song becomes a great way to blow off some steam in dealing with such individuals instead of risk losing their jobs or safety over those people.  Keeping this in mind, it serves even more to show why this song is so important to the overall presentation of UTI.  It is still not the last example of what makes UTI stand out, either.  ‘Hot Mama’ serves to show what makes UTI such an important new offering from Foghat just as much as ‘Knock It Off’ and ‘Upside of Lonely.’

‘Upside of Lonely’ and ‘Knock It Off’ are both key examples of what makes Foghat’s new album such an important new offering in this year’s field of new rock albums.  Both songs’ musical arrangements harken back to a better age of rock; an age when rock was great because of its simplicity.  The songs’ lyrical content is just as important to note because of their clear, simple messages.  The prior is the antithesis of the breakup song and the other is a loud, confident statement defying those that would make others’ lives miserable.  The combination of each song’s musical arrangement and lyrical content make each song in whole important in its own right to the album’s overall presentation.  They are, again, just two key compositions included in the body of UTI, though.  ‘Hot Mama’ is just as important to note in examining the album’s body as ‘Upside of Lonely’ and ‘Knock It Off.’  That is because it stands apart from those songs (and the rest of the album’s offerings’) just as much as they do from one another and the rest of the album’s songs.  This song’s musical arrangement helps it stand out with its pure, old school southern rock and roll sound.  It conjures thoughts of Lynyrd Skynyrd and others of that ilk with its riffs.  That is just one part of what makes this record stand out.  The song’s lyrical content is just as notable here as its musical arrangement.  It is so important to note because it is in direct contrast to that of ‘Upside of Lonely.’  Whereas that song touted the positives of bachelorhood this song is more of a fun little piece about a man who has found quite the woman.  There is even a bit of innuendo so to speak in the song’s lyrical content as Huhns subject sings to that woman, “Hot mama/Who’s gonna fan your flame/Hey hot mama/Let me be your fireman” in the song’s chorus.  Whether or not that innuendo was intentionally inserted is anyone’s guess.  But one can’t deny that it is there unintentional or not.  The woman in question is obviously attractive, though.  Huhn’s subject makes that clear as he says to her, You give me a fever/When I’m standing next to you/You’re gonna burn down the house/Lookin’ like you do/Hot mama/Who’s gonna fan your flames/Hey hot mama/Let me be your fireman.”  If this doesn’t get any couple in the mood for a *ahem* busy night then nothing will.  That is because between its “fiery” musical energy and equally notable lyrical content, it will definitely light some flames of passion.  Considering this, it shows once more why this song stands out so loud and proud among the rest of the album’s offerings.  When it is considered along with ‘Upside of Lonely’ and ‘Knock It Off’ all three songs make rather clear why UTI is such an impressive new effort from Foghat.  When listeners hear them, and the rest of the album’s songs, they will agree that every rock purist will want to be under its influence.

Foghat’s new album Under The Influence is a record that is one of 2016’s top new rock records and top new albums overall.  That is because from beginning to end it exemplifies everything that is right with rock and roll today.  It shows that rock is thankfully still alive and well.  Between the album’s overall musical content and its lyrical content, there is plenty to appreciate about the record.  This is evident not just in the songs directly discussed here but in each of the album’s offerings.  In considering this listeners will agree that every rock purist will want to be under its influence.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Under The Influence is available online now along with all of Foghat’s news at:










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Listeners Of All Ages Will Boogie Along With Rock ‘n’ Rainbow’s New Record

Courtesy:  Rainbow Songs, Inc.

Courtesy: Rainbow Songs, Inc.

Kindie-rock band Rock ‘n’ Rainbow has released in its latest album Let’s Boogie an album that is the first real standout children’s album of 2015. The band’s seventeen-track album is one more example of why the world of children’s is just as viable as that of its grown-up counterpart. This is exhibited through the combination of the album’s musical and lyrical content. The album’s lyrical content will entertain younger audiences while its musical content will entertain both children and adults alike. That is because of the band’s display of talent from genre to genre. Whether for the Deep Purple style sound displayed in ‘Faster Scooter Cat,’, the fun, bluesy almost SRV sound of ‘Early Morning Knee-Slapping Blues,’ the band’s own take on the famed ‘Time Warp,’ or any of the album’s other tracks, Let’s Boogie more than lives up to its title from start to finish. In fact, the level of talent, creativity, and originality displayed throughout the course of the album’s forty-four minutes leaves one wondering why the band would even think it needs the gimmick of its stage personas. It displays such level of talent, originality, and creativity that it almost feels like that on-stage gimmick actually hurts more than helps. If the band happens to read this review, perhaps it will take this into account in recording its next record. Regardless it can be stated with certainty in listening to this record that it is one that every child and adult alike will enjoy.

Rock ‘n’ Rainbow’s debut album Let’s Boogie is an easy, early candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new children’s albums. That is thanks in large part to the band’s display of talent, originality, and creativity throughout the course of the album’s forty-four minute run time. From rock to blues to reggae, funk and almost everything in between, the band runs the gamut musically on this record. There really is no one bad point throughout the record. One of the best examples of what makes the album so enjoyable for audiences of all ages comes early on in the seemingly Deep Purple influenced ‘Faster Scooter Cat.’ The song boasts a sound very similar to that of Deep Purple’s hit song ‘Highway Star’ against the song’s story about a young man joyfully riding his scooter through his neighborhood. The song’s unnamed subject sings in the song’s chorus, “Riding my scooter/I’m flying real high/Kids in the ‘hood are wondering why/Smile on my face/It ain’t going nowhere/I’m riding so fast, babe/I just couldn’t care.” The use of the organ set against Mellow Yellow’s time keeping will take older audiences back in time on a great, nostalgic musical trip. That musical trip in question makes for a great introduction to what is one of the greatest rock bands in the modern history of music for younger audiences that might not otherwise be familiar with what is one of the greatest rock band’s in the modern history of music. It’s just one reason that audiences of all ages will love taking in this record together, too. The band’s bluesy, SRV-influenced ‘Early Morning Knee-Slapping Blues’ is another reason that audiences will appreciate and enjoy this record.

The musical history lesson presented in the band’s Deep Purple-influenced Faster Scooter Cat’ makes its case for audiences of all ages to check out Let’s Boogie. As a matter of fact, that song itself will have audiences of all ages boogeying and singing along with its celebratory sound and lyrics. It’s just one of the many reasons on this album that makes it work the purchase. The bluesy, SRV-influenced ‘Early Morning Knee-Slapping Blues’ makes its own case for picking up this album, too. While the vocals sound nothing like the late, great blues master, the guitar work on the part of Purple Stardust is just as tight as that of SRV. Such a display of talent shows why this song is another of the album’s highest of highs. Mellow Yellow’s time keeping partnered with that guitar work instantly conjures thoughts of Chris Layton’s work. Lyrically, the song is just as interesting because it really could actually double as a blues song. The song’s subject sings about the joy in the simplicity of slapping his knees and stomping his feet, whether in getting off to a slow start in the day or in just waking up from a nap. He closes out by singing about picking up his guitar before going to bed and churning out a tune or two. There are actually blues songs out there crafted by much older artists that sound both musically and lyrically like this one. Taking that into account, it makes this song even more of a wonderful addition to the whole of Let’s Boogie. And together with the likes of the Deep Purple influenced ‘Faster Scooter Cat’ and the album’s other songs, it makes for even more reason for parents to pick up this album and enjoy it with their children.

Both ‘Faster Scooter Cat’ and ‘Early Morning Knee-Slapping Blues’ are great additions to the whole of Let’s Boogie in their own special way. Younger audiences will enjoy the songs’ lyrics while both children and grown-ups alike will enjoy the songs’ musical side. The music in question in both songs is especially important to note in that it serves collectively as a great way to introduce young listeners to some of the greatest music of the 20th Century. This is even more (and surprisingly) evident in the band’s cover of the song ‘Time Warp.’ The song,made largely famous from the cult classic movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show is perhaps the biggest surprise of all on this album. Nobody would have expected a children’s act to cover a song from a movie that is hardly for children. But adults that are familiar with the movie will love this piece even as short as it is. It may even have older audiences that are familiar with the movie dancing and singing along just like audiences do every Halloween in theaters across the country. It’s just one more reason that this band, while considered a kindie-rock band, will entertain grown-ups just as much as it will younger listeners. And as entertaining as it and the previously noted songs prove to be, they are just a fraction of the ways in which Let’s Boogie will have audiences of all ages boogeying along from start to finish.

All three of the songs noted here each play their own part in making Let’s Boogie one of the most surprisingly entertaining children’s albums of 2015 so far. As entertaining as they are, they are just a fraction of what makes this album so enjoyable for audiences of all ages. From the funky grooves of ‘The Freeze’ and ‘Five Senses,’ to the more laid back reggae influenced sound of ‘That Is The Right Hand,’ to the semi-punk influenced sound of ‘I Can’t Fly’ or any of the album’s other songs, this record offers audiences of all ages plenty of enjoyment from start to finish. The end result of all of those varied sounds and lyrical topics is a record that is an easy, early candidate for any critic’s year-ender list of the year’s best new children’s albums and potentially a candidate for a Grammy-nominated children’s album in 2016. the album will be available Tuesday, March 17th in stores and online. The band will perform live Saturday, March 7th ahead of the album’s release in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Parents and children can get more information on that show and any other upcoming live events as well as the latest updates from the band online at To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

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 More information on this and other recordings from Austin City Limits over the years is available online at:




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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  More information on Austin City Limits is available online at




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Zodiac Offers Even More Pure Guitar-Driven Rock On Its New Record

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Hiding Place, the second full length release from Germany’s Zodiac, is a solid follow-up to the band’s 2012 debut record, A Bit of Devil.  The band’s sophomore release picks up right where A Bit of Devil left off.  Right from the album’s outset, listeners are transported back in time to the golden era of real rock and roll and taken on a musical trip that would impress even older listeners that lived through that great age.  The band gets so much right throughout all nine of the songs collected for this record.  From the soaring guitar solos of Stephen Gall and front man Nick van Delft to Janosch Rathmer’s almost John Bonham-esque drumming to bassist Ruben Claro’s solid bass lines, so much can be said of this record.  Even the album’s lyrical side is noteworthy.  The band’s musicianship and lyrical finesse together make every song on this record a joy.  It would be impossible to examine each and every song.  Though, a few examples might work.  And what better place to start than with the album’s opener, ‘Downtown?”

‘Downtown’ is everything that makes blues-driven rock and roll so great.  It is bound to be a fan favorite with its straight forward energy and blues-based guitar riffs.  What makes this song so outstanding is the fact that just as with so many classic rock favorites, the band has made this more than just another rock song.  It’s a two-parter, with the first half being an anthem for a Saturday night on the town.  That’s especially the case considering that the band sings in the song’s chorus, “Bright lights are shining/Big city diamond/Where are you now…We’re going downtown/Where nobody knows your name.”  The chorus set against the song’s musical energy will loosen up even the person who has had the toughest of work weeks.  The jam session that makes up the song’s second half instantly conjures thoughts of rock’s greatest age.  One can close one’s eyes, take in the music, and see the band onstage jamming out together, and feeding off of the energy shared by its audiences in this segment of the song.  All of it together makes ‘Downtown’ the perfect choice to open the album.

‘Downtown’ is the perfect opener for Hiding Place.  It is certain to get any listener up and moving whether in their living room or with friends.  Just as certain to get listeners moving is the album’s third song, ‘Under My Bed.’  All four members of the band contribute their own element to make this song a hit.  The truly interesting thing about this song is how much vocalist Nick van Delft sounds like blues great Stevie Ray Vaughan in this song.  Bassist Ruben Claro’s funk-infused bass lines set against the SRV style guitar solos make this song stand out even more.  That’s not to discount drummer Janosch Rathmer’s work.  He keeps time through the song, not missing a beat as he adds his own flair to it.  As with ‘Downtown’ it would be easy to see this driving blues-based rocker being just as much of a fan favorite both on the album and in concert.

So much can be noted of the songs on Hiding Place as one can tell by now.  It would take far too long to examine each and every song on this record.  Though at least one more example can be shared showing what listeners can expect from this record.  That last example lies in the album’s penultimate song, ‘I Wanna Know.’  This song doesn’t have the same energy as ‘Downtown’ or ‘Under My Bed.’  It does boast its own energy and feel, though.  This is actually a good thing.  It’s good in that it proves the band’s slower songs can be just as enjoyable as those more up-tempo numbers.  What’s more, its contemplative lyrics are just as certain to catch listeners’ attention.  Van Delft sings in this song, ‘I wanna know/How my soul/Brought me on my knees/I wanna know/What to do/In times like these.”  The slightly slower yet equally hard musical side helps to illustrate the emotion that the band attempts to translate to listeners.  It’s one more part of the album that makes the whole presentation so fun for anyone that is a fan of pure, guitar driven rock and roll.  It’s not all that listeners have to look forward to, either.  The songs note noted here are just worthy of checking out, too.  The album is available now in stores and online.  Fans can also get a chance to hear the band’s music in person, too as the band tours in support of Hiding Place.  The band is currently in the midst of a European tour.  It will kick off the U.S. leg of its tour beginning November 14th in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The band will make a tour stop in North Carolina on Saturday, December 7th at Amos Southend in Charlotte.  The concert is scheduled for a 7pm start time.  More tour dates and news from the band is available online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Sullivan’s Star Keeps Rising On His Latest Release

Courtesy:  Superstar Records/merlis for hire

Courtesy: Superstar Records/merlis for hire

Blues guitarist Quinn Sullivan is not even eighteen years old.  But even at roughly the tender age of fourteen, this young musician has achieved things of which other musicians his age can only dream.  The young man was personally tapped by blues legend Buddy Guy as one of the next big names in the world of blues.  And if his new record, Getting There is any indication, the title bestowed on him by Guy might well be deserved.  That is as long as he sticks primarily to playing more blues-related material rather than some of the more poppy material included in this record.  That he is dealing puberty can be forgiven in terms of his vocals.  Once he gets through this stage of his life, his vocals may in fact become just as strong as his guitar playing.  And if that happens, fans of the blues may hear even more from him.

Sullivan hints at his abilities in the first two songs on Getting There.  But it’s in the album’s title track that he really shines both musically and vocally.  The talent that he exhibits here is kind of musicianship not generally expected of someone his age.  So to hear the sounds produced by this young man is impressive to say the least.  Just as impressive is Sullivan’s vocal style and the song’s lyrics.  Instead of being sort of a Johnny Cash tribute, he sings instead that no, he hasn’t been everywhere.  But he is getting there.  He sings about having gone to this place and that, but knowing he hadn’t been everywhere; though he’s working on it.  He sings, “No I ain’t been everywhere/But I’m getting there/No, not yet/But I’m working on it.”  The subtle way that last part is added in gives the song just a little more attitude.  That extra little attitude will have any listener laughing to themselves because while it is noted in a cocky sense, it isn’t an overly cocky tone.  It’s almost as if he’s saying, I know I haven’t gotten there, but I know I will be.  It shows that he’s only a teenager, but he’s already getting the confidence of a seasoned veteran musician.

Another moment on this record in which Sullivan really shines comes in ‘Mr. Gloom.’  This is another solid twelve-bar blues style piece that allowed him to exhibit both his talent on the guitar and with his vocals.  There are some runs that he hits on his guitar that could almost rival the talents of Stevie Ray Vaughan or perhaps Kenny Wayne Shepherd.  Vocally, he is obviously going through puberty.  But there’s a certain quality about his vocals that conjures thoughts of Johnny Lang.  One can only wonder what his vocals will sound like once he passes puberty and gets older.  If this song is any indication, he will definitely have some very strong vocals. 

‘Mr. Gloom’ and ‘Getting There’ are just a couple examples of Sullivan’s abilities on this new record.  There are many more from which listeners will get to choose.  One of those others is ‘Cyclone.’  What makes this song so interesting is yet again he exhibits quite the ability on his instrument in the song’s “A” section.  The somewhat chromatic runs by Sullivan, and the solid timekeeping of his drummer conjure thoughts of Van Halen’s ‘Hot For Teacher’ in the song’s “A” section.  Give it’s not as hard as the aforementioned song.  But there is at least some similarity, interestingly enough.  So not only does Sullivan get to shine on this album, so do his band mates.  And this is just one example of that.  There are other tracks that exhibit his band mates’ talents.  All combined, they make Getting There a record that given the right support the record that breaks out this young musician and in fact proves him to be the face of the next generation of the blues.  Getting There will be available June 18th.  To get the latest news on his new album, live dates, news and more, audiences can “Like” him on Facebook at  They can also follow the latest news and more from Quinn on his official website,

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The Slide Brothers’ Debut LP Makes Its Way Onto The Year’s Best Records List

Courtesy:  Concord Records

Courtesy: Concord Records

The Slide Brothers’ debut self-titled album is without a doubt, one more of the year’s top albums. It is infused with a healthy dose of both blues and gospel that will light a fire inside any truly open minded lover of music. It all kicks off with an amazing cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s ‘Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’.’ The group’s take on this blues classic is an excellent opener, with its high energy music and equally powerful gritty vocals.  The transition to the softer gospel sounds of ‘My Sweet Lord’ makes for quite the change in both tempo and vibe.  Audiences are taken to a high energy song to open the album to something far mellower.

While it isn’t as mellow per se in terms of its general tempo and vibe, ‘Sunday School Blues’ offers audiences a piece that’s mellow in its own right.  Just as impressive is the band’s cover of the spiritual, ‘Wade in The Water.’  The band’s take on this piece is a full on instrumental.  There are no vocals here.  While some might view this as a bad thing, the total lack of vocals makes the entire song that much more powerful and impressive, especially in the blues/rock form presented on this record.  It has a real Blind Boys of Alabama vibe about it.  Things kick back up again from here as the band transitions into ‘Praise You.’  This song is just one more wonderful addition to The Slide Brothers’ debut album as it blurs that line between blues and gospel that much more.  It proves that music doesn’t have to fit neatly into one genre or another to be enjoyable.

As one can clearly see, the first half of The Slide Brothers’ album is top heavy with great material for music lovers across the board.  The album’s second half is no different as it keeps things moving smoothly right off the bat with another bluesy piece in ‘It Hurts Me Too.’  That song is followed up by another song very much in the vein of the Blind Boys of Alabama in ‘Catch That Train.’  The whole thing comes to a head in the album’s penultimate track; a cover of blues legend ELmore James’ ‘The Sky is Crying.’  What really makes this song so incredible is that the band manages somehow to maintain the original song all while making it into its own creation at the same time.  It’s doubtless that this song will become an instant hit with audiences both on the record and at live shows.  Speaking of live shows the band will hit the road in March in support of its new album, beginning with a performance at the Smith Opera House in Geneva, New York on March 6th.  Audiences can get a full tour itinerary and even order the band’s debut album online at its official website, and on its Facebook page,  Fans can also get all the latest updates from the band on Twitter at

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