Sep 24,2014: Magic Giant and Zeahorse

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Sep 21,2014: Guitar Shorty


“Defiant, electric blues with piercing intensity and raw venom that’ll leave your ears singed” –Chicago Tribune

Guitarist/vocalist and blues legend Guitar Shorty is a man of the people. With the ability to pack clubs and festivals as one of the blues’ most celebrated live performers (even before he had any nationally available recordings) and now among the top-selling recording artists in the blues world, he is clearly the people’s choice. Between his blistering, rocked-out guitar work and his fierce, soulful vocals, the power of his music is unmatched, and his perceptive and meaningful lyrics unique among modern bluesmen. Credited with influencing both Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy, Shorty has been electrifying audiences for five decades with his supercharged live shows and his incendiary recordings (beginning in 1957 with a Willie Dixon-produced single on the Cobra label). Through the years, Shorty has performed with blues and RB luminaries like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, B.B. King, Guitar Slim and T-Bone Walker. Although he had recorded a handful of singles for a variety of labels, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the wider world opened its collective ears to one of the blues’ most exciting performers. His albums since then all received massive critical acclaim, and his legendary live performances have kept him constantly in demand all over the world. His 2004 Alligator Records debut, WATCH YOUR BACK, became the best received, best-selling album of his career. GuitarOne magazine said, “Guitar Shorty is a superb bluesman who can scorch your ears off with lethal licks and heavyweight blues-rock grooves.” With his new CD, WE THE PEOPLE, he’s prepared to continue what he’s started, taking his music, and his fans, to deeper places and even greater heights.

Produced by Wyzard and Brian Brinkerhoff, WE THE PEOPLE finds Guitar Shorty singing and playing with ferocious urgency and a fierce righteousness. WE THE PEOPLE burns with heavy rock and roll fire from start to finish, putting Shorty’s infectious energy and guitar pyrotechnics on full display. And more than ever before, his songs tell the story of the harsh realities of everyday life in terms both stark (We The People), pointed (Cost Of Livin’) and poignant (Down That Road Again). What he began with WATCH YOUR BACK, Shorty accelerates with WE THE PEOPLE, creating an album that is as memorable for its menacing guitar work and defiant vocals as it is for its incisive and wide-ranging stories.

Guitar Shorty was born David William Kearney on September 8, 1939 in Houston, Texas and raised in Kissimmee, Florida by his grandmother. He began playing guitar as a young boy, excited by the sounds of B.B. King, Guitar Slim, T-Bone Walker and Earl Hooker. His first lessons came from his uncle, but when it became clear that the youngster was serious about his music, his grandmother hired a tutor for him. “I learned so fast I was always two or three pages ahead of my teacher,” he recalls. After a move to Tampa when he was 17, Kearney won a slot as a featured guitarist and vocalist in Walter Johnson’s 18-piece orchestra. Being younger—and shorter—than the rest of the band, the club owner bestowed the name Guitar Shorty on him, and it stuck. After a particularly strong performance in Florida, the great Willie Dixon, who was in the audience, approached Shorty and said, “I like what you’re doing. You’ve got something different. I gotta get you in the studio.” A few weeks later Shorty was in Chicago and, backed by Otis Rush on second guitar, he cut his first single, Irma Lee b/w You Don’t Treat Me Right, for Chicago’s famed Cobra Records (the first label home for Rush, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy) in 1957. “Willie Dixon was a huge influence on me and my singing,” Shorty remembers. “If it hadn’t been for him, I never would have recorded.”

After recording the Cobra single, Shorty’s fortunes continued to rise, as the great Ray Charles hired the young guitar slinger as a featured member of his road band. While touring Florida, Shorty met one of his idols—guitarist/vocalist Guitar Slim, famous for his hit Things That I Used To Do as well as for his wildman stage antics. Slim’s manager offered Shorty the opening slot on the guitarist’s upcoming tour, and Shorty jumped at the chance, following his hero to New Orleans. Inspired by Slim, Shorty began incorporating some of the older artist’s athletic showmanship into his own performances. Before long, he was doing somersaults and flips on stage. Between his blistering talent and his wild stage shows, Guitar Shorty found his audience growing even larger. He recorded three 45s for the Los Angeles-based Pull Records label in 1959. Those six sides—all Guitar Shorty originals incorporating techniques learned from Willie Dixon—showcased his first-rate vocals and his dynamic guitar style.

He gigged steadily through the late 1950s and 1960s, working with Little Milton, B.B. King, Lowell Fulson, Sam Cooke, Otis Rush, Johnny Copeland and T-Bone Walker. Settling down in Seattle, he married Marsha Hendrix, Jimi’s stepsister. Hendrix loved his guitar-playing brother-in-law, and confessed that in 1961 and 1962 he would go AWOL from his Army base in order to catch Shorty’s area performances, picking up licks and ideas. “I’d see Jimi at the clubs,” Shorty recalls. “He’d stay in the shadows, watching me. I hear my licks in Purple Haze and Hey Joe. He told me the reason he started setting his guitar on fire was because he couldn’t do the back flips like I did.”

Guitar Shorty moved to Los Angeles in 1971 and worked as a mechanic during the day while playing gigs at night until 1975, when he again became a full-time musician. He had his share of career tribulations, though, including a performance (albeit a winning one) on The Gong Show in 1978, playing guitar while standing on his head. After overcoming a serious auto accident in 1984, he recorded an EP for Big J Records and a few more singles (this time for Olive Branch Records) in 1985, showcasing his fat-toned guitar licks and deep blues vocals. The strength of these recordings kept him busy on the club scene, and he eventually landed a British tour in 1990.

Guitar Shorty cut his debut album for the JSP label in 1990 while on tour in England. Released in 1991, My Way Or The Highway received the Blues Music Award for “Contemporary Foreign Blues Album Of The Year” and revitalized Shorty’s career in the U.S. With all the attention Shorty received, the New Orleans-based Black Top label signed him and released three albums (Topsy Turvy, Get Wise To Yourself and Roll Over, Baby) during the 1990s, and in 2001 Evidence Records issued I Go Wild. All received an abundance of positive press as he barnstormed his way across the U.S. and around the world, with stops in Europe, China and Malaysia. The Chicago Tribune declared, “Shorty’s forte is his high-energy style and fluid, imaginative fretboard work.” DownBeat raved, “Guitar Shorty’s music is a funky, boisterous buffet of off-the-wall blues fun.” Appearances at major festivals like The Monterey Bay Blues Festival, The San Francisco Blues Festival and The King Biscuit Blues Festival brought him to larger and larger audiences. At the 1998 Chicago Blues Festival, Shorty opened for his old boss Ray Charles and thrilled an audience of thousands with his jaw-dropping stage show.

With the release of WATCH YOUR BACK in 2004, Guitar Shorty’s long rise to blues stardom grew exponentially. The outpouring of soulful emotion, the power of his playing and the strength of the material added up to the toughest album of Shorty’s renowned career. Living Blues called Shorty “a blues rock original [who plays] screaming, empowered guitar and sings with streetwise defiance.”

Now, with WE THE PEOPLE Guitar Shorty delivers a moving and soulful statement, featuring some of the most fire-coated fretwork he has ever laid down and the most thought-provoking songs he’s ever recorded. He’s playing with a passion and dedication almost unmatched in today’s music scene. With dates constantly being added to his tour calendar, this guitar-wielding, soul-singing, rock-solid performer is set to bring his mind-expanding music to locations North, South, East and West. Always a celebrated live performer and now a top-selling recording artist as well, Guitar Shorty will no doubt find that WE THE PEOPLE will once again make him the people’s choice.



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Sep 19,2014: Marc Ford and Elijah Ford

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Sep 18,2014: Elan Atias

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Sep 18,2014: Challenger Training Tennis

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AmericanTown’s Heroes: One Picture Saves A Life

You’ve heard the expression a picture is worth a thousand words, but did you know a picture can save a life? That’s the idea behind Seth Casteel’s effort to teach volunteers and staff working at animal shelters how to groom and photograph the animals to their best advantage.

The mission of A Picture Saves A Life is “to provide shelter staff and volunteers with the resources to successfully groom and photograph shelter pets, helping give them the second chance they deserve.”

Casteel is the photographer teaching and inspiring others to bring the best out in each animal with the photos they take. He offers tips like “Boo for sad faces, leashes and cages.” “Keep it positive!,” so you won’t see images that will break your heart, but rather ones that may make you go out and get yourself a pet.

Casteel has been volunteering since 2007, taking photos of homeless pets and helping them to find new homes. He recently released a book of photos of dogs swimming underwater that became a New York Times best seller. He is currently traveling around offering his point of view on pet lifestyle photography and delivering workshops and lessons to interested animal shelter volunteers and staff. You can see some photos and gather some tips at Second Chance Photos or learn more about the effort at A Picture Saves A Life.

Do you know someone who has a talent and puts it to use teaching others? Nominate them for next week’s AmericanTown’s Heroes.



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Sep 18,2014: Basics in Art

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AmericanTown’s Heroes: Lifeguards Honored for their Service

It was all hands on deck at a recent gathering of lifeguards. Not for an emergency rescue, but to honor their friends and colleagues who watch over us when we’re floating, splashing, swimming and riding the waves.

The job of a lifeguard is more than just sitting in a chair and if you’ve spent any time at the beach you’ve probably seen a lifeguard in action. Lifeguards learn teamwork, rescue and surveillance skills as well as CPR and first aid, so they can render help on the spot when someone is injured or rescued from the surf. They study the conditions, test the waters and are intimately familiar with the currents and the tides. They train and practice and work closely together to ensure we can have a safe and pleasant day in the water.

This year, seven lifeguards were chosen and honored by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce with awards and then treated to a celebration that included their friends and families.

In the past, the awards were handed out at a sedate breakfast, but this year they expanded the festivities to include the community who came out in force to thank those intrepid protectors of the seashore frolickers and bathers who make it look so easy.

When you think of first responders you probably think of policemen and firemen, but if not for the lifeguards who act quickly to render aid, a day at the beach would not be the pleasant experience we look forward to.

Summer may be on the way out, with most lifeguards gone from our beaches, but the next time you encounter a lifeguard by the shore, thank him or her for their service to your community.

Do you know someone or a group of individuals who deserve recognition for watching over us to ensure our safety? Nominate them for next week’s AmericanTown’s Heroes.



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AmericanTown’s Heroes: CJ Burford Bikes Cross Country for the Children’s Cancer Society

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart” sounds like something you might see on an inspirational poster. You know, the kind with the image of the sun breaking through the clouds or a hiker summiting a mountain. It’s actually a bit of verse, taken from the Bible, and it’s a statement that a young boy took to heart and has turned into a mission to help others.

CJ Burford loves to ride his bike, so he thought why not ride my bike for a reason, which was the seed for an idea to make a difference for others. CJ just embarked on a major bike ride! One that will take him from Oceanside, CA to St. Augustine, FL.

He started out on the first of September and plans to reach Florida in the middle of December. He is making the ride to raise awareness and monies for the National Children’s Cancer Society, so if you see him and his family along the way show your support in the way that feels right for you. And don’t worry, it looks like CJ’s dad is riding alongside him.

You can follow CJ’s progress on his Facebook Page, CJs Rides for a Reason, see photos of his adventure on the blog and learn more about him and his effort on his website, loveFAR.org (FAR stands for “For A Reason”). If you would like to donate, there are links on the website where you can also see all the businesses who have signed on to sponsor.

What do you love to do? Do you do it for a reason? Take inspiration from CJ and turn something you love into a way to make a difference in the lives of others.

If you know someone making a difference in your community, nominate them for next week’s AmericanTown’s Heroes.



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EarthTalk: Ethanol’s Unrealized Promise

Dear EarthTalk: I thought that putting ethanol in our gas tanks was going help fight climate change, but lately I’ve heard reports to the contrary. Can you enlighten?       -- B.B.

Ethanol and similar “biofuels” made from corn and other crops seem like a good idea given their potential for reducing our carbon outputs as well as our reliance on fossil fuels. But recent research has shown that the federal government’s push to up production of corn-derived ethanol as a gasoline additive since 2007 has actually expanded our national carbon footprint and contributed to a range of other problems.

 

U.S. corn producers started ramping up ethanol production in 2007 as a result of President George W. Bush’s Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which mandated an increase in the volume of renewable fuel to be blended into transportation fuel from nine billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion by 2022. Ethanol now makes up 10 percent of the gasoline available at filling stations.

 

But environmentalists now say that the promise of ethanol has turned out to be too good to be true. For one, there is the issue of net energy produced. According to CornellUniversity ecologist David Pimentel, growing and processing corn into a gallon of ethanol requires 131,000 BTUs of energy, but the resulting ethanol contains only 77,000 BTUs. And since fossil-fuel-powered equipment is used to plant, harvest, process and distribute ethanol, the numbers only get worse.

 

The non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) warns that continued production of corn ethanol is not only “worse for the climate than gasoline” but also bad for farmers, the land and consumers: “It is now clear that the federal corn ethanol mandate has driven up food prices, strained agricultural markets, increased competition for arable land and promoted conversion of uncultivated land to grow crops.”

 

Additionally, the group reports that previous estimates “dramatically underestimated corn ethanol’s greenhouse gas emissions by failing to account for changes in land use,” citing a 2012 study documenting the conversion of eight million acres of Midwestern grassland and wetlands to corn fields for ethanol between 2008 and 2011. “These land use changes resulted in annual emissions of 85 million to 236 million metric tons of greenhouse gases,” says EWG. “In light of these emissions, many scientists now question the environmental benefit of so-called biofuels produced by converting food crops.”

 

Given the potential negative impacts of so-much corn-based ethanol, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly weighing a proposal to cut the amount currently required by law to be blended into gasoline by 1.39 billion gallons. If the federal government decides to do this, it could lower U.S. carbon emissions by some three million tons—equivalent to taking 580,000 cars off the roads for a year.

 

Meanwhile, researchers are trying to develop greener forms of ethanol, but none are ready for market yet. “The lifecycle emissions of ethanol ‘from seed to tailpipe’ depend on how the ethanol is made and what it is made from,” reports the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The best ethanol, they say, can produce as much as 90 percent fewer lifecycle emissions than gasoline, but the worst can produce much more. So there still may be room for ethanol in our energy future, but not if we keep doing it the way we are now.

 

CONTACTS: Renewable Fuel Standard, www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels; David Pimentel, vivo.cornell.edu/display/individual5774; EWG, www.ewg.org; UCS, www.ucsusa.org.

 

 

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com.

 



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