November 30, 2008

The Other Side



On a recent trip into Boston, my daughter and I stumbled across this cafe for lunch. Being the Josh Ritter fans that we are, we had to stop in, get lunch and grab a couple of snaps to share with others.
How do you know it's a college hangout? On the brunch menu: "The Blue Ribbon Breakfast" consists of 2 scrambled eggs, beef knockwurst, biscuit and a PBR on draught. $8.99.
The place is a little expensive for students, but the food is yummy.
Their MySpace page is HERE.

Josh Ritter's "Other Side"
Say the West is a story we made up to erase
Conestoga wagons left tracks you can see from space
From the Northwest passage to the Great Divide
Everybody's looking for the other side

I'm still waiting for the whiskey to whisk me away
And I'm still waiting for the ashtray to lead me astray
I twist the culdesacs into one way signs
I ain't going round in circles on the other side

So at night I sit and watch for stars to stay
They wink and then they're gone down the Milky Way
But when You're left in the middle of the Midwest sky
Everywhere you look is the Other Side


Listen to the full album, "Golden Age of Radio," HERE.

November 24, 2008

Are music blogs under fire?


SPECIAL REPORT
Can't We All Just Get Along? - Music Bloggers Are Loved By Some, Vilified By Others. It's Time to Figure This Out.


Everything is free now,
That’s what they say.
Everything I ever done,
Gotta give it away.
Someone hit the big score.
They figured it out,
That we’re gonna do it anyway,
Even if doesn’t pay.


Gillian Welch’s lyrics in “Everything Is Free” elegantly – with just enough vitriol – sums up the paradox of the music business right now. As the commercial record industry tumbles and fumbles, artists find themselves in a quandary: The Internet is currently the best way for their music to be heard (besides constant touring), but it also brings the danger of tunes being pirated and passed around without
proper royalty payments.
Besides iTunes, Amazon or Rhapsody, one of the best ways to get songs heard or create a buzz online is through postings from any of the thousands of music bloggers worldwide – music fans with a passion for passing along their favorite artists through their opinions and reviews to other music fans.
Some musicians embrace bloggers as a legitimate way to increase their audience, others feel that by authorizing free postings they are giving their work away without compensation. Bloggers believe they are doing a service to musicians, as well as fans, by filling in the publicity gaps left by a struggling music industry.
“Putting music on blogs is a great thing,” says Seattle-based singer-songwriter Ali Marcus. “If folks are worried about illegal downloading, it’s possible to stream music. That seems like the best of both worlds to me. But I say if you want to listen to my songs, I’m not going to stop you.”
But all musicians do not agree, and both sides have reasonable arguments. In fact, Modern Acoustic got into some hot water earlier this year with Michelle Shocked when we posted a short video clip on YouTube of her concert that we shot. We obliged her “request” to take down the clip and it was followed by some healthy – and civil – discussion on the pros and cons of such postings.
Abiding by the wishes of the artists and their labels is tantamount to the survival of the music blog community. Many of the smaller, independent labels embrace bloggers as a legitimate way to promote their artists, while the major labels – Warner, Sony and Universal – and the Recording Industry of America (RIAA), the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry, are not as supportive.
Smaller labels regularly send out tracks or full albums to bloggers in hopes they will post them or write about a band to create buzz. There are cyber PR firms that specifically target blogs for their clients. Modern Acoustic, in fact, is constantly receiving both CDs in the mail and downloadable tracks from band representatives hoping to get their artists heard. (Note: we currently do not post MP3s on our blog, mostly due to time constraints, but we absolutely believe it enhances the blog experience.)
“I draw the line at whole albums [for posting],” says Laura Seach, head of digital PR at Ninja Tune, an independent British record label, in an interview with The Guardian newspaper, “but if someone posts one track, that’s great. The promotional opportunity is huge. We run campaigns now trying to get bloggers posting about our artists. You can’t underestimate how important blogs are.”
Cara West of Compass Records in Nashville agrees: “It is my experience that bloggers don’t have any interest in hurting a band’s music sales. If they like them enough to write about them they are more interested in helping the band succeed, [and] most will even put a link to the band’s website, record label, MySpace page or Amazon where the full album is available for purchase.”
Some record labels are now including bloggers’ comments in their press notes. Flora Reed, head of publicity for the Western Mass., label Signature Sounds says bloggers “are becoming more important as the world of print media gets smaller. The more respected blogs are becoming a real source for press quotes for our artists’ press kits.”
John Furnari, founder of the digital marketing firm bigMETHOD, explains how crucial bloggers have become using the sudden rise of client the Vermont roots-rock band Grace Potter and the Nocturnals as an example: “For a long stretch leading up to their major label release, the marketing for the band was really concentrated on two fronts – touring and direct communication with bloggers. The blogosphere was very receptive to the music at a time when they were only really known in the Northeast. And so you’d start to see the band getting crowds in towns they’d never been before, which led to even more discussion on the blogs about how incredible these live shows really were. … There is an important synergy between consistent touring and directly connecting with influential voices in the audience.”
But not everything is roses in the music blogosphere. The problem arises from the numerous bloggers who post unauthorized songs on their sites. Hype Machine is an index site set up to search nearly 2,000 music blogs for free tracks. (The site itself does not post tracks.) Type in Led Zeppelin or Jenny Lewis, for instance, and most likely you will find links to posted MP3s that are free for download. You can bet that for a good number of these tracks authorization has not been granted.
So who looks after the artists’ best interests? The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a U.S. law that gives copyright owners, such as artists and labels, the right to serve a “takedown” notice to web hosting companies when a copyrighted work is being distributed illegally. The law demands those companies such as Blogger or YouTube to take down content immediately in response to a notice, without checking the claim for reasonableness or accuracy, or considering the fair use rights of users. If the host doesn’t abide by the notice, it subjects itself to copyright liability lawsuits.
It appears both the major labels and the RIAA monitor the Web vigorously to try to stop bloggers from posting unauthorized tracks. Emailed inquiries to the major labels for comment went unanswered.
In recent months there have been a rash of takedowns on a number of blog postings, especially on Blogger, an arm of Google and the hosting company of choice for many music bloggers (WordPress is another).
Google spokesman Jason Freidenfelds, who was reached by email, originally wasn’t aware of the numerous takedowns, but when pointed to links of various affected sites, he did acknowledge the occurrence, responding “when we are notified of the existence of content that violates our Terms of Service, we act quickly to review it and determine whether it violates these policies. If we determine that it does, we remove it. But if a blogger would like to dispute a takedown, they can file a DMCA counter complaint (at www.google.com/blogger_dmca.html).”
While some of the takedowns are justified for the posting of unauthorized tracks, bloggers are baffled by the way it is so coldly being carried out.
First, they say, most of their sites carry a proviso saying “If you represent an artist or a label and would prefer that I remove a link to an mp3, please email me and I will take it down immediately.” Secondly, they say, it is one thing for a hosting company to take down their music link, but to obliterate whole posts, which include their personal writing is taking their personal property.
Here is what is left in the place of the taken-down posts:
“Blogger has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, that certain content in your blog infringes upon the copyrights of others.”
Coxon, who runs the blog To Die By Your Side out of England, has had multiple postings taken down. He writes: “It appears I may be a marked man. Someone has me in their sights and they’ve fired off a couple of warning shots. Having been blogging for nearly three years without getting into trouble, I’ve now had two posts removed in two weeks. Someone took offense to the tracks I’d posted, contacted Blogger directly and had the entire posts removed and deleted. Slightly heavy handed of them I feel but it’s their prerogative. Had they contacted me directly, I would have had no problem removing the tracks while leaving my reviews and opinions intact.”
And he is not alone: Other blogs which have suffered recent takedowns include 17 Seconds, Everybody Cares, The Vinyl Villain and Cover Lay Down.
On the latter blog, Boy Howdy (as he is known) posted this after his site was taken down: “The Blogger takedown comes just hours after I received a very nice thank you from the label rep who arranged for me to have those songs available for all of you.”
And Sean of Mainstream Isn’t So Bad (mainstreamisntsobad
.com), who blogs from Western Mass., and has also had posts featuring authorized tracks removed says, “I post music that is sent me and always notify who sent me it that it’s up for them to check out. I don’t think [bloggers] know exactly what is happening.”
So is there a war on bloggers? “Absolutely,” says bigMETHOD’s Furnari. “However, it would be more accurate to say that the charge is led by the RIAA then to say it is led directly by the labels. … We’ve been in a position on many occasions where one of the major labels has hired us to reach out to bloggers, and simultaneously the RIAA is out delivering cease and desist letters to anyone posting tracks from that artist.”
Furnari also confirms that the war has escalated lately. “I believe the RIAA is turning their attention away from P2P (peer-to-peer file sharing) and concentrating on the blogs.  They are going after the source, putting pressure on Blogger and WordPress to remove infringing content.” 
“The blame,” continues Furnari, “is shared by the RIAA for not understanding that this strategy won’t begin to work after 10 years of failure, and by the few bloggers who don’t have any respect for the artists whatsoever and have been overstepping their bounds by posting full albums, or twenty-track bundles on a frequent basis.”
For now, bloggers must take this under consideration or risk their blogs’ existence and integrity.
Steve of Teenage Kicks, who was also served a takedown notice on his blog, sums it up best: “The followers of this blog … will be happy, I hope, to know that the blog is going to continue. … Looking back over the past year’s achievements, it seems a travesty and a shame to let it all go to hell over strong-arm tactics by the very people who should be supporting me.” Figuring out who that is may be the key to keeping the blogs viable.

Issue 23, Dec. 2008


The Shining - Don't Be Scared, It's Just Our Faves of '08
Another year has gone by.
As we get older, they seem to fly by faster than ever before. We see our kids growing older, becoming well-balanced, truly amazing teens with ambition and interests; we see ourselves collecting wrinkles and grayer hair at a somewhat alarming rate.
Capturing all that goes by in a single year is tough. You go to work, come home, maybe go on a vacation or two... and then the year is up.
So it’s time to spend a few minutes remembering what we’ve done for the last 12 months. And since we’re a music magazine, we’ve spent this issue remembering the shows we’ve seen and the CDs we heard.
So here it is, our fourth annual end-of-the year Favorites Issue.
As you’ll read, we had a little trouble choosing our favorite CD of the year, so we awarded two our top honor. “Honeysuckle Weeks” by the Submarines (we loved them even before they got famous from their iPhone ads) and the pleasant end-of-the-year surprise, Jenny Lewis’ “Acid Tongue.”
And as favorite performer, well, it was tough to top Kathleen Edwards rocking out at the Paradise.
For all of our year’s favorites, check out Pages 6-7.
We are also really excited about our first-ever Special Report, an in-depth look at music blogs and the music industry’s love-hate relationship with them. We talk to musicians, label reps and the bloggers themselves to suss out where they fit in the Circle of Musical Life.
And finally, as we put the finishing touches on this year, we also find ourselves looking ahead to next year, and the change in this country’s leadership.
Not to get all political, but we sure are glad we will have a new president, and the choice of Barack Obama brings hope for a change of philosophy in the way the US is led.
With this, we dig deep inside our iTunes playlist to bring you songs that mirror our new hope.
Peace to all.
To download the new issue, click HERE.

MA5 - SONGS

Songs that helped us survive this issue.
1. “Pretty Bird,’’ “Acid Tongue,” Jenny Lewis. Hauntingly wonderful.
2. “A Man Needs a Maid,” “Harvest,” Neil Young. Not getting ideas, just an amazing tune.
3. “No Bad News,” “Children Running Through,” Patty Griffin. It’s fun to hear her rock out.
4. “Better,” “Begin to Hope,” Regina Spektor. The more I listen to this album, the more I love it.
5. “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Bill Withers. Just one of the all-time great songs.

October 7, 2008

Facebook, Sacred Shakers

I'm settling back in after finally birthing Issue No. 22, and am working on a bunch of new things before launching into the next issue. It usually takes me a good month of down time from the magazine to get myself psyched to start on the next one. But this time it's a little different because the end-of-year issue is always fun. Choosing favorites of the year is always difficult, but it's fun to go back and listen to albums that got you cranked up months ago, even if they've faded a little since. I've already started working on the cover, which is a little surprising that it came so easily so quickly.
I've also launched a Facebook page. I know, like I need another thing to keep updated. I like it though. It's more interactive than MySpace and I'm hoping to draw in more readers to the magazine as well as make some new friends. You can find me by searching for Modern Acoustic, or just click on the link at the right.
I'm also excited about seeing the Sacred Shakers in a week or so. If you've never heard of them, you may know Eilen Jewell. If you don't know her, well, then you've got some listening to do. Eilen is one of my favorite artists. She's got this twangy country sound and an incredible energy. Her band is great too, and they are joined by a host of top New England rockabilly players to make up the Sacred Shakers. The music is made of old gospel and country tunes with a danceable beat. It's awesome. They are playing a new Boston place called the Beehive, which I have not been to yet. So I'm psyched. Below is a clip of the Eilen Jewell band I took in the dance tent at the Green River Festival this summer. The video's a little unsteady because the floor was made of plywood and with people dancing I was being bounced along.

September 27, 2008

Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter at Great Scott


There's not much better than seeing Jesse Sykes and her band the Sweet Hereafter in a tiny club. Last Thursday they were at Great Scott in Allston, a club I had never been to before and barely knew existed. I must not have been the only one, because the turnout for this show was pretty damn minimal, maybe 100 people. That's depressing. But no matter the crowd, the show was pretty great. Jesse had her problems with the sound and while it seemed to effect her mood (she was a bit grumpy), it didn't effect the music, which was intense. She played a lot from her recent album, "Like, Love, Lust...," which is filled with snaky, electric guitar licks from Phil Wandscher, who, live, really gives his whammy bar a workout. Sometimes his sound was delicate, sometimes it was roaring. Jesse's voice is amazing and smoky, and the rest of band lends a hand with supple backing vocals. The group was augmented by a young pedal steel player, who on the quieter songs added nice touches; on the rocking tunes, he kind of got lost in the mix. The sound was a big problem all night for Jesse. She had trouble with her acoustic; she was constantly asking the sound guy to turn up her vocals. That was kind of too bad. Rumors were also whispered that maybe she and Phil, who are romantically linked, may be having some issues. Hopefully, just rumors... Anyway, a fun night. The openers were Mike Fiore, a singer-guitar player with really nice sound and songs. I'm going to check him out more. And Marissa Nadler, an artsy folk-rocker in the Regina Spektor mode.
For more photos from the night, click HERE. Below, a video from the show.

September 25, 2008

Issue 22, Sept. 2008


Summer Picks: From festivals to clubs – even to Symphony Hall! – we were there
Summer has come and gone again, bringing its share of hot days and sultry nights. It also brought – as usual – great opportunities to catch live music at outdoor festivals and indoors at steamy clubs.
Our purchase of a new and more powerful camera also brought hopes of better images from these shows. While we’re still trying to figure out all the features of the camera, we were able to capture some of the great moments of what we saw.
We made two trips to Western Mass., one to catch the Great American Hoedown known as the Green River Music Festival, one of our favorite festivals. There we caught up with Crooked Still, now sporting a new lineup that includes cellist Tristan Clarridge and fiddle player Brittany Haas; we also caught Mavis Staples, the Greencards, and Lucinda Williams (a first for us!); plus a fabulous after-hours set by the foot-stompin’ Eilen Jewell band.
On our second trip out west we took in the Swell Season, the amazing Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, as well as Josh Ritter playing solo as the opener. The show was intimate and warm despite downpours scattered throughout.
And speaking of Mr. Ritter, his performance at Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops orchestra was a real treat. He and his band, decked out in suits, were in top form for the occasion.
We also visited clubs like T.T. the Bear’s, a great college hang, to see young and hip Thao and her band, the Get Down Stay Down. You actually don’t go to see and hear her, you go to take part in her show as she bounces, bounds, and bobs along to her songs and you have little choice but to follow suit.
We stopped into the Bank of America Pavilion (not one of our favorite venues) to catch the amazing Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, who mixed ’70s-style guitar jams with alt-country accents to soaring effect.
We’re breathless just remembering all the fun we had this summer and can only hope that the fall will be half as fun.
To download the new issue, click HERE. To read CD reviews in the issue, click HERE.
To view photos, click HERE. For videos, click HERE.

MA5 - Songs
Songs that helped us survive this issue.
1. “You, Me & the Bourgeoise,’’ “Honeysuckle Weeks,” The Submarines. What? An upbeat, bouncy song? Impossible.
2. “We Both Go Down Together,” “Picaresque,” The Decemberists. They go down, we follow.
3. “Shady Grove,” “The Pizza Tapes,” Grisman/Garcia/Rice. Spontaneous and just plain fun.
4. “I Envy the Wind,” “Essence,” Lucinda Williams. Great to hear this song live at Green River.
5. “Modern Trick,” “Diamonds in the Dark,” Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles. In honor of guitarist Mike Castellana, who is leaving the band in favor of family. Hopefully, we’ll hear from him again soon.

September 8, 2008

Ryan Adams live and well


If the Grateful Dead were young upstarts on today's music scene they probably would sound a lot like Ryan Adams did last night. The sometimes mercurial singer-songwriter Adams has shown both on his plethora of albums -- solo and with his backing band the Cardinals -- that he can play, and play well, in a variety of styles, from acoustic neo-folk to alt-country to rock. While I'm a relatively new fan and have not heard the full range of his catalog, I know him well enough to know that if you go to a Ryan Adams show expecting to hear a certain sound or certain songs, you could well leave disappointed. Luckily for me, that wasn't an issue last night at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston.
Adams and his band were fresh off a Canadian tour opening for Oasis, an odd pairing, but one, Adams said, went off well with the bands getting along well. Adams was in fine spirits, jabbering on with the band between songs, acknowledging "I Love Yous" from the audience. I don't have a setlist yet, but I will keep an eye open and post one when I find it.
Right from the start, the band was in full throttle, fully electric and full force. His sound mixed '70s-era rock -- the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, electric Crosby, Stills & Nash -- with his modern-day alt-country influences. Songs like "When the Stars Go Blue" balanced beautifully between eras, sounding neither dated nor derivative. A cover of Oasis' "Wonderball" was slowed down and stretched out to wonderful effect. Adams covered a lot of ground, playing songs from a wide variety of his albums as well as a new tune, each treated with guitar-driven power that built to crescendos and melted into quiet with care. Even his more acoustic numbers were beefed up, but they never felt overabused. And solos, and there were many -- from spacey Dead jams to Allmans-esque harmonized dueling guitars -- didn't overstay their welcome with most songs clocking in at around 4 minutes.
In all, a great night of rock music, like you've heard and never heard before.
For more pics, click HERE. Videos are HERE and HERE. If you want to read a great, professional review of the show, click HERE. You can download the whole show HERE and/or HERE.

The setlist (courtesy of Ryan Adams fan site):
1. Off Broadway
2. Bartering Lines (Super Heavy)
3. Goodnight Rose
4. Cobwebs
5. Everybody Knows
6. Why Do They Leave
7. Magick
8. Two
9. Please Do Not Let Me Go
10. Come Pick Me Up
11. When The Stars Go Blue
12. Wonderwall
13. Fix It
14. Easy Plateau
Break
15. Let It Ride
16. Games
17. Cold Roses
18. A Kiss Before I Go
19. Peaceful Valley
20. Dear John
21. Shakedown
22. Sinking Ship (live debut)
23. The Color of Pain (live debut)
24. Magnolia Mountain
25. Beautiful Sorta
26. I See Monsters

September 2, 2008

Goodbye to Sarah Borges guitarist


We're in between shows right now (waiting for Ryan Adams on Sunday), so I thought it would be a good time to post a goodbye and fond farewell to one of my favorite guitar players, Mike Castellana, who is leaving Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles to begin life as a father of his first child. While I'm happy for Mike and his circumstances, I am very sad to see him leave Sarah's band. (She has hired a replacement, Lyle Brewer). For those who have seen and heard Mike play, they know what I'm talking about. While he could rock with the best of them, playing the nastiest, dirtiest, smokingest (is that a word? It is now!) riffs around, what I really loved was his pedal-steel playing, which could make you cry. Maybe soon, he'll be playing pedal-steel lullabies to his new son, due Nov. 2. Hopefully, we'll still be able to catch Mike's playing with his local group the Blue Ribbons in the near future. They have a gig Oct. 11 at Matt Murphy's if anyone wants to check them out. I will hopefully be front and center.
In case you've never heard Mike play, here's a clip I took at a recent show. Enjoy.

August 13, 2008

Thao gets down



What a bundle of energy Thao is. If you've heard her CD, "We Brave Bee Stings and All" (our review HERE), you have an inkling of who she is. But if you've never seen her live, well, take the CD's energy and wratched it up x 10. I saw her last night at T.T. the Bear's Place in Cambridge, a great college dive if there ever was one. The band was fun and loud and appreciative of the crowd. Thao really gets into her tunes, swinging her hips, stomping her feet and in constant motion on stage. Her band the Get Down Stay Down -- drummer Willis Thompson and bassist Adam Thompson -- create a pretty great sound between the three of them. While the songs all seem to have a similar tempo and sound, Thao and co. always keep the songs moving and interesting with handclaps and audience participation.
Opening was David Shultz and the Skyline from Virginia (also where Thao is from). They are a pretty interesting band that meshes country and rock, maybe along the lines of, say, Wilco.
For more pics, click HERE. Below is a video I shot of "Bag of Hammers" from last night. Be ready, sound quality is loud to obnoxious because of my proximity to the speakers, but the visuals are pretty good.

August 11, 2008

A Swell time of season


It was a dark and stormy night! Yes, it was, but it was also a wonderful night of music as Swell Season and Josh Ritter (solo) blessed us with their music last night at the Pines Theater in Northampton. Josh came on first, just as the skies opened up for the first time. His ever-present humor helped us survive a pretty good downpour. He said he didn't have too many precipitation songs and sang "Snow Is Gone" and as well as "Girl in the War," with its lyrics "They sparkle bubble over, in the morning all you got is rain." As usual he told his humorous tales -- of walking in the morning and seeing the eyes of dogs and a goat (!?) in the dark and of singing songs to the potatoes in his basement. Josh finished up with Springsteen's "The River" and "Kathleen" (of course). He's just an absolute pleasure to listen to in concert.
Then the Swell Season, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, came out and the rain stopped for a while. Their voices mesh so well together, he's definitely the fire to her, well, not ice, but soaring beautiful voice. When Marketa sings, you just have to take notice. They ended their set with a song called Fitzcarraldo, a Frames tune, that was just spectacular. They also did a Van Morrison cover.
For the encore, Marketa came out did a solo song on the piano, then Glen invited up some local musician he had met on his first trip to Northampton with the Frames. (the guy's name is Mark Schwaber; his his recounting of the night is HERE) They finished up inviting Josh back on stage to sing "Come and Find Me" in three-part beautiful harmony. A great, if soggy night!
For more pics, click HERE. For a clip of Swell Season's performance, click HERE.

August 7, 2008

The Submarines video

Another cool thing as we cool our heels till this weekend when we see the Swell Season: This time it's the video for the Submarines' "You, Me & the Bourgeoisie" from their album "Honeysuckle Weeks," which is one of my favorite albums of the year. Check the video out below:

August 5, 2008

Jesse Sykes in concert

Just got word that Jesse Sykes will be blowing through town in September at a small club in Allston called Great Scott. I have never been there, but you can bet I will be making my debut there to see her. She and her band the Sweet Hereafter are killer. If you've never see them in action, well, here's a treat. Fabchannel has posted a recent show of hers from Amsterdam. For those who've never visited the Fabchannel site, check it out. It's loaded video with concert performances from pop to punk to metal to singer-songwriters. The audio and video is top quality.
Below is the Jesse Sykes show....

July 31, 2008

Camera ready


A quick post before I head off to work. I recently purchased a new camera, an 8 megapixel Canon with a 10x zoom and 1600 ISO and am hoping it puts an end to my irritatingly blurry concert photos. Too many nights after spending too much time snapping pictures, especially in dark clubs, only to find the results miserable. First show up is the Swell Season in Northampton on Aug. 10. This one's an outdoors show at night so it will be a good test. I'll follow that up two nights later seeing the funky Thao With the Get Down Stay Down at T.T.'s in Cambridge. We'll pretty much know what we got after that. Anyway, a couple of the good shots I got at Green River a couple of weeks ago. Above, Greg Liszt of Crooked Still; and below, Lucinda Williams. Enjoy. More later.

July 22, 2008

Come on home to Green River


A few of my favorite things from the Green River Music Festival last weekend in Greenfield, Mass.: shrimp gumbo; the very cool light-up dancing guys walking through the crowd during Lucinda Williams' set; Crooked Still's new lineup; and Eilen Jewell closing out the night in the Dance Tent.
For those who have never gone to Green River, it is a great little music festival. It has a great family atmosphere and the lineup is usually filled with a mix of bluegrass, alt-country and folk acts. This year, the Saturday mainstage lineup included folkie Caroline Herring, the Greencards, the awesome newgrass band Crooked Still, Los Straitjackets, Mavis Staples and Lucinda Williams. There was also a dance tent where lesser-known acts played (more on this later).
Highlights for me: Crooked Still, which has a new lineup that includes a gorgeous fiddle player and a new cellist, are amazing. If you have a chance to see them, do. A couple of clips of their set are HERE and HERE. I wish I got video of their slowed-down version of "Come on in My Kitchen" because it was a highlight. Mavis Staples is a soulful piece of singing history. She told stories of her days with Martin Luther King and sang with passion
And Lucinda Williams, who I had never seen before, is a pro, no doubt. Her set featured some new rocking tunes, plus a few songs from each of her past albums. A clip of "Drunken Angel" is HERE. While I'm not a huge fan, I do love her "Essence" album, so it was nice to hear some of those tunes including "I Envy the Wind," which she said she doesn't play much but apparently there was a wedding held earlier in the day at the fest and that song was requested. Lucinda ended the night with a rousing version of "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)." She also really dug these light-up walking puppets (click HERE to see bad clip I took) that were going though the crowd. At one point between songs, she just kept saying how cool they were. It was funny.
Finally, we ended our night in the Dance Tent with Eilen Jewell and her band performing. Clip HERE. (Sorry for unsteady footage, but the floor was plywood and the people dancing kept me bouncing.) If you've never seen her, you've got to check her out. Her swinging band is a blast, her songs sound like they come from another era.
See you all next year at Green River.
To see the rest of my pics of the festival, click HERE.

June 28, 2008

Josh Ritter and the Pops


I'm just waking up, but I wanted to get out a quick post about last night's amazing Josh Ritter show with the Boston Pops. The boys were clearly having a great time, smiling their way through a great set backed by an orchestra. The night's best moment was an gripping "Thin Blue Flame" with Josh playing solo on his acoustic guitar with the Pops first violin alongside him. My video is below.
The setlist (from Josh message board, and pretty accurate to my memory):
idaho (solo)
best for the best (with pops)
other side (with band and pops)
rumors (with band and pops)
girl in the war (with band and pops)
wolves (with band)
monster ballads (with band and pops)
thin blue flame (with violin soloist)
the temptation of adam (with pops)
to the dogs or whoever (with band)
right moves (with band and pops)
bone of song (solo until the final line, then pops)
kathleen (with band and pops)

More to on this when I'm more awake, but what a blast.
To see my pics, click HERE.
My other video from the night, click HERE.

June 24, 2008

Issue 21, June 2008


Can Jazz Rise Again?: Though still a vibrant form of free expression, the music today is in need of some new inspiration. But can anyone rejuvenate it?
When I finally settled on the cover topic for this issue, I first gave it a little test-drive – in the car one day with my wife and teen daughter.
Me: I’ve decided on the topic for my next magazine.
Wife: Oh, really? What’s that?
Me: “Is Jazz Dead?”
Wife: What? No way.
Daughter: Dad, that’s stupid, it’s not dead.
Me: Well, I don’t think anyone really cares much about jazz anymore.
Wife: That’s stupid. People still listen to jazz.
Daughter: The kids at school listen to jazz.
Me: Really? When?
Daughter: Well, we play it in band.
Me (to both of them): OK, name one jazz musician still alive who is playing relevant music today?
And then there was silence.
To their credit, I did reconsider and change my headline on the cover. But for the most part, the idea is still the same.
Yes, jazz does still exist and there are still some exciting players out there. But it is not, nor will it ever be, what it was. Is there anything wrong with that? No. But it wouldn’t hurt the ever-graying genre of music to get a shot in the arm.
Is there someone out there who could infuse the music with some new life, maybe capture young people’s ears again?
No one expects the golden age of jazz to return amid a music industry not only in turmoil, but one that only helps itself by promoting the most mainstream acts.
If jazz is going to return it needs some innovation, but is an innovator out there?
And speaking of injecting new life into a genre, we give you Crooked Still, one of a large handful of neo-bluegrass acts that has added spark to a country music as old as the hills where it was created. Crooked Still’s new album, “Still Crooked” is trying to build on the momentum created from their critically acclaimed last album, “Shaken by a Low Sound,” while undergoing personnel changes in the band.
To download the new issue, click HERE.
To read the CD reviews for Crooked Still, as well as those for new solo albums by Eef Barzelay and Drew Emmitt, click HERE.

MA5 - Songs
Songs that helped us survive this issue.
1. “I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory,’’ "Asking For Flowers," Kathleen Edwards. Just your typical fun country music song with hockey references.
2. “Trouble,” "Sailin' Shoes," Little Feat. An upcoming tribute album had us scurrying back to hear the original.
3. "Rumors," "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter," Josh Ritter. Getting us psyched for big Pops show.
4. “You Ain't Goin' Nowhere,” "I'm Not There" soundtrack, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Done with the perfect amount of sneer.
5. “Mountain Jumper,” "Shaken by a Low Sound," Crooked Still. The band at their craziest.

June 13, 2008

Fanning the Flames

Josh Ritter, in my opinion, has the best and most creative fan base. That being said, he also deserves it, because he works so hard to reach those fans. Anyone who has been to a Josh show knows that he will spend hours after each concert connecting with his fans -- and not in the superficial ways others do. Some musicians will sign things for fans if they buy something from their merch table. Not Josh, he will talk to and with each and every fan who wants to chat, he will sign anything and everything... and he will remember you the next time you come to a show. He is downright the nicest, most generous performer out there today.
OK, now to those fans. Josh's message board is filled with some great stuff. The usual stuff -- talk of Josh's shows, setlists, ticket requests, etc., but also some very creative and humorous discussion. This one caught my eye today. I just love it... It's titled "Mourning musical loss," so I'm thinking a death, maybe about Bo Diddley, who died recently. Here's the note...

3 of my josh cd's flew out my window this afternoon!
i was driving down the road today with my windows down (BEAUTIFUL day in north carolina!)...and i have one of those cd holder/visor things? i had 4 of my josh cd's in the far pocket, which, i don't think you're supposed to do because it gets all stretched out, etc etc.
yeah, well, i took a quick turn to the right, and THEY FLEW OUT MY WINDOW. 'josh ritter' fell into my lap (whew!), but 'live at vicar street', 'hello starling' and 'golden age of radio' did not fair so well. i would take a picture of what they look like and post it...but its pretty gruesome. i'm seriously heartbroken, hah.
(and if you were wondering - yes, i DID park my car, and dodge speeding cars in order to retrieve the cd's from the road...i'm pretty sure 'hello starling' was run over at least once...)

**psst! hey josh! if you read this board - i'm the girl that sent you the letter saying that i spent my grocery money for the week on your cd's! haha...this is what i get for putting awesome music before food, i suppose!**

luckily i ripped all my cd's to my mp3 player prior to all this, so i can still listen...but i can't decide if i want to re-buy all the cd's. my birthday IS on sunday if anyone would like to send me a few presents? hahaha.
anyway! thanks for reading, y'all!
Laura



My second case for Josh having great fans comes from the blog Yellowhammering Afghanistan written by a guy named Mike Tomberlin. He's a reporter for the Birmingham News and a Major in the Alabama National Guard who was shipped to Afghanistan. He blogged while he was there and continued when he got home. I found his blog while searching for Josh Ritter news. He took some beautiful images of the people of Afghanistan and his mission, which he decided to put to the music of Josh's "Thin Blue Flame." Click HERE to see the slideshow.

And here is a spot-on analysis of the song from someone who has been there...

"Unlike most singer-songwriters who tackle war and the state of the world, Ritter's song is not so predictable. Although it is intense, it never comes across as venomous or antagonistic.
It is the best song I have ever heard about the global war on terror - pointing out the positive and negative attributes (depending on your perspective). Like all good songwriters, Ritter uses enough ambiguity to help the listeners interpret a meaning for themselves. The apocalyptic imagery throughout most of the song gives you an idea of how Ritter feels about things."


His blog continues...

"But I believe that Ritter is thinking about the soldiers and their families when he considers "only a full house." There are homes that spend more than a year less than full as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters are sent into harm's way. There are homes that will never be full again as many make the ultimate sacrifice.
I know in my own household, this deployment has helped to make our home "full." We have an appreciation for each other and all of the blessings we have because of this experience. If I could bottle that and give it to everyone, I would.
So while I'm sure Josh Ritter and I would not see eye-to-eye politically, I thank him immensely for this song and for the role it played in my own self-realization this past year."



To read the entire text click HERE.

And thank you, Major Tomberlin, for your great service to our country and your great words.

THIN BLUE FLAME (MP3)

June 5, 2008

Feeling a little nostalgic

As usual, things come in bunches. Today it's nostalgia.

Yesterday, my wife had my son download some cuts from the band Yes from iTunes. "Roundabout," "Long Distance Runaround," etc, songs I hadn't listened to since about 1983. OK, fine. They had their place in our stoned-teen existence, and it
actually was pretty cool to hear them again from an adult perspective. Their musicianship was top-notch; the playing bordered on bombastic; and the song lyrics were, well, "art-rock."

Second came the news that Wolfgang's Vault, a website devoted to classic-rock concerts, was beginning to allow download purchase of their content. If you've never seen the site, you should check it out. It's amazing how many shows they have. Personally, I don't know how many live Allman Brothers, Thin Lizzy, and Jefferson Airplane shows you need or want to listen to, but they are there for the listening. To the site's credit they also have Springsteen, the Chili Peppers and a host of trippy posters and stuff, so it's definitely worth checking out.
Thirdly, comes this YouTube video that was posted on the Aquarium Drunkard blog site. It's from a 1969 show at the Playboy Mansion, a show called "Playboy After Dark" that used to highlight bands and other groovy people who would stop by Hugh Hefner's place. The video is such a great piece of slice of life, it's just hard to ignore. Enjoy!

June 4, 2008

Marty McSorley: The Video

When Kathleen Edwards played the Paradise in Boston in March, she was psyched that she had finally received confirmation that Marty McSorley would take part in her video "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory," which namechecks the former hockey enforcer. Apparently, her label or other high muckey-mucks tried to put the kibosh on her attempt to make a hockey video for the song, but she was able to beat them down (probably with a little intimidation from McSorley!). The video has arrived and it is totally cute, which is not hard with Edwards in the lead. It shows off her sense of humor and includes members of her band, Blue Rodeo singer Jim Cuddy, and former NHL great Paul Coffey. There are some funny stare downs, hip checks, some ice dancing in full hockey gear, and a big kiss scene between Kathleen and McSorley. It's totally worth a look... For some reason I thought Kathleen would have been a better skater than she shows.

May 29, 2008

Floating along with the Submarines














I posted earlier about how much I liked The Submarines' new album, "Honeysuckle Weeks," and last night I got to see them live at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge. I came away thinking how much fun they seem to be having. They were totally pleased with the turnout here... maybe they get smaller crowds elsewhere and because they are both originally from New England, they got an extra bump in attendance. Whatever reason, they play a bubbly brand of poppish-rock sparked with great enthusiasm and cheeriness.
Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti are actually The Submarines; they brought along a drummer, a very exuberant guy named Jason Stare, who looks kind of like Animal from the Muppets. The only drag was that between the lighting at the Middle East and the camera I was using, I get next to nothing for pics. The two above are really the only ones that weren't blurry. I also took two videos, below. On both the focus goes in and out, which sucks, but the sound quality is pretty good. So while the videos are playing, go search out pics of Blake. She's really cute and exuberant. The one thing that sort of twisted me is that they play with a lot of computer-backed music, which really goes against what I believe a band is all about, but all three do play instruments to augment the sound. I just wonder how much spontaneity can occur... But the show was still great fun.

May 28, 2008

Now You See Them


Just a quick note to say that I've moved all my concert photos over to Flickr. Very soon I will make sure my Modern Acoustic website photo link will also take you there. Flickr is much quicker for uploading -- I don't have resize all the pics myself -- and the photos are much easier to find on the Net so they get more views.
Check them out HERE (www.flickr.com/modernacoustic/sets, for those who would like the actual address).
Above and below, a couple samples of what you'll find there...

May 23, 2008

Survival Mode

Sometimes coincidences are hard to ignore. This morning I heard from one of my best friends that he and his wife may be divorcing. It was a hard email to read because his family and ours, though we live a state apart, are close, and we've shared some great times together. The coincidence came when my teenage daughter came into the den singing "I Will Survive" just when I was reading my friend's email. I was surprised she knew the song, and when I asked her who sang it (just testing her, since I knew), she said "some woman." I was even more surprised because she had heard the 1970s Gloria Gaynor version, and not the newer version by the band Cake, who I know very little about. It's also an interesting note that I remember my mom using Gaynor's version as her strength during the time of her divorce from my dad.
Anyway, as I played the Cake version of the song for my daughter, I came to a very solid conclusion: The band did something pretty miraculous. They turned a '70s disco anthem about a woman's survival into a pretty great rocking tune. Not only does it sound good but it also keeps the survival message strong. I'm really impressed that it works so well. Apparently, there is some controversy concerning this version though. Some critics feel the band's snide-sounding vocals are making fun of the song. I totally disagree. I think that sneering attitude is fitting for the lyrics. It's true, it's not a "woman" song anymore, but I think it still carries the same "FU" message. In comparison, take Eric Clapton's own reworking of his emotion-drenched classic "Layla," which he turned into an acoustic waltz. It may sound OK, he totally cut the balls out of the tune. There's no angst anymore. If the idea of covering a song is to give a new perspective without losing the meaning of the original, Cake's version of "I Will Survive" is damn-near perfect.
To my friends Karen and Jeff, this song's for you.
Listen to Cake's version HERE.
Below, YouTube videos: Gloria Gaynor's original, followed by Cake's.

May 2, 2008

Jackie Greene rocks



He bounds onstage, and you think to yourself: Can this tiny wisp of kid with the crazy hair really deliver the goods? Well, I'm here to tell you, yes. (The picture above doesn't do him justice, but the one to the left is really what you see most of the night.) Jackie Greene can do it all: He plays a mean guitar (see clips below), also plays keys, harmonica, and has an amazingly soulful voice. Who is he? For those who don't know his story it goes something like this. He's from the Sacramento area and has built a name there on his guitar-playing. His new album, "Giving up the Ghost," is more singer-songwriter than guitar monster, but categorizing him doesn't do him justice. He's recently found success and a new following as a guitarist for Phil Lesh (yes, Deadheads, that Phil Lesh), which gives him new cred among jam-banders.
As for the show last night, Greene moved easily between guitar and keys, and his songs were built on great guitar solos that were thankfully precise, to the point and not overbloated jam-band affairs. His own tunes "Ball & Chain" and "I Don't Live in a Dream," to name a few, really came off well. He did a couple of Dead tunes -- "Sugaree," as an encore -- but he did them his way, turning them into rockers with little Dead influence. In all, it was an eye- and ear-opening experience.
A clip of one of his guitar solos is below. For other clips, click HERE and HERE.

May 1, 2008

Rumors, remixed


Hey, here's a cool remix of Josh Ritter's "Rumors" by John Dragonetti of the Submarines. Totally fun. The link to the "Rumors" remix is HERE.
By the way, check out the Submarines new album "Honeysuckle Weeks." It's also really great. Below is the short review I wrote in the latest issue of Modern Acoustic (click HERE to for free download of the magazine.)

Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti, known as the Submarines, are an interesting pair. Their last album, “Declare a New State,’’ was written separately during their breakup and recorded when they got back together. They have since married and have a new album, “Honeysuckle Weeks,’’ due in May. The album, which explores the ins and outs of love (naturally!), is full of playful beats, electronic accents and chiming guitars. Tracks worth hearing include “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie” (she sings “Love can free us from all excess, from our deepest debt/ ’cause when our hearts are full, we need much less), and “Swimming Pool,” in which Hazard’s voice just pops out of the speakers.

April 28, 2008

Mesmerizing Night


I've been blogging a lot lately about Kris Delmhorst, but she deserves it. A couple of nights ago, I caught her and Winterpills at Johnny D's in Somerville, and once again she stunned me with her beautiful voice and songs. She was debuting many of the new songs of her album "Shotgun Singer," a mesmerizing group of tunes. The band Winterpills (below), out of Northampton, opened the show. They have a great sound, though it is very low-key. They came to life when they rocked out though it wasn't often enough to my liking.
They joined Kris as her backing band (top) for her set. If you read the interview I posted earlier with Kris you know that she wrote and created many of the songs herself in solitude. So the addition of a band really brought these songs to life. And speaking of life, Kris, as you may see in these pictures, was quite pregnant. I was impressed that she stood and played the guitar the entire time she was onstage, probably an hour and a half or more!
Anyway, it was a wonderful show. My wife and parents were with me and we got to move down front for Kris' set when they brought the tables back. Kris said she wanted a more intimate show and figured there wouldn't be much dancing during her set.
I shot two crummy videos (new camera woes). You can find them HERE and HERE. I also had to use a nightshot setting so I could see out of the viewfinder (not good) so that's why some of the photos have a weird black and white thing going on.
For more pics, click HERE.

April 24, 2008

My Orchestra Is Gigantic



I can now talk about what I've been dying to tell everyone. It is now official that Josh Ritter will be playing the Boston Pops on June 27th at Symphony Hall. There, I said it. It's out. Phew! What an awesome event this is going to be. Josh and the whole band will be backed by one of the coolest orchestras ever. I can't wait to hear songs from the new album backed by that horn section.
"My orchestra is gigantic
This thing could sink the Titanic
And the string section's screaming
Like horses in a barn burning up"


This should be totally cool. For tickets, click HERE.
I can't think of a better way to get summer started. Now if only I could pin down if the band is playing the Newport Folk Festival...

April 20, 2008

An interview with Kris Delmhorst

Reprinted from Issue No. 20 of my magazine Modern Acoustic. Download the full magazine for free HERE.

In the days leading up to when her new album, “Shotgun Singer,” hits the stores, Kris Delmhorst is in the middle of a tour of France, the Netherlands, and the US Midwest. If that’s not enough, she is also more than 7 months pregnant and “pretty much in survival mode,” as she puts it. Yet, she was still more than willing to answer a few of Modern Acoustic’s essay questions:

Modern Acoustic: What does the term “Shotgun Singer” mean to you? You use the lyric in “Midnight Ringer,” but I couldn’t find a definition or reference to it.

Kris Delmhorst: Well, literally in the context of that song it’s referring to the shotgun seat of the car … someone sitting there singing. But it’s just kind of an open phrase that sounds nice to me and suggests different things in different contexts.

MA: Your last album, “Strange Conversation,” and even “Songs for a Hurricane,” had pretty strong themes to them. Does “Shotgun Singer” have an overall theme?

KD: Nothing I set out for consciously. I never really know what a record is about until after it’s done and I have a little perspective. But I do notice that there are a lot of songs that touch on some kind of universality of human experience. That, and there also seems to be quite a bit about love as an agent of change, either in an individual person’s life or in the larger world.

MA: The new album has a wintry, intimate feel but an exuberance as well. How does it feel to you?

KD: I guess a record will always feel different to the person (or people) who made it, because listening to it brings back the whole experience of working on it. But to me it does have a certain mood. Reflective, a little solitary maybe, but not sad. With “Strange Conversation” I was really hoping to make an album that would be nice company to have on in the house, maybe even with people around, making dinner or whatever. But I think this one is more of something you’d want to listen to alone in the car or on a walk.

MA: The music on “Shotgun Singer,” the actual sound, has lots of electronic backing beats, vocals effects and other cool sounds are integrated into it. Was this planned or more spontaneous?

KD: Well, as for the drum machine sounds, that was born of necessity because of the way I made the record. For some of the songs I knew it would be easier to add parts on later if the rhythm was steady, but I hate playing to a click track, so I would dial up a cool beat on this ancient analog drum machine I have and play to that. It actually doesn’t keep time, so I’d have to grab one bar from it and then loop it, but it has this crazy little sound that I’m really fond of. It helped set a mood right away for the recordings. I didn’t necessarily think it would show up on any of the final tracks but it turned out that when we tried to remove it from some songs we really missed its personality, so it stayed. The actual drummer (Makaya McCraven) did an amazing job of playing with and off of the machine, so on some songs they’re really a little team.
All the samples and things were something I really wanted to play with on this album, just because I love the way non-instrumental sounds change the space of a song. I always like to hear things on records that I can’t identify. And I happen to have this friend (Barry Rothman) who is a mad genius with old turntables and shortwave radios! As for the vocal sounds, I wanted to treat the voice like one of the instruments in a way. It’s a little strange to get really exploratory with all the instrumental sounds on a record and then leave the vocal just sounding the same naturalistic way the whole time. Plus, I just love the sound of vocals through an amp.

MA: You’ve said that, with this album, you wanted to “break some habits, both musically and lyrically.” What were you were trying to break away from, and did you succeed?

KD: Well, it’s hard to really describe exactly what habits I was trying to break, but I can say that the more time pressure there is, the harder it is to take risks, and the greater the temptation to just revert to what you know how to do. The stuff I wanted to explore had to do with song structure and the relationship between the vocals, the primary instrument (guitar or whatever), and the other layers in a song. It’s a lifelong process of course but I do feel like I succeeded in doing some things that I never would have been able to do if I had made the record in a normal timeframe, and that’s very satisfying to me.

MA: You played many of the instruments on the album yourself. How did this influence the album? What made you choose this over playing with a group of musicians?

KD: This relates to the previous question – I love playing live with a group of musicians in the studio, but I wanted to try something really different to see what would happen. In a way, my real dream would be to make a slow record with a band someday, to have tons of time to percolate ideas and try completely different approaches to songs. But my situation at the moment doesn’t really allow for it – for one thing, not having a consistent band that I play with all the time kind of makes it impossible. For instance, a band like Wilco can spend months and years in their studio really tinkering and developing things, but when you’re just hiring people to play on a record there’s not that kind of time – unless you have unlimited money, which I don’t, to say the least! So the only way to go as slowly as I wanted to, and to have the space to take enough risks, was to work by myself. That said, I also often love the vibe of records made in solitude, and there’s something to be said for giving yourself such heavy limitations in terms of instrumentation and technical skills, and just using your imagination to make something out of it.

MA: Tell me about the process involved in writing these songs: I saw you perform at the Somerville Theatre last year and you said you had just returned from being holed up writing new songs. Is that a typical writing process for you? I know some artists write on busses, in cafes, in their sleep, etc.

KD: I start songs anywhere and everywhere, but rarely get more than a few lines in. To finish stuff I definitely need to have some time and space to myself, either at home or somewhere else. It’s often a long process, some of them sit around half done for years before they finally come together.

MA: As for the recording, what brought you to record with Sam Kassirer (who produced the album)? Did you have completed songs or was it more of an organic collaborative/ spontaneous thing?

KD: I got to a point where I had worked by myself long enough and really felt like I needed a partner for the last stages of the record. I chose to work with Sam more or less completely on a hunch. We went up to his studio in Maine with the whole record already written and recorded, although we added a good bunch of stuff while we were there – often it was amplifying and accompanying parts that already existed on the tracks, but we created some new parts that were exciting too. And we spent a lot of time on arranging – since I had accumulated a lot of tracks and sounds on the songs, a big part of the process with Sam was subtracting and sculpting. We had a great time and it was a huge relief to have someone to collaborate with at that point in the process.

MA: I have a great fondness for Signature Sounds artists, and you obviously have a lot of friends (and your husband!) on that label. Were you friends before joining the label or did the label “bring” you together?

KD: The label is a nice loose family of good people. It’s more or less a coincidence that a number of close friends (and relations) are on Signature as well, but it’s a happy coincidence.

April 18, 2008

Issue 20, April 2008

On Target: On her new album "Shotgun Singer," Kris Delmhorst looks inward
We’ve been spending a lot of our ample free time between issues reading and thinking about folk music – its origins and its future.
Why? Well, for starters, we’ve been staying up late with our nose firmly planted in the book “Turn! Turn! Turn!: The ’60s Folk-Rock Revolution” by Richie Unterberger, which vividly captures the spirit and excitement of how folkies turned to rock because of the Beatles and Dylan. It’s a fun read filled with interviews that takes music through ’50s folk heyday, the Byrds, the Lovin’ Spoonful, and Crosby, Stills and Nash.
We’ve also been contemplating folk’s future. Last year, Boston college station WERS eliminated its traditional folk and jazz shows and combined them into a more contemporary and more varied sound. And this year, another local station, WUMB, announced that its all-folk programming is getting a sprucing up, adding more “electric” music to its mix.
We are all for these changes, having thought in the past that sometimes those shows dragged a bit and could use some modernization.
Does it mean that traditional folk and jazz are dead? It’s hard to say. We think real music fans don’t mind a good mix of music and are willing to listen to anything of quality.
Folk has, in fact, given way to a much broader range of music that still provides the personal experiences of the songwriter. It could be a single musician playing a guitar, or a singer-songwriter accompanied by a backing band, or a full-on band with a diverse set of instruments or voices.
In that vein, we talk to Kris Delmhorst, one of our favorites. Her new album, “Shotgun Singer,” encompasses all of the above. Her voice is amazing, she plays a multitude of instruments, and she’s got great musical friends, who are always there for each other.
We also review Kathleen Edwards’ “Asking for Flowers” and the Waifs’ “Sundirtwater,” two albums that offer unique views of the world.
The old adage is that all music – blues, rock, jazz, etc. – is folk music. Maybe the times aren’t changing that much.
To download the interview with Kris in the new issue, click HERE.
To read the CD reviews of Kris Delmhorst, Kathleen Edwards and the Waifs, click HERE.

MA5 - Albums
Albums that helped us survive this issue.
1. “Shotgun Singer,’’ Kris Delmhorst. We just love her voice.
2. “Mutations,” Beck. So slinky, so good.
3. “Letters From Sinners and Strangers,” Eilen Jewell. A great bar band with a classic old-time sound.
4. “Children Running Through,” Patty Griffin. We really liked the album when it came out, we really love it now.
5. “Sing You Sinners,” Erin McKeown. Every song is like a blast of spring.

April 14, 2008

On the Oregon Trail

My search for great music goes far and wide, and recently we found our way to a website out of Oregon called opb.org. I'm not sure what it stands for but it's an independent music channel, which is set up to serve Oregonians looking for cool music. But of course being on the Internet, anyone who wants to hear their songs can sign up for free. What's really cool about obp is that they feature in-studio interviews and performances and post them for listening. Among those performances are our faves Kathleen Edwards (below), doing a great all-acoustic mini-set; Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter; Eilen Jewell (inset); and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Check out all the in-studio guests here. Enjoy!

April 10, 2008

Visiting Sun Studio, from home

Some day soon I have to visit Nashville and Memphis... but until then Sun Studios in Memphis -- the home of Elvis and Stax and a boatload of music history -- has begun posting a blog livefromsunstudio which invites musicians to come play in their historic studio. They then post video clips in pieces on the site. So far, one clip each from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Amber Rubarth are available, with promises of more from both of them and many others. We hear Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles have already recorded there, so we eagerly await those. The nice thing about these clips is that the musicians really seem in awe of playing in such a historic setting but it's casual enough that it feels more like you're in the studio with these guys rather than at a show. Also, the site posts fun historic anecdotes about the studio. Today they feature a happy birthday tribute to Roscoe Gordon and his song "Cheese and Crackers." I don't know of the man or the song, but the story is great. Hear the song here. The Sun Studio blog is definitely worth bookmarking and visiting often.
To see U2 recording "Angel of Harlem" at Sun Studio, click here.
Grace Potter at Sun Studio below.

April 5, 2008

Sarah, smiles


I don't have a lot more to add to what I've said about Sarah Borges in the past. But I just love going to see her perform live. Last night, she and her band the Broken Singles played Johnny D's in Somerville, one of the best places in the Boston area to see live shows. The band was in rare form, after just returning from South By Southwest. They certainly seem to be tighter than ever, and they plowed through nearly two hours of great bar-room swinging country/rock, even getting a few members of the crowd to dance. The only drawback to Johnny D's is the lack of light, which does not help my photography skills or equipment. My video pretty much failed me and I came away with only a couple of good photos. The pic above is very telling because Sarah's guitarist Mike Castellana is a monster as well as a great guy. He plays both electric and pedal steel guitars, and as I've stated in my magazine he is both tasteful and ferocious -- sometimes at the same time. He is in another band called the Blue Ribbons, who I have not caught yet, but plan to see soon. As for Sarah and the rest of the band, they are just a blast. If you have never seen them, check their tour itinerary here and make a point to see them. Her MySpace site is here. Past Sarah videos can be found below right.

March 29, 2008

She Makes the Dough, I Got the Video


For any one who thinks that Kathleen Edwards is just a nice little country singer from Canada, I say go see her in concert. Last night I caught her show at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston and, let me tell you, she and her band rock. Edwards is an absolute dynamo, moving around the stage beating on her beaten acoustic and even playing some stellar electric leads. She also has an amazing band, which features her husband Colin Cripps on lead guitar and Jim Bryson on keys and lead guitar. Both dudes can play! The band looks like it's having a blast as Kathleen smiles and swears the whole way through. They played for a better part of two hours playing songs mostly from "Back to Me" and "Asking for Flowers," her new album. She rocked out on the new uptempo tunes "The Cheapest Key" and "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory."
Before the latter song, she jubilantly told the us that she had heard earlier in the day from hockey thug Marty McSorley, who she namechecks in the tune, and that he agreed to be in her video and may even bring along The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, to join in. Being from Canada, she's an avid hockey fan and asked the crowd if there were any Bruins fans out there. When a big cheer went up, she brought out a box and offered up gingerbread man cookies dressed in Ottawa Senators uniforms. She and the band finished up with a pair of encores, first her alone playing what looked like an electric mandolin on new song "Sure as Shit" and then the whole band returned, blowing out "Back to Me" for the finale. A great night.
A couple of videos below. For more pics, click HERE.