kathi@wyep.org's blog

This Sunday on the Bluegrass Jam Session (8-10pm, June 3), join host Bruce Mountjoy for his tribute to Doc Watson, who passed away this past week. Bruce will be playing music spanning the remarkable career of Watson throughout the show.

Streaming live at wyep.org.

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If you’re a fan of the Block Party (weeknights from 8pm-12am EST) on 91.3fm, each month we feature one of the artists featured on the Block Party as an Album of the Month with a New or Renewing Membership to WYEP. The Block Party Featured Album is available in CD format for a $60 donation to WYEP or on vinyl for your gift of $75.

June''s Block Party Featured Album of the Month is Blunderbuss by Jack White. Become a WYEP Member at wyep.org and grab a copy as your thank you gift this month.

Blunderbuss review by WYEP Block Party Host Andy Cook:

What happens when someone like Jack White finds himself without a band?  This is a pretty interesting question. The guy has been in bands, usually multiple ones simultaneously, for about two decades now.  A lot of highly talented charismatic musicians would have wanted to go solo a long time ago, but it seems to not come so naturally with Mr. White.  He clearly must love something about being in a band.  Is it the camaraderie?  Is it that, to at least some small degree, he can then share the limelight?  It would seem at first glance that this solo thing doesn’t sit well with him.  Even in a recent New York Times profile he admitted that if it were up to him he would still be going full steam ahead with The White Stripes.  He seems a little hurt and confused that Meg, his former bandmate, doesn’t share in this desire any longer.  Therefore, it seems this solo thing might at least partially be out of necessity.  If it’s any consolation, Jack, it seems that you are extremely good at it.

Yes, the combination of his recent divorce from Karen Elson and the current distance between Meg White and himself is all over this release.  Right from the first track, “Missing Pieces”, he details losing appendages and feeling lost. “Sometimes someone controls everything about you/ …they’ll take pieces of you / And they’ll stand above you and walk away”. The song “Love Interruption” has a refrain that almost works as a mantra. “I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt, or interrupt me”. It seems White’s determined to enjoy love, but no longer let it leave him emotionally destroyed.

Please do not think that this release is a real downer, though.  Jack White seems to be fully aware that you can sing about pain while matching it with upbeat melodies.  “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy”, seems to lyrically have some  incredibly harsh bite, but musically is about the most pleasant and happy thing he’s ever done.   It all adds up to some of the strongest songwriting we have yet to experience from White.

White is easily one of the most intriguing and compelling rock stars so far this century.  One might say that it’s an easy label to achieve with the lack of true rock stars these days.  Anymore we find potential specimens, dissect them, swallow them, and almost always cast them aside within a few months.  However, it seems White keeps sticking around.  This is not an accident.  It’s because he keeps giving us something slightly different to examine.

Pick up a copy of Blunderbuss by Jack White with your Membership today at wyep.org.

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New Music

... in Washington County where the reception isn’t quite what you’d hope for as there’s some interference from a local lower power station.

Here’s how we fixed that problem.  By way of explanation, my buddy Scott and I are both retired. Between us we have probably 55 years of WYEP support and membership. And we both volunteer at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum where we work on the signals and wiring, including the 600-volt wire that supplies electricity to the antique trolley cars.

Our “shop” is in the southwest corner of a steel frame, metal clad building. The WYEP transmitter, in the best tradition of Murphy’s Law, is located far to the northeast. So not only do we have interference from the solar panels and various voltages in and around the building, the building itself blocks the radio signal.

Necessity being the mother of invention, we built an old-fashioned folded dipole antenna using the flat twin conductor wire that was once popular when TV antennas were the norm rather than cable and other digital media.  (For those of you who don’t recall this technology, you could get decent reception of local channels with an aluminum antenna on the top of the house, or with “rabbit ears” or by taking a piece of twin lead, and shaping it into a “T.” The stem of the “T” is wired into the center of the top arm, then into the FM receiver or TV set. With a little judicious fiddling, you’d get reception – of some kind!)

A quick on-line search revealed that for the lower FM bands – which includes WYEP – the top arm of the antenna needed to be 61.5 inches long for optimum reception. So after ordering the wire from a local chain electronics supply store, and procuring some ¾” inch plastic conduit and fittings, we soon had our own “T” with a 61.5” long top arm and a stem about 8 feet tall. This enabled us to raise the antenna high enough to clear the adjacent roof line.

We hooked the lead to the receiver, and with a little fiddling by the guy perched 30 feet off of the ground (“Twist it just a hair more clockwise  -- little more – wait – go back a smidge.”) we soon had reception that sounded as if we were actually in the studio.  Success.

This is good for listening in the shop when we work on bench projects – like painting, rebuilding relays, wiring assemblies, puzzling through 80-year-old wiring diagrams, etc.

Then we came to Part 2 of the project.  When we’re out on the trolley line we use a 75-year-old work car that allows us to maintain and repair the 600 volt DC trolley wire while it’s still energized. All of the electricity in the car is Direct Current – popular back in the early 1900s – and totally incompatible with modern appliances, including radios.  So, how do we take WYEP along while we’re working on the railway?

We did have a source of lower voltage DC, your choice of 24 volts or 12 volts. With a little scrounging in my basement, I found a portable FM/CD/tape player that operated on 8 D cell batteries. Hmmm.  8 times 1.5 volts equals 12 volts! Problem solved, sort of.  The task was to make the wiring necessary to plug the radio into the trolley car’s 12 volt electrical system.  So with some wire, solder, trailer connectors and tape, we soon had our boom box on wheels working.  We’re still tinkering with the antenna there as sometimes the car is oriented north-south and other times east-west or any combination in between depending on the twists and turns of the museum railway trackage.

But we’re calling it a successful project. Now WYEP helps to power the crews that keep the power flowing to the streetcars at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.  Thanks, WYEP.

-WYEP Volunteer Rick
you can talk trolleys, antennas, and public radio with Rick at ptm42@comcast.net

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If you’re a fan of the Block Party (weeknights from 8pm-12am EST) on 91.3fm, each month we feature one of the artists featured on the Block Party as an Album of the Month with a New or Renewing Membership to WYEP. The Block Party Featured Album is available in CD format for a $60 donation to WYEP or on vinyl for your gift of $75.

April''s Block Party Featured Album of the Month is Arrow by Heartless Bastards. Become a WYEP Member at wyep.org and grab a copy as your thank you gift this month.

Arrow review by WYEP Programming Intern Arielle Klein:

With new producer Jim Eno of Spoon, Heartless Bastard’s fourth album, Arrow, highlights the unity of the reformulated band.

Through Erika Wennerstrom’s minimalist lyrics, the album tells the tale of a band on tour, of the necessity of a solid rock beat, the open road, and someone to share it with. The album starts out punchy with songs like “Parted Ways” and “Got To Have Rock and Roll”. The excitement and momentum of the band’s recent success is evident with their new found conventional rock sound.

As the album progresses the band utilizes more profound lyrics and sprawling instrumental sections. Wennerstrom’s nostalgia for the old days in the second half of the CD cues in the banjo and the Bastards’ original blues inspired twang. While Wennerstrom’s voice is usually the focal point, the instrumental sections are powerful, overshadowing the forlorn lyrics with crisp entrancing interludes.

The Heartless Bastards may still be finding where they belong in the rock schema, but wherever they are headed Arrow makes their listeners ready to stay on for the ride.

Pick up a copy of Arrow by Heartless Bastards with your Membership today at wyep.org.

Categories:

New Music

This Sunday on 91.3fm, The Bluegrass Jam Session remembers Bluegrass Pioneer Earl Scruggs, who passed away on Wednesday.

Earl was the last surviving member of the “Original” Bluegrass band, Bill Monroe’s 1945 Blue Grass Boys, and it was the addition of Scrugg’s innovative three-finger picking style that help create the unique style that came to be known for Monroe’s band,  “bluegrass”.

In 1949, Scrugg’s teamed with smooth singing Blue Grass Boy alumnus Lester Flatt to create bluegrass music’s most influential group, the Foggy Mountain Boys. Through his appearances on the Beverly Hillbillys and his contribution of Foggy Mountain Breakdown to the film Bonnie and Clyde, Earl led bluegrass from the schoolhouses and southern radio shows to Hollywood and New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Join us this Sunday from 8-10pm as the Bluegrass Jam Session remembers this American Original.

-Bruce Mountjoy, Host of the Bluegrass Jam Session

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Music News

British author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy, 31 Songs/Songbook) and piano man Ben Folds have teamed up on the album Lonely Island, due out September 28.

It will be available as a special edition LP with short stories by Hornby (and was recorded with vinyl in mind as the preferred method to enjoy it), as well as standard edition LP, CD, or as a download.

Check out the video for "Things You Think", also featuring Pomplamoose.



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With more than 100 musical acts and six stages to choose from, it's easy to fill your day at Bonnaroo. And then there are movies, comedy (Conan O'Brien, Aziz Ansari, Margaret Cho and more), even World Cup soccer or NBA finals to watch if you need to get a sport fix beyond seeing people deal with the inevitable muddy conditions. (The weather people are calling for mid to high 80s and thunderstorms. Every day of the festival.)

This will be my first trip to Bonnaroo, so naturally I will be cramming as much music into my days there as possible. I have to see Stevie Wonder, b/c he's Stevie Wonder! I'll be going to see Brandi Carlile, either her full set at That Tent, or her 30 min appearance at the Sonic Stage. Oh, who am I kidding, I'll probably go to both, despite the fact that I'll will be seeing her again two more times summer.

I trekked to Chicago to see Calexico a few years back, and I'm excited to see them again, as well as my 2nd show by The Gossip. I'll kick myself, or my fellow 'Roo-er Amy, if I miss the Dave Rawlings Machine, Carolina Chocolate Drops, or Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.

Two TRAF acts, Ingrid Michaelson & Kris Kristofferson, are at Bonnaroo, so I'm going to try to make it to see them. And I have a chance to get a preview of what Joshua James will play at the WYEP Summer Music Festival.

My big decision happens on Friday, when The National, Tori Amos, Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Raiders, and Michael Franti & Spearheadhave sets that overlap at some point. What is a girl to do? Ultimately, I'll probably try to see as much of Michael Franti's set as possible, and the others are going to have to fight for a piece of me.

And, surprise, surprise (if you know me) I am probably going to see my first DMB concert, as they're closing things out on Sunday night. Never say never, I guess.

Keep reading as Josh from Owl & Bear weighs in with some of his show picks later today. As for me, I have to go re-watch The Lost Boys so that I can skip the temptation to watch it Thursday afternoon...

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