John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light – Beautiful Empty

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HOT RELEASE – March 2010 – #1 OTB (out of the box)

John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light – Beautiful Empty

I’ve know John Common for several years now. I’ve either booked John solo, in a band (Rainville), or done some acoustic gigs with him… all told probably a hundred times (easily) over the years – and that doesn’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve seen him perform where I didn’t book the show. I own every one of his records (at least that I know of), and have played cuts from all of them on The Colorado Sound over the years. So, when asked if I’d write down my impressions of his newly released John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light – Beautiful Empty (Free School Records, 2010) I deemed it an auspicious personal challenge. Objectivity flies out the window when you’re this close to someone else’s most intimately crafted art (edit: esp that of a friend).

In Rainville, John explored his alterna-roots rock-gutter jazz-county folk vision of life in America, taking us on a journey down a road “between two towns,” along barren stretches of gravelly whisky-voiced grit and dust packed in alongside a “convenience store killer,” “broken flower,” and “five-dollar shower.” Let’s call that John Common 1.0. That journey ended somewhere around 2004.

John Common 2.0 showed John weary of the road, and actually may have begun with a request to record a duet with Opie Gone Bad lead vocalist Jake Schroeder in 2004/2005; the Beatles classic “Dear Prudence” (released on Mountain Homegrown Vol. 4). The fact of circumstances – however vague – does not diminish the newly-classic reworking of the song, nor the style in which John 2.0 emerged, the noise-folk-art rock bridge of Good To Be Born (Free School Records, 2006). Here, John along with co-producer Scott Davies (drummer for Opie Gone Bad), reached out and grabbed onto what I perceived to be the muse of Brian Wilson, recording layers upon layers of sound that in effect appeared aurally as a photograph with such depth-of-field to nearly appear three dimensional. This team, including Jeremy Lawton as mix master, finished this journey as Why Birds Fly (Free School Records 2007) in a seamless fashion, making more noise and becoming much more incoherent and messy. I could tell by this record and in conversations with my friend that he had once again become uneasy, unsettled, and needed to “get in the car and drive.” Only where to was the question … for all of us including John.

Enter John Common 3.0, with Blinding Flashes of Light and the record Beautiful Empty (Free School Records, 2010). I’ve always thought John exuded a certain kind of emptiness — not of the kind you’d see in the eyes of soul stealers, but more like he empties his soul with every word he writes and every note he sings and so becomes empty all over again, until the next filling and emptying and so on and so on…that kind of emptiness. I have heard that JC 3.0 started as John traversed Eastern Europe sometime around 2008, perhaps as I’ve heard and read that he felt he had nothing left to say musically. I have also heard that JC 3.0 happened when John returned from Europe and met singer-songwriter Jess DeNicola. Jess certainly brings out yet another side of John we’ve never heard before. There’s tenderness in John’s voice singing with Jess that I haven’t heard before — a dreamy wistfulness he toyed with in John Common 2.0 but didn’t quite realize somehow. Jess brings that out in him…she’s perfect in the role, matching him emotionally every single step of the way – as clear and as powerful and meaningful in phrase and voicing – forging a singularity of voice uncommon among most male-female singing duos.

Throwing objectivity straight the hell out the window, this is the most complete John Common record yet. It is truly one of the most endearing and magnificent albums I’ve ever had in my collection. The lyrics are those of the poet–laureate, insightful, and glaringly crisp in their focus. The music is the equal to anything ever done by any great pop music arranger. Beautiful Empty is full of mystery, intrigue, loneliness, pain, and searching — and there’s no direct answers here…there’s no salvation, no redemption – although there is hope, optimism. All put together we get one of the most sophisticated and intelligent adult pop records of the past several decades. It’s John traveling as he has always, only this time his journey moves far past the gritty highways of Rainville and the messy existentialism of Why Birds Fly.

If it’s possible that song titles are any indication at all they say what needs to be said about John’s vision of himself and of life … Can You Hear Me, Same Scar, Wide Open World, Good Heart, In My Neighborhood make up the first half of the album before “intermission” (track six). Thinking About God concludes the second chapter … but before we get there, we visit Walter Whitman; experience how Love Is A Shark; Turnaround; Don’t Follow Virginia; and hear about The Man Who Could — that would be John .. who could and does in JC 3.0 show us he has much more beautiful emptiness to share.

Songs of the Day – Wed March 24, 2010

Spring is in the air – right?  I mean with all this snow spring has GOT to be just around the corner… yeah yeah, I know … it’s coming.  So too are a couple of very cool new albums .. the new releases by Nathaniel Rateliff and Wentworth Kersey.  Nathaniel’s comes out on Rounder records in April, and we have to wait til the summer for the new Wentworth Kersey — or you can go to their respective websites and give up your email addy for a free download 🙂

If you’re one of my radio pals – FCC Clean – ready to air now.  Will be added to The Colorado Sound playlist immediately.

Wentworth Kersey – Sun and Moon.  New album to be released this summer.  The third release in the trilogy that goes O, (O), and now ((O)) .. LOL .. gotta love creative minded types 😉

Free download at

___________________________________________________________ Nathaniel Rateliff – Early Spring Till from the upcoming album In Memory of Loss due out somewhere around April 20.

Free Download at:

MMMM – Monday March 22, 2010

It’s no secret I like my roots and country music… I always tell folks that my music collection is a) Colorado (rock, pop, country, blues.. whatever) and b) Americana, Alt-country, folk, bluegrass.  That’s it, really.  This week’s MMMM features two of the top new Colorado Americana records of the year so far for 2010.  What I like most about these albums is their adherence to tradition.  I read somewhere recently that too many of today’s americana bands have become cosmo-americana – not necessarily a good thing if you’re a fan of real authentic American roots music… folk, country, jazz, blues, whatever… modernity is where these two albums leave off.  Faux-country they are not.  And, telling just by the personnel list on each album, they’re stacked with some of the best roots music players in the state.


Romano Paoletti – Story of a Lifetime
Genre/Style:  americana, country, country-folk
Produced by Eric Thorin

Who Played:
Romano Paoletti – lead  vocals, acoustic guitar
Sally Van Meter – Scheerhorn resonator guitar, acoustic guitar, lap steel
Betse Ellis – fiddle
Caleb Roberts – mandolin, electric mandolin
Eben Grace – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, pedal steel
Eric Thorin – acoustic bass, electric bass, vocals
Todd Moore – drums
Michael Crittenden – acoustic guitar
Erick Jaskowiak – acoustic guitar
Amanda Rose Paoletti – vocals
John McVey – vocals
Mollie O’Brien – vocals

Recommended Tracks:
4. Can You Canoe
1. Ragtime Blues
2. Can You Run
3. Hearts And Bones
6. All This Time

Notes: I first heard about this record last summer.  Dave McIntyre (booking, sound, Oskar Blues, Lyons) turned me onto Romano’s music at the Brews & Brewgrass festival, that Romano had been invited to perform at.  I believe Romano released this album in December or January, but it took my friend Mac giving me his personal copy for me to get it in the library.   Boy am I glad he did that.  Thanks Dave!! 🙂

From Romano’s website: Romano was born into a musical family. His grandfather, “Ragtime” Bob Darch, was the only living inductee of the Ragtime Hall of Fame. At a young age, Romano was taken with his grandfather to tour the East coast hitting the saloons and scuttlebutts. While Bob Darch pounded on a piano Romano played the spoons and bartended for his Grandpa’s act. At this point in Romano’s life he learned how to be an entertainer. Romano’s mother, Norma Jean, was always a singer and was signed by Smokey Robinson of Motown Records. She taught Romano from a young age how to sing and often placed him on stage with her to sing before an audience.


David Williams & the Wildgrass Band featuring Kristina Murray – The Crazy KindGenre/Style: americana, country, bluegrass, country-folk
Produced by:  David Williams
Recorded by: Brian Hunter @ Swallow Hill and Mousetrap studios in Denver

Who Played:
David Williams – vocals, guitar, mandolin
Kristina Murray – vocals, guitar
Katie Glassman – fiddle (Lannie Garrett, Hazel Miller, E-town)
Chris Elliot (Spring Creek) – banjo
Jordan Ramsey (Long Road Home, The Grant Farm, Winner 2007 Rockygrass mandolin competition ) – mandolin
Duane Webster – bass

Recommended Tracks:
1. Annie Oakley
13. Heaveny Road
5. Why Do Angels Get Wings?
7. Ukraine Girl
6. Cheyenne

Notes: I became a fan of David’s music about five years ago now.  He had just released Joplin, MO… and I was enthralled by the literacy of his lyrics, and the depth of his sense of tradition musically.    I didn’t get around to reading his bio for a couple of years, to be honest.  When I did, I was more than pleasantly surprised to learn just how exceptionally talented and skilled David is.  This record is a continuation of David’s love for American country, bluegrass, and folk music, following Joplin, MO.  On his last wonderful release, Django Jazz (2007), David explored his passion for Django Reinhardt, and turned in one of the best roots-jazz records of the year.  David also enjoys mixing it up when it comes to who is on the next record… the one constant being Duane Webster (bass)… and as indicated on the Who Played list… they’ve all got some major cred as players.

From David’s Myspace bio: 2009 EMMY AWARD WINNER IN COMPOSITION AND WRITING. Influenced by everything from gypsy jazz to folk, delta blues, swing, rockabilly, bluegrass & folk. As a singer-songwriter, David’s known for his way with words and melodies, which conjure up the American musical landscape. His songs touch on everything from the difficulties of love to the people and places along old Route 66, or a carnival from his childhood, or swing tunes reminiscent of Tin-Pan-Alley—in a wide range of CDs released over the last 30 years. In 2008, he was nominated for an Emmy in songwriting for his work for PBS.  David has also recorded and performed with people such as Greg Brown and Dave Moore, and he studied and performed with the great Jethro Burns, of Homer and Jethro fame.  He holds a Ph.D. in English, and he has been a writer in residence at a number of colleges and universities in the US.  He is an ALA and NAPPA award-winning albums for children and is currently the songwriter for the PBS children’s show The Big Green Rabbit.

The Colorado Sound – Vol. 2 Episode 11, 2010

Gypsy Swing Revue “Some of These Days” from Some of These Days (2005)
Drag the River “Having A Party” from Bad At Breaking Up (2009)
John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light “In My Neighborhood” from Beautiful Empty (2009)
Megan Burtt “Get to the Bottom of This” from It Ain’t Love (2010)
Matt Morris “Don’t You Dare” from When Everything Breaks Open (2010)
The Congress “Minutes” from The Congress (2010)
Jen Korte & the Loss “It’s A Little Hard, Dear” from Jen Korte & the Loss (2009)
Motorhome “Radio” from Almost Vegas (2009)
Something Underground “Mr. Elephant” from We Came to Get Down (2008)
Other Side of Clearview “Sweet Release” from Sweet Release (2009)
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club “Children of the Lord” from Cipher (2008)
Quillion “New York Pill” from To the Hilt (2010)
Fred Hess “Happen Yesterday” from The Long and Short of It (2004)

Julie & Andy Monley “My Castle’s Rockin’” from And You Could Be The Sun (2008)
New – Chuck Pyle “Love Will Find A Way” from The Spaces In Between (2010)
Euforquestra “Soup” from Soup (2009)
The Jurassicasters “People Get Ready” from The Jurassicasters (2010)
Psychodelic Zombiez “Babaganouj” from S.A.C. (1996)
Old Soul “Oldest Religion” from Old Soul (1996)
Sixteen Horsepower “Black Soul Choir” from Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes (1996)
New – Carbon Choir “Measure of Your Madness” from High Beams (2010)
Flashbulb Fires “Ambulance” from Glory (2009)
Romano Paoletti “Can You Run” from Story of a Lifetime (2009)
Great American Taxi “New Millennium Blues” from Reckless Habits (2010)
New – The Intervention Band “Groovin’ High” from Homey (2010)

Danielle Ate the Sandwich & covers Miley Cyrus

Westword may have gotten the exclusive on the new Danielle Ate the Sandwich cd, coming out in the next couple of months – but there’s no law says we can’t promote it here too… ‘specially since Danielle posted this video peek on YouTube – featuring members of the wonderful Boulder Acoustic Society.

To read the Westword article ->

To see more of Danielle’s magic videos ->

MMMM – Monday March 15

(30 sec samples of one song from each release.)

The Knew – The Knew’s Pulperia
Genre/Style: rock, through and through.
Notes: A very guitar driven album and another fine 2010 release out of John Macy Studio in Denver on the heels of Andrea Ball – Dial Tone, The Congress – The Congress, and John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light – Beautiful Empty.  The band displays the kind of full on frontal attack of a hard old school punk band with the swirling slide guitars and blues influences you’d  expect to hear in more southern rock type styles …

Carbon Choir – High Beams
Genre/Style: Rock, post-rock, alternative adult
Notes: originally released December 2009, we just got this copy in the CS office.  This is another very sophisticated contemporary adult listen for 2010.  It’s very ethereal, very well orchestrated, beautifully arranged, and the performances throughout are among the best I’ve ever heard from a Colorado band at any level.  There’s not a ton of tempo on this record; there doesn’t need to be.  Recommended if you like Radiohead, though don’t expect to hear them wear that influence on their sleeve.  This is a band not bound by any other imagination than their own.  A sure early year contender for many “Best of Colorado 2010” lists.

The Intervention Band – Homey
Genre/Style: Jazz
Notes: this is drummer Bob Levey’s project. Bob’s history is extremely deep.  Bob Levey is the son of Bop drummer Stan Levey who pioneered the original Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie groups in the mid 40’s and then went on to play with every major star in the music business from that period.  He has played with an impressive array of names, and his work has also contributed to the world of Hip-Hop, most notably being sampled on the platinum selling “When the Shit Goes Down” by Cypress Hill and De La Soul’s “Intro” on the hit CD “Buhloone Mind State”.   This is jazz – plain, simple, unobtrusive – think Johnny Mercer, Bill Evans, J.J. Johnson – all of whom he covers twice each on this record.  The pianist and the bass player are young guys – in their early-mid twenties… they are very tasty players – very smooth and mature sounding in the traditions they’re playing to.  Tim Fox plays piano on four of the selections, as well as trumpet throughout the album.  For some strange reason I recall George Shearing in his work – but then, this was the kind of jazz my Dad used to play when I was a little kid, so maybe it’s just those memories coming to mind… I don’t know.  But count me in – this is a great listen… from start to finish.

Chuck Pyle – The Spaces in Between
Genre/Style: Western Pop Folk
Notes: It’s Chuck Pyle.  The man is a Colorado legend.  Chuck’s songs have been recorded by John Denver, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Suzy Bogguss. Country fans know him best for writing, “Cadillac Cowboy”, recorded by the late Chris LeDoux, and “Jaded Lover”, recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker. This album is as full of the gracefulness of storytelling as he’s ever done.  It’s wonderfully produced by John McVey at Coupe Studios in Boulder.  The musicianship is stellar throughout.