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2011/05/28

Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight: The Music of Amos Lee

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Amos Lee appeared in my life unexpectedly one day, in, of all places, the “Suggestions” sidebar on YouTube. I don’t usually put much faith in a computer program’s recommendations of music that I might like, but something made me click on Lee‘s link. Score one for YouTube. I can’t remember which video I watched, but I liked it enough to watch another, then another, and then more. Lee’s voice is a strong presence tempered with rich emotional nuances that pulled me in right away. Lee also takes his time with his music, and I thank him for that. It‘s easy to get lost in his songs, and the way that he meanders purposefully through them allows listeners to follow right alongside him. There’s an emotional heft that runs through each song too, and metamorphisizes constantly; at times, gentle and poignant, at others, absolutely heartbreaking.




“Careless”, from his 2006 album “Supply and Demand”, departs from the conventional song directed at an ex-lover, instead aimed at a close friend who stole away the woman he loved. “Morning” and “Makin’ Love” have a more R&B vibe. Then there are the songs like “Violin”, from this year’s “Mission Bell” album. It’s so painfully beautiful that I immediately downloaded it, added it to my iPod, and have played it dozens of times since.




The versatility of Lee’s music is also a welcome attribute. “Sweet Pea” was the soundtrack for an AT&T wireless commercial a couple of years back, featuring a father on a business trip taking pictures to send back home to his little girl. I remember liking the music, but had no idea that this was Lee’s song. Anyone who’s heard it on TV should definitely do themselves a favor and look up the full version of it.

Then, after steeping myself in Amos Lee’s music for the past month or so, I had a lovely surprise the other night. Lee’s name jumped out at me while I was looking up the acts slated to play at Summerfest, an eleven day music festival in Milwaukee that's coming up at the end of June. I’ll be honest: I might have literally squealed with delight when I saw that he‘s a scheduled artist. Lee will be there on the last day of the festival, July 10th, and now, so will I.

2011/05/15

Blind Melon

By Jav Rivera

I can't count the amount of times I've asked people if they ever heard of the band Blind Melon.  And I can't count the amount of times people have responded with, "Nope".  But when I mention their 1990s hit "No Rain" they immediately smile and say, "Oh yeah, I love that song".  Sadly, Blind Melon came and went as quickly as the summer when that Bee Girl music video flooded the MTV airwaves.  Samuel Bayer, known for directing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video, directed a feel-good video for "No Rain" featuring a group of Bee People rejoicing in the hills.

("No Rain" Directed by Samuel Bayer)

Blind Melon consisted of Shannon Hoon (vocals, guitar), Brad Smith (bass), Christopher Thorn (guitar) Rogers Stevens (guitar, piano), and Glenn Graham (drums, percussion).  They were labeled as an alternative rock band, however, they could easily be placed within the likes of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

L-R: Hoon, Graham, Stevens, Thorn, Smith
Their debut album was cemented deep in blues rock and had the energy of a live album.  Several singles came from this album including "Tones of Home," "Change," and of course, "No Rain."  All of which had accompanying music videos.

(self-titled debut album)
Their second album "Soup" had more an experimental feel.  Not straying too far from the blues, "Soup" still found a way to include unique orchestrations and even kazoos in one of their more fun songs entitled "Skinned".  Fun indeed which is ironic considering the lyrics point to a murderer who makes furniture out of body parts.

In 1995, Shannon Hoon died from a drug overdose.  This halted the band's popularity and their music was overshadowed by another drug-related death.  With grunge rock taking over and Seattle's sound overwhelming radio stations, Blind Melon soon faded into the background.

(Shannon Hoon)
"Nico", their final album, contained tracks still in progress and released after Hoon's death.  Named after Hoon's daughter Nico Blue, proceeds arising from album sales were placed in a college trust for her.  Nico also contained an alternate version of "No Rain" which had more of a raw blues style.  That track alone is worth the purchase.  There are also two cover tracks, "John Sinclair" by John Lennon and "The Pusher" by Steppenwolf.

Blind Melon is definitely worth a second look.  And be sure to look beyond "No Rain".  The variety and creativity to their music can't be judged by one song.  There's a lot of heart to their music and just by listening to their first album you can see a band who had something to say without trying to prove anything.  They were as honest a band as a band could be.

For more information visit: www.blindmelonmusic.com.  And check out their music on iTunes here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/blind-melon/id533032

TRIVIA 1: Shannon Hoon provided backing vocals on Guns-N-Roses' "Use Your Illusion" albums including the track "Don't Cry" and is featured in its music video.  He also appears in the album's liner photos.

TRIVIA 2: The Bee Girl on their debut album cover is not the same girl as in the music video.  The album cover features Glenn Graham's little sister, Georgia.  The music video stars Heather DeLoach.

TRIVIA 3: Blind Melon's "Soup" album contained a hidden track sometimes referred to as "Hello, Goodbye" but technically untitled.  It's what's called a pregap hidden track which basically means it was hidden before the first track on the CD.  The only way to play back these tracks is to play the CD in a player and holding down the previous track button until it "rewinds" before the first track.  Below is a link to Blind Melon's hidden track.