October 2008

Five years ago last Tuesday, Elliott Smith died of an apparent suicide. It always seemed pretty obvious that he was rather uneasy at times with life. I'm not going to offer some long writing on why he was important or why I think he wrote such great melodies. I obviously did not know him, and don't pretend I understood what made him so good. However, I will offer three things that come to mind immediately for me with Elliott Smith.

1)My cat. I have a cat named Adeline, who is named after his song "Sweet Adeline". Adeline is not sweet. She's mean, self-centered, and rude. I love her to death.

2)I saw him in concert for the first time when I was 18. The whole "Good Will Hunting" thing had just happened. He was opening for Ben Folds Five and Beck at Star Lake. He only did about 8 songs, but it was fantastic.

3)I then saw him again on Halloween about 3 years later at CMU. It was after his release "Figure 8" came out. The band and him were in Halloween costumes. Elliott was wearing a monk outfit, but with his thin frame, and long brown hair, someone mistook him for the lord almighty and shouted, "Jesus!!" in between the first and second song. He was obviously bummed out by this. In his soft voice he said, "Awww, no. It's just a monk outfit. It's not Jesus... I mean... I don't think I'm Jesus." The tenderness with which he said it made it rather funny to me.

He is still missed.

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Joan Osborne came back to Pittsburgh after a long absence and hopefully she will return soon to do the songs she didn’t have time to get to in her 16-song, 1-hour and 20-minute set.

The 46-year old singer, by my count, did at least five songs from her latest CD “Little Wild One” which was released in September.  The song that seemed to get the loudest applause was “Hallelujah in the City”.  She did a nice duet with her opening act, Matt Morris, on “Cathedrals”.  Joan’s 7th studio album has a lot of the mid-tempo type songs that she’s known for.

With Joan was a 4-piece band consisting of a drummer, bassist, guitarist and keyboardist (who, like Joan, also played harmonica).  There was also lighting that made effective use of the high ceilings in the former church.

Most of Joan’s songs had a beat, although she slowed things down at one point with a Grateful Dead song  Joan, of course, did “One of Us” near the end of her set and I can still hear it in my head.

Joan came back on stage for a 3-song encore, which included a song she sang at the Grand Ole Opry that was co-written by Roy Orbison.

http://www.joanosborne.com/site.php

Matt Morris, the son of country music’s Gary Morris, is a singer-songwriter who has had his songs recorded by Reba McEntire, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake.  He opened the show with a 45-minute, 9-song set that included his own songs as well as a cover of The Beatles “Help!”.  It was Matt’s first appearance in Pittsburgh and he commented that he liked the “public radio listening audience.”  Matt performed at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this year and plans to release his first full length CD soon.

http://www.mattmorris.net/

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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It's that time of year when a young man's (or even slightly aging hipster's) fancy turns to thoughts of picking the best releases of the year. This list could change hourly, but here it is and I'm sticking with it.

1) What Made Milwaukee Famous / What Doesn’t Kill Us / Barsuk

Hook-laden and sometimes challenging, the sophomore release from the Austin band mixes New Wave and classic pop influences. It gets better upon repeated listening.

 

2) Paul Weller / 22 Dreams / Yep Roc

Weller’s most diverse solo album to date. A mix of songs and styles that most artists—and labels—wouldn’t dare to release.

 

3) Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings / 100 Days, 100 Nights / Dap Tone

A great ’70s style soul singer with one of the tightest backing bands around—an unforgettable mix

 

4) Richard Hawley / Lady’s Bridge / Mute

The Sheffield crooner is back with another can’t-miss collection of velvety ballads

 

5) Joe Jackson / Rain / Rykodisc

His voice has never sounded better and his trio is sparse but powerful

 

6) The Last Shadow Puppets / Age of the Understatement / Domino

When the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and The Rascals’ Miles Kane collaborate everything is cool—down to the CD jacket. Hopefully it will lead people to discover earlier arbiters of cool David Axelrod and Scott Walker whose vibes flow through the disc.

 

7) Matthew Sweet / Sunshine Lies / Shout Factory

It’s not quite Girlfriend, but it’s pretty damn close

 

8) Portishead / Third / Mercury

A great return that moves beyond the whole trip-hop trap.

 

9) Mgmt / Oracular Spectacular / Sony

Psychedelic indie pop that out Flaming Lips the Flaming Lips

 

10) Jim Noir / Jim Noir / Barsuk

Second album from worshipper of Brian Wilson. More electronic and experimental but just as melodic as his first.

 

 

10) Oasis / Dig Out Your Soul / Reprise

Oasis likes The Beatles. Who knew? The influence is there but with a new spin. And there’s even a sitar!

 

Also deserving attention: Billy Bragg / Mr. Love And Justice; Fleet Foxes / Fleet Foxes; Vampire Weekend / Vampire Weekend; David Ford / Songs For The Road; R.E.M / Accelerate; James / Hey Me; Duffy / Rockferry; Jeremy / Pop Explosion; Band of Horses / Cease to Exist; Glen Campbell / Meet Glen Campbell; Crosby Tyler / 10 Songs of America Today; Old 97s / Blame it On Gravity; Michael Carpenter & The Cuban Heels / EP

 

 

Best reissue: The Jesus And Mary Chain / The Power of Negative Thinking: B-Sides and Rarities

 

Best tribute CD: Beautiful Escape: The Songs of the Posies

Chris Fletcher

 

Best series: BBC live recordings

 

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To me he's not just the younger brother of James Taylor.  He's been performing for 40 years and has more than earned the right to no longer be in the shadow of JT.

Livingston Taylor brought four-decades worth of experience along with a guitar and piano to The Carlisle Theater in historic downtown Carlisle, PA.  During week days Liv guides young talent at the Berklee College of Music; while in the evenings and weekends he instructs the rest of us what it's like to command an audience.  Going to a Livingston Taylor show you learn from the master who has honed his craft and continues to perfect it.

I had a front row center seat, which isn't always the best seat in the house.  When Liv was singing at the piano, I only saw his face from the nose up.  So my focus turned to his feet.  Liv kept time, like a pendulum, with his feet.  I was fascinated.  He looked very comfortable wearing his brown Swede shoes and keeping time to the music.  Liv also moved his feet while he was standing and playing his guitar.  I also enjoyed watching Liv's facial expressions, especially his eyes.

The 90-minute show began with Liv going to the piano to sing "December 1903 (The Wright Brothers Song)".  One of my favorite songs that Liv has yet to put on a CD.  Liv had on his trademark bow tie, with a colorful sweater vest over a long-sleeved blue shirt and khaki pants.

Throughout the show Liv would go from Broadway tunes by some of his favorite lyricists to his own compositions, many of which he presented seamlessly in a medley form.  Although the best response from the audience came when he did quirky songs with titles like "Railroad Bill", "The Dollar Bill Song", "I'm Not As Herbal As I Oughta Be" and a song about wishing he was born gay.  I don't think there was a set list, instead it seemed to be whatever struck Liv's fancy or what types of songs were receiving the loudest applause.  He rotated between playing the piano and guitar.  Liv even brings the audience into a sound check, by singing "Testing 1-2-3" into the microphone.

Another highlight was his song about the Civil War called "Last Letter".  Liv came out for an encore, ending with a song that has been a part of his repertoire for many years "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

As his usual custom, Liv strolled out into the theater lobby after the show to sign CD's (they always sound better signed, he's fond of saying) and pose for photos.

Now if only the powers that be (and you know who you are) could get Livingston Taylor back to Pittsburgh for a show.  Summers don't seem complete any more without Liv here to entertain us.

http://www.livtaylor.com/

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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