Monday, December 9, 2013
With their languid guitars and ethereal vocals, the Canadian group Cowboy Junkies cast a narcotic spell over their Infinity Hall audience in this intimate concert performance. Consisting of Alan Anton (bass), and siblings Michael Timmins (guitar), Peter Timmins (drums) and Margo Timmins (vocals), Cowboy Junkies specialize in a unique sound that combines country, blues and folk, but often with a touch of melancholy thrown in for good measure. As Margo Timmins jokingly told the audience, "I figure if you're here tonight, you like sad songs. At least I hope you do. If you don't, you should probably leave about now." The group began in Toronto when Michael and Alan returned from Europe after an unsuccessful stint with a couple of musical acts. Back home, they began jamming with Michael's brother Peter on drums and sister Margo on vocals, despite the fact that she was a social worker who had never performed in public before. Their first significant release was The Trinity Session in 1988, which they recorded in one night with one microphone inside Toronto's Church of the Holy Trinity. The album proved to be a cult hit garnering critical acclaim and college radio airplay for the songs "Sweet Jane" and "Misguided Angel." Since that time, the band had built and maintained a loyal fan base who appreciate their smart, bluesy compositions and daring, independent style. Most recently, Cowboy Junkies began a unique four-album cycle called The Nomad Series over an 18-month period with every album built around a different (but common) narrative, from time spent in China to a tribute record to the late musician Vic Chestnutt. Fans of the Cowboy Junkies won't be disappointed with their Infinity Hall set, which offers a nice mix of old and new songs from their 26-year career, including the crowd favorite "Sweet Jane," a lyrical, mandolin-accompanied version of "Fairytale," Vic Chestnutt's "See You Around," and a cover of Neil Young's "Powderfinger."
Monday, December 16, 2013
Fountains of Wayne
If you love serious, brooding, sonically experimental musical artists, then Fountains of Wayne is not the group for you. Full of bright guitars, wry lyrics and catchy hooks, the foursome manages to create upbeat songs that both reference classic melodic British pop while staying wholly modern, American and slightly adolescent. Many music critics have dubbed the band's sound as power pop, but frontman and vocalist Chris Collingwood has other ideas. "A lot of people say that what we play is power pop. I don't think so. I would just say it's rock and roll." The genesis of Fountains of Wayne began in 1986 when bassist Adam Schlesinger and guitarist Chris Collingwood met as students at Williams College in Massachusetts. Sharing a love for British pop, the two friends played music together, as well as with other bands until eventually going their separate ways after graduation. Schlesinger found success as a songwriter penning the title track to the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do! and earning himself an Academy Award and Grammy nomination. Then in 1996, Collingwood and Schlesinger - joined by guitarist Jody Porter and drummer Brian Young - came together with their first self-titled LP, followed in 1999 with Utopia Parkway. Both records found modest college radio success, but it was nothing compared to the mainstream commercial success the group saw in 2003 with Welcome Interstate Managers. The album's single "Stacy's Mom" charted well on Billboard's Top 40, supported by a hit MTV music video featuring model Rachel Hunter as the title character. The group's loyal alternative rock fan base was joined by legions of new admirers discovering the group's impossibly upbeat style of pop perfection. Their set at Norfolk's Infinity Hall is bright and bouncy and features fifteen song selections from their career. The catchy "Radiation Vibe" from their debut LP proves to be a crowd favorite. With the group's college alma mater just 50 miles north of the concert venue, the audience gets swept up in the nostalgic ode to Williams C
Monday, December 23, 2013
It must be daunting to be an up-and-coming singer/songwriter creating thoughtful melodic pop when your parents are two of the most celebrated, successful singer/songwriters of their generation. Ben Taylor knows a bit about that. Son of James Taylor and Carly Simon, Taylor spent his early years traveling and even considering a career in gardening and agriculture before eventually giving in to his musical calling with extraordinarily engaging results. Raised in Manhattan but educated at various private schools in New England, Taylor took up the guitar at age 12. Before he had reached age 20, his cover of the Beatles' "I Will" had found its way onto the soundtrack of the 1995 Paul Reiser film, Bye Bye, Love. Though he spent some time questioning whether music was the path for him, he formed The Ben Taylor Band in 2001 and began recording his first album, Green Dragon, Name a Fox. Famous Among the Barns followed in 2003 with strong buzz and reviews, and a tour with folk songstress Dar Williams. Actor and musician Kevin Bacon produced and performed on Taylor's next record Another Run Around the Sun. In 2008, Taylor's cover of Macy Gray's "I Try" was used in a Honey Nut Cheerios commercial. Joined on the Infinity Hall stage by fellow guitarist David Saw, percussionist Benjamin Thomas and vocalist Beth Mendes, Taylor presents an irresistible acoustic set full of intimate melodies and soaring harmonies. Between anecdotes of his life on the road, relationships and his famous family, the 36-year-old singer offers an alluring mix of songs (and even a poem!) from his six albums and EPs. Taylor opens with the poignant title track off his most recent album, Listening, released in 2012. "You Must've Fallen" is a love song with an appealing reggae groove that seems to lull the audience into a tropical trance. And as a tribute to his famous mother, or "Mama C" as he calls her, he performs "Nothing I Can Do," a ballad full of enchanting hooks and chords.
Monday, December 30, 2013
The Bacon Brothers
The Bacon Brothers may be the best kept secret of the music industry. Michael Bacon is an accomplished cellist and guitarist, as well as an award-winning composer for both film and television. Kevin Bacon - one of the most prolific screen actors of his generation and a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award winner - is also a talented singer and songwriter. The duo's eclectic sound combines their unique talents in a way that keeps their fans coming back for more year after year. As Kevin explains it, "When we were just starting out, people would say 'what kind of music do you play?' And the answer was 'well, it's folk/rock/soul/country.' We shortened it to 'forosoco' and then titled our first album Forosoco." Michael then chimes in sarcastically, "It was a great idea. We named our first album Forosoco and nobody could pronounce it. Wasn't probably the best marketing tool." Born into a household alive with arts and music, Kevin and Michael have played music together since they were boys, but only formed their band in 1994 for a charity event in their hometown of Philadelphia. The collaboration worked so well, the brothers hit the road whenever their busy schedules would allow. Soon they produced a collection of finely tuned albums with crowd-pleasing appeal, including Forosoco in 1997, Getting There in 1999, 2001's Can't Complain, as well as some live and 'best of' compilations.