Invasion of the actor-singers

July 17th, 2009, 1:41 pm by Greg

jeffDanielsWilliam Shatner, Brent Spiner, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bruce Willis, Scarlet Johnasson, Don Johnson, Terence Howard, Minnie Driver, Jeff Bridges, Eddie Murphy, Robert Mitchum, Russell Crowe, Robert Downey Jr., Lynda Carter, John Travolta…

The list just keeps growing longer. The list – that is – of actors who feel the deep inner need to express themselves musically.

Jeff Daniels knows that the last thing the world needs is another actor-singer-songwriter.

So he kicks off his CD, “Jeff Daniels: Live and Unplugged,” with a pre-emptive strike – a wonderfully witty little ditty titled “If William Shatner Can, I Can, Too”:

“Despite people across the country screamin’, `Please don’t do it,’
We’ve got another CD from Jennifer Love Hewitt,
And now that Adam Sandler’s got more money than God,
I hope he takes his guitar and … just goes away.”

Daniels, of course, isn’t about to go away. And he isn’t about to stop singing, either. In fact, he’s swinging into the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield for a concert on Monday, July 20.

And Daniels isn’t the only actor-singer headed into Nippertown this week. The very next night – Tuesday, July 21 – Kevin Costner rides into Northern Lights in Clifton Park with his band, Modern West.


INTERVIEW: Jimmy Scott, 84 years old

July 17th, 2009, 12:01 pm by Greg

Jimmy Scott – who celebrates his 84th birthday today – is heartbreak personified.

A ballad singer without peer, Scott still has the delicate, ethereal voice of an angel. And despite a lifetime of hard luck and disappoint, he remains almost impossibly optimistic.

“Of course, you’ve got to really love the music,” he says in a soft and gentle voice. “So many singers just do it because there’s a show to be done. No, for me it has a little more value than that. For me, it’s all about good music and what that music is projecting. Is it projecting good or happiness? Is it awakening the soul of a man? That’s what’s important.

JimmyScott2“After all these years, my goodness, if I didn’t get anything more out of it than just the glamour, I’d be lost.”

Back in 2003, it looked as though Scott was about to finally get the kind of widespread recognition that he’s deserved for so long. After more than a half century of being admired by his fellow musicians and a small, but rabidly devoted cult following of hipsters, Scott was finally coming into his own.

There was “Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew,” a documentary feature film directed by Matthew Buzzell. There was his gorgeous “But Beautiful” CD of jazz standards, released on Milestone Records. And there was “Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott,” an insightful biography written by David Ritz.

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Stephen Bruton: 1948-2009

May 10th, 2009, 5:59 pm by Greg

It would be difficult to find someone with a more impeccable, unimpeachable resume in the realm of roots music than that of Texas tunesmith Stephen Bruton – singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer. It’s all the more impressive that he did all he did without ever seeming to draw much attention to himself.

He produced killer albums for Alejandro Escovedo, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Chris Smither, Storyville, Marcia Ball and Hal Ketchum. He played in Kris Kristofferson’s band for 17 years, and also manned the guitar position in bands for Bonnie Raitt, Christine McVie and Delbert McClinton. His songs were recorded by the likes of Martina McBride, Johnny Cash, Little Feat, Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Buffett and Patty Loveless. And his guitar playing talents can also be heard on albums by Gene Clark, T Bone Burnett, Geoff Muldaur, Peter Case, Elvis Costello, James McMurtry, Bobby Charles, the Wallflowers, Sonny Landreth, Carly Simon, Ray Wylie Hubbard and, of course, Willie Nelson.

Look down the yards-long list of roots greats and eventually you’ll come across the name of Barbra Streisand, too. Yes, that’s Bruton playing guitar on the soundtrack of the 1976 re-re-make of “A Star Is Born,” co-starring Streisand and Kristofferson.

Bruton’s final guitar recordings will likely also be heard in movie theaters. Bruton flew out to LA two months ago to play guitar on the T Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack of the upcoming movie, “Crazy Heart,” starring Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell.

Despite his total package as a musician and recording artist, Bruton only made a handful of albums in his own name over the course of a career than spanned more than 35 years. And if my memory serves me well, I believe that his only Nippertown performance as a bandleader was back in “>1995 at the Guilderland Performing Arts Center in Tawasentha Park.

I talked to him then and asked about his approach to the art of record producing. “Well, as a producer you have to be able to lose your ego and go after what the song itself dictates,” he explained. “The job is to bring the song and the artist into the spotlight, and it doesn’t have anything much to do with what you have in mind.

“It ain’t about the frame,” he pointed out. “It’s the picture.”

And after a two and a half year battle, Bruton finally succumbed to throat cancer on Saturday, May 9. He was 60 years old.

Steve Bruton Official Website

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