Your Daily Dose of Guitar News & Reviews
Freddie King and Gatemouth Brown Video Jam
Iconic blues guitarist Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown would have turned 87 today. Born in Vinton, Louisiana, on April 18, 1924, and raised in Orange, Texas, Brown made his bones primarily as a blues guitarist but also experimented with flavors of country, jazz, R&B, and Cajun music as well. His best-known work is the 1954 instrumental "Okie Dokie Stomp," which is today a blues standard and a rite of passage for aspiring blues guitarists.
We remember Gatemouth with this short shuffle performance with the great Freddie King.
Happy Birthday Mark Tremonti
Our friend Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge, Creed) turns 37 today (4/18). One of the hardest-working guitarists in the business, Tremonti has been working on a long-awaited solo project the past few weeks, but is now reuniting with the AB crew to rehearse for the band's upcoming summer tour in support of their third album, AB III, which was released last fall. The first single from AB III, "Isolation," reached #2 on the Billboard rock chart, and the new single, "Ghost of Days Gone By," is now hitting radio stations across the country.
For all the latest news, tour dates, and other info, visit www.alterbridge.com
Zakk Wylde Makes American Idol Appearance
Guitarist Zakk Wylde made an appearance on "American Idol" this past Wednesday night (4/13), accompanying singer James Durbin on the Sammy Hagar classic "Heavy Metal."
As I'm not a fan of "Idol," I'm not sure how it went over with the judges, but my $0.02 are 1) Zakk rocked! I mean, he literally tore up the fretboard and probably scared the bejeesus out of all those middle America moms who treasure the show; and 2) Although Durbin's a good singer, his vocal skills were way overmatched by Wylde's guitar chops, and as a result, I think the pairing may have hurt him.
Here's a video clip of the performance. For all the latest Zakk and BLS happenings, visit BlackLabelSociety.com.
Marillion Weekend 2011 in Montreal in Review
Marillion is one of those bands that is very difficult if not impossible to peg. They're prog, but not. They're alternative, but not. But it's a pointless exercise; you really just need to listen and decide for yourself. Still, one thing is certain: After nearly 30 years and 16 studio albums, the band is still going strong, and its fans have never been more dedicated.
For proof, I point to "Marillion Weekend," the semi-annual, weekend-long convention that sees fans from all over the world descend on the Netherlands and Montreal—and for the first time this year, the U.K.—for three straight nights of Marillion performances, with a different set list each night. Last weekend, at the L'Olympia Theater in Montreal, Quebec, I attended my first Marillion Weekend convention—it won't be my last.
Friday night (4/8) was "album night," where the band performed their 1991 release Holidays in Eden from start to finish. With the stage awash in cool blue light and the sound system pumping out the heartbeat-driven intro, the band launched into "Splintering Heart" after which the hungry crowd cheered so loud and so long, the band stood slack-jawed with genuine amazement and humility. It was far and away the most heartfelt and appreciative welcome of a band I've ever witnessed.
Saturday featured an "A to Z" evening of music, which proved rather intriguing, as the band drew largely from album cuts they otherwise rarely perform live. To the band's and audience's credit, even the relative lack of familiarity with the songs couldn't dampen the enthusiasm. In the end, they played 24 tunes ("I" was for intermission, "X" for xtra intermission), holding court for nearly 3 hours and leaving us exhausted yet elated.
On Sunday afternoon, the band hosted a Q&A session at the venue, followed by a "Swap the Band" performance, in which the band invited previously auditioned fans to join them onstage to play a few songs.
At 9:00 that evening, Marillion took the stage for the final night of the weekend. The theme for tonight was fans voting for the songs they wanted to hear by waving glowsticks. While the votes appeared to be nearly unanimous at first, choices grew tougher as the night wore on, and as they did, the crowd initiated chants of "Both! Both! Both!" The proper set ended with "Happiness Is the Road," and with the audience singing the title line a capella as the band left the stage. Amazingly, the chant continued at full strength for nearly five minutes, and the boys returned for the first of three encores, which included fan faves "Ocean Cloud," "The Great Escape," and "Easter."
With house lights and music on and the part of the crowd heading for the exit, a good portion of the audience remained, cheering and clapping. The band unexpectedly returned, house lights lowered, and they launched into "This Strange Engine." By the time the epic piece was finished, it was going on 12:30 in the morning, and with that, Marillion Weekend 2011 Montreal was a memory—albeit one that will live forever in the hearts and minds of those who witnessed it.
To learn more about Marillion, visit their official web site.
For complete set lists, click here.
Gus G Announces Hollywood Guitar Center Sessions Performance
Gus G., guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and Firewind, is partnering with Guitar Center for an upcoming "Sessions" event. The three hour instructional seminar will take place on Thursday, April 21st at Guitar Center Hollywood beginning at 7:00 p.m. This is a free event, but space is limited so be sure to get there early. Fans can expect to see Gus perform lots of his favorite riffs, participate in a Q&A segment, and sign autographs.
"I'm very excited about coming to Guitar Center in Hollywood later this month cause while I've done various clinics and workshops in Europe and Japan, this is going to be the first one in the U.S. for me," says Gus. "When they presented me with the 'Sessions' idea I thought it was a great way to meet some fans at a more intimate environment, play some stuff for them, answer questions and actually get to meet them.
"I will definitely be playing material from Ozzy and Firewind albums and hopefully I'll meet lots of you down there. Remember, this is going to be a free entrance event! See you soon."
John Wesley's The Lilypad Suite - Album and Live Review
This past week, I had the joy of catching singer-songwriter-guitarist John Wesley live not once, not twice, but three times, with three different setups, in support of his new release The Lilypad Suite.
Last Tuesday (4/5), Wesley, who is also known as the touring guitarist for Porcupine Tree, arrived in New York City with his RV, his loyal dog Cyr, and a boatload of gear for a solo gig at Rockwood Music Hall. Though it was a relatively intimate space and gathering, Wesley worked through the material from The Lilypad Suite as well as a few back catalog tunes and songs from his upcoming summer release Disconnect using an arsenal of PRS electrics and a Babicz acoustic, a modded Marshall head paired with a PRS 2x12 cab and a Dr. Z piggyback combo, and an expansive pedal board. It was an interesting but effective approach, bringing added life to the sparse arrangements necessary for a solo gig.
Then, on Friday night (4/8), Wesley and his band played to a packed house at L'Olympia Theater in Montreal, Quebec, in a rousing opening set for Marillion Weekend 2011. For many in the crowd, it was the first time hearing the new material, and judging by the enthusiastic applause and ovations, CD sales probably experienced a nice jump.
On Saturday afternoon (4/9), Wesley brought his Babicz acoustic to capacity crowd at the Brutopia brew pub, near downtown Montreal, for a free acoustic set. I've always felt this is where Wesley really shines, as this type of setting allow his powerful and emotive voice to take center stage. In addition to the Lilypad tunes and other solo material, the captive audience was also treated to remarkable covers including Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" and Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes."
As for the record itself, The Lilypad Suite is a seven-track effort (an intro, 5 full tunes, and cute 14-second closer) inspired by "the struggle of a young girl to come to terms with the absence of her father." The record largely showcases Wesley's two greatest strengths—his gift for writing material that tugs at heartstrings and evokes both empathy and sympathy, and his powerful yet dynamic and sensitive vocals. The reverb-drenched and highly effected "Walls of America" and the rather heavy drop-D power-chord riff of "Still Waiting" are certain to appeal to Porcupine Tree fans, while longtime fans will recognize threads from a younger Wes on the acoustic-based "Glittery Nothing." The album highlight, however, is "Firelight," a brilliantly arranged alt-prog-pop song, if you will, that moves seamlessly from tender verse to a full-on wall of effected guitars, inducing chills and goosebumps along the way.
For an indie release that was recorded over a period of just a few weeks, the sound is quite impressive. It was produced by London session guitarist Dean Tidey and was mixed and mastered by Steven Orchard, who handled a good portion of the last Porcupine Tree album, The Incident.
RIP Blues Guitarist and Vocalist Lacy Gibson
Famed Chicago bluesman Lacy Gibson died on April 11, 2011 as a result of a heart attack. Known for his sophisticated, jazz-influenced guitar style and robust vocals, Gibson was a musician's musician. He recorded three albums under his own name and appeared on scores of recordings. His rich, flashy guitar style was featured in dozens of bands, including those of Son Seals, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Billy "The Kid" Emerson, Billy Boy Arnold, Sun Ra and many others.
Born on May 1, 1936 in Salisbury, North Carolina, Gibson headed to Chicago with his family in 1949. He gravitated to the city's blues scene, where he met Willie Dixon, Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Sunnyland Slim and Muddy Waters, learning directly from the masters. By the mid-1960s, Gibson was an in-demand session player for local labels, including Chess, where he worked with Buddy Guy and sang "My Love Is Real" with Buddy on guitar. He cut two 45s for the tiny Repetto label in 1968, one of which also features Guy on guitar. His first LP, Wishing Ring, was released on his brother-in-law Sun Ra's El Saturn label in 1971.
Gibson played in Son Seals' band for two years, and appears on Seals' Live And Burning album on Alligator. His opening numbers at Son's shows were always highlights, which is why Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer recruited Gibson to cut four stand-out tracks for the label's Grammy Award-nominated Living Chicago Blues series, released in 1980.
In 1983 Gibson released Switchy Titchy on the Black Magic label. During the 1980s and throughout the 1990s he continued to perform locally around Chicago, sometimes with his own band and other times backing Billy Boy Arnold and Big Time Sarah.
Along with his wife, Gibson ran Ann's Love Nest, an after-hours club on Chicago's west side. Over the years Gibson continued to hone his craft and perform as his health allowed. He appeared at the Chicago Blues Festival in 2004, performing his signature version of "Drown In My Own Tears" to thunderous applause from the crowd.
His most recent release was 1996's Crying For My Baby (Delmark), a first-issue of sessions originally recorded during the 1970s.
Survivors include his wife, Ann Gibson, son Erte Lacy Shaffer, daughters Coronto Shaffer, Synphia Shaffer, Verdonna Shaffer, B.B. Gibson, Tamika Gibson, 17 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
No funeral arrangements have been announced at this time.