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Posted: April 01, 2009

Blues you can use

Plus Mary Flower’s acoustic blues and Pearl Jam’s Ten revisited

Mike Cote

National touring guitarist and singer Albert Cummings, who records for the Blind Pig label, appears at the Boulder Outlook Hotel’s Blues & Greens restaurant and bar at 8 p.m. tonight. Tickets are $20. Colorado blues heroes the Delta Sonics hold court there on Saturday. (No cover charge on that show.)

The Outlook has grown into a metro Denver blues destination, hosting such national acts as ex-Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin, who returns April 17 and 18 with special guest Diunna Greenleaf. Boulder's own Cassie Taylor, who is best known for playing bass for her dad in the Otis Taylor Band, opens with a short solo set. See her now before she scores that record deal she's sure to snag. 

Also that week, on April 16, will be retro soul and R&B singer John Nemeth, another Blind Pig national touring act. (Look for a review of Nemeth’s latest album, Love Me Tonight, in a couple of weeks.)

Note to sleepy boomers: Shows at the Outlook actually start on time and end by 10:30 or 11 -- don't want to keep those hotel guests awake -- so don't worry about being stuck waiting late for the music to start.

Mile High Music Festival returns

Tickets go on sale Friday for the second edition of the Mile High Music Festival, July 18 and 19 and Dick's Sporting Goods Park (also home to a "lingerie football" event that Stewart Schley skewers in his latest ColoradoBiz column.) The promoters threw baby boomers a bone by putting blues legend Buddy Guy on the bill, but the lineup is dominated by alternative rock acts.

If you're at that age where standing in a field all day sounds like work, it still might be worth that parent/child bonding if you and your young rockers are into Widespread Panic (playing both nights), Tool (playing Saturday) and the Fray (playing Sunday). Though I'd spring for this mostly to see Gomez, Ben Harper, Gov't Mule and Robert Randolph & the Family Band. Tickets available at www.tickethorse.com or www.milehighmusicfestival.com

From the Music Box:

MARY FLOWER Bridges (Yellow Dog)

Guitarist and singer Mary Flower, who has carved a niche for herself in the Pacific Northwest after spending three decades in Colorado, embraces a gentle brand of blues that captures the warmth and power that comes from simplicity. On Bridges, her first album recorded in Portland, her exquisite fingerpicking and expressive slide guitar work are augmented by minimal but integral accompaniment. 

Sure, Flower could have recorded these songs with just her voice and guitar – just as she’s performed for many years at folk clubs – but the small group combos and duos she’s assembled here lift these performances from the work of a troubadour (as the leadoff track “Rhythm of the Road” alludes) to a production that will stand up to repeated spins thanks to the rich interplay of musicians performing on acoustic instruments.

Sometimes it just Flower and one other player: Her lap slide guitar to Jesse Withers’ string bass on “Slow Lane to Glory,” her fingerpicking to Tim O’Brien’s fiddling on “Up a Lazy River.” A pair of original instrumentals (“Columbia River Rag” and “Daughter of Contortion”) tucked at regular intervals on the album (the fifth and tenth cuts) give Flower a showcase for her deft guitar work and serve as segues to the group performances. 

In the age of single-song digital downloads, it’s great to see so much attention paid to sequencing and pace for us old-school fans who still like to enjoy albums as a single entity.

PEARL JAM Ten (Epic/Legacy)

Pearl Jam’s 1991 debut album, Ten, sold 12 million copies and helped lead the grunge movement that came out of Seattle, topped only by Nirvana’s Nevermind album. Now, in the age of plummeting CD sales and rising digital downloads, comes a reissue aimed at collectors. Like U2’s latest album (which takes the over-the-top prize for a new release issued in so many formats including a $95.98 list book) – the 2009 edition of Ten is available in four expanded versions.

The bare bones “Legacy Edition” is a two-disc version that pairs the original album with a new version remixed by the band’s long-time producer Brendan O’Brien (Springsteen’s producer these days). O’Brien does a great job updating the sound, giving the mix some breathing room for that twin-guitar attack and Eddie Vedder’s howl. (The acoustic guitar really shimmers on “Jeremy,” for example.) The “Deluxe Edition” adds a DVD of the band’s “1992 MTV Unplugged set” (a performance well worth having) plus upgraded packaging. You can also spring for the two-LP vinyl edition or the “Super Deluxe Edition” – we’re not kidding – that includes the two CDS, the DVD, four LPs and a cassette that replicates the band’s original three-song demo. What? No eight-track? No reel-to-reel? No 78s?

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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