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PORTLAND – Much has occurred in the lives of Portland-based alt-punk-grunge rockers theWorst since they formed and embarked on their first nationwide tour five years ago. The band’s celebrated 2017 debut “Jane Doe Embryo” was an aggressive and authentic “How do you do?” but according to lead singer and guitarist Brooke Binion, the best is yet to come.

As this story goes to print, Binion, bassist Will Bradford (SeepeopleS) and drummer Craig Sala (Paranoid Social Club) are wrapping sessions for their sophomore LP “Yes Regrets” at Chillhouse Studios in Boston with producer Will Holland. No second album syndrome for this band, Binion says, adding she isn’t worried about heightened expectations. “I think I’ll be more worried about topping this one to be honest,” she said. “It’s different, but it’s a lot more mature and I’m really proud of it.”

Iconic progressive rock guitarist Steve Hackett says he’s had a most productive lockdown.

The former guitarist for Genesis (1970-1977) has just released his 25th solo album, his first acoustic offering since 2008. Hackett says the 11 pieces of music recorded for “Under a Mediterranean Sky” take inspiration from his extensive travels in and around the Mediterranean with his wife, Jo, whom he credits with the idea.

During an interview with The Maine Edge, Hackett says his goal was to not only pay tribute to the extraordinary beauty of the Mediterranean but to offer a transportive experience for listeners who’d like to break away from their current inertia and take the journey with him.

When Hackett’s live performances last year vaporized in the wake of COVID, he rescheduled his Genesis Revisited tour “Seconds Out and More” for this fall in the U.K. with forthcoming dates to be announced soon for the U.S.  

Last summer, Hackett released his memoir, “A Genesis in My Bed,” an engrossing and revealing read that shed light on his life in and out of music, his years spent creating classic prog-rock albums with his former band and the myriad musical journeys undertaken during his solo career, all delivered with a hefty dose of levity.

Each piece on “Under a Mediterranean Sky” is devoted to a different part of the Mediterranean landscape while highlighting the regions’ cultures and indigenous instruments. It’s a beautifully written and recorded album centered by Hackett’s classical guitar playing and longtime collaborator Roger King’s orchestral arrangements.

It’s been suggested that you have to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues. For guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader, Andy Watts, the blues is a way of life (“certainly here in the Middle East,” he jokes), and his dues were paid up a long time ago. Watts has been proclaimed (by Blues and Muse magazine) Israel’s “Ambassador of the Blues,” which is probably accurate when you consider Watts’s longevity as an Israeli blues performer and the fact that he has repeatedly brought many of America’s greatest blues artists to his country.

Watts’s fifth album “Supergroove” is a fully charged dose of the blues, tinged with rock, soul, funk, and R&B, that he says is a reflection of his live show. Produced by six-time Grammy nominee Kenny Neal and released on Neal’s label, the album features ten tracks of Watts with his 9-piece band blazing through five originals and interpretations of five blues classics from Freddie King, Joe Louis Walker, Rick Estrin, and Watts’s greatest influence, Peter Green, the late founder of Fleetwood Mac.

Guests on “Supergroove” include Blues Hall of Fame inductee Joe Louis Walker, singer Eliza Neals, Roy Young, and Israeli vocalists Danny Shoshan and Gadi Altman.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020 10:51

A few of my favorite 2020 musical things

Written by Mike Dow

It’s only speculation on my part, but I’m guessing you sought an escape route this year. Many of us, myself included, found it in music.

I’ve never subscribed to the belief that all of the good stuff has already been recorded. I believe a case could be made that there is more good music being written and recorded now than at any other time.

Despite the lack of live shows (and I miss that experience dearly), a wealth of truly great music was made this year. Here are some of the artists and titles that saw me through. As I look over my preliminary list of 2020 musical faves, it occurs to me that they are all independent artists.

You know a film moved you when you can’t stop thinking about it. If you’re even mildly interested in the life and music of Frank Zappa, you need to see Alex Winter’s “Zappa,” the first all-access documentary on Frank utilizing his vast archive of film and recordings.

Through “Zappa,” we meet the real Frank through vintage film and interview footage, most of it unseen until now. We meet the musicians he trusted to deliver his music, both rock and classical, and we discover how he interacted with them. We meet his wife Gail and see Frank being a husband, a father, a rock star, a classical composer and conductor, a free speech advocate and a tireless battler of injustice in its many forms. Frank was a complicated guy.

We see how Frank dealt with the cancer that ultimately claimed his life in 1993. In one of the movie’s most impactful scenes, we see part of his final concert performance in Prague, as well as footage from Frankfurt in 1992 when he conducted Ensemble Modern performing music from “The Yellow Shark,” the last album (of 62) released during his lifetime.

It’s a film befitting of the Zappa name because it’s an honest portrayal of his life and work, even when it doesn’t portray him in the best light. Zappa was all about the truth, and as his son Ahmet reveals during the following interview, staying true to his father’s modus operandi was the vision of everyone involved in this movie through the six years it took to get it made.

“Zappa” is a powerful film and one of the best documentaries I’ve seen this year.

My interview with Ahmet Zappa began with a little revelation about his longtime fascination with the state of Maine. I encouraged him to leave L.A. behind and join us here full time.

Wednesday, 09 December 2020 12:39

Paul Carrack on the one positive aspect of lockdown

Written by Mike Dow

Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Paul Carrack is one of popular music’s most valuable players, and a man with hits as a band member, a frontman, and as a solo artist. Carrack wrote and sang “How Long” with his mid-70s band Ace. As a member of Squeeze, he sang their biggest American hit, “Tempted.” When Mike Rutherford of Genesis put together his side project Mike + the Mechanics, Carrack sang lead on hits “Silent Running” and “The Living Years.” He’s been a member of Roxy Music, and a session man for The Smiths, John Hiatt, The Pretenders and others. Carrack has been a recording and touring musician for artists as diverse as Ringo Starr, Roger Waters, B.B. King, and Eric Clapton, with whom he’s toured and recorded since 2013.

Carrack has released 17 solo albums, including his most recent, “These Days” released in 2018. With his six-piece band, he keeps up a fairly busy touring schedule but like everyone else, it all came to a stop in March of this year. Carrack says he sought ways to keep connecting with an audience, and while recording a quick video to post online may have been fun, it couldn’t compare with being on a stage with his band.

In September, Carrack and his band, accompanied by a 12-camera crew, took to the stage of ornate Victoria Hall in Leeds, England, to perform their first full concert together in 6 months. It may have felt a bit strange to perform to an otherwise empty room but the concert, he says, was a truly special experience. The resulting two-hour concert is a beautifully filmed affair with a pristine audio mix full of hits from throughout Carrack’s career. It first streamed to fans in October and again last weekend during a partnership with live steaming platform Mandolin.

Carrack phoned from his home near London to discuss that concert experience in an interview that aired on BIG 104 FM. Highlights from that interview follow.

2020 has been full of events that tend to get a person thinking about home. Maine-based singer and songwriter Joel Thetford says he’s been thinking a lot about his current and former homes this year.

The musician, known for his Americana and alt-country roots music has been on a prolific songwriting jag lately, and says home is very much on his mind as he releases his fifth album “Jacksboro Highway,” named for the storied stretch of road from which he hails.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 13:02

New music from veteran artists

Written by Mike Dow

There are a few benefits that come with doing a daily morning radio show that almost make up for the lack of sleep and/or anything resembling a social life. For starters, the coffee is pretty good, your mailbox is periodically populated with free CDs and books, and your studio phone can become a conduit to speak with the folks who make the music.

I do a morning show with a classic hits format that airs on BIG 104 FM (104.3/104.7/107.7 FM), and have taken a number of calls in recent weeks from veteran musicians excited to share news of their latest projects.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020 11:49

AC/DC leads the charge for November’s new music

Written by Mike Dow

November’s new music release schedule is traditionally populated with big names and this crazy year proves no exception, despite the fact that fewer new titles are being released this fall. About 100 new titles of note saw release in November 2019, according to PauseandPlay.com, a leading online source for music release dates. Roughly 60 new, non-archival titles are listed for release this month, a number no doubt impacted by the pandemic.

Albert and Joe Bouchard, best known as co-founding members of the enduring classic rock band Blue Öyster Cult (“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Godzilla”), have each released a new solo album on a jointly-owned label.

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