Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blues legend John Hammond

Here's a review I did of legendary blues performer John Hammond which appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette's Soundboard web site:

John Hammond, Armstrong Hall, Colorado College, 1/29/2010

"Two degrees of separation." That thought crossed my mind shaking hands with John Hammond Friday night at Colorado College. Here's a man that is one of only 3 or 4 white blues players who is still touring and making albums who was there at the beginning of the 60's blues music revival. You may get to see him Sunday night on television if you watch the 2010 Grammy Awards - his latest (33rd) album "Rough & Tough" (Chesky Records/Jan 2009) is nominated for "Best Traditional Blues Album".
Hammond has been nominated 6 other times for Grammy's and won a Grammy in 1985. By the way, Hammond has also won 3 Blues Music Association awards, twice for "Best Acoustic Blues Artist", once for "Best Acoustic Album". He's known and played with many blues greats including names you might have heard of: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and John Lee Hooker. He's also played with Duane Allman, Mike Bloomfield, JJ Cale, Tom Waits, The Band, Dr. John and is the only person in the world that can say this mind-blowing factoid: he had Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix in a band together on stage at the Gaslight Cafe in New York City.

It's hard not to talk about the past when talking about John Hammond. His style is very traditional in the country or delta blues vein - characterized by the use of acoustic slide guitar or dobro and harmonica. And while he may channel blues legends like Robert Johnson and Son House, Hammonds gritty down and dirty vocals while demonstrating a total mastery of his instrument brings his own flavor to traditional and original work.

Warming up the crowd at Armstrong hall was singer Fairlight Moriah accompanied by keyboardist Ken Jantzen. Fairlight's blend of bluesy spiritual tonal work was uplifting and at times moving, such as in the piece "Make It Up To You" about watching kids growing.

John Hammond opened his solo 90 minute set with "I'm Just A Fool", a mid tempo 12-bar blues shuffle with crazy riffs and licks alternating vocals and harmonica with ad-libbed harmonics on the guitar. He followed this up with his song "Heartache Blues" done in a slower traditional style throwing in his own lead riffs during the versus and blowing the harp with what I swear sounded like multiple single lead notes over consonant drone base notes on the harmonica - it was amazing work.

A Lightnin' Slim number, "The Mean Old Lonesome Train", "That’s Alright" by Jimmy Rogers, some Howlin' Wolf, and some Robert Johnson all followed demonstrating Hammonds mastery and encyclopedic repertoire. "You Know That’s Cold" by Hammond and "Love Changin' Blues" by Blind Willie McTell (featuring some truly amazing slide work by Hammond) came next. A Hammond original "Come To Find Out", another mid-tempo delta blues styled offering with a walking bass underpinning accented by staccato strum attacks and harmonica fills had Hammond also singing in a reflective vocal style unlike some of his other work.

Numbers by Sleepy John Estes, Little Walter, and Hambone Willie followed. Between many of the songs, Hammond gave a little history or background on where he was when first learned the song (in many but certainly not all cases from the original authors). He told an extensive and humorous story about meeting and playing harp with Big Joe Williams in Chicago (who he was introduced to by friend Michael Bloomfield and who - according to Hammond - knew everybody that was anybody in Chicago Blues) before wailing into a very raucous Big Joe Williams number featuring heavy slide work with high pitched accents. Songs by Tampa Ray, Dion DiMucci (of Dion and the Belmonts fame, a huge blues fan believe it or not) and a "Buddy Guy" recording that was written by Robert Geddins and a Tom Waits song followed. Another Hammond original followed which had its story-line basis from when Hammond got his first paying gig by pumping gas for Hoyt Axton who let Hammond play his Martin guitar after noticing Hammond staring at it sitting case-less in the passenger seat! (You can't make this stuff up!).

Hammond finished the night with Son House's "Preachin' Blues" and left the stage to the audience standing and applauding for 5 minutes. An amazing performance by one of what may be the last great troubadours in American blues history.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rampart High School Basketball - Those Unstoppable Rams. (Update: Well: They Got Stopped!!)

The Rampart High School Rams varsity basketball team here in Colorado Springs is now number 1 in the state of Colorado (I think - they've been trading places with Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, outside of Denver).

I've shot several games the Rams have played at including the kick-ass game where they scored a whopping 105 against Liberty High School a couple weeks back. That was the highest scoring High School basketball game I've ever seen!

With a record of (as I write this, it may change tomorrow) 15 wins and zero losses, they are definitely the ones to beat.

If you can.

Here's a shot of Reuben Riggs-Russell, consistantly the high scorer for Rampart - going up against three guys from Fountain Fort-Carson trying to fight him back. Click on the photo to see a few more at my Flickr site, or go to to see (and purchase) the full set from this game and others.


So, like, they play Palmer High School thursday night and lost by like 26 points. I thought I was in an alternate universe or something! Palmer's fans chanting "Over-Rated!". (Of course, some Rams fans there started chanting back: "You're Not Rated!")

So where oh where will this saga end? Don't know, but I'll hopefully be there to shoot it either way!!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Leann Rimes & me (& 2800 other friends)

Here's the review that ran on the Gazette's Soundboard Page over this past weekend from the LeAnn Rimes concert:


LeAnn Rimes, Friday 1/22/2010, Arnold Hall, United States Air Force Academy

By the time she was 21, LeAnn Rimes had already recorded eight music albums, won Country Music Association and Grammy awards, had songs or whole albums listed in various top-10 music industry charts, and then proceeded to release a Greatest Hits album. Her styles over those years and since have been identified as influenced by Patsy Cline, Barbra Streisand, Wynonna Judd, and Reba McEntire, and she has crossed out of Country Music into Pop, released at least one rock album overseas, and crossed back into country. More than once.

So when Rimes appeared at Arnold Hall at the Air Force Academy Friday night, she came with the poise, polish and repertoire of entertainers twice her age. Sometimes looking the perfect representation of a mature female performer, other times looking like (and dancing around the stage like) a high school-age babysitter with a cute and infectious charm and smile, she delivered a nearly flawless and solid 90 minute performance to a near capacity crowd.

Criticized several months ago while on tour for being drowned-out by her band, on Friday night her voice was strong and pure and delivered exceptionally well over her accompaniment, even during raucous up-tempo numbers.

Opening with “Criminal” off her new yet to be released next album, she methodically moved through “Something’s Gotta Give” followed by “Family” and “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way.” She talked to the audience a little bit, mentioning she was working on two albums soon to be released, one being produced by Vince Gill. One of the songs on the new album called “Gasoline and Matches” started off sounding more like a boogie-woogie number you’d hear from a blues performer on the Chitlin‘ Circuit, but it quickly evolved into a full-on Country motif followed closely by “Good Hearted Woman”. A stool was brought out for LeAnn to sit on during “What I Cannot Change” which utilizes some heavy steel guitar work in an attempt to mask this pop-ballad as a country music song (can you say “crossover”?). “God Takes Care of Your Kind” followed before breaking into “Can’t Fight The Moonlight,” a popular fan-favorite song featured in the movie “Coyote Ugly” (in which LeAnn sung the four or five numbers lip-synched by the star of the movie).

The band was (so far) perfectly tight, and the production quality of the performance up until this point so perfectly reproduced songs from LeAnn’s recordings, that I was getting lulled into a sense of complacency about the concert. But when she hit the chorus of “Moonlight” I realized it actually gave me the willies and made the hairs on my arms stand up!

Songs from old and new albums continued including “Commitment,” “I Need You,” “Nothin ‘Bout Love Makes Sense,” “How Do I Live (Without You).” It was around this point that I realized her song selection contained pointed and direct references to her recent marital problems and love-life that have been so much in the press the last six months.

The other thing that really interesting: although LeAnn Rimes is known for her “emotional expression,” a term describing a style of singing that in her case encompasses a vast range of high and low pitches, she definitely has a tonal sweet-spot in her voice. Her high-end is good, but her mid-range is absolutely perfect and most of her songs play to this strength.

The night was not without some rowdy cadet behavior encouraged by LeAnn herself, and at one point a cadet threw a T-Shirt on stage with a hand-written invitation to “Ring Dance,” the formal dress ball that two-degree Air Force Academy cadets (juniors) throw themselves on the day they receive their class rings. LeAnn seemed stunned at first at then shyly admitted she had never been to a prom before “and I just might have to take you up on that. I’ve got your number!” resulting in cataclysmic hoots and applause.

Only occasionally did LeAnn’s voice falter as she went through a Patty Griffin cover, “Let Him Fly.” She dedicated the up-tempo ballad “Strong” to the service men and women there in the audience, and then sang “Got You To Get Me,” and “Nothing Better To Do,” a fantastic number. LeAnn’s fun “youthful” side was coming out as she increasingly bounded and danced around stage during instrumental parts of these songs.

LeAnn pulled out a “Challenge Coin” and said somebody needed to bring her a drink if they didn’t have their coins with them — something that two cadets willingly obliged her with moments later, handing her two different drinks onstage within seconds of each other. Another new song “You Ruined Me” followed as the final number until LeAnn and her band were called back out for an encore.

LeAnn treated everyone with “Blue,” her first really big hit which invokes the spirit and vocal emotion of Patsy Cline, before finishing the evening for good with a big-finish version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison.” This was a great night of covers and original material that everyone I talked to afterward had been very happy to be part of.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Head Full Of Zombies : Photoshoot to Poster = 2 Days

head full of zombies
head full of zombies
head full of zombies
Here's the first product from a photoshoot with Head Full of Zombies we did last week. Shot on Wednesday night, Dave (in the center with glasses) did the layout thursday and had it printed friday and hanging in fine windows everywhere. (Everywhere that Dave could afford to pay to let him hang it!!! LOL)

This gig represents the zombies first gig of 2010 with new member and frontman Amy Sue Hardy (chewing on the frame here). (Don't get in -her- way!!!).

I took individual shots of all band members in a couple wardrobe changes each (Amy Sue got 3 wardrobe changes cause she's special) and some group shots. This old frame was leaning against the wall in the corner of the studio, so we incorporated it into several of the shots.

In this poster, I particularly like the positioning of the framed zombies with other classics like Mona Lisa and Dogs Playing Poker!! lol!

For something fun to do, Google "Amy Sue Hardy" for some interesting background.