Whether or not you immediately recognize her name, musician/author/activist Laura Jane Grace has been on the international music radar for over two decades. As leader of Punk outfit Against Me!, Laura has blended honesty, Punk, audio blunt force trauma and Rock ‘n’ Roll into a fiery brew. Originally hailing from Gainesville, Florida, Laura and her Against Me! mates may not sound like the Rock legends that emerged from her hometown – Tom Petty and The Eagles’ Don Felder and Bernie Leadon to name a few – but she has certainly become a force to be reckoned with.
Rockpile remains one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most respected but commercially overlooked bands. In terms of credibility, how could you go wrong with a band featuring Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams? While Rockpile recorded albums that were credited to either Edmunds or Lowe, they only recorded one proper studio album under their collective name – 1980’s SECONDS OF PLEASURE – before the band split up. Nick and Dave continued their successful solo careers while Terry joined Dire Straits. The band’s secret weapon – guitarist/vocalist Bremner – also pursued a solo career as well as working with The Pretenders (that’s him playing lead guitar on “Back On The Chain Gang”), Shakin’ Stevens, and many others. He did appear on Lowe and Edmunds’ solo albums as well. While not as high profile as his former bandmates, Bremner has released four solo albums over the years and worked with a multitude of other artists. Often overlooked on his own merits, the best of Billy’s solo material has finally been compiled on the excellent SINGLED OUT collection courtesy of RPM/Cherry Red.
“Christmas: the final frontier. This is the musical voyage of William Shatner. Its holiday mission: to explore strange yule music. To seek out and inject new life into old traditions. To boldly go where no Shatner album has gone before. This is SHATNER CLAUS!”
Much has been written about Yoko Ono over the years and, sadly, not all of it positive. However, if you look back over the 50 years that she has been in the public consciousness, she has always been a force for good. A superhero of sorts. From being a positive light that guided John Lennon out of his darkness to being an outspoken advocate against gun violence, Yoko has lent her name, her money and her time to many great causes over the years. Yet, the press has dragged her name through the mud so many times that their personal agendas have been adopted by the public as facts. While I’m sure it has been hurtful and confusing to Yoko, she has stood tall and continues to be a strong force in activism and art.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: TPC is just about to be released. How are you feeling about how the album turned out and the reaction to it so far?
DAVID MONKS: I’m only just beginning to get perspective on it now and it’s been done since May. As always, things turn out differently than you expect but I still like it. The fact that we made it was really a turning point for our band and it kinda already feels like a success in that respect. The reaction has been good, it’s my parents’ fave Tokyo album!
If you go to Wikipedia and look up ‘Honky Tonk’, you’ll find the following description: “A Honky Tonk is both a bar that provides country music for the entertainment of its patrons and the style of music played in such establishments. In the 1950s, Honky Tonk entered its golden age, with the popularity of Webb Pierce, Hank Locklin, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Faron Young, George Jones, and Hank Williams.” So, given that description, it’s no wonder that singer/songwriter J.P. Harris is often referred to as one of the finest purveyors of Honky Tonk music in America today. As ‘modern’ Country takes up space on the charts, it is refreshing – and dare I say it, exhilarating – to experience an artist so in tune with the roots of the genre’s pioneering artists. Harris ain’t no Americana bandwagoneer – he is as Country as Country Music gets.
Amy Ray is best known as one-half of Indigo Girls, the Grammy-winning Folk duo she formed with Emily Saliers. Formed in 1985, the duo released an EP before signing with Epic Records and becoming one of the most popular Folk-Rock duos of all time. Although they have remained active for over three decades, Amy would use her downtime between projects to follow her own path. Beginning with her 2001 solo debut, STAG, Amy has pursued a slightly different path than that of Indigo Girls. Her voice may be instantly identifiable but her solo releases tend to travel down different musical paths that eventually converge onto the same road that she travels down with Indigo Girls. HOLLER, her 2018 album, is no exception…
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: AUTOBIOGRAPHY (MUSIC FROM WAYNE MCGREGOR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY) is about to be released. How are you feeling about the project and the reaction you’ve had so far?
JLIN: I am very pleased with the reaction so far. It’s truly an honor. Composing the score for AUTOBIOGRAPHY was a life changing experience for me.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: BAD MOUTHIN’ is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction you’ve had to it so far?
TONY JOE WHITE: You know….it has been really amazing. I honestly didn’t know what to expect but when we were cutting the album, I knew it felt right.
The YouTube stars of today don’t understand the meaning of ‘paying your dues.’ Before American Idol and YouTube became the springboards for success, the artists of yesteryear rehearsed, played nightly in smelly clubs, and drove from city to city in a rickety van to build their audience. They wrote songs from the heart. They lived those songs before they even laid them down on tape. And the chance of them getting a record deal and achieving any level of success was slim to none. For many of them, sharing their music and baring their soul was the reason they created music. Fame was just a reward for their hard work. However, hard work doesn’t guarantee success without a little bit of luck thrown into the mix. Then again, there’s a long list of talented artists that never caught a break and have sadly faded into obscurity. Country/Americana singer/songwriter Blaze Foley spent many decades in in that sea of obscurity but now, nearly three decades after his death, this underground legend is finally getting the attention he has deserved since his humble beginnings in the mid- ‘70s.