Sunday, July 29, 2012

True Blood Preview: Season 5, Episode 8 - Somebody That I Used To Know

True Blood Preview: Season 5, Episode 8 - Somebody That I Used To Know
Is Bill just playing like he's actually "evolving"? Or is he really into this anti-mainstreaming Lilith act? It seems like Eric's ready to go but Bill wants to stay. Meanwhile, it looks like Tara's ready to show down on someone. And we may get to see Alcide finally face off with J.D... and Alcide may FINALLY claim Sookie as they are SO SCORCHING HOT together... with  Drama!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tech Beat— A Fine Line

by Andy Marken, CEO, Marken Communications

"He owns Pan-Am. He owns Congress. He owns the Civil Aeronautics Board. But he does not own the sky." —Howard Hughes, "The Aviator," Warner Bros, 2004

One of the biggest frustrations in working at Xerox's PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) or Bell Labs had to be having out-of-focus images of what new ideas, technologies, products were going to be here in 10 to 20 years while working with materials that were introduced five years ago. At the same time, the board of directors and stockholders were constantly hammering on you to instantly deliver the next breakthrough innovation NOW! The stress has been even worse the last few years because budgets were cut across the board and everyone was forced to do more with less. The funny thing is though, the approach/process management had for developing new ideas and turning them into products/services didn't change that much during the financial crisis.

You could be depressed with where we are, where we're going and how we're going to get there. It takes events like the TED (Technology Entertainment, Design) conference to give you a sanity check and renew your optimism. The great thing is you can catch the best of TED online such as Peter Diamandis' Abundance presentation this year.  

Suddenly you realize "Hey! We've made quite a bit of progress and we CAN meet tomorrow's challenges!" It makes you proud to be in the technology industry. It makes you want to go out and innovate… something. Despite giving technology changes a lot of lip-service, the challenges still exist— finding the right talent, encouraging risk-taking/collaboration, organizing innovation. [We're not completely certain that it's possible]. 

The one thing that has returned is our investment in advancing technology and making true innovation a part of the company's strategic planning activities is correlation. Research and development spending rose 9.3 percent in 2010 and promises continued growth in the years ahead. The financial crunch in 2008 and 2009 had a decided impact on research and development investments and the results that appeared recently. Because new products are the fuel for company growth, many companies cut other areas before research and development, like staffing and marketing. [source— Booz & Company] We've gotten over that business phase of growing by "buying" into new markets with mergers and acquisitions focusing more and more on producing organic growth with new products/services and new customers in existing markets.  

What we've seen in recent years is that simply throwing money at research and development doesn't produce innovation. In fact, the consistent innovators spent less on research and development and more on developing/managing the process:

The big difference, according to people who study these sorts of things— Booze, McKinsey and others, is that there was a clear set of strategic corporate goals  clearly articulated, focused direction. The first priority on every company's goals list is a solid gold hit. The big difference is true innovators want a clearly superior product in terms of performance and quality. Low on the priority list are cheap goods or the volume of new products [source— Booz & Company]. You'll notice that few organizations placed having the cheapest product, getting there first or making very sure it was going to be a successful product at the top of their lists.

This sounds simple enough, but the true test is when senior management only gives lip-service to the first four of their "goals" and holds the innovators accountable/responsible for the goals at the bottom of the list. You know, "Yes…but..." 

Punk Band Angels Heart— Free Release

Los Angeles punk band Angels Heart will give away free digital downloads of their brand new album, Tattoos & Cigarettes, using a very unique fan-friendly application/widget. With screaming guitars, classic cars, tattoos, and cigarettes— Los Angeles-based outfit Angels Heart has taken the punk rock tradition and crafted it all into something entirely original. Amplified by founder and frontman Bryan Joseph (Vocals, Guitar, Songwriting) and Jeff Ott (Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals), the band has commanded attention not only in their home state of California, but across the nation. Their first album, Sixty-Eight Cutlass, has enjoyed huge success among punk followers, and fans now have a chance to download the new full-length record, Tattoos & Cigarettes, for free.

Angels Heart will be giving away free high resolution digital downloads of the new 14-song unreleased record, Tattoos & Cigarettes. Here’s how it works: fans enter the "daily deal" contest via the band’s Facebook page before September 4th, 2012. When entries total 10,000, those who have signed up will get free access to the high-res new release. Additionally, the band is formally releasing Sixty-Eight Cutlass at one song per week until September 4th, building up to the Tattoos & Cigarettes giveaway. Having forged a dedicated following and audience respect from early demos and touring, the newest batch of songs from the band is a highly anticipated collection that will not disappoint current and new fans of the music project. For listeners interested in a preview, the first single from Tattoos & Cigarettes, Under the Black Light, is currently available for preview and immediate download

Tattoos & Cigarettes features guest appearances from punk rock icon Brooks Wackerman of Bad Religion (Drums) and Gregg Sartiano (Bass, Production). Keeping the do-it-yourself work ethic and soul of punk music alive and well, the entire project is masterminded by pioneer of rock music education, Bryan Joseph. Beyond his musical accomplishments, Joseph was the creator and founder of the first national rock and roll summer camp Power Chord Academy (PCA).

Angels Heart creates and performs energetic, quality music steeped in an entrepreneurial spirit. They’re bringing some excitement back to the often-stale online music distribution method. Like PCA, Angels Heart is not only about creating, it’s about inspiring other people to create and express themselves. Angels Heart is not asking people to "like" their page and listen to one-way communication; they are rewarding people for participating in the growth of the band with the intimate gift of their art and talent. The band does not shun social media and the new face of the music industry— instead, they are forging it into a more fan-friendly platform that reflects their progressive views of harnessing technology and forming relationships with listeners.

Punk music has always been about rebellion. By carving their own niche and creating an original fan-driven format for music distribution, Angels Heart has already made their mark and will continue to lead. Today’s music business is largely uncharted waters. Bands that understand the changing nature of the industry, and proactively innovate rather than complain, are those who will rise to the top.

To learn more about Angels Heart, download free music, and sign up for the "daily deal," visit: http://www.angelsheart.com  and follow them on Twitter at:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012— Helping Musical Artists has created an easy way for artists to be "rewarded" for their efforts... on line. The "reward button" can be placed anywhere on the web for the artist's work to be shared. This system creates a direct way for music fans to financially "reward" an artist when and where they appreciate the artist's tracks on Facebook, YouTube, Soundcloud and most places it's listened to and shared. An example of the entire set-up can be found here: Music is shared; and the reward link should be shared as well! Moozar on Facebook:

What is special about the notion of a reward? When you place a reward on Moozar you'll help non mainstream artists to grow and continue making music you like, enabling them to set up a gig, produce an EP, or buy new instruments ... Best of all, the artist gets the money you donate via the reward without having to sell a thing. But what is the Moozar Reward worth to the artist? Aren't you profiting from their music?

With a service like Moozar you are helping musicians outside the industry to find another means to make money. The reward is something controlled by the fans, with the money going directly to the artist for nothing more than their music being heard. An artist can be rewarded for a video seen on YouTube that is watched on Facebook or by streaming their album via Soundcloud. You have probably even thought about contributing something to these artists in the past, but the question has been how. What about copyrights? Moozar has no effect on copyrights. There are no downloads, no sales. The "reward" is nothing more than a financial gesture... just like giving a busker a coin from you pocket.

The Dark Knight Rises— But Does He Fall?

It has been eight long years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.

Early in The Dark Knight Rises, director Christopher Nolan's epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy, the ever-loyal Alfred Pennyworth confronts a crippled, withdrawn Bruce Wayne who has been living like a recluse in Wayne Manor since he gave up the Bat cape eight years earlier. "You're not living," Alfred says to him emotionally. "You're just waiting for something bad to happen." Then something bad— unbelievably bad— does happen in the form of the brutal and sadistic Bane who has come to a peaceful Gotham City to lead his own devious, evil version of the Occupy Movement, a revolution against the city's wealthy and powerful. Oh, and by the way he's brought an entire army of viscious killers, mindless terrorists and mercenaries with him. Alfred's worst fear comes true: the Batman will return to the streets for what, given the power of Bane... this may be his last battle.

Make no mistake about it, The Dark Knight Rises is a spectacular film, especially when one stops to consider the unprecedented performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker [The Dark Knight] looming over the film's success. But I believe that Nolan is a genius when it comes to telling a story and in The Dark Knight Rises, he DOES NOT disappoint. The visuals are extraordinary. The action sequences are dazzling, especially so since Nolan is "old school" and uses very little CGI— but relies instead on good old-fashioned stunt work. It will be hard to shake some of the images, whether it's the stunning midair plane hijacking that opens the film, Batman tooling through Gotham on his exceedlingly spectacular "toys"... or Bane blowing up a stadium during an NFL game. Kudos to ex-Steeler Hines Ward who makes the scene shockingly frightening as he runs for his very life.

But the real power of this final chapter is just how intelligently it melds references to and commentary on modern concerns while staying true to his comic book/graphic novel roots and including those touches and subtle nuances that diehards love... like the addition of Selina Kyle (the Catwoman, although she's never called that) to the cast of characters. Nolan and his brother Jonathan, a frequent collaborator, have written an audacious take on the Batman myth that draws from elements of Frank Miller's 1986 graphic novel, Dark Knight, and from the Bane-driven Knightfall series from the mid-1990s without copying them. They touch on real world fears of terrorism, collapsing economies and domestic extremism. Underlying the whole script is the greatest terror of all: that, someday, everything in our lives will spin completely out of control. "There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne," Kyle purrs at one point. "You and your friends better batten down the hatches, 'cause when it hits, you're gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us."

To lay out the storyline in too much detail dances on the edge of spoiler, given the significant number of twists, turns and surprises Nolan tosses in along the way. He never cheats, including enough clues to what's coming that nothing really comes completely out of left field. While I must say once again... there is no performance quite as wondrous as the late Heath Ledger's as the Joker— the cast's work is sterling from the A-List stars to the even the barely credited actors/actresses. Christian Bale was great as the Batman in the first two films but if it is at all humanly possible [and it obviously is]— he is even better in this film, adding nuance and shading that wasn't there before. Anne Hathaway provides some badly-needed zest and sarcastic wit (she gets most of the good lines) as Kyle. "Dark Knight" veterans Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucien Fox) and Michael Caine (Alfred) are at the top of their games as one would expect.

Tom Hardy has the most difficult role as Bane since he was asked to speak all of his lines through a mask that makes him sound like Darth Vader without the heavy breathing. Even with this hurdle, he still manages to project a feeling that Bane may not be the completely mindless brute he appears to be. Keep an eye on the luminous Marion Cotillard (Inception, Midnight In Paris) who provides just the right measure of allure, smarts and mystery as wealthy philanthropist Miranda Tate. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a wonderful performance as young police officer John Blake, who plays a massive role in the film. Clocking in at two hours and forty-five minutes— it is an extremely emotionally and intelectually draining film and you may find yourself yearning for an oxygen mask... but even the ride doesn't keep Nolan's Dark Knight Rises from being a superb bit of work from a truly visionary filmmaker and a marvelous final installment on a grand retelling of the Batman saga. What a masterpiece Nolan has created... see it on July 20th in iMAX theaters. If you don't, trust me, the thrill of the experience will be lost on DVD/Blu-ray.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Breaking Bad's Season 5— A Dark Abyss

When last we saw middle-aged hit-man Mike (Jonathan Banks), Jesse Pinkman had to abandon him in a Mexican care facility while he recuperated from gunshot wounds sustained in Gus Fring’s violent coup d’etat of the Mexican Cartel. Now that Walter White has killed the king by blowing away Gus, who will Mike hail to? Not only that, but Walt and Jesse seem to have occasion to return to the junkyard that previously held their iconic RV, before it was crushed to bits! At least Mike seems to have calmed down by the time they all get there. Might they be looking for a new ride to re-start their operation once again? Not since Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has one character's complete fall from grace been felt in a such a compelling way. And while Al Pacino's transformation in The Godfather took close to three hours, actor Bryan Cranston has had four seasons to explore the intricate nuances of a one-time high school chemistry teacher turning into a vicious, amoral drug kingpin.

Season 5 of AMC's Breaking Bad begins tonight, with Walter White (Cranston) moving further and further beyond redemption. This is Breaking Bad's final season and we can only "speculate" that the complexity of this cautionary tale will end quite badly for the one-time solemn and timid family man— now the meth czar of the American Southwest. Season 4 ended with Walter eliminating his chief rival, Gus Fring, via a brutal, explosion— one that literally blew off half of his enemies' face. It's a far cry from teaching kids the periodic table of elements in chemistry class. But desperation, sent Walt onto his dark and dangerous path. Diagnosed with terminal cancer in Season 1, Walter began cooking and selling meth to avoid financial ruin and to take care of his family. With 16 episodes remaining in the series, the only question is how much more will Walter's morals break apart. How bad can he get? "He's enjoying the power; he likes feeling like a player," Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Walter's wife and half-willing accomplice, told AP recently. And that's the hard truth of the matter. Initially, Walter turned to crime out of sheer necessity. Now he enjoys it. the rush of pure power that comes with a potentially horrifying price.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Shell's Arctic Oil Barge Faces Scrutiny In Bellingham

Shell's Arctic Oil Barge Faces Scrutiny In Bellingham

Are we actually surprised by this? Because Shell Oil seems to be facing an uncanny amount of problems, snags and various legal battles... not to mention Mother Nature. The REAL problem lies within the power of lobbying in Washington D.C. The American Petroleum Institute, headed up by good ol' "oil lover" Jack Gerard, has continued to toss BILLIONS at Senators and Congressman to further the Shell Oil Arctic "agenda.

It is rather ironic that not even Jack Gerard can buy the unbelievable power of nature itself. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Climate change: ‘This is just the beginning’

We CANNOT continue to hide from this. The scientific community has reached a consensus that the build-up of heat-trapping emissions from burning fossil fuels and clearing forests is changing the climate, the result of which imposes significant risk to our well-being. Yet as conclusive as these studies are, we continue as a society to accelerate our emission levels putting us on a trajectory of temperature increases well in excess of the 2.0 C target established by the international community in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. 

This shocking ambivalence persists in the backdrop of 2011 being a "real killer" when it comes to unbelievably hot temperatures and a record number of extreme weather events including droughts, catastrophic floods, and continual forest fires, including the worst ever in Texas. This alongside a recent study that showed how our current trajectory will inevitably lead to an unprecedented and permanent tipping point in the Earth's ability to provide ecosystem services. Why then, despite unequivocal conclusions, does society drag their feet in acting? Several studies have looked at this question and through doing so they tend to distinguish between those people who deny that climate change is a reality from those people who accept human-induced climate change as reality, yet are inactive in response. 

Monday, July 09, 2012

'True Blood' recap: Season 5, Episode 5, 'Let's Boot and Rally'

'True Blood' recap: Season 5, Episode 5, 'Let's Boot and Rally'

This episode was one hell of a ride! The horror genre regulars were cool with UPBEAT. We loved Tara in her bad-ass Fangtasia attire. Sookie really did deserve a laugh as her relationships keep piling up... hey, but with three smokin' oakin' hot men after her... what's to complain about? Just to set the record straight, we're on Team Alcide. Those abs and smoldering passion will definitely set us all on fire!

Monday, July 02, 2012



HBO renews 'Newsroom,' 'True Blood' - Entertainment News, Top News, Media - Variety

HBO renews 'Newsroom,' 'True Blood' - Entertainment News, Top News, Media - Variety

Seeking A Friend For The End of The World... Procrastinate.

Okay... we procrastinated about seeing the film Seeking A Friend For The End of The World... which is probably PRECISELY what we would do if we were faced with this dilemna... put it off... think about Douglas Adams and why we we weren't blessed with an alien friend to allow us to hitchhike our way out of it all. But, here we are, all the better for having seen this film because... it gave us a tremendous insight into the human mind's inability to just "accept and be"... for now. It is indeed a speculative little film that provides plenty of psychological enigmas. But it also allows each of us to stare a tad bit longer a the oncoming stranger we might have never bothered to notice. So this is our answer to the film... procrastinate. But do it for all of the reasons you use to put things off. You see, when take the time to procrastinate, you wallow about in that which you never usually stop to notice.  Seeking a Friend For The End of The World provides a charming, emotional and thought-provoking ride through a somewhat confused apathetic society facing certain death; a beautiful story told with exceptional confidence by Scafaria.

And with any Carell movie, awkward humor is never far away. What's more, the Mayans aren't mentioned once— so... no ancient mesoamerican culture's thought was abused in the making of this film. Seeking Friend for the End of the World takes place sometime in the future— but not too far away. Writer/director Lorene Scafaria explains, "I always intended to be vague about it in the telling. The only time we see a date is on a bottle of cough syrup, and we don't know if the expiration date is coming up or it's already come and gone. "By being only relatively in the future, I had options to play with the look of the film. [Production designer] Chris Spellman and [director of photography] Tim Orr helped to create the entire aesthetic for the movie." Spellman remembers, "When Lorene and I first met up, we talked quite a bit about some films that she wanted me to see."

"I was inspired by films like Defending Your Life and Songs from the Second Floor, movies which created their own world," says Scafaria, who also discussed with Spellman how the design, sets and set dressing should not overpower the story and characters— as in many an end-of-the-world tale— but instead inform them. "Chris and I figured out the tiny little stories within our story, whether it was for an object or for a person you see only fleetingly." Producer Mark Roybal found that "the aesthetic that's been achieved is that of a future which is recognizable. Since things are not overdesigned, there is no detracting from the heart of the story. "Chris was so good at doing research when it was needed; for example, the plot point, of if a small plane could in fact transport someone overseas was something that he ratified."

Spellman notes, "We went with what the script dictated. Tim— whom I've worked with before— and Lorene and I went through it page by page, and discussed what the mood might be in terms of lighting, for instance." Scafaria reveals, "I had had high hopes we would get Tim for Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist; I'd seen and loved his work. When that didn't pan out, I became obsessed with working with him some day, and I felt so fortunate when we landed him for this— my first time out as director. "We mapped out the entire shot list well before production started, then revised it as we went along, and certainly improvised when we had to on a given day. It was a very symbiotic collaboration. We agreed on our process together out of the gate, coordinating on shot composition. I come from a theater background, so I had to keep reminding myself to try to get as much coverage as possible. I learned more from Tim than from anyone else, and often referred to our time together as 'my film school with Tim Orr.'"

The writer/director also worked closely with Orr's actual film school classmate and longtime collaborator, film editor Zene Baker; during filming, Scafaria would watch all of the dailies as she went along and then discuss them with Baker, which in turn made the post-production phase progress that much more efficiently. Like Spellman, costume designer Kristin Burke was tasked with anticipating the near future. She notes, "When a script ventures even a little bit into the future, you naturally wonder, 'Okay, what are we going to be wearing? What fabric are we going to have that we don't have now?' "But Lorene wanted to make the clothing as classic as possible, so that the film doesn't date itself and also so it wouldn't be implausible. For example, where were we 10 years ago and how much is the fashion sensibility different from today's? Well, it's not that far; between 1972 and 1962, now there was a huge gap."

She elaborates, "What we were trying to do overall was 'retro future,' and as accessibly as possible for the viewer. As apocalyptic as this story might seem, it's not depressing, and our costuming reflects that." Burke was particularly pleased to be able to costume Knightley for a rare non-"costume" role. The designer says, "Penny is eclectically minded; we were looking to create a look for Keira which spoke to that. The way Penny dresses incorporates vintage elements and something of that mindset. "While there were no corsets for Keira on this movie, Penny is accessorized with something from the past— vinyl record albums." The Next and Last Songs You Hear— While Dodge totes along the scruffy dog Sorry, Penny hand-carries vinyl albums from her coveted record collection.

As Lorene Scafaria muses, "There's always that 'what if' question; in case of a fire, what are you going to grab when you're on your way out the door? What can you in fact physically carry? "Dodge by then feels responsible for the dog, but for Penny these all of these albums have long had meaning to her; her record collection is something that she's taken care of for years and years— in part because it is a real connection to her parents."

Scafaria reveals, "Music is important to me, so I felt that this story wouldn't be complete without it. Part of showing Penny's journey was through what— if not who— she has." Production designer Chris Spellman and his team didn't have to search far for the record albums that Keira Knightley would be clutching; Penny's urgently streamlined collection is curated from Scafaria's own. Specific songs, albums, and artists had been written into the script from the earliest drafts. When asked which albums she would rescue in case of fire— or worse— the writer/director says, "Lou Reed's 'Coney Island Baby,' some Gene Clark, The Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds,' The Beatles." Knightley states that her top music picks would have to be, "Supertramp and Talking Heads. Also, if in fact the world were ending, I would get on the road to North Devon."

Steve Carell would not take "albums because my car lacks a turntable. My family would go to Disney World, with a steady stream of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez; what the kids are listening to these days— "'What the kids are listening to these days?' I just sounded about an 85 year old would eat... a lot of junk food, but I wouldn't steal it; I would purchase cupcakes and brownies. Chinese food and pizza, too." Scafaria muses, "I might stay put; I'm happy in L.A. I might drive north. I do have a 'what if' box ready to grab, plus my dogs and the person I'm with. I would want to be with friends and family as much as possible."

Producer Mark Roybal says, "There would have to be one serious sized camper with full entertainment, and a limitless supply of gas so we could go anywhere we wanted. There would be debaucherous eating and drinking— within the confines of safety, since I have kids. But I do think there would be hot dogs for breakfast. "Our family road trip's soundtrack would include 'Harvest Moon,' by Neil Young. That was our wedding song. Also, U2's 'Joshua Tree,' The Band, and lots of Adele, because my kids love to belt out her songs." Producer Joy Gorman Wettels demurs, "I'd do anything within reason that's under a good rationale. If the idea of living on an island in Greece is moot, I would just try to relax." For everyone on the set, variations on these questions and answers were invariably put forth and debated on a daily basis. What Scafaria had described as the "wonderful group of actors," many of whom were on-set for just a couple of days, proved eager to chat with each other and the crew between takes, comparing notes on ultimate musical collections and cities of their final destinations. Actor Derek Luke offers, "I'd go and find people to help, or friends that I need to apologize to." Actress Connie Britton reflects, "I would probably drive across the country and I would listen to every single kind of music, especially music from my childhood and Prince's '1999,' even though he was off with the year by just a little bit."

Expanding on Britton's playlist, Scafaria's assistant Virginia Shearer "would take 'Purple Rain,' 'Sign o' the Times,' 'Dirty Mind,' and 'Controversy.' And, Prince himself." Actress Melanie Lynskey comments, "My husband and our dog and I would hopefully go to Savannah. I'd bring The Cure and The Smiths and Pavement, and just listen and feel comforted." Camera loader/production assistant Josh Novak picks "anything by Otis Redding— let's just say 'Greatest Hits,' for the sake of not carrying bulk on the road trip to somewhere peaceful and tropical." Opting for neither peaceful nor tropical, actress Gillian Jacobs enthuses, "I've never really broken any laws in my life, so I'd probably break a lot of them. I would probably destroy a lot of buildings using heavy equipment from construction sites. Maybe crash cars into medians on the highway, firebomb empty buildings— standard stuff." Actor Patton Oswalt states, "I would have the theme to the TV show The Facts of Life on a loop, and drive towards Elton John, wherever he was. Because I'd want to hear him sing 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' while the meteor was approaching us; I just don't think there's any better way to end the world." Gail Scafaria, the writer/director's mother, says, "Just to be with Lorene. Yeah, that would be it."

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Lay Your Burden Down— Bayou Spirit

"Stanley 'Buckwheat' Dural leads one of the best bands in America. A down-home and high-powered celebration, meaty and muscular with a fine-tuned sense of dynamics, propulsive rhythms, and incendiary performances which are rarely seen twice." —The New York Times

LAY YOUR BURDEN DOWN is the most ambitious, deepest and varied recording of Buckwheat Zydeco's career. It is a remarkably conceived, rocking album featuring five new Buckwheat originals and complete reinventions of songs by Memphis Minnie (When The Levee Breaks, made famous by Led Zeppelin), Bruce Springsteen (Back In Your Arms), Gov't Mule (Lay Your Burden Down), Captain Beefheart (Too Much Time), Jimmy Cliff (Let Your Yeah Be Yeah) and JJ Grey & Mofro (The Wrong Side). Guests on the album include Sonny Landreth, Warren Haynes, Steve Berlin, JJ Grey and Trombone Shorty. In this, Buckwheat's first post-Katrina album, Louisiana's life-affirming jazz funeral philosophy of renewal— partying in the face of adversity— is on full display, with joyful, rhythmic dance music and deeper, more intense songs sharing the same celebratory bayou sprit.

Lay Your Burden Down received some of the best reviews of 2009 for a roots/blues album. Living Blues says, "Buckwheat Zydeco returns with a new release on famed Chicago blues label Alligator Records, and the results are stunning." Blues Revue continues, saying the album "is as steeped in blues as in the joyous Louisiana soul at the heart of this outstanding, wonderfully diverse set." Chris Morris, writing in, which named it an "Album Of The Week," called it... "a vastly entertaining and appealingly diverse package." UPBEAT Entertainment's Music News & Notes described it all as... "Lay Your Burden Down ends up being Dural's most accomplished and mature album yet, moving from start to finish like everything belongs together... He has given us Something else again, an album that works both at the dance party and still rings clear the very next day when maybe it's time to dig much deeper and do a little thinking. It's the best kind of musical synthesis."

Scott Simon, on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Saturday— in a nearly 10 minute feature airing shortly after the album's release— brought Buckwheat Zydeco's music to millions of isteners across the country. Simon called leader Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural, Jr., "the go-to guy for Zydeco music... a master of accordion and organ," and praised the new CD's scope from "feel good, get-up-and-dance music to slow R&B grooves and brooding blues." Simon's far ranging discussion with Dural was heard by more than five million listeners worldwide, helping to start the 30th anniversary celebration.... which just kept going.

The album remained on the Billboard Blues Chart for weeks, and has landed in rotation on top tastemaker radio stations nationwide including WXPN in Philadelphia, WYEP in Pittsburgh, WYMS in Milwaukee, WFDU in Teaneck, NJ, KRSH in Santa Rosa, CA, KUT in Austin, TX, with new music airplay from WXRT in Chicago and WFUV in New York City, among many others. As Living Blues says, "The entire work is a vibrant testament to Buckwheat Zydeco's spirit, reminding us that Louisiana's musical heritage has taken all the hurricanes could give. This is an album that can introduce a new generation of music fans to the world of zydeco music and serve as a wonderful reminder about what a great zydeco band can do."

Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural, Jr. was born in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1947. He acquired his nickname because, with his braided hair, he looked like Buckwheat from The Little Rascals. His father was an accomplished, non-professional traditional Creole accordion player, but young Buckwheat preferred listening to and playing R&B. He became proficient at the organ, and by the late 1950s was backing Joe Tex, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and many others. In 1971 he formed Buckwheat and The Hitchhikers, a 15-piece funk and soul band. They were a local sensation and found success with the single, "It's Hard To Get," recorded for a local Louisiana-based label. Never a traditional zydeco fan when growing up, Buckwheat nonetheless accepted an invitation in 1976 to join Clifton Chenier's Red Hot Louisiana Band as organist. He quickly discovered the joy and power of zydeco music, and marveled at the effect the music had on the audience. Everywhere, people young and old just loved zydeco music," Buckwheat says. "I had so much fun playing that first night with Clifton. We played for 4 hours and I wasn't ready to quit."

Buckwheat's relationship with the legendary Chenier led him to take up the accordion in 1978. After woodshedding for a year, he felt ready to start his own band under the name Buckwheat Zydeco, and began his recording career with the small Blues Unlimited label. By the mid-1980s there were more offers to perform than he could possibly accept. Recordings for Black Top and Rounder followed before Buckwheat befriended New York-based journalist Ted Fox, who championed Buckwheat to Chris Blackwell at Island Records in 1986. 

In 1988, Eric Clapton invited the band to open his North American tour as well as his 12-night stand at London's Royal Albert Hall. As even more doors opened, Buckwheat found himself sharing stages and/or recording with Keith Richards, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, David Hidalgo, Dwight Yoakam, Paul Simon, Ry Cooder and many others, including indie music stalwarts Yo La Tengo on the soundtrack to the Bob Dylan bio-pic, I'm Not There. His music has been featured in films and on television. Buckwheat won an Emmy for his music in the CBS TV movie, Pistol Pete: The Life And Times Of Pete Maravich. Buckwheat Zydeco has played just about every major music festival in the world, including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (numerous times), Newport Folk Festival, Summerfest, San Diego Street Scene, Bumbershoot, Montreaux Jazz Festival and countless others.

During the 1990s and 2000s Buckwheat recorded for his own Tomorrow Recordings label and maintained an extensive touring schedule. Along with his remarkably talented band, he brings his music to fans all over the world. Now, with his new relationship with Alligator and LAY YOUR BURDEN DOWN, his massive instrumental and vocal talents and boundless energy, Buckwheat, already the most popular zydeco artist in the world, will find the largest and most enthusiastic audience of his long and storied career.