Nov 302012
 

Press for the reunited Graham Parker & The Rumour tour (and album) focuses much attention and credit on the band’s appearance in Judd Apatow‘s upcoming movie, This Is 40. I’m sure that played a small part, but longtime members of the Halls of Rock know this 2010 interview with Rumour guitarist Martin Belmont is the main reason the band is back together and playing at Philadelphia’s Theater of the Living Arts tonight. OK, our interview is a distant second to the documentary Belmont discusses in the following interview, but let’s give ourselves credit ahead of Apatow. Next thing you know the Farrelly brothers will be taking credit for exposing Jonathan Richman to a mainstream audience. Go Graham! Go Martin! Go Rumour! I will be at tonight’s show with bells on.

This post initially appeared 3/19/10.

The guitar playing of Martin Belmont has graced recordings and concerts by Graham Parker & The Rumour, Ducks Deluxe, Nick Lowe, Carlene Carter, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, and many more. He continues to keep a busy schedule, playing the music he loves with a reunited Ducks as well as three other Americana-oriented British artists. In 2009 Belmont released The Guest List, a collection of covers sung by most of the singers he’s backed for a significant time over the years. For someone like myself, who grew up listening to Belmont’s work in the 1970s and 1980s, it’s an intimate, low-key way of catching up with the old gang and getting introduced to some Belmont collaborators who are not as well known in the States.

The first sign that Belmont might get into the spirit of a Rock Town Hall interview is when, as we settle into our trans-Atlantic, webcam chat via Skype, he wants to describe his “top-shelf” CD collection lining the walls behind him. There’s a Beatles box set, a Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music, a couple of Elvis Presley box sets. Then he wants to know how we operate in the Halls of Rock. After I basically run him through our mission statement, in which Rock Town Hall serves as a sort of methadone clinic for rock ‘n roll addicts with increasingly busy lives, he says, “I know exactly what you mean.”

I describe my experiences finding out about Graham Parker & The Rumour as a teenager, trying not to come off too much like Chris Farley’s mouth-breathing Paul McCartney fan from Saturday Night Live. Belmont asks if I’ve seen Parker perform solo in recent years – I have. He raves about his old friend’s abilities as a performer and songwriter, and then we get down to talking.

And talk we did. There are a topics we didn’t have time to cover, but as we chatted, rock lover to rock lover, I hope you get a sense of Belmont’s ultimate sideman’s dedication, warmth, and regard toward his collaborators. At one point he talks about the importance of the guitarist serving the song and being able to weave into whatever situation the song and its musicians requires. It was clear to me that these abilities to weave extend well beyond Belmont’s fretboard.

The patented Rock Town Hall Dugout Chatter segment that concludes this interview is presented in audio form. Through my space-age, retro technology for recording this interview, I hope the audio Chatter gives you an added sense of Martin’s enthusiasm and passion for rock ‘n roll. Take it away, Martin!

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Apr 302012
 

Nick Lowe with Mr. Moderator.

I’ll share some thoughts on seeing Nick Lowe and his band at the Keswick Theatre, in Glenside, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia and a stone’s throw away from where I spent 12 years in lower, middle, and upper school, sometime later, when I can catch my breath. Mad props! to Philly music and film writer extraordinaire Sam Adams for providing me this opportunity.

UPDATED: My review follows the jump Continue reading »

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Apr 262012
 

Photo by Dan Burn-Forti

Nick Lowe’s 45-year career as a singer-songwriter, record producer, and all-around musical instigator is a one-man Village Green Preservation Society, to quote the Kinks’ 1968 mission statement. After brief spell in a Cream-influenced psychedelic rock band, Kippington Lodge, Lowe and his fellow UK mates, including future standouts in the late-’70s new wave scene, got an early start on “preserving the old ways” in the Americana roots-rock band, Brinsley Schwarz. A big push to launch the band in the States flamed spectacularly, and in the US their records would be left for music nerds to dig out of the far reaches of used record bins for the next decade.

In 1976, following the demise of the Brinsleys, he hooked up with veteran Welsh musician and producer Dave Edmunds and carved out a role for himself “protecting the new ways,” as house producer for fledgling punk/new wave label Stiff Records. His “So It Goes” b/w “Heart of the City” was the first single on Stiff, and it heralded the artist’s devil-may-care approach to writing subversive takes on AM Top 40 hits of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. His solo output at this time peaked with his second album, Labour of Lust, on which he was backed by Edmunds and fellow members of Rockpile. The single from that album, “Cruel to Be Kind,” with the shaggy video including scenes from his wedding to Carlene Carter, is the most vibrant expression of the new wave era’s cheerful sense of fatalism. He must have been a good fit for the June Carter-Johnny Cash clan.

As a producer, Lowe made his mark helping Elvis Costello & The Attractions craft a diverse, high-octane run of 5 straight albums in 5 years, including their unexpectedly sincere take on one of Lowe’s Brinsley Schwarz-era hippie goofs, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.” Known as “The Basher,” for his no-nonsense approach to both work and play, Lowe wasn’t messing around, although frequently it just seemed that way.

By the mid-’80s, despite a few minor hits and continued successful production work, Lowe was losing his way. His records lost their snap. The jokes were growing stale. The snappiest of that run, 1990’s aptly named Party of One, was nevertheless the end of the line for Nick the Knife.

I suppose with my advancing age I’m not quite so interested in tricks in the studio, sort of wham-bam-thank-you-m’am.

A few years later, financially secure thanks to a Curtis Stigers cover of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” being included on the soundtrack to Whitney Houston’s schlock smash, The Bodyguard, a mature Nick emerged. He was done chasing pop stardom, done with dick jokes. He embraced his pop classicism on albums like Dig My Mood, The Convincer, and At My Age. His latest album, The Old Magic, goes even further in this vein, skirting the raunch of rock ‘n roll, soul, and country music for something more akin to early ‘60s dinner club pop balladeering. The new album has been a tougher sell for me than his last few gems, but Lowe’s craftsmanship and comfort in his own skin are impressive. Over the phone, Lowe was as warm, open, and engaging as his music might suggest. He made a couple of mentions of the thrill of meeting and playing with one of his own heroes, the recently deceased Levon Helm, and his new musical friends, Wilco. A thrill’s a thrill, whether it’s the thrill of looking backward or the thrill of looking ahead.

RTH: I was looking at your tour schedule and was saddened to see that this coming Saturday you were supposed to play a Midnight Ramble show with Levon Helm. I know you’d appeared with him on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle, which I didn’t get to see. Had you met Levon before, say in the Brinsley Schwarz days?

NICK LOWE: Yes, I sure did. The Brinsleys had a house just outside of London., where we all used to live together. One day some people phoned up and said the Band, who were doing a big show at Wembley, in 1972 or ‘73, needed a place to rehearse. These people said, “Can they come out to your house and rehearse?”

They hadn’t played for a while. We just couldn’t believe it, we were such big fans. Anyway, they all turned up, they played on our equipment, you know, ran once through what they were going to do on the show, and off they went again. I might have said, “Hello.” It was a huge thrill.

RTH: When you played with Levon on Spectacle was that the only time you’d performed with him? Continue reading »

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Nov 092011
 

The recent rifts over Billy Joel had me yearning for something that we all could agree on. I stumbled across this series of videos from an episode of Eight Days A Week, a British music talk show. Not only did it offer a well-spoken and coifed Green Gartside, a grey but tactful Nick Lowe, and rock critic/pseudo groupie Janice Long, but the discussion covered such a wide assortment of musicians circa 1984 that it seemed that we all could find something to love.

In part 1, we have the conundrum of a whether a member of Culture Club‘s solo attempt is any good. We move along to some footage of The Clash at Shea Stadium and discussion of the jettison of Mick Jones.

In part 2, we have fun the Liverpudlian way, with Echo and the Bunnymen.

And in part 3, we hear about Pogue Mahone and other pub bands of the time.

Along the way, we are also treated to references to Neil Diamond, Elvis Costello, The Moody Blues, and the latest band to jump the pond, REM.

Enjoy.

Parts 2 and 3 follow after the jump!

Continue reading »

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Oct 132011
 

Rough draft?

One of the hazards with any of KingEd‘s Insta-Reviews is the chance that his gut feelings on a new release will not hold over time. Although Rock Town Hall stands behind even the most bile-filled reviews of our self-appointed King of New Music Reviews, we reserve the right—and believe we owe it to our readers—to occaisionally revisit one of his pieces, such as his recent review of Nick Lowe‘s latest album, and offer consumers a more balanced, clear-headed review that will better reflect the refined tastes of our readers and advertisers. In that spirit, I have taken the past week to let Nick Lowe’s The Old Magic sink in over repeated listens.  I hope my review will stand as an alternate point of view for consumers’ consideration.

Nick Lowe, The Old Magic

Rock Town Hall: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Up to this point, Nick Lowe’s “mature” solo career has been an incidental affair, something that has surfaced in the interludes between public radio interviews and photo shoots. His previous releases — 1998’s Dig My Mood, 2001’s The Convincer, and 2007’s At My Age — were earnest, respectable efforts that offered their fair share of pleasures but did not establish a distinct or significant new musical identity for Lowe apart from his Jesus of Cool persona. The Old Magic finds Lowe taking a giant step — not away from the shadow of his Rockpile-era works but beyond what that understandably history-bound artist has been able to achieve on record in recent times.

Continue reading »

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Oct 072011
 

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This is terrible, this may be the worst attitude I’ve had about a new release in years. It’s been 2 weeks since I purchased Nick Lowe‘s new album, The Old Magic. I’ve yet to spin it. As anyone who knows me and my Insta-Reviews can tell you, “KingEd don’t sit on new releases for 2 weeks.” OK, I sat on a pile of Robert Pollard-related releases sent to me by Townsman kpdexter for too long, but that was because life was crazy busy, not because I had a bad attitude about listening to Pollards then-latest 19 albums.

I’ve got a real bad attitude about this new Nick Lowe album. Let’s start with the first contributing factor:

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Mar 192011
 

Mention of Jim Ford and Joe South recently reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write something about Dallas Frazier, who is another one of those artists who was adept at blending country and soul. Frazier is the man who wrote “Mohair Sam,” which was a big hit for Charlie Rich.

This is the record that is part of Rock Lore, because the time the Beatles met Elvis, he was obsessed with it and supposedly played it constantly during their visit, even playing along on the bass. I’d never seen this clip before today, but here’s Rich singing it on Shindig in 1965:

He looks so uncomfortable there, but here is singing it again during his ’70s phase.

He was one of the biggest stars in Nashville at that time, and he’s gotten much less stage-shy. Nice shirt.

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