Thursday, June 30, 2011

At Cornerstone

Here I am, here I am... My poor, recently-repaired 2002 Ford Focus made the three-hour trip to Macomb, Illinois, and I'm about to set out for Cornerstone Festival 2011. Today's lineup starts with the inimitable Michael Roe, but I'll actually be spending most of my day at the main stage for the first time... well, ever. It's old-school day here, with Daniel Amos, Randy Stonehill, Rez Band, Phil Keaggy and Petra. Should be a good time. Haven't seen Daniel Amos play since 2001, last saw Phil Keaggy do an acoustic show in Aurora last year, and I've never seen any of the others, despite growing up with Petra and Rez. Time to put up my tolerance shield for Jesus-rock preaching and get on down there. Check back for reflections and reviews!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Odd Soul

Here is the announcement of the week. Mutemath's third album, Odd Soul, will be available on October 4. This is their first as a trio, since the departure of guitarist Greg Hill, so I'm very interested to hear where they go with their style. 2011 just keeps on getting better.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful: This Is Me Smiling's Second Album

Thanks to Trisha Rosado for pointing this out to me. Local act This Is Me Smiling is back with a second album after... well, years of nothing. Their first record is an amazing slice of prog-pop, and while I haven't dived into their second yet, it's available here for free. Yes, for free! No excuses, go check this out.

Reasons to be Cheerful: Kerosene Halo

So I'm headed to Cornerstone again next week. This year's fest promises to be a different kind of experience - lots of old-school Christian rockers are scheduled to take the main stage, including Petra (with original singer Greg X. Volz), Randy Stonehill and Rez Band. And while I'm curious to see all of those, I only go to Cornerstone for one reason: to catch up with that little pocket of spiritual pop I love so dearly. The one that includes Daniel Amos, the Choir, the Lost Dogs and the 77s, among others.

This year, Mike Roe of the 77s and Derri Daugherty of the Choir are unveiling their new project, Kerosene Halo. It's been a great couple of years for Daugherty lovers - two Choir albums, a solo record, and now this. And Mike Roe, well, he's always been prolific and amazing. So now two of my favorite voices (and guitar players) have joined forces for a record that is, quite frankly, gorgeous.

It's mostly covers, including tunes from Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, and two from Daniel Amos mastermind Terry Taylor. But just listen to the voices intertwine, the beautiful atmosphere this thing conjures. No, seriously, go listen. You can hear all of Kerosene Halo's debut album for free. I think it's wonderful, and I can't wait to see them play this stuff live.

First Listen: Rave On Buddy Holly

I've been looking forward to this, and I wasn't disappointed. Nineteen Buddy Holly songs, reinterpreted by musical minds of today and yesterday. Holly's music always sort of toed that line between fluffy fun and manic depression, and these renditions really bring that out. It opens with the Black Keys doing "Dearest," which sounds about like you'd expect it would, but continues with the re-emergence of Fiona Apple, who performs the sweet "Everyday" with Jon Brion. Paul McCartney shouts his way through "It's So Easy," and clearly has a great time in the process.

Some of these are surprising. Cee-Lo Green stays true to the rockabilly roots of "You're So Square (Baby I Don't Care)," and his voice works very well in this style. My Morning Jacket turns in a heartbreaking take on "True Love Ways." Kid Rock (!) does a fine job with "Well All Right." And wait until you hear Modest Mouse chew up and spit out "That'll Be the Day."

Some of these versions don't work as well - Julian Casablancas treats "Rave On" like an outtake from his miserable solo album, and Lou Reed murders "Peggy Sue" - but most are heartfelt and lovingly-crafted tributes to a man who died too young, but definitely left his mark on the burgeoning young art form known as rock and roll.


Wow, it's been a really long time.

I can't apologize enough for allowing this blog to deteriorate. My last post was in mid-January, when I had just started working for Patch, and I had no idea just how difficult and time-consuming those first few months would be. Ask anyone who knows me - I've pretty much become invisible. But now I think I have more of a handle on it, and I'm ready to start this monster up again.

Here's the thing: I initially started this blog as a supplement to my weekly column, Tuesday Morning 3 A.M., because I had too much music to cover in one place each week. This problem has not gone away. I still buy more music than I can fit into a weekly column, and lately, my thoughts on that music have been bursting out of my skull. I'm finding TM3AM a more difficult slog lately, simply because I have so much to say, and no time to say it all at once. (Does that make sense?)

What I mean is, quicker hits - like these blog posts - will be easier for me, I think, than trying to cover everything I want to say about music in the weekly column. That's the hope, at least. The column isn't going anywhere - look for a dissertation on silly pop music next week, and my thoughts on this year's Cornerstone Festival the week after. But check here more regularly, because my first-listen reactions and thoughts on music news will go here.

Thanks very much for reading, and thanks for your patience with me these past six months. I think we're ready to roll again.