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Neil Diamond Shines On

October 22nd, 2014 · Guitar

By Dave DiMartino |
October 21, 2014

Neil Diamond: Melody Road (Capitol) For someone who has left such an imprint in popular music, Neil Diamond might be expected to be in his gracefully petering out phase: A few scattered recordings, released less and less frequently, issued more to prove that it all can still be done, that he’s still got it, before the inevitable, terminal fade. But. Here’s his first album of new studio material in six years, produced by Don Was and Jackknife Lee and featuring a hefty number of musicians old, young, and similarly skilled, and—well—a bunch of brand new Neil Diamond songs. They are well played, they are catchy—most of his best songs have been incredibly catchy—they don’t drone off into dullsville, and Diamond’s voice is remarkable. Not to name names, but there are a certain number of iconic vocalists in pop who, as they’ve aged, have lost a significant portion of their vocal range—but we understand, and we rarely complain. This guy has still got it. This is a strong album, with a varied array of tunes—not just tunes, but Neil Diamond tunes—and he’s got to be very proud of it.

[Related: Exclusive: Neil Diamond Wanders Down Memory Lane, Sings Up 'Melody Road']


Kiesza: Sound Of A Woman (Island) Saying there is a huge buzz on a woman who has already reached the heights of international stardom may be a redundancy, but why not? The Canadian-born singer may be best known to some for her hit “Hideway,” but there is so much more in play here—the songs she writes, performed by such as Rihanna, Icona Pop and Kylie Minogue—her sense of style, on display in the innovative “Hideaway” video and fashion spreads and lines to come, and her quite remarkable voice. While most of the songs on Sound Of A Woman are slick, rhythmic pop concoctions aimed at filling the airwaves and/or dancefloor, the concluding track “Cut Me Loose” is a stripped-down demonstration of the singer’s powerful, soulful voice—and all the indication you’d need that Kiesza unplugged is very much the real thing.   

[Related: From Navy Sharpshooter to Pop Diva]


Annie Lennox: Nostalgia (Blue Note) Nostalgia is a polished collection of very classic songs interpreted here by former Eurythmic Annie Lennox, and while it has likely been created with the very best of intentions, the very worthiness of the compositions are what makes it less than exciting. Between “Georgia On My Mind,” “Summertime,” “Strange Fruit, “God Bless the Child”—you get the idea—you’ve got a dozen or so standards, most of which have been taken to nearly every high (and low) imaginable by a near-century’s worth of jazz singers with vocal ranges clearly outshining Lennox’s. Given that the songs are classics, we’re left with admiring their very selection (good show, Annie), the tastefulness of the musical arrangements (nice, sparse stuff, allowing the vocals ample room), and how nearly everything here sounds artfully workmanlike at best. Great albums typically reveal something; this reveals that Annie Lennox, like most of us, knows a good song when she hears one. Maybe telling us about them would have been enough.

[Related: Annie Lennox at Age 60: A QA About Fame, Feminism, and 'Nostalgia']


Aretha Franklin: Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics (RCA) Speaking of reinterpreting divas, here’s Annie Lennox’s singing partner on “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves”—no less than the Queen Of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin—actually making sense of it all. She’s taken the whole Clive Davis “concept album” thing and emerged with a surprisingly credible, upbeat project that works more often than it doesn’t.  Successes include tunes you know she couldn’t miss on: Etta James’ “At Last,” Gladys Knights “Midnight Train To Georgia, ” even Gloria Gaynor’s appropriately re-titled “I Will Survive (The Aretha Version).” Surprisingly astute covers include first single “Rollin In The Deep,” her Adele take which features Franklin going vocally bonkers at the two-minute mark—it is spectacular—and album closer “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a blues-jazzy reinterpretation of Sinéad/Prince that is appealing spry, upbeat and non-teary-eyed. The downside? The heavy dance beat pasted onto both the “I’m Every Woman / Respect” medley and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” which may cause a stir at some clubs but sonically evokes the very worst of formulaic ‘70s dance records. That said? A great showing for Aretha Franklin, and in 2014, one hell of a party record.


Bush: Man On The Run (Sony Music) From a marketing standpoint, it’s a sign of the times: Just when reality TV show The Voice returns with Gwen Stefani on hand as a judge, and hubby Gavin Rossdale as an advisor—what a coincidence!—here’s a new single by Gwen, here’s a new album by Gavin’s band Bush! If that’s what it takes, so be it. Bush’s latest—their second since reconfiguring a few years back—is solid, melodic stuff that oozes with commerciality. It’s always seemed odd that their career so conspicuously derailed when it did; between the non-stop Nirvana comparisons and accusations of Rossdale being a pretty-boy—certainly the most heinous of crimes—the band never really got a fair shake. There’s more than a hint of Peter Gabriel’s vocals on Man On The Run here, but comparisons don’t do anybody any good, least of all Gavin Rossdale. Nice work, both for him and his band, and worth your time.

[Related: Gavin Rossdale Dishes on New Bush Album and a Milestone 20th Anniversary]


Billy Idol: Kings Queens Of The Underground (Kobalt) A surprisingly hot album by Billy Idol in 2014 is a good thing: Here the man returns with a collection of great, rockin’ poptunes, produced by Trevor Horn and Greg Kurstin, sounding as if it’s only been a few years since Generation X departed, “White Wedding” came and went, and all those years intervened. Idol’s in fine voice: in retrospect he’s emerged as one of the few artists with British punk roots to establish himself firmly in the pop mainstream and soldier on with credibility intact. Between album opener “Bitter Pill” and the concluding  “Whiskey And Pills,” there’s enough straight-on rock ‘n’ roll here to do the Idol legacy proud and satisfy concertgoers who enjoy thrusting their fists into the air, as, certainly, we all do. If his ‘80s contemporaries are playing the state fair circuit, Billy’s having none of it.



The Pop Group: We Are Time, Cabinet Of Curiosities (both Freak R Us) While an enormous amount of music seems to have come and gone—I assure you, it ain’t all streaming—there are always pleasant surprises. And here are two: Two new collections by the UK’s pioneering Pop Group—one briefly issued years ago, and one newly compiled. The band was among the first from the UK scene to combine the energy of punk with funk and avant-garde jazz, and to say they influenced the generation of musicians that followed is no exaggeration. Both sets are fascinating, though the latter—with Peel session tracks and other unreleased material—will excite longtime fans the most. The first in a promised series, so make the most of them while you can. 


Burnt Belief: Etymology (Alchemy) The joint work of Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin and guitarist Jon Durant—the second under the Burnt Belief moniker—Etymology traverses that interesting area between progressive rock, jazz fusion, new age, and space music without ever seeming the inevitable hodgepodge that description implies. With several percussionists and a violinist on hand, the album is texturally delightful and surprisingly intricate; one suspects it would sound dandy with headphones, and even better with the lights out. That’s how this stuff always works, note informed insiders.

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Article source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/neil-diamond-shines-on-20141021

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‘Back to the Future’ Gets 30th Anniversary Screenings With Live Orchestra

October 22nd, 2014 · Guitar

By Daniel Kreps |
October 21, 2014

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future next year, Universal Pictures will rerelease the 1985 Michael J. Fox time-travel classic with live orchestration. According to Variety, the film will be screened in various venues around the world without the score, so that a live orchestra could perform Alan Silvestri’s Academy Award–nominated music. The orchestra will also perform 15 minutes of new music that the composer wrote specifically for the engagements.


Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert

The first performance of Back to the Future with live orchestration will take place in May 2015 in Lucerne, Switzerland. The presentation was co-created by IMG Artists and the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency, who previously added live orchestration to films like West Side Story, Star Trek and Home Alone. No other screening dates or details have yet been announced. A London musical based on the Robert Zemeckis film is also planned for 2015.

In semi-related Back to the Future news – since Nike has already mastered the self-tying shoe – Marty McFly’s hoverboard from Back to the Future II remains one of the few futuristic concepts in the sequel that has not yet been developed. That could change in the near future: A new Kickstarter campaign has been created to help assist California company Arx Pax create their functional Hendo hoverboard, Paste reports. So far, the company has built a model that utilizes magnets to float three centimeters above the ground for 15 minutes, but further research is required to fully realize the board. The Kickstarter campaign will end on December 15th.

Article source: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/back-to-the-future-gets-30th-anniversary-screenings-with-live-orchestra-20141021

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Vince Gill, Toby Keith Nominated for Songwriters Hall of Fame

October 22nd, 2014 · Guitar

By Joseph Hudak |
October 21, 2014

When the Songwriters Hall of Fame announced its nominees for induction last week, four names with roots in country music were among those included. Vince Gill and Toby Keith were nominated as performing songwriters, while tunesmiths Bobby Braddock and Bob McDill were nominated under the nonperforming distinction.


Gill writes and performs regularly, both as a solo artist and with Western swing group the Time Jumpers. In addition to the band’s usual Monday night showcases in Nashville, the group is currently in the midst of a U.S. tour and will play a benefit for lung cancer research on November 30th with Reba McEntire. Time Jumpers member Dawn Sears is currently battling the disease.

Keith, meanwhile, recently wrapped his Shut Up Hold On Tour and released the new single “Drunk Americans.” While Keith didn’t write that particular song — Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally and Bob DiPiero share the honor — he has written some of his biggest hits, including “Made in America,” “American Soldier” and “I Love This Bar,” along with the poignant “Hope on the Rocks.”

Both Braddock and McDill are responsible for some of country’s most iconic songs. Braddock penned George Jones’ epic “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” while McDill authored Alan Jackson‘s “Gone Country.”

Other notable non-country nominees include Tom Petty, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Miller, and Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. The winning nominees will be inducted during the 2015 Annual Awards Gala, June 18th at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City.

Article source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/vince-gill-toby-keith-nominated-for-songwriters-hall-of-fame-20141021

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Shepard Fairey on George Harrison Poster: ‘George Is a Hero’

October 21st, 2014 · Guitar

By Kory Grow |
October 21, 2014

Artist Shepard Fairey, best known for his Obama “Hope” campaign posters, has designed a limited-edition art print to celebrate the career of George Harrison, coinciding with the Harrison box set The Apple Years 1968–75. The posters – titled Poster for George – will be available in red and silver editions, both of which have been limited to 400 signed and numbered copies each. The red edition will be available on Shepard’s ObeyGiant.com website on the afternoon of October 23rd, while the silver edition will be available at GeorgeHarrison.com at 10 a.m. PST on the 24th.


george harrison dhani harrison

In a statement, Fairey recalled how his parents introduced him to the Beatles, leading to an obsession with the group’s later records, which featured more Harrison contributions. “I got George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album a long time ago, but even as a kid listening to the radio I reacted very emotionally to the song ‘My Sweet Lord,’” he wrote. “The song has a profound beauty and melancholy that is unique and powerful. I love George’s solo material musically, but what speaks to me most about George’s music and actions is his humanity and his soulfulness….

“I think George looked at himself as a world citizen, and not only brought international influences into his music, but was sensitive to human rights and politics around the globe,” he continued. “I’ve always seen music and art as amazing pleasures, but also as relatable vehicles to deliver a point of view. Art and music can invite people to think about something they might ordinarily not be interested in. George put together the Concert for Bangladesh as a way of using his music to benefit humanity. I admire that he went beyond just writing songs addressing issues, and used his significant cultural weight to be an activist and put something noteworthy together, both as a way of raising money for Bangladesh, and of publicizing the situation there. George is a hero.”

Harrison has been the subject of many celebrations in 2014. The Apple Years box set, which came out in September, collected the singer-songwriter’s first six studio albums along with previously unreleased bonus tracks and video footage. One previously unreleased track, “This guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)”, features contributions by EurythmicsDave Stewart, singer Kara DioGuardi, Harrison’s son Dhani and Ringo Starr. It also included a stripped-back, early version of his song “Dark Horse.”

Additionally, Conan O’Brien hosted performances of George Harrison songs by Paul Simon, Beck, Norah Jones and Dhani Harrison for what he dubbed George Harrison Week. That week culminated with the star-studded tribute concert George Fest: A Night to Celebrate the Music of George Harrison. The event featured Harrison’s songs performed by the likes of Brian Wilson, Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and even “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Article source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/shepard-fairey-on-george-harrison-poster-george-is-a-hero-20141021

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Influential Electronica Duo Orbital Split Up

October 21st, 2014 · Guitar

By Daniel Kreps |
October 21, 2014

Brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll of the influential electronica duo Orbital have decided to end their musical partnership after 25 years and eight studio albums, the band revealed on their official website Tuesday. “After 25 years at the forefront of electronic music – from house to rave to festival mega-techno, to international dance stardom to the 2012 London Paralympics Opening Ceremony – Orbital brothers Paul and Phil Hartnoll announce that they’re hanging up their iconic torch-glasses and parting ways for the final time,” the band announced in a statement.


The 30 Greatest EDM Albums of all Time

Named after the U.K.’s orbital motorways, Orbital’s Hartnoll brothers began making music together in 1989 in their Kent, England home. Their first single “Chime” drew enough interest to get the duo signed to FFRR Records, which distributed Orbital’s self-titled 1991 debut album. In 1996, the duo released their most critically acclaimed disc In Sides. Even more so than their studio work, though, Orbital became recognized for their incredible live performances, including a legendary 1994 Glastonbury set that was captured on their live LP Live at Glastonbury 1994–2004.

Orbital initially broke up in 2004 as the brothers focused on their own musical projects, but they reunited in 2009 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Chime.” Their final studio album Wonky arrived in 2012. Orbital’s two-decade retrospective Orbital 20 landed on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 30 greatest EDM albums of all time.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, and it’s not always been easy, but I’ve loved my time with Orbital,” Paul Hartnoll wrote in Orbital’s farewell statement. “It’s been brilliant that we’ve been able to take our music to so many places, from local clubs to headlining Glastonbury to playing massive events across America, Australia, Japan… It’s been fantastic.” Paul Hartnoll revealed that he already launched a new project called 8:58 as well as worked on the soundtrack for the BBC series Peaky Blinders along with PJ Harvey and producer Flood. Phil Hartnoll will focus on his DJ career.

“It was particularly nice to get such a lovely reception when we got back together a few years ago,” Paul Hartnoll continued. “We made the Wonky album specifically to play live and these shows over the past few years have been a real high point in many ways. The shows and the audiences have been amazing. But nothing lasts forever and it’s time to stop.”

Article source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/influential-electronica-duo-orbital-split-up-20141021

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Little Big Town Bring Maturity, Elegance to New Album ‘Pain Killer’

October 21st, 2014 · Guitar

By Joseph Hudak |
October 21, 2014

Country music is afraid of growing old. That is how it sounds anyway, as the past few years have seen a steady stream of songs, from artists in both their twenties and thirties, exalting a spring break philosophy more appropriate for, well, actual college kids. It’s as if the format is determined to discover some Panama City Beach fountain of youth, where kegs never run dry, baseball hats are always in fashion and the music can never, ever be too loud.


Little Big Town

Little Big Town’s sixth studio album Pain Killer, out today, offers an alternative to that mindset. Over 13 tracks, the Grammy-winning quartet deliver proof that country music can still be a mature affair. Not boring, mind you — mature. And while songs like Pain Killer‘s debut single “Day Drinking” may subscribe to some of those lyrical pursuits, they do so without any too-young-for-your-years slang or embarrassing clichés. In short, the members of Little Big Town — all of them in their forties — are not rollin’ up, slidin’ in or leanin’ back.

“Artists like Eric Church give us courage. Miranda Lambert gives us courage. There are lots of people that inspire me that commercial popular music can mean more and not feel so trite,” says Karen Fairchild, who with husband Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet and Kimberly Schlapman formed Little Big Town in 1998.

Often compared to Fleetwood Mac for their ethereal four-part harmonies, the vocal group watched its career start and stop since releasing its self-titled debut album on an indie label in 2002. In 2005, Little Big Town had their first taste of success with the breakout single “Boondocks” and “Bring It on Home” from the album The Road to Here, but the 2007 follow-up A Place to Land failed to produce any Top 20 singles. They recaptured the fire with 2010′s The Reason Why — their first Number One album on the country charts, released on their current label, Capitol Records Nashville — and its lead single “Little White Church,” but the next two singles failed to crack the Top 40.

Enter producer Jay Joyce. A rock roll producer at heart, Joyce oversaw albums by the Wallflowers and Cage the Elephant, and has been Eric Church’s creative partner-in-crime since the start of Church’s recording career. Enlisted by Little Big Town for their 2012 album Tornado, Joyce added an edge to the band’s pristine sound and helped garner the foursome their first Number One single with “Pontoon.” The success of Tornado and its buoyant single scored the band their first Grammy and catapulted them to the fore of country’s vocal groups.

Hot off the success of Eric Church’s adventurous The Outsiders, Joyce reteamed with Little Big Town for Pain Killer, hunkering down with the group at his converted church-studio in East Nashville. For some sessions, the group would separate guys vs. girls, with Westbrook and Sweet writing in the former house of worship’s makeshift basement hookah parlor, and Fairchild and Schlapman collaborating in the glow of the stained-glass windows.

“They were in the angelic church portion of the writing space and we were down in the dungeon, in a smoke-infested hookah lounge,” says Westbrook of the heaven and hell writing environments. He and Sweet came up with the moody Wild West-for-wild-love metaphor “Faster Gun,” while the women penned Pain Killer‘s feathery closing track “Silver and Gold.”

“Jay brings wildness,” says Fairchild of their producer, who would often roam about while the band was recording, playing whatever instrument he happened upon. “He’s such a creative guy and he likes to see if we can pull one over on ourselves again: Can we do it better than we did last time? He’s always up for the chase. But he’s very confident. He thinks of things you’d never think of.”

“He’s like a rock roll guru, a Zen punk rocker,” adds Sweet.

The result is Little Big Town’s most eclectic album yet. While other artists are adding hip-hop and rap elements to their brand of country music, LBT has eschewed trends and dug deeper, exploring reggae on the album’s title track, Celtic folk on “Live Forever” and hard rock on “Save Your Sin,” Schlapman’s coming-out moment.

The curly-haired Southern belle of the group — she even hosts her own cooking series — Schlapman unleashes a ferocity yet unheard on the compact, under-three-minute “Save Your Sin.”

“I visually see things when we listen to music, and when she does this growl in the middle, I see her spitting, like Dave Grohl in ‘Monkey Wrench,’” says Westbrook, referencing the Foo Fighters‘ hit.

Schlapman is too demure to ever spit — she recoils when Fairchild tells a story about Patti Smith intentionally hocking one up on stage — but she does relish the idea of cutting loose on “Save Your Sin.” “I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to go there,” she says. “I grew up on bluegrass music, and to me that’s just a bluegrass song gone crazy.”

“Turn the Lights On” is equally untethered, a sonic blast with a huge chorus. Fairchild, Westbrook, Schlapman and Sweet wrote it with Joyce and writers Natalie Hemby and Jeremy Spillman during a late-night, wine-fueled mass brainstorming session in a rural Tennessee cabin.

“When there are so many writers in the room, you get a little worried that if you blurt out an idea that you feel pretty confident about, that it’s going to get watered down or changed into something not where you wanted it to go,” Fairchild says. “But we started talking about ideas and I knew it was the perfect time. Jay was playing his little resonator guitar, and then we started talking to Natalie and Jeremy about coming to [Nashville] to chase the dream and getting knocked down. So many of our friends have quit. They’re sitting at home in their apartments and they cannot find the courage to get back up. ‘Turn the lights on’ means ‘wake up!’ Lift your hands up and go for it.”

Which is what Little Big Town committed themselves to with Pain Killer. Not content to release “Pontoon Part II,” the members refused to let radio play dictate what they wrote and recorded. That said, they are enjoying their hard-earned popular success and are keenly aware of the importance of country radio to their career.

Admits Westbrook, “I think we’ve always been trying to walk that line.”

“If we want to pay the bills, we have to think about radio,” says Schlapman, “because that’s what sells the records and makes people want to come to your shows. It’s part of our job.”

“And radio has been good to us,” adds Fairchild.

“Oh yeah,” echoes her fellow distaff bandmate, “but we also have to be able to express ourselves fully, and sometimes that goes beyond what will be played on radio.”

“We couldn’t determine our song selection based on, ‘Well, we can’t do that because that probably won’t work on radio,” says Sweet. “That confines you.”

“It’s a lot more fun to be popular,” says Fairchild candidly. “But it’s super fun to be popular and respected. It’s fun to have voicemails on your phone from your peers in the business saying, ‘I can’t wait for this album to come out.’ Or ‘that inspired me.’ So I want to believe that it can all happen. And outside of our format is the example. Look at Adele. Who would have thought a piano ballad would be on the radio and sell 20 million records worldwide?”

Alas, that wasn’t the case for one of Tornado‘s most critically lauded ballads. “Your Side of the Bed” was a heartbreaking duet about the increasing tension in a marriage, sung by real-life couple Fairchild and Westbrook, that stalled on the charts. When compared to the party anthems populating radio, the song was particularly downbeat and, according to radio programming wisdom, would be jarring to listeners making their daily commutes.

“It’s like gearing down. And they don’t want to gear down. Radio doesn’t want to. But a song like ‘Your Side of the Bed’ defined careers. It’s the moment you remember on the awards shows, those great country duets that were slow and sad. That’s what we defined our country artists by,” says Westbrook, pausing to consider. “Maybe it was too painful. People don’t want to admit that much.”

In mood then, “Girl Crush” is Pain Killer‘s “Your Side of the Bed.” A stop-you-in-your-tracks ballad sung by Fairchild, “Girl Crush” takes the decidedly modern phrase and turns it upside-down, using it to convey the classic country-song theme of unrequited love. “I gotta girl crush, hate to admit it,” the narrator sings, admitting her attraction to her man’s lover: “I wanna taste her lips, yeah, cause they taste like you.” It is at once provocatively sexy and utterly sad.

Written by Liz Rose, Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey, “Girl Crush” came to Little Big Town almost by accident.

“Liz said, ‘You’ll never cut this, but you have to hear it,’” recalls Sweet.

“That’s when you know you’re onto something,” says Fairchild, who says the group played it for Blake Shelton. As a superstar of the format, Shelton has listened to his share of song pitches. “He lifted up his hands in the air like ‘Touchdown!’ and said, ‘I never heard that.’”

“He said, ‘Do you know how hard that is? That I never heard that before?’” says Westbrook. “It’s so rare these days that you hear a turn on a hook and you go, ‘I did not see that coming.’”

“Here’s the chance to break it up and change it up. It doesn’t have to be the same thing all the time. If we could get a 6/8 waltz back on radio that talks about having a girl crush…” muses Fairchild of the song’s ambitions, which Joyce thinks should be released as a single. 

The reality is that “Girl Crush” being played on today’s radio would be jarring — but not because of its sad song nature. Rather, like the album on which it appears, it is distinguished by being thought provoking and experienced. And like the artists who recorded it, it is unashamedly mature.

“I feel like we know what we’re talking about,” says Sweet of where Little Big Town is in their evolution. “It’s not like we’re pretending.”

“We have our own opinion now,” Fairchild says. “As we have been brought up in the business, we’ve always been strong, but we’ve been manipulated. Now, this is how we feel, this is what we’re doing. There’s a lot of that in this record.”

“And we’ve lived through a lot of music too, so we draw from a lot. If you think something [on Pain Killer] sounds like Seventies funk, it’s because it is,” Westbrook says.

“It makes me feel so good that we made this record on a major label, as a commercial release, and we made art,” concludes Sweet. “We didn’t just put out some shit.”

Which is the sweet spot that all artists, whether they admit it or not, would like to reside: Writing and recording songs that rise above the fluff of pop-country, but could still have a home on country radio. If only they are given…

“The chance,” smiles Fairchild.

Article source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/little-big-town-bring-maturity-elegance-to-new-album-pain-killer-20141021

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Legendary Songwriter Paul Craft Dead at 76

October 21st, 2014 · Guitar

By Andrew Leahey |
October 20, 2014

Thirteen days after his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Paul Craft — the man behind offbeat, wisecracking country hits like “Dropkick Me, Jesus (Through the Goalposts of Life)” and “It’s Me Again, Margaret” — has died. He was 76 years old. 


Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame

A former law school student whose unusually high IQ earned him a spot in the American Mensa society, Craft kicked off his songwriting career in the Sixties, quickly building up a catalog of sharply-worded songs that found the humor in heartbreak and the extraordinary in the everyday. He wrote most of his biggest hits — including Moe Bandy’s “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life,” which earned a Grammy nomination in 1977 — without any outside help, drawing a line between his own songwriting style and the more collaborative approach of Nashville’s co-writing community. Craft didn’t need a partner to help whittle his tunes into commercial shape. He did just fine on his own, with artists like the Eagles, Alison Krauss, Bobby Bare, Ray Stevens, Linda Ronstadt, Skeeter Davis and Chet Atkins all covering his songs during Craft’s half-century career. 

The ability to create music that appealed to a wide audience — from bluegrass purists to honky-tonkers to country-rockers — might’ve had something to do with Craft’s background. Raised in Tennessee, Arkansas and Virginia, he began traveling at an early age. After high school, Craft logged more than a half-decade with the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve and toured with Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys as a banjo player. It wasn’t until he returned to western Tennessee in his mid-twenties that he began writing songs, sifting through his own experiences — and dreaming up plenty of imaginative fiction, too — for inspiration. Like Steve Martin and Shell Silverstein, he found a happy marriage between traditional roots music and mischievous comedy, although he always seemed to prize a good hook over a good joke. 

Craft’s health took a nosedive in the 2010s. Earlier this month, he made his final public appearance at Nashville’s Music City Center, where he was to be inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. After posing with fellow inductees Gretchen Peters, Tom Douglas and John Anderson, though, Craft was rushed to the nearby St. Thomas Hospital. He never recovered, passing away less than two weeks later. 

Article source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/paul-craft-dead-dies-20141020

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Ariana Grande, Meghan Trainor to Perform on 2014 CMA Awards

October 21st, 2014 · Guitar

By Beville Dunkerley |
October 20, 2014

It’s all about that star power.


Chris Brown

Next month’s Country Music Association Awards broadcast is luring in pop fans with the addition of Ariana Grande and Meghan Trainor to the performance lineup. Grande, the American Music Awards’ reigning New Artist of the Year, will sing with the reigning CMA Vocal Group of the Year, Little Big Town. Trainor, who has several country songwriting credits to her name, will perform her chart-topping earworm, “All About That Bass” with this year’s leading CMA nominee, Miranda Lambert.

Previously-announced performers on the November 5th show include Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Kacey Musgraves, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, the Band Perry, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. Lucy Hale, of Pretty Little Liars and country music fame, is the first announced presenter of the evening. Paisley and Underwood will co-host for the seventh consecutive year.

CMA members have until October 27th to cast their votes for this year’s awards. Lambert’s name dominates the ballot this year with a record-setting nine nods. Dierks Bentley leads the guys with five nominations. Up for the night’s top honor, Entertainer of the Year, are Bryan, Lambert, Shelton, George Strait and Urban.

The 48th Annual CMA Awards will air live from Nashville on November 5th at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.

Article source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/ariana-grande-meghan-trainor-2014-cma-awards-20141020

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Reggae Legend John Holt Dead at 69

October 21st, 2014 · Guitar

By Erin MacLeod |
October 20, 2014

John Holt, one of Jamaica’s most well-loved vocalists, died early Sunday morning in London at the age of 67. His death was confirmed by his manager Copeland Forbes via the Jamaica Observer. Holt, who was initially known for his career with the Paragons in the rocksteady era of the 1960s, had 40 albums under his belt alongside his reputation for strong live performances.


Diplo performs at Bayfront Park Amphitheater in Miami, Florida.

As a pre-teen, Holt was tremendously successful at local talent competitions in his native Kingston, quickly drawing the attention of equally legendary Jamaican singer and songwriter Bob Andy. Andy had begun performing as a duo with Tyrone Evans just after independence in 1962. Deciding that the field was flooded with strong twosomes, Andy and Evans decided to reach out to some potential singers, including Holt, that would eventually become The Paragons. Holt’s voice was “a velveted tone like Nat King Cole,” Andy tells Rolling Stone, and was just the thing for the mimicking of American and English hits popular in Jamaica at the time.

“We became a national household name without having a recording,” recalls Andy. With songs including the Holt-penned “Ali Baba,” “Wear You to the Ball” and “I See Your Face,” the Paragons rose to fame, becoming one of the top groups in Jamaican music. Also recording on his own with the legendary producers of the time, Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid, Holt had numerous hits throughout the 1960s. In 1967, however, the Paragons released the Holt-written “The Tide is High.” The B-side tune was popular in Jamaica, but ended up both a UK and US number one in 1980 after Blondie covered the song for their fifth album Autoamerican.

Truly the voice of the Paragons, Holt continued his fame after leaving the group in 1970. His 1973 album Stick by Me was a hit, as well as his series of unique covers of well-known pop songs, 1,000 Volts of Holt. Holt demonstrated talent for roots reggae in the 1980s, making “Police in Helicopter” a 1983 hit while continuing to steadily tour. He was also the first Jamaican artist, alongside fellow singer Freddy McGregor, to perform with London’s Royal Symphony Orchestra.  

More than anything, Holt will be remembered for his unmistakable tone. “He was a balladeer singing popular, uptempo music,” Andy says. “He had such a naturally good voice that he didn’t need to push the envelope. He has the most unique balladeer voice in Jamaican music. Across the board, he was the voice of our era.”

Article source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/reggae-legend-john-holt-dead-at-67-20141020

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Alan Jackson to Embark on 25th Anniversary Keepin’ It Country Tour

October 20th, 2014 · Guitar

By Andrew Leahey |
October 20, 2014

It’s been 25 years since Alan Jackson — still fresh from his days as a mailroom clerk at the TNN television studio — became the first artist signed to Arista Records’ newly-launched country wing. The small-town Georgia native has made the most of those two and a half decades, sending 35 singles to the top of the country charts while racking up more than three dozen Grammys, CMA awards, Billboard Music Awards and ACM trophies. 


Although he insists he’s nowhere close to retirement — “I don’t know what I’d retire from; I don’t work much now,” he joked back in June, during a press conference announcing the tour’s earliest details — Jackson still thinks a quarter-century anniversary deserves some special celebration. That’s why he’s hitting the road this winter for a 25th anniversary tour, which will visit 25 cities over the course of five months.

The trek kicks off January 8th in Estero, Florida, less than a three-hour drive from the beach homes Jackson formerly owned in nearby Tequesta and Jupiter Island. From there, the “Keepin’ It Country Tour” — which will focus mostly on arenas and amphitheaters, with tickets for the Estero show ranging from $33.65 to $79.15 — will cover most of America during a spread-out series of weekend dates. There aren’t any northeast shows on the books at the moment, although a recent press release from Jackson’s PR team notes the possibility that “more dates may be added soon.”

Jackson has two openers lined up for the 25th anniversary trek. The first is Brandy Clark, the Grammy-nominated critics’ favorite who’s currently wrapping up a handful of sold-out fall dates with Eric Church and Dwight Yoakam. The other is Jon Pardi, a Top 40 country singer who, like a young Jackson himself, bridges the gap between classic country songwriting and more modern, mainstream sounds.

Alan Jackson’s 25th Anniversary Keepin’ It Country Tour:

January 8 — Fort Myers (Estero), Florida

January 9 — Tampa, Florida

February 20 — San Diego

February 21 — Laughlin, Nevada                      

February 27 — Los Angeles

February 28 — Phoenix

March 6 — Dallas

March 27 — Augusta, Georgia

March 28 — Greenville, South Carolina

April 9 — Wilmington, North Carolina

April 17 — Kansas City, Missouri

April 18 — Enid, Oklahoma

April 24 — Roanoke, Virginia

May 1 — Sioux City, Iowa

May 2 — Brookings, South Dakota                                  

May 8 — Green Bay, Wisconsin

May 9 — Bloomington, Illinois

May 16 — Salt Lake City

May 17 — Denver

Article source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/alan-jackson-25th-annivesary-tour-dates-20141020

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