post

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!

Share the love of OKOM!

post

Todd Snider Interview – An Early Morning Talk of Jerry Jeff Walker and More…

I caught up with East Nashville based singer/songwriter Todd Snider on the phone as he woke up to a well-deserved day of rest somewhere in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was in the middle of a pretty heavy tour schedule (and finding out it wasn’t as easy as it used to be). I think it was a little early for both of us – there was even a little bit of confusion with the time zone difference. It’s hard to keep track of those things on the road.

As the morning’s coffee slowly burnt off the previous night’s fog, the conversation picked up. We talked a lot about his two recently released albums, Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables and Time As We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker, and a shitload more. It had been a couple of years since we last talked, and we covered a lot of ground – not too bad for so early in the morning. As is usually the case when talking with Todd, it’s a challenge to keep myself on track and try to watch the time. (I don’t want to wear out my welcome). What starts out as an interview effortlessly turns into a conversation full of intriguing and amusing tangents. It could be because I appreciate his music so much and can relate to it so well, or maybe it’s because – in spite of his laid-back persona – Todd is actually a complex man with a lot on his mind, who just wants to be understood.

So, pour a cup of coffee or pop a beer and enjoy the interview! (Caution: Contains some course language… shit, like I had to tell you that). Thanks go out to Heather and Elvis for making this happen. Next time we do a video interview!

Todd Snider Interview – Length: 44 minutes

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Be sure to catch Todd Snider this Friday and Saturday night (May 4th and 5th, 2012) at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, TX. Also check out the rest of his tour dates.

Share the love of OKOM!

post

Todd Snider’s Songline Leads Him Back Where It All Began

The title of Todd Snider’s latest release, Time As We Know It – The Songs Of Jerry Jeff Walker, comes from “David and Me,” a 1999 Jerry Jeff Walker song about two gypsy song-men sharing some wine, reminiscing back on the long road they’ve been down, and just letting the time go by. With a grin they wonder why – They say we all changed / But I feel the same and I know that you are. / They always said we played ’em much too long. / But tell me, what’s a song / Don’t it carry on and make the time go by? / Time as we know it.

Most Todd Snider fans have heard the story about how in 1985 his old buddy, Trogg, took him to the famous Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas where he saw Jerry Jeff Walker for the first time. It was an awakening experience for the nineteen year old Snider – that night he envisioned what he was destined to do. As Snider sometimes tells it at his shows, “We went down to see Jerry Jeff, and he came out, kinda like I am tonight, with just a guitar, and sang some songs, and I thought… Shit, I could do that.” Damn if he didn’t too. Snider started writing songs the very next day and never let up… except to occasionally stalk Jerry Jeff.

In his 1987 book The Songlines, British novelist and travel writer, Bruce Chatwin describes songlines as: …the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known as “Dreaming-tracks” or “Songlines”. Snider’s songline may have begun that night in Gruene Hall.

A few short years later Todd got signed by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Records. You probably already know this, but just in case you didn’t – In 1971 (about a month after Todd Snider’s fifth birthday) Jerry Jeff Walker led Jimmy Buffett to the promise-land known as Key West, Florida. If he hadn’t done that, there wouldn’t have been a “Margaritaville” let alone a Margaritaville Records. Talk about synchronicity! Seriously though, isn’t it intriguing how their paths have intertwined?

On April 24, Snider will share his love of the original Gonzo Gypsy with the release of Time as We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker. Produced by Don Was (yeah, that Don Was of Bob Dylan, and Rolling Stones fame), the 14-song set was recorded last year in Nashville with the Colorado-based Americana band Great American Taxi and features guest appearances from Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn, Elizabeth Cook and Amy LaVere. They recorded 30 additional tracks, so don’t be surprised if another collection is released someday.

The songs on Time as We Know It – which span most of Walker’s career – were done in that Snider stoner-gypsy fashion that has become a proudly-worn hat that his fans love so well. So well! So well! So well! (Sorry, I had to throw that in).

Anytime Todd Snider does a cover song, it’s rebuilt and painted a whole new color, and with this collection the undying impression that Walker made on Snider adds a lustrous final clear coat, giving them a gleam to rival Snider’s own infectious smile. It seems that these songs have personal meaning for Snider – evident by the subtle lyric tweaks here and there. One of the most touching is when he shows gratitude of his wife, Melita, in “Layin’ My Life on the Line.”  Even with that Snider touch, “Mr. Bojangles” still brought tears to my eyes… maybe more so.

Todd Snider’s songline has now brought him to a place of reflection and appreciation. On Time As We Know It he’s not just paying tribute to a man that inspired a 19 year old kid all those years ago; He’s honoring a man who has, over the years, become a dear close friend. A friend who holds mutual respect and admiration for him. A friend that he can share some wine with, reminisce about the old days, and just let the time go by. It doesn’t get much better than that. Maybe someday Todd will write a song called “Jerry Jeff and Me.”

 

Share the love of OKOM!

post

Tommy Womack Video Interview – Now What!

Photo by Gregg Roth

Back in 2007, when Tommy Womack released his solo CD There, I Said It! he had pretty much given up on his dream of making it in music. He recorded There, I Said It! without the intention of even releasing it. He didn’t think that people would want to listen to him whine. He was surprised to find that things were quite the opposite – people related to his tales of middle age stress, self-doubt and disappointment.

I got the chance to sit down and talk with Tommy (via Skype) about his latest release Now What! that picks up where There, I Said It! left off only with a more optimistic feel to it. Oh yeah, Tommy’s still singing about cigarettes, sex, pot, and life on the road, but he seems more at peace with it all.

Before you watch the following video, I feel obligated to tell you the story behind this little technological adventure…

I had made arrangements through Tommy’s publicist and manager to interview Tommy on the morning of January 31, 2012. I was ready for it; I’d been testing some software that seemed to work good for recording and editing Skype video calls. Sometimes things aren’t always as they seem…

The interview itself went great. Tommy and I covered a variety of subjects and talked for about 15 minutes. Later that day I converted the video so I could start doing the post-production work on it. When I opened the file, I couldn’t believe it… There was no video captured at all from Tommy’s end. All the audio was there (thank God), but just video of me. And I thought, well shit, who in the hell would want to watch this? They’d be stuck looking at my ugly mug the whole time they listened to Tommy talk.

I got in touch with the software developer in Australia – which in itself was kind of weird because they’re in the future – anyway, they sent me an update insuring me that it should work. I tested it some more and all seemed cool. Now, I’m not a religious person, but I really prayed that Tommy’s publicist and agent would give me a second shot at the video interview. They did. We appropriately conducted take two of the interview on Groundhog Day. I called Tommy up, fired up the recording software, and all was cool… for about eight minutes, then, well… you’ll see.

Damn it! Just when we were getting into the new album! That’s when I think a solar flare blanketed North America… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

My next post will have a more in depth review of Now What!

 

Share the love of OKOM!

post

Kimbrough soars high with Wings

Will Kimbrough’s Wings – an OKOM review

On first listen of Will Kimbrough’s album Wings, (due to be released February 23rd) it felt like a pleasant trip that started with being invited into his home, given a comfortable chair in a sunroom, and a hot cup of coffee. As the morning light streaked in, and the children played, I kicked back, relaxed, and absorbed this enjoyable, stimulating soundtrack of his thoughts; a world filled with hope, optimism, questions, miracles, and love. If this album represents Will’s life, and his sense of wide-eyed wonderment and appreciation of what fills his life; then he is truly a blessed man.

Wings starts with Will roused into the dawn of a new day by his wife and two daughters, whom he warmly refers to as his “Three Angels.” Julie Lee lends her pure backing vocal talents to the heartening opening track “Three Angels,” in which Will counts his blessings – all three of them – and is grateful for all his angels do to make his life complete, and for watching over him wherever he goes. Now, a lesser man might consider being the lone man in a houseful of females more of a curse. Will knows they’re only human – “sometimes in the morning they’re a moody band of angels” – but they’ll always be real angels in his eyes.

In “You Can’t Go Home,” co-written with Jeff Finlin, Will tells a mystifying old world type tale –wrapped in the musical textures of a steady pulsing Celtic beat, the lingering tone of Sarah Siskind’s accompaniment, and punctuated by a haunting guitar – of characters with a raw unresolved past. The line – “She cannot hear or say goodbye, or hear your heart break right in two, she cannot waive the angry years, what you said, forgive you too” – stabs into a wandering lost soul, left broken-hearted and alone. The mystery is – what tragedy brought him to this pain and guilt shrouded world?

You’d be hard pressed to find a more optimistic song than the title track “Wings.” This is the original version, lyrically different from the one co-written with Jimmy Buffett that appears on his latest album Buffet Hotel. The airy effortless instrumentation of this lifting version perfectly fit what this song is all about – unbridled buoyancy and self-faith. Personally, I like Will’s version much better, and this comes from a long time Parrot Head.

Will Kimbrough is a master of baring his heart and soul in a love song. “Love to Spare” is no exception. He’s always there with words of comfort – even through the rough times – for the one he loves… “Take me in when storms are raging; I’ll calm you when you’re feeling crazy.” Guys, if you ever need to put consoling words in a card to your love, pull them from this song. You won’t be sorry.

In addition to “You Can’t Go Home,” there are two other songs on Wings that Kimbrough co-wrote with Jeff Finlin, “The Day of the Troubadour” and “Big Big Love.” Will and Jeff color these songs with complex, absorbing, thought provoking lyrics; coming together like fine glasses of wine. Not everyone will get the same message; see the same picture; or taste the same flavors. You’ll want to listen to them again and again, possibly finding something new or different each time.

Have you ever thought of what it could have been like if Jesus had lived in the modern world? Hey, for all we know, he may have; this is a subject that “The Day of the Troubadour” explores. Jesus traveling for years, riding the bus from town to town, performs little miracles along the way, until the interest in him begins to fade. He dreams – from the bed of a cheap motel – of his followers still wanting more. The same story could also apply to any number of extremely talented performers that spend the majority of their life on the road sharing their own form of miracles, and baring their souls.

Miracles happen around us all the time, most of the time they slip by unnoticed, but they’re there nonetheless. “Big Big Love” is a skillfully crafted song that takes us on a walk through an old growth forest of life’s little miracles; lost time; quests for love; and unfulfilled dreams – “I tried to be the big man with a knuckle and a tin can, with the knowledge and a big plan, holding onto Wonderland. I held so tight, I lost you there; I looked so hard, I couldn’t see; I let it go and fell alone, and it was there in front of me.” – discovering aspects of life that were there all the time.

Will has co-written quite a few songs with Todd Snider. He’s pulled one out of an old box in the attic to share with us. “It Ain’t Cool” has never been recorded by Todd or Will until now. Contrary to its title, it’s a very cool J.J. Cale style tune, simple in structure, with an even simpler message – don’t bad-mouth people when they’re not there to defend themselves, it ain’t cool!

Will’s appreciation of old school R&B is evident in the arrangement of “Open to Love” co-written with Dave Zobel. Building on a slow solid backbeat, it’s full of big horns, great big backing vocals by Jonell Mosser and Lisa Oliver Gray, and wailing guitar work by Kimbrough. It’s an expressive, driving “hard times” love song – that Will does so well – preaching of hanging on to love, letting it carry you through obstacles life can throw your way. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear this performed someday by a soulful Southern Baptist choir with hands held high towards the heavens.

Slowing down to a gentle walk down a tree-lined street, Wings takes us back to being with loved ones. Relationships have taken on many analogies through songs. “Let Me Be Your Frame,” co-written with Sarah Kelly, sung in beautiful tandem with Dawn Kinnard, portrays a relationship as a canvas – a work in progress maybe – and the frame that surrounds, and at the same time, compliments it. If you think about it, in a give-and-take relationship, you can’t help but splash each other with a bit of color or lend a simple stroke of a brush, adding texture and beauty to each other without taking anything away.

The final track on Wings, “A Couple Hundred Miracles,” brings us full-circle. We’re back in the quiet, comfortable safe haven of home. In the calm morning, warming your hands around a cup of coffee, it’s a time to reflect on the journey. “A Couple Hundred Miracles” – inspired by the book The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, and co-written with Irene Kelly (Sarah’s mom) – tells of taking what life gives you – with appreciation and amazement – making the most out of it, with a smile on your face, and no regrets. Beautifully simple in its arrangement of Will on vocals and guitar, and David Henry on a warm, soothing cello. Personally, this wonderfully stirring song is my absolute favorite track on this release.

Share the love of OKOM!