Music

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Fathers and Sons is one of the all-time great albums with one of the all-time great album covers. The Fathers and Sons of the title are metaphorical: Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) and Otis Spann were progenitors of the Chicago blues scene. On the album they were joined by Paul Butterfield, Michael Bloomfield, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and Sam Lay, following in their footsteps in one way or another. The recording was »

The gospel according to Suzy

Featured image I flipped over singer Suzy Bogguss when I saw her perform with her band at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis in 2011. I wrote about the show here. Suzy played many of her hits and previewed her then unreleased recording of traditional American music. She returns to the Dakota this coming Wednesday and Thursday for 7:00 p.m. shows. I urge you to check out her show »

Not dark yet, cont’d

Featured image Bob Dylan is first and foremost an astounding songwriter. He somehow absorbed the folk, rock, country and blues traditions as a precocious young man and then recapitulated them in his own voice many times over while adding a twist of modernist poetry to the mix. On his seventy fifth-birthday, I want to take the liberty of posting some notable cover versions of great songs you may not have heard before, »

Not dark yet

Featured image Today is the birthday of Minnesota native son Bob Dylan; he turns the ripe old age of 75. He is a remarkable artist, self-invented, deep in the American grain. A few years back I visited Dylan’s old home at 2425 7th Avenue East in Hibbing. The house is a small two-story residence with a one-car attached garage on the side. The house is exactly two blocks from Hibbing High School, »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Stevie Wonder celebrated his sixty-sixth birthday this past Friday. Let’s belatedly seize on the occasion to take a short look back. When Ronnie White (of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) brought Steveland Morris over to the Motown offices in Detroit in 1961, Berry Gordy was at first unimpressed. After Morris sang the Miracles’ “Lonely Guy” and performed on piano, harmonica and bongo, Gordy signed the 11-year-old boy to his label. »

When Elvis met Nixon

Featured image With his superb two-volume biography of Elvis — Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love — Peter Guralnick has made himself the essential chronicler of Elvis’s story. Guralnick of course tells the true story of the day in December 1970 when Elvis met Nixon in the White House. The story of the visit provides insight into Elvis’s patriotism as well as comic relief in the denouement of Elvis’s life. The »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Having signed up to see Manhattan Transfer on Monday and Judy Collins on Wednesday, both at the Dakota in downtown Minneapolis, we were counting on a double dose of much needed anger management therapy. However, Judy Collins had to postpone her show at the last minute on account of laryngitis. Drat! (The show is rescheduled to June 23.) As it turned out, however, we were able to stay for both »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image We’re going to see Judy Collins at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis this week. We’re pretty excited about it. The last time she came through I missed her, and Dakota proprietor Lowell Pickett made a point of letting me know I should have been there. We’re not making the same mistake twice. Judy’s In My Life, Wildflowers and Who Knows Where the Time Goes represent a »

Prince’s case

Featured image Writing about Prince last night, I mentioned his omnivorous musical tastes. I barely scratched the surface, but wanted to suggest one of his most striking qualities. I had wanted to include Prince’s version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” to illustrate my point, but couldn’t find a video with it posted on YouTube. Now we have this, rendered by Prince as “A Case of U,” of course: Something in »

Prince dead at 57

Featured image Prince was a prodigiously gifted multi instrumental musician, performer and songwriter of omnivorous musical tastes. He took it all in, from Little Richard and James Brown and Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone to Bob Dylan and the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and Santana and Fleetwood Mac. He was without any doubt a one of a kind genius. Today he died way before his time at the age of 57. Prince »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Steve Katz came to town this past Thursday for an appearance at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center. Katz was a founding member of the Blues Project and of Blood, Sweat & Tears. I loved the Blues Project and the first, least commercial Blood, Sweat & Tears album. The world would be a better place without the last two BS&T albums, but all together they sold something like 30 million »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image With his passing on his seventy-ninth birthday last week, Merle Haggard allows us to begin to take the measure of his contribution to American popular music. He was a giant as a writer, singer and performer. Full of comforts, joys, sorrows and surprises, his art is inexhaustibly interesting. Listen up as he performs one of the lesser known treasure “If I Could Only Fly” (written by Michael David Foley a/k/a »

Merle Haggard, RIP [With Comment By John]

Featured image I’ve celebrated the life and work of Merle Haggard here several times over the years. Today I write in sadness to note his passing at the age of 79 — to be exact, on his seventy-ninth birthday. The Los Angeles Times marks his passing here. The Times also compiles reactions to his death here. Like Elvis Presley and Ray Charles, Hag was a singer in whose voice one could hear »

Justice Scalia will be missed at the Birchmere

Featured image The Birchmere is a legendary music hall in Alexandria, Virginia. It presents top-notch bluegrass, country, folk, and jazz performers. In honor of its 50th anniversary, the Washington Post asked some of the artists who know the club best to share their recollections. All of the responses are worth checking out, but Power Line readers may be most interested in that of 14-time Grammy Award winner Ricky Skaggs. He says, in »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Oh, man, we loved Laura Nyro. She seemed to have an aversion to the limelight and she never quite achieved the recognition she deserved, but she made an impact on a lot of us who loved pop music in the sixties and seventies. She was an incredibly precocious songwriter and singer. Her songwriting took up several threads in popular music and made it new in her own unmistakable voice. I »

Shawn Colvin (very) live

Featured image I attended the first two nights of the great Shawn Colvin at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday and Friday. I’ll be back when she winds up her three-night run tonight. Having taken five or six months off from performing live, Shawn is at the top of her form. She is relaxed, engaging, warm, funny, emotional and utterly riveting. The layoff seems to have refreshed »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Shawn Colvin settles in for three nights at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in Minneapolis this coming Thursday. Shawn is touring in support of her second all-cover recording, Uncovered. I’m attending in support of my anger management therapy; I bought tickets for all three nights. Here I want to draw on my previous comments about her. Shawn is a brilliant singer/songwriter/interpreter who achieved stardom with the Grammy-winning pop hit »