Category: Sugarland

Amnesty International 'Chimes of Freedom' salutes Bob Dylan's music

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan gets a broad-spectrum musical salute with the  new four-CD, 75-song multi-artist tribute album “Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan: Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International,” being released as part of anniversary efforts for the human rights organization.

Participating arists include Adele, Elvis Costello, Pete Townshend, Patti Smith, Miley Cyrus, Ke$ha, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, My Chemical Romance, Queens of the Stone Age, Sting, Sugarland, Airborne Toxic Event and the Dave Matthews Band.

Dylan was selected as the focus of Amnesty International’s latest project because 2012 also will be the 50th anniversary of the release of his debut album, “Bob Dylan.” The “Chimes of Freedom” album seeks to raise funds for and awareness of the organization that lobbies on behalf of political prisoners and victims of human rights abuses throughout the world.

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Album review: Sugarland's 'Incredible Machine'

Sugarland_inicredible_240_You don’t need the news release that accompanies the Georgia duo’s fourth album to know that Sugarland might easily have subtitled it, “The Arena Rock Album.”

Even without reading their own words about aspiring to come up with songs that can ignite 10,000 cellphone screens each night on their next tour, it’s obvious from one listen to the many U2, Shania Twain, Coldplay and Bon Jovi parallels that that’s where Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush are headed here.

Sugarland has expanded on its core country music audience by crafting increasingly pop-minded tracks, and it struck an attractive balance on 2008’s “Love on the Inside” between the down-home emotional tone of its early songs and a broader spectrum of pop, R&B and country-soul soaked material.

Now, however, subtlety, nuance and, most disappointingly, substance are checked at the stadium gate as the pendulum swings unmistakably toward sing- and sway-along anthems. The single “Stuck Like Glue” bursts with melodic, instrumental and lyrical hooks in a track as frothy as pop gets. Several other tracks show equally skilled production, but the appeal is all on the surface.

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Katy Perry, Paramore, Nicki Minaj tapped for 'VH1 Divas' special

Perry With its long-running “Divas” concert franchise, VH1 has over the years managed to snag an impressive array of female powerhouse vocalists, including veterans such as Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and younger divas Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson and Miley Cyrus.

Dubbed “VH1 Divas: Salute the Troops,” this year's special will feature performances from Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Sugarland and Keri Hilson –- all of whom are scheduled to tape the event in front of military personnel at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego.

Paramore will visit Marines, soldiers, airmen, sailors, members of the Coast Guards and reservists stationed at an undisclosed military base in the Middle East. The band’s performance will be broadcast via satellite.

“VH1 Divas: Salute the Troops” will be broadcasat Dec. 5 and will also be shown internationally on the American Forces Network.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: Katy Perry performs at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2009. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Live review: Sugarland at the Greek Theatre

SugarAt the encore of the pop-country duo Sugarland’s feisty, endearing set Thursday night at the Greek Theatre, singer Jennifer Nettles unfurled a white flag and spray-painted the word “love” on it, with a peace sign inside the “O.”

Pairing the oldest topic in songwriting with a hokey 40-year-old pop culture image shouldn’t have felt volatile. But coming from a band that tops a country music chart on which acceptable commentary on war is limited to Toby Keith’s visions of putting boots in uncomfortable places (“It’s the American way,” after all), it felt intimate and even a little bit radical.

Sugarland excels at this — sneaking a quietly transformative energy into Nashville pop as sweet as peach pie. Its songs are precision-milled depictions of everyday problems — my job stinks, I’m dead broke and why is that cute guy picking some heartless ice queen over me? But Sugarland’s solutions offer a little more than just consolation — lyrics suggest that something better really is on its way.

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Stagecoach 2010: Brooks & Dunn...and done!

Because Brooks & Dunn and Toby Keith played Sunday night after the deadline for Monday Calendar's Stagecoach report, coverage of their performances is being blogged on Pop & Hiss:


The charitable view of Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn’s announcement last August that they’ve decided to call it quits as a duo, which included the detail that they wouldn’t do so until the end of a 2010 farewell tour, is that they wanted to give fans some closure, one last chance to see them live.

The cynical view is that they simply want to give a fading career one last jolt in the bank account before each musician moves on to new ventures. It’s hard not to take the cynical view when Brooks & Dunn’s long hit streak, which started to sputter about a decade ago, was built on songs that craftily — cynically? — combine time-honored country music imagery, push-button emotions and frequently derivative instrumental and melodic hooks.

All were in play Sunday night as the farewell tour touched down at Stagecoach. The set went heavy on the hits, and no production touch was too shameless for their adoring crowd, including the trotting out of three military officers in full uniform to salute the flag during 2001's “Only in America,” which concluded with the firing of confetti cannons packed with red, white and blue streamers.

Or consider the chorus of “Hard Workin’ Man,” their 1993 hit.

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Stagecoach 2010: Room for lots of tastes

At the desert gathering, pop-driven acts, traditional sounds and fringe performers all have a chance to please an expanded crowd.

SUGARLAND_NETTLES_400  The old gag about people who brag about loving both kinds of music — country and western — gets a twist at Stagecoach. Out in the desert, the annual festival serves up both kinds of country music: that which sells, and everything else.

Fest-goers generally fall into one camp or the other, and even though it often feels that the gap between is a great divide, there's not a hint of rivalry among these groups that otherwise rarely intersect.

The majority, predictably, plop down their blankets and lawn chairs — the kind with the built-in, beer-friendly cup holders — in front of the Mane Stage, where on Saturday the lineup was topped by a couple of contemporary country's more pop-driven acts, Keith Urban and Sugarland, and Sunday by the hard-charging likes of Toby Keith and Brooks & Dunn.

Far across the Empire Polo Field grounds in Indio, tradition-loving fans ensconced themselves in front of the Palomino Stage, where standard bearers such as Merle Haggard, Ray Price and Bobby Bare held forth on Saturday, while Sunday's offerings extended from the searingly dark folk country of Mary Gauthier to the Band-influenced Avett Brothers to those country-gospel hit makers of yore, the Oak Ridge Boys.

And in between, at the Mustang Stage, fans of the fringe were served by boundary-blind Americana musicians including Victoria Williams, Trampled by Turtles, Truth & Salvage and Black Prairie; Grand Ole Opry stalwarts Bill Anderson and Little Jimmy Dickens; and cowboy poets Waddie Mitchell and Baxter Black.

It's a catholic mix that draws no distinction between acts that just want to party and those more concerned with the inner workings of the human heart. But the difference is there for anyone attuned to it, and for many, the gift of Stagecoach is the ability to experience both schools in the same place. 

Plenty turned out to savor that gift: Preliminary estimates put the average attendance at 50,000 each day, a significant uptick from last year's record of 40,000 per day, Goldenvoice chief Paul Tollett said Sunday.

Bobby Bare got Saturday off to a rousing start with several of the Shel Silverstein narrative tales he's recorded over the years — sterling examples of detail-rich songwriting that avoids cliché at every turn. Silverstein excelled in the tradition of tall tales from the American frontier going back to poet Robert W. Service and beyond, such as one concerning a chump who's had one too many and decides to pick a fight with the toughest guy in the bar, only to get a lecture on what it really means to be “The Winner”: “He said, ‘You see these bright white smilin' teeth, you know they ain't my own / Mine rolled away like Chiclets down a street in San Antone.'”

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Stagecoach 2010: Of beignets, Sugarland and pork butt

Getprev-6 Who’d have thought?

Looking to indulge my hankering for a bona fide beignet, that heavenly French doughnut native to the Café du Monde in New Orleans, I beelined for the booth that was offering them up as Sugarland was wrapping up its Mane Stage set by digging deep into its repertoire of classic-rock influences.

While waiting for a fresh batch to be yanked from the vat of boiling cottonseed oil before being buried under a powdered sugar avalanche, I asked the proprietor how things compared with last weekend at Coachella.

“The hippies ate better than the country crowd,” he said. “I’m dying out here.”

Perhaps it was partly due to his location in a comparatively remote quadrant of the Empire (Polo Field), where patrons have to battle upstream to find him.

Across the grounds, adjacent the Mustang and Palomino stages, at the Stagecoach’s annual barbecue cook-off among a few dozen purveyors of all things smoked and scorched, the offerings were sold out well before I made it around 5 p.m. in hopes of sampling this year’s entrants.

Well, as some country wag surely observed at some point, each tomorrow brings a new sunrise. And with any luck, freshly smoked pork butt as well.

Click here for photos from Stagecoach.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush of Sugarland perform at Stagecoach. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Not your usual seasonal sounds

From Bob Dylan tackling 'Here Comes Santa Claus' to the "Avenue Q' puppets doing 'Ave Maria,' there's something for everyone.


It's become an annual ritual -- the flooding of the music market with dozens, if not hundreds, of holiday-themed titles, and this year is no exception. Plenty of artists are releasing festive recordings, and labels are hoping all that good cheer will translate to some sales uplift.

In the mix are offerings from a crystalline-voiced would-be American Idol and from a sandpaper-throated bona fide American icon. Sting does some musical time traveling and one adventurous experimentalist beams the spirit of the season into the vastness of deep space.

What follows is a look at some of the most interesting collections available right now:

ARCHULETA_CHRISTMAS+75 David Archuleta, "Christmas From the Heart" (19/Jive): America's favorite elfin pop idol, Archie sounds every bit as spot-on key and invested with holiday reverence and good cheer as humanly possible -- and nearly as predictable. But given that "American Idol" is about meeting popular expectations rather than exceeding (much less defying) them, it's somehow comforting that within the familiar arrangements and production touches are a few intriguing touches such as the musical quotations of Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" into his version of "Angels We Have Heard on High."  * * 1/2 (Two and a half stars)

Bocelli_75 Andrea Bocelli, "My Christmas" (Decca). There's always an audience for yuletide music sung in a romantic tenor voice, and this year, Bocelli's under the tree. He's brought along several vocal partners including Natalie Cole, Mary J. Blige and Reba McEntire -- even the Muppets and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As usual with operatic singers for whom English is a second language, Bocelli tends to succeed better with carols than with pop tunes.  * * 1/2 (Two and a half stars)

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