UNCLE JOHN’S RECORD BARN #3

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Kootenay Cabin Resort - Murphy's Landing Resort

Lots of music purchases since the last time I opened the doors to The Barn.  For my 55th birthday last month I treated myself to a $50 iTunes card and a digital spending rampage, buying mostly older stuff;“Animal Magnetism”- ScorpionsLovedrive” Scorpions“Road To Escondido” JJ Cale & Eric Clapton“Live Like A Runaway” Lita Ford (Didn’t think I’d like it enough to buy the whole album but was curious, so I bought 3 tunes… I was right to stop there)May 2nd, the missus & I drove from Lloydminster up to Bonnyville- a 2 hour drive- to catch Trooper for the first night of their annual Canadian summer tour.  A good time was had by all and, when we got the guys to autograph 2 copies of “Hits From Ten Albums” for Cherryle’s brother in Seattle and a friend of hers at work, singer Ra McGuire recognized me from a phone interview we had done in the summer of 2010, our brief email exchange after that, and he complimented me on the Trooper radio special I had produced that K-Rock in nearby Cold Lake had run the night before.  Guitarist Brian Smith complimented me on some of things I’ve written on the band in recent years, and that felt pretty good.After staying the night in Bonnyville we drove to Edmonton Friday morning to do some shopping, have lunch at our favorite Mexican joint on Whyte Avenue (Julio’s Barrio, I think it’s called), and hang with friends.  For music shopping I hit Blackbyrd Myoosic just a few doors down from Julio’s, then it was off to West Edmonton Mall for HMV and, London Drugs.  If you’re getting back into vinyl the way I am, the record sections at both stores are worth a look.  Here’s what was in the bags I brought home;“Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath”, “Paranoid” and “Master Of Reality”, all by Black Sabbath and all on vinyl.  My goal is to collect the group’s first 8 albums on 180 gram vinyl- only “Technical Ecstasy” and “Never Say Die” to go.   All of the other purchases I made that day were CD’s;“Behind The Sun”- Eric Clapton“Genuine Houserockin’ Music” Hound Dog Taylor & The House Rockers“Eagles” Eagles“Backless” Eric Clapton“461 Ocean Boulevard” Eric Clapton“Desperado” Eagles“E.C. Was Here” Eric ClaptonThe Eagles’ purchases were fueled by last week’s viewing of the documentary “History Of The Eagles”.  I won’t review it here, but if you’re a fan of the band you’ll enjoy it- 3 hours well spent, I daresay.I’ve always liked Clapton, and my enjoyment of the semi-recent anniversary reissue of “Slowhand” rekindled an interest in his older stuff.  This happens regularly, going off on a tear like this, perhaps partly explaining the 4,000-plus CD’s upstairs in the music room, and the vinyl collection- once nearly non-existent and now growing again with each and every payday.THERE’S A TIME Doug MacLeod (Reference Recordings) *****I gotta stop saying things like “this is my favorite blues album of the year!”  I did that two weeks ago with Lisa Biales’s new album and now I’m feeling equally chuffed about this one.  Recorded live off the floor in 2 days as an acoustic 3 piece, There’s A Time is about as magic a 58 minutes you’re ever going to find on a shiny little plastic disc.  A 24 bit HDCD recording, it sounds like being right in the room with the band.This is the kind of territory Clapton shoots for when he does acoustic stuff- sparse, delicate playing- almost subdued, really- and storytelling in the finest tradition.  Macleod has a smoky voice that suits the songs so perfectly, and it’s rare to find a drummer that plays with the economy of Jimi Bott. Denny Cray plays stand-up bass throughout because, frankly, an electric on these songs just wouldn’t sound right against the various acoustic and national steel guitars that Doug plays.  Cray sews the pocket and eases in, creating the perfect space for his musical compadres to weave their collective magic.Great liner notes to this disc too- MacLeod does a brief write-up on each tune, citing inspiration and source, the particular guitar he uses (he has nicknames for all of them) and, for music nerds much further along the evolutionary scale than me, he even mentions the key he plays them in.  My favorite- a toss-up between “Too Many G’s” and “Bastard G” tuning.Over and above the casual musical ecstasy of these 13 songs, there is an emotional truth to each that had me falling in love with this album, similar to the way JJ Grey & Mofro affects me.  In the best tradition of blues story telling MacLeod, whether he’s examining an incident from his own life or the world around him, has a way of making you see in your mind’s eye exactly what he’s talking about.  Whether a true story or a tall or metaphoric tale of woe, it feels true.Relaxed, acoustic blues and some great story telling- There’s A Time and I have already become close friends.  Count on these songs appearing on my blues show quite regularly.COOL CUTS:  Black Nights, Dubb’s Talkin’ Religion Blues, Rosa Lee BLUE AS CAN BE Austin Young & No Difference (Vizztone/ redeye) *****Here is the debut for this Colorado bluesman and his band.  A gifted songwriter, when Young solos he leans into it hard- a spin through this record will bring inevitable and not unwarranted comparisons to Stevie Ray Vaughan.Of Mr. You, ex-Muddy Waters guitarist Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin says “I see no limit to his talent as a guitarist, singer, entertainer, bandleader, and magnetic new force of nature”- high praise indeed from someone who played alongside one of the greats.  From blistering blues freak-outs to jazzy and mellow stuff, these guys really cover a lot of ground.  As a blues guitarist his playing tastes are quite traditional, but he plays with a fire and passion that one can only marvel at.As a singer, Young’s emotional vibrato conveys boatloads on emotion.  In Blue As Can Be, the band’s tribute to Muddy Waters, when Austin sings “I’m like Texas lightning/ on a stormy night/ I’m just trying to get by/ with all my might” he ain’t screwin’ around.  His band No Difference gives him a rock solid foundation to preach from- Noah Mast’s slinky, sinewy bass is a stone cold groove and Austin’s father Tim brings up the rear on drums, giving each song what it needs without showboating or overplaying, which can be a very real danger on simple music like this.One minute the band is tearing your head off with a track like Thunderhead, the opening number, then they get downright mellow on the mid-tempo Disappearing Railroad Blues.  Aside from blues they get into some other forms too- That’s It is old school rock & roll that sounds a lot like Hit The Road Jack, Springtime Snow is almost like a pop/ jazz number, and Who’s Coming Out is a country rock rave-up that wouldn’t sound out of place in Garth Brooks’s or Tim McGraw’s set.  No matter which way you turn on this album, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time.I can’t imagine you’ll hear a debut album, blues or otherwise, more accomplished than Blue As Can Be.  If Austin Young & No Difference are this good out of the gate, they’re going to be goddamn frightening in another couple of years.  One thing I’ve deliberately not mentioned until now, Austin is only 17 years old.  I’ve listened to Jonny Lang for years, and this blows him clean out of the water.COOL CUTS:  Blue As Can Be, Springtime Snow, Thunderhead EXTENDED PLAY E.P.  Fleetwood Mac (iTunes)  ****As their massive world tour gets underway Mac releases 4 new songs to appease starving fans and give them something new to play onstage.  It’s the closest they’ve been to their classic sound in some time.It’s been a decade since the last album, 2003’s Say You Will.  The band’s internal turmoil is well documented in the press, I often marvel at how they are able to set all that baggage aside to work together.  That tension makes for occasionally great music such as the legendary Rumours album, and at least one of the tracks here, Sad Angel.  The other five tracks on this E.P. don’t quite reach the same level of catchiness with hooks that you hear long after you’ve turned off the stereo, they’re more like Lindsay Buckingham solo tunes- pleasant enough sonically, just not great, if you know what I mean.I really like this 5 song set, and enjoy at least as much that the band is reacting to the changing landscape of the music business… are full albums worth the effort for today`s music audience?  Probably not, and they’re adapting to the new paradigm, even at this stage of their career.  If you enjoy Fleetwood Mac’s classic sound and vibe you’ll enjoy these songs, even the holdover from Stevie and Lindsay’s “Buckingham/ Nicks” days.COOL CUTS: Sad Angel, Miss FantasyNOW WHAT?! Deep Purple (Edel/ Eagle) ****The Purps are back with their first studio album since 2005’s Rapture Of The Deep.  Rather than roaring back and screaming at the top of their lungs “We’re baaaaaaaaaaack!!” they just saunter in, strap up, and get down to business.  Produced by Bob Ezrin, this is the best thing they’ve done since the 90’s.Guitarist Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Kansas) has been with the group for 19 years now, and his efforts throughout the years have been consistently solid- not the manic depressive genius that Blackmore was perhaps, but he has taken the band down some different roads with inspiring results.  As to why it has taken the band this long to record another studio album (7 years) they just didn’t feel like it, according to the 20 minute band interview on the bonus DVD that comes with the deluxe edition.  Touring as much as they do, particularly in Europe and the far east, the time did come when they finally thought “You know, it would be good to have some new stuff to play”, and we arrive at Now What ?!Aside from liking the songs overall N-W is one of those albums that gives you more with every spin, and the closer I listen to the playing, the sheer musicianship, the more I enjoy the record.  I’m sure how to articulate this, but there are no gigantic, epic moments a la Smoke On The Water, at least not that I can detect yet, and I don’t hear the band desperately reaching for such- and I like that a lot.  What I DO hear right off the top is a band enjoying their decades-long relationship and the inevitable telepathic ease that brings with it.The new guy in the band, keyboardist Don Airey (Sabbath, Ozzy, Rainbow) has been in the band 10 years, and he plays here with a ferocity that he frankly didn’t have on the last couple of records.  Perhaps it was the untimely death of original Purple keyboardist Jon Lord last year from cancer that lit the fire under the band and Airey, or working with Ezrin that pushed them in all the right directions, but even this far into their career they managed to pull out one helluva record.  Jon would be well pleased with his mates on this one.So, Now What?! Is Deep Purple more than 40 years on. Gillan can’t reach the notes he used to but then again neither can Robert Plant, so cut him some slack.  Drummer Ian Paice and bassist Roger Plover are still the best rhythm section in rock & roll and singer Ian Gillan, while he can’t reach the same notes he did 30 years ago, still uses his instrument well.  I’ve been a Deep Purple fan since I first heard Smoke On The Water in 1972, and I still like them a bunch- enough to plunk down a $20 on the deluxe version of their new album and consider it money well spent… that should tell you something.COOL CUTS:  Hell To Pay, Vincent Price, A Simple Song


Kootenay Cabin Resort - Murphy's Landing Resort

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