Rick Keene Music Scene – Rivercat Provides 52 Saturday Nights of Real Rock N Roll

It may sound like a cliche but – it absolutely does not mean a thing without that swing.

Mark Rivers

Rivercat was established more than two decades ago. Principle songwriter and leader Mark Rivers honing his New Jersey-bred craft under the bright lights of New York City. Just like the Big Apple itself – Rivercat is a blend of everything. Just like The Big Apple itself – Rivercat is filled with attitude.

The first thing you hear within Rivercat on their new album 52 Saturday Nights is that Coney Island ‘noise’. Garland Jeffries has it, Lou Reed had it and anyone who has breathed that air – has it. The sound from Rivercat cannot be easily described nor can it easily be duplicated.

New Night – the first tune on the disc feels subdued. The guitars and vocals trapped under a sewer and clawing to escape the ‘muddy waters.’ Like a slow moving Demon – the tune gathers strength and breaks into a comfortable jam. The chemistry within Rivercat obvious. A feeling the best is yet to come on the disc; a given. New Night brings the foreplay.

Red Lipstick, the second tune – combines a rockabilly beat with a punk sound. In between – the vocals and chorus swoon like alternative birds. The music and the voices not quite connected which gives the song an edge and a view of the outside looking in. Intentional or not, a feeling of The Stones from Some Girls shines through. A real kick in the gut at loud volumes.

Perhaps the most radio friendly tune on the album – Down in the Streets, has swagger. A chaos which is neither Rock nor Punk. A Reggae feel with sloppiness. A first listen pinches the curiosity. A second go embeds the tune into a never ending session. If only all songs could be written this way.

Drive is Rock without the Roll. Guitar heavy and no sloppiness. A sign that Rivercat can do what it wants and do it well. A straight on tune with no messing around. An interesting precursor to the next tune on the disc – The Rain.

The Rain journeys into the 80s and 90s sound. Harmonies akin to the band Journey and rhythms which Chrissie Hynde would be proud of. The connotations within the lyrics on all songs – typical of New York. Keys on the song bring to mind a little Pink Floyd. The guitar solo simple but profound. Rivercat as we have heard thus far non existent. A tip of the hat to the band who are so diverse in their craft.

In Suzie’s Bullet, the band hits it’s Coney Island persona full tilt. Almost spoken lyrics ( hello Lou Reed?) evolve into hard riffs and a hard story. Once again – Rivercat harnessing energy. Teasing with bursts of what you can have if Rivercat wants you to have it. The ebbs and flows are sensational and fit the mood of a love tale gone bad.

52 Saturday Nights is a tribute to the band’s favorite night to play. The album reeks of Bourbon.

Bourbon retains the swagger of Rivercat. The swagger of New York. An off kilter track which gives attitude through perfectly placed guitar riffs, background vocals and in your face shots of rhythm. The entire sound gets you prepared for the second catchiest tune on the disc; Shake This House.

If you look up Rock N Roll in the dictionary – Shake This House should be there. Your toes start tapping. Your heart starts pounding. Your brain hears the rebellious lyrics and then one of the most catchiest choruses kicks in. You are dead from the waste down or head up if Shake This House does not end up on your playlist or you do not end up on the dance floor.

If music can make you feel you are crawling on the floor trying to explain yourself – then Party Train and Blue Whiskey have done their jobs.

Rivercat combine old school sensibilities in their tunes. Country acoustic popping up between electric riffs and Southern Blues. A Muscle Shoals ‘live on the floor’ gospel fuddled sound. Drawls and slurs appearing relentlessly through a spurned lover banging on the glass with a rose in one hand and a bottle of Jack Daniels in the other..

The final two tracks on the album are anthems of sorts. Somebody 2 Rock commences with a teasing, slow moving beckon and then slaps you almost immediately with a powerful two punch. Guitars singing behind the words like a hurt animal giving the tune an added dimension not heard in the first ten songs on the disc. Live – this could be the first tune or the encore. Either way – it is another tune from the disc bound to end up on a playlist in the swampy landscape of pure Rock N Roll. Calling all nations …

One After 909 has the feel of a Beatles’ song because it is. One of the earliest Lennon / McCartney tracks and released on Let It Be almost ten years after it was written. The tune predates the Beatles’ Boy Band commercial career start with a predominately penned Lennon ‘Cavern’ song. Rivercat fittingly end 52 Saturday Nights with Rock n Roll although once more with a held back energy. The album starts and ends with a band forlornly in control of their sound and capabilities. Holding the reins of a trip everyone must take.

Rivercat are one of very few bands keeping Rock N Roll alive. In a New York state of mind. Of course …

You Really Should Visit Rivercat Right Here !

 

Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes Speaks to Rick Keene; Part Two

In the second installment of my interview with Gordon Gano ( one of the founding members of the Violent Femmes), he speaks of many things

How they achieved their name, how they feel about being back together again, who is playing with them in Montreal and his favorite song.

He also speaks of writing the riff for one of the most popular songs played in pubs and bars across the world.

Gordon …?

 

Visit the Jazz Festival Here!

 

Visit Strangers in the Night 10 Here!

 

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Adam Karch; Designing ‘Blueprints’

Following a tutelage under the watchful ears of people such as Jeff Healey and Colin James – Blues-man Adam Karch is right at home with his new album – Blueprints.

Ironic because within the album are covers originally penned by the men whose blueprints set the stage for what Adam and many others have done since the early sixties. Carry on the tradition of the Blues.

Please listen as Adam explains his roots, his history, his struggles and satisfaction …

Adam?

 

Visit Adam Right here!

 

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Who was Lou Reed?

Inevitably – age catches up to everyone. Rock n’ Rollers are no exception.

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Lou Reed is the latest victim of a combination of age / sickness. Who is next? McCartney? Ringo? Jagger? Richards? ( never mind the latter – the Stones’ guitarist’s shelf life has long since passed and his existence is questionable  …)

The common denominator within the names above is simple…

Legendary.

What is that? Reed legendary on the same level as The Beatles and The Stones? Did Reed ( who passed away at the age of seventy-one) pen tunes along the lines of Hey Jude or Brown Sugar? Over and over? Are his songs implanted into the gums of music history – never to be removed or destroyed in fire?

Around the world, in the past few days, young rockers ( or just plain youthful musicians) have prodded their parents with pesky questions pertaining to Mr. Reed. Truthfully and sadly –one response to the rockin’ requests was undoubtedly delivered. Answered with a glint in the eye and a  jump to the past …

Take a walk on the wild side …” The PARENTS may have said, thinking back to a simpler time. ” … Plucked her eyebrows on the way, shaved her legs and then he was a she.’ ….’And the colored girls say dododo dodo dododo do dodo dodo dododo do dodo dodo dododo do dodo dodo dododo …’

‘Yeah …’ Came the responses from unresponsive teens. ” I know that tune! Great song …!” With that – the young ones would continue listening to Muse or The Sheepdogs in their interior worlds known as iPods. The horror!

Lou Reed – who passed away on the weekend, was known more for than just one song. His work with The Velvet Underground and specifically Nico – produced one of the greatest albums of all time. ‘Femme  Fatale’. ‘Venus in Furs’,’There She Goes Again‘, ‘I’ll be Your Mirror’ and ‘I’m Waiting for the Man‘ – songs to be sung forever …

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What made that album legendary – is something most artists cannot claim. The melodies, the harmonies, the musicianship, the songwriting and the chemistry between Cale,Reed, Nico, Morrison and Tucker – impeccable. Many artists can claim that on discs such as  ‘Pet Sounds’, ‘Revolver’ and ‘Exile on Main Street‘ yet the songs Reed wrote or co -wrote did not make Reed a legend. What made Reed a legend was his courage or ‘defiance’ to talk or sing about all things taboo. The music was the vehicle.

Heroin, Transsexuals, open sexuality ( the pre-cursor to f*ck friend) and general decadence. Things that existed. Things that lived and breathed in the pores of society long before Lou entered the dangerous picture. Reed made these subjects fashionable. The Rolling Stones may have opened the door – Reed and his ‘underground’ took it to another level. The Stones had their ‘Mother’s Little Helper‘ – Reed and his cronies raped her and  stole her pills. Publicly!

Lyrically, Reed opened up to everything he saw. No candy-coating on what was happening in New York from 1966- 1973. No sugar in his coffee as he stared down the core of  the rotting Big Apple. The world contains a lot of blackness and Reed drank it and spat it out. Darker than ever. Prettier than ever. Right up to his recent passing.

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Some musicians are poets. Some poets are musicians. Some – talented in one way more than another. Reed was equal in his talents. Raw, undressed and ready to go. A guitar riff as raunchy as his scowling words. You could not dress him up or take him out. Not on terms that disagreed with him. Not on terms deemed ‘politically correct’ …

Mr. Reed invented political incorrectness. A child of his environment – Reed saw the United States for what it was. Hypocritical, seedy, uncouth, unworthy of his worthiness. The peace and love generation wanted to ‘fix’ things – Reed basked in the horrors. Somehow aware things would never change and if they did – they would stay the same.

Rock stars, Jazz stars, Pop stars, Country stars and Disco stars can all be labelled. Even if their personas flop between identities. Bowie was a spaceman, weird but understandable. Michael Jackson? A weirdo from space? Unidentifiable yet classifiable. Johnny Cash – a man tormented by demons yet agonizingly shelved with so many artists. On and on except for Lou Reed …

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A rebel …? Sorta. A junkie in the form of Keith Richards …um …no. An alcoholic a la Moon? Nope. Not even close. A genius in the form of Dylan? Bite our collective tongues …

Reed was a man unlike any other. Lost in translation yet translated as lost. A man in the mirror. An introspective soul unafraid to discover himself. A guitar player whose chords were tuned to his world while staying out of tune with the world’s. Above Dylan yet darker? Tortured like Cash yet tamed through words. ‘Out there’ like a Bowie /  Jackson tandem yet with feet planted firmly on Earth.

Lou Reed was an exception. In life and death.

I don’t know just where I’m going
But I’m gonna try for the kingdom, if I can
‘Cause it makes me feel like I’m a man
When I put a spike into my vein

The Virgins Concert Review; Too Much Attitude!

The Virgins

For a while – it all seemed dicey …

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The Virgins. an American band who just happened to open up for Iggy and The Stooges ( once upon a time ) – seemed destined to not draw any attention late Sunday night.  A half hour before the show, a crowd of less than capacity did not fill Club Soda. As the band took their place, an onslaught took place.

On and off the stage …

When one thinks of Jazz, the writers of songs such as Rich Kids do not come to mind. The quartet – a blend of Punk, Blues and Alternative may have paid the price for doing what they do AT A JAZZ FESTIVAL. Thankfully, by the time the band took to the stage, the venue filled up – somewhat.

It was time to play …

aaaaaLead vocalist Donald Cumming is not one for banter. Let’s get that straight. In his own words; ‘I go into my own little world up there’. What a strange world it is …

Hot of the heels of their new disc; ‘Strike Gently’, an album released on Cult Records and produced by The Strokes’ front man Julian Casablancas – the band took the stage and commenced a foray into everything that has been heard before yet with a different spin.

‘Venus in Chains’ – the first single from the new disc, pulled off with an innocence of the days of The Beatles. An original boy band sound. Something which Cumming is proud of as he set out to do a pure Rock n Roll record.

” I am happy with the record. It is songs that I wanted to do which I was unable to do with my old record company. It is simple rock sounds and I think I have grown as a songwriter. Julian allowed me to do that on this disc. I am grateful.”

‘Venus in Chains’ is that type of song. A harmonious chorus set the crowd’s acccsmiles in complete unison with the rhythm of their feet. No angry guitar riffs, no biting heads off bats. Just a song along the lines of Lou Reed’s happiest moments. A combination of The Velvet Underground meet the ‘Oneders’ from the Tom Hanks’ movie; ‘That thing You Do’. A great experience for anyone in the crowd.

“Private Affair”, a song which was the group’s first single from their debut album in 2008 – toted for the predominant late – teen – early 20’s crowd at Club Soda. That song – along with a slew of hits introduced mainly via television and movies;  (Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries), songs such as ‘ One Week of Danger’, ‘Rich Girls’, ‘Fernando Pando’,’ Love is Colder Than Death’ – became a soundtrack for the evening. No one will accuse The Virgins of being a Led Zeppelin – wannabe. Their niche is the internet -raised, health conscience, world -weary ( in their minds) teen travelers which make up the suburbs.  A feeling throughout the club was watching a band appear via MTV. Not -so-much live.

That is not taking anything away from the group at all. Musically …

Guitarist Xan Aird , Max Kamins (bass) and John Eatherly (drums) – along with Donald on guitar and vocals are talented. Xan especially delivering almost monumental solos. A tight unit yet too much within themselves.

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Aird – ‘Hair Today’ gone tomorrow?

Aird – completely lost within his hair as is bassist Kamins. The pair may as well been playing in their basement while a record skips nearby. No crowd interaction at all – not even a smile. Sadly, this takes away from the experience and delivers an image of pirates looting from the audience. A CD playing in the background is more exciting. Drummer Eatherly, the only member who appears to be involved in the concert. On time and on cue. A delight to watch and listen to.

The Virgins ( in their defense) just arrived from Germany the day of the show and are on the heels of a long tour. Montreal being near the end.  An excuse? Not really …

The Rolling Stones’ average age is sixty-nine. Their shows?

Never dicey …