November 29, 2010 by Josh W

2010 was a interesting year in music, “indie” finally broke through into the mainstream, Beiber fever swept across the nation, and Lo-Fi, DYI music continued to push boundaries and reach more and more ears. So after millions of hours of intensive research, quite a few adult beverages and a slight case of corporal tunnel from Ipod usage I present to you a list of my 15 favorite releases of the year in no particular order.

Here We Go Magic - Pigeons

The second LP from this Brooklyn band continued on the path their first album sowed with its catchy “Hypno-Pop” songs that build on a backbone of psychedelic swirls and tangential lyrics while remaining strangely danceable. Here We Go Magic continue to develop into one of the most exciting bands around and its only a matter of time until every notices.

Woods - At Echo Lake

At Echo Lake is a psych/folk-rock album that is as eerie as it is beautiful. The music pays homage to 60’s hippie,classic rock and most of the songs are recorded in the minor key. But its front man Jeremy Earl’s falsetto that brings a unsettling element to the music and that coupled with his existentialist lyricism creates something that is altogether unique. Woods allow just enough sun to shine through their otherwise ominous and dark sounding music,resulting in one of the most multi-layered and interesting releases of the year.

Summer Camp - Young EP

Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey make up Summer Camp. On their debut EP Young the duo have created a summery synth-pop sound that sounds like it could be straight out of the 80’s movie Say Anything. Sankey’s melancholic vocals tug at the heartstrings while meshing nicely with the synth effects. “Ghost Train” remains one of my favorite songs of the year and if this tantalizing 6 song EP is any indication we should expect big things from Summer Camp in 2011.

Phantogram - Eyelid Movies

Yet another guy/girl duo who make wildly original sounding music. Phantogram are a cross between Portishead and Massive Attack so how could you go wrong. Eyelid Movies is undoubtedly a Trip-Hop record that is full of atmospheric beats that at times just make you feel cool. Sarah Barthel's angelic and breathy vocals draw you in and never let go. Just listen to “Mouthful of Diamonds”, its makes you want to put on a pair of dark sunglasses, a leather coat and walk into a dimly lit bar in slow motion, Matrix style.

The Black Keys - Brothers

If you would of told me 5 years ago that The Black Keys would be featured in a Cadillac and Verizon Wireless commercial in 2010, I would of asked you what your smoking. But alas they were and it looks like they will be featured in many more commercials,movies, and television shows in the future. Brothers is the breakthrough album Black Keys fans knew they have had in them since their debut album The Big Come Up in 2002. Its wonderfully produced, full of catchy blues inspired hooks and oh ya, it freaking rocks! I have a feeling this is just the beginning for The Black Keys, they have shown time and time again that Blues Rock can be endlessly entertaining and vital if done with creativity and soul.

The Morning Benders - Big Echo

Big Echo is practically overflowing with sunny and effervescent pop gems. It is full of Phil Spector-like production that creates a grandiose wall of sound that baths you in its poppy warm glow. There isn”t a track this is more evident on than “Excuses”. The ramshackle orchestral arrangements and soaring chorus is something to behold. All the songs are ambitious and flush with instruments which can be dizzying at times but its all held together with terrific pop sensibility. For such a young band The Morning Benders have achieved something with Big Echo that most bands can only aspire to.

Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty

This album is by far my favorite Hip-Hop release of 2010. Its full of ridiculously tight raps and production that will even have your Momma dancing. After multiple listens I can honestly say there isn’t a dud on the entire album. Big Boi started my love for southern rap and with Sir Lucious has reignited it. Further solidifying himself as one of the freshest rappers alive.

Various Artists: Afro-Beat Airways

Here we have a collection of songs dating from 1972-78 Ghana and Togo. If you are not akin to African music then this album would be a great introduction. It brings the funk and never lets up with layers of percussive rhythms that add up to a loose, funky flow throughout the entire 75 minutes. If anything this compilation will be like nothing you have heard all year and that is at least worth a listen or 20 in my case. Highly recommended for the adventurous music fan.

Caribou - Swim

Dan Snaith A.K.A. Caribou had become a somewhat of a prolific electronic artist. He has evolved from a ambient electronic musician to a artist that is diverse and hard to define. His music nowadays conjures 60’s psychedelia but is layered with samples, synths and atmosphere so meticulously that the past begins to sound like the future and all definitions go out the window. Still with me? Swim adds to a already impressive resume and its trance/dance/funk beats surprise you at every turn, it pushes boundaries and commands the listeners attention from the moment you push play and usually leaves you wandering what it is you just heard.

LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

This Is Happening was perhaps one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2010. Blogs speculated for months about how good it was going to be leading up to its release. But was there ever really any doubt? James Murphey has consistently impressed with his ability to dig up disco’s past and put a modern spin on it. From the epic opener “Dance Y’r Self Clean” to the heartfelt closer “Home”, This Is Happening has kept dorm rooms and dance floors shaking all year long.

Tame Impala - Innerspeaker

There are tiny snippets of all the classic rock bands I grew up listening to but with a twist on this album. The lushness and beauty of Innerspeaker is what keeps you coming back for more and the rhythm section is amazing. If The Magical Mystery Tour mated with Apples In Stereo and decided to take mushrooms the result would be Innerspeaker, and who doesn’t want to hear what that sounds like?

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

A few years ago Arcade Fire released Funeral to critical acclaim, it ended up on countless best of the decade lists and etched them a spot in the hearts and minds of a generation of burgeoning indie rock fans. As successful as Funeral was in “Indie Rock” terms, the band remained relatively obscure. After a luke warm response to their follow up Neon Bible the band retreated to Montreal to record The Suburbs. Fast forward to present day and Arcade Fire are bonafide rock stars, selling out Madison Square Garden and every other venue in the world and becoming Merge Records first number 1 album beating out Eminem for the top spot. The way The Suburbs is able to create such epic, emotionally captivating music out of such everyday subjects as suburban sprawl and the disconnect with school friends is remarkable and deeply enriching. Arcade Fire prove with The Suburbs that our everyday normal lives belie something much more than what waits on the surface. The epic sweep of the music and lyrics on this album is truly breathtaking and classic.

Twin Shadow - Forget

The debut album Forget by Twin Shadow initially sounds like a 80’s pop revival record with lots of heavy synth lines and electronic noises but as it unfolds you become pleasantly surprised by the scope of the music. George Lewis Jr. a.k.a. Twin Shadow showcases his musical tastes and talents throughout this captivating album with odes to everything from Scott Walker to Neu!. Most of the lyrical content is of the nostalgic variety and centers around past indiscretions and seasonal love affairs but remains endearing and easily related to. For a debut album Forget is remarkably mature and diverse and will keep your ears on their toes, if ears had toes that is.

Girl Talk - All Day

Local boy Gregg Gillis proved once again that he is the undisputed sample king on All Day. With over 300 samples crunched into just over a hour long mix, Gillis amazes the listener with the broad mixture of genres he is able to combine into a seamless mix that is guaranteed to rock the dance floor. Each listen reveals more and more of his genius and command of the beat. To top it off Gillis released All Day for the amazing price of Free 99. So if you haven’t listened to this mix you have no excuses.

Local Natives- Gorilla Manor

Gorilla Manor is full of soaring harmonies and gang chorus’ you can sing at the top of your lungs to. It manages to combines the best of several Indie rock bands I like into a tightly packaged, well oiled rock machine. If you are a fan of My Morning Jacket, Spoon, Fleet Foxes or Grizzly Bear this is a must listen. There are several killer tracks on Gorilla Manor and its maintains a mid-tempo beat throughout that keeps your toe tapping but the vocal harmonies are the real star on Gorilla Manor. On songs like “Airplanes”, “World News” and Camera Talk” the choruses become intoxicating and rapturous, elevating the song to a whole new level. I had the pleasure of seeing them live this past year and I assure you their pipes are the real deal and not just fancy production.

If you would like to hear a selection of songs from the Best Of list just click here for the streaming playlist.

November 24, 2010 by

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Justin Jacobs, contributing writer to Relix Magazine, AOL's and Pittsburgh's City Paper. This morning, Justin shares his top picks for 2010.

In case you missed it here's what he played:

Suckers, "A Mind I Knew" -  This band, who made my favorite album of the year, creates off-kilter, exotic sounding anthems. Each song builds and twists unexpectedly, usually marked by a wild yelp of gang vocals or some explosive guitar. The weirdest, and most fun, record of the year.

Dr. Dog, "Where'd All the Time Go" - These Philly boys are the success story of the year - the band's been toiling around playing mid-level venues for almost a decade, but with this year's Shame, Shame, they're finally among indie's elite bands. This is my favorite jam from that album.

Cee-Lo, "No One's Gonna Love You" - The man behind "Fuck You"/"Forget You" cut a cover of the best Band of Horses song this summer, and this version hit the internet (with a very NSFW video) by storm. Unfortunately, the version on Cee-Lo's new album, The Lady Killer, is kinda lame, but no matter — this cut is utterly gorgeous and haunting. Who knew the best song of the year wouldn't come from an album at all?

I was drawn to albums from all different genres this year - there wasn't one trend that resulted in the most great music.

Here's Justin's Top 10 Albums of 2010:

10. Sharon Van Etten - Epic
9. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
8. Baths - Cerulean
7. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
6. Twin Shadow - Forget
5. Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame
4. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
3. Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea
2. Janelle Monae - The Archandroid
1. Suckers - Wild Smile

Just barely missed the list:
Big Boi - Sir Lucious Leftfoot, The Son of Chico Dusty
Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Tame Impala - Innerspeaker
Liars - Sisterworld

November 17, 2010 by

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Scott Tady of The Beaver County Times

In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Scott (plus a bonus song):

Atlantic/Pacific, "Patters" - Lush vocal harmonies and looped instruments highlight the softly alluring sound of this Brooklyn indie-folk duo, recently featured on The World Cafe. They remind me of a mix between '80s Aussie rockers The Church and solo artist Aqualung.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, "Nowhere" - This never-before-heard song was believed to have been lost in 1979 when the band was moving its box of studio tapes daily to avoid the possibility they'd be confiscated as part of a record label lawsuit against Petty. Recorded for the band's breakthrough "Damn the Torpedoes" album, the original studio version was discovered recently, and added to the brand-new Deluxe Edition of the album, along with another never-before-released '79 tune, "Surrender." The band's Byrds influence is evident here.

Bryan Ferry, "Olympia" - When I grow up, I want to be as cool as Ferry. The ex-Roxy Music frontman sounds as sophisticated as ever on this album that has both a vintage and contemporary appeal. He enlisted some impressive help, including David Gilmour, the Scissor Sisters, Flea, Nile Rodgers and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, as well as former Roxy Music mates Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay.

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November 16, 2010 by

Enter to win front row tickets at

w/ North Mississippi Allstars
Band of Joy includes Buddy Miller & Patty Griffin!
Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at the Petersen Events Center

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November 16, 2010 by

Check out the new Adele song & video for “Rolling In The Deep”. The album, 21, is out February 22.

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November 10, 2010 by

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Andy Mulkerin of Pittsburgh's City Paper

In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Andy (plus some bonus songs):

Sharon Van Etten, "A Crime" - This is the first track from Sharon's new LP, Epic. She's one of my favorites right now with respect to simple, folky guitar-and-voice songwriting -- this is one of the more upbeat tracks from the new one, and might be my favorite.

Smith Westerns, "Weekend" - This is a young Chicago garage rock-pop band that's picked up a lot of attention in the past year or so; this track is the first glimpse of the band's forthcoming album, Dye It Blonde, coming out in early 2011 on Fat Possum.

Kelley Stoltz, "I Remember, You Were Wild" - This is a fun, poppy track from Stoltz's recent LP, To Dreamers, issued on Sub Pop. Shimmery guitars, simple harmonies and a triumphant chorus make it a nice little addition to a mix CD.

The Chapin Sisters, "Palm Tree" - This might be my favorite track from the new disc by the two-piece band of sisters, who played in Pittsburgh last week. It's a relaxed (maybe even resigned) country tune and exhibits some of their better lyrics, I think.

November 8, 2010 by

If you dig bluegrass the fast-twanging, heavy stomping, whiskey-swilling party music of Appalachia, being in Pittsburgh this fall is a good choice.

Just last month, bluegrass titans Yonder Mountain String Band sold out Mr.
Smalls. This Thursday, rising stars Greensky Bluegrass hit the Rex Theater.
If you missed Yonder, Greensky is your best bet for a taste of bluegrass this season. Since winning the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2006 as relative unknowns, the Michigan-based band's been collecting fans in peers like Railroad Earth, Tony Rice, the legendary Sam Bush and, of course, regular-folk music lovers.

While Yonder Mountain String Band, Old Crow Medicine Show and Railroad Earth may own the bluegrass game right now, Greensky's looser, laid-back approach makes for a perfect liquor-sipping show.

Check them out at The Rex, Thursday, Nov. 11.

Contributor Justin Jacobs posted this concert preview.

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November 3, 2010 by

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Scott Mervis of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Scott (plus a bonus song):

Peg Simone, "Mirst & Avel" - Deb Catanzaro was the guitarist for Pittsburgh punk bands The Pleasure Heads and Wormhole before taking on this alias for her more quietly seductive solo stuff. The essential piece on her new album, "Secrets from the Storm," is the opener "Levee/1927," but, at 22 minutes, it hardly fits any radio format. This song is still a pretty good representation of her currently Zeppelin-y mindset.

Bad Religion, "Avalon" - There's no reason why this California punk band, currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, couldn't be in rotation somewhere up the dial. Bad Religion is a steady, solid presence on the punk scene, and 15 albums in, it's still churning out hard-nosed songs with little in the way of frills.

Ke$ha, "We R Who We R" - After one tedious 12-hour workday last week, this song on continuous repeat was somehow the antidote. As d-d-dumb trashy music goes, it doesn't get much better than this. (Apologies to Greg Graffin to Deb C. for this unlikely association.)

October 27, 2010 by

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Justin Jacobs, contributing writer to Relix Magazine, AOL's and Pittsburgh's City Paper

In case you missed it here's what he played:

The Heavy, "That Kind of Man" - The word "heavy" in music usually describes some gutteral, brutal metal music. But somehow, this English band makes funky soul music that is undeniably heavy too, albeit in a much, much different way. This track came out in 2007, but The Heavy retooled it and yes, made it heavier, for an EP that just dropped last week.

Pomegranates, "Skull Cakin" - My favorite band you've never heard of. Dudes are from Cincinnati and make fun, arty dream pop. This jam, of their new album "One of Us," out yesterday, is the rocking-est thing they've ever done, but it's still weird and wonderful.

Dr. Dog, "Nobody Knows Who You Are" - A new Dr. Dog song! Everybody rejoice! The Philly pop-classicists have been releasing new songs online, and this one is too good. I'm admittedly a total fanboy, but Dr. Dog can do no wrong. Download this for free here.

Twin Shadow, "Castles in the Snow" - Being the latest band made famous by the Internet (thanks, Pitchfork!) usually warrants some sort of snarky, underhanded insult, but I don't have anything bad to say about Twin Shadow. Dark and catchy, 80's-reminiscent dance songs., not unlike The Cure. They stopped at Brillobox last month, and a buddy of mine kept yelling for "In Between Days." Not nice, but very funnny.

October 20, 2010 by

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Scott Tady of The Beaver County Times

In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Scott (plus some bonus songs):

Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz. - The critically adored indie-folk singer delves deeper into electronica here. His swirling, spacey synth blips are grounded by bass that'll rattle your fillings. Multi-layered melodies with abrupt time changes provide a strong counterpoint to his simple ruminations on love. I singled out the 5-minute love-gone-wrong song "I Walked" with its emotionally delivered line, "At least I deserve the respect of a kiss goodbye." We've all been there.

The Drums, The Drums - OK, that's not the most original band name (What, was The Guitars already taken?) But you still gotta love the rookie effort from this Brooklyn indie-surf-pop band. Their pop is unabashed, highlighted by lush harmonies as you'll hear on my chosen track, "Down by the Water." The Drums list among their influences The Smiths and the Shangri-La's of "Leader of the Pack" fame.

I'm also digging...

Avett Brothers, Live Vol. 3 - One of the best live acts around, captured at its banjo-pluckin', foot-stompin', folk-punk finest. Who says sensitive love songs can't be fun?

October 13, 2010 by

Marc Cohn's latest release is Listening Booth: 1970.  The Kent Stage became our listening booth Tuesday night, as Mr. Cohn gave a reflective and emotional performance in front of what could be considered a hometown crowd.

During the nearly two-hour show Marc Cohn moved from playing the piano, to the guitar (he's a lefty like Jimi Hendrix) to standing alone center stage to sing.  Mr. Cohn soulfully feels the music he writes.  He also surrounds himself with a small, talented band which includes his long time guitarist, Shane Fontane (whose resume includes playing with Bruce Springsteen and playing for Presidents of the United States).

Mr. Cohn played a variety of songs from all of his studio albums Marc Cohn (1991), The Rainy Season (1993), Burning the Daze (1998), Join The Parade (2007), and Listening Booth: 1970 (2010).  Known as a singer-songwriter, ironically his highest charting CD to date is Listening Booth: 1970, from which Mr. Cohn sang and provided a commentary on his cover versions of  "The Letter", "The Only Living Boy in New York"  and "Into the Mystic". I've only had the chance to see Mr. Cohn in concert four times since his career began and I'm always amazed that he manages to come up with different arrangements.  His music tends to be reflective and he continues to breathe new life into his songs.  He is also very appreciative of the fans who support his music.

Cleveland is Mr. Cohn's hometown.  Many of his songs contain references to places around Cleveland and the weather (clouds, rain).  Mr. Cohn's most recent release looks back to music from 40 years ago and being in Kent, OH he remembered the events that took place at Kent State University in 1970. He even reflected on the attempted carjacking in Denver in 2005 when he got shot in the head (something Mr. Cohn does not often talk about.)  His stories continued as he shared how his Grammy award winning song (Best New Artist) "Walking in Memphis" came to life, giving most of the credit to the real life Muriel (who plays piano every Friday at the Hollywood.)

It was a family reunion for Mr. Cohn, as his three brothers were in the audience.  Mr. Cohn came out to do an encore with a cake in his hands, candles lit.  We sang happy birthday to his brother Al, who will be turning 70 this week. 

The evening of music came to a fitting end when Mr. Cohn sang "One Safe Place" and then he, his brothers and his band all took a final bow.

Opening the show with a 30-minute set was an 18-year-old singer-songwriter from the Jersey Shore named Cara Salimando. She reminded me of the singer Jewel, just needs some polish.  She plays the keyboards and ukulele.  It was a nice touch that she offered a free 3-song CD EP of her music.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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October 13, 2010 by

Cool new video featuring JJ Grey and Mofro along with Toots Hibbert on "The Sweetest Thing".  JJ Grey & Mofro are coming to Pittsburgh on Friday, November 19th at Mr.Smalls.

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October 13, 2010 by

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Andy Mulkerin of Pittsburgh's City Paper

In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Andy (plus some bonus songs):

La Sera, "Never Come Around" - La Sera is the side project of Kickball Katy of Vivian Girls fame. This tune maintains the girl-group sound of that band, but is a little sweeter, more polished and less bored/angry than Vivian Girls.

Lohio, "Family Tree" - This is the second track off the local band's new EP of the same name. It's an upbeat number with airy vocals and fun little vocal flourishes. I like the direction this band has taken!

STRFKR, "Julius" - This track is from the naughtily named band's new single, a sample of its upcoming full-length to be issued on Polyvinyl. It's synth pop done exceedingly well, and, as I mentioned in the paper last week, will likely as not end up in a car commercial or something.

Sun Airway, "Infinity" - This Philly band is starting to get some buzz, having been featured on the World Cafe recently. The kinda muddy, psychedelic synth/vox band is touring with Bear In Heaven and will make a stop in Pittsburgh on October 26 -- incidentally, the day of the official release of this new album.

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October 7, 2010 by

The Dubmission airs each Saturday night, late night on 91.3fm WYEP from 1 until 5am.  The Dubmission is a weekly 4 hour mix of broken soul, downtempo, nujazz, house and rare grooves.

Host Kerem Gokman had a chance to catch up with TOKiMONSTA at this past weekend's Via audio and visual festival in Pittsburgh.  TOKiMONSTA was born and raised in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. TOKiMONSTA (Jennifer Lee) was an unfocused pupil of classical piano. However, she has come to use this background to create vast textural soundscapes by utilizing live instruments, percussion, digital manipulation, and dusty vinyl. Through the creation of beats, she is able to fuse vintage sounds with progressive styles into something unique.

Tune in for the interview and excellent music on the Dubmission this Saturday night on 91.3fm WYEP.

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September 29, 2010 by

JP, Chrissie and The Fairground Boys debut release is called “Fidelity!”.  It's a concept album about an older woman’s relationship with a younger man.  This musical journey was shared with the audience at The New Hazlett Theater stage Tuesday night.

For about one hour-and-fifteen minutes, 59-year old Chrissie Hynde and 31-year old JP Jones brought the audience into their relationship.  The Fairground Boys provided the bass, guitar, drums and backing vocals.  There was no looking back to The Pretenders, only looking forward.  Ms. Hynde exhibited great energy on vocals, guitar, harmonica, and tambourine and more than kept pace with the younger Mr. Jones on vocals and guitar.

Their 15 song set (including 3 songs during the encore) was heavy on tracks from “Fidelity!”.  They performed a song that did not make it on to this CD “You’re the One That I Should Have Married” along with a cover of the 1969 Moby Grape song “Murder In My Heart For the Judge”.  They finished the night with a song about Christmas. 

It will be interesting to hear a follow up.  Will it be more like a Fidelity!: Part II or will they find other muses for their inspiration?

Opening the show, with a 40-minute 9-song set ,was Massachusetts singer-songwriter Amy Correia.  Ms. Correia was joined on stage only by a guitarist.  She performed more than half the songs from her current fan-funded release “You Go Your Way”.  She went back to her first album “Carnival Love” for “Blind River Boy”.  In the middle of the set she performed a cover of The Animals “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (which was written for one her heroes Nina Simone) .  Rounding out her time on stage, Ms. Correia did an a cappella version of “Love Is” from her sophomore release “Lakeville”.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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