Jon Brion

Jon Brion & Johnny Cash Review

This week Sound Opinions welcomes the man behind the music of Kanye West, Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple and many of your favorite movie soundtracks. Jon Brion joins Jim and Greg in the studio for a conversation and performance. Plus the critics will review one of the final releases from country legend Johnny Cash.

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Music News

This week music industry giant Live Nation swallowed up its sole competitor, House of Blues Entertainment. The company formerly known as Clear Channel is now that much closer to total concert industry domination. They reportedly grossed over $1.3 billion dollars last year, compared to the House of Blues's mere $245 million. But, while the HOB was never close to nipping at Live Nations's heels, they, along with the few remaining local concert promoters, represented an alternative for music fans. For lay people, Jim compares this transaction to that of Microsoft procuring Apple. A scary thought indeed.

It was quite the Fourth of July weekend for R&B producer Dallas Austin. The Grammy-winner, who has composed hits for TLC, Madonna and Pink, flew to Dubai to attend the birthday party of supermodel (and super-boss) Naomi Campbell. Apparently Austin wanted to get this party started a little too quickly. At the airport he was arrested for possession of 1.26 grams of cocaine, then sentenced to four years in prison. But, just a few hours later, he was pardoned by Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Perhaps the Sheikh is trying to maintain Dubai's growing status as a party destination. Or perhaps he is simply a "Motownphilly" fan. Either way, this is one lucky guy, who Sound Opinions imagines "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." (Sorry, we couldn't resist)

reviewAmerican V: A Hundred HighwaysAmerican V: A Hundred Highways available on iTunes

Johnny Cash American V: A Hundred Highways

This Independence Day also marked the release of a new posthumous album from country legend Johnny Cash. American V: A Hundred Highways is the latest in a series of collaborations between Cash and producer Rick Rubin. As Jim and Greg explain, this was an unlikely partnership resulting in extraordinary music. Rubin, who has mostly worked in the rock and rap arenas with such acts as Run DMC and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, brought a new perspective to Cash's music. He highlighted the strength of Cash's vocals and introduced him to songs by Roberta Flack and Nine Inch Nails. But, both Jim and Greg agree that the collaboration was less than amazing this time around. Cash began recording these songs in 2003, after the death of his wife June Carter and shortly before his own, and you can hear his failing health in his voice. Greg likens the experience to that of listening to Billie Holiday's final recording, Lady in Satin. Both albums leave the listener feeling like a voyeur intruding on the singer's pain and sadness. Jim misses the sense of joy and triumph that Rubin helped bring to Cash's work in the last few years. He wishes that the music had a little more“middle finger”in it, referring to the team's famous Billboard ad in which Cash gives the country music establishment the bird. Therefore, both critics can only give American V a Burn It rating, and instead direct fans to two other releases: Personal File and the American Records box set, Unearthed.

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interview

Jon Brion

Jon Brion visits the show this week to perform and talk with Jim and Greg. Brion is mostly known for his production work with artists like Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple and Kanye West. Brion is also responsible for the innovative soundtracks to Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist was in town to perform at Chicago's Intonation Music Festival, and he stopped by to meet with our hosts, as well as a live studio audience.

What listeners may not know is that Jon Brion is also an accomplished solo artist, albeit not a prolific one. He holds a residency at Los Angeles club Largo, where he performs a cabaret-style act. Recently, however, a severe case of tendinitis has prevented Brion from playing live much. Lucky for Jim, Greg, and the audience, he was able to play both the piano and the "taro patch" during the interview. You can hear Brion perform "Knock Yourself Out" from I Heart Huckabees and the theme to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the show.

One of the ideas our guest discusses with Jim and Greg is the art of the song. He finds songs to be“astonishing”and distinguishes them from“performance pieces.”Brion's example is the music of Led Zeppelin. He loves Zeppelin, but asks the listener to compare their melodies to that of someone like George Gershwin. Brion adds that one rocker who did manage to write wonderfully constructed songs that will stand the test of time is Kurt Cobain. Listen to how he plays Nirvana's "Lithium" followed by an old Cole Porter standard.

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“Dig Me Out”Sleater-Kinney

All girl indie rock group Sleater-Kinney recently announced that following their performance at Lollapalooza this year, they'd be taking an indefinite hiatus. Essentially, this means that the Portland group is breaking up, but reserving the right to reunite should they be inspired (or in debt). Sleater-Kinney is one of Greg's favorite groups. He loves all seven of the group's albums, but thinks they really hit their stride on their third effort, Dig Me Out. This is because singer/guitarists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein were joined by powerful drummer Janet Weiss. Also, there's an inherent tension in the music, which Greg imagines was caused by the demise of Tucker and Brownstein's romantic relationship. So, to say goodbye, Greg is choosing the title track, "Dig Me Out," as his Desert Island Jukebox pick this week.

Featured Songs

  1. Radiohead, Optimist, Kid A, Parlophone, 2000
  2. TLC, Creep, CrazySexyCool, LaFace, 1994
  3. Johnny Cash, Help Me, American V: A Hundred Highways, American, 2006
  4. Johnny Cash, Like the 309, American V: A Hundred Highways, American, 2006
  5. Johnny Cash, Tiger Whitehead, Personal File, Legacy, 2006
  6. John Brion, Monday, I Heart Huckabees, Milan, 2004
  7. Jon Brion, Knock Yourself Out (Live on Sound Opinions), I Heart Huckabees, Milan, 2004
  8. Kanye West, Gone, Late Registration, Roc-A-Fella, 2005
  9. Jon Brion, Theme to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Live on Sound Opinions), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Hollywood, 2004
  10. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out, Dig Me Out, Kill Rock Stars, 1997

Footnotes

livenation.com Live Nation hob.com House of Blues Entertainment clearchannel.com Clear Channel jamusa.com JAM Productions allmusic.com Dallas Austin wikipedia.org Dallas Austin's many hits definitelydubai.com Dubai sheikhmohammed.co.ae Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid alMaktoum youtube.com“Motownphilly”video johnnycash.com Johnny Cash's homepage metacritic.com American V: A Hundred Highways wikipedia.org Rick Rubin allmusic.com June Carter Cash cnn.com own billieholiday.com Billie Holiday's homepage amazon.com Lady in Satin pinimg.com Johnny flips the bird amazon.com Johnny Cash's ‘Personal File’ amazon.com Cash ‘Unearthed’ box set allmusic.com Jon Brion aimeemann.com Aimee Mann's homepage fiona-apple.com Fiona Apple's homepage kanyewest.com Kanye West's homepage soundtrack.net Magnolia soundtrack imdb.com Punch-Drunk Love soundtrack amazon.com Eternal Sunshine soundtrack largo-la.com Club Largo wikipedia.org cabaret mayoclinic.com What's tendinitis? taropatch.net taro patch imdb.com Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind led-zeppelin.com Led Zeppelin's homepage gershwin.com George Gershwin's homepage allmusic.com Kurt Cobain coleporter.org Cole Porter's homepage sleater-kinney.com Sleater-Kinney's homepage lollapalooza.com Lollapalooza portlandonline.com Portland, OR allmusic.com Dig Me Out