30th May2012

Interview with Lawrence Gowan of Styx

by rockchicago

Interviewed by Kevin Pollack 

 

Lawrence Gowan is a Scottish-born Canadian musician. Gowan has been both a solo artist and the current lead vocalist and keyboardist of the band Styx, since May 1999. His musical style is usually classified in the category of progressive rock.

I recently spoke to Lawrence about joining Styx, and the journey it has led him on.

 

Q: How did you come to join Styx?

Gowan: Well, I had a long solo career in Canada, prior to joining the band. I had 4 platinum records, 3 gold records, and 6 number one songs, 7 number one videos. People in Canada were very familiar with my music, and when the new Montreal Forum opened in 1997, it just so happened that Styx and I were playing in Montreal the same night. I was playing one theatre, and they were playing the new Montreal Forum. We have the same promoter, and the promoter decided, “I need someone to open the show for Styx. Would you do that, at the new Montreal Forum?” and I said, “Would you honor the tickets from my show”, and I said sure, that’d be great! It just so happens that after that night, the band saw me play, and just as I finished the show and came off, Tommy said to me, “Man, we gotta work together again in the future.” And I thought that maybe it could mean going to the US, where I’ve never had any of my records released. Instead, two years later, he called, I assumed why he was calling, but he said, “We need someone to play keyboards and sing. Would you do it?” I said yeah, and that was 14 years ago. That’s how that happened.

 

Q: What kind of legacy do you think Styx’s music has left with the world?

Gowan: Well, it’s funny, you know? The great musical statement of the 20th century was rock music, you know? The classic rock era seems to be particularly voiced by younger and younger generations. At least half our audience, if not more now, are people who are in their 30s. That was not the case when I joined the band. It was just basically the people that followed the band all along, and a few of them who brought younger brothers and sisters. Something like that. But now, clearly, well over half the audience is coming to view us through the internet or through popular culture that are fans of Styx. Then, when all these people come to the show, they just become enamored with the live experience of that.

 

Q: Who are your influences?

Gowan: Well, mostly British bands were the big influence to me. As a piano player, I mean, Elton John and Rick Wakeman were two of my favorite keyboard players. I’d quickly add Keith Emerson, particularly Tony Banks from Genesis. Those are great influences for rock. I love what they did with keyboards. But I also love The Rolling Stones, and obviously I’m connected to The Beatle thing as much as every musician that’s on stage today.

 

Q: How did you get into music?

Gowan: I knew early on. I got into it by basically going to the Conservatory in Toronto, The Royal Conservatory, and going to take classical piano, and I used that to become a songwriter, and that’s how I started my solo records, and it continued from that time until today.

 

Q: Do you come from a musical family?

Gowan: Yeah, I mean, I was born in Scotland, and my mom was a very good singer, and my dad was an excellent natural musician, as most Irish guys are. So, I have that background, and I guess it was just in my family, let’s put it that way. Then, when I got my first record deal with CBS Records in Canada, it was a great career. They just never released my stuff in the United States, only in Canada. That’s just the way the music business was then. But, you know, I persevered, and eventually I got into this legendary American band.

 

Q: You’ve collaborated with many artists over the span of your solo career. Who has been your favorite and why?

Gowan: I guess, on record, it would have to be Jon Anderson from Yes, because I always admired him as a vocalist, as a lyricist, and he sang on one of my biggest songs, actually they just re-released it last week called “Moonlight Desires.” It’s a number one song in Canada. He had a solo in the middle of that song, that I think is just tremendous, and we did a video for it in the Myan pyramids. That was a fantastic collaboration. There’ve been many I can say. Alex Lifeson from Rush played on a full album of mine in 1990, and that was a tremendous thing, and I have to say, the band with Tony Levin and Jerry Marotta from Peter Gabriel. They played on my solo records, and they were a stellar contribution, and I’ve been working with them recently again. But, in my solo days, they were the best collaborators, and since I’ve got into this phenominal band, I’ve got the best collaborators I could ever hope for on stage with me every night.

 

Q: What is your favorite song you’ve written?

Gowan: For myself, I think there’s “A Criminal Mind,” which I’ve recorded and put out on a couple live DVDs, and “A Criminal Mind” was a number one song for me in Canada in 1985, and it happens to be the song, when I first joined Styx, it was played at our very first rehearsal. Tommy said, “You know what? Before you play any Styx songs, play “A Criminal Mind” because I think we should make that into a Styx song.” So that’s a special song to me on a number of levels.

 

Q: What’s your favorite Styx song?

Gowan: I love playing “Renegade.” It’s one that I don’t get to sing on, except the little harmony at the beginning and the middle, but by the time we play that every night, the audience is in such a state of exzuberance at that point in the show, it just makes it a pure joy for me at that point to play the song, and to just witness what’s going on around me. There’s a tremendous relation that’s in me every night by the time we get to “Renegade.”

 

Q: What’s your favorite Styx album?

Gowan: I think it’s Pieces of Eight, you know? We did a new DVD where we played the full Grand Illusion and the full Pieces of Eight album back-to-back, and I think that’s a very good representation of what we are today. I think the Pieces of Eight album is great. It’s got my favorite JY song on it, which is “Great White Hope.” Then you got Tommy with the classics like “Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade” But I love the song “Pieces of Eight.” I think it’s a very well-written song, and I love getting a chance to sing it with the band. I also enjoy doing “I’m Ok,” and for years I wanted to play “Aku-Aku” which is a fine little instrumental piece. Then, we finally got a chance to do that. That’s why it’s my favorite record.

 

Q: What was it like recording with Styx for the first time on the album Cyclorama?

Gowan: It’s a different experience obviously then I ever had before, because it’s a completely collaborative effort. Everybody’s writing on everyone else’s songs, which is how they always did it. You bring a song in, and it’s gonna get pulled apart completely, and kind of rebuilt by everyone in the band. So, being part of that exercise was challenging, but really worthwhile, and I wish we have more time to do albums that way, but the problem is now that the band is touring around the world, we just haven’t had the time to do a full album again.

 

Q: In 2005, Styx recorded Big Bang Theory. How come you guys wanted to do a cover album?

Gowan: Well, it actually happened out of sheer coincidental kind of accident. We were playing at Eric Clapton’s Blues Fest in Dallas, Texas that year, and JY, the night before said they related to Eric Clapton’s Beatle connection, and he’s heard me do “I Am the Walrus” at a few sound checks. He said, “Let’s just learn that, and see if we can get it ready for the show tomorrow.” We started playing “I Am the Walrus,” it went out live on radio. Eric Clapton was sitting side stage while we played it. It was that cool. I turned around, and there was the keyboard player from The Beatles sitting there, and clapping along. We talked to him after the show, then by time we were leaving the stadium that day, the radio station guy said, “Yeah, our phones have been flooded for your version of “I Am the Walrus” again.” So we ended up putting it out on disc, and basically built the rest of the album around it. We said, “Why don’t we do a full record, where we play all the songs what we think has influenced Styx’s sound as we can,” and that became Big Bang Theory. Then, a few years later, it became a TV show (laughs).

 

Q: What’s next for you and Styx?

Gowan: Well, we finish up this great tour we’re on right now, that comes to Chicago on the 24th of June, with Styx, REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent. It’s a great cross-blending of Midwest music, and let me tell you, the reaction to all three bands has been over the top every single night, and we’re looking forward to Chicago!

 

Be sure to check out Styx, REO Speedwagon & Ted Nugent at the Charter One Pavilion on June 24th at 7pm. Get tickets here: http://www.livenation.com/event/0400485B782131A0?crosssite=TM_US:736216:33036

Also, be sure to check out Styx’s newest DVD release “The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live” here: http://www.amazon.com/Styx-Grand-Illusion-Pieces-Eight/dp/B006ESH230/ref=sr_1_3?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1338413239&sr=1-3

30th May2012

The Beach Boys Still Going Strong After 50 Years!

by rockchicago

 

The legendary Beach Boys brought their 50th Anniversary Tour to the Chicago Theatre for two shows last Monday and Tuesday. Intent on putting past legal battles and personal hassles aside, the evening was saturated in smiles and nostalgia. Founding band members Mike Love and Al Jardine, along with long time members David Marks and Bruce Johnston were reunited with fellow founding member Brian Wilson to bring their songs of fast cars, California surf and “looking for romance” to life over the course of a lengthy forty-three song performance.  Accompanied by a ten piece backup band, the Beach Boys covered all of the crowd pleasing favorite hits, as well as a few surprises during the nearly three hour performance that was split into two sets. For many, unveiling the lesser known “Please Let Me Wonder” topped the list of unexpected songs pulled out of their extensive back catalog.

Making the fifteenth stop on their 41 city North American Tour, the second set began with the core five-some huddled around Brian’s Baby Grand for “Add Some Music to Your Day”, and concluded with Brian picking up and playing his bass guitar during a three encore climax, starting with the Beach Boys only number one hit in the past 45 years, “Kokomo”, followed by “Barbara Ann” and finally “Fun, Fun, Fun”.  In between, a very tasteful and touching tribute was paid to fallen members Dennis and Carl Wilson. A video recording, synchronized to Dennis performing “Forever”,  followed by a video of Carl synchronized to “God Only Knows” as the band performed the songs live, was very well executed.

When you think about the unlikely chances of a Rock N’ Roll band surviving five full decades, and still being able to tour with a strong original core presence, you can’t help but shake your head and marvel at their longevity and resilience. If their youngest original fans were even just turned teenagers when they started out, you would expect a crowd of people with an average age in their mid-sixties. However, the mix last night was spread out much more evenly across the board, proving how well the Beach Boys music has attracted new listeners over the course of the past 50 years. Sons, daughters and even grandchildren of those original followers gained in the early 1960’s were on hand to take it all in. If you have been around for over 40 years, or have just listened to Classic Rock radio in the past, you can’t help having been influenced by a Beach Boys song at some point in your life. If you are a Chicagoan who missed out, and would like a second chance, you can catch the Beach Boys upcoming performance at Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee on the Summerfest grounds on July 1st. I believe it is well worth the drive to hear and see this piece of American music history while you have the opportunity.  The new Beach Boys studio release, “That’s Why God Made the Radio” is slated to be released next Tuesday, June 5th. For a complete set list of their 5/22/12 performance, see below.

The Beach Boys

Chicago Theatre, 5-22-12

 

Set One:

01. Do It Again

02. Little Honda

03. Catch a Wave

04. Hawaii

05. Don’t Back Down

06. Surfin’ Safari

07. Surfer Girl

08. Please Let Me Wonder

09. Marcella

10. Then I Kissed Her

11. This Whole World

12. Why Do Fools Fall In Love

13. When I Grow Up (to be a Man)

14. Cotton Fields

15. It’s OK

16. Be True to Your School 

17. Disney Girls

18. Kiss Me, Baby

19. Don’t Worry Baby 

20. Little Deuce Coupe

21. 409

22. Shut Down

23. I Get Around
Set Two:

24. Add Some Music to Your Day

25. Sloop John B

26. Wouldn’t It Be Nice

27. I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

28. Sail On Sailor

29. All This is That

30. Heroes and Villains

31. That’s Why God Made the Radio

32. In My Room

33. Forever

34. God Only Knows

35. Good Vibrations

36. California Girls

37. Help Me Rhonda

38. Rock and Roll Music

39. Do You Wanna Dance?

40. Surfin’ USA

 

 Encore:

41. Kokomo

42. Barbara Ann

43. Fun, Fun, Fun

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 5/22/12

 

30th May2012

Chris Greene Quartet Live at Mayne Stage

by rockchicago

 

Chris Greene and the Chris Greene Quartet are a musical force to be reckoned with.  From the beginning of the show to the end this band hit hard and they made it look easy.  When one hears the passion that they play with and the precision they bring to their game, it isn’t hard to understand how people get drawn in.
The Chris Greene Quartet plays a style of Jazz that can best described as a mixture of Funk and Jazz Fusion with a deep vein of classic post 1960 Jazz.  You can hear the Funk influence in the choice of keyboard sounds, which centered around the classic electric piano/Rhodes sounds leveraged by the pioneers of electric Jazz such as Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis.  The drummer is funky and free with his timing but is always right on the Mark.  The Bassist played an upright acoustic bass for the duration of the performance but kept a contemporary feel similar to Chris Wood from Medeski Martin and Wood.

Chris Greene sounds as if he could comfortably fit in to a number of different styles and genres.  Here, he sounds at home with the unique style his band plays in. Chris has a remarkably dark, smooth sound both on Tenor and Soprano.   This darker more traditional Tenor sound is similar to classic Tenor Masters Joe Lavano and Joe Henderson.  It is rich, woody and organic and always under control.  Greene’s soprano sound is also dark and smooth and is reminiscent of Branford Marsailis.
One feature of Greene’s playing that is immediately apparent is the precision in which he plays with.  Green plays clean lines with clear articulation and never sounds rushed or pressured. His lines may be bold and aggressive but one can detect an element of restraint.  His time is crisp and his lines spring out of the mix while simultaneously blending with the rest of the collective sound of the band.  His pitch is consistent even in his work with the Soprano, which can be one of the most challenging of the saxophones to keep in line.
The Quartet played a variety of different tunes, some of which were of the new CD“A Group Effort” and some that were standards or off other albums.  It was a nice mix of different feels and grooves.  They started with a funk chart that set the pace of the show well. Greene played this one tight and clean and moved easily outside during his solo employing chromatic lines to build tension over what was essentially a one-chord progression.  Damien Espinosa supported the solos expertly invoking a Bitches Brew type of vibe on keyboards.
They moved to “Stat” next which featured Greene on Soprano.  Greene’s sound was dark and rich and there was a lot of rhythmic interplay between the members of the band.  Espinosa stretched out on his solo, pushing the harmonic envelope and building tension expertly before wrapping things up nicely.
Next up was the “Bride of Mr. Congeniality” which was also off the new album.  This features a great play on time with syncopated parts that interweave into a nice funk texture.  It was clean with plenty of space to let things breathe.  Steve Corely played off the rhythmic ideas throwing in great off beat accents to punctuate the groove and kept things fresh.  Corley took a great drum solo subdividing the beats in different time frames while keeping the feel loose and funky.
The next tune was a standard: Nostalgia at Times Square by Charles Mingus.  This was a refreshing take on a great standard.  The quartet updated some of the traditional parts with more contemporary funky lines.   This with the electric piano and updated styles used by each musician gave this old Standard a decidedly Neo feel.  Espinoza stretched out on a great keyboard solo turning up the tension with chromatic ideas.
Marc Paine took a bass solo on this tune, as one would expect.   This showed off his clean technique and steady time.  The whole band supported the action nicely with occasional rhythmic and harmonic interjections.  This is a sign of a band that really plays well together.  No matter who is soloing, the band came together to fill things in while not stepping on the soloist.
Some of the other highlights included a tune with a tight rock feel that was reminiscent of Grover Washington and a great ballad in 3 where the band traded polyrhythmic ideas in their solos and comping. Here Espinoza switched to the grand piano and took a great solo which he carefully built over time.  It could be described as Bill Evans or Lyle Mays flavored but was not merely a copy.   Espinoza definitely has his own great ideas and uses these styles as colors in his palette.
Overall, this is a band worth seeing. They are tight and consistent and play with a sense of restraint seen only in seasoned professionals.  They keep the rhythms fresh and are not afraid to push at the outside of the harmony spectrum.   They seem to be able to keep things complex without loosing their audience. There is always an element of funk in everything they do but it doesn’t overpower the final result.  The best description of their sound might be: “A mixture of Funk, Fusion and Jazz”.  The details lie in the execution.  The Chris Greene Quartet is definitely getting what they are shooting for.

Reviewed by Michael Hesiak on 5/24/12

21st May2012

Mary Fahl Enchants Martyrs

by rockchicago

 

When you hear that a singer has a “contralto” vocal sound, it is usually safe to assume that she is of the Classical or Opera genre of vocal presentation. However, my first real exposure to hearing Mary Fahl sing was her most artistic, and for me, very inspirational interpretation of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Titled “From the Dark Side of the Moon” (2011), I was very impressed with the range and quality of Mary’s vocal style and sound. Hearing “big” voices doesn’t necessarily equate to a truly pleasing sound quality, and hearing pleasing voices often does not mean that singer could fill a room while singing a Capella. Miss Fahl can accomplish both in a “stop you dead in your tracks” sort of way that I have rarely encountered in my music listening life. Performing on Thursday at Martyr’s on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, Mary wowed an intimate and most appreciative crowd with her vocal prowess. As far as this reviewer is concerned, she gained a big fan last night.

I know I’m coming a little late to the party when it comes to Mary Fahl, as she had enjoyed considerable acclaim by the mid 1990’s with her work in the then quartet October Project. The first two October Project releases combined to sell more than 300,000 albums for Epic Records during that time frame. Well, as the old saying goes “better late than never”. Having had the chance to reach back and listen to those two albums in advance of seeing her performance last night, it’s safe to say they will be in my regular listening rotation for quite some time. I find something that is both soothing and reinvigorating about hearing Ms. Fahl sing.

Currently touring as a solo act, I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes after the show with Mary and her crew, which consisted of her roadie, sound man, driver and husband, who all happen to be one person, Mr. Richard Lutz. A fascinating individual in his own right, Mr. Lutz has done some remarkable work as a Director for the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University. Speaking to Richard briefly about his work and research in under water volcano eruptions, I realized on one hand I was way out of my league, but on the other hand these two very genuine people would be a blast to sit down with over a meal and a bottle of wine to hear about their travels. Needless to say, I would be doing a lot of listening.

While listening to Mary Fahl perform, you can pick up on such influences as Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell, however, it is Mary’s own remarkable vocal versatility that truly stands out. Not many performers can go from playing a solo version of Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” to a classical 11th century “Kharja,” “Ben Aindi Habibi,” followed by “Una Furtiva Lagrima” from the Italian opera L’ elisir d’amore, then on to a traditional Celtic classic like “Dawning of the Day” (The Other Side of Time 2003), for which Mary rewrote her own lyrics in honor of the fire fighters lost on 9/11/01.  Getting the opportunity recently to take in and learn about musicians and musical styles that are “outside of the box” for my basic, but well established musical wheelhouse has been quite enjoyable. None more so then last night. I am definitely looking forward to a new release form Mary Fahl soon, as well as her next visit to Chicago.

For more on Mary Fahl, read Kevin Pollack’s interview with her at: http://rockchicago.net/?p=809

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 5/17/12

18th May2012

Adrenaline Mob and Kill Devil Hill Rock the House of Blues

by rockchicago

Sunday, Mothers Day at the House of Blues, rocked with the double bill of Kill Devil Hill and Adrenaline Mob.  Both bands are made up of established superstars in a coalition of musical minds performing equally as good as their previous ventures.

The foundation of Adrenaline Mob is Mike Portnoy.  25 years with Dream Theater, Mike established himself as one of rock’s most premier drummers.  He started and or played in several bands such as Liquid Tension Experiment, Avenged Sevenfold, Flying Colors and many other projects.  Mike Orlando, guitarist with speed unlike no other, has two solo albums Sonic Stomp and Sonic Stomp II and has worked with Zakk Wylde and Bumblefoot.  The front man and vocalist Russell Allen came from Symphony X and the bottom end is held up by John “The Hit Man” Moyer on bass originally from Disturbed.

Kill Devil Hill’s bottom end is provided by Rex Brown formerly of Grammy nominated, platinum selling band Pantera.  On the drums, Vinnie Appice’s list of bands that he has laid down a powerful rhythm is almost legendary.  He has played with Dio, Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell, Ozzy Osbourne, WWIII, Axis, Rick Derringer, and at age 16 performed with John Lennon.  Mark  Zavon provided the guitar who also was in WWIII, toured with Stephen Pearcy of Ratt, and in the 90’s recorded with the band Scream Parade.  Ear shattering vocals of Dewey Bragg filled the front stage with powerful melodies and heavy metal screams, rounded out the foursome.

Kill Devil Hill fueled the fire getting the audience into metal in increasing volumes.  Dewey’s mic stand which was like a big solid chain with skulls dangling led with songs like Strange, Gates of Hell and Voodoo doll.  On this last song a sort of small mosh pit built in the center of the crowd.  Kill Devil Hill rocked Draw Bridge which left Adrenaline Mob set up nicely to finish the off Mothers Day.

The electricity in the air went crazy during Freight Train, in which Mike Portnoy commented that the crowd was like Dio, small but with a lot of power.  Imagine even more crowd noise when they started the song, The Mob Rules by Black Sabbath.  Mike Orlando was on fire playing like it was the last time he would ever play.

I wondered why Vinnie’s drums stayed on the stage after Kill Devil Hill ended and Adrenaline Mob played most of their set.  This was answered as he came out to the roar of the fans and they played some old Dio. Vinnie and Mike took it to another level dueling it out back and forth in an all out drum jam.  Both bands came out together for a double bass, double drums, guitar and vocals rocking in up even higher for some more Sabbath getting the crowd into it with War Pigs.

The fun would never end it seemed as Mike Portnoy got off the drums and grabbed a guitar and played the beginning of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”

It is a breath of fresh air to see a band really enjoy themselves as much as Adrenaline Mob seemed to, and it was infectious with the fans.  I hope to see a tremendous amount of more good music from both bands and will most definitely look forward to seeing them again.

Reviewed by Lee Bishop on 5/13/12

18th May2012

Steve Winwood Brings the Noise to The Chicago Theatre

by rockchicago

 Photos by Peter S. Sakas

 

The Steve Winwood concert at the Chicago Theater the evening of May 15th was an outstanding experience. To be in the presence of a rock legend was one thing, but to witness him in action while still at the top of his game was awesome. Here was a man who began as a member of the Spencer Davis Group when he was 14 years old and still going strong 50 years later. He was in legendary groups such as Blind Faith and Traffic (inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member), had a great body of solo recordings and session work with many rock icons.

The opening act was Bobby Long, a folk-rock artist, who provided a spirited 45 minute opening set. But as usually the case, people were waiting for the headliner, but they did seem to appreciate his music.

When Steve Winwood took the stage and sat behind his organ, the capacity crowd erupted with thunderous applause. He then led off with the Spencer Davis Group classic, “I’m a Man” and many in the crowd began to stand and dance. Mr. Winwood was in fine voice (he had just turned 64 on Saturday), demonstrating great talent as an organist with his distinctive style. He really seemed to be enjoying himself, smiling to his band mates as well as the audience while playing.

He continued by playing two songs from his 2008 album release Nine Lives, first with “Fly” followed by “At Times We Do Forget.” I especially enjoyed the latter song as it had a jazzy feel to it and really showcased his excellent band.

He then stepped from behind the organ, picked up his guitar and began to play the Blind Faith classic “Can’t Find My Way Home” and there was once again throaty approval by the crowd. He deserved the accolades because it was an outstanding version. He also showed the audience that he was a multi-talented musician, playing a mean guitar. Next he played another selection from Nine Lives, “DirtyCity” which was also well-received.

He returned to his seat at the organ and delivered one of the real highlights of the night. At first the audience did not seem to recognize the music, but as it became familiar to them as the strains of “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” the crowd went wild. This Traffic classic has such a fine groove and his band delivered. The saxophonist was superlative. The guitarist delivered a killer solo as well. On a personal note, I really was “grooving” to this song, tapping my feet, had my eyes closed, and bobbing my head in time to the music (you know the look I am talking about). I suddenly opened my eyes and felt a bit self-conscious about bobbing my head like that, but as I looked around almost EVERYONE around me was grooving like that too, bobbing their heads in time to the music. Just a great song and so well done. After about eight minutes of that tune, the band seamlessly went into “Empty Pages,” another Traffic classic from John Barleycorn Must Die. This song included another fine sax solo and Mr. Winwood performed an outstanding organ solo. The rhythm section also was front and center on this song as the drummer and percussionist had the opportunity to shine, which they did. Seven minutes of “Empty Pages” for a total of fifteen minutes for this “Traffic” medley and the band was rewarded with a well-deserved standing ovation.

I was very excited when I heard the next song begin, “Pearly Queen” from Traffic. But here was where I had my biggest disappointment of the night. I really enjoyed the original version of this song and I do appreciate when an artist redoes it a bit to give it some new life. However, the flute player was overbearing and what he kept playing sounded like a little ditty I knew when I was a kid called “What Do We Do with the Drunken Sailor” and it just did not fit at all. Nonetheless, the song was saved when the other band members performed their solos and thankfully the flute at the end of the song was not so prominent.

Following next was another big highlight, a twenty minute version of a Traffic favorite, “Light Up or Leave Me Alone.” The song was greeted enthusiastically by the crowd and rightfully so as they were treated to a jazzy, somewhat up tempo version, which really worked. It featured solos by each of the band members, sax, jazz organ solo by Mr. Winwood, guitar, percussion, and drums. The audience responded with their second standing ovation of the night.

The final song of the set was “Higher Love.” It was also received with great enthusiasm by the crowd and many rose to their feet and began dancing. The song was performed well and I knew it was a super hit for Mr. Winwood but it seemed so “vanilla” to me. As I listened to it I was not moved the way I was hearing the older songs from Traffic, Blind Faith, and Spencer Davis, making me realize how truly great those older songs were and how well they still stood up. Obviously proving me wrong, the audience gave another standing ovation.

When Mr. Winwood came back for the encore he picked up his guitar and was accompanied only by a drummer and organist. He then gave a rousing version of “Dear Mr. Fantasy” from Traffic. The remainder of the band returned and he sat back behind the organ. He then launched into the familiar driving beat of the Spencer Davis Group classic “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin” and the crowd went wild. They all rose, began singing along, and dancing. What a way to end an outstanding concert experience.

I was truly impressed by the musicianship of Mr. Winwood, demonstrating great abilities with both the guitar and organ. For a man nearing his mid-sixties his voice was superlative and he really seemed to be enjoying himself, not just going through the motions. His reinterpretations of the classic hits from his past were admirable and made some of the songs seem fresh and revitalized. I also experienced first hand how truly great the music from Traffic really was (I already kind of knew that), and how it holds up so well, many years later. Mr. Winwood showed the reason he has staying power and is a rock legend is because of his boundless talent which was so evident this concert.

Reviewed by Peter S. Sakas on 5/15/12

17th May2012

Interview with Ann Wilson of Heart

by rockchicago

Interviewed by Kevin Pollack 

 

Heart is an American rock band who first found success in Canada before later becoming a supergroup in the United States and worldwide.Over the group’s four decade history, the band has had three primary lineups, with the constant members being lead singer Ann Wilson and guitarist Nancy Wilson. Heart rose to fame in the mid 1970s with music influenced by hard rock and heavy metal as well as folk music. Their popularity declined in the early 1980s, but the band enjoyed a comeback starting in 1985 and experienced even greater success with AOR hits and hard rock ballads into the 1990s.

With Jupiter’s Darling (2004) and Red Velvet Car (2010), Heart made a return to their hard rock and acoustic folk roots. To date, Heart has sold over 30 million records worldwide.Heart was ranked number 57 on VH1′s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”.

With Top 10 albums on the Billboard Album Chart in the 1970′s, 80′s, 90′s, and most recently 2010 Heart is among the most commercially enduring Hard Rock bands in history.

I recently spoke with Ann about the band and Heart’s new material coming out.

 

Q: How did you and Nancy get into music and how did you come to join Heart?

Ann: Well, you know, we came from a musical family, so we were just naturally in music from the time we can remember. Heart just kind of came out of other bands that we were in. It kind of evolved out of other bands we were in into Heart. Pretty natural process, you know?

 

Q: Which album that you’ve recorded means the most to you and why?

Ann: Well, of course, our brand new one that’s coming out in October, means the most to me at this point, because it’s brand new and it’s what we’re doing at the moment called Fanatic out on Sony on October 2nd. If I had to choose an older album, which I think was what you really were asking, I think it would probably be Bebe le Strange, because that was the album where I got to play bass on a couple songs like “Even it Up” and I got to be actually more than a singer on that record, and we had more of a production voice on that one too, I think. That was a pretty cool punk album.

 

Q: What is your favorite song that you and Nancy wrote, and one that you’ve written and why?

Ann: Wow, ok. I’m trying to cast over the setlist that’s in my mind. I guess, “Crazy on You” because that song, the message it was saying back then, may as well been written yesterday, you know? It’s just talking about how nutty and out of control and over the top the world is, but yet, when you love somebody, and  you’re really close with somebody, you can get strength and peace from your love. So, that’s why I love “Crazy on You.” Now, one that I wrote all by myself? Maybe, “Sweet Darlin’,” because that’s just a plain and simple, romantic, like tears falling, heart swelling love song.

 

Q: How big of a contribution and influence has Led Zeppelin been to your music and as a songwriter?

Ann: Probably not so much as a songwriter, but they’ve had a huge influence on me as a singer, as us live, I think, because they first demonstrated how you can have really super heavy rock that really was folk music on steroids. You know, with acoustic guitar or acoustic instruments at the center, and then it just gets huge, and that’s something Nancy and I can really relate to. We could really relate to that. That was a really big influence that they had on us.

 

Q: Other than Zeppelin, who are your other influences?

Ann: Well, as a singer I would say Aretha Franklin, Elton John. All the people that had big careers when I was a kid, you know, Elton and The Stones, and all of them, The Beatles. As a band, at this point, I think we’re beyond other people’s influences. At the beginning, I think we were influences a lot by Zeppelin and by Elton John, because we were in these clubs playing cover songs basically. Back then, in clubs, you played what was being played on the radio, with all those guys that had hits in the 70s.

 

Q: In 2006, you released an album called Hope & Glory. Branching out as a solo performer and collaborating with many big name artists, what was that like for you and how did that come about?

Ann: Oh man, that was my first solo album in my life. The only one I’ve ever done, and I worked with them. They got it, produced it. I got to have a bunch of cool people come in, and guest on it like Elton John, Rufus Wainwright, Shawn Colvin, k.d. lang, Gretchen Wilson; a whole bunch of people. It was fun. It was really fun for me. I felt a little tentative at first, because I’ve never not performed with Nancy, so how I solved that was, I got Nancy to perform on my solo album. Make me relax, you know? That was a great experience.

 

Q: In 1992, you recorded with Alice in Chains. How did that come to be, and how did Layne Staley’s death affect your relationship together, as I noticed Mike Inez has been playing with you for a while?

Ann: Mike Inez played with us for a couple years. He’s back with Alice now of course. Well, that whole thing came about because we all live out her in Seattle. It’s kind of a small city, and you bump into each other, you know? You hear each other’s music. You go to each other’s shows. You end up on stage with each other, and ultimately, you end up at my house in a party situation. Everybody’s hanging out. Everybody’s going through stuff. There was a lot of heavy stuff happening in the 90’s in Seattle among musicians, and we all supported each other. They’re great guys. They’re still really dear brothers.

 

Q: Where did you come up with the idea of Red Velvet Car?

Ann: We wrote a bunch of songs and one of them was called Red Velvet Car, we picked that to be the name of the album, the title song, because that song talks about supporting somebody. Kind of like what I was just saying about the Seattle musicians of the 90’s. How you’re there for your friends when they need you badly, and that happens to be what “Red Velvet Car” seems to be about too.

 

Q: How did you come to form The Lovemongers?

Ann: We had just come off the road with Heart in 1991, and it was during the first Gulf War way back then. They were having a benefit in Seattle for the Red Cross. It was called Support the Troops by Bringing Them Home Benefit for the Red Cross, and they just wanted us to come and sing acoustically. We didn’t feel ready enough just walking up with a couple acoustic guitars. We were still in rock mode. So we asked a couple friends of ours and sort of fill it out with us, and the show was so amazing, and we decided to keep doing it. As it turned out, it was the perfect way to decompress from the stress of Heart in the 80’s. We got to redefine ourselves through The Lovemongers, and it made us ready to come back 10 years later as ourselves again; sort of detox if you will.

 

Q: On June 5th, you release a brand new box-set Strange Euphoria. How did that come about?

Ann: Well, we’ve been wanting to do a box-set for years, you know, and not just a compilation of hits, but a real box-set that has all kinds of stuff you’ve never heard before, you can’t get anywhere else; demos, alternate versions, funny stuff, live versions; just creepy stuff, but just stuff from our personal archives. It took us a while to get it together, but we finally did! If I can only get it in my hand; it’s really awesome.

 

Q: Your music has had an impact on many songwriters and artists around the world. Did you ever think you’d come as far as you have, and do you have any regrets in the music business?

Ann: I never thought I come as far as being here now, talking to you in 2012 ever. You know, you can’t even imagine two years ahead when you’re 25, but it’s been an incredible experience so far, and it still is. I still have a lot of dreams for the future; musical dreams for the future. As far as regrets? Oh yeah. The music industry is a bitch. It really isn’t kind to anybody unless you’re number one on the charts. Then, it’s kind to you. But the minute you become number two, then it’s not kind to you. My regrets? I think going to too many parties in the 80’s.

 

Q: What’s next for you and Heart?

Ann: Well, with the new box-set and the new book coming out this year; our first memoir coming out, and our new tour, there is so many stuff coming out this year that years spoken for, and probably most of next year. So that’s about far in advance as I can imagine.

 

Be sure to catch Heart at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino on July 6th. Get tickets here: http://www.horseshoehammond.com/casinos/horseshoe-hammond/casino-entertainment/heart-detail.html

Also, make sure to buy Heart’s new box-set Strange Euphoria on June 5th available here: http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Euphoria-Amazon-com-Exclusive-Heart/dp/B007U1FEPS/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1337273203&sr=1-2

16th May2012

Interview with Kofi Baker

by rockchicago

Interviewed by Kevin Pollack 

As the son of legendary drumming icon Ginger Baker, Kofi Baker has a name that’s synonymous with drumming excellence. And Kofi lives up to his name; with his outstanding skills, drive, and dedication he continues the      great Baker legacy.
Kofi’s first live performance was with his father on the UK television show “The Old Grey Whistle Test” – at just six years of age he proved he had inherited more than just his fathers name.In the  early 80′s,  Kofi and his father played drum duets throughout Europe, amazing audiences with complex African polyrhythms. Later, Kofi toured with John Ethridge (Soft Machine), and gigged in London with Steve Waller (Manfred Mann), and  with Randy California (Spirit). He also toured Europe with Steve Marriot’s  Humble Pie.

During the 1990′s  Kofi toured with Jack Bruce in Budapest;  signed with Scotty Brothers Records when he recorded the album Lost City;   recorded Abstract Logic with Jonas Hellborg and Shawn Lane; and  toured extensivley -  including more drum duets with Ginger Baker. Kofi is now  living in Orange, CA. Kofi Baker’s Cream Experience is his latest inspiration – a powerful trio that rivals that of Cream.

I spoke with Kofi about the new tour recently.

Q: How come you decided to tour a tribute to your father?

KB: This is not a tribute. It is more like a new take on the same idea. My dad is a jazz drummer, so he always played jazz. In jazz, you play the head of the song and then improvise over it. That is the same with me. I am a jazz drummer, and I have a jazz bass player, and a blues guitarist just like Cream. So after seeing the reunion in 2005, it just seemed like a good thing to do. We don’t just play Cream. We play lots of other bands as well.

 

Q: What’s it like having a famous father? Has it given you more opportunities?

KB: No, it has made it harder. My dad has never given me any contacts, and he is not the most loved man in the biz. I spent my teens living on the streets of London with no home because my dad lost all his money and left the country.

Q: How did you form the Cream Experience?

KB: I got the best bass player and guitarist in LA, and we got together, and it was great. So I just kept on doing it.

 

Q: Who are your influences other than your father?

KB: Zappa

 

Q: What’s your favorite Cream song?

KB: I like them all. I don’t really have a favorite.

 

Q: Who has been your favorite person to collaborate with and why?

KB: I have played with so many great players I can give you a favorite, but Steve Marriott was the one I learned a lot from.

 

Q: If you can collaborate with 3 people, living or dead, who would they be and why?

KB: Zappa, Hendrix and Miles Davis – because they would be the most interesting for me.

 

Q: Have you and your father ever recorded an album together?

KB: Not an album, but we have done a track or two together on one of my albums.

 

Q: Why was it Cream you wanted to recreate instead of your father’s other band Blind Faith with Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton?

KB: I play Blind Faith and a lot of other stuff in my band. That is why it is called a Cream Experience, not a tribute.

 

Q: What’s next for Kofi Baker?

KB: I am recording a lot of new stuff that I am going to start playing in the band as soon as we get the time.

 

Be sure to check out Kofi Baker’s Cream Experience on June 2nd at The Arcada Theatre. Get tickets here: https://tix.cnptix.com/Online/?siteID=928&cartID=53b2f10a-0dfd-4326-bec3-5df8ba8eb4fb

Also, Kofi will be playing at Rascals in Moline on June 3rd. Get tickets here: http://rascalsmoline.com/index.html

15th May2012

Interview with Amy Ray from Indigo Girls

by rockchicago

Interviewed by Kevin Pollack 

 

Amy Ray is an American singer-songwriter and member of the contemporary folk duo Indigo Girls. She also pursues a solo career and has released four albums under her own name, and founded a record company, Daemon Records.

I recently spoke with Amy about her new album.

 

Q: How did you get involved with music?

Ray: I got involved when I was really young. I started playing guitar when I was 10, and before that, I was listening to music a lot. I took piano lessons when I was starting around 10 as well. I just liked it, because my older sister always listened to music, and my parents sang in the choir, so it was just part of my family.

Q: How did you form Indigo Girls, and where did the name come from?

Ray: We started Indigo Girls when we were 16 years old in high school, but we called ourselves something different at the time. We went by our last names Saliers and Ray. At the time, we just played together for fun, and did a lot of cover songs. Then we started writing songs separately. We write separately. We started working on all original music, and kind of was just a low trajectory term in high school/college and after that. We’ve been doing it now ever since. There are some times where I played more solo, while Amy was away at school. Those little gaps here and there, but pretty much consistently we were playing. For the name, were looking for an idea in the dictionary and thought Indigo was a cool word. There was nothing else. Nothing deep.

Q: You’ve released several solo albums now. Though, I noticed on the album Stag, you have Joan Jett playing on it. What was it like collaborating with her on the album?

Ray: That was the very first one, which, you know, was very exciting for me, because I was a big Joan Jett fan, and have met her through a person in the music industry who was a friend. We would talk about music and jam together a little bit with some other friends. Then, when this song came up, I went after her to do it. She said yes, and it was just really exciting. She’s an awesome person to work with, and probably very underrated. To me she’s not underrated, but she never got the credit she deserves. ‘Cause she’s got such her own rhythm style that’s very specific to her. When you are in the room with her playing, you really realize the power of it. That’s kind of what I got out of it. She’s pretty great and she’s pretty humble about it. It was a great experience for me.

Q: How come you decided to get The Butchies to back you up?

Ray: Well, I met them back in 1999. We were friends and I loved their music. I was a big fan of what they were doing. They actually played with Indigo Girls as an opening band, then we got together and started jamming, and it just went really well. So I asked them if they wanted to do some songs together, then they made their first record with me, and it worked. A few of them made the 3rd record with me, and the 4th as well. So, I’ve played with them for a long time off and on, and sort of just gathered them as a group, and said let’s do the tour together.

Q: Why did you decide to form Daemon Records?

Ray: Back in ’89, Emily and I got signed to Epic Records and we worked independent after that, and I really liked that Indie world a lot. I just woke up one morning, and decided I wanted to support all the bands I really like and make a record label. It started very slow, and I just d id everything myself, and there were different versions of the label where I had 3 or 4 people working for me, and at times it was just me. We put out about 60 records. Right now, I’m focusing on my own record that’s out on the label, then working on other projects, and moving towards something new.

Q: Who are your influences?

Ray: They really range. When I was really young, I listened to Neil Young, Allman Brothers, Little Feat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, like rock. Then I got into Elton John, Carol King, and Rickie Lee Jones. Then, as I got into college, I started listening more to Patti Smith and The Pretenders, The Replacements. The Clash was really a big influence. Then, more recently, at the shows, really love what My Morning Jacket does, a band called Lindsay Fuller. You know, there’s so many great artists; Ani DiFranco; I’m influenced by people that I feel like, either musically, are doing something creative, risky and brave, or on a business level, they’re doing something that’s really special. They have a uniqueness to it, and maybe inventing a new way to do things. Fugazi was a really big influence, because of Ian and his business, all the bands on Merge, because that’s a great label. So, obviously, I’m influenced by way more than artists too.

Q: What was it like collaborating for the first time with Greg Griffiths on Lung of Love?

Ray: Well, he actually did the record before that. When we first started working together, it was hard, because he’s very strong-willed and so am I, so we had to really learn how to work together and learn. Once we started working together and got to know each other, I also just love the way he thinks about music, and when I can’t finish a song, he’ll come in and finish it. He’s kind of the only person I can do that kind of co-writing with. He’s a great bass player, he’s a great guitar player, great arranger. For me, it’s like, it’s working with someone where I can just sort-of trust as a visionary, and sometimes I can let him guide the production, and I can just be the one to perform it. It’s nice. I think he’s a special producer. I hope he works on more records for more people.

Q: What is your writing process like?

Ray: Emily and I write separately, so that’s one thing. As far as my writing process goes, I probably spend 8 months out of the year on writing 5 days a week. I have a lot of different lyrics books, and I just take notes in them all the time. When I sit down to work on songs, I have my notebook, my computer with GarageBand, and also analog tapes. It’s just a thing that I have around. I’ll sit there and I’ll just play, and try to write songs and different melodies, chord progressions and different lyrics for a few hours at a time. Then I tape everything, then I go back probably like once every few weeks, and I listen to the tape, and I make notes, and start working on, what I think, are the ideas coming out of that. So I may have four out of five ideas for one set of tapes, then those become the songs that I’m working on.

Q: What’s next for you from here?

Ray: I’m doing this last run through the Midwest with my band as a solo thing, then, this summer, Emily and I are gonna go out with Indigo Girls for June and July. Then, in the fall, we’ll start back up again in September. We’re gonna play this summer with a great rock band from Atlanta called The Shadowboxers. They’re doing a show, and then they are our backup band as well. Then, in the fall, we get to go out and play with different symphonies on stage, and do something totally, radically different. Lots of good stuff. Lots of musical experiences coming up.

15th May2012

Interview with San Francisco Music Club’s Jimmy Dillon and Lorin Rowan

by rockchicago

Interviewed by Kevin Pollack 

 

The San Francisco Music Club, led by Dillon and Rowan (who were founding members of Marin County’s own The Edge), have now transformed their high energy rock/reggae sound into an exciting and colorful cross pollination of styles and genres; a world music experience that draws from Afro-Cuban/Hi-Life, funky New Orleans grooves, R&B, and classic Jamaican roots music reminiscent of Bob Marley & The Wailers or Toots and the Maytals. Think Paul Simon’s Graceland with an extra helping of Red Beans and Rice, a side of Gumbo, and a Red Stripe. Paul Liberatore from the Marin Independent Journal says “Dillon and Rowan are consummate singers and guitarists with a long and impressive history in Marin, but they chose to identify with San Francisco in their band name to give their ensemble a broad appeal. For this new venture, they’ve brought in bassist Eric McCann, drummer Matt Willis, Michael Peloquin on saxophone and harmonica, Jeff Lewis on trumpet and percussion and singer Sakai. This is a crack band comfortable in the variety of styles showcased on this sparkling San Francisco Music Club debut CD, a culturally rich, exquisitely produced and finely polished album that gives world music an accessible, fresh and fun new sound.” The San Francisco Music Club brings to the stage an explosive rock-steady rhythm section with fiery guitar interplay, sax & trumpet wrapping around the soulful vocals of Dillon’s baritone growl and Rowan’s clear tenor, along with special female guest singer Sakai who has worked with Train, Stevie Wonder and Santana.

Dillon and Rowan are no strangers to the big stages across the world. Dillon has performed and recorded with Clarence Clemons, Bruce Springsteen, John Lee Hooker, BB King, and Sting and has toured extensively in Europe. He also wrote “Ascension of the Blues”, a critically acclaimed musical that was the original inspiration for the San Francisco Music Club concept, along with his and Rowan’s desire to take their former Marin County Rock/Reggae band The Edge into a wider international musical experience. Rowan is a Grammy award winning songwriter and longtime member of The Rowan Brothers (Peter & Chris) and has worked with Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Steve Miller, Levon Helm, Little Feat, David Grisman and Stephane Grapelli, and has toured internationally as well. Together these two and their band of monster musicians bring a fresh sound to what some would consider an “old” scene. They bring people to their feet, and get the crowd dancing from the first note.

I spoke to Jimmy and Lorin recently about their new album and their careers.

Q: How did you guys form San Francisco Music Club, and where did you two meet?

LR: Jimmy and I met over 30 years ago in Sinson Beach,Marin County,I was playing a gig at a Surf shop in the little village town and he came and sat in with my group at the time Jungle Run. We both felt an affinity and chemistry together as we jammed and decided then and there to hook up again and play some more, which further sealed our friendship and music in common.

JD: I had just finished recording an Album with Mike Pinder from the Moody Blues and was ready to collaborate on something fresh and new. Soon, with bass player,Mark Stein, from Jungle Run and Ozzie Ahlers on keys (Van Morisson/Jerry Garcia Band) we formed the ‘Average Beach Band’ which included our own originals as well as covers ; Stones,Beatles,Bad Company, reggae music of Bob Marley & The Wailers,Toots & the Maytals,The Police, The English Beat and other 80’s music. As we got more serious with gigs under our belt, we decided to rename ourselves The Edge; referencing the style of music we were playing which was fusion of rock/blues and ska/reggae. Also, as we all lived in StinsonBeach, it’s a long strip of beach,that sits on the edge of the fault line with the Pacific looking west to Hawaii and beyond. Through the years we’ve explored our own careers but have always come back to playing together and Jimmy and I had kept wanting to bring elements of our band The Edge into the present and right new songs and expand our musical horizons even further. In the last year we wrote a bunch of new songs and decided the time was right for a more internationally appealing name to call what we are today and San Francisco Music Club was born.

 

Q: Where did the name come from?

JD: I came up with the “San Francisco Music Club” idea a few years ago. It was inspired by an original musical I wrote called “Ascension of the Blues” which is still in production… In this “Bluesical” I used a brilliant array of international singers, dancers and musicians to tell the story of the evolution of American music in narration, dance and song from African roots to the present day. I was also inspired by “Buena Vista Social Club” and in fact recorded “Te Quiero” one of our tunes from “Love and Freedom” in Havana, Cuba at Egrem studios (where Ry Cooder did the BVSC album). When Lorin and I were ready to launch our new band it made perfect sense to use SFMusic Club as our name.

 

LR: We had been throwing around different ideas that would incompass a bigger band concept that could incorporate not only our love of rock/blues reggae but also other more world music, African hi-life, Cuban, Brazilian – we also wanted to have the option of inviting guest artists sit in and be part of this musical ‘club’ – an ever changing opportunity for all kinds of musicians to perform and record with Jimmy and I as the core members.

 

Q: Who are both your influences, and did you try to incorporate them into your music here?

LR: Beatles, The Band early Elvis/Rockabilly, Blues, Eric Clapton,The Allman Brothers, Bob Marley and other Reggae, Country/folk, African, Cuban, Brazilian.

JD: My influences are fairly eclectic-Early Blues masters like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, (I grew up near Chicago and saw many of them) also John Lee Hooker who I recorded a duet with before he passed away… Stones (especially Keef Riff Hard!) Beatles, etc…I also love guys like Mark Knofler, Elvis Costello, , Bob Marley, Clapton, as well as some “off the radar” artists like Chris Whitley…Ive been really fortunate to have recorded and performed with some of my heroes -Sonny Landreth, Dylan, Springsteen, Dr. John, Levon Helm etc. mostly through my 20 years working with Clarence “Big Man” Clemons as his musical director all these and more influenced me along the way and I think you can hear that in our music with SFMC as well as my 4 solo CDs. www.jimmydillon.com

Q: Jimmy, tell me about Blue Star Music Camp. How did you first get involved in that, and what does being a part of it mean to you?

JD: I had been living and touring in Europe most of the 90′s and decided it was time to create a program where kids can learn from professional musicians the craft of contemporary music. I wanted it to be a non-profit that was able to give scholarships to those in need. At the time I had purchased a beach house in South Haven, Michigan (near Chicago) and was able through grants and fundraising to build the Blue Star Theatre. We are in our 12th year and have reached thousands of aspiring young musicians along the way. We have run programs all over Michigan as well as Austin Texas and are now based in the SF Bay Area. For me this has been a real labor of love and probably the most satisfying thing I have ever done. I feel it is of the utmost importance to keep music and the arts alive, especially with public schools cutting programs. So to me Blue Star and other arts and music programs are essential now more than ever. BTW part of our inspiration for Blue Star was the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago!

 

Q: Lorin, tell me about your other group The Rowan Brothers. I really dig your sound. How did you guys form that band? Are you still touring? Any new albums?

LR: Rowan Brothers, we always played and sang music together growing up in Wayland, MA. So, it was a lifelong dream to make music together. There’s a couple different versions- the three bros; Peter, Chris & Lorin, which started making records in the 70’s- and on through 2002 –last CD- with all three/”Crazy People.”; there’s Lorin & Chris duo, with 2007 CD “Now & Then” and most currently our duo with champion fiddler, Sue Cunningham, new CD and touras the Rowan Cunningham Band. Check it out at: www.rowancunninghamband.com

 

Q: What message do you guys hope to bring out with San Francisco Music Club?

JD: Positive Vibration all the way! I feel like we as a group project joy in diversity with a soulful groove that takes you there…

LR: As our CD is titled “Love & Freedom”-universal love and freedom of expression-live your dreams-we come together as a group of multifaceted musicians, sharing a love of roots rock music and all world/,international rhythms and grooves-get up and dance, no boundaries!

 

Q: Jimmy, of all the artists you’ve collaborated with, who has been your favorite and why?

JD: I would have to say working with Clarence Clemons was huge for me. We toured the world together many times and as I mentioned earlier he introduced me to so many luminaries along the way. The Big Man was well loved and I learned a lot working with him he always played from the heart and gave his all…. Another great player I’ve collaborated with is Ozzie Ahlers, keyboardist for Van Morisson and co-producer of my CDs. We recorded my 4 solo albums with the guys from Robert Cray Band backing us…that was a real thrill for me and while living in Europe I was lucky to tour extensively with those guys…lots of stories from Prague to London big festivals and small pubs, really a great experience. Also working with Mike Pinder from the Moody Blues was great, I was in my early 20′s and he turned me on to the whole “studio” thing and we wrote songs together for his solo album “The Promise” that was a real education for me. John Lee Hooker was also an inspiration from a really primal blues place… recording a duet with him was awesome as was sharing the stage with “the Hook” I also got to work with Buddy Guy a bunch both in Europe and here, great player, so free and wild! I can see why Hendrix and Clapton were so influenced by him.

 

Q: Lorin, what was it like for you playing with members of The Grateful Dead, including Jerry Garcia?

LR: One of the most memorable times as my brother Chris and I along with our producer at the time David Grisman, had the Dead with Jerry Garcia on pedal steel, backing us at the Closing of the Fillmore West,1972. We use to rehearse in Stinson Beach where we all were living at the time, and Jerry would come down and join us on pedal steel. He was truly upbeat and positive about music and it was very “contagious’ in the best sense of the word- his vibe would bring everybody’s vibe up, he was in the moment, and it was exciting and inspiring to be around him and playing music together.

 

Q: Lorin, how do you feel about your song “Soldier of the Cross” being on a Grammy-winning CD?

LR: It’s an incredibly vindicating feeling as a songwriter, to have someone not only record and perform your original song, but to have it be part of an award winning CD, is the most flattering a songwriter can ask for, and oh yeah, doesn’t hurt if sells! Songs are like children, you give birth to them and raise them up and hope they go out in the world and affect people in a good way, something positive.

 

Q: What’s next for both of you?

JD: For me SFMC is top priority at the moment playing out a lot both in SF Bay Area and hopefully internationally as well. I’m also working on a new Jimmy Dillon project as well as expanding the Blue Star program into a year round teaching facility here in SF. Looking at launching my musical “Ascension of the Blues” in 2013…I always say “Expect the unexpected…” for me that keeps it fresh.

LR: We plan to perform with our band as much as possible and bring our music to a world-wide audience. We perform not only as a 7-8 piece band, but also like to explore playing acoustically/Unplugged style too, with me and Jimmy and our female vocalist Sakai, and as the opportunity arises, we add bass, fiddle, harmonica, percussion. I also am pursuing my Americana/Folk-Rock/Newgrass “Rowan Cunningham Band”, which has been together now going on 5 years. Keeping the dream alive!

 

Make sure to pick up San Francisco Music Club’s new album Love and Freedom at: http://www.amazon.com/Love-and-Freedom/dp/B007Q5EQ8Y/ref=sr_shvl_album_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337104940&sr=301-1

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