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.
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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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February 19, 2011 by [email protected]
Friday was a day at sea; warm, windy with some rough seas as we continued our journey to Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. Another day of music beginning on the Pool Deck. Mr. Barb took in Colin Hay’s show. Members of the Steep Canyon Rangers joined Mr. Hay for some bluegrass versions of Men at Work songs. I’m sorry I missed that. I choose to attend the Songwriters in the Round hosted by Patty Griffin. She was joined by her friends Buddy Miller, Scott Miller, Dar Williams and Allison Moorer. Each songwriter performed three songs of their choosing. Ms. Griffin started things off with a rousing version of “Tear this Building Down” from  her newly Grammy award winning CD “Downtown Church”. Scott Miller was next and I forgot what a great sense of humor he has. He does not take anything seriously. He talked about confessing serious stuff and Ms. Williams admitted that she had a foot fetish. Her first song was “You’re Aging Well.” Ms. Moorer did the title track of her Buddy Miller produced “Mocking Bird” CD accompanied by Mr. Miller in the key of “B”. Mr. Miller performed a song he had hoped Mavis Staples would sing, calling this version of the song “Mavis 4”. We know it as “Shelter Me”. Griffith sang a song she wrote about a “real good guy” her father who passed away 1-1/2 years ago. The other Mr. Miller, Scott performed “Red Box Express”. After Mrs. Griffith heard a cassette of Ms. Williams, back in 1991, she was invited to open for her. Ms. Williams then sang “The Hudson”. Ms. Moorer confessed she liked “Sneaky Snake” by Tom T. Hall and began singing it. Buddy Miller did a song by Tom T. Hall noting he’s been to Mr. Hall’s house. Ms Griffith’s love song was written about her dog the absolutely gorgeous “Heavenly Day” (Ms. Griffith confessed that she really loves her dog.)  Mr. Scott Miller did a gospel song “Room on the Cross”. When Ms. Williams toured with Ms. Griffith and other women, in 2003, she said they were like “Charlie’s Angels” and she was Kate Jackson, the political one. She then did “The Holly Tree”. The songwriters then sang together a song from “Downtown Church”. We then both took in part of Keith Sewell’s (Lyle Lovett’s band) set on the pool deck. He was joined by his band, which included his wife and Sebastian Steinberg (WPA) was a guest on bass. We went in search of some ice cream. We just wanted to quickly finish our ice cream and get to see the rest of Mr. Sewell’s set. Mr. Sewell was performing contemporary bluegrass songs. As we were standing in the cafe, we heard a voice say “Ya’ll can have our table, we’re done” only to look over to see it was Shawn Mullins speaking to us. We told him we were fine standing, thanks. I asked him to sign my show ticket for his concert that evening, and he graciously obliged signing it “Barb, Thanks for cruising with us Shawn”. Not only a good storytelling songwriter, he’s a gentleman too. Another of those cruise moments that you can’t really experience anywhere else. We went off to see another few songs from Larkin Poe, before returning to the pool deck to see the Steep Canyon Rangers. Their special guest for two songs was Brandi Carlile. She even dressed for the part, putting on a tie (this group of guys even wears suits and ties while playing on the pool deck). After she sang her songs she walked by us, and fans were stopping Ms. Carlile for autographs and photos – obliging even those who were sitting in the hot tub. We began the evening of music with Kevn Kinney (Drivin’ and Cryin’). He is not only a talented story teller, but he’s a great poet too. The theme was tangled up in blue night for Bob Dylan, so Mr. Kinney read a poem he wrote about the word blue for the occasion. Like everything else he does it was very amusing. Apparently Todd Snider sends him a word a day and Mr. Kinney writes a poem to it. Mr. Kinney writes very creative lyrics and has a great sense of humor. Again we could not get into bar city to see Chuck Cannon perform, so we stood in the hallway. He had the audience in the palm of his hands, always asking people to buy his CD’s. He did a wonderful version of “Light You Up” a song he co-wrote with Shawn Mullins, which they debuted on last year’s cruise. Mr. Cannon hinted that he will be back next year. An added show was Luke Bulla and Sean Watkins teaming up for a bluegrass jam session. It was impromptu, but still sounded great. Mr. Bulla plays the fiddle with such mastery and Mr. Watkins is just amazing on the guitar. They make a great team and should record together. Tonight was our “hot seat” ticket, where we had front row to see Shawn Mullins in the main theater. Mr. Mullins started off with an acoustic version of the song he often ends his show with “Lullaby”. What followed was a 55 minute encore. Guests included the fiddler from Enter the Haggis, Brandi Carlile on “Beautiful Wreck” and Sarah Dugas (The Duhks) on “Light You Up”. Mr. Mullins is still playing coffeehouses, but I have no idea why with his talent at weaving a story into his songs that he is not playing larger theaters. Ms. Carlile opened for Mr. Mullins on the west coast. They ran out of Mr. Mullins CD’s a couple of days ago. He is a 4-time veteran of the cruise and can be considered the king to Brandi Carlile’s queen on-board. They did not clear the theater for the next show, Buddy Miller; so we had the inevitable position of front row center seats for his show as well. Mr. Miller had his veteran master of the accordion with him, Joel, along with a bassist and the drummer from North Mississippi Allstars as his band. They have only been together a few days, and Mr. Miller kept apologizing for the lack of rehearsal time. You would never know they hadn’t been playing together long, they had a very tight sound. Mr. Miller was joined for most of his set by a wonderfully talented backup singer, Patty Griffin. like almost everyone else on the cruise, Mr. Miller has a new CD coming out.  In fact it’s not due out for two weeks, but was available for purchase in the merch store on the ship.  Mr. Miller also mentioned that the North Mississippi Allstars had a new CD out too, and it’s just great. Tonight was the chocolate buffet, which we missed due to seeing Shawn Mullins and Buddy Miller back to back, but we were able to find a few pieces of chocolate goodies still left in the cafe. Before we turned in we listened to a bit of Roddie Romerro and the Hub City All-Stars. Saturday is the final day of the cruise, docked at a private island - Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. The weather is perfect. This truly is paradise. The music begins tonight at 6 p.m. with WPA on the pool deck. Barb S, - Sunday Mix Host
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February 18, 2011 by [email protected]
Thursday was our 2nd port stop Frederiksted, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Perfect weather to tour this beautiful city.  Back on-board for another full night of music. We began the evening seeing Shawn Mullins.  He had Chuck Cannon join him on the Cannon penned song about Johnny Cash.  Dar Williams joined Mr. Mullins on “Beautiful Wreck”.  A highlight was “ House of the Rising Sun”.  We tried to catch a song by Tyrone Wells before going to our headliner show.  Tonight it was the Indigo Girls.  While Amy was dealing with some technical issues with her guitar, Emily answered a few questions from the crowd.  Their guitar tech was recovering from a stroke and she will be joining them in Australia.  Someone yelled out they would buy them lunch tomorrow and Amy said “didn’t they tell you that was free?”.  Lucy Wainwright Roche joined them, as well as Brandi Carlile.  The Indigo Girls will be recording a new album in Nashville in April and May.  Their harmonies are amazing, as was evidenced by their cover of Paul Simon’s It’s Allright”,.  They also debuted a new song that Emily had to use lyrics on a lyric stand for (the lyrics were in big print). We went to the last set that Ellis Pail was scheduled to perform, and he continued to say he was having such a great time and hoped to return.  We both caught a few songs by Allison Moorer.  She had her husband’s Steve Earle’s band as her band.  Mr. Barb went to see Larkin Poe again while I went to see the added “all request” show by Glen Phillips in the bar lounge.  Mr. Phillips,using Sean Watkin’s guitar,  took requests for his solo songs like “Fred Meyer” and “Darkest Hour” and Toad the Wet Sprocket’s,  “Walk on The Ocean” and closing with “All I Want”.  Sean Watkins played guitar for Mr. Phillips on one song and Jerry Roe (WPA drummer) helped Mr. Phillips out on the lyrics on one song.  Right before 10p, some of the crowd left to go to the headliner show and Mr. Phillips made a comment that he thought they were all just going for soft serve.  Mr. Phillips also has been revealing the secret where the “real” coffee was located in the Food Hose (aka, The Garden Cafe).  After his show, Mr. Phillips signed a couple of CD’s for me saying that he should know my name by now, as he’s asked me that “a thousand times.”  After a time change back to EST (another hour of sleep), Friday is a day at sea, with warm, windy conditions, with rough waves but smoother sailing ahead.  The music is set to begin at 1p on the pool deck and continue all day. Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
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February 18, 2011 by [email protected]
Wednesday was a warm day (low 80’s, 80% humidity) at our first port stop Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin islands, with another full night of music on tap and even more musical choices to make. The music got underway at 6pm with Will Hoge on the pool deck.  Mr. Hoge, came out on stage alone to sing a couple of new songs, before bringing out his band.   It was so windy on the pool deck, that Mr. Hoge’s guitars fell over and got out of tune.  For the remainder of his set, someone stood by his guitars to keep them steady on stage.  Like many of the artists on board , Mr. Hoge is humbled to be in the presence of such greats such as John Prine.  For his last song, Mr. Hoge dedicated it to Kevn Kinney.  When Mr. Hoge was starting out 11 years ago, they opened a show for Drivin’ and Cryin.  They were only paid $75 by the promoter.  After the gig, Mr. Kinney opened his wallet and gave Mr. Hoge $200, knowing they probably did not get paid a lot to open.  Mr. Hoge appreciated that and has never forgotten the gesture and tries to “pay back” the favor when he can.  Mr. Barb went to take sunset photos at the same time as a member of  Enter the Haggis (they discussed cameras.).  Then Mr. Barb went to catch Ellis Paul and I joined him later in the atrium for the last part of that show.  Mr. Ellis  is going to have 8 songs in the forthcoming movie “Hall Pass”.  We then went to see the end of Colin Hay’s show.  He was joined by his wife on vocals and she also danced.  Mr. Hay was not feeling well, but seemed to be holding his own.  He even had the bartenders singing along to a Men at Work song.  Mr. Hay noted that he gave up drinking about 20 years ago.  We continued our musical journey with The Masterson’s (they are in Steve Earle’s band).  This was the only scheduled show for this husband and wife duo.  We went to see the Steep Canyon Rangers again.  They are quite impressive in their suits and old-time approach to bluegrass.  They are known as Steve Martin’s band, and really taking bluegrass to a new level; including writing new music (they also have a new CD coming out soon). This was followed by another set from WPA, who again had Dan Wilson (Semisonic) join them; he also performed “Free Life” again (I could not get that song out of my head all the next day).  Again Luke Bulla, Glen Phillips and Sean Watkins took turns on lead vocals.  To end the evening we caught a little of Kevn Kinney’s truck stop.  He had guests like Shawn Mullins, Will Hoge, Ellis Paul, Chuck Cannon  and The Mastersons join him.  I had one of those cruise moments, when we the elevator doors opened, and there stood Shawn Mullins with his guitarist Patrick Blanchard.  We said hello and I asked Mr. Mullins if he was able to get ashore (Mr. Mullins has commented the previous night he is usually up all night and doesn’t get up in time to get off the ship).  He did get off the ship and we compared our sun burns and then complimented him on his show.  He said to check him out again and we told him we certainly will.  Thursday was yet another warm day (low 80’s, 80% humidity) at our 2nd port stop St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, with another full night of music. Barb S. - SundayMix Host
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February 16, 2011 by [email protected]
Tuesday was another warm, humid and breezy day at sea on our journey through song. The music got underway at 1pm with Sam and Ruby on the pool deck. They have wonderful harmonies. In the atrium we got our 4-timer alumni group photo taken. There are 184 of us on-board and we make up 9% of the cruisers this year. Glen Phillips, on a borrowed acoustic guitar from Luke Bulla, did a set in the Bliss Lounge (aka, the bowling alley). Mr. Phillips went on his usual tangents for an hour (it is quiet endearing), in between songs from his solo work and with Toad the Wet Sprocket (including the very the appropriate “Walk on the Ocean”) He also did a song he co-wrote with Dan Wilson and had us singing harmonies and backing vocals without much rehearsal on a few others. Mr. Phillips ended with a Paul Simon song “It’s Allright”. We may get to see a new CD of unreleased songs from Mr. Phillips, if the airline ever gets their luggage to this ship. There’s an added “All Request” show with Mr. Phillips in the atrium later this week. I joined Mr. Barb on the pool deck as he was watching Larkin Poe perform. They ended their show again with a Jimi Hendrix song. They have a boxed set of 4-EP’s based on each season (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall) which they have been playing songs from. I went to see Will Hoge on the pool deck. He promises that all his shows on board will be different. He works very hard at his craft and like many of the other songwriters on-board seemed humbled to be in the presence of so many talented singer-songwriters. Mr. Hoge is in the process of working on a new album and even brought the hard drive on board to work on the album. He also shared a couple of brand new songs with us. Our headliner show tonight was Brandi Carlile. One of her special guests was Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls) and a couple of other session musicians on board. Ms. Carlile road tested a couple of brand new songs (she’s going into the studio February 28th), including a performance debut of a song called “Bird on a Wire”. We liked the new material very much. The floating music festival atmosphere on this cruise lends itself to artists trying out new material. She’s really gained alot of confidence since the 1st cruise with her stage presence and material. She performed “The Story” and a wonderful version of “Caroline”. We went early to get a seat to see Shawn Mullin’s and so got to see his sound check. Mr. Mullins looked out at all of us sitting there and said “Y’all aren’t supposed to be here. (pause). But I’m kind of glad you’re here”. He added we’re not supposed to see all their mistakes and that it was like a magician practicing all his tricks. Another great performance by Shawn Mullins, which included Chuck Cannon as a guest. They co-wrote a song that will be on a new gospel album that will include Emmylou Harris and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. It’s about giving God the blues. This is probably my favorite show so far this week as it had a lot of energy, with an appreciative audience. We all sang along again on “Light You Up”. They moved the Loudon Wainwright show to a larger venue, due to demand. We opted to see Dan Wilson’s solo set in the bar lounge. Mr. Wilson recorded his first solo album “Free Life” with about 30 friends; 2 of who joined him on stage, Ruby (Sam and Ruby) and Sean Watkins (WPA, Nickel Creek). He performed some new music from a CD that he just finished, as well as tracks from “Free Life”, ending the show with the title track. We ended the evening in the atrium bopping along to the music of Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars. I had the chance to talk with Glen Phillips prior to his solo set, as he was walking by on the pool deck eating an orange. He said he was just trying to wake up. We also chatted with Ellis Paul, who told us that if we have the chance to vote, he’d definitely like to come back next year (yes, we can certainly can oblige!). Mr. Barb requested one of Mr. Paul’s older songs (“She Loves a Girl”) and Mr. Paul commented that it was from 13 years ago and he’d have to work that up (maybe we will see it in a future set?). We also keep meeting people from Pittsburgh. PA has 109 people on this cruise, with only states like CA, TX and FL having more cruisers. Wednesday is a warm day (low 80’s, 80% humidity) It’s our first port stop Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin islands, with another full night of music on tap and even more musical choices to make. Barb S - Sunday Mix host
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February 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 Justin Jacobs, contributing writer to Billboard Magazine and Pittsburgh's City Paper In case you missed it here's what he played (plus two bonus songs): Guards, "Resolution of One" - This mysterious band has no website or MySpace (which means, in 2011, you may as well have extremely low ambitions for your music being heard), but makes up for it by making great music — lo-fi, stomping garage rock with monstrous choruses. Guards is made of the singer of The Willowz along with some friends from MGMT and Chairlift. Mix them together and send 'em back to 1965, and you've got "Resolution of One." Lykke Li, "I Follow Rivers" - Her parents know her as Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson, but we know this Swedish temptress by her coy, sexual lyrics (remember "For you I keep my legs apart" from her 2008 song "Little Bit"? Of course you do) and darkly romantic pop music. I think this new tune, from her upcoming second album "Wounded Rhymes," is easily her best ever. Can't wait for this record. U.S. Royalty, "Equestrian" - This band does their schtick logically, taking three bands that everyone loves and combining them in equal portions. Fleet Foxes, the Black Keys and Local Natives all show up in "Equestrian." Thought that might sound contrived, it's a great, lofty and harmonized tune. Jonquil, "It Never Rains" - Tropical pop to dance your butt off. Totally cheesy, but totally fun. Look this band up for your next party.
February 15, 2011 by [email protected]
Red and white streamers with heart shaped decorations and signs reminded us it was Valentine’s Day even though we’re on a cruise ship at sea. The music got underway at 1pm with Steep Canyon Rangers on a sunny warm (mid 70’s) and very windy pool deck. Dressed in neatly tailored suits, they played the old time bluegrass, new compositions; while at times gathering around one microphone to sing in the old style. Kevn Kinney told very interesting stories in a conversationalist style. He commented that he wasn’t used to playing a show so early (2:30 p.m.) to an audience that was so intently listening. Enter the Haggis provided Celtic music that included bag pipes and a multi-instrumentalist who could play the keyboards and violin and really kept things moving on the pool deck. I attended a taping of a World Cafe episode that will feature Will Hoge and Scott Miller. (no spoilers, but the show was being taped on Valentine’s Day, so that was a theme) Host David Dye asked the songwriters to play four songs: their favorite song that they wrote early on, a current favorite they wrote, a cover song and a song that they can’t leave out of their shows. At the end, Mr. Hoge & Mr. Miller collaborated on a song. Mr. Dye said the episodes taped on board will probably air on World Cafe in April. We also heard a couple more songs by Tyrone Wells on the pool deck. Tonight was our first headliner, Steve Earle. He brought his new band, which also included his wife Allison Moorer on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals. Ms. Moorer will also play solo shows and tape an episode of World Cafe with Dar Williams. Mr. Earle welcomed us to his vacation and started the show with “Copperhead Road”, adding in a song about Valentine’s Day. He did an extended version of “City of Immigrants” and included a song that he wrote with his wife Ms. Moorer, adding, so they could sing it together on stage. The set really rocked. Mr. Earle has a CD coming out in April (produced by T. Bone Burnett) and will be touring to support it. We had to wait in line to attend the SRO performance of Dar Williams (we had heard it was packed earlier in this venue for Loudon Wainwright and a future show has been moved to a larger venue). Ms. Williams enjoyed sharing her songs with an appreciative audience and ended her set with “Pagans and Christians”. Mr. Barb caught a couple of songs by Jim Bianco. Ellis Paul performed his first set on-board with a band that included a guitar, keyboard and accordion. Mr. Paul seemed to enjoy his first journey through song. Had us singing “nah nah’s”. He began with “Rose Tattoo” and even did a Christmas song about armadillos in TX. We went to catch the ending of Chuck Cannon’s show, thinking we would be able to call it an early night. Little did we know that Mr. Cannon did not want to turn in early. Mr. Cannon unplugged his guitar and like a piped piper invited all of us to follow him upstairs to the atrium to crash the jam session. We dutifully followed and we were all treated to impromptu performances from Shawn Mullins with his band. Imagine an atrium full of people and more people up above on the next deck looking over and singing along on an extended jam of “Light You Up” (we all knew the words). “Will It Go Round in Circles” was the next jam. Brother and sister duo from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada Sarah and Christian Dugas (The Duhks) came up to sing “Superstition”, along with Roddie Romero. And the music continued long after that. We got to chat briefly with Kevn Kinney and Luke Bulla (WPA) to tell them we enjoyed their performances and music. We also had the opportunity to talk to a couple of WYEP listener members who are on-board. Tuesday is bringing us another warm, humid and breezy day of music at sea. Barb S. Sunday Mix Host
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