People and Places: ‘Sessions’ series is one of the best

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Some of my favorite memories as a journalist were of interviewing musicians.
As a music columnist, writer and reviewer for several publications in Albuquerque, I interviewed dozens of musicians over a 15-year period from 1991 to 2004.
Most of them were on the phone, usually in the living room of the band house I lived in at the time, when I, myself, was striving to be a professional musician — though one interview that sticks out was the time I interviewed Duran Duran bassist John Taylor over the phone while sitting in my mom’s kitchen, looking at the TV I used to watch him and his band on MTV during their “Hungry Like The Wolf” period.
So when I find a good TV/Internet show that includes insightful interviews and terrific performances, I get pretty excited. “Guitar Center Sessions” is one of those shows.
The show, which is hosted by British music host Nic Harcourt is shown exclusively on the DirecTV satellite TV network (Channel 239) and is also available at sessions.guitarcanter.com (for those of you who don’t have satellite TV or are on Dish Network).
The show has been around since 2010, but I only recently discovered it when the new season of the series started at the beginning of the summer.
Harcourt, who also hosts the highly acclaimed public radio shows “Morning Becomes Eclectic” and “Sounds Eclectic,” is a very insightful and attentive host. Unlike many interviewers who seem to be interviewing themselves (I’m looking at you, Charlie Rose) or simply sucking up to the famous subjects, Harcourt only asks great, penetrating questions of the musicians he has on his show.
The show also doesn’t focus on one genre of music or even one era of music. Some of this season’s subjects have ranged from ’90s hip hop artists Snoop Dogg and Talib Kwali to ’70s rockers Blondie and Cheap Trick to current favorites OneRepublic, Fitz and the Tantrums and Colby Caillatt, who themselves range from pop to neo-soul to folk pop. They’ve even hosted blues legend Buddy Guy.
Among this season’s guests so far have been ’90’s grung rockers Soundgarden, ’80’s rockers Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and ’90s reggae/rock/funk band 311 — those are the ones I was most jazzed to see anyway.
Every episode I’ve seen so far has some of the best audio I’ve ever heard on a TV show. Obviously, “Guitar Center Sessions” takes great pride in making sure that the bands sound crystal clear. Even Soundgarden’s set, which was recorded outdoors in Austin, Texas, instead of the usual Los Angeles soundstage that the show usually uses, sounded terrific and perfectly balanced (though I gotta say that Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell’s voice is sounding pretty thin and screechy now that he’s 25 years into his musical career.)
The same goes for Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, who is actually loser to 40 years into his career. Both bands sounded great, though, which is a testament to their fortitude as musicians.
By far my favorites of the current season have been 311 and Joan Jett. Jett, who’s been around since the mid-’70s with the all-female glam rock band the Runaways, sounds just as good now as she did when I saw her at Tingley Coliseum in the mid-’80s. Even her new songs have the same edge that songs like “Cherry Bomb,” “Bad Reputation” and “I Love Rock ’N Roll.”
311 was also terrific; they may be tighter now than they were when I saw them on their first tour in 1993. And their interviews touched on every aspect of their careers and approach to music over the years.
If you’re a musician, “Guitar Center Sessions” is a must see who. Same goes if you’re a music fan. And even if you’re just a casual music fan, this show is definitely a must see.
And every episode is archived on the website (again, sessions.guitarcanter.com), which is simply great.

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