Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blackberry Smoke Live At The Georgia Theatre DVD Review

Track Listing:

(Photo of Back Cover provided by Brit Turner)

Blackberry Smoke was formed in 2000 in Atlanta Georgia by Charlie Starr (Vocals & Guitars), Richard Turner (Bass & Vocals), Paul Jackson (Guitars & Vocals) and Brit Turner (Drums). Originally a four piece, the band welcomed pianist Brandon Still to the band a few years ago. In that time they have released two full length albums as well as two E.P.'s!! The band has been on the road non-stop ever since forming and have toured with the likes of ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Zac Brown Band and Jackyl.  Blackberry Smoke was recently invited to be special guests on select dates on the newly announced 2012 “The Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour” featuring Eric Church alongside Brantley Gilbert!

Released just in time for Christmas is the spectacular new live DVD from Blackberry Smoke.  This 15 song DVD was filmed LIVE in Athens Georgia at the historic Georgia Theatre on August 5th 2011.  The DVD was filmed in High Definition.  You can order it along with signed posters or a t-shirt that commemorate this special show at Blackberry Smoke's website.   The DVD is ONLY available at their website or at one of the bands live shows.  Onto to meat and potatoes of this DVD......

This 15 song (16 if you count the 'Intro') is one of the best DVDs I've seen in years.  Shot in HD, the picture is crystal clear and the audio is superb.  I have to give major kudos to Kjersten Rossi who edited the DVD.  The edits are smooth and don't jump around between members like it was edited by someone with A.D.H.D. who is all jacked up on Red Bull!!  The edits give ample time to each shot and capture each band member doing what they do best.

If you're looking for a live show full of pyrotechnics, choreography, canned vocals, samples, dancing girls and all that jazz, I suggest you invest in a Mötley Crüe DVD.  However, if you like a band that delivers a high energy set of well crafted songs, church choir-esque harmonies and top-of-the-line musicianship then this Blackberry Smoke DVD is for you!!!  Charlie's down home sense of melody on the microphone is second-to-none and he plays a mean slide guitar, Paul is one of the best all-round guitarists in music today, be it lead or rhythm playing, the brothers Turner are always right in the pocket as a rhythm section and Brandon gives Gregg Allman a run for his money on the ivories. 

As an added bonus they've included footage of the recording sessions for their upcoming album and the band filmed interview segments exclusively for this release. You get a little history of the band and each member, a taste of life on the bus, and backstage footage! I dug Paul's tour of the bus and the reason why they keep a personalized baseball bat handy in the front lounge of the bus! HINT:DO NOT yell 'Freebird' at one of their shows!!

The band draws on their wide range of influences throughout this show.  You will FEEL healthy doses of Rock N' Roll, Country, and Blues topped with a dash of comedy thanks to Lead Vocalist Charlie Starr's off-beat sense of humor.  Zac Brown & Clay Cook of the Zac Brown Band and Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie lend their talents on several songs.  The set features a nice blend of original material with a few classics thrown in that even the casual viewer should recognize.

A highlight for me was Charlie's dedication to "that group of Navy Seals that was over there not long ago. Blackberry Smoke just has one thing to say, ATTABOY!!" (obviously referring to their eradication of Osama Bin Laden a few months prior to this show) before kicking into 'Freedom Song'!!  A few of the other highlights for me are their performances of 'Son Of A Bourbon' & 'Shake Your Magnolia' off of their 'Little Piece Of Dixie' album, the performances of a few songs that have yet to see the light of day on one of their albums including a touching song entitled 'The Whippoorwill', and their covers of a 'Man Of Constant Sorrow'; a song made famous in the 200 hit film 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' and their romp of a tradition song covered by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis & The Grateful Dead entitled 'Deep Elem Blues'.  Jimmy Hall (of Wet Willie) & Clay Cook (of Zac Brown) lend their talents to the latter.

I'd highly recommend this DVD for anyone who is a fan of real music played by real people! Also, do yourself a favor & go see these cats in concert, they are ALWAYS on the road in a town near you!!  Tell em 'Crash' sent ya!!

As Charlie Starr says "Play One......Drink One.....Hot Damn!!!!"

Trailer for Blackberry Smoke's "Live At Georgia Theatre" DVD!  OUT NOW!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Black Stone Cherry "Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea" Review

01) White Trash Millionaire
02) Killing Floor
03) In My Blood
04) Such A Shame
05) Won't Let Go
06) Blame It On The Boom Boom
07) Like I Roll
08) Can't You See [Marshall Tucker Band cover]
09) Shake
10) Stay
11) Change
12) All I'm Dreaming Of
~~~~~iTunes Bonus Tracks~~~~~
13) Staring At The Mirror
14) Fade Away
15) Die For You

Chris Robertson - guitar and lead vocals
Ben Wells - guitar and vocals
Jon Lawhon - bass and vocals
John Fred Young - drums and vocals

Howard Benson

Mike Plotnikoff


Black Stone Cherry are back! That's right, returning with their fourth album (that is counting their independently released 2003 offering "Rock N' Roll Tape") are those young ass kickin' Southern rockers!! It has been two and a half years since their last album was released. In the meantime the band have spent the majority of that time touring the world one their own and supporting some of the biggest acts in Rock. In the fall of 2010 the band left the comforts of home in Kentucky and entered the studio in Los Angeles with Howard Benson to record the new album due May 31st on Roadrunner Records. This album marks the first time the band has recorded away from their southern comforts.

Listeners are greeted with an earful of distorted amplifier feedback leading into a slammin' wah-wah and talk box laced riff that starts off the new album and their first radio single "White Trash Millionaire." Lyrically the tune is a middle finger to those who look down upon the band members. It definitely gets the album off to a slamming start and continues on into "Killing Floor". This cut is very reminiscent of Alice In Chains in the verses than kicking into a vocally wide open chorus and also musically it also has an AIC feel. The guitars reeks of Jerry Cantrell! "In My Blood" slows the pace down just a bit but not too much. I can envision this mid-tempo number as a future single. It borders on a ballad lyrically but musically has the balls it doesn't get watered down into Bon Jovi territory!!

The band has progressed in all areas from songwriting, musicianship and their harmonies are definitely a notch above what they've delivered in the past. It is scary how much talent these guys have and how they continue to get better. While they may not be the biggest thing in rock, what they have going for them is that they won't be going away anytime soon!

Continuing their tradition of storytelling within their tunes. "Such A Shame" dives into the subject of a young girl from a broken home becoming mixed up in the seedier side of life only to end up dead. Dig the subtle fading female background vocal after the title of the song is sang. This cut could make a really powerful video to show teens there is an alternative to a life of drugs and living on the streets! I don't think that the band gets as much credit as they deserve for their musicianship but the acoustic fretwork displayed during "Won't Let Go" is on par with some of the best. I was surprised to learn that Lizzy Hale of Halestorm makes an appearance on background vocals, she adds a nice haunting touch to this mid-tempo rocker! "Blame It On The Boom Boom" has been around for a while as it was offered up as a free download from Kentucky-based bourbon company Evan Williams in December 2010!! It is a nasty groove rocker that should go over big-time live!

"Like I Roll" is my pick for favorite song of the album! It is just a feelgood uptempo song with a catchy chorus. I can see this crossing over on VH-1 & CMT with the proper video treatment. I CANNOT BRAG ON "LIKE I ROLL" ENOUGH!! A MASTERPIECE OF A TUNE!! It easily could have been a John Mellencamp or Bob Seger anthem back in the day!! The next cut will be the most scrutinized song on the album as it is a cover of The Marshall Tucker Band's "Can't You See." They did the track justice however having seen them cover it live, I feel the production stripped some of the magick of the live version away. Still not a bad rendition unlike Poison's butchering of it from 2007. Fans of Southern Rock should be pleased with Black Stone Cherry's take on this classic!

"Shake" is a hypnotic groove rocker perfect to listen to while sitting in your favorite whiskey soaked strip joint while some hottie shakes her tail feather for ya!! Felt like I was in the 80's when Chris fired off the lyric "She squeezed my lemon just to drink the juice!".....nice touch on the lust laden track! The band heads into the anthemic mid-tempo ballad territory with "Stay." I can see the ladies loving this track while it features one of the better guitar solos on the record, just a tad short in duration though. Somebody wake me up cause I'm having a case of déjà vu hearing "Change", it sure sounds eerily like "Lonely Train" from the bands self-titled 2006 album! That IS NOT a bad thang though. The vocal breakdown over the solo section is an especially nice touch. John Fred channels his inner John Bonham with some sledgehammer-esque drumming!

Paddle faster, I hear banjos!! GOTCHA!! Stand down, just some badass banjo and mandolin pickin' nothing to fear with the last track of the album "All I'm Dreaming Of." This track could easily be titled "Peace Is Free II" as it continues with the theme (or dream) that "Peace Is Free" drove home!! I also hear touches of my favorite stringed instrument, THE DOBRO. Minus the subtle orchestration and a few sparse electric guitar parts, the song is all acoustic and hand-drumming NICE! One day, I hope Black Stone Cherry releases an acoustic live cd/dvd in the vein of Tesla's "Five Man Acoustical Jam". They're one of the few 'newer' bands who have the talent to pull it off!! Definitely an interesting way to close out an album.

I will have to wait till the album's release on iTunes to get the three bonus tracks (Staring At The Mirror, Fade Away, Die For You) to review them. Overall, I feel, as stated before in this review, that Black Stone Cherry has progressed in all areas possible without turning into a "radio only band"! They still groove n' rock with the best but are not afraid to pick up an acoustic and show a lil' Southern fried soul!! The production on this album is stellar without glossing over the final product and the band is sounding better and better with each passing gig and album!!

Video for "White Trash Millionaire"

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Richie Kotzen-24 Hours Album Review

Released November 11, 2011 (Headroom Inc.)

Track listing::
01. 24 Hours
02. Help Me
03. OMG [What’s Your Name?]
04. Get It On
05. Love is Blind
06. Stop Me
07. Bad Situation
08. I Don’t Know Why
09. Tell Me That It’s Easy
10. Twist of Fate

Richie Kotzen: Written, Produced, Performed & Recorded by Richie Kotzen at "The House'

Additional Musicians:
August Kotzen: Wurlitzer Piano, Additional Vocals & Co-writer track #6 and
Additional Vocals on tracks # 5 & # 9

Jerry Cantrell: Additional Vocals on track #5
Bret Domrose: Additional Vocals on track #5
Mike Bennett: Percussion on track # 3

'24 Hours' marks Richie Kotzen's 23rd album since 1989 including a live album, an album under the banner of 'Wilson Hawk', one with 'Forty Deuce' and two collaborations with Greg Howe. Throw in all the albums he did with Mr. Big, Poison, Vertu, an acoustic album, three 'Best Of' compilations, all the guest appearances & the tribute albums he has appeared on and the number exceeds 125........EASILY!!

Beyond sheer numbers, his catalog of recorded material runs the gamut from Hard Rock, Pop, Blues, Soul, Funk, R&B and even Country! Yes, I said Country......Google "Kent Stanfield Jesus In The Way"!!! I must admit, ol' "Kent" is mighty wicked on that there Banjo & I hope he releases an entire album someday!! Back to Richie Kotzen.......

*****WARNING:SELF PLAGERISM FOR THE NEXT PARAGRAPH (This was included in a review of I did of Richie's 2007 album Return Of The Mother Head's Family Reunion & I felt it was appropriate to include here to segue into the rest of the review.)*****

"First off, I must warn everyone that when it comes to anything that has Richie Kotzen's name attached to it I am 100% biased, I will admit! I've been a devoted fan of all things Kotzen since I got his Fever Dream cassette in 1990. I am not so "blinded" as a fan that I won't admit when something isn't up to par with Richie's talent. Case in point, his 1999 release Break It All Down. That disc sonically was flat and sadly the writing and playing seem very un-inspired with the exception of the song "It Burns". "

With Richie, it is hard to predict what is coming next album wise. His influences are diverse. One year you may get a hard rock flavored album and then next year he throws you a curveball with a soulful R&B flavored gem. There is no cookie cutter approach to Richie and his music. That is what keeps me coming back for more, year after year and album after album! I will do a track-by-track rundown of '24 Hours' we go!!

24 HOURS (4:14) Richie released the title track as a single and video back in September. My first impression of the title track was mixed at the beginning due to the usage of autotune over his vocals in parts of the song. Over time I got past that and now dig the tune for what it is, a furious romp and one helluva pyrotechnics show on the fret board!! The video is just as fast paced with some stellar camera work and editing!! In the past few years Richie has ceased using a plectrum and went the Jeff Beck route, finger picking. How his fingers aren't shredded after playing this tune is beyond me!

HELP ME (4:35) 'Help Me' kicks off with a funky lil' guitar run before the vocals come in. This songs just reeks of a tasty groove. The bass and drums are right in the pocket. Richie's vocals are in a higher register than usual on most of this track as well as on most of the album. My only gripe is about that buzzing bass synth part that comes in on the choruses starting at the one minute mark and returns periodically throughout. It took me a while to realize that my stereo wasn't screwing up or that there wasn't a glitch in the mastering of the album but that buzzing was intentional. Don't let the buzzing deter you, the track is a sweet funky lil ditty!

OMG [WHAT'S YOUR NAME?] (4:22) I'm sensing that Richie has been jamming a lot of Sly & The Family Stone in along with his daily doses of The Spinners and James Brown because this track heads down that familiar funky road!! Trust me, that's a good thing! A slammin' drum groove and hypnotic bass lines are accented with splashes of synthesizer all the way to a first for Richie, a full-on synth solo!!

GET IT ON (3:10) Kicking off on the mellow side with sparse guitar licks before picking up the tempo, 'Get It On' sounds like it could have been on his 1996 album Wave Of Emotion. That album is where Richie really started incorporating his R&B, Soul and Funk chops into his music and going beyond being pigeonholed primarily as a shredder. Over the years he has always added a touch of those influences to his tunes and this cut is no different. I feel his bass playing is often overlooked because of his reputation on the guitar but he always lays down some tasty grooves. Many don't realize that Richie often plays all the instruments on his albums in addition to his singing and guitar playing.

LOVE IS BLIND (5:37) This song is probably my favorite on this album, it may be tied with the final track on this album. It is hard to choose. If I was an A&R man at Headroom Inc., I would advise Richie to release this to radio and definitely make a video for it. Absolutely love the slide guitar playing on this track and Richie flat sings his ass off on a melodic gem that should resonate with the casual listener! I feel like going all 'Wayne's World' in his presence and proclaiming "I'M NOT WORTHY"!!!!

The song also features his daughter August, Bret Domrose of Keanu Reeve's 'Dogstar' and Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains fame as additional vocalists!! Richie has worked with Bret in the past having appeared with Dogstar as a 2nd guitarist on several talk shows back at the start of the decade & August has really blossomed into a seasoned singer.....probably doesn't hurt that both her parents are exceptional vocalists in their own right! She has even begun singing back-up at his live shows and takes the lead on a version of on the Dorothy Moore classic "I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You" & The Yardbirds classic "Shapes Of Things". Richie has to be proud!! Jerry really shines through with his "lead vocal ad-lib" during the final chorus beginning at the 5:04 mark. AN INSTANT CLASSIC IN MY OPINION!!

STOP ME (2:58) Another catchy mid-tempo tune that was co-written & features his daughter August on Wurlitzer Piano and additional vocals. I hope they will release a duet album in the near future. The guitar solo is classic Richie, full on frenzy on the fretboard!!

BAD SITUATION (3:51) Eerily reminiscent of the vibe on his 1999 album Bi Polar Blues. That isn't a bad thing since I've wished for another blues oriented album over the past 11 years! Vocally he uses his range from one end of its ability to the other. There are some choice B.B. King inspired licks and phrasing in his guitar playing.

Dig this one big time & I really connect with the lyrical content. It feels like he wrote this song about a prior relationship I was in. When a song touches you in a way that you feel that they wrote it about a time in your life or you wished you wrote it because it was exactly how you feel about something, that is the mark of a true artist!!! Richie has done that many times since I began following his career 21 years ago & that is why he is my all-time favorite singer/songwriter/musician!!

I DON'T KNOW WHY (3:51) Vocally soulful and in the ballad realm. This is one of the most brilliant vocal performances I've ever heard Richie turn in. The music is subtle & laid back and allows the vocal performance to take the forefront. Richie really lays his emotions out for the world to hear here. His sense of melody is in a class by its own.

TELL ME THAT IT'S EASY (4:46) Another mid tempo R&B song bordering on a ballad that again features August Kotzen adding her soulful vocals to the mix. The guitar fills sit back in the mix and add a classy touch to a beautiful song.

TWIST OF FATE (5:12) Now we have come to the end of an emotional journey and to my other favorite song on the album. Starting off with some classical acoustic guitar before he comes in with his soulful vocal styling's. The lyrics tell a story that takes the listener on a journey as he sings to the one he loves. You get a sense that the person Richie is singing to has given off the vibe of being unsure as to their relationship and that he is trying to convince her to put her guard down, as the lyrics allude to.

The guitar has a 'Maggie May' feel to them before he comes in on piano at the 3:20 mark. I can close my eyes and see Floyd Cramer playing the ivories on this track, but he has long passed. Another example of what a world class musician Richie is. The song picks up steam at that point with bluesy guitar runs over a subtle groove and the piano. While I feel this song is perfect as it is, I can envision Richie writing parts from a female perspective and having someone sing almost a point-counterpoint duet with him.

In concluding, it took a few listens to the album as a whole to get it but I GOT IT! There were no full on rockers or instant pop radio hits that grabbed you. Instead you have to sit back and immerse yourself in the passion and soul for which is coming into your ears!

This album is a look inside Richie's heart and life since his last album. While at points melancholy, you come away with a renewed sense of hope and love thanks to the audio journey you have just taken. In a few years, this album will be looked upon by his legions of fans the same way his 1998 album "What Is...."  his 2005 album "Into The Black" are these days. It is a beautiful artistic look into his soul and shows another step in his musical evolution. Well done Richie, well done!!

24 Hours Promo Video.......

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Michael Olivieri Band Releases New Video and Single

The Michael Olivieri Band, also known as The M.O.B. have released their debut single entitled "Broken Glass" on iTunes as well as a video for the single. The video was directed by Karl Leslie Willis.

The Michael Olivieri Band will release their debut album "M.O.B." on December 21st via iTunes and pre-orders for their debut album will be taken in the coming days. The album was Produced by Michael Olivieri and Mixed by Kevin Beamish (produced acts such as Foreigner, Saxon, Keel, Leatherwolf, and the supergroup Contraband).

The Michael Olivieri Band is:
Michael Olivieri (Leatherwolf)
K.K. Martin (A La Carte, Shark Island)
Buzzy James (Laidlaw)
Tom Croucier (Vanilla Fudge & the brother of ex-Ratt bassist Juan Croucier)
Paul Wilson
Dan Lucett
Eric Von Herzen

iTunes Single available at: ... d483706873

Band website: