Category Archives: singer/songwriter

Paul Williams Still Alive

Paul Williams Still Alive ~ I saw this great little documentary on Showtime one night when I couldn’t get to sleep, and I’m glad I did. I remember Paul Williams. He was everywhere in the 1970s on TV and movies. I knew he was a singer, and more importantly, a songwriter. A serious songwriter. If you listened to the radio in the early seventies, you heard dozens of Paul Williams songs. In a way, he was the seventies.

What immediately pulled me in about this documentary was that the narrator seems to think that as well. As a matter of fact, his perspective and sense of time and space were mine. That commonality made this doc somehow more personal.

By the time the documentarian is actually accepted by Paul Williams, I was hooked and in for the whole ride. Really I would have watched anything at this point, but man, what a treat that it was really good. Writer/director Stephen Kessler is that good, I would have watched a doc about squid if that’s what it became.

The actual doc subject however is Paul Williams. The thing is, this isn’t just a bio of an amazing songwriter, singer, and pop culture icon – it’s also a tale of his fall and redemption. At the time if this doc, Williams was not only on tour, but also twenty years sober and a licensed drug rehab counselor. And it’s also the story of the friendship between the filmmaker and his subject.

Whether you watch it as a Paul Williams fan, as a time capsule of the 1970s, or just as a darned good documentary, Paul Williams Still Alive is definitely worth watching. Check it out.

RIP Andy Williams

We lost singer Andy Williams last week. Besides his masterful vocals, he was also a songwriter, actor, producer and hosted his own variety show on TV throughout the 1960s, which notably introduced the Osmonds to the world.

In recent years Williams had settled in Branson, MO with his own theatre there, named after one of his biggest hits, “Moon River.” Among many others, he was also known for “Born Free,” “Where Do I Begin” and we’ll think of him every holiday season with his classic “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” He will be missed.

Lost Hits of the New Wave #17

“Shelter” by Lone Justice

Lone Justice, fronted by Maria McKee, was formed in 1982 as part of the Los Angeles cowpunk (I bet there’s a word y’all haven’t heard in ages) scene. With help at different times from Tom Petty and Steven Van Zandt, they managed to chart with “Shelter,” but were unable to have any higher charting singles.

Maria McKee went on to have a solo singing career but has been much more successful as a songwriter, penning hits for Bette Midler, Feargal Sharkey, and the Dixie Chicks.

Special thanks to my Twitter buddy Cathi for reminding me of this one. Sadly, I had forgotten.

Jacqui Naylor – Lucky Girl

Lucky Girl ~ Sometimes the cosmos drops opportunities and coincidences in your lap. This is one of those times. Just a few days after discovering the work of Jacqui Naylor on my own, the producers of a documentary about the San Francisco-based jazz singer/songwriter approached me about reviewing that new film. I jumped at the chance.

Lucky Girl, subtitled A Portrait of Jacqui Naylor, follows “Naylor and her band for two years on the road and in the studio while they prepared new music for her eighth album, also titled Lucky Girl. The documentary chronicles Naylor on tour to several jazz clubs including Seattle’s Jazz Alley, San Francisco’s Rrazz Room, and the Istanbul Jazz Center in Turkey. Replete with performances, songwriting sessions, and behind- the-scene moments, the film transports the viewer through a series of musical montages and local flavors. Interviews with long-time band members and others close to Naylor give an intimate look at the life of this respected jazz artist who is also a practicing Buddhist and long-time San Francisco resident.” That’s the official press release talking there, and it pretty much tells the tale, but now it’s my turn.

As I said, I came across Ms. Naylor on my own, before I ever heard of Lucky Girl. My musical tastes are very eclectic. I’m crazy all over the board, from eighties metal to seventies story songs to old school rap to funk to new wave to punk to soundtracks to nerdcore – I love it all, but what I really love most are covers. I am a sucker for a good cover tune. That’s how I found Jacqui Naylor, through her covers. She does wonderful jazzy covers of, among others, the Stones, Talking Heads, the Kinks and even Rod Stewart. I absolutely love her mash up of “My Funny Valentine” with AC/DC’s “Back in Black” behind it. And then there’s her version of REM’s “Losing My Religion.”

Killer, isn’t it? That’s why I immediately agreed to review the documentary. I already knew Jacqui Naylor was something special. And almost like a gateway drug, the doc opens with the song in all its quiet thunder. Welcome to her world.

In Lucky Girl, we have the usual musical origin stories here, the how it happeneds, and the behind the scenes workings of artistic collaboration – all presented as an experience rather than just a documentary. But there is also Jacqui putting her own spin on things as well. She does what she calls ‘acoustic smashing,’ the technique referenced above with “My Funny Valentine” that has become her trademark. She feels if she has to do the jazz standards, she should make them her own. I love it. The effect is especially fierce on Jacqui’s Christmas album, Smashed for the Holidays.

The doc is unlike most music documentaries. I mean, the structure is the same. There are interviews interspersed with the music and performances, but there seems to be a more heartfelt and almost celebratory atmosphere. The musicians and crew Jacqui works with are her family. Her husband Art Khu is also a musician and collaborator and ‘real’ family. There is much love here. We see Jacqui in her home, in the studio, on the road, and there is always love and passion.

This really is a must see documentary. If you don’t know Jacqui Naylor, you will. If you don’t like jazz, you will. It will sneak by and hug you lovingly. I guarantee you’ll end up doing what I did as I watched Lucky Girl – hitting pause, and going to iTunes to purchase the great music you’re hearing. This is sooo recommended. The DVD drops on Tuesday, and if you get the chance, go see her on tour.