august 2009
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Frank Sinatra - 'Fly Me To The Moon' 

WOODSTOCK SUMMER, 1969

It was 40 years ago this month...

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This month we mark the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival, with a special feature in our Video File section. Contributing Editor BILLY ALTMAN, who attended Woodstock, looks back on that memorable decade-ending summer, when the world was first changed by the sight of a man walking on the moon a month before half a million young people descended on a farm in Bethel, NY, for three days of "peace, love & music," as the posters proclaimed.

THE WOODSTOCK EXPERIENCE & BEYOND: In addition to Altman's essay, we also take a look at five new releases of Woodstock music from the folks at Legacy—live albums of festival sets by the JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, JOHNNY WINTER, SANTANA, JANIS JOPLIN AND SLY & THE FAMILY STONE. Another live album not connected to Woodstock, from SIMON & GARFUNKEL's 1969 tour, turns out to be a thoughtful coda to this most tumultuous decade.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS, CIRCA '69: ELVIS PRESLEY would seem to have nothing to do with Woodstock Summer, but as reissues of two of his 1969 studio albums, FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS and BACK IN MEMPHIS, show, the King was exploring a dark vision of love that has a curious connection to the prevailing zeitgeist of the times.

COVER STORY: Bluegrass great DOYLE LAWSON marks his 30th year as a solo recording artist this year. In TheBluegrassSpecial.com interview, Lawson discusses his powerful new album Lonely Street, his early inspirations as an artist, and the work ethic he gained from his farmer father that he's put into practical application in sustaining one of the most productive careers in bluegrass history.

AMERICAN TREASURE: Jazz great DAVE BRUBECK has suffered the slings and arrows of critical oppobrium to a degree unwarranted by his character, his social conscience and his artistry. Using two outstanding Brubeck albums to illustrate his points, contributing editor CHIP STERN explains why The Real Ambassadors and The Dave Brubeck Quartet at Carnegie Hall present the best of this master's music and heart in easily accessible form—"stocking stuffers for all seasons," as Stern declares.

OH, THE HUMANITY! Another American treasure, RAY CHARLES, also is represented anew this month with a single disc reissue of his essential, two-volume masterpiece, Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music. David McGee tries to find a new way into understanding these revered works of art.

BOOK EXCERPT: Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers by JOHN BROVEN. British roots music authority John Broven offers a fascinating, thoroughly researched, always illuminating look at the post-WWII independent record business and the fascinating men and women who built it. An invaluable work, this, and we have an exclusive interview with Broven to help explain why.

edelmanJUDITH EDELMAN: 'Our Stories Are Our Stories'—After nine years, a divorce and a reconsideration of career options, singer-songwriter Judith Edelman comes back strong with Clear Glass Jar, a collection of classically influenced folk and country discourses on betrayal, anger, pain, and putting life back together.
By David McGee

AMY SPEACE: What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? In Amy Speace's case, the ashes of divorce smolder in The Killer In Me, a classic among breakup albums. But take heart: some sun peeks through the clouds.
By David McGee

ALBUM SPOTLIGHT: RHETT MILLER by Christopher Hill
Indie cults are based on the myth of the beautiful loser, often personified in the pale ruined boy who fronts the band. As a band, the Old 97's don't seem interested in being beautiful losers. But Rhett Miller? If his new solo album is an indication, he sounds prepared to milk the personae of pale ruined boy for all it's worth.

ALBUM SPOTLIGHT: JO STAFFORD by David McGee— an in-depth look at the vocal art of one of the greatest of all American pop singers, Jo Stafford, subject of an essential collection of rarities recorded between 1943 and 1950, unearthed from the Capitol vaults and collected on a new album released by EMI.

bonkerHEINZ EDELMANN: 'And He Told Us Of His Life In The Land Of Submarines'—the man who created the colorful heroes and villains of Pepperland as the Website Design for the Beatles' 1968 animated classic, Yellow Submarine, passed away in Germany last month. Described by Edelmann as "one of the most chaotic productions in the history of film," Yellow Submarine was hailed in its day as a visionary breakthrough in animation, and has only gained in stature in the decades since. We found a fascinating online interview with Edelmann conducted in 1993 in which he offers a detailed, inside look at the complexities of making the project come to life, including the hands-on animation process, the unusual dyes used to create the movie's vivid colors, how he created the memorable heroes and villains and the "unearthly paradise" that was Pepperland, the storyline improvised almost on a daily basis and some cool inside dope, such how the Blue Meanies began life as the Red Meanies, designed to symbolize the declining Soviet Union at the end of the cold war, but changed hue owing to a scarcity of red inks at the studio. Fans of the film, and Beatles' fans in general, will find Edelmann's insights fascinating, and surely will enjoy the copious use of clips from the movie—plenty of screen time for the Blue Meanies, the Apple Bonkers and the Flying Blue Glove.

CROSSING OVER: Remembering GORDON WALLER, one-half of the beloved British Invasion duo Peter & Gordon.

We couldn't let the month pass without placing the dunce cap on two deserving skulls-those belonging to REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER (R-MI) and, in a repeat appearance, REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R-NC). McCotter is cited for continuing his history of picking (he's a guitarist) while his state burns (with rising unemployment and vanishing industry). McCotter's latest stunt is to ignoring his state's needs and waste taxpayer money by threatening to introduce legislation demanding President Barack Obama apologize to the Cambridge (MA) police department. Rep. Foxx, threatening to surpass country dolt John Rich as most honored dunce, is proving she belongs in a straitjacket by leading the lunatic charge of the Deathers, the political and media wingnuts trying to convince Americans that healthcare reform equals death for seniors.

REVIEWS

nugentALECIA NUGENT—Hillbilly Goddess: Throughout Hillbilly Goddess, Alecia Nugent's performances betray one essential and irrevocable fact about the power source of her artistry: she's never strayed far from her country home, in a spiritual sense, and those deep roots keep her compass pointed true. It's an awesome thing to experience as a listener, even better to be able to live it every day.

pandolfiCHRIS PANDOLFI—Looking Glasss: We're a little late in getting to Infamous Stringduster Chris Pandolfi's new collection of original instrumental tunes, but much warm weather remains and Looking Glass is a fantastic summer album to get hip to still. Let us clarify. Saying it is a summer album may mean, to some, a slow, laid-back, easygoing affair, evoking naps under shade trees and lazy, hazy carefree days passed far from the daily grind. Looking Glass, on the other hand, has the summery feel of an outpouring of energy and excitement at the prospect of being cut loose from the usual responsibilities, including hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock.

singletaryDARYLE SINGLETARY—Rockin' In the Country: You don't have to get too far into Daryle Singletary's impressive new album to figure out where he's coming from: the spitfire guitars, wailing harmonica and aggressive drumming do a real good job of bringing the title track to life, and Singletary does his part with a fine, textured baritone growl and purr in the style of one of his main influences, John Anderson. It gets better from there, as the track catches fire as it rushes forward, and suddenly—whoa!—there's Charlie Daniels strutting out on a fiery fiddle solo and even adding a punchy second vocal to the track, while exhorting Daryle to go for it. That's a good start to a long-awaited new album from one of country's finest, albeit still underrated, vocalists.

moorreRUSSELL MOORE & IIIRD TYME OUT: Now in its 18th year and possessor of some 50 industry awards (including seven consecutive IBMA Vocal Group of the Year honors), Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out are not letting time, if you will, catch up to them. Why title an album with only the group name if the long player isn't meant as a statement of purpose, a declaration of identity, a signal of renewed commitment?

BEYOND THE BLUE

thumbMARY FLOWER—Bridges: Veteran roots singer /songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Mary Flower gets some high-powered assistance on her delightful new album, Bridges, what with folks on the order of Tim O'Brien, Tony Furtado, New Orleans sax man Reggie Houston, the scintillating pianists Mac Potts and Janice Scroggins, vocalists Rebecca Kilgore and Duffy Bishop, even her own bassist son, Jesse Wither (from the band Jackstraw) among those lending their voices and/or instruments to 14 superbly executed inquiries into a few new songs and a bunch of gems from way back in the day. Flower has a sturdy, expressive voice, clear and smooth in the style of an early 20th Century pop singer, and it's a good fit for the material.

thumbKACEY JONES—Donald Trump's Hair: Well, you don't expect a lovely, lilting, jazzy pop song sung by a female voice in a seductive, whispery croon backed by a velvety female background chorus to be advancing lyrics on the order of, "He's got the bouffant that I vant/And I vant what I vant, like Ivana/Spending my hours up in Trump Towers/running my hands through his locks..." But so begins Kacey Jones's Donald Trump's Hair, and buddy, we are a long way from the artist's stirring 2006 outing, Kacey Jones Sings Mickey Newberry.

thumbBILL NOONAN—The Man That I Can't Be: Throughout his new album Bill Noonan's voice betrays some hard times, and he wobbles a bit off-key here and there, but not for a second does he sound less than true to himself, any more than he ever wavers in the conviction he brings to what must have been some painful songs to write. The Man That I Can't Be is as honest a musical endeavor as anyone could ask, and that's quite enough, thank you.

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