Wednesday, November 23, 2016

TrueFire In The Jam: Robben Ford Sessions - An Amazing Experience

TrueFire works. They've been a leader in the online guitar lessons since 1991, and with over a million pupils and collaborations with over 600 instructors, they are the state of the art. Their course library contains over 25,000 interactive guitar lessons that cover just about anything a player could want.

In The Jam is just what it says - it is an unparalleled jamming/learning experience in the online arena. It's mind boggling to see what they have put together with this latest edition/addition. I've been spending some quality time with the Robbin Ford Sessions these past few weeks, and I am still just blown away at what is available here, and what has been accomplished by all involved.

Included in this massive, but ultra easy to navigate tutorial is eleven chapters. These chapters include a welcome and explanation/introduction by your host Robben Ford, and ten tracks from Robben's 2014 album, A Day In Nashville. The album covers a lot of ground from rock, jazz, blues, some country, as Robben says, "There's something for everybody." Indeed there is - each track contains audio and video tracks of everything Ford plays, including commentary that let's you know not just what and how he's playing what he's playing, but also why he's making the musical choices throughout. If that was all you got here, it would be a tremendous value, but we're only getting started.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Dictators NYC - As Good As It Gets

As good as it gets. Last night amongst more looming news, The Dictators NYC put on one of the greatest straight ahead rock 'n' roll performances I have ever witnessed. It had it all - a charismatic frontman, "Handsome" Dick Manitoba, inciting the crowd, reciting the rock poetry, and singing his ass off, Ross "The Boss" Friedman putting on a brilliant hard rock guitar clinic about a half foot from my face, JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson on ridiculously impassioned drums and hearty backup vocals, the brutal but sophisticated bass attack of Dean "The Dream" Rispler, and one of New York's finest, Daniel Rey (Hey, somebody get this guy a nickname!) on second guitar and vocals. Yes, as good as it gets.

Here's my disclaimer: I've been a big fan of The Dictators since 1975, when they unleashed Go Girl Crazy to a somewhat disinterested public. Some say The Dictators invented punk rock, and no less a connoisseur than the king of garage rock love, Steven Van Zandt (aka "Little Steven", or "Miami Steve") called the band, "The connective tissue between the eras of The MC5, New York Dolls, and the punk explosion of the mid to late 1970s." When I first heard them, I was an impressionable young guitar slinger, and I wasn't sure what the hell they were, but I knew they had balls, a great sense of humor, songs for days, chops galore, and I knew that I dug it all. Well, that all rings true to this day, and I can claim no sense of critical judgement here - I am an unabashed fan, and that's what I went looking for last night, because my soul was in need of something that would take me back to 1975, my personal summer of love. Elections be damned.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Johnny Hickman - Hickmania III - The Third Time Is A Charm, Once Again

Photo by Steve Rizzari
This marks Johnny Hickman's third annual mini tour of house parties in Northern California, and once again I find myself saying that it was one of my favorite nights of the year - one of the best shows I've seen this year, a year that has seen what I would best describe as an embarrassment of riches when it comes to live shows.

There is nothing tougher for a performer than doing a full night of music with just voice, and guitar. In fact, it's always been something I've tended to avoid due to the difficulty involved, and how seldom I've seen it work - it's asks a tremendous amount of the artist, of the audience, and very few artists can pull it off. This being said, Johnny Hickman has the chops as a writer, a player, and a singer to pull it off, but to be honest, where the rubber hits the road is in his ability to draw the audience into every tale he tells as a performer and a personality. He's one with his audience, there is very little separation between the stage and the crowd, they are all in it together, it's almost like a team sport. You can see just how much he is enjoying doing what he does, and the loving response from the crowd is right inline with this.

Diamond Head - A Band Reborn Returns To America As Strong As Ever

"Without Diamond Head, none of this would have existed." ~ Lars Ulrich - Metallica
Diamond Head kicked off the first night of their American tour last week in San Francisco, and they were marvelous. Reinvigorated by vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen, and lead by the unflaggingly brilliant guitar work of founder Brian Tatler, the band gave a performance that got them a enthusiastic welcome back to the states by a pleased as punch audience.

Brian Tatler has always been incredibly scrupulous about the way his band Diamond Head has presented itself. While he's managed to keep the band's standards very high, it has perhaps come at the price of having his band being acclaimed as one of the most influential acts to come out of the NWOBHM scene in the early 80s, but also an act that has been absent as often as it's been on the boards. The good news is that this iteration of Diamond Head is as mighty as any that has come before it, and having a relatively new frontman who owes nothing to the past while giving it great respect results in a band that can play old and new songs that seamlessly live together in the new set.

As with many bands of a certain vintage, Diamond Head now sports a combination of players who run the gamut from being present at the creation (Tatler) to a brand new bassist (Dean Ashton). Then there is the brilliant man behind the drums, Karl Wilcox, who has been with the band for nearly twenty of the last twenty-five years. I've said it many times in the past, but a great drummer is an essential element in rock 'n' roll, and Wilcox is a very underrated stickman. Musical, powerful, and visual - these are the elements that every kid who picks up a set of sticks should learn. Rounding things out you have Andy (Abbz) Abberley on second guitar (2006), and the aforementioned Ras out front. They are a very cohesive unit, and a great blend onstage. Again, a testament to Tatler's unswerving demand for the best he can present for his brand and band.