Previews & Reviews
Uncle Fester's House of Blooze got a taste of the real thing last Thursday.
But just a taste -- because when you take a band like the Chicago Afrobeat Project (CabP), whose last show was at the House of Blues in Chicago, and place them on a small stage like at Uncle Fester's, not only do all of the musicians barely fit, they've got a hell of a lot less to work with.
Luckily for the Bloomington crowd, CabP didn't seem too concerned with the venue. They were just having a great time showing us what the Chicago spin on afro-beat music sounds like.
You're invited to a wedding – IU Opera style. On Feb. 1, the IU Opera Theater will open the spring portion of its 2007-08 season with the nation's first collegiate performance of A Wedding by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom.
A Wedding, based on Robert Altman's 1978 film about a high-society wedding, was first staged at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2004 and is Bolcom's third project with IU Opera Theater. Bolcom's collegiate premieres of McTeague (1996) and A View from the Bridge (2005) achieved critical acclaim with the IU Opera Theater.
With contemporary so-called R&B so dominated by Britney Spears wannabes in blackface, it's so pleasurable indeed to hear the real thing done by a seasoned artist who knows how it's done. Certainly Betty Harris's Intuition fits that bill -- to a tee! It's just an all-around musical pleasure.
Betty Harris perfected her soul, blues and R&B chops from 1958 to 1969, working with singer Big Maybelle and producers Bert Berns and Allen Toussaint, and touring with Otis Redding. Then she retired from music to raise her family, but fan notice posted on the Internet brought her back into performing again in 2005. In December, 2006 she teamed up with producer/engineer/songwriter/musician Jon Tiven to record Intuition, her debut solo CD, released on the well-regarded Evidence blues and soul label.
Watermelon Slim and the Workers
The Wheel Man
Northern Blues Music NBM0038
In the past few years, one of the biggest, most talked-about, emerging blues artists has been Watermelon Slim. Okie, Vietnam veteran, holder of blue-collar jobs, Watermelon Slim honed his hard-edged blues the old fashioned way: in small clubs and juke joints, but also at antiwar rallies, just playing the straight-ahead, raw blues from the heart before demanding but also straight-ahead, raw audiences who could tell who was real, and who was just faking it, as soon as they heard it. They heard the real thing in Watermelon Slim and his band, the Workers, and they rallied.
My First Time
A Collection of First Punk Show Stories
Chris Duncan, Editor
Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2007
Yes, a review-essay on a new book about punk rock. So what’s that got to do with the blues? Plenty, as you’ll see below. This is exactly why my column is called “Blues and More.” Because, just as with the review last week of the killer CD by the Killer himself, classic rock ‘n’ roller Jerry Lewis, I wanted to be able to explore far more that is relevant to the living soul of the blues than just genre-specific blues music itself. And a good look at My First Times fits this format of doing blues – and more – exactly.
There are certain things in life that just sit with you. Maybe it's a song, maybe it's a scene in your favorite movie, or maybe it's a painting filled with color and life. Whatever "it" is, it rounds out your life and makes the journey a little easier to bear.
For me, it's an entire musical. Rent, the history-making rock musical based on Puccini's opera La Boheme, came to the IU Auditorium Nov. 13 and 14, and the experience filled a hole in my life that I didn't even know existed.
While I was already familiar with the music and storyline from the movie version that came out in 2005, I knew I needed to see it live to get the full experience. Well, I went, and I fell in love with the production all over again.
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.
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.
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."
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.