Welcome to my asylum for ideas and thoughts on movies, politics, culture, and all things Bruce Springsteen.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Easy Leaves and Pagey at 70 and Other Stuff.

Wow; the second post in a week and a half and it only took me three years to do so. While people are beginning to pick up the flu and others running themselves ragged already this month, things have, for the most part, been okay. Last weekend, I dragged a bunch of friends to the Great American Music Hall to catch the Formal Western Evening of the Easy Leaves, a great band from Sonoma. I stumbled across these guys last year from a fortuitous perusal of the San Francisco Chronicle's 96 Hours. The Easy Leaves consists of two guys, on acoustic guitar/harmonica and upright bass; often they play with a drummer and a steel pedal player. This last gig they also included a Tele player. I've seen them twice before in early '13, both times opening for Nicki and the Gramblers. Described as country-rock, modern Americana, the Leaves sound like a cross of early rockabilly and traditional Bakersfield country. At the Great American, they encouraged everyone to wear their best western wear and most of the audience obliged. While some of the ironic hipsters went a little overboard, it was like a costume party where we all enjoyed ourselves and inner-cowboys and -gals. Those that overdid it looked right out of Woody's Roundup but those who came with an authentic look were awesome. Some twenty-somethings were high-stepping and square dancing while the rest of us rocked out and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. An opening band of a trio of women aside, the middle act brought me straight to the early '50s as the B-Stars, a five-piece get up from the East Bay delivered an hour of western swing that was the coolest since Bob Wills or the Maddox Brothers. That hollow-bodied Gibson electric guitar soloing accompanied with lap steel and fiddle is just the best. If Hank Williams had only, well, you know. Later in the night, I bought their ten-inch lp and a couple of the guys signed it. The Easy Leaves were on fire - playing most of "American Times", their most recent lp, along with cuts from their first lp and some new material. They even wrote a song called "Fresno" after their excursion last February to the Fulton 55, a great new club in the 'no where they opened for Nicki and the guys. I had actually trucked down to my old home town for the first time in about seven years to catch the show with my dear old buddies and we had a heck of a time! The evening ended and my friends and I cleaned up on the merch while handshakes and "thank you's" were had. It was great seeing such a great venue filled by a local band supported by their local fans. Speaking of, in a couple of weeks, we're catching Nicki and the guys at the FILLMORE!!! In just over a year, they've gone from playing small music festivals to Slim's, the Independent, Bimbo's and now a sell-out at Uncle Bobo's place! My wife and I are stoked just to lock down a couple of posters :) and I'm hoping they pull out a couple of nice surprises to make a great night. Announced last night - Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes will be leaving the Allman Brothers Band after the completion of the 2014 tour. As the rumor mill is flying fast and furious, us on the in are seeing that the band is simply deciding to retire after forty-five years. May they go out with guns a-blazing. I don't think I've really spent a lot of time discussing how this band changed and, in many other way, saved my life. For a later date. Jimmy Page is seventy?!!?!?!? Just how many times did I play air guitar while watching "The Song Remains the Same"!? Probably the greatest influence on my own guitar playing and in reality the greatest front man in rock history, I can't think of him as someone older than my near-seventy year old father. The man who created the "guitar army" in the studio, Page always challenged the fan and listener in determining how many rhythm parts were laid down, the type of guitar for each part. Blisteringly-fast solos, macho swagger and always with a finger on the pulse of the blues, Jimmy Page always inspired me to do my homework. White-haired and old, may ol' Pagey continue to inspire another generation of guitar wannabes, some who may go on to actually play the instrument well. Phil Everly died last week. While I've only been familiar with the brothers' handful of hits, Phil and Don left a huge collection of songs and inspired countless bands where multi-harmonic male voices, singing in mournful and beautiful fashion, pushed rock towards the simple and yet profound. Simon & Garfunkel brought them on their reunion tour a decade ago and it was a bucket-list thing to see my dad flip over the Everlys, as they impacted his own youthful years in the South. Without the Everly Brothers there would be no Paul and John, Art and Paul, CS&N, those gorgeous Grateful Dead records from 1970, the Eagles and even the guys in Truth & Salvage. If I ever put together a band, their influence will be right there in those high, soulful harmonies. Bruce's next album drops next week. I'm also going to pick up a mini-box set of John Sebastian's first lps and a new band called Hard Working Americans, consisting of Neal Casal, Todd Snider and a bunch of other rock journeymen, drop their first album. Next week oughtta be great.