Artist of the Year
Tom Petty 1950-2017
That’s right, the most famous musician you’ve never heard of…. He’s been playing bass for The Rolling Stones for the last 30 years, after Bill Wyman left the band.
All I can say is “Wow….. what a voice. Sexy too.”
Founding member and guitarist for the J. Geils Band
October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017
October 27, 1967 – December 3, 2015
Mike Campbell is one of my favorite slide guitar players. He’s best known for his work as a Heartbreaker in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, however, he’s played with some of the best musicians in the world on numerous projects, writing songs for Don Henley, Fleetwood Mac, Johnny Cash, George Harrison and Bob Dylan, to name a few.
If you don’t know The Band, take a look at “Music from Big Pink” and “The Last Waltz”.
I still think the slide solo on “Blue Sky” is the best solo in history…
A founding member of the chart-topping contemporary jazz group Fourplay, East was 16 years old when he got his first break and found himself on the road with Barry White. The next time the phone rang, Quincy Jones was on the line. The calls kept coming and for the last forty years, East has been churning out hit songs with artists as legendary as Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder.
His genre-crossing groove has earned him both the recognition – a Congressional Record for his contributions to the worldwide music community, for one – and the boundary-busting respect of his peers, illustrated by his current appearances on two hit records as diverse as Andrea Bocelli’s Passione and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.
Suffice it to say, it’s been a busy four decades. “There are only so many hours in the day,” East concedes. “But for years, friends have encouraged me to record a solo album. Some for so long they’d given up. However the best music that I’ve made over the years has always been a collaboration with my friends, so I decided it was time to take the plunge.”
Communing with friends is a theme for East, so it was only natural that he team up with Yamaha Entertainment Group, with whom he has had a personal and professional relationship for over 30 years.
“They have an undeniable world-wide presence, so when Chris Gero started this label and shared his vision, I was in from the first ask.”
Less obvious to East, was how to approach stepping out as a lead artist. “I always felt, especially as a bassist, that a solo album was a very difficult thing to try to come up with. I’m used to a more supportive role playing as a sideman, which is why it’s taken me this long to actually get my head around what kind of record to make.”
But the uncertainty stopped there. “Chris said, ‘I don’t want to just make an album that you’d predict you would make. I want you to come away from it with that feeling of ‘What just happened?!’ He has all these ideas going on and he’s hearing symphonies in his head. It’s like Quincy Jones, where he has a knack of putting ideas and people together. Chris comes with an exceptional production value and wants everything to be epic, so we’re trying to bring that spirit to this record.”
And spirited it is. Joined by a veritable who’s who of fellow musicians and vocalists, East immersed himself in the studio experience. “The thing I love most about the recording process is that you never know exactly what’s going to happen. I always leave room for that element of surprise because so often it’s what you didn’t plan on that turns into the focal point – that magical moment – on the record.”
One such moment is the triumphant re-imagining of Pat Metheny’s “Letter From Home,” where soaring orchestration contrasts poignantly with the track’s pensive mood. It’s exactly the kind of narrative in which East gravitates. “I tend to lean towards passionate ballads and I’ve asked Michael McDonald, one of my favorite singers, to join us on this record. There’s just so much emotion and heart in his music.”
Destined to capture every heart is East’s duet on “Yesterday” with his 13-year old son Noah, who plays the piano. “Noah came to the studio, put the headphones on and the sound was so beautiful his face just lit up! It’s surreal to play with your son. You are changing his diapers one minute and the next thing, you’re making music with this person.”
East keeps it in the family with one of four co-written songs on the album, “101 Eastbound,” a tune penned along with brother Marcel East. Originally released over 20 years ago on Fourplay’s debut album and newly imbued with an exotic flair, the track captures the vitality of East’s diverse range.
Glowing with meticulous attention to detail, East tackles the anthemic “America the Beautiful” with a ferocity befitting its title. “I travel around the world visiting many different countries but I must say, I always look forward to coming home.” East continues, “I kiss the ground because even on a rainy day, America is still so beautiful.”
One thing is certain – the world is listening to Nathan East. “Now that I have an association with ‘Get Lucky,’ a song that has been played around the world, we thought it would be fun to celebrate that part of my playing on the record. Why not keep the party going?! So Michael Thompson wrote a fun song in the spirit of that music and we called it ‘Daft Funk.’”
And in the spirit of Nathan East, the album is energized with relentless generosity as he leads – and cedes – the way for his friends and fellow musicians to shine. As a result, “You can tell a difference in the way the music feels,” East explains. “They’re calling it a solo album, but I consider it everybody’s record.”
East admits, he’s been blessed with a gift. And it’s one that we’ll gladly accept.
My daughter Chloe just recommended that I post Eric Clapton as artist of the month because she knows how much I love his music! No kidding! I can’t believe he wasn’t the first person I posted as Artist of the Month!
Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues
“He’s the top honcho now, you know?” says Keith Richards. “He’s the godfather now.”
The first time I saw Keb’ Mo’ play was on the 2013 Crossroads festival DVD. The photo above is Keb playing with Taj Mahal, who sang “Diving Duck Blues”. I had the pleasure of seeing Keb’ Mo’ play in Portland, ME not too long ago.
I had the pleasure of seeing Jimmie play at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirly, MA this year. It was the first time I had front row seats to a show. He was nothing short of amazing!
Keith Richards’ first solo album since 1992 opens like a fever dream, with the 71-year-old rock god croaking acoustic blues like Robert Johnson after burning down a half-ounce spliff. But it’s a feint. “All right, that’s all I got,” he snaps just under two minutes in, before upshifting into his most eccentric and best-ever solo set. Crosseyed Heart is the sound of Richards following his pleasure wherever it leads, with a lean, simpatico team including longtime session pals Steve Jordan, Ivan Neville and Waddy Wachtel backing him up all the way.
Naturally, there’s a dip into roots reggae: Gregory Isaacs’ 1974 lovers’ rock signature, “Love Overdue,” complete with brass and Neville’s sweet backing vocals. There’s also a straight read of “Goodnight Irene,” a folk standard that Richards likely heard as a kid when the Weavers’ version charted in 1950. Two originals are as strong as any Stones songs of recent decades: “Robbed Blind,” a “Dead Flowers”-scented outlaw-country ballad that echoes Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home,” and “Trouble,” all hiccup-riff swagger with a slide-guitar mash note from Wachtel to ex-Stone Mick Taylor. There’s a charmingly cheeky duet with Norah Jones (“Illusion”), and some beautifully telling moments (see “Amnesia”) where Keith’s guitar is nearly everything — his sublime grooves sprouting melodic blooms and thorny leads. It’s proof that, at core, dude’s an army of one.
A well-respected drummer who has appeared in many types of settings in many genres, Steve Gadd’s impressive technique and flexibility have been influential during the past 20 years. He started playing drums at the age of three, sat in with Dizzy Gillespie when he was 11, and after extensive study and a stint in the Army, Gadd became an important studio drummer beginning in 1972. Among his more significant jazz associations have been with Chick Corea (starting in 1975), Bob James, Al DiMeola, Tom Scott, Grover Washington, Jr., David Sanborn, the group Stuff, the Manhattan Jazz Quintet, and his own impressive band (the Gadd Gang) which recorded for Columbia in 1986 and 1988.
David Bowie was born in South London’s Brixton neighborhood on January 8, 1947. His first hit was the song “Space Oddity” in 1969. The original pop chameleon, Bowie became a fantastical sci-fi character for his breakout Ziggy Stardust album. He later co-wrote “Fame” with Carlos Alomar and John Lennon which became his first American No. 1 single in 1975. An accomplished actor, Bowie starred in The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1976. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Bowie died on January 10, 2016, from cancer at the age of 69.
I was 15 or 16 when I heard my first Elvis Costello song. I was in the back of a Volkswagen GTI. Gary was driving. Charles was in the passenger seat, and I was in back, with Veronica, Gary’s girlfriend. That was over 25 years ago. Must have been a spring day because we were still in school and I remember the windows were open and the music was cranking.
“Well I used to know a girl
and I would have sworn
that her name was Veronica”
It took me 25 years to hear the song again and realize what the song is about. Costello’s inspiration for this song was his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. When talking about the song on a VH1 interview, Costello reminisced about his grandmother having “terrifying moments of lucidity” and how this was the inspiration for “Veronica”.
“Well she used to have a carefree mind of her own
and a delicate look in her eye
These days I’m afraid she’s not even sure
if her name is Veronica”
Matt Becker Portsmouth, NH
Live from Matt’s House
One hundred years ago, a boy-child was born in Mississippi – a dirt-poor, African-American who would grow up, learn to sing and play the blues, and eventually achieve worldwide renown. In the decades after his death, he has become known as the King of the Delta Blues Singers, his music expanding in influence to the point that rock stars of the greatest magnitude – the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers – all sing his praise and have recorded his songs.
That boy-child was Robert Johnson, an itinerant blues singer and guitarist who lived from 1911 to 1938. He recorded 29 songs between 1936 and ‘37 for the American Record Corporation, which released eleven 78rpm records on their Vocalion label during Johnson¹s lifetime, and one after his death.
Most of these tunes have attained canonical status, and are now considered enduring anthems of the genre: “Cross Road Blues,” “Love In Vain,” “Hellhound On My Trail,” “I Believe I¹ll Dust My Broom,” “Walking Blues,” “Sweet Home Chicago.”
Like many bluesmen of his day, Johnson plied his craft on street corners and in jook joints, ever rambling and ever lonely – and writing songs that romanticized that existence. But Johnson accomplished this with such an unprecedented intensity, marrying his starkly expressive vocals with a guitar mastery, that his music has endured long after the heyday of country blues and his own short life.
Never had the hardships of the world been transformed into such a poetic height; never had the blues plumbed such an emotional depth. Johnson took the intense loneliness, terrors and tortuous lifestyle that came with being an African-American in the South during the Great Depression, and transformed that specific and very personal experience into music of universal relevance and global reach. “You want to know how good the blues can get?” Keith Richards once asked, answering his own question: “Well, this is it.” Eric Clapton put it more plainly: “I have never found anything more deeply soulful than Robert Johnson.”
The power of Johnson’s music has been amplified over the years by the fact that so little about him is known and what little biographical information we now have only revealed itself at an almost glacial pace. Myths surrounding his life took over: that he was a country boy turned ladies’ man; that he only achieved his uncanny musical mastery after selling his soul to the devil. Even the tragedy of his death seemed to grow to mythic proportion: being poisoned by a jealous boyfriend then taking three days to expire, even as the legendary talent scout John Hammond was searching him out to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
In 1990, Sony Legacy produced and released the 2-CD box set Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings to widespread critical acclaim and, for a country blues reissue, unprecedented sales. The Complete Recordings proved the existence of a potential market for music from the deepest reaches of Sony¹s catalog, especially if buoyed by a strong story with mainstream appeal. Johnson¹s legend continues to attract an ever-widening audience, with no sign of abating. If, in today¹s world of hip-hop and heavy metal, a person knows of only one country blues artist, odds are it is Robert Johnson.
Matt Becker Portsmouth, NH
The Robert Cray Band…. If you aren’t familiar with Robert Cray, I think it will be worth your while. He’s one of the great blues players of our time. My favorite song by Robert Cray is “Great Big Old House”. Brings me back… Here’s some info from his website…
Matt Becker Portsmouth, NH
With 5 Grammy Awards, 15 nominations, millions of record sales worldwide, and thousands of sold out performances, rock blues icon Robert Cray is considered “one of the greatest guitarists of his generation.” Rolling Stone Magazine in their April 2011 issue credits Cray with reinventing the blues with his “distinct razor sharp guitar playing” that “introduced a new generation of mainstream rock fans to the language and form of the blues” with the release of his Strong Persuader album in 1986.
Since then, Cray has gone on to record sixteen Billboard charting studio albums and has written or performed with everyone from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan, from Bonnie Raitt to John Lee Hooker. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011 at the age of 57, he is one of the youngest living legends to receive the prestigious honor. And while he can look back over an astonishing four-decade career punctuated by his trademark sound and distinct playing style, Robert Cray is too busy moving forward on an amazing journey that has him releasing his seventeenth studio album IN MY SOUL on April 1, 2014 and embarking on yet another world tour with the Robert Cray Band.
ever with Robert Cray’s undefinable sound, his music remains stubbornly beyond category. Although blues is the foundation, his music is a melting pot of traditional American rock, soul, jazz, gospel, funk and R&B. “When I first started playing guitar, I wanted to be George Harrison – that is, until I heard Jimi Hendrix. After that, I wanted to be Albert Collins and Buddy Guy and B.B. King. And then there are singers like O.V. Wright and Bobby Blue Bland. It’s all mixed up in there. You just never know. I always attribute it to the music we grew up listening to and the radio back in the ‘60s. It’s pretty wide open. It’s hard to put a tag on it.”
I don’t know what to say…. One of the best slide players on earth. It’s that simple. Please, look him up and hear his music. This is a photo of Derek with his wife, Susan Tedeschi.
They are the Tedeschi Trucks band.
Matt Becker Portsmouth, NH
Andy Fairweather Low
In 2013, he opened Eric Clapton’s shows with his band the Lowriders on Clapton’s European tour and, later that year, Fairweather Low & the Lowriders released the album, Zone-O-Tone. In April 2013, he appeared at the Eric Clapton Guitar Festival Crossroads in New York and featured on two tracks of the DVD of the concert. On 13-14 November, he was also part of Eric Clapton’s band on the occasion of Clapton’s two concerts during the “Baloises Sessions” in Basel, Switzerland where he was featured singing Gin House Blues.
Matt Becker Portsmouth, NH
Matt Andersen- Matt is playing Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH on August 12, 2015
Growing up in Perth-Andover, you learn a thing or two about the tough grind. The family-oriented, blue-collar community is home to singer-songwriter and guitarist Matt Andersen. While manual labour wasn’t his calling, hard work is something you pride yourself on growing up in a small-town. Having played over 200 shows in 2012, his work ethic has never been questioned.
Matt’s narrative-driven writing cuts through the soul, blending blues and folk, encompassed in total honesty. He takes listeners on a ride with his diverse musical styles, skilled guitar work and over-the-top showmanship. Matt’s intimate, high-energy performances have captivated audiences across the world, from Canada, to the US, to Australia and the UK, from small clubs to festivals.
In 2011 Matt released Coal Mining Blues, produced by Colin Linden. The album was recorded at the Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York and features keyboardist Garth Hudson (The Band) and singer Amy Helm (Olabelle). The songs delve into the lives of the working class and the bonds he shares with mining communities, family and friends back home. The moving title track paints a clear picture of the blood, sweat and tears of a backbreaking trade.
“I’m not trying to change anyone’s lives in a big way, but I love it when [listeners] really get involved in the music,” says Matt, who won three 2012 Maple Blues Awards and received a British Blues Award nomination, among many others. “When people get involved, it really makes it a great night — for everyone.” Through his exhilarating performances and connection to his audience, Matt continues to work hard and tell the stories he was born to tell.
Matt Becker Portsmouth, NH
ABOUT DOYLE BRAMHALL II
Doyle Bramhall II
Doyle Bramhall II stands as one of the most distinctive vocalists, guitarists, composers and producers in contemporary music. Eric Clapton, with whom Bramhall II has collaborated for more than a decade, cites the guitarist as one of the most gifted players he has ever encountered.
Bramhall II was raised in a home filled with the blues and rock & roll sounds that are indigenous to Texas; the state of his birth. His father, Doyle Bramhall, played drums for blues legends Lightning Hopkins and Freddie King and was also an accomplished songwriter and vocalist. Bramhall was a life long collaborator with childhood friends, Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, composing such signature classics as “Change It” and “Life By The Drop”.
When Doyle was 18, he was recruited by Jimmie Vaughan to play with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Bramhall II’s reputation blossomed and two years later, he co-founded the Arc Angels with Charlie Sexton and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rhythm section; Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. Their self-titled debut album, fueled by such popular songs as “Living In A Dream” and “Sent By Angels” enjoyed wide success.
In the aftermath of two critically acclaimed solo albums Jellycream and Welcome, Bramhall II’s unparalleled skills as guitarist won the attention of both Eric Clapton and Roger Waters. Waters showcased the guitarist on his In The Flesh tour and accompanying album. Eric Clapton featured Bramhall II’s songs and guitar work as part of Riding With The King, his Grammy winning project with B.B. King. Clapton then recruited Bramhall II to join him on a full time basis and their association flourished. The guitarist toured with Clapton throughout the world and their dramatic interplay thrilled fans and immediately drew comparisons to past triumphs such as Derek & The Dominoes. Bramhall II’s distinctive guitar work—he is a left handed player who plays a right handed strung guitar flipped upside down—left an indelible mark on Clapton albums such as Me And Mr. Johnson and Searching For Robert J. Both projects were highlighted by Bramhall II and Clapton stirring duets in the same Dallas room where Robert Johnson had originally recorded his legendary songs in 1937. Bramhall II songwriting prowess would also be featured as part of Reptile, Back Home and Road To Escondido. He would next co-produce Clapton’s two most recent albums, Clapton and 2013’s Old Sock.
In addition to Clapton, Bramhall II has been in demand as composer, guitarist and producer, collaborating with such as artists as Sheryl Crow, Tedeschi Trucks, Elton John, Questlove, Gary Clark Jr., Erykah Badu, Gregg Allman, Robert Randolph, T-Bone Burnett, Meshell Ndegeocello, Dr. John and many others. Bramhall has produced several records, including Crow’s popular 100 Miles From Memphis.
Bramhall II is now completing his much anticipated fourth solo album, launching the next chapter in an extraordinary musical journey.
Matt Becker Portsmouth, NH
|Gary Clark, Jr.|
Background informationBornFebruary 15, 1984 Austin, Texas, United StatesGenresBlues rock, soul, R&B, blues, hard rock, rock ‘n’ rollYears active1996–presentLabelsHotwire Unlimited
Warner Bros. RecordsWebsitewww
Official Facebook Page
Official Twitter pageNotable instrumentsEpiphone Casino
Gary Clark, Jr. (born February 15, 1984) is an American guitarist and actor based in Austin, Texas. Clark shared the stage with various legends of rock and roll, and has stated that he is “influenced by blues, jazz, soul [and] country, as well as hip hop”. Clark’s musical trademarks are his distorted guitar sound and smooth vocal style.
Matt Becker Portsmouth, NH