Tuesday, August 10, 2004

From CMT's chart report:

Debuting this week at No. 57 is newcomer Catherine Britt's "The Upside of Being Down." Signed to RCA Records, the Australian vocalist is produced by Keith Stegall, whose clients include Alan Jackson.

Led Zeppelin Bassist Hits the Road With Nickel Creek

As a member of Led Zeppelin, John Paul Jones became a rock star in one of the most successful, influential and, by many accounts, notorious bands in music history. Instead of projecting a rock star attitude, however, his voice conveys the personality of a journeyman musician who deeply loves his work and cherishes the opportunity to ply his craft as he sees fit.

The British musician is comfortable talking about his old band, but he has looked forward to his current role on tour with Nickel Creek and vocalist Glen Phillips, former lead vocalist for the rock band Toad the Wet Sprocket. The tour supports the release of Mutual Admiration Society, a collaboration between the Nickel Creek and Phillips. The tour also features drummer Pete Thomas, a member of Elvis Costello's band, the Attractions.

Even before signing up to play bass and mandolin on the tour, Jones had been showing up unexpectedly at acoustic concerts recently, including Jim Lauderdale's gig at a London club. Long attracted to acoustic instruments, Jones also immersed himself in the bluegrass and Americana sounds of MerleFest, a three-day event that took place in May in Wilkesboro, N.C.

Newport Folk Festival report

Political commentary ran the gamut from country rebel Steve Earle's thigh-slapping rendition of "(Expletive) the FCC" -- it inspired one audience member to stand and wave a giant American flag -- to Rufus Wainwright's rendition (with mom Kate McGarrigle on piano) of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with a revised lyric: "far from Bush and Cheney" replaced "that's where you'll find me." Wainwright's set yesterday was full of humor and eclecticism and proved a lush tonic in this comparatively serious musical setting.

Earle answered festival promoters' dreams by joining fellow maverick Lucinda Williams for a pair of tunes during her loose-limbed and mostly languid set, which included a slinky cover of Skip James's "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" and slow, juicy versions of gems from her recent album, "World Without Tears."

"This is what the Newport Folk Festival is all about," proclaimed announcer and New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival producer Quint Davis following Earle's nuts-and-bolts set. But the festival is also about pushing forward, not to mention sideways, and Jim White brilliantly plumbed the fringes of what might be called folk with a deeply weird and beautifully constructed fusion of music, religion, poetry, and a toy store tape recorder.

One of the great, and perhaps unique, pleasures of Newport is the range of ages it draws -- both as audience and performers. Gospel vocal group the Dixie Hummingbirds, formed 75 years ago, and 81-year-old singer and flat-pick guitarist Doc Watson -- whose fingers were as nimble and whose voice was as strikingly clear as a young man's -- were among the most vibrant artists to perform all weekend. And so was the Old Crow Medicine Show. The members appear to be barely out of their teens and they play their mess of banjos and guitars like old-timers weaned on punk rock. Holding down the middle ground was Joan Osborne, who chose the Newport festival to announce her pregnancy and rocked the crowd with a soul-saturated voice that could've blown a small boat across the bay.

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