Archive for September, 2008

john mellencamp's election central

john mellencamp performing last week at the crump theater in columbus, indiana. photo by mark cornelison.

john mellencamp performing last week at the crump theater in columbus, indiana. photo by mark cornelison.

Here are three reasons to visit John Mellencamp’s website today:

+  First and foremost is the text of a letter Mellencamp and the Farm Aid board of directors forwarded to Congress last week. It suggested that a sliver of the then-proposed $700 billion considered for a Wall Street bailout go instead to family farm agriculture. Of course, now that the bailout bill failed to even make it through the House of Representatives, it seems unlikely Congress is going to be helping much of anyone this fall other than themselves. After all, it’s election time and everyone up for re-election (as in the entire House) will be trying to shift focus from an economy so dreary that, as David Letterman joked last night, “stock brokers are taking their smoke breaks on the ledge.”

+  There is also a nice remembrance of Paul Newman, where Mellencamp recalls watching Cool Hand Luke for seven straight nights at Seymour, Indiana’s Vondee Theater. “We saved up our lunch money so we could go and by the end of the week we could recite every line.”

+  Finally, you can hear Mellencamp’s web-exclusive cover of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are-A-Changin’ while you’re there. It’s an election year treat from the singer who told John McCain last winter to stop playing recordings of Pink Houses and Our Country at his campaign rallies.

FROM BOOKS TO A BIT OF PIZAZZ ; 3 high-profile merchants are planning to open or expand in the Back Bay building abandoned by Borders

The Boston Globe (Boston, MA) April 10, 2012 | Jenn Abelson Fast food that’s good for you, athletic gear, and cheap-chic fashion will take the place of shelves of books in the former Borders space on Boylston Street.

The vacated bookstore at the Newbry building in the Back Bay will be divided into three sections to make room for high-profile tenants, including the city’s first Pret a Manger cafe, an Athleta shop run by Gap Inc., and an expanded H&M store.

Athleta, which focuses on women’s athletic apparel, will debut this spring in a 4,200-square-foot space with an entrance on Newbury Street, according to Jeremy Grossman, an executive with CBRE/ Grossman Retail Advisors, which exclusively represented the owners in the retail leasing of the property.

Pret a Manger, a British chain that specializes in natural foods to go, is finalizing a lease to open this summer in a 2,700-square- foot shop with an entrance on Boylston Street. And H&M is planning to invest about $7.5 million to take over roughly 17,000 square feet and nearly double the size of its existing shop next door.

“Our objective was to maximize the mix of uses at the site and find unique retailers that would be attractive and desirable not only to the neighborhood but also to the office tenants above in this building,” Grossman said. “We believe this mix allows us to do that.” Grossman said the two-story space attracted dozens of inquiries from retailers and a number of deals were evaluated before selecting these three merchants. website athleta coupon code

Borders abandoned the site last year after the bookseller filed for bankruptcy protection and then liquidated the entire chain. Borders also vacated a marquee spot in Downtown Crossing, where Walgreens plans to open an upscale shop this fall that will feature fresh rolled sushi, a nail salon, and a juice bar.

The Newbry occupies nearly a full block bounded by Berkeley, Boylston, Clarendon, and Newbury streets, and the property served for much of its history as the headquarters for the New England Mutual Life Insurance Co. go to website athleta coupon code

Jennifer Nelson, a spokeswoman for Pret a Manger, said the company, which has about 265 locations worldwide, has been looking in Boston since early 2011. Pret a Manger makes all of its natural foods fresh daily, and everything is packaged in grab-and-go containers with sandwiches starting at $3.89.

“We’re really excited, and we hope that it goes well in Boston,” Nelson said.

Retail analysts said the new shops are an exciting addition for the Back Bay, but may not attract as diverse a crowd as Borders. The bookstore drew men and women of all ages throughout the day, while the new merchants cater to certain demographics, according to Mike Tesler, president of Retail Concepts, a consultancy in Norwell.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the interest from high-quality merchants, such as Pret a Manger and Athleta, reflects the Back Bay’s reputation as a premier shopping district. Retail vacancy rates dropped to 3.4 percent in the Back Bay, compared to 4.6 percent citywide, according to the most recent city estimates.

For Athleta, which was acquired by Gap in 2008 and has 11 stores in the United States, the Back Bay location will be its first Massachusetts shop. The brand focuses on performance apparel for women – similar to the popular Lululemon Athletica chain – but with lower prices.

“They are not Lululemon. But Athleta is something fresh. They are something new. They’ve been well received in places where they’ve opened and they have more mainstream price points,” said retail consultant Tesler.

H&M, the Swedish cheap-chic merchant which also has a store in Downtown Crossing, is negotiating to expand and add departments in the makeover, Menino said. The Back Bay location currently does not have children’s or maternity departments, and it does not feature the full selection of men’s clothes, according to a store employee.

“It’s going to become H&M’s signature location for the city,” Menino said.

Having a broader footprint in the Back Bay will make H&M a more compelling place to shop, according to Madison Riley, a retail strategist with consultancy Kurt Salmon.

“They are a terrific retailer doing a tremendous job in the US,” Riley said. “It’s going to continue to be a draw for that area.” Jenn Abelson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jennabelson.

10borders.ART Jenn Abelson

mr. newman's singing cats

paul newman. AP photo by ben cooper.

paul newman. AP photo by jim cooper.

Pardon me for veering only slightly off subject for just a few moments. But you will notice the music connection here in just a moment.

I’ll leave proper artistic remarks to the arts and film pros regarding the passing of Paul Newman over the weekend. But i feel compelled to offer my two cents on an artist who was, quite simply, a class act, onscreen, onstage and especially off.

I remember seeing Cool Hand Luke as a kid and being mortified that if I did something wrong I too would “spend a night in the box.” I remember laughing myself silly in college at Slapshot, a seemingly rudimentary 1977 film about an aging hockey pro. And of the many fine films he made over the last 25 years, there was a stark, forgotten work from 1994 called Nobody’s Fool that remains a personal favorite. It’s a story of confronting personal demons and mending family ties set in possibly the loneliest place and time on earth – Northwest New York just after Christmas. It’s one of Newman’s most subtle portrayals. And like most every performance he gave, it was rich in dignity.

Over the past 15 years, Newman became a regular on The Late Show with David Letterman. Sometimes he would talk about home life and charity work. Sometimes it would be about car racing. Sometimes Newman would just sit and stare at Letterman with mock indifference. But my favorite memory is of his surprise appearance on Letterman’s first CBS broadcast in 1993 from his new performance home at the Ed Sullivan Theatre on Broadway.

After “conjuring” the ghost of Sullivan, Newman stood up in the middle of the audience and asked Letterman, “Where the hell are the singing cats?” Letterman replied that he wasn’t in the theatre where the musical Cats was playing. Newman then pulled two tickets from his coat pocket, stared at them curiously and left. The crowd, as they say, went crazy. That memory emerged full blown when I heard of Newman’s passing on Saturday.

So, having provided Hollywood with the kind of character and class few actors could hope to match, we say adieu Mr. Newman. Here’s hoping he’s being serenaded by the singing cats as we speak.

Myrtle Beach, S.C.-Area Residents Rally against Motorcycle Superstore.

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News February 19, 2002 By Natalie Burrowes Pruitt, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News Feb. 19–Several hundred South Strand residents gathered Monday night to plot ways to keep a motorcycle superstore from locating near their homes.

The meeting at the International Club also attracted owners of the business and motorcycle enthusiasts, who listened as the residents discussed ways to keep them out. go to site builders first source

“We are all neighbors now,” said Rose Jardel, who lives in Cypress Keyes. “This will affect each and every one of us.” It was the first official meeting to organize a campaign to keep out SBB Four Corners — an expansion of the Murrells Inlet motorcycle bar Suck Bang Blow.

Noise, traffic and the behavior of the bar’s patrons are chief among the residents’ concerns.

The meeting ended after about an hour when the conversation turned into a heated debate with motorcycle supporters.

On May 1, bar owners Jimmy Motley and Steve Jackson plan to open the combination motorcycle dealership, restaurant and bar at the former Builders First Source site at the corner of U.S. 17 Bypass and Tournament Boulevard. The location serves as a gateway to a handful of housing developments.

“It’s the front door to all of these communities,” said Ken Grover, president of Suntech, which developed Cypress Keyes. “I don’t think it’s what anybody wants on their front door- step.” Before the meeting, Motley explained how the new SBB Four Corners will differ from the original.

“We are going to give the old business a face-lift,” Motley said.

The 21,000-square-foot, one-stop biker shop would be a place to have lunch, get a motorcycle repaired or browse the SBB clothing line, Motley said. in our site builders first source

Residents are concerned that the huge crowds who attend the spring and fall Harley-Davidson motorcycle rallies will cause havoc near their neighborhoods. Plans to have vendors at the site also upset the residents.

Motley said he will hire two people to prevent motorcycles from driving down Tournament Boulevard during the rallies. He will also keep the bandstand inside and shut the bar down at midnight.

“I think people need to realize I’m going to work with them in any way I can,” Motley said.

Motley and Jackson have a 15-year lease for the 5-acre property zoned highway commercial. Under that zoning, there are 82 permitted uses, including bars, restaurants and motorcycle dealerships.

Horry County Council members and county staff attended the meeting.

Councilman Mike Ryan, whose district includes the proposed business, said zoning laws need to be changed.

“What you are doing today is laying the groundwork,” Ryan told the crowd, “and that is good.” Much of the discussion focused on how residents could keep Motley and Jackson from obtaining a liquor, beer and wine license.

Pam Hobeika, who lives on Lee Circle not far from the proposed bar, stood on a chair and told the residents some developments had agreed to underwrite the cost to hire attorneys.

“We will continue calling on your support in the coming weeks because we are going to need it,” Hobeika said.

Petitions will be sent to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission in Columbia.

Bob Thompson, president of the Greater Burgess Community Association, encouraged all the subdivisions to join together through the association.

“We will all fight together,” Thompson said.

in performance: david sanborn

david sanborn. photo by lynn goldsmith

david sanborn. photo by lynn goldsmith

“C’mon. Go to church on ‘em, David.”

So said one obviously eager fan last night at the Madison Theater in Covington as David Sanborn prepared to dig into the title tune from his 1982 album As We Speak. Curiously, this was probably the least churchy item on the menu. Instead, the ballad served up enough lyrical might to push Sanborn’s alto sax into that delirious, high emotive plain that makes his playing so distinctive. Then the groove opened up for a rockish spin by guitarist Nicky Muroch that possessed an almost prog-ish, Allen Holdsworth-like quality.

But elsewhere, mixing soul, sax and a little spiritualism was the order of the evening. Sanborn explained early into the 90 minute performance how the classic sax team of Hank Crawford and David Fathead Newman – as well as their knack for blending R&B, jazz, blues and gospel on early Ray Charles records – was largely responsible for him becoming a musician. So, for much of the performance, Sanborn offered his own slant on that hybrid sound with a four member band full of workmanlike drive backing him up.

The most obvious examples of that soul makeup came from Sanborn’s new Here & Gone, an album dedicated to Charles-inspired soul music. Sometimes, the strength of Sanborn’s alto playing was exhibited in works by longtime accomplice Marcus Miller (Brother Ray, to be specific). But in terms of sheer, robust tone, the Here & Gone delicacy What Will I Tell My Heart, a tune cut by Crawford over 45 years ago, was the highlight. Here, Sanborn’s lyricism was impeccable with passages of clipped, precise melodic charm. So many artists, especially current ones, would turn this type of emotive charm piece into cheap sentimentalism. Not Sanborn. The almost effortless exactness of his playing created a high musical sense of honest drama.

A very different nod to vintage R&B came during an encore version of the King Curtis classic Soul Serenade, which was most churchy indeed thanks to a pastoral set-up on B3 organ by Ricky Peterson. The tune’s inherent cool then grew into a tight ensemble groove led by Sanborn that, in its most infectious moments, complimented and propelled another fusion-esque guitar break from Muroch.

There were loads of other delights, too. Another Miller composition, Benny, offered a melodic backdrop of deceiving simplicity that became an exercise in pure physical performance stamina for Sanborn. And for those taken with the saxophonist’s sleeker, ‘80s fare, there was the show-closing The Dream. Stripped of the dated, synthesized gloss that weighed down Sanborn’s 1987 recorded version, last night’s quintet arrangement underscored the tune’s natural anthemic appeal, the band’s energetic but organic performance and that mix of soul, desperation and pure grit that always seems to explode out of Sanborn’s alto.

That took the crowd to church and then some.

chasing sanborn

from david bowie to david letterman: david sanborn performs saturday night in covington.

from david bowie to david letterman: david sanborn performs saturday night in covington.

It will forever be David Sanborn’s burden to be considered part of the modern day elevator music format known as “smooth jazz.” Think of smooth jazz saxophonists and you have to consider names like the dreaded Kenny G. Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat. Sanborn is light years beyond that.

Sure, some of his mid ‘80s albums made a serious bid to mirror the kind of crossover popularity enjoyed by smooth jazz artists. But even on recordings that blanketed his playing with synthesizers and bland vocal arrangements, Sanborn’s alto saxophone tone remained instantly recognizable. A high, conversational squeal of a sound, it owed equally to the ‘50s and ‘60s R&B traditions of such masterful soul sax men as Hank Crawford and to a fruitful ‘70s scene of session players that included the late tenor sax giant Michael Brecker.

But Sanborn also developed his music, in part, as a means of personal necessity. Having suffered from polio in his youth, he was encouraged to play saxophone to build chest muscles and strengthen his breathing.

Bred by the likes of the Butterfield Blues Band in the ‘60s, Sanborn became the sax man of choice by all kinds of major pop names from the ‘70s onward. His breakthrough came in 1975 with a prominent role on David Bowie’s hit Philly soul album Young Americans. Listen to the album’s standout funk track, Fascination, for a defining blast of Sanborn’s early work.

That fall came Sanborn’s debut solo album, Taking Off, a tight, organic groove driven session that still sounds great today. During a recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, Sanborn jammed with Paul Shaffer’s band – as he did throughout the ‘80s – on Taking Off‘s lead tune, Butterfat.

Sanborn makes a rare regional concert appearance on Saturday in Covington as part of a tour to support Here & Gone, an album that leans greatly to the meaty, handmade soul Crawford helped pioneer during the golden age of R&B. Guests like Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks and Josh Stone pepper the album. But it’s soul giant Sam Moore’s vocal sass on I’ve Got News for You that really gets Sanborn’s groove going.

Smooth jazz? No way, baby. This is the sound of a major league pop contributor back out on his own playing the sort of learned soul stuff that has been a lifelong passion. This is serious organic music that bridges the worlds of soul and jazz in a way that honors tradition while remaining true to a resilient sax sound that fervently remains Sanborn’s own.

David Sanborn performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Madison Theater, 730 Madison Ave. in Covington. Tickets are $35 advance, $38 day of show. Call (859) 281-6644 or (859) 491-2444.

critic’s pick 38

It’s a stretch to view the new albums by Americana song stylist Carrie Rodriguez and rootsy jazz revisionist Cassandra Wilson as departures from their respective artistic norms. But each recording, in very different ways, affirms sounds that build and break from what we have at least partially accepted as their proven musical comfort zones.

carrie rodriguez: "she ain't me"

carrie rodriguez: "she ain't me"

Rodriguez’s second solo album, She Ain’t Me, is the Berklee-trained fiddler and singer’s first full effort away from Svengali producer and songwriter Chip Taylor. Though her 2006 solo debut Seven Angels on a Bicycle added an attractive misty ambience to her Texas-bred music, the album relied on material almost exclusively penned and produced by Taylor.

On She Ain’t Me, Rodriguez enlists a new team of songwriting pals, including Mary Gauthier (on the wintry, fiddle infused Absence), Jayhawk Gary Louris (on the hapless but hopeful coda tune Can’t Cry Enough) and former Son Volt bassist Jim Boquist (on Grace, which Rodriguez colors with plaintive colors of electric mandolin).

The highlight, though, is the tune Rodriguez penned herself. With its hushed, high end vocals, Let Me In sounds like Alison Krauss on an especially downbeat day. Even the broken pizzicato chatter of her fiddle sounds like a disembodied voice trying to harmonize. Then the guitar twang rushes in to color the after hours imagery before receding.

Credit producer Malcolm Burn, who has overseen such classics as Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl, for why the tune possesses such spooky, slight of hand atmospherics. But it is the light yet unsettling lyrical sway of Rodriguez’s songs and the restless reserve of her singing that ultimately sells She Ain’t Me.

cassandra wilson: "loverly"

cassandra wilson: "loverly"

Wilson’s Loverly is a standards album that – at least, initially – seeks to sever ties with the lean, ghostly folk and blues scenarios that have been draped around most of the singer’s Blue Note recordings over the past 15 years. 2006’s T Bone Burnett-produced Thunderbird was also intended as a departure. But Burnett simply made the rootsy swagger that supported Wilson’s husky yet whispery vocals sound more cosmopolitan than rural.

And so for jazz fans, the first half of Loverly (with Wilson serving as her own producer) sounds new even as it seeks to refine the familiar. Oscar Hammerstein’s Lover Come Back to Me is set to giddy piano/guitar swing while Black Orpheus simmers with summery bossa nova that makes Wilson sound more than ever like Nina Simone.

Then, with a lean reading of Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most arranged around Marvin Sewell’s lone acoustic guitar chatter, the album begins to refocus on the worldly cast of Wilson’s earlier Blue Note music.

An improvisation by Wilson and her band called Arere falls between West African worldbeat and Brazilian finesse – an approximation in miniature of what Paul Simon sought on The Rhythm of the Saints. Then, when the mood turns blue with St. James Infirmary, which echoes with guitar lines of tasteful funk, and a reading of the Elmore James favorite Dust My Broom set to a sly percussive strut, Loverly begins to display its gentle ferocity not in shades of mainstream jazz, but in that gorgeous, genre-defying world where blues, jazz, folk and subtle pop references mingle freely for a sound like no other. Into that port, where Wilson is an uncontested queen, Loverly ultimately sails.

in performance: randall bramblett

randall bramblett

randall bramblett

On the surface, Randall Bramblett’s music can’t help but reflect a summery disposition. Some of the songs enforcing that sentiment during his sublime, two set performance at Natasha’s last night dealt with escape. Open air tunes, if you like. You heard it as the music ran down the South Georgia backroads, even with heartbreak at bay, during Blue Road. The mood was just as vivid when Bramblett and his muse hit the highway for the swing, soul and sass of Get In Get Out.

Both tunes, highlights of Bramblett’s second set, rock heartily in their recorded versions with shades of jazz, pop and scholarly funk. That dynamic is echoed whenever Bramblett plays with his full band, where the songsmith juggles duties on keyboards, guitar and saxophone. Last night, though, the music was pared down to a two guitar setting.

Bramblett’s songs typically get darker as you hit their respective centers. And in this sparse, acoustic set up – aided greatly by bits of blues and Southern guitar grace from Mike Hines – lyrics were illuminated with understated and often elegant color.

The passing spirits on Fading, for example, heralded an impending loss that was altogether human. “The more I see you fading,” Bramblett sang in scratchy, conversational resignation, “the more I want to see you clear.”

Even more telling was Stupid Shoes (which, like Fading, came from Bramblett’s 2006 album, Rich Someday). Here, Bramblett referenced his late friend and road manager Stuart Collins because “Stuart always hated this song.” The reason, Bramblett surmised, was the tune’s enveloping but unassuming darkness.

Musically, two lone guitars handled the evening quite capably. End of the String, with its roadhouse ready, slide savvy guitar breaks, remained richly propulsive. Also, Used to Rule World (one of four tunes performed from Bramblett’s new Now It’s Tomorrow album) exhibited a neatly internalized funk feel while a thoroughly de-funkified God Was in the Water retained a dark spiritual cast with a regally disparaging mantra for a chorus (“castin’ out a line but no one’s biting”).

Still, the quiet moments – with the beautifully battered Disappearing Ink topping the list – carried the program. Too bad the dinner chatter at Natasha’s was so intrusive in such instances. For a nicely expanded venue that has successfully (and frequently) created a performance space focused enough for live theatre to thrive, it fell short of equally honoring music that required a similar sense of attention and quiet.

Bronchitis symptoms

in performance: blue mountain/old blind dogs

blue mountain: laurie stirratt, cary hudson and frank coutch. photo by brad hodge.

blue mountain: laurie stirratt, cary hudson and frank coutch. photo by brad hodge.

It’s understandable for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour to feel a sense of celebratory hangover in the wake of its high profile 500th broadcast last week. And, to be sure, host Michael Johnathon and crew had every right to make that milestone broadcast an event. But truth be told, last night’s considerably more reserved program with Oxford, Mississippi Americana trio Blue Mountain and Scottish folk stylists Old Blind Dogs reflected more of what the show does best. In comparison to last week’s party, the mood last night at the Kentucky Theatre was more relaxed even though the evening’s intercontinental music makeup was just as intriguing.

Blue Mountain was once a modest Lexington favorite thanks to regular late ‘90s gigs at the long-gone Lynagh’s Music Club. Having disbanded in 2001 following the divorce of guitarist Cary Hudson and bassist Laurie Stirratt, Blue Mountain became a working trio again with longtime drummer Frank Coutch last year.

The five songs the trio played last night – three came from the new Midnight in Mississippi album, the remaining two from a collection of re-recorded versions of vintage tunes called Omnibus – sounded unexpectedly reserved when referenced alongside the mighty roar the band used to summon in concert.

There were still hints of the beast, of course. Skinny Dipping, a tune from Midnight to Mississippi with a winding guitar riff that sounded like a cross between Creedence Clearwater Revival and Junior Kimbrough, suggested the band could have busted the stage up had it been fully let loose. But there was also a noticeably settled sound to Blue Mountain’s overall sound last night, whether is was in the Beatles-esque guitar sway (think Abbey Road‘s Sun King) in Butterfly or the even warmer stride at the heart of  1995’s Blue Canoe that became more discreetly luminous.

old blind dogs: ali hutton, jonny hardie, aaron jones and fraser stone.

old blind dogs: ali hutton, jonny hardie, aaron jones and fraser stone.

Armed with jigs, pipes, whistles, fiddles and an obvious fluency in Scottish folk tradition, Old Blind Dogs revealed a wicked progressive streak in its rhythmic foundation with drummer Fraser Stone playing predominantly hand percussion on djembe and guitarist Aaron Jones sticking exclusively to bouzouki.

That didn’t make a medley of jigs titled Sky City sounded any less devout or driven. But in instrumental workouts like The Wild Rumpus, it did allow for keen syncopation – a chant-style dressing, almost – that gave the music a worldly air. Still, hearing fiddler and band founder Jonny Hardie compliment the cheery harmony set in motion on Star o’ the Bar by the newest Old Blind Dog, flutist/ Ali Hutton, was the set’s biggest delight.

But the show’s most generous overall treat came during its encore section when Hardie provided a subtle but still rustic fiddle accent to Blue Mountain’s Soul Sister. For four exquisite minutes, “the old country” visited North Mississippi. What a world.

randall bramblett’s new songs of the south

randall bramblett performs tuesday at natasha's. photo from new west records.

randall bramblett performs tuesday at natasha's.

As he discusses by phone the contrasts behind his newest songs, Randall Bramblett is looking out his basement window.

Inside, on the line, talk touches on inspirations of loss, death and seemingly dashed faith that strike a soulful Southern nerve on his new Now It’s Tomorrow album. But through the glass, into the open air of a late summer morning, he can view the ageless beauty of the woods near his Athens, Ga. home.

The inevitable sadness and desolation of death; the unending joy and richness of a world still so vibrantly alive – welcome to just one set of seemingly opposing themes that continue to make Bramblett one of the most literate and engaging Southern songsmiths you have likely never heard.

“Even something like the drought we’ve been having down here plays a role in the music,” said Bramblett, who performs an acoustic concert with guitarist/accompanist Mike Hines on Tuesday at Natasha’s. “Just using the drought as a metaphor… it’s like writing about living in a painful world but always looking at the beauty of it, too.

“I can’t fully explain what influences like that are, except that it’s my experience you see all these terrible things happening in life, all these awful things that can leave you so discouraged. But, God, you look out at the world and it’s just beautiful.

“So what do you do? You keep going.”

And Bramblett, indeed, keeps going. He was a vital member of the Capricorn Records roster of artists out of Macon Ga. that forged a national visibility for contemporary Southern music in the early ‘70s. In ensuing decades, Bramblett – a multi-instrumentalist versed in keyboards, saxophone and guitar – became a longtime ally of Steve Winwood. That association culminated with the induction ceremony of Traffic into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. At the celebration, Traffic played Dear Mr. Fantasy as a streamlined trio with Winwood on guitar, the late Jim Capaldi on drums and Bramblett on organ.

There have been scores of other affiliations. Bramblett has shared stages with Bonnie Raitt (who recorded God Was in the Water, a 2001 tune he wrote with longtime bandmate Davis Causey), jammed with Widespread Panic and has continually crossed paths with one-time Allman Brother Chuck Leavell. The latter’s late ‘70s fusion/funk band Sea Level prominently featured Bramblett on four of its five albums.

But there is still the matter of Bramblett’s own music. Listen to any of his seven solo recordings – the first, That Other Mile, stems back to 1975 while the new Now It’s Tomorrow surfaced in August – and you hear a poetic but highly unassuming Southern scribe at work.

Take Blue Road from Now It’s Tomorrow. It moves at a spry, jazzy gallop that suggests Steely Dan until Bramblett’s scratchy Southern singing brushes aside all comparisons. That the tune’s lyrics are considerably darker than the tune’s sunny exterior only adds to the fun. The album-opening Sun Runs reverses the strategy with lyrics of frank emotional devotion set against a more ominous, percolating groove.

“I always feel uncomfortable when a song is just totally straightforward, when it heads only one way,” Bramblett said. “I don’t see life that way. I don’t experience it that way, either.”

In its most emotive moments, though, Now It’s Tomorrow is unavoidably human. Figuring highly in two of the album’s reflections on mortality are the deaths of Stuart Collins, Bramblett’s tour manager (on Some Mean God) and his mother (on Where a Life Goes).

“It’s kind of a child’s question,” Bramblett said of Where a Life Goes. “‘What’s it like where you are?’ I can’t imagine that when someone dies they just disappear. I guess that’s human nature. Songs like that just came bubbling up over the last two years.”

All this suggests Bramblett’s songwriting gifts are most abundantly displayed through his lyrics. But for insight into Bramblett’s instrumental finesse, listen to how the light, autumnal tone of his soprano sax work glides alongside Leavell’s piano melody on Altamaha, a tune from the latter’s all instrumental 2005 album, Southscape.

“As far as I’m concerned, Randall is the most treasured singer, songwriter and performer we have in the South,” said Leavell prior to his Lexington performance last month for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. “I still can’t understand why he’s not a household name.”

Why indeed? Bramblett has also wondered why he has remained a “best kept secret” artist over the years.

“People like us when they hear us,” Bramblett said. “It’s just that they don’t get to hear us these days. That can be hard after awhile. It’s a situation that’s challenging, discouraging and frustrating. It’s takes a lot of persistence and patience just trying to believe that what you’re doing is worthwhile.”

Randall Bramblett and Mike Hines perform at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Nastasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Cover charge is $10. Call: (859) 259-2754.

in performance: christ the king oktoberfest, day 2

gary louris re-teamed with former jayhawks mate mark olson at the christ the king oktoberfest on saturday.

gary louris re-teamed with former jayhawks mate mark olson at the christ the king oktoberfest on saturday.

How curious that the biggest musical attraction of Oktoberfest’s second day would get underway around 1:30 on Saturday afternoon. Following a highly electric noon-time wake up call from local power trio fave Slo-Fi, Gary Louris and Mark Olson re-teamed for a cordial, comfortable set of Everly Brothers-esque harmonies that celebrated, subtracted from and, at times, built upon their storied ‘90s music with The Jayhawks.

Nearly a third of the 90 minute performance focused on new material from Ready for the Flood. Although the duo cut the album over 18 months ago, it won’t be released until early 2009. The Flood fare was lighter and looser in design than the more country-savvy fare The Jayhawks favored. But there was still a quietly dour cast to Turn Your Pretty Name Around and a lovely, wistful air about Saturday Morning on Sunday Street (talk about a tune with an appropriate sense of time and place) that nicely suited the duo’s still-infectious harmonies. Of course, when vintage Jayhawks tunes both familiar (Waiting for the Sun, Blue) and overlooked (See Him on the Street, the sublime Clouds) surfaced, the duo’s inherent chemistry – a clear union of complimenting singers, songs and harmonies – simply glowed.

For my money, this was the highlight of the festival, But then again, Oktoberfest was free, so what does that tell you?

Evening sets by Peter Rowan, Justin Townes Earle and Tim Easton revealed their own modest delights.

Sound problems plagued much of Rowan’s performance, though nothing detracted from the brilliant, show-opening Dust Bowl Children. Rowan also took honors for tackling the festival’s riskiest material by performing a new political rant called Chopping Down the Trees for Jesus on the church grounds of Christ the King Cathedral. Few, if any, feathers seemed to be ruffled, though. After all, we’re talking here about a church event with beer sales and bingo tents. Rowan also dealt with a busted guitar string during Land of the Navajo, but still used his handicapped instrument to sail into the otherworldly chant that long ago distinguished the piece.

Earle stuck to heavily traditional fare that mixed music from his Yuma and The Good Life recordings with vintage songs first popularized by Charlie Poole and Flatt & Scruggs. But of the cover material, the Lightning Hopkins blues staple My Starter Won’t Start This Morning, a tune Earle credited the late local bluesman Joey Broughman for teaching him, was a highlight. With accompanist Cory Younts on harmonica, My Starter was a rootsy detour from a country repertoire steeped in the vocal and songwriting inspirations of Hank Williams.

“I always wanted to go on between Hank Williams and the Beatles,” Easton said at the onset of his 40 minute set, alluding to Earle’s obvious influence and a Fab Four cover band called 8 Days a Week that would later close Oktoberfest. Though he opened with the decade-old Just Like Home, Easton focused heavily on new, narrative heavy tunes like the boogie fortified Burgundy Red and an engaging work of personal and political reclamation called The Weight of Changing Everything. As with all of Easton’s frequent visits here, the performance was earnest, entertaining and thoroughly involving.

Sales tracker says ‘Cyber Monday’ sales up 33 pct

AP Worldstream November 29, 2011 | MAE ANDERSON NEW YORK (AP) ?ˆ” Online sales rose 33 percent on the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a report by a sales tracking agency said Tuesday.

The average order rose 2.6 percent to $193.24 on the day known as “Cyber Monday,” when retailers amp up online promotions, according to IBM Benchmark. It didn’t give comparative total dollar sales numbers, however.

The agency said about 80 percent of retailers offered online deals.

The Cyber Monday numbers point to Americans’ growing comfort with using their personal computers, tablets and smartphones to shop.

Over the past few years, big chains like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, have been offering more and better incentives like hourly deals and free shipping, to capitalize on that trend. It’s important for retailers to make a good showing during the holiday shopping season, a time when they can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue. site cyber monday sales

“Retailers that adopted a smarter approach to commerce, one that allowed them to swiftly adjust to the shifting shopping habits of their customers, whether in-store, online or via their mobile device, were able to fully benefit from this day and the entire holiday weekend, said John Squire, chief strategy officer, IBM Smarter Commerce.

About 6.6 percent of online shoppers used a mobile device to shop, up from 2.3 percent in 2010. Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad were the top mobile devices for retail traffic, with Android devices coming in third.

Web traffic rose 28 percent on Monday, according to another firm, online content-delivery firm Akamai. The peak was at 9 p.m. Eastern when shoppers on both the East and West coasts were online.

The numbers echo a strong shopper showing in brick-and-mortar stores over the holiday weekend. A record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day holiday weekend starting on Thanksgiving Day, up from 212 million last year, according to the NRF. And sales on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, rose 7 percent to $11.4 billion, the largest amount ever spent, according to ShopperTrak, which gathers stores’ data. cyber monday sales

A clearer picture of how holiday sales are shaping up will come on Thursday, when major retailers report November sales.

The term Cyber Monday was coined in 2005 by The National Retail Federation, a retail trade group, to encourage Americans to shop online on the Monday after Thanksgiving.


in performance: christ the king oktoberfest, day 1

sam bush headlined the first night of the christ the king oktoberfest. photo by david mcclister.

sam bush was the friday headliner at the christ the king oktoberfest. photo by david mcclister.

Any music festival that begins – begins, mind you – with J.D. Crowe has set its artistic bar almost impossibly high. But this year’s Christ the King Oktoberfest was clearly in the mood again to think big, especially when it followed the Kentucky bluegrass giant’s event opening set on Friday afternoon with an acoustic performance where headliner Sam Bush sat in with veteran Louisville songsmith Tim Krekel.

Things got dicier around dusk, however, when upstate New York roots revivalists The Felice Brothers took the stage. After two stabs at the spiritual Saved were stalled by a failing sound system, the band grabbed whatever instruments it could – in this case, two acoustic guitars, a washboard, accordion, snare drum and hi-hat cymbal – and merrily played them in the lap of the gathering crowd. The Felice team didn’t have the vocal might to carry on in an entirely unplugged setting, but the band gave everything it had to keep the festival moving. Still, despite singing their hearts out on Whiskey in My Whiskey and Two Hands, the Felices simply could not be heard. The sound was repaired in time for a run-through of Frankie’s Gun, Christmas Song and Glory Glory to offer a brief amplified look at the band’s Cajun/Acadian roots revival makeup.

Todd Snider then offered what was easily his most streamlined set ever on Lexington soil – 12 solo acoustic songs in 40 minutes. Aside from a little spoken commentary in Looking for a Job, one irreverent tune full of plain speaking, John Prine-style imagery with occasional rockish tempos followed another. In short, his set was all business. Snider’s new Peace Queer album, which is due out next month, was ignored completely. But the sly, country-laced political/cultural gap ramble Conservative Christian, Right Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males proved topical enough, especially given the performance surroundings.

The ever-tireless Bush wound things up with his current band and a typically far-reaching set that shifted from bluegrass to reggae to progressive jazz to jams where Scott Vestal morphed his electrified banjo solos into musical colors that appoximated B3 organ. The repertoire included material by John Hartford (a rugged, grassy On the Road), Van Morrison (a jubilant Wild Night), Jean-Luc Ponty (the new generation fiddle stomp New Country), Charlie Monroe (the traditional string band leaning Bringing in the Georgia Mail) and Bob Marley (a jam-savvy Is This Love?).

Krekel later returned to harmonize on his own All Night Radio before Bush switched from mandolin to fiddle to depart on an extended, Celtic-flavored medley that gave way to a snippet of the early ‘70s Allman Brothers Band instrumental Les Brers in A Minor. By the time The Band’s immortal Up on Cripple Creek closed things down, the clock was approaching midnight. Oktoberfest fever – judging by the massive, devout and enduring audience that stayed until closing time, was in full swing

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