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Mike Mettler Posted: May 28, 2015 0 comments
For musicians of a certain era, it was either The Beatles, Elvis, or the blues that inspired them to start making their own music. For singer/songwriter Joan Armatrading, all it took was the furniture in her house. “This is what I was born to do,” says Armatrading, who’s originally from Antigua. “My mother bought a piano and put it in the front room. She didn’t buy it because she thought somebody was going to play it; she bought it because it was a great piece of furniture. Literally on the day it arrived, I started writing songs.” To get a further, purer taste of her songwriting prowess, it’s worth checking out the two-disc Love and Affection: Joan Armatrading Classics (1975-1983) collection, mastered in 96/24 by Erick Labson, which showcases a key segment of her decade-plus run on A&M Records. The lost-in-scat-and-strings vibe of “Love and Affection,” the raw-nerve toucher “Down to Zero” (complete with wafty-cool pedal-steel support), and the ’80s-fueled fury of “(I Love It When You) Call Me Names” are all prime evidence that Armatrading has always been at the forefront of matching a songwriter’s emotional intent with a particular sound-quality standard, without compromise. During a recent tour stop in Chicago, I called Armatrading, 60, to discuss the nuances of her live show, her in-studio sound-quality inclinations, and her initial music-making inspirations. Everybody gotta know this feeling inside.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jul 05, 2006 0 comments

Are we close to the point of seeing CDs disappear entirely? Could that happen? Hey, listen: Vinyl's almost disappeared. 78's disappeared. I'm not a soothsayer, and I can't really say if people are going to give up on the physical side of intellectual property.

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Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 04, 2008 0 comments

Tell me about Guitar Hero: Aerosmith (RedOctane/Activision). What a coup to be the first band to have the entire game dedicated to the arc of your career.When I saw my son Roman playing Guitar Hero a few years ago, I was blown away.

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Mike Mettler Posted: Jul 09, 2014 0 comments
“We don’t want to shut the door, we want to open it.” John Hiatt has just described the up-close and personal vibe that’s spread all across his new album Terms of My Surrender, out July 15 on New West. Surrender was cut live with Hiatt and his bandmates ensconced around each other in Studio G in Nashville, and the intimacy is intrinsic to every note. Stomps, claps, and a taut kick drum set the tone at the outset of “Long Time Comin’,” as Hiatt murmurs, “Mmm-hmm, let me see” before he begins strumming his acoustic guitar to lock into the groove. And the über-deep, practically resigned breath he takes before diving into the starkly personal “Nothin’ I Love” just adds to Surrender‘s core honesty. Hiatt, 61, and I recently got down to jawing about knowing when a final master sounds right, how he consistently fails at properly sequencing his records, and trying to convince his dad that stereo was a cool thing. Says the masterful singer/songwriter about Surrender, “The goal was to make it feel like we were all together on the back porch.” Pull up a chair and join the unbroken circle.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 12, 2015 1 comments
To modify a phrase, fingerpicking guitar maestro Jorma Kaukonen just keeps on innovatin’. For over a half-century, Kaukonen has followed his own path and applied his folk roots to variations on psychedelia with Jefferson Airplane and free-form blues with Hot Tuna, not to mention his own solo rock and unplugged outings. On his acoustic-driven new disc, Ain’t In No Hurry (Red House), Kaukonen continues to push forward on tasty, intense tracks like the hopeful timelessness of “In My Dreams,” the traditional riches-to-rags lament of “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” and the down-home grit of “The Terrible Operation.” Observes Kaukonen, “One of the cool things about the way the album is mixed is that there’s this magnificent, transparent presence of all the instruments, no matter who’s playing and where they are. You can hear them all; they’re there.” Kaukonen, 74, and I got on the phone recently to discuss his recording techniques, his mastery of Drop D tuning on an iconic song, and the hi-fi gear that’s served to enhance listening experiences all throughout his life. The man may not be in a hurry, but he sure is getting somewhere.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 25, 2015 0 comments
Being appointed one of the queens of the alternative music scene was never one of Juliana Hatfield’s goals. But there she was, right in the thick of the then-burgeoning movement — first in the alt-rock trio Blake Babies, then as a titular solo artist known for meshing expressive vocals with intrinsically catchy melodies fueled by a combo punk-and-pop sensibility. “I was very moved by melody and harmony from a very early age,” Hatfield says. “It affected me very powerfully.” She recently reunited with her Juliana Hatfield Three compatriots, bassist Dean Fisher and drummer Todd Phillips, for the uber-catchy Whatever, My Love (American Laundromat Records), a 40-minute ride through Hatfield’s world of melodic, introspective angst, from the acoustic lament of being “Invisible” to the moth/flame dance of “Push Pin” to the odd-meter frustration of “Wood” (the latter of which features a cool, feedback-laden outro guitar loop). Hatfield, 47, and I got on the horn to discuss her vocal techniques and recording goals, her natural sense of melody, and her ongoing struggles with communication. Whatever and ever, amen.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 29, 2013 0 comments

Why is Justified so damn good? Simply put, it’s one of the best written, best acted, best sounding, and best looking shows there is, season in and season out. Based on a character sprung from the brilliantly unique mind of Elmore LeonardJustified stars Timothy Olyphant as U.S.

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Mike Mettler Posted: Nov 12, 2014 0 comments
Bruce Hornsby could never be accused of being an artist who rests on his laurels. "I’m such a different musician in every way than I was 20 years ago," he admits. Prime evidence of the master pianist's ongoing creative evolution can be found all over the double-disc Solo Concerts (Vanguard), where Hornsby explores a variety of styles from behind the keyboard: everything from blues ’n’ boogie to New Orleans funk to the tenets of modern classical music. He also recasts the character of some of his best-known songs, such as turning "The Valley Road" into a blues vamp and giving "Mandolin Rain" an indelible bluegrass stamp. Here, Hornsby, 59, and I discuss how he "makes friends" with new pianos, when and when not to use reverb, and his philosophy of A/B'ing to find the proper live SQ baseline. Pushing the creative envelope — that's just the way it is with Bruce Hornsby, and we hope it's something that never changes.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 25, 2015 0 comments
To borrow a song title, things can only get better for Howard Jones. Known for such indelible synth-driven ’80s hits like “What Is Love?,” “No One Is to Blame,” “New Song,” and “Everlasting Love,” Jones has focused his efforts in recent years on his inherent talents as a songwriter and arranger, not to mention his knack for creating multimedia-driven live experiences. All of his musical gifts are on fine display with Engage (dtox music and arts), a two-disc CD/DVD set that features a vibrant 5.1 mix on DVD by Robbie Bronnimann, Jones’ longtime sound designer. Jones, 60, and I connected across the Pond to discuss the Engage project, the possibility of future high-resolution remixes of his storied catalog, and his thoughts on vintage analog gear. Jones is one man who knows how to put his dream into action.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 11, 2014 0 comments
Photo by Maureen Clark

There are blues legends and there are blues masters, and then there’s John Mayall. Long acknowledged as the father of the British blues scene that emerged in the heyday of the ’60s and the man who helped school the guitarslinging likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Coco Montoya, and Buddy Whittington, the 80-year-old Mayall shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. “You have no other choice, really,” he says matter-of-factly. “You set your feet on your path, and that’s what you stick with. It’s the only thing that you know to do.” His latest album, A Special Life (Forty Below), carries on the rich blues tradition, thanks in no small part to Mayall’s rapport with his band, led by a Texas-born guitar ace (Rocky Athas) and anchored by a Chicago-bred rhythm section (bassist Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport). “Never plan to fade away,” Mayall sings in the title track. Dear John: We’re going to hold you to that.


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