It’s funk. No, it’s pop. Soul? Lyrics Born calls it “alternative hip hop”, and its refreshingly fun

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Lyrics Born – Real People (2015)

Lyrics BornReal People is a bright, catchy and playful album that will pair well with summer BBQs.

Lyrics Born’s warm, smooth voice is nicely offset by a variety of guests and fantastic New Orleans horns. Listening becomes a bit of a – sometimes infuriating :) – mind teaser; who does this chorus remind me of?, is that a Sly Stone guitar?, oo oo it’s Tom Jones, no Barry White, no wait; did that come from The Tubes?, Beastie Boys?, hey is that Cee-Lo (no, It’s Ivan Neville), oh wow a Fine Young Cannibals song (it isn’t), OMG Bill Murra..no

The Japanese-American Lyrics Born and his frequent partner Lateef are ‘alternative hip hop’ upstarts from California, and true to their state’s reputation, aren’t fussed much about boundaries or labels. Good one, fellas.

Joe Bonamassa in Vancouver: How NOT to give a concert

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joe bonamassa.phone.van.may 2015I’m not a guitar solo guy, but I enjoyed concerts by SRV and Buddy Guy (and Quinn Sullivan!) and have been listening to Joe Bonamassa for years so I was excited to see him despite the premium price.

He started with a blast of light (right) and a blistering guitar solo. Very good start; glad I was there. We got a quick “Hello Vancouver” as he launched into song #2, song #3, song #4….and so it went for exactly an hour. Not one bit of audience interaction. He played like we weren’t even there. At the end of the hour we got a “thank you Vancouver”, band introductions, and one last guitar solo.

I recognized one song despite knowing his catalogue pretty well. If the man has any warmth or charm to him, he sure didn’t share it with us. Being a guitar wizard doesn’t cut you enough slack to mail one in for the paycheck.

Favourite songs of 1984?

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I remember 1984 for three things musically: 1) his Purpleness became larger than life 2) ex-Buggle Trevor Horn (‘The Man Who Invented The 80s’) charted with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art of Noise and Yes), and 3) The Replacements broke through with Let It Be. Wish I coulda said The Smiths instead of Trevor Horn, but they had barely troubled North American shores.

1984 was the pinnacle of pop, shaking off the pretentious over-indulgence of the 70’s; the airwaves carried the most diverse array of genres and cross-genres in pop’s history or future. Look at the charts from five years earlier or later or today and you see three or four styles at best, most of it derivative of itself.

Here’s my salute to 1984:

Replacements – Answering Machine. Never a commercial success, Paul Westerberg and enemies (alcohol-fueled tension drove the band) nonetheless had a fervent cult following that continues to grow (or balloon might be a better word given the middle-aged midriffs at their reunion shows).

Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart. Trevor Horn said everything he had been trying to do with his other projects came to perfect pop fruition in this one song.

Prince – Purple Rain. Like Robbie Robertson’s Last Waltz suite and Genesis’ Suppers Ready, I go “aha. Now I get what you’ve been trying to do here.”

* No accident two of these are from Minnesota. Often called Canada’s other province because its terrain, climate and social mores mirrors that of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the north, like Canada the state has always punched above its weight musically. Prince-Replacements-Dylan vs Young-Cohen-Mitchell? Tough to call. (Also, to complete the comparison, Canada has afflicted the world with Bryan Adams, Nickleback, Celine and Shania). Yanni’s formative years were in Minnesota. Call it a draw.)

BONUS: Ryan Adams – Change Your Mind. The alt-country rebel paid homage to The Replacements last year with his album 1984. Dated? Passe? Ha!

Every generation needs a Kate Bush. Ours is Florence + The Machine

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florence what kind of manPre-releases from Florence + the Machine’s new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, show British critics weren’t wrong lavishing praise on Lungs (2009) and Ceremonial (2011).

Expect controversy.

FLORENCE WELCH compares easily with the artsy Kate Bush, but is more direct like P!ink than nouveau like Bjork. Her work explores how tension in relationships is expressed and released, which she acts out in pantomimes of physical force (i.e. If her videos get you hot, you’re in the wrong place)

The Machine’ is a road-tested band that co-founders Welch and BFF Isabella ‘Machine’ Summers have nurtured into a creative community. That makes the writing richer, plus, it’s not safe to go where Welch goes alone.

How Big is due out later this month but here are links to pre-release videos of What Kind Of Man and Ship To Wreck. Clear the room and crack the volume :)

My Mommy says this is the best Mother’s Day playlist in ever and ever. Sit straight and listen up

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Mother-May-I_coverMother’s Day doesn’t feel the same to everyone, understandably, because we’ve all had different childhoods and adult lives.

Some of us have lost our Moms. Some of us had/have a strong and saintly Mom; others not so much. We’re parents and grandparents now, most likely, and from time to time can be heard to helplessly exclaim “surely I didn’t put my Mom through this!” even though you probably did. :)

This is my tribute to Moms and their sons and daughters; a playlist of songs about Moms from many perspectives and genres of music: Beth Hart, Bill Withers, Roy Forbes, Lori McKenna, Steve Earle and his son Justin Townes, Holly Williams, Dr John, Chocolate Genius, Alela Diane, Sean Rowe, Angel Haze*, Otis Taylor, The Decemberists, Gretchen Peters, and Ani DiFranco & Utah Phillips. * NSFW

It runs about an hour, which is just enough time to RUN UPSTAIRS AND CLEAN YOUR ROOM BEFORE YOUR FATHER GETS HOME.

My bold prediction for Beth Hart: A sweep of this year’s major blues awards

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Beth Hart – Better Than Home (2015)

 josh groom photo
josh groom photo

‘Re-imagining’ Billie Holiday is a bit of a trend, again, and nothing wrong with that. But let that not keep us from celebrating a nowadays ‘lady who sings the blues': Beth Hart.

Better Than Home is a cleansing step in her addiction recovery; personal, honest and raw. The standout, Tell Her You Belong To Me, is about her Dad leaving with another woman and shouldn’t leave a dry eye. Play it in a mix with the best of Billie or Etta or (my fave) Sippie, and it isn’t out of place.

Popular overseas, Hart started becoming better known in her native America after teaming with Joe Bonamassa in 2011. She’ll be even better known when she sweeps the major blues awards for song, performer and album this year.

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Big bad wolves are at Allison Moorer’s door, but staring at the ground won’t help

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Allison Moorer – Down To Believing (2015)

Allison Moorer has speallison moorer down to believingnt the last two years coming to grips with the end of her marriage to Steve Earle and their toddler’s autism diagnosis – and giving birth to some of her strongest songs in a career of writing forcefully about personal challenges.

The listening key to whether each song targets autism or Earle is that she’s disappointed in Earle and furious at autism.

Some songs are over-arranged, but maybe that’s for the best if you’re in pain and need a belt-out-loud anthem or crying ballad to ease the load.

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