Keep scrolling down the page for our blog/program guide.
Pics, bios, reviews, album art and more! Learn lots about all the folks on the show!
Fallin’ Apart- The Tractors- “The Tractors”
Drifted Apart- Tift Merritt- “Traveling Alone”
When I Fall Apart- The Rev Jimmie Bratcher- “Secretly Famous”
Fall Apart- Jeff Jensen- “Morose Elephant”
Falling Apart- Jesse Dayton- “One For The Dance Halls”
Pick It Apart- Mark O’Connor- “The New Nashville Cats”
Hot New Music:
Adios Mamacica (featuring Kevin Fowler)- Los Texmaniacs- “Americano Groove”
My Love For You Will Not Fade- Caitlin Canty- “Reckless Skyline”
Want Ad Blues- Ron Thompson- “Son Of Boogie Woogie”
Ready For The Times To Get Better- Ash Breeze- “The Road’s Not Easy”
Don’t Bruise The Melons- James Day and the Fish Fry- “Southland:
If It Takes A Lifetime- Jason Isbell- “Something More Than Free”
Born To Be Together- Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez- “Deep End”
Holding Things Together- Vince Gill and Paul Franklin- “Bakersfield”
Too Close Together- Peter Wolf- “Sleepless”
Alone Together- Carly Simon- “Moonlight Serenade”
Let’s Get Happy Together- The Two Men Gentleman Band- “Two At A Time”
Get Together, Pt. 1- James Brown- “50th Anniversary Collection”
Come Together- The Beatles- “Abbey Road”
** Keep scrolling down the page for our informative blog/program guide. Follow along as you listen! **
Fallin’ Apart- The Tractors
The Tractors were one of the country-rock bands to benefit from the modern country boom of the early ’90s. With their good-time boogie and rootsy country-rock, The Tractors were able to send their eponymous debut to platinum status. Although based in Tulsa, all of the members of The Tractors — guitarist Steve Ripley, bassist Ron Getman, vocalist Casey Van Beek, keyboardist Walt Richmond, and drummer Jamie Oldaker — were well-known Nashville session musicians before they came to prominence in the early ’90s.
-Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AllMusic.com
In a musical milieu dominated by hat acts and assembly-line arrangements, Tulsa’s Tractors have delved deep into their Oklahoma roots to rekindle some real down-home fire on the country charts. THE TRACTORS’ chicken-fried, Southwestern sounds harken back to those wild nights at the local roadhouse, gettin’ down to the sounds of hard drinkin’ storytellers as the band pumps out dirt-floor boogie from behind a barbed-wire fence.
With “The Tulsa Shuffle.” the Tractors give a nod to their favorite musical styles, while making a persuasive case for their own good-natured, down home mix of country, blues, R&B and western swing.
Drifted Apart- Tift Merritt
Singer/songwriter Tift Merritt seemingly appeared out of nowhere in the spring of 2002 with her acclaimed debut album Bramble Rose, but as is often the case, this triple-threat artist — a gifted singer, superb songwriter, and skillful guitarist — actually has plenty of experience under her belt. Born in Houston, Texas, in 1975, Merritt’s family moved to North Carolina when she was young and she’s lived there ever since. Merritt first developed an interest in music when she was a child and learned to sing harmonies with her father, who had dabbled in folk music in his younger days; in her early teens, she picked up a guitar and her dad taught her her first four chords. While Merritt was drawn to the rebellious spirit of punk and indie rock, she felt a greater emotional connection with more acoustic-oriented artists, particularly Joni Mitchell (Merritt once told a reporter, “I went through a Joni Mitchell phase — and all girls go through a Joni Mitchell phase; if any girl tells you she never did, don’t believe her.”). Hearing Emmylou Harris’ album Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town opened Merritt’s ears to roots music and she soon began to immerse herself in North Carolina’s active alt-country scene.
-Mark Deming, AllMusic.com
“I’ve always had a taste for traveling alone,” Tift Merritt sings in the title track of her fifth album. This time around, she got to prove it, “calling the shots myself and letting myself go wherever I needed to go” at a point in time when she was a free agent without label or manager. But the song does also conclude that “Everybody here is traveling alone,” a realization that places as much value on community as iconoclasm. And Merritt put together her “dream cast” of fellow travelers to play on Traveling Alone, which found its happy home at her new label, Yep Roc. The road less taken doesn’t preclude good company.
The New Yorker has called Merritt “the bearer of a proud tradition of distaff country soul that reaches back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry,” a standard upholding that got underway in earnest with Bramble Rose, the 2002 solo debut that put her on the Americana map forever.
When I Fall Apart- The Rev Jimmie Bratcher
They call Jimmie Bratcher “The Electric Rev.”
Not only because his lightning-strike performances crackle with high-voltage guitar playing and emotionally charged vocals. Or because Bratcher makes the hairs rise on the arms of the crowds he entertains in the map of clubs, festivals, bike rallies, churches and prisons that he calls “the road.”
But because the ascending blues star is literally a preacher, as comfortable testifying in the pulpit about the power of Jesus as he is in smoky bars celebrating the vigor of the blues.
Bratcher’s shows — regardless of location — are worry-free zones, where the healing, good-time mojo of rockin’ blues sets hearts and minds, and maybe even souls, free. His latest album Secretly Famous is fueled by the same attitude.
Fall Apart- Jeff Jensen
Growing up listening to 50’s, 60’s and 70’s Rock –N-Roll, the Blues was always just a step away. So when Jeff started playing guitar at age 11 the significance of blues was overwhelming. Flirting with different styles of music like Rock and Roll, Funk, Punk Rock and Jazz through high school, Jeff landed his first blues gigs at age 19 as a guitarist. Soon after he was hired to front a southern California blues band that gigged a few times a month from San Diego to Ventura.
In 2003 Jeff Jensen and Chris Sabie founded the Santa Clarita Blues Society. Jeff and Chris traveled to Memphis for the 2004 IBC. Jeff came home from that a member of the Blues Foundation and fully charged and inspired to form his own band.
May 2004 the Jeff Jensen Band was born.
Falling Apart- Jesse Dayton
Jesse Dayton has been building a cult following around the globe playing festivals in North America and Europe for years with his guitar shredding, country-infused, Americana sound. As a critic’s darling for his first record on Justice Records, Raisin’ Cain (1995), and a number one Americana radio ranking, Jesse was hired at a young age to play lead guitar on some of the last recordings, and play live, by country legends Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Johnny Bush, Willie Nelson & Glen Campbell and he’s been featured in many guitar magazines. Sensing a shift in the music business climate, Jesse formed his own label in 2002, Stag Records, and began his most prolific recording period. While recording five solo records, one duet record, one live record, all on Stag, as well as two soundtrack recordings (Devil’s Rejects, Halloween 2) for rocker/director Rob Zombie, Jesse managed to act in movies and music videos, produce several records for other artists (the latest being Supersuckers front man Eddie Spaghetti’s “The Value Of Nothing” on Bloodshot Records), write two screenplays, and most recently wrote and directed a new horror movie, “Zombex,” starring Malcolm McDowell, Sid Haig, John Doe, and Lew Temple (“Walking Dead). All while still performing 150 shows per year.
Pick It Apart- Mark O’Connor
“One of the most spectacular journeys in recent American music.” – The New York Times
“One of the most talented and imaginative artists working in music — any music — today.” – The Los Angeles Times
“Brilliantly original.” – The Seattle Times
“The audience was on its feet . . . They were moved by Mr. O’Connor’s journey without maps, cheering for the only musician today who can reach so deeply first into the refined, then the vernacular, giving his listeners a complex, sophisticated piece of early-21st-century classical music and then knocking them dead with the brown-dirt whine of a Texas fiddle.” – The New York Times
A product of America’s rich aural folk tradition as well as classical music, Mark O’Connor’s creative journey began at the feet of a pair of musical giants. The first was the folk fiddler and innovator who created the modern era of American fiddling, Benny Thomasson; the second, French jazz violinist, considered one of the greatest improvisers in the history of the violin, Stephane Grappelli. Working with classical violin icons Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Yehudi Menhuin and Pinchas Zukerman, he absorbed knowledge and influence from the multitude of musical styles and genres he studied and participated in. With his body of work including 45 feature albums of mostly his own compositions, Mark O’Connor has melded and shaped these influences into a new American Classical music, and a vision of an entirely American school of string playing.
Photo credit: Chistopher McAllen
Adios Mamacica (featuring Kevin Fowler)- Los Texmaniacs
Combine a hefty helping of Tex Mex conjunto, simmer with several parts Texas rock, add a daring dash of well-cured blues, and R&B riffs, and you’ve cooked up the tasty TexManiacs groove. Not to say that this group’s sound is for musical gourmets only… it is, “hip music everyone can relate to” .
Los Texmaniacs — feed the masses, with only the best in musical fare. Founded by Max Baca (bajo sexto, vocals), the TexManiacs are a product of his wide-ranging experience touring and recording with everyone from his father’s family conjunto, Flaco Jimenenz, the original Texas Tornados, Los Super Seven and even the Rolling Stones.
Max is a legend on the bajo sexto, a twelve string guitar-like instrument, which customarily provides rhythm accompaniment for the button accordion, thus creating the core of the conjunto sound. On the bajo, Max does all that and way more, using the instrument to push the TexManiacs sound to another level of vibrancy altogether. He has displayed a musical virtuosity and blistering guitar riff solo style, that is now being emulated by young bajo players internationally. Max is being credited as turning a traditional folk / roots/conjunto instrument hip again, attracting young, new audiences while maintaining his roots in traditional conjunto. His many sojourns as a life long musician have resulted in an impressive international touring schedule, including four tours to Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Kosovo to entertain our troops. Max has appeared on national television programs such as Conan O’ Brien, David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Austin City Limits.
Grammy Award winners, Los Texmaniacs, are back with a new studio album–Americano Groove. The new album is bold, offering a variety of music: Tex-Mex, cumbia, country, funky Latin rhythms, and other familiar stylings in music. Throw in a star-studded group of guests like Alejandro Escovedo, Kevin Fowler, Joe Ely, Rick Treviño, and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and you have the makings of a collector’s item. It truly is an Americano Groove.
My Love For You Will Not Fade- Caitlin Canty
“A smoky lonesome voice, both strong and deliberate… Her stage presence is radiant and her songs pack a big lyrical punch.”
– No Depression
The Telegraph adds Reckless Skyline to Best Country Albums of 2015
“fine songwriting … 12 really strong songs”
Elmore Magazine calls Canty, “a rare and intelligent talent”
“a fine collection of 12 songs from country ballads to dark blues and quiet folk.”
“Ms. Canty’s voice is soft, sure and brings to mind Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch”
San Francisco Chronicle calls Canty “the next great Americana star”
“The Vermont native with a casually devastating voice and unshakable poise is bound to be the next great Americana star — except nobody knows it yet”
“The 12 songs here sound wonderfully lived-in, with Canty’s easy way with folk, blues and country”
Caitlin Canty delivers her songs with a 1930’s Recording King guitar and a dusky alto, painting the line between joy and pathos with uncanny precision and power. Raised in small-town Vermont, the daughter of a school teacher and a house painter, she spent a decade in New York City cutting her teeth on both sides of the microphone – as a performer and as the first employee of the Artists Den. Produced by acclaimed songwriter Jeffrey Foucault, her latest record Reckless Skyline features an all-star band on twelve songs that veer nimbly between country ballads and straight-up rockers, dark blues and sparsely arranged folk.
Both on the road and on her records, Caitlin Canty teams with some of the finest musicians in the world – including members of Morphine, Booker T, Cold Satellite, and Ray LaMontagne’s Pariah Dogs – to create a sound that harnesses the grit and spark at the very heart of American music, tempered with a voice both haunting and distinct.
Photo by: Jay Sansone
Want Ad Blues- Ron Thompson
The Little Village Foundation is a non-profit record label started up under the direction of keyboardist Jim Pugh, who recently retired after twenty-five years with Robert Cray. The mission of this organization is to seek and record obscure yet prodigious musicians who have not received proper recognition and respect. Oakland guitarist Ron Thompson certainly falls into this category, and Son of Boogie Woogie hopes to give him nudge into the much deserved spotlight.
Ron Thompson is the rare guitarist who never strayed from his blues leanings. In an era where dime a dozen rock guitarists attempt to interpret pale imitations of the blues, Thompson is the real deal. The years spent accompanying John Lee Hooker and other top blues artists, instilled in him a driving awareness of how this music should, and has to be played.
-James Nadal, June 5, 2015, allaboutjazz.com
Ready For The Times To Get Better- Ash Breeze
Ash Breeze is making a big splash in the Americana/Bluegrass World since 2013. Trained classically until they switched to Bluegrass in 2010, they have created their own sound that defies labels. In their music you can hear many influences, including folk, jazz bluegrass, classical, blues, and Christian musical influences. What you will hear is a distinctive sound strong on instrumentation with tight, beautiful family harmonies.
We’ve had our eye on the talented Smith family from Fayetteville, NC for some time. They captured our attention initially performing as a family group, The Smith Family, when oldest brother Corey released the first of his two Generation Bluegrass films in 2012, highlighting the skills and artistry of a number of similarly-situated bluegrass teen sibling groups.
They released a debut, self-titled album as Ash Breeze in February 2014 which showed tremendous promise with all the members still in their teens, save dad (Allen) who plays bass with the band on stage. Their latest project, The Road’s Not Easy, delivers on that promise and demonstrates an uncanny knack for the subtleties of our music.
-John Lawless, July 13, 2015, bluegrasstoday.com
Don’t Bruise The Melons- James Day and the Fish Fry
“James Day is a vocalist and harmonica player backed by a stellar group of musicians collectively know as “The Fish Fry” This is your full service “Jump Blues and New Orleans Grooves” band. Based in the Mid Atlantic, James Day and the Fish Fry perform at festivals and venues in Canada and along the East Coast. On any given night, one can hear all styles of the blues from New Orleans street parades, Cuban Rumbas, Swamp Pop, Zydeco, Carolina Shag, Down Home Delta Blues to that Classic Chicago sound.
-Freddy Celis, Rootstime Magazine, Brussels Belguim, jameswday.com
If It Takes A Lifetime- Jason Isbell
After spending six years with Southern rock outfit Drive-By Truckers, singer/guitarist Jason Isbell left the group in 2007 to pursue a solo career. Isbell had already honed his songwriting skills during his tenure with the Truckers, and he funneled those talents into Sirens of the Ditch, a bluesy, punk-infused lesson in guitar tones and Southern swagger that marked his solo debut in summer 2007. Backed by a new band dubbed the 400 Unit, Isbell took his songs on the road and soon began penning another album, which he recorded with the 400 Unit in 2008. Released the following year, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit was another step away from his work with Drive-By Truckers, relying as much on sad, melancholic country ballads as the familiar Muscle Shoals sound.
After performing more than 200 shows annually for several years running, Isbell took a breather in 2010 and returned home to northern Alabama. The area had been hit hard by the recent economic downturn, prompting Isbell to write a new batch of songs about the war vets, barflies, and out-of-luck characters who populated the area. The result was Here We Rest, which was released in spring 2011 to critical acclaim. Isbell followed it a year later in 2012 with a live set, Live from Alabama, recorded at the WorkPlay Theater in Birmingham, Alabama and at the Crossroads in Huntsville, Alabama. Embracing his newfound sobriety, Isbell next produced an album of haunting atonement and redemption, the sparse and impressive Southeastern, which appeared in 2013. Southeastern was a smash with critics and a commercial success that introduced Isbell to a new and larger audience, with Isbell and his band touring extensively in support.
-James Christopher Monger, AllMusic.com
Jason Isbell’s 2013 breakthrough album Southeastern was written and recorded in the wake of Isbell’s newfound sobriety, and it often sounded and felt like a musical version of the Fourth Step, in which Isbell took a long, hard look in the mirror as he came to terms with the emotional wreckage he left in his wake during his years as a drunk. By comparison, Something More Than Free, Isbell’s 2015 follow-up, plays out as the work of a man a year or so into his recovery, grateful but still working with the nuts and bolts of living as a better and more mature man while the shadows of the past remain faintly but clearly visible.
-Mark Deming, AllMusic.com
Photo by: Michael Wilson
Born To Be Together- Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez
The heart of Christine Ohlman has belonged to rock n’ roll from just about the moment she could walk and talk. By the time she traveled from Boston to New York on an overnight train to make her first record at the age of 16, writing the “B” side on the way to the studio (that “B” side. “I Don’t Know Why,” was reissued in 2012 in the UK as a part of a Mainstream Records compilation All Kinds Of Highs on the Ace label), she was already a veteran of the local coffeehouse circuit around New Haven, Connecticut. “Bob Shad, the owner of Mainstream, flew down from New York City to hear the band; he signed us the same day,” she says. “We were in the studio practically before we knew what hit us recording a version of Al Kooper’s ‘Wake Me, Shake Me.’ The next thing we knew, we were on the charts and I was in heaven!”
“There are so many ‘wow’ moments”- Dave Marsh, SIRIUS/XM Radio personality / Rolling Stone editor emeritus
“Tough, tender, thoughtful and sassy– R-E-A-L, as Sam Phillips was wont to say.”- Peter Guralnick, Award-Winning Author and Musicologist (Last Train To Memphis, Sweet Soul Music)
“She of the beehive hairdo and the Saturday Night Live Band brings the ringing endorsement of Charlie Musselwhile to her excitedly sung and enjoyable roots-rock songs”- Downbeat
“As a singer, Ohlman makes each song sound like a prime cut on a jukebox in a Memphis barbecue joint. Hit(s) the sweet spot, straight and true.” -Vintage Guitar Magazine
“If you give “The Deep End” a spin, you’ll be an Ohlman fan for life. (4 stars)” – The Daily News, McKeesport, PA (Pittsburgh Metro)
“The “Beehive Queen” is a hard rocking Memphis soul fueled dynamo, and The Deep End may be her finest album yet…absolutely beautiful.” – Michael Buffalo Smith, Gritz Magazine
“In its original form, rock n’ roll was a blend of blues, country and gospel. Christine Ohlman practices rock the old-fashioned way. Like the music she makes, Ohlman seems timeless.” – Eric Danton, The Courant /Hartford, CT
“Ohlman exudes rock and soul authenticity from her wailing vocals to her beehive hairdo..a confident, cool and street-savy diva.” – M Music and Musicians (successor to Performing Songwriter)
Photo by: Tom Horan
Holding Things Together- Vince Gill and Paul Franklin
It’s a small miracle that Bakersfield, the collaborative hard country album by Vince Gill and Paul Franklin, was released by a major label. Totally out of fashion and having nothing whatsoever to do with contemporary country, it’s a clarion reminder of the music’s most creative period. Bakersfield is a collection of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard tunes from the 1960s, cut by an all-star session band. It not only pays tribute to these giants and the era, but also the sound, and the men who created it: guitarists Don Rich and Roy Nichols, pedal steel guitarist Tom Brumley, and fiddler Jelly Sanders. No one is more qualified to sing these songs than Gill, who is the greatest living vocalist in country music and a killer guitarist whose catalog reveals that he’s has been on a creative tear since 2000. Franklin has played on over 500 records; he’s a multi-instrumentalist who migrated from Detroit to Nashville in the late ’70s to become a modern pedal steel legend. The two are also members of the country and bluegrass band the Time Jumpers. Bakersfield is not merely an exercise in nostalgia; these cats reveal the timeless appeal of California country’s golden age.
-Thom Jurek, AllMusic.com
Too Close Together- Peter Wolf
Best known for his tenure fronting the J. Geils Band, singer Peter Wolf was born and raised in the Bronx, and came from a family active in show business. His father was a dancer, song plugger, disc jockey, and singer of light opera; his mother, an organizer for the civil rights and labor movements, was a teacher for inner-city children in the Bronx. Wolf’s earliest passion was painting, and he was accepted on a scholarship to the Museum of Modern Art’s Special Studies for Children, and later to the High School of Music and Art, just blocks from the Apollo Theater, where the young Wolf would make weekly visits. Seeing performers like Jackie Wilson, Dinah Washington, Otis Redding, and James Brown sparked his early interest in blues and R&B. After graduating from high school, he hitchhiked through the Midwest; in Chicago, he became involved in a couple of blues and folk music societies while studying painting at the University of Chicago. While there, he visited the South Side blues clubs, drawing influences from the musicians he saw there.
With a grant to study at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, he became a disc jockey on WBCN-FM, hosting a show called The All-Night House Party. The show touched on many musical bases, and reflected Wolf’s own broad musical interests. While still in college in Boston, Wolf joined his first musical group, comprised of fellow art students. They played blues music, and later got to meet and tour with their heroes like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. In 1967, he formed the group that would go on to become the J. Geils Band, which began playing clubs around New England. Their first big break was a chance to play at the Fillmore East in New York City, and they became known for their marathon live performances, with Wolf establishing a reputation as a particularly dynamic frontman.
-Richard Skelly, AllMusic.com
With each step he takes past his years as frontman to the J. Geils Band, Peter Wolf builds on his legacy as a solo artist of remarkable distinction. Bits of the jive caricature of his early years surface on Sleepless, especially when reunited with his old running buddies Keith Richards and Magic Dick on “Too Close Together,” but most of the album documents much more skillful and sensitive approaches to interpretation. In fact, in his ability to slide from singing to a spoken word or two and back again, Wolf affirms his mastery of the Bob Dylan method for bringing a lyric to life.
-Robert L. Doerschuk, AllMusic.com
Photo by: Bobby DiMarzo
Alone Together- Carly Simon
Carly Simon was one of the most popular of the confessional singer/songwriters who emerged in the early ’70s. The youngest child in an upper-class New York family (her father, Richard Simon, co-founded the Simon & Schuster publishing company), Simon got her start in music as part of a duo with her sister Lucy (who later wrote the music for the Broadway show The Secret Garden). The Simon Sisters had a chart single with “Winkin’ Blinkin’ and Nod” in April 1964. But Simon’s solo debut did not come until the release of her self-titled first album in February 1971. It contained her first solo hit, “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be,” an anti-marriage song co-written with Jacob Brackman that reached the Top Ten. Simon’s second album, Anticipation (November 1971) (which went gold in two years), contained a Top 40 follow-up in the title song, and she won the 1971 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Her third album, the gold number one No Secrets (November 1972), was produced by Richard Perry and contained the gold number one hit “You’re So Vain,” which aroused speculation about its subject.
-William Ruhlmann, AllMusic.com
Moonlight Serenade, Carly Simon’s fourth collection of standards in 25 years, digs a little deeper than her previous outings. Perhaps it’s the plethora of standards outings by popular artists — Rod Stewart’s done three in a row — perhaps it’s because of her pedigree and background; perhaps it’s simply because she thinks she can pull it off; and indeed she can. She delivers these 12 songs with panache, savvy, and just a touch of sass.
-Thom Jurek, AllMusic.com
Let’s Get Happy Together- The Two Men Gentleman Band
Irreverent songwriters, expert instrumentalists, former street-performers, and consummate showmen, The Two Man Gentlemen Band has been barnstorming from coast to coast for half a decade, developing a reputation as a must-see live act on the roots and retro music circuits. A tenor guitar and string bass duo in the tradition of the great Slim & Slam – with the occasional pyrotechnic banjo feature thrown in – Andy Bean and Fuller Condon have an obvious affection for pre-war American Jazz and Western Swing—but they’re no period piece. The decidedly contemporary feel of their lyrics and the hilarious, often ridiculous, improvised banter that peppers their live shows combine with the music for a thoroughly modern ruckus.
The Gentlemen (namely, Andy Bean and Fuller Condon) began The Two Man Gentlemen Band in 2004 strictly as a street-performing outfit. For three years, whenever the weather permitted, they played marathon sets in New York City’s Central Park (with occasional forays into the city’s subway system). After developing their act on the streets, The Gents hit the road for good in 2007 and quickly grew to be regarded as a premiere touring act in their genre.
In 2013, the Gentlemen were invited to submit a theme song for the Disney cartoon series Wander Over Yonder; The Gents so impressed the show’s producers that not only was their theme song selected, but Andy—the band’s songwriter—was invited to be the series composer. Wander of Yonder was an instant hit upon its September 2013 premiere, and Andy was honored with an Annie Award nomination for his composition work on the series, which he will continue for further seasons of the show.
Get Together, Pt. 1- James Brown
“Soul Brother Number One,” “the Godfather of Soul,” “the Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” “Mr. Dynamite” — those are mighty titles, but no one can question that James Brown earned them more than any other performer. Other singers were more popular, others were equally skilled, but few other African-American musicians were so influential over the course of popular music. And no other musician, pop or otherwise, put on a more exciting, exhilarating stage show: Brown’s performances were marvels of athletic stamina and split-second timing.
Through the gospel-impassioned fury of his vocals and the complex polyrhythms of his beats, Brown was a crucial midwife in not just one, but two revolutions in black American music. He was one of the figures most responsible for turning R&B into soul and he was, most would agree, the figure most responsible for turning soul music into the funk of the late ’60s and early ’70s. After the mid-’70s, he did little more than tread water artistically; his financial and drug problems eventually got him a controversial prison sentence. Yet in a sense, his music is now more influential than ever, as his voice and rhythms have been sampled on innumerable hip-hop recordings, and critics have belatedly hailed his innovations as among the most important in all of rock or soul.
Brown’s rags-to-riches-to-rags story has heroic and tragic dimensions of mythic resonance.
-Richie Unterberger, AllMusic.com
Come Together- The Beatles
So much has been said and written about the Beatles — and their story is so mythic in its sweep — that it’s difficult to summarize their career without restating clichés that have already been digested by tens of millions of rock fans. To start with the obvious, they were the greatest and most influential act of the rock era, and introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century. Moreover, they were among the few artists of any discipline that were simultaneously the best at what they did and the most popular at what they did. Relentlessly imaginative and experimental, the Beatles grabbed hold of the international mass consciousness in 1964 and never let go for the next six years, always staying ahead of the pack in terms of creativity but never losing their ability to communicate their increasingly sophisticated ideas to a mass audience. Their supremacy as rock icons remains unchallenged to this day, decades after their breakup in 1970.
It’s hard to convey the scope of the Beatles’ achievements in a mere paragraph or two. They synthesized all that was good about early rock & roll, and changed it into something original and even more exciting. They established the prototype for the self-contained rock group that wrote and performed its own material. As composers, their craft and melodic inventiveness were second to none, and key to the evolution of rock from its blues/R&B-based forms into a style that was far more eclectic, but equally visceral. As singers, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were among the best and most expressive vocalists in rock; the group’s harmonies were intricate and exhilarating. As performers, they were (at least until touring had ground them down) exciting and photogenic; when they retreated into the studio, they were instrumental in pioneering advanced techniques and multi-layered arrangements. They were also the first British rock group to achieve worldwide prominence, launching a British Invasion that made rock truly an international phenomenon.
-Richie Unterberger, AllMusic.com