November 10, 2007

I'm a Rent fan. I love the music, I love the message, and I love the characters who tell the story through their eyes during "a year in the life." So, naturally, seeing the opera that inspired such a production
was crucial. It would be like seeing the movie without reading the book. For me, it was one of the last pieces of the puzzle to help me grasp the message of the plot: that through seasons, sickness, poverty and even death, love can still hold on.

And I loved every minute of it.

Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme played to a packed house in the Musical Arts Center on Nov. 9, and for good reason. The story of four young bohemians dreaming (and freezing) their way through winter in 1800s
Paris is a tale packed with human emotion and relatable experience, even if not all of us have lived it. The characters are strong, the plot even stronger, and for IU Opera Theater's production, the set just blows your mind.

November 10, 2007

Jerry Lee Lewis
Last Man Standing
Artists First AFT-20001-2
Jerry Lee Lewis, piano and vocal duets with (in order of appearance) Jimmy Page, B.B. King, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger & Ronnie Wood, Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, John Fogerty, Keith Richards, Ringo Starr, Merle Haggard, Kid Rock, Rod Stewart, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Toby Keith, Eric Clapton, Little Richard, Delaney Bramlett, Buddy Guy, Don Henley, Kris Kristofferson


One of the advantages of being my age is that I had the privilege of growing up in the Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll, from the mid-1950s through the British Invasion of 1964. One of my fondest musical memories is from when I was 11, and just knocked out by listening to Jerry Lee Lewis pounding out "Great Balls of Fire" on the AM radio, back in January, 1958.

November 6, 2007

Davy Knowles knows the blues. The 20-year-old lead singer and guitarist of British blues-rock trio Back Door Slam has been playing since age 11, and his skill on the guitar has sparked comparisons to such legendary musicians as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

"It's incredibly flattering," he said during an interview before the band's Nov. 1 show at the Bluebird, "but embarrassing at the same time. Those people really set milestones. I would never put us in the same league."

Reviews of the band consistently do just that, though, albeit with shock that Knowles, at age 20, could sing the blues with such conviction and soul. George Varga's review of the band in The San Diego Union-Tribune describes Knowles as "the precocious nephew of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn and Rory Gallagher," while others repeatedly describe his talent and vocals as "beyond his years."

November 6, 2007

The Kelly Richey Band
Sweet Lucy -- KRB1136

I was first introduced to the Kelly Richey Band in the summer of 2006, when I heard this Cincinnati-based band at Indianapolis's noted blues club, the Slippery Noodle Inn. I was impressed with her vibrant, two-fisted guitar playing from the beginning, and complimented her by quoting what was said of Memphis Minnie: "She plays guitar like a man." This CD, Speechless, by her and her elemental band of only David Clawson on drums and Jimmy V on bass, only confirms and deepens my initial impression.

October 23, 2007

Seven Acres Band
Seven Acres
Seven Acres

Howard Glazer and the EL 34s
Brown Paper Bag
Random Chance RCD-23

“Blues had a baby, and they called it rock ‘n’ roll,” Muddy Waters once noted. Certainly the blues and R&B have been integral parts of creating first, rock ‘n’ roll, then rock, and have been a part of these genres’ history since the mid-1950s, responsible for the genesis of blues/ rock hybrids that have ranged from the sublime to the ripoff. Rock is heavily indebted to the blues, and contemporary blues also indebted to rock, as these two CDs show.

October 9, 2007

Pyeng Threadgill
Sweet Home: The Music of Robert Johnson
Random Chance RCD-16

Pyeng Threadgill is a young African-American woman and jazz vocalist, and she has brought together a multiethnic, multiracial ensemble of talented jazz musicians to join her in rendering eleven of Robert Johnson's classic blues songs into modern jazz. A daunting task indeed, but one in which her CD here, Sweet Home: The Music of Robert Johnson not only achieves successfully, but with soul as well.

September 11, 2007

For the last seven years, when he hasn’t been chasing area hell-raisers, Bedford police officer Brian Turpen has quietly and painstakingly researched the life of a man who, according to country music lore, was perhaps the quintessential hell-raiser: Hank Williams Sr.

Turpen, whose zeal for the music legend is already well-known among a small but fervent church of Hank Williams superfans, may be on the verge of achieving wider recognition with the July release of his book, Ramblin’ Man: Short Stories from the Life of Hank William.

The book is a collection of more than 50 articles Turpen has published in various fanzines and newsletters over the last few years, all of them written exclusively by the man in blue, with the exception of one sprawling, standout piece on the 1949 Grand Ole Opry European Tour, which was co-written with Manfred Reinhardt of Germany.

August 11, 2007

Under the name Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., Jason Molina has more releases on Bloomington's Secretly Canadian Records than any other artist -- nine CDs and two EPs. Sales of 300,000 copies across his discography is a long-term boost that has helped the company grow.

Molina has been one of the label's hardest-traveling touring artists, globetrotting through much of each year on solo jaunts, but more often with his band of Bloomington-based players -- Jason Groth on guitar, Pete Schreiner on bass, Mark Rice on drums and Michael Kapinus on keyboards.

Fresh from tours of Europe and Australia and New Zealand, Magnolia Electric Co. will be kicking off a 40-date North American tour on August 23 at The Bluebird in Bloomington.

July 17, 2007

There's no MTV crew following Jeremy Gotwals around these days. But other than the fauxhawk with a platinum blond streak he now sports, not much else has changed about the 17-year-old Bloomington High School North student.

He still talks rapidly, as if he's impatient to get the right words out, and he often combines this with dramatic gestures and sighs.

As someone who appears constantly at ease with himself, Gotwals is even more comfortable without the MTV crew in tow. On this particular evening, he's actually more subdued. But that could be because he has mono and is not feeling quite up to par.

July 3, 2007

As another summer from Hades blankets south-central Indiana, an early sign of merciful fall arrives with the Summer Night of Lotus, a concert of musical hors d’oeuvres meant to whet appetites for the upcoming Lotus World Music and Arts Festival.

Three very different – but all triple-strength caffeinated – musical adventures will unfold in high gear at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre on Friday, July 13, at 7 p.m.

Initiated three years ago as an annual means of officially launching the Lotus “season,” this year’s Summer Night of Lotus features Grupo Fantasma, a lively, 11-man, Austin-based Afro-Latin funk fusion outfit; the Wilders, a four-piece string band from Kansas City known as much for their torrential, comedy-peppered live performances as for their remarkable musicianship; and Kusun Ensemble, an exhilarating percussion and dance group hailing from Ghana, that many folks will recall having seen during Lotus Festival, 2005.

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