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Todd Snider’s Overdue Return To Las Vegas

Think back to a time before Facebook or Twitter… I know it might be hard to imagine, but that’s how the worldwide web was way back in 2002 – tweet-less and barren of cute kitten pictures. 2002 was also the last time stoner-folk, free-spirited troubadour Todd Snider played in Las Vegas, and now he’s finally returned! What does that tell you? Maybe the acoustic music scene in Vegas needs a swift kick in the ass.

Todd Snider, Acoustic Routes, Las Vegas, 2002

Todd Snider, Acoustic Routes, Las Vegas, 2002

A lot has changed in all those years, including Todd’s hairstyle (see photo at left), his body of work has swelled by eleven albums (twelve if you count Shit Sandwich by Elmo Buzz and the Eastside Bulldogs); his musical style has found its way into a fresh groove with each release; while his ability to thread words and thoughts into witty, engaging, sometimes political, and ofttimes poignant lyrical tapestries, has evolved to a flawless edge.  If you’ve never heard those albums, then get your ass on Spotify and catch up. (That’s something else you couldn’t do eleven years ago).

On February 1, 2013, Todd Snider and the Burnouts heated up the ice-covered Orleans Arena with a rocking set that was book-ended with covers of tunes from two of Snider’s idols – Billy Joe Shaver’s “Good News Blues” and Chuck Berry’s classic “School Days.” Breaking from his acoustic roots, Snider armed himself with his most recent axe-of-choice – an electric guitar – for the whole night, giving way to a smoking, rocket-fueled sound, solidly driven by Paul Griffith’s incomparable drum chops and Dan Baird’s stalwart bass, and skillfully punctuated by Kevin Gordon on guitar.  The eleven song set included “Too Soon To Tell” and “Big Finish” from Snider’s latest release Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables.  There were two songs in the set – “Easy Money” and “D. B. Cooper” – Snider had performed back in 2002 when he stood solo on the stage of the long-gone-and-often-missed Las Vegas music venue Acoustic Routes. This time around, Todd and the Burnouts deftly treated those fan-favorites with new texture and dynamic colors, giving them a whole new shine. Hail, hail rock and roll!

After the show, I got the chance to sit down with Todd (above the noise of workers clearing the stage his bare feet had danced on less than half an hour earlier). We discussed his influences, the Burnouts, his latest song character, guitar lessons, and also some of the side gigs he’s got lined up… Would you believe he’s going to be in a movie and become a minister? Oh yeah… just call him “Pastor Todd.” You can view a video of the interview below.
(Todd… about that invite to East Nashville… Do you have a couch I can stay on?)

Post Concert Interview with Todd Snider in Las Vegas

I sincerely want to thank – Dave “Elvis” Hixx and Kymm Britton for making this interview happen; Matthew Bown and Rebecca Holmstrom of the Orleans Arena for their hospitality; Kevin Phillips for the steady camera work and good eye; and mostly, thanks to Todd Snider for the pleasure of getting to sit down and talk with him.

 

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Keith Sykes Interview – A Songwriting Icon

Keith Sykes

Keith Sykes is a songwriter’s songwriter. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true. From the early stages of his career up to the present, well more than 100 of his songs have been recorded by well-known artists such as The Gentrys, Rodney Crowell, Roseanne Cash, George Thorogood, and Jimmy Buffett – just to name a few. Although reluctant to admit it, he is admired and his work is highly praised by peers such as Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, and countless others.

Keith first broke into the singer/songwriter scene back in 1969 with the self-titled album Keith Sykes, and quickly followed that up the next year with 1-2-3. He toured quite a bit, working the Coffee House Circuit, forging friendships with other prolific songwriters, many of them remaining good friends to this day.

Almost seven years passed before his next release, The Way That I Feel,  hit the shelves. There were two songs on that album that threw Keith into a whole new direction. If you’re a liner-note-reading, old-timer Parrot Head like me, you know what I’m talking about. Keith’s songs “The Coast Of Marseilles” and “The Last Line” were recorded by Jimmy Buffett, and moored on his highly successful 1978 album Son of a Son of a Sailor.

Keith Sykes in Montserrat - 1979 - Photo by Tom Corcoran

From there, Keith went on to tour with Jimmy as one of the Coral Reefers. In 1979 he went to the island of Montserrat with Buffett, James Taylor, Russ Kunkel, and all the Coral Reefers to record Buffett’s tenth studio album. While on Montserrat – inspired by the then-dormant Soufrière Hills volcano on the island – Buffett, Sykes, and Harry Dailey co-wrote what was to become the title cut of the new album (and one of Buffett’s biggest hits) – “Volcano.”

That’s enough typing for now. Kick back, grab a beer (unless it’s morning… in that case, grab a scotch), relax, click the video below to watch and listen to the legendary Keith Sykes tell us all about his fascinating career. (He’ll also sing a couple of songs for us).

Interview with Keith Sykes

Keith Sykes performing B.I.G.T.I.M.E. on Saturday Night Live

On December 6th,1980, Keith Sykes appeared on Saturday Night Live (his first time on national television) and performed “B.I.G.T.I.M.E.” to promote his latest album I’m Not Strange, I’m Just Like You. B.I.G.T.I.M.E.” would later be recorded by George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

Keith Sykes – “Gray Beard and Whiskers”

This song is absolutely beautiful, and I dare you not to cry when you listen to it. “Gray Beard and Whiskers” can only be found on Keith Sykes – 20 Most Requested CD. Click here to purchase it in Keith’s online store.

Click here to see all of Keith Sykes releases available on Amazon.

Keith Sykes – Hot Springs Weekend – June 1st & 2nd, 2012

Like he mentioned in the interview – (You did watch the interview, didn’t you? If not, get your mouse back up there and click on it!) – Each year in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Keith hosts a weekend of music in the lovely Arlington Hotel. Shows are on Friday and Saturday nights and feature some of the best songwriters performing today. On Saturday afternoon Keith interviews one of the songwriters and afterwards the guests are encouraged to ask questions on the craft of songwriting and the creative process. After the evening shows there are impromptu jams where the guests can mingle with the pros and even have a chance to play a tune or two. Click here or on the poster to the left to go to Keith’s website and purchase your wristband to an unforgettable weekend!

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Levon Helm – The Last Waltz

Upon reading the message from Levon Helm’s daughter, Amy, and his wife, Sandy about Levon being in the final stages of his battle with cancer – I closed my eyes and drifted back to 1973… I sat in my high school English Literature class talking about… what else?… music. My friend Doug looked at me like he didn’t recognize me and said, “What do mean you’ve never heard of The Band?” I felt ashamed for some reason – like I’d let him down or something.

Lunch break came after our class, and we headed out to his van for… lunch. Doug popped Moondog Matinee into the 8-track player – You remember those don’t you? – and the tinkling of piano keys of the opener “Ain’t Got No Home” cut through the sweet smoke wrapped around my head. I’d heard the song before, but not like The Band did it. I drifted away to New Orleans, or at least what I imagined New Orleans might have sounded like; I’d never been there.

About three songs into the tape Doug excitedly explained, “They’re all cover songs, man!… well, except for the next one. You know what cover songs are, right? It’s when they do someone else’s songs. You should hear their stuff though, man, it’s so cool. Its like nothing you’ve – ”

I had to stop him. “I know what a cover tune is, man,” I said. “Just relax and let’s listen to it.” Damn, Doug talked a lot when we had lunch. I slid deeper into the beanbag chair as “Third Man Theme,” took me and dropped me right in the middle of a carnival. We listened to the whole tape – it was like nothing I’d ever heard – and then we drifted off to our Art Appreciation class. Later that day, Doug and I went to the record store to look for more by The Band. He told me all about the albums I was buying before I got the chance to listen to them.

Now I’m 39 years older and shocked to hear that Levon Helm is closing in on death’s door. I shouldn’t be shocked, after all, he is 39 years older too, but it didn’t seem possible. I guess that’s one of the harsh realities of life – our heroes don’t stay the way we remember them so many years ago. The music locks us in those memories while everything and everyone else around us changes.

It did make me feel better though when I watched this interview with Levon from about a month ago. Sure his voice was raspy, and the cancer treatments had taken a toll on “The Man Behind The Drums,” but he still had a sparkle in his eyes and an undying smile on his face as he spoke about his favorite subject… music… and his friends known as The Midnight Ramblers. He still plays the drums the way I remember, and if you close your eyes… The best things don’t have to disappear.

Levon Helm Interview from the Sound Tracks: Quick Hits series by PBS Arts

Levon Helm and the Midnight Ramblers – Ophelia – from the Sound Tracks: Quick Hits series by PBS Arts

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David Olney Interview

There are plenty of songs out there on the subject of the life and crucifixion of Christ, but none as told by the diverse cast of characters residing in David Olney’s captivating release The Stone. Olney takes the all too familiar Easter story, and deftly observes the events through the eyes of – a con man learning of a fellow “miracle-worker” who’s cutting into his livelihood; a lowly but proud donkey blessed with the honor of carrying a King into town; a convicted murderer baffled as to why he was spared from crucifixion because of stranger; and a career soldier who must shamefully admit the body is missing from the tomb he was assigned to guard.

I got the chance to talk with David about The Stone and its engagingly fresh perspective of an ancient story. Mr. Olney is equally as fascinating as his songwriting. As a bonus – he performed a couple of songs during the interview. Thanks, David! Enjoy!

David Olney Interview

Click here to preview, purchase “hard copy” or download David Olney’s music on Amazon.

 

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Tyler Fortier Interview

I first saw Tyler Fortier perform back in June, 2010 when he was the opening act for a singer I was writing a review about. I almost didn’t get to the show in time to catch his opening set, but I’m glad I did. His music and lyrics grabbed me and made me pay attention. A quiet-spoken, humble man when he talked; Tyler passionately bared all – pain, joy, and disillusionment – when he sang. I was more intrigued with him and his musical journey than I was with the headliner that night.

I got back in touch with Tyler the other day and interviewed him via webcam. We discussed all that he had accomplished in 2011 – releasing three albums, hitting the road on a eight state tour – and the lessons he’d learned from that most ambitious year. We also talked about his plans for 2012. Tyler and his music are never short on surprises. I highly recommend you check him out. You won’t be disappointed. Click on the cool Plexi Amp looking video player (below) and enjoy the interview in 720p HD!

Tyler Fortier Interview

Click here to preview, purchase and download Tyler Fortier’s music.

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