April 19, 2011 by [email protected]
Singer-Songwriter Ellis Paul will be in Pittsburgh Thursday, April 21st (check out the WYEP Concert Calendar for more information.) Barb WYEP's Sunday Mix Host (WYEP):  Hello Ellis!  Thanks for taking the time, while you’re out on the road, to respond to some questions via e-mail for the WYEP Music Blog! WYEP: Ellis, you are going into your third decade as a touring musician.  How has life on the road changed over the years for you? Ellis Paul (EP): The main thing that’s changed is the cell phone has made life so much easier, so much more streamlined.  I can contact home, do business, get on the internet, and I can keep in touch with my home base, manager, home and kids.. Whereas when I started, I would pull into a gas station at midnight after a show and try to find a phone and call, I would touch base every couple days, and now I call multiple people many time a day, that’s the best part that’s changed for me. WYEP: What made you decide to go the fan funding route to raise money to record The Day After Everything Changed? EP: Well, record labels tend to provide you money to record, they work the record for few months, and then they own the record forever.  Twenty years from now when I’m still slugging it out on the road, they would still own it and be making all the money, and I thought why let them have it when I’m doing the work in the long run? I can just make it work online, and have the people in my management company be the label itself. WYEP:  What one piece of advice would you offer to a musician who wanted to ask their fans for money to fund the recording of their next album? EP: I guess be honest with what your needs are, and what you can provide them in return.  They become your shareholders in a way, they’re your boss.  You have to give them a quality product, assure them their investment was worthwhile. They believe in you as an artist, but you have to believe in them, too, you’re partnering with them and you want them to feel good about their investments. WYEP: Does it feel any different for you to play songs from a fan funded album live versus songs from an album that a record company funded?  Does it give you more satisfaction? EP: There’s sort of a contentment factor that’s there..  Not just playing live, but if a song gets placed in a movie because we did all the work, I feel like I’m taking care of my family, my fans, and in the long run that’s what’s important, I don’t have that spiritual connection to a record label. WYEP:  You were quite successful raising money to record The Day After Everything Changed, will your next recording be fan funded also?  If so, what lessons learned will you take into it the next project? EP: Well, we’re still learning how to be record label. I don’t know that we spent the money on all the right things, but this was the first time we ever did this, there’s still some learning curve.  I’m pretty sure the next album will be fan funded, but we might partner with a label for certain aspects for a specified short time rather than doing it all in house.  WYEP: As a fellow Capricorn (who is also married to a Capricorn), there are some admirable qualities under this astrological sign: responsible, patient, ambitious, resourceful and loyal.  Do you believe that being a Capricorn has had any influence on the decisions you’ve made with your career over the years? EP: I don’t know, I could probably attribute any signs or positive traits to what I do for work. I do know Capricorn’s go inch by inch and conquer mountains slowly but surely over time, and I feel like that’s what my path has been over time and will be in the future. WYEP: Two words:  Woody Guthrie.  What does his music mean to you and how has his music influenced you as a songwriter? EP: The main thing with Woody is just what the job description is, how he defines it.  You’re supposed to write about things that are important, what’s broken and how to fix it… and have people understand there’s a better way.  To not be writing in just a commercial way, that’s the difference between a folk singer and someone who’s just a songwriter. WYEP:  Your music has been featured in three Farrelly Brothers movies, including this year’s “Hall Pass”.  How did you start working with the Farrelly Brothers? EP: The Farrelly Brothers are from New England and are good friends with my manager, and they just take care of the things they care about.  It’s almost a family run business, they bring in New England comics and musicians they love for their movies, they’re just loyal, reliable people.  I feel very lucky to have them in my camp. WYEP:  Only Aerosmith has won more Boston Music Awards.  Can you briefly explain what makes “Boston-style” songwriting so unique?  Did growing up in New England inspire your songwriting? EP: The main thing about the Boston scene is that all these listening rooms were here, and instead of coming out of the bar scene like I would have out of Texas, or Austin or Atlanta or Chicago, my art developed in places you can hear a pin drop.  As a result, it’s lyric driven, it’s a little more intellectual… for better or for worse!  It’s not slighting anyone that writes down in Texas that writes grittier, which I think is just as relevant and influential.  In Atlanta it’s more rock,  you have to break through the bar noise.  That’s the difference between learning to write a song in Boston, or Nashville, or LA.. the environment and the support system are different. WYEP: One of the critiques I’ve received as a writer is that I need to show more than tell; to use the senses.  Do you find that applicable to songwriting as well, that writers need to show more in their songs?  Can you provide an example from one of your songs? EP: That’s exactly what I tell people in my songwriting workshop, use the senses, make it visual, not just auditory.  Not just imagery, but language of the song itself. I would use like, in ‘Sweet Mistakes’, “Pop the cork, a champagne glass, raise to the future, drink to the past, thank the lord for the friends he cast in the play he wrote for you.”  So obviously, the pop the cork is the sound, taste is there, you visualize the raising of the glass, and that’s also touching the glass.. Then if you read the song out loud and think about the alliteration and consonants, the sonic, it’s not just the melody but what the words do out loud, “pop” and “cork” and very punctuated words, that’s the kind of writing that makes me most proud. WYEP:  Ellis, thanks for your time!  We’re looking forward to seeing you soon! EP: Thank you, looking forward to playing in Pittsburgh again! Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
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April 13, 2011 by [email protected]

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: Kurt Vile, "Runner's Up" - If the Rolling Stones made a lo-fi album, and let's hope they do, it might sound something like this. This hazy, psych-rock song comes from the Philly singer-guitarist's fourth album, "Smoke Ring for My Halo," his most focused record yet. "I was definitely going for a more cohesive record," he told me last month. "I always go for that. I guess my mind jumps around a little." TV on the Radio, “Caffeinated Consciousness” - The trailblazing Brooklyn art-funk-noise band has moved on from its early apocalyptic phase and settled into a warmer, mellower groove on the new album, “Nine Types of Light.” It becomes a great showcase for the bottomless soul of front men Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone, both former Pittsburghers. This is one of the more fiery tracks, flashing some rap-rock bombast.
April 8, 2011 by [email protected]
Toad the Wet Sprocket:  Quality music on and off since 1986. Toad was certainly on Wednesday night for their 2nd visit to the Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead  in just under two years. 20 songs with a 2 song encore in a 95 minute set that really showcased the music of Toad for the last quarter century.  Talented musicians playing their songs for an appreciative audience.  Not many bands can boast of the original line-up 25 years later.  Or still sound as good as they do or better than on their records. Be patient, there’s new Toad music on the way in 2012.  In the interim the band is offering up All You Want.  The members of Toad got together to re-record 11 fan favorites to bring them up to date with some new arrangements.  For example, the new version of Walk on the Ocean doesn’t end with a cold vocal, the music and singing continues on like a wave. During the show, Glen Phillips looked very serious at times, or perhaps just intent on concentrating on the music.  I was watching his bare feet maneuver the box in front of his microphone stand. A few times you could tell which song would be next as Mr. Phillips would share part of the lyrics (did I repeat myself?).  Todd Nichols (guitars) handled lead vocals on a couple of songs, Dean Dinning (bass, vocals), Randy Guss (the often forgotten drummer in the back), guest multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Kingham (keyboard, mandolin, lap steel, vocals) and Glen Phillips (lead vocals, guitars) spread out on the large stage. The new songs were mid set.  They offered us a taste of the future with The Moment and Friendly Fire.  Both songs are very reminiscent of the Toad sound long-time fans have come to love. This was only the 3rd time I’ve seen Toad the Wet Sprocket in concert (and Mr. Barb’s 1st).  Each show, Mr. Phillips seems to forget a lyric and/or just how a song goes.  Ooops.  It’s endearing and adds that human element to their musical presentation.  Mr. Philips commented that they were telling the folks back home in California that they were playing “Carnegie Hall” but that they don’t have to know it’s not the one in New York City. The Set list: Wrong Is It For Me Woodburning Jam Crowing Good Way Away Inside Torn Windmills The Moment Friendly Fire Come Back Down Nightingale Fear Better Off Here Crazy Life All I Want Brother Fall Down Encore: Come Down Ocean When the members of Toad came back on stage for their encore, Glen Phillips shared with us that he gave the meat/fries/slaw Bugh sandwich another try and liked it.  Although he admitted (and received some boos in response) that he could not finish the whole sandwich, especially having to perform a show later.  The final song of the evening, Walk on the Ocean is now 20 years old and still sounds relevant. After the show, Glen Phillips (who is now a very youthful looking 40) came out into the lobby to greet fans, sign autographs and pose for photos.   At one point, Mr. Phillips was crouching down, holding a small pink guitar which he was signing for a young lady.  The next generation is already enjoying the music of Toad the Wet Sprocket. Carbon Leaf began the evening with a full-hour of music on their first night in support of Toad. This 5-piece band out of Virginia performed a 9-song set.  Highlights: Lake of Silver Bells, Torn to Tattered, The War Was in Color and The Boxer.  Instruments included the penny whistle, upright bass, mandolin along with guitars and drums.  They ended their set around the microphone center stage singing Another Man’s Woman. Barb S - Sunday Mix Host
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April 7, 2011 by [email protected]
The Providence, RI rootsy group, The Low Anthem were recent participants of The A.V. Club's Undercover 2011. They chose from a list of songs to perform and went with Wilco's "Shot In The Arm". They done it right. Check it out:
The Low Anthem covers Wilco The Low Anthem's Smart Flesh is out now on Nonesuch.
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April 6, 2011 by [email protected]

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 a bonus song): The Joy Formidable, "Cradle" - The new one from this Welsh synth-pop-post-punk band is one of my favorites of 2011 so far. Fans of catchy pop hooks; energy; lush, deep recordings; and big words should check it. They play at the Smiling Moose April 27. Tristen, "Baby Drugs" - I didn’t know a thing about this woman until like a week ago, but this song, and a few others on her debut album, captured my heart. She tows the line between alt-country and straight up pop (in the classic sense) songwriting, and has a wonderful voice. She plays Stage AE next Tuesday (April 12). I also like the video: Goldenboy, "She Belongs to Me" - This is my favorite track off a stellar release, sleepwalker, by this band headed up by former Elliot Smith guitarist Shon Sullivan. It’s simple, understated and pleasing to the ear. The Rural Alberta Advantage, "Stamp" - This is my favorite song off this Canadian band’s latest release. I was hoping it would be their breakout, but I feel sort of ambivalent toward the album as a whole – it doesn’t have any tracks that I don’t like, which the band’s previous LP Hometowns did, but it also doesn’t have any that stand out as being amazing, which Hometowns also had. This song, though, has a pretty genius video:
April 5, 2011 by [email protected]
This video was shot in Tennessee earlier this year. This is title track from Alison Krauss and Union Station's upcoming album, out on 4/12/2011 on Rounder Records. Click here to sign up for Alison Krauss' email list & receive a free download of "Paper Airplane". I wish my life looked this video all the time!! - Cindy :)
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April 4, 2011 by [email protected]
Singer-Songwriter Jonathan Kingham is joining Toad the Wet Sprocket on tour this year.  Toad will be coming to the Pittsburgh area soon.  (You can check out the WYEP Concert Calendar for more information.) Barb WYEP's Sunday Mix Host (WYEP):  Hello Jonathan!  Thanks for taking the time, while you are out on the road with Toad, to respond to some questions via e-mail for the WYEP Music Blog! Jonathan Kingham (JK):  My pleasure. Thanks for having me! WYEP: Jonathan, how did the opportunity come about to play keys for Toad the Wet Sprocket? JK: I've been friends with Glen Phillips for a long time and consider him one of my best friends. We've toured a lot together over the last few years with me opening for him and backing him up on keys and guitars and vocals. He offered up the idea of me playing keys and lap steel with Toad and I thought it would be a good time as I'm a fan of all the Toad albums and obviously I'm a fan of Glen's solo work so I said yes. WYEP:  How many Toad songs did you have to learn?  What is your favorite Toad song to perform? JK: I think the list Dean emailed me was about 40 songs. We got two rehearsals and that was about it. Luckily there are a lot of youtube videos I can reference....My favorite song to play is probably either windmills or one of their new ones called "moments" and "Friendly Fire" They've been writing for a new album and the new tunes are really great! WYEP:  You recently relocated to Nashville from Seattle.  As a singer-songwriter, how has this move been for you artistically?  Seattle has quite a vibrant local music scene, so what prompted the change? JK: I absolutely love Nashville. I've been living there part time on and off for the last 8 years and it just finally made sense to be there full time. I love Seattle and was there 15 years. It is really beautiful, but it is also really hard to travel and tour out of there. Nashville is so central to everything, the cost of living is a lot lower and the community is really welcoming and supportive. Oh, yeah, and the sun comes out a little more often than in Seattle...I'll probably be writing more happy songs now that I'm in Nashville WYEP: It is intriguing when a singer-songwriter covers a song by another singer-songwriter.  On your most recent release Smooth Out the Lines, you do an amazing version of Marc Cohn's Ghost Train.  Why did you decide to record that particular song? JK: Thanks a lot. I am a big fan of Marc and I always felt like that song got overshadowed by "walking in Memphis"on that album. I had been playing Ghost Train for a long time live at shows and it seemed to fit nicely with the other 9 songs on the new album so I recorded it. WYEP:  You host songwriting workshops.  If I were to enroll in your Songwriting Made Simple workshop, what would I learn?  Is it really simple to write a song?  After all you have many years of experience as a songwriter, how do you share with others what you have learned? JK: I really love a great song and our whole goal with the songwriting workshops is to help people realize that even if they don't have any formal music training they still possess the ability to write a song. We start with the different parts that make up the structure of the song, then we have the students create a chord progression, and then craft a melody.  Then we do brainstorming lyrical exercises to get ideas flowing which we then funnel down into ideas that become our title, verses and chorus. It may not be a song that changes the world, but it will be a song and it will hopefully set you down the path of writing more songs.  So yes, it really is simple to write a song. ... WYEP: So, last year, if I called the City of Seattle, and was put on hold, I would have had the chance to hear a song from you in the Muzak?  I read on-line about the Seattle onHold program that plays music by local artists on city phone systems.  Seattle was the first city to feature local music.  What song(s) of yours were selected?  How did your music get chosen to be a part of this program? JK: It was a cool thing. It wasn't thru Muzak but the City of seattle used all local musicians as their on hold music. I believe they played "September skies". It came about because I had done a Seattle Downtown Series concert and the guy who booked the series also was the one spearheading the on hold music. WYEP:  One of my favorite songs of yours is Grace.  What was the inspiration behind that song?  It is really beautiful and I think your signature song. JK: Thanks a lot. That is my favorite song I've ever written and I don't like a lot of the songs I write. Ha. I had that guitar riff and the first verse  for a long time and then it all tumbled out. I feel like some songs you really work at and try hard to write and about every 50 or 60 you get handed a gift that you are just the conduit for and it comes out effortlessly. That song is a reminder to me to never take for granted what I have been given. WYEP:  Another favorite is September Skies.  When I am outside walking and that tune comes on my MP3 player, it provides such vivid images in my mind of the fall season.  For a song like that, do the lyrics come first and then the melody? JK: That song was actually done and ready to be mixed and was titled something different when my mother got diagnosed with cancer. It was in the fall and I was on tour in Ohio, walking along the river. It brought everything acutely into focus about how fragile and precious life is and I went in an re-wrote all the lyrics and re-cut the vocals. For that one, when I wrote the string arrangement I actually liked the melody line of the violins better than the original melody so I re-wrote it to marry with the string section. WYEP:  I am also quite partial to AM Radio (Hardwood Floors).  I grew up listening to AM Radio and was even on-air at AM Radio stations many years ago … I was wondering if you wrote this song about a particular radio station.  There are not many radio stations on the AM band that are as soulful sounding as you described in the song. JK: Well that wasn't about one particular station but that song started out as a tribute to my dad. We didn't have a TV growing up and my father would listen to old radio dramas on his little AM radio and he'd listen to baseball on Sunday afternoons and so I started out to write a song for my dad and his AM radio but it quickly shifted to a "late night with your lady and some wine" kind of song..... WYEP:  How did you pick up your rapping skills?  You seem to have the natural ability to be able to spontaneously perform a rap. JK: Uh, yeah i'm kind of freak that way. I've always loved all styles of music especially hip hop. I used to tour with a folk group and one of the other guys in the band Evan Brubaker and I would freestyle battle back and forth. Then I started playing college cafeterias and a lot of the time, the students wouldn't be paying any attention. Then I'd drop a few freestyle rhymes on them and all of a sudden you have everyone in the room's attention. Now it is kind of expected that I'll do it but its different every single night so I don't get tired of it. WYEP:  Jonathan thanks for your time!  Safe travels and best of luck in the future! JK: Thanks so much, we'll see you in Pittsburgh, home of the silent "H" Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
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March 30, 2011 by [email protected]

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): Golden Dogs, "Long As You Like" - The sweet, seductive voice of Jessica Grassia carries this playful pop tune from a Toronto band performing April 3 at Mr. Small's Theatre. The full-length album, "Coat of Arms," is out on April 26. The Cars, "Sad Song" - Don't be alarmed by the title. This peppy comeback single from The Cars is a pure delight, hearkening to the Boston band's pre-MTV days and songs like "It's All I Can Do," "Touch and Go" and "Dangerous Type." The Cars' album, "Move Like This," arrives May 10; the first studio effort featuring Ric Ocasek in 24 years. Also been digging this week: Edwyn Collins, "Losing Sleep" - Released last September in the U.K., where it made a few "top album" lists, "Losing Sleep" finally got its proper U.S. unveiling this week. Mature, accessible lyrics and nifty power-pop guitar make the case that the Scottish artist deserves more than just "one-hit wonder" status here in The States (Remember his Bowie-esque 1994 tune "Girl Like You"?) Guest appearances include The Smiths' Johnny Marr and Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy. Over the Rhine, "Infamous Love Song" - This hubby-wife folk duo from Cincinnati specializes in songs that unfold with quiet grace emphasizing the soft, elegant voice of Karin Bergquist. But Bergquist can belt out a smoldering torch tune, too, as she does to stirring effect on this six-minute-35-second standout track from Over the Rhine's new album, "The Long Surrender." They play Mr. Small's on April 1.
March 23, 2011 by [email protected]

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 Billboard Magazine and Relix Magazine In case you missed it here's what he played (plus two bonus songs): Okkervil River, "The Valley" -The lead off track from the band's sixth album, "I Am Very Far," due out in May. It falls right in line with Okkervil's best song, "For Real," with it's jackhammer pulse and serious tension. Some folks hate on Okkervil for being too pretentious, but forget about the wordy lyrics ? dudes make great, catchy, emotional rock'n'roll. The Felice Brothers, "Fire at the Pageant" - Don't turn off the lights; this tale of a burning down building comes complete with a bunch of children shouting. The Felice Brothers have always had a macabre streak, but this tune, off of the upcoming "Celebration, Florida" album takes the cake. Pains of Being Pure at Heart, "Belong" - I really didn't like this band... until this song, really. Their indie-pop was too cute, or twee, or whatever for me. But this song, off their upcoming second album of the same name, adds some guitar heft and crunch to the mix. Sounds like, as so many have already said, an early 90's Smashing Pumpkins song. Not as awesome, but few could be. Peter Bjorn and John, "(Don't Let Them) Cool Off" - Remember "Young Folks"? Of course you do. You loved it when you first heard it, then started to hate it after the 8,000 time. Well, forget about that whistle-happy song ? PB&J are back, and kinda sound like a real rock band! This song, from their upcoming "Gimme Some" album, is a catchy rock romp.
March 16, 2011 by [email protected]

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: Paul Simon, "So Beautiful or So What" - Far from a relic, Paul Simon has been a huge influence on Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine and other neo-folk artists. But when was his last great album? You have to go back to 1990's "The Rhythm of the Saints," the follow-up to "Graceland." After that, he got mired in the "Capeman" and made a pair of disappointing albums in the '00s. With "So Beautiful or So What," Rhymin' Simon has regained his sense of rhythm and songcraft. Finally, we have songs with hooks, like this passionate title track that comes with a killer funk riff. It's one of the best albums you'll hear from a 69-year-old. J Roddy Walston and the Business, "Brave Man's Death" - This is basically my favorite new band, and it happened within a week. Heard the CD, the band's second one, and saw them along with a crowd of about 50 people at Stage AE. Was blown away by both. J Roddy Walston is a piano-pounding frontman from Tennessee with a passion for Jerry Lee Lewis and a touch of absurdist Southern gothic. In concert, he did a Little Richard cover ("Lucille") and sang like Jerry Lee on "Don't Break the Needle." This song, a sprawling narrative, is a little more rootsy Americana, but you get the idea. You can file this band with the Avett Brothers, the Black Keys, or even the Black Crowes.
March 9, 2011 by [email protected]

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 a bonus song): Thao & Mirah (feat. Tune-Yards), "Eleven" - This fun, weird track is our first look at the forthcoming record from these two indie songstresses, each well-known in her own right. (Cindy note: album comes out on 4/26. Click the above link for an informative article on the duo who are also personally involved) Ennui, "The Battle I'm In" - A new track from the somewhat amorphous local atmospheric outfit; this song is on the record they're releasing March 18 at Brillobox. This holds up the more pop-oriented end of their oeuvre. Dum Dum Girls, "He Gets Me High" - Good driving-down-the-road music from the California band; slightly disaffected vocals and fuzzy production make this straightforward rocker reminiscent of Dinosaur, Jr.
March 3, 2011 by [email protected]
Ari Hest came to Pittsburgh Wednesday night to kick off his Sunset Over Hope Street tour.  The new Sunset Over Hope Street CD released only a day earlier. Ari Hest performed 16 songs, plus a 2 song encore in about a 1 hour and 25 minute set.  It was funny to hear Mr. Hest refer to songs in his catalog that were less than 10 years old as an “oldie”.  The new songs were just that, new to him and the audience, as his CD was just officially released the day before.  His third song in was the title track of the CD Sunset Over Hope Street.  We were also treated to such new songs as:  Until Next Time (technically an oldie from 2008 when Mr. Hest wrote and recorded a song once a week for 52 weeks, releasing them on his website to his fans on each Monday that year, leading to the 2009 release of Twelve Mondays) which got new treatment; A Good Look Around; One Track Mind (Mr. Hest played the solo version); Swan Song and as part of the encore an acoustic version of Business of America (a very timely song which has the memorable line “Oh that’s the system at work, Everybody’s a jerk”). The “oldies” included:  Reason to Believe, Morning Streets, The Weight, Anne Marie (a song about an old ex-girlfriend that he loves to sing), When and If, Ride the Break (Mr. Hest substituted his current touring vehicle a Ford Explorer for the Honda Civic and substituted Pittsburgh for St. Louis but just couldn’t find something to rhyme with Pittsburgh), Bird Never Flies (the audience was invited to sing along on the lines “I won’t give you up, bird never flies”), the wicked I’ll Be There; Cranberry Lake (he invited an audience member to come up and sing with him and Karen did a great job!) and ending the set with probably one of his best known songs Dead End Driving.  The final song of the evening was inspired by Norah Jones I’ve Got You; which highlighted Mr. Hest’s vocal range. Mr. Hest was joined on stage by the very talented Doug Yowell on drums and percussion.  I was probably watching Mt. Yowell more than Mr. Hest (who was alternating between guitar and keyboards).  Mr. Yowell was doing amazing things, including looping the music while providing sweet backing vocals.  The duo managed to sound almost like a whole band, thanks to Mr. Yowell’s magic. The set was fresh.  Mr. Hest was engaging, sharing stories about his songs old and new.  This was not just a dress rehearsal the first night out in front of a live audience.  The new material really was combined well with the more familiar older tunes. I read a review on line of Sunset Over Hope Street, in which Mr. Hest’s voice was compared to Springsteen and Marc Cohn.  When I told the woman next to me at the show that I had a copy of Sunset Over Hope Street; her first question was whether it sounded like Twelve Mondays or Mr. Hest’s older material.  My response was that it sounds like a better Ari Hest.  I’ve never fully understood the comparisons of Mr. Hest to other artists.  He writes well constructed mid-tempo songs about his life experiences.  He has a dry sense of humor that is reflected in the ironic twists his lyrics sometime take (“I’ll be there to make you miserable”).  Twelve Mondays was my favorite CD of 2009.  I believe Sunset Over Hope Street will make my best of 2011 list; maybe even find itself on the top spot.  We still have 10 months worth of new releases to look forward to this year. Opening was singer-songwriter Ali Klaren.  She is a transplanted Pittsburgher.  She plays guitar and was joined on stage for a few songs by Miguel Hernandez.  He’s a lefty who played flamenco guitar solos that garnered appreciative applause from the audience.  Ms. Klaren’s 6-song 30-minute set included:  Fall, Closer and Blood of Everyone, which highlighted Mr. Hernandez on guitar. Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
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March 2, 2011 by [email protected]

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: Drive-By Truckers, "Weakest Man" - There's guitar grinding, for sure, but more than ever the Georgia-Alabama rockers make sure you pay attention to the compelling, twisted tales they're telling on the band's 9th studio album, "Go-Go Boots." There's stories about a cop kicked off the force; Thanksgiving dinner with a most dysfunctional family and a preacher who pays $1,500 to have his wife killed, only to get his comeuppance in the end. This track, "Weakest Man," is one of the most straight-forward ones -- a love-gone-sour song set to an old-fashioned country two-step. (Stick around for the accordion solo.) "It's easy to love a thing so warm and soothing that gets you through the night so tenderly," vocalist Mike Cooley says, before deciding to split, dejectedly noting that "surviving you don't make me stronger than the weakest man who ever turned you down." The Seedy Seeds, "Verb/Noun" - This fresh Cincinnati trio's title track starts with an exuberant indie-rock gait that gains speed with a few bursts of electro-pop until halfway through the song -- bam! -- here comes the banjo. Swirling strings, an exchange of male-and-female vocals... there's just a lot going on, much of it subtle, and all somehow making sense. Having drawn comparisons to Freelance Whales, the Seedy Seeds have another song, "Earned Average Dance America," that was named NPR Song of the Day. Check 'em out Wednesday night at Brillobox in Bloomfield.
February 25, 2011 by [email protected]
A while ago we received a record called Daptone Gold, a compilation album featuring the best unreleased tracks from artists on the Daptone Label. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings are likely the most famous on the bill, but through this album I got to know other hidden gems like The Budos Band and Charles Bradley. On my overnight show on Monday, I played "The World Is Going Up In Flames," the first song from Charles Bradley's No Time For Dreaming and it completely blew me away. Like SJ&TDK, Bradley makes pitch-perfect soul from the 1960s that's so genuine that it's hard to resist. Take a look at the video:
No Time For Dreaming dropped last month and you can get it here. "ThIs World Is Going Up In Flames" is the first single, but "I Believe In Your Love" is another highlight. For fans of Sharon Jones or any throwback 1960s soul, Charles Bradley is well-worth checking out.
February 21, 2011 by [email protected]
Saturday we docked at Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas during the day, before our final night of music. While Mr. Barb was photographing the sunset as we headed toward Miami, I went to the final show by WPA, which was also the last show on the pool deck.  During the set, a birthday cake was brought up for WPA’s bassist Sebastian Steinberg.  Sean Watkins of WPA also celebrated his birthday on board.  Dan Wilson (Semisonic) played keyboards and got to sing “Free Life” again – a song that I could not get out of my head the next day, every time I heard it.  Glen Phillips wanted to give us all a group hug; saying that the songwriters cruise is also very special and a highlight every year for the performers as well – they look forward to the cruise as much as we do.  I finally got to see almost a full show by Tyrone Wells.  He brought his wife Alina up on stage to sing the first song they wrote together.  Apparently Mr. Wells has been confused for Tim and Phil Hanseroth (the twins with Brandi Carlile) at times, so he brought them both up on stage to sing a song.  Mr. Barb went to see the Steep Canyon Rangers again.  Brandi Carlile and Colin Hay were guests with the Steep Canyon Rangers.  I met Dave at the final performance by Larkin Poe.  They again ended with a cover version of Jimi Hendrix and just seemed delighted to be on board this cruise .  We decided to keep our seats and hang out for Chuck Cannon.  All week we had never been able to get a seat at one of his shows.  Mr. Cannon was joined on stage by Shawn Mullins on 3 songs, including their new gospel song about giving God the Blues and the sing-a-long song of the cruise “Light You Up”.  Mr. Cannon was having a good time on the final night; perhaps fueled in part by all the free drinks people were buying for him and his great personality.  The final concert of the cruise was hosted in the atrium by Enter the Haggis.  Special guests included Ellis Paul, Colin Hay, Larkin Poe and the guitarist for Shawn Mullins, Davis Causey.  The music shut down after 1 a.m., although I don’t think any of us wanted to go back to our cabins.  We had a few more encounters with performers.  Colin Hay said he was looking forward to playing in Pittsburgh in April, as they’ve been trying to book a date here.  I was able to tell Will Hoge how much I enjoyed his show.  He’s very much a southern gentleman (from Nashville, TN); as he extended his hand and introduced himself as Will and then asked me my name.  I think 2011 will be a banner year for new music as it seems almost every act on the cruise was working on a CD.  We loved hearing all the new music they shared with us (we’re a good listening type audience).  This journey through song exceeded our expectations with all the (new) music, the introduction (to us) of new artists, the musical collaborations, the impromptu jam sessions and the interactions with the performers.  The songwriters all seemed to love the community of music that has been formed and we’re all drawn in to the music.  We’re ready to sail again, for year 5, in 2012 Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
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