Sights & Sounds for Your Eyes & Ears

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, National Music,   From Issue 656   By: Scott Baker

13th March, 2008     0

Sights and Sounds of Review Magazine tip their hat for three noted popular musicians who have passed since mid-December. First is Dan Fogelberg, singer/songwriter and all around musical genius who left all too soon Dec. 16, after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer. His songs were the hallmark of a generation and still can be heard today on the airwaves. Drummer Buddy Miles of Jimi Hendrix--Band of Gypsys fame passed on February 27.  His work as a musician as well as bandleader put his mark into popular music as we now know it. Lastly, blind guitar whiz Jeff Healey died at the age of 41, on March 2, from a rare form of retinal cancer known as Retinoblastoma which took his sight at the age of one. From his appearance in the movie Roadhouse to his blues rocking See The Light or any of the Jazz Wizards releases over the past ten years, Healey always submerged himself and his surroundings in pure music and unique style. No one will forget the man who played the guitar in his lap.

A new record label has kicked off in Detroit by former Essexville musician Scotty Hagen. Hagen, who plays bass and sings in Ferndale's Grande Nationals started his own imprint Bellyache Records. An Internet based label, Hagen has managed to release the sophomore Grande Nationals CD, Brass Knuckle Heartbreak last year as well as a pair of Detroit music compilations: The Sweet Sounds Of Detroit Volume One, where various artists cover 'candy' themed songs and Ghoul's Delight! A Monster Party Record, featuring two CD's jam packed with Halloween gems written and performed by 31 Detroit artists. With a 7" from the Gore Gore Girls due in April and The Sweet Sounds of Detroit Volume Two in late September, Hagen has his hands full between the band and the label. Check out for more info.

Another ex-Essexville singer/songwriter, Mitch Hemann has released his debut CD, A Summer Of Frailty. A guitarist around the local music scene in the early '90s, Hemann has been living in Astoria, New York. The EP is produced as if you were sitting in a living room with Hemann as he gushes forth tales from his diary over the course of a few drinks and deep reflection. Just his acoustic and voice in a very folk manner with one teaser tossed in: a smart and very strong version of Cindy Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, done with a broken hearted tone.
Known as much for his production work with the likes of Elvis Costello,  Solomon Burke, Ani DiFranco, Bettye LaVette and many others, Joe Henry occasionally comes up for air on his own.  Civilians was released late last year to rave reviews and may very well be his masterpiece. In the ilk of say, Tom Waits by sheer use of different rhythms and textures, Henry's soul is at the center of each tune. Bringing his show to The Ark in Ann Arbor in February in a trio format with stand-up bassist Dave Piltch and rhythm ace Jay Bellerose behind the kit, Henry took the limited audience through Civilians and back again, relaying each texture and tale with relentless resolve. A master craftsman of a songwriter, Henry had humorous tales to relate to the moment and a story behind most pieces, making for one of the finest performances in recent memory. Captivating and knowing how to get into your skin, very few performers have Henry's ability to cross musical energy the way Henry posses. Perhaps that's why so many acts rely on him to produce their works?

Brent Grunow, Mid-Michigan's next heir-to-rock, has left Kenny Olson's now defunct The Flask after a couple of years trying to push out a debut album. Grunow, formerly of Bay City's Baked Goods as well as an artist out of Traverse City, has remained in New York, New York, his home of the past five or so years and just released his debut solo EP, Brent Grunow & The Bandits--Push And Pull. The five song disc, while not breaking any new ground, showcases Grunow's songwriting prowess as well as his penchant for nuance, with his layering sensibilities when it comes to production. Grunow is a master at getting heard and noticed and has recently been found with a cameo in NBC's Lipstick Jungle and on Mitch Albom's national radio show.  A music staple on the CBS Morning Show, Grunow's vocals will soon be heard everywhere. A household name to remember.

The Jayhawks have called it a day, but lead voice Gary Louris has finally penned his debut album, Vagabonds. Released just a few weeks back, the CD is produced by Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson and was recorded with feel and spontaneity in mind over polish. The result is pure Louris, leaking of beautiful acoustic guitars and his staple of searching lyrics. Never one to know the answers in his songs, Louris is at the height of mixing elements of fun and texture into his folk-based synergies. This CD is at the top of the 2008 releases kicking off the year, for sure. Watch for another reunion of Louris and his long-time Jayhawk vocal partner Mark Olson for an album outside of the Jayhawks to come next. The pair did a low-key reunion tour in 2005, with both now having released a solo CD since.  In the meantime, bask in Vagabonds' glory!

With a sound all his own, Joe Jackson has slipped back into the spotlight over the past eight years. Rain, his brand new trio CD, was released in late January and has already catapulted the piano/vocalist extraordinaire back into print. Following a 25th Reunion with is original band and subsequent tour, Jackson has stripped it down to just piano, bass and drums for the new release, leaving guitarist Gary Sanford on hold for the time being. The result is a very well-thought out, pure powered ten-song masterpiece. Reminiscent of 1982's Night and Day, where Jackson spurred about the highlights and lowlights of his then home New York City, Rain is a run through his time at his current new home in Germany. With cuts that feel very jazzy--a '50s and '60s appeal mixed within his pop structures, there is no one that can write with the depth of Jackson and his surroundings. He has simply penned a modern album, with a futuristic taste, having dipped into the past. Rain kicks off the year as another outstanding top release and must hear.


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