Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's party time: Doctor Ryman's "Lean Into The Blast"

Doctor Ryman knows how to throw a party.  He threw a rockin' CD release party in California last October for his release of "Lean Into The Blast."

The good doctor of the "keytar" entertained the crowd at The NeXus in the Ford Building on the Richmond Shoreline along with some good friends -- jazz saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Richard Howell and his son Ele on drums, and Baron Chase hammering away on bass.

How does Ryman tell the story behind the music?  According to the web site ...

 The intent behind "Lean into the Blast" is the creation of music and film that are equally gritty and sublime, engaging the body, mind, and spirit, and carrying forward the countercultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s style of art and social change through music. Dr Ryman's music calls his listeners to join in the renewal and recommitment to the values and insights that created the Civil Rights movements, the Anti-war movement, and progressive movements since.
"My definition of an 'artist' is one who sees and hears beyond the reach of the ordinary, who takes us into experiences we might never have on our own, who plunges us into darkness and light, into sound and silence -- to wake up our awareness, and call us to a higher consciousness of each other, our world and our being."  His music and films do exactly that, and the technical yet organic nature of his music surprises everyone. Hearing or watching him play, one keeps looking for the 'guitarist'.  His 'instrument' - an Apple laptop, provides stinging guitar leads and sweet powerful rhythms that one would never expect from a virtual instrument.
As for the music of "Lean Into The Blast" ... well, it speaks for itself.  For more on Doctor Ryman, go to

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's party time: Jammin' with Bludgeon Muffin

Daniel Arellano and Nicolas Snarr work together.  They also play together.  They carry small, soft instrument cases in to their day jobs as trainers at a Salt Lake City area customer service company.  On their break times, they can most often be found opening those cases and pulling out ukuleles while relaxing and feeding their faces.

Daniel Arellano (left) and Nicolas Snarr (right) play with Bludgeon Muffin.  (All photos and videos by John Miller)
They're not playing "Tiptoe Through The Tulips."  You could hear some Hendrix, some Zeppelin, some Bill Withers, some Michael Jackson.  Ask Daniel to play flamenco-style on his uke, and he'll do a bang-up job.

That's at their day job.

Rena Ripley, Misi Touhuni, Nicolas Snarr, Daniel Arellano
In their off-hours, they play together in a band called Bludgeon Muffin, along with lead singer/rhythm guitarist Misi Touhuni, backing singer Rena Ripley, bassist Bruce Kamai, and drummer Michael Bailey.  They play rock, blues, and hip hop.  What they play mostly, though, is reggae.  And they have a good fan base in the Salt Lake City area behind them.

Bludgeon Muffin's fan base is loyal enough that they packed The 19th Hole at The Copper Golf Club in Magna, Utah, on a snowy Saturday night for a big Post Mardi Gras Party.

DJ Misi's vocals are strong and smooth, especially combined with Ripley's voice.  Arellano shows a variety of influences on lead guitar, getting in some strong riffs.  Snarr plays a mean electric ukulele with some tasty effects.  Kamai and Bailey make up a solid rhythm section, and when Bailey is given time in the spotlight he turns in a dynamite solo on drums.

They had the party crowd at The 19th Hole doing some serious jamming.  The weather was ice-cold outside, upholding Utah's rep for the "world's greatest snow."

Inside, though, with the flag of Bob Marley decorating the stage, it was red-hot.

Check out Bludgeon Muffin's Facebook page at

Misi Touhuni       

Rena Ripley
Nicolas Snarr
Part of an enthusiastic crowd enjoying Bludgeon Muffin's show.

Bruce Kamai
Michael Bailey

Jammin' at The 19th Hole
Daniel Arellano
Nicolas Snarr

Friday, February 22, 2013

Southern-fried Tuneage: Can't forget the Allmans

You can't spend a week examining Southern-style music without capping it off by taking in the music of The Allman Brothers Band.

Without the music of the Allmans, chances are we wouldn't be celebrating Southern music the way we know and love it today.

Gone too soon was guitarist Duane Allman, one of the greats.  Carrying on the foundation laid down along with his brother is organist and vocalist Gregg Allman.  Surrounding them have been some of the most rock-solid players you could find anywhere:  Dickey Betts, Butch Trucks, Berry Oakley, Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson, Chuck Leavell, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks ... among the best.

The Allmans are rock, jazz, jamming, blues, country.  They've had one of the best live albums ever made, "At Fillmore East."

When they can pull themselves together, they can still draw in legions of hard-core fans to live shows.  They've had some serious staying power, through some major ups and downs.

With the Allmans, the road goes on forever.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Southern-fried Tuneage: The Mars Volta? Dixie Martians?

I have to admit, it's a bit tougher to find musicians from down South who play progressive rock.  And, mind you, I said it was tougher, not impossible.

Do a Google search on "southern progressive rock" and you might come up with a few relatively unknown bands.

But then there was The Mars Volta from El Paso, Texas.  The sad word here being "was."  But that's the sad thing about music.  Bands come and bands go, even the good ones.

The Mars Volta wasn't just good.  It was tail-kickin'.  Coming from Texas, the land of cowboy boots, that's not surprising.

Just don't expect much in the way of "good ol' boy" flavoring from these guys.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Southern-fried Tuneage: Jazz fusion, Dixie style

Southern boys can do jazz fusion.  Man, can they ever do jazz fusion.

A breathtaking fusion outfit originated out of Augusta, Georgia, back in the early 1970s, starting with a guitar player named Steve Morse and a guy on bass named Andy West.  At first, they were in a band called Dixie Grit.  From there, they became a duo known as The Dixie Dregs.

The band continued to evolve.  Allen Sloan jumped in on violin.  At the band's peak, it also featured T Lavitz on keys and Rod Morgenstein on drums.  Later, after Sloan left to pursue a career as a doctor, Nashville session cat Mark O'Connor took over on violin, followed at times by Mahavishnu Orchestra veteran Jerry Goodman.

They were a blend of jazz, Southern rock, classical, and some mighty fine hoedown sounds.  These guys could do it all.  Morse became known as one of the best guitar players alive today, settling in to the all-important guitarist's spot with rock legends Deep Purple and reigniting a flame in them.

The fire started down in Dixie.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Southern-fried Tuneage: The South does it again

I was raised on country music.  I was raised on it enough that I could work in my late teens as a country DJ at a popular AM radio station, in a prime weekday afternoon drive time slot, and I knew what I was talking about.  I think I appreciate the songs I grew up with and used to play back then a lot more these days.

I appreciate the sounds of a steel guitar and some good fiddle playing and some fine guitar pickin'.  I don't go so much for the "cheatin' songs," although they tell true-life stories that many people can relate to, which is part of their appeal.

That hat you see me wearing off to the right side of this blog page in my profile ... well, that's not just for show.  That's a part of my attitude as well.  When my mood's right, I'll pull out one of my hats -- felt or straw -- that I asked to be styled as much as possible like ones that Charlie Daniels would wear himself, and I'll place it on my head with pride.

Deep down, I'm a long-haired country boy, one who loves country music for its genuine, down-to-earth qualities.  I also love hearing it when I'm in a more rowdy mood and I feel like having a good time.

I love those country songs that are about the South, or make you think about the South one way or another.  They're songs with that Southern attitude, that Southern flair.

They're states of mind.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Southern-fried Tuneage: Lynyrd Skynyrd

I do dig that Southern style when it comes to music.  It goes well beyond country, into rock and blues and progressive rock and even jazz fusion.

Like a fine pair of boots, it's got some real kick to it.  It can get my toes to tappin'.

It wasn't that long ago that I happened to tune the radio to a station just in time to hear some Lynyrd Skynyrd in a three-song block.  There's a band that has the South dripping from its veins.  They've gone through fame, hard living, tragedy, and a comeback.  They've had two Van Zants -- Ronnie and his little brother Johnny -- as lead singers.  They've had the layered, dueling guitar sound that's a staple of Southern rock.

They've had some hits.  Oh, yeah, they've definitely had some hits.  It's classic rock, timeless music that will live on for years, even after one of the more tragic incidents in rock music history.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Coming Back With Grammys Week: The Black Keys

My oldest son gave me a great Christmas gift a few Christmases ago.  He gave me a CD that was a personal introduction to The Black Keys, "Brothers."

I've been a fan since the first listen.

It's good to know that The Black Keys are being recognized by a broader audience these days as well, including at this year's Grammy Awards.

The duo took Grammy honors last weekend for "Lonely Boy" as top rock song, "El Camino" as top rock album, and "Lonely Boy" again for top rock performance.

That's a nice haul for a couple of guys who play some of the crunchiest music to come down the musical road in a while.  I couldn't be happier for them.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Coming Back With Grammys Week: Pop, R and B, etc.

I go for a good pop song as much as anyone, as long as it's got some originality, creativity, and artistry to it.  Cookie-cutter music doesn't quite cut it for me.

The same goes for R&B, soul, dance, all the rest.

I can be tough to please when it comes to music.

But I'd be raked over the coals if I went through this week in which I give some attention to the 2013 Grammy Award winners without paying some attention to those genres as well.  I'm still picky.

You'll just have to bear with me while I check out ...

Pop solo performance: "Set Fire to the Rain (Live)," Adele.
Pop vocal album: "Stronger," Kelly Clarkson.
R&B performance: "Climax," Usher.
Traditional R&B performance: "Love on Top," Beyonce.
R&B song: "Adorn," Miguel Pimentel.
R&B album: "Black Radio," Robert Glasper Experiment.
Dance recording: "Bangarang," Skrillex featuring Sirah.
Dance/electronica album: "Bangarang," Skrillex.
Latin pop album: "MTV Unplugged Deluxe Edition," Juanes.
Latin rock, urban or alternative album: "Imaginares," Quetzal.
Reggae album: "Rebirth," Jimmy Cliff.
Traditional pop vocal album: "Kisses on the Bottom," Paul McCartney.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Coming Back With Grammys Week: Jazzing it up

 I don't always agree with the winners who come out of the Grammy Awards.  Isn't that pretty much the way it is for a lot of people when it comes to music?  It's such a subjective thing -- dealing with perspective, feelings, beliefs, desires -- that disagreements between different listeners is a way of life.

There is one area when it comes to the Grammys where I don't usually have much quarrel, and that's in the jazz category.  There were some great artists taking home trophies this year.

For best jazz vocal album, it was "Radio Music Society" from Esperanza Spalding.  Best jazz instrumental album went to "Unity Band," from the Pat Metheny Unity Band.  For large jazz ensemble album, the winner was "Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)," by Arturo Sandoval.  I'll throw in the winner for instrumental composition: "Mozart Goes Dancing," from jazz keyboard great Chick Corea.

I dig all that jazz.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Coming Back With Grammys Week: The country side

There are plenty of Grammy winners to highlight this week ... too many to list here, in fact.  But I'll do the best I can, all while providing a bit of variety.

It's all part of that "crossover" thing.

Today, it's a look at the winners from the country side.  There's Carrie Underwood's best country solo performance for "Blown Away" along with its writers Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins winning for best song, the Zac Brown Band with the best country album for "Uncaged," Little Big Town taking country duo/group performance honors with "Pontoon," and the Steep Canyon Rangers with the top bluegrass album for "Nobody Knows You."

It's a cause for celebration, country style.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Coming Back With Grammys Week: Mumford & Sons

I've got some catching up to do.  I've been away a while, trying to adjust to a new job and all -- different hours, different tasks, different things overloading my brain cells.  Things like that tend to get "in the way" at times.  Forgive me, would you please?

But here I am, working on making a comeback with my music blog as the adjustment continues.  And what better way to kick things off this week than by taking a look at just a bit of what was honored at the Grammy Awards Sunday night?

Leading things off, we have the English folk rock band Mumford & Sons, winners in the categories of Album of the Year for "Babel" and long-form music video for "Big Easy Express."

They take rootsy instruments like banjos and mandolins and give them a tough, touching edge.  They're a group to be reckoned with, and the Grammy voters reckoned it was time to give Mumford & Sons a big prize or two.