Archive for September, 2011

the other bruce

Calling this a recommendation for new summer reading is late on a number of counts. First, the book in question actually came out last year. Plus the season, as we know it, is pretty well finished.

Nonetheless, the days around and after Labor Day were spent with Composing Myself, Harry Shapiro’s very insightful authorized biography of Jack Bruce. To many, Bruce is known almost exclusively and the bassist, songwriter and primary vocalist for the late ‘60s rock trio Cream. And it is the pop music premise that Bruce should have met or exceeded the stardom level attained by Cream guitarist Eric Clapton that fuels much of the book.

“Should have” is the operative term. Classically trained and infatuated with jazz, Bruce’s music was simply too advanced, complicated or outside parameters of what most rock stars operated by. And by the time he assembled sustainable bands that could address such commercial concerns, the pop world had moved on.

Bruce, who has often come across as notoriously self-involved in interviews over the years, speaks with candid humility throughout Composing Myself, especially in the book’s early chapters that trace him as a teen touring across Europe with the likes of Graham Bond and John Mayall, knowing little of the world outside England and his proud birthplace, Scotland.

The Cream chapters take up remarkably little of the book, which is probably natural as the band existed for barely two years, even though it pioneered the template for rock trios by covering, in almost scholarly fashion, the jazz, blues and psychedelic inspirations of the day.

But the Cream narratives are still comprehensive as the book views the sense of artistic excitement that surrounded the band’s two finest albums (Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire) as well its very tumultuous relationship – especially within the ties between Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker.

Such troubled relations fracture almost every time the two players meet, especially during a later chapter (A Question of Time, named after a 1989 Bruce solo album of the same name) where the bassist and drummer attempt to reconcile before and during a joint tour.

Shapiro makes the rounds on the interview front. A litany of career-spanning collaborators offer comments, including Clapton, longtime lyricist Pete Brown, jazz artists Carla Bley, Larry Coryell and Billy Cobham, guitar greats Robin Trower, Gary Moore and Chris Spedding along with several members of Bruce’s immediate family.

While the author succumbs to hero worship at times in his assessments of some of Bruce’s music, one still leaves with renewed appreciation for his post-Cream work – especially the troubled, drug rattled Los Angeles sessions that led to Bruce’s most underrated recording (1974’s Out of the Storm) and the formation and quick implosion of his short-lived mid ‘70s supergroup with Bley and ex-Rolling Stone Mick Taylor.

Most of all, you gain appreciation for Bruce’s artistic temperament – a skilled, schooled and complicated vision that was perhaps denied the level of stardom he deserved but shines brilliantly within these pages.

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happy birthday, uncle pen

bill monroe in 1994. ap photo by mark humphrey.

bill monroe in 1994. ap photo by mark humphrey.

Just a quick “Happy 100th” shout out to the late, great Bill Monroe. It doesn’t need to be stated here, but clearly no other musician possesses roots and influences that extend so deeply into the heritage and culture of Kentucky than our dear Uncle Pen. After all, when you live in the Bluegrass State with Monroe forever reigning as the acknowledged father of bluegrass music, you appreciate how defining those roots are.

Monroe last played in Lexington in August of 1994 (just over two years before his death) at the Kentucky Theatre. At age 82, he was still spry and inventive, setting the crowd quietly afire with Blue Moon of Kentucky but fanning even heavier gospel flames during What Would You Give For Your Soul? and a majestic reading of Roses in the Snow.

The ideal overview of Monroe’s music? That honor goes to the splendidly compiled and annotated The Music of Bill Monroe, a four-disc MCA box set that traces Monroe’s music back to 1936. Alas, it’s out-of-print. Used copies on Amazon are going for $149.

More affordable ways to bring Monroe music back home? Try the 2005’s The Definitive Collection, a no-frills, single-disc, 22 song sampler of Monroe essentials. Personally, I’d search out Bean Blossom, a brilliant live blast from Monroe and a host of all-stars from 1973. It’s a vital and lively snapshot of the bluegrass patriarch in his absolutely monstrous  prime.

critic’s pick 194

“What we’re into is history,” remarks Jimi Hendrix in an interview tacked onto the last of the four concert discs that make up the extraordinary new concert box set Winterland. “This is our own personal history.”

Hendrix wasn’t speaking specifically about the music he cranked with out The Jimi Hendrix Experience over three October nights in 1968 at the legendary San Francisco music haunt that Winterland is named for (for the record, the interview was actually conducted in Boston). But his remarks certainly hold true today. On Winterland, these performances sounded historic in the best possible sense.

At the time, The Experience – the guitarist’s classic trio with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell – was celebrating its second anniversary while what would turn out to be its swan song album, Electric Ladyland, was only two weeks away from release. Over Winterland’s three primary discs, which chronicle each night of the Experience’s engagement at the club (supplemental tracks from the shows, along with the Boston interview, make up the fourth disc), the thrust of the guitarist’s playing noticeably shifts.

Compared to the primal outbursts that distinguish the Experience’s well-documented performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Hendrix beefs up blues sensibilities throughout Winterland and reins in his more extroverted impulses. That’s not to say he doesn’t still go wild, though.

The second disc’s version of Are You Experienced begins in almost lumbering fashion, suggesting the warhorse tune may have finally worn down its performance edge. Then the trio simply clobbers the melody, ripping it apart until Hendrix takes command with a solo full of ragged but rhythmically keen instinct.

Curiously, the Experience sticks to a predominantly familiar setlist through Winterland. Only one Electric Ladyland tune – the soon-to-be popular Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) – is offered. But Hendrix also allows then-Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady to sub briefly for Redding (as he did on Electric Ladyland). The result is a scorched reading of Killing Floor where, oddly enough, the song’s inherent blues inspirations are rewired into a propulsive rhythm that is pure guitar rock magic.

Out this week alongside Winterland is a re-release of what is perhaps the guitarist’s greatest live album, Hendrix in the West.

Originally a jumbled posthumous release from January 1972 (one-third of it wasn’t recorded in the West at all, but at London’s Royal Albert Hall and the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival), the album covers performances given over an 18 month period that saw the dissolve of the Experience and the birth of a potent new group with bassist Billy Cox. But the playing, which is almost jazz-like at times on the later tunes, is sublime.

Of particular interest: an unearthed 10 minute version of Spanish Castle Magic from May 1969 that captures both the dynamic precision and electric exuberance of the Experience in its heyday.

ollabelle tolls

ollabelle: byron isaacs, glenn patscha, fiona mcbain, amy helm and tony leone.

ollabelle: byron isaacs, glenn patscha, fiona mcbain, amy helm and tony leone. photo by ahron r. foster.

If you weren’t familiar with the almost panoramic musical scope that defines Ollabelle, you might view its new Neon Blue Bird album as a rather far-reaching stylistic journey.

It starts with a wiry steel guitar romp, all ripe and rootsy, that leads into Paul Kelly’s You’re Gonna Miss Me and winds up with a re-imagining of Swanee River as a pastoral affirmation.

In between there are sleek original tunes referencing elements of blues, soul and gospel, crisp takes on the songs of such disparate roots music pioneers and Taj Mahal and Chris Whitley and a blast of British folk (the brilliant Butcher Boy) that sounds suitably unearthly.

That’s quite a reach for a single album. And since Neon Blue Bird is Ollabelle’s first studio recording  in five years, such comprehensive roots music genre-hopping might seem novel. But for this decade-old New York outfit, which disperses lead vocal duties among all five of its members, the meshing of various styles into a cohesive and commanding sound of its own has pretty much always been the primary musical mission.

“What has always been so great about this group is this chemistry,” said Ollabelle bassist and dobroist Byron Isaacs. “It’s been there from the very start. Whenever there is conflict or whenever one of us might disagree about an approach, it always winds up in some sort of compromise that ends up being something better that any of the parties had imagined.

“We know going into any project that we’re all going to stake our ground and have our opinions. But we also know we’re going to be surprised. So we’re already walking in with a certain amount of artistic humility. That makes for a special kind of chemistry that results in new sounds, new grooves and new mash-ups. That’s the glory of the chemistry of this band. It’s killer.”

The backgrounds of the five Ollabelle members bear out the band’s varied musical preferences. Singer/mandola player Amy Helm hails from proud Woodstock, NY parentage (her father is Levon Helm, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee for his work with The Band). Singer/guitarist Fiona McBain relocated to New York from Sydney, Australia. Singer/keyboardist Glenn Patscha is a native Canadian versed in the moods and music of New Orleans. Singer/drummer Tony Leone comes from a versed jazz background. Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Isaacs completes the lineup.

National audiences got its first serious taste of Ollabelle band as part of the T Bone Burnett-organized Americana roadshow known as The Great High Mountain Tour (which also included bluegrass royals Alison Krauss and Ralph Stanley). The release of Ollabelle’s self-titled, Burnett-produced debut album preceded the tour while the Larry Campbell-produced Riverside Battle Songs followed in 2006. A concert recording, Before This Time, came out in 2009.

As with the new, self-produced Neon Blue Bird, Ollabelle’s music doesn’t intend to offer any kind of scholarly recitation of specific roots music styles, but rather an assimilation of them as a diverse yet unified sound of its own.

“That’s the goal,” Isaacs said. “We’re sort of allergic to dishonesty. If something doesn’t sound honest to us, then it’s back to the drawing board. We’re always looking for that absolute, undeniable honesty in the approach. Now, you can take a song pretty far out if you want just as long as that honesty of intention is still rooted somewhere. Pushing those boundaries, actually, is part of what makes this music so much fun.”

The same can be said for the musical activities the Ollabelle members have engaged in since the release of Riverside Battle Songs. Specifically, Helm, Isaacs and Leone have all been part of Levon Helm’s band and the famed Midnight Ramble concerts he stages at his Woodstock studio and, occasionally, on the road.

For Isaacs, simply feeding off of the elder Helm’s drive and joy in performance is exhilarating.

“We all fell into the Levon Helm thing so perfectly. That’s another beautiful marriage of ideas and music, but in a completely different way. It’s another means of learning. Boy, is there ever a lot to learn from him.

“When you play with Levon,  you can hear the old Delta stuff. You can hear the old jug bands. You can hear the medicine shows and dance bands. You can hear all of that great rock ‘n’ roll and all of the variations hence. I mean, that dude is totally turned on by music. The energy pouring out of him is just relentless. He’s a juggernaut.”

Ollabelle and Goitse performs at 7 p.m. Monday at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Tickets are $10. Call (859) 252-8888.

on top of the world

robert cray

Near the half-way point of the Robert Cray Band’s recent concert CD/DVD Cookin’ in Mobile sits a light but learned reading of the blues chestnut Sitting on Top of the World.

In some ways, the performance is a testimonial that deviates from the multi-Grammy winning Cray’s usual blues-soul blend into something earthier. While the Mobile version might not possess the sheer revelatory might Howlin’ Wolf injected into the tune back in the late ‘50s, it nonetheless stands an authoritative bit of blues reckoning from one of the music’s most popular contemporary ambassadors.

On the other hand, if one were to take the tune and its lyrics literally, Sitting on Top of the World may just serve as a musical credo for Cray’s career. After bursting onto the blues, soul and rock circuits at the dawn of the ‘80s, Cray has maintained an astonishingly prolific recording career that has seen the release of 20 albums in a 30 year stretch. And along with rubbing performance shoulders with some of the blues’ most time honored participants (from John Lee Hooker to B.B. King to Eric Clapton to Albert Collins), he has also forged a blues visibility and fanbase the old fashioned way – with a touring regimen that has seldom relented over the decades.

“I consider our band to be really lucky,” said Cray who returns to the region for a performance tonight at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville. “By that, I mean we’re fortunate just to be working. It’s so much more difficult these days to get that kind of foot hold into a career. We managed to have a lot of success early on with Strong Persuader (Cray’s 1986 breakthrough album). That sold a lot of records for us and kept us out on the road for a long time. And that is every musician’s dream – to do what you want to do. And playing live is what we like to do.”

Over the years, Cray’s music has been distinguished by a devotion to soul and R&B. Where many contemporary blues acts use the amplification and bravado of rock ‘n roll to establish an audience, Cray has continually drawn from soul legends like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, both of which are continually reflected in his clear and immensely expressive singing.

“There have been a lot of blue personalities who have helped me over the years that I have listened to, including Albert King and Bobby Bland,” Cray said. “And then there is this whole R&B thing. Growing up, my parents had this incredible record collection. I discovered people like O.V. Wright (the Southern soul star known for hits like That’s How Strong My Love Is). All of these great R&B singers also possessed this wonderful gospel influence. So I became torn early on between becoming an R&B singer or a blues guitar player.

So he became both. On the guitar end, Cray followed what every kid his age did in the 1960s – he followed what he heard on the radio. And what he heard were The Beatles. As such, among the litany of blues musicians that came to inspire his playing is a name that fell well outside the South, and the blues – George Harrison.

“It was The Beatles that inspired me, as they did with so many other kids in the ‘60s, just to get a guitar. Back then I listened to a lot of Beatles music along with all of the other blues music that came along. I still enjoy Beatles music to this day.”

Among the many popular artists to champion Cray in the wake of Strong Persuader was Eric Clapton. The friendship continues to this day. When Cray found himself opening a week’s worth of performances for Clapton at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2006, the opportunity presented itself to make a concert album that became Live From Across the Pond.

“There had been other attempts to make live recordings, but they all went south. You would only have one shot, one performance to record them. And most of the time I would clam up or some of the players would clam up or it just wouldn’t be a good night. But with seven nights at the Royal Albert Hall, we had the perfect situation to pick and choose the songs we wanted. So we really took advantage of that.”

What Cray didn’t realize, however, was that Live From Across the Pond – which was his first official live album – would be the first of four concert recordings that would be released over the following five years.

In 2008 came Live at the BBC, a disc boasting radio performances from 1988 and 1991. Following in 2010 was Authorized Bootleg, which chronicled a May 1987 show from Austin, Tx. Finally, just over a year ago, came Cookin’ in Mobile, which documents the current Cray Band: bassist Richard Cousins (a longtime Cray pal who returned to the band ranks in 2009 after a 15 year absence), longtime keyboardist/songwriter Jim Pugh and 2009 drum recruit Tony Braunagel.

“For fans of the band who want to hear it in all its different forms, having these recordings out is great,” Cray said. “But I think we should probably not release any more live albums for awhile.”

The Robert Cray Band and The Shemekia Copeland Band perform at 8 p.m. Sept. 9 at Newlin Hall of the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College in Danville. Tickets are $28-$55. Call (877) 448-7469, (859) 236-4692.

critic's pick 193

There have been times over the past decade, when you would swear Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen was applying to be the Lone Star equivalent of Jimmy Buffett. Though part of a pool of emotively deep Austin-area songsmiths capable of merging dark country melodies that seem to blow in off the West Texas plains and storylines born out of rich folk and country tradition, much of Keen’s performance reputation stems from poetic roadhouse tales like The Road Goes on Forever and Merry Christmas From the Family. In short, themes of violence and social dysfunction become fuel for hearty barroom sing-a-longs.  No, his audiences don’t come dressed in shades and loud Hawaiian shirts, but their devotion to those predictably malicious themes, and the sort of lyrical merriment Keen dresses them up with, nonetheless reflects a sort of Buffett-esque appeal.

Certainly that comparison only increases when you dip into the title tune to Keen’s newest studio album, Ready for Confetti. With its tropical melodic drive, summery lyrical bent and carnival-like sense of celebration, the song is Keen’s answer to Margaritaville but with wittier narrative detail and a still-strong dose of Texas hill country charm.

The sunshine drenched country of Top Down furthers that feel with steel guitar colors that sound like they could have been pulled from a vintage Bob Wills swing classic or a Hawaiian lullaby. Or both. Keen’s own lyrical sense of Texas-crossed tropical serenity (“well, lickity split and whoopee-ti-yay”) completes the mood.

But Keen is so much more than a musical escapist. Luckily, the more ceremonious moments from Ready for Confetti don’t stand in the way of his surlier urges. I Gotta Go is proof. Played against a simple but rugged shuffle, Earl sings from the viewpoint of a drifter “born one morn on the day of the dead” that lives life in a state of unyielding restlessness. The song’s title becomes a sort of agitated mantra repeated even when the protagonist is forced to utter his last words at gunpoint.

There are also slower, more solemn shows of faith at work on Ready for Confetti, including Lay Down My Brother, with its mix of jagged lap steel and mandolin (courtesy of veteran Texas music producer Lloyd Maines) and the reggae-fied reckoning that dominates Waves of the Ocean and its Zen-like slant on Buffett-style beachcoming.

Curiously, the album’s last word goes not to a Keen original but to a hushed cover of the spiritual Soul of Man. Keen sings the tune with hushed contentment and a wary ear to the heavens. Perhaps, one surmises, more is about to rain down than confetti.

E-SMARTS.(Tech)

The Capital Times December 10, 1999 If you need a little help navigating the online shopping world — and who doesn’t — there are plenty of sites out there eager to advise you. Unfortunately, many are more interested in directing you to advertisers than to good deals. web site free coupons for groceries

There is one type of site, however, that directs you to coupons and special offers, and leaves the rest up to you. We featured one — the nonprofit consumerworld.org — in this space two weeks ago. A for-profit version of this type of site is e-smarts. site free coupons for groceries

E-smarts features buying guides for various items, printable coupons for groceries, and a comprehensive list of special offers from your favorite national and regional online stores (though a look at Wisconsin offers this week came up empty.) The site also offers a “spotlight” section focusing on various topics (this week: travel,) a shopping “bot” search engine and the opportunity to join reward programs and enter contests.

You can give it a whirl at www.esmarts.com

labor day party of danger!

OK, we’re not really sure about the danger element surrounding CD Central’s last holiday blast of the summer (and, in all likelihood, of the year). But we sure get a charge out of the retro illustration above. As you can see, what looks like an Italian version of 1972-era Burt Reynolds gives a whupping to just about every thug that ever walked onto the set of Starsky & Hutch. All that’s missing is Huggy Bear.

The bottom line, of course, is that our pals at CD Central, 377 S. Limestone, are never ones to miss out on a grand finale to a holiday weekend. They’ve got another afternoon of fine, free Central Kentucky music on tap for Monday. Performing will be Ark Royals (12 p.m.), Onward Pilgrim (1 p.m.), The Greatest of These (2 p.m.) and Dunebuggy Attack Battaltion (3 p.m.).

A cookout is part of the deal, as well, but judging by the forecast, Mother Nature may have other plans. Call (859) 233-3472.

Kohl’s Department Stores Launches Multimillion Dollar Initiative to Fight Breast Cancer. see here kohls coupon codes

Cancer Weekly February 23, 2010 Kohl’s Department Stores (NYSE:KSS) announced a new philanthropic initiative to fight breast cancer in the state of Wisconsin. Kohl’s will donate more than $7 million over the next three years to the American Cancer Society and the Milwaukee Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The donation, which will be used to support breast cancer research, education and patient-assistance programs, represents the largest corporate gift ever made to the Komen Milwaukee Affiliate — or any national Affiliate — of Susan G. Komen for the Cure[R], as well as to the American Cancer Society’s Midwest division, which includes Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin (see also Kohl’s Department Stores).

“At a time when many companies are cutting philanthropic giving, we are in a financial position that allows us to expand our community relations programs with a new focus on women’s causes,” said Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board. “Today we’re proud to announce our commitment to support the Milwaukee Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society in the fight against breast cancer. The incidence rate of invasive breast cancer in the state of Wisconsin is above the national average, and as a company, we are passionate about supporting this important cause and making a difference in the lives of women.” “We are honored to have Kohl’s join the American Cancer Society to help create a world with less breast cancer,” said Jari Johnston-Allen, CEO, American Cancer Society, Midwest Division. “Kohl’s donation will make a significant difference in our ability to educate women regarding prevention and early detection, and provide needed assistance to breast cancer patients.” In 2009, almost 3,500 Wisconsin women were predicted to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Kohl’s partnership with the American Cancer Society will focus on educating women about breast health care. Specifically, program elements include development and distribution of a breast health kit containing resources to reduce risk and manage treatment; funding of new health care positions and programs to educate and provide assistance throughout our communities; research funding; and event sponsorship.

“Kohl’s recognized the need to do more, to reach more women, to save more lives,” said Sally Sheperdson, Executive Director, Komen Milwaukee Affiliate. “This contribution will make a significant impact on the women of Southeast Wisconsin. Most women are putting off needed preventative breast cancer screenings due to economic hardships and changing health insurance plans. With support from Kohl’s, Komen can expand its mission programs that provide breast health education, free mammograms and financial assistance. We are thankful and thrilled to call Kohl’s our partner.” Education and awareness are key weapons in the fight against breast cancer and early detection. For example, approximately 50 percent of women in Milwaukee County are not getting their recommended annual screenings. The Kohl’s partnership with the Komen Milwaukee Affiliate is aimed at increasing breast health screenings through a grassroots based education program; a marketing campaign designed to incite women to take action; financial assistance for those unable to pay for a mammogram and event sponsorship. in our site kohls coupon codes

In addition to this contribution, Kohl’s is considering offering a series of specially-designed products to support the fight against breast cancer. The merchandise is expected to be available in select stores and on www.kohls.com in the fall, and most importantly, 100 percent of net proceeds will support breast cancer causes.

This new philanthropic initiative builds upon Kohl’s long history of charitable involvement in the communities it serves. Since 2000, Kohl’s and the Kohl’s Cares for Kids program have combined to give approximately $20 million to support charitable initiatives in the metro-Milwaukee area. Also, over the past 10 years, the company’s Kohl’s Cares for Kids cause program, which sells plush toys and books, has raised more than $126 million to benefit children’s health and education initiatives nationwide.

summer album of the week 09/03/11

pink floyd: wish you were here (released september 1975)

Few albums color the end of summer with such elegant despondency as Pink Floyd’s 1975 classic Wish You Were Here. At its literal core were three songs of social and artistic alienation highlighted by the bittersweet “heroes for ghosts” ballad that serves as the record’s title tune. But surrounding them is the real masterwork – a nine part suite inspired by the absent sanity of Floydian founder Syd Barrett titled Shine On You Crazy Diamond. A work full of melodic contractions that swings from ambient beauty to bluesy urgency, Diamond makes Wish You Were Here the ultimate Pink Floyd moodpiece.

With this, we close this year’s Summer Album of the Week Series. Here is a recap of the music that added ample sunshine, and maybe even a chilly breeze, to the season now past.

+ 5/28/11 – Little Feat: Time Loves a Hero (1977)

+ 6/04/11 – The Flying Burrito Brothers: The Flying Burrito Brothers (1971)

+ 6/11/11 – Richard Thompson: Hand of Kindness (1983)

+ 6/18/11 – The Pentangle: The Pentangle (1969).

+ 6/25/11 – Dire Straits: Communique (1979)

+ 7/02/11-  Traffic: John Barleycorn Must Die (1970)

+ 7/09/11 – ZZ Top: Tres Hombres (1973)

+ 7/16/11 – Yes: Going for the One (1977)

+ 7/23/11 – Elvis Costello: My Aim is True (1977)

+ 7/30/11 – The Beach Boys: Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!) (1965)

+ 8/06/11 – The Beatles: Help! (1965)

+ 8/13/11 – The Allman Brothers Band: Brothers and Sisters (1973)

+ 8/20/11 – Cream: Wheels of Fire (1968)

+ 8/27/11 – John Hiatt: Slow Turning (1988)

+ 9/03/11 – Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here (1975)

Fast-food restaurants held up

San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, CA) April 5, 2007 SAN BERNARDINO — A pair of gun-toting robbers who have hit four fast-food restaurants in Rancho Cucamonga may have taken their act to San Bernardino, authorities said.

Around 8 p.m. Wednesday, two men entered the Del Taco on North Del Rosa Avenue in San Bernardino. At least one of the men carried a long weapon, likely either a shotgun or rifle, said Sgt. Dan Keil of the San Bernardino Police Department. go to site fast food restaurants

The men hopped over the counter and held the employees at gunpoint as one of the robbers emptied the cash register, Keil said.

The general M-O, the general appearances of these guys, is similar to what s been going on in Rancho (Cucamonga), Keil said.

A pair of robbers have been targeting Rancho Cucamonga s fast food restaurants over the past 10 days.

They ve been hitting us about twice a week, said Sgt. William Hunt of the Rancho Cucamonga Sheriff s Station.

Investigators have little to go on.

They describe the duo only as being tall because they wear hoods and bandanas to cover their faces. It appears they are in their late teens or early 20s, Hunt said. go to website fast food restaurants

Each time, they have entered the establishments carrying weapons that are either rifles or shotguns, Hunt said. It s pretty scary, Hunt said. We re quite concerned.

The robbers have arrived on foot each time, leading Hunt to deduce that they park their get-away vehicle on a nearby street.

Investigators with the two departments are conferring to determine if they are trying to catch the same suspects.

It s not uncommon for (robbers) to move out to other cities, Keil said.

on the road with jason isbell

jason isbell

The road. To most working musicians, it’s something of a traveling office, a winding stretch of highway or backroad that leads to the next performance. It’s a means of connecting with an audience and a source of artistic inspiration.

It’s also, depending on how long you stay out there at a stretch, a pathway to burnout.

Jason Isbell recognizes all of these attributes. For this traveling Alabama-bred Americana songsmith, the road has a vivid inspiration that has triggered ideas for several songs on his sublime new album, Here We Rest. But it also is a sort of purgatory, an inescapable yet necessary evil for his chosen profession.

“The road is where I spend most of my time, for one thing,” said Isbell, who returns to Lexington tonight for performance at Buster’s. “So if I’m going to write songs about something I know, then I’m going to have to talk about being on the road because that’s usually where I am.”

“There is certainly a sense of camaraderie about being on the road. There are a lot of inspirational people that I run across and get to spend time with when I’m traveling. But it’s all experienced through this filter of exhaustion. It’s like you’re not completely awake most of the time. So it turns into this sort of dream world. And, for better or worse, what’s really more conducive to being creative than that?”

Life on road plays different but very specific roles in the songs that bookend Here We Rest, Isbell’s third studio album with the 400 Unit – the band he formed after amicably parting ways with another pack of rock ‘n’ roll road warriors, Drive-By Truckers, in 2007.

The opening Alabama Pines is like a call home, a wistful, country-ish tune that yearns for the kind of identity that weeks upon weeks on the road strip away. “I hardly even know my name anymore,” Isbell sings over a sparse acoustic melody. “When no one calls it out, it kind of vanishes away.”

“There is a character in that song. I’m not necessarily writing about myself. It’s just one of those songs where I’m trying to tell a particular story. It’s about someone who is despondent and has been stuck in the same rut for a long time. It’s definitely one that came from spending a lot of time on the road and the need to recuperate emotionally.”

Then there is the album-closing Tour of Duty, where the road inspirations are far less literal. In fact, the song began life as a postcard from the touring life with a happy ending – specifically, a return home. Then it developed into a very different road story.

“That one is bit more allegorical,” Isbell said. “I started off writing about my own feelings about coming home from being on the road. Then it developed into a war song pretty quickly.

“I write about war a lot because I see the effect it has on small towns. I don’t have the experience first hand of being in the military. I don’t know about combat or that way of life to really write about it. But I feel I do have quite a bit of experience dealing with soldiers who come home. Or don’t. I see the effect it has on their families and their surroundings. So I write about that whenever it presents itself. To me, it’s a pretty important issue.”

The road is war and war is hell? While that might be stretching the point, Isbell has certainly found a dark undercurrent to touring. But he also readily admits that any discontent he might sense from roadwork doesn’t extend to the concert stage. His few hours of performance time serve as a reward for the seemingly endless but unavoidably necessary travel that takes up much of the rest of his working day.

“The performance is always the part that’s fun. The actual touring and traveling part is not. Touring sucks, to be blunt about it. Playing the shows? That will always be wonderful. But nobody wants to ride in a van for 10 hours a day. I’m sorry. That’s not romantic and that’s not cool.

“But it’s like an arm or leg, you know? You have it and you have to work with it. But I don’t want to spend all my time complaining about it either. What we’re doing on the road is working. We’re seeing bigger audiences. People are into the music and they are into the new material. So that’s really encouraging.

“And that’s what you want. You want it all to work. It’s all a process where you have to learn to pay attention. And that means you can’t ignore it when things go well for you. I mean, you don’t want to miss out on all the good stuff, do you?”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit performs at 9 tonight at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $13 advance, $15 days of show. Fifth on the Floor opens. Call: (859) 368-8871.

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