Artist Profiles

Kayla Woodson: Up & Coming Country Rock Singer

The definition of “up-and-coming” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary says: Gaining prominence and likely to advance or succeed.   That is exactly how I would describe country rock singer Kayla Woodson. Originally from Waggaman, Louisiana, she now calls Nashville, Tennessee her home and is a rising star in the music industry.

So those of you who are astute may be thinking: DJ Dave Woodson must be promoting his daughter, niece, cousin or some other close relative with this latest blog? Obviously, I share the same last name as Kayla but we are not close relatives. Most likely we are 10th cousins, just about like all other people with the Woodson surname in America.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Kayla via phone for the first time and got to learn of her music career. Among the things I learned: Kayla was a child music prodigy at a young age and started singing publicly at age 4 as a hobby. When Kayla was 7 years old, she performed regularly with Opry shows in Texas and Louisiana.

By age 10, Kayla fronted her own band for the first time and played at various locations throughout the South. Her musical performances continued during her early teen years and at age 15, Kayla wrote her own music and recorded an album called “I’m Moving On.”

After graduation from high school, Kayla moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University in 2012. Kayla received her BS degree from Belmont in 2016, with a major in Entertainment Industry Studies and a minor in Music Business. She continues to make Nashville her home since graduation from college.

In 2014, Kayla was at a Hard Rock Café in the Dominican Republic when she unexpectedly got called up on stage while country music trio Lady Antebellum was performing the song “American Honey.” Kayla then sang the song with the country group through the ending of the former number one country tune. After the song ended, Lady Antebellum lead singer Hillary Scott briefly interviewed Kayla before she left the stage.

While Kayla was getting her college degree during 2015, she performed on the Hard Rock stage at the CMA Music fest and released her first single, “Fan for the Flame ” to country music radio stations in America. The song is about a woman who has been scorned once but is refusing to play the fool multiple times. Kayla’s vocals are sassy on this catchy tune.

At the end of Kayla’s senior year at Belmont, she released her self-titled 5-song EP “Kayla Woodson” during April 2016. Every song was either written or co-written by Kayla and the EP shows a wide range of music styles along with powerful vocals by the Louisiana native.

During the past year Kayla has been busy writing new songs, playing with her own band and performing with other artists like Emma Place and Annie Lawrence around the Nashville area and around the South.

One of the current 24-year old singer’s latest projects is the recording of a new song, “Unfixable” which was written by Kayla along with co-writer Andrew Peebles. It is a powerful song but don’t just take my word about Kayla’s newest song and video for “Unfixable.” Here is what Kayla says about her new tune:

“I wrote ‘Unfixable’ with my co-writer Andrew Peebles, and by the time we were done writing the song I knew that I had to release it as my next single. It’s more of an emotional song that shows way more vulnerability than I have ever shown through my music. It’s about that moment when you love someone so much that you can’t walk away from them even though you know the relationship is not good for you. You’re essentially begging this person to cause you pain and in turn make your connection unfixable, so that it gives you enough reason to walk away from them. I’m so excited for the world to hear this song and I hope you all love it as much as I do!”

Up to this point you may think Kayla is just a country singer. However, she doesn’t limit herself to that genre of music: Kayla also rocks! Her dynamic voice is also well suited to sing rock music. From power ballads and straight up classic rock tunes, Kayla delivers the goods when singing rock songs during her concerts.

When I spoke with Kayla, I was curious what kind of set list that she and her band perform when out on the concert trail. While she sings much of her own material, Kayla also performs selected cover version of popular songs in rock and country plus occasionally singing Motown classic songs.

Two rock song covers that Kayla keeps in her set list are The Outlaw’s “Your Love” and “Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine.”   With the country covers, she regularly sings Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine.” When Kayla goes Motown, she performs either Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours” or Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.”

So what kind of music does Kayla listen to on a regular basis? She described her music favorites as a “Louisiana Gumbo Pot” meaning lots of variety all mixed together into one bowl. I asked Kayla some questions about her favorite music and here are the answers:

  • Favorite Rock Groups: Journey and Gun N Roses
  • Favorite Motown Artists: Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin
  • Favorite Country Artists: Dolly Parton and Carrie Underwood
  • Favorite Journey Song: “Wheel in the Sky”
  • Last Album Played: “Golden Hour” Kasey Musgraves

For the rest of the summer and into the fall, Kayla is taking time to write new songs and will be touring with her band in Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama. You can always get Kayla’s up to date concert information here.

You can listen or purchase Kayla’s music at either iTunes or Spotify.

You can also access Kayla’s Facebook here and her official website here

“Ooh, the wheel in the sky keeps on turning

I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow

Wheel in the sky keeps on turning.”

The chorus to Journey’s song “Wheel in the Sky” that I quoted above accurately describes Kayla upcoming musical journey. Her path is yet to be written. As I see things, Kayla Woodson has a bright future as a country/rock singer. I am confident that bigger and better things will be happening in the future during Kayla’s career. Rock on!

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Retro Rock

This Is It: Yacht Rock

Camden Harbor, Maine (June 2018)

“This is it, make no mistake where you are, this is it, the waiting is over”: These lyrics are to the chorus of the song “This Is It” by Kenny Loggins and is one of the biggest Yacht Rock songs of all time. Make no mistake, the waiting is over: You are now reading a blog message about Yacht Rock.

The term Yacht Rock might seem innocuous but for much of the music world, just the mention of this musical genre sometimes brings ridicule and mockery to those willing to admit they actually like Yacht Rock.

The most famous line in the Coasters song “Charlie Brown” is, “Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me.” That statement could also be applied about Yacht Rock: Why’s everybody always pickin’ on the genre of music known as Yacht Rock? Publicly frowned upon and scorned by many, Yacht rock is like Rodney Dangerfield: It gets no respect.

So what is Yacht Rock? This genre of music is loosely defined as “soft rock” that incorporates music influenced by smooth jazz, R&B, soul, pop and funk and regularly features instruments such as saxophones, acoustic guitars and electric pianos.

Most songs range from slow to mid tempos but some tunes have fast tempos and are not “soft rock” at all. Two examples of this type of Yacht Rock song: “Hold the Line” from Toto and “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins. Most all Yacht Rock songs feature high quality studio productions, clean vocals and catchy melodies.

The years from 1975 through 1985 are considered the main era of Yacht Rock popularity. However songs from early 70’s (Known as the California Sound) are also included in the umbrella of Yacht Rock genre. Although the Beach Boys might be considered a part of this genre, most of their hits were outside of the Yacht Rock time period and they are not considered a core group within Yacht Rock.

Although many of the songs in the Yacht Rock category have to do with sailing, yachts, ships, bodies of water or other things associated with nautical activities, the subject matters of Yacht Rock are wide open and may touch on a variety of topics with their lyrics.

The term Yacht Rock was created by J.D. Ryznar as he made an online ten-part video series in 2005 called “Yacht Rock.” In this series, yacht owners off the coast of California set sail listening to smooth soft rock music with artists like Michael McDonald, Pablo Cruise, Kenny Loggins, Steely Dan, Toto and Christopher Cross.

During the past 3 years, Yacht Rock radio has been a staple during the summer months on SiriusXM. In addition to the artists I mentioned above, here are some of the other core artists associated with Yacht Rock: Ambrosia, America, Chicago, Doobie Brothers, Eagles, Hall and Oates, Fleetwood Mac, Little River Band, Gerry Rafferty, Al Stewart, Boz Scaggs and 10CC.

Matt Colier from the online music guide AllMusic says there are three defining rules of Yacht Rock:

  1. “Keep it smooth, even when it grooves, with more emphasis on the melody than on the beat”
  2. “Keep the emotions light, even when the sentiment turns sad (as is so often the case in the world of the sensitive yacht-rocksman)”
  3. “Always keep it catchy, no matter how modest or deeply buried in the tracklist the tune happens to be.”

You may asking: What are some of the most popular songs in the Yacht Rock genre?

The absolutely number 1 and quintessential greatest Yacht Rock song ever made is “Sailing” by Christopher Cross.

Some of the other top Yacht Rock songs include:

  • Hey 19—Steely Dan
  • What a Fool Believes—Doobie Brothers
  • Kiss on my List—Hall and Oates
  • Rosanna—Toto
  • This is It—Kenny Loggins

 

  • Biggest Part of Me—Ambrosia
  • I Keep Forgettin’—Michael McDonald
  • Key Largo—Bertie Higgins
  • Magic—Olivia Newton-John
  • Dance With Me—Orleans

 

  • Whatcha Gonna Do—Pablo Cruise
  • Baby Come Back—Player
  • Lotta Love—Nicolette Larson
  • Reminiscing—Little River Band
  • Human Nature—Michael Jackson

 

  • Call on Me—Chicago
  • Don’t Stop—Fleetwood Mac
  • True—Spandau Ballet
  • Thunder Island—Jay Ferguson
  • Moonlight Feels Right—Starbuck
  • Rock the Boat—Hues Corporation

Now that you know what Yacht Rock is all about, I will go back to my original opening thoughts on this genre of music: Why does Yacht Rock have a bad reputation? Are people really ashamed to admit that they enjoy Yacht Rock?

I am confident that the lack of respect for Yacht Rock is one of the main reasons that the band Chicago did not actually get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until 2016. The same can be said for Hall and Oates not becoming a member until 2015. And how long will it be before the Doobie Brothers get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

A good example of prejudice against Yacht Rock songs is “Africa” by Toto. Even though the band won a Grammy for the song in 1983 and it has become the Internet’s most favorite song (with 250 million views on YouTube) during this decade, music gurus still continue to pan one of the most ironic Yacht Rock songs of all time.

The same can be said for Yacht Rock songs from Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers and Chicago.   According to those who dislike Yacht Rock, Steely Dan songs “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Do It Again” are far superior to “Peg”, “Hey Nineteen” or “Deacon Blues?” Is that right?

So why do music critics despise Yacht Rock anyway? Why do these individuals hate Yacht Rock music and continually down play its place in rock music history?

I personally think these so-called rock critics that loathe Yacht Rock are full of bologna. The musicianship on most Yacht Rock songs are excellent and have wonderful sound production associated with each record. How these “critics” do not respect the Yacht Rock genre is beyond me.

To be fair, there are some songs in the Yacht Rock genre that are just not very good. The most glaring example of this is Rupert Holmes’ tune, “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” which is ranked as one of the worst songs of 70’s by Rolling Stone magazine.

Another 70’s song that hurts my ears is the insipid “Muskrat Love” by Captain and Tennille (a horrid song in my humble opinion).

While there are some fairly wretched Yacht Rock songs, most of the music played in that genre has quality and is actually quite good. In fact, some songs of Yacht Rock are excellent. Let me share with you 20 of my favorite Yacht Rock songs without any ranking and in a totally random order.

As you will notice with my listing, I have 20 separate artists: That means that I believe there are 20 different musical groups and performers that have made superb Yacht Rock music over the years.

  • Saturday in the Park–Chicago
  • Ride Captain Ride—Blues Image
  • Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)—Looking Glass
  • Right Down the Line—Gerry Rafferty
  • Summer Breeze—Seals and Croft

 

  • Peg—Steely Dan
  • One of These Nights—Eagles
  • Ventura Highway—America
  • Lowdown—Boz Scaggs
  • So Into You—Atlanta Rhythm Section

 

  • Superstar—Carpenters
  • Couldn’t Get It Right—Climax Blues Band
  • Go Your Own Way—Fleetwood Mac
  • Steppin’ Out—Joe Jackson
  • Whenever I Call You Friend—Kenny Loggins & Stevie Nicks

 

  • Ride Like the Wind—Christopher Cross
  • South City Midnight Lady—Doobie Brothers
  • The Logical Song–Supertramp
  • Make It With You–Bread
  • Time Passages—Al Stewart

If you were compiling your 20 favorite Yacht rock songs, your listing would be different than mine. I maintain that much of the music that is in the Yacht Rock category is quality material and musically just as good as those who perform other sub categories in rock music. Maybe Yacht Rock musicians are even better musically than other rock genres of music?

Obviously I will never be able to change what some people think about Yacht Rock. However, I do believe that if anyone reads my blog message with an open mind, they would come to view the Yacht Rock genre of music in a different light. Those folks might actually admit that they enjoy certain Yacht Rock songs?

What are your thoughts about Yacht Rock? I would love to read your comments: the good, the bad or the ugly on your opinion of Yacht Rock and its place in modern music history. Please let your voice be heard on the subject of Yacht Rock. Rock on!

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Virginia Artists

The Kings: Rocking Roanoke Since 1965

The Kings performing at Elmwood Park in Roanoke, VA on July 5

If you think of longevity with rock bands, the Rolling Stones are the first that comes to mind on the international music scene. In the Roanoke community, look no further than The Kings, a Roanoke based band that has been in existence for over 53 years.

I had the opportunity to meet the band members of the Kings and attend their July 5th concert at Elmwood Park. Along with the Kings, DJ Jerry English was laying down danceable tunes before and during intermission times. Many in the crowd danced to the music as DJ English played tunes from legendary Carolina Beach bands like the Tams, Band of Oz and Jim Quick.

DJ English and I at Elmwood Park on July 5

DJ English was kind enough to allow me to shadow him during the entire evening. I had an excellent vantage point from my seat next to him, observing his DJ duties and interacting with the band. I was extremely impressed with the friendliness and hospitality of the Kings band members.

Prior to the Kings opening first set, I met the members of the band and the man that founded the group, Perry Caligan. Caligan started the band, then known as The Royal Kings, 53 years ago and was the lead singer and lead guitarist. He now acts as the business owner of Kings Entertainment Agency.

From 1969 until 1980, The Royal Kings were the house band for the Roanoke nightclub The Kings Inn. The current leader and manager of the band, Larry Wheeling, joined the band during February 1969. It was a thrill for me to be able to meet both Caligan and Wheeling at this event.

Larry Wheeling and Perry Caligan at Elmwood Park on July 5

Before the concert began, I asked both Caligan and Wheeling about some of the bands that The Royal Kings opened up for during their days performing at The Kings Inn. Here are just a few of the artists they mentioned: The Four Tops, Ides of March, Chairmen of the Board and Billy Stewart.

Over the years there have been many members playing with the Kings. However, Wheeling has been with the band ever since he joined in 1969. Joining Larry Wheeling in the 2018 edition of the band are his brothers Brian Wheeling and Randy Wheeling. Below are the current 7 members of the Kings:

Brian Jones—guitar bass

Terry Brown—lead singer

Brian Wheeling—guitar

Tim Martin—lead singer and guitar

Larry Wheeling—Trumpet and Keyboards

Randy Wheeling—Trumpet and Trombone

Ray Mitchell—Drums

The Kings performing at Elmwood Park on July 5

The Kings official motto is “These guys play everything.” That slogan is accurate.

With a total of 29 songs during their two-sets, the Kings had a wide variety of musical styles on their set list. Basically the Kings play all types of dance music: From Motown to current chart topping songs, the band keeps the groove going with guitars, bass, drums and a brass section. Plus the vocals of Terry Brown and Tim Martin makes the Kings a top-notch band.

For a majority of the songs performed in concert, Terry Brown takes the lead singing vocals. For the remainder of the Kings songs, Tim Martin provides lead vocals for the band. This combination of vocalists gives the Kings a nice balance with the various styles of music played during concerts.

The Kings opened up their first set of the evening with the classic Chicago song, ‘Does Anybody Really Know What Time It is.” Other highlights during the first part of the concert includes covers of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”, Looking Glass’ “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”, the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” and KC & the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes.’

Towards the end of the first set, Tim Martin sang the Old Crow Medicine Show song “Wagon Wheel” which actually mentions the name of Roanoke in the lyrics of this tune:

Walking to the south out of Roanoke

I caught a trucker out of Philly had a nice long toke

But he’s a heading west from the Cumberland Gap

To Johnson City, Tennessee

And I got to get a move on before the sun

I hear my baby calling my name and I know that she’s the only one

And if I die in Raleigh at least I will die free

After DJ Jerry English played classic Carolina Beach music during the intermission, the Kings came out rocking the house with covers of more contemporary tunes from the past five years. Highlights of the second set includes, DNCE’s “Cake By the Ocean”, Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and The Time’s “Jungle Love.”

There were two other exceptional performances by the Kings during the second set. The first song was the Portugal The Man’s “Feel It Still” which featured Terry Brown’s outstanding falsetto vocal range along with the band’s wonderful rhythm section.

The final song of the evening was Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” song. Every part of this performance was excellent. From the vocals, the bass riffs, guitars and drums in sync and the brass section rocking, this ending song was “smokin’ hot” and was a fitting end to an excellent concert by the Kings.

After this event ended, I asked some folks for their thoughts about the Kings concert. Here are a couple responses:

Beth Ledwith of Salem:

“I thought they were great. They offered a variety that appealed to the audience and also played some current hits. They also played a good mix of slow and faster tempos. A great party band with talented members. The brass also adds additional richness to the overall sound. I would highly recommend them!”

Bruce Bias of Roanoke:

“Probably no other band has had such a local impact on the Roanoke Valley’s music scene than the Kings. Going back to the late 60’s to the present they have remained the most known group within a 200-mile radius of the valley. They stayed on top of current hits, while always keeping the roots of their beginnings true. I have always believed the horns was what set them apart form other really good local bands. Larry Wheeling: If Roanoke had a hall of fame for bands, you’d be in the very 1st class. Big thanks for your efforts to keep THE KINGS alive and thriving.”

Thanks to Beth and Bruce for sharing their thoughts on the Kings.   If you are interested to know more about the Kings, check out their webpage.

I want to thank DJ Jerry English, Larry Wheeling and the rest of the Kings band for allowing me to witness the “Party in Elmwood” concert on stage with them on July 5th. It was an honor for me to be able to watch Roanoke’s legendary band perform their magic the day after Independence Day 2018.

Long live The Kings!

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Radio

Radio Free Roanoke: A New Way to Listen

Radio Free Roanoke staff and volunteers

Talking Heads 1980 legendary song “Once in a Lifetime” uses the phrase “You may ask yourself” multiple times on this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted song.

You may ask yourself: What is “Radio Free Roanoke” and what does it mean?

Radio Free Roanoke (RFR) is a 100-watt non-commercial, non-profit grassroots community FM radio station located in Roanoke, Virginia. On April 12th, 2018, WROE-LP 95.7 FM signed on the air for the first time. Radio Free Roanoke is now broadcasting and has become a part of the local radio community here in the Roanoke Valley.

You may ask yourself: Why does Roanoke actually need another radio station? Radio-locator.com states that there are “56 radio stations that may be within distant listening range of Roanoke, Virginia.”

Of those 56 stations, fourteen signals are with AM stations while the remaining forty-two signals are FM stations. While many of those radio facilities broadcast the same station on multiple frequencies, the Roanoke/Lynchburg market is still saturated with radio outlets.

With today’s broadcasting landscape, most radio stations are for-profit commercial facilities and are owned by large corporate companies. The days of small independently owned radio stations are almost extinct and have gone the way of the Dodo bird.

RFR Founder Robert Capper adjusting radio antenna

Five years ago, Executive Director of Radio Free Roanoke Robert Capper had a vision that he wanted to create a non-profit, grassroots, local community radio station for Roanoke. He started in April 2013 to obtain a license and equipment and to build community support for this type of radio station. It took nearly five years to complete the process for Capper’s vision.

Capper finally was able to see his dream of a radio station broadcasting in Roanoke when RFR signed on for the first time on April 12th, 2018. The next day TV station WDBJ7 aired a short clip about the opening of RFR.

Opening any new radio station poses challenges but this is especially true for RFR. Besides the financial cost of running RFR, the 100-watt output from the stations’ antenna limits the range of the RFR coverage area.

The coverage map for RFR is a five-mile radius from the broadcast antenna tower location in southwest Roanoke city. That means portions of Salem, Vinton and Roanoke County are not able to pick up RFR and this limits the amount of residents that can listen to and enjoy RFR programming.

Heather Rose, RFR Corporate Vice President and Program Manager

Heather Rose is the Corporate Vice President and Program Manager for RFR and she expressed to me one of the most pressing needs for the radio station: Streaming RFR online.

The station currently is not able to stream their signal on the Internet because of the cost. An exceptional gift to RFR would be for someone to underwrite the cost of streaming the RFR signal on the Internet for an entire year. That would be huge and would allow those living outside of the five-mile RFR coverage area to receive the radio station broadcast in their homes.

One of the RFR goals is to have grassroots community programming on the station, according to Robert Capper. Radio staff and other volunteers with RFR meet weekly at the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op to discuss business that is associated with the new station. Anyone from the Roanoke community is also welcomed to attend these meetings.

I have actually attended two of the RFR weekly meetings to get a feel for how the staff and volunteers are proceeding in relation to community involvement. Capper told me at one of the meetings I attended that RFR wants to add more local content. One of current programs aired on RFR is on the controversial proposed Mountain Valley Atlantic Coast Pipeline. RFR regularly airs programming on the issue that is important to those living in Southwest Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley area.

The station also wants more folks in the Roanoke community to submit ideas for new community programming. Community member Cedric Wilson, who currently works in the mental health profession in the Roanoke area, has proposed producing a weekly program on the subject of psychology. Wilson hopes to include topics such as emotions, human behavior, the brain, mental health, addiction, culture, religion and relationships on this new radio endeavor.

RFR coverage map

Another area where RFR separates itself from all other radio stations in Roanoke is with music. Music director Geoff Conley has been responsible for providing local Roanoke area music artists with the opportunity to have their music played in regular rotation on a daily basis. Currently, RFR is playing music from twenty-five local Roanoke artists and hopes to expand the airing of more local music in the near future.

Hearing local Roanoke music on RFR has been a dream come true for Camellia Delk, who is the keyboard and violin player for the Roanoke-based band The Bastards of Fate (BOF).   The BOF band member loves the fact that RFR is playing local artists along side established music artists such as The Cure, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Cocteau Twins and The Smiths.

When I asked Delk about what RFR means to her she replied, “On my way to work this morning I heard ‘One True Love’ by The Bastards of Fate – never dreamed I’d hear THAT one on the airwaves! Also heard the song ‘Ohio’ by The Wading Girl (I play violin on that track). It’s not only neat to hear my music but also fun to hear my friends’ bands Eternal Summers, Atoka Chase, Doug Cheatwood, Another Roadside Attraction, and Sad Cobras being played alongside Bjork, Kate Bush, Faith No More, Nina Simone! I can’t stress how grateful I am to be able to turn on the radio and actually enjoy it!”

Since starting broadcast in April, RFR has attempted to create a radio experience that is completely different than what the rest of the radio stations are doing in the Roanoke/Lynchburg market. As Executive Director Robert Capper sees it, “RFR will continue to grow and change as more people come to volunteer and become a part of our radio community.”

Vice President Heather Rose also shares Capper’s thoughts on the growth of RFR. Rose also hopes that more folks will volunteer their services with many various activities that are required to maintain smooth operations with the radio station.

RFR staff and volunteers at station debut party

To contact RFR staff members about programming ideas, scheduling, where to volunteer, how to donate financially or to leave feedback, visit their website. Also be sure to connect with them on Facebook.

Radio Free Roanoke is new and growing but currently has a small audience. I would love for RFR to have a larger listening area but without Internet streaming, it won’t be possible.

It would be my hope that someone who reads this blog would be able to underwrite the cost of Internet streaming of RFR online for an entire year. The staff of RFR would be extremely excited if folks all over the Roanoke Valley could enjoy listening to Radio Free Roanoke no matter where they lived. That would be awesome.

Long live Radio Free Roanoke!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message. Rock on!

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Music, Retro Rock

Is Rock Music Dead?

The Who, “Long Live Rock” Single Record Cover.

Rock is dead, they say, Long live rock. Long live rock, I need it every night. Long live rock, come on and join the line. Long live rock, be it dead or alive.

-Pete Townshend, “Long Live Rock”

The notion that “Rock is dead” has been around for a long time. In fact, Pete Townshend wrote the song “Long Live Rock” 47 years ago as a rebuttal to those in the early 70’s who were proclaiming that rock music was dead.

The Who wasn’t the only artist to speak about the subject of rock being dead. Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” proclaims, “Just take those old records off the shelf, I’ll sit and listen to them by myself, today’s music ain’t got the same soul, I like that old time Rock and Roll.”

The next year Neil Young’s “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” had the following lyrics: “Rock and Roll is here to stay, it’s better to burn out than to fade away, Rock and Roll can never die, there’s more to the picture than meets the eye.”

During the 80’s, Huey Lewis and the News song “The Heart of Rock and Roll” states “They say the heart of Rock and Roll is still beating and from what I’ve seen I believe ‘em, now the old boy may be barely breathing but the heart of Rock and Roll is still beating.”

If you have been reading the New York Times, Billboard, Rolling Stone or the Los Angeles Times recently, you may have seen their headlines and concluded that rock music is dead and buried for good. Is this actually true?

Just last week while I was on vacation in Maine, I was reading Digital Music News and that publication posed the question, “So is Rock n’ Roll dead, dying, or something in-between?” So what is the state of Rock music?

According to Spotify, Hip Hop is the number one music genre followed by Pop, Latino and EDM. Nielsen Music reports that R&B/Hip Hop was the biggest genre of music during 2017 with “24.5% of all music consumed.” Billboard states that 7 of the top 10 selling albums last year were in the R&B/Hip Hop category. Rock music sales continue to spiral downward compared to the other top music genres here in 2018.

So you may ask yourself: If rock is dead or on life support, what about U2 selling out concert venues all across America this summer? Other classic Rock acts such as Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, and Dave Matthews Band are also touring this summer and filling outdoor concert stadiums on a regular basis. Is Rock really dead?

I have a theory about all of the doomsday writers that place Rock music as either dead or on its last leg and never to return as a force in the music industry ever again: For the most part, writers in 2018 say “Rock music is dead” because their definition of the genre is actually based on a “Classic Rock” model.

In these writers’ eyes, the traditional classic rock group consists of four white males, two members playing guitars, one playing the bass and the final member being a drummer. Since there are few of these types of groups either forming and/or playing the “classic Rock” sound during this decade, these writers categorically proclaim that “Rock is dead” as their definition of Rock music does not exist in today’s music scene.

So I ask again: Is Rock music actually dead? When I view rock music in 2018, I see a different picture. Rock music today is broad, varied and has a wide range of different styles within the genre. Besides the traditional classic Rock sound, there are many other forms of Rock being played regularly here in America:

Blues rock, country rock, dance rock, electronic rock, folk rock, industrial rock, jazz fusion, heavy metal, alternative rock, modern rock, pop rock, power pop, rap rock, reggae rock, art rock, punk rock, new wave, progressive rock, indie rock, glam rock, psychedelic rock, grunge, etc.

The make up of Rock group members is also much different now than the old “classic Rock” model of the 60’s and 70’s. Instead of four white men model, I now see diversity with Rock bands. Women are now leaders of many Rock bands and minorities have also become important leaders with Rock groups that have been formed this century. Rock music is not dead, it is just different than the classic Rock model from the 60’s and 70’s.

Today’s Rock music is diverse and to get a feel for the most popular artists and bands trending, here are the number one songs so far during 2018 from the Billboard Triple A (Adult Album Alternative) Rock radio stations chart:

“No Roots” Alice Merton, “Pain” The War On Drugs, “Live in the Moment” Portugal. The Man, “You Worry Me” Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, “Severed” The Decemberists, “Lottery” Jade Bird, “Bad Bad News” Leon Bridges and “Hunger” Florence and the Machine.

The Spectrum, channel 28 on SiriusXM, is a station that plays both classic Rock and today’s current Rock and is classified as a Triple A station. In addition to songs I listed above from the Billboard Triple A chart, The Spectrum is currently playing the following in their hot rotation:

“Such a Simple Thing” Ray LaMontagne, “Life To Fix” The Record Company, “Good Kisser” Lake Street Dive, “Lash Out” Alice Merton, “Bad Luck” Neko Case, “Beyond” Leon Bridges, “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)” Dave Matthews Band, “Saturday Sun” Vance Joy, “Colors” Beck, “High Horse” Kacey Musgraves, “Four Out of Five” Arctic Monkeys, “Wait By the River” Lord Huron and “Vertigo” U2 (Live from the Apollo).

Those who say Rock is dead obviously haven’t listened to the music played on Triple A Rock stations or The Spectrum SiriusXM radio. With the wide range of Rock being played on radio stations across America this summer, I am going to list my top 4 Rock songs for the summer of 2018:

4. “Hunger” – Florence + the Machine

Currently the number 1 song on the Billboard Triple A Rock chart, here is a statement about the song’s lyrics from front woman Florence Welch published by Pitchfork.com: “This song is about the ways we look for love in things that are perhaps not love, and how attempts to feel less alone can sometimes isolate us more. I guess I made myself more vulnerable in this song to encourage connection, because perhaps a lot more of us feel this way than we are able to admit. Sometimes when you can’t say it, you can sing it.”

3. “No Roots” – Alice Merton

A former 2018 number one song on the Billboard Triple A Rock Chart, Merton is a new star on the rise. She recently explained to Rolling Stone how the lyrics to “No Roots” came to be: “The actual idea behind the song, for me, was very depressing,” says Merton, who now splits her time between Germany and England. “I was realizing that I didn’t have a home. I didn’t really feel at home in one place.” “I wanted the song to be very freeing and have this cool and fun rhythm,” she explains. “Solo, it’s very melancholic and emotional, but when I play it with my band it’s uplifting. It shows the two sides of having no roots.”

2. “Good Kisser” – Lake Street Dive

Lead singer Rachel Price conveys multiple emotions on this breakup song. On one hand she is forlorn and melancholic while at the same time being facetious with a tongue-in-cheek delivery as she tells her former lover, “If you’re gonna them everything, tell ‘em I’m a good kisser.” Bass player Bridget Kearney does an outstanding job and Price’s vocal range is excellent on the best breakup song during the summer of 2018.

1. “High Horse” – Kacey Musgraves

The country singer-songwriter and two-time Grammy Award winner has shifted gears on her newest album “Golden Hour” and recorded a pop-rock tune that actually has a Bee Gees type disco beat. The character in the “High Horse” lyrics is arrogant and has an exaggerated sense of their own importance. Musgraves uses imagery of cowboys and horses and declares in the bridge of the song, “Darling, you take the high horse and I’ll take the high road,

If you’re too good for us, you’ll be good riding solo.” As with her many other astutely written songs, the lyrics are sharp-witted and thoughtful on this latest Musgraves tune.

So there you have my current four favorite Rock songs for the summer of 2018. Obviously, your favorite Rock songs may be completely different from my tunes. I would love to read your thoughts in the comment section of my blog.

So I ask the question one last time: Is Rock music dead? My answer: Absolutely not!

Rock music has continuously changed since the genre was started in the 50’s. Change happened in 1964 during Beatlemania and the British Invasion. During the 70’s, Classic Rock was king and then gradually faded as other forms of Rock became prominent. Every decade brings constant changes with Rock music.

Will Rock music ever be the top selling genre of music again? Who knows what type of music will be popular five years from now. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus’ famous quote, “The only thing that is constant is change” applies to the subject of this blog: Everything changes and so will Rock music. Rock music isn’t dead, it is alive and well. Rock on!

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Music Countdowns

Dancing In The Street: Best Summer Song of All Time?

Calling out around the world

Are you ready for a brand new beat

Summer’s here and the time is right

For dancing in the street

According to Rolling Stone magazine, Martha and the Vandellas’ 1964 hit “Dancing in the Street” is the best summer song of all time. So why did this song get selected as number 1 best summer song? In my humble opinion, “Dancing in the Street” is not even the best summer song by Martha and the Vandellas. I would select “Heat Wave” as the greatest summer song by the 60’s R&B group.

At the beginning of every summer season, publications like Billboard and Rolling Stone promote their “definitive” listings of “the greatest or best summer songs” ever recorded. While I am always curious to read which songs are selected, I also personally scoff at these yearly listings.

So what are the best summer songs of all time? Can anyone ever come up with a definitive list of the greatest songs that describe or are about the summer season? Just who has the audacity to declare which songs are the greatest summer songs of all time? Not me.

Can anyone tell me the key ingredient that music critics use to determine what are the best or greatest summer songs in modern musical history? Maybe but probably not? I have a theory on the subject and I want to submit my thoughts to you:

Most people consider the music that they listened to during their formative years, generally teen years and/or young adult stage of life, as the best or greatest music that they have ever known. During this developmental stage, favorite music is not forced by parents but rather is willingly chosen by individuals and has a lasting influence on the types of music they listen to the rest of their life.

With this in mind, it will be easy for you to figure out what era of music I consider to be the greatest in relation to summer songs. The very first summer song that I can remember liking as a young boy was “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer” by Nat King Cole. Other early summer tunes that I remember liking during that time period were, “Under the Boardwalk” from The Drifters, “Summertime” by Billy Stewart, “All Summer Long” from the Beach Boys and “Summertime Blues” from Eddie Cochran (and then later cover versions by The Who and Blue Cheer).

If I had grown up during the 80’s, my favorite summer songs might be “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama or “Blister in the Sun” from the Violent Femmes. Had I been a 90’s boys, maybe “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & and Fresh Prince or “Island in the Sun” from Weezer would have been my favorites? If I had come to love music this century, my favorite summer songs might be “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock, “California Gurls” from Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg or “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Ray.

Since I am from the baby boomer generation, most of my selections are from when I was a teenager or a young adult. Without further ado, here are my favorite top 10 summer songs of all time:

  1. School’s Out—Alice Cooper

School’s out for summer, school’s out forever, my school’s been blown to pieces.

There are always two days a year that all girls and boys love: First is Christmas morning and second is the last day of school. Alice Cooper’s 1972 hard rocking tune remains a staple for school children everywhere: They all sing with glee, school’s out for summer!

  1. In the Summertime—Mungo Jerry

In the summertime when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and touch the sky, when the weather’s fine, you got women on your mind.

While the lyrics of drinking and driving are not kosher here in 2018, this song was unusual as it featured a banjo, a string bass and the jug. The feel good song summarizes the content of the tune with the line, “We’re always happy, life’s for livin’ that’s our philosophy.”   With that type of mindset, summer living is always easy.

  1. Sunny Afternoon—The Kinks

Now I’m sitting here, sipping at my ice cold beer, lazing on a sunny afternoon and I love to live so pleasantly, live this life of luxury, in the summertime.

Most everyone at one time or another dream about spending their summer afternoons living the type of lifestyle that is depicted in the Ray Davies’ 1966 hit for the Kinks, “Sunny Afternoon.” The laid back music of the song invites the listener to enjoy the moment and soak up easy living during the summertime.

  1. A Summer Song—Chad & Jeremy

Trees swayin’ in the summer breeze, showin’ off their silver leaves, as we walked by, soft kisses on a summer’s day, laughing all our cares away, just you and I.

The folk/rock British duo Chad and Jeremy have a melodic masterpiece with their wistful tune reminiscences of summer romance. The combination of gentle guitar and a light string orchestra arrangement gives the song a pleasing harmonic flow and was the biggest American hit for the British Invasion pair in 1964.

  1. Hot Fun in the Summer Time—Sly and the Family Stone

Them summer days, those summer days, that’s when I had most of my fun back, I cloud nine when I want to, out of school, county fair in the country sun and everything, it’s true, hot fun in the summertime.

Sly Stone’s celebration song of school being out, attending county fairs in the country sun and joyfully praising the summer days, created one of the best R&B tunes reminiscing the pleasures of summertime activities. The added violins to the music mix helped to make “Hot Fun in the Summertime” the 7th biggest record for 1969.

  1. The Boys of Summer—Don Henley

Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac, a liitle voice inside my head said, “Don’t look back, you can never look back.” I can tell you my love for you will still be strong after the boys of summer have gone.

Don Henley’s song about aging, questioning the past and the baby boomer generation selling out is both amiable and baleful at the same time. “The Boys of Summer” hit from 1984 is a summer song that will make you think and is also an excellent tune when driving down a highway during the summertime.

  1. Do It Again—Beach Boys

It’s automatic when I talk with old friends, the conversation turns to girls we knew when their hair was soft and long and the beach was the place to go. Suntanned bodies and waves of sunshine the California girls and a beautiful coastline, warmed up weather, let’s get together and do it again.

The Beach Boys are the ultimate “summer song” band with dozens of songs recorded in this genre and “Do It Again” is the best of the bunch. The harmonies on this song 1968 song are Excellent: I saw Brian Wilson in concert two years ago and he and his band sang 5 separate parts of the song simultaneously and I could hear each of the 5 parts perfectly clear and in harmony at the same time. It was absolutely astounding!

  1. Saturday in the Park—Chicago

Saturday in the park, I think it was the Fourth of July, people dancing, people laughing, a man selling ice cream, singing Italian songs, Can you dig it (Yes I Can) and I’ve been waiting such a long time for Saturday.

Most likely “Saturday in the Park” has the best description for a sunny Saturday afternoon in a park than any other song in modern music history. Robert Lamm’s 1972 classic song incorporates all pleasant things associated with spending a wonderful summer afternoon with friends and loved ones in a park setting.

  1. Summer in the City—Lovin’ Spoonful

Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty, been down, isn’t it a pity, doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city, but at night it’s a different world, go out and find a girl, come on and dance all night, despite the heat it’ll be all right.

The stark contrast between the intense heat of the daytime with work duties and then after dark activities of dancing the night way brings to life different aspects of city life and makes the Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1966 hit an intriguing song. With sounds such as a car horn and a jackhammer as part of the mix, “Summer in the City” is a perfect summer song no matter what location you are at during the summertime.

  1. Summer Breeze—Seals and Crofts

Sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom, July is dressed up and playing her tune, see the paper layin’ on the sidewalk, a little music from the house next door, so I walk on up to the doorstep, through the screen and across the floor, summer breeze makes me feel fine, blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind.

Idyllic lyrics of the 1972 Seals and Crofts hit paints a picturesque setting of summer living in suburbia America. The descriptions of everyday life combined with the melodic sounds from the soft rock duo makes “Summer Breeze” my number 1 greatest summer song of all time.

So there you have my top ten listing. I am not like Rolling Stone and proclaim that my selections are the best or greatest summer songs ever. Now that you know my top summer songs, I would love for you to post your thoughts. What songs do you consider to be the greatest or best summer songs?

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message. Rock on!

 

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Concert Reviews

James Taylor Concert Review: Greensboro, NC (May 18th)

James Taylor performing in Greensboro, NC. Photo credit Kaye Ferrell.

In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina

Can’t you see the sunshine

Can’t you just feel the moonshine

Maybe just like a friend of mine

It hit me from behind

Yes I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind

These, of course, are the beginning lyrics to “Carolina on My Mind” by James Taylor. The North Carolina raised singer appropriately opened with this song during his concert in Greensboro on Friday May 18th. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer performed a total of 25 songs and was backed by a 10-piece band and vocal performers.

Promotional signs in the venue. Photo credit Kaye Ferrell.

Originally the legendary singer-songwriter and musician Bonnie Raitt had been slated to open up for Taylor but she could not attend the concert due to a medical condition. Right before intermission Taylor sent Ms. Raitt a video message of the crowd shouting “We love you Bonnie.” It was an extremely touching moment for those of us in the crowd.

Taylor, known for laid-back ballads during his career, played many of those types of songs but he wasn’t limited to just that kind of tune. The first few songs tended to drag a bit as the tempos to those songs were slow, ballad-style.

However, all was not lost as Taylor’s band brightened up the consecutive slow songs with outstanding musicianship during the beginning stage of the concert. I was most impressed by these excellent musicians and back up vocalists. Some of the stand outs from the band include Jimmy Johnson on bass, Lou Marini with saxophone, flute and clarinet, Michito Sanchez on percussion and Steve Gadd on drums. On the vocal side, Arnold McCuller and Kate Markowitz were exceptional, providing wonderful harmonies alongside Taylor.

James Taylor performing in Greensboro, NC. Photo credit Kaye Ferrell.

Being 70 years old, Taylor still has an outstanding voice and can carry his songs just like he did when he was a hit maker on Top 40 radio. He also has a wry sense of humor and was extremely nostalgic in between various songs. I came to appreciate these attributes as the concert proceeded.

The set list included all of the big hits but Taylor also selected some lesser-known favorites that struck a balance with his music selection. He performed “Something in the Way She Moves” which became one the first songs he recorded for Apple Records in 1968 with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Another song from his debut album, “Carolina on My Mind,” was a crowd favorite as Taylor spent his childhood growing up in North Carolina.

The 70-year old singer kept the hits coming: During the first set, crowd favorites included “Country Road”, “Cooperline”, “Handy Man” and “Mexico.” His Junior Walker and the All Stars cover of “(I’m a) Road Runner” was also a satisfying up-tempo tune in the beginning portion of the show.

The second half brought more crowd favorites such as “Up on the Roof”, “Steamroller”, “Sweet Baby James”, “Showing The People” and “Your Smiling Face.” My favorite performance of the night was Taylor’s signature song, “Fire and Rain.” The song received a standing ovation and was a highlight for me at the concert. He then finished the 2nd set with “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). That had the crowd clapping hard with enthusiasm.

For the encore, Taylor performed a Wilson Picket cover “In the Midnight Hour” and his first number 1 hit from 1971, his cover of Carole King’s “You’re Got a Friend.” Then Taylor ended his concert the same way he opened up the show: singing “Carolina on My Mind.” It was no mind game: Taylor was actually in North Carolina as he closed out his time with us in Greensboro.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience to have the opportunity to see James Taylor in concert. Taylor‘s tour is continuing through the summer, so if he comes somewhere in your part of the country, I would highly recommend buying tickets to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer in concert.

If you were at the Greensboro concert like me, or any of Taylor’s other May shows, I would love for you to share your thoughts on the concert you attended.

Setlist for Greensboro, NC – May 18, 2018 

Set 1

  1. Carolina in My Mind
  2. Country Road
  3. Jump Up Behind Me
  4. Never Die Young
  5. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
  6. (I’m a) Road Runner
  7. Nothing Like a Hundred Miles
  8. First Day of May
  9. Copperline
  10. Handy Man
  11. Mexico

Set 2

  1. Something in the Way She Moves
  2. Sunny Skies
  3. Walking Man
  4. Up On the Roof
  5. Steamroller Blues
  6. Sweet Baby James
  7. Fire and Rain
  8. Your Smiling Face
  9. Shower the People
  10. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)

Encore

  1. Shed a Little Light
  2. In the Midnight Hour
  3. You’re Got a Friend
  4. Carolina In My Mind
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