The Runaways’ Cherie Currie and Fanny’s Brie Darling Rock Chicago

2019 Beth Hart wide

Cherie Currie and Brie Darling played a raucous rock and roll show at the City Winery in Chicago with the help of a four-man backup band. Currie, the one-time lead singer of the seminal female band the Runaways, and Darling the on-again, off-again drummer for the pioneering women group Fanny, sang most of the songs from their recent excellent collaboration album, The Motivator, including two of the three originals from that release.

The two traded vocals for most of the night. Although Currie joked at one point that she was having a senior moment because she forgot the opening lines to one of the new songs, it is hard to believe that Currie will be turning 60 in a few days while Darling is already 70. Both musicians were in fine voice, had lots of energy, and clearly were having fun playing many of the cover songs from The Motivator.

In addition, Darling sang two songs, and played drums on one of these songs, from last year’s Fanny reunion album,  Fanny Walked the Earth. The set opened with a cover of the Runaways’ song “American Nights” and closed with the Runaways’ classic “Cherry Bomb,” which had the crowd on their feet singing along. Opening Act White Mystery played a short, loud, and enthusiastic set.

Contemporary Bands, Classic Songs, Eternal Relevance on ‘Stop, Hey, What’s That Sound?’

VARIOUS ARTISTS | Stop, Hey, What’s That Sound? Classic Protest Songs Reinvented | (Petaluma Records)

3 out of 5

The concept is fairly familiar: Gather a set of classic songs, recruit some up and coming artists to cover them, and then blend those disparate elements together and marvel at the results. Of course, it’s a difficult thing to recreate a timeless tune and then reconcile the familiarity of the original version with an original interpretation that finds the remake relevant enough to compare.

Given that challenge, you have to give the creative minds behind Stop, Hey, What’s That Sound? Classic Protest Songs Reinvented credit for at least making an attempt. Given today’s turbulence, disenchantment and vitriol, it’s a sad fact that the songs of discontent that rallied the masses during another apocalyptic era ring with an equal urgency today. And yet while the original versions still hold up as decidedly and demonstratively today as they did half a century ago, it’s also  fitting that a new generation should take up the protest banner and let their voices be heard as well.

The problem is however that so few songs sharing that insurgence stance have surfaced in the past 50 years. They’re hardly as evident now as they once were, given that music seems to focus more on image that ideology. Indeed, artists that look exotic, erotic or just plain bizarre, and then surround themselves with a dozen dancers, get far more attention than those that sound the alarm. Rap music may have become a vehicle for sharing dissent, but far too often its accompanied by a didactic delivery that alienates as many people as it informs.

At its essence then, the dozen songs that encompass Stop, Hey, What’s That Sound? Classic Protest Songs Reinvented find its interpreters walking a fine line, one that has to appeal to today’s hipper devotees while still echoing the message implicit in each of the offerings.

As a result, the majority of these tracks bear little resemblance to the versions forever inscribed in the public’s collective consciousness. Dawn Landes’s contemplative interpretation of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,  Jonah Smith’s simple piano version of the Beatles’ “Revolution,” and Renee Holiday and Nigel Harrison’s fiery take on Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” come the closest as ready recognition is concerned, but even in those cases, there’s ample amounts of craft and creativity imbued as well. 

Some of the selections are simply unrecognizable. Victoria Reed totally retools CSNY’s “Ohio” by diminishing the anguish and empathy of the original. Fiona Silver makes Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” less of a furtive plea and more of a dream-like dirge. Likewise, the subdued sound Sasha Dobson shares on Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” makes the song sound wispy and willowy at best. 

The most extreme deviation results when Lolo reduces CCR’s “Fortunate Son” into a hodgepodge of noise and nonsense, and Prince Rama take Norman Greenbaum’s lingering classic “In the Year 2525” and elevate all the eerier elements in ways that suggest several doses of acid were added to whatever Kool Aid concoction they imbibed beforehand.

The fact that the vast majority of the artists taking part in this production aren’t especially well known doesn’t help with the familiarity factor either, although it does make it easier to understand why most are prone to deviate so dramatically from the signature sound. They may be intent on establishing the kind of presence that will make people sit up and take notice. 

However that’s the difference between then and now. Weirdness may work today, but there was once a time when the music and the message did best when they stayed in sync.

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World Premiere Video – Tom The Suit Forst “Late Night Train”

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Tom The Suit Forst has announced that his latest album World of Broken Hearts will be released by Retro Records on Valentines Day, February 14, 2020.

The 5-song EP was produced by Ethan Isaac, and recorded at Factory Underground Studios, in Norwalk, Connecticut. The album features guest vocalist Christine Ohlman (Beehive Queen of Rock n Soul, Vocalist of Saturday Night Live Band), guitarist Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter Band), guitarist Ryan Hommel (Amos Lee Band), blues harp player James Montgomery, and drummer Travis McNabb (Sugarland, Better Than Ezra). His debut solo album On Fire was released in 2016, and produced by the Grammy Award-winning Nelson.

A life-long blues and rock musician who joined the corporate world, “for a couple of years, to put some food on the table and try to get my kids through college,” Forst began a journey that culminated in 25-year career in television advertising. At the time he made the bold decision, to make music full time, Forst was Vice President of Sales at Cox Media, a major cable television company.

“I loved it, but I always had a plan to go back into music one day. The day my wife and I paid the last college tuition bill for my youngest child, that was it. I gave my notice, and went back to playing music full time,” he says.

Performing as many as 200 shows a year with his band, with additional solo/special guest performances and keynote-speaking engagements, Forst has toured both the United States and China. He will support his new album heavily in the new year, and has been invited to tour China for the second time in April 2020.

“Late Night Train,” is the first track from the new EP. Forst takes a modern day view of the classic blues train song, updating it to big city subway, with all the haunting images still in tact.

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Tom The Suit Forst

Doheny Blues Festival Postponed For 2020

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[Dana Point, CA] – The 2020 Doheny Blues Festival will be postponed as organizers explore venue options for 2021. The signature event and longest-running music festival in Dana Point will return in 2021 with plans for a bigger and more robust event with world-class blues and rock headliners, new artists and a unique educational component.

Doheny Festival Goers in 2018. Photo from festival website.

“Sea Terrace Park has been a wonderful venue for the festival for the last two years, and we are thankful for the support we received from The City of Dana Point, the Arts & Culture Commission and the local hotels and neighbors” says Rich Sherman, President of Doheny Blues Festival, Inc. “We recognize, however, that the attendees truly loved our former location of Doheny State Beach and we feel strongly that we should explore all of the venue options for future blues festivals, even if it requires us to take a year off.”

To fill the music void, plans are underway to organize a “Weekend of Music” during May 15-17, 2020 that will include concerts at various live music venues in and around the city, free performances, as well as curated educational sessions presented by the non-profit organization Music Preserves Foundation. “For those who travel to Dana Point every May to experience extraordinary blues music, we want to continue that tradition this year with a special weekend of live music throughout town,” says Sherman. “We are thankful for the support that fans, musicians and partners have shown to The Doheny Blues Festival over the years and we look forward to a triumphant return in 2021 with an exciting, reimagined festival.”

Established in 1998, The Doheny Blues Festival ushered in this era of music festivals and has been held for 22 consecutive years in Dana Point featuring Blues legends, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees and contemporary headliners such as B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Ben Harper, Joe Walsh, The Black Crowes, Joe Bonamassa, Chuck Berry, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Brian Setzer, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mavis Staples, Grace Potter, Trombone Shorty and many others.

Doheny Blues Festival

The Weeknd Embarks on a Bloody Bender in New ‘Blinding Lights’ Video

The Weeknd chases some extreme highs and ends up with a bloody face in the new video for his single, “Blinding Lights.”

Directed by Anton Tammi, the clip stars the Weeknd as a lounge lizard-like fellow who bears a passing resemblance to jazz legend Herbie Hancock, circa 1978’s Sunlight. (“You’re not wrong,” the singer tweeted after a fan pointed out the similarity with his afro, glasses and mustache. “Must have been subconscious.”)

The video opens with the Weeknd laughing as blood drips down his face, then jumps back in time to show the mayhem that led to this gruesome end — the pop star speeding around a deserted city, dancing gleefully in the streets, sauntering up to a lounge singer (played by Miki Hamano) and eventually getting into a fight with a pair of bouncers. 

“Blinding Lights,” originally teased in a Mercedes-Benz commercial, is one of two tracks the singer released in late November, along with the RS chart-topping “Heartless.” He paired the latter track with a hallucinogenic video and performed both singles during a two-night stand on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

The Weeknd has yet to reveal whether the songs will appear on his as-yet-announced fourth LP, which follows 2016’s Starboy and 2018 EP My Dear Melancholy. Asked on Twitter in December whether he’s ever planning to release the album, he replied, “of course I am eventually.”

The vocalist also collaborated with other artists in 2019: In March, he guested on Travis Scott’s Astroworld single “Wake Up,” and, nine months later, he made his debut feature film appearance opposite Adam Sandler in Josh and Benny Safdie’s acclaimed crime-thriller Uncut Gems.

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The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights” Video

The Weeknd debuted his pulse-pounding ’80s synth-pop pastiche “Blinding Lights” — one of the best pop songs of 2019 — with a longform Mercedes ad, and he gave the song a visually memorable performance on Colbert. Now the track has an official music video too.

Anton Tammi, who directed the Weeknd’s “Heartless” video, directs this one as well. It’s a continuation of the previous clip’s storyline, with Abel Tesfaye in reflective shades and a red sport coat gallivanting across Las Vegas. This time Tesfaye finds himself on the run and under threat of violence. Tammi’s visuals really hammer home stylistic influences like Michael Jackson and Drive, and Tesfaye gets to do more acting than he did in Uncut Gems.

Republic Records has been “Blinding Lights” a Top 40 radio push in hopes that it can follow “Heartless” to #1. Still no details on that new Weeknd album yet, but he’s performing this Wednesday night on Kimmel, so maybe we’ll learn more then? In the meantime, watch the “Blinding Lights” video below.

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Blues-Rocker Tinsley Ellis Announces ‘Ice Cream in Hell’ Tour

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World-renowned Atlanta-based blues-rock guitar virtuoso, soulful singer and prolific songwriter Tinsley Ellis served up plans for his coast-to-coast Ice Cream In Hell tour. The three-month tour kicks off in Ellis’ hometown of Atlanta on January 31, 2020, the same day the highly anticipated new album, Ice Cream In Hell, is released.

“A musician never got famous staying home,” says Ellis, who continues to perform over 150 nights a year. “I’ve seen it all,” the Atlanta native says of his four decades on the road. “And a lot of my audience has been along for the entire time. It’s not always easy. But the payoff is the music. That’s the ice cream.”

Filled with blazing, every-note-matters guitar playing over the course of 11 instantly memorable original songs, Ice Cream In Hell is, according to Ellis, the most raw-sounding, guitar-drenched album of his career. Throughout the album, Ellis’ deeply emotional, lyrical guitar solos perfectly match his fervent vocals. Rolling Stone says Ellis plays “feral blues guitar…non-stop gigging has sharpened his six-string to a razor’s edge…his eloquence dazzles…he achieves pyrotechnics that rival early Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.”

Recorded in Nashville and produced by Ellis and his longtime co-producer Kevin McKendree (John Hiatt, Delbert McClinton), Ice Cream In Hell is a cathartic blast of blues-rock power. Though inspired by all three Kings (B.B., Albert and Freddie), as well by Carlos Santana, Hound Dog Taylor and others, Ice Cream In Hell is pure, unadulterated Tinsley Ellis.

Jan 31 City Winery Atlanta, GA

Feb 01 The Foundry Athens, GA
Feb 05 The Grey Eagle Asheville, NC
Feb 06 Neighborhood Theatre Charlotte, NC
Feb 07 The Open Chord Knoxville, TN
Feb 08 Songbirds Guitar Museum Chattanooga, TN
Feb 14 The Kelsey Theater Lake Park, FL
Feb 15 David Posnack JCC Davie, FL
Feb 16 The Alley Sanford, FL
Feb 20 Stocks n Bonds Omaha, NE
Feb 21-22 Grand Z Casino Central City, CO
Feb 23 Swallow Hill Music Denver, CO
Feb 24 The Cooperage Albuquerque, NM
Feb 26 Belly Up Tavern Solana Beach, CA with Janiva Magness
Feb 27 The Canyon Agoura Hills, CA
Feb 28 Felton Music Hall Felton, CA
Feb 29 Mystic Theatre Petaluma, CA

Mar 01 Cornerstone Berkeley, CA
Mar 03 The Tower Theatre Lounge Fresno, CA
Mar 04 SLO Brew Rock San Luis Obispo, CA
Mar 05 The Rose Pasadena, CA
Mar 06 World Records Bakersfield, CA
Mar 08 The Coach House San Juan Capistrano, CA with Jimmie Vaughan
Mar 10 191 Toole Tucson, AZ
Mar 11 Musical Instrument Museum Phoenix, AZ
Mar 12 Boulder Station Casino Las Vegas, NV at Railhead
Mar 13 Center for the Arts Grass Valley, CA
Mar 14 Paradise Performing Arts Center Paradise, CA with Tommy Castro
Mar 15 The Saint Reno, NV
Mar 18 The Triple Door Seattle, WA
Mar 19 The Seasons Performance Hall Yakima, WA
Mar 20 Jack London Revue Portland, OR
Mar 21 Capitol Theater Olympia, WA with Curtis Salgado
Mar 23 Top Hat Missoula, MT
Mar 24 Rialto Bozeman, MT
Mar 26 Dakota Minneapolis, MN
Mar 27 TBA Des Moines, IA
Mar 28 The Jazz Kitchen Indianapolis, IN
Mar 29 Woodlands Tavern Columbus, OH
Mar 31 SPACE Evanston, IL

Apr 01 Shank Hall Milwaukee, WI
Apr 02 Uptown Grill’s Playlist Theater LaSalle, IL
Apr 03 London Music Hall London, ON
Apr 04 Hugh’s Room (matinee) Toronto, ON
Apr 05 Iron Works Buffalo, NY
Apr 08 Cafe Lena Saratoga Springs, NY
Apr 09 One Longfellow Square Portland, ME
Apr 10 Spire Center for Performing Arts Plymouth, NH
Apr 11 The Center For Arts In Natick, MA
Apr 13 Chan’s Woonsocket, RI
Apr 14 Sellersville Theater Sellersville, PA
Apr 15 Infinity Hall Norfolk, CT
Apr 16 City Winery, NYC
Apr 17 Arden Gild Hall Arden, DE
Apr 18 The Soundry Columbia, MD
Apr 19 City Winery Washington, DC

Tinsley Ellis

Revered Songwriter David Olney Dead at 71

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Revered Americana Songwriter David Olney died Saturday, January 18, 2020, after suffering an apparent heart attack during a performance at the 30A Songwriter Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. He was 71.

David Olney Photo: John Partipilo

Olney was born March 23rd, 1948 in Providence, Rhode Island. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill but did not graduate, instead joining Bland Simpson’s band Simpson in 1971. He moved to Nashville in 1973, attempted to sell his songs to record labels, and then formed the band The X-Rays, who recorded two albums for Rounder Records, appeared on Austin City Limits, opened for Elvis Costello, and broke up in 1985.

Over the course of his musical career, Olney released over 30 solo albums and EPs plus his releases with Simpson, the X-Rays, and the Nashville Jug Band.

But it was as a songwriter that Olney’s truest gifts came to us. He wrote songs released by artists such as Steve Young, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Del McCoury and many more. His lyrics are products of a remarkable inquisitiveness that allowed him to explore subjects that few songwriters would consider: He wrote of a Nashville train disaster, of baseball shortstop Phil Rizzuto, and of actor John Barrymore. He wrote about Jesus Christ from the narrative perspective of the donkey that carried him into Jerusalem, and about the Titanic from the perspective of the iceberg that sank the ship.

Singer/Songwriter Townes Van Zandt once said of Olney, “Anytime anyone asks me who my favorite music writers are, I say Mozart, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan, and Dave Olney. Dave Olney is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard – and that’s true. I mean that from my heart.” Country Music Hall of Fame member Emmylou Harris said, “David Olney tells marvelous stories, with characters who cling to the hope of enduring love, all the while crossing the deep divide into that long, dark night of the soul,” while troubadour Steve Earle called Olney, “One of the best songwriters working in the world today.”

Musician and author, Amy Rigby was performing with Olney at the time of his death. In a Facebook post this morning she posted, “David Olney, a beautiful man, a legend, a songwriting poet died last night. I was sitting next to him in the round, had been so honored and looking forward to getting to trade songs with him and Scott Miller. Olney was in the middle of his third song when he stopped, apologized and shut his eyes. He was very still, sitting upright with his guitar on, wearing the coolest hat and a beautiful rust suede jacket we laughed about because it was raining like hell outside the boathouse where we were playing- I just want the picture to be as graceful and dignified as it was, because it at first looked like he was just taking a moment. Scott Miller had the presence of mind to say we needed to revive him. Doctors in the audience and 30A folks were all working so hard to get him to come to. It’s hard to post about this because I can’t really believe he’s gone. I am so sorry for his wife and family and friends and all the people who loved him and his music. Even those who never heard of him. We all lost someone important last night.”

Olney is survived by his wife, Regine, daughter Lillian, and son Redding, as well as a devastated music community. Memorial details are not yet available.

David Olney

*Feature image Scott Housley

The Legendary Ingramettes Prep Groundbreaking New Release

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With Martin Luther King Day this coming Monday, we wanted to share an early look at a powerful new album of Southern Gospel music from The Legendary Ingramettes. This quintet of powerhouse women is one of the few remaining all-female gospel groups based on the old quartet style of singing, and they’ve been going for 65 years! Bandleader Almeta Ingram-Miller grew up in the tradition in Richmond, VA, and also grew up in th heart of the Civil Rights movement. Her mother (and bandleader until her death in 2015) was the housekeeper for Oliver Hill, the civil rights lawyer that helped end ‘separate but equal’, and she met Martin Luther King in person when he came to Richmond!

The new album, Take A Look In The Book, due out March 20, 2020, is the first with Almeta at the head of the group, and she’s taken the chance of developing new repertoire for the group, inspired by her work with Virginia Folklife at Virginia Humanities.

Six decades of music, sixty-five years of song, generations tied together through the force of will of a matriarchy of powerful women. This is the story of African-American gospel quintet The Legendary Ingramettes, founded by Maggie Ingram (who passed away in 2015) as a way to keep her family together through hardship, and taken up by her daughter Almeta as a way to continue Maggie’s legacy.

Inspired by the black gospel male quartets of the 1940s and 50s, The Legendary Ingramettes bring roof raising harmonies and explosively powerful vocals, all driven by the voices of women. Based for many years out of Richmond, Virginia, they were led by the indomitable will of the woman they all called “Mama,” but now that Mama is gone, Take A Look in the Book is the group’s first efforts with Almeta at the head. The album showcases her bold new vision and towering vocal abilities, drawing songs from new Appalachian sources like Ola Belle Reed and Bill Withers, and reworking family favorites, some of which date back to old spirituals.

Produced by state folklorist Jon Lohman as part of the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Humanities, Take A Look in the Book was recorded over just three days in Richmond, with most songs being cut in one take to keep the power of the group’s incendiary live performances. A live show from The Legendary Ingramettes is a house-rocking affair, with audiences literally whipped to a gospel fervor, and the recording seeks to capture the electrifying nature of the group’s performances.

Throughout the album, Mama’s legacy is strong, but the South casts a longer shadow. “When we came up, the times just weren’t what they are now,” says Almeta. With all the memories of national acclaim and mighty performances, there are memories too of the whites-only gas stations they stopped at in the South when Almeta was a kid. Or that one day, seared in her memory, that Almeta’s grandmother wouldn’t let her play outside her rural home in Douglas, Georgia because there was a black body swinging in the tree in her front yard. “You can’t experience something like that and not be changed by it,” she says. “For us, it showed us we had a wonderful God who watched over and protected us. I must have hundreds of stories where we knew that there is a purpose for us still here. You take all of that, and you put it into the music.”

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Craig Finn Scoring AMC’s New Musical Dramedy National Anthem

The Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn is writing original music for a new show in development at AMC. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the upcoming American Anthem is “a musical dramedy following a family who, after falling down the ladder of American life, needs to figure out what actually makes life worth living.” T Bone Burnett will be the show’s music producer, and The Report director Scott Z. Burns is writing and executive producing alongside Mark Johnson (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul).

Rush Thankful for ‘Outpouring of Love’ in First Statement Since Neil Peart’s Death

Rush thanked fans and their rocker peers for paying tribute to Neil Peart in Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson’s first public statement since announcing the death of the Rush drummer on January 10th.

“Our most heartfelt thanks go out to family, friends, musicians, writers and fans from around the globe for the incredible outpouring of love and respect for Neil since his passing,” Lee and Lifeson wrote on social media Friday.

“These touching tributes help to lessen the pain of this terrible loss and remind us all to celebrate his remarkable life and our connections to it.”

Following news of Peart’s January 7th death following a lengthy and unpublicized battle with brain cancer, many of the countless musicians who were inspired by the drummer — including Mike Portnoy, Lars Ulrich, Dave Grohl and more — penned tributes to Peart. I Love You Man stars Jason Segel and Paul Rudd also remembered the drummer.

“The world lost a true giant in the history of rock & roll,” Grohl said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “An inspiration to millions with an unmistakable sound who spawned generations of musicians (like myself) to pick up two sticks and chase a dream. A kind, thoughtful, brilliant man who ruled our radios and turntables not only with his drumming, but also his beautiful words.”

Ulrich wrote, ““Thank you Neil. Thank you for inspiring me and for all your help and advice along the way, especially in the early days when you took the time to talk to a young green Danish drummer about recording, gear and the possibilities that lay ahead…”

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