Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Drive-by Truckers and new to me Jason Isbell

I wanted to be more timely about reviewing "Brighter Than Creations Dark" by the Drive-by Truckers. It was released on January 22 but I did not get around to downloading it until later in the week. However, I was further delayed in writing the review because I also downloaded "Sirens of the Ditch" by former Drive-by Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell.

I listened to all 19 songs on "Brighter Than Creations Dark" and I was planning on listening to it again before writing the review but I wanted listened to "Sirens of the Ditch". I liked Mr. Isbell's release so much I just got back to the Drive-by Truckers today.

When I read on Paterson Hood's blog that Jason Isbell had left DBT I was a little disapointed since my favorite DBT songs have been written and sung by Mr. Isbell. Turns out I did not have to worry. "Sirens of the Ditch" is a real good showcase for Jason Isbell's talent and was produced by DBT's Paterson Hood and guest appearances by other Truckers like Shonna Tucker.

Since this is his solo disc Jason Hood sings every song and most of the songs are guitar based. I downloaded the album from iTunes and I do not have a track by track listing of the musicians but I think that Mr Isbell plays piano on Chicago Promenade. If you are a fan of the Drive-by Truckers you probably have already picked this record up. If you are a fan of well crafted music then you should get this as soon as possible. This is a whole CD filled with songs like "Outfit" and "Declaration Day"

Which brings us to the Drive-by Truckers "Brighter than Creations Dark". I have been waiting for the DBT to put out something that moves me as much as "Southern Rock Opera". While I have liked some songs on the albums that followed none of them have not grabbed me the the "Southern Rock Opera" did the first time I heard it. In fact "Let there be Rock" has the highest play count on my iPod.

For the new recording Jason Isbell has been replaced by steel player John Neff and Muscle Shoals keyboardist Spooner Oldham. John Neff has played lots of DBT songs and Spooner Oldham has played with just about everyone. I saw Mr. Oldham play with Bob Dylan in 1980 on the Slow Train Coming/Saved tour which is probably my all time favorite show. Shonna Tucker has also stepped up and has written 4 songs that she also sings on.

Brighter than Creations Dark is probably the closest that DBT has come to recreating the magic of Southern Rock Opera. The new release is more consistent and has a fuller sound. As always Patterson Hood provides the autobiographical songs while Mike Cooley provides the Springsteen like character songs. I will have to listen to Ms. Tuckers songs more before I can properly define them.

The Drive-by Truckers have 3 song writers and singers so it make sense that Brighter than Creations Dark has 19 songs. The addition of Mr. Neff and Oldham insures a strong performace on all the songs. The Drive-by Truckers have a sound that could be described as an American South version of the Rolling Stones. They can rock hard with a twangy edge but can move into the sound of Merle Haggard. I hate to categorize any music but DBT is alt-americana.

I was counting the days for this release and I was not disappointed. I may have listened to Jason Isbell's solo album more but I am sure the Drive-by Truckers will catch up. I have a lot of other new stuff on my iPod but it is going to have to wait a couple more days before I listen to it.

Patriot's Coach Belichick wearing a Rutger's Lacrosse Jacket

The New England Patriots coach was seen wearing a Rutgers Lacrosse jacket (I tried to find an online store that carried this jacket but I could not find one.) at his press conference on January 30. This was a great way to support his son and pander to the Giants faithful at the same time.

I am looking forward to the Rutgers Lacrosse season. It is funny to listen to the players parents critizing Coach Stagnitta even when the team is winning. I am wonder if Mr. Belichick will be a helicopter parent as well.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ronnie by Ronnie Wood - Another Review

I recently read the Eric Clapton autobiography Clapton and I decided to read Ronnie Wood's autobiography immediately following. Both cover the same time period but Mr. Wood's is a little bit younger and his career did not begin to take off until the late 60s when he became the bass player for the Led Zepplin prototype The Jeff Beck Group.

The two books read completely different from each other. The Clapton book is very organized and somewhat sanitized. The Ronnie Wood book is all over the place and completely mirrors his book. It would really be scary if this were in fact the sanitized version. The randomness of Ronnie can at times be frustrating it is also part of the charm. The same can often be said for the two bands that Mr. Wood is most famous for: The Faces and The Rolling Stones.

While Clapton details the life of a guitar god front man Ronnie details the life of a guitar god side man. Like many sidemen Mr. Wood has a formal musical background and is proficient on many instruments. Ronnie details Mr. Wood's post World War II upbringing in a large extended family made up of both blood relatives and neighbors. Two older brothers provided the musical and artistic influence.

Ronnie Wood's life has been one big party. From the after parties that his father had when Mr. Lane was young to the parties that he threw as he was living the rock star life style. Mr. Wood makes and spends several fortunes. It is amazing the he finds any time to make as much music and art as he has.

The rehab story does not come until the end of the book and is not nearly as detailed as Mr. Clapton's. I was wondering what took him so long. However, it must have been hard keeping up with Keith Richards.

I have always been a fan of Ronnie Wood. Especially after getting good seats at a Rolling Stones concert at Giants Stadium in the early 90s. That was when I first noticed how important Mr. Wood was to the Rolling Stones live sound. James Honeyman Scott of the Pretenders listed Ronnie Wood as one of his biggest influences. The Rod Stewart's Album Every Picture Tells a Story probably showcases Ronnie Wood as much as Mr. Stewart.

The only real disappointment is that the book does not have a lot of Jeff Beck stories. Mr. Beck is one of my favorite guitarists but I have heard that he protects his image. In fact his performance was the highlight of the Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival but it was left off of the DVD.

I do want to read the Patti Boyd autobiography next. Three versions of the same story should give me a good approximation of the truth.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rutgers Lacrosse with a Super Bowl Connection

The Rutgers Lacrosse season is starting up. Here is an article that was in the Home News today. I am looking forward to the season.

Patriotic Knight:
Bill Belichick's son Steve making name for himself at Rutgers

Home News Tribune Online 01/27/08

At 1 a.m. last Monday, less than seven hours after watching his father's New England Patriots defeat San Diego in the AFC Championship Game from the sideline, Steve Belichick arrived back at his Rutgers University dorm room and crashed for the night. Five hours later, Bill Belichick's son was back on a field, just an ordinary freshman practicing for the Rutgers men's lacrosse team.

"No one's treated differently around here," Rutgers lacrosse coach Jim Stagnitta said, offering a preemptive response for anyone wanting to question whether the younger Belichick gets preferential treatment on his team. "The only perk he's going to get is I'm going to let him attend the Super Bowl. I don't even let him miss a study hall."

Still, Stagnitta knows the circumstances are a tad different for this promising long-stick defenseman. "Probably the biggest challenge he's faced as a first-semester freshman," the coach said, "is the Patriots have had an unbelievable year. The kid's obviously been around it all of his life, so he's used to it. But — and he admitted this — it's been a little bit of a distraction that they're going through this unbeaten season.

"We can't allow him to go to every game, but this is a unique thing. It's not like many kids have a father who's coaching in the Super Bowl." And so Steve Belichick will be excused again this Saturday, shortly after Rutgers' alumni game, and he'll travel to Glendale, Ariz., to catch Super Bowl XLII. "It's exciting what the Patriots are doing this year," Belichick said following a recent practice. "But I'm looking forward to being able to focus on lacrosse. I'm excited for the season to start."

Lacrosse in his blood

Nick Fillipone was sitting in the Rutgers lacrosse locker room last November, hanging out with a few teammates when the New England Patriots coach walked in. "You see him on TV all the time, but we were kind of taken aback when he just walked into our locker room," Fillipone said. It was the first week of November and Belichick was visiting his son during the Patriots' bye week. "We all stood up," Fillipone recalled, "and were like: "Hey, Coach Belichick. How are you doing?' "

Fillipone's first impression of the three-time Super Bowl winning coach? "He was kind of quiet, selective with his words, kind of like you see him on TV," Rutgers' senior defenseman said. "But then we saw him at practice, throwing the ball around with us, and he's smiling and laughing and he's just one of the guys."

It's not surprising that Steve Belichick said he learned how to play from his father, who was a lacrosse star at Annapolis (Md.) High and Phillips Andover (Mass.) Academy before captaining Wesleyan University's team in the early 1970s. "That was probably his sport, even more than football," Stagnitta said. "And I think it rubbed off on Stephen."

Stagnitta sees plenty of potential in Belichick, who began spring practice third on the depth chart at his long-pole position. But with the season less than a month away, beginning Feb. 23 against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Stagnitta expects Belichick to contribute early in his career. "We didn't bring him here because of his name, I'll tell you that," Rutgers' seventh-year coach said. "When you only have 38 players on your team, you don't have the luxury of keeping guys you don't feel can make a difference."

Fillipone says the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Belichick has "all the fundamentals you need as a Division I player." Stagnitta agrees, adding Belichick's physical skills are matched by his mental toughness. "You can tell Steve's had the stick in his hands for a long time, but what's really impressed us is the mental aspect of his game," Stagnitta said. "One of the biggest challenges as a freshman is the cerebral part. You have to think more, where as in high school you're just sort of reacting. We felt like Stephen had that coach's mentality, like the quarterback who can direct and lead the guys on the field. "I have a feeling that's what Stephen's going to be."

Recruiting Belichick

In recruiting, Stagnitta said coaches often sell their program to parents as much as they do their desired student-athlete. So when it came to pitching Rutgers to Bill Belichick, a man who projects a no nonsense image, Stagnitta offered no nonsense himself. "Was it different? Not the way I approached it and certainly not the way he approached it," Stagnitta said. "In a lot of ways it was helpful because since he's involved in athletics, he has an understanding not just how the recruiting process works, but he probably understands more than the average parent what the expectations are and the standard you're held to here."

Perhaps it's because Stagnitta had experience in recruiting a player with a famous father when he served as head man at Washington & Lee, a Division III school in Northern Virginia, in the early 1990s. Back then it was the son of Vice President Day Quayle and to this day Stagnitta believes he would have landed him had it not been for a veto from Washington & Lee's admissions department. "We couldn't get him in," he said.

All "p-o-t-a-t-o" jokes aside, Stagnitta said Belichick's public persona is far different than the father who simply wanted what was best for his son. "No. 1, he's not the person you see on TV. That's first and foremost," Stagnitta said. "He's supportive and just the kind of person you can talk sports with. And I think there will be times when I can use his experiences to help me."
Sure, of Rutgers' 38 lacrosse players, only Steve Belichick has a father destined for the coaches' wing of the NFL Hall of Fame. And wouldn't Stagnitta be foolish not to pick Bill Belichick's brain every now and then?

"Coaching's coaching," Stagnitta said. "There's a lot more than what you see on the field. Bill does have a lacrosse background, but his philosophy — how you handle people, how you handle certain situations — certainly speaks for itself. As a coach and someone who's trying to get better every day, certainly it's nice to have access to someone like Bill. And he's been very accessible and very open."

Jersey roots

Even before he arrived in Piscataway last August after graduating from The Rivers School in Weston, Mass., Steve Belichick was a New Jersey boy at heart. Born in Chatham Township, Morris County, he chose Rutgers, in part, because of his familiarity with the area.
"I changed schools five or six times and moved around a lot," said Belichick, sporting spiked blond hair and a No. 23 lacrosse jersey.

His father's coaching stops included the Giants, Cleveland, New England and the Jets before he started his legendary time with the Patriots in 2000. "Everywhere I've been people ask me about him," Belichick said. "It's something you get used to. I learned to deal with it, but I've just tried to be my own person."

To that end, Rutgers was just the fresh start he was looking for. He knew he'd have to answer questions about his famous dad, even take some ribbing from Jets and Giants fans on his team in the beginning. "Of course," Belichick said, smiling when asked if his teammates have made it clear which team they're supporting in the Super Bowl. "There are a lot of Giants fans on the team."

Count Fillipone among that group, and Rutgers' defensive captain says the team has done its best to verbally barrage Belichick with some good-natured ribbing. "It's been tough," Fillipone conceded, "because you can't really make fun of the Patriots this year."

The Jersey boy in Belichick understands why so many Giants fans are coming out of the woodwork — in this case, the locker room — these days. "You have to go with the hometown team," the 20-year-old Belichick said. "The Giants haven't won it in a while, but I don't have a bone in my body rooting for them."

Keith Sargeant:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Clapton: An Autobiography (A Review)

There have been a bunch of musical autobiographical books on the market lately. This one by Eric Clapton and Ronnie by Ronnie Wood are probably the two that I was most interested in reading. I was actually planning on reading the Ronnie Wood book first but last week I was walking through Target and I noticed the Eric Clapton book on the shelves and I decided to pick it up so that I would have something to read at the airport or in the hotel.

I have always had mixed feelings about Eric Clapton. When I was in middle school my friends and I used to hang out at Gerber Music in the Shoppingtown Mall. This was a large store that sold both musical instruments and records (pre Compact Disc days). The store was jam back with guitars, drums, keyboards and amplifiers. They were a Music Man dealer and Eric Clapton was a Music Man spokesman. There was big poster of Eric playing a Gibson Explorer in front of a stack of Music Man amps and underneath someone had written "Roar like Clapton used to with Music Man". Even though I really was to young to remember Cream it did make me laugh since this was the 70s and Eric Clapton was perfecting his laid back style.

I spent a lot of my high school years looking for the original John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton and I also owned the import Blind Faith album with the original art work. When I shoot the Sheriff was a hit the local library had 461 Ocean Blvd available for loan and this recording remains one of my favorite albums. When I first heard Layla on the radio I thought it was one of the most powerful songs I had ever heard. I have always had the feeling the George Harrison was Duane Allman to Eric Clapton's Dickie Betts. After leaving the Beatles George Harrison developed the most unique slide guitar style outside of Lowell George.

The life story of Eric Clapton starts out with the similar story that seems to be common in all successful people that feel the need to write their autobiography. Eric was raised by his grandparents and thought his mother was his sister. He never knew his father and never developed a healthy rationship with his mom even after learning the truth. While the story leaves the reader feeling sympathetic to Mr. Clapton it is the other people that come into his life that you truly feel sorry for.

The woman with Eric Clapton in the picture above is Alice Ormsby-Gore who comes into Eric's life as a teenage school girl and is with him during the 3 years he spent as a heroin addict. Her story is reflective of a pattern that seems to echo throughout the book. Mr. Clapton yearns for the things he does not have while mistreating the things he does have. Ms. Ormsby-Gore's ending is one of the more tragic stories in the book but not the only one. Girlfriends, wives and band members gain notoriety and fame but often paying a high price.

There are some things that are definitely missing from the book. While Jim Gordon's name is mentioned his story is not expanded on. Also, missing is any mention of Sheryl Crow. However, a lot of models and backup singers are. The relationships do make for a great story. Especially the lengendary love triangle between George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd.

The fact that Mr. Clapton was able to survive while many of his fellow musicians and hangers on did not is a fantastic story. Once the story hits the Yardbird years it is hard to put the book down. On several occasions I found myself reading late into the night even though I knew I had to get up early for work.

The book even has a mention about track bike culture. One of Eric Clapton's Japanese artist friends arrives on a Cinelli Vigorelli. It turns out that Mr. Clapton is also a collector of vintage road bikes even though he does not ride them. In fact it turns out the Eric is collector of lots of things.

Now I have to read Patti Boyd's book.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Sunday Ride before the Storm

It is cold out there. At least that is what I thought until I was coming down the hill on Holmdel Road and I passed a runner wearing shorts, a Florida sweatshirt with the sleeves rolled up, no gloves and no hat. Until that moment I thought I was pretty tough but this guy must have had nails for breakfast.

My new thought is that if the sun is out and I am at home I am going for a ride. I might draw the line if the temperature gets below freezing. I did not have time to go on Saturday but I was bound and determined to get one in today. I could only get 28 miles since I had promised my daughter that I would drop her and her friend off at the Clearview Theater in Red Bank to catch Juno. I checked the air in my tires and go on the road at about 10:15 AM.

I wanted to be back before noon so I knew I had to stay in the Holmdel - Marlboro - Colts Neck area. Once I got over the Holland Road - Telegraph Hill I started to feel good. Even though it was cold the sun was bright and it gave the feeling of warmth. The ride was easy until I got to Phalanx Road in Colts Neck. The wind was in my face until I turned off on to Laird for the trip back home.

I expected the ride to be just over 20 miles. It was actually just short of 28. Not too bad for the first ride in about 2 weeks.

I still have not made the investment in a trainer. I am thinking of getting a trainer and the 54 Langster Comp. This way I can have the bike setup to ride indoors but my Langster will be ready to go whenever there is an oportunity.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New Drive-by Truckers Album set to Release on 1/22/2008

I am looking forward to this album. This will be the first CD to come out since guitarist/song writer Jason Isbell left the band last summer. Pedal Steel Guitar great John Neff has been become a full member and Muscle Shoals' keyboard player has been touring with them. I am still waiting for DBT to recreate the excitement I felt when I first heard Southern Rock Opera.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Searching for The Hoosiers

As I was getting ready to watch the NY Giants play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers my daughter asked me if I would take her to Best Buy. She had a gift card from Best Buy and wanted to see if they a CD from an indie band. She was kind of sketchy about the details but the Giants were not off to a great start and I figured we would be back half time so why not.

Best Buy does not really have a deep music section. Not a bad place to buy current music but they do not carry deep catalogs and the probability of them having an indie release was very slim. I was hoping for a surprised. Making the story short Best Buy did not have the CD so I suggested that we head into Red Bank and check out Jack's Music.

Jack's is a good place for finding hard to track down CDs. They will usually order it for you if they do not have it in stock. My daughter by now had told me that the band's name was The Hoosiers. The staff at Jack's are knowledgeable music buffs but they have the kind of personalities that you often find in comic stores and bike shops. They like to be helpful but they want to feel superior as well. As we were walking in one of the fine gentlemen at work at Jack's asked us if we needed any help. My daughter told him she was looking for the new CD by the Hoosiers. The grimace on his face when he said "I have never heard of them" was priceless. He walked back to his computer and looked it up.

"The Hoosiers right?" he said. H -O -O -S - I - E - R - S. I was waiting for him to tell us either he had 2 on the way or he could order it for us. The response was actually unexpected "It is available as an import only.". As he was walking away I mention that I used to one the David Grisman Quintet LP that was lying on the desk. I was thinking he was going to start talking about the beauty of jazz played by bluegrass musicians. Instead he looked at me like I was chewing gum on his shoes and walked away.

This whole scene reminded me of the movie Hi Fidelity. I told me daughter about the movie and we walked over to the DVD section to see if Jack's had it in stock. It was not in the drama section but they did have it in the comedy section. My daughter asked me to get it so she could watch it.

As we were driving home I told my daughter that we could go to Bleeker Street in the Village and stop at Bleeker Bob's to see if they had it. We are going into New York on Saturday.

When I got home I did some research. I found the MySpace page and I looked to see where I could find the CD. It is available on the UK version of iTunes but not on the US version. Our US iTune accounts will not work on the UK site. Amazon had the CD but only through a sub. I told my daughter that I could get it but I would have to order it. I expected her to say that she wanted to check out the music shops in Greenwich Village. However, she told me to order through It will probably be here around the weekend.

The name of the CD is Trick to Life. I listened to some of the songs on the MySpace page. It sounds cool. I am probably just as excited to get the CD. It is so much fun to discover new music. Maybe I will live up to the name of this blog and actually review music.

After I watched the Giants pull out a win over the Bucs we watched Hi Fidelity. It turned out to be fun afternoon.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year - Welcome to 2008

Finished off 2007 with a great ride and I even completed one of my must does for the year which was riding Navesink River Road from the bottom up. I am not really much for making New Years resolutions or reflecting back at the year just completed but this post is going to do both.

There were a lot of highlights to the year 2007 for me.

  1. Spent January and February 2007 working and living in San Francisco. I was working on a project at Wells Fargo Bank and it was not really practical to commute back and forth on the weekends. Even though I was living in the Cartwright Hotel it still felt like I was a resident of the city. I have been to San Francisco multiple times but this was the first time I really got to explore the city as more than a businessman in town on work for a few days. I can see why people fall in love with this city. In many ways it is a smaller version of NYC.
  2. Skied in Lake Tahoe on 4 of the weekends that I was in California. Once I knew that I was going to be in San Francisco long term I made plans to go skiing. I have never skied outside of Central New York (although I have been cross country skiing in Vermont) so I was really excited to experience skiing on the West Coast. Especially since the snow in the east was not so great in the early part of the year. I skied every time at Heavenly which is owned by Vail Resorts. Heavenly is a large, well run but expensive ski resort. My only regret is that I did not branch out and try one of the other ski resorts such as Kirkwood. In fact my first weekend in Tahoe would have been a great opportunity to do this since Heavenly did not open completely on Sunday because of high winds. I ended up getting a refund and heading back to San Francisco early.
  3. Rented a carbon Fuji Road bike and rode across the Golden Gate bridge and up into Marin county. I ran into one of my high school classmates in the breakfast room of the Cartwright Hotel. She was in San Francisco on business but she brought her husband and they were making a vacation out of it as well. She mentioned that they had gone for a run across the Golden Gate bridge and it was one of the highlights of the trip. Since I cannot run anymore I decided I would rent a bike and ride over the bridge. Blazing Saddles rents road bikes so I decided to get one for the weekend that I did not go skiing. I rode 50 miles each day. After the first trip over the bridge it actually becomes more of an obstacle. This is the weekend that I really came to appreciate the San Francisco/Northern California lifestyle.
  4. Attended almost every home game of the Rutgers University Lacrosse Team. One of my high school classmates is the head coach of Rutgers Lacrosse team. I had attended a couple of games in 2006 but I think I attended every game but maybe one in 2007. It was fun watching the team improve as the season progressed. I am looking forward to this season. My second blog post was about Rutgers Lacrosse.
  5. Purchased my Specialized Langster. After renting the road bike in California I realized how much I liked bike riding. When I was living in Charlotte I was using my Trek Mountain Bike as a road bike but I had not really used it that much since I had moved back to New Jersey. I started looking at full road bikes but for some reason the single gear/fixie bikes started to catch my eye. At one point I started to think about buying two bikes. However, I figured that only one of the bikes would have been rode a lot so I decided to go with a single gear bike. Originally I was going to get a Bianchi Fremont but I noticed the Langster on the wall at the Peddler. The frame was too big for me but I tried it out anyways. I realised that I liked the bike. As I was getting ready to leave I was told that there was a 52 that needed to be put together. I really thought I needed a 54 but it turned out that the 52 was the right bike for me. The folks at the bike shop originally were skeptical that this was the bike for me but I bought it anyways. Probably one of the best moves I made. I ended up riding over 3000 miles since I brought the Langster home in June.
  6. There were lots of other things that happened and many of them have been posted in my blog. I went back to California and got to check out the Hellyer Velodrome in San Jose. I went to Hyderabad, India. I spent several weeks in Boston over the summer. I completed one project and started another in Richmond, Virginia. These are just some of the highlights.

As I mentioned I am not much for New Years resolutions. If I was not willing to do something on December 31 there is no reason to think that I will be willing to do it on January 1. However, there are some things I would like to accomplish in 2008.

  1. Ride some different areas and hit some challenging climbs on the Langster. I have had the March 2007 edition of Bicycling Magazine on the floor of my bedroom because it has the top 100 climbs in the United States. There two climbs in New Jersey and a couple are right over the border in New York. In 2008 I am going to invest in a bike rack for my car so I can expand my riding.
  2. Ride a velodrome. While I got to visit the Hellyer Velodrome I did not get to ride it because my schedule would not permit it. In 2008 I am going to ride at least one velodrome. This should help me with #3.
  3. Decide if I want to purchase a dedicated track bike. I have had some much fun riding the Langster that I have ruled out purchasing a full road bike (I reserve the right to change my mind at a later date) but I am thinking of getting a fixed gear bike like a Langster Comp to use when I visit the velodromes. The only thing that is holding me back is I do not want to spend money on something I will never use. I am thinking of buying a trainer and using the fixie as the trainer bike.

That is pretty much it for me. I hope everyone has a good and productive 2008.