Matthew Sweet concert at City Winery in Chicago

by Carl Abernathy on July 26, 2014

Matthew Sweet at City Winery in Chicago. (Click to enlarge)
Matthew Sweet (Click to enlarge)

Tommy Keene (click to enlarge)
Tommy Keene (click to enlarge)

Matthew Sweet didn’t interact with the audience much Friday night at the City Winery in Chicago.

He spoke only a couple of times (other than when he was pitching his Kickstarter campaign for a new album and bronze cat figurines). He didn’t open his eyes but a few times, either (he said the lights hurt his eyes). And in the opening portion of his set, Sweet opened and closed every song at the back of the stage facing his guitar amps instead of the crowd.

Didn’t matter. Sweet and members of The Velvet Crush still have the magic that made him one of the most dynamic power pop voices of the early ’90s. Sweet’s vocals still sprinkle the coarse instrumentals with a powdery coat of sugar. Their renditions of “Girlfriend” and “Devil with the Green Eyes” were particularly stirring.

My biggest thrill of the night, though, was when I learned that Tommy Keene had crashed the party. After an excellent opening set by Chicago’s Stolen Silver, Keene bounded onto the stage with a 12-string guitar and sang several lovely low-key songs. Then he picked up his Telecaster and members of The Velvet Crush and mayhem ensued.

Keene also bounced around the stage, providing great backing vocals and energy for a couple songs during Sweet’s set.

I’m looking forward to Matthew Sweet’s new album. I hope Tommy Kene is on it.


Taste of Tippecanoe, 2014

by Carl Abernathy on June 21, 2014

<br />
Jennie DeVoe at Taste of Tippecanoe (Click to enlarge)
Jennie DeVoe at Taste of Tippecanoe (Click to enlarge)

I’m bummed. Local officials postponed the Taste of Tippecanoe just a couple songs into Jennie DeVoe’s set because of a big storm headed our way. I don’t blame them. You don’t mess with public safety. But damn.

The Indianapolis-based singer, who delivers blues and a bit of country with a sweet rasp, was making tons of news fans and then breaking their hearts with her songs. I know mine broke when the set got canceled.

Check out her latest album, “Radiator: The Bristol Sessions.” It’s great. And if you need a ride to see DeVoe in Indianapolis later this summer, let me know. Guess I’ll have to make a trip south on I-65 now.

Sharon Koltick of Kink Ador
Sharon Koltick of Kink Ador (Click to enlarge)

Sharon Koltick and her Nashville-based band, Kink Ador, rocked their set, too. Koltick, a Lafayette native, funks up her punk and pop songs with her bass, trumpet, vocals and sassy stage presence.

Bobby Egan and White Vinyl Sky (Click to enlarge)
Bobby Egan and White Vinyl Sky (Click to enlarge)
I’m also glad I got to see the set by White Vinyl Sky featuring Bobby Egan, one of my students. I think they were even better than when I saw them at a Record Store Day show. I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys make it big with their poppy indie rock.

I’d planned to split my time at 9 p.m. between the sets by The Green Room Rockers and by Michael Kelsey and L.D. Miller. Then I was going to close the evening with The Mixtapes (the drummer is the husband of one of my former students). I’d also planned to sampled some more food. If the rest of the culinary treats were as good as the beef brisket I had from the West Point Steak House I’d have been a happy boy.

They reopened the Taste after an hour-long delay, but I’m cozy at home with my pup. No matter; I had a great time and am looking forward to the event next year.

Soul and bluesman Mighty Sam McClain’s voice floats. Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat’s voice soars.

Together, their tunes — rooted in the sounds of traditional R&B and traditional Persian music — are almost other-worldy in their beauty. I’m partial to “Scent of Reunion: Love Duets Across Civilizations,” but everything they’ve recorded is worth acquiring.

2014 Chicago Blues Festival photos

June 16, 2014

I made it to the Chicago Blues Festival only on Saturday this year. Work intervened Friday and I wanted to beat the storm home Sunday. I’m not complaining. I heard a bunch of great blueswomen. I also took my friend Diana to her first blues fest and the weather was almost perfect. We started the […]

Read the full article →

Sam Morrow: ‘Ephemeral’

May 30, 2014

John Steinbeck would love Sam Morrow. The young musician, still in his early 20s, writes about addiction, love and heartache with a photographer’s eye for detail. His musical tales are nuanced and tragic, vivid and hopeful. Morrow knows the subject matter intimately; he’s been drinking since his early teens, and a few years ago his […]

Read the full article →

Cahl’s Jukebox, 5-29-14

May 29, 2014

Thursday morning blues: 1) Percy Strother: “Love is Growing Cold” 2) Jimmy Witherspoon: “Early Morning Blues” 3) Jimmy Rushing: “Blues in the Dark” 4) Eddie Boyd: “What Makes These Things Happen to Me” 5) Otis Spann: “Trouble in Mind” 6) Michael Burks: “Salty Tears” 7) Calvin Leavy: “Brought You to the City” 8) Preston Shannon: […]

Read the full article →

Chicago Blues Festival preview: Diamond Jim Greene

May 27, 2014

Diamond Jim Green coaxed a variety of sounds, a lifetime of emotions, out of the guitars he used on his 2012 release, “Surrounded.” On the opening track, “Shake ‘em on Down,” Greene’s guitar riffs are as jaunty as his vocals and the horns. Greene and his guitar sound as if they’re creeping down an old […]

Read the full article →

Cahl’s Jukebox, 5-26-14

May 26, 2014

Today’s mix: 1) Shouting Matches: “Gallup, NM” 2) Thad Cockrell: “My Favorite Memory” 3) Halleyanna: “Out of the Blue” 4) Toni Price: “Lonesome Wind” 5) Todd Farrell Jr. and the Dirty Birds: “Liner Notes” 6) Matt Hannah: “Sweet Sweet Time” 7) Peter Bruntnell: “Handful of Stars” 8) Beachwood Sparks: “Forget the Song” 9) Eilen Jewell: […]

Read the full article →

The Fast Romantics: ‘Afterlife Blues’

May 26, 2014

The lyrics to the songs on The Fast Romantics’ “Afterlife Blues,” the latest album by the group of Canadian indie pop rockers, cover some dark topics. The album’s far from a downer, though … even as they sing about breakups and death. The Fast Romantics love life. You can tell with every happy pulse from […]

Read the full article →

Cahl’s Jukebox, 5-25-14

May 25, 2014

Today’s mix: 1) The Coasters: “Shopping for Clothes” 2) The Treniers: “Good Rockin’ Tonight” 3) Roy Brown: “Mighty Mighty Man” 4) Ruth Brown: “Daddy Daddy” 5) Annisteen Allen: “Fujiyama Mama” 6) Wynonie Harris: “Bad News Baby” 7) Amos Milburn: “Thinking and Drinking” 8) Pee Wee Crayton: “Blues After Hours” 9) The 5 Royals: “Baby Don’t […]

Read the full article →

Frank Lacy and the Smalls Legacy Band: ‘Live at Smalls’

May 24, 2014

A couple of weeks ago while in New Orleans for jazz fest I bounced from stage to stage and club to club listening to some of the best trombonists in the world. They were amazing, particularly the ones in the many brass bands I heard. Many times, I found myself thinking how cool it would […]

Read the full article →