Give the Gift of Music

With the Holidays approaching I wanted to let you know about some great music I’ve been enjoying. Music is always a nice gift and a gift that keeps on giving. My friend Rob usually has to prompt me to write about “what I’ve been listening to” but here you have it, just in time for last minute shoppers and some suggestions that you can also put on your wish list.

First off…….and I’m not just saying this because I am true to my team……although I am definitely that…. Should you have a friend that doesn’t have the new HOT TUNA CD / LP, STEADY AS SHE GOES give them this as a gift. Jorma and Jack waited a long time to go into the studio to record this gem and it is a crucial Hot Tuna release. A great gift for a Hot Tuna fan and at the same time a great gift to turn a friend onto a great band with a great new release. The CD is also available as a limited edition record (LP) as well……for those vinyl aficionados……the LP shows off the beautiful LP artwork….by the way KEVIN MORGAN the Fur Peace, Jorma, Hot Tuna artist has been nominated for a GRAMMY for his work…….and the LP also is beautifully packaged in a gatefold sleeve with pictures omitted from the CD…….it has three sides of great music and a fourth side engraving of Jorma and Jack in the vinyl. Records are making a strong comeback (YEAH!!!) and this would be a great gift for a record collector with impeccable taste in music.

I also want to let everyone know……the FUR PEACE COMPANY STORE is running some great specials through December for the Holidays. Discounts in several departments and FREE shipping on ALL orders…..there are some great gifts to be found at the Co. Store. Our CAMPFIRE COFFEE and our FPR teas are all on sale and they make a tasty gift.

Now…….back to CD recommendations.

In the Rock, Blues category, this year has given us some great releases. JOHNNY WINTER is back with a great new release, appropriately titled, ROOTS. This CD finds Johnny with a host of special guests playing homage to his Blues’ heroes. All solid Blues’ covers that sound fresh and Johnny’s guitar playing and singing sound crisp as well. Even with all the great guests, it’s Johnny’s trademark guitar slinging that comes through loud and clear. One of my favorite tracks, “Dust My Broom” is all JW and it finds him in top form. A real nice surprise this was. Some other old favorites have come through with great releases as well this past year. Check out STEVE CROPPERS tribute to 1950’s – 60’s R & B on his release, DEDICATED. The legendary guitarist is joined by some great guests on this record and the results are great fun. WARREN HAYNES’ CD, MAN IN MOTION, is another great release with some special guests. As special as the band is, it is Warren’s great guitar playing, singing and song selection that make this CD standout. It’s a Warren record, so you know it jams…..but the R & B originals give it a special turn.

A couple of other old faves released impressive CDs late in the year. DAVID BROMBERG’s new CD USE ME finds the A-list session man getting help from a top shelf group of special guests. David is known for his acoustic guitar playing, but on this release he pulls out the electric and really goes back to his roots for a great record. Another great going back to his roots is RY COODER on his new release PULL UP SOME DUST & SIT DOWN. Well done Ry!

I’ve really been enjoying TRANSLUCENT BLUES the new collaboration between DOORS’ keyboardist RAY MANZAREK and slide guitar king ROY ROGERS. Roy’s slide playing is brilliant and exciting…..he is one of the greatest in that style….and Ray’s singing is strong! Some of the songs have a “Roadhouse Blues” feel to them and it is good to hear. Ray’s keyboard playing is stellar as well. I picked this up without a listen because I knew how good the players were and I was happy I did. GEOFF ACHISON came by the Ranch in late September and he was kind enough to lay a copy of his recent “Live” CD on me. JAMMIN IN THE ATTIC catches Geoff and RANDALL BRAMBLETT live in Georgia in 2010 and this CD kicks butt…..great sound, great songs, great solos……..really was knocked out by this one. I could say I was surprised…..but I really wasn’t……I hold Geoff’s playing in high regard and this collaboration works real well too!!!

I love Native American flute music and really would recommend R. CARLOS NAKAI’s CANYON TRILOGY. This was originally released in 1989 and I still have my vinyl copy, however I was thrilled to find in on CD. This is a great CD to listen to for relaxation, meditation, grounding and pure aural enjoyment. I like to listen to it while driving and that is another reason why I was happy to find the CD…..the turntable in the truck hasn’t been working to good. This is solo flute and it is beautiful.

The new CD from SEUN KUTI, one of FELA KUTI’s sons, is killer Afro-Beat. This finds Seun joined by his father’s late band, Egypt 80, for a blistering set of infectious African groove music. The CD is titled…. FROM AFRICA WITH FURY: RISE.

The great GREGORY ISAACS has left this world for Zion, but while he was with us he recorded some of the most crucial Reggae music you can find. Gregory was know for his beautiful voice and his vocal styling. He was a genuine hit machine in Jamaican music. THE RULER 1972 – 1990 serves as a perfect anthology of his hits as well as some obscure gems. This is a nice 2 – CD package along with a DVD of his 1984 performance at Brixton Academy…..the DVD is a real treat. This is a winner.

One of the great things about music listening is all the joys that are waiting to be discovered. Very recently I made such a discovery and it’s been knocking me out. I had heard of JOHN MARTYN and was aware of his high status in British Folk Music, but did not have any of his recording in my collection. I had a chance to hear the Deluxe Edition of SOLID AIR and I’ve now been playing it in heavy rotation…….what a gem……what a voice…..what a guitar player and songwriter. I just love this album and have gone on to also pick up SWEET LITTLE MYSTERIES the Island Records Anthology by John, which I also thoroughly enjoy. Solid Air was originally released in 1973 and I’m glad I finally got around to adding it to the collection.

My musical palette is far ranging and I picked up a classical guitar CD recently by MILOS KARADAGLIC, a nice Italian guitarist, called MEDITERRANEO and am really impressed by his classical guitar playing. He is a master and at a very young age…and yes I was kidding about his Italian heritage. This CD on DEUTSCHE GRAMAPHONE sounds beautiful and his solo guitar playing is extraordinaire!!!

I have found myself a fan of some ELECTRONICA music and my fave in this genre is THIEVERY CORPORATION. Their 2011 release, CULTURE OF FEAR, finds them doing their thing, which is world music as well as outernational music, and they have never disappointed me. Their sound is exciting and they cover a far range of musical stylings and they always add the Thievery touch, which makes it all so special. I highly recommend this CD if you’re looking for something different. On the same record label as Thievery Corp, ESL RECORDS, is a group called THUNDERBALL and their recent release, 12 MILES HIGH, is also a top pick and very well may end up in my top ten for the year. Thievery Corporation uses a great cast of singers and players to make their sound. Two of these singers……who bring the Reggae vibe to the outfit…..are known as SEE –I…..and their self-titled debut is a killer. This has some straight ahead Reggae but they take the music to higher heights and new dimensions. This is a sleeper and I find myself liking it more and more. These guys know how to plant a groove and make it grow.

Well……there you have it……some of my best picks and most enjoyed CDs of this past year…..I hope you get a chance to give some of these a listen and I also hope you’re enjoying your music, whatever you’re listening too……..because life is too short to miss a beat…….but long enough to catch one too.

Another GREAT time!

We’re getting ready for another guitar camp weekend……the weather and the Ranch are both looking real good…..and we’re close to a sellout on the Jonathan Edwards and Steve Kaufman show for this Saturday night. However, I’m still thinking about what a great time we had during the last camp session and wanted to fill you all in, while it is still on and in my mind. The April 9th weekend brought a lot of familiar faces and old friends of the Fur Peace together. Our big opening weekend at the end of March was just off the charts and I foolishly thought it would be hard to top that one. Well, I’m happy and lucky to be able to say……..it was another great time. This was our Hot Tuna weekend with JK, Jack and Barry all here teaching and also performing on Saturday night. We were also graced by the presence of Marjorie Thompson who was here to teach her class on Country Blues.

There were 32 students here at the Ranch and 20 of those were repeat offenders. Just a clarification on that…..REPEAT OFFENDERS are what we affectionately refer to our repeat students as. Hot Tuna Weekend Class PhotoSO…..two – thirds of the camp is filled with people we already know. Yes, you can do the math…….the other a little over a third, 12 students were all here for their first taste of the Fur Peace and I’ve got to tell you…….they were all such nice people……we made them instant family. It was truly a wonderful mix and a super positive vibe was in the air. Several …..or maybe even more then that……students that were here for this session have been coming to the Ranch since we opened and it really is special to see them again. Several others maybe haven’t been coming that long, but their easy going ways and cool disposition, make it feel like we’ve been friends forever. So….hopefully you get the picture, cause what I’m seeing is the most glorious reflection of humanity that you could hope to see.

Nice weather all weekend and another bombastic job in the kitchen added to the joy. Lots of good eatin’ and with weather this nice, many folks took advantage of the tables we have outside for dining. On Friday and Sunday night the campfire was blazing and some of the ranchers really enjoyed hanging out at the fire circle. Then again….lots of playing in all the different buildings kept some people inside …….where the music was blazing!

The really big show on Saturday night packed the Fur Peace Station to a capacity we didn’t know it was capable of. We had a very full house for this show, which incidentally had been sold-out for over two months. People came from all over for this show and the fine state of New York was well represented!!!! The evening’s festivities kicked off in grand fashion with Collin Rocker performing an opening set, solo acoustic. In many cases this would not be the ideal spot for such an opener……before Electric Hot Tuna……but Collin’s warm, enthusiastic, and talented persona started things off not too bad…….if you don’t mind perfect! Collin I am honored to say has become a good friend…..and boy, oh, boy……I was proud of him. We met through his parents, Jon and Lori, who have been coming to the Ranch for a long time now. One year they brought Collin and the friendship was immediate and it has been growing ever since. Collin has just released his first CD….Milk Box Love and Juke Box Blood and Other American Favorites……you’ve got to love that title……and when you get a chance to hear the CD…..well you’ll love his music too. Now Collin is a young man of 18, but as his Mom mentioned to me one time (see I was listening) he has an old soul….and a fine old soul at that. His music is roots Americana…..totally original material…..and he is a fine songsmith. His lyrics evoke many images, times and thoughts that you can relate to even if they are from a bygone era. The crowd really dug his performance and the response was overwhelming. He played my favorite song off of the new CD….Soggy Dollar Blues……. and it was just outstanding ! BIG UP to C-Rock!

Next……we go to a nice and busy intermission……with the good folks enjoying some Hot Tuna Burgers and our Hot Tuna Melts right off the grill and the Station Break Cafe humming like a food wagon when the break whistle blows.

After the break I came out to announce the second half of the show with ELECTRIC HOT TUNA……I know you people have all been waiting for them……but rather then a stage announcement we have a special surprise guest……the Ranch’s very own Jeroch Carlson….who wears so many hats and does so many righteous tings……has just finished off a poem he had written that would serve as a great Hot Tuna intro. The poem Jeroch had just finished was entitled….”The Only Thing We Need More of Around Here is Some Jamaican Jerk Chicken.” Now I’m not sure what that meant ……but it was a crucial idea! The poem is nothing short of fantastic……as was Jeroch’s reading of the poem. The poem has all kinds of Hot Tuna / Jorma references and we were all swept up in his magical presentation. Deep stuff……..but it was fun and full of culture! I’ve asked Jeroch if it would be OK for me to print the poem in one of my future postings and he says YES and he is sending it my way…..so, soon come on that.

Next…….out comes Hot Tuna…….ELECTRIC……and blazing they were! (Please go to Jorma’s site for a set-list.)Electric Hot Tuna Takes Over! What I’ll tell ya is that it was Hot Tuna at its best…..fire and more fire!!! The whole set was a high-light but my favorite was the moving version of Corners Without Exits! Jorma’s having lots of fun on that electric guitar and when he want to be….he is…the best psychedelic guitar player out there bringing emotion and feeling out of every note that is from another cosmos. Everyone has a different favorite and the good news is that there was plenty to choose from. Several of the comments I heard after the show pointed to the 99 Year Blues and Good Shepherd as other choices for best song of the evening. Now I really do hate to sound cliché, but, it really was ALL GOOD.

Indeed, one of the concert goers said it was the best Hot Tuna show he had heard since the 80′s. Now I was going to tell that guy, that he needed to get out to more Hot Tuna shows……but I let it pass. Everyone left the concert hall that night feeling very satisfied……it had been an incredible evening of music. There was a real bliss in the night air as the people left the Ranch.

Now back to the concert……..Aside from JK sounding bombastic fantastico…….JC was menacingly punching through some great bass lines. I had given Jack a big up earlier in the day……telling him how fantastic he sounds on that NEW Hot Tuna CD release from the New Orleans House. That was Jack in 1969 and he has refined his bass playing over the years…..and that has resulted in Jack’s fine bass playing only getting better. Jack also shared some fun and funny banter with Jorma on stage that really set the relaxed tone for the concert. I’ll tell you…..some of those laughs and shared smiles were contagious …….and it made everyone in the audience feel the joy. Barry Mitterhoff…. ever incredible……with his array of instruments he added fuel to the fire that made the evening’s music exciting and kept the momentum climbing. The addition of Skoota Warner to the Hot Tuna lineup has been another great addition and he fits in the groove …… and actually creates quite a groove as he propels the rhythm to new heights. Aside from being a GREAT drummer, Skoota also possesses a wonderful smile and he sure looks like a man who enjoys his work……..and work it he does. A hotter then hot night at the Fur Peace Station as the home field advantage, the fans and the greatness of the Hot Tuna sounds all came together to create a night to remember!

Sunday morning and everyone is still talking about the show as we start our day with some fine Fur Peace Ranch coffee……the preferred…. Campfire Blend. It’s a nice Spring Sunday and the mood reflects that as we gather in the afternoon for our customary group photo and student performance. The student performance starts off magnificently and just climbs from there. Barry’s class……man, oh, man, he had a great group of students….. takes the stage and they perform a couple numbers as a group. I do believe the songs were…Vicksburg Stomp and Stompin at the Savoy…..as I mentioned, the caliber of Barry’s students was graduate school and their performance made that clear. The entire student performance had a super flow to it and the quality of the talent on that stage……on that afternoon……would have gotten Mr. Sullivan’s nod of approval. I got a chance to jump up and play a number with Stu and John B. Stu was on a repeat visit and we had decided to work out a song together. Stuart’s a very fine bass player and I suggested an old Animals tune….Don’t Bring Me Down…. and even suggested the opening bass riff …doo…doo..da..doo…doo…that Stu dubbed on for a bit before I came in with the opening chord. John B…….what can I say about this cat. It’s always great to see him and his brother here at the Ranch. Aside from them both having impeccable taste for vintage shirts they both have an arsenal of instruments that they like to bring out and say …..hey, check this out…..and their talent is high grade for sure. Well……John had earlier let it be known to me that he had an electric sitar with him….and with that announcement he was asked to join Stu and I. Well…….it was so cool when he came in with that sound……he also took the solo after the second verse and he turned the Fur Peace Station into the Psychedelic Shack….and we didn’t look back……but someone told us JK rose up out of his seat and did a couple twirls as he felt the vibe. The fine production team that brought us Fur Peace Ranch TV on You Tube is working on releasing that performance ……so…..keep an eye out for that one and while you’re at it enjoy all the great video clips that they have been posting. The STUDENT PERFORMANCE came to a fulfilling finale with that same John B. along with Bob D., Pete M., Professor Mitterhoff and the Victoria Barkley of guitar camps, Vanessa, performing Blue or Not, My Sweetie Gives To Me. It was the cream!!!

We all enjoyed another great feast that night as we dined on Homemade Pesto-Ricotta Ravioli, Garlic Bread, Organic Salad Greens and Brocollini……which they tell me is baby broccoli…..topped off with a Strawberry Napoleon. It was out of sight! Later that evening we were all treated to a wonderful concert……just for us…..by the very talented Mrs. Thompson. Marjorie treated us to a great set of her music and her performance was dynamic! The cheers from the ever appreciative student population brought MJ back for an encore….Poster Child for the Blues! The night was complete. We finished things off on Monday and as is always the case, broke camp at noon. Lots of smiles and good cheer as we bid a farewell to another great weekend !!! We are so blessed by the good folks that come through our gates……….the cup is full and we give thanks.

What I’m Listening To

One of my friends, who is also a Fur Peace Ranch regular, and also an avid reader of Checkin’ the Levels, left me a comment asking me what I was listening to and if I would post it next time I blogged. Well …..I blogged about the NEW HOT TUNA and got so wrapped up in the sounds…..I forgot to include my full report on my recent listening pleasures. So……here it is. Well, first off……I have been listening to that NEW Hot Tuna quite a bit in this last week. I put it in heavy rotation initially so I could check it out and write a review…..but what happened was……I loved the CD so much, I just left it in the player and listened to it over and over again. That is a very good sign……and it makes me flash back to the golden days of vinyl, when I would get a new record and play it over and over until the grooves smoked.

Anyhey……I have been listening to alot of African music as of late. Aside from my long-time love of Reggae music……at one time I was really fired up on the Afro-Beat sounds of Fela Kuti and the Ju Ju music of King Sunnny Ade. But……I hadn’t listened to this style of music in some time. One of my friends had laid a nice compilation CD of Modern African music on me and it started the fire burning again. In the last couple of weeks I have bought about six new Afro- Sounds CDs…..two of these are great compilations of African music from back in the prime time of the 1970′s. These are imports on the Sound Way label. Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Nigerian Blues 1970-6 is one of these …..and the other one is Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Ghanaian Blues 1968 – 81. These two collections are quite fantastic. The music is blazin and the compilation puts together alot of hard to find artists and songs onto CD. Extensive and really informative liner notes accompany these two CD sets in a booklet format. Someone has really done a lot of work in assembling these two collections and I’m impressed and grateful.

Another Afro-Beat artist has just released a new CD and I’m playing this one over and over too. The artist I refer to is Tony Allen and his new CD is titled, “Secret Agent“. Tony was Fela Kuti’s drummer for many years and even Fela is on record as saying without Tony there would be no Afro-Beat. These two, Fela and Tony, were the architects of the Afro-Beat-Sound. This one is a real winner and aside from the infectious grooves……there is a heavy horn section presence, that I really dig.

Also…….I have all the Bunny Wailer music on vinyl…..Jamaican releases for many…..but only the great Blackheart Man on CD. I was getting a hankering for wanting to hear Bunny’s second release….Protest….and when I went to look for the CD, well, dag-nab-it……I found out it was out of print. But in quicker then soon come time, I was able to locate this out of print CD through the second hand market. Now with it in my possession……I’ve been listening to it pretty regularly…….and loving it. Another NEW Reggae collection, just released, is also getting a lot of ear time…this being….Jammy’s From The Roots 1977 – 1985. Jammy’s refers to the GREAT Lloyd ‘Prince Jammy’ James who was a great record producer in the days of roots and culture. Some of the artists on this CD you will have heard of…some I have not heard of……but all the tracks are great! Appropriately …..all the tracks were recorded at the top spots for Reggae Roots in Jamaica……King Tubby’s, Harry J’s, Channel One and Jammy’s. All the great Jamaican studio musicians are present laying down some heavy support rhythms. Real nice.

I’ve also been listening to some “commercial” sounds as well. Getting into the NEW Jimi Hendrix, “Valley of Neptune” and the latest Massive Attack, “Heligoland”. So…..there you have it. Thanks Rob for asking…..you might have started something here…….Look for more “What I’m Listening To” blogs in the future. Some readers might wonder…..”When does he find time to listen to all that music?”…..so I’ll tell ya…..I never tire of the sounds of music, so I’m listening to music while the morning coffee is brewing ……the CD player in the truck plays constantly……I get to listen to music
in my very hip office cabin……and I’m playing the boombox (Yes, I still use one) when I’m out workin’ in a yard. Music makes a great soundtrack for living…………….Live UP and Listen UP…….plenty of good sounds in Jah universe.

Be a Star, Shine Your Light

Sure does feel like the holiday season around the Ranch. The boys are on the road, the boss is away and Queen Deb is “Decking the Halls’. Santa’s Little Helpers are busy at the North Pole… making sure your glad tidings of joy arrive in time for your holiday celebration…peace on earth. If you haven’t heard, the Company Store is having a Holiday Sale with some great incentives to get your favorite people some Fur Peace gear.

Another thing you might want to get your friends and family is a copy of the December/January 09 of Relix Magazine which has a fabulous article about the long lasting and inspiring relationship between Jorma and Jack. There are some great quotes and comments in the article. One of my favorites is about the fantastic Warren Haynes weekend.

“That weekend with Warren Haynes,” he (Jack) continues, “was as much of a musical milestone as there’s ever been for me. And Warren said the same thing: “this weekend is what I got into music for.”

WOW. Those are some powerful statements from some musical giants. It was a once in a lifetime show….Definitely a magical musical moment for everyone in the audience. If you want to hear the Warren Haynes show you can tune into WOUB Radio (our local public radio station) and listen to the download. Many Thanks to Rusty Smith, the FPR Concert Series producer and engineer for all his great work throughout the year.

Before I get out of here…. I need all you good people to send out some positive vibrations to my brotha’ and fellow Rasta, Kevin Morgan. Brother Morgan is the kindest of souls. He is an intregal part of the happenings here at the ranch and his influence can be seen on everything from the concert posters, t-shirts and the web site.  I need all of you stars to shine your light on Kevin while he recovers from a recent health issue. Your light will help him get through these rough waters and hopefully on to a sandy beach in Jamaica. Bless Up.

Welcome to Checkin The Levels

Hello World……..

Welcome to the Ranch Manager’s, John Hurlbut, blog.  As you can see, the Fur Peace Ranch website has been given a nice revitalization and along with a space for me to talk about the runnings at the Fur Peace Ranch.  I will be checking in from time to time to update and relate events that are happening here at the Ranch.

“Checking the Levels”  is a term heard down in one of my favorite places….. Jamaica….. it refers to what is going on and what is happening.  This will be the basis for my journal…… what is happening at Fur Peace,  what happened at Fur Peace, updated announcements hot off the wire, notice of upcoming concerts, workshops and special events.

I will also offer up concerts reviews,  record reviews,  insider information, and reasonings on all sorts of things.  We are gonna make it fun and informational.  So………..please check the levels and we’ll
keep the vibe level and right.