Segments and Articles
- Listen Gregg Allman
- Listen The Soundcheck Guide To The Allman Brothers Band
- Listen Laura Cantrell: A Country Music Storyteller
Tonight, The Allman Brothers Band begins its annual New York City residency at the Beacon Theatre. Over the next three weeks, the band will celebrate 45 years of making music together -- a longevity virtually unrivaled in pop music (except by A Certain Very Big British Band). Even more remarkable for the mind-boggling number of lineup changes, intentional or otherwise.
So, to mark the occasion, we present the Soundcheck Guide To The Allman Brothers -- a fly-by look at the legendary Southern rock group.
In a conversation with host John Schaefer, Alan Paul, the band's long time biographer, talks about the band's highs, obscure gems, and material that should probably remain in the cellar.
Southern rock original
This segment originally aired on Jan. 19, 2011.
With her new album, No Way There From Here, Nashville-born, New York City-based singer-songwriter (and sometime Soundcheck guest host)
With the exception of her superb Kitty Wells covers album from 2011, No Way There From Here is Cantrell's first record in nine years. Here, Cantrell continues to blend that classic country and honky tonk sound -- the shimmer of mandolins, the sliding guitar melodies, her delicate, aching vocals -- with a modern Americana-meets-New York folk flavor.
Hear Cantrell perform her new songs in the Soundcheck studio.
This segment originally aired on Jan. 27, 2014.
Two weeks ago, we took our first steps on a long journey into the mind of a beguiling yet frustrating pop star. We formed a club. We set high goals. Some of us even bought the book.
But I never told you that this journey would be an easy one.
ARTIST: Rachelle Garniez
LISTEN: "Jean Claude Van Damme"
Rachelle Garniez mixes smoky vocals with whimsical subjects. And tons of accordion. She’s played with Rufus Wainwright and Dan Zanes, but she’s truly at home in the dusky cabaret scene, playing classic Americana alongside her biting originals. Listen to “Jean Claude Van Damme” for a taste of the latter. Rachelle Garniez is playing tonight at Barbes.
BONUS: Amy Poehler's "Smart Girls" YouTube channel featured Rachelle and her accordion:
On Thursday, Feb. 27, Soundcheck hosted an all-star Beatles vs. Rolling Stones Smackdown at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. In front of a crowd of more than 200 people, two teams fiercely battled over which band is better -- at times pitting album versus album, guitarist versus guitarist, song versus song -- and, of course, debating the sex appeal of each band.
Arguing for The Beatles were comedian, actor, and director Mike Myers (Wayne's World, Austin Powers, and Shrek); and writer and musician Paul Myers, author of the acclaimed biographies A Wizard A True Star: Todd Rundgren In The Studio, and It Ain't Easy: Long John Baldry and the Birth of the British Blues.
According to Mike Myers, "The Beatles are a cultural movement. They've affected everything. 'A Hard Day's Night'... has informed everything I've done, including and especially Austin Powers. So for me personally, it's everything."
And taking on the Myers brothers on behalf of The Rolling Stones: Ophira Eisenberg, comedian, writer and host of NPR and WNYC’s Ask Me Another; and Bill Janovitz, frontman of the alt-rock band Buffalo Tom, and author of Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell The Story of The Rolling Stones, and the 33 1/3 series' book about Exile On Main Street.
During the debate, Janovitz summoned the words of a literary giant. “Tom Wolfe once said, ‘The Beatles want to hold your hand. The Rolling Stones want to burn down your town.’”
Janovitz added: “I wanted a band that would burn down my town.”
The idea of rap stars as royalty is hardly new -- hip hop artists from Rick Ross to Lil' Kim to Run-DMC have been rapping for years about their transformation into self-made kings and queens. But in his paintings, British artist Amar Stewart takes that idea of rap royalty and places it in a literal context, portraying artists like Biggie, Questlove and Mary J. Blige as actual royals -- who happen to be living in the 17th century.
We talk with Amar Stewart about finding inspiration from Dutch painter Frans Hals at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, painting to the music of Jay-Z and Tupac and moving to Brooklyn. Plus, art gallery owner Sean Leonard shares the harrowing tale of how he chased down a thief who made off with one of Stewart's paintings last weekend and successfully got it back.
Paul Lamere works for a company that tracks tons of user data from music streaming sites, so it's important that he understands what people listen to, and where they listen to it. In doing some research into listener preferences, he noticed that different states listen to particular artists at a higher frequency than the rest of the country. So he made a map. BuzzFeed posted it under the title "This Map Reveals Every State's Favorite Band," and it went viral.
And people went nuts. Why? Because the name Bruce Springsteen floating over New Jersey doesn't set off any alarm bells, but who the heck is Bonobo?
Soundcheck digs a little deeper, and finds out that Jay Z has conquered virtually half of the country's streaming playlists. Also: New Yorkers really don't like country singer Luke Bryan.
Cash has lived in New York for more than 20 years, having transplanted herself from what became a restricting Nashville scene. But after she was asked to help restore her father’s childhood home in Dyess, Arkansas, her first visit to the site inaugurated a whole series of trips which became part of a larger pilgrimage down Highway 61 with her husband and songwriting partner, John Leventhal.
During one of their early trips, they met the widow of Marshall Grant -- bass player of the Tennessee Two -- Etta. After many conversations, Cash and Leventhal wrote “Etta’s Tune” -- from which the remainder of The River & the Thread unspooled as a series of observations about the South.
Cash also tapped many of her friends and fellow musicians with an affection for the music of the South: Cory Chisel, Rodney Crowell (who also co-wrote one song), Kris Kristofferson, Amy Helm, Allison Moorer, John Prine, Derek Trucks, John Paul White of The Civil Wars, and much more. The result is perhaps Cash's finest record since 1993's The Wheel, and will surely be one of year's best country and Americana albums.
Santiago Auseron is the former leader of legendary Spanish rock band Radio Futura. Now known as Juan Perro – he’ still considered one of that country’s most influential musicians. Listen to the nimble country rock of “Rio Negro.” The Spanish music icon is at Joe’s Pub tonight.
BONUS: Check out Perro's live chops here...
Head to Soundcheck dot org and click on Gig Alerts to download this song, and to find details about the show.
In this episode: Rosanne Cash’s new album, The River And The Thread, takes inspiration from a series of trips down to Dyess, Arkansas, to help restore her father Johnny Cash’s childhood home. Those trips gave Cash and her husband and songwriting partner, John Levanthal, an opportunity to explore Highway 61 and conjure up the old South in their new songs. Hear Cash and Levanthal perform live in the Soundcheck studio.
Then: If you’ve been on Buzzfeed or Facebook recently, you’ve probably seen the article “This Map Shows Every State’s Favorite Band.” It’s interesting for two reasons: One, it’s surprising that in the era of global superstars and digital connectedness there are still regional differences in music taste. And two: it isn’t remotely what the map’s creator, Paul Lamere, was trying to show.
And: British artist Amar Stewart talks about his series of paintings that portray hip-hop stars like Biggie, Questlove and Mary J. Blige as royals -- 17th century royals.
For his new film, Grand Piano, actor Elijah Wood plays an acclaimed concert pianist who must tackle an unplayable piece while simultaneously battling wits with a homicidal sniper in the audience. Maybe small change for someone who already climbed Mt. Doom and defeated the Prince of Darkness, but gripping all the same. With echoes of Hitchcock and de Palma, Grand Piano is a thriller in the classic mold, and Wood's tuxedoed portrayal of first-class pianist Tom Selznick is first-class as well -- though he admits that classical music is the genre with which he is least familiar.
"I often think of musical genres as being the sea," says Wood. "I've jumped into the sea of jazz, I've spent time researching and getting into jazz. Classical is something that is so massive that it's daunting to be honest, and there are so many multiple recordings of classical compositions, I don't even know where to start. But I'd like to eventually."
In a wide-ranging conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Wood talks about his many musical proclivities: his portrayal of a classical pianist without being a piano player; his on-again/off-again record label and work with the band Apples In Stereo; his moonlight career as a DJ who spins old Afro-funk records; and the records that are exciting him today.
For more than 25 years, Primus has developed a devoted fanbase thanks to its distinct weirdo sensibility, hilarious lyrics, and high-octane instrumental prowess. At the center is frontman Les Claypool, Primus' dexterous, slap-happy bassist and spiritual leader, who has followed every absurdist musical whim and avant prog rock experiment from underground success to pop stardom.
In addition, Claypool has frequently made guest appearances with all sorts of bands, while steadily churning out side projects, including his bands the Holy Mackerel, the Flying Frog Brigade, and Oysterhead -- a power trio with Phish's Trey Anastasio and The Police's Stewart Copeland.
But his latest project with Bryan Kehoe may be one of his oddest diversions yet -- at least based on Les Claypool standards: Duo de Twang plays acoustic music in the style of stripped-down, old-timey campfire songs and country tunes. What started as a one-off performance for San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival turned into a full record, Four Foot Shack. The album includes a originals, a couple reworked Primus classics ("Wynonna's Big Brown Beaver" and "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver") -- and a few covers like Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" and Alice In Chains' "Man In The Box." For a musician frequently shaking things up, Claypool's Duo de Twang is another fun twist.
At some point during Pharrell Williams' infectiously fun Oscars performance, as he coaxed actresses Lupita Nyong'o, Amy Adams and Meryl Streep to dance and shimmy in their seats with him, it was clear: Dude is coming off a damn good year. Simply put: Pharrell's enjoying the kind of ever-present pop culture moment that very few can rival right now -- well, outside of maybe Matthew McConaughey.
In 2013, it was impossible not to hear him thanks to his presence on the biggest "Songs of Summer" -- Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" -- which festooned him in a whopping seven Grammy nominations (including Producer of the Year), and two awards -- Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "Get Lucky."
And his own track, "Happy," one of the year's most delightful songs, yielded not only the world's very first 24-hour music video, but a Best Original Song Academy Award nomination for Despicable Me 2. And while Pharrell ultimately lost out to Frozen, Sunday's Oscars showcase served as both the perfect capper for his year, and his own unofficial record release party. (We haven't even mentioned his signature accessory -- the most memed hat in the history of hats.)
Now, Pharrell's riding the unstoppable comet that is "Happy" to a full album, G I R L -- his first new record since 2006. And as one might expect, G I R L -- which features guest spots from Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys and Miley Cyrus -- brims over with his brand of funky, retro-leaning R&B, smile-inducing hooks, and some downright sexy swagger.
Members of the Soundcheck team put on our oversized Pharrell hats, cranked the new album (out March 3 and now streaming on Spotify) -- and have these initial reactions.
ARTIST: Jessica Carvo
DOWNLOAD: "Fall For Me"
SHOW: Tuesday at Mercury Lounge ($10)
A few years ago, Jessica Carvo was on a network TV singing competition. She sang a version of the Randy Newman song “Feels Like Home” and the composer himself said it had never sounded better. Listen to Carvo’s smoky vocals on her own song, “Fall For Me” and you can see why Mr. Newman would be a fan. Jessica Carvo is part of the early show tonight at Mercury Lounge.
BONUS: Here's a lovely live version of "Fall For Me"...
In this episode: To a generation of movie fans, actor Elijah Wood may always be Frodo. But he’s also a big music fan, which comes in handy in his new movie Grand Piano, in which he plays a famous but troubled classical pianist. He talks about faking it on the keys in the movie and about dabbling as a DJ in real life.
And: Either as the bass player and frontman for the genre-defying band Primus or his myriad side projects, Les Claypool is known for constantly stretching the sound of what his bass guitar can do. Hear Claypool and his long time musical partner Bryan Kehoe play songs from their new collaboration under the name Duo de Twang.
If you've ever been to a wedding reception, you know that people respond and move to music in a wild variety of ways. But despite your Uncle Gus' idiosyncratic electric slide, research is showing that there is some consistency to the ways in which people move -- even when a beat isn't readily identifiable.
Mariusz Kozak, an Assistant Professor of Music at Columbia University, has been exploring the myriad ways we physically interpret sound. His research is part of a larger field of study known as embodied cognition, which inquires into how the human body is an intrinsic part of what we mean when we talk about the mind.
DOWNLOAD: "Cruel City"
SHOW: Monday at Bowery Ballroom (SOLD OUT)
The band formerly known as “We Are Augustines” – now known as just “Augustines” – dealt with death, despair, and heartbreak on their excellent 2011 debut. Their new album -- called simply, Augustines -- asks the question: what next? The song Cruel City deals with all that heaviness with an anthemic chorus. Augustines are playing at Bowery Ballroom tonight.
BONUS: Hear more of the Augustines' earnest, rousing rock:
On Thursday, Feb. 27, Soundcheck hosted an all-star Beatles vs. Rolling Stones Smackdown at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. In front of a crowd of more than 200 people, two teams fiercely battled over which band is better -- pitting album versus album, guitarist versus guitarist, song versus song -- and, of course, debating the sex appeal of each band.
Take a listen to this excerpt:
In this episode: One! Two! Three! Four! Everybody loves a good toe-tapper. But have you ever wondered why we humans move to music? And why some unfortunate people can’t seem to find the beat? Columbia University music professor Mariusz Kozak tells us what he’s learned about why we physically respond to sound.
Then: The globetrotting South African choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo is best known for its work on Paul Simon's Graceland. The group, which now includes the founder’s grandson, performs songs from its beautiful new album in the Soundcheck studio.