Thursday, December 16, 2010

More Christmas Songs

Okay, let me admit. When you think of Christmas, the name "Bob Dylan" doesn't usually come to mind. He grew up Jewish, had a series of records in the late seventies/early eighties that may have been so-called "Christian," but still, "Bob Dylan" and "Christmas" don't seem to go together. Music of this sorts is to be sung by those with the voice of a soprano from the likes of Mariah Carey and others more vocally talented. But Bob Dylan? Most would say "no way."

Well, I'm here to tell you that "yes!" Bob Dylan can sing Christmas music and he does on his 2009 release "Christmas in the Heart." Here, you'll hear the classic fare like "Here Comes Santa Clause,"and "Winter Wonderland." But you'll also hear the more worshipful stuff too: "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "O, Come All Ye Faithful," O Little town of Bethlehem,"- to name a few. And he does it with an assortment of backing vocals from the "sopranos" that can hit the notes that Dylan can't, making for a fun and pleasant listen.

All in all, fifteen songs makeup the entirety of Christmas in the Heart. And after listening for the last two years, it's grown on me as one of my favorites. Maybe it's the scratchy voice trying to sing those songs that have been sung so-well for so-long. Maybe it's the sheer beauty of hearing a sound you won't hear on commercial radio. Whatever it is, it offers a measure of enjoyment that you may not find anywhere else. Check it out! And by the way, royalties from the album (100 %) go to help a variety of hunger organizations, one of which is Feeding America - a ministry that our church works with on a regular basis.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Songs For Christmas

As you may have noticed, the season of Christmas music is upon us. And as always, many noteworthy artists have released something NEW to get us through the holidays. Still, for better or worse, it's the classics that we seem to hear the most - year after year. While these so-called "classics" prevail on most radio, there's some great releases out there that typically fly below the radar. Check back often as I'll be revealing some of my favorites in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. One of my personal favorites is found below.

Sufjan Stevens - Songs For Christmas

Comprised of 42 songs and 5 discs, Stevens has created what I would call a "modern-day classic." At various points, it's fun, witty, contemplative and worshipful. While released in 2006 as a complete package, Stevens originally released these over several years as gifts to his family and friends over the holidays. Now, they're a gift to you and I and are well-worth a listen. Featuring original and some classics too, Stevens has put together a quirky, eclectic and yet, an often beautiful release.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A review that I wrote for the Dublin, Ireland duo known as the Guggenheim Grotto can be found below.

The Guggenheim Grotto ~ The Universe is Laughing

The Dublin, Ireland duo of Kevin May and Mick Lynch are back with their third full-length release titled The Universe is Laughing. As usual, the “dark folk” that characterized their first two releases is no less visible here. The sinister opener, “Trust Me I’m a Thief” testifies to this as the duo harmonizes: “cross your heart and hope to die / stick a needle in your eye / careful what you wish for / Oh, the devil’s in the detail.” On the other end of the spectrum is the joy filled ballad “Wings and Feathers” - a song that mixes piano with an electronic sound that works quite well. Another song worth mentioning is the heartfelt “Concentrate.” Here, two part harmonies abound as duo longingly sings about the desire to see someone no longer there.
While lyrically incomprehensible, the title track “The Universe is Laughing,” is well worth several listens as well. Adding to this sound is the folk pop found layered throughout Happy the Man - their sophomore release. Here too, it’s found weaving its way throughout the recording. Characterizing this is arguably the best song, the single “Wisdom” - an upbeat pop didy that mixes the viola, a fine combination of percussion and the mystical words of principle lyricist May.

In the end, there are no duds here. From start to finish, May and Lynch have crafted a true work of art that manages to span a wide spectrum of sound. While the universe may be laughing, they’ll be no one laughing at this effort. Great stuff!
~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kevin Max - Great New Music

In recent days, I've been digging some really good music. Most notably, from the recent release from Kevin Max of DC Talk fame. He has a new release out NOW titled Cotes d'Armor and it's really good! You can read my review written for local radio station WYCE below. As a side note - he's recently moved back to the GR area and will be investing some of his time and energy into the downtown area music scene. Looking forward to seeing him in November at Schuller's.

KEVIN MAX - Cotes d’ Armor (True Rebels)

While the distinctive voice of the Grand Rapids raised Kevin Max is immediately recognizable - the overall sound found throughout his latest remix release plays like something new for the former member of DC Talk. Self-described by Max as ‘poptronica,’ it’s fairly evident from the start that the singer/songwriter is heavily influenced by the blips, bleeps and bounce that link both electronic and pop music to the point where every song here has some tinge of it.

On the opener and first single “On Yer Bike,” the fast paced pop is laced throughout. Other tracks worth some attention include the lush and heartfelt “Your Beautiful Mind;” the mysterious “Traveler;” the building crescendo of drums and percussion found in “Future love Song;” the overall contribution of Adrian Belew on “Even When It Hurts”- to name only a few of the standouts. Also of note are the two instrumental tracks: the Dracula inspired “Train to Transylvania” and Hot Chip like “Death of CCM.”

In the end, the release from Kevin Max, who has recently relocated to the Grand Rapids area with his wife and family, borders on ‘excellent’ with only a few minor setbacks throughout. While Max may not be as famous as he once was during his days as a strictly Christian artist, his music is arguably now more accessible, more mature, and more poetic than ever before.
~ Reviewed by Jeff Bouma
KEVIN MAX - Cotes d’ Arm

You can also see Kevin Max's latest video for the first single from the album - On Yer Bike! A little weird but oh, well.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Music I'm Digging Now

I thought I'd update you on some great music worth checking out. The first happens to be what's playing this morning at Tower Coffee. It's Arcade Fire's latest titled "Suburbs." Having listened to this a few times through already, I think it's their best yet! Another one that I'm currently digging but haven't listened to as thoroughly is Sufjan Steven's latest release - the EP titled "All Delighted People." So far, so good and well worth checking out. Even more, his new full-length release drops in October and is said to incorporate my favorite instrument of all - the synthesizer - to a large degree. Can't wait! Lastly, have to mention this one. A band I only recently discovered a couple of years ago is the Minneapolis based Cloud Cult. Their songs deal with hearty issues such as end-times, good and evil, etc...Their last release "Tea Partying Through Tornadoes" was my favorite of 2008. Now, this September, their new release "Lightchasers" hits the shelves. I've played a couple of different songs released early to WYCE on my weekly show and their top-notch. Looking forward to listening to the whole thing.

Until next time...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Paul Thorn

On Wednesday, had the wonderful opportunity to interview Mississippian Paul Thorn. He has an incredible story to say the least. He's a PK (preacher's kid), and most notably, a former professional boxer. He even went six rounds in a nationally televised match against Roberto Duran back in 1988. After his boxing career was over, he went back to what he'd been doing since he was a kid - playing music. After playing local gigs, he was discovered by Miles Copeland (brother of Stewart Copeland of The Police) and soon after signed a record deal. He's opened for notable acts such as Mark Knopfler and Sting. He was just in town supporting his 9th full-length release and his most successful yet - "Pimps and Preachers."

As he shared, the album represents the two different people in his life. The "pimp" is is uncle that showed up at his doorstep when he was just twelve-years of age. His long lost uncle that many in his family thought was dead. And yes, he was a "pimp." His father, on the other hand, was a "preacher." The point in sharing these two polar opposites, the evil and the good, is that each of them became equally influential in Paul Thorn's life. His father taught him incredibly valuable things but his uncle also taught him some things about this "evil world" that his father could never have.

Anyway, thought I'd just share my admiration for not only another musician, but an artist that is also telling an incredible story through his writing. Each of his songs tells a story - my favorite, (and his dad's too) is "I Don't Like Half the Folks I Love." Here's a video link to Mr. Thorn that you might be interested in.

Friday, July 02, 2010

What I'm Listening to

From time to time, I get the question - Hey, Jeff, what music are you listening to right now? What's in your CD Player in the car? What's on your ipod, etc...? So, here's my TOP 3 of what I'm currently listening to right now (NOTE: What I'm listening to changes all the time).

The Holmes Brothers - Feed My Soul
Brothers Wendell and Sherman Holmes sing the Blues, interlacing several genres of music therein including a heavy dose of Gospel. This one's been out for a few months now but just now getting to it. Really good stuff!

The Freelance Whales - Weathervanes
Described by some as handclapping Indie-Pop, this New York based band has released an outstanding debut. Worth checking out - trust me!

Crooked Still - Some Strange Country
Ever since they joined me in studio a few months ago, I've really been turned on to this Boston-based five-some. Classified as Alternative Bluegrass, these guys and gals have released a truly GREAT album with this their fourth full-length release.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Willie Nelson Cuts Hair

The BIG news of the day is that the always prolific and much beloved Willie Nelson has cut his hair. Gone now are the long and reddish pigtails that Mr. Nelson sported for as long as my memory has been around; now replaced with short hair like he used to sport earlier in his career (before he looked like Willie Nelson). So, in light of this, what does such a BIG change mean. Well, here's my thoughts - both good and bad.

Here's the Bad :(

Much like Samson (he lost his hair too only it wasn't his decision), suddenly Willie's superhuman powers to write music will suddenly come to a screeching halt. Really, this guy has released a ton of music over his career; especially since being caught by the IRS for all those years of not paying taxes. For every record he sells, a good bit goes straight back to our government. For that, we can thank Mr. Nelson for making good on his debt. So, could this be the end to his powers? Yes, I'm speculating here, but this could happen.

Here's the Good :)

This summer, with Willie touring and playing at all sorts of music festivals, he'll be a lot cooler. I mean, can you imagine how hot it gets playing on stage in 90 degree heat with a head full of hair? I've never had hair as long as Willie but there's days in the summer that I want to shave it all off. So, in this case, I can't blame him at all.

Moreover, rumor has it that he gave his hair to Locks of Love - an organization that makes hairpieces out of donated hair. Both my wife and son Josh donated their hair to this great organization. They look different, feel cooler, and know that they've helped out a wonderful organization that will in turn help out a child. But, (and I'm not downplaying my wife's or my own kids hair) can you imagine how cool that would be to be sporting Willie Nelson's hair as a kid? How cool would that be?

In truth, I wish the country music pioneer much continued success. I'm sure he has a lot of music left in him and he can always grow his hair back out!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Crooked Still In-Studio Performance

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to interview the Boston-based Bluegrass and Nu-Folk artists Crooked Still. They have a new album coming out on May 18 titled "Some Strange Country" and they we're in town promoting this and their upcoming concert that night at Wealthy Theater. In addition, beginning next week, their album will be streaming for FREE on NPR so that you can preview it. Having already heard it, you won't be disappointed. Below is a portion of the in-studio performance. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More Great New Local Music!

Hey, yesterday while raising money for 88.1 FM WYCE, I had the chance to interview another great local talent - the band known as Nate Scott and Those Eighty Acres. Grand Rapids based, they have their first full-length release out now. Not only are these guys great musicians, they also have a willingness and desire to give back to the community that they are part of. They've recently donated their time and a show to benefit the Red Cross and then they were down at the station yesterday helping us raise money too! Even better, they donated money themselves! While I couldn't find a video, you can listen to their music right here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Yesterday on my show I had the chance to interview Cathy Holbroke - Executive Director of the St. Cecilia Music Center. If your interested, you can find out more information about this great organization impacting the Greater Grand Rapids community right here. She shared a great deal about the organization and their purpose as a whole but her main agenda was to promote the upcoming concert this weekend, Saturday, March 20th at St. Cecilia's Royce Auditorium. The band is the Grammy winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet - now out with their most recent release titled LAGQ-Brazil. For you guitar aficionados, this is pretty good stuff! I've posted a video down below for your listening satisfaction. Enjoy!

Friday, March 05, 2010

More Regional Music

Last week on my normally scheduled show on 88.1 WYCE (Wednesdays from Noon to 3 PM) I had the chance to interview and listen live to Chicago-based Daphne Willis. At only 22 years of age, she's truly an amazing talent. Look for some big things to come from this gal in the future. Her debut full-length release just came out in February and "boy, is it good!" You can check some of music out on her Myspace page

I've also provided a video of her playing below...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Grand Rapids' Best

Hey, for you local music fans. My favorite little radio station on the planet (88.1 WYCE) just handed out the Jammie award to local artist Drew Nelson. In 2009 he released "Dusty Road to Beulah Land," for which he received album of the year honors. He also won a Jammie for a song off of that album - "Waiting For the Sun." If your not familiar with the local music scene, check out Mr. Drew in the video below. He's a pretty nice guy too!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Life On Music

A few years ago I started a different blog that I called "My Life on Music." The idea behind it was to share my thoughts on all things music since music (for me anyway) is a large part of my life. Well, I failed to keep both blogs going. So why not a little or lot of that here? After all, I haven't written anything in quite a while. I've shared those reasons in a past blog.

So, for now anyway, I'll be sharing some music related stuff here, most likely links to music and the accompanying video that has inspired me or caught my attention as of late. So, here goes. Instead of me doing the talking, I'll let the music do the talking instead...

I've really been digging the latest release from Switchfoot titled "Hello Hurricane." If you're not familiar with this California based band, check out a sampling of their sound in their single "Mess of Me" shown below. Enjoy!