Random Ramblin’s Boy there’s a lot to talk about and not that much time to do it.

I’ve been a bit of a slacker this month and failed to get the Local Yodels article written but it will return. We’ll just say I’m on a sabbatical and I’m mailing this one in. But for now, I’ve got several thoughts and observations. 1st Thought & Observation I found the news about Amy Winehouse sad because she was a great talent and who needs another rock star dying at 27 to give some rock journalist another chance to do the “Curse of 27” article. What I found a bit disturbing, however was the attitude that some people took toward it. I saw one post on Facebook that said, “Should have gone to rehab, dumbass”, and from a person who is often spouting right wing Christian platitudes. I personally liked Winehouse, not just because she could sing and had a very unique style, but I liked her grit. As for the role model bit, I bet you more people were inspired not to be like Amy Winehouse, by her death than those who it inspired to mimic her. I even liked the “Rehab” song, because how many horror stories have you heard about rehab? And how many times have you seen an addict come out of rehab with the names or two or three new dealers whose numbers he’s hangin’ on to just in case. And what’s it to you in the first place. And to take pot shots at a dead person is the ultimate in unfairness and it certainly doesn’t seem very Christian. We’ll miss you Amy. 2nd Thought & Observation Speaking of Christians (and this time in a good way) I’d like to mention the release of an excellent EP by the local Christian Rockers “The Rising Fall”. Although this album has a clearly Christian theme, there is no preachy, holier than thou attitude on display here. The songs are mostly joyous praise hymns set to an alternative rock background. The band is made up of lead singer, Valerie Webb, guitarists, Randy Webb and Joseph Pierson, Daniel Acker on drums and Cody Daniels on Bass. They are a guitar driven band with a strong steady rhythm section and an outstanding singer. The disc, called “Waves to Walls” is a six song EP that features the beautiful lead vocals of Valerie Webb, and a chunky, churning, wall of guitar sound that offers a nice contrast to her lilting vocal style. It also features some very nifty keyboard and production work from Steve Rayborn and guitarist Randy Webb. The song “Offering” which is the only song not totally written by the group (the lyrics were written by Andy Thomaston), is a joyous praise hymn, whereas “Ten Six” is a bluesy number with more floating guitar work, which gives Ms Webb’s vocals room to really shine. She also steals the show on my favorite cut, “Fill”, which I think could possibly be a crossover number for them. Overall it is a very well produced and played album and should be a big hit with Christian Rock radio and fans. 3rd Thought and Observation I made my first visit to the Alys Stephens Center this past month (I should really be ashamed of myself), once to see Steve Earle (courtesy of dear friend as a birthday

present) and the other to see Josh Ritter. Each performed in different halls and both rooms and entertainers were wonderful. Earle performed in the larger Jemison Concert Hall, with his wife, Alison Moorer and their band and they were outstanding. Earle was in strong voice and made a few short but effective political statements, and Alison, besides adding great backup support all night, gave a beautiful 5 song set at the end of the first set, including “Alabama Song” and a stunning version of “A Change Is Gonna Come”. Earle played the new songs and the big hits, closing the encore with a rousing version of “Guitar Town”. Josh Ritter played the more intimate Sikorte Theater, which is just unbelievable. Not only is it a beautiful room where everyone feels close in with the performer, but also the sound is excellent. And Josh Ritter has to be one of the most joyous performers I’ve ever seen in my life. His band, some of which he’s been with for over 15 years were tight and all were outstanding performers. There was a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” with Ritter playing solo acoustic guitar and the other four harmonizing and playing drumsticks, and in the middle of a rocking version of “Harrisburg” he stopped the band and went into an a cappella version of the Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime”, finally leading the crowd in a chorus of “same as it ever was”, before whirling the band back into the final verse of “Harrisburg”. He jumped, he wailed (he actually got on his knees, far from the mike and howled liked a wolf), and he sang his heart out. I was disappointed not to hear “Me and Jiggs” (the song that introduced me to him), The Temptation of Adam, and “Girl in the War”, I was happy with what I got. Ritter is not only one of the finest songwriters on the current scene, but one hellva performer. It seems strange to me that having grown up in the 1960s, when the best we got for concerts in this town were package shows from WVOK and “Where The Action Is”, and although I heard some great groups at those shows, they usually weren’t the groups that I really wanted to see. Now however, Birmingham has such a variety of venues that you can see people like Earle and Ritter in small intimate venues, as well as the big time acts in places like the BJCC and the Version Amphitheater. We may not get all the big shows or even all the smaller ones, but we get a lot better variety than we have in the past. Well I’ve rambled on about as much as I can without getting off on how I feel about the Republicans in Congress, but I better just shut up and wait til next month.

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