Tag: Grammy Award

Throwback: Happy 81st Birthday Mavis Staples!

Throughout the course of this site’s almost ten year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the legendary Chicago-born singer, actress, and civil rights activist Mavis Staples. Going into a deep dive into her career as a member of the Staple Singers and and a solo artist will be a bit gratuitous — but throughout her career, she has received commercial and critical success, as well as a proverbial boatload of accolades. Stapes has received eight Grammy Awards nominations with the Staple Singers, winning one — a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004. She also received a Grammy nod for a collaboration with longtime friend Bob Dylan. And as a solo artist, she’s been nominated for five Grammys, winning two — Best Americana Album for 2010’s You Are Not Alone and a Best American Roots Performance for  2015’s ”See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.”

She also has been nominated for 11 Blues Music Awards, winning nine, including Album of the Year for 2004’s Have A Little Faith, which featured Song of the Year and album title track “Have A Little Faith.” She’s also won three Soul Blues Female Artist Awards — one in 2004 and back to back wins in 2017 and 2018. Staples was also inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Staple Singers in 1999, was a Kennedy CenterHonoree in 2016 and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.

Today is the legendary vocalist’s 81st birthday and I personally wanted to wish the national treasure a very Happy Birthday. May there be at least another 80 more!

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ATO Records, is a New York-based indie label  — and over their 20 years of existence, the label has released a diverse range of artists, whose work generally imparts messages of inclusivity, justice and equality. Music offers solace — and is most often an agent and vehicle for change. In that spirit, the label has assembled a compilation album Silence Is Not an Option (turn this up) that showcases the label’s roster while simultaneously showcasing some fo the tracks off their extensive catalog that explore themes and issues of identity, community, social justice and resistance.

The compilation also prominently features “See Me,” a brand new song by Grammy-nominated R&B singer/songwriter Emily King. The breathtakingly gorgeous track, centered around an atmospheric arrangement of twinkling keys and King’s soulful vocals was written just a few days ago in response to the Black Lives Matters protests all over the world.  “Feeling so moved by this powerful time,” says King. “Everyday watching the world demand justice. I wake up with sadness but also hope. Like people are starting to finally notice how deeply broken things are. Can you hear me now? Can you see me now? I started singing the words and they wouldn’t leave my head.”

 

 

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstays Black Pumas Perform Their Gorgeous Cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist Adrian Quesada and 27 year old singer/songwriter Eric Burton, the act can trace its origins back to when Burton, a popular street performer in his native  Los Angeles busked his way across country to Austin, where he eventually met Quesada.

Now, as you may recall, the acclaimed Austin-based soul act their critically applauded and commercially successful self-titled, full-length debut, an effort that featured the smash hit “Colors,” which amassed over four million YouTubeviews —and being one o the most added songs to Adult Album Alternative (AAAA) radio. Along with that, the band had gone on a relentless tour schedule that brought their uplifting live show across North America and the European Union, including three separate stops in the New York area: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, during that same period of time the band has made begun to make the rounds across the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing  Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen Show and others.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the members of the acclaimed, Austin-based JOVM mainstay act had been covering Tracy Chapman‘s  smash hit “Fast Car” during their live sets — and their rendition has quickly become a fan favorite. Unsurprisingly, the song and its lyrics resonate deeply with Burton — and although the Black Pumas cover is fairly straightforward and loving rendition, it comes from a deeply personal place, as though Burton could have written it himself. “To me, ‘Fast Car’ is a song of hope, dreams and a relentless heart to go somewhere and be someone,” says Burton. “I learned the song when I first began to busk and of the covers that I knew, it garnered the most attention from the random passerby. As a musician and artist, I’m attracted to songs that make us reflect on our daily struggles for making life worth living for.”

Recently, Black Pumas performed their gorgeous and heartfelt cover of “Fast Car” on Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Interestingly, with each repeated listen of the Black Pumas cover, I’m reminded of what a great song “Fast Car” is — and how much I loved it.  Sometimes a great song is an artist reaching down within themselves to tell the truth as they see it, paired with their voice and a guitar — or whatever instrument they feel fit. 

 

Black Pumas · Fast Car

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist Adrian Quesada and 27 year old singer/songwriter Eric Burton, the act can trace its origins back to when Burton, a popular street performer in his native  Los Angeles busked his way across country to Austin, where he eventually met Quesada.

Now, as you may recall, the acclaimed Austin-based soul act their critically applauded and commercially successful self-titled, full-length debut, an effort that featured the smash hit “Colors,” which amassed over four million YouTube views —and being one o the most added songs to Adult Album Alternative (AAAA) radio. Along with that, the band had gone on a relentless tour schedule that brought their uplifting live show across North America and the European Union, including three separate stops in the New York area: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, during that same period of time the band has made begun to make the rounds across the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing  Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen Show and others.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the members of the acclaimed, Austin-based JOVM mainstay act had been covering Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car” during their live sets — and their rendition has quickly become a fan favorite. Unsurprisingly, the song and its lyrics resonate deeply with Burton — and although the Black Pumas cover is fairly straightforward and loving rendition, it comes from a deeply personal place, as though Burton could have written it himself. “To me, ‘Fast Car’ is a song of hope, dreams and a relentless heart to go somewhere and be someone,” says Burton. “I learned the song when I first began to busk and of the covers that I knew, it garnered the most attention from the random passerby. As a musician and artist, I’m attracted to songs that make us reflect on our daily struggles for making life worth living for.”

 

 

 

Live Footage: Tame Impala Performs “Is It True” on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert”

Over the course of this site’s 10 year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Perth, Australia-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay Kevin Parker, the creative mastermind behind the critically acclaimed and commercially successful psych pop/synth pop project Tame Impala. Now, as you may recall, Parker’s third Tame Impala album, 2015’s Currents was a critical and commercial breakthrough: released to wide-ranging critical applause across the blogosphere and elsewhere the album was a RIAA Gold-Certified, Grammy-nominated effort that revealed a decided change in direction for Parker’s songwriting and sound, as it featured some of his most emotionally direct lyrics paired with a nuanced and textured sound that drew from and meshed elements of psych rock, psych pop, prog rock, synth pop and R&B. 

Released earlier this year, Parker’s fourth Tame Impala effort The Slow Rush continued an impressive and enviable run of critically applauded and commercially material, but unlike its immediate predecessor, the album thematically focuses on the rapid passing of time and life’s infinite cycles of creation and destruction — with the material conjuring the feeling of a lifetime in a lightning bolt, of major milestones and events whizzing by you while you’re staring at your phone. “A lot of the songs carry this idea of time passing, of seeing your life flash before your eyes, being able to see clearly your life from this point onwards. I’m being swept by this notion of time passing. There’s something really intoxicating about it,” Parker told the New York Times.

I’ve managed to write about four of the album’s previous release singles — the upbeat “Patience,” a single which seamlessly bridged ’90s house and ’70s funk while being a meditation on the cycles and phrases of life; “Borderline,” a hook-driven, blissed out track with house music flourishes; It Might Be Time,”a swaggering prog rock meets psych pop anthem featuring shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats and an enormous hook; and “Lost in Yesterday,” a woozy and lysergic, disco-tinged banger that explored time’s distorting effect on perspective and memories that suggested that given enough time, nostalgia gives even the most embittering times in your life, a rosy tinge and a sense of purpose and meaning that may not have actually existed. 

Recently, Parker performed The Slow Rush’s fifth and latest single “Is It True” on Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “Is It True” continues a run of swooning yet dance floor friendly material featuring handclap led percussion, synth arpeggios, Parker’s plaintive falsetto an enormous hook and a shimmering and dreamy bridge held together by a sinuous bass line. The album’s latest single focuses on the impermanence and confusion of love, the countless paths our lives can take with a single decision. In the song’s case, the decision is whether or not its narrator tells an object of affection how he feels for her — with the understanding that whatever happens will be life altering. 

New Video: Cut Copy Releases a Meditative Visual for Slow-burning New Single “Love Is All We Share”

Initially starting as a bedroom, solo recording project of its Melbourne, Australia-based founding member and frontman Dan Whitfield and expanding into a full-fledge band with Tim Hoey (guitar), Mitchell Scott (drums) and Ben Browning (bass), the acclaimed indie electro pop act Cut Copy have been one of their homeland’s most successful and well-regarded acts over their nearly 20 years together. 2008’s In Ghost Colours, which featured standout singles “Lights & Music” and “Hearts on Fire,” received nominations for ARIA’s Best Dance/Electronic Album and Album of the Year at the J Awards. 2011’s Zonoscope topped the ARIA charts, was nominated for a Best Dance/Electronic Album at that year’s Grammy Awards and won a Best Dance Release ARIA Award. Adding to an enormous, internationally known profile, the members of Cut Copy have gone on a number of successful national and international tours, and have made appearances on the late night TV circuit, including stops on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live!

2017’s Haiku From Zero was released to international critical applause and was named a Double J Feature Album. But interestingly enough, “Love Is All We Share,” the acclaimed Aussie act’s latest single is the first batch of new material from the band in three years. and the single is a decided departure from the thumping, club anthems that have won them attention internationally. The song is a slow-burning, intimate, and atmospheric track, centered around a sparse arrangement featuring gentle layers of shimmering synths, Dan Whitfield’s plaintive vocals and shuffling beats. Evoking the euphoric highs of love, our seemingly insatiable desire for connection and physical touch, the song finds Cut Copy crafting a Quiet Storm-inspired take on synth pop that’s eerie and timely. Certainly, in a world in which even being near your friends and loved ones takes on a heightened significance and risk, love in all forms takes on a completely different meaning. 

“’Love Is All We Share’ is a song we made using only a handful of sounds, hoping to create an intimate and unworldly atmosphere,” Cut Copy’s dan Whitfield says in press notes “It was written a year ago about the anxieties of imagined future times, as technology becomes more all-consuming. But in light of recent events the song took on an eerie significance. Now, with our immediate future uncertain and people the world over self isolating, ‘love’ more than ever, feels like one of the best things we can share.”

Directed by American contemporary artist Takeshi Murata, the recently released video for “Love Is All We Share” communicates the track’s themes through his work in hyper-realism and computer-simulated imagery. The end result is a mesmerizing and hypnotic visual of interconnected digital, floating bubbles. “Of the ideas we had, the floating bubbles stood out – representing elements of the song best with animation that’s meditative,” Murata says. “For me, the bubbles point to our relationships and their fragility, relevant to the lyrics and time.”

New Video: French Emcee Flem Teams Up with Vieux Farka Touré on a Politically Charged Single — and Visual

Flem is a rising French emcee, who has developed a reputation for his fluid flow and conscious themes — and as a result, he has worked with an eclectic array of French artists includes Sages Poètes de la Rue’s DanyDan, Assassin’s DJ Duke, La MC Malcriado’s Izé Bosineau and Aethority’s Mattias Mimoun and a growing list of others. His forthcoming album Nomades, which is slated for an October 2020 release finds the rising French emcee collaborating with acclaimed Malian singer/songwriter Vieux Farka Touré — with the result meshing contemporary hip-hop and traditional African blues. 

Interestingly, the duo’s collaboration and friendship can be traced back over a decade — with Flem and Touré sharing stages at festivals at shows from Paris to Timbuktu. Some time ago, the pair were performing in Niafunké, Mali, a stronghold of the Touré family,. when Flem along with a small group of Westerners were quickly evacuated to Bamako, Mail, narrowly escaping an attack. This particular event managed to strengthen the pair’s friendship and reinforced the need for them to create a new project that was much more urgent, conscious and militant than they had done individually. 

Over the better part of the past decade, Mali has been split apart by a bloody civil war between different warring religious and ethnic factions, undermined by unbalanced international relationships, rampant corruption and terrorism. Nomades touches upon the historical and cultural link between Europe and Africa, the ethnic conflicts that have been used by foreign countries, who have economic interests across the continent, the emigration of African youth for a better way of life anywhere they can, monetary independence, freedom, love and hope and so on. 

Nomades’ first single is a perfect example of the album’s overall sound: Touré’s looping, shimmering and expressive guitar, gently padded percussion and Touré’s lilting voice are paired with an infectious hook and Flem’s fiery lyrics, which touch upon his love of Mali, its food and its people, while praying for an end to war, racism, colonial oppression and more. The song manages to bring the African blues sound to the modern day — while also reminding the listener that hip hop has become the sound and voice of resistance everywhere.

“I went to Mali for the first time in 2003 with my friend Moctar, at his family home. We stayed for a month and a half and travelled from Bamako to Timbuktu,” the rising French emcee writes in a lengthy statement. “This trip inland, which is no longer possible today, changed my life. Abdulaye, Moctar’s cousin, introduced me to Vieux Farka Touré in 2009. The artistic connection was instantaneous and after a jam at his house, Vieux invited me to the prestigious Festival au Desert stage in Essakane, in the north of Mali.

Three years later, while I was recording the arrangements for my debut album Passeport, war in the Sahel broke out at the end of my stay, in January 2012. I was staying at Vieux Farka’s, in the family home in Bamako. It was important for Vieux Farka to show me his village and invite me on stage, this time for a festival in honour of his father. It should be remembered here that the late Ali Farka Touré was first a truck driver, then an internationally renowned artist and Grammy Award winner, but also the mayor of his village: Niafunké. The day after the concert, the intelligence and security services in Mali, who were protecting the area at the time, warned us of an imminent attack on the village. The terrorists had seen on television that a few Westerners were there. They interpreted this presence as a provocation to Sharia law, which was beginning to be imposed in the north of the country. Vieux Farka woke me up in my room and said: ‘You’re leaving right now!; I wanted to go back with him, but it was too dangerous. I was evacuated by the Malian army via the river. He came back as we had come, in a 4×4. The boat trip was magnificent, I had always dreamed of doing it, but the conditions were particular. Later, the rest of the Touré family also left the village to take refuge at Vieux’s house in Bamako.

In October 2015, my first album was released. There was no tour in France, but there was a one-off concert with Vieux Farka Touré at La Boule Noire in Paris. February 2017: the Institut Français (French Institute) and the CCF (French Cultural Center) in Bamako invited me for the start of the literary season, which ended with a concert by Vieux Farka Touré and myself. I went there with the pianist Mattias Mimoun and the harpist Katell Boisneau. We had a lot of fun playing again all together.  I felt more than ready to prepare my second album.

In 2018, after the first night of recording with Ilan Sberro at the St-Ouen Auditorium, Vieux started listening to my lyrics and asked me: “Did you write a song for Mali?” I hadn’t, not intimately, not totally.  Maybe I didn’t feel legitimate to do it. I love this country; I’ve got friends there who I consider to be members of my family. And I’m welcomed there as family. This country has given me a lot of love and has taught me things that can’t be explained. I was born, I grew up and I live in France, but I’ve been going to Mali regularly for 17 years now. Here’s my song Mali on a music by Vieux Farka Touré, accompanied by the superb voice of singer Amy D.

Mali Nébifé, Mali I love you. Flem.”

Directed by Dominique Milherou, the recently released video is split between footage of daily life in Mail from kids riding bikes and kicking around a soccer ball, to women dancing in the streets — to intimately shot footage of Flem, Amy D and Touré in the studio  recording the song and performing the song. When the song hits sociopolitical commentary, we see footage of some of the Western leaders, who have helped to exploit and profit off the region’s people, resources and conflicts. 

New Video: Cutting Crew Revisit and Re-work Their 80s Smash Hit

Tracing their origins back to when its founding members Nick Van Eede (guitar, vocals) and Canadian-born Kevin MacMichael toured Canada as members of The Drivers and Fast Forward respectively, the Grammy-nominated, Sussex, UK-based rock act Cutting Crew was formed in London in 1985. Within a few months of their formation, the band — then a duo — signed with Siren Records/Virgin on the strength of their demos. 

By 1986, the band expanded into a quartet and went into the studio to record their breakthrough full-length debut Broadcast, which featured their smash-hit single “(I Just) Died in Your Arms.” The song was a multi-format hit in the States, hitting number 1 on the Top 40, number 4 on Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, number 24 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks and an extended remix version landed at number 37 on the Hot Dance/Club Play chart. The song also landed on the top of the Canadian and Norwegian Charts while hitting in the top 10 of the singles charts in the UK, Switzerland, South African, Sweden, Ireland and Austria. Undoubtably, the act’s biggest song, it’s arguably one of the more memorable songs of the 80s — and as a result, you’ll hear the song in Hot Tub Time Machine, Stranger Things, Ash Vs. Evil Dead, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. 

Broadcast also featured “I’ve Been in Love Before” and “One for the Mockingbird,” both of which also received massive commercial success with the songs reaching the Billboard Top 10 and Top 20 Charts respectively. As a result of their success the band wound up opening for the likes of The Bangles, Jefferson Starship and Huey Lewis & The News, eventually playing their own sold-out headlining shows. 

The band went on to write and record two more albums — 1989’s sophomore effort The Scattering and 1992’s third album Compus Mentus. After Kevin MacMichael’s death, the band went on an extended hiatus but after about a decade, van Eede chose to revive the band with a new lineup. And with the new lineup, the band recorded their fourth album 2006’s Grinning Souls in MacMichael’s hometown in Nova Scotia. The band then went on to release 2015’s Add to Favourites. Since the band’s reunion, they’ve toured across Mexico, Canada, Australia and Japan. 

The band’s latest album Ransomed Healed Restored Forgiven was released earlier this year, and the album’s latest single finds the band re-working “(I Just) Died in Your Arms” with a string arrangement while retaining the song’s familiar and beloved elements — including that rapturous chorus. Certainly, as a child of the 80s listening to the original and the reworked version bring back a lot of memories — but while subtly making the song more contemporary.