Veedon Fleece – 42 years on

In 1974, Van Morrison returned to his roots, and emerged with his eighth studio LP, the long underrated, Veedon Fleece. The record, though originally slammed by critics, is much alike the triumphant Astral Weeks, a boiling pot of poetry; a mystifying exploration of genre limits, with a stream of consciousness styling. Written in under three weeks after divorcing wife, Janet Planet, and returning to his hometown of Belfast in ’73, Veedon Fleece encapsulates these experiences, providing an aura of darkness whilst his renowned sense of romanticism creeps just below the surface.

At the core lies Linden Arden Stole the Highlights, a two minute and 30 second enigma. Morrison’s full-tone phrasing is eloquent, hearty, and flows fluidly with the rolling keys, as he tells the story of a mystery man through poetry and prose ‘The moon and sun and whisky ran like water through his veins’. As the song closes with ‘Now he’s living, living with a gun’ the theme lingers on into neighbouring track, Who Was That Masked Man.

Who Was That Masked Man is ambiguous, with a hauntingly high vocal execution that shoots in and out, intensifying as the string section enters at the bridge. As the chronicle unfolds, as does the best lyricism on the record  ‘You’re such a rare collector’s item when they throw away what’s trash’, until eventually the two track journey through the dark districts of Morrison’s mind are brought to a halt with ‘No matter what they tell you there’s living evil in everyone’.

Cul De Sac takes the LP round a soul cleansing bend, and right through to its crux, with light licks, weighty beats, and indelible bass lines. Morrison stains the memory with strident grunts, mumbles, and screams that spew through as he repeats his phrases. Standing firmly as the albums pinnacle, the instrumentation is a seamless patchwork of Gospel, Blues, and Soul, arranged in a way that only the John Keats of Rock ‘n Roll could muster.

Despite what the critics once said, Veedon Fleece is the quintessence of Morrison’s works, each twist and turn urges you to feel something, and does so with only the slightest of arrogance. Van Morrison is at his unparalleled best, in what is one of the greatest forgotten albums in music history.

Peace, love, and keep singin’ the Blues,

CKR

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Thoughts on Prince 1958-2016

 
When I woke up on Friday morning, news of Prince’s premature death at 57 years old was not what was I was expecting to be hit in the face with – this was one instance where breakfast could wait. Immediately I thought back to just eight weeks ago, when I was pondering on whether or not I could afford to purchase a ticket to his Piano and a Microphone tour, and decided that the money could be used elsewhere, “I’ll see him again” I figured. Well, I was wrong, and as I laid in bed, alive and well, in the midst of feeling all kinds of sorry for myself for missing out on the opportunity to see him, I realized I was doing it all wrong. This isn’t about me -This week, the world has lost a musical genius; a man whose innovative guitar playing, superb songwriting, and unpredictable nature were second to none, and whose fabulous essence whisked upon us a patchwork of happiness, heartbreak, and a shit-ton of dance moves. He was the master at making people feel, and like his counterpart Bowie, did so in a way that was totally of his own. A transgressive spirit to the ultimate degree. 

From For You to HITnRUN Phase Two, Prince’s purple reign altered lives, mended broken worlds, and allowed people to see the light. One of the most gifted songwriters of the century; he was a true individual, with a real, genuine adoration for his fans, and fashion sense to boot. Millions have made memories to Prince records, and I’ll forever be thankful for the impromptu late night dance sessions inspired by his music, and witnessing my sister perfectly emulate the entire dance from the Kiss music video. As a fan I know that his soul can rest at peace because there are millions more yet to discover his artistry, and whose view of the world will change as soon as they indulge. His is a legacy that will continue to give long after he’s gone, and in his honour I’m going to spin some records, and Fallinlove2nite, all over again.

Goodnight, and fly on sweet Prince. No one could ever take the place of our man. 1958-2016

Peace, love, and keep singin’ the Blues,

CKR

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10 crucial moments of Bluesfest 2016

Bluesfest 2016 was an absolute banger. With a line-up almost too impressive to beat, giant doughnuts worthy of all our hard earned dollars, and the sun shining down for 4 out of the 5 days, there isn’t much to complain about, except for Brian Wilson being as underwhelming as the Adidas tracksuit pants he was wearing.

Here are 10 of the best moments from this year’s festival, moments that crept up, and hit us right in the face, soul, and other important areas. Moments that are sure to be lingering in our minds whilst we all get back to the depressing reality of non-festival life.

Bluesfest

For those that missed the incredible onslaught of festivities that washed over the Tea Tree Farm over the Easter Weekend, here are 10 crucial moments of Bluesfest 2016 – from reunions to Tom Jones’ doing what he does best.

10. Jackson Browne performing Running on Empty

Having spent many a mornings singing along to Jackson Browne records with my mama, it’s no surprise that as soon as he walked out on stage Sunday afternoon, my stomach had dropped down to the floor, and my heart was pumping faster than a breastfeeding mother with a thousand errands to run. I had successfully managed to hold back the tears until Running on Empty busted through the amps – I was GONE, and as was each and every soul around me. It was an evocative performance that sounded even greater than it did on vinyl. YES, even greater than the vinyl, and that says a hell of a lot.

9. Eagles of Death Metal dedicating Cherry Cola to a young fan

EOD put on an intoxicating show on Saturday. Seemingly happy to be performing at Bluesfest (or at all) they roamed around the festival all morning, talking to fans, and generally being the bad asses they are. When they dedicated Cherry Cola to a young fan they’d met before the set, and launched into the song full throttle, a myriad of positive energies were thrust right around the tent. A gorgeous moment that united the band with the peeps that love em.

8. Matt Taylor ‘suckin’ and blowin’ on his nine inch

When Matt Taylor whipped out his nine inch harmonica during Chain’s set it’s safe to say, shit got real. There wasn’t a still body in the house. As he played his harp it was like a monsoon had hit, people were wooing and knees were a knockin’. They may be a little older than they were back in ’68 but their playing was nothing short of intense. A good ol’ authentic dose of some much needed Aussie Blues.

7. Kendrick working the crowd like the King he is

To be completely truthful this was all I witnessed of Kendrick’s set, but it was more than enough to astound me. Like most Blues lovers, I was a little sceptical about rap’s newest ‘genius’ being the headliner but having been a part of the crowd for these few moments threw every bit of scepticism out the window. Kendrick worked the crowd like it was life or death, getting everyone to ‘jump, jump, jump’ during Momma. There was an energy enshrouding the audience that I didn’t witness in any other set. It was god damn fucking magical and I ain’t ashamed to admit it.

6. St Paul and the Broken Bones rendition of I’ve Been Loving You For Too Long

Of all the performers on this years’ line-up, St Paul and the Broken Bones was the name on everyone’s lips. Their robust, fever heightening set caught a hold of every spirit in attendance, and caught me hook, line and sinker during a soulin’ rendition of Otis Redding’s I’ve Been Loving You Too Long. Falling to his knees, and crying out like he’d lost everything he owns, front-man Paul Janeway belted out what I dare say could be the greatest Otis cover I’ve had the pleasure of hearing. His naughty little dances didn’t go unnoticed either… oh what a man, what a voice, what a band.

5. The Pierce Brothers’ somersaults mid performance

Anyone who witnessed one or both of the Pierce Brothers’ sets would know just how high energy, low key, and completely captivating they were. During their final set on the Crossroads stage they broke out into rollie pollies mid performance, moments after using the stage foundation for percussion, and seconds before breaking out the digeridoo and harmonica. These Melburnian twins were every bit as impressive as the bigger acts to grace the stages’. Raw, humble, home-grown and full of talent – what’s not to love?

4. Taj Mahal’s first solo performance in 20 years

Technically Taj’s set was more than a moment, but as his first solo performance in 20 years it deserves a spot on my list. With guitars, a keyboard, and his hearty vocals in tow he swept us into a batch of ‘finger picking, country style blues’. The standout was his performance of Lovin’ in My Baby’s Eyes a cosmic hymn that shows exactly what the blues is all about; a man, his guitar, and a whole lot of feel. As the legend himself said “… it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you been, you’re a human being and you’re gonna get the Blues”, it just so happened that he could cure our case of ’em with a simple song about loving his woman.

3. Jason Isbell tearing through a solo on his glittery red Stratocaster

Jason Isbell’s live performances are transcendent, he’s known for taking the conscious on a journey through his story telling, and that’s exactly what he did on Monday night. In amongst his heart tugging works of art, things took a turn for the heated when he switched from his acoustic, to a gorgeous, glittery gal and ripped through a solo on Never Gonna Change, a song from his days with Drive By Truckers. Every inch of my body was with him as he moved round those six strings like a dog on heat. He’s evidently a man of many talents, and that particular moment had me gasping for air.

2. Witnessing Derek and Susan do their thang

EVERY SINGLE MOMENT of the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s set was ethereal. Derek didn’t speak to the crowd but instead gifted us with spiritual slide playing that when combined with Susan’s vocals was powerful enough to reach the good Lord himself. Along with being a complete powerhouse, Susan teared through a number of Blues solos, officially making her the woman of everyone’s dreams. I already figured they were god amongst men, but seeing them live is a whole new ball game. Impressive is an understatement.

1. Tom Jones singing Sex Bomb

It’s surely no surprise that the moment Tom Jones broke out intoSex Bomb was the finest, sweatiest, and most tantalizing of them all. As underwear went flying (including my own) the boy beside me blissfully explained that he didn’t need to take his briefs off, for witnessing this revered legend in the flesh meant they were ‘already around his ankles’. We danced, we sang, and fangirled something fierce. It was a moment that could simply not be topped. The man with the golden voice had cast a spell that couldn’t be broken. The perfect ending to another cracker of a festival. Kudos for the good times, flying G-strings, and invigorating tunes Bluesfest. Until next year.

Peace, love, and keep singin’ the Blues,
CKR

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UltraUnderground PODCAST

UltraUnderground – Episode 1 is all about me, myself, and the bangin’ Canadian alt-country rockers, The Bros Landreth.

P.s. the label is Slate Creek Records…

Here are 5 of their MUST hear performances:

5. Runaway Train

4. Nothing

3. I Am The Fool

2. Tappin’ On The Glass

1.Our Love

Peace, love, and keep singin’ the Blues,

CKR

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Ten Must See Acts at Bluesfest 2016

In 2015, Bluesfest director Peter Noble promised that this year’s line-up would foresee their biggest marriage of genres to date, and with everyone from Brian Wilson to Kendrick Lamar due to make an appearance he’s certainly delivered. But with such mastery expected to be flowing across the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm in such a short space of time, things can get a little overwhelming. So we’ve narrowed it down to 10 acts you simply cannot miss.

From 2016’s answer to Otis Redding, to a BB King endorsed, contemporary guitar god, these 10 musicians are a must see for those who have an insatiable case of the heart breaking, guitar manipulating, psyche sophisticating blues, and want to be cured by the best the festival has to offer. As Noble so perfectly put it “There are just so many discoveries to make”.

blind boy paxton

Bluesfest is back and bigger than ever! Amongst the deluge of great artists there are a select few you can’t afford to miss at Bluesfest 2016.

10. Shakey Graves

Alejandro Rose-Garcia, better known as Shakey Graves, is no newbie on the Americana scene. With a day dedicated to him in Austin, Texas, and a self-made, one-man band setup, he’s enthralled audiences over the US with his hobo-folk charms that exude authenticity, and at time freneticism. The best way to fall in love with Graves’ compositions is in a live setting, and he’ll be making his Bluesfest debut this year, on the back of his latest recordAnd The War Came. With his pre-loved suitcase kick drum, semi-acoustic hollow body, poignant lyricism, and Jeff Buckley aesthetic he will surely break and mend a few hearts around the Byron area.

 

9. Con Brio

Every good festival should include a slice of supreme soul, and Bluesfest have triumphed with this year’s line-up featuring Con Brio – a smooth sailing, jazz inflicted, soul funk band. Fronted by James Brown reincarnation Ziek McCarter, the group utilise a bombastic horn section, slinky guitar tones, dynamic beats, and rich, intrepid vocal gymnastics in order to get people dancing, and panties droppin’. Since the 2015 release of EP Kiss The Sun, these bright stars have been burning a hole through the San Francisco music scene, and will no doubt bring the same sultry energies to Aussie shores this March.

8. St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Despite the rise in Soul acts on this year’s bill, newcomers St Paul and the Broken Bones are some of the best this generation has to offer, and they’re bringing all their Sam Cooke, Otis Redding style preachin’ to the Tea Tree Farm this March, for us Aussies to soak up and melt into. Their debut LP Half The City (2014) garnered them critical acclaim, saw them embark on extensive tours worldwide, and open for The Rolling Stones, giving ex bank teller, turned vocalist Paul Janeway all the crooner credibility needed. With their second full length record in the pipeline, we may even be subject to a taste of some decadent new tracks.

7. Tedeschi Trucks Band

Grammy award winning Blues Rock supergroup, Tedeschi Trucks Band, have been making waves and astounding audiences on the blues scene since their formation in 2010, and the release of their debut LP Revelator. Featuring husband and wife duo; singer, songwriter, and guitarist Susan Tedeschi, and the man Rolling Stone slated the 16th greatest guitarist of all time, Derek Trucks, together the pair have created a slide soaked, horn heavy concoction that echoes the sounds produced by Delany & Bonnie during their days with Skydog. This 11 piece troupe are sure to slap us Aussies into a foot stompin’, blues coma before the end of their Bluesfest stint.

6. Lucky Peterson

Discovered by Willie Dixon at the age of 5, Peterson is as his name suggests, one lucky son of a gun. At 51, Peterson is already a blues veteran whose signature sound merges vehement vocals, with an endless flow of ferocious blues riffs, and licks – all whilst maintaining an on stage sassiness on par with that of Buddy Guy’s, and a spiritedness equal to that of Santana’s. With the release of his latest LP The Son of a Bluesman in mid-2014, we festival goers are sure to be treated to a round of deluxe, guitar ridden showmanship.

5. The Pierce Brothers

With earthy harmonies draped in harp, driving beats, and didgeridoo, Australian duo, Jack and Pat Pierce have brought together a hefty cocktail of contemporary folk, and bluegrass. With musicianship as tight as their bond, they’ve toured worldwide, rapidly making a name for themselves as some of Australia’s most authentic, and underrated performers. Their latest EP Into The Dirt seen them catapult into the ARIA Top 10, and sign with Sony Music Europe. Their sonorous energies are enough to ignite a few flames throughout any festival crowd, and will surely get a few feet stompin’.

4. Jackson Browne

As one of the foremost songwriters of the 60s and 70s, majority of the baby boomers attending Bluesfest would already be well acquainted with Browne’s extensive repertoire. Renowned for his cathartic storytelling, and Californian tones, this is the ideal opportunity for Gen Y’s to dip their toes into the world of a real troubadour, whose career has spanned more than four decades, and influenced some of the world’s most celebrated artists.

Released in 2014, his latest studio LP Standing In The Breachrevisits the themes of love, and politics in a way that closely simulates 76’s The Pretender. Browne’s authentic nature is still running strong, and bearing witness to a music legend perform his classics, and new tracks alike, there is bound to be more than a few festival goers leaving with a head and heart full of inspiration, courtesy of the man whose songs defined the generation of change.

 

3. Jason Isbell

Dubbed the greatest songwriter of his generation, by John Mayer, and many musicians and critics alike, Country crooner Jason Isbell channels his inner James Taylor with each word sung. He is a poet who puts blood, and life into each of his tracks, managing to remain both timeless and contemporary. He will make his anticipated return to Bluesfest this March with a stack of new songs under his belt, having released a chart topping LP Something More Than Free, in July last year. Isbell carefully caresses both the heart and mind, with the confronting and relatable nature of his songs, along with his flair for guitar. He is the ultimate present-day troubadour, who can knock you into his world of words with ease.

2. Joe Bonamassa

A friend of mine once said “while most guitarists have women line up outside their dressing rooms, men line up outside of Joe’s, wanting to talk gear” and that statement alone is enough to indicate how well Bonamassa knows his stuff. Endorsed by the legends, Bonamassa was playing alongside the king of the blues, Mr BB King, by the time he was 12 – he lives, and breathes all things guitar and guitar paraphernalia, the man is practically a guitar himself.

With the majority of his releases topping the Blues charts, including 2014’s Different Shades of Blue, his music has become the Holy Grail for modern guitar geeks. He has taken the jump blues to a new level of sweet, screechin’ tones, electrifying vocals, and suits galore, and with his upcoming record Blues of Desperation on the horizon, witnessing Bonamassa perform some new, and old tracks in all his sophisticated glory will no doubt be a festival highlight.

1. Blind Boy Paxton

Although a festival open to a variety of sounds, Bluesfest is essentially still just that – a BLUES festival, and that is why independent artist Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton with all his Blind Lemon Jefferson, Screamin Jay Hawkins style finesse is our #1 must see performer of this year’s line-up. Inspired by old Cajun and country blues, the 27 year old guitar slinger seamlessly emulates the sounds of the original bluesmen, while maintaining a witty sense of self.

Close your eyes and you could be sittin’ on a front porch, in the Mississippi Delta back in 1932, listening to the most unrefined, gut wrenching truths music has to offer. Paxton’s pre WW2 inspired charisma is an instant transportation back to where the blues began, and you’d be a fool to miss him in action.

Peace, love, and keep singin’ the Blues,

CKR

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Kurt Vile & The Violators @ Sydney Opera House 07/01/16

kurt-vile-and-the-violators.jpg

Kurt Vile and the Violators waltzed into my life for the first time in early 2014, not long after the release of their masterpiece LP Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze. The record soon became the soundtrack to my life.

Road-tripping to Byron and back I had successfully delved into their discography, and before I knew it I had formed a nostalgia based attachment to their music. Each of their musical endeavors unique within itself, yet always featuring a subtle nod to greats like Petty, and Dylan.

Last night’s show at the Sydney Opera House for their latest release B’lieve I’m Going Down was the first time i’d be seeing them live, as well as my first show of 2016 – the vibes were joyous. I was anxious, and excited, and couldn’t wait to hear the tracks that had impacted my life so heavily, play out in front of me.

The crowd was varied, packed in across the room, squirming in their seats, waiting for the arrival of Vile and his Violators, and as they entered the room at approx 9:30, we were met with a casual ‘hey’, and a wave of normalcy hit us – These men aren’t  rock stars, they are musos who corrupt minds with the way they touch their instruments, they didn’t need to prove it with over the top attire, and attitudes. It was almost as though they’d come straight from playing in a garage, to playing on the stage – amateur energies, with a mature, masterful sound.

The show was broken up into full band and ‘Kurt only’ acoustic intervals, as well as a 3 song encore that seen Kurt on keyboard, and his best friend taking over the drum-kit. It was madness – cool, calm and collected chaos that had me in a state of ecstasy for the entire hour and a half.

The first true burst of excitement roared from the crowd as the band broke out into Pretty Pimpin’ two songs in, though I was more impressed with his twangy, serpentine banjo solo in third track, I’m An Outlaw. Playing songs from new, and old records, including KV Crimes, and Wakin’ On A Pretty Day from my most cherished of their releases, the highlight of the evening was no doubt his acoustic performance of new track, Stand Inside. 

The finger picking, and intimate lyricism along with Kurt’s pure, crystal clear execution had scattered vast amounts of emotion throughout the audience – I was captivated mind, body, and soul. With each ‘oh my god, I love ya’ that he sung, I slumped forward a little more, getting drunk on his very own distinct brand of poetry. Freaktrain seen the addition of saxophone, which added to the overall appeal of the evening – even more so when they brought the song to a purposely twisted ending, much alike those heard on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. 

Kurt Vile and The Violators were, for the most part, keeping the banter to a minimum, with the exception of a few witty remarks, and thanks from Kurt, including the few seconds he had us fooled into believing they were about to dive head first into a Pink Floyd cover (ahhh, how great that could’ve been).

My first show of the year, and my first time seeing the band in the flesh was an unbridled victory. It was a night of nostalgia, poetry, and stack loads of inspiration. Call me deranged, but having witnessed Vile in all his glory, I b’lieve he is one of the few contemporary saviors of rock n roll – ambiguous rock n roll, that keeps modern music compelling, electrifying, and arousing in all its quirkiness.

SET LIST

Dust

Pretty Pimpin’

I’m An Outlaw

Jesus Fever

Wheelhouse

That’s Life

Stand Inside

Dead Alive

KV Crimes

Wakin’ On A Pretty Day

Hunchback

Freak Train

Wild Imagination

Lost My Head There

Girl Called Alex

Baby’s Arm


Peace, love, and keep singin’ the Blues,

CKR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Top 15 Most Played Records of 2015

2015 has been the most challenging, and fulfilling year of my life. As my first year as a ‘professional’ writer, as well as my first year as an adult, the opportunities I took advantage of forced me to see the world in a light I hadn’t previously – There was immense pressure, and anxiety attacks to boot, but underneath it all there was an extremely passionate music obsessive taking the first steps in pursuing the career she dreams of.

I immersed myself in the Blues, purchased record after record, and discovered budding musicians from all over the world, whenever I got the chance. Everything I’ve achieved this year I’ve done for myself, and every piece of writing I’ve done has been from the heart.

Of all the records I delved into over the past 12 months, there were some that continually altered my perception, opened my mind, crawled deep into my soul, and served as soundtracks to my life – Here are 15 of those, in no particular order, with a standout track from each:

Troubador – JJ Cale (1976)

Aretha Franklin – Soul 69 (1969)

 Jeff Beck – Blow by Blow (1975)

Rory Gallagher – Tattoo (1973)

G. Love & Special Sauce – Sugar (2014)

Little Feat – The Last Record Album (1975)

The Jungle – BB King (1967)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – You’re Gonna Get It (1978)

Tina Turner – Private Dancer (1985)

Van Morrison – Moondance (1970)

Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974)

JJ Grey & MOFRO – This River (2013)

Bob Dylan – Infidels (1983)

Etta James – Etta James (1973)

Van Morrison –  Astral Weeks (1968)


 

To those who have supported Ultra Underground this year, I cannot thank you all enough!

In 2016, I hope to do bigger and better things to assist in keeping the world of Blues alive. I hope to inspire more Gen Y’s to listen to, and experience everything the genre has to offer, and above all else, I hope to discover a ton of upcoming, guitar slingin’ Blues players round the world.

Peace, love, and keep singin’ the Blues,

CKR

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