J. RODDY WALSTON & THE BUSINESS: WILD MEN ON THE ROAD

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2014 by midliferocker

j roddy

When you see J. Roddy Walston attack his piano at live shows with his band The Business, you have to wonder what intense childhood experiences or wild and crazy influences fostered this nearly insane yet fabulously wonderful performance style. Or maybe it was just grandma.

“My grandmother had a [piano] at her house,” Walston said. “She was this really great gospel-slash-country piano player so she would teach us to play. I sat for hours with her trying to learn to play old gospel tunes like ‘Will The Circle Go Unbroken’ and stuff like that. She was on the gospel circuit in the South for a long time. I remember my grandfather loading up the old Town Car with her and her sisters and traveling to churches to play.”

So credit his granny for instilling a love for an instrument that became an important cog in the success of Walston and his band, who just released their third record “Essential Tremors.”  The album’s title alludes to a nervous-system disorder that makes Walston’s hands shake periodically. As far as shaking on the piano, or his guitar for that matter, I mean, just watching Walston attack songs as his churning bandmates throw down a powerful Southern-based dirty rock groove makes you feel that good ol’ kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll remains alive and well. Think Followill-esque vocals with a harder edge to the band than KOL.

So as far as the ivories, who are Walston’s piano heroes? Well, the “Killer” is in there of course, but so is another piano pioneer.

“I love Jerry Lee, but I think song-wise my favorite piano guy is Fats Domino ‘cuz I think he kinda slays it as far as arrangements and just his vibe,” Walston said from the road. “Performance-wise he and Jerry are it. They’re performing for people, but they’re both lost inside some weird spirit-slash-animal place or something. I don’t know what it is that happens to those guys or that it’s anything like what happens to me or us onstage. You kinda feel that people are there but you’re kinda more working out somethin’ on your own, ya know?”

And for a band like Walston’s Business, 11 years of relentless touring is part and parcel of their hard-fought success. It’s where the rubber meets the road, literally and figuratively.

“Touring has basically been what our band is. If we stop touring, people stop talking about us. And when you’re a band that’s trying to get over the hump, you can’t have people stop talking about you,” Walston said. “We did five years of almost non-stop touring, and by the end of that we were definitely ready to be off the road. But then we were off the road for about a year writing this new record, and by the end of that, everybody was confused. We were like, ‘What are we? Are we still a band?’ Touring is sort of in our DNA so it was confusing for a lot of us. It was strange for us not to sit in each other’s stink for eight hours a day.”

Walston’s Tennessee roots naturally throw him and his band into a Southern music category of sorts, but that certainly doesn’t limit them to sounding like Southern rockers.

“This (new) record overall may be a little less ‘Southern-y’, but to me, rock ‘n’ roll is from the South,” Walston said. “People say Southern Rock and mainly think of the Allman Brothers, but James Brown, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Stax, Big Star — all of them are ‘the South,’  they’re no less Southern as far as I’m concerned.”

The reckless abandon that Walston exhibits in his live shows makes every performance special. Overall you feel like you’re seeing a band on the brink of breaking out in a huge way, a band that has paid its dues and deserves the rewards that come from a tried-and-true rock ‘n’ roll tradition: working their collective asses off.

“We had a very long time to figure out what it is that we do and to continue to keep it fresh,” Walston said. “We don’t even travel with a sound guy or anything like that, so every night is different. At this point, I’ve never had a moment when we’re walking on stage and I’m like, ‘I hope we can figure out what to do.’ I always feel that we are ready.”

TRIGGER HIPPY: LIFE AFTER THE CROWES

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2014 by midliferocker

trigger hippy logo Is there life after The Black Crowes? Steve Gorman’s superb new band proves that there sure is.  

By Steve Houk

So what do you do for an encore after you play drums for 15 years in one of the world’s biggest rock bands? Steve Gorman, an original member of rock heavyweights The Black Crowes, did what alot of great musicians do who still have their chops (and their faculties) after such a run — he started his own band.

And a damn good band at that. Trigger Hippy, who plays the Birchmere August 17th, is an idea Gorman and buddy Nick Govrik had for a few years, one that they weren’t sure they could ever get going.

“I think the first time I ever played with (Nick), I said, ‘Man, we gotta start a real band,” Gorman told me from his home in Nashville. “And he said ‘Yeah we should.’ Well you say that alot and then you move on. But it was something that for the both of us was always in the back of our heads. And so in 2009, we were still tryin’, but the Crowes were so busy from ’05 through ’10 that the scheduling was impossible. In 2010 I knew the Crowes were gonna take a break, and I said, ‘Hey look, now’s the time if you’re interested,’ and we had always thrown song ideas at each other, you know, we had this two years of an idea really seriously germinating.”

So when it looked like the Crowes were coming to a triumphant (and in some ways, welcome) end after 25 years of taking the world by storm, Gorman was finally able to make Trigger Hippy a reality, the only issue was rounding out the band. First, a lead singer was needed, and after grappling with who to recruit, Gorman realized the perfect choice was pretty much right in front of him.

“I was in the car one day and I heard ‘Right Hand Man’ by Joan Osborne“, Gorman said. “Joan and I had been friends forever, and in two years of seriously thinking about this, I never once thought about a female singer. But I heard one note of that song and thought, ‘Oh my God, what’s wrong with me? Joan would be perfect for this.’ I called her the next day and I was like, ‘What’s goin’ on? I haven’t talked to you in forever’, it was a nice catch up, ya know, ‘How’s your kid?’ and ‘My kids are great’ and ‘Anyway, ya wanna start a band?’ She was luckily at a point where she had been putting alot of thought into that very thing, like, it’s hard to be the name on the ticket, it’s hard to just constantly be the artist, everything’s on her shoulders as Joan Osborne. She said, ‘It’s so funny, I’ve been thinking lately, I just wish I was a singer in a band.’ And I said, ‘Well, here it is, let’s go.’ “

And Osborne jumped at the chance, flying to Nashville two months later. The next piece of the puzzle was also someone Gorman knew — talented (and briefly Black Crowes interim) guitarist/singer/keyboardist Jackie Greene. But it wasn’t until Greene and Osborne were sitting together at an early rehearsal that the vision of the band became crystal clear to Gorman. It wouldn’t be the jam band he envisioned, it would be more of a vocal based band, given the sheer vocal talent he had on hand.

“(Jackie and Joan) were just sitting there off to the side singing,” Gorman said, “It was like, ‘Did you ever hear that song by so and so?’ and he would start to sing it and she would just harmonize, and there was that moment, ya know, like in a bad movie about bands, when we all looked at each other and went, ‘Holy shit!’ I’d love to say it was by design, that this was the vision we always had, but it wasn’t that at all, it was really a great happy accident to go, ‘Oh wait, you guys sound amazing together!’  It just fell into place, like literally overnight. The next day we all got back in the room, and we were wholly on our way to being a real band.”

The current lineup of Trigger Hippy: (L-R) Tom Bukovac, Joan Osborne, Nick Govrik, Steve Gorman and Jackie Greene (photo by Paul Natkin)

The current lineup of Trigger Hippy: (L-R) Tom Bukovac, Joan Osborne, Nick Govrik, Steve Gorman and Jackie Greene (photo by Paul Natkin)

After playing a few gigs with respected musicians like current Widespread Panic/former Allman Brothers & Furthur guitarist Jimmy Herring,  they were still looking for that last cog in the machine that would solidify the band, and Gorman was elated when one of Nashville’s top session men, guitarist Tom Bukovac, agreed to come on full time.

“We knew we hadn’t found the fifth person yet, we’d had a couple guys play with us and they were great and it was fun, but you could tell they were treating it more like a gig, and we were getting seriously minded about it. I called Tom praying he would say yes to playing a few gigs with us, I really never thought he would say, ‘I’d like to do this’ because I just didn’t think that was possible. But we did three gigs and after the third gig, he walked up to me and Joan and said, ‘Alright, what’s next? What are we gonna do?’ and we coulda just cried, we were so happy. That’s when we started workin’.”

Finally, Trigger Hippy are ready to spread their wings, their first full album of soul-infused rock is due out in September, and Gorman couldn’t be happier. Why? Just Google the name and you’ll find a dozen live videos that show the band’s power and promise, from solid original tunes to covers like The Beatles‘ “Don’t Let Me Down”, the Grateful Dead‘s “Sugaree” and Neil Young‘s “Southern Man.” So as Trigger Hippy begins their journey, does Gorman think his legendary first band will ever come a’ callin’ to pull him away from this exciting new venture?

“I don’t think so. I’ve thought that before, but if you go see Chris (Robinson, The Black Crowes’ lead singer) he’s very happy doing what he’s doing. But I haven’t given the Black Crowes a second thought since that last tour ended. We had a really good year last year, everyone was respectful of each other. We got along as well as we needed to and I thought the shows were good, so when it ended, I just felt like, that was great, see you guys later, perfect. Now my sole musical focus is Trigger Hippy. Time to move on.”

Steve Gorman (far left) and Trigger Hippy play live in Fairfield CT earlier this year (photo by Chad Anderson)

Steve Gorman (far left) and Trigger Hippy play live in Fairfield CT earlier this year (photo by Chad Anderson)

Trigger Hippy appears Sunday August 17th at The Birchmere, 3701 Mt Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305. For tickets, click here

BRUCE COCKBURN: MUSIC FROM THE COSMOS

Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2014 by midliferocker

BRUCE-COCKBURN-photo-credit-Kevin-Kelly-12DK8884 (1)

Talking to the brilliant Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn, you get the standard share of chit chat about what he’s up to, when we might get a long awaited new record (he’ll finally be able get to it now that he has wrapped up his memoir) and what’s the skinny with the current tour (he starts it off solo followed by a month playing with his trio, including a gig at the legendary Birchmere on August 21st).

But one thing is certain about a conversation with Cockburn: he never wallows in everyday musician minutia. Mention his faith as it relates to his songwriting, for example, and whoa, you’re hit between the eyes and the brain with some of the most thought-provoking revelations that you’ll ever hear from anyone, let alone a world class musician. Just check THIS out.

“When I read the news and look around at a lot of the crap that goes on in the world, it doesn’t seem like a very loving place,” Cockburn said. “But somehow the cosmos is filled with love. And whether you attach that to a set of religious beliefs or not, or whether you want to view it in strictly materialistic terms, it’s the action of cosmic rays on your microtubules…or whatever…it doesn’t change it.  And I feel like what’s good about that, from someone else’s point of view, is because I’ve been given the ability, such as it is, to write songs, and I can share it with people whose skepticism parallels my own. I didn’t grow up in a faith – it’s different for people who grew up believing.”

That pretty much defines Bruce Cockburn. You ask a question and you get…an answer. He is just like that, very down to earth and affable, yet also existing somewhere high up in the cosmos, wielding his masterful songwriting and guitar playing gifts in an ongoing ethereal journey into the depths of man’s faith, spirit, struggles and triumphs. And lucky for us, he’s been passing on his passionate visions to his audience for 40 years now through a sweepingly poetic and majestic tapestry of rock, jazz and folk landscapes. It’s material that certainly rivals the overall prowess of fellow Canadian songwriting icons like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, though unlike them, he’s remained just under the radar of the masses. But he is equally revered by those who have taken the time to drink in his brilliance.

Cockburn, 69, has quietly spent the last four decades creating his own brand of unique and unforgettable music, around 25 albums worth, that spans the spectrum of moods and topics, from love to war; from human rights to the environment; from wondering what he’d do if he had a rocket launcher to wondering if a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear it? No matter what the genre, theme or style, Cockburn has put his indelible and unique stamp on it. Lucky for his fans, right now his personal footprint is as prominent as ever, with an excellent film bio “Pacing The Cage” recently out on DVD. “There should have been somebody in the film who said ‘Ahh, the guy’s a piece of shit’ to give it an edge,” Cockburn quips, “but given that’s not there, it went pretty well I think.” His aforementioned memoir “Rumours of Glory” is due out November 4th.

Cockburn is a product of the musically and politically explosive ’60s, where after a brief stint at the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston, he spent time in a couple fledgling Canadian bands, and then in 1968 branched out on his own; he’s been flying solo ever since. But that was no surprise to Cockburn, who could see the songwriting on the wall early on.

“Toward the end of the ['60s], I felt like I had this body of material that just sounded better when I did it alone than with any of the bands that I was playing with,” Cockburn said. “And I was getting tired of the noise. It was a combination of the sort of fatigue that comes from having to compromise musically all the time, and having no money. I realized that as well as this core group of songs sounding better solo, that I’d be more mobile and flexible and able to do everything that came up. I knew that I was gonna quit at some point, and step out on my own, and that’s kinda what happened.”

Since his humble beginnings in those struggling bands warming up heavies like Cream, Jim Hendrix and the Lovin Spoonful, but never gaining traction, the solo Cockburn has built a sizable core following worldwide with exhaustive touring, intimately addressing subjects both very personal and  highly political, while also becoming a passionate advocate for a myriad of important causes. But it’s almost impossible to say what Bruce Cockburn is more accomplished at: writing incredibly well-crafted songs, singing in a distinctive voice unlike any other, or playing  like a virtuoso on guitar. Well, a variety of guitars actually. The first time I saw him live back in the ’80s in NYC, he was surrounded by 10 to 12 emerald green guitars of different shapes and sizes, and he played every one of them better than the one before. It was a stunning introduction to what has become a 30-year Cockburn fascination.

As for the Cockburn songwriting process, it begins with his luminous and expansive thoughts and images, and then the glorious music he creates becomes the bed the lyrics lie upon. “It starts with words, and then the music has to create a field in which those words can exist,” Cockburn told me from California recently. “I often compare it to scoring a film, where you have images, you have situations, you have whatever that needs to be supported by the music, but not distracted by it. That’s the challenge and that’s the starting point of how to go at it. I’ll play around with the guitar as much as I can and things pop up. Sometimes it’s just the lyrics sitting there, and then I just grab a guitar and start hunting for things that work.”

Photo by Michelle Ruby

Photo by Michelle Ruby

Cockburn is in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and is a member of the Order of Canada, accolades he certainly appreciates. But amid the high recognition and adoration from his devoted fan base, Cockburn has grappled with big questions, like those surrounding his perspectives on religion, of which there is a thread throughout some of his work. Ultimately he chooses to use his music to start the conversation and then let others finish it to see how it affects them, rather than foist his opinions on the listener.

“My parents did their best to teach us to be Christians, but their faith was not deep,” Cockburn said. “They tried and they dropped away from it themselves and so did we. You get all the trappings, the language, and the imagery, but not the meaning. I had that in common with most of my peers, and most of us had this skepticism about traditional religion. So my own experience, to the extent I can convey that, can say to people, hey look, there’s more to this than we thought, and it’s worth paying attention to. Even in the most materialistic world view, there is still that capacity for ecstasy in the face of the scale of the cosmos.”

 

STEVE HACKETT: REVIVING GENESIS

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 24, 2014 by midliferocker
Courtesy Lee Millward

Courtesy Lee Millward

The late 60’s-early 70’s, it was a time of explosive and profound musical experimentation. The Beatles were leading the charge into “progressive” rock music and would inspire many of their peers to use both their expanding minds as well as new technology to create music that was uniquely powerful, that was new, that was, well, different.

“I was a huge Beatles fan, and they really set the template for what we called ‘progressive’ music,” says Steve Hackett, legendary guitarist for progressive rock kings Genesis from 1971 to 1977. “The most interesting period of the Beatles for musicians is basically ‘Revolver’ through ‘Sgt. Pepper’ through ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’ That was the golden period for production, ideas, the beginning of what was being called ‘progressive.’ Much of what followed with British music was in the wake of that. I owe a huge debt to the Beatles.”

But as Hackett remembers, the same people who were profoundly influencing him and his bandmates were also becoming their admirers during the same time period. “Genesis has been through a number of incarnations, but that 1970s era truly inspired other musicians, not just rock musicians, but ones in other areas and in other genres,” Hackett said. “Back then, bands like Weather Report listened to us, and we listened to them. John Lennon even said he liked us. And it’s that era of the band that was really respected that I’m taking on the road.”

Hackett has taken the very best of the Genesis music from that influential period — a period where he helped mold the band’s sound and direction — and crafted it into a tour calledGenesis Extended,” a concert experience that even the most diehard Genesis fans say is as good as the original band, if they were to get back together. Or maybe even better, given Hackett’s profound influence on the band during the seven years he was one of their driving forces, and also the fact that he hasn’t seemed to have lost even a step on guitar. The current incarnation of the show hits the Lincoln Theater this Wednesday night.

Hackett, 64, cites not only the Beatles but a diverse group of influences for helping shape his musical direction, from early on in his life, up to when he was a full fledged musician. “Early on, I got hooked on two different kinds of music,” Hackett told me from his recording studio in England. “I listened to pop from a very very early age, and as I was growing up, much of the music I listened to was classical music. I didn’t have any formal training, but my father played several instruments. Then I think when I was 12, I found myself listening to a lot of radio, some of it the work of pure genius, like the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Del Shannon, The Shadows, The Ventures, and Jan and Dean and The Beach Boys. Of course The Beatles and the Stones. It all just took off for us in such a huge way.

“Then in 1965, I got to hear (classical guitarist Andres) Segovia play,” he continued, “and suddenly, that was another revolution for me. It’s a bit like going through the turnstiles and suddenly life was never the same again after I’d heard that. I was completely besotted by that. For many years I was learning these main three licks I was picking up, from Chuck Berry to Keith Richards and so on. I never imagined I’d be adopting the articulations and the harmonies like on the stuff from Segovia. Rock music started to amalgamate and change itself, and many bands had started to do things in the wake of what the Beatles had done.”

Genesis in the early 70's (Clockwise from bottom: Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford)

Genesis in the early 70’s (Clockwise from bottom: Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford)

Hackett joined Genesis in 1971 after being approached by Peter Gabriel, who had seen Hackett’s “guitar for hire” ad in Melody Maker magazine, and he immediately made an impact on their sound with the release of the band’s ’71 album “Nursery Cryme.” Over the course of the next five years, he help define the band’s sound. However, although he is very grateful for the time he had with the band, Hackett felt increasingly disposable. Much of his material was dismissed and his overall role diminished, largely by what he intimates were larger egos and a one-sided process.

“Being a part of taking the band from free shows and clubs to doing stadiums was pretty amazing,” Hackett said. “We managed to totally expand the fortunes of the band during a six-year period, 1971 through ’77. Six and a half years of my life were in the middle of that. I was really hot to keep the [momentum] flowing with Genesis but felt that the band wasn’t evenly balanced. I felt like I was kind of just another member of the band, just another guitarist. What I really felt like doing was to be a tad more virtuosic and collaborative. So I really don’t think I could have stayed with it. There were changes in the air, plus it was a bit easy to get into a confrontation, and things were just not solved democratically. But I was privileged to work with great, great people.”

Life after Genesis has been plentiful. Hackett has recorded several solo albums, formed a short-lived yet successful supergroup called GTR with Yes’ Steve Howe, and consistently took on side projects and guest spots while also embarking on different incarnations of  the “Genesis Revisited” tour. Participating in a Genesis reunion has always been something that has been bandied about. Hackett’s been interested, but it has never come to fruition for him largely because of one main factor: Peter Gabriel’s involvement, or lack thereof. “I was approached in 2005 to be part of the Genesis reunion,” Hackett said, “and for me, it was going to be both Peter Gabriel and myself, or it wasn’t going to happen. That was a condition made to the other guys. But there was no real offer. I mean I’ve been extremely flexible about this, but I might be waiting a lifetime and it may never happen. I actually saw Mike and Tony last week at a lunch for Mike’s biography, and I asked them if they were going to reform with Phil, and both of them said, ‘Oh I don’t know, doesn’t look like it.’ So they don’t even know any more than I do.”

“But that’s part of the reason that I decided to go out and play what I thought was the best music of the band, those early years, and when I play these concerts,” Hackett continued. “I get feedback from people about songs they absolutely adore, so I’ve made that the music of “Genesis Extended.”

Hackett has stayed vital and active, playing both his own music and that of his epic band, and his revered guitarist status remains intact. And even though he is bringing that classic old Genesis music to fans all over the world on this current tour, he says he is on an even bigger quest, one he seems firmly dedicated to. “Seems to me that music’s gotta broaden out, and if I’ve got a mission in life, it’s to rid people of prejudice against all the things they think they don’t like. So that’s my calling,” he said.

HUMBLY CARRYING THE ROCK AND ROLL TORCH

Posted in Uncategorized on January 17, 2014 by midliferocker

derek Rock music’s current guitar master Derek Trucks triumphs with his new band while paying homage to those who came before.

By Steve Houk

I want to be Derek Trucks. I mean, I like who I am, mostly. But to be Derek Trucks right now? Wow. For starters, he’s co-leader of  the Grammy-winning Tedeschi Trucks Band with his wife, blues siren Susan Tedeschi. He’s also trading solos, at least for the time being, with mentor and friend Warren Haynes as part of the legendary Allman Brothers Band. And he often sits in with admirers like Eric Clapton, with whom he has toured as co-guitarist several times. Heck, he even played the White House with other guitar greats like B.B. King, Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy and others not that long ago, paying tribute to the blues and jamming in front of a swaying POTUS.

So, with all this success, glory, admiration and reverence, what does Derek Trucks call his favorite thing in the world? Home.

“There’s a few things really, I guess it’s kinda tough to pick number one,” Trucks told me from St. Louis recently. “But we were just home for about a week and a half — which is rare for me — and being home for baseball practice and baseball games, my son is 11 [he also has a 9-year-old daughter], and walking up to the bus stop, man, those are the simple things that I think are hard to beat. Or havin’ a cigar on your back porch, little glass of rum [laughs], there’s nothing wrong with that either.”

Yep, add a palpable air of down-home Southern humility and a dash of genuine sincerity to this guy’s already envious life resume, and you really have someone who’s got it all. Watching this virtuoso play, even hearing him speak, there is such an effortlessness about him. Even when his slide guitar screams like a modern-day Elmore James (his slide idol), or when he masterfully plucks previously untouchable Duane Allman solos out of the air like no one has since Allman’s death in 1971 (Derek was named for the ’70s Clapton/Allman supergroup Derek and the Dominoes), he seems so at ease and so comfortable in his own skin, it’s stunning, even disarming. Not a bad way to be, though, for arguably the greatest rock guitarist of the modern era and carrier of the ever-burning rock-and-roll torch.

Right now,  the Tedeschi Trucks Band is in the midst of a barn-burner of a tour that includes a January 25th stop at Washington’s Warner Theater. They continue to wow audiences with Trucks’ soaring guitar, Tedeschi’s sublime blues vocals and a killer band to, well, beat the band. The couple, who married in 2001, combined their talents three years or so ago, leaving successful solo bands to form a unit that speaks to both of their impressive strengths. A risky move for some, but it seems to have paid off in spades.

Derek Trucks and wife and bandmate Susan Tedeschi (courtesy Mark Seliger)

Derek Trucks and wife and bandmate Susan Tedeschi (courtesy Mark Seliger)

“We had been tossing the idea around for years. It was unspoken. We’d both been thinkin’ about it,” Trucks said. “But I think for me, when the Clapton tour was done and I was trying to get the Allman Brothers to tour a bit less and just focus on one thing, I’d been with my solo band for about 14 years. I think I was 14 or 15 years old when we formed it. I was getting to a point where I was ready for a change. I never want to get stuck doin’ somethin’ that doesn’t feel like it did when you first did it. I just felt that comin’ to the point with [my solo band]. I was at such a great point musically and personally with everybody that it was a great time to kinda move on.”

And move on he has, right from the get go. The TTB’s 2011 debut album Revelator won a Best Blues Album Grammy and Blues Music’s Album of the Year. After releasing a well-received live album Everybody’s Talkin’ in 2012 (which includes a cover of that Harry Nilsson classic) and cementing themselves as one of rock’s best live acts, TTB put out their second studio release in 2013, Made Up Mind, a brilliant, diverse yet familiar blend of a special sound that the couple seems to have almost invented, yet it still has oh so many of those classic notes, riffs and vocal stylings that you’d swear it came out decades before. Trucks feels that as the band has begun to gel, every day they make music, whether in the studio or on stage, feels more and more special.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band circa 2014 (courtesy Mark Seliger)

The Tedeschi Trucks Band circa 2014 (courtesy Mark Seliger)

“I was really looking forward to the challenge of starting a band from scratch and not playing the same material,” he continued. “When [the Tedeschi Trucks Band] started, we really tried avoiding going to any of those safe spots like covers. We wanted to make sure the band could carry on on it’s own. Then we started finding our own vocabulary in the group, definitely in the last year, that’s just fully exploded. I think for me it was just that artist side of your brain, just wanting to keep it fresh and progressive and moving forward. Every once in a while you have to throw yourself, and I think your audience, a bit of a curve ball, just to keep it honest, ya know.”

As Trucks’ own career continues to skyrocket, his longtime collaboration with the Allman Brothers is coming to a close. He recently shocked some longtime Allman Brothers’ fans with the news that he and Haynes will be leaving at the end of 2014, after being a mainstay of the band for 15 years. It has to be bittersweet; he has been intimately involved with the Allman family his entire life. His uncle Butch was an original member and is still drumming for the band, and Derek grew up with the Allman kids and played live with the Brothers for the first time at the age of 13. But with this legendary Hall of Fame group, as with his own bands, Trucks feels there is a right time to bow out gracefully.

Derek Trucks (L) has played with Gregg Allman (middle) and Warren Haynes in the Allman Bros. for 15 years (courtesy hollywoodreporter.com)

Derek Trucks (L) has played with Gregg Allman (middle) and Warren Haynes in the Allman Bros. for 15 years (courtesy hollywoodreporter.com)

“The musical level, the history, the myth are all intact,” Trucks said with a touch of poignancy in his voice. “I feel they’re in a really unique place where they can go out properly, in a way that, ya know, the band deserves. I don’t want to see it fizzle. I want to see it go out with a few great shows, where everyone knows this is, ya know, a last waltz. I feel like everything’s lining up for that. It’s nice that all the pieces are still in place to do it. I think that music and that history is so important to American music, I think it deserves to go out the right way. That’s where my head has been for the last year. Just trying to ship it back into shape and make sure we can do this thing right.”

Derek Trucks knows he has a responsibility to carry on the long tradition of roots-based rock by virtue of not only his storied past, but also because of his dazzling present as well as the almost-certain legendary status that’s ahead of him, if it’s not here already. He proceeds proudly, yet of course humbly, and with caution, as part of a movement to keep the rock-and-roll torch burning. “To be able to keep it rollin’ in some way, shape or form, I know personally I take it very seriously,” Trucks said.  “You don’t take yourself seriously, but you take the work seriously. When you get on stage with some of those guys — doing the Clapton tour, doin’ the Allman Brothers stuff, or being on stage with B.B. King — they pass the baton to you in a way, and you have to honor that. It’s a bit of a burden at times, but not really. It’s what we would be doing anyway. We just feel lucky to be a part of it.”

And when I tell him that my 18 year-old stepdaughter Kate told me to tell him how much she loves his music, he laughs kindly and says, “That’s great, really, tell her that young ears keep [the music] alive.”

TORI NELSON: SHO ‘NUFF A WORLD CHAMPION by Steve Houk

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23, 2013 by midliferocker

by Neer&Far Photography

She rises at dawn each day in her Ashburn Virginia home, and she prays. “When I first wake up, I already know I have to use every second of my day wisely. Prayer is first.”

So she prays for the happiness and safety of her two teenage kids, Q and Simone, the lights of her life.

Then she likely prays a little for the children she watches over in her first job of the day as a school bus driver. Then there’s one for the kids she feeds in her second job as a school cafeteria worker. And then another for the ones she teaches at her third job as a boxing instructor. Lastly, she probably throws a prayer in there for when she next enters the ring.

Then she gets her kids off to school and starts off another day in the life of Tori Nelson. A day in the life…of a world champion.

Tori “Sho ‘Nuff” Nelson holds three of women’s boxing’s biggest titles and is defending one of them, her Women’s International Boxing Association (WIBA) welterweight crown, on November 7th in Cockeysville MD as part of former Baltimore Raven Jonathan Ogden’s 8th Annual “An Evening Ringside” to benefit his foundation and the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation. She recently won the vacant WIBA welterweight title in a main event bout in Rhode Island, becoming a world champion for the third time in her career; she had already captured the WIBA middleweight title in 2012, and won the World Boxing Council (WBC) middleweight crown in 2011. Last month, she also was named TheRingside.Biz’s Boxer Of The Month for September beating out male counterparts like Floyd Mayweather. She is currently undefeated at 7-0 with 3 draws.

Tori THREE Belts by Y&D Photography

You would be hard pressed to find a more affable, humble and religiously devout world champion than Nelson anywhere on the planet. Not only does she work the three jobs with a beaming smile on her face all to support her and her kids, but she also has to fit in a training regimen worthy of a champion. And she passionately credits one entity with getting her through each and every very busy and exhausting day.

“God. That’s the only answer I can give you. He makes it possible for me. He already knows who He’s made me. I’m just doing what I can do to please Him, so as long as I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and I’m taking care of my kids and I’m using the talent that He gave me, I’m hoping He’s pleased, then I’m very happy.”

When you meet Tori Nelson, who is a very youthful looking 37, you don’t automatically think “this woman is a boxer and could take me apart.” In fact, the first time I met “Sho’nuff”, she smiled that “Tori” smile, opened her arms wide and hugged me tight, like she’d known me for years. It’s that disarming yet thoroughly genuine niceness of being that strikes you first, way before you think one of her gloved fists might. And that’s the way she conducts herself in her everyday life.

“At (one of my jobs), people (would) say, ‘Why you smilin’ when people bein’ rude to you?’ I tell them, you never know what people went through before they walked through that door. They don’t mean to be takin’ it out on you, they just haven’t changed yet. Before they came in, they may have had a terrible day. so my job is, I see you have a bad day, I need to make you feel welcome, you OK, you’re loved, it don’t matter how bad you treat me. You’re OK with me. That’s how I live.”

Tori Nelson didn’t set out to be a champion boxer, she was a mother first. But she serendipitously met her manager-to-be Craig Fladager when she hit a local Virginia gym to lose baby weight, and while working the bag and her fists, he noticed the makings of something very special in her skill, attitude and determination.

 

Courtesy Jeff Riegel

“After having two kids, your body don’t look the same,” Nelson said. “I had gained a little weight, and I wanted to do something. So I went to the gym and started working out and Craig was watching me and he said, ‘What would you do if you competed?’ And I said ‘Well, I’m gonna be the world champion if I compete,’ because I always set my standards really high. He looked at me real crazy, and then the night that we won in Trinidad, he said, ‘You remember that day you came to the gym and you said you’d be world champion, you remember the look that I gave you?’ I said, ‘Yeah’ and he said ‘I have to apologize.’ He was just so excited, and he said ‘You certainly did it, and now you’re the world champion.’ I said, ‘I told you I would be!’Nelson has to work the three jobs largely to pay for the time she doesn’t work while training for her bouts, all with no substantative sponsorship or endorsement deals in place, something she and her management are working hard and would be elated to land. But it’s her role model of a mother who gives her the will and the desire to emulate by just working hard and keeping at it.

“In life, my hero is my mother,” Nelson says. “Because like me, she was a single mom, ‘cept with (four) kids, it was three boys and me. She did what she had to do to raise us. I look back now and I think, ‘I’m going in my mother’s footsteps.’ She’s a strong lady, she’s so strong, she was the best mom that anybody could ask for.”

by Neer&Far Photography 2

Her other role models are both legendary boxers with very different reputations who motivate her in different ways. “As far as a boxing hero, it’s Joe Frazier. I train like Joe Frazier, because we have the same styles. Even when I was raw, when I had just started, Craig said to me, ‘You know who you look like? Joe Frazier.’ I love the way he fights, it’s fun to him, he takes it to heart. And I love Mike Tyson, he goes full speed ahead. He and I met privately, and then for a long time I would look at the picture of him and I before I fought, and it just gave me the drive to know that if you get hurt, you get hurt, but they can’t kill you. You just go in and do what you do.”

And what do her two kids think about their mom being one of boxing’s top world champions? They differ in their support styles but both give their mom everything she needs to succeed.

“They are two different personalities — my daughter, she all for it, she loves it, my mom was actually sitting beside her (at the last fight) and she was goin’, ‘Throw the left’ and sayin’ ‘Why are you worried Granny, mommy’s gonna beat her anyway,’ she has so much faith in me. My son on the other hand is a mother’s boy, he is so sensitive, and he’ll cry or he’ll keep his head down, and once it’s over he’ll be like, ‘I knew you were gonna do it, Mom, I just didn’t want to see it.’ But they were both gym babies. They are my biggest fans. They love it.”

So Tori Nelson’s ascent into boxing’s pantheon goes on, replete with that winning smile, her deep devotion to God, and her innate kindness, at least when she’s out of the ring. And what does she want people to know most about who she really is behind the facade of a world boxing champion?

“I’m a mom just like the other moms, I do what I have to do to take care of my kids, and I’m a hard worker just like everyone else. And I’m a child of God.”  Sho’nuff.

For tickets to “An Evening Ringside” featuring Tori Nelson’s title defense, click here.

To visit Tori’s website, click here.

PETER WOLF: STILL NUTHIN’ BUT A PARTY by Steve Houk

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2013 by midliferocker

Image

For many musicians, even seasoned ones, having Keith Richards and his entire family make a special effort to catch one of your gigs is a pretty stellar moment. Probably kinda hard to top.

But for Peter Wolf – legendary front man of 70’s/80’s rock & soul kings The J Geils Band, and for the last 30 years a successful solo performer — that’s a drop in the bucket. Just Stones-wise, he’s not only had Richards and his clan catch his solo show, but he’s cut tunes in the studio with Richards, including a duet with Mick Jagger, and J Geils hit the road with the Stones as their opening act on their Freeze Frame tour back in the day. But as far as being in touch with musical heavies, that’s the only the tip of the iceberg.

Even before he stepped onto a stage to sing one note, Wolf has been awash in a glow of musical luminaries that crosses the rock and roll spectrum, it’s a great story, the stuff of legends, really. How a teenager from the Bronx moved to Boston in search of a new life as an artist (I mean paintings), got woven into the burgeoning FM radio and Boston music scene, then sang a song at a party and soon became one of rock and roll’s top front men working with dozens of legends in a music career spanning decades and still going strong. It’s classic, really. Classic ROCK. 

Wolf’s early years in New York were not without some amazing education in the college of musical knowledge. Way before he actually became a rock star, he was absorbing some of the greatest music ever by living almost within earshot of the one of music’s hallowed halls. “When I was going to high school, man, it was ten blocks away from the Apollo Theater. I’d go to the Apollo every week, and I got to see all my favorite artists. It was one of those experiences that really helped me later.”

Like has been the case with many great rockers, Lennon and Bowie among others, Wolf’s journey away from home started out with the dream of being an artist with a brush, not a guitar. Oddly enough this quest would soon cross paths with another yet to be unknown superstar from another genre: film.

roommates- wolf and lynch“Painting was my first love. I was really a very dedicated artist and took many lessons, What got me up to Boston was I got a scholarship to the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, and I was hangin’ around, actually livin’ on the streets for a while, so I needed a roommate and found one, and it turned out to be David Lynch. We were sort of like ‘The Odd Couple’, David was a very neat guy and I was a slob. I had not gotten into performing music, I was only a music fan, and it was before he got involved in film, so we were both just serious art students at the time.”

With his deep love of music continuing to be his driving force, Wolf became part of the burgeoning FM radio scene in Boston, getting a jock job at WBCN, which would rise to be one of the top FM stations in the country in its heyday. But it was an unexpected moment at a college party that would morph Peter Wolf from music fan into rock star almost overnight.

wbcn2

“It happened at a party that was basically made up of art students. Sort of not unlike David Byrne and the Talking Heads, they were at [Rhode Island School of Design] and it was kinda the same deal. People at this art school I was going to would have these loft parties so I went to one, and the admission was you had to bring a jug a’ wine. So I brought a jug of wine and everyone was drinkin’, and there was this band of art students playing, and they were very much into R & B, that blues stuff that I was into. They were starting a song and no one could remember the words to the song, and I could, so I jumped up and started singing. That was the moment. We got together and from that point on, we started what became my first band which was called The Hallucinations, and the drummer (future Geils drummer Stephen Jo Bladd) and myself later went on to put together the J Geils Band.”

The Hallucinations would become a late 60’s Boston club staple and things would begin to steamroll. Wolf befriended iconic bluesman John Lee Hooker one night in his dressing room and convinced him to let Wolf’s band support them on their tour. Wolf would also befriend other blues greats like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Son House because his apartment was right near the Boston club they’d all play at, and he’d invite them to come back to his place given the club’s dressing room was so small. Surely one way to engrain yourself into the best that music has to offer.

1965_The_Broadside_Hallucinations_900

Meanwhile, Wolf’s new musical life would take off like a plane at Logan, and the manic onstage persona that would be part of his entire career took shape. “The Hallucinations was a band that was ahead of the curve, like a neo-punk band, before there was punk. We were all attitude, and we would jump into the audience, the guitar player would have a 60 foot cord, and he’d jump into the audience, and our first gigs were backing up John Lee Hooker, and then we started playing with bands like The Shirelles, The Kinsgmen and all those bands that were on the circuit at that time. Then we worked in an area in Boston called the Combat Zone, we would do five sets a night, and that’s where I got alot of my musical training, playing those kinda clubs. That and my earlier experiences in New York as a kid all really kinda helped me do what I ended up doing with the Geils band and with the solo band.”

The J Geils Band would record their first album in 1970 after Wolf and Bladd joined forces with guitarist Geils, and their musical imprint would begin in the shape of a searing hot rock brew of soul, blues and R & B. Stones-like but even rawer, a blend of Detroit R & B muscle and Boston rock and roll brashness, led by Wolf’s wild man frontage. Starting from those manic Geils days when you could feel the sweat pouring off the gyrating Boston Garden rafters, he has always left it all onstage and owes that to those he witnessed doing the same years before.

“Growing up as a young kid seeing people like Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis live, they were just such great showmen, and then when I went to the Apollo and witnessed people like Tommy Hunt and James Brown, you just realized that look, you can listen to a record and hear the music, but if you’re going to go out and see somebody, it was one for the money but it was two for the show, and I learned from those artists the importance of putting on a show.”

origJ Geils and Wolf would find bigtime fame from the mid 70’s to the early 80’s (he would even briefly marry actress Faye Dunaway) and would grow to play arenas and warm up the Stones, becoming a major US act. But like many of its kind, their staying power fell victim to the many claws that pull down even the great bands of the moment.

“With a band, it’s a very unique experience. As Bruce Springsteen said at one of the Hall of Fame inductions, I think when he was inducting U2, it’s easy to start a band, but real hard to keep a band. There were what we call ‘artistic differences.’ So once I found myself forced to kinda pursue a solo situation, and it wasn’t really my choice, I found that experience to be really as engaging.”

Wolf would reluctantly leave the J Geils Band to enter the solo life, and lucky for him, his innate talent and sense of what rock and roll really is has kept him vital and active for the three decades since Geils split up. He has kept his collaborative routine going strong, working with everyone from Jagger and Aretha Franklin to Merle Haggard, Steve Earle, Neko Case and Shelby Lynne. He has written songs with giants like Lamont Dozier and Will Jennings. And overall, he has embraced the solo gig with open arms.

“With the solo band it’s a lot more intimate, I think it’s a lot more personal. The Geils band was exciting and great for what it was, it’s a different kind of movie and something I got alot of artisitic pleasure from. They both have their merit, but I really enjoy the solo groupings and the solo performances because they are more intimate and I can be more personal, and connect with the audience in a more personal way which I find an interesting challenge.”

Wolf has done a couple reunion shows with Geils over the years and all seemingly went well, including the huge Boston Strong concert this year to benefit victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Those who follow Wolf or who just want to enjoy a truly special evening of kick ass reverential rock and roll are lucky: he comes to The Birchmere in Alexandria on October 28th. “I find The Birchmere to be a very special room, it’s a great atmosphere for artists that are doing what I’m doing. I find it really unique and the audience seems to be really serious about the music, they’re very respectful. And yeah, by the end of the night, we tend to rock down.”

What strikes you about Peter Wolf is that this is a man who has appreciated the innate magic of music for a long long time, and that his lifelong encounters with music royalty, as well as his own illustrious 50-plus year music career, has all been something that was meant to be. It’s refreshing knowing that a rock and roll mainstay like Wolf appreciates all that music has been and will be, and can point to his own experiences to tell the tale.

But I had to ask him, after crossing paths and working with so many of music’s true legends, who’s left as far as Wolf’s musical idols?

“Well, Steve, if I was to answer that question, I think we’d be talking for three and half more hours. Between the people I admire so much in the jazz world, or the country world, or in the rockabilly world, and in the rock world, even in the classical world, there are just so many great artists that have affected me, from Hank Williams to Elvis, to the great singers and songwriters from Johnny Ace to Jackie Wilson, Van Morrison….that’s a tough question. That’s one I’m gonna have to take the Fifth Amendment on.”

For tickets to Peter Wolf at the Birchmere, click here

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