Johnny Cash’s ‘Live in Denmark 1971’ finally available on CD

Johnny Cash‘Man in Black: Live in Denmark 1971’
Johnny Cash (Columbia Legacy)
4 stars out of 5

So here’s the dilemma when it comes to reviewing live albums by the late, great Johnny Cash. Cash released two of the best live records of all time in 1968’s “At Folsom Prison” and 1969’s “At San Quentin,” meaning everything that comes after has impossibly large shoes to fill. Such is the case with “Man in Black: Live in Denmark 1971.”

Johnny Cash CDPreviously available only on DVD, the audio portion of the acclaimed concert has been released as a full-length CD for the first time. Cash and tour mates June Carter Cash, The Carter Family, Carl Perkins and The Statler Brothers were in peak form that night and the recording sounds great some 44 years later. Is the show as groundbreaking or memorable as the aforementioned prison albums? Not quite … but it will always be a delight to hear the Man in Black, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 71, do his thing in front of a live audience.

All the essential Cash tunes of the era are included on the 19-track, 57-minute release, including first-rate readings of “A Boy Named Sue,” “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Man In Black.” He and June Carter Cash also perform a Grammy winning rendition of “If I Were a Carpenter,” while Perkins (“Blue Suede Shots,” “Matchbox”) and The Statlers (“Bed of Roses,” “Flowers on the Wall”) also shine. Good stuff. (Jeffrey Sisk)

Bobby Rush’s legendary career the focus of ‘Chicken Heads’ set

Bobby Rush‘Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush’
Bobby Rush (Omnivore)
4.5 stars out of 5

Bobby Rush is a living blues legend. The Louisiana-born singer/multi-instrumentalist has played alongside the likes of Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Howlin’ Wolf over the course of a career that’s spanned more than half a century. The sprawling “Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush” pays tribute to a man who’s made countless contributions to blues, soul and funk.

Bobby Rush CD“Truly I feel honored that someone would think enough of me to do this,” the 82-year-old Rush says of the four-CD, 74-track collection. “The record side of it is the glory side of me and that’s the side that I want people to know and I’, grateful for that. I’m happy that someone thought before I leave this land to tell my story.”

Rush is still going strong, performing more than 200 shows a year. He’s been nominated for three Grammys and 41 Blues Music Awards (winning 10 times). Clocking in at almost five hours, “Chicken Heads” is the definitive Bobby Rush collection.

The set is a must for longtime Rush fans and anyone who loves the blues. The songs hold up remarkably well after all the years, with Rush especially impressive on “Someday,” “GottaHave Money,” “Chicken Heads,” “Bowlegged Woman, Knock-Kneed Man Part 1,” “She Put the Whammy on Me,” “Sue,” “Making a Decision,” “What’s Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander,” “Hen Pecked,” “She’s So Fine,” “Scootchin’,” “Tough Titty,” “Take Me to the River,” “Howlin’ Wolf,” “Down in Louisiana,” “Swing Low” and “If That’s the Way You Like It” (with Blinddog Smokin’). Good stuff. (Jeffrey Sisk)

The Yawpers are set to invade Pittsburgh’s Thunderbird Cafe on Friday, Dec. 4

(Photo by Paul Beaty)

(Photo by Paul Beaty)

Denver-based rock trio The Yawpers invade Pittsburgh’s Thunderbird Cafe on Friday, Dec. 4, at 9 a.m. Tickets for the over-21 show, which includes The Armadillos, are $8. Thunderbird Cafe is located at 4023 Butler St. in the city’s Lawrenceville neighborhood. Call 412-682-0177 or visit http://www.thunderbirdcafe.net for additional information.

Swedish duo Club 8 return with enjoyable new platter ‘Pleasure’

Club 8‘Pleasure’
Club 8 (Labrador)
3.5 stars out of 5

Swedish indie pop duo Club 8 first popped up on my radar in 2010 with the release of their masterful seventh full-length “The People’s Record.” That raised Club 8’s profile considerably for American audiences and whetted our appetite for 2013 follow-up “Above the City.” While that record was perfectly fine — Karolina Komstedt and Johan Angergard are too talented to deliver a clunker — I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed.

Club 8 CDSo it was with guarded optimism that I spun latest effort “Pleasure” for the first time. Happily, it’s another winner from the Swedish twosome and, though it isn’t quite on par with “The People’s Record,” the eight-track platter is more enjoyable than its predecessor.

“‘Pleasure’ is an album about love, sex and jealousy,” Komstedt says. “Musically, it is possibly our most focused release to date.”

It’s also an efficient record, clocking in at a too-short 24 minutes. That’s enough time to appreciate the pop-tastic abilities of Club 8, but it likely will leave listeners wanting a little more. Keepers include the opening tandem of “Love Dies” and “Skin,” along with Jealousy Remains,” “Movement” and set closer “Promises We Never Meany to Keep.” (Jeffrey Sisk)

Retro country outfit BR5-49 enjoy ‘One Long Saturday Night’

BR5-49 CD‘One Long Saturday Night’
BR5-49 (Bear Family)
4.5 stars out of 5

Taking their name from an old sketch on “Hee-Haw,” retro country collective BR5-49 emerged on the Nashville scene in the mid-1990s and went on to become one the most critically revered (if commercially underappreciated) alternative country acts of the era. BR5-49 played a mix of classic honky tonk, Western swing, boogie, Bakersfiled country and rockabilly that was at its best in a live setting.

BR5-49 DVDSuch is the case on new CD/DVD set “One Long Saturday Night.” In October 1996, BR5-49 appeared on German television program “Ohne Filter” and stomped their way through a spirited 19-track set that included original tunes and covers of classics by Ray Price, Hank Williams, Carl Perkins and Bob Wills.

Both the DVD and CD feature all the songs performed on “Ohne Filter,” with the CD featuring four bonus soundboard recordings taken from a concert BR5-49 performed in Japan a week after appearing on German television. Among the many highlights here are twangy performances of “Even If It’s Wrong,” “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” “Hearthaches By the Numbers,” “Honky Tonk Song,” “I Ain’t Never,” “Big Mouth Blues,” “Cherokee Boogie,” the title track and “Take Me Back to Tulsa.” Enjoy, y’all. (Jeffrey Sisk)

‘Jaco’ film, CD tell the tragic tale of bass legend Jaco Pastorius

Jaco‘Jaco: Original Soundtrack’
Various Artists (Legacy)
4 stars out of 5

So I confess to knowing next to nothing about Jaco Pastorius when “Jaco: Original Soundtrack” came across my desk a few weeks back. Pastorius was a legendary electric bass player whose tragic life — ruined by mental illness, drugs and alcohol — came to an end in 1987 at the too-young age of 35. At the time of his death, Pastorius was living on the streets, his contributions to the world of music all but forgotten.

Jaco CDThe full-length documentary “Jaco” chronicles the life, music and enduring influence of the electric bass pioneer and this 16-track album is the perfect companion piece for a film that I can’t wait to see. The album features Pastorius solo tracks, collaborations with the likes of Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock and Ian Hunter, along with brand-new entries courtesy of rapper Tech N9ne and classical guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Among the highlights of the 75-minute set are Pastorius cuts “Continuum,” “Portrait of Tracy” and “Liberty City”; Tech N9ne’s “Shine”; Weather Report’s “River People” and “Barbary Coast”; and an all-star rendition of “Come on, Come Over” by Mass Mental, featuring Robert Trujillo, Armand Sabal-Lecco, Flea, Whit Crane, Benji Webbe, Stephen Perkins and C-Minus. (Jeffrey Sisk)

Dirty Streets stomp through stellar new LP ‘White Horse’

Dirty Streets‘White Horse’
Dirty Streets (Alive Naturalsound)
3.5 stars out of 5

Memphis-based trio Dirty Streets came together almost a decade ago over a shared love of bands like Led Zeppelin, Cream and Humble Pie. Their music is a throwback to the classic blues-rock sound of their idols, with Justin Toland (guitar/vocals), Thomas Storz (bass) and Andrew Denham (drums) putting their own spin on a wonderfully retro sound.

Dirty Streets CD“White Horse” is the band’s fourth studio effort and comes on the heels of well-received 2013 release “Blades of Grass.” “This album is definitely more fluid and natural,” Toland notes. “We made a big deal out of just feeling out the songs rather than getting them techinically perfect. Percussion was definitely a compass as far as groove on this one. If we couldn’t play the tambourine or shaker with felling, then it wasn’t cutting it.”

“White Horse” is rough around the edges in the best possible way, with Dirty Streets especially effective on “Looking for My Peace,” “Accents,” “When I See My Light,” “Good Kind of Woman,” “Good Pills” and “Dust.” Rock on, fellas. (Jeffrey Sisk)

‘To Love the Bee Gees’ a terrific tribute album to pop music icons

The Bee Gees‘To Love the Bee Gees: A Tribute to the Brothers Gibb’
Various Artists (80 Proof)
4.5 stars out of 5

When the history of pop music is written, Australian siblings the Bee Gees almost certainly will play a prominent role. Brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb were responsible for dozens of hit singles throughout the late 1960s, 1970s and early ‘80s and continued to make music together until Maurice passed away in 2003 at age 53.

todd bisson5“To Love the Bee Gees: A Tribute to the Brothers Gibb” is a loving compilation album featuring 28 covers by 17 artists. Curated by producers Todd Bisson and Bennett Freed, the set features songs from the entirety of the Bee Gees’ career performed by an eclectic group of guests.

“Our goal was to cover the waterfront musically and the Bee Gees career-wise,” Bisson explains. “I really do think we accomplished that. There is blues, rock, folk, soul, pop, funk, electronica and dub on this album and songs from 1967 to 1993, both well-known and obscure.”

You can’t really go wrong anywhere on the 100 minute set, but pay special attention to performances by Isobel Campbell (“How Deep Is Your Love”), Elayna Boynton (“To Love Somebody”), Dylan Gardner (“Massachusetts”), Martin Carr (“Stayin’ Alive”). Jess Delgado (“I Can Bring Love”), Emitt Rhoses (“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”) and The Silver Seas (“I Started a Joke” and “Night Fever”). Highly recommended. (Jeffrey Sisk)

Terry Adams honors all-time jazz legend with ‘Talk Thelonious’

Terry Adams‘Talk Thelonious’
Terry Adams (Clang!)
4 stars out of 5

For Terry Adams, “Talk Thelonious” is the culmination of almost 50 years of admiration of legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. Recorded live at the Flynn Space in Burlington, Vt., the 12-track, 52-platter features Adams and his NRBQ mates performing a series of Monk classics.

Terry Adams CD“There’s an air about Monk’s music that I feel should go beyond the written parts,” Adams notes. “You can hear it on his performances even when he’s not playing. Some people don’t approach it that way. The music is in a special place and the performer of it should be, too.”

Adams & Co. pay tribute to Monk, who passed away in 1982 at age 64, with captivating arrangements of “Reflections,” “In Walked Bud,” “Monk’s Mood,” “Think of One,” “Ask Me Now,” Straight, No Chaser” and a studio recording of “Ruby, My Dear.” This one’s an essential addition to the collection of jazz fans everywhere. (Jeffrey Sisk)

Stephen Young & The Union serve up an Americana gem in ‘Eagle Fort Rumble’

Stephen Young‘Eagle Fort Rumble’
Stephen Young & The Union (Ragged Company)
4 stars out of 5

Leave it to a group of talented Irishmen to make one of the better Americana records of the year. Up-and-comng quintet Stephen Young & The Union have been building a following in Europe the past couple years and come into their own on sophomore full-length “Eagle Fort Rumble.”

Stephen Young CD“Our self-released debut (2011’s ‘Wilderness Machine’), stylistically, was more of a ‘singer/songwriter with a band for hire’ kind of album,” Young explains. “This time around, with a new lineup, the direction shifted more positively to a ‘band album.’”

Young & The Union suck listeners right in with “Shiver,” “Duty Free 200” and “Lately I’ve Rescued a Rose,” and later deliver the goods with keepers “Land Leg Blues,” “Shadowman,” “Beautiful Dead” and set closer “Someone You Dream Of.” Do yourself a favor and seek out this enjoyable 11-track release. You’ll be glad that you did. (Jeffrey Sisk)