Tag Archives: Nashville

Jon And Sally Tiven: Dynamic Writing/Producing Team find Unexpected Success-An Article By Ron Wynn

 *Sally and Jon Tiven with blues icon Buddy Guy (Photo Used Courtesy Of Jon Tiven)
Dynamic writing/producing team find unexpected success
By Ron Wynn
The writing/production/instrumental duo (as well as husband and wife) team of Jon and Sally Tiven have worked with many legends of soul, blues, R&B, rock and pop over the years. Since 2002, they’ve also been an integral part of the Music City community. Now they’ve recently enjoyed a new breakthrough: success on the dance charts.
Jon Tiven acknowledged that it’s been quite a surprise to see how well the single “Glittering Gutter,” off the LP “The Soul Tapes” by English vocalist Billie Ray Martin, has done. It entered the Billboard Dance/Club Charts at #44 and last week reached number eight. The song has also been issued as an eight-remix single, with differing versions reworked by some of dance music’s biggest production wizards like Mooli, Offer Nissim, Tweaka Turner and Dave Aude.
Here are Tiven’s views on the single’s success and several other topics we covered last week in an extensive interview.
How different was it working on this project as opposed to some of the other things that you’ve done?
“Billie and I met in the mid-90s after her smash “Your Loving Arms” made her a known quantity and she came to the U.S.A to meet people who could help her make a Soul record. She, Sally and I wrote several songs which she recorded on her album “18 Carat Garbage” (the title track and “Captain Drag” were songs we wrote with her), and that album was cut in Memphis with the Hi Rhythm guys and Ann Peebles and Carla Thomas guesting.”
“We became friends and wrote some more, and she approached me about a new project. We wrote and recorded a record in New York with my band, which at that time was Sally, myself, and our favorite NY drummer Simon Kirke (Free, Bad Company).
This was originally intended as a collaboration between Billie Ray and myself where I would completely share billing, and so I took liberties with my guitar playing that I wouldn’t have necessarily done had I strictly been the producer. I figured “if it’s my name on the marquee, I get to go wild, freak out, and play what’s deep within me” and so I did. All the tracks were cut for this in 2000, and when it was complete I thought it was not only one of the best things I’d ever done, but had great commercial potential, as they say. But Billie was not convinced that all of her vocals were of a quality that she’d be proud of in fifteen years, so the record sat and was never fully mixed, never mind shopped to labels. A year or so ago I got a call from Billie telling me that she’d listened to the record again after so many years and loved it and wanted to finish her vocals, so I sent her the tapes and voila! Success!”
The fact that this sat for 15 years—I had completely written off it ever being released—-and now it’s gotten to #8 on the dance/club charts (Billboard) and is currently #12 on Music Week’s charts in the U.K.—-I just feel like my artistic license has been renewed and approved.”
Hearing all the different remixes were you surprised by any of the approaches and were any of them radically different from how you originally envisioned the project?
“I was completely stunned by all of the mixes……they basically took the skin off the bones and built entirely new people on the remaining skeletons. It showed me great possibilities of how far you could go and still keep the song. I like my chord progressions the way they are, but it’s nice to know that with a little tweaking you can go off on a completely different tangent and still keep the integrity of the song.”
You’ve worked with many legendary names in soul, R&B, rock and pop. What person or persons have proven the most enjoyable and memorable among those you’ve worked with?
“Making records with my dear friends—-Wilson Pickett, B.B. King, Frank Black, Bobby Womack, P.F. Sloan, Don Covay, Steve Cropper, Little Milton, Ellis Hooks, Steve Kalinich, Syl Johnson, Sir Mack Rice—-that’s the kind of experience you want to keep with you forever. These were/are not just business relationships, these were/are buddies of mine who I speak to or spoke with regularly about all kinds of things. I’ve made some records with people who testing the boundaries of our friendship during the making of the record as well with Alex Chilton and Don Nix, and those experiences are memorable in another way. I’ve been so fortunate to have had my musical career intersect with so many one-of-a-kind talents any one of which would be enough to make me feel grateful, let me list a few: Chrissie Hynde, Paul Rodgers , Tom Verlaine, Ron Wood, Arthur Alexander, Felix Cavaliere, Graham Parker, Chris Spedding, Dan Penn, and Betty LaVette.”
Having been a Nashvillian for several years now, what are some things you’ve discovered about living and working here that you wouldn’t have thought were the case until you came?
“The wonderfully open music scene that some folks have showed me. Particularly jazz cats. Thank you Nashville .”
What projects have you done that turned out better than anticipated and some that didn’t do as well as you thought they might>?
Better—-well, this Billie Ray Martin really turned around completely, after having given up……..the most surprising thing to me is that several of my early productions (Alex Chilton, Prix, Van Duren) from the mid to late 70s are now being revered as Powerpop Classics when at the time I never got paid, didn’t see a whole lot of positive reviews, and so I consider those my “pancake” records.”
“You know, when you make pancakes you throw away the first batch so the 2nd batch tastes good. Now I’m getting wonderful reviews and even a check or two, it’s quite a mindbending experience. I hope I don’t have to wait 40 years for people to appreciate the work I’m doing now.”

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Filed under Jon Tiven, music producers, Nashville, Ron Wynn, Sally Tiven, session musicians

Improvisations – Frazey Ford

frazey-ford-09Frazey Ford blends folk approach, soul roots
By Ron Wynn
Sometimes all it takes is a pair of great ears to make something special happen. In this case they belonged to ace filmmaker/critic Robert Gordon, whose extensive knowledge of soul and blues music has been evident in critically acclaimed volumes on Stax and Memphis music, as well as an equally lauded film on Muddy Waters. He heard the tune “If You Gonna Go” from Candian vocalist Frazey Ford’s 2010 debut LP “Obadiah,” and instantly thought of something that most other observers wouldn’t: an earthy R&B influence in what was otherwise tabbed an alt.-folk project.
 Ford, a founding member of the Be Good Tanyas, visited Nashville Friday. She gave Gordon lots of credit for instantly hearing something in the song and her voice she wasn’t sure had really come across in the song. He also spearheaded the eventual session that featured her working with the Hi Rhythm section.
“He called the radio station that played the song and asked them about it,” Ford recalled to the Scene. “He told me later that he could hear the soul influence. He told me what he was doing (working on a documentary on soul music and Memphis musicians) and that he knew the Hi Rhythm people, and wanted to see about getting us together to do something. That was an incredible thrill, because they were musicians that I’ve listened to for a long time and were truly happy to get a chance to work alongside. He put everything in motion and it was a magical occasion for me.”
Ford’s spirited blend of old-time folk and country, infused with the urgency of classic R&B, has made her work with the Be Good Tanyas one of the more unusual and distinctive sounds on any circuit. The collaboration with the Hi Rhythm Section flourishes on the 2014 LP “Indian Ocean.” Organist Charles Hodges, bassist Leroy Hodges and guitarist Teenie Hodges provided a dynamic energy that is underpinned by pivotal contributions from several other musicians. They ranged from Be Good Tanyas member guitarist Trish Klein and pianist Phil Cook to other guitarists Darren Parris and Craig McCaul. Longtime Memphis ace saxophonist Jim Spake joined Scott Thompson and JP Carter doing the arrangements, while Debra Jean Creelman and Caroline Ballhorn added buoyant backing vocals.
“Indian Ocean” defies easy categorization, which is just what Ford enjoys. She and co-producer/drummer John Raham sought to get the kind of easy, yet exuberant energy that was the hallmark of the great albums the legendary Willie Mitchell produced at Royal Recording studios. But they also didn’t want to have any rigidly prescribed notions about what would occur.
“I’ve never really thought so much about genres as I have about feeling and about music and the musicians who’ve influenced me,” Ford continued. “Growing up in Canada I didn’t really listen so much to the radio as I did the music that my parents had. My mother had a real country/Cajun and soul thing going. I loved and still do Otis Redding. But Emmylou Harris is also a big influence on me. Al Green for sure. Neil Young is another person who’s a big influence. What I wanted to do with “Indian Ocean” is find a way to get all these influences into one place, make them work, and not have it sound disjointed.”
She acknowledges that while always enjoying singing, she didn’t really initially view it as a career path. “It was really kind of a surprise,” Ford said. “I was planning to do all this other stuff, looking at different occupations, but music kept getting in the way. It was really not just something to do on the side, but a passion, a drive, and that was what really made the decision for me. Plus I really wanted to explore more of that musical culture from America. The things that I heard growing up, I really wanted to get out and hear and see where it came from, see how I could incorporate it into my own music.”
Those seemingly disparate, yet interconnected influences, are seamlessly integrated throughout “Indian Ocean.”
Some numbers like the disc’s first tune “September Fields” feature edgy vocals and a stirring  beat. Others like the brisk number “Done” are more declarative, lyrically direct and shorter tunes fortified by enchanting vocals from Ford and precise, on the money backing from either the Hi Rhythm crew or the other musicians. Ford is at her strongest vocally on the assertive number “You’re Not Free,” while the lighter, softer approach she takes on “Three Golden Trees” probably comes closest to a straight folk tune.
“My only regret about the project was when I heard that Teenie had passed,” Ford concluded. “Working with those guys was so incredible, and he was an unbelievably warm and friendly guy. One thing we’ve been doing on this tour in a lot of cities is working with horn sections, which is a lot of fun.  I would like to do some more recording like that in the future. I’ve really got some other influences that people probably wouldn’t associate with me either. I really like Afrobeat for instance. Neosoul is another one, and also both contemporary and traditional country. I’d love to do some albums where I could expand into those areas musically.”
“For me, it really is all about experiencing all types of music. That’s something that always excites me. I don’t want to do the same thing with every album, and all the people I admire are those who keep searching and aren’t afraid to experiment, while maintaining the special quality that makes them stand out.”
(This originally ran in Nashville Scene’s “Cream” blog).

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Filed under Be Good Tanya's, Frazey Ford, Hi rhythm section, Nashville, Soul, Uncategorized

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 7/19/2014: ‘A.J. & The Jiggawatts’

AJ & The Jiggawatts


Its been known to me for quite a few years that,even after the crossover potency of funk had diminished on the radio,that the music still had a home on radio and in the record stores of the American South. That extended onward into the 90’s era when the Southern hip-hop sub-genre emerged with acts such as Mystikal,The Goodie Mob and of course OutKast as some of the most thoroughly funk oriented of hip-hoppers of their era. With the emergence of the whole Dap Tone scene during the new millennium,it also seemed that large live funk bands were suddenly becoming the domain of indie record labels-much the same as the earliest music of the original funk and early disco era had actually been. While randomly leafing through the R&B section of the record store,I came across this album. It was a large horn funk band from Nashville,usually known to me as a mecca for country music. It described AJ & The Jiggawatts as a blistering live band. But what would the studio make them out to be on this CD?

Right of the bad with the intro the album is of course abound with fast paced,uptempo horn funk such as “Throw A Fit”,”Get Wild”,”Pushin’ Forward”,”98 Degrees”,”Once And A Lifetime”,”Don’t Mess With Me” and the intense “The Drop”. These numbers are some of the most hyperactive funk I’ve ever heard,since its usually a genre I tend to associate with a slower rhythmic structure. Might be good to use James Brown’s “I’m A Greedy Man” to describe the tempo and flavor of the funk on those songs. “Back Alley Beale St” and “Brown Bottle Fever”,both with a bluesier New Orleans groove,use the lyrical metaphor of intoxication. “Typical Feeling” is a sunny,melodic groove that deals with the virtues of skepticism and reason-citing what sounds like the contemporary climate crisis as an example. “Shake It For Me” has a commanding horn fanfare throughout it while “Pimp Decisions” espouses the virtues of balancing ones needs with those of others while “Stand Up” ends the album (as a bonus track) with some strident,wah wah heavy funky soul.

Musically this is a fantastic album through and through. One of the best things about it is that it updates the sociopolitical lyrical impulses of classic funk for the post Generation X years. The ideas of “do what you want to do” and “come together,people” are superseded with the concepts of reliance on ones own views and abilities. There’s also a strong working class sensibility about the album as well-dealing with people in tight economic situations trying to keep relationships and the like afloat amid their stresses. The musicians,especially the cracker jack horn section are superb. And the production is clean and loose as they come. The only thing I am not 100% taken with is AJ Eason’s singing. While he has a powerful,assertive vocal tone and is an extremely strong songwriter/lyricist? His vocal technique itself is extremely sloppy,similar to the lead singer of the Intruders where he often loses control of his voice and is very badly off key on the choruses. While people probably have their own ideas about Eason’s singing that will differ from mine,its not enough from keeping this a stand up example of a contemporary live band funk juggernaut!

Original Review Written On July 14th,2014

*Link to original review:


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Filed under A.J. & The Jiggawatts, A.J. Eason, Blues, Funk, Generations, James Brown, Nashville, New Orleans