Posts Tagged ‘Don Wilcock’

LIVE: Tom Rush @ the Eighth Step at Proctors, 5/15/15

Thursday, May 28th, 2015
Tom Rush

Tom Rush

Review by Don Wilcock
Photographs by Mary Kozlowski

Tom Rush calls himself simply “a generalist,” a self-deprecating understatement that proved way insufficient in defining his sumptuous nearly three-hour, two-set concert at the Eighth Step at Proctors recently. His tour-de-force performance featured his own signature song “No Regrets” from early in his career as Boston’s best voice of the ’60s folk boom and his career-defining The Circle Game, which introduced Joni Mitchell’s songwriting to the world.

Criss-crossing genres, he re-invigorated Dobie Gray’s pop ode to the palliative properties of music on “Drift Away,” and encored with an energetic acoustic version of “Who Do You Love” that somehow managed to inject as much potency into that Bo Diddley rockin’ blues classic as Diddley himself did in the ’50s with his plugged-in rectangular guitar. Rush joked about songwriter Lee Clayton telling him he’d written the outlaw country number “Ladies Love Outlaws” especially for Tom and then postulated that Lee probably said the same thing to Waylon Jennings, who had a hit with it.

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A FEW MINUTES WITH… Caffe Lena’s Sarah Craig

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015
Sarah Craig

Sarah Craig

By Don Wilcock

“I remember I was going for a walk with my brother once in Greenwich Village,” says Sarah Craig, the Executive Director of Caffe Lena, “and we passed an iconic Greenwich Village folk venue, and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. There it is,’ and I thought that was really cool, until I examined it and realized that it basically offered some music, but really what it was was a t-shirt outlet for the once great institution. And I said, ‘I don’t ever want Caffe Lena to go down that road.’ My brother said, ‘There’s a lot of money to be made in it. You’re probably the last person who will hold the line against that.’ And I said, ‘I’m gonna stay forever.’

On Saturday (May 16), the venerable Saratoga Springs coffeehouse Caffe Lena presents a double celebration at Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center. It’s the 55th anniversary of America’s longest running coffeehouse and Craig’s 20th anniversary as executive director of the venue that has outlived its Greenwich Village and Harvard Square prototypes as a premier showcase for folk music. Perhaps more important than its tenure, under Craig’s leadership the Caffe has progressed beyond the scope of places like Café Wha and the Bitter End in Greenwich Village and Club 47 in Harvard Square to present an overview of “folk music” today that assures this vaunted venue will be credited with discovering as much new talent in 2015 as it did in 1960.

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RIP: Percy Sledge, 1941-2015

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

By Don Wilcock

Percy Sledge passed away on Tuesday (April 14) from liver cancer. He recorded six songs in Muscle Shoals, Alabama on February 17, 1966, and he liked all five of the others better than he did “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

“I didn’t know anything about music,” he told me in 2004. “All I done was just sing.” But Sledge producer Quinty Ivy felt differently, and Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler “went crazy, absolutely crazy about the song.” “When a Man Loves a Woman” became Atlantic Records’ first million seller. It became one of the cuts in “The Big Chill,” a film that defined ’60s soul for the generations to follow. And it unilaterally established a career for Sledge that still sustained him 38 years later when I saw him perform at Columbia-Greene Community College in April, 2004.

It was a song that almost never saw the light of day. It began with a catchy melody, a completely different set of lyrics and a title that was the polar opposite of what it would eventually become – “Why Did You Leave Me.” Sledge was lead singer in a band called the Esquires playing fraternity party gigs at Ole Miss and doing covers of Beatles hits and soul smashes like James Brown’s “Please, Please, Please” and Wilson Picket’s “634-5789” and “Mustang Sally.” One night, Ivy who was establishing himself with a studio in Sheffield, Alabama, heard Sledge sing an original with the Esquires.

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A FEW MINUTES WITH… Ethan Russell

Thursday, March 26th, 2015
Mick Jagger Onstage @ Altamont

Mick Jagger Onstage @ Altamont © Ethan Russell

By Don Wilcock

Rock photographer Ethan Russell is on a one-man crusade to prove that the ’60s were the first time in American history when the dream inspired our reality rather than the other way around. His photographs of John Lennon & Yoko Ono, the Rolling Stones and the Who are a peek behind the curtain into an intimate reality that gets lost in the revisionist history that Dion once told me has become “a cartoon.” Russell sees that cartoon as TV footage that has become embedded in our brains with the themes of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Russell’s “Best Seat in the House” show at Proctors’ GE Theatre in Schenectady on Saturday (March 28) promises to show 380 pictures of the most iconic rock stars of the 1960s complete with back stories. His photos offer a reality that exploded in a cultural shift away from the black and white box that was TV at the time into a colorful embrace that brought the pop musicians of the day closer to their fans and turned the rock stars away from being actors parroting other people’s songs into complicit compatriots in a modern revolution.

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A Few Minutes With… Dale Watson

Monday, January 26th, 2015

DaleWastson1

Interview and story by Don Wilcock

Dale Watson – appearing Wednesday night (January 28) at The Hangar in Troy – has an axe to grind about today’s so-called country music, what it is and what it isn’t. “Blake Shelton says nobody wants to listen to granddaddy’s music, that they’re just old farts and jackasses. He’s wrong,” says the silver-haired, tattooed Texas troubadour.

Watson is single-handedly bringing the Sun Studios, rockabilly and countrypolitan music
kicking and swinging into the 21st century with apologies to none of the black-hat pretty boys who are filling Nashville’s coffers these days. He has a two-decade discography of 20 albums that declared his intentions first time out of the box with a song called “Nashville Rash” on his 1995 Hightone CD Cheatin’ Heart Attack that railed against the mainstream country hits of artists like Blake Shelton and Kenny Chesney.

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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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