Category Archives: Music Today

So, it’s the Grammys…Do You Care?

Tonight is the vaunted Grammy Awards at 8pm Eastern, on CBS.

This is the 50th Grammy Awards ceremony. Do I care? Should I watch? This flowchart from Vulture in New York Magazine give some great insight to these questions:

I think that the Grammys is a poster child for all that is wrong with the music industry. First, it’s basically monopolized by Clive Davis and the mega labels’ warlords. The major categories — which, let’s face it, are the only ones that anyone really knows about — are full of the same old shite (Beyonce’ and Justin Timberlake) and a bit of new, contrived shite (Chris Daughtry and Taylor Swift) that the major labels have crammed down our throats through obnoxious overplay on the radio and manipulation of record sales and charts.

However, I must say that there a few diamonds in the rough that are shining through. Amy Winehouse, whose Rehab, CD is nominated in six categories. Unfortunately, she won’t be attending because her Visa didn’t come through in time. Perhaps her recent detox will have her better prepared in the future, but this time she’ll likely be accepting via satellite.

Corrine Bailey Rae is also nominated for Song of the Year with Like a Star. Sadly, she doesn’t stand a chance against the bought juggernaut of Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats. Also, ma girl Feist is nominated for best new artist. Riddle me this, how is it that Daughtry is nominated in three or four categories, yet not nominated for Best New Artist? And, Amy Winehouse who has been around a while, is?

As for the men, Johnny Boy is nominated for Belief, and is truly the most deserving of those in the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. I think Sir Paul’s nominations are nostalgic and a nod of respect, but Memory Almost Full just wasn’t that good. Dance Tonight was cute but Best Performance? And, of course, Justin Timberlake received his obligatory four or five nominations. Wasn’t his CD released, like, two years ago? Strangely, he performs What Goes Around Comes Around at last year’s Grammys and it’s nominated in 2008?

Just how much exposure can they give this guy? This is the best song he’s ever written? Really? That should about say it all.

To me, the organic and worthy music is peeking through sporadically, but the manufactured and over-synthesized productions are still dominating the music industry and award shows. The Grammys are just a microcosm of the celluloid and shallow state of music today. If Britney Spears wasn’t mentally imploding before our very eyes, she would most assuredly would also be front and center, showcasing the Grammys and the music business as it really is.

Clive Davis once again threw his pre-Grammy self-adoration gathering, with his loyal subjects all in attendance and performing at the feet of the master who controls their fate. Obviously feeling some pressure from the fallout of the dying recording industry, Mr. Davis was compelled to throw a a dig at the critics out there (like me) who blame the demise on mediocre music. “How wrong you are!”, the Puppet Master proclaimed, before introducing The Foo Fighters.

The only redeeming thing about the Grammys is that the great Aretha Franklin was honored last night as the MusiCares’ Person of the Year. Lefsetz describes her performance as bordering on a religious experience.  Speaking of religious experience, The Queen of Soul is also nominated tonight for Best Gospel Performance for her duet with Mary J. Blige on Never Gonna Break My Faith, a Music Maven favorite.

Earlier in the week USA Today interviewed Ree Ree about the award and I was particularly struck by her very blunt statement about her thoughts on today’s music:

R&B is “alive and well,” says Franklin, but it’s no match for the music of the ’60s and ’70s. “You had stronger artists, unquestionably. Sam & Dave, Ray Charles, Etta James, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson. C’mon, you know. Please.”

Right on.

On a homeboy note, here’s wishing Geno Delafose good luck tonight in the Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Performance category.


Posted by on February 10, 2008 in aretha franklin, John Mayer, Music Today


Colette’s Corner: In With the New

Sorry for the tardiness in getting this posted. It’s been such a long, short week. New job, business trip, cleaning up Christmas, etc. , but now I’m firmly set to take on 2008. So is our dear Colette, who offers the following submission on several artists that may not be at the top of the charts, but certainly deserve a bit more attention.

I appreciate Colette’s compilations and after all, this is what Music Maven is all about. Finding obscure, unknown and highly talented artists to share and educate. I have a couple to include, but you’ll find them AFTER Colette’s interesting contribution. I encourage you all to share your “deserving artists” for ’08, as well.

Seven who Deserve More Ear Time in 2008

Who do you believe deserves to be heard by many, many more people in 2008?

I know Music Maven and everyone else who follows this blog has their list of under-touted musical favorites, artists whose sounds mean a great deal to you (and other aficionados), but who still are not widely known — even among fellow soundistas. So I want to share a few of mine (and maybe get an exchange started)?

Just to draw some parameters here: I’m not talking only about young music-makers. Nor people who’ve won major, big deal awards; had a huge hit single in recent years; fill large concert halls; get significant national radioplay; or have already had major tributes from MM or other bloggers (including John Mayer, who turned me onto to Brett Dennen among others).

It’s my belief that there is enough unmined, underexposed musical talent in this country to jack the music scene way, way up, to save it from its plastic-overhyped-underwhelming-overcommercialized current self. If I ruled the world, these are artists who you could hear every day on your car radio:

1) Ryan Shaw

Maybe the next true Soul Man? Not rap, hip-hop but back-to-the-Marvin/Stevie/Jackie soul singing — this young Georgia-bred artist is a godsend: handsome, exuberant, and wildly impassioned. Can he ever get into the heart of a tune, with a voice that pleads, croons, promises, and lifts into gospel heights — while making you want to dance. Really love him, and again am looking for that national tour that brings him to me. Until then, there’s his debut album (“This is Ryan Shaw”), and the occasional TV appearance….it’s clear a lot of people in the biz like him, so what’s next?

On the TV show “Ellen” – why the hell isn’t this a monster hit??

His great tune “We Got Love” on Martha Stewart’s show

And, channeling a little Otis:

2) Tyrone Wells

A young Spokane native now based in L.A., this bald, gangly, extremely talented young singer-songwriter has written the best anti-war song of the era: “What Are We Fighting For?”. And one of the catchiest ballads: “Sea Breeze.” He gigs low-rent halls all over the place, like so many Internet wonders, and always pays homage to his own favorite influences — including Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder. In another period, I imagine he’d be snatched up by a smart scout for a big label and his supple songs would be covered everywhere. As it is, he has a solid campus following, almost entirely through music sharing and the Internet.
Tyrone Wells singing “Sea Breeze”:

Tyrone, in a funky home-made live video, doing “What Are We Fighting For?” — such a passionate plea…..”. Love teaches the way to overcome hate/Weapons of war…..”

3) Tuck and Patti.

Patti Cathcart is a black woman with a big, warm voice and a rare ability to scat-sing. She also creates the superb arrangements for herself and her white husband Tuck, a guitarist extraordinaire who can make one electric guitar sound like an orchestra. This sublime jazz-pop duo has made glorious sounds together for three decades, often with me in the audience (during the past 15). They have a loyal US falling, but are much bigger in Europe & Japan. And way too many friends I’ve turned them onto have never heard of them (or have the wrong idea about them).

They do a lot of scrumptious covers, well-chosen tunes from Gershwin to Jimi Hendrix, originals too, and they truly care about the messages in their songs as well as the musical values.

T & P’s beautiful cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” —

The song my hubby and I fell in love to — “You Take My Breath Away:”

And here they are, boppin’ and jivin’ to a groovy jazz standard — “Better Than Anything”:

4) Bettye Lavette

Talk about lives of the R & B saints! Bettye was a rising soul singer in the 1960s and 1970s, but pretty much fell off the American pop radar for a long period afterward. She came roaring back with “I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise,” a fantastic 2005 album of gritty, fierce tunes by women singers/composers. (Do you remember when albums were very carefully composed and meant to be heard in entirety? This is one of those!) Watching and listening to Bettye on video, you can’t help but feel that this is what Amy Winehouse is aspiring to — if she has the strength of soul and will to triumph over adversity. I’ve never seen Bettye live, and fervently hope I’ll get that chance. Meanwhile, this 60-something woman is on a tear.

Her raw, exquisite cover of “Close As I’ll Get to HEaven” makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. What a deep, deep scorching take on this song:

Just as fabulous, her version of Dolly Parton’s “Little Sparrow.” It ain’t a song, it’s a novel!:

And from her new album of “greasy blues,” titled “Scene of the Crime,” here’s “The Battle of Bettye Lavette,” during which she tells her up-from-the-bottom saga:

5) The Be Good Tanyas

Maybe these Canadian gals are better-known and I’m just discovering them (thanks to a 20-something friend who recommended their music). There’s a lot of wispy-quirky female acoustic music out there in the cosmos, a development I welcome though it can feel sorta faddish. But I do so like the Tanyas’ soothing/sultry/searching blend of string acoustic instrumentation and lovely harmonies.

Here’s “Light Enough to Travel”:

Their very sweetly bluesy “The Littlest Birds”:

6) Eric Bibb

Eric is a young but very old school troubadour, from the folkie-blues era that made a star out of his wonderful father, the great (and still alive & singing) Leon Bibb. Eric performs on guitar and voice with great conviction, touching on the matters that are meaningful to him — love, faith, peace, brotherhood and (of course) the blues. He’s a throwback, yeah. Or you could say his brand of music is “classic” — wherever there’s a porch, a guitar and a song, it’s gonna get sung.

“In My Father’s House” — recorded in London, where Bibb lives. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the Europeans honor Eric more than we do —

I really like Eric’s duets with a fine acoustic guitarist Brian Kramer. Here they do a lovely spiritual, “Now is the Needed Time”:

7) Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

OK, I’m cheating a little here. Most of us know of this killer soul band, fronted by a middle-aged pistol of a soul gal. So why haven’t they graduated into big venues yet? Let’s get it started! Sharon is a glorious throwback to early funky Tina Turner, and the Dap Kings were the backup band for Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.” They are FABULOUS live, do not miss them if they make it around! and they’re getting some significant push on the tube. So why why why……oh the state of the music biz makes me crazy…..

the title tune from their latest hot disc (“100 Days, 100 Nights”):

the funkiest cover ever of “This Land is Your Land”:

and Miss Jones singing an amazing “Amazing Grace”:

Small point of clarification — Bettye Layette WAS actually showcased in Divas Got the Blues post. In my preamble to Colette’s submission, I include Bettye as part of the wonderful documentary on PBS.

As for my recommendations, they ALL hail from the great state of Louisiana, a/k/a God’s Country. First, I give you Geno Delafose. Geno is from Eunice, LA and actually started his musical journey at the feet of his father, John, when he was 10 years old and joined the band on the rub board. He was nominated this year for a Grammy Award in the new category of Cajun and Zydeco Music. His musical and cultural heritage is very rich.

Mr. D and I actually met Geno at the world famous B.B. King’s on Beale Street about ten years ago, when we lived there. We had our company Christmas party there that night and Geno just happened to be the entertainment. Of course, sensing a kindred Cajun spirit, we made our way to the stage after a mean Cajun Jitterbug and introduced ourselves. He loved that there were other South Louisianians there and even dedicated a song to us. He threw in an autographed CD, personalized to us, that I played for a long time and just recently came across. I’ve ripped it to my iTunes and now have a Geno Delafose playlist on my iPod. One of the things that I admire about Geno is that he is a relatively young guy (35) who is working hard to keep Cajun music and language alive.

Geno is like Charlie, “he’s just happy to be here”. Every year, for ten years now, Geno throws a huge “fan appreciation” party in his hometown. It’s BYOB, but they provide all of the food and naturally, hours of great music. Of course, like many musicians and genres, Geno is much loved and better know in Europe where they really appreciate the music.

at the Cajun & Zydeco Festival in Saulieu, France.

Another up and coming young Louisiana artist is Amanda Shaw. Amanda hails from New Orleans, where she is supposed to be a Senior at Mount Carmel Academy (love those Catholic roots). However, she has foregone her Senior year to tour and play music. She’s most well know right now for co-narrating the IMAX film “Hurricane on the Bayou” with Tab Benoit.

A classically trained violinist who made her soloist debut with the Baton Rouge Symphony when she was seven, Amanda yearns to play all kinds of music and has embraced her Louisiana roots.

At this year’s Voodoo Festival

Here’s Amanda talking about her voyage, so far:

Shrew tells me that petite Amanda is become quite the sensation up North and I fully expect that, with tracks like these, she’s positioned perfectly to give Carrie Underwood a run for her money.

My last contribution is a tip from Cajun Boy @ Cajun Boy in the City. Sons of William are from the Houma, LA, and consist of brothers David (drums) and Joe Stark (guitar) along with Jen Janet on bass. Their name is self-describing, paying homage to their father, William, who was an early musical influence.

Their attention to classic blues and rock is evident in this Clapton cover of Bell Bottom Blues:

However, this ain’t your typical Louisiana band. As illustrated in this sample, Sons of William have a compelling, “now” sound. A little Cat Stevens, a little Hootie, their subtle harmonies and strong melodies on Easy to Love really draw the listener in.

And, finally, tell me you don’t hear The Beatles’ influence on Smile:

I’ll have more to come on the state of the music biz in 2008, but I have to say that with emerging artists like these, there is no shortage of talent — if you just look for it.


I Want You Back

Just had to share this wonderful K T Tunstall find.

There’s some real crap out there in music today, but there’s also some real talent hiding in the weeds.


Posted by on January 2, 2008 in music chicks, Music Today


Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye…


John Mayer’s latest blog is titled “Pop Rocks” and extols how there is some really good Pop music out there. Now, I know not all Pop music is bad, but the ones he’s listed has got me questioning John’s “tool” factor. I understand John’s need to conform to the industry early on in his career so that he could get a foothold into the industry — which he did.

I admired his dedication to becoming a top notch guitarist with a blues funk, reeling in friends like B.B. King and Eric Clapton. I thought Continuum was a brilliant piece of work that truly showed his range and talent and didn’t compromise in trying to throw out the sappy bubblegum that Pop fans are doled on a daily basis from terrestrial radio.

Then the list. I have to scratch my head as the guy who paints himself as the music biz rebel, obviously is throwing a bone to the record companies in endorsing these (with the exception of Sara Bareilles, where he evidently made an indie stand). You tell me:

1. Misery Business and When it Rains by Paramore

While a cheap Joan Jett imitation…makes me yawn.

When it Rains is a bit more compelling but I prefer Sara or FEIST!

2. Lovestoned/I Think She Knows – Justin Timberlake

Seriously? What a poser. He is the 21st Century Vanilla Ice. Is Mayer trying to be sarcastic? God, I hope so.

3. Tattoo – Jordin Sparks

This has to be an obvious payback to the record label gods. Can you listen to Mary J. Blige and Beyonce’ and really feel awed by Jordin? She’s not terrible by any means but there’s hundreds of Jordins and those kind of songs out there…cookie cutter.

4. Love Song – Sara Bareilles

Mayer picks the “poppiest” of Sara’s repetoire, when Gravity is clearly superior and shows Sara’s obvious talent. This is the only one I agree with, however for this kind of sound, I’d have chosen Bubbly by Colbie Caillat.

…..and the piece de resistance….

5. Over You – Daughtry

And, exactly how do Daughtry and John Mayer even fit in the same sentence? Has Mayer started wearing a wallet chain?

For good measure JM throws in his new BFF, Alicia Keys with Like You’ll Never See Me Again. Oh, the drama. While the girl has pipes, this certainly doesn’t show off her talent. Again, **yawn**.

I just don’t get it….other than this is John’s professional butt-kissing to take some chances on his next CD. Sort of an ace up his sleeve. It’s quite interesting that all of these artists, except for Paramore are signed to a Sony-BMG label, which just happens to be John Mayer’s label.

Jus’ sayin’.

That’s the only way I can rationalize the guy’s choices of “good” Pop music noted here. His own new song, Say (see Mayer’s November 16th blog for a preview), is really quite good and perhaps he’s trying to SAY something?

Take out of your wasted honor
Every little best frustration
Take out all your so called problems
Better put them in quotations
Say what you need to say (8x)

Walkin like a one man army
Fightin with the shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment
Knowing you’d be better off instead
If you could only
Say what you need to say (8x)
[Say lyrics on

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for getting older
You better know that in the end its better to say to much
Than to never to say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open
Say what you need to say (20ishx)


Posted by on November 21, 2007 in John Mayer, music biz, Music Today


Well, SOMEBODY likes Feist

A few months ago, I wrote a post about Feist. I would call her reception here a bit “frosty”, but evidently Steve Jobs likes her plenty.

ETA:  Here’s a very kewl Feist performance on Letterman.

“……1-2-3-4, tell me that you love me more……”


Posted by on September 16, 2007 in ipod, Music Today


Radio Nowhere

ETA:  Lefsetz redeems…I love this guy.  Hell yeah, music should be FREE!


The Boss is back….with the E Train Band.  And today only, a track from his CD scheduled for release October 2nd is FREE for downloading from iTunes and here.

Thanks to Bob Lefsetz for the heads up on this one.  Seems that Bruce is trying to make a statement?

Radio Nowhere

I was trying to find my way home,
But all I heard was a drone.
Bouncin’ off a satellite
Crushing the last long American night.
This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
I was sitting around a dirt dial
Just another lost number in a file.
Been in some kinda dark cove
Just searching for a world with some soul.

This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
Is there anybody alive out there?

I just want to hear some rhythm.
I just want to hear some rhythm
I just want to hear some rhythm.
I just want to hear some rhythm.

I want a thousand guitars.
I want pounding drums.
I want a million different voices speaking in tongues.

This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
Is there anybody alive out there?

(Sax solo)

I was driving thru the misty rain
Yeah, searching for a mystery train.
Bopping thru the wild blue
Trying to make a connection with you.

This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
Is there anybody alive out there?

I just want to hear some rhythm (you swoon.)
I just want to hear some rhythm (you swoon.)
I just want to hear you swoon.
I just want to hear you swoon.
I just want to hear you swoon.
I just want to hear you swoon.
I just want to hear you swoon.
I just want to hear you swoon.


Posted by on August 28, 2007 in music, Music Today, Springsteen


The Eagles….”How Long” has it been?


Ahhh, yes. The Eagles. Good times. Good times.

I came of age with Take it to the Limit, Desparado, Hotel California, Take it Easy and so many of the great Eagles’ hits of the mid to late ’70s. I adored the wonders of The Long Run album (The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks was a sort of personal anthem back in the day) and was even mildly interested when the came back together for Hell Freezes Over.

Admittedly, it’s been a while since I had the pleasure of enjoying Don, Joe, Glen and Tim with the exception of my Ultimate Class Rock playlist on my iPod. However, help is on the way….At a June concert, Don Henley announced a new CD that will be coming out this October. Then, a few days ago, they released the single How Long.

Here it is:

How Long, The Eagles

Now, Lefsetz has some pretty harsh criticism of the fact that this song was originally done by J.D. Souther in 1972. Never the subtle one, Bob laments the fact that this is a 35 year old cover. However, The Eagles publicist, Larry Solters, vehemently disagrees with Lefsetz’s assessment. While I generally am in total alignment with ole Bob, I have to go with Larry on this one. Larry’s basic point is that this song is actually exactly what Bob has been lamenting is missing — a good, solid song PERFORMED by musicians (who are certainly proven).

You can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth, Bob.  I respect what Larry says about the song being “performing” music and the lack of reliance on supped-up editing. After all, that is Lefsetz’s rally cry. Perhaps Bob just genuinely dislikes the song itself, and that’s ok, but sometimes he just might miss the mark of the intention and intelligence of an artist or group.  I think he got a little carried away with the fact that the first song (of 20 scheduled for the CD) is “cover”.  Forget that nobody actually knows that and the general public will only know that it’s a pretty good song from a band that’s in their fourth decade of solid music making.

Damn, those heroes fall hard.

As for my personal assessment of How Long??  Maybe I’m still in The Wilburys frame of mind, but this old, new song bears striking resemblance to that “sound”. It looks like they’re having a great time and it will fit nicely in my library — under REAL MUSIC.

BTW, here’s the website:


Posted by on August 27, 2007 in classic rock, Music Today