Audio Specials


Juliana Hatfield on Minor Alps, new band with Matthew Caws

Cindy Howes talks to Juliana Hatfield about Minor Alps, her band with Matthew Caws of Nada Surf, and their debut album Get There. Cindy asked what kind of symbiotic relationship the two have, and Juliana gave an answer that pretty much sums up the collaboration. “I think we write about some of the same themes, of existential longing and yearning, I really relate to his song that way, and I think he relates to mine that way. And our voices sound really good together. They blend so well sometimes I cant tell whose voice is whose when we’re in a certain range.”  Their voices do sound really amazing together, and hopefully it leads to more albums by Minor Alps. “It’s so easy to sing with him, which is so great. It’s just fun to be able to harmonize with someone and not have to worry about pitch or anything.”Both artists really reached their stride in the 90s, having both appeared on MTV and getting radio play. They had some interaction due to these periods of high media exposure. “We would bump into each other here and there…The world of music is really a small world, and everyone kind of knows everyone.” Juliana Hatfield says she was a big fan of Nada Surf when she heard their album Let Go.Juliana then asked Matthew Caws to do vocals on her 2007 album How to Walk Away, and later, Caws asked her to do some vocals on a Nada Surf b-side.  “It worked out so well both times we decided to make an album together.” The songs on the album are generally written by either Juliana or Matthew, but then the arrangements are collaborated on. The lyrics aren’t exactly collaborative, but Juliana says that they feel like they each speak for each other in their lyrics. “We’re so similar that even if he’s written something, it feels like it could have been written by me. That’s why it feels so natural to consider them all co-writes.”Get There is in record stores now, so check it out!

Tribute To Lou Reed on The Morning Mix

The legendary poet, singer and musician Lou Reed died Sunday at the age of 71. Lou Reed's contributions to the musical landscape are enormous starting from his time with The Velvet Underground, throughout his exceptional solo career and up until his death. He had not been in good heath recently, he had liver disease and had gone through a transplant earlier this year. He was being treated up until a few days ago when it was decided that doctors could no longer do anything for him. He died at his home in Amagansett, N.Y., on Long Island. Lou Reed is survived by his mother, his sister and his wife: composer and musician Laurie Anderson.Matt Wrbican, chief archivist at The Andy Warhol  museum in Pittsburgh shares his thoughts on Lou Reed, starting with his time in The Velvet Underground, when he first met Andy Warhol.

Mason Jennings on The Morning Mix

Mason Jennings is releasing his latest studio album - Always Been - this November.  Joey Spehar of The Morning Mix spoke with Jennings about his new album and the fact that Pittsburgh will always claim him as a Native Son.

Hawksley Workman Guest DJs on the Morning Mix

Cindy Howes brought Hawksley Workman in for a Guest DJ set, and to talk a bit about his one man production "The God that Comes", which debuted for the first time in the US right here in Pittsburgh! Cindy asked Hawksley to pick his favorite glam rock, pop, and rock opera songs in honor of his new one man show, which is a hybrid of cabaret pop and glam rock.Hawksley’s first pick for his set list is David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes”, fulfilling the glam rock requirement of Cindy’s request. Hawksley picked David Bowie, but he admits that he’s not actually a huge fan of the grandfather of glam rock. He likes the hits though, and regarding this song, “There’s something in the production that’s very watery, it’s very dreamy, there’s a tinge of evil around the whole thing, and it just feels kind of magical,” Workman says.The second song Hawksley picked was “In the Meantime”, by Spacehog. Hawksley is a self-proclaimed pop music fanatic. He wasn’t as into grunge music while he was growing up in the 90s’. “"In the Meantime" by Spacehog to this day feels like one of the greatest pieces of pop excitement I’ve ever heard.” Hawksley also talks about how incredible the bass part in the song is.The final song that Cindy asked Hawksley to pick is the rock opera song. “I was lucky. I grew up in this fun little church in my little town, and the minister there was obsessed with theater. We didn’t always do Christian oriented theatre, we did lots of British comedy and what have you, but I was able to do a few different productions of "Godspell", and the music has always stuck with me. I think it’s one of the best musicals ever written.”The interview concludes with Hawksley giving a synopsis of what his one man play, “The God that Comes”, is all about. Listen to the interview to get all the details, but suffice to say it’s about gods, wine, sex, and an angry king. Hawksley Workman’s Guest DJ Set: David Bowie – "Ashes to Ashes"Space Hog – "In the Meantime"Godspell – "Day by Day"

Patty Griffin's Lost Album Silver Bell

Back in 2000, Patty Griffin made one of the greatest albums that was never heard... until now. On October 8, 2013, Patty Griffin's Silver Bell was officially released by A&M. Cindy Howes recently got a chance to talk to Silver Bell's percussionist, Billy Beard about his experience recording the album, aftermath and his feelings on the now released version of Silver Bell.Silver Bell was meant to be Patty Griffin’s third album, not the 8th as it ended up being. The band was put together just months after Patty’s second album, Flaming Red. “We toured well over a year behind [Flaming Red], and then all went into King’s Way in New Orleans to make Silver Bell. We were there for almost 3 months. The band was firing on all cylinders and we had free reign to do what we wanted to do and we finished that record. We thought that record would come out and we would be together for quite a while, and it was pretty devastating what happened next.”The album wasn’t released. A merger at A&M and Interscope during recording resulted in an unfortunate and unexpected out lash against Patty. “At the head of that was Jimmy Iovine. That all happened as we were recording, so when we turned the record in, Jimmy basically said he’d never been a fan of hers, didn’t like anything she’d ever done, and he wasn’t going to put this record out.” The band was devastated, and didn’t know for months what the fate of the album would be. Eventually, Patty moved to ATO Records, the label founded by Dave Matthews.Two bootleg versions of Silver Bell surfaced after Silver Bell wasn’t released. One was a rough mix from early in the process, and the other was a mix closer to the final version that Billy Beard didn’t care for. The mix on the album released this year was done by Glyn Johns, as encouraged by Robert Plant, and Beard thinks this version is much better.Silver Bell is out now (finally!) on A&M Records. 

Tribute to Van Morrison's Moondance

 Van Morrison’s third solo album, Moondance was released in 1974 and has remained one of the most loved albums of all time. Morrison, 24 at the time, was able to create a master of an album that combined  R&B, folk rock, country rock, and also jazz so smoothly. Much to Van Morrison’s disapproval, Moondance was reissued as a deluxe edition five-CD box set – with 50 songs including studio outtakes, unheard mixes and unreleased tracks. Despite Van’s issues with this, it is a huge score for fans. Local singer and Irish-born singer, Mark Dignam, talked more about the greatness of Moondance with Morning Mix host, Cindy Howes.Mark’s experience with Van Morrison might be described as religious. That's fair, considering the music was a major landmark for Irish musicians and culture. “Here’s the future of Irish rock. As Irish musicians starting out, it was almost a sense of Van came down of the mountain with these two tablets of musical commandments.” The two tablets Mark mentions are, of course, Van Morrison’s albums Astral Weeks and Moondance.Originally released in 1970 and recorded in New York City, Moondance was a huge hit. The music isn't just rock with an Irish man singing. It’s a carefully crafted blend of everything Van Morrison enjoys. “This is what makes him a master, this is what makes all of them masters. You can take your influences and plaster them very, very strongly on your record, and then it becomes a gospel album, a folk album, a country album. With this album he took a little bit of everything… Nothing is out of balance.” Morrison is ranked up there with the greatest of Irish poets, William Butler Yeats, and Yeats must certainly have inspired Van Morrison. “I can see the influences. When anyone takes a stab at American music and holds on to the Irish roots. He’s got that mystical Yeatsian thing going on on one hand, and also this up-tempo horns and pianos whacking away. There’s a sense of mysticism and of reverence in Astral Weeks particularly, and Moondance becomes a bit more of a party album after that. I think that’s very much representative of the Irish approach to music.” The Irish aspect of music is very much a social thing, says Mark Dignam. “The tradition in Ireland in a lot of ways was all about sitting around and passing around songs.” Invariably, he says, Moondance will be played by someone. Van Morrison himself takes part in this tradition, and Mark even has friends that have met Van Morrison this way. “I know people that have sat down with him and have been quite intimidated by the experience.” Dignam’s friend Glen Hansard has had a harrowing story about Van Morrison dragging him into a room and demanding that up-and-coming Hansard play him some original songs. Listen to the audio for the whole story. Warner Brother’s reissue of Van Morrison’s Moondance has caused some controversy in the Morrison camp, but as Mark Dignam says, “I’m surprised, to be honest, that Van Morrison doesn’t get the idea of when you finish your art, you become a product. Or at least your art becomes a product.” The product is definitely a great piece of art that anyone should enjoy. “I mean, they’re wrapping the thing in linen. You know, who’s not gonna be happy at the end of the day? It’ll pass, and he’ll get over it. He’ll survive, I think.” Listen to the segment below and also check out Mark Dignam's cover of "Into the Mystic" recorded live at WYEP.

Remembering Elliott Smith

On the 10th anniversary of his death, Joey Spehar of The Morning Mix and Andy Cook of The Block Party discuss the life, music, and legacy of Elliott Smith.In the beginning, there was nothing. Then, Elliott Smith’s mother gave birth to him, and within 6 months, his parents split. He and his mother moved to Texas, which he hated. At 14, Elliott decided to move up to Portland, Oregon to live with his father. He got a tattoo of the state of Texas on his arm, not out of support for the state, but to remind himself how far he had come from the place he hated.In 1994 he released his first solo album, Roman Candle. “You can tell it’s not a fully realized or developed release,” Andy says. The album was really just a collection of 8songs that his girlfriend at the time had suggested he send to Cavity Search Records as a demo. “Pretty quickly, at least in the Portland area, quite a bit of buzz came about around this release, even more buzz than there was around his band Heatmiser.” Heatmiser would break up pretty quickly after then, but Elliott Smith continued to put out new music.Musically, Smith’s style differed from what was popular at the time in Portland. You could find the grungy guitar scene everywhere, but Smith played music inspired by the Beatles and the Zombies. Half of his audience at any time would be enjoying it and the other half would just say, “this isn’t what we do here.”In 1998, Elliott Smith got an awesome break that he didn’t seem to fully appreciate. He was asked to compose a song for the film Good Will Hunting, and to contribute a couple songs from his catalogue to the soundtrack. He eventually was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Song, but he was beat out by Celine Dion for "My Heart Will Go On". Despite that, he performed at the ceremony in a white suit with greasy, moppy hair. This was the first time many people ever saw him.Drugs became a huge part of his life in the early 2000s while he was on tour for Figure 8. When he got back and tried to play music, it was evident that he wasn’t well. He didn’t look good, and he could hardly play guitar at times. His friend Jon Brion confronted him about his problem, and Smith totally scrapped the album they were working on. Smith severed their friendship, and continued to smoke an alleged $1,500 worth of herion and crack a day.On October 21st, 2003, Smith died from two stab wounds to the chest. The autopsy was inconclusive as to whether the wounds were self inflicted or if it was in fact a homicide. It’s a mystery that will continue to baffle fans of his for generations. “It’s happy to think about his music and all the joy it brought me and still does to this day, but in another way it’s horribly sad. It’s another rock and roll chichè of someone that just couldn’t handle life. It’s unfortunate, but that music that he did record, it’s stuff I go back to constantly,” concludes Andy.

Glen Phillips of Toad The Wet Sprocket on The Morning Mix

Cindy had a chance to talk to Glen Phillips, the frontman for Toad the Wet Sprocket, who just released their first album in 16 years. The album is called New Constellation and it’s out now.Cindy wanted to know if they had always planned on releasing another album at some point, despite their breakup in 1998. “I thought we’d do another album if we could, if it could be good enough, if we could be enough of a band. There were a lot of years where we’d get back together and play a handful of shows and it felt like that was all we were capable of. There wasn’t enough unity and we were having the old arguments. You can’t make good albums if everyone’s walking on eggshells.” The new album is great, so they must have been walking on something harder than eggshells. Maybe it’s the mountain of cold hard cash they raised through kickstarter to fund the album.Toad joined the growing trend in music that has artists crowdfunding their albums and tours. Going 529% over their goal of $50,000, Toad the Wet Sprocket was only planning on raising enough to cover the cost of studio time. “We set our goal at what we thought was a reasonable minimum that we thought would basically cover recording expenses. We got where we hoped to get, actually, so we were excited.” Five people even donated $1,500 to the cause, so you know Toad has a dedicated fan base. “We were extremely happy with the response. It was great.”A song from the new album that Cindy wanted to know more about is “Enough”. Glen had an interesting story behind the song, which wasn’t even written for Toad! “I wrote it with a guy named John Taylor, but not the John Taylor from Duran Duran. We actually wrote it for his band in an initial version that had less of the riff and everything. But I love the song and I had been playing it live and it was kind of late in the Toad project that I brought that song in because we were missing that particular emotional arc. We had a lot of pop songs but not a lot of ‘ripping your heart out of your chest and holding it out in front of everybody songs.’” Apparently his mom likes it too, since he quotes Rabbi Tarfon’s line "The day is short, the labor vast, the toilers idle, the reward great, and the Master of the house is insistent." “Anytime I rip off rabbis my mom is happy,” Phillips says. On the subject of their early success, Glen says that he was surprised by being noticed so young. “We were not a typical rock band. I think the reason that our audience has stuck with us is that even at the time, we were authentically awkward.” While nerddom now is praised by mostly everyone, back then people reacted differently. “We were kind of a band of nerds before nerds were cool and before nerds ran the world. Now its cool to be a nerd, back then it was hard… We were all a little shocked when we got signed, we were all a little shocked when our music got played on the radio." Toad the Wet Sprocket’s new album is called New Constellation, and it came out October 15th. 

Josiah Johnson from The Head and The Heart on The Morning Mix

Cindy Howes got a chance to talk to Josiah Johnson from The Head and the Heart about their new album, Let’s Be Still.Let’s Be Still marks a slight departure from their first record by rocking harder and being a bit more pop. “Last time when we were recording it, the idea was to get this demo done so we could give it to venues around Seattle to so that we could play shows,” Josiah said. “We ended up being really happy with the songs, but never expected it to have the reach that it did. So this record sounds a lot more like the music that we listen to.”Band member Charity Rose is featured a bit more prominently on this record. She has really fleshed out her voice and her songwriting ability. “She wasn’t considered a songwriter [for the first album] just because she hadn’t offered that as a thing. Then she kind of came into her own singing those parts, and everyone was blown away, and audiences obviously are really drawn to her on stage.” Audiences demanded more from her, and John and Josiah had nothing against her writing material for the band. “We’d say ‘We would love it if she wrote some songs, and if they’re good we’ll put them on the album.’ And so I think she stepped up to that and wrote a couple great songs.”Many of the songs were written in acoustic fashion while The Head and the Heart were on tour. Cindy asked if there was a difference between how they wrote the songs while at home versus how they wrote on the road. “It’s really difficult to insulate your brain enough to have the quiet you need to get at to do songwriting,” Josiah admitted. “I have a really hard time writing while touring. I think John writes while touring because he’s never really adapted to being on the road. I don’t think this is entirely true, but I feel like he, out of everyone in the band, would rather tour half as much as we do and just be at home writing.”The band met through open mics in Seattle. They sometimes go to open mics to try out new songs sometimes. They don’t go every week like they used to, but still every once in a while.The new album is called Let’s Be Still, and it’s available now. Definitely check it out.

Tribute to Velvet Underground singer, Nico

On October 16, 1938, Velvet Underground singer, model, actor and member of the Warhol Superstars, Nico was born in Germany. Nico’s trademark deep voice, exquisite style and somewhat troubling attitude made her one of the most interesting figures in rock and roll. On what would have been her 75th birthday, we have Ben Harrison, Curator of Performing Arts at The Andy Warhol Museum, and also Matt Wrbican, Chief Archivist at The Warhol in to talk about the life and legacy of Nico.Nico was born in Germany in 1938, and by the time she was 17 had moved to Paris to continue her modeling career. She worked briefly for Coco Chanel, but abandoned the job to move to New York City.Modeling wasn’t Nico’s only successful job though. By 1965 she had recorded a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine” as well as her first single “I’m Not Sayin’”. Soon after, she met Andy Warhol, who was putting together the Velvet Underground. Warhol suggested that the band take on Nico as a “chanteuse”, and albeit reluctantly, they accepted her. The band became a centerpiece of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable.Lou Reed and Nico had a short physical relationship, which Nico ended. This did not help her relationship with the band, which considered her an “interloper”. After her tenure in the Velvet Underground was up, she had mentioned to Warhol in several letters a desire to make another record.Nico released her first solo album, Chelsea Girl, in 1967. Her 1969 album, The Marble Index, contained more original songwriting as a result of Jim Morrison’s coaching in California. She would continue writing her own music for her later albums as well.Nico died on the island Ibeza in 1988. She was riding her bicycle and suffered a heart attack, and then a concussion from falling. A local taxi driver found her, but could not get her admitted to a hospital because she had no insurance. Eventually, she was incorrectly diagnosed with having heat exposure, but x-rays later revealed her actual cause of death to be cerebral hemorrhaging.Nico and the Velvet Underground have had a huge influence on the world of music. Brian Eno even said that despite their lack of success for their first albums, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

Paul Simon Birthday Set with Andy Mulkerin

One of America’s most treasured songwriters, Paul Simon, influence, and commercial success began as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, formed in 1964 with Art Garfunkel. After disbanding in 1970, Simon embarked on a solo career, releasing many excellent albums like 1986’s Graceland and his most recent album, So Beautiful or So What in 2011. On the occasion of Paul Simon's birthday and the release of Paul Simon’s Complete Albums Collection, Andy Mulkerin of City Paper shares some of Simon’s best songs.“Happy Paul Simon Day!” says Andy Mulkerin. “Obviously, he’s a great lyrical songwriter, but I think what’s really interesting about him is that he sort of sums up late 20th century America. It’s kind of all of the good and bad there in him.”  Paul Simon has covered many different genres, including blues, folk, and African music, and his work is legendary with Simon and Garfunkel. “He really is a character.”The first song Andy Mulkerin picked for his guest DJ set is "Kodachrome", one of Simon’s best known solo songs. The song comes from his solo album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. Named for Kodak 35mm film, the song saw great success in America, but was less successful abroad due to the trademarked name.The next song in Mulkerin’s Paul Simon setlist was "Armistice Day". “It’s one of his most beautiful songs, it’s from his first solo album, his self titled album with him in a parka on the front lookin’ cold. It’s an amazing record. That wasn’t one necessarily of the hits from it, but it’s a beautiful song. It’s got that bluesy downtuned guitar in it, then it turns into this sort of funky ditty towards the end. It’s almost like a suite, its got a couple different things going on, but it’s not structured like a pop song.” Cindy agreed, saying, “He’s an artist who, over the course of his career, definitely has evolved his sound in very interesting ways. I think that that album sort of broke him into an artist that you really want to keep an eye on as far as diversifying his sound.”The final song of Andy’s set is "The Sound of Silence", the song that catapulted Simon and Garfunkel to popularity in the mid 60s. “There are a few reasons I picked this particular song, and this particular version. One is that I’ve always loved every version of this song that wasn’t the single version of this song, because it’s sort of a legendary story that all the electric guitars and the rhythm section and everything that’s on the single version was tacked on without Simon and Garfunkel’s knowledge and it got released as a single while they were in Europe, and they had no idea. Every other version of this song ever is really beautiful.” The other reason Andy picked it was a bit more emotional. “This version makes me think of a couple years ago. He sang this song solo on September 11th of 2011 for the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and if you watched that and kept two dry eyes you’re some kind of monster.”Andy Mulkerin's Setlist:Paul Simon - KodachromePaul Simon - Armistice DayPaul Simon - The Sound of Silence

The Voice of NPR, Frank Tavares, Guest DJs on The Morning Mix

Frank Tavares is the most heard voice on NPR. You hear him a dozen times a day reading the NPR funding credits. So, you definitely know his voice, but what you might not know about Frank Tavares is that he wrote a book of short stories! The Man Who Built Boxes, a collection of short stories, came out this summer. Frank was tasked with the job of creating a set of songs that tell stories, in celebration of his book.“A couple songs came immediately to mind, actually one artist came to mind, Harry Chapin.” The first track that Frank picked was Chapin’s "Taxi". “A number of the songs he did really had that story feel to them, even though they’re mostly bummers.” The story of "Taxi" is one of reflection. “Here’s a fellow who’s a cab driver. He picks up a fare. They recognize each other. He realizes it's someone from his past life, she recognizes him, and it raises all of these things about what might have happened and where they are now, and how you move forward,” Frank said.The second song that Tavares picked was Meatloaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”. This one tells a story of one evening where a boy and a girl are on a date. “But one of the things that always kind of tickled me about that song is there’s a cameo appearance by another very famous voice, a sports caster named Phil Rizzuto…I remember thinking ‘Whoa, someday I’d like to do a cameo like that in a song!’”In fact, the L.A. band, Capital Cities invited Frank to use his “NPR voice” in a song called "Farrah Fawcett Hair", which was an ode to cool things. “The idea behind it, when they approached me last spring, they said they wanted to do this song that talked about the coolest things they could think of. So the refrain is about “cool stuff”, and in the NPR voice I just listed what they suggested as some of the coolest things around.” The song cusses quite a bit, so Cindy couldn’t play the whole song, but you can listen to it here.The last song of Frank’s set is a Beatles tune. “I remember exactly where I was when I first heard that song.” "Eleanor Rigby" was Frank’s pick, which is another song, like "Taxi", that isn’t the most cheerful of songs, or “a bummer”, as Frank says. “There's something else about these songs, is that for many of us, and this is how I feel, I listen to the song and listen to the heaviness that comes with it, and then at the end of it, I shrug it off, take a deep breath, and move forward.” Cindy agreed, saying, “Yeah, you can’t let that swallow you for the rest of the day.”Frank is really the most heard voice in the history of public radio, which is a scary thought, Tavares says. “It really set me back at first, but then I thought about it and then I said, ‘Well that’s pretty cool!’”Frank has been writing professionally his whole life, but only within the last 15 years did he begin to write fiction, “Because it’s just so much fun to write!”  Upon hearing several of his friends suggest that he collect his short stories into one place, he decided that it was a good idea. “I thought, quite honestly, that this should be quite easy. All of them have been written, most of them have been published, how hard could it be? And so when I first started talking with the publisher, I was amazed at how many decisions had to be made from day one.” It did have a side benefit, Tavares said, and that was that he could take what he learned about the publishing process and bring it back into the classroom, where he teaches business communication.Cindy asked Frank where he got his inspiration for writing. “It’s strange where these little seeds come from, and most writers that you talk to, and that Ive talked to, have had the same experiences. Some of them, I wouldn’t call them mystical. The short answer is sometimes I just don’t know, but other times I do.” Some inspiration came from Tavares’ trip to Italy, where he saw old decrepit buildings and villages. Another piece of inspiration came from a near traffic accident that Tavares witnessed. No one was hurt, but he was a bit shaken. “And then other things, you get ideas from segments of conversation that you hear, and yeah aspects of yourself appear in some of the characters, but all the characters are composites of different people and strangers.” One of the most difficult things for Frank was naming his characters, and he found that he had to rename some of the characters when it came time to publish the collection.Cindy wondered if Frank was ever recognized in public, and he had an interesting story to share. “Every once in a while, somebody will look at me, we’ll be talking, or I’ll be talking and they’re close by. Sometimes they start with ‘you look familiar”, which is just because the audio cue crosses synapses with the visuals, or they’ll say, ‘you sound familiar.’ Well the first thing I ask is, ‘Well are you an NPR listener?’ And depending on how they answer I may give up the secret!’ laughed Frank. ‘If they say they listen to NPR all the time, so I’ll look around to see who’s standing, because sometimes this can be embarrassing, and then I’ll just lean towards them and say, ‘support for NPR comes from this, and other…’ Cindy, after all these years, its amazing to see how they react to that.”Frank is hoping to have a new novel out next year. His collection of short stories is called The Man Who Built Boxes.Frank Tavares DJ Set:Harry Chapin – TaxiMeatloaf – Paradise By The Dashboard LightCapital Cities – Ferah Fawcett HairThe Beatles – Eleanor Rigby

Bela Fleck Guest DJs on the Morning Mix

Modern master of the banjo, Bèla Fleck, who has played in New Grass Revival and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones joined Cindy Howes on the Morning Mix for a guest DJ set! While Fleck was on tour with the NY Banjo Summit, featuring the finest banjo players in New York State (Bill Keith, Eric Weissberg, Noam Pickelny, Richie Stearns, Tony Trischka, and others), he shared some of his favorite banjo songs.Fleck’s first song is by Earl Scruggs, the father of modern banjo playing. Bèla first heard Scruggs when he was 4 or 5 and Scruggs was featured in the theme to "The Beverly Hillbillies". Fleck says that 3 finger Banjo players on the tour idolize him, and “When you listen to "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" you hear this incredible intensity, this modern kind of computer perfection, and yet you hear this funky quality, this sort of high tech primitive quality.”The next big piece of inspiration came when Bela Fleck heard Eric Weissberg perform the "Deliverance" theme. “It became a number one pop hit internationally, and opened the doors to the banjos next big days.” Cindy posed that this might be the most influential banjo song of all time. “I do think so. It was something that really shook people up. It could be a pop hit for people that had no interest in banjo whatsoever… It had a lot of impact,” Fleck agreed. The last song is one by Abigail Washburn. “When I first heard her music, she gave me her cd, and I started driving my car home from wherever it was. And I started driving my car faster and faster the more I listened to it. Next thing you know I got pulled over and was walking the line.” Abby plays banjo in the clawhammer  style, and Bela Fleck says she has a very elegant way of writing songs and a very beautiful voice.The idea for Bela Fleck’s New York Banjo Summit came from Peter Lester, who runs The Egg in Albany. He realized there were so many influential banjo players in New York that had contributed to the modernization of the banjo. This is the third tour the group has done.“Where I start with the history of the banjo is thinking about it comes from Africa, and it came over to the America’s with the slaves, in the slave trade. Now, Pete Seeger tells me that before Africa, it started in the Tigris and Euphrates river and worked down through the trade routes into Africa, which I always though was ironic, that America’s instrument came from Iraq.” Fleck said. “The banjo has just continually changed and evolved through the years, even physically, from being a skinhead on a gourd with a stick sticking out of it and a couple gut strings, to these very high tech, beautiful mother of pearl instruments we have now.”“Now I want to know, how many banjos do you own?” Cindy asked. “If I knew that, I would tell you. But I can tell you that I have a couple double sized closets full of them. I don’t go around counting them very often, because I might be embarrassed.” He later admitted that the count might be around 40. The banjo that Bela Fleck played with for this tour is from 1937, it’s a Gibson Style 75, called that because it cost $75. Now it would be worth $100,000. “Has anyone ever done an MTV cribs with you, so people can see your closets of banjos?” Cindy joked.Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn have a baby named Juno Jasper Washburn Fleck and he likes the banjo too! “Last night he was sick and he was crying, and I got out this little bitty ukulele banjo and he just stops. Stops crying, starts listening, and he just lights up. We had to feed him this little medicine, and every time he finished the medicine, he’d start crying, and I’d start playing and he’d stop…I don’t know if that’s normal, but of course we think we have the most amazing baby in the world.” Fleck makes up songs for his baby, nicknamed Smoogie, off the top of the head. “It cheers him up!” Fleck said.Bèla Fleck's Guest DJ Set:Earl Scruggs - Foggy Mountain BreakdownEric Weissberg - Dualing BanjosAbigail Washburn - City of Refuge

Interview with Matt Pryor

Matt Pryor is back! After quitting music several years ago, he makes his triumphant return. Joey Spehar interviewed him to get the scoop.“I did a resume for the first time in my life, which sounds kind of ludicrous, but I didn’t want to do music anymore.” Even though Matt has been running his own business the last 20 years in the form of his musical projects, on a resume it doesn’t look like he’s had a job for two decades. That’s when he realized he didn’t want to quit music, and now he has some new projects.The new EP with James Dewees came out yesterday, and Pryor has a solo album coming out in November. “Failing You” sounds like the best part of the Get Up Kids,” said Joey. Matt said that this was his intention, and that he think’s it sounds like Reggie (and the Full Effect) and himself singing from 1998. “The A side of the 7 inch is a very synth riff, kind of. It’s very Reggie-esque in a way.”“James sent me these songs, and I said, “I’m just gonna scream on them. It’s a rock record.” Where past albums have been folky, country, or singer/songwriter heavy, this one is more rock. “I’m very happy with it. It’s very cathartic,” Pryor says.New EP with James Dewees is out now, and Wrist Slitter will be out in November. Matt Pryor will be playing at Mr. Small’s this December. “I love playing there because it has a kitchen backstage and I can cook dinner for the entire crew. I’ve done that the last 3 or 4 times I’ve been there.”

Alastair Moock Guest DJ Set

In July of 2012, Alastair Moock learned that one of his five-year-old twin daughters, Clio, had leukemia. Alastair and Clio sang and wrote together while she was in the hospital, and over the next year Alastair continued to write and collect songs. With the help of an amazing fundraising campaign, those songs came together in an album called Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World's Bravest Kids. Now Alastair is bringing that album — and live performances — to hospitals, clinics, and camps around the country.Moock joined Joey Spehar of The Morning Mix for a kid-friendly Guest DJ set.  Here's what he played:The Dixie Hummingbirds - Rasslin' JacobTim Gearan - Fickle BettySyreeta - Harmour LoveCheck out the video for Alastair Moock's song "When I Get Bald".

Diego Garcia on The Morning Mix

Diego Garcia talked to Cindy Howes on The Morning Mix about his latest album Paradise, latin music and his incredible encounter with George Harrison. His first solo album, Laura, is based on Garcia’s real life experiences about getting over a lost love. Paradise finds Garcia in a better place, having won his love back. “Now, having Laura back in my life and keeping me grounded, my highs are higher and my lows are lower. Everything seems more real, and it’s a lot nicer that way,” Garcia says. Cindy says, “To me it sounds like a very happy album.” Diego admitted , “I think you’re always scared, as a songwriter, that you might be dried up,” when Cindy asked how difficult the album was to make. “After one of our last tours, I went into the studio back in March, and out came “Tell Me”, which is the second track on the new record, and that gave me the confidence to get back into things.”Diego attended Brown University, where Dhani Harrison, Will Oldham, Erin McKeown, Lisa Loeb, The Low Anthem and many other musical luminaries attended. “I was actually in a band with Dhani Harrison. We were covering Iggy Pop together. But he actually wrote “You Were Never There” from the album Laura with me. If you listen to that song, you can actually here that he was definitely channeling his pops.”Diego Garcia has a very interesting story about meeting George Harrison. “I was nineteen, so it was a little before I really understood the magnitude of this, and we went to Henley, you know, Friar Park Studios, where he did All Things Must Pass and all The Traveling Wilburys stuff. We were at his castle, and it was magical.“It was ten days, but I remember the first day I went into the studio and I was just grabbing every guitar I could see, and I looked through the glass between us and the mixing board and George walks in. And he just comes up to me, grabs the guitar that I was holding, sat down and he just starts playing, and his foot was tapping the ground in this way that was so mesmerizing. I think he liked me because I was so raw, you know, not trained at all. He gave me my first real confidence! When you hear George Harrison say something good about your voice, you know, he likes me, and that’s a sign.“You’d wake up and go into the main house. George would be on the piano, Uncle E.C. would be calling, Uncle E.C. being Eric Clapton, and just out of the blue, it had been 30 years, Ravi Shankar dropped by with his 19 year old girlfriend… And then just to make things more surreal, the solar eclipse hit. Where we were was one of the best places in the world to be.”Cindy concluded, “Well, Diego Garcia, the album Paradise is amazing, and if anyone says anything bad about your music, you can just say, ‘You know what, George Harrison thought I was awesome.’” “Yeah that meant a lot, and I also say that my mom likes me too," Garcia concluded.The album, Paradise, is out now.

The Great White Wonder & Other Bootlegs

We spoke to Jerry Weber of Jerry’s Records about the Great White Wonder, which is the first major bootleg to appear in the record scene, and asked him to share his expertise. We were lucky enough to stop by while a friend of Jerry’s was visiting.Dale Nolting is the biggest collector of bootleg vinyl in Pittsburgh, and he’s been collecting for over fifty years. Together, Jerry and Dale have more than eighty years of listening to bootlegs, so they could definitely be called experts.The Great White Wonder was “the first one that really got things going,” says Dale. Collected from a variety of sources, The Great White Wonder contained unreleased studio takes, and “basement tapes” from a session with The Band, and some live material. “It’s the most famous ones, and its one of the best ones. Its almost studio quality. That’s why it became legendary. It’s Dylan at his height, stuff he never did anywhere else. It was like gold,” says Jerry.The Great White Wonder sparked interest in a bootleg called The Masked Marauders. In 1969 Rolling Stone ran a review of the album, which was supposedly a jam session between Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney. But it was actually just a big joke put on by Rolling Stone magazine. Rolling Stone had hired a band to record this album, and it sold more than one hundred thousand copies. The Masked Marauders was practically legendary by the time it hit record store shelves, and remained in the Billboard Top 100 for 12 weeks following its release. In many ways, bootleg collectors are some of the most die hard collectors out there. Jerry says, “It’s a whole different strata of collectors that collect bootlegs. But they want something that nobody else has, like every record collector, but they have everything that’s been put out legally, but its not enough. If you’re a Dylan guy or a Beatles guy, you want something else.” Jerry says that if you’re interested in obtaining some classic bootlegs, your best bet is to go to a record show.

Remembering Jim Croce

Jim Croce passed away in a tragic plane crash on September 20, 1973.  Joey Spehar of The Morning Mix talked with Grammy Award-winning musician and Philadelphia native Aaron Louis Levinson about the life, work, and legacy of Jim Croce.

Tribute to Gram Parsons on The 40th Anniversary of His Death

Gram Parsons is given huge credit to helping found both country rock and alt-country shown in his work with The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and his solo work. After a rough childhood, which saw him losing both his parents in his formative years, Parsons dropped out of Harvard and pursued his musical career. What began after that is one of the most intriguing, whirlwind of a musical career that tragically ended too soon. On September 19, 1973, Gram Parson died at the age of 26 from an overdose under some very unusual circumstances. WYEP’s Roots & Rhythm Mix host, Jesse Novak, talks to Cindy Howes about the life and music of Gram Parsons on the 40th anniversary of his death.The Byrds hadn’t done anything so country until Gram Parsons joined them, but “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” drove them to a much more country sound, although still palatable by fans of rock and roll. “He did that all in five or six months, he was only a member from February 1968 to August 1968,” says Novak.Parsons started his own alt-country band in 1968, the Flying Burrito Brothers, which had a wide cult following, including lots of musician fans. The Rolling Stones were fans, in fact, and this lead to the introduction of Gram Parsons to Keith Richards. This relationship wasn’t so positive other than the musicians’ mutual love of music, but Parsons got into drugs and became less productive.One of Gram’s most influential partnerships was his collaboration with Emmylou Harris. “He was able to pull out of her what she had inside her that she didn’t quite know how to put out. For him, I think she was the perfect musical foil for him,” Novak says. Their haunting cover of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant’s song “Love Hurts” was released posthumously on Parson’s album Grievous Angel.                                        Parson’s death was surrounded with some pretty strange circumstances. He was in Joshua Tree, California, where he took part in some substance abuse with his friends. While they partied, Parsons collapsed. His friends managed to revive him only to have him collapse again, this time permanently. Parsons wanted his ashes spread in Joshua Tree, which was his favorite place in California, but his stepfather wanted his body brought back to Louisiana. A couple of Parsons’ buddies absconded with his coffin and the body within, and tried to cremate it themselves, again unsuccessful.Gram Parsons’ influence on music is huge. Despite his absence of 40 years, there are still bands that are obviously inspired by his sound. “Anything that is country influenced and rock has its roots back to Gram Parsons,” says Novak. “Whether its Wilco or the Jayhawks, anytime you here a pedal, a steel, and a pop for a rock oriented band it goes back to what he started.”

Kishi Bashi Guest DJ on The Morning Mix

K Ishibashi, or Kishibashi as he’s called when performing, joined Cindy for a guest dj set during the Morning Mix. We asked K to play some tunes that feature violins, and he came through with tracks by Camper Van Beethoven and Bjork.The first song K picked was “Pictures of Matchstick Men” by Camper Van Beethoven. K said that he picked this song because he really liked alternative rock when he was a kid. “A band can have violin and not be dorky,” K said. “That was probably the first thing that I thought. I didn’t realize it was a cover until way later.” The original version of “Matchstick Men” was made by Status Quo in 1968.The second song of K’s guest dj set was Bjork’s “Venus as a Boy”. K said this song was very inspirational for him, as it was for many musicians in the 90s. K studied South Indian violin improvisation, which has a real Bollywood feel to it. “It really blew my mind,” K said. “She was this cool, kind of hybrid…it was actually something I aspired to become, as someone who is respected who tries new things, and goes beyond the boundaries of just music.”Kishi Bashi’s latest album is 151a, and he released a 7” Box Set earlier this year, which features Kishi Bashi covering several artists including Talking Heads, ELO, and Beirut. “It’s basically a way of saying “I really like…”, you know, it’s a tribute to that artist. I couldn’t cover something I didn’t really, really love.” Kishi Bashi will be performing in Pittsburgh this Sunday at the Altar Bar. Kishi Bashi’s DJ set: Camper Van Beethoven - Matchstick MenBjork – Venus as a BoyAdditionally, Cindy played Kishi Bashi’s cover of  Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place”.

Hank Williams 90th Birthday Tribute

On September 17, 1923, Hank Williams, country music’s most significant star, was born in Butler County, Alabama. Williams, who never learned to read music and based his compositions on storytelling, was a country music superstar by the time he was 25 and died of a drug and overdose when he was 29. In his short life, he managed to write the most compelling and memorable country hits that are now considered classics. On what would have been his 90th birthday, we remember the life and music of Hank Williams with a little help from local singer and life-long Hank admirer, Judith Avers.Hank Williams is the quintessential country musician. If you think of the roots of the country genre, you think of Hank’s confident, achey voice. Avers says “It’s a very difficult thing to sound like a tough guy and still be yodeling,” but Williams could pull it off. “He sounded so free.”Williams had one teacher, blues musician Rufus Payne. Payne was a street musician from Greenville, Alabama, and Williams would pay for music lessons in change. Payne is the one that helped Hank fuse his blues, hillbilly, and folk into the Hank Williams music we know today.From a very young age, Hank Williams wanted to be a musician. He sang gospel and shape note singing as a child, and as he got older he got a guitar, although how he got that guitar is still debated today. Hiriam is the name on Williams’ birth certificate, but he went by Hank because it sounded more “country”. His mother had an overbearing “stage mom” relationship with him, and his future wife had a similar attitude.Williams wasn’t the first country star, although he was part of the first era of country musicians. He was inspired by a few country musicians at first, such as Jimmie Rodgers, Moon Mullican, and Roy Acuff, but soon developed his own style. He called songs like “Tear In My Beer” or “Hey Good Lookin’” his “bologna songs”, and complained that “the industry would slice them up like bologna.” “He died young. It’s sad to say, but everybody loves a legend,” Avers says, “and he just became one the second he died at 29. Then his songs got sealed in the vault of coolness, and they’re still there.” The legendary Hank Williams died of hemorrhaging in the heart and neck as a result of a combination of alcohol, chloral hydrate, and morphine. Hawshank Hawkins and other musicians sang “I Saw The Light” as tribute for him at a concert he was supposed to play at that night.

Juliana Hatfield on The Morning Mix

Boston singer/singwriter Juliana Hatfield joined Cindy Howes on the Morning Mix to talk about her new album Wild Animals. Cindy calls Wild Animals Hatfield’s “secret album”, having received less press than her project with Matthew Caws of Nada Surf. The team up is called Minor Alps, and their first album Get There will be released on October 29th.Fans of Juliana’s funded Wild Animals, and part of their donated funds went to two animal shelters. One was Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Mass., where Juliana volunteers, and the other was Save a Sato in Puerto Rico. “I think maybe I was an abused animal in another life. It just felt good to help out,” Juliana said. “The Puerto Rico thing, there’s a really bad stray dog problem down there. I went down there to see it. It was really sad and I just wanted to do something to help.”The album is mostly acoustic and has a strong energy. Hatfield attributes the control and power of her voice to a combination of healthy lifestyle choices including a good diet, working out, and not smoking cigarettes or abusing substances. “I think I’ve mellowed out over the years. My attitude is a little more relaxed, and that helps for singing.” She recorded the new album at her home, which she says was a very relaxing atmosphere, and helped her feel free.Cindy’s top tracks on the album were Tracks, Spit In The Wind, and Dog On A Chain, for which she said, “I thought Dog On A Chain had a, I don’t know if this is way out there, but a really cool Americana feel to it.” Juliana’s reaction to that appraisal was, “Oh, that’s really cool, because I think of that one as acoustic punk!”Parking Lots is another interesting song, and is Cindy’s favorite on the album. Juliana said the inspiration for this song came from writing songs on commission for strangers. “People who ordered songs from me would send me information about their lives, whatever information they chose. Bits of history from their pasts, their struggles or illnesses, and also their triumphs, hobbies and work…and it’s really about a guy who was a stranger when I started the process, but I kinda got to know him through writing the song about him.”Wild Animals is out now, and her project with Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws will be out at the end of October.

Mayer Hawthorne Guest DJ's on WYEP

Mayer Hawthorne guest DJ's on the Afternoon Mix with Rosemary Welsch on September 11, 2013.

Mickey Hart's 70th Tribute with David Gans

Joey Spehar was joined by David Gans to celebrate Mickey Hart’s 70th birthday. David Gans is a huge fan of the Grateful Dead and Mickey Hart, and hosts The Grateful Dead Hour and The Worlds of Mickey Hart, radio shows celebrating the music of these legendary bands and musicians.Mickey Hart is half of The Grateful Dead’s “Rhythm Devils” drum team, and has several projects of his own including several solo albums, The Mickey Hart Band and the Rhythm Devils. Joey Spehar calls Hart “a modern Alan Lomax” for his role in preserving world music.As the backbone of the Grateful Dead, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann “made drum solos actually interesting instead of a time to go get another beer.” But that might not even be as important as his work as an ethnomusicologist, ensuring that the music of people all over the world doesn’t go extinct. “Mickey got interested in world music very, very early in the game. When he joined the Grateful Dead, he was a military drummer, a marching band kind of drummer. He expanded his world into the Grateful Dead’s world and expanded the Grateful Dead’s world by joining them,” Gans said. Hart began recording Indian music with Allah Rahka, tabla player for Ravi Shankar, and Allah’s son Zakir Hussain. “They started doing world music stuff together before the tag “world music” even existed.”The Mickey Hart Band’s last album, Mysterium Tremendum, was a bit of a concept album. For this album, Mickey looked to outer space, using information from radio telescopes to compose these songs. For The Mickey Hart Band’s newest release, Superorganism, “looks to inner space,” Gans says. “using the same technology, he was mapping brain waves and the sound of cells dividing, and sent them to these colleagues of his and turned them into music that Mickey plays on stage.” Mickey wears a special cap onstage that has electrodes in it. Gans claims, “He’s actually jamming with his own brain on stage in real time.”Since Mickey is in good health for his 70th birthday, Joey thinks Hart will be around for another 70 years. Hart has gone from outer space to the inside of his own brain, so whatever he does next, its sure to be interesting, and likely amazing.

Tribute to Johnny Cash: Ten Years After His Death

It was on this date in 2003 that we lost The Man In Black. Johnny Cash, country music’s leading outlaw and pioneer, died at the age of 71, less than four months after his wife, June Carter Cash, passed away. Johnny Cash’s mark on music is immeasurable, his giant person remains unchallenged and his love story with June continues to inspire. Today, we remember Johnny Cash through his music and with a little help of his daughter, Rosanne Cash. Here to talk more about Cash is our Afternoon Mix host, Rosemary Welsch. Good Morning!Rosemary, when asked what she thinks of when someone mentions Cash, said “almost immediately, I think American. He’s the ultimate American story, he grows up in the cotton fields, picking cotton with his family in Arkansas, rises above that, goes into the military, married when he’s 18-19 years old, works really hard, beginning of rock and roll, gets more into the country element, struggles with addiction, raises his family, has a real lull in his career, then resurrects himself, totally recreates himself, an American thing, I think.”Cindy can’t help but get choked up while thinking about Cash and his devotion to his family. Rosanne Cash, Johnny’s daughter, is also a musician, and Rosemary Welsch had an opportunity to interview her. She told Rosemary about how she went on tour with Johnny, and they talked about lots of music that Rosanne wasn’t familiar with. Johnny was appalled that his daughter didn’t know some of his favorite songs, so he made her a list of 100 songs she needed to know. Rosanne said that it was really incredible how he had so many songs right at his fingertips in so many different genres.Rosanne was just in high school when Johnny Cash had The Johnny Cash Show. Cash used his show to introduce many younger artists to his audience including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, James Taylor, and others. “Johnny is truly a lover of music, and he does this because he believes in them.” Rosanne basked in the glory of her father’s television show. When she was older, she recorded a version of “Girl From the North Country”, a song that Johnny Cash collaborated with Bob Dylan for. She didn’t want to collaborate with Bob Dylan, believing that it would be too gimmicky, but she did take inspiration from Dylan’s original version of the song, “which was very much in a classic folk tradition.” Collaboration with Johnny was something that she definitely wanted to do later in her career, despite reservations about collaborating in her early career. “September When It Comes” is a tragic and prophetic song, considering Cash’s eventual death in the month of September. John Carter Cash was the studio engineer for the song, which was recorded in the Cash family’s studio.June Carter Cash, Johnny’s wife, was really meant to be his family. The two knew each other for quite some time before they got married, but June said she wouldn’t do anything with him until he straightened out his life. He pulled himself together enough, despite drug addiction and other complications, to meet her standard, and finally they got married. June died in May of 2003, and Johnny followed only five months later in September.