Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chris Young: Is That You?

Lady in Red (and Yellow and Green and....)

Chris Young had a good year. He established himself as a legitimate Nashville leading man with a rich voice and enough boy-next-door looks to carry off the sexy video for “Tomorrow,” the highlight, musically speaking, of his career to date. His hit “Voices” remains one of those songs that is so singable and upbeat that it was released twice. He toured with Jason Aldean, pumping up a rowdy crowd admirably.

However, at this critical juncture — following up on the sexy guy from “Tomorrow,” the people in charge of his new video, “You,” have practically dug him a hole and asked him to jump in. There are plenty of bad videos. This is one of them.

Not only is the storyline profoundly corny — Chris Young is a grease monkey working a rural gas station, playing his geetar in between pumping gas and cleaning windshields for passers-by, all of which happen to be cute women who turn out to be friends ­— but the styling is so out of date it’s painful to watch. The premise is that this sort of gas station attendant can only be found circa early 1960s, therefore it has to be shot in a grainy black and white. Only, to make each individual lady stand out, parts of their outfit have been color-isolated to match the color of their car. So we have red lady, yellow lady, turquoise lady, and so forth. The color isolation mode on your camera is one of those extras that you should never, ever use. The first time someone shot a woman in black and white lying on a bed of red! rose petals might have been cool, but anything after that is a cliché at best, and visually boring and predictable at worst.

The gimmick in Chris Young’s video gets old after a few seconds, yet you are forced to endure several of these color swaps through the length of the video. It’s so annoying that it drowns out the music and makes you want to change the channel. Who at Sony thought up this bunch of shite?

Chris Young is a rising star. Please, please, please, put someone with a clue in charge of how he looks. His fans will thank you. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Just Like A Rolling Stone

Top 100 Guitarists OF ALL TIME

Hooray! Just when you’re in the mood for a Top 100 List from Rolling Stone, they give you one! Here is their Top Eleven this year:

1: Jimi Hendrix

Why? Because the ghost of Jimi Hendrix walks the halls of Rolling Stone’s HQ threatening anyone who does not subscribe to the Gospel of Jimi Hendrix. Everyone knows that the End Days will be triggered if Jimi Hendrix is not worshipped as Numero Uno, and no-one wants that.

2: Eric Clapton

Why? Because once upon a time someone wrote “Clapton is God” somewhere and Jann Wenner took it seriously. See above re. The Unleashing of Revelation.

3: Keith Richards

Why? Because he’s still here. Also because he’s in the Rolling Stones, which gets him a free pass forever on every Top 100 list we can think of.

4: Gary Moore

Why? Because of his lifetime achievement in the art of the guitar. Oh, wait: he’s not on the list. Oops. Hope he doesn’t get mad. What? he’s dead? OK then, he’ll never notice.

4: Jimmy Page

Why? Two words: Double-neck guitar. Make that three words. Also, his name is Jimmy, so he picks up a lot of votes from the folks who don’t know that Jimi is spelled that way.

5: Joe Bonamassa

Why? It’s about time the guy made it onto a Rolling Stone Top 100 list, especially the one for the Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Didn’t I get the memo? What memo? Huh. OK, scratch that. We’ve never heard of this guy so we won’t be mentioning him, ever.

5: Ritchie Blackmore

Why? Because he exudes awesomeness in regard to the guitar. Darn it, I read that wrong. He’s at 50. There are 49 better guitarists than him we have to get to first.

6: Someone from Wilco

Why? Or was it The Flaming Lips? Or Radiohead? Or Phish? Can’t remember. Maybe it was The Dave Matthews Band. I mean The Grateful Dead. Surely it was someone from Jefferson Airplane. One of them. Does it really matter who?

7: Kurt Cobain

Why? This solo artist could do it all: when he played it was as if he was handling the bass and drums as well as lead, all at the same time. It was amazing. You should have heard it. Plus his wife is a lunatic (always good for column inches, if you know what we mean).

8: Muddy Waters

Why? Keith told us he heard a Muddy Waters record once. ‘Nuff said.

9: Cozy Powell

Why? Good question; the dude played drums, not guitar We think. Let’s just YouTube it to make sure.

9: Andrés Segovia

Why? Cozy Powell is disqualified from being on this list because of the whole drums thing, but we found this guy when we were checking, and he seems like he can handle a guitar. It’s an acoustic guitar, but still.

10: Les Paul

Why: This list is sponsored in part by Gibson, so we’re just paying it back here. Publishing this magazine ain’t cheap, people.

11: James Jamerson

Why: Because the list does say "Best Guitarists of All Time," and even though we seem not to count the bass as a guitar, we have to include the Funk Brother who brought us Motown. I mean, come on. We would lose all credibility if our celebrity voters forgot to put ole James on the list. We simply could not let that kind of error happen. Ever. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ballad of a Southern Band: Whiskey Myers

 Glorious Shredding

Whiskey Myers is the best newish old band you have never heard. Their sophomore album, Firewater was released in April 2011, but unless you frequent bars in Texas you won’t know this. The Inky Jukebox thinks this is a problem that needs to be fixed, and pronto. Firewater is a blistering collection of classic Southern rock that physically leaps out of your speakers and takes up a new home inside your body cavity — one wonders how they manage to get away with putting out a vinyl version, because the sheer force of the licks on it will surely warp it as soon as you take it for a spin.

The chaps in the band look like the musicians whose legacy they follow. You can hear a little bit of a whole lot of pedigree in their songs — in the arrangements, playing, singing, lyrics, and pace. Cody Cannon's voice has a smooth velvety tone. Unless you saw how young they are and just heard the record, you might think it was pulled from the vaults of circa 1972. You can definitely hear the influence of Leroy Powell and his sojourn with Shooter's Jennings' band in the production. Here’s what The Inky Jukebox hears:

Ram Jam, Foghat, Steppenwolf, Golden Earring, Skynyrd, Humble Pie, Buffalo Springfield, Bad Company, Free, the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, the Steeldrivers, Black Label Society, and Clutch.

CMT Pure is playing their current single, “Ballad of a Southern Man” with its nice video, but if you go to Whiskey Myers’s YouTube channel, you will find a series of acoustic performances from Firewater that are well worth listening to so that you can hear how well the stripped down versions of their songs hold up. Of particular note is the beautifully tender slide guitar. For a band whose songs can rock so hard, it’s nice to hear harmonica being employed so well. When they do take on a ballad — “Virginia” — its harmonies are sweet with a stunning set of overlapping guitar riffs you will be rewarded for listening to on headphones.

The Inky Jukebox recommends the following tracks: “Different Mold,” “Ballad of a Southern Man,” “Virginia,” “Turn It Up,” and “Strange Dreams,” though all of the album’s tracks are stellar. “Song For You,” a quiet slow burner, has been treated differently in that it features a crackly backing to replicate the sound of a dusty LP. This might seem annoying to anyone young enough never to have heard actual dusty LPs being played. The Inky Jukebox wonders how it sounds on the vinyl version. “Anna Marie” is a bit clappy and shouty and feels out of place with the rest of these tracks.

Whiskey Myers is a band on a small label and their online presence could use some (more) professional guidance, as what exists seems uncoordinated without a unified design. Their website could use some regular maintenance. (Guys — check out Will Hoge’s site for inspiration.) Here is their facebook page.

It’s almost impossible to listen to this record and not want to be in your old jeans, boots and hat rocking out to this band in one of those bars, bottle of beer swinging between your thumb and forefinger. If you close your eyes, you can be. If you have the chance, go see them play. 

Buy this album now. Right now.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kenny Chesney V The Band Perry

Entertainer of the Year

Now THAT's funny. 

First off, let's acknowledge that Brad and Carrie are the real Entertainers of the Year. 

Now that awards season is doling out gongs for the year’s achievements, The Inky Jukebox would like to take a moment to reflect on two phenomena.

The first concerns last night’s CMA Awards at which The Band Perry walked away with three major awards. Fair enough: when it comes to an individual song it comes down to personal preference and all the nominations were good. But should they have won Best New Artist among such a stellar company? Absolutely not. Are they better than Eric Church, who has three incredible albums to back up his claim? No. 

But, I hear you say, does that also mean that Taylor Swift should not have won Entertainer of the Year? Nope. Taylor Swift, by any measure, put on one of the best spectacles of the year, touring her little ass off with a truly entertaining concert. She deserved to win for the second year in a row. Chances are good, however, that any act that pulls the kind of numbers she did by touring stadiums, will generate enough fans to drive votes in this category. Here's a taste of why she won:

Hey — it’s how Kenny Chesney won so often. Which brings us to issue two: Kenny Chesney’s show. He wasn’t nominated for much, yet put out one of the year’s best albums, and had (and continues to have) hits off it, supported by a grand tour which took four acts out on the road all summer. He entertained me all year long. So how come he wasn’t nominated?

Well, it’s because he’s already won it and folks want to cheer for someone else for a change. This does not mean that they love him any less, however. The Inky Jukebox went to a lot of shows this year — though not Brad Paisley’s one-two punch with Vocalist of the Year Blake Shelton, because they cancelled their Heinz Field show (still no explanation boys?) — and the Kenny Chesney Experience rocked the dust off all of them (Taylor coming a close second).

Why is this? Kenny Chesney is a little peanut-looking fella. It feels distinctly naff to like him. Yet his stadium show provided a whole day of stellar entertainment with four acts you’d want to see, and made use of the venue to great effect. The Zac Brown band, his “support” act, are worth the price of admission alone. But the crowd who comes to see Kenny are there because they’ve been to one of his shows before and have resolved to always buy a ticket whenever he comes to town. This is real fan loyalty. What it produces (apart from guaranteed ticket sales) is the sound of 60,000 people singing along to every single word at the top of their lungs — an exhilaratingly uplifting experience. In short, the show is truly entertaining; it’s a rockin’ good time.

This is reflected in his release of live albums and especially in his latest video for “Reality,” which is a montage of clips from his tour. It is well done and gives you a taste of why it matters not if he wins yet another trophy: he’s already won.