On the way — The Avett Brothers, Sept. 26 at the AMP

July 15th, 2014 at 8:37 am

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Good morning! Here’s a “Morning Song” for you, courtesy of The Avett Brothers. Here’s some morning news, too — the band is heading to Northwest Arkansas in late September.

The Avett Brothers are known for several things, among them writing infectious pop songs and touring almost nonstop.

Both those elements will align on Sept. 26 at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion, it was just announced. The North Carolina brother act will return to the area in support of their latest album, “Magpie and the Dandelion.”

They’ve been here several times, including a previous gig at the AMP’s former location in Fayetteville.

Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Friday (July 25) through the Walton Arts Center’s box office or through the venue’s website. Tickets range from $32-$53.50.

Concert review — Miranda Lambert, July 12 at the AMP

July 14th, 2014 at 9:31 am

Miranda Lambert. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Miranda Lambert. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Imagine having the No. 1 song in all of country music. Now take it one step more, and imagine having 9,000 screaming fans in front of you for a concert, then not playing that hit.

And now, imagine the greatest stretch of them all — that you got away with not playing it, too.

Sure, Miranda Lambert sort of, kind of, maybe offered up “Somethin’ Bad,” a duet with Carrie Underwood that rests atop the country charts. A video of Lambert and Underwood performing the song together played as an introduction to Lambert’s Saturday (July 12) stop at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers. Lambert walked out onstage with her large band after the video concluded and never looked back.

I can guess how difficult it would be to find a suitable substitute for Underwood’s half of the song, and maybe that’s why Lambert kept that song off the list. But the more remarkable part is that she didn’t need it. Her 21-song set, which spanned about 90 minutes on a hot summer night, included plenty of other hits. She’s had more than a half dozen country chart toppers, and they touched off appropriately wild responses. Some of the bigger moments of the night included the songs “Platinum,” which provides the title for her current tour, and “Mama’s Broken Heart,” “Automatic” and “White Liar.”

Lambert first shot to fame courtesy of the now-defunct, countrified “American Idol”-clone “Nashville Star.” She placed an amazing third (anyone seen Buddy Jewell or John Arthur Martinez recently?) in the first season. Slowly, surely, she’s continued her ascension.

Miranda LambertWEB003I’m not sure she can continue that climb, but only because she’s at the pinnacle. The aforementioned Underwood might be her best rival, but it’s a friendly one, considering the recent collaboration. Underwood’s last album, just like Lambert’s last, topped all albums in sales the week it debuted. But in terms of current relevance, Lambert’s “Platinum” release from June of this year is having a remarkable run.

That’s to say nothing of where they fall on the country spectrum. As Underwood veers often into pop territory — a place fellow country queen Taylor Swift arguably resides permanently — Lambert remains true to her Texas roots, and not just with her voice, although that’s a dead giveaway.

She occupies an interesting space in the country music continuum, still traditionally rooted and smarter than those in the bro country scene by a clear margin. She wore a black tank top with a skull on it but sang into a pink microphone. She’s sassy, taking risks with songs such as “Old Sh!t” — that’s her spelling — and speaking her mind. She’s the kind of woman you’d want to have a beer with but wouldn’t dare anger. If her onstage rallying cries are an act, she deserves an Oscar.

One of the evening’s nicer moments, in fact, proved some of those roots. Her stout backing band put down the electric instruments and gathered around for an all-acoustic take on “Me and Charlie Talking.”

Lambert didn’t hide behind the band then, and she especially didn’t when she opened the two-song encore with a solo acoustic performance of “Makin’ Plans.”

She can make plans to stay at the top of the country music heap for some time.

The Swon Brothers

The Swon Brothers

A note about the openers: In a testament to the new model for music, The Swon Brothers didn’t mention album sales, which generally pale in comparison to those of just a few years ago. No, they thanked the audience for downloads, and for helping them make a splash on the iTunes country charts. The brother duo from nearby Muskogee, Okla., served up several of the songs they performed on “The Voice,” which they performed on in 2013. Among those were “Danny’s Song” by Loggins and Messina and “Fishin’ in the Dark” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Both of those are fine songs, and they suited the brother act’s range well. It didn’t work well during a cover of Boston’s “Long Time,” which was homogenized into a country-pop track and stripped of any passion.

RaeLynn, another “Voice” contestant, looks and sings her age — 20. She opened up the evening, but I was only able to catch a few of her songs. She has a solid voice, and with a few good songs, and some time working on her stage presence, she has potential. She’s got time to work on it.

Miranda Lambert: “Platinum” album, “Platinum” tour, (almost) platinum sales

July 11th, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert

Everything is coming up Platinum for Miranda Lambert. That’s the name of her most recent album, which currently sits at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Albums Chart.

It’s also the color of her hair, as she discusses in the title track. She got a hair cut recently, and it got much coverage in celebrity gossip mags. You know you’re a big star when your hairstyle gets national media attention.

Meanwhile, “Platinum” could also describe the kind of sales she’s achieving. She’s sold an estimated 3 million albums, although no one single recorded has reached platinum-selling status just yet.

And, of course, “Platinum” is the name of her current tour, which kicked off last night (July 10) in Ohio. The tour, with guests The Swon Brothers and RaeLynn, stops in Rogers for a Saturday-night (July 12) show at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion.

Lambert’s schedule was too hectic to sit down for a phone conversation, but she did take a few moments to answer some emailed questions. Her responses to questions about her growing merchandise empire, her recent run of success and more can be found in today’s What’s Up! section, which appears in newsstands or online [Note: Subscriber content].

Tickets for the performance, which begins at 7 p.m., range from $44-$79. Tickets are available by calling 443-5600 or via the AMP’s website.

See you there?

Joe Crookston takes over FPL

July 11th, 2014 at 10:23 am

Joe Crookston

Joe Crookston

I watched the first time Joe Crookston took over the Fayetteville Public Library. It was during the 2013 Fayetteville Roots Festival, and despite following icons Del McCoury and Iris Dement, he wowed the audience then.

The town likewise wowed him, and he fell in love with the city, he told me recently by phone.

So it made sense for him to come back, and for him to be at the library when he did.

Crookston completes a three-day residency today (July 11) with a documentary screening and a public concert at 7 p.m.

The documentary, which will be screened at 2 p.m., is called “Blue Tattoo.” It tells the story of Crookston meeting a Holocaust survivor and her daughter, then writing a song about them. Fayetteville will be only the second city to see the documentary.

“Blue Tattoo” trailer

Tonight, he tells me he’ll perform a high-intensity show, including several tracks from his newest album, “Georgia, I’m Here,” which owes some inspiration to celebrated painter Georgia O’Keeffe.

Crookston spent part of his Fourth of July chatting with me about O’Keeffe, his residency and why he likes Fayetteville. You can read my story in today’s What’s Up!, which appears in print in the five Northwest Arkansas Media daily newspapers or online [Note: Subscriber content].

Crookston’s concert begins at 7 p.m. at the library. It’s free to attend.

See you there.

The weekend in live music, with Brave Combo and more

July 11th, 2014 at 5:03 am

Brave ComboWEB

Brave Combo photo by Ed Steele Photography

Unless the apocalypse happened between the time I finished writing this post and the dawn of Friday morning, you’ve made it to the weekend. Congratulations.

Which means its time for a weekly digest for live music happenings in the area, because I’m not sure of any better celebration of life than what can be captured in music.

What can you expect of the weekend? Several shows of note, of course, including one by Brave Combo.

Here are some of the genres Texas band Brave Combo says it performs: salsa, meringue, rock, conjunto, polka, zydeco — and the list goes on. The five-piece band has won two Grammy Awards and are currently on a cross-country tour. The trip will bring Brave Combo to Eureka Springs on Saturday (July 12) for a free show at Basin Spring Park. The show begins at 6 p.m. (Photo courtesy Ed Steele Photography)

Multitalented is a good way to describe both Annie Sellick and Pat Bergeson. Sellick, a vocalist, has performed at jazz festivals and with orchestras. Bergeson, pictured, is known for his session work on both guitar and harmonica and spent many years in Chet Atkins’ band. Sellick and Bergeson team up for a jazz show on Saturday night at the Fayetteville Underground. The show begins at 7:30 p.m., and admission is $15.

Other shows of note include Joe Crookston at the Fayetteville Public Library today (July 11) and Miranda Lambert on Saturday at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. More on both of them later.

Elsewhere, Cindy Woolf and Mark Bilyeu have the stage at 2 p.m. Sunday (July 13) at the Fayetteville Public Library and bluesman RJ Mischo takes over Fresco Cafe and Pub in Fayetteville tonight.

What’s on your live music agenda for the weekend?

On the way — Drive-By Truckers, Oct. 28 at George’s

July 10th, 2014 at 11:41 am

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With all the rain today, we may end up with some Fayetteville Oceans. The song above is “Made Up English Oceans,” and it’s courtesy of the Drive-By Truckers.

Southern rockers and consummate bar band Drive-By Truckers have recently extended their tour in support of the March album “English Oceans.”

That’s good news for Northwest Arkansas, because the tour now passes through our area. The group’s almost never-ending tour has visited Fayetteville before, but not in several years. The newly scheduled performance on Oct. 28 takes place in the same venue they visited in 2009 — George’s Majestic Lounge.

The date appears on the band’s website, and it also appears on George’s ticketing website. No prices are listed, but according to the George’s site, tickets go on sale at 1 a.m. tomorrow (July 11).

Concert review: Willie Nelson, July 7 at the AMP

July 9th, 2014 at 8:47 am

Willie Nelson. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Willie Nelson. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

What remains to be said about Willie Nelson?

What we already know about the man/music icon/Texan/jazz artist/outlaw/everyman makes him one of the more fascinating characters to ever grace a stage.

Some of those things we know well: his near failings as a musician before eventual success, his smoking of weed long before Colorado and Washington ever considered legalizing it, his fondness for a beat-up old guitar and his lack of fondness for the Internal Revenue Service.

And, of course, his ability to write a beautiful song.

How well you know these things and how much they do or don’t endear you to Nelson likely colored your experiences at his Monday night (July 7) show at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. Joined by premiere openers Alison Krauss and Union Station and Jason Isbell, it combined for an uncomfortably packed venue. Krauss and Isbell certainly drew several fans of their own, but this was Nelson’s show.

Rarely have I heard such a great rift in opinions regarding a live music show. Concerts can create their own special magic, and if they achieve that threshold, the audience knows it. A lackluster concert usually yields an appropriately lackluster response. Yet last night, I heard conviction from both sides of the good or bad argument, and much fewer from those in the middle. More simply put, you loved this show, or you just as strongly did not love it.

With a backdrop of a Texas state flag, like always.

With a backdrop of a Texas state flag, like always.

I suspect those coming into the show having already appointed him a saint-in-waiting found little to dissuade them. His trademark slightly-off-the-mark vocal phrasings were, well, slightly off the mark. His guitar fretwork, even at 81 years of age, was lightning quick. He played the pretty riff in “On the Road Again” faster than he ever played it on an album. He played so many of his hits, and he led off, like he always does, with “Whiskey River.” He strummed so hard and so quickly I kept worrying he’d punch another hole in Trigger, his guitar of many decades.

I further suspect those walking in with indifference remained so, or worse. A Willie Nelson concert is in some ways a lesson in rote recitation — he has, after all, led off with the aforementioned “Whiskey River” at every show for the past two decades, I think. Willie’s vocal and instrumental ramblings can be disorienting. Even if you know the song well, the way it’s offered in the present makes it difficult to sing. No one sings quite like Willie, and even though his voice has lost some of its sustain — he kept talking through what he once sung — his voice still sounds as it always has. Still, I get the criticisms, with the partial songs, the halting voice and the sometimes waning energy.

Willie NelsonWEB002What does that leave everyone with? Not much in the way of newness. He released a new album, “Band of Brothers,” just three weeks ago. He played only one of the songs from that album, the title track. His setlist instead was populated with his own hits and traditional country standards from the likes of Kris Kristopherson, Billy Joe Shaver and even Toby Keith.

But it’s a lyric from “Band of Brothers” I keep going back to when I think about Monday night’s show. “We’re a band of brothers and sisters and whatever / On a mission to break all the rules.”

That latter part has always been Nelson’s way — from the marijuana to the tax issues to the way he delivers music. It takes a stout jazz band behind him — you know Willie Nelson’s music is deeply rooted in French guitar jazz, right? — to keep up with Nelson, filling in behind or catching up when he goes on tangents, which is often.

He offered a tangent later in the set, although it too was part of a Nelson standard. Three members of Alison Krauss and Union Station — Krauss, Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski — and opening act Jason Isbell all joined Nelson for a closing run of traditional gospel songs such as “I’ll Fly Away” and “Will the Circle be Unbroken.”

That threw a little life into the proceedings and closed the briskly paced 80-minute set.

Five minutes after the last note rang out, a nice tour bus, the one I assume is Nelson’s, rolled off the AMP grounds.

Jerry Douglas, left, and Alison Krauss of Union Station

Jerry Douglas, left, and Alison Krauss of Union Station

Periodically, Krauss and company could have used a little of that spark in their 75-minute co-headlining set. With the size of the crowd, and considering the volume of the audience members who were talking, I struggled to hear Krauss on several songs. On softer numbers, such as the gorgeous a capella gospel number “Down to the River to Pray,” members of the crowd took to shushing those around them, meaning no one got what they wanted. That song, and likewise “When You Say Nothing At All,” were almost inaudible. That’s a shame.

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell

The set did contain a few surprises, however. Krauss could also barely be heard in her between-song banter, and although she introduced guitarist Dan Tyminski as the voice behind George Clooney’s character in “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?,” the crowd seemed shocked at hearing the familiar chords and voice. Kind of like the famous scene in the movie, where everyone goes wild at the recognition of a great track. In fact, I’d venture to say that during a night filled with carefully created and followed set lists, the most unpredictable element of the night was the crowd. I never seemed to know which song would amuse, bring them to their feet or silence them.

The stellar musicianship, meanwhile, continued with Union Station, particularly courtesy of Jerry Douglas, who many of us got to watch at last year’s Fayetteville Roots Festival.

That followed the excellence of Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. My love for that group is well documented. To wit:

But the band, just as the others did, seemed lethargic coming out of the gates. It’s hard to appease any crowd that’s walking through the gates when you’re onstage. Even so, Isbell’s best song from his best album, a tune called “Cover Me Up” from 2013′s “Southeastern,” drew a yell of recognition at its start.

That’s how much of the night went for the performers, actually. Hollers when the songs began, and extended applause at their conclusion, with little in between. Everyone who wanted to yell could, and everyone who wanted to wonder what the fuss was about had the same chance.

P.S. If it matters, I own six Willie Nelson albums on vinyl, and I think he’s great.

Soon in tunes: Everyone is Dirty, July 8 at Lightbulb Club

July 7th, 2014 at 1:41 pm

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Everyone is Dirty performs “I’m Ok.” Note: There’s an instance of rock-star language in the video clip that follows the song.

Oakland, California band Everyone is Dirty will bring their blend of noise rock, punk and classical music to the Lightbulb Club on Tuesday (July 8). The stop comes as part of the band’s “Hot N’ Bothered” tour of the southwest. Joining them at the 9 p.m. show will be Witchsister and High Lonesome.

Dan Tyminski on unions — Union Station, and one with Avicii

July 4th, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Alison Krauss and Union Station

Alison Krauss and Union Station

Dan Tyminski did not know what to make of Swedish EDM act Avicii. That’s to be expected — Tyminski is a wildly talented multi-instrumentalist who operates in the bluegrass world, and Avicii is one of the most popular draws in the growing electronic world. Those genres rarely collide.

After receiving a pitch to collaborate, Tyminski recorded his part of a song, called “Hey Brother.” Avicii added the rest. The result was a smash hit that went to the top of the pop charts in a dozen countries.

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Tyminski called Avicii a “genius” and was surprised how well it worked.

He’s since been playing the song live with Alison Krauss and Union Station, one of the best-known bluegrass bands in the world. Tyminski has been a member of Union Station since 1994. Tyminski will also likely offer up a take on “Man of Constant Sorrow,” which he recorded for the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack.

That’s in addition to the Union Station songs that will be performed during the evening. Of course, all that comes before the evening’s headliner, Willie Nelson, takes the stage. Tyminski chatted with me recently about the breaks that have taken him to these career highlights. Read my story in today’s What’s Up! section, which is available in the Northwest Arkansas Media daily newspapers and also online [Note: Subscriber content].

The tour, featuring Nelson, Union Station and songwriter Jason Isbell comes to the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion on Monday (July 7). Music starts at 7 p.m. Admission ranges from $39-$99.

Also, can I beg something of you really fast? PLEASE get there for the opening act. Jason Isbell, and in particular, the songs from his latest album, are not to be missed. You can thank me later.

See you at the show?

The weekend in live music, with Silo and more

July 3rd, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Silo

Silo

For years now, I’ve been posting weekend music guides. They go up on Friday mornings, like clockwork.

But what if the weekend starts early? As in the Fourth of July takes over Friday and everyone gets a head start?

Welcome to what I believe is the first Thursday edition of the weekend guide. Speaking of First Thursday, an event by that name in Fayetteville takes place this evening (July 3). Isayah’s Allstars will provide the main stage entertainment.

As for the rest of the weekend, an Arkansas native returns home for a few days and a few gigs.

Describing themselves as “not quite bluegrass,” but having a banjo, and “not quite old time” but having a folk accordion, the duo Silo will make two stops in Fayetteville this weekend. Featuring Arkansas native Jennifer Jeffers and her musical partner Renee Arozqueta, the band will perform from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday (July 5) at Smoke & Barrel Tavern and from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday (July 6) at Dickson Street Pub.

Another option this weekend? Maybe go for a Hike(s).

Inspired by nature in both the name of the band and the songs they write, Austin, Texas, band Hikes will perform Saturday at The Lightbulb Club in Fayetteville. The group combines folk instrumentation with technical work, calling its sound math-folk. Hikes released a new self-titled EP on June 20. Joined by Captain Nowhere, the show will begin at 9 p.m. Admission is $5.

Saturday, two very appropriately named bands will perform in the area. Bottlerocket takes the stage at JJ’s Grill in Fayetteville. Matt Reeves and the All Americans are set for a gig at Chelsea’s Corner Cafe in Eureka Springs.

I hope your weekend is festive. And music filled, too.