An Interview with Johnny Marr

The legendary Smiths guitarist discusses his new solo LP 'Playland,' his musical foundation, and the abiding pursuit of his next creative move.

An Interview with Dwight Twilley

The Tulsa pop-rocker talks his latest LP 'Always,' matters of songwriting and recording, and the memory of Elvis almost cutting one of his songs.

An Interview with Mac Wiseman

On the eve of his induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville legend discusses his 70-year career along with his new LP, Songs From My Mother's Hand.

Clapton Weighs Retirement in New Tour Doc

Should Slowhand indeed retire from the road next year as he suggests, it won’t be because of a lack of passion or musical decline.

An Interview with Randy Owen of Alabama

The band's lead vocalist and songwriter of some of its greatest hits discusses the music that has made Alabama legends.

September 7, 2012

Rolling Stones Bring the Whip Down on 'Some Girls - Live In Texas '78'


The Rolling Stones were losing their edge. By the late ‘70s, amid the throes of punk's rebellious angst and disco's ribald decadence, the Stones—who had long personified both such distinctions—seemed atypically tame.

It had been a long six years since the band’s last really big deal, Exile on Main Street, and even that wasn’t considered the classic then that it generally is today. Critics had begun to dismiss the Stones as obsolete, a relic of a bygone age. If they failed to harness their collective talent, stave off their detractors, and deliver the goods with their next album, the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band stood to get knocked off its proverbial cloud.


Some Girls, released in June 1978, heralded the Stones’ brazen return to form and, moreover, to artistic relevance. Simmering with loose groove and swagger the album seethed with all the spunk and splendor of New York’s urban jungle.


By the time the Stones rolled into the Lone Star State the following month on a tour stop in Fort Worth, Some Girls was the number-one album in America. Their performance at the Will Rogers Memorial Centre, captured in the concert film, Some Girls - Live in Texas '78, reveals just how hard they were pushing to stay on top.

Watching them here, not so much playing as but working—the band performs seven of the new album’s ten tracks in one block, book-ended by a smattering of older hits and favorites—is riveting.


Mick Jagger prowls the stage with a feral, no-bounds libido—during “Tumbling Dice” he cops a feel of guitarist Ronnie Wood’s crotch—and striking, in-the-moment conviction. Fronting the band with impassioned, soulful urgency one moment (“Beast of Burden”) and savage ferocity the next (“Shattered,” “When The Whip Comes Down”), he rules the roost throughout this stunning performance


(First published at Blogcritics.) 


September 4, 2012

Adam Cohen: The Man Comes Around

His father may as well be Odysseus for all the reverence and mythologies ascribed to his lineage, but today Adam Cohen comes across as having struggled less with the notion of living in Leonard Cohen’s shadow than with living up to his own artistic potential.

That's not to say the 39-year-old singer/songwriter has relished contending with the sort of scrutiny other progenies of influential figures so often face. In fact for years he resisted it, embellishing some of his early efforts to appeal to what for him were increasingly commercial ambitions more so than artistic ones—Cohen’s eponymous debut, featuring the modest though promising hit “Cry Ophelia,” was released in 1998—while casting others aside altogether lest they’d seem genetically derivative.


And yet such strategies, while meant to establish Cohen as an artist in his own right and by his own effort and merit, had for the most part undermined the integrity of his talent. Dispirited, he began to question his very relevance in the music industry. “I felt like I could have just as easily bowed out,” Cohen admits, “having been given many, many shots.”


Remarkably, though, his discouragement had never infringed on his ability to be creative. “The songwriting’s never really been affected. I’ve always felt good about it,” Cohen insists, and that silver lining became the catalyst for his current album, Like A Man.


“I’ve always had these songs in my back pocket even though I wasn’t showing them,” he explains, and indeed the album’s most recent material dates back five or six years, the oldest almost twenty. Asked if once he set to recording them was he at all apprehensive about revisiting songs he’d in some cases written as a much younger man, Cohen is quick to reply, “Not at all.” In fact, he says, he felt a measure of redemption in “finally being able to find a home for all of these songs that I’d discarded one after the other, knowing full well that these were my best songs and that I’d abandoned them for all the wrong reasons.”


Throughout the album are hereditary resonances, of course, evident in the rich timbre of Cohen’s singing and sobered phrasing as well as in his lyrics which often examine and explore themes of loneliness and carnal longing. And yet any such similarities never come across as derivative but, rather, descendant.


This distinction underscores the album, which is as much a defining moment for Cohen as a recognition of his most foundational influence.

“It’s not only the language, the interest in creating something that is truthful and resonant, visual and cinematic,” Cohen adds, reflecting on the parallels between his father’s craft and his own. “There’s also the incredible devotion, dedication in writing that he’s always practiced.”


That work ethic, investing however much time and effort it takes to do the job right, is for Cohen what seems to have made on him the most meaningful and lasting impression.


“I remember him saying to me, ‘When you get to that point where you really sweat—there’s sweat on your brow and you’ve hit a wall after spending hours and hours working and you’re really about to quit—that’s where the actual work begins,’” he reflects. “That notion of it being work, of the big stuff coming when it gets hard, that’s definitely something I’ve inherited by proxy and by witnessing from my old man’s process.”


The insight has served him well. Like A Man signifies for Adam Cohen a new beginning while, at the same time, a culmination of the talent and resourcefulness that’s always been there. It’s in his blood.


“It’s so beautiful and rewarding to not only have made a record that is an homage to my father but to have done it with such truthful and fitting pieces, from the songwriting to the musicians to the accompaniment to the spirit in which it was actually recorded,” acknowledges Cohen. “It’s a record I should’ve made a long, long time ago.”