Dick50 and Becky Schlegel scoot boots and flex their roots respectively on new discs 

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Need a backup band that can handle anything from Americana to zydeco and all points in between? Delbert McClinton does, and that's why the harmonica ace and bandleader surrounds himself with a band made up of guitarist/vocalist Rob McNelley, keyboardist/vocalist Kevin McKendree, bassist/vocalist Steve Mackey and drummer Lynn Williams. Individually, they have played with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Brian Setzer, John Hiatt, Dolly Parton, India.arie and Lady Antebellum. Together, with McClinton and now as a side project, they go by the handle Dick50.

What brought them together as an act was something much simpler than their numerous session dates. "Over the years with Delbert we noticed that there was something happening between us when we would get together for the soundchecks," McNelley said. "There were some things we were doing musically there, or later when we would be rehearsing that were different and special, distinct from what we provided behind Delbert. It was an energy and a spontaneity that was so natural we just felt that we had to get something down on record."

The result is the group's first CD, Lateshow, which just came out this week. Though they don't use the term "old school" in talking about the disc, the way it was produced and compiled definitely harkens back to another era.

"We were determined that we wouldn't take a long time in the studio and that we wouldn't sacrifice energy or spend too much time tinkering with things," McNelley said. "So what we did was go into the studio every day determined to come out with a complete song. We'd go in, put the song together, sing over it, edit it and come out of there with a finished tune."

They did the session's 11 numbers in 11 days — a rarity in a studio climate where multiple producers are often brought in for discs, and the finished product might take a couple of years to assemble from component sessions. The CD fully showcases the various influences and idioms that permeate their music, from funk and first-generation R&B ("Medicine Man," "Make It Right,") on through Southern boogie and blues ("Dirty South," "Flying Now") to soulful rock ("Down," "So We Shine"). Anchoring McNelley's evocative vocals, the tight rhythm section of McKendree, Mackey and Williams displays the fervor that's fortified McClinton's leads and harmonica solos. In addition, they tout the famed bandleader among their biggest fans.

"Actually being with Delbert all these years has been the ideal training ground for a band," McNelley says. "He's a big supporter and we're getting to open for him on a bunch of his shows, which really gives us a great audience and helps to get the disc out there to people. Plus we're open to doing some more shows if things work out, though we'd have to arrange our schedules a bit."

As a result, over the next few months Dick50 will be both a solid backup band and first-rate performing ensemble, a juggling act only a group with their lengthy track record of accomplishments would attempt. "We're really excited about this CD and we plan to keep the group going as well," McNelley says. "It's really kind of having the best of two worlds happening right now."

New Schlegel CD release

Growing up in South Dakota, vocalist/guitarist Becky Schlegel was a huge fan of traditional country music. She was even a member of her mother's band The Country Benders, but she also played and sang on the Mountain Music radio program, a show broadcast throughout the Black Hills of South Dakota.

So Schlegel never saw a big difference between country and bluegrass, something that's been reflected in her releases, where she's been a compelling and striking performer whether doing a song with a bluegrass background, a country narrative structure or even a traditional folk sensibility. Past Schlegel discs Red Leaf, Drifter Like Me and For All The World To See earned plenty of critical praise and several awards from bluegrass critics and groups during her years in Minnesota.

"I guess no one ever told me that there was a difference or that you were supposed to do one or the other," Schlegel says. "Country always came naturally to me, and later when I heard bluegrass and started doing those songs, they just seem to fit in what I do vocally as well. Maybe it's one of those things where if people don't tell you something you don't make any assumptions about things."

Now relocated to Nashville, Schlegel has just released the new disc Dandelion (Lilly/IGO), a collection of intimately written and performed originals. Besides highlighting Schlegel's earnest, soothing vocals, it contains outstanding contributions from longtime musical friend and collaborator Brian Fesler (banjo), Gordon Johnson (bass), Kenny Wilson (pedal steel), Randy Kohrs (resonator guitar/harmony vocals) and Phil Hey (drums) among others.

Set highlights include the powerful "Anna," a tune inspired by Schlegel's late grandmother; the haunting "I Never Loved You Cowboy" a poignant heartbreak tale pulled from life's pages; and "I Never Needed You," a stinging number about betrayal. The 13 tunes also feature Schlegel in different musical settings, from the piano backing on "The Way You Are" to the frontline of lead, rhythm and resonator guitar on "So Embarrassing" flanked by pedal steel, bass and drums. That unusual configuration frames Schlegel's tale of personal discomfort with glistening, ambitious instrumental support.

Dandelion also highlights the musical bond between Schlegel and Fesler, who's been her banjo player since 2005 and shares production and arranging duties on the disc. "Brian's a great musician and someone who really understands my music and the best way to present it and structure it," Schlegel says. "We have a very interesting and fun situation, because he actually succeeded my husband in the band."

A frequent guest on A Prarie Home Companion and RFD-TV's Midwest Country Theater, Schlegel says the move to Nashville was a good one, although Dandelion was recorded in what was then their home base of Minnesota.

"In the beginning it was a little scary because of Nashville's reputation and you're moving away from a place you're comfortable and established," Schlegel says. "But it's the best thing that we could have done. Not only have people here been incredibly friendly and supportive, but the amount of writing and playing talent here is so vast. There's no better place to be in terms of what I want to accomplish, both in terms of music and also in terms of my family."

Music DVD of the week

Most productions covering the British Invasion of the '60s mainly focus on The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks and other well known bands. Since those were the era's biggest stars and groups who became the cornerstones of contemporary rock music that makes sense. But the tremendous new five-DVD set British Invasion (Reelin' In The Years/Voyage) changes course by examining other fine performers that have been either underappreciated or completely ignored.

Perhaps the set's key figure is super singer Dusty Springfield, among the decade's most soulful females. The disc Dusty Springfield — Once Upon A Time, 1964-1969 includes definitive performances of familiar Springfield hits like "Wishin' and Hopin'," "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me," "I Only Want To Be With You," "Son of a Preacher Man" and "The Look of Love," along with renditions of lesser known but equally fine tunes such as "Mockingbird," "All Cried Out," "Stay Awhile" and "Little By Little." There are also interviews with Burt Bacharach and her background singers Madeline Bell and Simon Bell, plus liner notes from her biographer Annie Randall and even newly discovered interview footage with Springfield herself.

A close second is the Small Faces — All or Nothing, 1965-1968 DVD. It includes the last interview ever filmed with Ronnie Lane, plus photos taken by heralded engineer Eddie Kramer and new interviews with Ian McLagan and Kenny Jones. Gerry & The Pacemakers' first three singles topped the British charts, but the reception given The Beatles, with whom they helped ignite the whole British takeover of the American charts, pretty much assured they'd be relegated to the rear in terms of popularity. Wrongly mischaracterized during their '60s heyday as a strict pop crew, due to the popularity of ballads like "Ferry Cross The Mersey" and "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying," this set reveals they could also do justice to songs like "Dizzy Miss Lizzy," and "A Shot of Rhythm And Blues."

Though it's hard to believe, the DVD Herman's Hermits — Listen People, 1964-1969 qualifies as the first official Herman's Hermits DVD retrospective. While they're not among my personal favorites of British Invasion bands, this set faithfully captures their quirky moptop appeal on big hits such as "I'm Henry VIII, I Am" and "Silhouettes." They also covered Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World" and Allen Toussaint's "Fortune Teller," but soul and grit were not qualities that could accurately be ascribed to Peter Noone's vocals or their arrangements. Still, the disc includes many informative interviews (particularly the discussion about their 1967 tour with The Who) and footage from a 24-minute concert filmed in 1966 for Australian television.

Add a nice bonus disc with more performances from Springfield and Herman's Hermits, plus 90 minutes of extra interview material, and the entire set is essential, especially for fans of '60s, Top 40 and/or British invasion music.

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