Bass in the USA

willie weeksOne of the most highly anticipated tours of 2013 kicks off shortly, as the legendary Slowhand himself, Mr. Eric Clapton, embarks on a nationwide tour that will be taking arenas by storm through the middle of April. To the excitement of the bass world, Clapton has enlisted none other than Willie Weeks to hold down the low end for the tour, which will feature sets filled with an eclectic mix of classic material and newer songs by Clapton. Weeks has held down the bass chair for Clapton for a long while now and will be joined this time around by legendary drummer Steve Jordan, guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz and keyboardists Paul Carrack and Chris Stainton. This begins another chapter in the celebrated career of Weeks, who took the bass world by storm starting in the 60s, when he became a hired gun for the likes of David Bowie, George Harrison, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Doobie Brothers, Aretha FranklinIsaac Hayes, Billie Joel, Stevie Wonder and so many others. Seriously, this whole column would exceed my word count if I continued on with his resumé. Weeks is sure to have his trusty red 1962 Fender P-Bass on the road along with his 50s P-Bass collection, his 60s Jazz basses and quite possibly one of his many acoustic basses for toned-down parts of the set. The tour kicks off on 14 March at US Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ and will conclude on 12-13 April for a two-night set at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.

Billy Sheehan has joined a new supergroup including sometime Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy and Sheehan’s old bandmate from Mr. Big, singer/guitarist Richie Kotzen. The power trio have recently wrapped up their debut album in Los Angeles, where they tracked 14 original songs written in early 2012 and eight additional cover songs. The band is described as a classic rock power trio by its members, and they have yet to play any of the material live so far. Sheehan commented on the material in a recent interview, ‘I’m really pleased with this music. Richie sang his ass off and played really amazingly unique stuff and of course Mike annihilated on drums. It’s a really cool, unique record.’ The band was originally set to include famed singer/guitarist John Sykes, but he was replaced with Kotzen after scheduling differences delayed writing and recording. No exact date has been revealed for the release of the album, but speculation says that it will come out sometime in the spring or summer of this year.

Progressive rock favourites Coheed And Cambria have had a busy couple of years, beginning in 2011 when they embarked on the ambitious process of writing and recording two albums that would be released months apart, called The Aftermath: Ascension & Descension. To make the process even more arduous for the band, longtime bassist Mic Todd went through a string of troubles at the time, including drug addiction and subsequent stints in rehab, which finally came to a head when he was arrested for armed robbery of a convenience store while being in illegal possession of narcotics.

Knowing that they had to move forward, the band and Todd parted ways, leaving the remaining members to find a replacement suitable for the direction in which they were going. Luckily for them, they were introduced to Zach Cooper, who came in to try out for the band and was immediately chosen to join: he began recording in the days following his selection. The double album clearly shows the chops that Cooper has to offer. A mixed array of fast-moving progressive songs show his skill with the heavy side of things, and his tasteful playing and use of upright bass drive movement into the band’s more reflective material. ‘There are some really tricky parts on these albums that took a lot of woodshedding to nail down,’ Cooper told BGM in a recent conversation. ‘It makes the live show pretty exciting and a little terrifying for me at the same time.’ To showcase the two albums, the band is heading out on the road, beginning with a stop in Houston, TX at the Bayou Music Center on 2 March and concluding their US stretch at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY on the 16 March.

The Black Crows will be ending their three-year hiatus this month by launching the ‘Lay Down With Number 13’ tour in early May. This marks the band’s first tour since their 20th anniversary run in 2010. The group’s current line-up is bassist Sven Pipien, vocalist Chris Robinson, guitarist Rich Robinson, drummer Steve Gorman and keyboardist Adam MacDougall. Pipien joined the band in 1998 for a two-year stint and rejoined them once again in 2005. The band will also release a live album on 19 March titled Wiser For The Time, which will contain 26 songs from their five-night New York City performances of 2005. Their current tour kicks off on your side of the pond at Manchester Academy on 24 March, where the band will play five dates in the UK before heading back to the States for a long US run starting with two nights at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY on 2-3 April.

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