Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Albums of 2012

Frank Ocean "Channel Orange" - I kind of hate to agree with, well, everybody, but Ocean’s record was an achievement in poetic, thought provoking, and relatable songwriting as well as a throwback to the sort of unpredictable, adventurous R&B I grew up with. It’s weird, but still accessible. 

IAmDynamite “Supermegafantastic” - There is nothing catchier or more consistent than this duo who I’ve watched win over audiences opening for bands as disparate as Sum 41 and Blue October. With bright harmonies and stunningly infectious pop-rock songs, they are one to watch in 2013.
Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun “Wildfire” - From the opening notes of “We Were Wild” this Atlanta indie-rock quartet conjured ghosts of bands like Lush and Whirlpool with female vocals that hinted at the Breeders and Belly. It easily stayed on repeat.
Shovels and Rope “O’ Be Joyful” - The South Carolina couple’s record is one of the best-sounding albums of the year. Its crisp folk and lively spirit simply jumps from the speakers. I knew from the first listen in June it would make the list come December.
Diamond Rings “Free Dimensional” - The musical alter-ego of Canadian John O’Regan created some of the catchiest old school dance tunes of the year with new wave synth-meets-guitar-rock tracks that recall a mix of Depeche Mode and Interpol at their bounciest.
Bad Veins “The Mess We’ve Made” - Another pair doing more than you’d think a duo capable of. Its second album is full of lovely harmonies and quirky, loveable pop songs.
Sleigh Bells “Reign of Terror” - I bought this after hearing it over the sound system at Manifest while I was shopping with my kids. With its strange marriage of clunky dubstep distortion and ethereal pop vocals this duo made one of the easiest, yet harshest listens of the year.
Japandroids “Celebration Rock” - With the urgency of Superchunk and the working class energy and delivery of Avail, this duo (another duo?) lit up the rock world with some of the best tracks of the year in “The House that Heaven Built” and “Fire’s Highway.”
Marina & the Diamonds “Electra Heart” - On the surface she’s a Welsh pop diva whose voice does sometimes (annoyingly) merge Shakira and Florence and the Machine. But listen closer and there’s a feminist layer of intellectualism and social concern beneath the bubblegum dance tunes.
Beach House “Bloom” - This chill collection paints a mood that reminds me of Cocteau Twins with more discernible lyrics or my beloved Siouxsie Sioux at her gentlest. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Twelve for '12. Top songs of 2012

I've never made a list of top singles, but after hearing SiriusXM in my mom's new CRV I decided I no longer wanted to live without it in my own car. For the first time in years I found myself buying albums after hearing a song on the radio (how novel). While I didn't hear all of the following on SiriusXM first, I did hear many of these on repeat there.

Favorite Songs of 2012

Japandroids “The House That Heaven Built”
Gaslight Anthem “45”
Best Coast “The Only Place”
Magnetic Fields “Andrew in Drag”
Oberhofer "Away Frm U"
Solange "Losing You"
 J.D. McPherson “North Side Gal”
M.I.A. “Bad Girls”
Sons of Bill “Santa Ana Winds”
Electric Guest “This Head I Hold”
Bob Mould “The Descent”
Lee Fields & the Expressions - “Faithful Man”

More with the Avett Brothers' Bob Crawford

The following is a continuation of the interview with Avett Brothers’ bassist Bob Crawford that appeared in Friday’s CLT section. Crawford rejoined the group in August (his daughter Hallie, 3, has been being treated for brain cancer). In addition to the Avetts’ Grammy nominated 2012 album “The Carpenter,” Crawford has another project in the works. The Overmountain Men - his cross-Carolina group with Gaston County songwriter and band leader David Childers - will release its second album in January. He’s with the Avetts at Greensboro Coliseum Monday.

Did you still feel like you were a part of the band during the time away? We were always in contact. They came to see us every time possible. Scott (Avett’s) family came to see us. We felt plenty of support and love. Still you walk out there (on stage) and think do “I even belong here anymore?” These are all the things I went through.

How close in age are your and Scott’s children? Hallie is a year younger than Eleanor. And then my son Sam is two months younger than Scott’s son.

You had an infant while you were going through this? He was born June 7, 2011. Two and a half months before Hallie got sick.

What was that like? Really, really nuts. When Hallie got sick she wasn’t going to make it. My wife and I were there 24 hours a day. My wife would come home one hour a day to breastfeed. I only bonded with Sam when we got home because I was always with Hallie. We took a woman that volunteered to be our nanny to Memphis with us. She and Sam lived in one place and Hallie, my wife and I lived in another. We felt like we had to do it for Hallie, but there’s a whole period of Sam’s life we weren’t there.

When did you have time to do another Overmountain Men record? That was also before Hallie got sick. My part of it was finished and then I asked David last year, “Can you just give me a little time?” He wanted to put it out Spring of last year. I was like, “Give me a little time and let’s see what the world looks like.” I love the first one. This one has a different character to it. I just love David and we’re talking about more songs. It’s out January 22 and it’s called “The Next Best Thing.” We’re going to shoot some video for it to go along with the release. I hope it continues to introduce people to David Childers. The Avetts play Childers’ “Prettiest Thing.” It’s become a staple of our set. People ask me who he is. I tell ‘em get “’Room 23.’ It’s a great album.” Hopefully these videos will help to introduce more people to who David is; to let the world know about this great artist that you guys have there in Mt. Holly. He’s a wonderful man and very creative and very thoughtful.

Also I produced a Christmas album (“My Favorite Gifts”) that was a benefit for (longtime Avett tour manager) Dane Honeycutt’s mother, who died of cancer. She was a teacher. The Vickie Honeycutt Foundation gives money to families of school teachers who have cancer. We’d also completed that before Hallie got sick. One of the little boys we met at Saint Jude’s - Carter - his family got money from the Vickie Honeycutt Foundation. Teachers don’t make very much money. When someone in your family gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer. The Vickie Honeycutt Foundation helps people in North Carolina. We’ll continue to do that.

I also noticed you playing fiddle in one of the online videos. Is that something you’re incorporating into the shows? A little bit. One of the things I did at St. Jude’s when I got a moment to help me relax and do something musical - I started playing the fiddle. There’s a room for the patient and then there’s a parent room. I’d go in the bathroom and play very quietly and then I’d do it at the apartment we were staying at. I’d play the fiddle and have the neighbors complain. That was something that was cathartic.

We have been introducing fiddle to the live show since August. Some nights it’s more successful than others. I always say you’re not going to learn how to play something unless you do it in front of people and make a lot of mistakes. When the song “Sorry Man” was being written, Scott wanted to do this high harmony. Every night we’d play it and his voice would crack and he’d fall on his face a lot, but in six months he could do the high harmony.

For me to walk out on stage with a fiddle when I know how to play it about twenty percent - that’s a credit to the guys I get to travel with.

Why don’t the Avetts play Charlotte more? I think we have it in our mind that we can only play North Carolina so many times a year. We try to spread that out. We may be in Wilmington one year and Greensboro and Raleigh and Charlotte the next.

You’re scheduled to go to Europe in 2013. How do you feel about it? I don’t want to go. I would rather not go, but I have to. As long as Hallie’s doing well I’ll go and we’ll have it arranged where I have constant contact at home. I would prefer not to go on this trip, but I and the guys feel like I need to do it. Hopefully it’ll go smoothly and it won’t be scary.

Have you had a lot of support and outpouring from the fans? I know there was a website at St. Jude’s in Hallie’s name. Oh yeah. Hallie raised $60,000 on that website. You can still go to that link. In Raleigh we did a walk. Hallie’s team raised another $15,000. It’s not just financial support. We’ve gotten a lot of cards and letters. When I got out I always hear, “Hey Bob, we’re praying for Hallie” when I’m on stage or people stop me all the time and ask me how she’s doing. We always ask for prayers.

Many musicians don’t have health insurance. Did this happen at a time after the band was on a major label where you were in a better position to handle it? There are people in the band that still don’t have insurance. It’s the one thing I listened to my parents about. When I moved to Charlotte in 1996 from New Jersey and started working in the film business the first thing I did was get myself personal health insurance. It really paid off this time. We also got a lot of support from the band and from other organizations and charities. St. Jude is a place where if you can’t pay, you don’t pay. That’s what is so important other than research and the fact that its child-centered. They only began taking insurance 15 years ago and they will only take seventeen percent of your maximum. They have housing and transportation. They treat the kids so well at Christmastime. Santa comes and brings toys for everyone. They have a great Halloween there. They go as far as you can go to allow the child to have fun and excitement and to get to feel like a child.

When Danny Thomas established St. Jude in 1960 the most common survival rate was twenty percent. Today it’s over eighty percent. Now they’re trying to do that with brain tumors. It costs 1.5 million dollars a day for St. Jude’s to function. That’s why it’s important for me to continually be out there trying to raise money for them.

So what does Hallie like? What’s she enjoy? She loves people. She loves music. She loves dancing. She’s not standing on her own or walking. You hold her up and play music. We take her to kindermusic classes. She actually goes crazy for that. In her therapy in Charlotte they realized that she responded very well to music and they brought in a music therapist. She loves to shake the shaker. And she loves (the 1982 movie musical) “Annie.” I could quote the whole movie. 

(Photo of Crawford and Hallie presenting a check to St. Jude's last year is courtesy of the Team Hallie Prayer Chain Facebook page)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hear Widespread, Avetts' NYE shows on SiriusXM

Can't make it to Greensboro? Missing out on the festivities at TWC Arena Monday? SiriusXM will air live concerts on many of its channels Monday including the Avett Brothers' annual NC New Year's Eve show at Greensboro Coliseum on The Spectrum (Channel 28) and Widespread Panic's concert at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte one click up on Channel 29's Jam On.

Other concerts airing Monday include Willie Nelson from Austin City Limits Live on Willlie's Roadhouse (Channel 56), Gregg Allman from the House of Blues in New Orleans on Classic Vinyl (26), the Lumineers from Denver (also on The Spectrum), Southside Johnny on E. Street Radio (20) from Red Bank, New Jersey, Little Feat from DC on Radio Margaritaville (24), and Further featuring Bob Weir and Phil Lesh in San Francisco on (where else?) the Grateful Dead Channel (23).

SiriusXM will also air live NYC DJ sets from Afrojack, R3hab, Quintino and Arty on BPM (Channel 51), Armin van Buuren on Electric Area (52) and Dada Life, Deniz Koyu, and Bassjackers on Tiesto's Club Life Radio (Channel 340) as well as Avicii and Eric Prydz from Las Vegas on BPM and Electric Area, respectively.

For a full schedule of all Sirius/XM NYE goings-on click here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top local releases of 2012

Here are my ten favorite local releases of the year. 

Justin Robinson & the Mary Annettes “Bones for Tinder” - If the former Carolina Chocolate Drop wasn’t from Gastonia he would’ve likely made the best overall release list for his strange combo of Prince-like funk and acoustic music. His “Bright Diamonds,” for instance, is like cello rock trio Rasputina collaborating with the purple one himself.

Mr. Invisible “It’s On Us” - The Mount Holly hip-hop duo seems to be leading the charge for underground hip-hop locally, but it also has the musical skills to back up the buzz. I’m told this EP is just the start of where Justin Aswell and Blake Matthews are headed.
Mark Crozer & the Rels “Mark Crozer & the Rels” - The former Jesus & Mary Chain guitarist made Charlotte his home (thanks to his wife and child) and recruited locals for his live band. On record he combines elements of the JAMC with earlier, less distortion-heavy fellow Brits like the Beatles with pop songs like “Killed by Karma,” “Put Those `80s Records On,” “War Drum” and “I Need a Vaccination.” He gets bonus points for the “Doctor Who” reference.

My Captain “EP”- From the ashes of my favorite Charlotte band the Lights, Fluorescent came this fitting follow-up, which featured bassist/singer Robby Hartis and guitarist Andre Francois (and for a time guitarist Craig Friday) at its core. Hartis is now with Sugar Glyder, but as with the Lights I feel fortunate that they found the time to record so we’ll have something to remember them by if they don’t regroup.

Jon Lindsay “Summer Wilderness Program” - This Charlotte songwriter, who is moving to Nashville, grows on me a little more with every release. He has a knack for pop songwriting, a voice that’s nothing short of pretty, and an overall feel that seems to have a direct link to `70s AM pop and songwriters like Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, and his beloved Big Star. 
Temperance League “LP” - The all-star garage rock quintet reached farther back in its pool of influences on recent EPs and this debut full-length (released exclusively on vinyl). But the girl group-meets-British invasion-meets-old school soul feel of songs like “But I Have To” works for them.

Grown Up Avenger Stuff “Alive” - This female fronted rock quartet rests somewhere between art rock and more accessible alternative, but with the assistance of producer Bruce Irvine (Anthony Hamilton) their chops and complex arrangements are more fully realized.

Sinners and Saints “Stupid Little Songs” - Perry Fowler’s songs aren’t so stupid, actually. These rootsy acoustic tracks are heartfelt, no frills, and (sometimes) boot stomping in a way that reminds me of early Avett Brothers.

Lindsey Ryan “The Divers” - Formerly known as Lindsey Horne, this Charlotte singer-songwriter returned to the local music scene as a solo artist after years spent studying poetry and working as a music teacher backed by a group of local all-star musicians. The time was well spent.
Groove 8 “Curious Poses” - The long running Charlotte octet went through some lineup changes, but it returned with an album that pushed the band forward by introducing vocals while still maintaining its anchor in cinematic, old school funk and jazz.

This week's hot concerts

Steel Standing
7:30 p.m. Friday, December 28, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $8. 704-377-6874.
Following the release of its second album, “Wreckage,” this local heavy rock outfit is calling it quits. It’s farewell concert sees the group return to its original trio format.

Keller Williams/That 1 Guy
9 p.m. Friday, December 28, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $23-$33/$48 VIP. 704-358-9298.
Williams foregoes New Year’s Eve at the `the hood this year in favor of a holiday weekend show that features a set by one man band That 1 Guy - a musical anomaly of funk, rock, and invention, a solo, looping set, and his new six-piece R&B/funk group More Than A Little.

Nipsey Hussle
8 p.m. Saturday, December 29, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $18-$20.
This cleverly named Los Angeles’ rapper’s buzz has been building for years with seven mix-tape releases (some available for free on his website) and prime guest spots. The latest news has his next mix tape pushed to 2013. So will 2013 be the year the indie emcee makes his official label release? 

Drivin’ N’ Cryin/Blue Dogs
8:30 p.m. Saturday, December 29, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $15-$25/$30 VIP. 704-358-9298.
Two Southeastern staples. The former - a Georgia outfit - had a string of early `90s hits and a career that seamlessly blends Southern rock, grunge, blues and country. The latter is a Charleston institution that has long packed clubs with its modern twist of bluegrass and many strains of rock.

Gigi Dover and Big Love
9 p.m. Saturday, December 29, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $8-$10. 704-376-1446.
Boasting a full, hearty voice, this veteran Charlotte songwriter has evolved over her last two records moving from roots-rock and bluesy Americana to a sound that includes layers of world music.

Widespread Panic
9 p.m. Monday, December 31, Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St. $81.55.
The Athens’ jam rock fixture has taken most of 2012 off the road, but as in 2011, it returns to TWC Arena for a New Year’s Eve Blowout that hints at surprises and another marathon set.

The Spongetones
9:30 p.m. Monday, December 31, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $10-$15. 704-376-1446.
Approaching its 34th year together, what started as a `60s throwback remains steeped in the Beatles but also grooves on psychedelic pop, new wave, and jangle pop.  

10 p.m. Wednesday, January 2, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. Free.
The Rock Hill roots music foursome begins its month long residency at Snug Harbor, which leads up to the January 29 release of its new album “Salt in the Wound, Flesh on the Bone.” With Sinners and Saints.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top concerts of 2012

It's that time again. Time to reflect on the past year. Over the next few days I'll post what I consider my favorite albums, singles, concerts, and local releases of 2013. 

Usually coming up with an end of year best of list is easy, but so much of the time I would've spent listening to my favorite new albums was spent listening to what my children wanted to hear. Thinking back on the great concerts I witnessed was easier. Sometimes you instantly know when an album or concert will rank among the best you've heard or seen all year. In other instances it takes time for a album to grow on you through repeat listens or by reflecting on a concert experience. We'll start with the latter. 

Foo Fighters Rock the Vote, The Fillmore, September 5- I felt fortunate to even get in to see the Foo Fighters in a club, but to witness what Dave Grohl and company estimate was their longest set ever (which their publicist later confirmed) at three-plus hours? That was really special. And if there’s one band I can stand to listen to for three whole hours, I’m glad it was this tireless rock n’ roll work horse especially knowing a hiatus was in the near future. 
Miranda Lambert, Bojangles’ Coliseum, January 25 - While this probably won’t make the country singer’s top shows - ever - the vulnerability and strength she displayed playing a rescheduled show just a week after her father-in-law’s death endeared her to fans. She struggled through some tear-stained songs, but was in prime voice on others and demonstrated that a real pro doesn’t storm off stage in a huff when things don’t go her way. This show felt special because there was a true connection between Lambert and her empathetic fans.
The Killers, The Orange Peel, Asheville, July 19 - It was our first time seeing them since a tent at Coachella in 2004 and the club was probably smaller than that tent. They were every bit as charismatic and exciting, but this time we actually knew most of the songs.
Of Montreal, Neighborhood Theatre, June 12 - From costumes to music to pure entertainment value this lively, colorful set was one of the most memorable of the year. And it helped introduce other fine acts - Chappo and Kishi Bashi, whose members were both touring with Of Montreal - to the Charlotte audience.
Bad Veins, Snug Harbor, June 8 - There was just something special about this duo, whose bouncy indie-pop cut through the bustle of the late night crowd. It topped off the adorable Dan Sartain’s punk set at The Milestone earlier that night. (It’s always great and economical to hit more than one good show in a night if you're paying a babysitter).
Lee Fields & the Expressions, Tremont Music Hall, Dec 7 - Although I didn’t see the entire set, this 1970’s soul veteran on the gradual comeback trail drew a diverse crowd and was all the buzz via Twitter that night. With sets by locals Yardwork and the O’Getters with Antiseen’s Jeff Clayton guesting and a crowd that filled the entire front room, it felt like Tremont circa 1999.
Coldplay, Time Warner Cable Arena, July 3 - Though I was a bit disappointed in Robyn who made my best lists in 2010 and 2011 (I thought a more upbeat set list would’ve served to better win over the US audience), Coldplay is just a phenomenal live band. You can accuse them of being too mainstream, too predictable, too vanilla. Whatever. I once thought those things too. But on stage they’re a force whose shows feel like a sort of religious experience (except maybe for my friend Tina, who was eating crackers during the encore).
Die Roten Punkte, Duke Energy Theater, August 1 - There is nothing quite like this hilarious German mock rock band. Brother and sister Astrid and Otto’s relationship issues come to a head through song, dance, and banter (conflicting tales of how they were orphaned for instance). What’s more, the songs are actually as catchy as they are funny.
Jane’s Addiction/The Duke Spirit, Ovens Auditorium, May 23 - Nothing can compare to the first time I saw Jane’s Addiction. I was 15 and it was my first non-hair metal, non-teeny bopper show. However having seen them a few years ago with Nine Inch Nails, my expectations weren’t high. But in the intimate setting of Ovens with Perry Farrell’s wife Etty playing some sort of dancing S&M goddess, Farrell not appearing nearly as old and pervy as at Verizon, and the group completely on, it turned out to be the best slice of junior high nostalgia since the Pixies reunion stopped by in 2010. They even won over my husband who is by no means a fan.
Justin Townes Earle and Tift Merritt, McGlohon Theater, November 16 - I’ve always liked Steve Earle’s son for his honesty and passion for the history of American music. I was delighted to see such a large crowd clue into what he’s been up to for the last three albums after seeing him with maybe twenty people at the Muse a few years ago. He was funny, honest, and I couldn’t have chosen a better set list myself (although I might’ve added a cover of one of his dad’s songs). Merritt was bouncy, fun, and genuine singing mostly new tracks from her “Traveling Alone” album. I didn’t even mind not hearing some of my old favorites. And that voice!

Honorable Mentions
Here are a few that just missed the cut.
Ours, The Milestone, July 17 - Jimmy Gnecco’s voice is just absolutely amazing and this intimate set seemed to be as much fun for the band as it was for the crowd.
Roger Waters, Time Warner Cable Arena, July 10 - While I’m not a huge Pink Floyd fan (gasp!), this would probably top my husband’s list and seeing the revival so close (third row) certainly ranks on the list of milestones.
The Hunters with A Place to Bury Strangers, Tremont, July 25 - The best surprise of the year. I went on a whim and found opening duo the Hunters like a volatile marriage of dissonant art punk and my beloved riot grrrl. Then headliners A Place to Bury Strangers blew me away with its nod to Jesus and Mary Chain in the way that I had hoped She Wants Revenge would a few years ago.
Stars with California Wives and Diamond Rings, Visulite, September 27 - The most consistent lineup I saw all year.
Wolf Gang with Atlas Genius and the Royal Concept, Booth Playhouse and the Whigs, Visulite, November 3 - What a birthday weekend. Sweden’s Royal Concept was a revelation. Definitely one to watch. The environment of Booth - not a traditional rock club - was comfortable and the sound was good. Cap that with the always riveting live rock show of Athens’ trio the Whigs. I could watch them for hours.
Lydia Loveless, Double Door, February 2 - This Ohio roots singer-songwriter is at her best when letting the off-the-cuff, unfiltered banter fly. Her stories and awkward asides are almost as good as her killer songs of heartbreak and struggle and a voice that sounds like a less refined, less depressing Neko Case.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A musical Christmas at our house

Given my (and my husband’s) interest in music I figured our kids would naturally gravitate toward it, but I never imagined our Christmases would be so steeped in music so early on. Our sons are two and almost four. The oldest’s Christmas list includes the Muppets cd with OK Go on it (aka “The Green Album”), Blur’s new “Parklive” box set, Material Issue’s out-of-print Greatest Hits, and a drum kit (I think my mom got our younger son a toy violin). 

After watching scenes from Blur’s reunion shows this summer on YouTube, Devo (the oldest) has anxiously been awaiting the “Parklive” release - a five disc collection celebrating the band’s summer shows that includes a DVD which is also available separately. In the past year his favorite band has gone from hip-hop/rock duo the Knux to long departed Chicago power pop trio Material Issue to Damon Albarn’s defunct Brit-pop foursome who he has named four of his little figures after. We carry Damon everywhere. You never know what will click with them. The little one has a soft spot for Rick Springfield, Robyn, and ABBA. 

In addition to “Parklive” he’s getting a special double disc reissue of Blur’s 1997 self-titled album, which has suddenly become a fixture in our car 15 years after I first bought it. He discovered a certain version (the Road Version) of the song “M.O.R.” online that’s only available on that two-disc set. And he’ll let you know if you’re playing the wrong version. It doesn’t hurt to have extra copies since he drags my cds and their liner notes all over the house (I’ve purchased extra copies of the Knux and Material Issue’s “International Pop Overthrow” albums when I’ve found them used because of this). 

Under the tree he and his brother also have t-shirts featuring Blur, OK Go, My Chemical Romance (in the style of South Park characters) and our favorite band, the National. Whether you argue nature or nurture the results of their environment have really taken hold. For Christmas we made their teachers mixed CDs of all the songs they sing at school. 

Tonight as we sat around the house on Christmas Eve my husband’s relatives ask if they know “Jingle Bells.” Devo replies, “I know ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’ by ZZ Top.” 

Friday, December 21, 2012

This week's hot concerts

Morisen Records 10 Year Anniversary Bash
8 p.m. Friday, December 21, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $12-$15. 704-358-9200.
Although its existence was relatively short-lived, during its run this Charlotte-based label placed local bands like the Talk, the Sammies, and Alternative Champs on high profile soundtracks and at the SXSW and CMJ festivals. Many of the acts whose albums it released return for the bash including the Sammies, Dillon Fence, Elevator Action, Alternative Champs, and Leisure McCorkle.

2013 Wolves
8 p.m. Friday, December 21, The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $5-$7.
The duo of Neal MF Harper and Robert Childers (who's playing double duty tonight with a gig at Snug Harbor) gels into a visceral force of unique bluesy hard rock riffing, garage punk roots, and head turning gospel-soul. Pig Mountain, Earthling, Towering Pyre, and Salted Slugs are also on the bill.

10 p.m. Friday, December 21, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $12-$15. 704-376-3737.
The duo of David Bielanko - critically acclaimed songwriter and leader of the commercially underrated band - and Christine Smith perform an intimate acoustic duo set. Consider the rare treat a prequel to the upcoming 2013 album “Mountain Minstrelsy.”

Benji Hughes, Andy the Doorbum
10 p.m. Friday, December 21, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $10.
It’s not the holidays at the Harbor without Hughes. He shares the bill with fellow bearded frontman Andy the Doorbum, so expect lots of hair to fly, and a healthy double dose of deep voices, big banter and unpredictable sets. With Robert Childers’ Luciferian Agenda.
Acoustic Syndicate
8 p.m. Saturday, December 22, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $15-$17. 704-358-9200.
This innovative roots music outfit has been merging bluegrass, rock, and reggae in the Carolinas since the ’90s. After a hiatus – which saw its members working steady 9-to-5 jobs – the still-active band is back working on a new album. It plays its annual holiday show.
Havana Brown
10 p.m. Saturday, December 22, Label, 900 NC Music Factory Blvd. $20.
The Australian electropop DJ/singer/dancer scored a No. 1 dance hit here in the U.S. with “We Run the Night” (in part thanks to collaborator Pitbull). She returns with a new single, “Big Banana,” and for a dance party at the luxurious NC Music Factory nightclub.
Double Door’s 39th Anniversary Party
10 p.m. Saturday, December 22, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $10. 704-376-1446.
The Milestone Club may technically be older, but the blues club on the outskirts of downtown is the most consistent longest running local venue. It remains a hotbed of blues, jam, and Americana. The Federal Bureau of Rock n’ Roll helps it celebrate its birthday - just shy of the big 4-0.

Rebirth Brass Band
8 p.m. Wednesday, December 26, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $15-$30. 704-358-9298.
The New Orleans outfit was discovered at the 1982 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, has gone on to release more than a dozen albums, and scored a Grammy this year (Best Regional Roots Music Album). The day-after-Christmas show will get you off the couch and dancing again. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Friday marks MoRisen Records' anniversary concert, Dillon Fence reunion

In 2002 MoRisen Records was a new Charlotte-based indie rock label. I’d watched bands launch their own “labels” for years with little success, but with releases from groups like Leisure McCorkle, Chapel Hill’s Snatches of Pink, and eventually the Talk, Chuck Morrison’s venture seemed to be a legitimate business. Morrison had made some money in another business (I believe it had to do with designing a computer mouse that looked like a race car) and decided to invest in Charlotte’s budding indie-rock scene. He not only signed and released records by long running Charlotte staples like the Alternative Champs and the Houstons as well as new artists like the Sammies, but threw an annual concert called NMX that showcased both his label’s bands as well as other artists.

To celebrate the label’s 10th anniversary, MoRisen will hold a nostalgic concert featuring many of its former bands, on Friday, December 21, the actual anniversary of the first NMX show. My husband and I attended the second NMX show in 2003 right before we started dating, so I remember it well. One of the groups on the bill was the Whigs. It didn’t completely win me over that night, but in the almost decade since the Athens’ rock trio has become one of my favorites both live and on record. It was a baby band then with only a year or so of playing under its collective belt. It has since appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman” and recently on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and has released four albums, three of which are some of my favorites of the last ten years.

The anniversary roster includes several bands that made an impact locally and beyond. The lineup includes a Dillon Fence reunion (a band that predated the label, but saw a “Best of” released by it posthumously), as well as the return of the Sammies, Elevator Action, the Alternative Champs, and Leisure McCorkle (all of whose live activity varies locally). In NMX fashion, the bill also includes a newer group - Melrose Heights.

Morrison definitely had an ear for songs. While not every release was a slam dunk, there were some great tracks on those records. I don’t know how many mixes I’ve included the Alternative Champs’ “Set Your Face on Fire” (from 2005’s “Welcome to Fort Awesome”) on. The Sammies’ “Falling Out” and “For John” remain perfect slices of that time period.

Morrison also didn’t try to clean the bands up too much either. While college rock was getting slicker and slicker, he allowed his bands to appear warts and all. There was often a gritty, garage rock quality to the records. That’s true of Snatches of Pink’s “Hyeana,” one of the label’s first releases. It was a messy, garage rock romp. The songs “Nero” and “Otto Wood” (other mix tape staples) are near perfect in their spastic energy. Likewise for the Talk. I think it peaked with its second album “Like Magic in Reverse.” It was a bit more polished than its first disc, but still awash in distorted fuzz. Justin Williams’ faux English accent cut its way through that dense whir kind of making you strain to hear the lyrics. The last track “Hold Your Money Well” was probably my favorite.

Morrison dismantled the label and moved to Columbia a few years ago. It seems like (aside from the Alternative Champs) the bands who he helped send to South By Southwest in Austin and CMJ’s New Music showcase in New York as well as placed on film soundtracks became a little less active without the label in their corner. But that doesn’t lessen the impact of the music they made.

You can judge for yourself, at least in part, taking a walk down the memory lane of Charlotte circa the mid 2000s Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 to $15 and are available at

Thursday, December 13, 2012

This week's hot concerts

Trey Songz
7 p.m. Friday, December 14, Bojangles’ Coliseum, 3400 E. Independence Blvd. $60.35-$81.90.
The modern day R. Kelly straddles raunchiness and romanticism like he balances party-starting hip-hop and contemporary R&B slow jams on his latest album “Chapter V.” He teams with recent Grammy nominees Miguel and Elle Varner.

Sick Puppies
7 p.m. Friday, December 14, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $20-$23.
WEND 106.5 holds its annual Not So Acoustic Xmas concert with this Aussie trio who is as steeped in late `90s hard rock as the station itself. The group might reveal material from its upcoming 2013 album. With Breaking Laces and Churchill.

Nnenna Freelon and John Brown Big Band
8 p.m. Saturday, December 15, McGlohon Theater, 345 N. College St. $29.50-$39.50. 704-372-1000.
The inaugural event to bring a quarterly swing jazz series to Charlotte was a big success. This time Duke University’s Brown and his big band welcome renowned guest vocalist Freelon for a show heavy on holiday favorites.

Mount Moriah
8 p.m. Saturday, December 15, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $8-$10. 704-376-3737.
This triangle area critical darling’s sadly soulful debut was one of “Shuffle Magazine’s” 2011 best of the Carolinas’. With its gospel-tinged indie-Americana debut and a heavier, fuller follow-up slated for February, this is a regional act to watch.

Suzy Boggus
8 p.m. Saturday, December 15, Don Gibson Theater, 318 S. Washington St., Shelby. $24.50.
Although she hasn’t had a bona fide hit single in over a decade, the country singer had eleven Top 40 country songs during the height of her career in the late `80s and `90s. She hasn’t slowed down. She’ll perform a special Christmas show.

Crushed Out
10 p.m. Saturday, December 15, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $7-$9 704-376-3737.
In the spirit of raw garage rock duos, the pair formerly known as Boom Chick! share an affinity for slide blues, dramatic messy riffing, and unpredictability with bands like the White Stripes, early Stones, and Stooges with an added sprinkle of rockabilly playfulness.

Thomas Rhett
11 p.m. Saturday, December 15, Coyote Joe’s, 4621 Wilkinson Blvd. $12-$15.
In the mid-`90s this second generation country singer’s father Rhett Akins had a handful of hits including “That Ain’t My Truck” and “Don’t Get Me Started.” The 22-year-old follows in Dad’s footsteps co-writing Jason Aldean’s “I Ain’t Ready to Quit” and charting his own solo career.

The Gathering
4 p.m. Sunday, December 16, McGee Theatre at The Batte Center, Wingate University, 403 N. Camden Rd. $25.
Last winter The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Rhiannon Giddens and Polecat Creek’s Lauralyn Dossett headed up this “gathering” to release a unique holiday cd based in part on Dossett’s song cycle for symphony and string band and other songs the musicians unearthed. This holiday performance is a rare one as the participants all have successful full-time gigs.

8 p.m. Sunday, December 16, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $5-$7.
Between the Buried and Me bassist Dan Briggs is one third of this experimental heavy fusion outfit who delivers similarly heady workouts on traditional rock instruments that you’d expect from a BTBAM vet. With likeminded musical adventurers Hectagons! HRVRD, and Blossoms.

The Business
8 p.m. Tuesday, December 18, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $10-$12.
The English anti-racist Oi! band has been around almost as long as punk rock. Its influential version of UK street punk remains as snotty, defiant, and urgent as ever with shouted choruses that beg for fist pumping sing-alongs.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Greensboro's J. taps famous boss, friend for single

If you saw any of Prince's 2011 Carolinas concerts or his halftime appearance at the 2007 Super Bowl, then you've heard Greensboro-native and Prince's backup singer Shelby Johnson sing. Today the soul-funk vocal powerhouse, who goes by Shelby J, released a new single. It's not just any track though. The song's called "North Carolina" and features fellow North Carolinian Anthony Hamilton (who opened Prince's last Charlotte show) and is produced by the Purple One himself.

At one point Prince practically had a second career producing singles and albums for ladies like Sheena Easton, Shelia E., and Vanity 6, (and wasn't there something about Kim Basinger around the time they were both associated with Tim Burton's "Batman?" Better forgotten, probably).

Such a talented trio should entice listeners to check out the song. It's available as a digital single through Amazon and CD Baby and should be available via iTunes shortly. A full-length album is tentatively set for Spring. (Photo courtesy of Johnson's ReverbNation site).

Friday, December 7, 2012

Brother & sister solo artists sell out as acoustic duo

As solo artists, siblings Jessica Lea and David Mayfield are two very different performers on stage.
He’s a comedic acoustic-roots music revelation known for jokey facial expressions, shaking his behind, and sometimes hopping up on the bar.

She’s a more subdued presence. Her haunting, seemingly Southern alto (they’re both from Ohio) and beautiful psychedelic folk vibe transcend eras, as if Patsy Cline were jamming with Led Zeppelin.
Both are backed by stellar bands. His is a rotating cast called the Parade. Hers is a crack quartet big on individual personality that includes her husband of nearly a year on bass. But neither will be part of the equation when brother and sister perform as an acoustic duo at Evening Muse Friday(dec7). The concert is sold out. 

“This will be the first time we’ve done anything like this,” says David Mayfield, 30, who played bass in his sister’s band as well as the bluegrass outfit Cadillac Sky before leading the Parade. They also grew up playing in their family’s bluegrass band. She started at 8, he at 12.

“These shows are kind of getting back to our roots and bluegrass-influenced things,” says Jessica Lea Mayfield, 23.

The stripped-down approach will feature duets, new arrangements of solo material, traditional gospel and bluegrass, and maybe a preview of their respective upcoming albums (his features guest spots from Dierks Bentley, Seth Avett, and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver).

Despite the seven-year age difference, the siblings – who were isolated by being on tour and home schooled – were “best friends growing up.”

“I taught her her first guitar chord when she was about 11. She asked me to teach her this song ‘Creep’ by Stone Temple Pilots. I was a bluegrass kid who thought anything that didn’t have a banjo was the devil’s music. I was hesitant. She picked it right up and started writing songs,” he recalls.
“Before I moved to Nashville, we had a Monday night gig at a pizza place for five years. We’d get drunk college kids heckling us. It was sort of performing boot camp.”

Echoes Jessica Lea Mayfield: “One of the earliest memories I have of playing music with my brother – he was listening to (and playing along to) Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver cassette tapes. I was pretty sure he’d thought he’d invented overdubbing by putting two cassette players together. I was his guinea pig, singing all the parts he asked me to sing,” she says, laughing.

“We learned to play music together. I can probably guess what he’s going to do before he does it.”
He left Jessica Lea Mayfield’s band in 2009.

“I told him he needs to be a front person. ‘You shouldn’t be the bass player in somebody’s band,’.” she recalls. “It was rough when he quit touring with me.”

It helps to have her husband in her band now.

“It’s nice to have my best friend and the person I’m in love with also be someone that I work with and all that cheesy stuff,” she says.

But musically the harmonies and intuition she shares with her brother on stage are unique.
“You can’t match someone as well as a family member. There’s something about the way people talk (and sing) – that brotherly or sisterly harmony.”

Plus, she adds: “He brings out a more fun side in me when we’re on stage together.”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: Nelson rocks; volume and chatting do not

Charlotteans got the rare opportunity to see music legend Willie Nelson perform in a somewhat intimate club setting Wednesday night at The Fillmore. The 79-year-old seemed in better voice than he did at the Cabarrus Arena in 2004. If you could hear him, that is.

Nelson went on promptly at nine after sets from his children Lukas (with his band Promise of the Real) and Paula Nelson. He kicked off with the crowd-pleaser “Whiskey River.” His voice was a tad raspy at first and his acoustic guitar was practically the only thing those in the back of the venue could hear. The balance got better but during songs like “Still Is Still Moving to Me” and the bluesy “Shoeshine Man” (which featured tasteful solos from both Lukas Nelson on guitar and his aunt/Nelson’s older sister Bobbie on piano), the crowd got louder. Not louder as in hooting in approval. Louder as in having lengthy conversations.

The solos were a treat as Bobbie boogied with honky-tonk piano and Nelson himself stretched briefly into jazzy finger picking that often seemed interpretive and improvised. It was a bit of a struggle to hear the nuances of “Crazy” (his original, which Patsy Cline made a hit). Lukas Nelson took the lead on “Texas Flood.” The song - made famous by Stevie Ray Vaughan - showcased the younger Nelson as a blues singer with a big voice. With his shaggy hair and mustache he looks as if he could’ve stepped out of the late `70s outlaw era.

Then it was what I think of as Mom’s portion of the show - songs from Nelson’s most loved records that my parents played when I was growing up. These include sing-alongs “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” “On the Road Again,” “Always on My Mind,” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” He paid tribute to Hank Williams’ with “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” “Hey Good Lookin’,” and “Move It On Over.”

While it’s not a discredit to Nelson or his band, the volume could not compete with the crowd unless you were strategically placed near the stage. Throughout the night my mother and I cruised the club in search of satisfactory sights and sound. From the fourth level we could see Nelson in his signature bandana and braids clearly, but the party atmosphere was all talk/no listen. From the second we couldn’t see, but could hear the entire band well through the stream of drunken chatter. Finally, we found a perfect spot near the merchandise booth on the floor where the view and volume (possibly aided by the monitors on stage) were perfect. Yet not all 2,000 fans can stand stage side.

From there we heard “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train” and “Healing Hands of Time.” The latter featured a remarkable harmonica solo. There were moments that if I closed my eyes I could mistake that harmonica for a classical violin. Oddly enough it was the seasonally fitting “Jingle Bells” that raised the roof with almost the entire sold out crowd singing along followed by the lovely “Pretty Paper.” The sing-alongs continued as the Nelson family gathered `round one microphone to buoy their father through modern standards like “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “I’ll Fly Away” and “I Saw the Light.”

For those gathered on the floor - from suburbanites to local musicians; ages ranging from hipster twenty-somethings to those in Nelson’s age bracket - the sing-alongs seemed to melt away the sound issues and overzealous drunks. But what about those in reserved seats or that had staked out prime viewing at the back of the room? I heard several complaints about the low volume and the talking. One text from a friend that works at many large concerts and who’d heard similar complaints said: “It’s like people aren’t there to watch the band. The concert has become a cocktail party.” And a pretty pricey one at that.

I couldn’t help but wish that my mom’s first real (the first was rained out in the `80s) and possibly last Willie Nelson show had been held at a theater like the Knight where the atmosphere lends itself less to a rowdy party. That would cut down on the intimacy and the wannabe saloon environment, which songs like “Roll Me Up” (which he played late in the set) and “Whiskey River” lend themselves so well too. 

Yet, considering Nelson’s skill as a songwriter and interpreter of others’ songs, I’d almost rather hear them in a setting where “Always On My Mind” would undoubtedly bring a tear to Mom’s eye.  

This week's hot concerts

Lee Fields & the Expressions                                                                                                                                                                                              
7 p.m. Friday, December 7, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $13-$15.
The Eastern NC native channels authentic soul, funk and R&B because he’s the real deal. He was a recording artist during the soulful `70s and has been making a steady comeback since the `90s working with soul-funk revival labels and taking a similar trajectory as Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, and Betty LaVette.

Gasoline Heart
8 p.m. Friday, December 7, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $5-$7.
The working class thread of the Replacements and Springsteen weaves through 2012’s “Thanks for Everything,” which expands on the act’s punk roots. Frontman Louis DiFabrizio performs songs solo and with the band. With Pullman Strike, AM/FMs, and Death on Two Wheels.

Popa Chubby
10 p.m. Friday, December 7, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $10-$12. 704-376-1446.
Despite losing his lower Manhattan studio to Hurricane Sandy, the brawny, burly NYC-native is back tempering his rowdy electric blues attack with introspective, mature new songs and the introduction of Beethoven and Judy Garland into his canon.

Jessica Lea Mayfield & David Mayfield
10 p.m. Friday, December 7, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $15. 704-376-3737.
The Ohio sister and brother are exceptional solo artists in their own right. Here they team for the Sibling Rivalry tour, performing as an acoustic duo unearthing rarely played gospel and bluegrass numbers as well as new and old material from their own catalogs.

Steep Canyon Rangers
7 p.m, Saturday, December 8, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $15-$25. 704-358-9298.
The Western-NC band takes a break from moonlighting as actor Steve Martin’s Grammy winning backing band for its own bluegrass originals on the 2012 album “Nobody Knows You," which was nominated for a Grammy earlier this week. 

Richard Elliot and Nick Colionne
8 p.m. Saturday, December 8, Halton Theater, 1206 Elizabeth Ave. $30-$49.
Scottish saxman Elliot’s has a penchant for wildly ornate instruments and for reworking familiar pop and R&B tracks. He’s paired with award-winning singer/guitarist Colionne, who adds his own soul-funk take on contemporary smooth jazz.

Desert Noises
10 p.m. Saturday, December 8, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $8-$10. 704-376-3737.
The local buzz alone is enough to pique interest in this Utah outfit which recalls a more rock-oriented, ’70s Southern California-rooted Band of Horses (less twang, more pop) and features boyish bassist Tyler Osmond (yes, he’s a relative of Donny and Marie).

Marina & the Diamonds
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 11, The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $26.50.
This Welsh/Greek pop singer combines the voice and intelligence of Kate Bush with the imagery, aesthetic, and hooks more akin to a bubblegum Britney. On stage, she’ll go from tongue-in-cheek to waxing poetic about bulimia and girls’ struggles.

Wanda Jackson
8 p.m. Thursday, December 13, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $20-$25/$35 VIP. 704-358-9298.
Having enjoyed yet another comeback with the assistance of producer Jack White, the 75-year-old rockabilly legend teams with second-generation folkie Justin Townes Earle, who brings out her country, gospel and early rock roots on her latest album. 

Maybach cancels weekend's Carolina concerts

The Maybach Music Group's concerts featuring Rick Ross (pictured), Meek Mill, and Wale scheduled for Greensboro Coliseum Friday, December 7 and Charlotte's Bojangles' Coliseum Saturday, December 8, have both been cancelled.

Refunds will be given at point of purchase beginning tomorrow, December 7. Tickets purchased by credit card by phone or online will automatically be refunded.

The cancellation comes on the heels of two of the artists' Grammy nominations. Ross received a Best Rap Album nod for "God Forgives, I Don't," while Wale is up for Best Rap Song for the track "Lotus Flower Bomb."

Numerous NC acts up for Grammys

North Carolinians are up for what could be a record number of Grammys this year. The nominations stretch across all genres and many of the NC nominees call the Charlotte area home. 

Charlotte native and current resident Anthony Hamilton’s “Pray For Me” is up for Best R&B Song. His competition includes Tamia, Elle Varner, and Trey Songz and Miguel, who both play Bojangles Coliseum Friday, December 14. Hamilton's 2011 album "Back To Love" is also up for Best R&B Album against Robert Glasper Experiment, R. Kelly, Tamia, and Tyrese. Salaam Remi, a producer on “Back to Love,” is also up for producer of the year.

Granite Falls native Eric Church’s track “Springsteen” is up for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song. Dierks Bentley, Hunter Hayes, Blake Shelton, and Ronnie Dunn are also nominated in the solo performance category. While Church, Dunn, Carrie Underwood, Eli Young Band, and Alan Jackson make up the Best Country Song nominees. 

Concord-based the Avett Brothers’ “The Carpenter” is up for Best Americana Album. John Fullbright, the Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, and Bonnie Raitt also made the category. 

Western NC's the Steep Canyon Rangers, who have spent much of the year backing Grammy winner Steve Martin and play a headlining show at Neighborhood Theatre Saturday, are competing in the Best Bluegrass Album category for their 2012 entry “Nobody Knows You.” It will have to beat out Dailey & Vincent, the Grascals, Special Consensus, and Noam Pikelny. 

The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ “Leaving Eden” will vie for Best Folk Album against Ry Cooder, the North Mississippi Allstars’ Luther Dickinson, Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Myer, and Chris Thile’s “The Goat Road Sessions” collaboration, and the all-star collection “This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark.” The Drops just played a sold out show in NoDa last weekend. 

Jacksonville, NC native Ryan Adams’ “Ashes & Fire” is also up for Best Engineered Non-Classical album.

And in one-degree (or so) of separation news, pop group fun., which includes Charlotte’s Emily Moore singing backup and playing keys and guitar in its touring band (although she did not appear on the record), is up for numerous awards. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Remembering Rodney Lanier a year later

It's been a year this week since the Charlotte music community lost musician Rodney Lanier, who passed away Friday, December 9, 2011 after a short battle with cancer. 

Lanier's friend and former band mate Jason Hausman will pay tribute to him Saturday, December 8 at Rem-Rod: A Musical Evening Remembering Rodney Lanier with the band Sunshone Still (pictured above with Hausman far left and Lanier far right), who Rodney also played with. The concert, which includes a performance by Elonzo, will be held at Evening Muse - the club where Lanier was a sound engineer and jack of all trades. It is the place I interviewed him one October afternoon last year shortly after news of his illness spread. 

Hausman recalls Lanier's contributions to Sunshone Still's newest album "When the World Dies": "Every time he showed me a new part for that record, it was an earth-shattering moment. I was stunned by the simple beauty in his melodies." It was released after his death.

I didn't know Rodney well. He worked with my friends at Contagious Graphics at one point when not touring with Charlotte-based Americana band Jolene, who by that time had toured internationally and opened for bands like Hootie & the Blowfish. I knew him as Rodney Bear, because that's what my friend Carsten lovingly called him. Years later my husband and I would talk to him briefly outside the Muse. He was just someone you instantly liked. I miss those sporadic encounters. 

I've talked to a lot of people about Rodney - during the days after his death and when his name comes up during interviews with other Charlotte musicians like Hausman and Lindsey Ryan (who was, for a time, part of Lanier's band Sea of Cortez). Although I didn't know him well his death affected me profoundly. For a long time I don't think there was a day that I didn't think about him at some point partly because he was such an integral yet humble presence in the community and because his death was so sudden. Mostly I thought about what he said to me and how he lived his life.

When I interviewed him that day at the Muse he talked about how he'd finally gotten to a point in his life where (I'm paraphrasing here) things felt solid - his mortgage, he had a girlfriend, and the lineup of his band had taken shape in a way that it was getting stuff done again and really on to something. Heck, he even had health insurance, which isn't always true of musicians. He was optimistic about his treatment too. 

He left behind an army of friends and peers and a well full of memories and music. My husband and I were both shocked into action by his passing. Here we are thinking there will always be more time for creative pursuits, for what you'll someday leave behind. Because of Rodney, I got off my butt and started working on a project I'd been putting off for years. As a Christmas gift to each other this year my husband and I are booking time away for him to finish mixing his record and for me to (possibly, cross my fingers) finish a book I've spent the past six months working on (and five years thinking about).

I bet we're not the only ones. If Rodney had to go, I want to learn something from him. I hope that lesson never leaves me.