On this week's "Believe Your Ears" podcast
P-G pop music critic/Weekend Magazine editor Scott Mervis talks with singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. Music critic Rich Kienzle reviews new collections from two jazz icons -- "The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige" and "The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy."
It's a nice touch, Brad Paisley kicking off his H20 World Tour May 28th in the 'Burgh, the closest big city to his hometown of Glen Dale, West Virginia. To some, starting here might seem surprising. Popular perceptions of Pittsburgh music, after all, correctly deem it the birthplace of jazz icons, a hotbed of doo-wop, Porky and oldies, home base for Grushecky and Nardini and most recently, launching pad for Girl Talk, Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa. In that context, of Western Pa. being fertile ground for country might seem far-fetched. But it's not.
Willie Nelson's November 26 marijuana possession arrest in Hudspeth County, Texas generated ample headlines. That's ramped up again as his case glides toward a resolution that's spawned media frenzy regarding whether he'd avoid jail by pleading guilty, paying a fine and singing in the courtroom. Willie, of course, is no stranger to pot. He's worked for its legalization and previously beat a 1994 Texas marijuana bust. That's all common knowledge. What's not so well known is the fact that he's far from the only Texas country musician with a taste for the stuff.
This week's "Believe Your Ears" music podcast just posted. It blends my review of Buddy Miller's latest album, Majestic Silver Strings, with an audio version of Scott Mervis's interview with Wiz Khalifa.
Ralph Mooney was already an acknowledged pedal steel guitar vitruoso when Waylon Jennings, a longtime fan, hired him in 1970. Over the next 20 years, "Moon" became the musical glue that held together Waylon's hell-for-leather backup band the Waylors. A member of the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame since 1983, Mooney died March 20 of kidney cancer at his home in Kennedale, Texas. He was 82. His funeral took place March 23 in Texas.
Drummer Joe Morello, who rose to fame as a member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet and whose percussive gifts shaped landmark Brubeck recordings like "Take Five" and its 1959 parent album, "Time Out," an experiment with complex time signatures, died March 12 in New Jersey at age 82. Morello was one-fourth of the "classic" Brubeck Quartet. He and bassist Eugene Wright became the infallible rhythm section driving alto saxophonist (and "Take Five" composer) Paul Desmond and Brubeck's inventive, intricate piano.
MCA Nashville signed Ashton Shepherd over three years ago. The Alabama native's debut album Sounds So Good received its share of acclaim though it only reached No.16. on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. The album's two singles, "Takin' Off This Pain," and "Sounds So Good," peaked at No. 20 and No.21, respectively. I found that surprising, since her no-bull voice, sharp and unabashedly twangy, allows her to hit a lyric head-on, as she does on her current single, "Look It Up." So far, it's reached No. 23 on the Billboard charts. Frankly, given the quality of her work, she deserves better.
Welcome to Get Rhythm, which probably should be subtitled "Country and then some." Country will be the major focus and nowadays, that covers a pretty wide swath of music. Taylor Swift and Brad Paisley, Sara Evans, Buddy Miller, The Grascals, Ricky Skaggs, the Hot Club of Cowtown, Hank Williams III, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Robbie Fulks, Willie Nelson, George Jones and Loretta Lynn all fit into that style. Of course, categories and classifications abound: modern country, Americana, rockabilly, honky-tonk, bluegrass, roots music, western swing, alternative country, classic country and so on.
If you've checked the PG's weekly "Believe Your Ears" music podcasts, which I contribute to along with PG staffers (most notably Scott Mervis),you might notice I don't always stick to country. That's because over the years, I've written about mainstream jazz, classic pop of the Sinatra-Tony Bennett variety as well as early rock. That same eclectic approach applies here. I might occasionally look at instrumental players. And I won't ignore history, including reissues of country, jazz, pop, etc. Expect an occasional book review as well.
Most of what you'll see here will be familiar, but expect trips off the beaten path to focus on obscure but worthwhile performers, albums or styles you might not be as familiar with. And when a breaking event happens, I'll look at it—sometimes with an unconventional spin.
As always, Scott and the PG's ever-capable A&E staff will handle local music and the region's performers. I'll be concentrating on national acts and everything mentioned above. With all that going on, I'd suggest checking back often. Enjoy!