Freedom Rock

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J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 28, 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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The Kids are Alright: The 'oo are playing a day before Election day in Washington, DC. Will it be "meet the new boss, same as the old boss"? or "teenage waste land, oh yeah, its only teenage waste land"? I hope that Pete and Rodga tear the mother up. This is the last great concert of 2008 for this area. Yes, sorry Oasis and all the other poser rawk bands.

J. Freedom du Lac: You honestly think it'll be better than this???

Tue. Dec. 2: KEVIN COSTNER & Modern West at the Birchmere.

Oh, ye of little faith.

I kid, of course. Though Costner really is performing at the Birch in December.

I'm on record as having really, really liked the Who's set at the first Virgin Festival here. Son-of-Ringo really helped push the pace of the songs, which gave them some extra crackle.

Let's do this, shall we? Gotta get off the stage before Henry Rollins comes through with swingin' elbows. (He's chatting at 3pm today.)

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Harmonica: I love the harmonica. Are there any current artists making good use of this instrument?

J. Freedom du Lac: Sure.

James "Sugar Blue" Whiting. Lee Oskar. Charlie Musselwhite. That dude from the J. Geils band. Toots Thielemans.

Among people who haven't been around forever, there's the French-born, DC-based harp player Frederic Yonnet, who I've seen on stage with Stevie Wonder a couple of times. Dude can flat-out blow.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: JFree, Your colleague, Chris Richards be hatin' on the Big Dog Daddy. What is your take on the latest release by Toby Keith? I just appreciate the fact that you and the other WP writers do not have the dismissive attitude toward country music that many of the effete East and West Coast music snobs love to demonstrate. I always know when a writer is talking out of his a-- when they use the term "Country & Western", a term that has been out of currency for many years.

J. Freedom du Lac: Chris and I generally agree when it comes to country music (we have a shared love for the Miranda Lambert/Ashton Shepherd/Jamey Johnson albums). I, however, am a much bigger fan of Toby's ballad-singing than is Chris. You'll see as much when/if you read the writer's cut version of my Q+A with Toby that'll appear on the Post Rock blog this weekend. (A much shorter version will be in the Sunday paper.)

I'm heading to Nashville next month, btw, to hang with George Jones for a profile that'll run before the Kennedy Center Honors. Same week as the CMAs, so I'll be sticking around for a few days, doing some writing for print and online. Hoping to see a couple-few shows while I'm there, too, including a set by Eric Church who has a new album coming out in 2009. Oh yeah.

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Washington, D.C.: I was just wondering if we could expect to see a review for the Bouncing Souls concert that is taking place Wed. night?

J. Freedom du Lac: Maybe. But it won't be in TWP.

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Baltimore, Md.: Once Chinese Democracy comes out, what will become the next poster child for too-long-in-gestation vanity project/musical vaporware?

J. Freedom du Lac: The circa-1996 D'Angelo-Raphael Saadiq-Ali Shaheed album that we'll never, ever hear?

Are people actually excited about finally getting to hear "Chinese Democracy"? I kind of think they should've shelved it in perpetuity.

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Arlington, Va.: Dear Mr. Lac, Better way to spend election day, in the voting lines or reviewing the almighty Bad Brains show at the 9:30 club? Crowd will be going nuts and hopefully our HR can hold it together for one night.

J. Freedom du Lac: Why couldn't you do both? Vote early, watch HR sing the entire set to a caged bird late. Maybe he'll give out a loaf of bread, too, as with the band's short but sweet Virgin Festival set last year. There's a good campaign-promise joke involving pot(s) to be made here, by the way. I'm just having a hard time framing it.

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Atlanta, Ga.: People would like Toby Keith better if he had a midget sidekick named Keith Toby.

J. Freedom du Lac: I think he does. But his name is Larry the Cable Guy, who came on stage with a leafblower for, like, 30 seconds when I saw TK at Nissan.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you ride Metro? Have you had your bag searched?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, and I thought it was kind of strange when the officer told me to turn to the left and cough.

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Kenny: How do you feel when you hear one of your favorite artist's songs in a commercial or advertisement? Now a days when something like this happens a fan will call them a sell out. Usually the people who call them a sell out are also the ones downloading the album for free which leads to lost revenue which might indirectly lead to artists seeking other avenues to make cash to eat food.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm ambivalent about it, really. Though it's weird to hear, eg, Paisley's "Ticks" in the context of a Hershey's commercial. I kind of like Toby Keith's approach with regards to his deal with Ford. Instead of trying to downplay the partnership and pretend like he has integrity, he's fully embraced their deal and includes Ford videos in his shows and the F150 (or is it the F250?) grill in his set design. Good for him. A guy's gotta put food on the table of his private jet, you know. (Not that he's hurting: Forbes had TK at No. 3 on its list of the top-earning musicians from June 2007 to June 2008, with roughly $48 mil in income.)

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Chicago, Ill.: Wilco is on the Colbert Report this Thursday - given that he's had acts from R.E.M. to rush to James Taylor, has our favorite Megamerican become the new force in late-night music stops?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'll have to defer to Malitz on this one, since he watches all the late-night performances these days.

David Malitz: Yeah, that reminds me, I have a bunch of stuff to watch on my DVR. Letterman still gets the best stuff, overall. Ferguson rarely has musical guests but it's (old) punk week this week and he has X, New York Dolls and the Damned. Weird. Conan will get some hip stuff, but he'll get an equal amount of pretend-hip stuff. And Leno gets lots of famous people, but, fittingly, lots of boring people.

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Harmoni, CA: Definitely before your time, but I remember seeing Paul Butterfield at the Masonic Temple in Toronto. He knew how to play. Alas, gone to the great gig in the sky.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, all indications are that he knew his way around the reed chambers.

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Anonymous: Do you have any thoughts on the Queen plus Paul Rodgers album? I didn't see a review in today's Post?

J. Freedom du Lac: Haven't heard it.

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Forestville, Md.: I saw an article where Led Zeppelin may do a reunion tour without Robert Plant. What would be the point?

J. Freedom du Lac: The point apparently would be to go out and make a small fortune. There can't possibly be another explanation, can there? Maybe, just maybe, it's about wanting to revisit those songs, but if that's the case, don't call it Led Zeppelin. Certainly, it's not like Jimmy Page loves John Paul Jones so much that this is all about their relationship. After all, when Page-Plant got together for that album and tour in the 90s, they seem to have forgotten that JPJ was even alive.

By the by, I'm putting the odds of a Plant-Krauss album-of-the-year Grammy nomination at 5/4.

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Rockville, Md.: Going to the Marc Broussard show in a couple weeks at Sixth and I, but haven't been there before. How early should I get there, and how does the synagogue play as a concert venue?

J. Freedom du Lac: I like the room quite a bit, but don't get there late. Otherwise, you'll get stuck sitting in upstairs, on either side of the stage, in the back row. Pretty tough to see from up there. If you're looking for a pre-game meal, go to Full Kee. But bring cash, because they won't sell you those awesome chive blossoms (or anything else on the menu) if you're only carrying plastic.

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Buddy and Julie Miller : Last week a comment was submitted about Robert Plant working with three Christian singer-songwriters (Buddy and Julie Miller, and Allison Krauss). It seemed as though you discounted this as a valid supposition when you replied "I really don't think about religion when I think about...(them)."

Given that perception is reality, unless you came to these folks careers knowing of their Christian/gospel roots, most folks would respond the way you did.

In the early '90s Julie Miller (much like T-Bone Burnett's wife, Sam Phillips) was affiliated with a couple major Christian labels (Myrrh and Word), with several releases, and some success. I learned of her from seeing reviews in Rolling Stone, I believe.

Buddy, while not overtly a Christian act, is bonded to his wife's career, and keeps an element of spirituality in his music, as evidenced by the positive response to his release, Universal United House of Prayer by quite a few Christian reviewers and web sites.

So far as Allison Krauss, the traditional Bluegrass field has a strong association with Gospel music, and gospel is one of Allison's vocal strengths (among many strengths). She has won two Dove awards (1998 and 2006), and a Grammy in 1995, for Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Gospel Album.

So far as the writer's question that you had responded to: "What does this (affiliations with Christians) tell us about Plant?

I'd say it shows that he knows great musicians when he hears them. I hate that I missed the tour.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm not discounting it as valid. I'm just saying that when I listen to them, I don't think of them as Christian singer-songwriters. In the same way that I don't think of John Legend as a Christian singer-songwriter, even though he was the choir director at an AME Church and grew up singing in the church. It's part of who they are, but it's not principally what they're all about, as opposed to somebody like Michael W. Smith who is, to me, first and foremost, a Christian musician.

L. Freedom and I included a Buddy and Julie Miller song on our wedding CD, btw. Such great talents. And, of course, that Solomon Burke album - "Nashville" - that Buddy produced at his house is incredible.

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Washington, D.C.: Any plans to see (or send someone to review) the sure-to-be-great Jonatha Brooke show sunday at the Birchmere (with Glen Phillips if he's recovered from the slice his arm took when he fell into a glass topped table)?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes.

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Austin, Tex.: I wish Jimmy Page & Jeff Beck would get together and do a Yardbirds-themed something.

J. Freedom du Lac: Not as much money to be made.

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How do you feel when you hear one of your favorite artist's songs in a commercial or advertisement?: Sometimes it makes me happy for the band/musician. Volvo uses a Feelies song and I'm hoping they finally made some money with their music.

J. Freedom du Lac: And Volvo would be happy if you went out and bought a new S80.

Isn't it interesting, though, how ad agencies will sometimes go back and pluck something relatively obscure out of the past for a new campaign? That song is something like 22 years old.

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J. Freedom du Lac: Speaking of selling out/corporate partnerships, this was just delivered to the Dept of Huh:

* SPARTANBURG, S.C., Oct. 28, 2008 - Denny's introduces a new line-up of late-night dishes created by top artists including Katy Perry, Taking Back Sunday, Boys Like Girls and Hoobastank. The new Rockstar menu presented by Dr Pepper, is featured only after 10 p.m., along with alternative rock played throughout the restaurant and servers sporting T-shirts and jeans. *

Don't all rush to your local Denny's at once, but the exciting new items include the Hot N Cold Cherry Chocolate Cappuccino ('A tasty, multi-layered concoction inspired by Katy Perry's new hit single, "Hot n' Cold'") and the Hooburrito ("Hoobastank serves up a burrito with crispy chicken strips, pepper jack cheese, cheese sauce, fried onion crispers and a hint of barbecue sauce. Served with tortilla chips, and a side of cheese sauce and ranch.").

Ick.

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Nashville, Tenn.: Page & JPJ should hook up with Pepsi and stage a "you could be the new singer for Led Zeppelin" contest. Or make it into a reality show like INXS.

J. Freedom du Lac: They could call it the Where My Dignity At? tour.

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Harmoni, CA: It gets no better than Bruce wailing on the harmonica to kick off Reason to Believe.

J. Freedom du Lac: Sure it does. Stevie Wonder playing harmonica on John Denver's "If Ever."

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Denny's introduces a new line-up of late-night dishes created by top artists : Hmmm. It's sort of like your plan to equate musicians with sport figures. Except Denny's is doing it with entrees. I think Hoobastank should be a steak, though.

J. Freedom du Lac: Looks like a pretty cheese-heavy menu to me.

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Nashville trip: Any plans to sit down with Eric Brace of Last Train Home fame while in Nashville?

J. Freedom du Lac: I've told you about my trip to New Orleans in February, right? When I went to Tips to see Allen Toussaint performing at the 30th anniversary show and ran into none other than Eric Brace at the club? Small world.

Worth noting: Allen Toussaint is coming to the Kennedy Center next month for a show with Henry Butler and Jon Cleary. Nov. 7 in the Terrace Theater. Very highly recommended.

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RE: The Who: Just wanted to jump in and say that I saw The Who in Boston last week. Tons of classic songs and a few more unexpected, deeper cuts. They are -still- a great show, even all these years later and with the personnel changes. Highly recommend!

J. Freedom du Lac: Just passing this along...

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Plant, Millers, Krauss: Granted they are now more well known for their commercially successful endeavors, and not their earlier work. It is that revision of reality, that happens naturally over longer periods of time, which drives me a little nuts. People just don't know the background.

Just the same as with the Climax Blues Band, Seals & Crofts, John Denver, America, and Hall & Oates, (even the members of the Starland Vocal Band) and so many other acts that get put in the "smooth", or "easy listening" bins, when in reality, they were part of the hip scene. "Mellow down easy" was as much a part of being hip as "rock till you drop" was. Few realize that now.

J. Freedom du Lac: What you call revision of reality, others might refer to as the evolution of popular perception.

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

PLEASE tell me you saw last week's episode of The Office, where Darryl says that he asked Michael for his top ten Springsteen songs, and "Three were Huey Lewis and the News, one was Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car,' and my personal favorite, 'Short People.' Great moment in TV/Springsteen history.

J. Freedom du Lac: If it didn't happen on "Gossip Girl" or ESPN's 97-part World Series of Poker Main Event telecast or that other World Series, then it's probably not a part of my reality.

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Alexandria, Va.: Coldplay on SNL - does Chris Martin always have the stage presence of a hyperactive child that just rinsed down all of their Halloween candy with a cup of coffee, or was he just happy to be there?

J. Freedom du Lac: As the kids used to say: That's just his steez.

He sometimes sits still when he's doing the bereft piano-ballad thing, but even then, he's prone to rocking on the bench like a Joe Cocker impersonator.

Wonder if he'll dress as somebody else for Coldplay's Halloween show here.

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W.D.C.: I'm heading to the State Theater to see Matthew Sweet tomorrow night. How's the venue?

J. Freedom du Lac: Depends on who's manning the mixing board.

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Granted they are now more well known for their commercially successful endeavors, and not their earlier work.: What, you really think Robert Plant is more well known for his work with Allison Krauss than for fronting Led Zeppelin? I doubt it. Unless you do a survey and only talk to my parents.

J. Freedom du Lac: I believe the protestationist is referring primarily to Buddy and Judy Miller and Alison Krauss. Robert Plant is just an innocent by-stander.

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Perception/Reality: You said: What you call revision of reality, others might refer to as the evolution of popular perception.

Doesn't that equate to an inaccurate popular perception?

By the way, I love these chats. You can never leave the WP. Nor Mr. Malitz.

J. Freedom du Lac: Like the album title says: 50000000 Buddy Miller Fans Can't Be Wrong.

Thanks for the nice words. Malitz and I will be sure to ask HR to add this post to our files. Just hope said files don't burn when the youknowhathouse finally goes up in flames.

Speaking of which, it's time to do some vegetation maintenance. Thanks for stopping by. You've been great. Enjoy Henry Rollins.

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