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Cameron Crowe documentary on Elton John tonight on HBO

The Cameron Crowe / T-Bone Burnett documentary chronicling the critically acclaimed 2010 musical collaboration between Elton John and Leon Russell debuts tonight on HBO.

In "The Union" (9 p.m. ET), Crowe ("Jerry Maguire," "Almost Famous," "Pearl Jam Twenty") shows a candid Elton John during his composing process, something never filmed before.

Filming for "The Union" began in 2009, covering the entire writing and recording process of John's album with Russell.

Sounds good to me. Check out a clip of an interview with Elton John below.

Los Lobos: Musician, produce thyself

For the first two decades of their recording history, Los Lobos worked with outside producers in the studio, including T-Bone Burnett and Mitchell Froom. But for their last few albums, they've taken on the production work themselves. Not that even they themselves can define exactly what the words "produced by" even mean.
 
"To be absolutely honest, what producers do is not clear to me, either," Los Lobos singer/guitarist Louie Perez said in a recent interview. "Rolling the tape back to the beginning of this movie, this band formed in 1973 and made our first real record in 1983. So we'd been together 10 years by then. Had we been together 10 months instead of 10 years, maybe we might have needed more hand-holding. But there's not much you could've told us.
 
"From our experience with Mitchell Froom, I'll tell you what a producer should be doing. We went into the studio with him to do [1992's] 'Kiko,' which is still my favorite of our albums. He created this environment that was comfortable and creative, and he was there to move things along without getting in the way. I believe that's all you can do with a band like us -- just sit back and create a space to move it along."
 
For more about Los Lobos' Disney album and their in-progress next album (plus details on their show in Durham this week), see the interview in Tuesday's paper. 

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, together at last

Plant and Krauss conjure up a new spirit
By David Menconi, News & Observer
July 14, 2008

Conventional wisdom on popular music nowadays is that it's all been done. The frontier is closed and everythings been invented, with nothing left to do but recycle, reuse and rehash.

But if you believe that, you werent at the RBC Center on Friday night listening to the indelible guitar riff from Led Zeppelins "Black Dog" being plunked on a banjo, the lyrics murmured like a prayer - topped off by a fiddle solo that somehow sounded like a screaming electric guitar.

The Robert Plant/Alison Krauss show was in town, and if this wasnt a new kind of music then I dont know what is. Its a spectacularly unlikely combination of sensibilities that ought to clash violently. He's the frontman for Led Zeppelin, legendary swingers of the hammer of the gods, while she's a quietly demure country/bluegrass singer of rare beauty.

Somehow, what should be an oil-and-water mixture comes out weirdly wonderful, thanks to some impressive roots-rock alchemy from producer T-Bone Burnett. In addition to producing last years Plant/Krauss album "Raising Sand" (Rounder Records), Burnett is bandleader for this tour. The touring ensemble's overall sound was reminiscent of Chris Isaak's tiki-torch noir, shot through with stark Old Testament country blues.

Add it all up, and it was a veritable playground for Plant and Krauss to stretch out in unexpected ways. Plant has never exactly been noted for restraint, while belting has never been Krauss strong suit. But danged if they both didn't go in those respective directions, with handsome dividends.

Krauss showed more sass than ever, embracing the inner rock goddess we (and she, probably) never knew she had. If nothing else, this tour should definitively establish Krauss as a singer for the ages. When she soared into a ghostly wail on "Fortune Teller, " hairs were standing on every neck in the building.

Plant, meanwhile, rocked the leather pants and radiated star quality. But he also showed surprising facility as a harmony singer, meshing his voice with hers in ways you wouldn't imagine possible. He sang beautiful harmonies on "Down to the River to Pray," giving it just the right touch.

"This is new, old, modified, " Plant said at one point. "Its a new spirit up here."

No kidding.

"Raising Sand" provided the backbone for the just-under-two-hour set, augmented with a handful of Led Zeppelin songs. The aforementioned "Black Dog" was one highlight, as was "Black Country Woman." And the surreal folk of "The Battle of Evermore" made it an obvious choice.

Less obvious was "In the Mood, " originally a 1983 solo hit for Plant. This version played up the original's gliding offbeats, which drummer Jay Bellerose turned into something like a Bo Diddley backbeat. To top it off, they made it into a medley with the old fiddle tune "Matty Groves." Somehow, it worked.

There were also plenty of obscure covers, including the gospel standard "You Dont Knock, " Ray Charles' "Leave My Woman Alone" and a couple I couldnt for the life of me identify. I cant wait to hear what they cook up for the next chapter.

Led Zeppelin, one by one

I never got to see Led Zeppelin back in the day, but I've been working my way through each surviving member individually. I caught John Paul Jones at South By Southwest a few years back; and Jimmy Page with the Black Crowes. And after tonight, I'll be able to cross Robert Plant off the list when I see him with Alison Krauss, a most unlikely pairing.

I even got to interview Plant last week, in rather amusing
circumstances. At his publicist's behest, I dialed the number of a
hotel in Phoenix and asked for "Mr. Fish."
Next thing I knew, Plant was on the line. He was completely charming,
except on the subject of whether or not his old band would ever do a reunion tour. See the interview in Friday's paper, a package that also includes brief chats with various sidemen plus multiple recaps of other musical odd couples through history.

While I'm at it, click through to see a 2000 interview/review from that Page show in Raleigh.

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