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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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Tyler Fortier – “Dreams Are Like Fire” Video

To say that Tyler Fortier is ambitious would be putting it mildly. The twenty-something Eugene, Oregon based singer-songwriter released three albums in 2011. The first of the three (Fortier’s fifth solo album) …And They Rode Like Wildfire Snaking Through The Hills ‘Neath The Scarlet Sun – a lo-fi collection of 19th century narrative songs about the old west – hit the streets in February, 2011 (and came close to setting a new record for longest album title). He followed that up with the multi-layered, studio-produced Fear of the Unknown in May, 2011. Fear… explores the landscape of a future Armageddon and the tattered hope of  survival. Then in October, 2011, Fortier pulled Bang On Time out of his ever flowing bag of songs. Bang On Time uniquely stands apart from the two previous 2011 releases, but at the same time is freshly reminiscent of his acclaimed 2010 release This Love Is Fleeting.

You’d think that would be enough busy-time for anyone, but not Tyler. In March, 2011 he hit the road and shared his engaging brand of Americana across Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho in every coffee shop, bar, or club that gave him the chance.

In 2012, Fortier is releasing digital singles, each with a visual representation.  His first single, “Dreams Are Like Fire” was released  digitally on March 1st. Woodke Productions did some fine work on Fortier’s first ever music video to go along with it.  Most of the footage was taken from their New Year’s Eve show at the historic WOW Hall in Eugene, Oregon. Check it out below in 720 HD. (Flip the first little silver switch on the player to take it to full screen).

Click here to purchase and download MP3 files of most of Tyler Fortier’s music (including “Dreams Are Like Fire”)

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Todd Snider Honors Jerry Jeff Walker

Click to pre-order 'Time As We Know It' on Amazon

On April 24, Todd Snider will release Time As We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker, a tribute to his original musical hero. “I’ve always hoped I’d stay around long enough to get to make a record of Jerry Jeff Walker songs,” Snider says. “He’s the guy I saw at 19 and decided to try to be like. His are the first songs I learned.” See full track list below.
Produced by Don Was (Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones), the 14 celebratory tracks feature friends and admirers like Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn, Elizabeth Cook, and Amy LaVere. “We just went into a studio and played about 30 of Jerry Jeff’s songs and let the performances dictate what songs would make it,” Snider says, adding, “I could’ve done 30 more.”
The release follows Snider’s acclaimed new album Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables (Aimless Records). Released this month, the album debuted in the Top 20 of four separate Billboard charts, including the Indie Label Chart, the Folk Chart, the Internet Chart, and the Independent Core Store Report. The New York Times hailed it as “among his best” and Rolling Stone called it “the sharpest musical response yet to the excesses of the one percent.”
Track Listing:
1. Vince Triple-O Martin
2. Jaded Lover
3. Moon Child
4. Takin’ It As It Comes
5. Derby Day
6. Sangria Wine
7. Continuous Saga of the Bummer Or Is This My One Way Bus Ticket to Cleveland
8. Little Bird
9. Hill Country Rain
10. Railroad Lady
11. Laying My Life on the Line
12. Pissin’ in the Wind
13. Mr. Bojangles
14. Will There Be Any

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