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!

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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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Virginia Artists

Caroline Weinroth: Pageant Queen/ Rock Star

Caroline Weinroth performing with Cinema Hearts. Photo by Ethan Sahlin.

Can someone actually be the lead singer, electric guitarist and songwriter for a rock band while at the same time serving as a titleholder for the Miss Virginia/Miss America organization? If your name is Caroline Weinroth, the answer is yes!

Originally from Fairfax, Virginia, Caroline is currently a graduate student at George Mason University and is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, with a concentration in Poetry. She also earned her undergraduate degree from George Mason in Theater Performance and Audio Engineering.

While Caroline was an undergraduate at George Mason, she formed a band called Cinema Hearts with her brother Erich Weinroth. This is how Caroline describes her band: “A pageant queen fronts a rock ‘n’ roll band: Haunting harmonies soar over electric guitar in Cinema Hearts’ tribute to the Wall of Sound.”

Caroline’s Cinema Hearts band was selected “Best Local Band 2017” by Northern Virginia Magazine last year and the band has recorded two albums during their career. Cinema Hearts regularly tours at concert venues around the Northern Virginia/DC/Maryland area and also has played in major east coast cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Richmond.

In addition to her leadership with Cinema Hearts, Caroline is also a pageant queen. Last year, she served as Miss Mountain Laurel 2017 and then competed in the Miss Virginia 2017 state pageant. Then in February earlier this year, Caroline won the Miss Northern Virginia 2018 title and will be competing in the Miss Virginia 2018 pageant next month in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Being the front woman for a rock band is not always an easy thing. One prime example of the type of hardship Caroline has encountered is gender discrimination. Three years ago Caroline was on a family vacation in Corona, California and touring the Fender guitar factory when she faced an extreme dose of sexism.

Caroline Weinroth. Photo by Ethan Sahlin.

Caroline describes the Fender factory experience on her blog: “I wore my She Shreds t-shirt and told the tour guide how happy I was to be at the factory, because I play a Fender Jaguar. Instead of welcoming me and treating me like the other older men guitarists in our tour group, the tour guide said, “Wow, you really play? Chicks who play are so cool.” He prodded me the whole tour, testing me with hard questions about pick-ups and gear and telling me my Modern Player Jaguar was not a “real Fender instrument.” It was hard to be reminded at the place where my favorite guitars are made, ‘You’re not part of the boys’ club’. Later that day, I cried in a hotel bathroom and wrote the lyrics to “Fender Factory.”

The song Caroline wrote that day, “Fender Factory” has become one of Cinema Hearts most popular songs. Caroline plays her Fender electric guitar with this tune as she sings the chorus, “Doesn’t make me wanna buy a Strat, when you talk to me like that.” The song has a catchy new wave/punk groove and features a guitar solo by Caroline during the middle part of the tune. The song absolutely rocks!

Although both men and women love the “Fender Factory” song, it especially resonates with women who have faced sexism not only in music but also with other areas in their lives. Here is a video of “Fender Factory” when Cinema Hearts played the song in Brooklyn, New York during March 2018:

For the upcoming Miss Virginia 2018 pageant, Caroline’s community service platform is Music Empowerment, a movement to create civic change through music education and performance.

On Caroline’s website she states what her goal is when she competes in the pageant: “My platform is Music Empowerment, because I believe that music has the power to impact individuals and communities. I advocate for women and girls in music by performing with my band, speaking at music events, and collaborating with arts groups. One of my favorite groups I’ve volunteered with was Girls Rock Roanoke, a music camp for girls in Roanoke, Virginia.”

Caroline Weinroth – Miss Northern Virginia 2018. Photo by Carlos Velez.

With the Miss Virginia 2018 pageant happening next month, Caroline will be singing and playing her electric guitar during the talent part of the competition. I am not sure if there has ever been a Miss Virginia contestant to play a guitar for the talent section of the competition before, but I am excited that Caroline will get the opportunity to play her Fender guitar next month in Lynchburg.

You can vote for Caroline to win the Miss Virginia “People’s Choice” award here.

Both the 2017 Cinema Hearts album “Burned and Burnished” and the 2016 debut album “Feels Like Forever” are available for streaming and purchase with Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon.

In reviewing Caroline’s mission of music empowerment, she already promotes that type of activity through her Miss Northern Virginia 2018 functions and also with the leadership of her Cinema Hearts band.

Cinema Hearts performing. Photo by Ethan Sahlin.

No matter the outcome of the Miss Virginia pageant 2018 next month, I am confident that Caroline Weinroth will continue to be a positive role model for music empowerment throughout the commonwealth of Virginia.

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

1978: The Greatest Year In Music?

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1978 albums I bought at Speakertree Record Shop in Lynchburg, VA.

When I first saw the title of an NPR article, “40 Years Later: Was 1978 The Greatest Year In Music?” I immediately thought that the writers of this commentary about music from 1978 were absolutely absurd. To even consider the possibility that 1978 was among the greatest years in modern music history sounded utterly ridiculous to this fellow.

As a student at James Madison University and having lived through the 1978 music scene, disco ruled as the most popular genre of music that year. Disco songs spent 30 out of the 52 weeks at the number 1 position of the Billboard Hot 100 during that year. Bees Gees, Andy Gibb, Bee Gees, Donna Summer (and did I mention Bee Gees?) all dominated popular music in America. Even the Rolling Stones hit number 1 with a disco record “Miss You” during 1978 for crying out loud!

For many music fans, the disco era was a low point in the recording industry and it was amazing that NPR (or anyone else) considered 1978 to be the greatest year in music. So I started thinking: Let me investigate the music released in 1978. Maybe I was missing something?

So I submit to you that there were actually some great albums and singles released during 1978. As the NPR article stated, “Kate Bush, The Cars, Devo, Dire Straits, The B-52’s, The Police, Buzzcocks and Van Halen released their debut albums” 40 years ago. Disco may have been king in 1978 but new rock artists emerged during this year.

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Speakertree Record Shop in Lynchburg, VA

So I have come up with a listing of worthy top albums and singles from 1978. There are no ranking with my lists and music is listed in a random order. Many of the singles I am listing were not big Top 40 hits but are significant songs by these artists (and much better than the all of the disco songs that were hits during 1978).

“This Year’s Model” album by Elvis Costello and the Attractions: One of the most critically acclaimed albums from 1978 features the single “Pump it Up” which has one of the best rhythm sections from the 70’s and helped to bring Costello into the forefront of the new wave genre of music.

“More Songs About Building and Foods” album by Talking Heads: Released during the fall of 1978, the band’s cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” became the first Top 30 hit for the group. Also in early 1978, a song from the Talking Heads ‘77 debut album entitled “Psycho Killer” was released as a single. This signature debut hit has one of the best bass lines in rock history.

“Outlandos d’Amour” album by The Police: The debut album by the rock trio mixes reggae, punk and rock that many considered “new wave” and has the memorable single “Roxanne.” Also on the album are “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “So Lonely” that helped to define the music output by the English band.

“Easter” album by Patti Smith Group: One of the leaders of the punk rock movement, the “Easter” album became her most successful with religious imagery from the Christian faith. Smith’s song “Because the Night”, that was co-written by Bruce Springsteen, was the biggest hit single during her career.

“Darkness on the Edge of Town” album by Bruce Springsteen: Since I mentioned Springsteen above, this is the appropriate place to mention that the 1978 album was the follow up to the landmark signature album “Born To Run” from 1975. The Boss delivers three of his best songs ever on this album: “The Promised Land,” “Badlands” and “Prove It All Night.”

“The Last Waltz” album by The Band: Although The Band’s last concert was on Thanksgiving Day 1976, the soundtrack for “The Last Waltz” was not released until 1978. Joining The Band for this historic concert were Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, The Staple Singers and a few other artists. In my humble opinion, the best overall rock album released during 1978.

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Stardust by Wille Nelson, a record I purchased at Speakertree Record Shop in Lynchburg, VA

 “Stardust” album by Willie Nelson: The “Outlaw Country” music artist switched gears in 1978 and recorded an album of early 20th century American pop standards by famous composers such as Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. Nelson had lots of music variety with different genres on the album: jazz, pop, folk and country. Interpretations of “Georgia on My Mind”, “Blue Skies” and “Stardust” provided Nelson with new respect in the eyes of fans across multiple categories of music.

In the singles only category, there are 4 songs I want to highlight from 1978 that are memorable but were not hits in America: “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones, “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush, “Rock Lobster” by The B-52’s and “Surrender” by Cheap Trick. All four of those songs are more substantial than just about all of the top 10 disco hits that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 during 1978.

Although I do not agree with NPR and their hypothesis that 1978 was the greatest year for music, I also can’t totally dismiss the entire year as musically wasted. I do submit that 1978 had many albums and individual single songs that merit consideration as some of the best music to be released during the late 70’s. 1978 is not the greatest year in music history but it does have some excellent tunes that stand the test of time.

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on the music from 1978. Rock on!

 

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Music

Gibson Guitars: End of an Era?

Gibson Guitars on display at Kelley’s Music in Roanoke, Virginia

Last Tuesday, Gibson guitars filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announced that the company plans to continue guitar production in the foreseeable future while under bankruptcy protection. Gibson Guitars started in 1902 and continues to be one of the largest guitar makers in America.

According to an article by Jonathan Mattise of the Associated Press, “Gibson guitars have been such a fixture in music history that Chuck Berry was laid to rest with his, B.B. King affectionately named his “Lucille” and Eric Clapton borrowed one from George Harrison to play the solo on the Beatles’ ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’”

One of Gibson’s most famous guitars is the legendary “Les Paul” SG (Solid Guitar). Les Paul was one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar and the guitar named after him became one of the most popular selling guitars during the 50’s and early 60’s.

According to the Gibson Guitars website, Les Paul withdrew the endorsement of his guitar in 1960 and the company renamed the “Les Paul SG” to “Gibson SG” in 1961.   Then in 1968, Les Paul partnered once again with Gibson and guitars with the Les Paul name are still being made here in 2018.

The Gibson SG remains the biggest selling guitar with the Gibson Guitar Company. The SG model has become a rock standard but it is also a favorite guitar of choice for other types of musical genres including jazz, blues, and country.

The list of rock musicians who have played Gibson guitars during their careers seems endless with many of the performers being members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here are just a few of the many names that you may have heard of before: Chuck Berry, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, The Edge, Dave Grohl, George Harrison, Joan Jett, BB King, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, Pete Townshend, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Walsh, and Neil Young.

More Gibson Guitars on display at Kelley’s Music in Roanoke, Virginia

Many famous musicians play Gibson guitars, but I’m most curious about my readers’ experiences with these guitars.

If you own a Gibson guitar, who kind do you own? Are you satisfied with the Gibson guitar you own and would you buy another Gibson in the future?

For those that own other brands of guitars like Fender, Takamine or any other kind of guitar other than Gibson? Would you buy another guitar of the brand you currently own?

My final question for any guitar players: Do you have any stories about your guitar and how it has special meaning to you?

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your thoughts and stories on guitars. As always, rock on!

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