Archive for October, 2008

the devil and bruce springsteen

bruce springsteen at an oct. 5 obama voter registration rally in philadelphia.

bruce springsteen at an oct. 4 barack obama voter registration rally in philadelphia.

With a year long tour behind him, as well as a pair of high profile campaign performances earlier this month on behalf of Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen is up for some fun.

This morning he posted a Halloween gift on his website – a free, downloadable, blues-based song, called A Night With the Jersey Devil.

“If you grew up in Central or South Jersey, you grew up with the Jersey Devil,” Springsteen wrote on his site. “Here’s a little musical Halloween treat. Have fun.”

Urban legends, rock ‘n’ roll and The Boss. Halloween doesn’t get any better than that.

VUITTON FUELS CLASSIC-CAR SHOW IN MANHATTAN

Advertising Age September 28, 1998 Louis Vuitton Classic, one of the world’s largest free classic-car shows, kicks off its third year this week in Manhattan. More than 1.5 million spectators are expected over three days. Sponsors include Sephora, Vuitton’s perfume and cosmetics line, as well as Air France, Christie’s Auction House, Chrysler Corp., Cunard Line, Diesel, Moet Chandon champagne and Rolex Watch USA.

Teen People magazine teams with Pepsi-Cola Co. and Wellman Inc. for a fashion show Oct. 17 at Minnesota’s Mall of America. The show will feature 66 designer garments made from Wellman’s EcoSpun fabric, consisting of recycled plastic bottles. The fashion show includes the work of apprentice college designers teamed with the designer members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. A 10-city mall tour of the designs is rolling across the U.S. this fall. this web site american airlines promotion code

Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine tapped Patrick Henry Creative Promotions, Houston, as first agency to handle on-premise promotion and event marketing responsibilities for Kahlua coffee liqueur and Sauza tequilas.

National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues named MGRSports, Wilton, Conn., and Chicago, as agency of record to assist in marketing and promoting the sport through corporate sponsorships. The association is the governing body of Minor League Baseball, encompassing 242 member clubs and teams in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

Young America, the New York Yacht Club’s sailboat entered in the America’s Cup Challenge in New Zealand in 2000, recently signed Allen Scott Wines of Marlborough, New Zealand, as a sponsor, joining sponsors including Air New Zealand, apparel marketer Helly-Hansen, Yachting, rope manufacturer Yale Cordage and Wilhelmensen Lines of Oslo. go to web site american airlines promotion code

Discovery Channel Eco-Challenge signed American Isuzu Motor Co., Iridium and MasterCard International as sponsors. The Eco-Challenge takes place Oct. 6 in Morocco and is slated for a 1999 telecast. A 10-city mall tour backing the event is scheduled for next year with promotions and product demonstrations from sponsors.

Dole Fresh Fruit Co. joins Universal Pictures for a holiday season promotion surrounding the film “Babe: Pig in the City,” to be released Nov. 20. The promotion will be launched Nov. 6 and centers on a free plush Babe toy, available through a mail-in offer to consumers who buy Dole bananas, Dole raisins, Dole Fresh Cut Salads or Dole chilled 100% juice. A newspaper free-standing insert, created in-house, backs the promotion, along with point-of-purchase materials including Babe character stickers to be placed on more than 200 million Dole bananas.

Black Enterprise named AXA/Equitable as co-title sponsor of its second annual Ski Challenge event slated for Jan. 14 to 16 at Vail’s Keystone resort, expected to attract more than 600 influential African-American executives, professionals and entrepreneurs. Citibank has signed on as a first-time sponsor; additional sponsors include Seagram Americas’ Absolut vodka and American Airlines.

Promotion Marketing Association, New York, offers three-day “Basics of Promotion Marketing” seminars in major cities, including Chicago (Oct. 13 to 15), New York (Nov. 10 to 12), Seattle (Jan. 19 to 21) and Atlanta (Feb. 16 t0 18). Information: (212) 420-1100.

lex to your lou

There is a curious Lexington-Louisville connection that links much of the music around the region this Halloween weekend. Could it be that an artistic alliance exists between the supposed rivaling cities? Now that’s scary.

Here are a few fine examples of where Lexington and Louisville link up in shows that will happen here, there and in your own living room. Seriously.

wax fang. photo by chris higdon.

wax fang. photo by chris higdon.

+ How does Nashville figure into this weekend’s Lexington-Louisville connection? Pretty highly when you consider Music City’s The Features, whose massive pop sound has been a staple of local clubs for years, will share the bill with Louisville’s Wax Fang on Saturday at The Dame, 367 East Main. Sure, The Features have a fine new album called Some Kind of Salvation to showcase. But Wax Fang has long been darlings of The Dame, not to mention one of the final bands to play its now demolished West Main location. As such, the trio has forged as solid a Lexington fanbase as any Derby City rock troupe. On Saturday, Wax Fang (vocalist/guitarist Scott Carney, bassist Jacob Heustis and drummer Kevin Ratterman) will be celebrating the re-release of its recent La La Land album. Gentleman Auction House will open (9 p.m., $8). Call (859) 231-7263.

Fans of The Features should note the band will also be playing a free in-store performance at CD Central, 377 S. Limestone, on Saturday. Showtime is 3 p.m. Call (859) 233-3472.

arlo guthrie

arlo guthrie

+ Over the past two years, folk great Arlo Guthrie has teamed twice with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and conductor/director John Nardolillo. The 2006 concert was a means to record Guthrie in an orchestral setting. The second was designed to promote the resulting album of the first performance – a regal-sounding, George Massenburg-produced effort called In Times Like These. The latter concert also helped ready Guthrie and the orchestra for a Thanksgiving weekend concert at Carnegie Hall. Guthrie is back on Kentucky soil on Saturday but will instead be playing the Louisville Palace, 627 4th St., with the Louisville Orchestra. Nardolillo, who has been the singer’s orchestral collaborator for over a decade, will again serve as conductor. (8 p.m., $25-$70). Call (502) 361-3100 or TicketMaster at (859) 281-6644.

MMJ on ACL.

my morning jacket on austin city limits.

+ Consider yourself lucky if you were able to catch My Morning Jacket’s August homecoming concert at Louisville’s Waterfront Park. That may be the last we will be seeing of the band in terms of a performance for the next few months. Why? Well, just as leader/singer Jim James was winding up the last few licks to Off the Record, roughly a half hour into an Iowa City concert on Oct. 7, he walked offstage – literally. James accidentally took a tumble, resulting in “traumatic injuries to his torso” (according to a statement on MMJ’s website). That meant canceling a benefit show in Chicago for Barack Obama’s campaign. A European tour that was to have begun this week in Dublin has also been called off to give James more recuperation time. Rolling Stone magazine reports, though, the Louisville band is still on to play Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve. So what are fans of the band to do? Well, as far at this weekend goes, stay at home. On Saturday, KET1 will debut a concert by James and company on Austin City Limits. The hour-long broadcast, which airs at 11 p.m., was taped in Texas only nine days after the Louisville concert in August. This will be MMJ’s second appearance on Austin City Limits.

Kohl’s 1st-quarter profit drops 11 percent

AP Online May 14, 2009 | EMILY FREDRIX The cutback in consumer spending pushed Kohl’s Corp.’s earnings down 11 percent in its fiscal first quarter. But the department store chain’s results beat expectations and it said it expects to keep gaining market share from competitors.

The Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based retailer has been posting same-store sales declines like many other retailers, but those drops are less than what competitors like Macy’s Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. saw, which signals Kohl’s is gaining market share.

Traffic drops are lessening, too. President and Chief Executive Kevin Mansell told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that traffic to Kohl’s stores 2 percent in the quarter, less than the quarterly drops of 5 percent to 8 percent the company felt all last year.

“That means you’re getting her to come into your store,” Mansell said of the company’s typical customer. “You’re still challenged to get her to spend when she’s there. But you’re getting her to come in.” The company said it is bringing in consumers with in-house and exclusive brands, both of which have higher margins than outside brands. Mansell said Kohl’s will keep pushing its value message, including have special buys and unique products, to get consumers to shop. Marketing spending will remain in line with store sales for the year.

In the three-month period that ended May 2, Kohl’s earned $137 million, or 45 cents per share. That is down from $153 million, or 49 cents per share, a year earlier. Sales edged up 0.4 percent to $3.64 billion. Same-store sales, a measure of business at stores open for at least a year, fell 4.2 percent. kohlscouponsprintablenow.com kohls coupons printable

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected profit of 43 cents per share on revenue of $3.62 billion.

Shares lost 71 cents to end at $41.24 Thursday.

Standard & Poor’s analyst Jason Asaeda said Kohl’s is managing its inventory well and not having to take discounts to move it. The company is gaining market share “on (the) strength of its value pricing strategy, ongoing efforts to inject newness into its assortments and expansion,” he wrote to clients Thursday.

Asaeda raised his target price for Kohl’s shares by $7 to $45 based on the company’s performance relative to its peers.

Department stores are facing big challenges during the recession as shoppers keep spending low and seek bargains at discounters. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, reported Thursday that its first-quarter profit was flat as the stronger dollar hurt revenue from its international operations.

Mansell said women’s clothing has been hurting since that’s something most shoppers _ the bulk of them women _ look to cut from their budgets. Shoppers who spend more are looking for value, he said, pointing to the success of Kohl’s Dana Buchman line, which launched in February. The company’s exclusive line of Dana Buchman clothing, accessories and shoes for women, while less expensive than the designer’s wares at other stores, is at the highest price point at Kohl’s. go to site kohls coupons printable

“It’s really more about value for our customer” he said. “It’s less about the price and more about what they get for the price.” So far, the line has exceeded expectations and could expand into home and beauty products and fragrances.

Analysts say the company could benefit as former competitors such as Mervyns LLC vanish. Executives told analysts that buying some former Mervyns stores put Kohl’s in a better position to compete in California, a Mervyns stronghold.

Mansell said Kohl’s boosted its presence in California by 40 percent with its acquisition of 35 stores there.

For the full year, Kohl’s raised its earnings forecast to a range of $2.19 to $2.42 per share, up from $2 to $2.30 per share. Analysts are predicting net income of $2.52 per share.

Kohl’s also said it expects to earn 56 cents to 64 cents per share in the second quarter. Analysts expect profit of 61 cents per share. The company expects same-store sales to be down between 5 percent and 8 percent in the second quarter.

Kohl’s operates 1,022 stores in 49 states. It opened 19 stores in the first quarter and plans to open an additional 37 stores later this year.

___ AP Retail Writer Michelle Chapman in New York contributed to this report.

EMILY FREDRIX

to zep or not to zep

led zeppelin, circa 1971: john paul jones, john bonham, robert plant and jimmy page.

led zeppelin, circa 1971: john paul jones, john bonham, robert plant and jimmy page.

Many of us imagined a year ago that the December reunion concert by Led Zeppelin was simply a pre-cursor to an inevitable, full-blown reunion by the definitive ‘70s band’s three surviving members. The rumors became a bit more rabid when the show turned out to be a critical rave.

Singer Robert Plant essentially balked at participating in anything other than the one-off show, which he saw as proper, respectful closure for Zeppelin. Preferring instead to ttour his spring and summer behind Raising Sand, his surprise hit Americana album with Alison Krauss, cheerleading for a Zeppelin reunion fell to guitarist Jimmy Page and multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones.

With Plant still sticking by his vow not to enter into a full-fledge reunion this fall, we now receive the grim news that Page and Jones are looking to tour anyway as Led Zeppelin with a replacement singer.

No, no, a thousand times no.

One of the big reasons Zeppelin’s hard rock legacy is so untarnished is that – to put it bluntly – it knew when to quit. When drummer John Bonham died in 1980, the band packed it in and let a catalogue of 10 sterling albums represent Zeppelin’s monstrous sound. Before last year’s December concert in London, the band only reteamed for underwhelming sets at Live Aid and an Atlantic Records anniversary celebration.

Do reunions belittle a mighty band’s past? Well, look at The Who. It is touring again this fall with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey fronting the same assured rhythm section they have employed for several years. But with a formal band split that lasted for much of the ‘80s and a full 24 year gap between new albums, The Who is a shadow of its former, restless self. Townshend has simply taken out too many mortgages on his band’s past glories.

Now view the Rolling Stones, which lost two founding members but never disbanded. Today, for better or worse, it operates as a corporation and sells out gargantuan venues. More importantly, though, the Stones still play likes aces.

Plant and Page toured twice under their own names in the ‘90s and, in all honesty, sounded far better that the the full Zeppelin lineup did in its last Kentucky concert, a drunken, disheveled outing at Louisville’s Freedom Hall during the spring of 1977. But the two played their cards right. They were selective about what warhorse corners of their past to re-examine, incorporated new material and left the Led Zeppelin name off the marquee.

That only makes any extended Led Zeppelin reunion seem all the more unfathomable. Even if Plant was game, the credibility stakes would have been enormous. After all, audiences don’t just want Led Zeppelin. They want the wicked abandon Zeppelin brought to arenas 35 years ago. That’s a physical impossibility. So to put Zeppelin back on the road with another singer is uncool beyond words. It’s like the Stones without Mick Jagger. But there is money to be had – tons of it, obviously – in any kind of living nostalgia that an established rock franchise can summon.

In short, if Page wants to tour with Jones, fine. Just please don’t let him do it under the Zeppelin name.

Want to experience Led Zeppelin? Then crank up its self-titled debut album. The mix of Plant’s banshee vocals and Page’s blue-hued guitar fuzz scared the living you-know-what out of parents worldwide at the dawn of the ‘70s.

But make that legacy dance onstage in 2008 in the form of a grossly incomplete reunion and you will likely wind up with a living image of the first Zeppelin album’s cover photo – that of the Hindenburg exploding and crashing, ever so spectacularly, to the ground.

critic’s pick 43

grateful dead: rocking the cradle

grateful dead: rocking the cradle

It wouldn’t be Halloween without newly unearthed music from the Grateful Dead. This fall, the excavation goes deep and far to when Jerry Garcia and company played three open air concerts in Cairo with the Great Pyramid and Sphinx looming over the jams.

These performances, given in August 1978, have long been fabled stuff among Dead Heads. In the wake of nearly a year’s worth of logistical, business and governmental wrangling, the resulting concerts were staged, filmed and recorded.

But capturing the wonder of the Dead in Egypt was not to be. Technical glitches ruined recordings of the first show and much of the second while the band’s performances throughout the run were generally deemed unspectacular.

“The sad fact is, we didn’t play well,” wrote Dead bassist Phil Lesh in his 2005 book, Searching for the Sound. “The recordings we’d counted on for an album to partially defray the costs of the expedition turned out to be useless.”

Well, not entirely. Three decades later, Rhino has issued much of the remaining Egypt concerts, along with a DVD, as Rocking the Cradle. Within these performances, there is caution, even in the way guitarist Bob Weir’s I Need a Miracle sets up the Dead’s usually rollicking cover of It’s All Over Now and Garcia’s groove hearty Deal. They are still lovely to listen to, but the mood is reserved, almost timid by Dead standards.

But the seemingly unplanned subtlety brings out all kinds of colors in Stagger Lee, which was still an unreleased tune (the Dead’s version of it, that is) at the time.

The highlight, though, comes when Egyptian percussionist Hamza El Din and the Nubian Youth Choir jam with the Dead for a seven-minute cross-continental/cultural summit called Ollin Arageed, which, in turn, bleeds into 14 more minutes of Dead drummer Mickey Hart’s Fire on the Mountain.

The DVD captures 97 minutes of footage from the second and third nights in Cairo (with the Ollin Arageed/Fire on the Mountain medley again stealing the show). It also boasts the home movie-style The Vacation Tapes – a primitive but very fun postcard of the Dead crew in the land of the Pharaohs.

grateful dead: from egypt with love

grateful dead: from egypt with love

While Rocking the Cradle offers an immensely likeable, if not modestly flawed, glimpse of the Dead in an altogether other time and place, From Egypt with Love reveals the band in full fury.

Part of the Dead’s Road Trips series (available thru www.dead.net), the latter album provides glimpses into a pair of home turf  concerts at San Francisco’s Winterland Arena two months after the Egypt shows. There is no comparison in terms of performance, especially when it comes to previews of  Stagger Lee, I Need a Miracle, Fire on the Mountain and The Rascals’ Good Lovin’ (the latter is featured on a free bonus disc of Winterland music offered with From Egypt with Love) that would be released that November on the Dead’s 10th studio album, Shakedown Street.

There are a few bumps in the recording, as when vocals fade into echo on the opening Sugaree. But there is compensatory fire in older Dead jams (a trim, eight minute revision of The Other One) and generous flashes of Garcia’s folkish fancy on Peggy-O. El Din also journeys from Egypt to reprise Ollin Arageed, which is paired this time with Deal.

Here it all is. Over 30 years after this music was made, but just in time for Halloween, we have four reconstituted nights of the living Dead.

in performance: experience hendrix

the music of jimi hendrix was celebrated last night in louisville with the all-star 'experience hendrix.'

the music of jimi hendrix was celebrated last night in louisville with the all-star 'experience hendrix.'

All star tribute concerts can be treacherous undertakings. One on hand, you have a lineup of major acts gathered on the same stage plugging something other than their own work. But star power tends to overshadow most opportunities for chance or discovery at such summits.

Take last night’s Experience Hendrix performance at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville. A weighty, three hour affair performed without intermission or encore, this touring celebration of guitar icon Jimi Hendrix brought together members of Aerosmith, Los Lobos and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble along with guitarslingers that were inspirations (Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin), disciples (Eric Johnson), new generation stylists (Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Eric Gales and Mato Nanji) and actual bandmates (Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox) of Hendrix and his mighty music.

It all looked great on paper. But given the wealth of talent – and the often obvious disparity of styles within its ranks – Experience Hendrix couldn’t help but he a lopsided affair.

The program was as it best when the performers didn’t try to sound like Hendrix. After all, no one can replicate his intensity and innovations for electric guitar, so why not opt for respectful interpretation instead? That’s where Austin, Texas guitarist Johnson took honors. His tone was lighter, cleaner and more jazz like than Hendrix’s. Yet his versions of Bold of Love and Are You Experienced? were remarkably faithful to the originals, right down the latter’s chunky, scraping riffs. Similarly, Johnson sandwiched Love or Confusion between layers of distortion that found finesse within amplifier feedback.

Los Lobos’ guitarist/singers David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas threw a pair of mighty curve balls into the mix by being the only act on the bill to seriously slow the evening’s parade of guitar jams for a quiet, lovely reading of Little Wing. Rosas sang lead. Both guitarists added subtle, soulful solos. Later, the duo offered a slice of funk that veered away specifically from Hendrix music for a spry cover of Them Changes, the lone career hit for Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies drummer Buddy Miles.

While his stage time was brief, 76 year old Mississippi bluesman Sumlin, a one-time guitarist for Howlin’ Wolf, stripped Hendrix’s reading of Killing Floor of its rockier veneer and returned the tune to its juke joint roots.

Admittedly, all of that constituted a fine show in itself. But things got shakier the deeper into the roster you went. Guy got points for his ageless edge and playful mix of blues mischief and gospel fervency. He chose to use his own band and spend much of his set showcasing his own songs, which was a shame. Still, Out in the Woods (one of two tunes performed from his new Skin Deep album) was a beaut – a slow and very stormy blues meditation where Guy swiftly traded jagged licks with Sumlin.

The younger hot shots offered the most predictable playing. While it was cool to see Shepherd devoting much of his set to Hendrix’s 1968 masterwork Electric Ladyland, he didn’t dig much deeper that the album’s two versions of Voodoo Chile. Both were top heavy with solos that, energetic though they were, quickly stagnated. Lang fared better, mostly because he was able to create tight rhythmic exchanges with Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford and Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton on Fire and The Wind Cries Mary.

The two Hendrix accomplices – British drummer Mitch Mitchell (from the Jimi Experience) and bassist Billy Cox (who played with Mitchell and Hendrix during the guitarist’s final years) – certainly added credibility to the occasion. Cox still seemed full of joy and fire as he took the vocal reigns for Stone Free and Red House. Mitchell seemed cheery and disconnected in a Keith Richards sort-of-way. He would play one of the stage’s three drum kits whenever the mood seemed to hit, even if it was in the middle of a song, or work his way to the microphone for some good natured but fractured remark. Fortunately for everyone, Layton manned the main drum seat for most of the evening. The celebrities came and went. But Layton marched on with rugged heart, drive and swing.

snowballing grascals

the grascals perform tonight for the woodsongs old-time radio hour.

the grascals perform tonight for the woodsongs old-time radio hour.

It’s a scenario that shouldn’t have played out nearly so quickly.

Sure, the members of the contemporary bluegrass band The Grascals were well known within the Nashville community. Several had clocked time as instrumentalists for such country big leaguers as Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton. Pickers like guitarist and vocalist Terry Eldredge were also popular through informal concert jams at Music City’s famed bluegrass haunt, The Station Inn.

But once The Grascals became a working band with a country-savvy debut album, everything snowballed.

Here is what happened in very short order. Even before the release of The Grascals’ self-titled debut album in 2005, Parton invited the band to be her opening and back-up group for a tour of predominantly bluegrass-oriented music. Both The Grascals and its 2006 followup recording, Long List of Heartaches, earned Grammy nominations. Then came the kicker. In 2006 and 2007, the band was named Entertainer of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. The latter, a hefty honor for any new act, is widely viewed in bluegrass circles as a bigger deal than a Grammy nod.

“For a new band just starting off, it would take about 10 years to get where we’re at now,” Eldredge said. “We’ve done it in about four-and-a-half. We’ve had a lot of help along the way. But we’ve worked hard at it, too.”

Unquestionably, the Parton connection helped (Eldredge also toured with the singer during the ‘90s). So did the lineup of all-stars that augmented the Grascals’ grass sound on Long List of Heartaches, including country legend George Jones, veteran country singer/guitarist Steve Wariner and contemporary country hitmaker Dierks Bentley.

But what carries The Grascals today is a sound that brushes its music back to something more traditional in design – even if that tradition is rooted heavily in country music. Maybe that’s why the biggest guest on the band’s third and newest album, Keep on Walkin’, is a Nashville celebrity that knows a thing or two about bluegrass. Helping out on the Walkin’ song Sad Wind Sighs is Vince Gill, the country star who was playing string music decades ago with the (Louisville-based) Bluegrass Alliance.

“Yeah, Vince has been a bluegrasser for a long time,” Eldredge said.

“We were talking to Vince back stage at the Grand Ole Opry one night when we were both guests. So I just asked him if he would be interested in singing on a song with us for our new album. He said, ‘Sure. Just call me and we’ll set it up.’ So the very next morning Jamie (Johnson, co-guitarist and vocalist for The Grascals) called. He didn’t even let a day go by.”

Eldridge said the recording process on Keep On Walkin’ wasn’t any different from the game plans for the band’s first two albums, even though banjoist Aaron McDavis joined before the sessions began and fiddler Jimmy Mattingly left after the record’s completion (he was replaced by Jeremy Abshire). One of the primary goals remained in finding material suited to the three-part harmonies of Eldredge, Johnson and bassist Terry Smith. Their vocal blend has become a trademark of The Grascals’ traditional-meets-contemporary sound.

“That’s the part of the process that’s always a challenge,” Eldredge said. “Of course we want great musicianship. But we really need the stuff that shows off the harmonies. That’s what made Sonny and Bobby so famous. They focused strongly on their singing.”

OK, now we’re talking. Sonny and Bobby, of course, are The Osborne Brothers, who led one of bluegrass music’ most progressively minded ensembles for decades. They also, at one time, employed Eldredge and Smith.

“We totally go for the Osborne Brothers sound,” Eldredge said. “They were really one of the first bluegrass bands to bring in electric instruments. They also put numerous country songs in their repertoire. We kind of base our sound off of them. They are still our main influence.”

That helps explains why country tradition figures as prominently into Keep on Walkin’ as bluegrass. Among its songs are the relatively recent (1999) George Jones hit Choices and the Merle Haggard-penned Today I Started Loving You Again as well a pair of often-covered country chestnuts, The Only Daddy That Will Walk the Line and Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.

“We’re all fans of the old country sound,” Eldredge said. “Most all of the guys in the band grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry. We would sit around on Saturday nights and listen to it on the radio.

“But it’s also a lot of fun to mess with these songs and find out what really works for our sound. Of course, the original country music really was pretty much string music to begin with.”

The next contestant to get in on the Grascals’new generation bluegrass music? Get this: Hank Williams, Jr. The day after our interview with Eldredge, the band was slated to record a bluegrass track with the usually hard Southern rocking country luminary for his next album.

“Actually, he cut it once already with the main studio musicians here in Nashville. I guess it wasn’t bluegrass enough for him. He told our publicist, ‘What I need is a true, traditional bluegrass band to play this thing.’ So he was told, ‘You need The Grascals.'”   

The Grascals and Kitty Donohoe perform at 7 p.m. tonight at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St., for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Tickets: $10. Call (859) 252-8888.

in performance: sugarland

kristian bush and jennifer nettles of sugarland. photo by kate powers.

kristian bush and jennifer nettles of sugarland. photo by kate powers.

Lights. Cameras. Bubbles.

That may not the usual call to arms when the hit country pop duo Sugarland hits the stage. But it certainly seemed the protocol of the moment last night at Rupp Arena.

With a full video crew on hand to film their performance, singer Jennifer Nettles and multi-instrumentalist Kristian Bush upped the already high spirited charm of its radio friendly music. The result was a sharp sounding, sharper looking cosmopolitan country production that was one of the most unashamedly chirpy concerts to roll through Rupp in ages.

But then, with a name like Sugarland, we couldn’t honestly expect something terribly despondent now, could we?

The show’s effervescent mood was established firmly before a single note was played or sung. Upon entrance, the 7,500 patrons were given two participatory tools to assist with evening’s pageantry: a glow stick and a bottle of bubbles. Not just any bubbles, mind you – but “Monster Bubbles.” Said so right on the label.

Then the agility of two boom cameras were tested (one shot high into the furthest recesses of the lower arena; the other sailed within inches of heads on the Rupp floor) while the PA system blasted hits by such country greats as Coldplay, John Mayer and U2. The lights descended, band members came on to open glow-in-the-dark umbrellas from an onstage foot locker (that shot the crowd into glow stick mode) and Nettles and Bush walked unceremoniously to the front of the stage to sing the anthemic Love as lighting effects replicating falling stars were illuminated on a dome shaped backdrop screen.

And that was just the first song.

Nettles and Bush then became silhouettes against a wall of white light for Settlin,’ the sort of life-affirming pop narrative that has become a Sugarland trademark. “I ain’t settlin’ for anything less than everything,” Nettles sang. She seemed to mean it, too.

Nettles is a fireball of a singer full of a tireless tone that wailed easily over Sugarland’s rockier tunes like Steve Earle (a fun, Dixie Chicks-ish novelty that dealt more with getting hitched than with the famed songwriter) but didn’t resort to cheap sentimentalism or coyness when lighter fare such as Want To surfaced.

Though he sang harmony for much of the evening, Bush was most comfortable playing the role of sidekick. During the performance, he nicely accented the occasional roots elements in Sugarland’s music – such as the steel guitar colors he pitted against accordion on We Run or the mandolin dashes that lit up everything from the letter home hit Baby Girl to the duo’s current country radio affirmation Already Gone.

OK, so what about those daggone bubbles?  Well, the instructions were for the crowd to hold off on the Monster Bubbles until it was cued first from the stage. So, after Want To settled down, Nettles, Bush and two bandmates began to, well, blow bubbles. The crowd followed. Ever seen Rupp aglow with 7,000-plus patrons blowing soap bubbles into the air? It’s quite something.

Curiously, the homemade effect wasn’t for a hit. It instead led into Nightswimming, which summoned Nettles’ most reserved and cordial vocal performance of the evening.

“What a great song,” remarked a fan who was seemingly unfamiliar but obviously taken with the tune. Yes, it was. But it wasn’t a Sugarland creation. It was written and recorded over a decade ago by R.E.M., a band that shares Sugarland’s Georgia heritage.

A pop concession? C’mon. In a show where everyone is blowing bubbles before film cameras? In an age where the lines of country and pop are hopelessly and sometimes shamelessly blurred, a respectful nod to R.E.M. was a touch of refreshing humanity.

I’d love to stay and chat some more. But I’ve still got half a bottle of Monster Bubbles left. Night time’s burning, you know.

hello dolly

dolly parton perform this weekend in richmond and louisville.

dolly parton perform this weekend in richmond and louisville.

Earlier this month, Dolly Parton’s publicist sent out the news that the veteran country-singer was forgoing all advance interviews with newspapers for her current tour. Instead, Parton agreed to answer questions submitted by print journalists through email.

Realizing a few comments sent through cyberspace were better than no interview at all, queries were complied and emailed in the hope that such a fractured conversation process would offer at least some insight into the workings of Parton’s remarkable 40-plus year career.

Last week, a bulk reply came – a total of 27 answers, comments and remarks to the invited questions. This was when the caution flag went up. Who was to say Parton was actually the one that took on the questions?

Surely, the Divine Miss Dolly wouldn’t pull a fast one. Not the TV songstress that sold boxes of Breeze detergent with Porter Wagoner back in the ‘60s. Not the writer who helped redefine artistic roles for women in Nashville with songs like I Will Always Love You and Jolene in 1974. Not the impromptu movie star who turned country-pop loose on Hollywood with 9 to 5 in 1980.

A look at the emailed replies soon established who was doing the actual cyber-talking. Among answers to more generalized questions – none of which, incidentally, were submitted by yours truly – were these remarks: 

Q: What’s on your TIVO?

A: What’s a TIVO?

Q: Who are you listening to?

A: Right now, I’m listening to you. The rest of the time I’m listening to me.

Q: What will audiences see?

A: Well, they’ll see me.

Q: Do you get to go out at night when it’s just you?

A: Well, why in the world would I want to go at night with just me?

Be as skeptical as you like. That sure sounds like Dolly to me. For the better part of her career, Parton’s performances on screen, stage, TV – anywhere, really – have been defined by a personality that has never been less than luminous. It’s part country candor and part unrelenting cheer. But the bulk of that personality seems to be built on a level of confidence that has given Parton the ability to poke fun at her own wildly costumed image as she furthers her business savvy into everything from theatrical projects (a Broadway bound stage musical version of 9 to 5) to amusement parks (why, Dollywood, of course).

Is it any wonder then Parton celebrates her large-than-country life persona with a new album titled Backwoods Barbie? With a cover photo of the 62 year old Parton literally dolled up in leopard skin and layers of pink as she reclines in the bed of pickup truck, Backwoods Barbie seems the ultimate snapshot of an artist in keen and complete control of her own public image.

“Well, who’s too say what will or won’t work,” Parton said of that image. “I just try to be true to myself and look the way that I’m comfortable looking. If I’m comfortable with me, then you’re going to be comfortable with me.”

Backwoods Barbie, a return to the country-pop that defined Parton’s hit-making streaks of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, follows two very intriguing chapters in her four-decade recording career.

The first began at the close of the ‘90s, when Parton retreated from glamorized pop turf, signed to the Americana label Sugar Hill and recorded a trio of predominantly bluegrass-oriented albums: 1999’s The Grass is Blue, 2001’s Little Sparrow and 2002’s Halos and Horns.

“I’m very proud of all the bluegrass oriented albums,” Parton said. “It just reminded me and my fans that I should always record acoustic music and country along with anything else that I might do.”

The other chapter leading up her current tour was a turn that spun the music of our Backwoods Barbie back in time.

In 2007, three of Parton’s finest albums – 1971’s Coat of Many Colors, 1973’s My Tennessee Mountain Home and 1974’s Jolene (which contained the career defining I Will Always Love You) – were re-issued by the Sony Legacy label. My Tennessee Mountain Home was a recollection and celebration of Parton’s rural upbringing as the fourth in a family of 12 children. Released shortly before parting ways with longtime musical mentor Porter Wagoner and his weekly TV variety show, it remains one of Parton’s strongest recordings.

My Tennessee Mountain Home is definitely one of my favorites. And my first album after I left The Porter Wagoner Show was called New Harvest First Gathering… I have a very, very special feeling toward that one as well.”

In a career that has produced some 60 studio recordings and a level of crossover popularity that few performers in pop or country camps could ever contemplate, the big question is why tour? Obviously, there is a desire to promote her new album. But why continue to hit the road when you have established yourself as one of the world’s most beloved crossover entertainers?

“Well, I am addicted to the love and the energy that I receive from the crowd. But it’s fair exchange. I love them and give them every ounce of energy that I have as well.”

Dolly Parton performs 7 p.m. tonight at Eastern Kentucky University’s Brock Auditorium in Richmond ($80-$150) and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Louisville Palace, 625 4th St. in Louisville ($85). Call (859) 281-6644.

sugarland express

kristian bush and jennifer nettles of sugarland. photo by kim powers.

kristian bush and jennifer nettles of sugarland. photo by kim powers.

To flaunt clout and credibility in the world of contemporary country music, an artist has to first be a fan.

That’s the requirement set down by Kristian Bush, guitarist and co-vocalist of Sugarland. The country-pop duo, completed by lead singer Jennifer Nettles, returns to town for its first headlining concert at Rupp Arena on Saturday.

“You have to be a fan,” Bush said. “You need to engage in fandom.

“I was in Boston at Fenway Park for the second of the Police shows this year. I was up there. That mattered. I’ll never forget that experience. That’s why I want to have that experience be something that our fans can take home every night.”

In just over four years, Nettles and Bush have fashioned Sugarland into one of the leading new generation voices of pop-conscious, commercial-savvy country music. The duo has scored numerous chartopping singles (Want To, Settlin’ and the recent All I Want to Do) high profile side projects (Nettles’ 2006 duet hit with Jon Bon Jovi, Who Says You Can’t Go Home) and maintained consistent visibility at awards shows (Sugarland is up for five Country Music Association trophies in November, including honors for Entertainer, Single, Vocal Duo, Music Video and Musical Event of the Year).

But for Bush, maintaining a link to “fandom” means striving to offer a sense of discovery that ignites audience engagement with any music – country or otherwise.

“Especially within commercial country music, most people get it wrong,” Bush said. “They think that what you’re selling is a CD, a concert ticket or a t-shirt. What you’re really selling, what you’re really exchanging with people, is the discovery of something. I know that when I get a new record, I’m up and down the hallways backstage going, ‘Hey guys, have you heard this?’ You get to a point where you want to turn your friends on to what you have discovered. That’s what being a fan is all about.”

That sense of discovery has definitely carried over into two of Sugarland’s more high profile performances of late.

At an event dubbed the Orange Peel earlier this month at Oklahoma State University, the duo headlined a concert/pep rally where it confronted a largely uncommitted demographic: a college audience.

“You never know what a bunch college kids really think about you,” Bush said. “As a commercial country band, things could go horribly off track. You don’t know if all they really want is (indie pop fave) Margot and the Nuclear So-and-So’s. But it was unbelievable how the crowd raised the roof off that place.”

The other concert was at Colorado’s famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre in August, when Sugarland was billed with Sheryl Crow and the Dave Matthews Band. While the performance served as a kick off for the Democratic National Convention, its theme was environmental awareness. That, not an endorsement of a political party, was what put Sugarland on the Rocks.

“It’s pretty fascinating that environmental issues are part of our political process now and have a platform at a convention – any convention,” Bush said. “But imagine what it’s like for us to pop our heads above into pop culture and be billed between Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews. I had to go. ‘Are these my peers now? If so, I own all my peers’ records.’ “

Sugarland’s infatuation with fandom also plays out in two very different tunes from its recent Love on the Inside album.

The first is called Steve Earle. Take a wild guess at what that one is about. Turns out Bush, an avid fan of renegade songsmith Earle, began work on the tune largely as a lark with Nettles.

“Jennifer is a fan, but I’m an absolutely stupid fan,” he said. “I started to explain to her, ‘I think he is on wife no. 6 or 7 now, even though wives 1 and 4 were the same woman.’ Jennifer just said, ‘Really, this dude is a country song.’ “

And has there been any response – good, bad or vitriolic – from the none-too-soft spoken Mr. Earle?

“We wish. We sent it to him, but thought if the song pisses him off, let’s not put it on the album. We are bigger fans than we are insistent songwriters. The response we got was that Steve doesn’t read anything – reviews, anything at all – about himself, so why would he listen to a song that has been written about him? We thought, ‘Genius! We love him even more.’ But his manager explained to him what we were trying to do. We were told he laughed. That, in itself, is a triumph.”

The other fan-savvy tune, included on Love on the Inside‘s “deluxe edition,” is a cover of the 1985 pop hit Life in a Northern Town by England’s The Dream Academy. Performed with help from fellow country popsters Little Big Town and Jake Owen, the song couldn’t be more removed from country tradition. It was penned by Dream Academy chieftain Nick Laird-Clowes, who initially co-produced the tune with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour as a tribute to fabled British folk songwriter Nick Drake. Sugarland’s version earned the duo its Musical Event of the Year nomination at the upcoming CMA awards.

“Country music isn’t so much about where you live anymore as it is about a certain attitude of celebration, of sharing an appreciation for a certain kind of story. Country isn’t a sub culture anymore.

“Our version of Life in a Northern Town is a translation. It’s an American take on a British song. I was maybe 14 when I first heard it. Even then I thought it was magic.”

In this case, the response from the song’s composer was immediate and favorable.

“Nick from The Dream Academy wrote us a really beautiful letter. He said the song was a creation that could only ever exist in a studio and that he didn’t think anyone would ever be able to cover it. Then he said, ‘You have proven me wrong.’ “

Perhaps the final word on Sugarland’s sense of fan devotion is being reflected on its current tour. Nettles and Bush regularly include cover tunes in their shows. But among the more recent entries have been songs by The B-52s (Love Shack) and R.E.M. (Nightswimming), bands that share a common thread with Sugarland. All three hail from Georgia.

“The nod to both of those bands was intended,” Bush said. “Cover songs are supposed to give you a frame of reference for yourself and the music you have listened to. You get to feel at least a distillation of who that artist is – providing you’re a fan, of course.”

Sugarland, Kellie Pickler and Ashton Shepherd perform at 7:30 tonight at Rupp Arena. Tickets: $35.50 and $48.50. Call (859) 233-3535.

CULTURAL AWARENESS

Infantry January 1, 2007 | Nelson, Edwin B RESOURCES CAN HELP PREPARE SOLDIERS BEFORE DEPLOYMENTS The car rapidly approached the checkpoint. The Soldier signaled he driver to slow down by pumping his hands palms down, arms outstretched toward the ground, but the driver failed to respond. The Soldier then signaled the driver to stop by holding his arms out and his palms up towards the driver; again there was no response. The Soldier then fired warning shots in front of the oncoming car, but the driver merely swerved away from where the bullets impacted and sped up. Interpreting this action as hostile, the Soldier then fired at the driver, killing him. Surviving occupants of the car said they were only trying to get away from a hazardous area. When questioned on why they did not slow down or stop, they said that they did not know what the hand signals meant and that they thought the first shots fired were intended to hit them but missed. To an Iraqi, the hand signal for slow down is to clasp all four fingers together with the thumb over them, palm up and extend your arm with the back of the hand toward the driver (See illustration). go to website army e learning

The incident cited above is real; it occurred during Operation Iraqi Freedom 1. It is an illustration of a lesson learned about an aspect of war that the U.S. Army has had to relearn in numerous wars – cultural awareness.

The Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu said, “Know thyself but not thy enemy, find level of loss and victory.” Cultural awareness is one aspect of knowing your enemy; it is also a force multiplier in ongoing stability operations in Iraq. Soldiers with knowledge of Arabic and appreciation of Iraqi customs and social mores are more effective in these operations because that knowledge gives them more options in situations requiring rapid decisions.

A large part of the insurgents’ fight against coalition forces consists of information operations (IO). These operations take the form of graffiti, posters plastered on walls, videos posted on internet sites, and word of mouth. Coalition forces must conduct their own information operations to defeat the insurgents. To make these operations successful, Soldiers must have some idea of how a message will be perceived by the Iraqis. Cultural awareness training is designed to provide Soldiers with basic knowledge enabling them to understand why an Iraqi might not receive the message intended.

RESOURCES * Graphic Training Aid, GTA 24-01-003, Iraqi Cultural Awareness Smartcard. The smartcard is intended to be carried by Soldiers in a pocket as a reference. The card includes information on useful phrases, religion, etiquette, customs, cultural attitudes, gestures, social structure, ethnic groups and other information designed to keep Soldiers from making social gaffes. go to site army e learning

* The Defense Language Institute (DLI) has produced several language guides with words and phrases spelled out in English, Arabic and phonetic spelling. The guides are oriented towards different military organizations (e.g. air crew, military police) or specific military operations (cordon and search, civil affairs).

* The Foreign Language Center of DLI also maintains a Web site called www.Lingnet.org. On this site, Soldiers can access more than 1,000 lessons in 13 languages from the Global Language Online Support System as well as area studies called “Countries in Perspective.” * Rosetta Stone, a company that manufactures and sells computer-based language programs has developed a series of Arabic lessons for Army use. The program is run by Army e-learning and is accessible through the Army Knowledge Online (AKO) Portal. Soldiers can learn more about this program online at https:// usarmy.skillport.com/rkusarmy/login/ usarmylogin.cfm.

* CALL has published a report on how cultural awareness impacts battle command. The report is a discourse on how cultural awareness should be incorporated into the military decision-making process and training. It is the end product of a CALL collection and analysis team (CAAT) mission to Iraq for the specific purpose of examining how a commander’s knowledge of culture affects his success in battle and in subsequent stability operations. The report delineates how cultural awareness is a part of all lines of operation and examines methods of training Soldiers in cultural awareness at different times in the deployment cycle.

* CALL provides numerous links to papers on the geography, politics, demographics, religion and other area study information developed by the TRADOC Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (DCSINT).

A request for information (RFI) can be submitted directly to CALL if Soldiers do not find the information they need already available on the CALL Web site. CALL has also created a network of more than 40 analysts assigned to operational and institutional units. These analysts can assist a commander’s training preparations by researching lessons learned and compiling information on critical subject areas. (see related article on page 46).

Many wars produce tragedies like the one cited at the beginning of this article, memories of which stay with the Soldier forever. The purpose of these cultural awareness programs is to enable Soldiers to interact with indigenous peoples and eliminate some areas of friction, reducing the chance for future incidents.

All wars fought by the U.S. Army since the Spanish-American war have required Soldiers to have language skills and some level of cultural awareness. Cultural awareness training should be embedded into other training events as future wars promise to continue this trend. Continual exposure to foreign language and culture within the framework of normal training events will habituate Soldiers to the conditions prevailing when deployed. The end result will be that Soldiers are prepared to make rapid decisions based on sound knowledge and experience gained in training, averting tragedy in war.

[Sidebar] A Soldier with the 8th Battalion, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, talks with a shepherd during a cordon and search mission in Iraq.

[Author Affiliation] Edwin B. Nelson entered the Army in December 1977. He served with numerous infantry units including the 1st Ranger Battalion, 101st (Airborne) Division Pathfinder Detachment, and the U.S. Army Sniper School. His last assignment was as command sergeant major of the 5th Ranger Training Battalion in Dahlonega, Georgia. He is currently a contractor working as a lessons learned analyst with the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Nelson, Edwin B

pushing up daisy

chicago drummer tim daisy. photo by dave rempis.

chicago drummer tim daisy. photo by dave rempis.

In past years, Tim Daisy would have performed four or five concerts in Lexington with as many different jazz and improvising ensembles by the time autumn rolled around. But with the closing this year of The Icehouse and the overall lack of functional, non-club performance venues (or actual clubs, for that matter), Daisy has been absent for 10 months from his performance home away from home.

But with the recent introduction of a new North Limestone performance space adjacent to Al’s Bar called Cultural Preservation Resources (CPR, for short), the Chicago drummer will be back in our back yard again. On Saturday, he will show off a new trio called Vox Arcana. It utilizes modern classical composition and instrumentation but still retains the sort of open-ended improvisation that has been an earmark of the many ensembles Daisy has played with in Lexington over the past six years.

The concert will also reignite the long-running Outside the Spotlight Series of improvisational music performances that has been responsible for introducing Daisy and many other indie and avant jazz artists to Lexington audiences. Vox Arcana includes another OTS regular, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. His solo cello concert at the Morris Book Shop in July serves as the only other OTS performance of 2008. Clarinetist James Falzone completes the trio lineup.

Daisy said much of the music of Vox Arcana was inspired by two very different schools of experimental music.

One was a late ‘50s and ‘60s wave out of New York led by John Cage, Morton Feldman and Earle Brown whose then-radical works redefined the avant garde with literary and philosophical inspirations as well as non-traditional instrumentation. The other consisted of ‘60s and early ‘70s pioneers from Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) – specifically violinist/violist Leroy Jenkins and multi-reed player Anthony Braxton. The collective’s music has long embraced jazz, classical and world music while targeting international and as well as inner city audiences through education and performance programs.

“In writing this music, the first thing I thought about was the instrumentation,” Daisy said. “I wanted clarinet. I wanted cello. And even though I won’t be playing it on this trip because it’s such a large instrument, I’ve incorporated marimba into my own playing. And because I’m working in such a great city as Chicago, I had the luxury of bringing in all the musical personalities I wanted to use. It’s always much easier for me to write when I have the actual personnel in mind.”

It was likely an even easier task to write for Lonberg-Holm. The cellist – who has designed a broad, improvisational vocabulary for his instrument that includes scorched, electronically enhanced sounds – already works with Daisy in one of Chicago’s most heralded indie jazz ensembles, the Vandermark 5.

Falzone, though, establishes much of the classical direction in such new Daisy compositions as The Silver Fence and White Lines. It is a sound that is sometimes pensive, sometimes playful. But while the harmony created between clarinet and cello is especially expressive, there is still plenty of room for Daisy’s considerable percussion work – especially the chatter he regularly creates by placing smaller cymbals and bells on top of drumheads.

“James is a very accomplished classical player,” Daisy said. “And on top of being a fantastic improviser, he is also a nice foil for Fred, who has this punk rock kind of element to his playing.”

Daisy doesn’t entirely view himself as a group leader when performing with Vox Arcana, even though he composes the bulk of its material. In fact, an arrangement of pianist Carla Bley’s And Now the Queen was been one of the few non-Daisy pieces performed during summer performances by the trio. He instead sees his role, figuratively and literally, as a middleman.

“The thing is, James is coming from a very different place, musically, than Fred is,” Daisy said. “Their musical personalities are very strong, but they’re really different. That’s one of the strengths of this group, I think.

“It’s funny. When we set up on stage, Fred will be on the left, James is on the right and I’m in the middle. That set up is kind of a metaphor for our personalities. I’m always somewhere in the middle.” 

Vox Arcana performs at 7 p.m. tonight at Cultural Preservation Resources, 607 N. Limestone. $5. Call (859) 536-5568.

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