7 time grammy winning blues legend
The title of Buddy Guy's latest album says it all: The Blues Is Alive and Well. The legendary blues artist's eighteenth solo LP and follow-up to 2015's Born to Play Guitar showcases his raw and unadulterated sound, its fifteen tracks a true pleasure for aficionados and genre newcomers alike. "I got children and grandchildren who didn't know who I was, but nowadays we can play outdoor concerts and see kids that are eight, nine, twelve years old coming to me and saying, 'I didn't know who you was, but I read what Eric Clapton said about you,'" Guy explains when discussing his mindset around the new record. "I'm always trying to make an album that someone accidentally plays where some kid hears it, picks up a guitar, and helps keep the blues alive."
And it only takes one listen to The Blues Is Alive and Well to realize that Guy's mission has been more than accomplished here. The record is arriving on the heels of a spate of high visibility for the 81-year-old performer: at the 2016 Grammys, he picked up a trophy for “Best Blues Album” honoring Born to Play Guitar, and that same year he hit the road for a U.S. tour opening for Jeff Beck. In addition to bringing the house down for a recent sold-out performance commemorating the closing of New York City's B.B. King's Blues Club and Grill, he recently appeared on David Letterman's Netflix talk show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. A truly restless and energetic performer, The Blues Is Alive and Well is the latest triumph in an already-legendary career.
The Blues Is Alive and Well began to come together when Tom Hambridge, frequent Guy collaborator and producer, came to the man with a collection of songs he figured would be perfect for a new full-length. "He's like some of the older guys I used to play with," Guy enthuses about working with Hambridge. "When you play with a band for ten or twelve years, they almost know what you're gonna do. He's the type of guy who feels what I'm gonna do. Even in my early Chess Records days, you had Willie Dixon and several other guys affiliated with those hit records, and this kid just has that feel too. He brought the songs in, and hopefully we did a good job."
And how: The Blues Is Alive and Well's fifteen tracks feature pristine production without losing the signature lived-in grit that Guy's been known for his entire career, from the low-slung riffage of "Bad Day" to the squealing solos of "Somebody Up There." Guy sounds every bit as vital and youthful here as he did dating back to his early collaborations with the late Junior Wells, and it's inspiring to hear a veteran artist laying down the blues with such gusto.
Among the contributors to The Blues Is Alive and Well: young gun James Bay, who joins him on the aching "Blue No More," as well as Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who contributes to the stomping barroom rambler "You Did the Crime." "Mick made a comment to me when he heard the song: 'Is that my voice? I didn't know it was still that strong,'" Guy states. "Before the late Junior Wells passed away, we did a whole tour with Mick. They exposed us a lot. I owe a lot of things to those guys, because they put us in places that we hadn't been, and they haven't forgotten that. We got a relationship between us. Whenever they come to town, they stop in the loudest blues club in Chicago and call me, and I'll go in the kitchen and fix us something. We still have a lot of fun."
And Jagger's not the only Rolling Stone to hop on The Blues Is Alive and Well: Keith Richards contributes to the warm "Cognac," as does Jeff Beck. "Those guys have been my friends before they got famous," Guy reminisces while discussing his rejoining with old friends. "I went to England and those guys looked at me while I was playing a Stratocaster and said, 'Don't you know a Stratocaster can't play the blues?' I said, 'What do you mean?' It was a joke, because it was a country/western instrument before that—it wasn't supposed to play the blues. We all bought Stratocasters after that."
And even as Guy pushes forward with his astounding career, he's careful not to forget his late contemporaries who inspired him along the way. "I went to sleep yesterday and woke up and all the great blues players are no longer with us. Muddy, Wolf, B.B.—they're all gone. Before they passed away, when they were in their prime, we used to have a drink and a laugh and talk about how when one of us is gone, the others have to keep it going. I'm trying to do something to keep this music that I love so well alive." And with The Blues Is Alive and Well, it's clear that the music—and Guy himself—ain't going away anytime soon.
& promise of the real
SOULFUL SOUTHERN ROCK
Since forming 10 years ago, the buzz surrounding Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real has been quietly intensifying. During that time, the 28-year old singer/songwriter/guitarist and his bandmates have played hundreds of shows and major festivals all over the world and built a devoted underground following. Lukas’ profile continued to rise when he contributed three songs and heavenly vocals to his dad Willie Nelson’s 2012 album, Heroes, their voices blending with potent DNA. Then two years later, life took another turn skyward when Neil Young decided to make Promise of the Real his touring and studio band. Young has guided the grateful young musicians ever since as they’ve backed the legend on tour around the world and on his two most recent albums.
These experiences were undoubtedly invaluable, but none of what has come before will prepare you for the cosmic country soul of Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, the band’s new, self-titled album, a mesmerizing, emotionally genuine, endlessly rewarding work set for release on Fantasy Records. From the epic “Set Me Down on a Cloud” to the climactic “If I Started Over,” the album delivers one sublime song and inspired performance after another.
“I knew I had a lot of good songs that transcended the cultural boundaries between rock & roll and country,” Lukas says of his vision for the album. “I wanted to get the songs as pure as they could be. We owe a lot to Neil; we made this record after coming off the road with him for two years. Neil’s been mentoring us, and we’ve been absorbing that energy, and I think it shows. We got acclimated to a different level of artistic expression. We’ve grown.”
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, produced by song-shaping specialist John Alagia (numerous Dave Matthews Band LPs, John Mayer’s Room for Squares) was recorded at The Village Studios in West Los Angeles. Promise of the Real’s six-piece line-up now includes longtime bandmates Tato Melgar (percussion), Anthony LoGerfo (drums) and Corey McCormick (bass, vocals) along with new members Jesse Siebenberg (steel guitars, Farfisa organ, vocals) and Alberto Bof (piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3). Stefani “Lady Gaga” Germanotta (who convincingly plays the role of Bonnie to Lukas’ Delaney) added her signature vocals to the rousing “Carolina” and “Find Yourself,” while Jess Wolfe and Holly Lessig of the Brooklyn-based indie-pop duo Lucius provide backing vocals on five of the 12 tracks, evoking Exile on Main St.’s ecstatic, gospel-rooted harmonies.
The band’s many influences can be discerned in the opening track, “Set Me Down on a Cloud,” a soulful country rocker that features Lucius’ spiritual vocals and an extended solo underscores Lukas’ tasteful guitar virtuosity.
The lilting, pastoral “Just Outside of Austin” features a guitar solo from Willie, while Lukas’ 86-year-old Aunt Bobbi plays piano. “It’s a love letter to Austin, something like Roger Miller or Glen Campbell would write,” he said.
“Runnin’ Shine,” one of the album’s first-person character studies, is written from the perspective of a young moonshiner trying to outsmart the law while hurtling along Appalachian back roads in a souped-up car loaded with homemade booze. “Perspective is huge,” says Lukas. “If you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and you can relate to them, it’s really hard to hate them, even if you don’t agree with how they live their life.”
Two of the album’s most breathtaking songs, “Find Yourself” and “Forget About Georgia,” vividly retrace the turbulent final stages and bittersweet aftermath of the same doomed love affair. “After the relationship ended, I had to play Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” every night when I was on the road with my dad, which made it literally impossible to forget about her.” Introduced by a wistful four-note guitar lick that reoccurs throughout the arrangement, “Forget About Georgia” unfolds to a “Layla”-like outpouring of romantic yearning, as the band stretches out behind Lukas’ emotional guitar soloing. Not surprisingly, it’s Young’s favorite song on the album.
Inspired by the big ballads of Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley, Lukas delivers a full-throttle vocal on the closing track, “If I Started Over,” at once a cosmic rumination and a rapturous expression of romantic devotion. “The song is asking, what if, after we die, we just come back? What if we have to do the same dream again until we learn the right lessons?
A seasoned veteran at 28, Austin-born Lukas grew up in Maui, while spending much of his time during school breaks in his hometown and on the road with his dad. “I had a lot of passions growing up,” he says. “I played soccer, I was on the swim team, living a Maui lifestyle, surfing and skateboarding. I also loved singing and wrote my first song when I was 11. I became obsessed with guitar, playing eight to 10 hours a day. I knew what I wanted to do from a super-young age, and I made my life about it.” He and his brother Micah played in bands together in high school, and they struck up a friendship with Uruguay-born Tato Melgar, a skilled musician then making his living as a landscaper, who taught the brothers the basics of drumming.
In 2007, Lukas headed to the mainland to attend L.A.’s Loyola Marymount University. A year later, after meeting LoGerfo at a Neil Young concert, he dropped out of school and started a band with LoGerfo, Melgar and original bassist Merlyn Kelly; he named it Promise of the Real, referencing a line in Young’s 1973 song “Walk On”: “Sooner or later it all gets real.” When McCormick joined two years later on bass, the POTR lineup was set. The band woodshedded; averaging more than 200 shows a year. Drawing on Lukas’ lineage as well surrogate uncles like Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and the classic rock and roll of J.J. Cale, The Band, Clapton era Delaney and Bonnie and of course mentor Neil Young, they began to develop their own distinctive style of American music.
Young befriended the band after checking them out at Farm Aid several years back. “Neil got in touch after that, and we started talking by email,” Lukas recounts. “Eventually, he asked us to record with him. So we recorded The Monsanto Years and played some shows together, and we fell in love with each other musically, one thing led to another and we became Neil’s band.
“What’s happened with us feels similar to the career trajectory of The Band,” he continues. “They were already a great band when they started working with Dylan, who lifted them up, which is similar to what Neil’s done for us. He’s also given people a chance to hear what we’re doing and what our own songs have to offer. Then we played the Desert Trip with Neil, along with Paul McCartney, the Stones, the Who and Dylan. That was incredible.”
Those two weekends in Indio last October turned out to be extremely fortuitous. “We met Lucius at Desert Trip,” says Lukas. “They were playing with Roger Waters—and still are. Then they came to the Bridge School Benefit, where we really got to know them. I love Jess and Holly—they really enhance the record.”
Bradley Cooper also saw Lukas play at Desert Trip, and right afterward contacted a mutual friend about helping him on the new film he’s directing and starring in, a remake of A Star is Born. “At first I was just helping him out, and then I started writing with Stefani (Lady Gaga), who’s in the movie. We connected and she and I became really close. I got very involved in this film and ended up bringing the band into it as well.”
Coming of age in a celebrated musical family, Lukas Nelson learned early on that true originality is hard won, never given. Doubtlessly blessed with a measure of musical ability, it’s clear that his natural gifts have been honed by a singular devotion to craft and a deep appreciation for the sacrifice a creative life requires. Elated by the way things have come together so beautifully, Lukas is gratified that POTR have earned this moment and seized the opportunities that have led to this album—all perfectly capturing what he’d heard in his head 18 months earlier.
“It’s just amazing how things have flowed,” Lukas marvels. “It feels divine in a way.”
4 Time Grammy Winning Blues Rock Guitarist & Vocalist
Jimmie Vaughan is far more than just one of the greatest and most respected guitarists in the world of popular music. As Guitar Player magazine notes, “He is a virtual deity--a living legend.” After all, Vaughan provides a vital link between contemporary music and its proud heritage, as well as being a longtime avatar of retro cool. Since releasing his first solo album in 1994, he has set the standard for quality modern roots music. Throughout his career, Vaughan has earned the esteem of his legendary guitar-playing heroes and superstar peers along with successive generations of young players. His musical ethos and personal style have had an impact on contemporary culture, from spearheading the current blues revival with The Fabulous Thunderbirds to his longtime, innate fashion sense of slicked-back hair and sharp vintage threads (now seen throughout the pages of contemporary fashion journals) to becoming a premier designer of classic custom cars. But for Jimmie Vaughan, none of it is part of a crusade or a career plan. It's just his natural way of living his life and pursuing the interests that have captivated Vaughan since his youth.
Now, with his third solo release and Artemis Records debut, Do You Get The Blues? Vaughan has fashioned his most compelling and appealing musical statement yet, creating a rich and variegated masterpiece of 21st Century rhythm and blues. From the first notes of the opening instrumental, “Dirty Girl,” it's clear that Vaughan has created a contemporary classic. Driven by Vaughan's lyrical guitar work, the skin-tight drumming of George Rains and the verdant Hammond B-3 work of the song's writer, Bill Willis (whose long career includes work on the seminal R&B and blues sides issued by King Records as well as stints with Freddie King and Lavern Baker), the song speaks volumes without a single word, and sets a tone of distinctive and emotion-laden musical articulation that continues throughout the disc.
Do You Get The Blues? travels through a virtual galaxy of musical moods and modes across its 11 vibrant selections. Highlights include a rare Jimmie Vaughan acoustic slide track--a tribute to his friend and mentor Muddy Waters--and harp by blues legend James Cotton on “The Deep End,” a fusion of vintage R&B and jazz on “Don't Let The Sun Set,” the sexy and seductive mood of “Slow Dance,” the syncopated soul of “Let Me In,” and a classic Texas blues shuffle with “Robbin' Me Blind.” Jimmie offers a glimpse of the continuing Vaughan legacy on “Without You,” co-written by his son, rising Austin musician Tyrone Vaughan, who plays guitar with Jimmie on the track. The album also Texas singing legend Lou Ann Barton, a founding member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Jimmie and Lou Ann's potent vocal chemistry shines on the fiery “Out Of The Shadows” and the searing “Power of Love.” The two also join forces with the Double Trouble rhythm section of Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton on the classic shouter, “In The Middle of the Night.” By the time the album lands on “Planet Bongo,” the imaginative mood piece that caps the disc, it's clear that Do You Get The Blues? is a tour de force that draws from Jimmie Vaughan's vast reservoir of musical traditions to create a modern classic.
“I wanted to make a romantic blues album,” explains Vaughan. “I was listening to a lot of Sarah Vaughan and a lot of jazz. So I wanted to put my dirty blues guitar and the romantic feelings and the ins and outs of love together on one album. It's got a lot of gospel stylings, it's got blues, it's got R&B. I don't consciously think, okay, we need to put some of this in here; I like that beat, that's cool. I don't plan it out or try to decipher what it is. I just try to create what I feel.”
Vaughan's musical abilities and sense of style were obvious from an early age. Growing up in Oak Cliff, just south of downtown Dallas, TX., he was weaned on classic Top 40 radio (which was invented in his hometown), vintage blues, early rock'n'roll and the deepest rhythm and blues and coolest jazz of the day, thanks to the sounds he heard on Dallas' AM radio powerhouse KNOX and border radio stations like XERB, where personalities like the legendary Wolfman Jack sparked a youth revolution. “I never got over that stuff, and I never will. That's the kind of music I like,” he explains.
When he was sidelined by a football injury at the age of 13, a family friend gave Vaughan a guitar to occupy him during his recuperation. From the moment Jimmie's fingers touched the fret board, it was obvious that he was a natural talent. “It was like he played it all his life,” his mother Martha Vaughan later noted. He also began tutoring his younger brother Stevie, who would cite Jimmie as his biggest inspiration and influence throughout his own career.
At age 15, Vaughan started his first band, The Swinging Pendulums, and was soon playing the rough and tumble Dallas nightclub scene many nights a week. By the time he hit 16, Jimmie joined The Chessman, who became the area's top musical attraction, eventually opening concerts in Dallas for Jimi Hendrix. After hearing Muddy Waters and Freddie King play in Dallas, Vaughan began to delve deep into the blues, melding his many influences into a style that was clean, economical and highly articulate, concentrating on rhythmic accents and lead work that relies on the power of his less is more approach.
In 1969, Vaughan helped found Texas Storm, a group that eschewed Top 40 covers for blues and soul with a Texas accent. The band eventually migrated to Austin, where they won over the college crowd and the Black and Chicano communities on the Capital City's East Side. Vaughan also helped jump start his brother Stevie's career when the younger Vaughan joined Texas Storm on bass.
Determined to create an ideal vehicle for blues music that was both modern in its impact and appeal yet true to the tradition, Vaughan founded The Fabulous Thunderbirds with Kim Wilson in the mid 1970s. When Antone's nightclub opened in Austin in August of 1975, the Thunderbirds became the house band, sharing the stage and jamming with such blues greats as Waters, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Albert King and a host of others, all of whom recognized Vaughan as the man who would keep the music they developed alive for future generations.
As Jimmie recalls, “One time when we were playing Antone's, opening for Muddy, I thought, okay, I'm going to do this Muddy Waters-style slide thing and see if I can get a reaction from him. And the next night I did it again. And he came out behind me and grabbed me around the neck, and said he liked it. And he told me, ‘When I'm gone, I want you to do that, and show everybody that's what I did. I want you to do it for me.'”
Vaughan recorded eight albums with The Fabulous Thuderbirds: Girls Go Wild on Tacoma/Chrysalis; What's The Word, Butt Rockin' and T-Bird Rhythm on Chrysalis; and Tuff Enuff (certified platinum), Hot Number, Powerful Stuff and Wrap It Up on Epic. On the strength of such hits as “Tuff Enuff,” two Grammy Awards and years of worldwide touring, The Fabulous Thunderbirds brought the blues back into the pop charts and the contemporary musical lexicon, sparking a blues revival that continues unabated today. Prior to leaving the group in 1990, Jimmie had joined up with his brother Stevie to record Family Style, an album that reflected their mutually deep musical roots and maturing modern artistic sophistication.
Then in August 1990, just a few weeks prior to the album's release, Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin. The tragedy devastated Jimmie, who retreated from touring and recording, though he continued to play guitar every day, as he has throughout his life. Meanwhile, the success of Family Style further enhanced Jimmie's reputation as a distinctive musical stylist.
Eventually, Vaughan's friend Eric Clapton invited him to open a series of 16 special concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall. After the warm reception for his solo debut at the Clapton shows in early 1993, Jimmie started recording his first solo album.
The resulting disc, Strange Pleasures, was produced by Nile Rodgers (who worked with the Vaughan brothers on Family Style), featured 11 songs written or co-written by Jimmie, and was dedicated to Stevie Ray and the recently deceased Albert Collins. It debuted at Number One on the Billboard Heatseeker Chart, won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance and garnered reams of critical acclaim as Vaughan also stepped out on tour as a solo artist and bandleader. His next album, 1998's Out There, solidified Vaughan's status as a solo artist, thanks to a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance (for the song “Ironic Twist”). As The Boston Phoenix noted in a four-star rave review, Out There featured “his best playing ever, bringing rich-toned exuberance to the familiar trappings of rippling blues and shuffle beats, soul grooves, and vocal arrangements that tap the celestial richness of the glory days of doo-wop.”
As Jimmie Vaughan emerged as an artist in his own right, his reputation as a master musician became even more apparent, thanks to the admiration of blues legends like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, such guitar superstars as Eric Clapton and Z.Z. Top's Billy Gibbons, and rising talents like Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. As Clapton notes, “The first time I heard Jimmie Vaughan, I was impressed with the raw power of his sound. His style is unique, and if I've learned anything from him, it's to keep it simple.”
Likewise, Buddy Guy once proclaimed: “He's unbeatable when it comes to the blues. He just plays it like it's supposed to be played.” Even Stevie Ray Vaughan acknowledged that when people would compare his playing to that of his brother, there was really no contest. “I play probably 80 percent of what I can play. Jimmie plays one percent of what he knows. He can play anything.”
Jimmie Vaughan is more modest in assessing his abilities, though very clear when it comes to his approach. “I try to speak with my guitar in sentences,” he explains. “The people that I enjoy and the music that I enjoy are not about just a bunch of licks strung together. If you just play a bunch of guitar licks that aren't connected, it's like throwing a lot of words into a bowl. It doesn't make any sense. It's just words.
“When I listen to Gene Ammons, the great saxophone player, I get the feeling he's telling you a story. That's how I'd like to play guitar someday, when I grow up. That's the goal. That's what I enjoy. That's what makes me get chill bumps--when you listen to music where the phrasing comes out and it speaks. That's the conclusion I've come to after 37 years of playing.”
Jimmie Vaughan's style as a player, songwriter and bandleader can be thought of as an amalgamation of so many influences. Known for his deceptively simple yet complex attack, his clean, uncluttered style capitalizes on conveying the emotion and message within the music, He utilizes raw emotion, simplicity, and an elegance that is powerful and accessible, yet communicates exactly what he feels inside. It's an approach that has earned him the respect of many of the greats of contemporary music, and guest appearances on such albums as B.B. King and Eric Clapton's Riding With The King, Bob Dylan's Under The Red Sky, Willie Nelson's Milk Cow Blues, Carlos Santana's Havana Moon and Don Henley's Inside Job.
And in the same fashion that Vaughan revitalizes the classic blues and soul that informs his music, he has also become one of the foremost designers of classic custom cars. “I don't play golf. So cars are my hobby,” he says with a chuckle. “I was into cars as soon as I was old enough to walk. I built lots of models when I was a teenager. It's not like transportation. It's art you can drive to the store.” His first custom restored hot rod is a 1951 Chevy Fleetline that's become a well-known sight on the streets of Austin, TX over the years. He then augmented his collection with a 1963 Buick Riviera, and a 1961 Cadillac Coupe DeVille that took First Place at the 1999 Sacramento Autorama and Second Place at the 50th Annual Grand National Roadster show, and is currently on display at the Peterson Car Museum in Los Angeles. Vaughan is credited by his pal Eric Clapton with inspiring him to begin collecting and restoring classic roadsters as well.
Yet for all his accomplishments and the admiration he has earned, Jimmie Vaughan remains modest when it comes to his life and work. “I'm just trying to have fun like everyone else,” he concludes. “I've been playing since I was 13. I play every day. I've never stopped. I can't imagine that I could exist without it.”
GRAMMY WINNING american rock
“We’re a Mexican American band, and no word describes America like immigrant. Most of us are children of immigrants, so it’s perhaps natural that the songs we create celebrate America in this way.” So says Louie Perez, the “poet laureate” and primary wordsmith of Los Lobos, when describing the songs on the band’s new album, Gates of Gold.
The stories on Gates of Gold are snapshots of experiences that Perez and his band mates have had, based on where they are emotionally and how they respond to evolving life circumstances. “We live out loud most of the time and share our life this way, but then there are more intrinsic things that happen, and our songs are part of the way we react to them. We sit down and basically tell people what has happened. We certainly didn’t start this project with aspirations to create the musical equivalent to great American literary works.”
After celebrating their 40th anniversary with the cleverly titled 2013 live album Disconnected In New York City, the hard working, constantly touring band – David Hidalgo, Louie Perez, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin – leaps headfirst into their fifth decade with an invitation to join them as they open fresh and exciting new Gates of Gold, their first full length studio album since 2010’s Tin Can Trust (a Grammy nominee for Best Americana Album) and second with Savoy/429 Records.
The dynamic songwriting, deeply poetic lyrics, thoughtful romantic and spiritual themes and eclectic blend of styles on the 11 track collection has resulted in an American saga in the rich literary tradition of legendary authors John Steinbeck and William Faulkner. Yet true to form, these typically humble musical wolves started in on the project without any grand vision or musical roadmap. Over 30 years after Los Lobos’ major label breakthrough How Will The Wolf Survive? - their 1984 album that ranks #30 on Rolling Stones list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s – their main challenge when they get off the road and head back into the studio is, as Berlin says, “trying not to do stuff we’ve already done. To a certain extent, we are always drawing from the same multi-faceted paint box, and we sound like what we sound like. We’re proud of what we feel is an honest body of work. We just want to keep finding new ways to say things.”
In the band’s early recording days - those years just before and after “La Bamba,” their worldwide crossover hit from the 1987 film which reached #1 on the U.S. and UK singles chart - they prepared for album recording sessions with top producers like T-Bone Burnett with pre- production that included multiple rehearsals and “outlining” what the project was going to be.
The more spontaneous approach to writing and recording that they took on their 1992 Mitchell Froom co-produced set Kiko still exists today; Rosas says, “When I listen to our catalog, doing things more spontaneously in the studio has led to some of our best work.” Unlike many bands that write, gather and catalog material between studio releases, Los Lobos prefers to create their magic on the fly when they decide it’s time to record. Perez says, “We never come in with a cache of 20 songs. Our thing is to write as we’re recording. It’s like starting with a blank canvass every time.”
The journey to Gates of Gold began with Hidalgo bringing in a batch of ideas, outlines and chord progressions with no lyrics. As he and Perez began fleshing things out, developing grooves, melodies and lyrical themes, Hidalgo, his son, drummer David, Jr. and bassist Lozano began tracking those tunes. The collection opens with the reflective, mid-tempo rocker “Made To Break Your Heart,” featuring female vocalist Syd Straw, whose vibe was partially inspired by Hidalgo’s love for Manassas, the early 70s blues-country-rock band created by Stephen Stills.
The moody, atmospheric rocker “When We Were Free,” whose lyrics of what Berlin calls “beautiful melancholy memories” are underscored with the increasing drama of booming drums and distorted electric guitars. Filled with hypnotic sound effects and cool vocal and guitar distortion (created via an eight track analog Cascam cassette recorder!), the soulful, reflective “There I Go” touches on the universal search for what Perez calls “something meaningful, though we’re not always sure what it is.”
Further Hidalgo/Perez collaborations include “Too Small Heart,” a raw and raucous nod to both Los Lobos garage band roots and the wild abandon of Jimi Hendrix; the easy grooving folk- rocker “Song of the Sun,” which taps into the elements of life (water, fire, earth) and creation myths while touching on the way we choose to live in the present; the slow burning blues/rocker “Magdalena,” inspired by the Biblical Mary Magdalene and visions of flowing robes; and the folk-influenced, image rich rocker title track “Gates of Gold,” whose lyrical abstractions allow for multiple earthly and spiritual interpretations.
Perez says, “When I first started listening to the original demo Dave had, the music spoke to me of rural America. The impression the lyrics give could refer to the afterlife, i.e. the “pearly gates,” but I also was thinking about the immigrant experience, the promise of a new life as one travels across borders, all the thoughts a person making that daring move might have connected to the dream of what America is. Our parents all wondered what lay beyond those gates. On a personal level, it’s a reflection of where my band mates and I are in our lives. We’re all over 60 now and looking towards the horizon at our own mortality. We think often about what we’ve contributed and what’s left. I don’t know who the protagonist of the song is, but he’s looking at those gates from a distance because what lies beyond is a mystery.”
As Hidalgo and Perez began collaborating on their songs, Rosas, as per his trademark “lone wolf” songwriting approach, took his basic tracks to his home studio to complete the handful of tunes that flesh out the set. The singer, guitarist and mandolin player’s pieces include the raucous and bluesy, garage band fired jam “Mis-Treater Boogie Blues,” the swampy folk-rock blues lament “I Believed You So” and the swaying, sensual Latin Cumbia-styled “Poquito Para Aqui.” The sole cover on Gates of Gold is the other Spanish language tune, “La Tumba,” an accordion laced folk piece connected to the Mexican Norteno tradition (related to polka and corrodes) whose theme, says Perez, is very dark, “about following your lover to the tomb.” It’s very familiar to fans as a frequent staple of Los Lobos’ live performances.
Back in 2003, when Los Lobos was celebrating the 30th Anniversary of their humble beginnings as a garage band in East L.A., Rolling Stone summed up their distinctive, diverse, freewheeling fusion of rock, blues, soul and Mexican folk music: “This is what happens when five guys create a magical sound, then stick together…to see how far it can take them.” Originally called Los Lobos del Este (de Los Angeles), a play on a popular norteno band called Los Lobos del Norte, the group originally came together from three separate units. Lead vocalist/guitarist Hidalgo, whose arsenal includes accordion, percussion, bass, keyboards, melodic, drums, violin and banjo, met Perez at Garfield High in East LA and started a garage band. Rosas, who had his own group, and Lozano launched a power trio. “But we all hung out because we were friends and making music was just the natural progression of things,” says Perez, the band’s drummer. “Like if you hang around a barbershop long enough, you’re going to get a haircut.”
Berlin is Los Lobos’ saxophonist, flutist and harmonica player who met the band while still with seminal L.A. rockers The Blasters. He joined the group after performing on and co-producing (with T-Bone Burnett) their breakthrough 1983 EP …And A Time To Dance. Los Lobos were already East L.A. neighborhood legends, Sunset Strip regulars and a Grammy winning band (Best Mexican American/Tejano Music Performance) by the time they recorded How Will the Wolf Survive? Although the album’s name and title song were inspired by a National Geographic article about real life wolves in the wild, the band saw obvious parallels with their struggle to gain mainstream rock success while maintaining their Mexican roots.
Perez, once called their powerhouse mix of rock, Tex-Mex, country, folk, R&B, blues and traditional Spanish and Mexican music “the soundtrack of the barrio.” Three decades, two more Grammys, the global success of “La Bamba” and thousands of rollicking performances across the globe later, Los Lobos is surviving quite well -- and still jamming with the same raw intensity as they had when they began in that garage in 1973. They don’t get in the studio as often as they did a few decades ago – Tin Can Trust came four years after their previous album of all originals, The Town and the City – but when they do, the results are every bit as culturally rich, musically rocking and lyrically provocative as they were back in the day.
“It’s not always the easiest thing finding time away from our touring schedule and families to find time to make an album,” says Berlin, “but recording Gates of Gold, I have to say it’s great to be back in the proverbial saddle again. It reminds us of the fun we have had making new music over the years, and it’s nice to have the opportunity to create something of value.”
Perez adds, “I find that the most interesting part of songwriting and tracking a new album is the differential between the way a song sounds to you at 2 a.m. and the way it may hit you when it’s 11 a.m. and it reaches the light of day. We may love it just as much or we may realize we can do better. It’s always a process of discovering more about ourselves and the music we love to make. It’s not always easy getting started again, but I love that moment in the process when the songs start to take on their own life and we can let the kid, so to speak, run out onto the street and start figuring things out for himself. The way songs reveal themselves to us during these periods of writing and recording is my favorite part of the Los Lobos recording experience.”
Born in the UK and raised part of her life in New Zealand by her Kiwi dad and Scottish mother, Lucie Silvas grew up listening to her parents favourites from Ray Charles to Nat King Cole to James Taylor and Roberta Flack. She started playing the piano and writing songs at age 10 but wasn’t exposed to the music industry until she was 17 when she went out on the road as a backing singer for British singer/songwriter Judie Tzuke.
A few years later she released her debut album on Mercury Records, “Breathe In”; and toured extensively around Europe for the following years with both her debut and second album. She went on to sell well over a million albums in Europe, alone. Lucie worked and toured with many artists throughout Europe including the likes of Elton John, Jamie Cullum, Macy Gray, and Jamiroquai.
After achieving massive success for both her own music as well as songs she had written for other artists, Lucie packed up and moved to Nashville, TN. where she has now written and performed with some of the biggest and the best in their fields. Still without having released a single recording yet in the U.S., she started sowing the seeds of this new chapter and hit the road with a vast array of artists ranging from Kasey Musgraves to Tom Jones (yes, Tom Jones) to Daughtry to James Bey and shared the stage at Bonnaroo with Skrillex and Ms. Lauryn Hill. She will also be direct support on the road this coming Fall for Little Big Town.
Lucie has just released her long-awaited and much anticipated album, “Letters To Ghosts” for Caroline Records. This was a fully self-financed endeavor and one that came from sheer passion, drive and a slew of generosity and favors from some of the greatest players in and out of the Nashville market who all saw the raw talent and amazing body of work in the making. The album features the first hit, “Letters To Ghosts,” which continues to rear its head at new radio stations each week all over the country. All the songs on the album were co-written and co-produced by Lucie with several tracks already having been licensed for major network television
Along with the release of this album, Lucie wrote and produced the first two storyline videos – “Letters To Ghosts” and “Villain” – which will lead into a third video, “Smoke,” that will close the book on this much lauded trilogy.
She recently received massive accolades for her acclaimed performance on BBC Sessions “60th Anniversary of Elvis Presley’s Sun Sessions.” Her live show continues to wow critics and fans alike and will propel her to stay out on the road through all of next year supporting this incredible first U.S.
Brian Culbertson is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer known for his distinct brand of genre-crossing contemporary jazz, R&B and funk. Mining the urban sounds of musically-rich Chicago, he began his musical studies on piano at age eight and quickly picked up several other instruments by the time he was twelve, including drums, trombone, bass and euphonium. Inspired by the iconic R&B-jazz-pop artists of the 1970s like Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, Chicago, David Sanborn and others, Culbertson started composing original music for his seventh grade piano recital and hasn’t stopped since, amassing 30 Billboard No. 1 singles (and counting!) and a deep catalogue of 18 albums, most of which have topped the Billboard contemporary jazz charts.
Having worked and performed with countless industry all-stars such as Michael McDonald, Chris Botti, Ledisi, Barry Manilow, Herb Alpert, Natalie Cole, Maurice White (EWF), Chuck Brown and Bootsy Collins just to name a few, Culbertson has won numerous awards and accolades along with nominations from the NAACP Image Awards and Soul Train Awards. In 2012, he founded the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway, a flourishing wine, music and lifestyle experience for which he also serves as artistic director.
With love, romance and his recent twentieth wedding anniversary serving as his inspiration, Culbertson crafted thirteen new songs that will be released as “Colors of Love” on Valentine’s Day. The seduction begins with the first single, the amorous title track, which is a sensual R&B groove illuminated by lyrical acoustic piano melodies typical of the collection’s contents. A nearly three-month-long U.S. concert tour will bring “Colors of Love” to life in a vivid theatrical production, incorporating video elements in a major way.
Regardless of his success and numerous accomplishments, fans can rest assured that Culbertson always brings his very best – and brings the very best out of others – in all of his broad-ranging musical and creative endeavors.
13 year-old guitar phenom & “2018 UK Young Blues Artist of the Year”
Toby Lee is a 13-year-old blues rock guitarist.
Hailed a future superstar of the blues by Joe Bonamassa – Toby’s videos have been viewed over 300 Million times!
Toby’s musical journey began at just 4 years old when his Grandma bought him a yellow and green ukulele. This little instrument went all over the place with him and he played it constantly until he’d broken every single string.
It was when he was eight, however, that things really kicked off. That Christmas, he was given his first full size electric guitar… along with some sage advice from Mick Box of Uriah Heep, who just happened to be staying at the same hotel. What more could a kid ask for? Toby threw himself into music, heart and soul. Stirred by the greats, he now took every opportunity he could to listen to Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Gary Moore, to mention but a few.
But it was when he learned that BB King was seriously ill, that he had a moment of inspiration. What can a devoted fan do when a hero needs support? Record a “Get Well Soon” jam and post it on Facebook, that’s what. And though sadly BB died a few days later, to Toby’s astonishment two of his daughters contacted him to say thank you.
The cogs of the powerful music machine now began to turn. Blues icon, Joe Bonamassa, shared Toby’s video on social media, labelling him a ‘future superstar of the blues’. And so, the Sunday Blues Jam was born. Toby’s weekly Sunday jams swiftly grew in popularity with music lovers all over the world. And in 2015, Toby found himself flying to Memphis, Tennessee to play with BB King’s All Star Band on Beale Street. A dream come true for a ten year old blues fanatic.
Within a short time, he started to feature on many BBC radio interviews and TV programs, including TFI Friday and Tonight at the London Palladium. And he also had the honour to play with amazing artists such as Bernie Marsden, Walter Trout, and McFly.
Then in 2016, Toby had his next HUGE break. He was cast as Zack Mooneyham in the West End production of ‘School of Rock’; the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This was a true test of Toby’s devotion to a career playing the guitar. He performed several times a week in front of two thousand people, including royalty and celebrities, and still kept up with his school work! And in recognition of the astonishing performances put in by all the original ‘School of Rock’ bands, they were each awarded an Olivier Award. At the young age of twelve, a statue now sat on the mantelpiece.
But live performance is what runs through Toby’s veins. He next played to 20,000 at the Cropredy Music Festival, joining the headliners Fairport Convention on the main stage. The School of Rock cast played to 40,000 at the BBC Proms in the Park, appeared on the Michael McIntyre Show, and opened ITV’s hit show The X Factor to Simon Cowell’s delight. And then, to cap it all, Toby was flown to Hollywood to appear on the Ellen Degeneres/Steve Harvey hit show ‘Little Big Shots’. The viewing audience for that was ten million. He then also headed off to Spain to appear on ‘Little Big Show’.
But it was the Blues Heaven Festival in Denmark in November, 2017, that took Toby’s profile into a different league. A video of him and Chicago bluesman Ronnie Baker Brooks playing together went viral and was viewed over 108 Million times in two months. And the music still keeps pulsing through his veins.