Posts Tagged ‘Don Wilcock’

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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A Few Minutes With… Peter Wolf

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Interview and story by Don Wilcock

Four bands saw this music journalist through the dark nights of the disco-dominated 1970s pop music scene: the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Van Halen and the J. Geils Band.

The first three groups still exist but haven’t produced new music up to their earlier standards. The fourth doesn’t exist under the Geils name, but their lead singer, Peter Wolf, is writing music that is more real and heartfelt than he was between 1969 and ’81 when he left the band. He plays with his current band the Midnight Travelers at The Egg in Albany on Saturday night for the third time in three years.

The first three groups still play arenas, essentially presenting an oldies greatest hits show. Wolf plays venues one twentieth the size, performing new music just as heady, raw and dynamic as he did with Geils but with the added wisdom of lyrics that stand tall next to those of other grizzled veterans, some of whom fall generally under the label of Americana like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver and, yes, Bob Dylan.

Why, you may ask, is Wolf playing to much smaller audiences if he’s better than his contemporaries?

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INTERVIEW: Sheesham & Lotus & Son, No Batteries Required

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Interview and story by Don Wilcock

The Canadian group Sheesham & Lotus & Son – playing at the Old Songs Festival this weekend at the Altamont Fairgrounds – describe themselves as “at once ancient and refreshingly new.” They dress old timey and play fiddle tunes, ragtime, good-time blues and use old time vocal harmony applying “old techniques and new sonic ideas presented to the audience in a bombastic and friendly fashion.”

I can remember as a college student during the ’60s “folk scare” being totally put off by the movement’s reticence to accept fresh ideas for music that at the time was slavishly copying decades-old songs and resisting new technology and even original songs. Dylan’s going electric and San Francisco going psychedelic pushed the academic attitude off the table, and today anything goes. Sheesham & Lotus & Son are a Canadian group that, like the Carolina Chocolate Drops, are revising a style of music popular in the ’20s and ’30s that largely has been forgotten with the revisionist popularity of delta blues and modern folk idioms.

As Sheesham Crow explains it, there is no utility in resisting a euphonium or trumpet in an old timey band. “If I walked across the holler, and I happen to bring an accordion, (my friend) wouldn’t say, ‘Wow, I’m playing old time. You can’t play that accordion.’”

“The thing that bugs me is the gentrification of old time music. You can lose some of that crusty, wild energy that comes from the real old time music.”

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INTERVIEW: Bill Payne: “It All Boils Down to Complete Freedom”

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Interview and story by Don Wilcock

“It took me 63 years to find my voice, quote, unquote, with regard to myself, not within a band,” says Bill Payne, the founding keyboardist of Little Feat, the enduring American band with a 40-plus year legacy. They performed at The Egg in early January, but on Tuesday (June 18), Payne returns as a solo act to WAMC-FM’s The Linda in Albany.

“I didn’t do any solo shows until a year ago,” he says. At that time he had Dennis McNally open for him. McNally was the long-time historian and publicist for the Grateful Dead who wrote the definitive biography of the band, “Long Strange Trip.”

There has been a long, psychic connection between the two bands that suddenly became more tangible last year when the Dead’s lyricist Robert Hunter began a songwriting collaborating with Payne.

When I interviewed Payne in December to advance Little Feat’s show at The Egg date I wrote, “Never as popular as the Dead, Little Feat is adored by critics and die-hard fans alike, and like the Dead, they retain their distinctive sound despite the comings and goings of various personnel. Payne and Hunter’s title track to Rooster Rag [Little Feat's latest album] sounds like a logical extension of Payne’s ’70s anthem “Oh Atlanta,” and the band’s high energy eclecticism remains a West Coast answer to New Orleans gumbo.” At that time, Payne had written 13 songs with Hunter.

Recently, we reconnected for this interview:

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INTERVIEW: The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson Says “This Music Is Not for Kids”

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Interview and story by Don Wilcock

As the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ founder Kim Wilson ages, he changes his perspective on where he takes chances and where he plays it safe. On one hand, he gave up drinking 25 years ago and is on a healthy diet that’s caused him to lose 35 pounds in the last several months. On the other hand, he says he will undoubtedly call out some songs at Thursday’s Alive at Five concert (June 6) that his band has never played before.

“It’s not like you’re pushed down the expert slope, you’re just starting and you’re gonna kill yourself,” he says, paying respects to himself and his band for their decades of experience. “It’s all about being
comfortable in your own skin, (but) it’s also all about just making it exciting.”

For Kim, it basically boils down to a realization at age 62 that life is precious, and that the value of what he’s learned in 39 years as the founding bandleader of the T-Birds is that it’s worth taking extra care of yourself to be able to experience the thrill of creativity hammered out in a job – he refuses to call it a career – that is more fun than living life as if it were a bungee jump, as so many artists do. “In ’88 I stopped drinking. That really helped me get on this thing where I really started learning stuff,” he says.

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