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Iron and Wine delivers awe inspiring cover of George Michael’s “One More Try”

Mellow-acoustic artist Iron and Wine joins the ranks of musicians to prove George Michael songs can be made great – after you remove the ‘80s from them.

Iron and Wine is actually the stage name of musician and prolific artist, Sam Beam. On tour and in the studio he regularly adds supplementary musicians he feels necessary to expand his capabilities, but as he explained in a 2007 interview with Pitchfork Media, all songwriting is built from inspiration shared between himself, his guitar and a notebook. These ideas are then expanded on before achieving the final composition.

A few days ago I followed a tweet from Paste Magazine that led me to an A.V. Undercover studio cover series recording of Iron and Wine performing George Michael’s “One More Try.” The song itself is admittedly a little pusillanimous and not quite the style I would regularly listen to, but this track performance is as spot-on as they come. The most striking element in the video is the sheer perfection of the harmony between all the musicians present. Iron and Wine’s hushed, confessional vocals hum perfectly in tune with the backup singers and instruments around them. Harmony is necessary and present in essentially all songs, but when it is heard in such precise execution as is heard here, it carries with it a sense of divinity that pauses thought and instills awe. The clarinet: awesome touch.

Watch the video below and check out other A.V. Undercover recordings by following the subsequent link.

Iron And Wine covers George Michael

Sam Beam’s expressive capacities don’t end with his music. According to a well-sourced Wikipedia article, he graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor’s of Art before transferring to Florida State University, where he received his Masters of Fine Arts. While in school, Beam’s artistic talents were most strongly focused on painting, and his impressionist album covers show he has not lost touch with the skill.

According to the same Wikipedia entry, Beam’s main source of income before transitioning fully to music came as a professor of film and cinematography at the University of Miami and Miami International University of Art and Design. He released his first full-length album in 2002 and his latest album, “Kiss Each Other Clean” was released near the close of January this year.

Below are links to Iron and Wine’s Myspace page as well as a link to Paste Magazine’s website. Paste Magazine is a monthly publication with the professed mission of finding “signs of Life in Music, Film and Culture.”



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Whitey Morgan and the 78’s tear Country back down to its roots

Whitey Morgan and the 78’s are a band out of Flint, Mich. and they have a good rootsy style of Outlaw Country that brings the genre back down to its roots. If you’re used to the country more commonly heard on popular radio stations, you know nothing of what to expect from this group. Despite the bar brawler image, Whitey is a very nice guy and as open sharing his commendations on other artists as he is his criticisms (the climate of the mainstream is a source of great anguish for Whitey).

Whitey grew up in Flint and he saw the devastation the economic slump has caused there. Seeing the pain of these experiences on the faces of his family, friends and neighbors allowed him to give the frustration and anger of the working man genuine voice. Whitey’s music doesn’t have the Hollywood shine of artists like Kenny Chesney or Brooks & Dunn. It doesn’t feel like a product catered by the rich to be received by the poor, but rather feels as though it is the voice of the blue collar population put in its purest form to honky tonk song structure and blues emotion.

Below is a slideshow of a concert the band played at The Village Idiot in Maumee, Ohio on January 15, 2011. Whether you like Blues, Country or both, Whitey Morgan and the 78’s are an act worth your listen.

Want to learn more about this show and the band? Follow the link below to my story published in a Jan. 14 issue of The BG News.


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Blues and Bluegrass should come together: Bluesgrass?

As this blog implies, no two genres of music stoke my interest like Blues and Bluegrass. I do not seek to convince others to feel the same, but it is my pleasure to provide examples of them at their best to those willing to hear it in hopes they may come to agree. This is a tough example to match.

One of my favorite songs is technically of  the Bluegrass bracket but it has an interesting quality that sets it apart from nearly anything else in the genre. It blends the rhythm and soul of Blues into twangy banjo plucks and, though it may seem strange, together they work magic. From the very first time I heard the song I knew I was hearing something different, something that could be much more.

This song is titled “Don’t Ride that Horse” and is written by the outlawish Bluegrass band Old Crow Medicine Show; a band that has not yet seen the mainstream success of Bluegrass acts such as the Avett Brothers or Mumford & Sons, but is often cited as a pivotal powerhouse by those loyal to the genre more specifcally. It comes from their album “Big Iron World,” released August 29, 2006, according to the band’s website, and hearing it inspires a want for a marriage between Blues and Bluegrass that could last longer than the song’s 3-minute track window. Perhaps we could call this new genre Bluesgrass, or something a little less cheesy if someone more clever than I can contrive it.

Beneath  is a Youtube clip of the song as it appears on the album. Listen and notice the feel of the song, how it tugs the cranium into a near involuntary head nod.

This Grass is dripping with Blues and for the sake of the sound’s power, it should be hoped that someday a band can bring this approach to the masses as their own style; complete with wannabees in tow. Maybe that band’s already out there, waiting for us to lend them our ear.

It’s hard to know. What is sure is if I find them I will do anything I can to spread the sound to those around me, those who read my writing and who share in my passion for music with soul and values; rather than the egocentrism and materialism prevalent in much of the popular fodder.

With the popularity today of Blues representatives such as The Black Keys and Bluegrass headliners Mumford & Sons, the scene may be prime for such a sound.

One more idea: how about some banjo on a wah pedal? A little Bluegrass sunk in some funk? Bringing genres together into one whole, when done well, is creativity in full stride. Let’s see it.

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Amazingly simple, yet versatile percussion instrument can add a great sound to any circle

This simple percussion instrument, the cahón, is believed to have been created by African slaves in Latin America. Its snare-like sound adds a great dimension to any drum circle or acoustic set.

For those not yet privy to its sound and application, I thought I’d introduce a sweet little acoustic percussion instrument known as the cajón. While playing percussion and guitar with some friends this past weekend, another friend of mine brought one of these curiously simple devices over and it added a very nice complimentary snare sound to the lower, earthier tones of the djembe and ringing sounds of the bongos.

The brand of the box my friend brought over was a Meinl, though there are many brands to choose from and I don’t suspect building one should be terribly difficult (my friend seemed for whatever reason hesitant to reveal the price he paid, but the Meinl brand drum is listed anywhere from roughly $100 – $350, on Musiciansfriend.com). Essentially, the instrument is little more than a box of wood with a snare-wire accessory secured to the inside of the front sheet of wood to add a drum kit-like effect when struck.

The top, back, bottom and sides of the instrument are made out of what appeared to be ¾ in. plywood with a much thinner sheet of wood acting as the instrument’s front, where it is slapped, allowing for the crisp sound the drum provides. In the back, a hole is cut to allow escape from the resonating chamber, similar to an acoustic guitar. Using a knob on the right side of the box, the snare effect can be heightened or reduced, depending on your preference; muting it entirely or giving it great voice depending on how tightly you secure it in place. The top corner of the front sheet – right or left, depending on user choice – allows for its screws to be loosened somewhat to adjust the instrument’s crash tone when slapped. The approach of playing this instrument is quite similar to that used on any other hand drum, simply with a different set of sounds available.

Though the exact story of this instrument’s creation seems to be debated somewhat, it appears to be agreed upon the instrument was created by African slaves to the Spanish during the 19th century. The instrument was likely made out of shipping crates, drawers or similar items at the time and it is unclear whether the instrument had earlier ancestors prior to their Latin American appearance, or whether the simple designs came about to allow a musical voice to a group of people prohibited from its expression. The cajón’s unremarkable design may have allowed slaves to keep them without knowledge of their purpose being betrayed to the slave owners who deemed instruments contraband. The Spanish word “cajón” even translates to “drawer” in English, adding to the drum’s ambiguity.

Included below is a brief video explaining the design of the Meinl brand product, and there is a brief demonstration of technique. This instrument, whatever brand or homemade edition it may be, is a wonderful addition to any drum or jam circle. I’ll soon try to make one myself, as I simply can’t not have one of these after playing one. If you plan on picking one up yourself and giving it a go, you’ll likely feel the same. If anyone has any more information on this drum or other quirky percussion instruments worthy of notice, please comment!

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Great acoustic shade for a Ray Charles blues piece from Australian surf rockers, The Vamps

The Vamps are a group of beach bum musicians from a city called Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. Despite their risk of falling for cliche, they’ve got some talent to throw around, and they demonstrate it in this video of an acoustic surfer-sway rendition of Ray Charles’ “Let’s go get stoned.” This song has been covered several times, but The Vamps impressed me thoroughly with this piece; posted to Youtube and their social networking sites at the close of a day spent carving the Aussie swells.

Though they have few songs to stream at this time, additional music can be heard by visiting their pages on Myspace and Facebook, and I’ll be watching to see what they further create. Australia has really been bringing some brilliant talent. The secret’s got to be hidden somewhere in the accent.

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Mumford & Sons and Avetts should have felt blessed; might have felt more like a curse

When two of the tallest blades in the bluegrass prairie, Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers, heard they were going to be performing with Bob Dylan at this year’s Grammy Awards, they must have felt like the Sun was finally reaching them.

Both acts came out with all they had – it was visible. Very few guitar strings have taken the kind of abuse dealt to those on Marcus Mumford’s anxious acoustic as he slammed out a ready rendition of their song “The Cave.” Select few syllables have been projected as fully as those Seth Avett belted across sincere key chimes to the ears of a coveted national audience; many of whom likely hearing his lyrics for the first time.

When Dylan’s turn came, however, it became easy to forget the quick picking of Mumford and the evoking vocals of the Avetts. Not so much because Dylan washed out their shine in legendary brilliance, but because his raspy rambling scoured all the eloquencies of the previous acts right out of their ears and memories.

I will forever respect Dylan, but at this show he honestly sounded like a washed-up drunk maybe-coulda-been singing to six women smoking Pall Malls at a beat-down BINGO hall. Below’s the best video I could find, believe it or not, but better sound quality would only make the truth that much sharper and more unforgiving. I’ll let you decide. Skip ahead roughly 30 seconds to reach the music.


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Sick Tap Guitar

This video is very inspiring and shows what a little creative approach can add to a conventional instrument.

Category:  Video     

Sick Tap Guitar

Erik Mongrain Tap Guitar

Category:  Video