Talk From The Rock Room

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Rock Room on the Road - Gov't Mule - Live at Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards - August 6, 2022

 

Fresh off of the European leg of their 2022 tour in support of their current album Heavy Load Blues, the ‘Gov’t Mule’ touring machine pulled into ‘Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards’, Lafayette, NY. Nestled on a green hillside just south of Syracuse in orchard country, the venue offered the perfect remedy for a steamy 90 degree central New York summer day. ‘Gov’t Mule’, the twenty plus year road tested quartet comprised of legendary guitarist, Grammy winner and founding member Warren Haynes, drummer Matt Abts, multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis and bassist Jorgen Carlsson; served up a boiling musical gruel comprised of a multitude of diverse musical spices and hearty chunks of electric blues to the hungry crowd.

At 7:15 Mule took the stage to Warren Haynes solo vocal introduction of Son House’s ‘Grinnin’ in Your Face’ that acted as a blue prelude to Matt Abts drum introduction to the catalog standard ‘Mule’. A classic double opener that long time fans understood meant the group had come to play. Haynes donned a slide for this opening salvo which was immediately cracked open and sizzled like an egg on black asphalt. Danny Louis's additions of spongy keyboards were a stellar contrast to Haynes' laser focused slide excursions.

‘Wake Up Dead’ from the aforementioned Heavy Load Blues, kept the tempo high and the jamming ripe as the bluesy stomp spotlighted Danny Louis’ slippery Hammond organ excursions. His Leslie speaker rotated at high revolutions behind his impressive keyboard array. With nary a pause, the group, with Louis now lending rhythm guitar pickpocketed the opening to Junior Parker’s ‘Snatch it Back and Hold It’. The crowd surged in to a funky head bobbing groove as Haynes peeled off a series of brassy licks. Carlsson, who was fully amped strapped the bottom end down as the group illustrated their mastery of the classic Chicago blues. Sandwiched between two halves of ‘Snatch It’ was a unique Mule flavored jam called ‘Hold It Back’, essentially a heavy improv in E that pulled away from the song proper before returning to the reprise for a groovy release.

Continuing what would be a deft blend of covers and originals in the set, ‘Beautifully Broken’ from Mule’s 2001 LP The Deep End Volume 1, slowed things down for the sun-drenched crowd but contained the most intense jamming thus far. Under violet light Haynes peeled off a plethora of virtuosic solos, each more intense than the previous culminating in the expeditious scrubbing of his strings that brought the band to a full climax and the crowd to collaborative applause.

For those who have followed ‘Gov’t Mule’ from the beginning the reading of ‘Rockin Horse’ from the band’s 1995 debut, when they were still a power trio was a welcome addition to the set. Haynes donned a Gibson SG for the performance while Abts pounded musical nails to wood through the verses. Crashing waves of sustained improv splayed waves of undulating sound over the crowd. Endless crescendos of guitar and keyboard were stretched to their respective limits. Matt Abts bass drum triplets replicated heart palpitations deep inside the cavern of my chest as the group took the songs internal makeup to its absolute limits.

It's moments like the aforementioned that separate Gov’t Mule from other bands of their ilk. This isn’t a run of the mill ‘jam band’. There is nothing cute about Gov't Mule’s playing. Mule finds the pulse of a song and explores every nook and cranny organically and with patience. Their musical summits are discovered through naturally occurring group exploration not contrived peaks. There is no ‘show’ just musicians disseminating their craft with no illusions or card tricks.

Leaving the smoldering heap of rubble that was the ‘Rockin Horse’ behinf, the band slipped into the fitting commentary of ‘Revolution Come, Revolution Go’. Toward the song’s conclusion Haynes’s let go with a blue drone of feedback that levitated above the churning rhythm section then traveled over the green hills, inched over the surrounding lakes and back to the crowd’s ears. Stunning.

The opening set concluded with the two-fer of ‘Aint No Love In the Heart of the City’ another deep blues from the current album offering and the closing reggae tinged  ‘Time to Confess’. ‘Confess’ surpassed ten minutes and balanced on Matt Abts and Carlsson’s unique bricklayers take on the ‘one drop’ groove. As dusk fell on the stage the jamming intensified before detonating in a wash of Danny Louis coloring and Haynes continuing discovery of melodic ideas.

Following a set break ‘Mule’ returned to the stage as the grounds cooled and a light rain spritzed the crowd. In contrast to the intensity of the first portion of the show, ‘Mule’, masters of moods opened the concluding set with music to match the vibe. A trio of classic ‘Gov’t Mule’ songs from their early catalog sated the longtime fans. ‘No Need to Suffer’ from 2000’s Life Before Insanity started things off and gave Jorgen Carlsson an opportunity to shine as he provided a melodic lead bass part originally played by dearly departed founding member Allen Woody.

Haynes and Carlsson initiated a razor dance of intertwining lines that increased in intensity each round through the chord changes. Louis shifted the arrangement over Abts solid rock rhythm adding a unique disorientation to the already psychedelically tinged attack. ‘Painted Silver Light’, one of Haynes most enduring melodies from 1995’s band debt followed in a crisp perfection and segued into ‘Thelonious Beck’ an instrumental jam vehicle from the group’s Dose record. Haynes started things off with a slide guitar introduction wrenching up the anticipation before unleashing the songs syncopated opening. Carlsson pulsed prolifically on bass as the band slammed through the song’s angular blues changes with Haynes once again offering a discography of rock and roll licks ranging from Chuck Berry to Jerry Garcia. Light touch, sustained feedback and a color wheel of tonal expressions only touch upon Haynes magic mastery of his instrument.

The concert had reached a misty summit and began the high speed down hill to musical satisfaction with an expansive cover reading of ‘Creedence Clearwater Revival’s’, ‘Effigy’. Haynes husky vocals stirred up in a pot of whisky and sawdust, were smoothed for the culturally and time appropriate cover. As the group began to leave the framework of the song a choogling country boogie began to coagulate. Notes of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Cumberland Blues’ passed by the window of the speeding musical train. The crowd danced out their approval as Haynes began to quote Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. A smile was discernable on Warren’s face as the crowd caught on to the melody and the band ignited. A highlight of the second set, band and crowd alike joined in celebratory glory.

The crowd was now pliable to the ‘Mule’s’ every want and they took it to the bank with a dubby sweet version of Al Green’s ‘I’m A Ram’ and a huge and thumping of Tom Wait’s ‘Goin Out West’ to close things out. ‘Goin Out West’ featured Warren playing with a multitude of quivering tones and edgy riffing before leaving the work to the crowd to chant the lyric, ‘Goin out West where they appreciate me’. Louis picked up his trombone and accompanied the crowd as he led the procession off of the stage to the rhythmic crowd accompaniment.

The only way to conclude such a special evening of music was with the obvious choice of ‘Soulshine’. Originally released on the ‘Allman Brothers Band’ 1994 album,  Back Where It All Begins, the song has become ‘Gov’t Mule’s’ and Warren Haynes emotional tincture and defining song. Like the best tunes, it stirs up a multitude of emotions and acts as a musical moment to remember, reflect and elicit hopefulness.

‘Gov’t Mule’ is still one of the best kept secrets in rock and roll even after almost three decades. The group encompasses all of the most unique elements of their influences and when on stage becomes something more substantial than their four pieces. Haynes is a masterful songwriter, interpreter and guitar player of the purest standard. One time a band in flux, ‘Gov’t Mule’ has melded themselves into a group of superior musicians that have acquired their second sight through hard work, constant touring and a continuous reach for the note.


Photos: Amiee Van Lew/Craig Wolfert

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Rock Room on the Road - Graham Nash - July 31, 2022 Point of the Bluff Vineyards

                                            
Graham Nash’s 2022 tour made a stop at the pastoral ‘Point of Bluff Vineyards’ in Hammondsport, NY on July 31st. While overlooking picturesque Keuka Lake and its lush green hills; Nash and his touring band of Shayne Fontane (guitars) and Todd Caldwell (Hammond Organ) played a two-set concert comprised of Nash’s impressive fifty plus career in popular music. One not so subtle takeaway from the show is just how many stellar songs and memorable melodies Nash has composed in his rock and roll hall of fame career. Songs from the ‘Hollies’, Crosby Stills Nash, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and his solo records made up the bulk of the set, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. His catalog a venerable embarrassment of melodic riches. The lack of a drummer in the on-stage band allowed the arrangements to breathe and move on their own volition. Every nuance of song captured in photographic detail like Nash’s own photo editions.

When Nash and his group took to the stage the idyllic surroundings encouraged Nash to remark, ‘For the first time in my life I’ve got a better view than you’ to the assembled crowd. The concert began with ‘Wasted on the Way’, from CSN’s 1982 LP Daylight Again. Nash’s vocal as vibrant as when he recorded the song in the studio. His tone and clarity stunning, his investment in the music tangible.

The set took on a ‘storytellers’ vibe, which is apt as Nash is one of the finest songwriters in rock and roll history. Nash’s presong tales assisted in distilling the magic from his songs. His earnest reflections framing his compositions in a new understanding. Even the songs we have heard for year took on a new shine when placed in this alternate light.

Nash paid tribute to his long-time friend and bandmate in the ‘Hollies’, Allan Clarke with a flashback version of ‘Bus Stop’. He struck a match with ‘Marrakesh Express’ and then satisfied the hardcore with a spectacular reading of ‘Right Between the Eyes’. A song the bridges the gap between Nash’s Hollies’ career and his joining of ‘Crosby, Stills, and Nash.’

Graham Nash’s lead vocals for the weathered throat an 80-year-old rocker are stunning. There was no doubt at all over the course of the show of whether or not he could it the note. He hit it constantly. For the aforementioned ‘Right Between the Eyes’ and following ‘Lady of the Island’ Nash sang the songs naked and without any backing vocal support.

A highlight of the first set of music came when a visibly moved Nash dedicated the next piece of music to the military and civilian casualties that had taken place in Ukraine. Nash and his previous bandmates never shied from sharing their political feelings, and easing into his eighth decade would be no different for Graham. A poignant ‘Find the Cost of Freedom’ acted as a prelude to a welcome version of ‘Military Madness’ which gained a standing ovation. Nash would get many over the rest of the evening. It was not lost on any of the crowd that the music was still just as relevant as the day of its creation.

A reflective story about Nash, Crosby and Croz’s boat preceded a cathartic version of ‘Wind on the Water’ a song from the 1975 Crosby/Nash record of the same name. Nash posted up at piano for the aforementioned before grabbing his acoustic for the two song set closers. First, a daring three-piece attempt at ‘The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’ which was pulled off splendidly. Both Todd Caldwell’s Hammond organ flourishes and Fontaine’s deft slide work made the Nash band able to play a stirring reading of a difficult cover. Following the big conclusion of ‘A Day In the Life’, one final ‘cover’ song closed the set with a crowd singalong version of  Stephen Stills 1970 classic, ‘Love the One You’re With’.

Kudos to both Shayne Fontaine and Todd Caldwell whose obvious familiarity with Nash’s catalog as well as their full investment in its creative dissemination helped to make the show. Fontaine and Caldwell allowed Nash to drive the songs with his acoustic playing and focus on his soaring still resonant vocals. An absolute master in harmony, Nash was fluid and moved his voice within the songs like he always has. In addition, to their own respective voices, with Fontaine on bottom and Caldwell on top they met the difficult task of replicating many legendary harmonies.  All of the original licks were hit and played with a unique twist. When required Caldwell’s organ also added a deep bass to the proceedings.

                                  

Following a short intermission, Nash returned to the piano with harp rack for a yearning ‘Simple Man’, from 1971’s Song for Beginners. Following the emotional gravity of the opening number, Nash then played a major highlight of the evening with Joni Mitchell’s, ‘A Case of You’. Played in a medium tempo, Nash took three harmonica breaks and sang eyes closed through what concluded as a rare and special performance by Nash and his group.

‘Sleep Song’ and its intimate changes following ‘A Case of You’ was a perfect matched pair. One could even think that Nash staged the songs this way due to their close relationship and shared feelings. Nash remained on acoustic for the only current original number, the beautiful Nash/Fontaine look back, ‘Golden Days’ from Nash’s 2016 album This Path Tonight.

Following the emotional pondering of the opening numbers, Nash and friends finish the performance with a hearty serving of Nash’s penned favorites and musical tributes to the past. A duo from 1970’s ‘Crosby, Stills Nash and Young’s Déjà vu brought the house down. First a tender rendition of the second Stephen Stills track of the night, ‘4 and 20’, then a stunning multifarious and vocally vibrant version of Neil Young’s ‘Country Girl’. Nash is fearless in the songs he plays and how he pays tribute to his musical past, present and still relevant future. The crowd roared their approval and offered another standing ovation.

Two ‘big’ CSN, CSNY songs finished the show proper. The first, ‘Just a Song Before I Ago’ was preceded by the Nash story about the genesis of the song coming after being challenged by his ‘dealer’ (for $500.00) to write a song before he had to catch a plane. Obviously, Nash won the bet and added the humorous aside, ‘Fuck him’. The expected but welcome ‘Our House’ concluded the show and offered a swaying, smiling and peaceful close to the evening. The crowd responded in kind and Nash was all smiles as he thanked the crowd endearingly and honestly. The biggest ovation of the night followed and Nash and his band returned to the stage for a double encore.

An optimistic three-part harmony performance of Buddy Holly’s ‘Everyday’ was the perfect closer. Nash explained that keyboardist Caldwell was from Holly’s hometown of Lubbock and then the obvious connection between Buddy Holly's nomenclature and Graham’s first band. CSNY's ‘Teach Your Children’ followed closely and brought the night to a positive conclusion expressing an eternal message of hope.

Hope is what Nash’s music has always given to his fans and admirers. Graham Nash's songs are his testament and he continues to curate them. He is a renaissance man and one that will never be filled creatively. He continues to write, paint, picture and sing; and we will continue to lucky recipients of the results.


Photos: Amiee Van Lew

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Rock Room on the Road - Tedeschi Trucks Band - 'Wheels of Soul' Tour July 1, 2022 Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center

On the evening of July 1, 2022 ‘Tedeschi Trucks Band’ rolled their Wheels of Soul caravan tour into the Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua, NY. A three-band collaborative of roots and rock music featured steamy opening sets by Gabe Dixon and special guests, rock legends ‘Los Lobos’. At 8:30 the twelve-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band took the stage and through their stellar musicianship and on stage comradery paid unconscious musical tributes to past travelling musical cavalcades such as ‘Delaney and Bonnie and Friends’, ‘Ronnie Lane’s Passing Show’ and Joe Cocker’s Mad Dog’s and Englishman’.

In addition to band leaders and husband and wife duo, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, the group is comprised of dual drummers, Tyler Greenwell and Issacs Eady, vocalist's, Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour, a brassy three piece horn section made up of Kebbi Williams, Elizabeth Lea, Ephraim Owens, Brandon Boone on bass and Gabe Dixon on keyboards and vocals. In true review fashion each member and section of the group was provided a moment to bask in the glow of the music making. Whether through hearty horn exclamations, stellar stratified backing vocals, percolating drums or funky bass and keyboards, the Tedeschi Trucks Band is much more than just the band’s namesakes.

The band opened the evening with the slow modal drift of ‘Anyhow’ from 2016’s Let Me Get By. Susan Tedeschi in fine vocal fettle and it is she who takes the first guitar solo of the evening on her Les Paul. The song a fitting opener as the gentle melody leaves plenty of opportunity for the horn trio to do their thing. The Tedeschi Trucks Band are less jam band and more a ‘soul review’ that jams. When Trucks steps up to solo, like any guitarist of his stature the assembled crowd shifts to the edges of their respective seats to witness the fireworks. But the true alchemy in Trucks guitar work is to be found in the breaths between his melodic statements. His incredible dexterity is only surpassed by his restraint.

Initiated on May 31st, the ‘Tedeschi Trucks Band’ announced a thematic and expansive studio project titled,  I Am the Moon, which spotlights four separate albums with accompanying films released in successive months until culminating with the complete album release on September 9, 2022. On this evening at CMAC the crowd was treated to samples of this ambitious work and were not disappointed with the results.

One of the aforementioned new compositions from I Am the Moon and the opening track of the collection, ‘Here My Dear’ followed. Lush Hammond organ work and a melody that burrows into your consciousness through Trucks sleek recitation of the theme offered one of a number of early highlights.

A sticky sweet and pull apart serving of the band original ‘Signs, High Times’ got many of the crowd up and shakin’ it a bit. Gritty Fender Rhodes and tasteful Trucks soloing takes place mid song, but without his usual slide, resulting in a number of uniquely scribbled licks. Susan growled on the lead vocals kicking her heels in with dusty eyes closed wailing.

                                 Photo: Jeff Gerew

The blue light waltz of ‘Do I Look Worried’ elicits all of the band’s R and B aesthetic with a welcome Derek Trucks excursion on an overdriven slide guitar flex that concluded with some locomotive scrubbing. Kudos to the rhythm section for battening down the hatches with endlessly creative polyrhythms and shifting time signatures.

A duo of brand-new songs followed with the acoustic stomp of ‘So Long Savior’ which sounds like a lo-fi cut from the flip of ‘Delaney and Bonnie’s Motel Shot LP. ‘I Am the Moon’ comes next featuring shared vocals by Susan and Mike Mattison. The song was played spiritually and with a weightless sway, building to a cathartic and melodic deconstruction by Trucks for the swelling outro jam. The jam's beautiful tension can be heard in the details. Derek always leaves the listener wanting more. Never overplaying, he let’s the group go to church and acts if he is playing from the congregation, never from the pulpit.

‘Life Is Crazy’ comes next giving Mike Mattison a moment at center stage where he got the groove swinging with a honey dipped falsetto. ‘Part of Me’ the second song from 2013’s Made Up Mind quickly followed and is a groovy favorite while getting people up and dancing again. A powerful triad of tracks including Susan’s meaty ‘Just Won’t Burn’  which was sandwiched by huge cover readings of ‘Derek and the Dominos’, ‘Why Does Love Have to Be So Sad’ and Blind Joe Reynold’s 1929 blues ‘Outside Woman Blues’ via ‘Cream’s’ 1967 reimagining. ‘Tedeschi Trucks Band’ jumpy version of 'Outside Woman Blues' was enough to make a man stay at home and never give anyone a sideways glance. Thick rich SG notes are peeled up like crisp bills from Derek’s guitar, every lick a deft answer to Susan’s husky vocal inquiries.

A hand clapping and celebratory ‘Tedeschi Trucks Band’ standard, ‘Bound For Glory’ got the Canandaigua shed wanting to rid themselves of their secular beliefs. This song is commensurate with the special blend of  music that the ‘Tedeschi Trucks Band’ has now cornered the market on. A prelude of heavenly church organ and rippling Trucks slide work introduced the swing of the song proper. The result is simple unpretentious and good time rock and roll. I only call it rock and roll because the jambalaya of musical influence defies labels.

Following the substantial ‘Bound For Glory’, the group changed over to a five piece configuration featuring Derek, the drummers, Gabe Dixon and Boone on bass for ‘Pasaquan’, a new and extended number from I Am the Moon. Truck’s undeniable connection to the music of the ‘Allman Brothers Band’ sweats from the pores of this recent composition. For this expansive instrumental Trucks donned a cherry red hollow bodied Gibson 335. His tone a laser shot through the humid air. 'Pasaquan' is a song sure to morph into birds’ eyes views of innumerable sonic landscapes in future live performance. The music, moving through unidentifiable changes soon left the orbit of Marvin Sands. Like the best extending jamming it seemed the music could run free of the rails at any moment. Trucks unfurled musical flags of his family tree and the psychedelic swells of his southern lineage through his strings at a furious rate. His bandmates have studied at the same school as Trucks, as the music shifted at a high tempo though moved patiently enough to express its story through organic variations. Regardless of the changes, the thematic piece developed by the group weaved a tapestry of improv into the diverse set. A crushing dual drum break soon rolled into a rotund bass excursion that soon fell into an almost weightless Trucks that winded its way back into the song’s framework.

                                 Photo: Jeff Gerew

Following the breathless jam, the rest of the group then returned for the full band reading of Bobby Bland’s 1967 cut ‘That Did It’. A deep rhythm and blues cut that illustrates the groups depth of influence and wealth of respect for the forerunners of blues.  Susan, digs deep enough to strike Texas T inferring a soulful Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’ vocal. The dynamic horns coil like snakes before striking in chilling punctuations throughout the chorus only increasing the depth of Susan’s vocals. Highlight music.

Tedeschi Trucks Band then closed the evening with the perfect two fer. Beginning with the Tedeschi Trucks Band number ‘I Want More’ the band then segued to Sly and the Family Stone’s ‘I Want To Take You Higher’ levitating the crowd to a proper place to head back home. ‘I Want More’ spotlighted Susan and Derek playing a dual guitar line tying the room together before Derek stole the opportunity to unleash another extended solo. The drop into ‘I Want To Take You Higher’ is seamless and is highlighted by ‘Band-esque’ overlapping and shared vocal lines that illustrate the tightness of the musical collective.

2022’s Wheels of Soul tour finds the ‘Tedeschi Trucks Band’ reaching an ambitious and joyous new plateau in their on-stage development. The shows feature new songs, different approaches, tributes and appreciative audiences that still adhere to the notion that music can bring people together and make you feel real good.