Friday, September 30, 2011

Adele: Someone Like You

Would You Like A Little Cartier-Bresson With Your Heartache? 

A little while ago, The Inky Jukebox took Little Big Town to task for their clichéd black and white "arty" video for "Shut Up Train." Helpfully, something has come along that demonstrates how to do it right.

Adele's "Someone Like You" is a giant song whom her fans have seen her sing this live in a gazillion YouTube clips and on her own website. From these, anyone can tell the girl can deliver a heart-stoppingly adept performance. So short of simply shoving one of them out there as the official video, her peeps have gone with the storyline approach. The entire video is shot in three clips in a grainy, under-exposed black and white and features Adele, appropriately pensive, walking alone through the streets of Paris, ending at a caf é where we catch a glimpse of the chap who dissed her walking away.

This video succeeds because it remains true to the words of the song: it is a plaintive lament, put simply, which is given to us after the event -- just as it is in the video. All the drama we need is told in Adele's face. Every now and then she acknowledges the camera at her side by looking directly into its lens — and at us — just to make it clear she's aware of her surroundings and of being watched. This places us in the position of silent companions, there to share her sorrow, yet not intrude on it. Her loneliness is made palpably apparent in that the streets are devoid of people (one of the video's best tricks), save for us, which is exactly how it is when we listen to her sing it in our headsets. It's a technique that grabs your attention and your eyes: you can't turn away from her. For the heartbroken person, no-one else need exist but for her departed lover; it's all she cares about — and here, that's the only other person we see. We need not know anything about him so we're not shown anything; he's just a blur.

It's a video that relies on what we already know — namely, that Paris is the city of romance. Hence it is the perfect place to show the other side of that coin, and how cold a place can turn once the love is gone, and there is no color, one needs a coat to ward off the chill.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When Will Hoge Gets His Wings…

Will Hoge: The Best Voice You’ve Never Heard

There’s a fella named Will Hoge who sounds so much like the kind of singer you’d hear coming off an old scratchy vinyl record that’s been sitting in its sleeve for 50 years on a shelf that you forget he’s around making music NOW. Sorta sounds like a better version of The Band. 

The Inky Jukebox first sat up and paid attention when he gave a dramatic show-stopping closing performance of “Washed By The Water” at the Nashville Rising flood benefit concert, for which he drove 14 hours to deliver. The Inky Jukebox wishes it could be found on YouTube, but strangely it can’t. Thankfully, there are many other versions of this tremendous song, so here’s one:

It is with extreme delight that The Inky Jukebox can report that Hoge’s seventh album, titled, helpfully, Seven, is coming out Sept 27th. The video for its lead single, “When I Get My Wings” has just been released.

If you go to his website, you’ll note that it is technologically astute and beautifully interactive; his PR folks know their shit. You’ll also note that the venues he’s touring are still small and intimate, so if you live anywhere near them, you should go. Sadly for The Inky Jukebox, they are all in the south, or far, far away. 

Another thing we noticed was that the video of his Opry debut was recorded just the other week, which was shocking — that a talent like this could have gone so long before being invited up onstage blows The Inky Jukebox’s mind. But boy did good, so he’ll be back.

The quality of his web presence, his videos, and this record suggest to The Inky Jukebox that Will Hoge will hit it big real soon; we just hope that country music radio and the GAC / CMT honchos get their asses behind him.

Will Hoge, y’all: remember that name. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Drives Minnie?

Old Country Girl

Did you know the lovely and talented Minnie Driver is also a pretty nifty singer? The Inky Jukebox did.

Here's a link to a playlist she made for our friends Absolutely Nothing To Wear. Check it out, y'all.

Minnie's website.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Brantley Gilbert: A Slice of Pure Heaven

Halfway To Heaven

I grew up south of the Mason Dixon
Workin’, spittin’, huntin’ and fishin’
Stone cold country by the grace of God

It’s about time Brantley Gilbert joined his peers in the spotlight because he’s as talented as any of them and this album, Halfway To Heaven, re-released with the slick production he deserves, proves it. By peers The Inky Jukebox means Eric Church, Justin Moore, and Jason Aldean — young bucks delivering today’s muscular, Southern Rock-based country music notable not only for its classic songwriting, but for it’s ability to melt between power ballads and crashing rock anthems.

Long a writer of some of those songs others have made famous, Gilbert has now got a chance to showcase his own impeccable voice and energetic performance style. The introductory video that comes along with the digital package presents a young guy you’d take for the singer in a metal band rather something you’d recognize as country, and in this you wouldn’t be far off, as his band has mostly been culled from other metal bands. But while the album has its share of hard and fast cuts (“Hell on Wheels,” Kick It In The Sticks, “Country Must Be Country Wide,” and “Take It Outside”), it also makes strings feel at home on such ballads as “Saving Amy,” “My Kind of Crazy, and “Fall Into Me."

Like his peers, Gilbert’s topics lean heavily on what makes men manly: fighting, drinking, loving, and generally getting up to no good. Lyrics like “the closest thing to hell she ever raised” gives you some idea of what to expect. “Take It Outside” is the best song about laying down the gauntlet that’s come along since Justin Moore’s “I Could Kick Your Ass,” and The Inky Jukebox thinks it’d make a great single if only they’d play it on the radio, which is a long shot.

Far more likely is “Saving Amy,” a tender song with a catchy hook that even the most hardened rocker will find themselves singing along to in their trucks.

He brings his old partner Colt Ford along on his own re-worked original version of “Dirt Road Anthem” which surprisingly gives us a third take on the one song — the first two being his slow rappy cut, Jason Aldean’s bluesy hit, and now this honeyed one. Watch this fantastic video of the song being made. You'll see what a beautiful guitar player Gilbert is in it.

The deluxe download comes with a bonus track, “Lie, Baby, Lie” which is excellent and well worth getting if you can. Why "G.R.I.T.S." isn't on it is a mystery. The truth is there’s no chaff on this album; every single song is killer, and as such it must surely rank up there with the very best releases of the year if not the last five.

Buy it now.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Shut Up, Video Director

Little Big Town: Go Big or Go Home Monochrome

Sometimes, video directors think that just because a song is gentle, the video for it also needs to be quiet and soft. This is not so. This is especially not so when a song achieves its gentility because the singer is merely controlling great force — of emotion and vocal chords.

Case in point: the newest video from Little Big Town, “Shut Up Train.” This is one of the stellar songs from their recent album The Reason Why, and The Inky Jukebox is thrilled they have decided to showcase it on its own. It’s one of those songs that rolls along like that train, chug-chug-chugging at an even pace until it can’t hold back and explodes. The premise is that the singer can’t sleep and blames the train, when in fact it’s her memories that keep her awake. Ultimately, she concedes defeat, claiming “I give up: you win” at the end of the last verse, which is the lynchpin that releases all that emotion. The line is repeated while the rest of the band, acting as backing singers, flood in with the chorus one more rousing time.

Here’s what’s wrong with the video.

It has been shot in a hotel room. The singer is presumably at home, complaining about a regular train, not in a rather luxury suite which would have thick windows and not wake its guests with train noise.

It’s in black and white. There’s nothing wrong with this, per se, except that whenever they shoot Kimberley they overexpose her, making her seem like a dour raccoon with her blonde mane and black eyeliner. Also, black and white for a soft song is laying it on a bit thick.

It’s mostly in close-up. The boxed-in faces made The Inky Jukebox feel claustrophobic, and force you to focus on the individuals when this is inherently a group song. Also, they look really really miserable. They are not miserable: look.

The lighting for the group shots is shit. The spotlight that shines through the group members from behind blinds me and makes me want to change the channel. The hotel room is clearly shot with pro lights and does not evoke actual home or hotel room lighting.

It’s all been done before. Madonna. Alanis Morisette. Sugarland. All of them did the whole singing the lyrics and then stopping while the song continued lark. All it does is remind you of videos where this technique has been employed far better. It’s got cliché all over it.

It does not stay true to the song: there is no build up so that we can appreciate the emotional breakthrough at the end. The editing is choppy and repetitive, going back and forth from Karen writhing about fully dressed and not sleeping in her expensive hotel room singing to the camera, and the group, who look like outtakes from the “Bohemian Rhapsody” video quad shot.

Queen: Also miserable
The Inky Jukebox has seen them perform this song live; it was great. How about you bring that all on home to me instead?

Sunday, September 11, 2011


September 11, 2011

Showing a little NY love, y'all. This was what half a million people enjoyed in Central Park almost exactly 20 years before that awful day.

Don't they look so very young.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Top Dogs: Toby Keith and Eric Church

Locked and Loaded Tour
Pittsburgh, Sept 3 2011

The last country show of the season was blessed by a perfect starry night that topped off a sizzling summer day in Pittsburgh. Chances are, if you were a fan of country music anywhere in the tri-state area you were at the Eric Church / Toby Keith show at Burgettstown: it certainly looked like everyone came out judging by how packed the hill was. Unlike most shows where tailgaters hold out until the headliner before entering the amphitheater, this one brought a capacity-plus crowd in from the tarmac well in time for Eric Church’s set, which could have been a headliner in itself.

 Eric Church is one of those fellows who talks softly in interviews but acts like a crazed pumped-up bottle rocket on stage. His set started with a loud crack at Clutch’s “Electric Worry” which made The Inky Jukebox’s metalhead Sweetie stand up and pay attention. Sure enough, Church delivered a set that would have set light to the lawn had the lawn been, well, drier — like it usually is by this time of year. He picked from among the hits off his first two albums and provided a generous dose of strong songs from his latest release, Chief

Even though Church kicks it old school in his insistence that new records be anticipated like they used to be before the internet allowed you to hear everything in advance, and doesn’t play ANYTHING live before the actual album release date, these songs (which are only a few weeks old, performance-wise) sounded as kick-ass and polished as any of his other material.

Shooter Jennings has perhaps unwisely decided to open a can of whoop-ass in his return to his country roots by releasing as the first single off his new album “Outlaw You,” a song which calls out fellow singers for name-dropping the outlaw aesthetic that Shooter clearly feels is an insult to his Pappy Waylon et al. Trouble is, all it does it make him come across like a kid on the playground hiding in his Dad’s big shadow while being too chicken to name names. The Inky Jukebox has a theory (even though Shooter himself is coy about it) that the dude in the “baseball cap / Who couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat” is Eric Church. Why? Very few of today’s young bucks wear baseball caps as their signature headwear (Luke Bryan and Rodney Atkins are the only other ones The Inky Jukebox can think of, and neither of them pass themselves off as outlaws), so it’s got to be Church he’s after. This seemed to be confirmed by the inclusion of a version of “Gotta Lot of Boot Left To Fill” that seemed particularly crackly; you hear Church spitting out “I don’t think Waylon would have done it that way” and you think Aha. So Shooter’s responding to Church for saying for all his pedigree, he’s inexperienced. This theory was enhanced when Church launched into a solo version of “A Country Boy Can Survive,” which Shooter has appropriated as his own theme song.

He delighted The Inky Jukebox’s metalhead Sweetie by sprinkling a number of Black Sabbath intros into his set that were especially prescient; “Sweet Leaf” for instance with “Smoke A Little Smoke.” By the time he’d slayed his encore and smashed two cans of beer on his chest and drained them, the sun had gone down and the crowd was fired up good and proper.

 Toby Keith’s tour is sponsored by Ford. This is a point he wants to make perfectly clear by displaying Ford advertising everywhere he possibly can, including on the stage monitors and in the videos playing behind him. Clearly, Toby’s fans are the sort of rabid rednecks who like their music patriotic, and he comes through with bells on. And fireworks. And smoke machines. The color theme for his show is red white and blue, son, and don’t you forget it. While Keith isn’t the world’s best singer per se, he is a wholehearted entertainer; his set didn’t let anyone down who came expecting to hear a greatest hits retrospective. A particularly touching moment came when he sang “Should Have Been A Cowboy,” inviting a very young boy in a huge cowboy hat up on stage to play his wee guitar. It must have been an incomprehensible occasion for the boy, who remained tight-lipped while he strummed away, but his parents will never let him forget it. 

During the encore which predictably saved the “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue” for the finale, he pulled a serviceman up from the crowd to sing alongside him for the duration — something the chap took to with delighted aplomb. Keith left the crowd with the admonition that we should never apologize for being patriotic (check) which is the very definition of preaching to the choir.

It was a Church choir that night, so I suppose we came for a sermon and got it. The Inky Jukebox’s metalhead Sweetie even sang along to “Beer for my Horses” and demanded some Eric Church to take home with him. That’s what The Inky Jukebox calls Mission Accomplished.

The metalhead Sweetie can be found at The Metal Blog of Metal

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bang Bang Bang Bang

Ace of Spades

Now lookee here, Y’all: Lemmy is a legend in his own boots and The Inky Jukebox won’t have a word said against him. In fact, The Inky Jukebox was a Lemmy fan back when it wasn’t groovy to like Motörhead if you were a chick, which was a long time ago. Now, of course, you have to be able to recognize Motörhead songs as if you’ve been singing them since childhood because if you don’t, you will feel alienated and ill at ease when you walk into your local tattoo parlor, which is no way to feel when you are about to get tattooed.

Which brings us to this little gem for those of you who, like The Inky Jukebox, like a little acoustic twang in your Kilmister classics every once in a while. And in case you haven’t been to a live country show lately, you’re going to hear a lot of metal riffs, so you better bone up on your classic Sabbath (Eric Church) and Metallica (Luke Bryan). Eric Church opened his set in Pittsburgh this weekend with a little Clutch, though most of the sell-out crowd didn't know that.

Awesome, boys.