Friday, June 29, 2007

Podcast 411: Meet the People Behind the Mic

As you'd guess from its name, Podcast 411 gives you information and links on many different podcasts. You can find these details other places, of course, but what I like about the site is that it also features interviews with many of podcasters.

If I like a podcast I'm interested to know how the host got started, how they became interested in podcasting, whether they had any experience in radio, etc. Naturally most good podcasters keep their shows focused on the content and don't often talk about themselves... unless it's one of those highly personal podcasts (which I tend not to listen to).

Among the other features you'll find at Podcast 411:
* the Podcast 411 blog
* directory of podcasts
* instructions on how to get podcasts
* details on how to learn to podcast
* podcasting software
* sites about podcasting (for podcasters)

I'm always on the lookout for new podcasts to listen to and review, so I'll be heading back to Podcast 411 in a few days to find new shows and listen to some of the interviews with my favorite podcasters.

O Canada Day ... Saluting the True North

While preparing to celebrate the Fourth of July, many people in the USA are probably unaware that our neighbors to the north will be observing their own independence day.

July 1st is Canada Day, and as anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm a big fan of Canadian music and especially, appropriately enough for this time of year, independent Canadian artists. There are always a few concerts in New York City featuring Canadian artists to celebrate the holiday, and I usually try to make it to one of them. The shows are sponsored by the Canadian Consulate in New York (which cleverly calls itself the "Upper North Side") to help give a taste of Canadian music to U.S. residents and ex-pat Canadians.

For those unfamiliar with Canadian contributions to music and other entertainment, here's a brief recap of some of the brighter stars of the True North:

Music: besides indie artists like Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, and The New Pornographers, also hailing from up north are Neil Young, the Guess Who, Diana Krall, Leonard Cohen, Shania Twain, and Joni Mitchell, among many others

Comedy and TV: lots of Saturday Night Live alums, including Phil Hartman, Dan Akroyd, Mike Myers, and John Candy, as well as Jim Carrey, Tom Green, and Leslie Nielsen

Movies: prolific director Norman Jewison and horror master David Cronenberg

Sports: I was a hockey fan as a kid, back when 90% of NHL players were Canadian. 'Nuff said.

And of course, I've got friends and acquaintances up north. One of my blogging buddies, Kim D, has several children but nevertheless seems to be one of the most busiest bloggers in North America. She writes at least three blogs that I know of, including a great-looking new one, and did more than five posts on one of them in one day. That's more than I typically write in a week.

And, if you've got a hankering for some fresh Canadian rock music, go to the CBC Radio 3 Web site and check out their podcasts. There's the CBC Radio 3 program with Grant Lawrence, the R3 30 countdown, and the Song of the Day.

So happy Canada Day to all the great entertainers from the North part of North America. I'll be seeing some of them this weekend at a few different Canada Day concerts in the New York area. Should be fun.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Joan Jett: Still Rocking After All These Years

If you remember the song "I Love Rock and Roll," then you know Joan Jett. What you may not know is that Jett is still rocking today, and touring, and recording, and she's sounding better than ever.

I've been a fan of hers since I got my copy of the "Bad Reputation" album when it came out in the '80s (on, um, cassette). I bought a few more of her albums, but never managed to see her in concert, though I wanted to.

Fast forward about 15 years, and it turns out she's playing an outdoor set for the runners in a race I'm running in, in New York's Central Park a couple of summers ago. Finally, my chance to see Joan Jett, and she didn't disappoint. She and the Blackhearts really DO love rock and roll, and even though us runners were sweating in shorts and t-shirts, there were Joan Jett and her bandmates staying true to their punk roots, rocking out on stage in black leather pants.

I've seen Joan Jett concerts three times since then, and she's never disappointed. She came out with a new album last year, "Sinner," and it's a good one. And at age 48 she's looking better than ever, looking buff and muscular, and rocking out to her songs, old and new. She's still touring, and if you'll be in New York City on June 28th, she'll be playing a free outdoor concert at Hudson River Park on Manhattan's west side. If past experience is any guide, it'll be a great show.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Write a Blog Post, Win an LCD Monitor

Writing a blog can bring you exposure, fame, a little cash, and now a 24" wide-screen LCD monitor from LG Electronics. Tech blog, in which a dot-com mogul gives advice on how people can use the Web to make money, is having a contest that's offering a L245WP LG monitor to one lucky person who writes about the contest and links to it... just like I'm doing right now.

The contest is being sponsored by BlueFur, which is NOT a company that sells colored fur but is in fact a Web hosting firm that wants to get out the word that it is hosting Canada and the rest of the world as well (whether or not those places have fur in blue or any other color).

See the "make money" link above for contest details. It's pretty easy... you don't have to live in Canada, have blue fur (or any fur), or even speak English! Check it out and you may win the LG monitor.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Help to Free Kidnapped BBC Reporter Alan Johnston

This post is a bit unusual for this blog because it's not about music or a podcast, but about something more important... in fact, the subject is a matter of life and death.

Alan Johnston is a BBC reporter from Scotland whose "beat" is the Gaza strip, in Palestinian territory. Johnston is the only full-time reporter in Gaza, or rather he was, until he was kidnapped more than three months ago. A shadowy group has said it is holding him, demanding the release of a number of prisoners (including at least one held in Britain) as conditions for Johnston's safe return.

This actually does have something to do with podcasting, because Johnston is one of the reporters whose voice I've heard on one of my favorite news podcasts, the BBC's "From Our Own Correspondent." His voice has been absent for the last few months, and a valuable source of information on events in the Middle East has been silenced.

The Hamas authorities who recently took over Gaza had promised they will try to obtain the release of Johnston. This is the most hopeful sign in this episode since the kidnappers released a video of Johnston showing that he was still alive and apparently being treated well.

You may have noticed the button in the right column with Johnston's photo. This is part of a campaign the BBC is conducting to help raise awareness of the reporter's plight and put pressure on those holding him. Click on the button (or here) and you'll find out how to put it on your own blog or Web site, to help spread the word. There's also a petition calling for Johnston's release and a place where you can add your own message of support.

The last few years have been some of the deadliest of all time for reporters working in war zones and other conflict areas. Fortunately, Alan Johnston is still alive and pressure is being brought to bear to get him released. Whether you're a follower of international news or not, I encourage you to add your efforts to help get Alan Johnston freed. Thanks!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Canadian Singer Feist Takes New York City by Storm

Canadian singer-songwriter Feist came to NYC for two sold-out shows at Town Hall this week, and from all account the hard-to-impress natives went away impressed. I was at the first of the two shows Monday night and Feist and her band were certainly in good form.

I saw them a little over a year ago at a smaller, standing-only venue in the City, and the show transfers well to the bigger, seated format. As expected, Feist played most of the songs from her new CD, The Reminder, hot off the presses just last month. While I miss hearing songs from her previous album, I was eager to hear her do the new songs live.

One special treat was when the band left the stage and Feist was momentarily alone until she introduced special guest Kevin Drew who, like Feist,is a member of Broken Social Scene. Drew played piano and Feist sang on a nice two-person version of the BSS favorite, "Lover's Spit."

Coming out of Town Hall, I was handed a flyer for another Feist show in New York, this one in late August in Brooklyn. The flyer said Broken Social Scene will also be on the bill, playing a new work by Drew. Their record label's Web site says, "BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE PRESENTS KEVIN DREW, 'SPIRIT IF...'"

I have no idea what it is exactly, but this sounds like another show I'll definitely want to check out.

Friday, June 01, 2007

SMtv Podcast: No TV, But Plenty of Fine Music

There are plenty of music podcasts that include songs and interviews with the artists, but SMtv is one of the few I've heard of that's actually hosted by a singer-songwriter. Samantha Murphy is the "SM" in SMtv, but oddly enough it's not a podcast of her music. Instead, Murphy interviews and plays songs from other artists, from folky singer-songwriters to pop bands to rockers.

What's more, there's no "TV" in SMtv--this is an audio podcast only--though Murphy has mentioned in the past that she'd like to make a video version of it. Nevertheless, it's a good way to learn about new artists. Each one-hour podcast contains three or four songs from the artist (full versions, not excerpts) and several interview segments. I find the interviews interesting because since Murphy is a fellow performing artist and asks her guests different questions from the same old ones asked by radio DJs or music journalists.

SMtv has been around for two years now, but podcasts don't come out regularly--some months there will be several of them, other there won't be a podcast for a couple of months. Considering that Murphy is a touring musician, I'm impressed that she has time to produce a podcast at all.

Some of the artists she's featured this year are Derren Raser and AJ Croce (son of the late great singer Jim Croce). Some of my favorites from last year include Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Clare Burson (whose songs have been recorded by Maura O'Connell and featured on Dawson's Creek), NYC rockers Jared Scharff & The Royals, and power-pop quartet The Animators, who have played with artists including Norah Jones and Ray LaMontagne.

SMtv has even presented a live show recently, at The Mint in Los Angeles.

If you like discovering music by new artists and "meeting" them in interviews, SMtv is a podcast you'll want to check out.