Category Archives: Artists

My Life as a Tree

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray,

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair

Upon whose blossom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems were made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.
­–Joyce Kilmer

Recently, it came to my attention that an old oak tree in my hometown of Youngsville, LA was going to be sacrificed for a TEMPORARY by-pass road to build a much-needed road improvement project. However, the tree was never threatened by the new road and intersection “round-about”, just the temporary road needed to keep the intersection opened for the 30-60 days for the project to be completed.

The "Young" Oak

To put this in proper context, you have to understand the value of the live oaks of Southwest Louisiana. They are not only steeped in history, as many of them supercede the existence of the state of Louisiana and even the country of the United States itself. The live oak in question is estimated to be at least 150 years old and could be more than 250 years old, based on its’ 14 ft. thickness.

It’s just a tree, right? True, enough. However, it’s also a symbol. A symbol of a strong and proud heritage. That tree stood when Attakapas Indians still roamed the plains of Louisiana. Generations of Cajuns (and visitors) passed that tree over its history. When Dr. Young, who the town is named after, searched for a homestead, no doubt this tree attracted him with its protective branches from the un-air-conditioned summer heat. No doubt, my grandparents passed that tree in their horse and buggy on the ride they took when my grandfather proposed to her. Both of my uncles likely looked back at that tree when they went off to war, and lovingly gazed upon it when they returned.

There is a certain love affair with trees, especially old ones, for the memories they invoke. Perhaps that’s why Cajuns are so tied to their old oaks. Like the Evangeline Oak in St. Martinville, helping a lovelorn maiden hold on to her long, lost love…

…or the majestic St. John Oak at the Cathedral in Lafayette…

…or the oaks that line the beautiful campuses of the University of Lousiana-Lafayette

and Louisiana State University (LSU)

The magnificient symbols provide the shadows of our lives. Celebrations such as weddings, like Charles Durand’s 1850 spectacular tribute of gold and silver dusted limbs at Oak & Pine Alley…

…to modern day weddings celebrated under the historic and loving arms of a comforting tie to the past at Jefferson Island…

These majestic creatures have endured the test of time to provide the backdrop of our lives. This past weekend, I traveled to my hometown and everywhere I went, the oaks seemed to remind me that one of their own needed help.

I did something that I’d been promising to do. I went to the place where I grew up…on seven acres, complete with ponds and wonderful, triumphant oaks. Growing up, there were a pair of oak trees on our property that were over 250 years old when we lived there. The property had belonged to my father’s great-grandparents and were likely rooted at the time they lived there. My grandfather did surgery on one of them to save it back in the 1930’s. I joyfully played make-believe among them as a child. My sister married beneath them in 1979. Luckily, the people who developed the subdivision recognized the value of these old oaks and chose to highlight them, rather than chop them down for another lot. They are simply…spectacular.

My cousin had us over for a visit and the one of the remaining twin oaks that graces her homestead (built on the site of her parents’ home), invited me in…

So many trees, so many memories, so much history.

It made me ponder how anyone could allow such a symbol and a living testament to God’s magnificence to be chopped down, murdered in affect. Now, hear me…I am not an activist nor do I consider myself an envrionmentalist. I get it. But, this time there is an alternative. The intersection at Hwy 89 and Hwy 92 in Youngsville, LA can be closed for a brief period of time to allow the road construction to be completed, or the temporary by-pass CAN be re-routed. However, the “City” Council and Mayor have chosen to be close-minded regarding the situation and now even claim that the citizens of Youngsville don’t even care if the tree comes down. If you agree with the city government, well…to each his own. But, if you don’t, PLEASE let your voice be heard. Call the City Council @ 337-856-4181 or click here for email addresses for the City Council and Mayor. Also, click here to sign our online petition to show your support for saving the tree so that City Government cannot claim that the citizens of Youngsville “don’t care”.

There is a possibility for moving the tree (not an overall preference, but a lesser of two evils). Helping to raise the more than $250,000 needed to move the tree, is artist George Rodrigue. He has graciously donated his talent to paint the oak and produce prints for sale for $500 each, with proceeds going to Guardian of the Oaks — an organization fighting to protect our leafy legends.

Renowned artist, George Rodrigue, painting the "Youngsville Oak"

George’s wife, Wendy, also has a great blog that highlights Rodrigue’s work and causes. He is a great testament to his heritage. Thank you, sir, for your support.

ETA: Here is Rodrigue’s finished art work of the Youngsville Oak. Visit his Foundation website for more information on purchasing. I’m already on the list. 😉

The doctor's buggy symbolizes Dr. Young, the namesake of Youngsville, who also built the historic home that is also included in the painting


Posted by on February 4, 2011 in Artists, cajun, Calling Bullsh*t, Louisiana


Randy Newman


When I was less evolved and totally unaware of political correctness, I fell in love with Short People. It was 1977 and I was in 8th grade. Through this controversial little parody ditty, I became aware of the brilliance of Randy Newman for the first time but certainly not the last.

Randy is a dichotomy. Totally talented and steeped in music knowledge and understanding, yet totally irreverent with a penchant for parody and humor. He’s passionate in music, politics, emotion and life.

Born in L.A., Randy Newman moved to New Orleans (where his mother was from) as an infant. Even though he eventually moved back to California, he spent many holidays and summers in New Orleans and the musical influence is definitely prevalent in his music. Nowhere is it more evident than in Newman’s Louisiana 1927, written and recorded in 1973. The song is about the great flood that totally changed the landscape of the South and Louisiana, in particular.

Louisiana 1927

Listen to Randy Newman talk about Louisiana 1927 here. I find his description of New Orleans’ uniqueness is the most accurate I’ve heard. It also includes a wonderful version by Aaron Neville (1991) — the one that first introduced me to the song, from Warm Your Heart.

While Newman shows emotional depth in songs like I Miss You (written for his ex-wife), his real niche is the sardonic irony he is famous for. Examples:

Big Hat, No Cattle

I Love L.A.


Interestingly, Randy Newman has made quite a name for himself as a movie composer, being nominated for a record 16 Oscars, finally winning one for Best Song for If I Didn’t Have You from the Monsters, Inc. Soundtrack. One of my favorite Randy Newman songs is You’ve Got a Friend in Me from Toy Story. Some other scores attributable to Randy Newman are RagTime, The Natural, Parenthood, Meet The Parents, Meet The Fockers, Pleasantville, Maverick, Sea Biscuit, Cars (<—- previously profiled at MM) and a host of others — 20, in all. He is currently working on the score for Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, scheduled for release in 2009.

Randy discusses his writing style:

Randy continues to use his music to speak his mind and recently made headlines with his biting admonishment of the European press:

Few Words in Defense of Our Country

He’s not a technically superb singer. Matter of fact, his voice is very gravely with a distinct accent, however his ability to get to the heart of the matter provides the needed kun-NECK-shun for his music. His songs are genuinely heartfelt (regardless of the particular emotion) and on the mark.

Some other Newman songs that are favorites…..

The great Bobby Darin, covered Newman’s Sail Away on this final album:

Sail Away


Yes, that’s the same Birmingham that Taylor Hicks goes around singing.

TODAY’S TRIVIA: Randy Newman penned Three Dog Night’s #1 hit from 1970, Mama Told Me Not to Come. The song was written in 1966 and was originally recorded by Eric Burdon and The Animals.


Posted by on January 12, 2008 in Artists, Good Stuff, music dudes, music legends


An Aaron Neville Christmas


While I wish the secret Santa would have been Van the Man, we got the next best thing. One of my favorites…

Aaron Neville. Joined by his little big brother, Charles and his Quintet. At the beautiful Saenger Theatre in Mobile, Alabama.


We were on the third row just right of center in a full house. The opening act was a local public high school choir, LeFlore Preparatory.


They were very good and quite moving. Their opening number was a very spirited African song that really set the positive tone of the evening.


They featured several solos that were all simply lovely. It was really quite inspiring to watch these enthusiastic, young people obviously committed to music.


After an hour, the announcer came out and welcomed Aaron Neville. Now, Aaron is a literal mountain of a man. At 66, he is buff and looks a full 25 years younger.


He opened with I Don’t Know Much and thanked his duet partner on that song, Linda Ronstadt, at its conclusion. Next came Stand By Me and Ain’t No Sunshine. In doing a little pre-concert research, I found out that these two songs, in particular had become special prayers for Aaron Neville.

Our local paper had a write up on the Aaron Neville concert on Friday. In that article, Aaron stated that this mini-tour was helping him get over the loss of his wife of 48 years to lung cancer last January. I had no idea.

Aaron Neville married Joel Roux (pronounced Jo-el) in 1959 when she was 18 and he was 17. His mother actually signed their marriage license because he was not of legal age. Through substance abuse, a prison stint, a rollercoaster career and four children, Joel was his best friend. He credits her with saving his life by throwing him out in the early years of their marriage and calls her his backbone. Dedicated Catholics, they both credited prayer and St. Jude with saving Aaron and turning their lives around.

Their life was anything but easy. Even after his 1966 hit, Tell It Like It Is, wealth and fame were illusive. Aaron supported his family by working the docks at the Port of New Orleans. Eventually, he started a band with his brothers and concentrated on the funky, back beat music of the Mardi Gras Indians, which is part of his heritage. His Warm Your Heart album was wildly successful as a solo effort and life got a lot easier for the Neville family.

Joel finally retired from her 20-year career at Charity Hospital of New Orleans and joined Aaron as informal Ambassadors for New Orleans and found a special place in the music industry with the fabulous rhythms of the Neville family, including The Meters, the Wild Tchoupitoulas, and of course, The Neville Brothers Band. All was really good until 2004, when Joel was diagnosed with lung cancer. Through prayer, radiation and chemotherapy, she went into remission. And then…Hurricane Katrina.

Aaron and Joel Neville lost their home and all of their possessions, as did many of their family. Aaron was in New York, on tour, when Katrina hit and has gone to New Orleans only once since the storm — to bury his dear wife. He has an asthma condition now that he feels would be exacerbated by living in New Orleans and the unknown environmental hazards that may be lurking. He also didn’t want to risk Joel’s fragile health by being in such a risky environment. However, he never abandoned New Orleans and has done dozens of benefit concerts to raise money for musicians and the people of the city, at large.

In November, the Nevilles announced that they will be back to play the 2008 JazzFest in April. It is a long awaited return that many residents view as a milestone in the recovery. It should be quite a joyous occasion, however I’m sure that for Aaron it will provide a stinging reminder of loss and what is missing. Great and enduring loves — particularly those who overcome adversity and trials — generally leave a gaping void when one is gone and the other is left to carry on.

While it was thrilling to see Aaron Neville on Sunday night, there was a certain pall and sadness to him. In particular, when he sang Amazing Grace….


Now, Aaron makes no bones about his faith. He’s Catholic to the core. He’s tatted up with crucifixes (including one on his cheek) and the face of Jesus on his huge bicep. He wears a St. Jude medal for an earring as a simple reminder of how a “hopeless case” can be redeemed.

I know the feeling.

However, my symbol is a little bigger and has more attitude. He had on a crucifix necklace as well as a rosary and an Our Lady of Guadalupe t-shirt. Being Catholic ourselves, we totally get Big Aaron. He’s thankful to God for saving his life and uses these outward symbols to proclaim his love of Christ to the world…and to maybe influence others in need. Perhaps that’s why is his music is so particularly lovely.

He sang for over two hours and didn’t clutter the performance with much chatter at all. He just really went to work and gave us great music. A few of the highlights:

Tell It Like It Is

It’s Alright

Please Come Home for Christmas

Silent Night

A Change Gonna Come

O Holy Night

Here are a few pictures I took from the show:








After the show, Big Mike, the keyboardist was out at the front of the stage talking to folks. Mr. D. had bought a fleur de lis Aaron Neville hat before the concert to support New Orleans and the re-building (because we’re loyal like dat) and we asked Mike if he could get Aaron to sign it. He said sure and got Jason the Roadie to go back stage. Within two minutes, we had our keepsake.



The Desires of Your Heart

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.Psalms 37:4

For many years, this verse has been a talisman for me. In simplest form, it means that if you keep faith in God and delight in His ways, the things that you really want — deep in your heart — will materialize for you. So, when I hear “desires of your heart”, I feel that the message is meant for me.

So, I point you now to Shrew’s Daily Shutters. Shrew found and was granted permission to post, in it’s entirety, a blog from Craig Tanner (accomplished and talented photographer) regarding talent. Maybe it’s what I’d like to hear but I really identified with his musings. In particular, I totally identified with this quote:


“Your one true gift is love and the desires of your heart because love can do what natural ability never will – conquer all of your fears – the fear of being a beginner, the fear of looking stupid, the fear of failing, and the fear of the unknown. Love can do this because love alone is limitless. When we enter the realm of our most passionate desires and remain there, the recreation of ourselves is not only possible – it is inevitable.” — Craig Tanner


Loving something and having the passion for it usually produces a talent for it. This is true of music, photography, writing, sports and just about anything that requires getting better. This was such an affirmation for me. To keep reaching, keep dreaming, keep moving toward freedom.

So, here’s to all you crazy dreamers….

Ray LaMontagne, Weird but seriously talented….and a guy who was working at a shoe factory, woke up one morning to a song he loved on the radio and decided to be a serious musician.



Posted by on October 11, 2007 in Artists, Good Stuff


On the Dock of the Bay…



The Stax special on PBS was interesting but, like Huck, I felt they missed a golden opportunity to focus on the artists and music, rather than focus so much on the Civil Rights Movement. Not that it’s not important, it’s just that there is significant information and other documentaries that have covered these issues, in depth. This particular documentary had the opportunity to really educate people on the music of the day and it’s profound affect on the music of the next 40 years.

It did spark my curiosity about a few thoughts from the program and got my research fingers to working. Of course, the special prominently featured Otis Redding as he was the center of the Stax world in the late ’60s.


With his band, Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers, Otis showed up at Stax in Memphis in 1962. From the Otis Redding website:

The session was not going well, so Jim Stewart, Stax co-owner, allowed Otis to cut a couple of songs with the studio time that had been booked. The result was “These Arms of Mine”, released in 1962. This was the first of many hit singles (including classics “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, “Respect”, and “Try A Little Tenderness”) that Redding enjoyed during his tragically short lifetime.

While the Bar-Kays were Otis’ back-up band on many songs and performances, Booker T. and the MGs — the stellar Stax session band comprising of Booker T. Jones (organ), Donald “Duck” Dunn (bass), Steve Cropper (guitar) and Al Jackson (drummer) — the only notable, integrated band of that day, provided back-up on Otis’ last and most recognizable song, Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.

The song was written by Otis and guitarist Steve Cropper and recorded a mere three days before Redding’s tragic death. Redding was inspired when actually staying on San Fransisco Bay (Sausilito) when he played The Fillmore in the Summer of 1967, resulting in the wonderfully soulful Dock of the Bay.

When he crashed his new plane into that Wisconsin lake in December of 1967 (along with 4 members of the Bar-Kays), Otis Redding left a wife of 5 years and four young children. He was 26.

He also left a bereft and forever changed Stax organization. Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay was released posthumously, and the song was #1 for 4 weeks in 1968. Interestingly, the last part of the song of Otis whistling was just a filler in the initial recording that was going to be replaced in final mixing by additional lyrics. Of course, Otis never made the final mixing, but little did he know that this whimsical whistling would provide such a wonderful and unique touch to a song that emblazon his memory on generations….and that it would be his swan song.

Here is Steve Cropper’s Tribute to Otis in Rolling Stone. Hard to believe it’s been 40 years….


Here is an interview of Otis Redding in March of 1967, a scant 9 months before his death. He’s prolific about Rock & Roll and “the blues” and perhaps his own demise…


Rate-A-Record – Bubbly – Colbie Caillat – 3.5 Stars

Ok. I heard you. While most liked Colbie’s sound, nobody was overly impressed by the song or the video.

As for my opinion, I liked (not loved) the song, and it reminded me alot of Feist’s 1-2-3-4 — maybe that’s why I liked it better than most of you Feist-haters. Like Feist, Colbie’s sound has a certain Cat Power influence even if some of you Cat purists disagree.

As for Bubbly, it’s certainly listenable and enjoyable. Bob Lefsetz has a very high opinion of this song and hears Colbie as reminiscent of James Taylor, Carole King and a “California” Norah Jones. If you go a little deeper into Colbie, you’ll find a couple of other tunes that are very honest and clear. That, I do like about her. Maybe it’s the acoustical nature of it, but the stuff she does with Jason Reeves does harken those old JT/King collaborations.


Droplets with Jason Reeves

Magic with Jason Reeves

As for the video, I LOVE IT! Maybe it’s my anguished desire to live on a private stretch of beach in a cabin just like this one, but I totally identified with the scenery and vibe. I particularly liked the soft lighting. Separately, I would give the video a 4.5, just for the beach feel. However, videos do not make the music, so it’s a 3.5 on the song alone. I must throw in that I think Colbie’s music overall is a 4.0.

Lastly, if Colbie Caillat is being regarded as a new “hot” artist, maybe the tide is turning away from some of the drivel that is currently being played on today’s radio. Even if these “viral” listeners are MySpace youngsters, it shows that the next generation might be looking for better quality music that can actually be heard and appreciated.


Posted by on July 29, 2007 in Artists, chicks, Music Today, rate a record


Divas Got the Blues (Another Colette Submission)

UPDATE: This just in….Etta James hospitalized.

To preface this great post by Colette, I want to bring attention to the Blues Diva documentary that was recently featured on PBS. Morgan Freeman is the host from his Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Catch it if you can. Superb.


While Colette touches upon Irma Thomas in her post, this post would be remiss if the rest of these ladies weren’t mentioned. Among others, the documentary features Mavis Staples, Bettye LaVette, Odetta and one of my personal favorites, Deborah Coleman.

Deborah Coleman


Bettye LaVette

The incomparable Mavis Staples with a personal favorite, Respect Yourself

So many great Blues Divas. Thanks, Colette, for your submission.

Posting an Etta James video on this site recently reminded me of the rich and ongoing legacy of women blues shouters. Yes shouters, Mr. Simon Cowell. As far as the blues goes, shoutin’ ain’t no bad thing, baby. There are many ways to sing the blues. But Etta “Peaches” James and her kind are the ones with the mile-wide voices that can thunder and growl, squeeze very drop of pathos from a lyric, and let you know that wild women do get the blues. The greatest of these belters all influence one another, and the tradition lives on. Sorry I couldn’t find good clips for some other favorites — Ma Rainey, Tracy Nelson, etc. And sorry, I’m just not a Joss Stone fan (maybe someday). But if there’s something else in this particular vein you’d like to share, I’d sure love to hear it.

Let’s start with Etta. People in the know say she can be mean as a rattlesnake, and twice as much trouble when in a nasty mood. But one cuts some slack to a force of nature — and that, Peaches has been since the great bluesman and scout Johnny Otis “discovered” her back in the 1950s. She cut her signature tune “At Last” in 1961, on the Chess label, and since then has endured some extremely rough personal passages, including a long (and thankfully, a successful) battle with heroin addiction.

Now close to 70, she’s enjoying a career renaissance since having weight reduction surgery reduced her life-threatening bulk, and since great Peaches tunes like “The Blues is My Business” have been featured in movies and popular TV series like “The Sopranos.”

This whole set could be devoted to Etta, but here’s just a couple of my favorite Peaches numbers on video:

Jimmy Reed’s “You Got Me Running”Etta James and The Bluesbreakers

“I’d Rather Go Blind”Etta James with Dr. John

Music Maven NOTE: I’d Rather Go Blind was originally recorded in Muscle Shoals, AL at FAME Studios.

Shemekia Copeland is a young blueswoman really worth a big listen. A wunderkind who began her career in her teens, she just gets better in her 20’s. The daughter of Johnny Clyde Copeland, the late Texas blues guitar great, Shemekia has a little trouble getting her powerhouse voice heard in an era when her kinda music isn’t anywhere near the Top 40. So please, please check her out on tour and take a listen to her CD’s — she is hot as a pistol. Here she is with her peerless mentor B.B. King on Letterman, and doing live a number from one of her recent albums:

“Everyday I Have the Blues” Shemekia Copeland and B.B. King

“Who Stole My Radio?”Shemekia Copeland

Music Maven NOTE #2: Shemekia Copeland performed on stage with one Taylor Hicks at Buddy Guy’s in Chicago, earlier this Spring.

There are “foremothers” galore from the 1950s in the blues shouter field, but probably none as potent as Big Mama Thornton, a killer harmonica player as well as a singer who can make your spine tingle and hair stand on end. It was Big Mama who originally recorded “Hound Dog” (pre-Elvis) and “Ball and Chain” (pre-Janis). Thanks to the popularity of the latter tune when Janis Joplin recorded it, her career resurged in the 1970s (she died in 1984) and she was thrilled to be embraced by young blues “mavens.”

“Rock Me”Big Mama Thornton

“Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton with the wonderful Buddy Guy

A little smoother around the edges, the late Ruth Brown (who died recently) was a shouter par excellence. This is was a huge hit for (and a great sisterhood anthem), and later in life she too had a resurgence — in the hit musical “Black and Blue” on Broadway, in clubs, even on film. What a sizzler:

“Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean”Ruth Brown, live at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre

How can you play Big Mama in this set, but ignore Janis? No way. I was lucky to hear both artists live, and they both sang this soul-rattling woman’s blues (which Big Mama wrote). What can you say about Janis that hasn’t already been said? We’ll not see the likes of her again. Here is a performance in Germany that’s one of her best on video, followed by a cut of her singing one of Etta’s big smashes, “Tell Mama.”

  “Ball and Chain”Janis Joplin

“Tell Mama”Janis Joplin

We’ve been spending a lot of time with Texas gals, so let’s move on to New Orleans, and two great, still active blues shouters there: Irma Thomas, in a short clip singing “Time is On My Side” with none other than New Orleans pianist-composer extraordinaire Allan Toussaint on piano:

And Marva Wright, who didn’t start singing professionally until her 40’s but is making up for lost time herself:

“Heartbreakin’ Woman” — Marva Wright

Finally, we have to pay homage to whom it is always and forever due: Bessie Smith. Along with Ma Rainey and a few others, she invented a kind of gutsy, full-throttle blues singing that has been a touchstone for everyone to follow. This is the only film I know of Bessie singing, from the film “St. Louis Blues.” It’s long, but stick with it. She’s mesmerizing:

St. Louis BluesBessie Smith


Posted by on July 25, 2007 in Artists, blues, Etta James, Influences


YouTube-Fu Smorgashbord

Some favorites I’ve found recently while “diving”. Yes, I’ve become bored with the hinter lands of cable TV….on to the Internets.

Otis Redding, I’ve Been Loving You
From the Monterrey Blues Festival. One of my Top 10 Favorite songs.

Marc Broussard, jammin’ on the tour bus.

Ray LaMontagne, Your the Best Thing
At The Beacon in NYC.

Sam Cooke, Bring it on Home to Me
Another all-time favorite of mine….there’s just something about this music…

Joss Stone & Rod Stewart, Hot Legs

Amos Lee, Soul Suckers

Taylor Hicks, Long Train Running
A dedication to Corn Hole in Kentucky?

Stevie Wonder, Yester Me, Yester You
Yet another all-time favorite.

Barbra Streisand & Judy Garland, Happy Days/Get Happy
Two of the BEST voices of the 20th century.

Patsy Cline, Crazy
No matter how many times I hear this song, I never tire of it.

The Yardbirds, Louise
A young Eric Clapton on lead guitar.

Here’s the last one…ok, this is not music, but it is HILARIOUS….Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you PooPoo Broussard.


Big Teeth


Posted by on July 15, 2007 in Amos Lee, Artists, Taylor, YouTube


Duets…of the Soul

Contributing Music Maven Editor, Colette, provides some good stuff on Duets (and a couple of trios) of the “soulful” kind. There are some FABULOUS videos here, with the Etta James performance likely being the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. And Shrew….no panty throwing when viewing the Tom Jones piece.

I would be remiss if I didn’t throw in a couple of recent favorite duets….

Marc Broussard & Toby Lightman – If I Could Build My World Around You

and this absolutely wonderful piece of “soulful” music:

Ray LaMontagne & Damien Rice – To Love Somebody

Here is Colette’s wonderful contribution. As always, thanks.

Soulful Duets Extraordinaire

The vogue for “duets” albums, with Tony Bennett and others teaming up with lots of singers you can’t imagine them being in the same universe with, was really started in a big way by Frank Sinatra (then came Ray, Etc.) Tony, impeccable musician that he is, was at least in the same studio when he recorded his duets. But such exercises got me thinking about unexpected duets/trios captured on video, that were a really fine fit. Since this is a HUGE topic, I’m boiling my first session down to classical soul, mostly Motown. I didn’t intend it this way, but my man Marvin Gaye is all over this set — as well he should be.

Chuck & Etta

Two tough customers, and look out! Firestorm! Etta belts it out. Chuck duck-walks and eggs her on. Keith Richards beams, ear-to-ear. Rock n’ Roll music, any old way you choose it….

Etta James & Chuck Berry, with Keith Richards – Rock n’ Roll Music

Dusty & Martha
What was it about Dusty Springfield? Beyond the impeccable pitch, the sultry voice, the swingin’ phrasing? Maybe that she was sort of the Bill Clinton of British blue-eyed soulsters — she felt entirely comfortable with African American musicians even before the big Civil Rights push, and they dug her like crazy too. This is from a great English TV special of the ’60s she hosted, about Motown — it’s all up on YouTube now. This is one of my favorite of her many team-ups: two soul sisters, with acrylic bouffant hairdos, sounding fab together — Martha Reeves (and, at the end, her Vandellas) and Dusty:

Martha Reeves & Dusty Springfield – Wishin’ & Hopin’

Stevie & Ray

A lot of people loved Taylor’s version on American Idol, and it’s one of Stevie Wonderful’s finest. What a treat, though, to hear Ray Charles sing “Livin for the City” with the composer over dueling keyboards! I love how Ray gives the lyrics an extra layer of grittiness. They both knew well the world they were singing about:

— Ray & Stevie — Livin’ for the City

Marvin & Tina

Speaking of Marvin, again, I have to share another gem from “Shindig!,” which Gray also posted for about a day. (I want Shin Dig’s entire archive, people!) Tina was a lot more country and funky sass than Marvin’s usual glamorous singing partners (Kim Weston, Tami Terrell, Diana Ross). But she and Marvin are marvelous together, in a cool-meets-hot, grits-with-caviar kinda way, on this terrific medley of Barrett Strong’s “Money” and Marvin’s “I’ll Be Doggone”:

Marvin Gaye & Tina Turner medley

Tom & Dionne

OK, this is a song I used to run screaming from, but when these two singers team up on it, in peak voice, I can even handle “Endless Love.” Who knew how good a vocal fit they’d be…….Dionne is in exceptional voice here.

Dionne Warwick & Tom Jones, Endless Love

Michael, Valerie & Nick

Michael McDonald does not to me sound much like Taylor Hicks, who is always compared to him — but they both possess low, grainy, bluesy voices I enjoy. McDonald had a musical resurgence a few years ago after making a couple of Motown cover albums, a natural for him. This is from a PBS special he did, and here he hunkers down on a great oldie (yes, again Marvin), with its authors, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson chiming in. (So why do Michael and me age, but Nick and Valerie don’t?)

Michael McDonald & Ashford and Simpson — Ain’t No Mountain High Enough <—–click here

Diana & Natalie

Ooh, so cool, smooth & swinging. Not “soul” in the usual sense, but who’s counting? On a song that Natalie’s pop Nat made famous, and the girls groove so nicely together. Taped in Amsterdam.

Diana Krall and Natalie Cole, Route 66

Corrine & John

They’re not Robert Flack & and Danny Hathaway, but I appreciate that Corrine Bailey Rae and John Legend went to Soul Duet Old School on their recent tour. They sing this hit of Flack & Hathaway often in concert together, but all video of it so far is pretty rugged. Here’s the best of what I’ve found, and here’s a plea: Hey you talented kids! We know duet albums with only two artists are considered passe or something, but give it a go please!!

— Corine Bailey Rae & John Legend, Where is the Love?

Ruben & Jordin

This isn’t rare, for sure. But for me (apart from a few numbers by girls Melinda and LaKisha) this duet was a rare highlight of the last under-inspired American Idol Season. Pairing on an old Marvin-Tami duet, Idol champs Ruben Stoddard and Jordin Sparks spurred each other on to show what a good song, a great arrangement, and a pair of sympatico voices can do in an R & B two-fer. It also accentuates the ridiculousness of many of the multi-star, many-mismatches duet albums recently. Why not just get two people who really click, and do a whole one a la Otis & Carla, Marvin & the girls, and (most recently) Tony Bennett and KD Lang? You tell me…..

— You’re All I need — Ruben & Jordin


Posted by on July 14, 2007 in Artists, Influences


Sara Bareilles (bar-rell-is)


Well, well, well….

Lookee what I found. A hot new talent named Sara Bareilles.

Run, do not walk, to iTunes and purchase her amazing new download compilation (DC rather than CD) for only $6.99. That’s right. Twelve, count ’em, TWELVE tracks for only $6.99. This very attractive price caused me to give Sara a listen. I did and I absolutely LERVE her. I feel the same way I did when I was first introduced to Amos Lee and Ray LaMontagne. In researching fare Sara, I find out that she spent the fall opening for cousin Marc. Broussard, that is.

Her website, has great features, including a Journal that she writes in blog format. She is a humble, down to earth artist who is simply amazed to “be here”. In her self-penned biography on VIRB, she explains her music:

“I write mostly on piano and I’m a girl, so lots of people say it’s Norah Jones, or Fiona Apple. That’s fine. I love Norah’s subtlety and Fiona’s fierce lyrical prowess. But I also have an affinity for the playful and intelligent-pop of people like Elton John and Ben Folds. And although I don’t necessarily write like them, Radiohead, the Police and Bjork changed my musical consciousness. Ben Gibbard writes better lyrics than I can even imagine up. Etta James and Sam Cooke make me wish I lived 50 years ago. Counting Crows recorded an album that I consider to be perfect, and Bob Marley created music that makes me want to be a better human being.

So there’s all that. And it’s all in there. In me. Somewhere. So do what you will with that information, I know it’s vague, but it’s the best I can do.”

This DC is exactly as she explains it…a little bit of everything. And, they’re all original. I find her writing style and lyrics very appealing and familiar.

Here are some favorite tracks:

Love Song


Bottle it Up
Pay attention to her monologue on this song about her “record label”.



Likely my new favorite song, this song was featured in the movie Loving Annabelle.

These are not on the DC, but lovely nonetheless:

Opening for Marc Broussard at The Roxy in Hollywood

With a Little Help From My Friends
As if I didn’t like her enough, she covers The Beatles at the same show.

Finally, here are two duets with Mighty Marc….live from The Granada in Lawerence, KS – 10/12/06

Heart to Heart (Kenny Loggins cover)

I Shot the Sheriff (Bob Marley cover)



Posted by on July 12, 2007 in Artists