Arts, Entertainment, Living

TV Q&A hiccup; Spelling mansion special

Tuesday, 13 December 2011 12:00 AM Written by

Questions to TV Q&A have been slow for a few weeks, which I attributed to everyone being busy for the holidays.

Wrong-o.

I just figured out there's some hiccup with the submission form on the PG website. Sooooo.... If you attempted to send a question to TV Q&A anytime since Nov. 16, I didn't get it. Please try again by e-mailing me your question, first name, age and location: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Sorry and thanks! Now back to our regularly-schedule blog post:

Ever wondered what it was like to live in Aaron Spelling's mansion? His widow, Candy, offers a tour. Read more after the jump. ...

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Steeler Country: Terry Bradshaw

Monday, 12 December 2011 05:00 AM Written by

Last month, it was announced that Badhorse, a country trio including one Bobby E, son of former Steeler Bobby Walden, finished shooting a video that included a cameo by Walden's former Steeler teammate: Terry Bradshaw.  What's not widely known by a lot of younger Steeler fans is that 35 years ago, when he wasn't dazzling everyone on the field, Bradshaw, with two Super Bowls behind him, himself had a side gig: country singer.

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'Fear Factor' host skeptical of sitcoms

Monday, 12 December 2011 12:00 AM Written by

joe_roganNBC's "Fear Factor" returns tonight at 8 with host Joe Rogan back on board, and in Sunday's TV Week he seemed excited to work on the show despite statements to the contrary a few years ago.

Prior to his "Fear Factor" run, Rogan was one of the stars of the NBC comedy "NewsRadio." In our conversation for the TV Week story, Rogan, 44, said he'd be cautious before returning to the sitcom.

Read more after the jump. ...

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A few recent CDs -- some blues; all good

Monday, 12 December 2011 12:00 AM Written by

I keep getting more and more behind in writing about new CDs that I get, and many of them filled with fine music and worthy of mention, even if they're not all the purest of the pure blues. And -- if you're a fan of tough, sturdy, real-deal old-school blues, there seem to be fewer and fewer of those.

But that's something we all know. And I also know that there are many blues fans out there whose blues tastes run the spectrum from down-home blues through blues-rock and beyond to material rooted in the blues, but shaped by many other influences, and often winds up being called roots music, or Americana.

But I digress.

Here are some mini-reviews of as many recent CDs as I can write about before I need a fresh bottle of Christmas ale (BeerNotes heartily recommends a cagetop of the bluenote-smooth Belgian, Delirium Noel). You'll find a video after each item, except for Boy Wells, who seems to have only one short studio outtake).

Boy Wells, "Blue Skies Calling" (Marcel Marsupial) -- Boy Wells is really Mark Schultz, who grew up playing in the southern Maryland area in the Southern rock genre, but now works out of central Texas. Like many of the albums I get, he's not exactly a household name, but he's been around for a while, and is an accomplished player with fine slide and acoustic chops.

Wells shows off a lot of stylistic variation here, moving fluidly through country, blues, jazz and some hard rocking music -- all original. There are excellent backing players with some horns, harp, keyboards, banjo, violin and mandolin. I especially like the rousing "World Weary and Blue,"  the Cajun-flavored title track, and the stinging slide-slinging, down-home "Devil's Backbone Blues." If he comes this way, check him out.

James Armstrong, "Blues at the Border" (Catfood Records) -- James Armstrong is veteran blues player of Los Angeles origins with a funky style backed by his stinging guitar work and easy style with a lyric (many of them his own). Over the years he's accumulated a long list of credits and appeared with another long list of blues players.

The title track uses a gritty slide to take a sly look at how getting from one country to another can give you the blues. "Devil's Candy" is a tough lament about the lure of a dangerous woman. The band here swings easily, as with a lot of West Coast and Texas-based blues, and Armstrong shows that his first CD in 11 years could bring him some well-deserved national attention.

Sean Costello, Sean Costello At His Best - Live" (Landslide Records) -- Sean Costello, a crackling blues guitarist with soulful pipes, died much too young at the age of 28 in 2008. This CD is a collection of live performances, which are often the best measure of the passion and excitement that a fiery blues player and singer can generate.

Nothing disappoints here. Some of the sound is admittedly taken from audience tapes, but that only enhances the gritty flavor that comes through as Costello is featured playing songs by blues masters from T-Bone Walker to Lowell Fulson to Magic Sam to Little Richard. He rocks, he swings, he sears the air with tough, exciting guitar. The album stands as a righteous ode to Costello's massive but unfulfilled talents.

Toronzo Cannon, "Leaving Mood" (Delmark Records) -- Toronzo Cannon is almost a rarity these days -- and honest-to-gosh young Chicago player steeped in the blues and willing to play them. He fronts his tough band here -- Cannonball Express -- with able assistance from guitar star Carl Weathersby and harpman Matthew Skoller. And I should mention his keyboard player, Roosevelt Purifoy, who, in addition to his key talents, has a name I love to write.

The CD starts out with a pair of tough, bluesy originals with Cannon  firing on guitar -- "She Loved Me" and "Chico's Song" -- then moves into a series of slightly, but only slightly, softer and more liquid tracks. But it's all funky blues, soulful singing - what more can you ask? 

Debbie Bond, "Hearts Are Wild" (Blues Root Productions) -- Debbie Bond is a California native, but settled in Alabama in 1979, where she shared her band with legendary bluesman Johnny Shines from 1981 untio his death in 1992. She's a fine guitarist and has taken to writing her own songs to match her vocals, which range from smooth and sensual to souful and gritty.

"Dead Zone Blues" and the title track are laced with tough horn and piano, with the latter being a torchy and soulful outing. Two of the best cuts are covers -- "You're the Kind of Trouble" and "Baby I Love You," a nice take on the Aretha Franklin classic.

There's also a new track titled "I Like It Like That," which sent me back into the nether regions of my memory for the 1961 song of the same name that was a hit by Chris Kenner -- I'm sure you remember. No matter, Bond is a sharp talent who makes fine music with some sultry blues roots.

Savoy Brown, "Voodoo Moon" (Ruf Records) -- Savoy Brown (originally the Savoy Brown Blues Band formed in 1965) was one of the British blues-rock bands of the late '60s, fronted by guitarist Kim Simmonds. The rest of the original members are gone, but Simmonds still fronts the current group. And "I've seen him enough in recent years to know that he still has some fans around.

On "Voodoo Moon," Simmonds has said he wanted a more lyrical approach to his blues-rock, so he has written a set of tunes that give a bit more blues spirit to his rock-edged music. And they're not quite as high on energy as more traditional blues-rock, which I kind of like (BlueNotes is not a big fan of guitars played like machine guns, except for special effects).

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Bee Spears, Willie Nelson's Bassist: 1949-2011

Sunday, 11 December 2011 08:11 AM Written by

In a life that like everyone else's, has had its ups and downs, two of the tragedies that have visited Willie Nelson have happened at or near Christmas. 20 years ago, his eldest son Billy was found dead after committing suicide.  And yesterday,  Dan "Bee" Spears, Willie's bassist and a key member of his musical family for the past 43 years, was found dead outside his motor home near Nashville, the victim of a fall and explosure to the elements, which included below-average temperatures.  He was 62.

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Video Game Awards 2011: Blog

Sunday, 11 December 2011 05:38 AM Written by

Spike TV’s Video Game Awards aired just a few hours ago.  I was unable to watch them live, but thanks to 21st century technology, the DVR made it possible to watch.  I stayed away from the web, Twitter and any game sites in order to dodge any potential spoilers of the winners or debuted game trailers.

I’m writing this recap as I watch the awards for the first time.  Here is the running blog of the 2011 VGAs.  Key points are in bold.  There aren’t a lot of them.

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BlueNotes, Bluzer and Santa

Sunday, 11 December 2011 12:00 AM Written by

Well.

images_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyIn response to what I wrote the other day, and thinking was just a simple truth, Bluzer took issue, and he took issue so eloquently that I thought it should be a real post. So here is is, following the innocent lines that I wrote:

BlueNotes: It's almost Christmas, so don't forget the milk and cookies (I leave bourbon and fudge near the chimney, and then enjoy it before I go to bed -- we all know there's no Santa).

Bluzer: "What?", exclaimed a clearly stunned BLUZER, "No Santa?".

"That's what I said", came the reply from BLUENOTES, obviously enjoying the moment. He stood and walked toward the window, took another sip from his glass, and as he gazed out at the bleak, overcast afternoon he slowly continued.

"I've been waiting for the right time to reveal the results of my investigation into the sordid Christmas myth of a jolly, fat man dressed in a gaudy red and white costume who allegedly bring gifts to all the children of the world. I say it's an impossible feat and that the whole thing has been concocted to satisfy the adult desire to keep children in their place and to sell alot of useless merchandise. When you add the idea that this home-invader accomplishes his evil mission by using a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer...well, the whole idea is just preposterous and I, for one, have no qualms about letting the truth come to light".

BLUZER sat and listened. He had known BLUENOTES for many years and had never suspected that his friend had anything but honorable intentions as Chairman-of-the-board of the renowned BLUENOTES Institute. But now, all of BLUZER's previous notions and his abiding loyalty had been turned upside-down. Who was this man in front of him that had the audacity to try and destroy one of the greatest icons our civilization has yet to create? The idea that BLUENOTES would issue a statement debunking the hero of millions of children caught BLUZER completely by surprise.

"Do you know what you're doing, BLUENOTES? Remember the grief that you dealt with when you upset Candye Kane and her minions? Do you really want to get on the bad side of millions of sweet and innocent little boys and girls? It won't be pretty."

"I have no illusions regarding my actions", BLUENOTES continued as confident as ever, "It's time someone brought these youngsters up-to-speed with the rest of the world so that maybe we can move forward as a nation and get back to being the great country the world knows us to be. Our children should not be burdened by the Government/Industrial Complex's use of frivolous imagery to warp their tiny minds into subservience to a retailing myth. Let Christmas come from their hard work rather than from their imaginations and piggy banks."

By this time BLUZER was livid. All he could muster was a weak, "You'll be sorry" as BLUENOTES chuckled with glee.

"And don't get me started on the Easter Bunny. When spring rolls around I plan to expose him (or her, if that's the case) for the charlatan that he (or she) is. Children have a right to the truth and I'm not adverse to bringing it to them".

BLUZER stood and turned toward the door.

"Well, BLUENOTES, I'll have no part in your diabolical plan to alienate and agitate. What started as a noble effort to keep an eye on the Blues scene has begun to evolve into something far more sinister. I was always under the impression that the BLUENOTES blog was a vehicle for righteousness and purity and honor but know I just don't know. Your evil plan will lead to nothing but heartache and shame. I hope you find what it is you're looking for and that all ends well. As for me, I choose to believe."

"Very well then," came the reply from a slightly inebriated BLUENOTES, "If you're not with me then you must be against me. Santa must be stopped. If you won't help me than I have no further use for you and I say 'begone' ".

Shaking his head, BLUZER left the BLUENOTES World Headquarters with a feeling of sorrow for his old friend and fellow Blues lover. Deep within him, BLUZER knew that things would no doubt end badly if BLUENOTES were to continue with his twisted mission. Something had to be done to convince this scrooge that the joy of Christmas and the promise of Santa must remain and that the truth, whatever it may be, was not for BLUENOTES to decide.

First, we know that all this is untrue, because we know that Bluzer has never  breached the security of the BlueNotes World HQ.

And then, Bluzer had the audacity to suggest that some music might help me:

BLUZER suddenly realized that maybe the answer could be found in the music. There must be some way to melt that cold, cold BLUENOTE's heart.

To which there can be only one reply:

Is that a fine vocal, or what?

(Otis Williams and the Charms, 1954, in case you forgot - I originally wrote 1955, but I was tricked by a reference to 1955 as the year it zipped up the charts.)

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George Jones 2: The Videos-1970-2005

Friday, 09 December 2011 06:28 AM Written by

 

To conclude this 80th birthday look at George Jones's career in video, we pick it up in 1972. If you missed Part 1, covering the 50's and 60's, it's available here.


The first Jones hit once he signed with Epic Records was a 1972 duet with Tammy, who was already on the label.  It was a remake of "Take Me," a Jones solo hit single from 1965, a song that bore the composer credit of Jones and Texas singer-songwriter Leon Payne, who was a vocal influence on Willie Nelson and earlier, composed the immortal ballad Hank Williams made famous: "Lost Highway" (that's right--Hank didn't write that one). This performance very likely came from around 1970-71. 

Jones does his 1972 solo hit ballad "A Picture of Me (Without You)."  Ironically, the song was co-written by Nashville producers George Richey and Norro Wilson.  Richey later became Tammy's fifth and final husband.  She died in 1998; he died in 2010.

Introduced by Tammy, Jones sings his # 1 1974 hit "The Grand Tour."

Coming right behind "Grand Tour" was this # 1, "The Door," co-written by his Epic Records producer Billy Sherrill, and Norro Wilson.  And yes, it was another tune designed to trade on the fast-crumbling George-Tammy marriage, was about shot by this time.  They'd record together after their 1975 divorce, but Jones was entering the darkest period of his life while recording the most moving material of his entire career.

Around 1977, two years after their divorce, a year after the song went to # 1, the divorcees made guest appearances on the syndicated country TV show Pop Goes the Country, hosted by Ralph Emery.  Here, with guest Larry Gatlin, he introduces George and Tammy singing "Golden Ring."

Let George, many years later,  tell the tale of how he came to record James Taylor's "Bartender's Blues," a Top Ten for him in 1978 and the only real "country" song Taylor ever wrote, at least to my ear. The performance itself is from the late 70's. The fiddler behind him is the incomparable Austin sideman Johnny Gimble, a former member of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys and frequent Willie Nelson collaborator.

Jones was pretty much headed for the bottom by the time he recorded--and it took him a long time to get it to Sherrill's satisfaction. He hated doing re-takes in the studio, which Sherrill  generally insisted on, so it took them a while to get a finished version. Initially, Jones wasn't even crazy about the song, written by 2011 Country Music Hall of Famer Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman, who wrote the classic "Green, Green Grass of Home."  In a lifetime of great performances, it remains in the minds of many (me included), his greatest performance ever.

Jones added cocaine to his alcoholism in the early 80's and spiraled dangerously out of control.  He freely admitted it in this excerpt from a 1990's video documentary on his life, with added comments from Waylon Jennings. Jones's honesty in describing his problems reflects his s refusal to hide behind a wall of PR. 

The documentary included this well known, disturbing bit of May, 1982 video captured by TV news cameras when Jones was pulled over on a highway near Nashville. George was clearly drunk, high and, well, let's just say not very happy. 

Note: the TV show Cops was a few  years away when this went down.

In 1983 he married his fourth wife, Nancy and slowly began to regain his equilibrium, enough that in 1985 he recorded this moving homage to country legends past and present: "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," a # 3 single.  I used the video version because it illustrates the artists he's singing about.  It's worth noting that Cash, Waylon, Roy Acuff, Carl Perkins and Conway Twitty were all still alive and working at the time.  Today, all are gone.

Jones's 1992 performance of "I Don't Need  Your Rockin' Chair" from the CMA Awards that same year ends with his formal induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the plaque presented by 1980's New Traditionalist Randy Travis, one of Jones's many disciples.

On the single  issued that year, he was joined by Alan Jackson and Mark Chesnutt, then brand new acts, Vince Gill,  Clint Black. Kathy Mattea and Pam Tillis, Joe Diffie, T. Graham Brown and a less sincere follower, the ever-cynical, calculating Garth Brooks.  Onstage, he's joined by most of the guest singers: Jackson, Chesnutt, Brown, Diffie, Tillis and Mattea and Gill along with two, Marty Stuart and Clint Black, who weren't on the single.

In 1997, he had a Top 20 hit duet with Patty Loveless, one of the best of the 1980's New Traditionalist singers, on the ballad "You Don't Seem to Miss Me."

Jones is still touring today, living outside Nashville near Franklin Tennessee. He fell off the wagon in 1999 until a near-fatal car crash yanked him back.  We'll wind it up with this 2005 duet with Dolly Parton, from his album Hits I Missed (And One I Didn't), an album of songs he either admired or had been offered and chose not to record (the "one he didn't" was a tepid remake of "He Stopped Loving Her Today").  Keith Stegall, Alan Jackson's longtime producer, handled production here as well.

This reflective little number, "The Blues Man," written by Hank Williams, Jr., was one George recorded with Dolly Parton in 2005. It's a good place to sum it all up.

We shall not see his like again.

 

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