Tag Archive for 'Jim Viner'

The It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2015

Top 20

We’ve made it through another year of music. 2015 was another year of the music industry trying to figure out the future. Heavy hitters like Taylor Swift and Adele removed their music from online streaming services like Spotify– which might be interpreted as an ego move on both parts. Jay-Z’s Tidal enjoyed a bit of press due to Prince releasing two albums exclusively on it, though I still don’t know anyone who is using it.  Adele’s last-quarter release of her much-anticipated 25 album has just surpassed 5 million copies sold. There is a lot of debate about the significance of this as it applies to the general health of the industry. Ultimately, though, I don’t think you can use this as any kind of barometer– certainly not an indicator of “rebounding.”  One thing is for certain, though, her 50+ date tour in 2016 will be the top grossing.

In other re-warmed news, a reformed Grateful Dead with Trey Anastasio as “Jerry” played some high-grossing shows in LA and Chicago showing that baby boomers and Gen X’ers are willing to shell out lots of money to recapture even a brief glimpse of their youth. The shows seemed like a fitting celebration of 50 years and a kind of closure to the promise of the remainder of the band getting back together. The following “Dead and Friends” tour with John Mayer as “Jerry” has been benefiting from the exposure and in my opinion are an improved version of the Dead. His vocals and guitar work are top-notch and add a real polish to the proceedings.

Looking this list over, it shows that I spent most of 2015 listening to local artists. Iowa has really been stepping up its game for music and we’ve got some of the best music around. There were a lot of notable releases outside of Iowa, but I just didn’t find myself putting any of them on repeat. It says a lot– you don’t have to go far from your back yard to get world-class music.

Looking over other Best of Lists, I see some albums that I listened to and thought were good, but they just didn’t stick with me: The Decemberists – What A Wonderful World, What A Terrible World, Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell, Father John Misty – I Love You Honeybear, Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly, Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color.

Here is the list in no particular order–

Dickie – Self Titled : Dick Prall moved back to Iowa and started a new project with Kristina Priceman crafting a wonderful string-wrapped package of retro-inspired pop rock. Somewhere between the Beatles, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly sits this collection of autobiographical songs with heart.

Younger – Self Titled : This one from the new Iowa City band Younger was a late discovery for me, but no less brillant. Former members of The Wandering Bears and Emperors Club have put out a Riot Grrl-ish album that people are drawing comparisons to The Breeders and Bikini Kill. To me it sounds more like Pylon and Throwing Muses. In any event, a fantastic record that I’ll be spinning a lot in 2016, I expect.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit : Yep. More edgy Riot Grrlish rawk. On almost everyone’s list for 2015.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – Self Titled : I’ve been a fan of Nathaniel Rateliff ever since I saw him on the Daytrotter Barnstormer shows back in 2010 along with Delta Spirit. I’m a sucker for his well-crafted folk albums to date, but his transformation into an R&B powerhouse and seeing the nearly-universal embrace of it is pretty unexpected. Fantastic record and the return of Stax Records!

Holy White Hounds – Sparkle Sparkle : Des Moines band Holy White Hounds are gaining momentum by word of mouth. These guys make some pretty fantastic rock coupled with a great live show. Kind of 90’s throwback metal/grunge reinvented for the new century.

Phil Cook – Southland Mission : Hiss Golden Messenger sideman, member of Megafaun, producer and all-around great guy Phil Cook releases his first solo album with him singing. Due to a stupid security issue at Eaux Claires Festival this year, I missed his set, though it’s on YouTube. Rootsy, bluesy gospel-influenced boogie rock. I could put this album on every day and it puts the same dumb grin on my face every time.

Tom Jessen – Hunting Season : Former Iowa musician Tom Jessen released his first album in years– and that pent-up potential created what has to be the best snapshot of current American dystopia ever. Pretty damn fantastic portrait of how fucked up things are. LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM.

Charlie Parr – Stumpjumper : Speaking of Phil Cook, he produced the latest album from Minnesota retro blues and folk historian Charlie Parr. He was picked up by Red House Records which is a good home for him. This is the first album he’s done with a full band and the fleshing out of his sound really benefits the proceedings. “Over The Red Cedar” gives me goosebumps every time I play it.

Calexico – Edge of the Sun : Calexico tends to swing back and forth between full-on Latin-influenced albums and albums that lean a little more towards Americana-rock. This one ends up being more the latter. For me, I welcome the changes the band goes through– continually pushing the identity of what Calexico is.

Ryan Adams – 1989 : I did listen to this one a lot as soon as it appeared. It’s a really great album, but it seems like it is just an extension of last years self titled release– which isn’t bad at all. I like it, but I just about didn’t include it on the list because, for me anyway, Ryan Adams is a complete musician and songwriter, so I prefer to have more complete work rather than covers. I suppose some of this feeling is due to my relative unawareness of Taylor Swift’s blockbuster album it’s based on.

Dagmar – Afterlight : I can’t say enough about this Iowa duo. Atmospheric and sublime harmonies with unique counterpoint and rhythm. Jawdroppingly gorgeous album– somewhere between Philip Glass and Sufjan Stevens sits this baroque choral folk.

Pieta Brown – Drifters EP : The “lost” tracks from 2014’s fantastic Paradise Outlaw album. Brown is using this to launch her own “underground” imprint Lustre Records. Includes a remix from Justin Vernon!

The Pines – Pasture: Folk Songs EP : A kind of surprise drop from The Pines this year in the form of an EP of covers from Joe Price, Mance Lipscomb, Iris Dement, Mason Jennings & Greg Brown. No new ground broken here, but is a tribute to the songs that The Pines have included in their sets over the years.

Jim Viner’s Incredible B3 Band – COMANGO! : Jim Viner– Iowa drummer extrordinaire– assembled a collection of musician friends to create a retro B3-driven album with influences from The Meters and Booker T and the MGs. A really fun album that recalls the pre-Diplomette-vocals days of The Diplomats of Solid Sound. Destined to be part of the soundtrack to a cable TV show near you!

Kamasi Washington – The Epic – If I have any complaint about this sprawling masterpiece of Jazz, it’s that it can’t reasonably be digested in one sitting. But, if you’re willing to dedicate the time, this album is impressive in its diversity. I consider myself a fan of Jazz, but I don’t listen to much contemporary Jazz as I haven’t found much that really keeps my attention. I hope this signals a new generation of jazz artists who are willing to explore and innovate.

Thundercat – The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam – Thundercat works with Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington, and all three worked on the Kendrick Lamar album How To Pimp A Butterfly — noted for its adventuresome approach to the music. His short album (16 minutes, but Flying Lotus said it’s an album, not an EP) from this year featured him front-and-center singing and leading most of the music with his jazz and funk bass riffs.

Aero Flynn – Self Titled – Justin Vernon raves about Josh Scott as a songwriter. After a lot of years not performing music, he comes back with Aero Flynn. Atmospheric and swirling it sounds like a distant cousin of Radiohead when they made more straightforward songs (OK Computer, maybe).

Beth Bombara – Self Titled – Beth is back with her most polished and accomplished record to date. She continues her shuffling, pining folk and country. Dusty and awesome.

Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free : Brilliant record– literary and scenic songwriting. Isbell continues to impress with one of the great records from this year– almost unanimously agreed.

Lyrics Born – Real People – Lyric Born has never been shy to work with live band. He did one tour with a full band behind him (documented on the Overnite Encore Live album), he contributed vocals to the 2007 Galactic album From the Corner to the Block. His new album Real People includes members of Galactic as well as a who’s who of New Orleans musicians including Ivan Neville, Corey Henry, Trombone Shorty, the Revivalists’ David Shaw and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Typically upbeat and tongue in cheek the album is a funk overload. Great record– not sure why more people aren’t calling it out (see what I did there?).

(Free Download) Pieta Brown Encore Daytrotter Session

Today Daytrotter posted a session I’ve been waiting over a year-and-a-half to hear– Pieta Brown‘s encore session!

The session was recorded Thursday, June 11, 2009 using a short-lived band lineup called “Dream #9” with Jim Viner on drums, Jon Penner on bass and Bo Ramsey on guitar. They performed only two shows in this configuration. June 11th at The Redstone Room in Davenport and then on June 12th at The Mill in Iowa City, which I reviewed.

Here is a picture of that band lineup from The Mill Show:

Pieta Brown and Dream #9 at The Mill

Pieta’s first Daytrotter session was recorded in March of 2008. Between these two sessions recorded less than a year apart, Pieta would go from being on a semi-major label to being “in limbo” with no label. A situation which was remedied by September 2009. Nevertheless, Pieta had self-released an EP titled Flight Time in October 2008 and both sessions include songs from Flight Time as well as her Shimmer EP— produced by Don Was and her debut release on Red House Records.

The session is a nice cross-section of Pieta’s career:

1. “#807” is from her 2005 release In The Cool, which was released on Valley Entertainment and apparently is still in print!

2. “Going Away Blues” is a Frank Stokes cover that Pieta also recorded for her self-released 2003 EP I Never Told which is impossibly out-of-print. I managed to get one of these when Pieta discovered a box last year.

3. “4th of July” also on In The Cool.

4. “Sunrise Highway #44” is from her self-released EP Flight Time which is still available on CDBaby.

5. “You’re My Lover Now” is from her debut Shimmer EP on Red House Records. This version differs from the EP version by having some nice subtle brushwork from Jim Viner.

Pieta Brown Daytrotter Encore Session: The Faint Light of All Lungs and Hearts

Pieta  Brown has tour dates coming up (from her website) with a show at the Mill Restaurant on April 9th:

Date Time Location
Sat Mar 19 Bluegrass & Roots Festival, River Falls, WI more info
Sat Apr 09 The Mill, Iowa City, IA more info
Sat Apr 16 Stoughton Opera House, Stoughton, Wisconsin more info
Thu May 26 SPACE, Evanston, IL more info
Sat May 28 Crossings At Carnegie, Zumbrota, MN more info
Fri Jun 03 Mountain Jam Music Festival, Hunter, NY more info
Sat Jun 04 Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA more info
Sun Jun 05 Club Passim, Cambridge, MA more info
Sat Aug 06 Edmonton Folk Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA more info
Sun Aug 07 Edmonton Folk Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA more info

 

Pieta Brown & Dream #9 at the Mill in Iowa City 6-12-09 (review)

Pieta Brown Live at the Mill Iowa City Poster

As I reported earlier, Pieta Brown assembled a band to shake up her live performances, which are typically a duo (usually with Bo Ramsey on guitars). This makes for a very intimate performance and Pieta’s music and vocals undeniably shine in this setup, but it’s been my opinion for a while that she should perform in a band setting to more closely approximate her albums. So, I was naturally very interested to see this lineup at the Mill. I wasn’t too concerned about the success of this, since Dream #9 is made up of regular sidemen– Bo Ramsey on lead guitar and Jon Penner on bass. Dream #9 also has Jim Viner on drums. Jim has worked with Bo and Jon frequently, and Jim is also on Pieta’s new self-released EP Flight Time with Bo and Jon.

Friday night was rainy, and the prospects of subjecting my gear to certain watery peril was eating away at my resolve it seemed. Eventually with the coaxing of my wife I made a late departure from Cedar Rapids. The show started at 8PM, and the opening act– Parlour Suite— came with good online reviews, but my late departure meant I would miss most– if not all of their set. Indeed, I walked in at 8:45 and they were just wrapping up their set.

I ran into Jim Viner and his wife Katy eating at one of the booths so I got the lowdown on the Daytrotter session. Jim finished his chicken strips and made for the stage and I ended up sitting with Katy most of the night– when I wasn’t out shooting pictures anyway.

Pieta Brown and Dream #9 at The Mill

One of the first surprising things about this band lineup is that Pieta is playing electric guitar, too! I sort expected that she’d rock the acoustic, and leave the electric up to Bo. She concentrated on two guitars– a black Gibson SG with a P-90 pickup, and a Reverend Flatroc with a Bigsby. I recognized both of these guitars as being Bo’s. I saw that SG for the first time at Bo’s last gig at the Mill. The Reverend is one he’s had for a while, and is a unique guitar in that Reverend didn’t make many with the Bigsby, and in fact isn’t a standard option. After the show I asked Pieta about the guitars and she said that the guitars she wanted to play hadn’t arrived. She said that she has a Reverend Flatroc coming as well as a white Fender Telecaster! Those will be very complimentary to Bo’s guitars since one of his primary axes is a Telecaster Deluxe, too. Pieta said that she used to play electric guitar out when she lived in Tulsa and had a band– a fact I hadn’t heard before.

Bo Ramsey of Dream #9

Jim Viner of Dream #9

Jon Penner of Dream #9

Dream #9 is made up of seasoned musicians and are able to pull together a show on-the-fly with little prep. Effectively this band has only been playing Pieta’s songs for a couple of days– but they all found the pocket in Pieta’s songs perfectly.

Pieta Brown live in Iowa City

The show was a quick hour-and-a-half single set. The Mill wraps their shows up pretty early– the show was over by 11PM. So, don’t worry about going to mid-week shows here– you should still be in bed in time for work the next day provided you behave yourself! I was surprised about the low turn out. I guess the rain kept folks home– like it almost did for me.

The set was made up of a nice selection from all of Pieta’s albums and included some new songs that I assume are under consideration for a new album. All of Pieta’s songs benefit from the country-blues sound that I equate with Bo Ramsey and his projects. It gives the songs a similar feel and recognizable to her albums– all of which Bo helped produce. I would have liked to hear more songs from the new EP, but I suspect that as the band plays together more there will be variation in the set list. It was pretty clear that having the two Iowa shows was giving the group the home-court advantage to work out any kinks that might exist with this new arrangement.

Bo Ramsey and Pieta Brown

I really like Pieta fronting a band like this– it draws natural comparisons to other strong female artists like Lucinda Williams or maybe even Chrissy Hynde of the Pretenders. A good, structured driving rhythm really shows the strength of the songs– and not for a lack of intimacy where needed. On the song “Even When” from the Flight Time EP the band shows knows how to carry a gentle song, too.

Listening to the band and Pieta talking after the show it was clear that they were satisfied with the results, so hopefully we’ll start seeing more Dream #9-fueled shows in the future!

The band did record a Daytrotter show on Thursday, so I hope that session gets released in the near future.

Setlist (1 hour 27 minutes):

Sunrise Highway #44
In My Mind I Was Talking to Loretta
Rollin’ and Tumbin’
You’re My Lover Now
Rollin’ Down The Track
Bad News
Loving You Still
807
How Many Times Do I Hear Myself Say These Things
Faller (introduced as a new song)
West Monroe
I’m Going Away Blues (Frank Stokes cover)
Hey Run
Even When
Fourth of July
Over You
Remember The Sun
Are You Free

Click Here to visit Pieta Brown’s website.

Click Here to visit Pieta Brown’s MySpace Page

Pieta Brown Announces “Dream #9” Band and Upcoming Shows

In an e-mail announcement yesterday, Pieta Brown announced that she is creating a band to tour with her that she’s calling “Dream #9.” She says she formed the band to “expand the sonic landscape of her songs in a live setting.” Indeed, Pieta has successfully been touring in relatively stripped-down combos for her entire career– mostly, just as a duo of Bo Ramsey and her, and recently with Jon Penner.

I have been really impressed with Pieta’s last couple of albums and her new EP Flight Time, but I have admittedly been not very motivated to see her live, because I wanted to hear the songs with drums.

Dream #9 is made up of players who have worked with her live and in the studio– a pretty intuitive move, really. On guitar will be Bo Ramsey, of course, who is her constant touring partner and also produced all of her albums. On bass will be Jon Penner who has been working with Bo and Pieta for the last couple of years. On drums will be Jim Viner, who has worked with Bo, Jon and Pieta as well and, up until last year, was the drummer for the Diplomats of Solid Sound. Jon and Jim were in Bo’s band when I saw them for Springville Fun Days in 2006. Here is a picture of Bo, Jim and Jon from that show:

Dream #9

I haven’t had a chance to ask, but I wonder if “Dream #9” is a reference to the John Lennon song “#9 Dream?”

The first two shows with Dream #9 are Thursday, June 11th at the Redstone Room in Davenport, and Friday, June 12th at the Mill in Iowa City. Tickets for both shows are $10.

Additionally, Pieta and Dream #9 are scheduled to record a Daytrotter session on June 11th. This will be the second time Pieta and Bo have done a Daytrotter session– the last one was in 2008.

Click Here to visit Pieta Brown’s website

Click Here to visit Pieta Brown’s MySpace Page

Click Here to visit Pieta Brown on Facebook

Click Here to purchase Pieta Brown’s Flight Time EP.

Bo Ramsey and Stranger Blues Live in Dubuque 10/14/06

“I can’t believe that you came all this way to hang out here and hear the band play– you’re likeable.”
“Likeable” by Bo Ramsey

I managed to see one of the rare shows Bo Ramsey performed to promote his new album Stranger Blues. The last night of the mini-tour was in Dubuque, IA which is where my brother and sister-in-law live, so I called them up. Back in the late Eighties and early Nineties we used to go see Bo pretty much wherever he was playing, so it would be like old times. The venue was an art space/gallery that opened in the Warehouse district of Dubuque called “Voices Warehouse Gallery” which is in the Wilmac Warehouse, which will eventually have office space and condos.

Joining Bo on this run was a group assembled appropriately under the name “Stranger Blues.” This group represents two generations of Iowa-bred musicians. On drums was longtime sidemen Steve Hayes and on bass was Rico Cicalo both of whom worked on Stranger Blues. On B3 was Nate “Count” Basinger from the Iowa City R&B band The Diplomats of Solid Sound. Joining Bo on stage as rhythm guitarist was Bo’s son Benson Ramsey who is in the Minneapolis band The Pines.

The Voices Warehouse has only been open since September and it’s already had a couple of notable shows: the Bo Ramsey show and Andrew Bird played there the previous weekend. It’s a big open space with paintings and photos on the walls split up by artist and some sculptures on the floor. There’s a stage on one wall with old-time movie theater seats apparently bolted to the floor in rows as well as randomly spaced groupings of chairs and sofas. There is a bar of sorts off to one side made of polished limestone that was manned by members of the Dubuque Rotary who were serving three kinds of Menage a Trois wine and import beers like Corona, Heineken, and Amstel Light. Sadly the Rotarians forgot to get limes for the Corona and had to run out and get some. My brother called a friend of his who was joining us there and asked him to stop to get limes on the way there. When he showed up, the table we were standing at got pretty popular!

Running sound that night was Dubuque mainstay George Rondinelli. George has been running a music store in Dubuque for a very long time. George rents out sound equipment, but also shows up to run sound in a pinch. I bought my first bass amplifier from George, and spent lots of time in his store back in high school and college. George has the reputation of being of the genuine “good guys” when it comes to the music scene in Eastern Iowa. On more than one occasion, George lent out gear for acts that played the area and some piece of gear blew up. He managed to have the room sound great– which is quite a feat considering the building is a warehouse. I didn’t even need to put my earplugs in.
Bo Ramsey and Benson Ramsey Live in Dubuque 10/14/2006
Bo played two sets and an encore. Most of the music as you might expect was from Stranger Blues. I had heard reports from friends who attended the Waterloo and Iowa City shows that the first set was mostly drawn from the new album and a lot of it was, but pretty early in the first set he played “In The Weeds” and “Sidetrack Lounge” from 1997’s In The Weeds. Unfortunately, I was having too good of a time to keep notes on the sets, so I’m going to have to rely on foggy memory. I really think I prefer seeing Bo in a bar setting. Due to the size of the place, you had people sitting in the theater chairs and people stacked over by the bar. The bar folks were not really paying attention, and the people sitting seemed to be having a good time, however I remember the packed shows at the Silver Dollar in Dubuque and the Corner Tap in Cascade and Bo had the whole place rocking. My sister-in-law got her wish when Bo played “Get Away”– she sang along with the words. It was pretty clear that Bo and his band had their chops worked out. All of the years of touring Bo did with Steve and Rico helped propel this band to a well-oiled machine, too. Towards the end of the first set a collection of brave dancers formed at the right of the stage. The first set seemed to end too soon. Bo announced they’d take a short break.

I spent a good part of the break and part of the second set hanging out Jim Viner from the Diplomats who was along apparently to help Nate carry his B3 Organ. Jim’s a pretty cool guy. He filled me in on what was coming up for his band. They are going to play a number of regional dates and then are going to head to Italy for some shows.

I brought a copy of the CD I made of the Pines radio show from KUNI’s Live From Studio One in February with me. I was supposed to send a copy to David Huckfelt a while ago, so I decided to bring it. I ran into Benson at the bar in line and introduced myself and handed him the CD. We talked for a bit. I asked him about the solo record that he was working on. He said that the solo record project is parked for now and they are working on a new Pines record that will be released on Red House Records! Red House is the folkie label out of Minneapolis that Greg Brown has been on for years. That’s pretty good news! So, we’ll need to keep an eye on that. I also took the opportunity to mention that it’s really great that Bo is playing solo again and that it would be great if there would be more shows. Benson said that Bo is considering it.

The second set was, in my opinion, a more energetic set than the first. The “dance floor” to the right of the stage filled up and people started dancing in front of the stage as well! We were treated to more nuggets in the second set including “Rockinitis” from the Sliders album of the same name– which excited quite a few “Boficianados.” I don’t even remember the last time I heard that song live. He also did “Long Long Time” with its classic opening line, “A bug-covered windshield and a three-day beard/runnin’ down the road away from somethin’ I feared.” It was at this point when I joined in the dancing. I read in an interview online that Bo was wondering whether after all this time as a sideman that he’d be able to do some of the older songs. From my perspective he was playing as well if not better than any other time I’d seen him. Did I want him to play longer? Yes. The show was over after 11PM, which I feel was a bit early. But considering that this is the first time he’s played his songs in a while, I suppose that was as many songs as they could get rehearsed. It still was a great show, and I’m looking foward to any future shows he may do.

Bo is back on the road in support of Greg Brown. Of note is the fact that these upcoming shows are listed on boramsey.com as “Opening For and Appearing With,” so it looks like this run which starts 10/19 in Eugene, Oregon and continuing through a two night stop in Denver on 12/15 and 12/16. Based on previous shows I’ve seen with Pieta and Greg, it will likely be just Bo and Greg, so I’d say it will be Bo solo, which would be interesting. I’m hoping for some bootlegs to show up.

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