Ten Lessons Learned on the Sandy Beaches Cruise

Alisa Beth Cherry
Lee (left) with homeboy hero Raul Malo of the Mavericks
Time seems suspended when you're on a cruise, and like it's zoomed by afterwards. Recently on the Sandy Beaches Cruise, hosted by Atlanta's Sixthman music cruise team, a boat full of music lovers got caught up in that complex forward motion.

On the Norwegian Pearl, the music ploughed ahead at full steam, leaving audiences spellbound. The result was sheer adulation with high velocity performances, to say the very least.

Sandy Beaches began as the brainchild of barrelhouse blues veteran Delbert McClinton who initiated the cruise some 21 years ago as a means of gathering friends and fans for a celebration out at sea. Since then, SBC has attracted a group of steadfast devotees who come annually to bask in music, merriment, friendship and fellowship.

For yours truly, it became a series of teaching moments. Here's what I learned during my recent week at sea.

See also: Marcia Ball Is Bringing Bluesy Swamp Rock to Boca Raton

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Bobby Keys and Ian McLagan: Two Days, Two Greats Gone

Photo by Alisa Beth Cherry
Locks of love: The late great Ian MacLagan photographed with the author this past September

Today, lovers of rock and roll all across the globe are engulfed in grief at the loss of two legends. Bobby Keys, the man whose brilliant sax solo ignited the classic "Brown Sugar" and so many other iconic anthems, passed away from cirrhosis on Tuesday. Then, as if fate were insistent on inflicting a one-two punch, the news of the death of Ian McLagan, an essential member of the Small Faces and the Faces came on Wednesday.

It's devastating, their sudden departures, the loss to the world of music, the spirited personalities that illuminated so many lives through their talents. It's devastating, depressing, and too much to take in. Great music is immortal. Alas, its champions are not.

Both men shared similar resumes. Each played with the Rolling Stones, Keys for more than 40 years, McLagan on occasion. Both contributed to the golden age of '60s and '70s rock, when purity and substance reigned in rock. Neither was really known as a front man, but both were rock stars regardless, whether due to indiscriminate indulgence, perfect posturing, an edgy attitude or simply their solid support. It's safe to say that these two were the real deal. Even when they approached their seventies -- Keys was 70, McLagan 69 -- their gray hair, wrinkles and a well worn visages couldn't mask their thriving spirits.

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Ex Norwegian's Roger Houdaille Calls New Album "Ear Candy"

Flavia Molinari

Given the consistent output and accessible sound Ex Norwegian offers, the band has positioned itself as the next South Florida act destined for national success. The group fostered the same all-inclusive likability as its initial influences,
 like the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Move, even as it morphed into an assertive groove all its own.

Over the course of a career that extends the better part of a decade, the band has exuded the confidence, creativity, and authority needed to usher it into the spotlight and gain wider recognition. The indomitable mainstay, Roger Houdaille, projects the savvy of a true pop savant, a musician who long ago learned how to emulate a pure pop sound and recast it with a cool, contemporary sheen.

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Florida Musician Ellen Bukstel's Song About Amendment 2 and Medical Marijuana: "Who's the Pusher Now?"

Ellen Bustel says legalize, don't penalize.

It's hardly headline news to find a musician expressing enthusiasm for marijuana. After all, weed has been the drug of choice for the hippest players going back decades. Likewise, artists advocating for certain political causes have become an instinctual experience for many songwriters since the '60s.

These days, however, the need to take a stand seems more urgent than ever. And with Florida on the cusp of becoming the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line to legalize medical marijuana, there's clear cause to speak out. At least that's the opinion of Ellen Bukstel, an artist and entertainer who's won the devotion and appreciation of the masses by appearing on both sides of the stage since she first began performing as a child.

Bukstel's become fired up (pardon the pun) by the stream of misleading ads and propaganda unleashed by those opposed to Amendment Two, the ballot proposition that would allow certain patients access to medical marijuana. She's fed up with what she sees as "pandering, fear-mongering, folly... deceptive attempts to fool people into giving up the freedom and choice in alternative ways to seek medical attention."

So Bukstel wrote and recorded "Who's the Pusher Now?" the latest in a series of politically inspired songs she's penned over the years and one that pointedly decries the government's war on drugs and insistence on imprisoning people who smoke for recreational purposes.

See also: Florida Medical Marijuana Is "Done," According to Latest Poll

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The Late Jack Bruce: "I Don't Feel I Have Anything to Prove Anymore"

Heinrich Klaffs via Wikipedia Commons

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares observations, insights, and updates relating to South Florida's musical environs. This week, a final interview with the late and legendary Jack Bruce.

The passing of Jack Bruce, who died Friday at age 71, is a loss that didn't resonate only with those who marveled at his early work with British blues greats Graham Bond, John Mayall, and Alexis Korner; his groundbreaking climb to superstardom with Cream; and later, his genre-defying efforts on his own and in the company of others. It also hit hard with a newer generation of fans who witnessed his continuing efforts to shatter stereotypes and forge his own ever-evolving style and circumstance.

Bruce's last album, Silver Rails, released just this past April, demonstrated that the innovation and exploration that's marked Bruce's extraordinarily prolific career was in no danger of slowing down. The composer of one of rock's most enduring riffs -- the signature bass line that defined "Sunshine of Your Love" -- he boasted a career that's veered from blues and jazz to pop, prog rock and heavy metal, even as his role in redefining the function of bass guitar all but assured his lingering legacy.

I had an opportunity to connect with Bruce via email this past May, and while I feared his curmudgeonly reputation might be a bit intimidating for yours truly, it was anything but. Here is part of the transcript from that exchange:

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How It Feels to Be Forgotten by Art Garfunkel

Lyle Lovett with Lee and Alisa: One personable performer

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares observations, insights, and updates relating to South Florida's musical environs. This week, Lee discusses the reality of the right vibe.

As a music journalist, one of the biggest perks of my job is being able to speak to musicians I admire and whose work I've enjoyed over the years. If an interview goes especially well, I tend to think we've made a personal connection, one that will hopefully carry over if and when we actually meet in person. Of course, I also realize that at times, artists put on those affable airs for the sake of a favorable writeup, but if that's the case, most do a pretty good job of seducing me. I often hang up the phone thinking I've made a new best friend.

Some people tell me that I'm deluding myself and that as soon as the interview is over, the artist forgets about our exchange and merely moves on to the next person on his or her press schedule. And while that may be the case, I'm always eager to test my theory and find out if, in fact, the connection is credible.

In the past year, I've had the opportunity to do just that, and in two encounters, I found opposite results.

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Philip Michael Thomas: Three Names, One Special Miami Vice Memory

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions, and observations about the local scene. This week, looking back on the 30th anniversary of Miami Vice.

With the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Miami Vice, who among us doesn't feel a tug of nostalgia. We remember what our city was once like before the show's cast and crew draped it with neon, forced entire segments of the population to abandon their socks, gave us new appreciation for flying flamingos, and actually made us believe that South Beach could be more than merely the final resting place for the nation's aging.

Where are you now, Crockett and Tubbs, when government corruption is once again rampant and politicians are behaving like weasels in the wild? It still seems like now's the ideal time for a pair of leisure-suited detectives with perfect coifs to come and rescue us from our malaise.

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Loose Buttons Talk University of Miami, the Strokes, and Playing with Best Friends

Photo by J.D. Aronson
Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions, and observations about the local scene. This week: A band consisting of (mostly) University of Miami students sets out to make its mark.

At the tender age of 21, members of Loose Buttons have already built quite a career. The foursome live in New York City, but three are students at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music. The band has, thus far, released two EPs, headlined Tobacco Road and Brooklyn Bowl, toured the East Coast, played the 2013 CMJ Music Marathon and Times Square with Grizzly Bear and My Morning Jacket. It's even teamed up with Amnesty International in Washington D.C..

Singer Eric Nizgretsky, guitarist Zack Kantor, bassist Manny Silverstein, and drummer Adam Holzberg may seem extraordinarily young to have accumulated all these accomplishments, but the truth is, some a few of them were even younger when they started out playing live. Age 14 to be precise. While still in their mid-teens, Nizgretsky and Kantor played such places as Kenny's Castaways, the Bitter End, and the Knitting Factory well before they were of the legal age to actually hang out there. The group is currently celebrating the release of its second EP, Damage Gallery, another example of its infectious, smooth sounds.

Being a former UM student myself, I was delighted to chat with Eric Nizgretsky and hear how Loose Buttons is doing both itself and my alma mater proud.

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Summer Soundtrack Comes to a Sweaty and Satisfying End (Video)

Summer Soundtrack Series with Phil Barnes and Forlorn Strangers from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

C&I Studios and Exposed PR's Summer Soundtrack came to a close last night. The pop-up concert series centered on local music, and was emceed by South Florida musician Phil Barnes.

See also: Summer Soundtrack Pop-Up Music Series: A Perfect End to the Season

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Nicole Noël & Chance Meyer: "Just a Guitar, Harmonica, and Two Voices"

Chance and Nicole: Two of an Appalachian Kind.
Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions, and observations about the local scene. This week: Local duo Chance Meyer and Nicole Noël take a traditional tack.

Given South Florida's decided lack of higher terrain (in the physical sense, that is), any music that takes its cue from the traditions of the Appalachian Mountains would, at first, seem immediately out of sync, like trying to grow a palm tree on a block of arctic ice. So credit Nicole Noël & Chance Meyer for daring to swim against the proverbial tide.

The duo make music that taps tradition and takes an ages-old folk stance. Their self-released debut album, A Thousand Ways Down is an unapologetic bow to simpler times, albeit with a dark foreboding edge. It's a patchwork quilt of rustic influences carefully woven together with a single guitar, a harmonica, and two voices in perfect union.

Fascinated by their daring and distinction, we sought out the duo and asked them about the inspiration behind their old-timey refrains.

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