Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Brussels Affair: Vintage Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones dipped into their live archive in the summer of 2011 and unearthed and officially released the famous and long-bootlegged Brussels performance from October 1973 known as the Brussels Affair. It's release unlocked the Stones Archive, and gave live music junkies like myself a vintage and outstanding performance, fitting of the "Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World".

While you'd be hard-pressed to find a music fan who isn't at least somewhat familiar with the Rolling Stones studio work (Who hasn't heard Satisfaction?), Brussels Affair gives the listener the opportunity to see the band in an unrestricted environment; one in which they are free to stretch out and jam when the mood strikes.  The combination of compact true-to-the-album classics and extended, blues laden jams brings something to the table for everyone.  That combination has cemented Brussels Affair at the top of my collection since its release.   

The hour and 20 minute performance in front of a enthusiastic Belgian crowd finds the Stones in fine form and is jam packed with highlights, virtually from beginning to end. While each member of the band has their turn in the spotlight, for my money, the star of the show is without a doubt Mick Taylor, who despite his outstanding contributions to the Stones during his tenure, would leave the band in just a year's time after the Brussels performance.

After powering through a few bonafide Stones classics, Brown Sugar, Gimme Shelter and Tumblin' Dice, Mick and Co. roll out the Bootleggers first real highlight: Dancin' With Mr. D.  Only performed a few times during this tour, Dancin' With Mr. D features an infectious groove, and some simply stunning guitar work from Mick Taylor. After two years of listening to this set, Mr. D is still the magnet that draws me back in every so often.  Despite the presence of several of their more commercially successful songs being performed that night, Mr. D is the true gem of the set. 

Not to be outdone, the Stones cruise right into another new track from Goat's Head Soup, which would become a classic, Heartbreaker, which again features great energy, including some interesting lead interplay between the Micks, and a funky little breakdown section, before ripping right back into the chorus, hinting at how versatile and nimble the band is. 

Cranking back the intensity, Angie is another shining example of how multi-dimensional the Stones are, giving each member of the band their place to shine, and with the pace of the show to this point, giving drummer Charlie Watts time to take a little break! Charlie's break carries on into the Stones classic, Can't Always Get What You Want, where they spend 11 minutes exploring, highlighted by more soaring lead work by Mick Taylor, complimented by a stunning horn solo.

The break's over, but the jamming is just beginning. The final Bootlegger's highlight from this show, a romping and high energy 12 minute Midnight Rambler.  It's as if the first half of the show led up to a breaking point at Angie and now the almost frantic energy and urgency is back, punctuated this time by Mick Jagger's harmonica playing.  

But predictable is one thing Brussels Affair is not, and Midnight Rambler is a perfect microcosm of just that: slowing down to nearly a complete stop about halfway through for some riffing and vocal/guitar interplay, including Mick and Keith trading some tasteful lead lines, before Mick brings them slowly back onto focus to finish things out.

Bootleggers Bottom Line: Brussels Affair is a must-have for any Stones fan, and is also a great entry into the Rolling Stones over all, both as a live act and as a band over all.  It has been and will continue to be a staple on the show from now on.  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Resurgence of the Live Album, and Why Your Band Should Have One

You and your band have spent the last few years playing gigs, cutting your chops and writing songs. You've played small clubs, maybe even a local theater or festival.  You've built a following; your shows are packed everywhere you go, and your fans are devoted.  On stage you're locked in: Rhythms tight, riffs rockin', solos focused and fluid.  You're ready to go into the studio to record an album. But studio time isn't cheap, and money's tight.  And you need some merchandise to sell at your gigs.  What about a live album?  Didn't think about that, did you?

The last few years have seen what I would consider the revival of the live album. A who's who of blues and rock heavy hitters have rolled out an avalanche of live music: Blues master Joe Bonamassa has recorded three since 2009, at Royal Albert Hall and the Beacon Theater, with a third just released in April 2013 recorded at the Vienna Opera House. Gun's 'n Roses legend Slash recorded one of his own with Myles Kennedy of Alterbridge in 2011, Made in Stoke. Veterans of the live album Derek Trucks/Tedeschi Trucks Band and Gov't Mule have each dropped two since 2010.  Warren Haynes went one further and released one with this solo group, the Warren Haynes Band, recorded at the Moody Theater. Rock and roll royals The Rolling Stones unlocked their vaults in 2011, so far releasing five pristine, internet-only live sets from 1973 to 2005. Even Led Zeppelin, the ultimate guardians of their live performance legacy have gotten in on the action, finally releasing a CD/DVD set of their 2007 reunion concert at the O2.

Two of the greatest and most critically acclaimed albums in the history of rock were live albums: The Allman Brothers' Live at the Filmore East and Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive. These were recorded during a time when technology wasn't nearly as advanced, and the ability to properly record a band in a live environment was nowhere near as easy. Margin for error was much higher, making capturing a quality recording of a band significantly more difficult, often requiring recording a band over several nights, increasing costs.  By contrast, in today's era of hard drives and digital recording, it's easier, more reliable and more cost effective than ever.  It's so easy in fact, that many bands, including Phish, Gov't Mule, WidespreadPanic, String Cheese Incident and other big guns of the jam band circuit now record their shows every night, and sell digital downloads through their websites, providing fans the opportunity to relive their favorite shows for a few extra bucks, usually within a couple days after the concert took place.

So, why hasn't your band taken the time to record themselves live if the 'pros' are doing it with such regularity? 

Since the outset of Bootleggers Beware in 2010, I've spoken regularly to bands who want to send me their new single or album.  There's a special feeling that comes from it - being able to say 'We just recorded our first album'. The glamour is and always has been in being in the studio.  But unless you're Jimmy Page, who had absolute control over everything Led Zeppelin did in the studio (which he got in part because Zeppelin was so great on stage), someone is probably calling some of, if not all the shots by the time you get there.  Especially for a band who's new to the studio, there's pressure you won't find on stage, because you're paying for the time, and trying to make everything perfect.

There's a lot of value in bands recording themselves live.  But in my opinion, they are hidden behind the blinding light and draw of the studio. A live album is either an afterthought or a complete non-thought. More times than not, I hear 'We're going to record something at our next show' - most of those bands I never hear from again.

I believe the allure of the studio, and the 'coolness' of having a studio album causes most bands to not consider the merits of recording themselves live.  Any band can sound good in the hands of a good producer in the studio with the benefit of Pro Tools, second takes and numerous other safety nets.  The legendary bands who have recorded live albums, like the Allman Brothers or Led Zeppelin, honed their sound in rehearsals and in the studio, but it was on stage where they truly shined.  The bottom line is, as a band, your real value is what you can do on stage, in the moment, when there's no safety net. 

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with blues legend Johnny Winter and his current bandmate and manager, Paul Nelson, and we briefly discussed live recordings:.  Winter echoed the above thoughts, saying that live performances and live recordings give the listener the opportunity to 'Really see what the bands can do." 

Winter explained his process for the creation of an 'official' live album as somewhat selective, "We just decide it's time for a live record" and "Just play," choosing the best of the best to be included on the album. But Winter and his crew have also put a unique spin on the live album concept, in establishing the immensely popular Bootleg Series. Using sometimes less polished, unofficial live recordings, they release some of the higher quality unofficial live recordings in their archives as live discs.  The Bootleg Series has reached an impressive nine volumes, with Volume 9 having been released in May 2013, further demonstrating the value in tapping into the value of developing a habit of recording live.

Even if you're not immediately planning to release a live album, consider this: Every night may not spawn the next Frampton Comes Alive or Live at the Filmore East, but recording your live performances is anything but wasted time. There's always value in listening to what you did the night before.  You may pick up new ideas, licks, riffs of improvisations that could be the nucleus of new songs, that you may not remember without keeping it on file. 

And who knows, maybe one night y catch lightning in a bottle, capture THE perfect show and it BECOMES your Filmore East.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Gov't Mule: The Charles Ives Experiment

The perfect outdoor concert is one where the stars both literally and figuratively align. The Gov't Mule peformance at the Ives Concert Park on Sunday June 3 was one of those nights.  The weather was perfect; warm and slightly overcast, the crowd was enthusiastic and respectful, and the band was as usual, in perfect form.  For the third time in the last five years, the Mule took to the Ives' intimate stage and delivered another unique set of originals and cover songs that kept the crowd and seemingly the band, on the edge of its seat.

The beauty of a Gov't Mule concert is the unexpectedness of both the setlist and the guest list, and Sunday's show was no exception.  The highlights were many, with the band taking the stage before dusk. Easing into things with Hammer and Nails, the Mule proceeded to hit a groove just before dark, and drove the crowd into a frenzy with a blistering version of Streamline Woman, slipping directly into Howlin' Wolf's How Many More Years, done only the way Gov't Mule can.

Sco Mule, beginning just before dark and ending just after the sun went down, brought in the first guest of the night, jazz saxophonist Bill Evans. Evans stepped up to the front line and teamed up with Danny Louis in a combination of horns that highlighted the band's full range, showing anyone that didn't already know that Gov't Mule is more than your every day rock band.  Evans, Louis and guitarist Warren Haynes traded solos throughout a 16 minute jazz driven jam session that brought the first set to a close.

Evans was by no means done, coming back almost immediately to join the band for most of the second set, including The Band's The Shape I'm In, and the unquestioned highlight of the second set that brought out the biggest applause of the night, a brilliant version of Traffic's Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. Clocking in at a quarter of an hour and featuring more impressive interplay between Evans and the Mule, Low Spark was highlighted by Louis effortlessly doing triple duty on the trumpet, trombone and keyboards, and proving that no guest, no song and no style is too far outside the bounds.

Never one to hog the stage from their opening act, Warren invited Nicki Bluhm (who reminds me a lot of my fellow Vermonter Grace Potter) and members of her band, The Gramblers (and of course, Bill Evans) up to the stage to join in on a beautiful version of Ray Charles and Dinah Washington's Drown in My Own Tears, with the Gramblers huddling around the mic reminiscent of a barber shop quartet to deliver the song's title verse line. 

Once again showing off his musical knowledge, Warren educated the audience on the history of Charles Ives, the groundbreaking composer for whom the park is named, before embarking on what seems to be becoming a tradition with the Mule when they visit the Ives, a Charles Ives Experiment. Consisting of straight up experimentation in the honor of the park's namesake and living effortlessly on the edge of musical chaos, Mule and Bill Evans began the encore with a Traffic classic that the band has been covering since the 90's Sad and Deep As You.  Where things got really interesting was watching Mule roadie extraordinaire Brian Farmer covertly suit up bassist Dave Anderson off to the side of the stage. Anderson then seamlessly took stepped in as Jorgen Carlsson slipped out the back door (all while the whole group eased into Afro Blue) and promptly stole the show.  Anderson delivered a show-stopping bass solo, highlighting the 16 minute encore and leaving the whole park, band and fans alike, breathless and satisfied, like only the Mule can. 

The Bootlegger's Bottom Line: As long as the Ives keeps bringing the Mule back, I'll keep making the 4.5 hour drive to Danbury to hear the next experiment in the Park.

Set 1: Hammer & Nails, Banks Of The Deep End, Time To Confess, Million Miles From Yesterday, Unring The BellStreamline Woman, How Many More Years, Endless Parade,
Sco-Mule (with Bill Evans)

Set 2: Scared To Live, The Shape I'm In (with Bill Evans), Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys (with Bill Evans), I'll Drown In My Own Tears (with Bill Evans, Nicki Bluhm, Tim Bluhm, Steve Adams & Dave Mulligan), Broke Down On The Brazos, Tributary Jam, Lola Leave Your Light On

Charles Ives Experiment #2 - 'Sad & Deep As You' & 'Afro-Blue' )with Bill Evans & Dave Anderson)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Johnny Winter's Bootleg Series Vol. 9 - Pure Brilliance

While Volume 9 of Johnny Winter's Bootleg Series is my baptism into the franchise, after a day long thorough listening session, I can be certain that the other eight will not long behind it. Winter and his crew's willingness to delve into places in their archive that would leave others hesitant has unearthed a brilliant performance. Winter's newest installment of the Bootleg Series is proof positive that the power of brilliant musicianship far outshines a (only slightly) lackluster quality recording.

While his studio albums are vintage blues; a must in any music fan's collection, it is on stage where Winter truly shines, stretching out the album tracks and putting on a blues rock master class in a way that only Johnny Winter can.  The tracks compiled in the 45 minute disc are vintage Johnny Winter: a mix of high energy covers, extended jams, and slow blues, with Winter's unmistakable guitar brilliance front and center, cutting through the slight hiss of the recording like a blues-powered lightsaber.  If you're a guitarist, and want to hear exactly what makes Johnny Winter great, the Bootleg Series, and in this case Volume 9 is the place to go.

As relatively short as it may be, Volume 9 of the Bootleg Series is packed full of highlights, and Johnny and his guitar are the unquestioned stars.  In true vintage Johnny Winter fashion, Volume 9 skips the warm-up and kicks right to 3rd gear, with a 10 minute long, solo-filled version of the normally compact Freddie King classic, Hideaway.  Shifting to 4th gear, Winter and Co. tear right into one of my favorite Johnny Winter showcases, the get-up-and-dance tune, turned solo laden showcase, Mean Town Blues, another solo filled jam clocking in at nearly 10-minutes. 

While Bootleg Series Volume 9 is full from beginning to end with highlights, the unquestioned showstopper is the closing track, a somewhat unexpected cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic Manic Depression.  As with the set's opener, Manic Depression shifts the whole thing into overdrive, getting the full Johnny Winter treatment while still paying tribute to the original, complete with searing lead playing that quite simply steals the show.

If Volume 9 of the Johnny Winter Bootleg Series is any indication, as long as there's quality sounding bootleg recordings to be heard, Johnny and his crew will find it. And if that's the case, the Bootleg Series franchise should have no trouble roaring on well into the double digits, keeping aspiring blues guitarists and Johnny Winter fans alike flush with a steady stream of incredible live performances.  Whether you're a long-time Bootleg Series junkie, or a new comer to the brilliance of Johnny Winter live, Volume 9 is the perfect place to start!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dave's Way: The Final Chapter

Welcome back, Moonalice fans!  We're coming down the home stretch of the Dave's Way review series.  After three weeks of immersing myself in music journey that is Dave's Way, I arrived at this conclusion as I sat down to write this week's review:  This will be both the hardest and the easiest one of the whole series.

Why?  Simple.  If you've followed the series of reviews over the last few weeks, you know that I've thoroughly enjoyed this box set so far, so I came into my initial listening of Volume's 7 and 8 already assuming I would enjoy the music to come.  I was not let down.  While the highlights were fewer than in the first six volumes (to my taste, of course), it in no diminished the quality of the music contained within.

I must admit, I was several tracks ahead when I began listening to Volume 7 of Dave's Way, having seen that the band covered one of my all-time favorite songs, Hallelujah, to close the disc.  More on that later.   Volume 7 begins by showing off Roger McNamee's storytelling abilities with Last Frontier.  Close your eyes, and you'll hear a touch of Dylan in McNamee's vocals, accompanied  by the sights and sounds of the uppermost reaches of the Alaskan wilderness.

Next up on the highlight list is, surprisingly yet another Grateful Dead influenced tune, an instrumental entitled Coconut Wireless. Coconut is the perfect balance for Roger McNamee's story telling in the open trio of tracks; it's as if the rest of the band finally decided to give him a break, and stretch things out a bit.  In typical Dead fashion, the band adeptly straddles the line between wandering and focused with guitarist Pete Sears taking the bull by the horns and soloing to his heart's content for seven solid minutes. Sears uses the opportunity to showcase both his songwriting abilities and chops, weaving a main theme in and out of exquisite lead playing.

Volume 7 closes with what I would consider the piece de resistance of the entire set, a cover of Leonard Cohen's classic, Hallelujah.  The trick with a song this iconic is to capture and deliver the emotion of the original, while putting your own flavor and feel to it.  Moonalice accomplishes this combination perfectly, with  touching instrumentals, highlighted by beautiful pedal steal lines from guitarist Barry Sless, including a pair of soaring solos that, with all due respect to, steal the show.  Despite the somewhat reserved quality of Roger McNamee's vocals, his work on this Cohen classic certainly delivers the emotion required to bring it home, making this the obvious choice to close the disc.

It is with no disrespect that I say that in the context of the box set, Volume 8 is the only possible weak link.  While there aren't any ear-grabbing highlights like the seven volumes before it, it is another small collection of Moonalice's full range of talents.  It opens with Rome Burns, which for reasons unbeknownst to me reminds me a little of the Animals cover of House of the Rising Sun with quicker pace.  Man in Me, and Angle of Repose are this album's Grateful Dead flavored tunes, and Diana's Up and Dancing brings Dave's Way to a close with an upbeat 50's rocker that's almost guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

And that, my friends brings this four part review of Moonalice's Dave's Way box set to a close.  It has been without a doubt a truly enjoyable musical journey, full of a wide variety of tunes, ranging from love songs, to Grateful Dead inspired jams.  Moonalice's musical background and ability to excel in numerous musical genres means that my statement from the first week's review holds 100% true: there is something for everyone across the eight volumes of the set.  I hope you've enjoyed exploring Dave's Way as much as I have.  

Now, if you'll glance at your calendar, you'll see that this series has come full circle, with the final edition having been posted on April 20th.  Let's celebrate, shall we?  Click here to pick up your free download of the opening track of Dave's Way, 4:20 Somewhere, because today, it's 4/20 here!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Every time You think You've got them figured out...

Before I begin the next edition of the review series for Moonalice's Dave's Way box set, I would like to dedicate this week's entry to the memory of Brandon Holt, 6-year old grandnephew of Moonalice video directory Glen Evans, who was killed earlier this week.  The thoughts and prayers of the Bootleggers Beware community are with the Moonalice family during this time of loss. His short time on this Earth is a reminder that we must all remember to live every day to its fullest.  A memorial fund has been established in Brandon's memory at    

There seems to be a recurring theme with this series of reviews: Every time I think I've got these Moonalice guys figured out, they manage to throw me yet another curveball. Each listening session contains a song that makes each volume of Dave's Way unique, different and enjoyable.  For this entry, that song was the island inspired, Nobody Knows.  While the instrumentals are enjoyably playful, the lyrics remind us to be respectful of others beliefs and embrace the inherent differences between us.

The uniqueness of Volume 5 doesn't stop there.  Brace yourself, there's even a history lesson!  The slightly twangy Federal Express documents the story of the 1953 Union Station train crash of the Federal Express. After researching the accident (I had to know the story behind it), I learned that Roger McNamee is not only an excellent lyricist, but also an excellent story musical story teller, capturing the details of the event to a T, capped off by a tasteful and expertly  executed train lap steel train whistle from Barry Sless,  If you're like me and want a little background about this unfortunate train wreck, click here.

In a truly fitting gesture for this entry, Pete Sears' Sweet Rosie is a beautifully written and accompanied narration whose lyrics tell the story of a couple who parts ways, thinking that down the road they will be able to reconnect years later.  It appears that this is not the case, which serves as a reminder to take advantage of every day, and to not pass up opportunities to express our thoughts and feelings, as we never know if those opportunities will ever present themselves again.

Both Volumes 5 and 6 of Dave's Way are full of lyrical lessons, all of which are such well written songs that they stand far above the other equally qualified songs contained with in.  Live to Love is yet another example of life lessons in song, reminding us that life is too short not to love our fellow man.  Lyrics are not only where Live to Love stands out.  Just like Federal Express, it sent to Google to make sure it wasn't a Grateful Dead cover.  Joke's on me, it's not.  It's just The Moonalice crew channels their inner Dead, proving yet again that their Grateful Dead roots are never too far away.  In fact, I'm teetering on the precipice of diving head first into the Dead catalog (a fact which will leave several members of Bootleggers Nation grinning from ear to ear).  Last but not least, In yet another let turn, the gang takes another unexpected left turn, with a surprisingly (almost) pop-rock inspired tune, Lost at Sea, which is yet another one of my favorites, just as much for its sneakily meaningful lyrics as its catchy, chair-dance worthy beat.  

Much like the four volumes before them, Volumes 5 and 6 of Dave's Way have a little something for everyone, from history, to life lessons, jams to rockin' tunes.   Each listening session is fun and unique, and I can say that I look forward to breaking out the final two volumes this coming week.

As usual, we'll be checking out some of the highlights from this week's review in this week's edition of Bootleggers Beware, streaming live at 10AM EST right here. and don't forget to check out the the first two installments of the series here, and here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Second Helping of Things Done Dave's Way

Welcome back for the second installment of my series of reviews of Moonalice's Dave's Way box set.  I came into the writing of last week's entry not really knowing what to expect, being only mildly familiar with the band as a whole.  Before beginning the listening process for this entry, I looked back at the first one, as it was pointed out that I may have been a bit too kind, throwing around a few too many compliments, and not pointing out the flaws.  It turns out I wasn't too nice. There are simply very few flaws to point out.

 Much like Volumes 1 and 2, the 3rd and 4th volumes are again about as different and unique as their disc sleeves.  I left the first two volumes in my rear view mirror (for the time being) knowing one thing: Expect the unexpected.  It is with that statement in mind that I began to look at Volumes 3 and 4 for of this set, and it didn't take long to discover the once again that the highlights were abound, except that where instrumental highlights seemed to dominate the first two volumes, the lyrical ability and versatility of the whole band took center stage.

Volume 3 of Dave's Way kicks off with an upbeat, rock n' roll tune, Fifteen Cadillacs. Ann McNamee makes  another appearance, with some somewhat unexpected lyrics about celebrities have too many cars, and her all-too-refreshing response:  She only needs one car.  Cadillacs is followed up by the chuckler of the set, Mr. Spaceman, a quite entertaining country-driven commentary of alien abduction, with spacey instrumentals to match.  

It's there that I was pleasantly surprised to see the band take off into yet another interesting direction, embarking on some wonderfully thoughtful and introspective songs about life, love, and making the most of every opportunity with those you love. The first of this series of songs that I have affectionately called "The Friendship and Love album" is Up in the Clouds, a wonderfully upbeat song in which Roger and Ann McNamee share the mic, with Roger describing the breadth of his love (assumedly for Ann!).  Clouds is followed, almost fittingly by Wish We Had, in which Ann McNamee reminds us to take advantage of every opportunity with those that we care for, that one can never tell when a missed opportunity can alter the path of life, leaving us only to wonder "What if..."

"Friendship and Love" spills over into Volume 4, almost as if no time had passed between the recording sessions for the two.  After asking if we are Tall Enough to fully appreciate the ride that is life, Pete Sears delivers my unquestioned highlight of the trio of songs (along with Dreams in the Middle and Silver Lining) that inspired the nickname for this series of songs. You & Me is a beautifully written and accompanied love song, that I must admit, caught me a bit by surprise during my first listen.  It was a little unexpected, but refreshingly different, and is the first jam band song that has ever triggered the following thought: "That would make a perfect wedding song", complete with a fittingly dance worthy instrumental outro that compliments Sears' gentle and loving vocals beautifully.  Silver Lining brings "Friendship and Love" to a close by combining thoughtful lyrics about support and devotion with a touch of Grateful Dead peeking through in the guitar melody and solos.

With half of Dave's Way now in the books, I'm continually surprised at the diversity of music that I've heard thus far, and I'm anxiously awaiting beginning to dig into the next two volumes of the set.  If they are anywhere near as good as the first four, my friends, we are in for a treat!

If you want to hear some of the highlights from this week's review, check out this week's edition of Bootleggers Beware, streaming live at 10AM EST right here, and don't forget to check out the the first installment of the series here, and get your free download of Moonalice's hit song 4:20 Somewhere.

Friday, March 29, 2013

An Inside Look at Moonalice: Dave's Way - Part 1

Welcome to the Bootleggers Beware blog!  Over the next 4 weeks, we'll be breaking down and looking at the new Moonalice 8-disc box set Dave's Way, recorded with Grammy winning recording engineer, Dave Way at the helm.  This week, we'll take a look at the first two volumes of the set.

One should never underestimate the value of an experienced producer; and it is evident through these two volumes that having the capable hands and ears of Dave Way in the booth gives the band a unique advantage.  They show a comfort level in the studio that exudes confidence, knowing that they only have to worry about playing; everything else is taken care of. That knowledge gives Moonalice the freedom to explore different styles of music; they've drawn on their considerable background of blues, bluegrass, jam rock and classic rock to put together a diverse running order of songs that can and do appeal to just about anyone.

Moonalice is a band that clearly places significant emphasis on its live recordings, and creating a communal, all-inclusive and easily accessible concert experience.  They've even gone so far as to invent the "Twittercast", which allows fans to stream video of every one of their live shows through nearly every media channel possible. One of the most interesting things about a band that focuses such considerable energy on their live performances, is seeing how they adapt to recording in a studio.  Can they mix concise, lyric driven songs, with focused, extended jams and deliver the same communal concert energy to the listener, without sounding limited by the studio environment?  In the case of Moonalce and Dave's Way, the answer is clearly yes.

Volume 1 clocks in at just over 17 minutes, but this 5-song set is not without its share of highlights.  It leads off with the band's hit 4:20 Somewhere, which has been met with massive success, having been downloaded over 2.5 million times.  That success is hardly a surprise.  The song is catchy and features just enough of the member's Grateful Dead bloodline to reel in the legions of Dead fans the world over.

As the set progresses, you can almost feel the band loosen up, get comfortable, and lock into a concert-worthy groove.  Red Crow features some of the excellent musicianship and chemistry that comes only from musicians who are intimately familiar with each other, highlighted by a brilliant guitar solo by guitarist Pete Sears.  One of the most interesting twists of this volume is without a doubt American Dream Rag.  This acoustic tune harkens back just a bit to the days of the 1960's, when social commentary and music were intertwined, with the lyrics touching on some of today's somewhat sensitive societal issues, but doing so in a light and enjoyable way.

If Volume 1 was the appetizer for Dave's Way, Volume 2 is definitely the beginning of a solid main course.  The band begins to stretch it out here, with 3 of the 6 songs clocking in at over 6-minutes long.  Right out of the gate, the band reaches into it's bag of tricks, rolling out a cheeky, country tune, Foxtrot Uniform. Excellent musicianship and a couple clever acronyms (Which I won't give away here!) will get you listening and engaged in the music immediately, and probably cracking a couple smiles while you're at it.

The most difficult part about listening to this disc is picking a highlight.  Each of the songs includes some kind of shining moment.  The longer songs, Who Can Say and Daylight, offer the perfect opportunity to highlight the rhythm section of John Molo and Roger McNamee.  The key to any band that specializes in instrumental jamming is a solid backing track to allow the guitar and in this case the keyboard to freely and confidently solo away.  Pete Sears and Barry Sless set the tone on both, by reaching back and perfectly complimenting the songs with well crafted solos.

Lyrical brilliance takes center stage on Love to Remake, with Ann McNamee's thoughtful, heartfelt lyrics about repairing and rekindling love.  It offers the perfect transition to the Grateful Dead classic Stella Blue.  Stella is the perfect place to bring this installment of the Dave's Way review series to a close.  Moonalice do a spot-on job on this tune, complete with vocals that you'd swear were Jerry Garcia, and pedal steel guitar playing from Barry Sless that is touching, tasteful and soaringly brilliant throughout the 11-minute closing track.

With three more weeks of steady Moonalice on my listening menu, I can safely set down my silverware and napkin and confidently say that I am thoroughly looking forward to the next six volumes. If the first two are any indication, they will be full of excellent musicianship and a fair share of surprises.

If you're looking for a preview of some of the tracks from this review, you can get your free download of 4:20 Somewhere here.  You can also check out a live version of Red Crow in this week's edition of Bootleggers Beware, streaming here from 10AM to noon EST.  Next week, we'll take a look at Volumes 3 and 4 of Dave's Way, but until then, happy listening!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Short History of the World's Only Live Music Radio Show

Hello, and welcome to the official Bootleggers Beware blog!

A few months ago, one of the DJ's I was training asked me: "What was the turning point in your show?"  I thought about it for a moment, and quickly realized that there was not just one, but many.  As I talked through them that day, I was a little shocked to see how much the show has changed and grown - as marketing guru Roy Williams once said, "It's hard to read the label from inside the bottle."  As we close in on the show's three year anniversary, it feels like the right time to sit back and reflect, and share the story of Bootleggers Beware with you:

The first edition of Bootleggers Beware aired on June 19, 2010; at the time, I was looking for a way to get back into radio, and for something to give my Saturday's some structure and purpose.  Lo and behold, The Radiator appeared out of the mist one day, and dropped the opportunity in my lap to revive my radio 'career' - one that had been hibernating since my final days at WIUV Castleton ended nearly four years earlier.  In its first several months, Bootleggers Beware was a far cry from the show you hear today - it was just me, sitting in the studio, listening to the live music that I've come to love over the years, blissfully unaware of whether anyone was listening… 

In January of 2010, I decided to flex a little social media muscle and see if I could attract a few people to join in my journey.  Born were the Facebook page (How many of you saw the first post? - January 20, 2011) and Twitter account ("Bonus points" if you saw my first Tweet!) In their early days they were also nothing like what you see today.  But this marked the first turning point in the life of the show: It took several months, but in mid-June of 2011, things began to change:  That change took place when the first 'likes' showed up on the page from people whom I didn't know personally - Sallie and Jim, (the first of the folks I've dubbed "The Regulars" - the small and growing group of dedicated listeners who brave the time differences across the country to tune in every week), then Greg and Derek of the Melted Horses.  It was then that I realized that the show was no longer just for me.  People were listening.  I had to step up my game.  That realization set the show on the path from hobby to what I refer to now as my second full time job.

A couple months later brought about the next big change, and the only show that has become an annual tradition: The Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute show.  The inaugural broadcast of this show, on the anniversary of Stevie's passing in 2011, was an incredible day for more than one reason: It saw listeners join in from around the world, and set a then-record number of listeners at about 20.  As the show wrapped up that day, something new hit me:  What I was doing was beginning to mean something to people; those who listened that day were grateful for having a place to both enjoy the music and (completely unexpected to me) grieve with their fellow fans. 

That single episode of the show brought several people who are now regular contributors and listeners on board.  With the third edition coming up this summer, it continues to be one of the most meaningful (and most popular) shows I do every year.  In 2012, the second annual Stevie Ray tribute, the show was enjoyed by listeners new and old (some of whom will be hearing their third SRV tribute in 2013). It served as a truly meaningful and cathartic listening experience by all involved, allowing us all to share stories and appreciation for Stevie and his talents together.

All the new faces did more than just make show day more fun, they also began to bring bands into the fold, beginning with Mike Peralta, the Melted Horses and The Honey Wilders from California, then comeback classic rockers Iron Claw from Scotland, and Wisconsin's The Pushers, even the gang from the jam rock band Moonalice have been known to chime in from time to time.  All of these great bands bought into the Bootleggers Beware philosophy, and shared live cuts that have since been featured on the show regularly.  The next several months brought even more requests from up and coming blues and rock bands the world over for their music to be included in a show.  I must admit that interest in the show from bands was truly unexpected and has been quite an honor.  It has been a privilege for me to have worked with and listened to all of these great bands, and I am humbled to know that the show is considered a venue for bands to promote their music.

By mid-2012, things took another very exciting turn: In studio performances.  May 2012 brought about the first of what would be three in-studio performances, featuring Michael Bernier of Michael Bernier and the Uprising.  Michael came to me looking for a place to promote his music while in town playing at the Radio Bean Café. I was again a bit shocked to find that the show was becoming an outlet for musicians to promote themselves while in town.  I was of course excited at Michael's interest in the show, and to share his music with you, my listeners.  August brought the Jessica Prouty Band into the fold; they crowded into the studio and performed songs from upcoming album. Just a couple weeks later, the band invited me to join them for their concert at Higher Ground, leading to the first (and not likely the last) recording done especially for the show.  December saw a third in-studio visit: Rosh Rocheleau from The Blind Café stopped by to hang out and play some tunes during their time in the area.    

The forward momentum has done anything but stop since the calendar has turned to 2013.  The first few months of this year have seen two landmarks on the social media front: The Facebook page surpassed 300 likes (and is well on the way to 400), along with the Twitter side of the family climbing steadily past 700 followers.

Along with that, 2013 saw one of the biggest landmarks to date, and an opportunity I never would have expected three years ago: the chance to sit down and talk music with blues legend Johnny Winter, an experience that was a true honor and privilege.  What's more, the acknowledgement through that experience, from both Johnny and his manager Paul Nelson, that Bootleggers Beware is truly as unique and one-of-a-kind as I have always intended it to be.

February brought about the most recent development in the show: The fine folks at the The American Blues Scene became official members of Bootleggers Nation.  Their support and promotion of the February blues show brought over 40 new members to the Bootleggers Beware Facebook page, and single-handedly smashed the previous high for listeners during one show at 76, a few of whom have become regular listeners and contributors to the page.

And that, my friends, is the story behind "The World's Only All Live Music Radio Show."  I would like to thank all of those who have listened, liked, shared, retweeted, favorited and supported the show in the in the last three years.  It is with the support of each and every one of you that Bootleggers Beware has become what it is today.  Without you, the show is nothing.  As you can tell, it has grown considerably since that first show back in June 2010.  The sky is truly the limit of its growth, and I look forward to sharing it all with you.