Modern soul artist and three-time Tony nominee Joshua Henry has announced the March 4th release of his debut EP Guarantee, out via S-Curve Records/BMG. Produced by close collaborator Theron “Neff-U” Feemster (Michael Jackson, Dr. Dre, Justin Bieber, Doja Cat), the EP showcases Joshua’s immaculately powerful voice and his intelligent storytelling background, brilliantly pairing themes of vulnerability, love, and hope born out of the pandemic.
This EP is full of my heart, but I also want people to jump and groove to it, to feel it cerebrally, spiritually, and bodily. There was a blank canvas that took me back to when I was seven years old, just writing from my heart, with nothing to lose.
Lead single “Hold Me” explores the balance of the relentless pursuit of a dream while needing to ask for love and support. The track pairs Henry’s regal falsetto with a rippling and kinetic neo-soul production and was added to numerous playlists including Spotify’s “New Music Friday” (US, Canada, World) and Amazon’s “The New Black.” The vibrant video for “Hold Me” was filmed in his beloved New York City.
His most recent single “Stand Up” is a cover of The O’Jays’ 2019 track calling for love and unity, and portion of proceeds will be donated to the DoSomething organization — the largest organization exclusively for young people and social change, activating over 5 million young people to make positive change.
Guarantee is Henry’s latest artistic endeavor, following his success as an actor including his three Tony-nominated turns on Broadway (Scottsboro Boys, Violet and Carousel), performing as Aaron Burr in the first touring company of Hamilton, and his upcoming performance in Lin Manuel Miranda’s highly anticipated directorial film debut Tick Tick… Boom! featuring Vanessa Hudgens, Andrew Garfield, Judith Light and others. Joshua’s passion for music was rooted in childhood though and, as he progressed through Broadway, TV and film roles, Henry’s heart beat out rhythms, his voice ringing with clarion emotion. But the entire time, he longed for an outlet to express his own story.
Guarantee is available now for pre-order / pre-save: joshuahenry.lnk.to/guarantee. Fans that pre-order the album will automatically be entered to win a chance to join Joshua virtually for his “Guaranteed Great Night In” hosted by Question Party?! — known for their comedy-meets-quiz experiences, and Big Night In Entertainment.
Washington born and Oregon raised Curtis Salgado can officially be referred to as iconic. He has fronted some of the biggest name bands in blues, soul and rock, was the influence behind John Belushi’s character in The Blues Brothers, and has released 10 albums to date, collectively earning him multiple Blues Music Awards—for B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year, Soul Blues Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Soul Blues Male Artist Of The Year. Now, in 2021, he releases what he himself considers to be his best album yet; Damage Control via Alligator Records.
The song titles on Damage Control read like a premature eulogy. “What Did Me In Did Me Well,” “You’re Going to Miss My Sorry Ass,” and “Always Say I Love You (At the End of Your Goodbyes)” caused me a bit of concern. Is Salgado trying to say something here? Well of course he is. He’s saying the world ain’t always rainbows and sprinkles on your ice cream, but through determination and grit, it’s survivable. Salgado has crafted a soul-searching, street-smart collection of vividly detailed, instantly memorable songs.
From the very first tones of piano and organ, Curtis takes us to church with the words, “Let me testify a little bit. Yes. Yes.” Then the funky, syncopated “The Longer That I Live,” kicks in straight with no chaser.
What is the meaning of life/well I can’t talk philosophy/I know every new sunrise the more it dawns on me
I may be gettin’ on/But I sure ain’t done yet/Cause the longer that I live the older I wanna get
Salgado does on Damage Control what Salgado does best. He reaches into into his multi-genre bag of tricks bringing out the best in blues, soul, rock, and more. His vocals weave, bob and soar, at times jabbing with nuance, and then striking with unlimited power; from the singer-songwriter vibe of “Precious Time” to the 50s sock hop feel of “Count to Three.”
Damage Control is no fly-by-night release. The album was well-planned and exceptionally executed. Produced by Salgado it was recorded in three studios with three different groups of musicians, featuring some of the very best players in the business. At Nashville, Tennessee’s Rock House Recording, top-notch support included guitarist George Marinelli (Bonnie Raitt), keyboardist Kevin McKendree (Brian Setzer, Delbert McClinton, Tinsley Ellis), singer Wendy Moton (Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton) and special guest Cajun accordionist and vocalist Wayne Toups. At Studio City, California’s Ultratone Studios, guitarist/bassist Johnny Lee Schell (Otis Rush, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt), pianists Mike Finnigan (Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon) and Jim Pugh (B.B. King, Etta James, Robert Cray), drummer Tony Braunagel (B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt) brought the goods. And at Greaseland in San Jose, California, guitarist/bassist Kid Andersen (Rick Estrin, Charlie Musselwhite), bassist Jerry Jemmott (B.B. King, Aretha Franklin) and drummer Kevin Hays (Robert Cray) added their fuel to the fire.
Born in 1954, Salgado grew up in Eugene, Oregon with music all around him. He attended a Count Basie performance when he was 13 and decided then and there that music was his calling. After getting his hands on a harmonica, Curtis began devouring the blues of Little Walter and Paul Butterfield, and taught himself to play.
By his early 20s he was already making a name for himself in Eugene, Oregon’s bar scene, first as the vocalist/harmonica player of The Nighthawks, and later as co-leader of The Robert Cray Band. After Salgado and Cray parted ways in 1982, Curtis went on to front Roomful Of Blues, singing and touring with them from 1984 through 1986. Back home in Oregon, he formed a new band, Curtis Salgado & The Stilettos, and was once again tearing it up on the club scene, and opening for the Steve Miller Band in 1992. In 1995, he spent a short stint as the lead singer for Santana. All the while Curtis was honing his craft, and writing original songs.
Curtis’ passionate and insightful songwriting shines through on 12 of the 13 tracks. The only cover on Damage Control is the diametrically titled “Slow Down,” a Larry Williams hit previously covered by The Beatles. This hard-charger closes the album, leaving the listener breathless and wanting more.
Other standouts on the release include the blues story-telling of “The Fix is In,” the Cajun flavored “Truth Be Told,” the autobiographical “I Don’t Do That No More,” and the mid-paced title track of which Salgado says,”“Life is all about damage control…trouble and then some. It’s about dealing with what gets thrown at you and saying, ‘I ain’t finished yet.’”
For all of his successes, Salgado is no stranger to adversity. During his career, he has overcome multiple health challenges, battling back from liver cancer in 2006 and lung cancer in 2008 and 2012. In March 2017 he underwent quadruple bypass surgery. He’s not only come back stronger, he’s become one of the genre’s most prolific songwriters, shining that brilliant light on this album.
Curtis Salgado is the personification of grace under pressure. Taking everything that life can hand him and throwing it back like a World Series pitcher, he’s powered forward, performing his personal Damage Control. “I want people to relate to the songs,” he says. “You can dance to it but the words have to carry the weight. I know if a song hits me, it’ll hit others just as hard.”
Damage Control is set for release on Friday, February 26, 2021 via Alligator Records.
In honor of the beloved arranger-producer-film composer, songwriter of “Nadia’s Theme,” “Bless The Beasts and the Children,” Nilsson & Phil Spector co-writer, and more
Legendary and beloved songwriter/composer/arranger/friend Perry Botkin, Jr. died on January 18, 2021 in Burbank. He was 87.
I was among the lucky ones who had the privilege and good fortune to know him. I also interviewed him live in August, 2016 at The Songwriting School of Los Angeles. In honor and memory of Perry – a great songwriter, song champion and friend to so many in our community – we’re happy to share that interview today.
Perry Botkin, Jr. was not only one of Hollywood’s most accomplished and impactful figures – a great film composer, as well as songwriter, arranger and producer – he was one of the most beloved. I first came to know him through two friends who had worked with him, and loved him for his gentle, humble spirit and his vast musical talent.
Van Dyke Parks once told me he feels one of our jobs in life is to connect people. He’s done that many times for many people through the years, including this writer. The first was when I first met him back in 1988 and he asked, “Would you be interested in talking to my friend Harry?” He meant Harry Nilsson, and yes, I was.
He has done it other times too – and always with people who mattered a lot, ultimately, in my life. There was legendary film music editor Else Blangsted, who became one of my greatest friends. And there was Perry Botkin.
Else Blangsted, who worked with both Perry and Van Dyke on the Jack Nicholson film Goin’ South, also confirmed that Perry was great. Anyone who got invited to her monthly composer’s club – such as Perry, Van Dyke, and other well-known composers of film and TV music – were people who were not only successful in music, but also in friendship. She suffered no fakes or phonies.
And he was the real deal. His father, Perry Botkin, Sr. was a great musician, also–the guitarist for Bing Crosby for years, and banjoist and guitarist on the “Beverly Hillbillies” TV show soundtrack, a one-man Flatt & Scruggs.
Perry Jr. played trombone, piano, bass and other instruments. But also became a skilled arranger; he arranged many classic records, including Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” and “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano.
His instrumental theme song for “The Young & The Restless” became “Nadia’s Theme” when used by the Olympic champion Nadia Comenici, evidence of his great melodic skills. With Barry DeVorzon, he wrote the theme song – and the score – for Bless the Beasts and the Children.
He championed Harry Nilsson from the start, and wrote songs with Harry Nilsson and Phil Spector (“Paradise,” for the Ronettes).
But that’s just scratching the surface of his remarkable life in music. I’m grateful I was able to discuss all of it at length with him in our interview, which was produced by Rob Seals atThe Songwriting School of Los Angeles. Van Dyke Parks – among other luminaries – was in the house with us that night.
Well, here’s something different. The electronic producer Jacques Greene has a new track called “Promise” on the way. It’s not out yet, but he spent today auctioning the publishing rights for the song in exchange for the blockhain currency Ethereum. I can not even pretend to barely understand how this shit works, but Greene seemed pretty excited about it. Read more ›
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the initial release of The Poet, the Bobby Womack album that served to relaunch his career and established him as a renewed force to be reckoned with in the urban music field in the 1980s. That album was followed by The Poet II which further solidified Womack’s position as the industry’s leading exponent of traditional soul that he maintained until his passing in 2014. Now, for the first time, these classic albums have been remastered from the original tapes.
Long believed to be lost, the original tapes have been recovered and are sourced for the remasters of The Poet and The Poet II. To offer the best possible listening experience, both The Poet and The Poet II will be pressed on heavyweight (180 gram) vinyl, making the albums available in the vinyl marketplace for the first time in decades. The historic albums packaged on LP and CD with extensive liner notes by R&B scholar Bill Dahl will release on March 19 in the US and Canada with concurrent worldwide HD digital availability. The rest of world territories will release CD and LP on April 30th 2021.
Shortly after its release, The Poet, produced by Womack, rose to the #1 slot on Billboard’s Top R&B Album chart and thus provided commercial validation for his musical posture that was so removed from the disco trend of the era. As illustrated in the newly penned liner notes by Bill Dahl, “The Poet was split into two distinct musical moods. The first side of the album placed Bobby in up-tempo settings and let the infectious grooves flow freely. Side two cast Bobby as the romantic balladeer, a seductive image that had long sent his legion of female fans into a frenzy.”
“If You Think You’re Lonely Now,” the album’s leading single, went to #3 on Billboard’s Hot Soul Singles chart and stayed there for four weeks. Decades later, a major sample of “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” provided the basis for Mariah Carey’s #1 hit “We Belong Together.” The album also yielded two additional chart singles, “Secrets” and “Where Do We Go From Here.” It went on to become the biggest selling full-length album of Bobby Womack’s career.
The massive success of The Poet set the stage for the recording of The Poet II in 1983. As with its predecessor, The Poet II found both commercial and critical success on both sides of the Atlantic with the UK’s New MusicalExpress naming it Best Album of 1984. Among the album’s highlights are three duets with Patti LaBelle including “Love Has Finally Come At Last” which was a presence on Billboard’s Hot Soul Singles chart for 17 weeks, ultimately rising to #3.
Jazz guitarist George Benson is also heard on the album; his presence is something of a favor returned. Womack was the composer of “Breezin’,” the instrumental that served as Benson’s major label breakthrough. The Crusaders’ Wilton Felder was featured on the set as was drummer James Gadson of Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band renown. He along with Andrew Loog Oldham and Womack comprised the album’s production troika.
Bobby Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 by Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones. Bobby Womack’s lengthy association with ABKCO dates from his early career mentorship by Sam Cooke. ABKCO Music serves as music publisher for the catalog of Womack’s most notable compositions including “Across 100th Street,” “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” “That’s The Way I Feel About ‘Cha,” “Breezin’,” “It’s All Over Now” and “American Dream.”
Have you noticed that it is often songwriters themselves who perform the greatest cover versions of great songs? Songwriters know great songs the same way chefs know great food – as serious connoisseurs. The chosen cover by a songwriter is always informative, and often quite inspired, whether it’s John Prine singing Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” Dylan singing “Learning To Fly,” in honor of Tom Petty, or Lennon singing “Stand By Me,” by Leiber, Stoller and Ben E. King . They are tributes to the song itself and to the joy of inhabiting it, and to the brilliance of the songwriters who wrote them.
Harry Nilsson, remarkably, did an entire album of covers all by one songwriter: Randy Newman. The great – and unprecedented – Nilsson Sings Newman. Who does that?
Elvis Costello has been known to record and perform many great covers, such as his great take on “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” But of all the covers of his own songs which have been recorded, his favorite is Fiona Apple’s extraordinary live rendition of his song “I Want You.” It took it to a whole other realm right there in real-time, with Elvis on guitar. It was a place he referred to as “Lady Macbeth territory” for its fevered dramatics.
Fiona Apple is an astounding songwriter herself, and has already written a great songbook of gems which reflect that singular, soulful realm. She knows a lot about how to inhabit a song fully in the moment, as if she’s lived inside of it, the way a songwriter feels about their own song. To a songwriter, their own song – and every song – is more than words and music randomly wed. It is an expedition of discovery and expression, shaped by modern times and all that is, as Dylan wrote, blowing in the wind.
“Across The Universe,” despite its mystic dimensions, was borne out of mundane reality. Lennon admitted to Peter Scheff in the 1980 Playboy interview that it was triggered by frustration with his then-wife, Cynthia.
“I was lying next to my first wife in bed, you know, ” he said, “and I was irritated, and I was thinking. She must have been going on and on about something and she’d gone to sleep and I kept hearing these words over and over, flowing like an endless stream.
“I went downstairs,” he said, “and it turned into a sort of cosmic song rather than an irritated song. Rather than a `Why are you always mouthing off at me?’ [The words] were purely inspirational and were given to me as boom! I don’t own it, you know; it came through like that.”
He recorded it twice. The first was for the World Wildlife Fun, recorded with The Beatles, and then reinvented during the Let It Be filming and included on Let It Be. As he told David Scheff, Lennon had no love for this recording of the song.
“The Beatles didn’t make a good record of ‘Across the Universe,’” he said. “I thought Paul subconsciously tried to destroy my great songs. We would play experimental games with my great pieces, like ‘Strawberry Fields,’ which I always felt was badly recorded. It worked, but it wasn’t what it could have been. I allowed it, though.
“We would spend hours doing little, detailed cleaning up on Paul’s songs,” Lennon said, “but when it came to mine… somehow an atmosphere of looseness and experimentation would come up… The same thing happened to ‘Across the Universe.’ The song was never done properly. The words stand, luckily.”
Fiona Apple has done it properly, with great fidelity to the original writing, though with a different groove – which is slow and soulful – and a slight melodic variation on one meandering line – as all our fellow Beatlemaniacs will instantly notice. And yet it works. It is beautiful.
She recorded it for the soundtrack to the 1998 film Pleasantville, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who also directed the remarkable video for the song.
Critically-acclaimed British R&B/soul artist to watch Kara Marni has released “Trippin (Tripped Out Soul Mix)” – a special collaboration with the legendary Verdine White of the GRAMMY-award winning group Earth, Wind & Fire. The track is a soul rework of her feel-good R&B anthem “Trippin,” which samples Amerie’s “1 Thing” and teases what’s to come from her third EP due out this spring.
Verdine recruited fellow Earth, Wind & Fire band member John Paris as well as GRAMMY-award winning producer Neal Pogue (Outkast) to rework “Trippin” with him. The three used live instrumentation at a studio in Los Angeles to deliver their distinctive soul jazz-infused sound giving the song a whole new energy and vibe.
Speaking about Kara, Verdine says:
I love Kara’s musical style. She’s an incredibly talented young lady and did a great job re-doing Amerie’s ‘1 Thing.’ Once I listened to ‘Trippin,’ it was an easy yes to collaborate—her voice is beautiful. I loved the record and wanted something we could all swing to. Working on this remix remotely was a different process but the energy and excitement from Kara made it seem as if she was in the room with us.
Throughout her short career so far, Marni has accumulated more than 50 million career streams and is a mainstay of the major pop and R&B playlists including Spotify’s Chill Hits and This Is How We Do as well as A List: R&B on Apple Music. Her two EPs, No Logic and Love Just Ain’t Enough, led to radio support from BBC Radio 1Xtra, where her single “Lose My Love” spent 5 weeks on the A-list. Kara’s debut performance at the Live Lounge went global after reaching 20 million Instagram users in one weekend. She capped off a busy international festival season in 2019 by headlining Glastonbury’s Pussy Parlure stage and sold-out her first-ever UK and European headline tour. Kara was spotlighted in “Ones To Watch” features by Vogue and Complex, won “Best Female Act” at the 2020 Urban Music Awards and holds the title for the most engaged performance in the Vevo DSCVR series.
From 1964 to at least 1967, the Supremes helped define the sound of Motown and, by extension, the sound of mainstream American pop. The trio worked closely with the songwriter-producer team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland to perfect a musical blueprint; an ideal blend of hard and soft — drums like jackhammers, cymbals like sword fights, and harmonies like whipped cream. Diana Ross sang lead, of course, while Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard handled backup, pulling from a formidable, constantly shifting arsenal of “whoa-ohs,” “whoo-oohs,” “yeah-yeahs,” “baby-baby’s,” and “help, help me’s” to accentuate their singles’ pearly melodies and soften all that clobbering percussion.
After Wilson’s death on Monday at age 76, Dozier spoke with Rolling Stone about meeting the Supremes, arguing with Wilson over “Where Did Our Love Go,” and her role as “the glue” in the group.
I got the call this morning early about Mary Wilson. It shocked me, of course. Mary has always been one of those types working and thriving; she’s always up and going at ’em, looking for the next hill to climb.
She was the glue that kept the Supremes together when we had problems in the studio. We had times we used to argue about the songs or whatever parts we should sing. She would always look at the big picture and try to get everyone to settle down and do the job; thinking about our careers more than all this noise you’re making. She was good at that, getting everyone together. And she had a good-sounding voice; a sound of her own. She was the sexy one of the group, you might say. I recorded her voice on a couple of songs. She was in the background, holding her own; holding up whatever background we came up with.
When I first heard about the Supremes, they were like 16- or 17-year-old girls that used to hang around the studio all the time trying to get somebody to record them. Once they got the deal, a few of the producers did record songs on them. Little or nothing happened until the Holland Brothers and myself got together and started working with them. “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” was a Top 25 song.
I came up with the music and some of the lyrics. Brian [Holland] was the recording engineer and he came up with some music as well. Eddie [Holland] would write the lyrics; we’d give him whatever lyrics that I had started. Brian and I would go back to the piano trying to come up with something while he was recording the voices. The songs were all about unrequited love, people getting their hearts broken, dealing with terrible guys and playboys. Love songs, basically.
I remember Mary and I having a little argument about this song I came up with called “Where Did Our Love Go.” She thought it was crap. She got that from Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes. I had tried to get them to do it. After that didn’t work, I told Mary, “You know, I got this song I wrote especially for you.” She said, “You liar! Gladys told me this is a piece of crap you’re trying to peddle off on us.” But we talked her and Flo and Diana into doing it.
That night we were in the studio, and it was crazy. They were arguing, Diana was crying, she didn’t like the song. The key wasn’t right, this wasn’t right. I had worked out some plush background parts and they didn’t like that, so I said we’ll do something simple: “Baby baby.” Lo and behold, after we got the song together on tape, Diana ran off and went to Berry in his office. He came down and listened and said, “Wait a minute, this sounds like it could be a hit.” As a matter of fact, we’re gonna get ready to put this out next week. We put it out next week and it shot up the charts. It was shocking how fast it did that around the world. That made the Supremes a household name.
Then it was one hit after another: Number One, Number One, Number One. Once we hit that magic formula, we rode it to the top every time. We couldn’t lose. It was a lot of late nights, working til three or four in the morning, trying to rush out a song or get an album together before they had to leave on another tour. It went on like that for quite a few years, never missing a beat.
[Holland, Holland and I] left Motown [in 1968] and started our own company, Invictus, distributed by Capitol. We had a number of hits at that label with Freda Payne and Chairmen of the Board; the hits kept coming. Eventually the three of us decided to go our separate ways. I wanted to continue my singing career. I signed up with ABC-Dunhill; they gave me a deal I couldn’t refuse. I took it and moved to California, started making records for myself.
[Mary and I] would still run into each other from time to time, meet each other at a dinner or a club that everyone went to. We didn’t stay in contact that much. Once in a while, I would go by her house in Detroit and we’d sit around and talk about what everyone talks about: figuring out what our next move would be with our career. Before the pandemic hit, she had a new group of Supremes who would go out and perform in various places, over in England or over in Japan. She always worked. She was always pushing to keep her brand going, keep the Supremes going.
Everybody loved Mary, and everybody appreciated her optimism and her drive. If you had a problem, she would talk you out of it, make you feel like you should hold your head high and stop feeling sorry for yourself. That was why it was such a shock for me that she would go so soon. I thought she would live to be 100.
The newest radio documentary from Ingles, it celebrates the 50th anniversary of this landmark album
Tapestry Turns 50, Part One
To kick off our series of stories celebrating the spirit, achievement, success and timeless greatness of Carole King’s landmark Tapestry album, which becomes 50 years old tomorrow, February 10, we are sharing this today, as it’s the perfect way to get this party started. It’s a link to Paul Ingles’ great new two-hour radio documentary about Tapestry, and a conversation with Paul about Carole King and the phenomenon triggered by this album.
Ingles is a great song champion; his rich, reverent and beautifully musical radio documentaries about our heroes – such as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and John Prine – are always beautiful and compelling. Now comes this tribute to Tapestry.
As always, Ingles has interviewed a host of musicians, music-writers, experts and more (including myself and also American Songwriter frequent contributor Holly Gleason), and woven their reflections in with the songs themselves to create a two-part two-hour show. As with his others, this is a fun ride, and also a genuinely poignant one, as it evokes not only the music, but that time from which it emerged.
Though Ingles is usually the guy asking the questions, he kindly answered several about this show, this artist, and this mission of honoring great songwriters and musicians in his work.
AMERICAN SONGWRITER: How do you look at Carole King’s legacy and place in music history?
PAUL INGLES: Carole King’s early contributions to rock and pop, crafting the music to Gerry Goffin’s lyrics in the 1960’s, were overwhelmingly prolific. Like Anthony DeCurtis said in our special, I am still discovering songs that she co-wrote from that era that I didn’t know about. The latest was “Going Back,” which I heard Nils Lofgren do last year. Sure enough, when I looked to see who wrote it, it was Goffin and King.
And then as she bravely stepped forward as a solo artist, it’s impossible not to see how she, with a smallish cadre of colleagues, essentially designed the singer-songwriter baton that has since been passed along to several generations of artists.
And the mere length of time that Tapestry stayed on the charts, like six years, is, by itself, slam-dunk evidence of how important an album it was throughout the 1970s and moving forward.
Anytime I hear your shows, I am surprised by the power of certain songs, even all these years later. When you do these shows, does that happen to you?
Every one of these deep-dive adventures that I do have me uncovering songs I hadn’t heard before, and re-discovering the power of songs I thought I did know. I purposely try not to just play the hits that everyone knows. Of course, in this case, I was trying to cover the whole Tapestry album, but even within those, there were new appreciations.
Sometimes it’s the comments from my panelists that expose for me the deeper level that I intuitively felt but hadn’t tried to articulate. That is actually the point of the whole exercise. To have careful ears and articulate voices describe why this music, that we casually and generically classify as “great”, is specifically great.
I love, example, how both Ann Powers and Holly Gleason elevated the civility and sincerity of Carole’s delivery of Toni Stern’s lyrics in “It’s Too Late.” Holly calls it “bloodless” and Ann says “It’s not cruel or angry. It’s just pure regret.”
Having had a few amicable break-ups in my life, I can attest to this song being a purely perfect expression of the necessity of moving on while making a compelling case for not burning down the whole relationship. Then “You’ve Got A Friend” comes along a few songs later and you’re thinking, she could be talking to the same person “It’s Too Late” was talking to earlier.
And Carole’s Writer version of “Up On The Roof” — it always makes me tear up anyway, especially since seeing James Taylor sing it to Carole and her Kennedy Center Honors show, but this time, when Holly Gleason pointed out that “anyone who spent time in a big city knows the song is about survival, and knows it like the back of their hand,” and I place that quote just before Carole sings, “At night the stars put on a show for free…” I just get misty. That combo of the music scholars’ comments woven into the song to underscore the emotion of the experience, that’s what I’m going for.
I hadn’t remembered hearing “Believe in Humanity” before researching songs for this show and it turned into the perfect song to end the show. Especially a live version that was on her Ode compilation where she segues to her “Fantasy End” lyrics from the Fantasy album.
Now that I’ve expressed my soul I’ll step back into my real-life role And hope that I’ve brought you back across the line You may think there’s nothing you can do To change what’s all too true But all you have to do is use your mind.
In fantasy, you can be, anything you want to be And someday our reality will be As good as Never Never Land.
From “Fantasy,” Words & Music by Carole King
Since Carole was both an artist and also a hit songwriter with Gerry Goffin before becoming an artist, was her story harder to relate than others?
No. Her story is unique because of her purposeful period when she wrote for others with no expectation of performing herself. Others, like Joni, Dylan or Jackson Browne, benefited from other established artists recording their songs to bring more attention to themselves, early on. There are some similarities there, but Carole’s story is pretty special the way it unfolded.
Was there anything you learned about her that was unexpected? Although I didn’t bring it forward in the special, I was moved that she seemed to make a point to record at least one Goffin-King collaboration on almost all of her albums. She seemed to always be looking back compassionately and appreciatively at her time with Gerry, or maybe even helping him financially by including those titles on her albums.
I didn’t realize she’d recorded four albums in little over two years from 1971 to 1973. Then she wisely stepped back and dialed it back from that hectic pace that might have totally burned her up and out.
Your editing of these shows, and the loving way you fold in the music, is always great. How long does it take you to create a show?
I usually record between 30 minutes to an hour with each of my guest commentators. Then I comb through the raw material and pull out what seem like the gems of observation and trim them down to a manageable length,perhaps helping my guest make their point even more succinctly.
Then it’s a matter of dropping that thought into the show before, during or after a song that totally serves as an example of their point. I’ll come up with a usually-too-long “director’s cut” and then chip away at it, editing it down to a suitable broadcast length of one or two hours.
With the Carole King show, I spent one week getting the interviews done, and a second week for eight 12- hour days to finish in time for this week’s 50th anniversary of the Tapestry album.
In this case, I decided later than usual to do the show once I saw, (in American Songwriter’s Legends issue, that the anniversary of the album was February 10, I had to step on it to get it finished. I can work fast if I have to, and have in the past.
Other projects are spread out over longer periods of time. I’ve been working on my Emergence of Jackson Browne for a couple of years, gathering interviews and waiting to talk with Jackson. That will happen soon and I’ll get a program on his journey out when his new album is released in full in June.
When one of the greats passes away, like last year when Justin Townes Earle, Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver all passed fairly close together, I was able to get a few interviews on each and get the programs done in a few days.
When one of the greats passes away, like last year when Justin Townes Earle, Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver all passed fairly close together, I was able to get a few interviews on each and get the programs done in a few days.
As I’ve described it before, I think of these shows like docent-led museum tours. A good docent will tell you a few stories about a particular painting, then step back and give you time to experience the art for yourself. I try to follow a similar formula in stitching together these programs – and play as much of the full song as I possibly can. That’s why my programs sometimes stretch to two or three hours. I offer radio stations a tighter one-hour edit usually because it’s hard even to get them to devote an hour away from their regular programming to run one of these specials, let alone two hours.
But the longer versions are always available at www,prx.org for the real fans to get the full effect that I intend.
Luke Combs and Maren Morris are set to participate in a joint online Q&A session February 17th during Country Radio Seminar that will focus on accountability and their roles as artists. Country Radio Seminar 2021, being held as a virtual event due to the Covid-19 pandemic, takes place February 16th to 19th.
Moderated by critic Ann Powers, the conversation will take a look at what this new generation of stars like Combs and Morris see as their responsibilities, as well as addressing country music’s problematic past and reshaping it for the better. Registered attendees to CRS 2021: The Virtual Experience can view the session at 4 p.m. ET on February 17th. Registrations are available on the CRS website.
The event arrives in the middle of a momentous week for country artists, with Morgan Wallen being pulled from the playlists of radio conglomerates and other platforms over his use of a racial slur on Sunday. Earlier this week, Combs had been the target of online discussion when older photos of him surfaced that included Confederate flag imagery. Combs has yet to comment on the images.
CRS 2021 also includes Luke Bryan as the subject of the annual CRS Artist Interview, label-sponsored performances, and the New Faces showcase featuring Tenille Arts, Travis Denning, Ashley McBryde, Hardy, and Matt Stell.