Gates open at 6:30pm
July 12, 2012
Clancy's Tavern by Toby Keith
Success can be a tremendous distraction, certainly for the successful and, in many cases, for those who would try to tell their story. For a number of reasons, Toby Keith is a prime example of both, but in very different ways. Recently and again named country music's top-earning country star by Forbes, the Oklahoma-based entertainer receives tremendous notoriety for presiding over a vast and growing enterprise of sold-out tours, chart-topping albums and singles, a rapidly expanding restaurant chain, a signature beverage and more.
At the same time, a small fraction of songs in his prolific catalog lead some to fervently politicize him despite a generally apolitical public stance. Whatever the causes, too often the descriptions applied to Toby Keith obscure the fundamental root of his success: Songwriting. Fortunately, time has a way of clearing those clouds, leaving hope that someday he will be known primarily and rightly as one of the finest popular songwriters of any era in any genre. That outcome is only possible, however, precisely because he has never lost that focus, never been distracted by the ups or the downs.
When his career could barely be called that, Toby Keith wrote songs. Struggling with a former label and fighting to regain a grip on his career, he wrote songs. Peppered with unwarranted criticism, he wrote songs. Showered with praise and awards, he wrote songs. And in many ways, it all goes back to a woman named Clancy, a club she owned and a grandson whose teenage summers there sparked a flame that has yet to even flicker.
The title track of Clancy's Tavern is almost a prequel to Toby's 2005 hit "Honkytonk U." "It's the same grandmother," he explains. "'Honkytonk U' talked about my mother putting me on a Greyhound and sending me to live with my grandmother for the summer, and how things took off from there. This one is more about the bar and what I saw there. The actual name of the place was Billy Garner's Supper Club, but her husband teased her and nicknamed her Clancy because she ran a tavern. Every line in the song is true. This isn't fiction."
Like each album before it, Clancy's Tavern documents the continuing and seemingly inevitable growth of Keith's skills as singer and producer, certainly, but even more as a writer. Consider the songs you won't hear on Clancy's Tavern: "Blue Enough (To Break A Heart In Two)," "Another She Ain't You," "Didn't Forever Get Here Fast?" and "Rattle Can Red." Well, they're actually not songs, just bits and pieces of lyrics from an artist whose gift for language and melody is so well-developed, his songs beget ideas and phrases that in themselves could be fully formed songs.
"That comes with writing your whole life if you stay after it," Toby says. "Sometimes when I write with guys who've been around longer than me they'll say, 'You're gonna have to give me a bit to get my chops up.' They might feel slow for the first day or two while they try to get in the groove. But I write all the time. I've never quit writing since I was 14 - haven't eased up one day. If I took off next year, stayed home and did nothing, I would still be writing."
Call it discipline, passion, obsession or all three, but that consistency is perhaps the greatest not-so-secret key to Keith's multi-faceted success. It makes the tours, albums, and related endeavors possible. "If you were a homebuilder and looked at the houses you built when you were 20 and looked at the ones you build today, you'd see they were much better - even than ones you were building five or six years ago. As a songwriter, your system gets better. Your vocabulary gets bigger. Everything that would help a songwriter increases. Plus, you live longer and have more time to stumble on good ideas."
Keith's creative process is well documented. In addition to his habit of recording song ideas on his phone, his co-writing efforts are ingrained in his annual schedule. "I have three or four guys I write with who come out on the road," he says. "There's an occasional person who comes once, but Rivers Rutherford usually comes out a couple weekends a year. Bobby Pinson and I are together probably 50 days a year. Scotty Emerick still comes around about two weekends and we do the two weeks together overseas on the USO Tour and have time to write there. Actually, 'Chillaxin' was written on a bus during a two-day stop in South Korea on our way to Afghanistan."
Each year's batch routinely yields more songs than Keith can use. Three of Clancy's Tavern's cuts - "Club Zydeco Moon," "I Won't Let You Down" and "I Need To Hear A Country Song" - were written for 2010's Bullets In The Gun. Three songs from the 2011 writing sessions will appear on Keith's next album.
"For the last decade, we've put out a single from a new album when we go on tour in the summer," Keith explains. "The album comes out in October, you get a couple more singles and we start over."
Saying "we" is no self-conscious affectation coming from Keith's mouth. In fact, one of the more interesting paradoxes of his artistry is the extent to which he is the central creative force on all levels but also highly collaborative. His familiar family of co-writers are only part of the story. Longtime engineer Mills Logan is regularly referred to as "my ears in the studio." Session musicians including Kenny Greenberg, who is also the bandleader for Keith's Incognito Bandito club shows, are encouraged to contribute in a best-idea-wins environment. Even this album's sole outside cut is testament to this almost communal approach.
"I don't remember who played it for me the first time, but it was so stupid I just died laughing," Toby says of "Red Solo Cup," which was written by Brett and Jim Beavers with Brad and Brett Warren. "What's great about this song is it does everybody the same way it did me: 'That's the stupidest song in the world and I can't get it out of my head.' I laugh every time I hear it. Sometimes it's good for the world to hear something like that.
"When I decided to record it, I called up the Warren brothers and the Beaver brothers. They wrote it and this song is real typical of those knuckleheads. But I didn't want to make this song my version of what they wrote. I wanted to make them part of it - record their song with them. We brought them in when we cut it, to play and sing background, so it really sounds like them." Sure enough, every note on the track is courtesy of the four co-writers and Keith.
Another indication of Keith's expansive mindset is the growing role of Bobby Pinson, who gets a "Wrangler-Producer" credit on Clancy's Tavern. "When we're tracking I'm always cutting the scratch vocal and all I hear is what's in my headset monitors. For years I've had Mills Logan behind the board and really relied on him, and he does a great job.
"When I write with Bobby, he says to call him when I cut his song because he wants to be there. He does a lot of producing and he'll say, 'I don't want to step on your toes or anything, I just want to be your other ears in here.' I never mind a songwriter coming in. They were there when we wrote the song and want it to sound as good as I do. Scotty comes in when we cut one of his songs, and that kind of input really adds to it.
"And if I write a song by myself, I'd usually cut it by myself. But Bobby was around so much that I started asking him what he thought sounded good on a song I wrote. He made a suggestion, we tried it and it didn't work. He suggested something else and it worked. He was in the control room on the talk back and I started firing ideas at him. He said he didn't want to produce the record or get any money for it, but he'd love to have some input when he's around. He may not show up every day, but days he's there he might run with it. It's pretty much two good friends beating and banging it out.
"When we did the credits I didn't know how to label him. I know one thing: he's a good wrangler, because that's what he did with it. So that's how we came up with that."
Even the album's chart-topping first single "Made In America" - wildly popular with fans and easily lumped into the jingoistic caricature by critics - reveals the unwavering honesty Keith brings to his music. "I've done so much patriotic stuff that I have people sending me and bringing me those kinds of ideas daily," he says. "And when I hear most of this stuff it's like, I've already done that. I've already done my warrior song - 'American Soldier.' I've already done my battle cry - 'Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue.' I've already done my fun uptempo - 'American Ride.' Then Bobby showed up here a couple summers ago and said he knows I get tired of hearing it, but he had one America idea he wanted to write.
"We got to talking about how when we were kids, if your car broke down your dad could take a wrench, WD40, bailing wire and a screw driver and about fix it. We jumped on that, started writing. I just couldn't get past thinking that my old man was that old man." If the song rings true, regardless of the perceptions, Keith is compelled to let it lead. And that devotion to truth is also manifested in his live performances.
Four songs from the 2010 Incognito Bandito show at New York's Fillmore are bundled with a deluxe edition of Clancy's Tavern. Again, Keith's honesty rears up: "He's courageous," bandleader Kenny Greenberg recently told a Nashville songwriter of the tracks. And the accomplished studio musician would certainly be one to know that one of the first rules of putting live music on record is to clean up the mistakes. But Keith wasn't having it.
"People put so much work into an album to make it the best it can be, but we don't do jack to the Bandito stuff," Keith says. "We let them go exposed - no overdubs, no vocals, nothing. We take live tracks, Mills does a mix on them and we stick them on the album. That's exactly the way they sounded that night, except the mix is perfect."
He trusts the performance, he certainly trusts the songs and, ultimately, he trusts the music. For those reasons and those reasons alone, Clancy's Tavern will be another in a long line of successes. And somewhere, Toby Keith, undistracted, is writing another song.
July 13, 2012
Born October 7, 1951 in Seymour, Indiana, John Mellencamp fell in love with music at an early age and was gigging in local bars and fronting a soul band by the time he was 14. His professional music career began in earnest in 1976 when MCA Records released his first album, The Chestnut Street Incident. His manager dubbed him Johnny Cougar out of his belief that nobody would buy a record by anybody named Mellencamp. John protested but was overruled and eventually, of course, reclaimed his birth name as his public name.
After releasing a few albums, he broke out in 1979 with his first hit, "I Need A Lover" In 1982 his fifth album American Fool was the year's best-selling album on the strength of two huge hits, "Hurts So Good," and the number 1 single "Jack & Diane,"?? The albums that followed in the 80's, Uh-Huh, Scarecrow, Lonesome Jubilee, and Big Daddy, were released under the name John Cougar Mellencamp. Hit singles during this period included "Crumblin Down," "The Authority Song," "Small Town," "Rain On The Scarecrow," "Lonely Ol Night," ""R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A.," "Paper In Fire," "Check It Out," "Cherry Bomb," "Pop Singer," and "Jackie Brown."
Mellencamp took the music on the road with a band that many considered the best in the business, playing approximately 1,000 shows around the globe during decade. In 1985, John's concern for the plight of the American farmer, which had been voiced in theScarecrow album, brought him together with Willie Nelson and Neil Young in launching Farm Aid. It became an annual event and has helped make people aware of the issues farmers face and how they affect on the entire nation.
By the early 1990's "Cougar" was finally gone from John's name and a string of successful albums as John Mellencamp--Whenever We Wanted, Human Wheels and Dance Naked (including the number 2 single "Wild Night")--were released. In 1991 John made his film debut, starring in and directing Falling From Grace, a modest box office success that was well received by critics.
John suffered a mild heart attack while touring in 1994 in support of Dance Naked. This forced him to take a break from his music career, but he returned strong in 1996 and released Mr. Happy Go Lucky, which featured the hit "Key West Intermezzo" (I Saw You First). Healthier and happier, he returned to touring in 1997 and continued to write and record frequently. Releases included 1998's John Mellencamp, 1999's Rough Harvest, 2001's Cuttin Heads, and 2003's Trouble No More . Hit singles during that time ranged from "Your Life Is Now" to "I'm Not Running Anymore" to "Peaceful World." John continued to tour throughout 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006.
He received the 2001 Billboard Century award in recognition of all that he had accomplished over the course of his career and was honored with the Woody Guthrie Award in 2004. Previously, he was awarded a Grammy and had been nominated a total of 11 times.
Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits was released in 2005. It was his first career-spanning collection and featured 35 of his biggest hits plus two new songs, one of which, "Walk Tall," was backed with an award-winning video that condemned discrimination. It was followed in January of 2007 by a new studio album, Freedom's Road. It featured the hit song "Our Country." Bowing at number 5, it was the highest debuting album of his career and led to a Grammy nomination for "Our Country" in the best Solo Rock Performance category. By that summer, he had already begun working on his next album. His first collaboration with producer T Bone Burnett, Life, Death, Love, and Freedom was released in July 2008, with John and the Mellencamp band commencing on a corresponding summer tour that included a stop in Australia in the fall.
A career landmark occurred on March 10, 2008, when John was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame by Billy Joel at the annual induction ceremony in New York City. He hardly rested on his laurels with the release of Life, Death, Live and Freedom (an acclaimed live disc containing most of the songs from Life, Death, Love, and Freedom), and John's participation in a 2009 summer-long tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.
During days off during that tour John recorded, No Better Than This, again produced by T Bone Burnett. He recorded at sequentially at historic facilities in the American South: The First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Sun Studio in Memphis, and in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio where Robert Johnson, the enigmatic blues shaman has recorded more than 70 years earlier with Mellencamp's songs recorded on a 55 year old mono tape recorder using just one microphone. The album was released in August of 2010, and its production and the tour that spawned it are documented in It's About You, a documentary film by Kurt and Ian Markus that premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in March of 2010.
The release of No Better Than This was preceded by a few weeks by the four-CD box set, On The Rural Route 7609 made up mainly of versions of some of his classic songs other then the well known ones in general release. These included two particularly innovative tracks from two iconic individuals not generally associated with music recordings: race relations expert Dr. Cornel West, who dramatically recited the lyrics to "Jim Crow," and Academy Award-winning actress Joanne Woodward-John's favorite actress-who likewise provided an emotionally charged reading of the lyrics to "The Real Life."
Work continues on John's hugely ambitious "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County" musical theater collaboration with Stephen King--a project that has been in the works for 10 years. To recap, the story, which involves domestic turmoil will reach the public in two forms. It will be released as an innovative three-disc package featuring a two-disc radio play style performance, a disc containing only performances of the songs and a book version of the script. The set is being produced by T Bone Burnett. The story also will be featured as a Broadway style stage production. The stage production is scheduled for April 4 through May 13th, 2012 at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, GA.
Meanwhile, John also continued his other career activity: painting. Having first come to New York with the intention of studying painting if his music career aspirations didn't pan out, he started painting in earnest in the 1980's as a way to be creative in a more self-contained manner. His style has evolved over the years as evidenced by several gallery shows and published portfolios, and in recent years he has increased his output by completing nearly over 100 new works.
John has said many times in interviews that you will never meet anyone luckier than John Mellencamp. He is grateful for the support of those who have enjoyed his work and career over the years. If he has any advice to offer, it is to be tenacious: John's found that far too many people quit too soon in the face of early disappointment. While his own early efforts may have been faltering, he stayed with it--and that tenacity has been rewarded with the successes that continue to the present.
John Mellencamp continues to live and work in Bloomington, Indiana. He is the father of two sons Hud and Speck and three daughters, Michelle, Teddi Jo and Justice.
July 14, 2012
30 years, 80 million album sales, close to 2000 live performances, countless satisfied customers and now 15 studio albums of unerring quality and power: Iron Maiden have more than earned their proudly-held status as undisputed heavy metal champions of the world.
Founded by bassist Steve Harris in the mid '70s, Iron Maiden were already firmly established as heavy metal's brightest hopes when they stormed the world with their third album (and first with vocalist Bruce Dickinson) The Number Of The Beast in 1982. Unstoppable throughout the decade that followed, Maiden recorded and toured relentlessly with seven new studio albums and seven World Tours in the '80s alone , cementing their reputation as the hardest-working band on the planet and further strengthening a unique identity and remarkable relationship with their fans.
With the unmistakable figure of band mascot Eddie adorning every album cover, T-shirt and backdrop, Iron Maiden created a world of their own; one that welcomed fans from every culture, creed and social sphere with a guarantee of heartfelt conviction and unprecedented professionalism.
A five-piece band for the first 20 years of their career, in 1999 Iron Maiden became a six-piece, and established the ultimate Iron Maiden line-up of Bruce Dickinson on vocals, Steve Harris on bass, Nicko McBrain on drums and "the three amigos" -- Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers - on guitar. This line-up has scaled breath-taking new heights and become increasingly fearless and boldly creative since the release of the Brave New World album in 2000.
With both 2003's diverse and ingenious Dance Of Death album and its dark and daring follow-up, 2006's A Matter Of Life And Death, they dazzled fans and critics alike. With each successive tour, whether revisiting classic songs from their first few albums or playing A Matter Of Life And Death in its entirety, Maiden accrued countless new admirers, momentum building all the while.
This brave new Maiden era reached an astonishing zenith during the band's Somewhere Back In Time Tour that began in February 2008 and initially took the band 50,000 miles around the world in 45 days, flying in their own specially chartered Boeing 757, Ed Force One, piloted by Bruce Dickinson, a qualified airline captain, traversing the planet, from India to Costa Rica, Australia to Argentina, Sao Paolo to Tokyo. Along with tours of Europe and North America, the Somewhere Back In Time tour saw Maiden play 89 concerts in front of two million fans in 38 countries on five Continents, forging new relationships with countries they had never performed in before and strengthening ties with nations that had long been part of Maiden's global family. This unique undertaking was celebrated in 2009's widely praised, award-winning Flight 666 movie, and subsequent DVD release which topped the music DVD charts in 25 countries.
Proudly refusing to take their collective foot from the accelerator, and picking up their first ever Brit Award along the way for Best British Live Act 2009, Iron Maiden are now back with a brand new studio album, just over a year on from the end of that mammoth tour. The Final Frontier is the band's 15th album in 30 years and it is plainly one of the strongest and most wildly inventive things they have ever produced; a 76-minute tour-de-force of soaring melodies, thunderous heaviness and astonishing compositional bravery it looks certain to be regarded as a new landmark in the band's career.
July 15 Afternoon, 2012
Hedley, one of the biggest and brightest bands in Canada, returns with Storms, the group's fourth album. It is a raw and riveting, emotionally-complex record, which finds the Vancouver pop act more open and more driven than ever before.
"There was a lot going on in our own lives, some pretty serious issues, but we found ourselves drawing strength from adversity and deciding to fight on," says Jake Hoggard, the group's singer and principal songwriter, who also produces two tracks on the album. "We're such a close band of brothers that when someone falls, you pick them back up, and what this record's about is perseverance - storms can be absolutely wretched, but, in the end, even the worst of it comes to pass."
After forming in 2004, the band signed a deal with Universal Music Canada and released their self-titled debut album and entered the stratosphere of bonafide Canadian pop superstars.
From sold-out arena shows cross-country to the group's 15 Juno nominations, Hedley's intense musicianship and penetrating lyrics have made them something like a wildly popular cult act. Indeed, few bands share such a close relationship with their fans or can match the group's illustrious achievements: three consecutive double-platinum certificates; 1,000,000 downloads; 10 straight videos reaching number one on the prestigious MuchMusic countdown. In 2010, Pollstar even named the act one of the 100 top touring artists in the world. Hoggard, however, says his group takes nothing for granted.
"I never want to assume that because someone's our fan, that they'll love whatever we're doing. I understand that no one has any obligation to listen," says Hoggard, who calls performing a hometown show during the closing ceremony at the 2010 Olympics one of highlights of a highlight-studded career. "When you start going, 'Our fans will eat this shit up,' you slow down and get less attentive, less hungry, and that's the one thing I could never do. We don't make music because we want to. We make music because we have to, and I think that's what the listener will take away from our new album."
The new album, Storms, produced by long-time collaborator Brian Howes, is at once fiercer and more melodic than any of the band's previous work. Anthems and ballads, love songs and confessions, the record is real and raw and already striking a chord with their fans, as evidenced with the sales of "Invincible". Released in August, the record's touching first single has proven to be the group's fastest-selling digital track of all-time.
After playing together for nearly a decade, the group - with Dave Rosin on guitar, Tommy Mac on bass and Chris Crippin playing drums - is tighter than ever on Storms, and more groove-based, something that Hoggard credits to the group's deepening personal relationships.
"We're brothers now and we feel far more unstoppable because we've been through a lot. We've been really angry with each other and unsure of our future together, but all of those elements make up the complexity of a family," says Hoggard, adding that lyrically, he paid far more attention to detail on this record, taking up to 30 different takes in the studio and spending 15-hour marathon recording sessions to perfect each song. "You can say, 'through thick and thin,' but it's hard to practice that when you're in the muck. On Storms, we found our energy by getting through the tough times - that's what bonds you - and it pushed our song writing and our playing, to a place where I don't think it's ever reached before."
As usual with a new disc from Hedley, the record is jam-packed with both get-your-lighter-out slow songs and hard-driving rockers, and songs like "Heaven's Gonna Wait", "One Life" and "We Are Unbreakable" are sure to appease the disparate tastes of both radio station programmers and long-time fans. Storms, which fans have been clamouring for since last year's remarkable The Show Must Go, also features the unique and dynamic collaboration between Hoggard and Babyface, the Grammy-winning R&B superstar. The two collaborated on "Stormy", which became the near-title track of the record.
"We worked hard to develop the melodies and the performance and Babyface really made me feel comfortable with developing the soul aspects of the song," says Hoggard, who spent three weeks writing in Los Angeles. "In the end, he was such a great and inspiring guy to work with. When it was over, he actually thanked me for letting him help out on one of my very favourite new songs."
In today's hit-driven market, Storms is unique because it was intentionally built as a full-length concept album. From the first notes of "One Life" to the epic 8-minute album closer produced by Hoggard "I Won't Let You Go (Darling)", Storms is a cohesive work of melodic inspiration, drawn from the real lives of its creators.
According to Hoggard, it's a record the band spent its entire career working towards.
"We're more sure of ourselves on this record than ever before. It was a very natural and gradual progression, but we're confident now of who we are and where we're headed," says Hoggard, adding that this momentum will certainly spill over into the group's now-legendary live show. "Everything has led up to now, and I feel like the group's finally found our stride."
Storms is the sound of a confident band that's peaking on all fronts - eleven tight pop tracks mastered to utmost perfection combined with the celebration of enduring some of life's toughest challenges. The themes on the record - survival and dedication, love and loyalty - are certain to resonate with the ever-growing legion of Hedley fans.
"This is a record that I think a lot of people are going to be able to live their life by - that things go up and down, but we have the strength within us to carry on," Hoggard says. "I live and breathe every note on this album and want everyone to know that within us, we all have the constitution to endure."
July 15 Night, 2012
Dexter Holland (vocals, guitar), Noodles (guitar), Greg K (bass) and Pete Parada (drums) are The Offspring, one of rock's most exciting and enduring bands. The band have just finished an album with producer Bob Rock for a Summer 2012 release. The Offspring have performed over 1000 shows across the globe and are known for their many hits including "Self Esteem," "Come Out And Play (Keep 'Em Separated)," "The Kids Aren't Alright" and "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid."