Questions, Facts, and CD Reviews

by Bart MendozaJune 2017

This month we ask Gregory Page five questions about his new album; Elvis tribute band, Graceband, is asked five questions about rocking the songs of the king; we reveal 14 times Jim Croce’s music has been covered or featured; and include a batch of music reviews for the Cherry Bluestorms, Casey Hensley, Dot Dash, and more.


Prolific troubadour Gregory Page has recently released a new album, So It Goes (read the review here: Here he answers five off-the-cuff questions about the album and touring.

1) Is So It Goes a Vonnegut reference? Or Nick Lowe ? 🙂
That Slaughterhouse 5 book may have floated around in my subconscious. I’m more of a Shel Silverstein fan. His poetry and songs are extremely inspiring to me.

2) What countries have you performed in?
Holland, Fryslann, Japan, Germany, UK, Australia, Belgium, and last night San Marcos.

3) You have found more success abroad than in the U.S. What are the differences in audiences?
I have never set foot in Nashville or been asked to perform in New York. I have been turned down by every folk festival and music conference in this country. Maybe I’m not cute enough, who knows? I have hope that one day North America will invite me to play a show outside of my trusty local hometown status in San Diego.

4) You primarily tour outside the U.S. How hard is it to do so these days? How much gear do you take?
This year alone I have toured Australia, Japan, and Holland. I return in a week to release the new album overseas. It’s tricky and complicated to tour at my level. I could not do it without the generosity of my Dutch and Australian friends who let me stay with them while I am satelliting around playing shows. My gear is very simple and streamlined. I have learned the hard way that less is best. Carry as much merchandise as you can and less gear. I take my Martin 000-17 guitar and my own Mic and a clean pair of underpants, plus my trusty fedora.

5) What makes the new album special for you?
I had the most fun in making this album. It was challenging and an emotional roller coaster ride. Casting the album in the early stages is always fun and then the surprise guests you have opportunities to work with during the process is always an incredible experience. It is mostly a self-funded album. I had three friends here in San Diego and one friend in Holland donate some funds to offset the ambitious recording sessions. Also Peter Dyson at Studio West and the crew up there were really amazing and this album would not be possible without their generosity.


Here are more than ten things that you might have overlooked about the music icon’s music, complete with links. For more info, please visit

  • Jim Croce is now the third San Diego-related artist to be portrayed on film or TV. In the fourth episode of ABC-TV’s, “Life on Mars” (2008), he is played by Don Puglisi, in conversation with the show’s star during a brief scene set in a night club.
  • Jim Croce’s album, Life and Times, has been immortalized at the Sleeveface site: From the site: One or more persons obscuring or augmenting any part of their body or bodies with record sleeve(s) causing an illusion — Amazing!
  • The Muppet Show aired a touching clip of “Time in a Bottle.” An old scientist grown younger until…
  • And… here’s the Muppets’ version “Working at the Car Wash Blues,” starring Gonzo and a bunch of chickens.
  • Frank Sinatra released a single of “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” which hit #83 in 1974. Dean Martin then used the same arrangement of the song for his version.
  • Glen Campbell recorded a version of “Time in a Bottle” for the BBC in 1975.
  • In 1977, Maureen McCormick (aka Marcia Brady) sang a version of “I’ll Just Have to Say I Love You in a Song” on the TV’s “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.”
  • Croce’s character, Leroy Brown, next showed up in the Queen song, “Bring Back that Leroy Brown.”
  • “I’ll Just Have to Say I Love You in a Song” was covered by Cilla Black.
  • “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” was covered by Jerry Reed. Here’s his version of “I Got a Name,” with a very nice introduction
  • “Lovers Cross” was covered by Melanie.
  • His songs have appeared in TV shows such as “Eli Stone” (“You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”)/ 2008), “The West Wing” (“Time in a Bottle” / 2003), “The Greatest American Hero” (“You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” / 1981)
  • His songs have appeared in movies such as Home Alone 3 (“Bad Bad Leroy Brown”/ 1997) and “The Ice Storm” (“I Got a Name”). Here’s that same song in the trailer for “Logan”
  • Jim Croce appeared on several TV shows including “In Concert,” “Rock Concert,” and twice on NBC’s “The Tonight Show”: Aug. 15 1972 (other guests included Danny Thomas and the comedy duo Burns & Schrieber) and May 30, 1973 (other guests included Karen Valentine)


It’s likely that the tribute band phenomenon started with the death of Elvis Presley, still the most “tribute” musical act in history. More than 60 years after Elvis first made an impact on the public, his music is as popular as ever. Here we talk with Chris Maddox about taking the stage as the king.

What inspired you to put together an Elvis tribute band?
Simply put: the pageantry and the music. We started Graceband in 1991, when I graduated high school. I had seen some videos of ’70s Elvis on stage doing his thing and it blew me away. I have always been a lover of dynamic and theatrical music, from Queen to Sammy Davis, Metallica, and beyond. I loved the live performance side of rock ‘n’ roll; it’s what separated the good from the great, and when I saw Elvis in the jumpsuit, with all those musicians on stage with him, doing karate and kissing ladies, I was hooked. That show, with that big sound, was unlike anything that had happened prior and is still being emulated today. But, once again, Elvis was the first. Also quite simply: I can reasonably match his singing lol. Thats kind of important.

How many folks are in the band? How hard is it to coordinate that many players?
We call ourselves a 12-piece rock ‘n’ roll freight train. Because that’s about what it is. You have Elvis, three guitars, bass and drums, a four-piece horn section called “the Horns o’ Plenty,” and two dynamic backing singers called the Gracenotes. There are a lot of moving parts and schedules, but also strong desire by everyone in the band to spread love and joy through our music. That’s basically what powers us–getting everyone to have fun, dance, sing along, whatever it may be. And, surprisingly, it hasn’t been too tough to coordinate. We’ve had to turn down work to keep it from being overwhelming with families and work, which is a nice option to have.

Why do you think Elvis and his music still resonates with music fans all these decades later?
The way he played his music live, even his early ’50s recordings, just stands up as great 4/4 rock ‘n’ roll. I think the human body is just genetically predisposed to liking good rock ‘n’ roll! If he were alive today making this music, it might have more bass, but he would break the internet and be a huge star. And Elvis had the TCB band with amazing musicians top to bottom. When you see Graceband, you get that whole experience: a high-tempo, athletic, extremely entertaining production. Everyone dances and has fun. Everywhere we’ve played people have asked us back, which is a great compliment. In our sets we will mix in some fun rock from the Stray Cats, Zeppelin, Creedence, and even AC/DC, all done in a big Elvis way. We are a tight musical production, but we don’t come on stage trying to be Elvis; we call it a celebration, not an impersonation.

What’s your favorite Elvis song ? Why?
So many good ones to choose from. For me I go with “Heartbreak Hotel.” Its such a dynamic song and such a game changer for the time it came out. You can see the roots of the Stones and Nirvana in that song. Its a lot of fun to sing, has a kick ass beat, and has a great guitar interlude in it.

Which tunes are the biggest crowd pleasers?
The crowd rarely knows, but always goes crazy for “Polk Salad Annie.” That’s an Elvis touring classic that in our show includes all the great parts of our band: the horns, the Gracenotes, and a really big ending. There there is “Suspicious Minds,” which is an all-time great. Everyone sings along to that one, and we close the set with it.


The Cherry Bluestorms: See No Evil / Dear Prudence (7″ Vinyl)

A new seven-inch single from sixties-inspired, Los Angeles-based quartet, the Cherry Bluestorms pairs a great new original to a cover of the Beatles classic “Dear Prudence.” Let’s start with the sleeve: a wonderful retro-looking cover with Hard Day’s Night-styled photo strips of the band’s singer Deborah Gee, guitarist Glen Laughlin, and drummer Mark Francis White, themed to the title track. “See No Evil” is a driving song, with a strong melody and a chorus tagline that’s a definite earworm, kicking off with a Zombies-inspired intro before heading in to psyche garage territory. You’ll be singing along on the chorus after one listen. The b-side is a dreamy psychedelic take on the White Album track, which to my ears sounds like what the song might have sounded like if it had been included on the Magical Mystery Tour album instead. Reminds me a bit of a cross between Jefferson Airplane and Argent. If you’ve been following the Cherry Bluestorms over the past few years, this single continues their string of essential releases.

Dot Dash: Searchlights (The Beautiful Music 036)
Fans of seventies UK punk / power pop a la Generation X, will love the latest from Dot Dash. 15 tracks all written by Terry Banks, like the title track, which take their influence from long lost classic punk era singles, all catchy hooks and choruses, adrenaline charged beats and dense production. As such it’s hard to pick a winner amongst the gems here, but “Infinite” stands out with its anthemic backing and buzz saw riff. Also strong is the opener “Dumb Entertainment,” which takes a basic 12-bar arrangement and kicks some life into it, with some neat shifts in mood and an excellent guitar break. Like finding a lost volume of Powerpop Pearls or Shake Some Action. Produced by Missy Thangs. Recorded at Fidelitorium, Kernersville NC. Mastered at Peerless / Boston.

Casey Hensley: Live

Recorded live before a studio audience at Thunderbird Studios, Casey Hensley’s debut features 11 tunes, including two originals from Hensley, perfect for fans of blues or swing. Backed by a killer band that includes guitarist Laura Chavez, drummer Evan Caleb Yearsley, and saxophonist Johnny Viau, Hensley turns in a bravado performance that really showcases her whiskey-soaked vocals. The album features her take on classic songs such as “Hard Headed Woman” (Elvis), “I Put A Spell on You” (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins), and “Ball and Chain” (Janis Joplin), with Hensley’s tune, “Hot, Hot, Hot,” cut from the same cloth, propelled by Chavez’s incendiary playing. At its best, this is music that’s meant to get your feet moving, something especially evident on the funky version of Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman.” My favorite tune here is “Too Tired” originally by Johnny “Guitar” Watson, which includes particularly tasty fretwork from Chavez. Well worth hearing, Hensley is definitely a rising performer to keep an eye on and this album is a good introduction–as good as it is though, it’s no replacement for the live experience–as the occasional studio whoops and hollers attest, this is definitely a band you want to see as much as hear. Check out her band at a venue near you; that’s where the magic happens with these superb players.

Hullabaloo: Best of Volume Two
A nice CD, collecting “music for kids,” with three tracks each from five albums released by Hullabaloo 2010 — 2015. Featuring Steve Denyes and Brenen Kremer, this is campfire music at its best, basic Americana, with a bit of twang and both an occasional message and a lot of humor. Indeed, songs like “I’m Hungry” or “Raise a Ruckus” would appeal to country music fans in general, while anyone who has ever owned a dog will smile at the lyrics of “Dog Song.” While this is made for the younger set, adults won’t mind singing along.

Rob Martinez: New Love Environment (Karma Frog)
Ten tracks of early seventies/Beach Boys/Monkees-inspired pop rock. There are some solid songs here; jangle fans will love “When She Comes to Town.” Meanwhile, “Love Life” is a powerhouse of harmony vocals. Not everything works, sometimes the lyrics are a little obvious. For example, “Hard to Take,” a mid-tempo folk rock-ish tune, is one of the weaker tracks here, but songs like the more rockin’, glam-inspired “Better Get Ready,” more than make up for it. Bonus: All the instrumentation, except acoustic guitar and lead vocals, plus production is performed by Adam Marsland, so this is a great listen start to finish.

John McCutcheon: Trolling the Dreams (Appalsongs)
38 albums in, John McCutcheon continues, mostly, in the best folk tradition, with music crafted to listen to, where the words matter and with a story to tell alongside a heartfelt melody. Trolling the Dreams features 14 songs, all self-written and matched to his wonderful, warm voice. It’s mostly acoustic backing, depending on the song, of fiddle, piano, acoustic guitar, bass, and mandolin. Though McCutcheon walks his own musical path, fans of Pete Seeger (who contributes a cover quote), Gordon Lightfoot, Jackson Browne, and other acoustic troubadours will enjoy this greatly. That said, the hit here is probably one of a couple of more rock-oriented numbers: “Three Chords and the Truth,” which reminds me a bit of Richard Thompson or Steve Forbert, with power pop flourishes and a Hammond-drenched break, topped with clever, classic coming-of-age lyrics. Also excellent, but on the other side of the musical spectrum “Between Good and Gone,” a nice finger-picked tune that could easily become a coffee house standard. If you are a fan of folk music or Americana, you will want to hear this.

Produced by John McCutcheon with Bob Dawson. Mastered by Mike Monseur and engineered by Bob Dawson at Bias Studios, Springfield, VA. Additional recording by Sean Sullivan at the Butcher Shoppe, Nashville, TN.

Kelley Ryan: Telescope (Manatee 006)
This album sounds great. Ten tracks are written by Kelley Ryan, including a co-write with Marshall Crenshaw as well as bass/production from Don Dixon and backing vocals from Marti Jones, so you know this is the good stuff and Ryan delivers. The album is full of atmospheric, occasionally horn/vibes tinged, acoustic pop, all classic sounding as in the dreamy ballad “Save Me,” which matches a Cardigans/Portishead vocal with a groove that sounds like classic War. The single here is likely the Crenshaw co-written “Passing Through,” with superb backing vocals and a melody that’s a real grower but also good is the sultry R&B track, “Secret Life.” A perfect Sunday morning record, for fans of Swing Out Sister, Jimmy Webb, and Suzanne Vega.

Produced and recorded by Kelly Ryan and Don Dixon at

Varous Artists: Big Stir (Minco-11)
A nice 22-track comp, basically set around a power pop/rock sound, ranging from garage rock, such as Huxley Rittman’s “If I’m Still Talking to My Mama” to harmony-laden pop such as Jason Berk’s Beach Boys-inspired “This Whole World.” Recording quality varies greatly, though it’s all studio recordings, with the main thing in common amongst the songs being a strong sense of melody. Built around the power pop community in Los Angeles, San Diego also makes a strong showing with tracks from Scott Samuels, Steve Rosenbaum, and Super Buffet. Of course, with so many tracks, there’s bound to be some weak spots, but this album is well sequenced and is pretty strong overall. There are plenty of gems but making this an essential listen is the tracks from two of the Southern California music scenes leading lights; Fernando Perdomo with a lush, dreamy acoustic ballad “Feels” and The Cherry Bluestorms, with a melancholy, Hammond-backed tune “Start Again.” “Feels,” in particular, has a wonderful hook in its repeating riff (for example, at 00:31). Another highlight is Plastic Soul’s “King of Hash,” which reminds me of Oasis at their best, with a better bridge. Also good is the Living Dolls “She’s on My Mind,” with plenty of jangle plus echoes of the Three O’Clock and other paisley underground sounds. Big Stir is a limited edition of 200, but well worth searching out. A nice snapshot of a musical community circa 2016.

Curated by the Armoires with Steven Wilson


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