Freedom Rock

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J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 21, 2008; 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that Nicole Scherzinger does.

The transcript follows.

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Rockin the Vote: J Free, got any musical tips for the McCain/Palin campaign?

J. Freedom du Lac: Funny, I'd just asked Adam Yauch (in an interview for Post Rock) when the campaign might start using that Beasties song, "In A World Gone Mad." Won't happen, of course. Ever.

Welcome to the chat. Let's shall.

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Bethesda, Md.: I saw one of the best performances I have ever seen -- Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt at the Warner Theater -- on Sunday night. There was no review or mention of it in the Post. What gives?? But you did review Lykke Li -- huh?

J. Freedom du Lac: Why? Because we reviewed Lyle Lovett's Wolf Trap performance in July and John Hiatt's Rams Head gig that same month.
And what do you have against Lykke Li, an emerging star out of Sweden? Are you even remotely familiar with her music, or are you just randomly insulting her because she happened to have been reviewed?

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Washington, D.C.: I cannot believe you started a column with the phrase "His mellow has been harshed"-- you're a grownup right? Could you write like one, please?

J. Freedom du Lac: I am, yes. But no, I don't think I will. Sorry.

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Florida Ave, D.C.: J. Freedom-

Any thoughts on the leaked Eminem track? I thought it was actually pretty decent, and I am guessing his new album might actually be worth a listen. Will Eminem really emerge from the depths of Cheetos and Mountain Dew to regain his status as one of the best innovators in rap?

J. Freedom du Lac: "I'm Having A Relapse" isn't a home run, but it's not a strikeout on a slider in the dirt, either. More like a stand-up double. He doesn't seem to have lost too much lyrically -- though I think I secretly hoped he'd learn some new tricks during his hiatus. Instead, he's rapping about the same old stuff: How the smell of chronic makes him hella demonic, to the point that he was compelled to kill an old man and break a baby's neck "in 80-some places," but not before he did dirty, dirty things to a mannequin, etc.

He'd have to innovate to be considered an innovator circa 2008, wouldn't he?

I think I'm more interested in Kanye's apparently all-(or almost all)-auto-tuned album.

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Silver Spring, Md.: It seems that country music since the 90s has morphed into pop w/ a fiddle, a steel guitar and sung by guys and women in tight jeans and cowboy hats who grew up in the suburbs. I understand that you have to appeal to a younger audience but frankly, country has sold out in order to sell records.

Where are the ballads and the adult themes of drinking, lust, infidelity, job loss, God, mother and poverty? Give me George Jones, Waylon, Willie and the boys!

Tired of Corporate Country

J. Freedom du Lac: Silver Spring, meet Miranda Lambert!

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" covers most of those themes, though not necessarily job loss and poverty. It was my album of the year in 2007. Worth investigating.

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Just Wondering: Are there any little Freedoms running around? If so, what bands do you play for them? Someone's gotta keep them from falling into the traps of the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Nickelback et. al.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nope, none at this exact moment.

I'm thinking, though, that those Rockabye Baby albums that I wrote about in 2006 might be worth investigating. Any parents actually played any of the Rockabye Baby albums for their kids? Verdict?

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L'enfant Plaza, Washington, D.C.: Hey J. Free--

I asked you last week about the Conor Oberst concert at 9:30 coming up. Well, he's playing with the Mystic Valley Band. Any insight? I know it can't be as zany as Of Montreal, but I think it'll be a good show.

PS - I got Rays in 6. Who you got?

J. Freedom du Lac: I had the Cubs in 6. Over the Angels. Oops.

At least I picked the Rays as my third team in the Most Total Wins pool I entered.

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Eminem: If you don't like an artist as a person, but think their music is good, does your opinion of the person taint your ability to continue listening to them?

Lyrics used to not bug me, but now they do. Musicians personalities used to not bug me, but now they do. To the point where I'm taking stuff off my iPod.

J. Freedom du Lac: Like, if I think Eminem is a homophobic, misogynistic d-bag, even I you appreciate and even admire his artistry, what then? Against my better judgment, I think I can still listen to Eminem without prejudice - at least without prejudice based on my impressions of him as a human being.

I don't particularly care for Ted Nugent, either, but I wasn't mad at "Cat Scratch Fever" when I heard it on vacation down in South Carolina.

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Washington, D.C.: So, will Led Zeppelin eventually go on tour again after the successful reunion concert in London? I heard that there all ready to start touring, except for Robert Plant, who is currently touring with Alison Krauss. Has John Paul Jones (bass, keys, mandolin...) really reconciled with the band?

J. Freedom du Lac: If Robert Plant doesn't go with them, then what's the point? I guess they can bring in, like, David Coverdale or the singer from Lez Zeppelin or something. But then they'd only be a step and a half above Credence Clearwater Revisited.

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Boyds, Md.: J Free, any chance you were at the Lyle Lovett/John Hiatt acoustic show at the Warner on Sunday. Absolutely fantastic. The banter between songs made you feel like you were sitting in their living room during a jam session.

Why wasn't the show reviewed? 2 major acts, on stage together, in a great venue....

J. Freedom du Lac: (See above.)

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Lyle Lovett: I love the guy and he puts on a great show, but I've seen him like 20 times and only twice was the show very different. You don't need to review him every year.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks. I sort of feel that way about John Hiatt's albums these days, though "Same Old Man" is one of his finest in years. The title track is just great.

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Any parents actually played any of the Rockabye Baby albums for their kids? Verdict? : I have several of them, and that's what my daughter listens to at night while she's falling asleep. I like them, but when you think about it they're basically Muzak. But I like them because lullabies get really old after awhile.

During the day we just listen to regular old pop and rock music.

J. Freedom du Lac: Which artists do you use? Be interesting to see if your daughter eventually becomes a fan of the real versions of those songs, in part based on a familiarity with some of the melodies via the Rockabye Baby albums.

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Picking the nit with you: So, okay, you did a long review of Kenny Chesney's new CD. You called it "the most personal and surprising album of Chesney's career." Yet, I never did figure out if it was any good. You didn't seem to really like most of the songs on it. So, what's the verdict? Is it good? Will it please his loyal fans? Will it make people like me, who don't get why this guy's a star, think differently of him? What's the word?

J. Freedom du Lac: I think Chesney loyalists are going to be mixed on this one. It's not what they're used to hearing from him, for all the reasons I mentioned in the review. But there's still something expected, as with the first single. I don't think you'll like it yourself unless you were big on Jim Croce and Cat Stevens back in the day. If I had to give it a letter grade, it'd probably be a B-minus.

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Vi: What's your thought on Mr. Kenny "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" Chesney riding on a certain Mr. Brian Wilson's coattails with that new album title/folk song cover? Coincidence? Secret alien plot? And since I haven't heard the Chesney version, who did it better?

J. Freedom du Lac: I thought it was pretty bizarre that the two of them released albums based on the same old song in the same year. But both of them had been working on these projects for a couple of years - Chesney apparently cut the title track with Willie Nelson a couple of years ago - and, of course, they went in very different directions. There's an interesting historical parallel here, by the way: In 1949, when "That Lucky Old Sun" first appeared, it was a hit for at least four different artists.

You know I love Brian Wilson, right? I think he's a genius. I absolutely adore "Pet Sounds." I think "Good Vibrations" is one of the greatest singles ever, in any genre. Etc etc etc. And I've never been a Kenny Chesney guy.

But...I perfer Chesney and Willie's version.

There, I said it.

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Can't we all just get along: "you're a grownup right?"...but who's got the column and the chat? I see J Freedom's name on it, not some critic wanna-be.

J. Freedom du Lac: Let me just take off my grown-up's hat for a second so that I might say "nyah-nyah!" to the earlier heckler.

Thanks.

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Rockabye Baby Albums response: One of my wife's aunt's got my twins a copy of the Rockabye Metallica album. Honestly it was one of the scariest albums I've ever listened to. Maybe I'll let my sons listen to it when they're 18.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm currently listening to Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" on the Rockabye Baby web site, and I have to say -- it's kind of awesome. Though it's making me sleepy.

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Require 'classic' rock question: I was pleasantly amused by A. Stewart's review of the new AC/DC album in today's paper, not the least of which was because the review was that their new album is decent, though the headline would indicate it's a home run. (We HATE editors.)

I do find myself curious to see them live in concert, if only because having seen an interview with them they are shamelessly unapologetic and comfortable with being aging fratboy rockers. They know who they are, they appreciate their success and seem pleasantly free of pretension. How can you not like a band like that, even if their greatest days were over 20 years ago?

Any plans to check out the show?

J. Freedom du Lac: Are you planning to get the album? Is anybody? Does the world need a new AC/DC album in 2008, especially if they basically do the same thing every time they go into the studio?

You know what you're getting when you see them live, that's for sure.

They, too, came up in my chat with Adam Yauch - twice, actually. Once because they wouldn't clear the "Back in Black" sample when the Beasties wanted to include that old song, "Rock Hard," on an anthology, even though they personally called the band to plead their case. We also talked briefly about the Beasties circa 1986-87, and Yauch said that you eventually have to grow up. But, you know, not if you're in AC/DC!

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Vineyard Haven, Mass.: Are you going to see Rodney Crowell tonight at the Birchmere? SEX & GASOLINE as an album kills me... and it speaks so much to the Sarah Pailinism consuming America

J. Freedom du Lac: This guy?

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Bethesda, Md.: Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt together & without bands is completely different than the two of them performing separately. I have nothing against Lykke Li. But there was a packed house at the Warner -- the person I was with said it was the best concert she had ever been to -- and not a word in The Post. But I guess it wasn't trendy enough for the Style section --

J. Freedom du Lac: And you probably expect us to review Alejandro Escovedo on his latest swing through the area because he's acoustic this time, sans band? It's just not gonna happen.

We have a limited number of review slots every month, and we'd just written about both artists on this bill within the past five months. Sorry, but this isn't the Americana Times. The Post is a general interest publication. We cover a broad spectrum of pop music.

Being trendy has nothing to do with it. If it did, why in the world would I have just interviewed Rodney Crowell for Post Rock? Why would I have flown to Indiana to do a major feature on James McMurtry? Hell, why would we have reviewed Hiatt and Lovett in the first place back in July?

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Ballston, Va.: Who's this Adele lady? I caught her singing on SNL and she was amazing.

J. Freedom du Lac: Love her voice and her instincts, don't yet love her writing. She's definitely one to track, though. Here's a review of her June concert at Sixth and I.

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AC/DC: thinks that iTunes has ruined the music industry. They "don't make singles, they make albums."

J. Freedom du Lac: AC/DC also thinks that clearing a "Back in Black" sample for inclusion on a Beasties anthology is a bad idea. Not because because they're anti-sampling, mind you. But because it's one of their top three songs.

Huh?

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College Park, Md.: What was your most egregious mistake of fandom as a youngster? I know some hipsters who would be totally embarrassed by the Limp Bizkit T-shirts hanging in their closets from their middle-school years...

J. Freedom du Lac: The Fat Boys. Definitely them.

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Incredible: There's a guy that plays a stringed/bowed Asian instrument many mornings at the Gallery Place metro. The instrument makes an eerie, scary sound but produces reliable pitches. This morning he was playing that horrible theme from Titanic. It was hilarious.

J. Freedom du Lac: Saw/heard him the other morning at Farragut North. After quickly confirming that it wasn't an incognito virtuoso participating in a Weingarten experiment, I moved on. No theme from "Titanic," either.

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Your Friend and Mine: My friend said that the new Oasis album is the best Oasis album since Morning Glory but not as good as Definitely Maybe and their last show at the Merriweather was the best live concert she'd ever been to. Guess Oasis isn't trendy enough for the Style section?

J. Freedom du Lac: Who?

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Re: AC/DC Popularity: I just got back from Australia. In the paper there, I read that AC/DC is one of the five top selling bands of all time. It's them, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, and the Rolling Stones. Odd.

J. Freedom du Lac: According to the RIAA, "Back in Black" is the fifth-best-selling album of all-time in the US, at 22 million. Only "The Wall" (23 mil), Led Zep's IV (23 mil), "Thriller" (27 mil) and that Eagles hits album (29 mil) have sold more here.

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San Francisco, Calif.: Do you imagine you'll send anyone to cover the Rock Band Live tour when it hits the Patriot Center on Halloween? I was initially pretty skeptical, but ended up with friends at two of the shows out here, and the tour was actually really enjoyable. I'm not at all a fan of Dashboard Confessional's music, but the man knows how to tell a dirty joke. Panic at the Disco were a delightful surprise, a young band that's now confident enough to let its music carry the concert rather than its antics. (They also connected really well with the crowd, and did a good cover of "Shout") So here's an actual discussion question, then: do you personally have to like a band's music to enjoy its performance? Alternatively, does seeing a band live ever make you appreciate them less? (I went a bit sour on Modest Mouse after seeing their soporific live performance a few years ago.)

J. Freedom du Lac: We won't be covering this one, as we've already reviewed pretty much all the bands of note on that bill within the last year. (Plus, you know, they don't rate well on the trend-o-meter.) Not surprising that Panic is doing "Shout" now. After all, they're on a major Beatles jag, so if it worked for them, well...

To answer the other part of your question: If I don't like the music, I probably won't like the performance. I might appreciate the execution or laugh at the banter. But if I'm not into the songs or the sound, I just don't see myself enjoying the performance of the music itself. But it's very possible for me to like a band less after seeing them live. One of the most extreme examples I can think of is Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. I liked the recorded proffer but hated 'em live. And after seeing them live, I lost interest in their music.

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Acts I saw as a teenager and now regret...: It was a double-bill with Young MC and Milli Vanilli.

It's painful just thinking back on that and it's been a while...

J. Freedom du Lac: What's wrong with Young MC? The Dust Brothers produced that album, Flea played on "Bust a Move" and dude was a pretty good songwriter, too.

My favorite thing about him, though, is that he studied economics at USC. Take that, David Banner!

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Columbia, Md.: Rockabye Baby - My daughter seemed to enjoy the Cure and U2 versions. The Coldplay one seems redundant (Isn't regular Coldplay designed to lull people to sleep?).

The Tool and NIN options seem frightening.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes! That's what I said (re Coldplay) in the story! Though I think I used a $3 word.

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Anonymous: Is Hootie still the number one debut selling album of all time? We've got to pick a first time artist and get them over that 15,000,000 hump.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's up to 16 million now. Nobody's gonna sell 6 million anymore, let alone 16. It's over. They own it. And now Darius Rucker is blowing up the country charts, too. Go figure.

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Slacker, Virginia: Will we see you at the historic Auditorium Theatre in Chicago for the Umphrey's McGee New Years Run?

Your loss old man. Your loss.

But you can still catch them in Richmond Nov. 20th at The National Theatre. Do yourself the favor.

J. Freedom du Lac: They're playing a couple of nights at the 9:30 right after Richmond. Much shorter drive.

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not what I thought Marc Broussard looked like: Some folks - and there should be more - find Marc Broussard to be one helluva great live act. Not to mention, his father is swamp-pop legend, down the bayou. But saying, "...a pretty basic swamp-funk number more interesting that it really is"? Try seeing Marc live in the flesh sometime. He's way better than The Band With A Naughty Name. Way.

J. Freedom du Lac: You're referring here to something Malitz wrote.

David Malitz: I'll stand by what I said about that one song. That's a problem with some of those late-night performances. They bring these 15-person bands with and it really doesn't add anything to the song, just bogs it down. Also, performers usually perform their "safest" numbers, too.

David Malitz: I would just like to say "perform" one more time, for the record.

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Anger, USA: Man, between political candidates and their operatives telling me I'm not a "real" American and that I live in a Communist enclave (Arlington, VA), and now posters accusing you of only reviewing "trendy" acts, the anger and divisiveness is just out of control. Can't we all get along?

By the way, I love John Hiatt and have never heard of Lykke Li, but I understand that you are not working with unlimited resources and have to make choices. On the whole, I'm pretty pleased with the ones you make. Sometimes it is good to learn about someone new (like you did for me with Amy Winehouse and Miranda Lambert) than just have a reinforcement of my tastes (good, they say the band I like is good, that makes ME good).

Or something like that.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm not pro-Hiatt/Lovett enough, I guess. Any minute now, I expect the Crazy McCain Rally Lady (as played by Kristen Wiig) to say I can't be trusted to assign pop music because I'm a Freemason.

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About Robert Plant: The guy cuts an album with Alison Krauss, and has now been announced as part of the upcoming Buddy and Julie Miller album.

That's three Christian singer-songwriters he's working with. All acclaimed, justly. But still -- Christian folks.

What does this tell us about Plant?

J. Freedom du Lac: Are you the Crazy McCain Rally Lady?

I really don't think about religion when I think about Alison Krauss and Buddy and Julie Miller. Heavenly music, yes. But Christian singer-songwriters? Is that honestly how you categorize them? Not that there's anything wrong with being a Christian singer-songwriter. (Colin Powell, this disclaimer is for you!)

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Rockabye: We listened to the Cure Rockabye and my daughter is now a big fan of the real version of Close to Me. She's also big into Built to Spill (dances around the room when a song comes on).

Meanwhile, she is scared of Ra Ra Riot and Cake.

I find Ra Ra Riot and Built to Spill to have very Cure-like sensibilities, so I am not sure if your theory works.

J. Freedom du Lac: She might be the only person on the planet who's scared of Cake. Is it the vibraslap they're always using? You know, the instrument that makes the rattlesnake sound?

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Home Plate: Last week I suggested that BJ Upton and Evan Longoria were the baseball equivalent of two Jonas Brothers.

I'd like to retract that. They're more like Mick and Keef.

J. Freedom du Lac: That reminds me: I need to wrap up this chat so that Malitz and I can get to work on our World Series music comps. Still struggling with Cole Hamels.

Thanks for stopping by, folks. Even you, Crazy Lovett-Hiatt Concert Guy.

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