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'Tobacco Road' songwriter John D. Loudermilk dies

John D. Loudermilk, a singer and songwriter who wrote pop and country songs such as "Tobacco Road" and "Indian Reservation," has died. He was 82.

His son, Mike Loudermilk, said that his father died on Wednesday in Christiana, Tennessee.

Loudermilk, originally from North Carolina, began his career as a writer and singer when a poem he wrote "A Rose and a Baby Ruth," was recorded by singer George Hamilton IV in 1956. He moved to Nashville and became a popular songwriter in the 1960 and '70s. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976.

The British invasion group The Nashville Teens recorded "Tobacco Road," in 1964. He also wrote "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye," ''Break My Mind," and co-wrote "Waterloo" and "Abilene."

Getting deep, and growing up, with Florida Georgia Line

Recording new music had Florida Georgia Line, country music's carefree party boys, looking to the past.

The duo's new album, "Dig Your Roots," embarks on a mature sound reflecting on family life and marriage, including sentimental tracks like "While He's Still Around," about Brian Kelley's father, and "Grow Old," which Tyler Hubbard played during the first dance of his wedding last year.

Those songs were written years ago, but the duo says they felt they were in a better place now to truly emote on the songs. As Hubbard put it: "Almost like we wrote it in the future. It's wild."

"Grow Old" is "really old. Like four-laptops-ago old," Kelley, 31, said.

"Like before-B.K.-and-I-knew-each-other old," said Hubbard, 29. "It was an old work tape and we went into the studio and re-did it. ... I got to surprise Hayley, my wife, with that."

A similar story was told for "While He's Still Around," a classic-sounding country guitar track that could induce tears. (Hubbard's father was killed in a helicopter accident in 2007.)

"I almost lost my dad," said Kelley. "We just wanted to kind of hopefully put that in words. The message is while your loved ones are still around, make sure you're calling them, letting them know you love them, you support them."

"Dig Your Roots," the band's third album, is a departure from its anthemic and lighthearted tunes, which include the megahit "Cruise" to "This Is How We Roll." And while the new album has its fun moments, the duo is happy to sing romantic and spiritual songs, from "Lifer," about commitment, to the piano tune "H.O.L.Y.," which hit No.1 on the country charts.

"We have a lot of different sides and we want to show that. It's fun for us to show that," Kelley said.

Kelley said while there wasn't pressure to switch up their style, there are "a lot of eyes, a lot ears, you know" paying attention to them.

They recorded the album in Kelley's treehouse, Hubbard's farm and their studio in Nashville, Tennessee. They turn up the risk factor again with collaborations: The country boys known for singing alongside Nelly and Jason Derulo team up with the Backstreet Boys and Ziggy Marley on the album, which debuted at No. 2 and No. 1 on Billboard's 200 albums and country albums chart this month.

"Growing up with so many different inspirations and so many influences and loving so many different types of music, it's kind of our way to get even further outside the box to say, 'Hey, let's do a song with Lil Wayne or hey let's do a song with Rihanna. Let's do a song with Drake,'" Hubbard said. "It's always fun for everybody."

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Online:

http://floridageorgialine.com/

Review: Bragg and Henry shine on rail-inspired, recorded set

It might seem paradoxical for a politically outspoken singer-songwriter like Billy Bragg to ride off during a divisive, restive time on both sides of the Atlantic.

But he wasn't hiding out: The English musician with a roots-folk-punk persuasion literally hit the rails with American musical partner-in-crime, Joe Henry, and returned from a roughly 2,700-mile train journey from Chicago to Los Angeles with the album, "Shine a Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad."

The musicians rode the Texas Eagle and the Sunset Limited and recorded on them, as well as in train stations and one hotel room along the way. They emerged with a baker's dozen of rambling, raggedly exquisite rail-inspired songs.

Standouts include the up-tempo "Rock Island Line" and "John Henry," and Bragg delivers the lead on a gem, "Waiting for a Train." The song was adapted by Jimmie Rodgers, a country music forefather who lived in the same San Antonio hotel where Bragg and Henry recorded it. Rodgers adapted it from a British ballad called "Standing on a Platform." That apparently suits Bragg, who sweetly sings — and even yodels — on what sounds like an authentic, early 20th century field recording.

The 21st century troubadours travel light here, with only guitars, a bit of harmonica and the ambient sounds of birds and trains. But the spare arrangements are enriched by their harmonizing, a fine blend they should bring to future projects.

Henry and Bragg — the latter worked with Wilco on writing music for a cache of Woody Guthrie lyrics — say in the liner notes that this was no nostalgia trip. They were plying musical ground in an effort to understand "just who we have become and why."

This collection indeed shines a light and breathes new life into old songs that roll ever on — sometimes loosely but never off the rails.

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Follow Jeff Karoub on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffkaroub . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/jeff-karoub .

Review: Jake Shimabukuro takes roaming ukulele to Nashville

Jake Shimabukuro draws sounds both traditional and innovative from his ukulele on "Nashville Sessions," an adventurous, dazzling album.

Using the instrument from his native Hawaii to explore a variety of styles in the company of drummer Evan Hutchings and bassist Nolan Verner, Shimabukuro broadens his sonic palette on 11 original compositions stretching from jazz fusion to rock and beyond.

The 39-year-old virtuoso sticks to the instrument's natural voice on "Galloping Seahorses" but flies across the fretboard as Hutchings extracts intensity from all over his kit, the tune reminiscent of violinist Jean-Luc Ponty's 1970s prime. "Motown" has some trademark Santana tones, but it's really Shimabukuro driving his uke to conquer soundscapes it rarely explores.

"Celtic Tune" is adorned with a string section which could even be ukuleles in disguise while "Blue Haiku" sees the member of the lute family sounding like a kalimba in the hands of Larry Carlton. On other tracks, it's Steve Vai and Jeff Beck who come to mind.

Closer "Kilauea," named after the Hawaiian volcano adorning the album cover, flows and erupts in an extended gush of scorching distortion. It fades into an uneasy quiet, but with a sense that it may soon burst out again.

Recorded in a jazz-like six days with no preconceptions or plans, Shimabukuro's mastery of the instrument, the abilities of his bandmates and the variety of the tunes on "Nashville Sessions" add up to a very enjoyable effort.

Go 4 It: An unfazed Corey Feldman planning return to 'Today'

After being widely ridiculed for a music performance on the "Today" show last week, Corey Feldman didn't seek solace from drugs or alcohol. He didn't speak with a therapist. The former child star got down on his knees and prayed to God.

"At the end of the day, all I ask is that I'm not making a fool of myself," said the former child star, who has been sober for over 25 years after battling addiction. "If it wasn't God's will for me to continue performing, then I would just stop, but I think the fact that we did turn on so many new fans and gained supporters is amazing."

The online negativity has inexplicably been silenced by growing supportiveness after Feldman was mocked for a performance of his song "Go 4 It." In the number, a hooded Feldman executed dance moves inspired by Michael Jackson while accompanied by a band comprised of women wearing halos and wings. Pink, Kesha and Miley Cyrus are among the celebrities who have come to Feldman's defense.

The "Goonies" and "Stand By Me" actor is surprisingly self-aware about his viral experience.

"It's obviously a bit tongue and cheek," he said in a Thursday interview. "I mean, come on, we've got girls with angel wings and halos. It's not the most serious music that's ever been created, but it is still art."

Now, Feldman is plotting how to capitalize on his newfound attention. First, he's returning to the "Today" show in the coming weeks for another performance.

"I don't want to rush it," said Feldman. "I want it to be better than the last one. I want to make sure each performance is better and that people see it that way. This is not a game to me. It's not a joke."

That was clear in an emotional, tear-filled video that he streamed on Facebook Live over the weekend. Feldman defended the performance and noted that he's "never had such mean things said about me." He later deleted the video.

Feldman believes both social media users and members of the media should take responsibility for spreading negativity.

"I'm not interested in banning freedom of speech," he said. "It's a matter of how you enforce opinions. I think there should be a way to screen out or be sheltered from the hateful comments. If it's a criticism or opinion, that's fine, but when it comes to personal issues, I just think everything can't be fair game."

Feldman is now laughing all the way to the bank. In the week since the "Today" performance, he said album sales "have shot through the roof on all platforms." He's looking to launch a world tour in support of his fifth album, "Angelic 2 The Core."

"We want to be able to do everything I have in mind, as far as the creative elements go," said Feldman. "If we're performing in smaller venues, we won't be able to have back-up dancers, projections, lasers and that kind of thing."

There's one place Feldman is not interested in taking his act: behind the coach's chairs on "The Voice." He said he wouldn't entertain an offer to perform on the NBC singing competition.

"At the end of the day, I'm not the kind of person who likes to put myself up for public ridicule," said Feldman. "Obviously, I don't handle it very well, so I don't think I would be good in that forum."

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Online:

http://www.coreyfeldman.net

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang .

Queen guitarist Brian May protests Japanese dolphin hunts

Brian May, guitarist of British rock group Queen, is taking a stand against Japan's dolphin killing, saying the slaughter of animals should end in the same way society has turned against slavery or witch-burning.

"Every species, and every individual of every species, is worthy of respect," May told The Associated Press on Friday while in Tokyo for Queen's sell-out concerts at Budokan arena.

"This is not about countries. It's about a section of humanity that doesn't yet understand that animals have feelings, too."

Protesting the dolphin hunt in the small Japanese town of Taiji, documented in the Oscar-winning "The Cove," has become a cause for celebrities including Sting and Daryl Hannah. Taylor McKeown, a silver medalist swimmer in the Rio Olympics, who has long been fascinated with dolphins, is now in Taiji to monitor the hunts.

Ric O'Barry, the dolphin trainer for the "Flipper" TV series, started the protests against the Taiji dolphin kill, and stars in "The Cove," which depicts a pod of dolphins getting herded into an inlet and getting bludgeoned to death, as blood turns the water red.

The hunters in Taiji and their supporters defend the custom as tradition, although eating dolphins is extremely rare in Japan. The Japanese government also defends whaling as research.

May, who founded the "Save Me Trust" in 2009 to lobby governments on wildlife policy, said he opposes cruelty against all animals, including Britain's fox hunt and Spain's bullfights. Both were also defended as tradition, but that was a mere excuse, he said.

"I know Japanese people — so many. They're decent. They're kind. They're compassionate, but they don't know this is going on," May said of the dolphin killing. "These are mammals, highly intelligent sensitive creatures, bringing up their children like we do, and they are being slaughtered and tortured."

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/yuri-kageyama

Sheila E. to play Minneapolis benefit

Prince's former protege Sheila E. is coming to his hometown to play a benefit concert.

Sheila E. will perform Oct. 23 at Orchestra Hall with her father, percussionist Pete Escovedo, and youth performers from Minnesota.

The money will go to the Purple Philanthropy fund and made available to community organizations via grants.

Prince died April 21 of an opioid overdose. After his death, he was credited with a quiet activism that sometimes included anonymous donations to causes he deemed worthy.

With new album 'Harder II Love,' Usher gets harder to love

If music stops panning out for him, Usher has bright prospects in fortune telling; by naming his eighth studio album "Hard II Love," he knew exactly what the future held. Or he recognized the slight masochism of a passion project that disregarded the need for commercial viability.

In the digital age, launching a record with fifteen, yes FIFTEEN, tracks is overkill. But launching a 15-track record with mostly lackluster songs? That's downright wrong.

"Harder II Love" feels like a low energy experimental project with mash-up genres that meet in a vacuum and bump against each other. Gone are the dynamic days of the head-bopping, body-rolling Usher song. This album just wants your phone number but only tries really greasy lines to get it.

The album shines when it goes noir R&B, a niche Usher should perhaps focus on.

Some of the better moments include first single "No Limit," which has an urban bass electro beat that bumps and grinds, and the catchy "Bump," with its drowsy beat. "Downtime" showcases Usher's voice in a rhythmic piano vortex and "Make U A Believer" is a dramatic, scratchy track that gets the job done. "Rivals," featuring Future, brings in a nice, luminous dancehall EDM feel, and "Tell Me" is an inexplicable but cool eight-minute mash of romantic beats.

On the other hand, singles "Crash" and "Missing U" fade into instant obscurity alongside the other half of the album.

Maybe nine time's the charm.

Music Review: Rachael Yamagata takes her act a little higher

When tightrope walker Philippe Petit was asked why he did what he did, he replied curtly: "Why — there is no why."

Rachael Yamagata was floored by his answer, which led the critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter to question her own reason for doing things — and to name her new album for the Frenchman who in 1974 crossed between New York's twin towers.

Searching for her own purpose, Yamagata turned "Tightrope Walker" into an album about perseverance. It is tonic, she says, for anyone thinking of quitting anything.

"I have fully stepped into my role as healer, optimist, entrepreneur, writer, producer and spirited badass," says Yamagata. "And that is my 'why.'"

Clearly confidence is not a problem.

Along with the bad-assery, Yamagata brings a world-weary passion to her singing. Her voice is a soul-baring, sultry instrument that commands center stage at all times. She has that deliberate, I'll-sing-the-note-when-I'm-ready pacing that helped make Amy Winehouse great, and before her Billie Holliday.

Yamagata can rock, too. She sings with fire on the outstanding jam-band romp, "Let Me Be Your Girl," her vocals complemented perfectly by edgy guitar and horns. And she stays in command when she slows things down — to a near stop on "Break Apart," and then again on "I'm Going Back," both stirring ballads.

Throughout the album, Yamagata sings with the confidence of someone working without a net. And if she's not quite walking a tightrope herself, she is performing at a very high level.

Music review: Woody Allen's zany 'Gianni Schicchi' on DVD

Woody Allen brings his comedic touch and sense of movie history to Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi" in this video recorded last fall during live performances by the Los Angeles Opera at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Allen's only opera production, first performed in 2008 and revived last year, will delight newcomers with opening credits as if it were an early film, one with nonsensical Italianate names. His concept treats the opera as a black-and-white movie taking place in the 20th century-style sets and costumes designed by Santo Loquasto. In the zany blocking, Buoso Donati's will is discovered in a pot of pasta.

Domingo, the company's 75-year-old general director, wears a double-breasted, striped suit and lends a burly gravitas to Schicchi, yet another baritone character he has sung in recent years. Churchman labors to find Lauretta's sweetness, and Chacon-Cruz has an earnest, frantic tenor as Rinusccio. Grant Gershon leads a bouncy, color-filled account from the LA Opera orchestra.

Allen did not attend rehearsals for the revival. The humor in Kathleen Smith Belcher's stage direction does not seem as sharp as in the original run, which starred the elegant Thomas Allen with slick-backed hair and thin mustache, Laura Tatulescu and Saimir Pirgu, with music director James Conlon in the pit.

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