Steven Page leaves Barenaked Ladies

Even though it seems like Barenaked Ladies has run its course, the news that lead singer Steven Page has left the band is still a little surprising.

Singer-guitarist Steven Page said a big reason he decided to leave the Barenaked Ladies was he felt his songwriting voice was occasionally being squeezed out as a result of being in a five-member band.

A day after he announced on the band’s Web site that he was leaving the group, Page said the Barenaked Ladies has so many songwriting voices that he’s looking forward to a future as a solo artist.

“Frankly, the band itself was a five-way democracy and one of the great things about it is that it’s been about the five-way collaboration, but it’s also one of the things that’s made me decide to be a solo artist,” he said Thursday.

BNL just seemed like one of those bands that would be together forever.

Stevie Wonder at the White House

With Barack Obama in the White House, we have a president who doesn’t go to bed at 9:30 with a glass of warm milk. President Obama and Michelle Obama like to have fun, and Stevie Wonder rocked the White House the other night.

The East Room of the White House, normally a place for staid presidential news conferences and other Washington happenings, was switched into a nightclub Wednesday night as Stevie Wonder stepped inside and rocked the house.

Wonder was the winner of The Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize, which was bestowed on him by President Obama.

In a celebration to be broadcast on PBS Thursday night, Wonder serenaded the first couple, kicking things off with a version of “Sir Duke” and later Wonder classics like “Isn’t She Lovely” and “Superstition.”

But the night was also a tribute to Wonder. Tony Bennett, Paul Simon, Will.i.am and Martina McBride all paraded though, each with their own rendition of Wonder’s hits.

President Obama and Michelle Obama, in an elegant emerald gown, along with Vice President Biden and his wife Jill, took in the show from the front row.

Good stuff.

Wild Light: Adult Nights

Not many rock bands come out of New Hampshire – and even fewer manage to score deals with labels as major as Sony – so it’s hard not to root for Wild Light on principle alone; unfortunately, principle may be all that gets you through chunks of Adult Nights, the quartet’s full-length debut. The band has an interesting sound that wobbles between Semisonic and Arcade Fire – and the latter comparison is one you’re likely to hear more than once, given that keyboard player Tim Kile was in an early version of that band – but they need better material. Nights lets you know they’ve got the chops – opener “California on My Mind” kicks things off right, with its harmonica, stomping beat, and repeated refrain of “fuck California,” and “Call Home” is a lovely piano-led ballad that recalls Dan Wilson before he gave in to his Carole King fetish – but those high points only serve to underscore just how ordinary the rest of the disc can be. There aren’t any bad songs here, but there are a lot of well-meaning musical exercises in search of hooks, not to mention varying tempos – much of Adult Nights glides by at the same middling pace. If we were living in a different era, it wouldn’t be out of the question to hope Wild Light’s A&R rep stuck with the label long enough to shepherd the band through a few more albums until they were ready for their big break. Those days are long gone, unfortunately, but if they get lucky enough to reach a broad audience with Adult Nights, it also isn’t out of the question to imagine that this band could develop into something really special. (Columbia/StarTime International 2009)

Wild Light MySpace page

Justin Townes Earle: Midnight at the Movies

Here’s something to make you feel older than dirt, Steve Earle fans: Not only is Earle’s son a grown-up singer/songwriter in his own right, but he’s releasing his second album on March 3 – and he already sounds as weary and worldly wise as his old man did on 1996’s I Feel Alright. But don’t look to the elder Earle’s music for points of reference when listening to Midnight at the Movies – like his old man, Justin Townes Earle doesn’t boast a classically strong set of pipes, but his voice is clearer and his songs generally better-kempt than his dad’s, wobbling just a little more gracefully down the line between rock and country. What the album sounds a lot like, actually, is the Replacements’ All Shook Down, only with slightly more consistent songs – a similarity brought into relief by Earle’s sleepy cover of the ‘Mats classic “Can’t Hardly Wait.” Earle also kinda-sorta covers the standard “John Henry” here, but for the most part, these songs are self-penned, and they stand up to the best that AAA/alt-country has to offer. Never mind the sophomore jinx – Earle sounds like he’s been at this forever, and might have enough stories in his guitar case to keep on rolling for a lifetime. If you’re a fan of the genre, Midnight at the Movies is not to be missed. (Bloodshot 2009)

Justin Townes Earle MySpace page

Paul McCartney: Amoeba’s Secret

At age 66, Macca’s more prolific than ever, releasing new records on a regular basis, coming clean with his guise of the Fireman and still touring consistently. So it’s not enough that he should make the compulsory Grammy showing; he can also appear at a more intimate venue that’s generally reserved for up-and-comers. Consequently, this four song set, recorded live in 2007 at the Amoeba record store in L.A., reminds us he’s still a mere mortal, capable of rocking a small crowd with offerings both old and new. Vibrant versions of “That Was Me” and “Only Mama Knows” from his then-current album, Memory Almost Full, cast aside doubts about Paul’s present ability to deliver on a memorable melody. “I Saw Her Standing There” provides the inevitable nod to nostalgia with a rollicking rendition would have us believe that indeed, 45 years have passed in the blink of an eye. The sound quality, which veers towards bootleg variety, makes for a minor complaint, but the choice to include “C Moon,” one of McCartney’s lamer attempts, ought to cause greater ire. On the other hand, the fact that Ringo was in the house and wasn’t asked to join in seems the biggest bummer of all. (Hear Music)

Paul McCartney website

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