Showing posts with label musicians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label musicians. Show all posts

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Expand Your Guitar Horizons with Lawson Rollins

I take advantage of annual “Top 10” lists as one mechanism to discover new music. These lists offer plenty to choose from since they are broken down according to Critics Picks, Reader/Listener/Viewer Picks, Genre, and everything between. One fulfilling discovery this year is Guitarist and Producer Lawson Rollins. He has renewed my excitement about this blog’s favorite musical instrument.

Rollins’ style is the Spanish guitar as characterized by his playing as one half of Young & Rollins. A look at his video The Fire Cadenza on YouTube expresses much more than I can say in words though. I did a double take at first because I could not fathom how such depth comes from such economy of movement. You can download the Guitar Tab for this piece on iTunes courtesy of transcription help from Guitar World's own Andy Aledort. How cool is that?! I downloaded Infinita, Rollins’ first solo album during this same iTunes visit and there is much more going on here than just Spanish guitar.

Infinita is a World Music tour traveling through salsa, samba, and Latin jazz. Rollins throws in some blues, the bossa nova, and flamenco for good measure. He provides virtuoso guitar playing and writes the songs and basic arrangements. He achieves an improvisational feel on the tracks by leaving space for the other players to create their own interpretations for the album. Rollins’ digs deeper into the roots of world music on his second solo album Espirito, which just came out January 19th.

Espirito’s world tour takes on the characteristics of the Amazing Race as it digs into biguine, reggae, son, and swing rhythms. He takes me beyond Spain to hit styles of India, Persia, and the Arab world. This is definitely off the beaten path and worth checking out if you want to expand your horizons or even as music immersion in the event you are scheduled to visit some exotic locale abroad!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Age Made Golf History at Turnberry, What Age Makes Music History?

I was on the edge of my seat rooting for Tom Watkins to make golf history by winning the British Open. Alas, one putt short...or one too many I guess. Still, it would have been great to be there. This got me to thinking about what age boundary would constitute music history.

Could history in the world of music be made by the oldest guitar player to tour 270 days in a row, with the occasional bar fight thrown in? Maybe the oldest person who can play as fast as Al Di Meola? None of these measures seem as clear cut as that Sunday at Turnberry. How about that old faithful, money?

I looked up tour receipts for 2008 and it turns out Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet tour was the highest grossing North American tour of the year at $105.3M. Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, and Tina Turner were all in the top 10 and well into Tom Watkins’ territory (talking age now rather than money) and beyond. It seems the music world has not yet come upon its Turnberry moment when acts like this can be in the top 10 with little fanfare about age boundaries.

Hmm, looks like Bruce Springsteen is coming to town; I didn’t make it to Turnberry, but maybe I can attend this little slice of history.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Highballs and Hydrangeas – Multi Generations Gather and Rock

Continuing music education for my wife and I this weekend was Highballs and Hydrangeas at Cheekwood. Cheekwood is an art museum and botanical garden located in the mansion and on the grounds of a grand estate completed in 1932. Most notable is the diverse crowd this event now attracts.

Highballs and Hydrangeas is a great party that raises money for Cheekwood. Music was provided by the Pat Patrick Band. Although Cheekwood might be associated with the longhair art crowd all demographics were represented. We saw everything from two rockin’ grandmothers accompanied by their grandson designated driver (iPod ear buds firmly in place) to the youngest and hippest of the contemporary crowd.

The Pat Patrick Band rocked (my favorite moment being when the lead guitarist slipped the intro for Purple Haze into one of his solos) and the dance floor was like a roller derby tournament.

This all reconfirms for me that music (and highballs) knows no age boundaries.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Must Listen To For Anyone Interested in Music

I was flipping through stations one evening and heard discussion around home and studio recording techniques, which immediately caught my interest. Turns out it was an episode of Music Business Radio, a talk show you should check out.

Nashville’s own WRLT 100.1 FM is the flagship station for this program and it is great listening for anyone interested in music. The latest episode features Ken Mansfield, former US Manager for Apple Records and US/UK liaison for the Beatles and he recounts his experiences working with them as well as the Beach Boys, the Band, and many more.

So, visit their site to find a broadcast radio station in your area or simply subscribe and listen to episodes through streaming audio or podcast free of charge.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Aging Rockers: You’re Not Alone

I received my issue of AARP magazine today and they feature “Rock of Aged” in the trends section. Seems many of the top touring bands of 2007 are “kinda long in the tooth.”

The Police, average age 59, were actually the top touring band of any age last year with gross receipts north of $120 million. Other high revenue acts were Van Halen, average age 54 (not counting Eddie’s 17 year old son who plays bass), Rod Stewart, 63, and Genesis with an average age of 57.

No excuses Boomers; pick up that guitar and start rocking!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Take a Look at Project Song from All Songs Considered

On my way home from the office today I heard a story on National Public Radio® regarding Project Song, an NPR Music feature on that illustrates the entire music creation process from writing through recording and post production. The entire process is done over two ten hour days.

Whether this paricular example is your style of music or not this really highlights that there is a process for how music is made rather than a bolt of lightening coming out of the sky.

You can hear the story and watch a video of the process at NPR Music.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Shred Parallels: Dragonforce and Focus

My daughter pulled me aside the other day to view a YouTube video of Dragonforce performing "Through the Fire and Flames". Her and her brother and most everyone else continue working on this song in Guitar Hero. Beyond being amazed it immediately brought to mind a short lived group from the 70s, the progressive rock band Focus, and their song Hocus Pocus.

This was very big in the early 70s. Everyone was amazed at Jan Akkerman's sheer guitar speed. He and other guitarists such as Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Eddie Van Halen moved away from a blues driven style during the 70s and more to a jazz, rock, and world music fusion.
So, out to the garage I go to dig through my vinyl archive to do a snapshot of the LP and it is pictured above.

I've included videos of both groups from YouTube so you can judge the parallels (or lack thereof) for yourselves.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

How to Break Up the Band Without Breaking Up

I started off my morning reading about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as the cover story for the Life section of the USA Today. One comment that sticks is that they’ve stayed together and relevant all this time by protecting their interests and the band’s interest by stepping out on their own.

Bruce Springsteen at age 58 and the E Street Band are coming off three new Grammy’s, a critically acclaimed album “Magic”, and kicking off a North American tour tonight at Asbury Park Convention Hall. Seems to indicate protecting the interests of the band is working out. So, what would have happened had the Beatles followed this approach?

For the Beatles it was a choice between stepping out on their own or staying together as a band. This either or choice reduced any future decision to collaborate as a band down to a “reunion”, as huge of an event as that would have been.

While they all did go off on their own, an argument can be made that some of their best work was as a band. The fact they made a masterpiece like Abbey Road while essentially dysfunctional as a band confirms the power of collaboration. Who knows what would have been had they left open the freedom to collaborate in the same fashion as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have done.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Can Music Succeed Where Words and Diplomacy Fail?

I read about Lady Yoko Nagae Ceschina in this morning’s Wall Street Journal and her sponsorship of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s appearance in North Korea next week. Her premise is that music can succeed where words and diplomacy fail. This raises two thoughts; music is indeed powerful and what would it be like if struggling rock & roll artists had a patron like Mrs. Ceschina?

I did a recent post on the benefits of music making and while there were many benefits; brain exercise, stress reduction, and lower blood pressure, diplomacy was not one of them. However, I think she’s right about the diplomacy part. I’ve been reading “This Is Your Brain On Music” by Daniel J. Levitin where he argues that music may be more fundamental to the human species than language. If music is that central to our species it seems only natural that it could bridge political and cultural divides.

One interesting anecdote is her $1.5 million purchase of a 1727 Stradivarius at auction for renowned Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov. If Mrs. Ceschina were in the rock world maybe some deserving young metal master may have ended up with Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” or Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny” instead of Guitar Center….. Nope, somehow it doesn’t translate.

Nonetheless, North Korea has been relaxing its controls on western music. This may provide an opening for some rock & roll diplomacy. One hurdle; lyrics need to be approved by the government. Oops. Classical music may have to be the diplomats for awhile longer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Vintage Guitar Market: The Great Rap/R&B;/hip-hop Scare

Gruhn Guitars is one of Nashville’s premier vintage guitar sources and releases an occasional newsletter with market commentary. Think of it as the vintage guitar market equivalent of the Fed Chairman addressing congress. The most recent issue explores potential threats to the vintage guitar market; lure of easy money from booming stock market or high interest rates and waning interest in guitars caused by the rising popularity of the Rap/R&B/hip-hop genre of music. Needless to say, given I am a guitar blog author and guitar fan, that second one caught my attention.

One of my favorite sections of Rolling Stone magazine is the "Charts" area on the last page showing rankings and I do have to admit that I’ve noticed less guitar based music. Newsletter authors George Gruhn and Walter Carter point out that eight of the top ten records as of their writing were rap/R&B/hip-hop styles and had no guitar. According to them, the last time this kind of shift occurred is now referred to in vintage guitar circles as the “Great Synthesizer Scare of the ‘70s.” The scare originated because the development of electric keyboard instruments coupled with the popularity of disco showed that a song could be a hit without guitars as the lead instrument.

While there may be a chance that interest in guitars has peaked the conclusion they draw is that ongoing evolution of public taste will continue to come around to the guitar given its portability and versatility. They are more than comfortable continuing to invest in quality vintage fretted instruments. I ran across a tangible example of what they are talking about just the other night while watching “Crossroads” on the MTV's music television network.

This episode featured Robert Plant and Alison Krauss performing music from “Raising Sand”, currently number one on Americana Radio Top Ten. Throw a range of guitar based musical styles such as blues, bluegrass, country, and rock into a blender and out comes what I saw on that episode; something amazing! They did a rendition of “Black Dog” from Led Zeppelin IV that included tight vocals backed up by banjo (yes, banjo), standup bass, and one of the most amazing rock/bluegrass/blues/country guitar solos I’ve heard with a very cool effect of rattling keys from a keychain against the strings.

Watching that performance left me in no doubt the guitar is here to stay for the foreseeable future!

>>Related Articles
The Vintage Guitar Circuit: Where Guitars Find a New Home
Aging Rockers: Listen to More Than The Old Masters

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sue Foley: A Blues Guitarist You Need to Hear

There was a brief period where some college buddies and I congregated at the Telluride Blues and Brews festival in Colorado for a reunion of sorts. At these shows I spent brief periods of time between sampling micro brews to research blues artists. This experience led me indirectly to a discovery of Sue Foley, a guitarist you really need to hear.

I picked up CDs at the festival and listened and liked. From there I started a subscription to eMusic and started downloading other blues artists including Sue Foley who originates from Ottawa in Canada. I liked her vocal style and the music but was really entranced by the guitarist in the band. The solos were riveting. So, I finally got my fingers working and looked her up only to find she’s the guitarist!

Part of what makes her style unique is she plays with a thumb pick and her fingers and does not use finger picks. I've embedded a clip from YouTube below so you can take a quick look. She rocks!

Regrettably, women are underrepresented in the guitar world. But, all you need do is take a listen and you will see she’s got it. Also, she is doing a lot to spread the word about other female guitarists through her Guitar Woman project. While they are underrepresented it doesn’t mean they aren’t good!

You can find out about all this as well as discography and touring schedule at

>>Related Articles
How to Discover New Music; Check Out Music on NPR®
Nashville Natives: Jack Pearson and Stan Lassiter
Getting Brian Setzer's Sleepwalk Out of My Head