Time With Juana Molina

Juana Molina is a singer/songwriter from Argentina whose atmospheric blend of folk, electronica, & experimental pop have brought her international acclaim. Her career trajectory has been a unique one with her initial success coming as a massively popular comedic actress in the early-1990s. The subsequent abandonment of her television career in 1996 flummoxed critics at home where her newly launched music career failed to take hold. Nevertheless, Molina’s inventive and original songwriting was widely accepted outside of Latin America where, over the next two decades, she has established herself as a critically-lauded recording & touring artist. The daughter of tango singer, Horacio Molina, & actress Elva “Chunchuna” Villafañe, Juana was immersed in the arts from a young age and began playing guitar at the age of five. She actually made her first recorded appearance as a child alongside her father in 1967, singing the song “Te regalo esta canción” as a Mother’s Day gift to her mother. Her father secretly released it as a single and it became a hit, selling 45,000 copies. Now, after many diverse experiences, her passion and commitment to music prevailed, and worldwide recognition began to grow. After the release of her second and 3rd album, she quickly became the darling of the international indie/electronic/folk scene, and praise began pouring in from admirers in all corners. As her catalog continues to grow, more open minds and ears keep following, and I look forward to more opportunities for the incomparable Juana Molina to say yes to new projects that will continue her expansion.

I had the honor of catching up with Juana ahead of the April 29th solo event at the Stoughton Opera House. We get into what someone who gets out to go experience this show will try and prepare themselves for. We get into an interesting discussion about lyrics vs. music and how and when one become the anchor and one is the ready to move vessel. I’ve been sharing a few tracks off the new CRAMMED DISCS album ‘Find The One’ to be released on the same day Juana is in WI, from Congotronics International. This part of the conversation just keeps opening my eyes to that abality she has to find where and how she fits in and being such a valued addition to the scene, the people…..the art. After this conversation, I know I am even more interested in the moments of Juan and how the act/react to and within me.

photo by Alejandro Ros

Ride With Jack Broadbent

On each of his albums, Jack Broadbent is used to people saying that ‘this’ is this is a departure from his previous stuff. That’s something the British-born singer, songwriter and guitarist has heard to varying degrees, over the course of his 6 albums to date, and is certainly fitting of his latest release, RIDE. As someone who is as connected to the quality of his relationships with people as he is to the quality of his music, rest assured he considers that a compliment. Jack grew up in rural Lincolnshire, England. His earliest influence, his father, Mick Broadbent, plays bass on RIDE and is a well-established musician, including a tenure with Bram Tchaikovsky. “I fell in love with music at a young age,” Jack says, informed by the steady diet of music played around the house. Started with the drums but gravitated to guitar around the same time as he became interested in song writing, his slide guitar playing evolved from the busking he did during his early 20s. “It seemed to appeal to people as something that was both visually and musically exciting. This was interesting to me,” Broadbent explains. “I was already playing in altered and open tunings, so when it came to using a slide I was well-versed in how those patterns worked together.” He took some cues from influences such as John Lee Hooker and Little Feat, but ultimately he wanted to find his own sound as an artist. Jack found acclaim and an audience after the Montreux Jazz Festival hailed him as, “The new master of the slide guitar.” Bootsy Collins famously proclaimed him, “The real thang!” He won over more fans touring with the likes of Ronnie Wood, Peter Frampton, and other musical legends. His penchant for writing on the road ensured that there was usually an abundance of material whenever he was ready to return to the studio. That was the case with RIDE, although the album took a turn from what Broadbent initially intended. The band just went full steam ahead in the direction which brought the sound of this album into focus. They built on those grooves and ended up with the rock ‘n’ roll record Jack has been wanting to make for a long time. Working around travel limitations and within the uncertainty of the last year, this international collaboration translates that edge. Throughout RIDE, the listener can detect what Jack calls “this underlying theme of trying to get a feel for where you’re heading and recognizing how much distance you’ve still got left to travel.” Now, The next step, of course, is to take RIDE on the road, which will be happening throughout 2022. He knows the songs will only grow as he presents them on stage, but they’ll continue to speak to the experiences from which they were born. No matter what lies on the road ahead, fans can rely on his dedication to the music and to his evolving craft. Little Feat founding member [friend of the proGram] and current US tourmate Bill Payne says it best: “I love his voice. His playing is superb, showing an almost reckless abandon when he gets revved up. He is performing on the edge, and if he falls, so be it. The pieces will not break.”

I had the pleasure of catching up with Jack ahead of his April 13th event at The Bur Oak here in Madison. We defined what someone who never heard of him would experience – the realness of the music will take over from there. We dive into the new album and Jack lets loose on how it went from thoughts and ideas into the songs that are rock and roll tales that call out to be heard. After just a few brief moments chatting with Jack, the familiar feeling came over me like I had been waiting to chat with him for some time – and that is exactly the feeling his music has provided me. I am curious what it/he will do for you.

Ron Jackson And His 7 String Jazz Guitar

Versatile and sophisticated jazz guitarist Ron Jackson has performed, recorded and taught music in over 30 countries. With a varied career as a performer, composer and arranger, Highlights include shows and tours with artists such as Taj Mahal, Jimmy McGriff, Larry Coryell, Benny Golson, Oliver Lake, Russell Malone and Mulgrew Miller. Ron has been featured as a leader in jazz festivals all over the world, including the North Sea Jazz Festival, Edinburgh Jazz Festivals and Winter Jazzfest, NYC. Mr. Jackson was initially influenced by rock guitar greats like Jimmy Page, before falling under the spell of jazz and following the style and career of jazz guitar luminaries like Pat Metheny and George Benson. After attending Berklee School of Music on scholarship, studying jazz composition and arranging he spent two formative years in the mid-1980’s living and playing guitar with the lively expat jazz community in Paris, France. Ron then moved to New York City, where he remains an active participant in Gotham’s always vibrant jazz scene. A master of the six, seven and twelve string guitars, Ron appeared on over 40 albums by such artists as Hal Singer, Graeme Norris, Ron Blake, Gisele Jackson and T.K. Blue, before founding the independent record label Roni Music in 2003 which has since released some of his eight of his albums as a leader including The Dream I Had (2003), Flubby Dubby (2008) and Akustik InventYours (2014). His latest project, Jazz Standards and Other Songs (2019) is an alluring mix of familiar jazz numbers and innovative adaptations of songs from other genre’s like his trendsetting arrangement for jazz trio of Drake’s “Passion Fruit.” An acclaimed music educator, Ron currently teaches guitar at Jazz at Lincoln Center, The New School, Midori and Friends, and is the founder and director of the website www.practicejazzguitar.com. Ron has held master classes, concerts and workshops at Jazz at Lincoln Center-Jazz in the Schools, The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, Escuela Creativa Musica in Madrid, Spain and California State University.

I had the honor of catching up with Mr. Jackson to talk about his upcoming show on March 12th a Cafe Coda in Madison on the heels of his brand new 7 string jazz guitar led trio album, ‘Standards And My Songs’ out now on his Roni music label. We dive head first into how he was able to get a grant for this tour that brings him my way [Jazz Road national initiative of South Arts], the maGic of the 7 string guitar and the creation of the new record. I heard a connection to my brother, Mr. Melvin Sparks, so we paid a little homage to our pall and Ron put together an idea of an extended setlist he might build around one of the new tunes. New record and a tour – sounds like 2 ways to take home music to me.

More Time With Jorma

A Grammy-winning American guitar player and rock & roll Hall of Famer, Jorma Kaukonen may be best known as a founding member of psychedelic rock legends Jefferson Airplane and cult blues-rockers, and one of my personal favorites, Hot Tuna. His fingerstyle guitar method, which is rooted in blues, folk, and Americana, has made him an influential figure and in-demand instructor — he operates his own guitar camp [see Fur Peace Ranch]. In addition to his work with Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna, Jorma is a prolific collaborator and successful solo artist who has released albums at a steady pace since the late 1970s. Jorma was born and grew up in Washington, D.C., where he first turned to the guitar. He lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early ’60s, playing backup to singer Janis Joplin in local clubs. In 1965, he became a founding member of Jefferson Airplane, which soared to fame in 1967. Though his songs and vocals were not prominently featured in the band, his distinctive guitar-playing was crucial to its sound. With bassist Jack Casady, he formed a spinoff duo from the group in 1970 called Hot Tuna, and this became his primary musical vehicle after Jefferson Airplane split in 1973. Hot Tuna recorded a series of albums on which Jorma sang and played guitar until 1978. After that, he worked as a soloist and with such groups as Vital Parts (1980). Jorma reunited with Casady in Hot Tuna during the ’80s, and both participated in the 1989 reunion of Jefferson Airplane. A Hot Tuna reunion album appeared the following year. Jorma has remained active as the 20th century ended and the 21st began, regularly touring and recording in different configurations before finding a home with Red House Records, which released acclaimed efforts like Stars in My Crown, (2007), River of Time (2009), Ain’t in No Hurry (2015), and The River Flows (2021).

It is not fair to try and put forth a ‘here’s what Jorma has done’ bio, he has been such an inspirational force in both his own career, and the careers of others. I had the complete pleasure of catching back up with our pal as he heads to the Mineral Point Opera House on March 5th. We paint a picture for any first timers, get deep into the Hot Tuna scene and there is even something really super cool in the works for Jefferson Airplane for this coming October. Jorma is not shy to talk about what’s been going on, as you can tell from his blog and his oft-updated website – so it is easy to know what is going on. We get into the Burgers/birthday celebration slated for April 22nd at Carnegie Hall with friends of the proGram, Teresa Williams and Larry Campbell, and how influential that album still feels today. The conversation is as smooth as many of his lyrics and pickin’- oh, there is even a mention of a new guitar that will make an appearance here in Wisconsin. While it sounds ike two pals getting together and talkin’ shop, there is a lot happening in this chat to keep you looped in, and turned on.

Fresh Pickles And Chris Castino

Chris Castino is the primary songwriter for his longtime popular Minnesota-based rock’n’roll jamband The Big Wu. The Big Wu started in the mid 90’s and quickly ascended from the comforts of the local club scene to playing H.O.R.D.E Fest, Bonnaroo, Gathering of the Vibes, High Sierra, and the list goes on. Chris joined forces with the incredibly talented band Chicken Wire Empire from Milwaukee, WI, and took the opportunity, while sitting through COVID-19 lock-downs in 2020 and 2021, to arrange some of his catalog into impeccably fitting bluegrass tunes. With the addition of many of Chris’s lifelong musical heroes, including several GRAMMY winning artists (and some friends to the proGram) in the bluegrass & Americana: Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas, Andy Hall, Vince Herman, Nick Forster, & Keller Williams, this feels like a classic bluegrass album and sounds instantly familiar. “Fresh Pickles” aims to satisfy your cravings—it is a light-hearted, down-home concept that plays with the idea that although some of the songs were written many years before, they now feel brand new. Fresh.

“Fresh Pickles” features 11 original songs penned by Chris. All of which, but one, were first released on four of The Big Wu’s 5 studio albums spanning from 1997-2019, and will be independently released on February 4. I had the opportunity to chat with Chris about this brand new and exciting project. From the moment we start talking about the songs – the process and the artists – you can tell there was an almost “Christmas morning for the kid” feeling in Chris’ Voice. And, anytime I can hear someone talk about friend of the proGram, Jeff Austin, I am all ears. Listening to his record, I can understand why. Bluegrass fan, Wu fan, maybe its jamgrass….but music fans alike will find the ear appeal. Finding out how Chicken Wire Empire, who many of us around here in Madison have been diggin’ on, is a story worth hearing, and the whole thing made me wish I was in the room when the record button was hit. Open the music jar and grab yourself some “Fresh Pickles”.

Robert Finley Sharecropper’s Son

Robert Finley’s singing is as primal as an alligator & sweeter than late-summer honey. And on the new Sharecropper’s Son, he uses his marvelously expressive voice—which can glide from a gut-deep growl to a soothing purr to a transcendent falsetto all in one single phrase—to tell the story of his life in song. The album’s 10 numbers, produced by Dan Auerbach for his Easy Eye Sound label, are blues, soul, gospel, & rock-infused chapters from that life, weaving Mr. Finley’s own stories of picking cotton, country childhood, hardship on city streets, jail time, the pain and joy of love, the search for a better life & the dream of salvation into a spellbinding musical tale. You can hear that in how Mr. Finley and the band nearly breath together in songs like the gospel “Souled Out On You,” where the singer’s heart-piercing falsetto rings sharp and clear as an angel’s horn—underpinned by Auerbach’s fuzz-sweetened brown-butter guitar tone—and “Sharecropper’s Son,” where the musicians mine a deep, funky groove as Mr. Finley sings about his raising “out in the red hot sun, where the work is never done.” Cut-by-cut, this follow-up to his 2017’s Easy Eye Sound release “Going Platinum!” bristles w/the visceral energy that can only be captured by creatively charged musicians playing live & spontaneously in the studio. Of course, the fire behind the conflagrant performances on Sharecropper’s Son is Robert Finley, who was so deeply in the zone throughout that his lyrics & vocal approach for 2 of the album’s songs, the autobiographical “Country Child” and his manifesto of love and struggle, “Country Boy,” were improvised as he and the band rolled tape. Although he has long been a potent artist, for most of the past 20 years, after his blindness led him to semi-retirement, he’s mostly been playing little joints within an hour’s drive of Winnsboro—like Riverside Coney Island, which specializes in boiled crawfish, and Enoch’s Irish Pub & Café, both in Monroe, Louisiana. But his ascent has been swift since he was discovered in 2015 busking on the streets of Helena, Arkansas. In addition to touring more than 10 countries in the wake of his two earlier albums, he was also a contestant on the 2019 season of the TV competition America’s Got Talent reaching the semi-finals and quickly became a fan favorite during his run. His daughter Christy Johnson, who appeared with him on the show, also provides some backing vocals for Sharecropper’s Son.

I had the complete please of chatting with Mr. Finley about his upcoming performance here in Madison on January 22nd at the High Noon Saloon. We get into what folks in attendance can expect from that night’s show, including learning how you, the people there to see this show, are the most important thing in that moment for Mr. Finley. We take time to discuss how the new album went from there to here, then to now and how the stories seems so real, because they are. Certainly after listening to the new album, I do wish Mr. Finley was a name we all caught on to earlier….I bet the live show will back that up 100%.

UPDATE: This event has been moved to Feb 15th.

Celebrate Tony Rice With Barry Waldrep

In the era of modern music, describing any artist as the “greatest of all time” can often be met with resistance — if for no other reason than the ever-evolving tastes of both musicians and fans alike — but if the topic is bluegrass guitar players, there’s a universally correct answer to “who’s the best”; the late, great Tony Rice. Rice was unequivocally one of the most influential, inventive, and beloved musicians in all of bluegrass & Americana music, and after he passed away in late 2020, his songs and stylings continue to live on in the droves of musicians he inspired. This year, on the one-year anniversary of Rice’s passing, bluegrass instrumentalist and producer Barry Waldrep will be releasing quite the tribute to Mr. Rice with the 21-song, special-guest laden Barry Waldrep and Friends Celebrate Tony Rice. When looking through Waldrep’s list of friends, its apparent how far Rice’s music reached beyond just bluegrass. Americana greats Rodney Crowell and Jim Lauderdale and Jam-band royalty Warren Haynes and Oteil Burbridge make appearances alongside Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Spooner Oldham and Patrick Simmons & country superstars Vince Gill & Emmylou Harris. And that’s just a fraction of who’s contributed to this celebration of the music of Tony Rice. “Barry Waldrep and Friends Celebrate Tony Rice” will be available everywhere on December 24th.

I had the chance to catch up with Barry Waldrep to talk about someone we both grabbed onto early on in our ear careers. We talk about what is is about Mr. Rice’s ways that attracted us to him. Barry and I spend a whole lot of time dissecting the new album from songs to artists to give an insiders perspective into how this special collection became a reality. It is so clear that an open mind is part of the key to feeling the true impact of Mr. Rice’s music. There should be no boundaries. Our chat is not quite as great as the album – but I think the two go hand to ear or ear to hand. Check out some of the specifics:

Eclectic Electric With Joe Louis Walker

Friend of the proGram Joe Louis Walker is one of the greatest bluesmen of his generation. He is a four-time Blues Music Award winner and 2013 Blues Hall of Fame inductee who has appeared on multiple Grammy-winning albums. He is known worldwide as one of the genre’s top musical trailblazers—a mesmerizing guitarist and soul-testifying vocalist. The New York Times raves, “Walker is a singer with a Cadillac of a voice. He delivers no-nonsense, gutsy blues. His guitar solos are fast, wiry and incisive, moaning with bluesy despair.” Rolling Stone simply calls him “ferocious.” And Billboard writes: “His playing blows all over the map…gutbucket blues, joyous gospel, Rolling Stones-style rock crunch, and aching R&B. Walker’s guitar playing is fine and fierce.” Joe won the 2016 Blues Foundation Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year award at the Blues Foundation Awards ceremony in Memphis. The Blues Music Awards are universally recognized as the highest accolade afforded blues music performers. The annual Blues Music Awards ceremony is the premier event for blues professionals, musicians, and fans from all over the world.

I had the opportunity and pleasure to catch back up with Joe as he is set to release a brand new album on November 12th on Cleopatra Recordss titled “Eclectic Electric”. We spend some time talking about the songs and the guests and how people close to him kinda like to hear the way he spins the classics. We dissect a couple of the tunes so you know how they went down, like you were there yourself and we spend some time talking about our mutual pal, Bette Smith‘s work not only on the album, but perhaps a little more down the line as well. When you listen to Joe Louis Walker tell you about it….there is no wonder why he has been successful at doing what he does..it’s him.

Let Love Be Your Guide

Smithsonian Folkways has officially welcomed “Let Love Be Your Guide”, the first duo album by internationally renowned family musicians and family to the proGram, Claudia & Dan Zanes. The collection is a welcoming, freewheeling musical conversation about anti-racism, racial justice, and the joys of community. Conceived during the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings and coronavirus pandemic, the songs describe the new terms of togetherness – how we understand it, how we build it, and how we strive for more. Claudia & Dan like to describe their style – rooted in many different traditions including gospel, country, R&B, and traditional Haitian music – as electric folk. At the core it’s two voices and an electric guitar. The eclectic, warm, and accessible music the duo makes reflects the kindness and openness that underpin their message: out of isolation and hardship we can learn how to accept and heal the wounds of the past, and how to change and face the future with grace and compassion, regardless of our age. In addition to the usual ways that music enhances our daily lives, Claudia & Dan imagine that families will use these songs as a starting point for important and uplifting conversations at home. “Let Love Be Your Guide” was written and recorded in Baltimore shortly after the couple moved to the city from Brooklyn at the end of 2019. They had been there just a few months when the pandemic hit and they were left, like all of us, at home. In an effort to connect with others, they decided to record and share a new song online every day, creating a Social Isolation Song Series. The popular series, which was later acquired by the Library of Congress, delivered inspiration and hope by bringing people together when we were forced apart, providing light when things were so dark for the artists and their virtual audience. The series ended after two hundred days. The experience changed the couple as they realized more clearly what folk singers have always known: songs are here to inspire and uplift, but they’re also here to tell the stories and reflect the times, and these were indeed unprecedented and unforgettable times.

I had the pleasure to sit down and chat with family to the proGram, Claudia + Dan about the new release, “Let Love Be Your Guide”. We dive into how it formed out of the Isolation Song Series and how a new place to call home helped build onto the existing possibilities. Stories are told, laughs are definitely had and the inspiration of a first time duo album, by a duo meant to be, are easily felt when check ing out our chat. As always, the best way to dive into a new album is to find a way to get it into your earholes and heart and see how it wraps itself around you. I have a feeling you’ll see how an album about some serious themes can still be inviting to all and a celebration of each of us.

Songs And Stories With Tom Rush

Tom Rush is a gifted musician & performer, whose shows offer a musical celebration, a journey into the tradition & spectrum of what music has been, can be, and will become. His distinctive guitar style, wry humor and warm, expressive voice have made him both a legend and a lure to audiences around the world. His shows are filled with the deep sincere laughter of terrific story-telling, the sweet melancholy of ballads and the passion of those gritty blues. Mr. Rush’s impact on the American music scene has been profound. He helped shape the folk revival in the ’60s and the renaissance of the ’80s and ’90s, his music having left its stamp on generations of artists. James Taylor told Rolling Stone, “Tom was not only one of my early heroes, but also one of my main influences.” Country music star Garth Brooks has credited Mr. Rush with being one of his top five musical influences. Mr. Rush has long championed emerging artists. His early recordings introduced the world to the work of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne & James Taylor, and in more recent years his Club 47® concerts have brought artists such as Nanci Griffith and Shawn Colvin to wider audiences when they were just beginning to build their own reputations. Mr. Rush has always displayed an uncanny knack for finding wonderful songs, and writing his own – many of which have become classics re-interpreted by new generations. Today, Tom Rush lives in New England when he’s not touring. His voice has grown even richer and more melodic, and his music, like a fine wine, has matured and ripened in the blending of traditional and modern influences. He’s written a number of new songs. He’s doing what he loves, and what audiences love him for: writing and playing …passionately, tenderly…knitting together the musical traditions and talents of our times.

I had the chance to catch up with friend of the proGram, Mr. Tom Rush about his upcoming show at the Bur Oak in Madison on September 28th. During this “Evening With Tom Rush”, he will be accompanied by a young creative talent, Matt Nakoa. Mr. Rush and I get into a little about how excited he is to getting back out there and sharing songs, stories and time with real people. We talk about the life of his songs and those stories as well as a what he has been up to during the times away from touring. We talk a little about this year’s 50th Shaboo Inn anniversary event he was a part of where one other bands in attendance did a song he does and did. We pondered if a superhuman can capo a pacemaker? And with many adaptations throughout the years, Mr. Rush continues to be a prominent musical voices for people who observe the every day with eyes wide. After tuning into this chat, the only way to really get why Mr. Rush is so important, is to be in a live room with him. Hope you can.

(see Bur Oak Covid policy here)

Photo: Bob Stegmaier

Backyard Tire Fire Is Back

Backyard Tire Fire is back! The Midwestern alt-country band’s forthcoming EP ‘Black Dirt Blue Sky’ dropping today via Black Dirt Records/Royal Potato Family. The five-song collection marks the first new music from Backyard Tire Fire in eleven years. The rebirth of Backyard Tire Fire springs forth with an undeniable burst of musical energy. Fans will cheer the band’s return the way families celebrate a long-awaited reunion. The music radiates a spirit of renewal, like a John Deere tractor turning over a patch of rich soil. And the musicians pack more passion into the material than a team of horses in their prime, eager to work. The recordings show how much bandmates Edward David Anderson, Matt Anderson, Scott Tipping and John Ganser are happy to play new songs together after a decade-long hiatus. ‘Black Dirt Blue Sky’ is loaded with moments that coax smiles and recall good memories. “Carefree Kids” inspires nostalgia, while “Truck Stop Shower” negotiates the ups and downs of a life lived hard with guest vocals by Garrison Starr. The band’s experience touring the USA and recording a series of timeless alt-country records in the early aughts informs the present-day energy of tunes like “Little Wren” and “House Of Cards.” Holding up alongside the best of Backyard Tire Fire from years past, the music shines with beauty and joy, like light at the end of a long tunnel. Backyard Tire Fire will return to the stage for a handful of select performances, including their own Black Dirt Music Festival in Bloomington, IL on Saturday, September 11 to be headlined by fellow Illinois band, Wilco.

It’s been a few years now, but I had a chance to reconnect with Backyard Tire Fire’s founding member, primary songwriter and friend of the proGram, Edward David Anderson. We talk about the new music, where it came from and how it was made ready to go down as a BTF collection. We dissect a couple of the tracks, so that feeling of being there when pen hits paper or strings get strummed for their birth is true. We also talked about life, where it was, where it’s been and some hopes for where it could be going and how all that translates into stories, the reason this band means so much to me…it’s the stories and how they are easily relatable for me as both a listener and a music sharer. A few years back when chatting with Cody, (Chicago Farmer), he and I discussed the influences they bounced off one another and same thing goes down in this chat. This is why is we his songs seem to “get us” is discussed. There might even have been mention of a children’s album and book. Say what? If you’ve been waiting, that part is now over and it’s time to get reconnected with a little Backyard Tire Fire of your own. I think this new EP is a great place to (re)start.

Under Tito Jackson’s Spell

Tito Jackson has spent his entire life tempting music lovers w/soulful harmonies interwoven w/curvaceous rhythms as a member of Motown’s greatest discovery, The Jackson 5, and presently as a multi-faceted solo artist. His unyielding passion for blues, R&B, pop, and other music forms is the secret to his boundless energy & unique achievements in the ever-changing & at times heartless business. In 1962, before the Jackson 5 & the Jacksons, Tito performed in a local group called The Jackson Brothers. After competing & winning local talent shows in and around Gary, the precocious brothers were victorious again on the most prestigious amateur stage of all — Manhattan’s Apollo Theater. In that same year Tito & his brothers made their first studio recording, titled “Big Boy.” Not only did it turn out to be a local hit, but it set the stage for a partnership with Motown Records and appearances on the top-rated Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, Soul Train, & later, their own primetime television series in 1976, on CBS. In addition to this, Tito and his brothers’ soaring popularity with America’s youth was so captivating that they were captioned in a Saturday morning, ABC TV animation series. Tito and his brothers signed with Epic Records and officially came under a new name, The Jacksons, in 1976. In 1978 he co-wrote the songs “Everybody,” “Destiny,” and “Push Away” for his new record label. As the group The Jackson’s, including Tito, they self-produced the Destiny album. Later, for the Victory album Tito produced, wrote, and sang on “We Can Change The World,” which was featured on their popular Victory Tour. A father of three men (Taj, Taryll, and TJ), known to the music world as 3T, Tito works closely with his sons. This is consistent with the fine direction that he received from his loving mother Katherine & his caring father Joe. In addition to working with sisters Janet, Rebbie, & La Toya, Tito has worked with countless fine musicians, singers, and producers. One of the performing highlights of the remarkable career of Tito Jackson is the unforgettable reunion performance on one of histories most watched television specials, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (1983). The show signaled a pivotal point in his dazzling career and an auspicious focus on likely the greatest performer to ever grace a stage, Michael Jackson. In 1997 Tito and his brothers were ceremonially honored as inductees of the well-respected Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In September 2001, nearly 17 years after their last performance together, all 6 Jackson brothers reunited for 2 performances at Madison Square Garden for a 30th anniversary special commemorating Michael’s solo career. Tito’s initial success with the recording masterpieces “I Want You Back,” “Never Can Say Goodbye”, “I’ll Be There,” (best selling single in Motown’s history), and other mega-hits is the start of an amazing journey thru modern musical immortality. Tito also rocks the world through various riveting live shows with his brothers, his own band & the BB King Blues Band. His brother Michael had this to say about him, “Tito is very quiet and soft, but can be really strong when necessary. He’s always there when we need him and manages to project an inner calm which is vital within a family unit”. Those statements have proven to be consistently true through the ups and downs of the exciting but rigorous show business lifestyle. As an international artist, Tito has garnered great respect from peers & fans alike. His emphasis on fairness & loyalty in the music business community is a hallmark of his selfless style. This legend’s mark on music history & the rich legacy that he established is one that has stood the test of time and is one that will flourish for as long as there is a song to sing!

I had the complete honor to sit down and chat it up with this living legend, Hall Of Famer and a true gentleman, Mr. Tito Jackson. Mr. Jackson and I spent time discussing his new release “Under Your Spell” on Gulf Coast Records. We get into a few of the tracks and how the amazing lineup of accompanying artists added their “them” to the project. We talk about the lead single “Love One Another” and moreover, the video for this anthemesque tune that reminds us all about this simple thing…and its the list of the who Mr. Jackson has in the video to help get that message out. Of course, no good chat with a one and only member of the most influential family in pop music/culture goes on without some stories of the then and how it got all of us to the now, toGether. I am honored to have had the chance to do my little part to help spread this message and hope you’ll dig into the album and this conversation to see what’s what (and even a hint of what’s possibly next…did someone say Sly Stone?).

New World Blues With Alastair Greene

As Alastair Greene’s prolific and acclaimed career rounds the corner into a third decade, he finds himself arriving at a new, yet familiar destination. Following a 2018 live album that celebrated the 20th anniversary of his noteworthy Alastair Greene Band, the singer-songwriter/guitarist returns with an inspired solo collection, “The New World Blues”, and a tonic for these times. “I’m not a prophet by any stretch of the imagination,” Greene says. “But, this record is even more relevant now than when I wrote it in 2019. A much in-demand guitarist and vocalist, Greene traveled the world, touring with the legendary Alan Parsons Live Project from 2010 – 2017, as well as stints with Starship featuring Mickey Thomas and, most recently, Blues Music Award-winner Sugaray Rayford. His work with Parsons, in particular, sparked a conversation with renowned multi-instrumentalist and producer Tab Benoit at a Las Vegas blues festival. In 2019, Greene signed with Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Records label.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Alastair ahead of the August 11th show along with Tab Benoit here in Madison at The Barrymore Theater.. We painted a brief picture of what is to be expected when he hits the stage. Believe me, if you are fans of Tab Benoit, you’ll want to pay attention to this. We spend a good amount of time talking about the album that came out late last year that he is touring on the back of “The New World Blues” and how it was recorded and where some of the songs originated from and how the openness of working with Tab opened new sonic doors, thus created an album of songs that have a feel of each artist within it. Alastair was also kind enough to think of a few artists he might build a set around one of the tracks off this brilliant album, to me that list could really extend all over that bluesy/rocksy scene and well beyond. Check out the show, check out the album and feel this music for yourself.

Cole Bales Of Black Light Animals

Black Light Animals are a psychedelic soul group hailing from the Midwest. Taking equal influence from ’70s Italian horror soundtracks, Wu Tang samples, and Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, their sprawling debut album explores themes of humanity, social media obsession, political division, and the concept of “amusing ourselves to death.” Sonically rich and full of spaghetti western guitars, psychedelic keyboards, hip hop rhythms, and lush vocals, “Playboys of the Western World” comes off as some forgotten ’70s film soundtrack, while exploring themes very much relevant to today. Black Light Animals’ “Playboys of the Western World” will be available August 20th on limited vinyl, CD and streaming/digital formats via Groove King Records.

I had the chance to catch up with frontman of Black Light Animals, Cole Bales recently to dive a little deeper into the creation of both the band and this stellar debut album, “Playboys of the Western World”. We get into how it all went from there to here both as a group and as song creators. We chat a bit about the differences for him between B.L.A. and another group ole is in, a more soul oriented outfit, The Freedom Affair and Cole even takes a little time to choose a track off the new album that he would build a set around for the radio show, and what other things he’d surround that track with. It is always a pleasure to dig into an album and after several listens and shares, and still be unsure what to actually call the sounds.. Hoping you all with dig in and wonder with me.

Joe Marcinek Talks JMB4

Joe Marcinek Band is an experience you will never forget. That is because each show features a different lineup of musicians creating a different set of music every night. The music is equal parts Chicago Blues, New Orleans Funk, Grateful Dead Psychedelia, and that magical Jazz Fusion. Joe tours nationally from New York to LA and everywhere in between. Most of the lineups will only happen one time making every night a can’t miss show. The group has featured many prominent special guests including Bernie Worrell (P-Funk, Talking Heads), Melvin Seals (Jerry Garcia Band), George Porter JR (The Meters), Ivan Neville (Dumpstaphunk), Alan Evans (Soulive), Kris Myers (Umphrey’s McGee), Tony Hall (Dumpstaphunk, Dave Mathews & Friends), Shaun Martin (Snarky Puppy, Kirk Franklin), Allen Aucoin (the Disco Biscuits), Jason Hann (String Cheese Incident / EOTO), Erik “Jesus” Coomes (Lettuce), Borahm Lee (Break Science), Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman (Trey Anastasio Band), Mike Greenfield (Lotus), Borham Lee (Break Science), Steve Molitz (Phil Lesh & Friends / Particle) Joey Porter (The Motet / Juno What), Fareed Haque, Scott Metzger, Nate Werth (Snarky Puppy) Garrett Sayers (The Motet) Allie Kral (Yonder Mountain String Band), Freekbass, Vinnie Amico and Jim Loughlin (moe.) and that list keeps growing.

I had the chance to catch up with our brother to the proGram, Joe Marcinek about the brand new release,JMB4, We get into the process leading up to these songs on this album, the songwriting experience and this all-star band featuring himself, drummer Nikki Glaspie (The Nth Power), bassist Tony Hall (Dumpstaphunk), and keyboardist/organist Shaun Martin (Snarky Puppy). In addition, JMB4 includes special guest appearances from a pile of talented friends including Eric Gales, Roosevelt Collier, Eric “Benny” Bloom (Lettuce), and Jason Hann (The String Cheese Incident). We are even able to talk a bit about getting back out on the road and we don’t hesitate to give props to the visual and concept artist behind the art, Yhali Ilan. Always spreading the joy and love of the music and the art, Joe Marcinek with whomever he’s playing with is going to be a fun and “in the moment” time.

Art by: Yhali Ilan

Whole Nother World with Patti Parks & Kenny Neal

It is always nice to et introduced to a new artist. For me, the new album by blues/soul singer Patti Parks is my first ear meeting with her. She’s releasing a new album entitled Whole Nother World, which is produced by GRAMMY AWARD-nominated blues great Kenny Neal. Patti, a Buffalo, NY native and a Buffalo Music Hall of Fame inductee, is, as expected, really excited about the release of this collection of songs. Recorded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at Brookstown Recording Studios (Kenny Neal’s studio), Whole Nother World was released on May 28 on Mr. Neals’ Booga Music label. Along with producing the album, Mr. Neal arranged and also performs masterfully on it. A riveting live performer, Patti has a soulful, sensual voice that does immense justice to her uplifting blend of Chicago blues, Memphis soul and tasty funk.

I had the opportunity to cacth up with both Patti and Mr. Neal to dive in a little deeper into this fantastic new release. We get into the history of some of the songs, including a story of loss and regain. We learn both how Patti worked differently on this album that work previous, with her being in a whole new element Mr. Neal’s hometown and in his revered studio. It was also really fascination to get an idea of how Mr. Neal goes about creating, using his ears to see what the story is and how it gets to the place he might have heard it in his mind….legends do! Of course, there’s the music and then there’s the give back. Patti has been a working nurse and is creator of the Nurs’n Blues education program, which she developed to help high risk children at drug rehab centers, so we made sure to give some shout outs to this great work.

Truth In Sound: Marcus Rezak

Marcus Rezak carves out a distinguished style in the world of guitar with several cutting-edge groups such as Shred is Dead, Digital Tape Machine, Stratosphere All-Stars, Katharsis, Supernatural Beings in addition to frequent engagements as an artist-at-large. Known as a master of jazz improvisation and a seasoned artist of the sit-in, Marcus is a frequent call among bands and musicians. His 2018 debut as a bandleader saw him collaborating alongside Kris Myers and Joel Cummins of Umphrey’s McGee, Arthur Barrow of Frank Zappa’s band, and legendary saxophonist Bill Evans. Since then he has toured across the US with eclectic lineups featuring the likes of Ike Willis, Kris Myers, Jay Lane, Scott Page, and more; led his band through two tours on the US Virgin Islands; spearheaded official Umphrey’s McGee afterparties, and continued to hone his chops in his home studio and licensing endeavors. ‘Truth in Sound’ is his most recent work featuring members of Trey Anastasio Band, esteemed percussionist Kalyan Pathak, and more. His adaptability and exceptional skill have garnered Marcus much deserved respect in the music world and have leveraged his ability to take his craft to integral heights.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Marcus to talk about the brand new music of “Truth In Sound” out now on Color Red Music. We dive into how the EP came together and the parts were put in place. We talk about working with the folks who signed on to get the project off the ground, their contributions to complete the vision within and ready for consumption and the ear share. There is a twist of course. Shortly after the release, one of those perfect fits to complete the project, Mr. Tony Markellis suddenly passed away. Marcus talks about the feelings that come with the release now versus the moments shortly before and how this music will be able to help carry a well deserved and very brought torch in Tony’s name. Check out the chat and help celebrate the more that comes with this release.

Todd Clouser And Cinema Music Plus

Todd Clouser is a composing guitarist, songwriter & performer based between Mexico City and the USA. Combining elements of rock, jazz blues, spoken word & improvised musics, he has toured the world with his group A Love Electric, as a solo act and performed alongside luminaries from John Lurie to John Zorn, Flea, Cyro Baptista, John Medeski, Keb Mo, and more, performing at rock, jazz and world music festivals across the globe. His prolific output & genre-evading creativity had NPR call Todd “a fascinating musician ….. (he) doesn’t belong to any scene and doesn’t want to”, and Mexico City’s La Jornada mentioning the group as “one of the most important acts of recent years”. A native of Minneapolis, MN, Todd grew up traveling the USA following his favorite artists & self publishing poetry/recordings before being signed to Ropeadope Records for his first “proper” release, entitled “A Love Electric”. As time/tours passed, A Love Electric became a band, first an instrumental act joined by NYC downtown scene heroes Steven Bernstein, Cyro Baptista, & Billy Martin, eventually settling as a trio that explores Todd’s songwriting while honoring the inquisition and fearlessness or jazz tradition, w/Hernan Hecht on drums & Aaron Cruz on bass. The trio has gone on to release 6 records on labels in the US & Mexico while performing nearly 1,000 concerts in the span of 7 years. So much has happened since those early days. Philanthropy/community outreach work has been an important of his work in Mexico and beyond. With the founding of his “Music Mission” initiative, Todd and patrons have donated thousands of dollars worth of instruments, education materials, workshops and basic needs support to communities in Nicaragua, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Mexico City, Durango etc. Todd is also the founder of Ropeadope Sur, a record label based out of Mexico City with a focus on Mexican acts in search of increased projection of their music, the first act signed being Los Cardencheros de Sapioriz, an acapella group singing slave-era songs on the ranches on northern Mexico.

It’s always nice to visit with family and Todd and I had a chance to catch up as he is heading to Madison on May 124th to play Garver Feed Mill in a trio with Alex Mercado and Rodrigo Villaneva. We get into the event which is entitled Cinema Music for Unmade Film and the tour that it is a part of. We spend some time also talking about his latest releases, “Fake Dudes” by Magnet Animals on Rare Noise Records, and a brand new live album on Ropeadope Sur called “Live, Loft, Köln”. The best part of all the things Todd is a part of is that there are so many kinds….it really provides me, a listeners and a sharer of music to learn so much about so many. I think this latest conversation will do the same.

Black Eyed Peace

Atlanta based producer Matt Mansfield aka Piper Street Sound has created a stunningly beautiful & collaborative EP of instrumental Reggae music with legendary Reggae guitarist Andy Bassford (Toots and the Maytals, Dennis Brown, Horace Andy, Culture, Roots Radics). Black Eyed Peace follows 2020’s Small Plate / Rid Them EP but puts a focus on guitar melodies masterfully executed by Maestro Bassford. The songs still bear that special Piper Street customary horn heavy & dub infused stylin’ but on this release, the flow moves into some new territory; elements of Rocksteady, major keys now bouncing alongside their minor key brethren, Yaya Brown’s akete drumming prods and propels the rhythms carved by the uber-tight drumming of Brian Daggett and the bass of Mansfield, Chris Case’s keyboard mastery blazes alongside, almost at times within the horns of Will Scruggs, Jonathan Lloyd and Dashill Smith. Black Eyed Peace is a collaborative affair pieced together gradually over the course of the pandemic, the horn sessions miraculously took place the week before everything shut down, and all other elements were recorded in home studios and electronically gathered by Matt, who then helped to guide them through the forest of the unknown into a toGetherness of today, many of us seek to find.

I had the opportunity to spend a little quality time with Andy Bassford to get a deeper look and feel into what led to his accepting this fantastic project as something he could feel ready to attach his name to. We get an inside look into his decision making, the vibrancy of the newly found relationship with Matt and even the possibilities of what comes next sonically. When you listen in, it sounds like the discovery of what could be has just beGun. Andy has been around so many of the great artists and sounds of a genre specifically, but I believe after listening in on this conversation, you’d agree that he is clearly in the business for the music, and I am so excited that Matt and he have found each other, and as that door keeps opening, we will all benefit from future collaborations and new found friends.

FREQUENCY EQUILIBRIUM KOAN by MGJ

One of the most influential guitarists to emerge during New York’s avant-garde loft jazz scene has returned to influence a new generation of edge-pushing, genre-hopping musicians. Michael Gregory Jackson has tread a winding musical path over his 40+ year career, embracing everything from creative music, jazz, blues, rock and electronica soundscapes to harmonically rich & lyrically-deep vocal tunes, with the complex arrangements & subtleties that are a signature of his music. His ability to span musical genres was best captured by one reviewer’s depiction as “Musical Mercury.” He was barely of his teens when he served as co-creator in the Oliver Lake Quartet, one of the most critically acclaimed & far-traveling ensembles working jazz’s outer fringes. Michael’s brilliant technique on electric & acoustic, flavored with quicksilver runs, volume pedal swells and sudden shifts from crystalline melodic to fuzzy dissonance, has been name-checked as a critical-influence, and can be heard deep in the musical DNA of six-string legends like Bill Frisell, Vernon Reid, Pat Metheny, Marc Ribot, Mary Halvorson & others. His journey from the avant-garde to what the industry regarded as a more commercial, song-based sound was thankfully and intriguingly gradual. It gave fans with inquiring taste a ringside seat to an evolution that unfolded subtly over a series of superb albums, ones that continue to be favorites of critics and his fellow musicians. Jackson’s newest release, Frequency Equilibrium Koan, will come out on Golden Records in February 2021. Frequency Equilibrium Koan is a 1977 recording of an extraordinary concert of Michael’s music at Joe Lee Wilson’s New York City venue, The Ladies’ Fort, performed by an extraordinary quartet: Michael Gregory Jackson (guitars & percussion), Julius Hemphill (alto saxophone), Abdul Wadud (cello), Pheeroan aKLaff (drums). Featuring 40 minutes of music and liner notes by Michael and guitarist Bill Frisell, Frequency Equilibrium Koan offers listeners a priceless opportunity to experience a key moment in NYC’s long lost Loft Jazz Scene of the 1970s, with Michael at that scene’s heart.

I had the honor of connecting with Michael Gregory Jackson primarily about this particular release to get deeper into the who and what, the now and then and the journeys between. We talk the scene, the people and the magic of not missing moments. I have been listening to and sharing his music for many years now, and this release makes me feel as close to that NYC Jazz Loft scene as I have ever felt, I believe some of those notes are still ringing thru the streets of the city. Head over to his bandcamp page to get your own taste and see what I mean.