Posts Tagged ‘Don Wilcock’

A Few Minutes With… Paul Nelson of the Johnny Winter Band

Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Paul Nelson and Johnny Winter (photo: Greg Olliver)

Paul Nelson and Johnny Winter (photo: Greg Olliver)

Interview and story by Don Wilcock

“He wasn’t just playing it. He was living it.” That’s the way Paul Nelson remembers Johnny Winter. Nelson was Winter’s lead guitarist, band leader, songwriter, album producer and perhaps most importantly, the man who brought the albino blues rocker back from the brink of a lifestyle that threatened to kill him a decade ago. Winter finally succumbed to pneumonia on July 16.

“I made my first records when I was 15,” says Winter in the film documentary, “Down & Dirty: The Johnny Winter Story.” I started playing clubs when I was 15, started drinking and smoking when I was 15, sex when I was 15. Fifteen was a big year for me.”

That documentary will open the Johnny Winter Remembrance Concert on Saturday evening (November 1) at The Egg. This show headlines Johnny’s band under Nelson’s direction with guest guitarists Sonny Landreth, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Debbie Davies, all blues-based artists who, like Winter, know how to put a kick into blues guitar.

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A Few Minutes With… Bob Girouard

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Bob Girouard

Bob Girouard

Interview and story by Don Wilcock
Photographs by Joe Glickman

“I’d never had a sick day in my life,” says drummer/vocalist Bob Girouard. “All of a sudden, I got on stage at Siro’s, August, 2003. It was with Jimmy (Anderson) and (his wife) Trish in Bluz House Rockers. My right hand just froze, wouldn’t even move. What is this? They misdiagnosed it as carpel tunnel syndrome.”

It turned out to be Parkinson’s Disease.

Eleven years later, the benefit concert “Boogie for Bob” at The Linda in Albany on Sunday (September 28) will bring together many of the local musicians who are the backbone of the area’s vibrant scene to honor Girouard. Hair of the Dog, Aged in the Hills, the Ernie Williams Tribute Band, the Bluz House Rockers, Diva & the Dirty Boys, Urban Gumbo and the Massachusetts-based band Forest are all bands that vocalist/drummer Bob Girouard has either played with or been involved with as the concert and corporate sponsor coordinator for the City of Albany Office of Special Events from 1990-2003. The 11 years since he was diagnosed have shown Bob that he doesn’t have to deal with this disease alone.

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A Few Minutes With… Larry Kirwan of Black 47

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Black 47

Larry Kirwan (right) and Black 47

Interview and story by Don Wilcock
Photograph by Kirsten Ferguson

Facing death straight in the eye clears one’s head in a heartbeat. If it’s the possible death of your child, the focus is even sharper. “You think, holy shit, you make a wrong move, and your kids are gonna die. That’s a big one,” says Larry Kirwan, leader of the Celtic rock band Black 47 performing Saturday afternoon at the 18th annual Irish 2000 Festival of Music & Arts at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa.

Black 47 takes its name from the worst year of the Irish potato famine, 1847. Their instrumentation includes uillean pipes and bodhran, and they address issues relating to Irish as well as American politics. They are one of the few contemporary rock bands that don’t blink when it comes to the politics of war. “When we were doing the Iraq album and playing it during the war, we’d do a lot of colleges or a certain amount of them during the course of the year and for three years, 2003 to 2006, it was a nightmare in bars and everything. Even colleges didn’t give a fuck (as long as) they could dance to it. They really didn’t.

“The only way I used to get a rise out of them is I’d off-handedly say, ‘I’m sorry, but the draft is coming back in this afternoon. It’s gonna be tough on you guys.’ Then I’d go into the next song. And this rumor would spread through the crowd. It was wildfire. It was like everyone was listening to what you were gonna say on the next song.”

Black 47’s core audience includes those men and women who choose the military as an occupation at a time when facing death is a gamble they feel is worth the effort in a world of limited life options. Kirwan is not a war monger, but he separates his judgments towards our fighting men and women from those about politicians who make the decisions to go to war.

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LIVE: The Moody Blues @ SPAC, 8/4/14

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
The Moody Blues

The Moody Blues

Review by Don Wilcock
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Of all the rock legends from the ’60s still performing, the Moody Blues are the best at stopping time. Justin Hayward’s lyrics are inspired by the romantic British poetry of Byron, Keats and Shelley blended with classical music buoyed by Hayward’s perfectly executed rock guitar that, if anything, has more edge than it did back in 1967. It’s a sumptuous and lush sound that made the band the most blatantly British of a cadre of rockers, the rest of whom were selling American roots music back to the colonies half a century ago.

At Monday night’s Saratoga Performing Arts Center performance, drummer Graeme Edge announced that the band had just celebrated their 50th anniversary the night before. They ended their first set with one of their newest songs, “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” a mid-’80s hit. They built their second hour-long set around ever more familiar waves of hits that included “Isn’t Life Strange” from Seventh Sojourn; their first American hit from Days of Future Passed, “Tuesday Afternoon;” “Higher and Higher” with Edge on vocal from To Our Children’s Children’s Children; “Singer in a Rock and Roll Band” from Seventh Sojourn; and they encored with “Ride My See Saw” from In Search of a Lost Chord. Most songs prompted repeated standing ovations from a crowd of all ages, and they closed with their signature song “Nights in White Satin” from the 1967 breakout album Days of Future Passed.

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A Few Minutes With… Dan + Shay

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Story and interview by Don Wilcock

Jake Owen, Montgomery Gentry, John Michael Montgomery, Scotty McCreery and Dan + Shay are all scheduled to perform at WGNA-FM’s 21st annual CountryFest at the Schaghticoke Fairgrounds on Saturday (July 12). And Local 518 country faves Cryin’ Out Loud will open, the show which is expected to attract 15,000 people.

Headliner Jake Owen’s album Barefoot Blue Jean Night hit No. 1 on the country charts in 2011. The album’s title track and three more singles from that album (“Alone with You,” “The One That Got Away” and “Anywhere with You”) also reached No. 1, and his newest single, “Beachin’,” off his latest album, Days of Gold, is currently climbing its way up the country charts. He performed in the area last year at SPAC, opening for Jason Aldean.

Meanwhile, Dan & Shay’s debut single, “19 You & Me,” went gold, and they were named one of Billboard’s “2014 Artists to Watch.” They recently received their first ACM nomination for Vocal Duo of the Year, as well as a CMT Music Awards nomination for Duo Video of the Year. Their debut album Where It All Began was released on Warner Bros. Records on April 1, and it debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. Other than their appearance at CountryFest on Saturday, the duo is out on summer tour with Blake Shelton on his Ten Times Crazier 2014 Tour.

In the midst of their tour, Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney took time out to chat with Nippertown earlier this week:

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A Few Minutes With… Alan White of Yes

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Alan White

Alan White

Interview and story by Don Wilcock

The veteran progressive rock band Yes rolls into The Egg in Albany on Sunday (July 6), the second stop on a 35-date tour that includes Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium of Grand Ole Opry fame, the Big Apple’s Radio City Music Hall, and concludes at L.A.’s Greek Theatre. They will be performing in their entirety the albums Fragile and Close to the Edge, plus material from Heaven and Earth, a CD of new material to be released on Tuesday, July 22.

Jon Davison, the band’s current lead singer, was born the year the album Fragile was released – 1971. Drummer Alan White joined Yes just after their next album Close to the Edge came out in 1972. Even at that, he’s the second longest sustaining member of the band. Keyboardist Geoff Downes rejoined Yes in 2011 after an absence of 30 years. In fact, the only original member is Chris Squire, who formed the group in England in 1968.

With credits that include John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band, White is sanguine about his tenure with Squire. “I guess we’re the only two that can put up with each other,” he laughs. “No, you know, I enjoy Chris’ playing. I enjoy working with him. In the beginning, we took quite a while to find our own styles to work totally with each other, but it seems as if the combination has played out through the many albums we’ve done, and the many years we’ve been playing.”

Not only does singer Davison bear an uncanny vocal similarity to original Yes vocalist Jon Anderson, but he wrote a lot of the material for the new CD. It’s just the latest round of a revolving door of personnel in a band whose storied members have also included Rick Wakeman, Trevor Horn, Tony Kaye and Bill Bruford. “I mean, we’re pretty organized,” says White. “Jon is a wonderful guy to bounce off, and he has good ideas musically, and also a great sense of coming up with melodies and (coming up) with great choruses. This album has a lot of great songs on it.”

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A Few Minutes With… Steve Katz

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Steve Katz

Interview and story by Don Wilcock

Steve Katz has been on my wish list to interview for almost half a century. This former Schenectadian returns to Nippertown to play Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs on Friday night (May 9), on his 69th birthday. In a recent phone interview I told him his name had cropped up in conversation for decades. Another now deceased Steve Katz was our jam master for years with the Northeast Blues Society, and I felt a little weird talking to him.

“You feel weird talking to me now,” he answered. “Maybe you’re coming down with something.” I knew right then that I was in for a Coney Island roller coaster ride of an interview. And, boy, was I right. Katz has a razor quick wit and an incredibly varied background turning him into Forrest Gump with a Jon Stewart attitude.

As a singer/songwriter he’s been associated with everyone from the Greenwich Village movers and shakers Rev. Gary Davis and Dave Van Ronk to the Blues Project. He wrote hit songs for Blood, Sweat & Tears and produced two of Lou Reed’s career defining albums, Rock and Roll Animal and Sally Can’t Dance. With his band American Flyer he worked with Beatles producer George Martin and helped mold Mercury Records’ catalog during the New Wave-era as one of their vice presidents.

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A Few Minutes With… Crystal Aikin of Proctors’ Gospel Jubilee

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Interview and story by Don Wilcock
Photograph of Jubilee Mass Choir by Rudy Lu

The switch from being a night nurse in a Tacoma, Washington hospital to touring gospel singer wasn’t as drastic a transition for Crystal Aikin as she might have thought. “Sometimes you realize in order to heal the natural body, you have to heal the soul and the spiritual man,” says the headliner at Friday’s (April 11) third annual Gospel Jubilee at Proctors in Schenectady. “I definitely miss the (nursing) field. It was definitely challenging to leave, but I also knew there was a wonderful future ahead to change lanes and to actually start healing with singing and finding out that music, as well as medicine, is a powerful medium for healing.”

In December, 2008, Aikin won the grand prize in BET’s “Sunday Best” singing competition. She had already recorded with the Washington-based Soul for Trinity Records, the gospel arm of a record label run by Jimi Hendrix’s sister. But this was the African American gospel equivalent to “American Idol.” “It was a great experience where you’re looking at Kirk Franklin standing next to you, and like my life has changed. Oh, my God. I remember (judges) Be Be Winans and the girls Mary Mary. They were saying my full name, and I said, ‘Wow! If they’re saying my name, people in their homes are saying that.’ It was a huge paradigm shift to just be a girl that is local in Tacoma working in the hospital ER to all of a sudden be the mainstream from BET on the stage such as ‘Sunday Best.’ All of a sudden you’re in everybody’s home on television on Thursday and Sunday nights. So it was a paradigm shift, but I wasn’t even thinking about that at the time. Something I ultimately had to learn was over, but I’m telling you, my heels were shaking.”

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