Mike Mettler

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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.

Mike Mettler Posted: Jan 02, 2014 0 comments
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Pressure: It can get to anyone. Just ask the four members of the Followill clan, a.k.a. Nashville’s first family of deep-roots rock, Kings of Leon. The three brothers (Caleb, Jared, and Nathan) and one cousin (Matthew) comprising KoL were anointed rock saviors when they burst onto the scene with the guitar-driven Southern-fried primal-blues mash of 2003’s Youth & Young Manhood. And their arena-rocking prowess was cemented with the one-two punch of the yearning “Sex on Fire” and the anthemic “Use Somebody” on 2008’s best-selling Only by the Night.
Mike Mettler Posted: Aug 13, 2014 1 comments
Performance
Sound
“The best way to listen to Led Zeppelin is off of the analog tapes, but unfortunately, I can’t invite you around to listen to them.” That’s Jimmy Page, answering my question about whether vinyl is still the benchmark for experiencing Led Zeppelin music at a press conference following a listening event he hosted in New York City back in May. But now that Page has personally remastered all nine of Zep’s formidable studio albums in 96-kHz/24-bit, high-resolution digital audio appears to be the ideal format for hearing every detail and nuance put forth from the collective hammer of the gods.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 02, 2014 0 comments
Photo by David McClister

“I’m basically what is known as a talented illusionist.” So says piano wizard Leon Russell, but the Oklahoma native is being more than somewhat modest. His C.V. is as impressive as they come: First-call member of the legendary ’60s L.A. studio collective known as The Wrecking Crew, co-founder of Shelter Records in 1969 with Denny Cordell, spearhead of Joe Cocker’s infamous 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, and beneficiary of a revived recording career by teaming up with Elton John on 2010′s T Bone Burnett-produced The Union. On his just-released Life Journey (UMe), Russell comes full circle to show his mastery of the form on tasty covers like his piano-vamp stab at Robert Johnson’s “Come on in My Kitchen,” a slip-slidin’ romp through “Fever,” and a swing-sational full-orchestral take on Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good.” Here, Russell, 72, and I discuss his ever-unique recording technique, what it’s like being “out on the edge,” and his time in the studio with Frank Sinatra. Face it, Brother Leon: You’re a one-man Wrecking Crew unto yourself.

Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 26, 2014 0 comments
Performance
Sound
The term supergroup gets a bad rap—but with good reason. Often, it’s applied to a collective of hot-shot all-star musicians who look pretty good together on paper, but the resulting music usually proves the individual parts are actually greater than the sum. Discerning listeners tend to cast a wary eye, er, ear toward such lineup mashups—unless the pedigree is an impeccably progressive one intent on exploring the cosmos of composition to achieve a common sonic goal.

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