Monday, May 22, 2017

DEJA VU: New Bands Strike a Familiar Chord

DEJA VU
New Bands Strike
a Familiar Chord
_________________________

To quote world-renown 20th
century poet, Thomas Keifer,
"The more things change, the
more they stay the same."
_________________________

Believe it or not, there are entrées on the current music menu other than standard auto-tuned pop, porn-inspired hip hop, synth-driven fake country, and the endless procession of "core"-type sub genres. Math-Core? Really? Oy vey — I sure miss The Little River Band!

Anyhoo, rock and roll IS still very much alive and well. In fact, some of the most exciting rock bands of the last decade or so have rolled onto the scene only recently — beautiful-looking, sweat-soaked young people boasting fabulous form-fitting fashions, amazing coifs, low-strung vintage guitars and super-snappy songs with Buick-sized hooks. And many of these fresh-faced ensembles are focusing on the future by creating new music that seemingly points to the past.


Possessing all the same authentic spirit
and hookiness as many of my old school
punk faves, this crunchy So-Cal combo will
drop their highly-anticipated sophomore
slab, Warriors, on 6.16.17. PSYCHED!
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This gorgeous Michigan-based
troupe IS the new Led Zeppelin.
That is all.
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Residing stylistically somewhere
between "Don't Stop Believin'" and
"Take My Breath Away," this pop /
rock powerhouse delivers record
#2, Waiting on the Sun — 6.16.17.
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This dolled-up Canadian import
presses a Stones-style looseness
against a Kinks-style punkiness.
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Ramones-inspired street punk meets
Cheap Trick-sized sing-alongs. This
Miami-based crew hit the scene with
their self-titled 2015 debut. The band
currently is entertaining label offers
for their latest set, Skull Crushërz.
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Anytime a new all-girl rock band
comes down the pike, comparisons
to The Runaways are always made.
However, this Texas-based teenage
trio is worthy of that comparison.
________________________



Often compared stylistically to Queen, this
fab UK pop / rock sensation lives closer to
"Ballroom Blitz" than "Bohemian Rhapsody."
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According to singer / songwriter / guitarist,
 Tyson Plastic, this synth-rock duo is based
currently in an alternate universe where
cars still have fins, but they fly and run on
good vibrations. Described best (by me) as
the sweetest addiction since ColecoVision.
Watch "Troublemaker"
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Not since the original KISS craze of
the mid 1970s has there been such an
undeniably arena-ready rock seduction.
Displaying delicious, larger-than-life
personas, this Phoenix-based band
oozes irresistible, rib-cracking, riff-
driven anthems. Arriving 6.16.17,
their long-awaited sophomore record,
Manic Pixie Dream Girl WILL be the
mother-lovin' monster of the decade.
Best get on board while you can, 'cuz
the revolution has already begun!
__________________________

In sum — new bands, new music. Long live rock and roll!

-Christopher Long
(May 2017)

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

I QUIT! (Why I've Given Up Politics - For Good)

I QUIT!
Why I've Given Up
Politics - For Good
__________________________

All I want is a hug?
How 'bout you?
__________________________

As a kid growing up in the Midwest during the early '70s, I was a total dweeb. While the "normal" boys all were collecting sports trading cards, I was plunking down my hard-earned nickels and dimes on Presidential trading cards. I'd soon committed all the U.S. Presidents to memory — in order. I even collected trading cards of the 1972 Presidential candidates. Hey, Timmy — I'll trade ya a George McGovern for your Edmund Muskie! Yep, at age ten, I was absolutely enthralled by the D.C. scene and the political process I watched playing out nightly on T.V. — soaking it all up like a four-eyed sponge.

My personal experiences meeting George H.W. Bush and seeing Ronald Reagan in the flesh during the '80s only fueled my passion. And in recent years, I've further embraced politics for the entertainment factor — writing lighthearted related feature stories for different publications and hanging out under various circumstances with the likes of Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Marco Rubio, and renown businessman, Donald Trump.

With future President Marco Rubio in 2016
But I've discovered something interesting over the last year or so — there's no happy ending to this movie. IT'S-ALL-BULLSHIT! The entire game is based on greed-driven, power-hungry, WWE-caliber egomania and relentless cutthroat ambition. BOTH major parties are EQUALLY corrupt and ineffective. That's a fact. And NO politician on either side of the "aisle" has any interest in achieving any successful bi-partisan effort. The Left vilifies the Right and vice versa, while us "regular" folk are pitted against each other like pawns in a twisted ruse. NEWSFLASH: That effing elephant and the damn donkey it's the same beast! They're ALL rascals the whole bunch of 'em! C'mon now, certainly I'm not the only schlub who's scene House of Cards. BTW, mad props to creator, Beau Willimon for possessing the nards and the marksmanship to hit the darn bulls eye.

And sadly, NOBODY has any patience or tolerance for any lighthearted commentary. As Americans, we want to fight each other  tooth and nail, to the death. That's who we've become. We're now ALL so dadgum hyper-sensitive, so hateful, nasty, intolerant and so much smarter than those "stupid" people, we "delete" our "friends" without batting an eye. Ugh, all I want is a hug. How 'bout you? Heck, I'm embarrassed and frightened to now even be a spectator, watching such a pathetic, amateur blood sport — as if any of us Walmart working stiffs are even remotely qualified to comment on significant global or domestic issues. And for that over-inflated sense of expertise, we can thank the almighty talking heads, as they spew forth, stirring the pot — all for the sake of ratings. Q: What's the diff between Fox News and MSNBCA: Fox has hotter chicks. That's it.


As an old man, I've now come to embrace the fact that I don't actually know too much. Truth be told, I'm barely competent enough to dress myself — and there are those who would even argue that point. But I do know that the sun will come out tomorrow. And if it doesn't, I couldn't control it anyway. God has this under control — not Trump, not Clinton, not even Frank Underwood.

Life is fragile. Life is short. And at my age, I can see life flashing by — minute by precious minute. Hence, as I reflect on each fleeting day, all that matters is, did I... A) Jump up and down, ranting like a total jackass about something I actually know nothing about and can't control — alienating people in the process? Or, did I... B) Hug somebody and offer them love, kindness, forgiveness and encouragement? I'll take option B.

Kevin Spacey as President Francis J. Underwood.
(My latest binge addiction has been an eye-opener.)
Following the 2016 election cycle, I heard stories of married couples getting divorced over their differences regarding the Presidential candidates. In the words of Metallica, that's "sad but true." Even more heartbreaking is how endless other relationships between family, friends, neighbors and co-workers also are being torn apart, nationwide — as the last President challenged his flock to "get in people's faces" over their political positions.

Look, the system is jacked. It always has been, and it always will be — regardless of who's in the White House. And although I expect I'll be nursing a post-partisan hangover for sometime, I'm definitely moving forward. Simply put, I love people way too much to engage in such divisive dialog any longer. So, for me, the political conversation is over. However, I am still on the lookout for an Edmund Muskie trading card.

-Christopher Long
(May 2017)

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Zac Brown Band "Welcome Home"

RECORD REVIEW
Zac Brown Band
Welcome Home
Elektra Records
Southern Ground Artists
_________________________

You can sugarcoat liquor
commercials and dope
endorsements with all the
fake, down-home, good
ol' boy, "Thank the Lord,"
"Aw shucks" rhetoric in
the world. But they're
still liquor commercials
and dope endorsements.
_________________________

Overseen by Grammy-winning producer, Dave CobbWelcome Home is the fifth full-length studio batch of (not so) well-disguised liquor commercials and dope endorsements from the multi platinum-selling, superstar Zac Brown Band.

We'd start the show with a round of whiskey, the group's namesake / frontman confesses during the record's rather banal opening track, "Roots." The chicken-fried "Summer of '69"-inspired sing-along finds Brown waxing nostalgic, further recalling, My first best friend was a 6 string — Took him with me everywhere I go — When I was 18, bought a Dodge van — Found a drummer and made the road my home.

Despite Brown's flowery poetry pointing to finding a "good woman" and discovering a "great song," the piano-driven, "Real Thing" is one of the record's more "slippery" tracks. The irresistible, gospel-tinged number also proclaims boldly, One sip and it blew my mind — Those good ol' boys sure make it right — Knowing smooth whiskey takes some time — Ain't nothing like the real thing.

On the surface, "Start Over" sounds so familiar, "you can almost taste the hot dogs and French fries they sell." However, Brown's gleeful invitation to his "Darlin'" to "Smoke a 'J' by the waves while we sip on some ice cold Corona," takes a potentially fun highlight and turns it into a tall, ice-cold glass of soul poison.

The annual statistics regarding alcohol-related
accidents, violence and deaths are staggering.

But be sure, my keen eagle-eye ability to spot Zac Brown as a shameless swill merchant doesn't cloud my open-minded ability to recognize that he's also a supremely gifted singer / songwriter. And his band undeniably one of the best in the biz. Hence, I'd be remiss in not pointing out the record's many bona fide highlights — standout tracks, including the Dickey Betts-flavored "Family Table," the father and son tear-jerker "My Old Man," and the gorgeously moving acoustic record-closer "All the Best." Mad props are also owed to Madison Ryan for bringing authentic Kinleys-style vocal warmth and charm to the record's crown jewel, "Trying to Drive" — BRAVO!

When Gene Simmons runs around in platform boots, spitting blood at age 67 and Stevie Nicks is onstage still doing her "witchy woman" thing at age 68, they aren't parodying themselves, they're merely giving fans what they paid to see. And in that regard, I don't believe Zac Brown is trying to destroy families and crush lives through the garbage he peddles. No sir hunky "down-home" boys sporting V-necks and beards who love the "good Lord" would never do that, not intentionally, anyway. Clearly, the Zac Brown Band is merely supplying their customers' demand like any other savvy, successful businessmen would. Well, as Bob Dylan once said, "We all gotta serve somebody."

-Christopher Long
(May 2017)

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Monday, May 15, 2017

BRENT JENSEN: Red Hot Author Launches Riveting New Podcast

BRENT JENSEN
Red Hot Author Launches
Riveting New Podcast
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Fun fact  people possessing
deep personal passion for
music love engaging with
others who possess a deep
personal passion for music.
__________________________

His backdrop and characters alter from title to title. However, the common thread running through Brent Jensen's books is his unique knack for personal storytelling. And many of those stories are based on his connections to people who are passionate about music.

Although the title of Jensen's new podcast points to his 2012 debut, No Sleep Til Sudbury, the premise of the show is driven by his third book, All My Favourite People Are Broken. The laugh-out-loud page-turner chronicles a getaway weekend reunion of two college buddies — an excursion fueled by excessive alcohol consumption, reckless drug use, unabashed junk food inhalation and a non-stop inebriated analysis of music.

Jensen with bestselling
author, Chuck Klosterman.
The popular podcast debuted earlier this month, and despite the (perceived) absence of libations, the show is incredibly intoxicating, nonetheless. Featuring compelling conversations with the famous and the not-so-famous, Jensen's array of fascinating guests all reveal (with honest transparency) their personal passion for music — or as the show's subtitle suggests, they "talk about the songs that make their skin vibrate,"

Jensen with Cinderella
frontman, Tom Keifer.
For the immediate future, Jensen plans to simply move forward, delivering the kind of content his audience has come to crave, including more marquee names — a guest list that will feature even a few platinum-selling rocks stars. Hmm.

Jensen's reported long haul vision is to develop a documentary version of No Sleep Til Sudbury — a production based on his many amazing conversations from the show — one which will speak to the universal power of music. (Podcast Website / Jensen on Amazon)

-Christopher Long
(May 2017)

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Sweet Chaos "Sweet Chaos"

RECORD REVIEW
Sweet Chaos
Sweet Chaos
_____________________________

My old buddy Bryan called
me recently. "I just saw this
cool band playing in Dallas,"
he revealed in short order.
_____________________________

Intrigued by Bryan's enthusiastic endorsement, I sought out the new "cool" band online ASAP — the teenage Texas trio known as Sweet Chaos. I soon discovered a video for their song, "Irrelevant" I was hooked immediately. And in no time, I'd gotten a copy of the band's newly-released, self-titled, self-produced EP.

Recorded at Pleasantry Lane Studios in Dallas, all four songs were written and performed by Sweet Chaos. Be sure, I didn't connect with this record because of the band members' ages and (or) gender that's all irrelevant to me (no pun intended). I connected with this record because it's a solid chunk of lo-fi, Camaro-style, cock rock. And yes, that is a compliment, BTW.

The record kicks off with the demo-caliber "Sinking," but it progresses nicely, both musically and production-wise, track-by-track through the riveting closer, "Losing Teeth." Simply put, think The Runaways, circa '76.

SWEET CHAOS
(Payton, 
Sydney and Sara)
As a side note, I realize many of today's teens feel as if they're uniquely complicated and hopelessly broken. Hence, I wanna offer up a personal word of heartfelt encouragement to young people everywhere. And that message is HEY, you're ALL beautiful and wonderful creations of God, with amazing futures ahead! Life ain't a nightmare that's crap created in the pit of Hell, and it's typically the result of consuming too much of current culture's "Kool-Aid" — garbage in, garbage out. Oh, and just so ya know, none of you are "insane"  it's the wicked world in which we live that's messed up — you're perfect in every way. Now, get out there and be bold, be awesome. Speak truth and beam golden light into this dark world. In other words — go kick some freaking ass!

But I digress. The primary point I want convey here is that I totally "get" Sweet Chaos. This is an exciting record — one I liked, a lot. And with a slightly redirected message, this band could become the leaders of their generation.

-Christopher Long
(May 2017)
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(469) 334-0511
___________________________


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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

40th ANNUAL DALLAS INTERNATIONAL GUITAR FESTIVAL (Guest Feature)

40th ANNUAL DALLAS
INTERNATIONAL
GUITAR FESTIVAL
(By Bryan Dumas)
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Guest contributor and professional
musician, Bryan Dumas, returns this
year with another of his riveting first-
hand reports from one of the biggest
annual music events in the country.
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Playing out this year at the Dallas Market Hall from May 5-7, the 40th Annual Dallas International Guitar Festival was very well attended — possibly the biggest turnout I’ve seen since my first year visiting the event back in 2009. It's really cool to see how the crowd is becoming more diverse each year — more families and more young people.

This year's festival boasted live performances from an array of marquee guitarists, including Ted Nugent, Derek St. Holmes, George Lynch, Gary Hoey, Andy Timmons, Mark Lettieri, Paul Reed Smith, Lance Lopez, Ally Venable, Eric Gales, Boscoe France, Kara Grainger, Redd Volkaert and, as they say  many more. So, let's dive in and check it out!

Miami-based boutique outfit. JamAxe Guitars
(JamAxe.com)
Guitar tech Don Opperman shared some
amazing memorabilia from his days
working for legend, Stevie Ray Vaughn.
HIGHLIGHTS
Sponsored by Category 5 Amps, guitarists Kara Grainger and Ally Venable were both present for much of this year's DIGF — appearing live onstage and at their sponsors' booths. And oh boy, can these ladies sing and play some blues!

Originally from Australia, Kara oozes true Austin-style blues, blended with a sultry, soulful voice power and emotion, for sure. An amazing slide / blues player, Kara has been compared stylistically to Bonnie Raitt.

At just 18, Ally has come a long way since being mentored by Lance Lopez — her playing and singing prove it! Hailing from East Texas, Ally sings and plays well beyond her years, and seeing her perform live again, was a real treat.

Ally Venable (L) and Kara Grainger (R)
DIGF 2017 offered an array
of amazing instruments.
Center pic - Transpecos Guitar Shop  
(TranspecosGuitars.com)
OVERLOAD
With four live stages buzzing all day and special concerts being held Friday and Saturday nights, there was much more to do than just milling around, drooling over stuff on the display floor. Speaking of which, the vendors are evolving year by year. I saw fewer “big boys” in 2017, and more startups — boutique-type guitar, amp and pedal builders.

Some of my guitar heroes could be seen wandering around the show floor throughout the weekend. Many of these artists would actually stop by their sponsor / endorser booths for impromptu "mini jams" — giving fans a chance to see them up close and ask gear questions. Ted Nugent spent hours Saturday and Sunday meeting and greeting fans at his booth.

Guitar icon Ted Nugent, spent two
full days meeting and greeting fans.
One of my personal DIGF highlights
was catching Sweet Chaos performing
live on the "Young Guns" stage.
(SweetChaosBand.com)
BRAVO!
Owned and operated by Jay Anderson, the Minnesota-based JWA Guitars company creates unique, handmade, one-of-a-kind guitar art. Recreating guitars from legendary, iconic paintings, JWA was one of my favorite vendors at this year's event.

My friends at JWA Guitars
really do it right!
ONSTAGE
The Friday night show at Gas Monkey Live was off the chain. Providing terrific sound and lighting, the venue was excellent. And seeing Lance Lopez, Kara Grainger and Eric Gales all playing together in a new blues supergroup of sorts was fantastic! Simply put, Eric Gales is one of the greatest living guitarists and I love to watch him play. During the jam, veteran guitar man Redd Volkaert schooled the younger cats with blues and country licks full of taste and tone. Back in the day, Redd played with everyone, including the late Merle Haggard

Another DIGF 2017 highlight:
Chillin' with the legendary Derek St. Holmes.
LET'S EAT!
As a dedicated foodie, Dallas is a magical land of incredible cuisines not found in my hometown of Shreveport. It's the benchmark city for two of my fave-o-flaves — BBQ and Mexican. While I'm always seeking out exotic and different world dishes, I still make time to enjoy what Dallas does best.

18th & Vine has a new take on BBQ, and it's not your usual Texas style. More upscale than your typical BBQ joint, they serve Kansas City-inspired meats. Likewise, El Bolero also has a fine dining bent, with a unique collection of entrees from different regions of Mexico — not your standard Tex-Mex, for sure! And I'd be remiss in not mentioning the great java from Oak Lawn Coffee.

For more on my Dallas restaurant finds, as well as great finds from other cities I've visited, download the Zomato app and follow user Bass4food.

El Bolero's Ceviche was superb!
I’ve attended the DIGF eight of the last nine years and it doesn’t get old. Three days just isn’t enough to see and hear all the artists and take in the entire show floor. There so much, it’s sensory overload. This was year 40 for the show, and I truly hope there’s a next generation ready to undertake the huge task of staging this spectacular event. See ya next year!

-Bryan Dumas
(May 2017)
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Check out Bryan's
previous DGS features...

39th ANNUAL DALLAS
2012 DALLAS INTERNATIONAL
____________________________________

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-Chris
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