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Sometimes you have to travel 95 miles to see a show.  Edwin McCain, with the acoustic trio, plus one, performed at the Kent Stage, in Kent, OH, Thursday night.

The Kent Stage is one of the best "listening rooms" I've been to over the last couple of years to see some of my favorite singer-songwriters perform including Livingston Taylor and Marc Cohn.  I can now add Edwin McCain to that list.

Mr. McCain was in Pittsburgh in March with his full band.  It was an energetic performance with the songs sounding like what you hear on the CD's with some great jams.  But where Mr. McCain is at his best is when he can tell stories and just let the songs speak for themselves.  The acoustic trio consists of Edwin McCain on vocals and guitar with long time sidemen Larry Chaney on guitar and Craig Shields on saxophone and wind instruments.  A couple of songs into the set a long time friend of Mr. McCain's, Kay Smith from Kent State made the trio a four-some when he came on stage to play percussion. In his early 40's. Mr. McCain is married with three young children at home.  His stories now are more about his family life and how he tries to still look cool driving a sedan to a local coffee shop drive-thru with car seats in the back. Mr. McCain casually walked on stage and began the show with Walk With You. The set included more of the songs that make you think and sound good in a small theater with just a few musicians on stage.  White Crosses, I Could Not Ask For More, Shooting Stars, Sober, and I'll Be were intertwined with stories of Mr. McCain's life with his family, including his mother-in-law. The three song encore started with Mr. McCain on stage alone singing The Lucky One, and ended with all the other musicians joining him on stage one by one on Holy City.

Opening the show was 22 year-old Seth Glier.

He began his 35-minute, 7-song set singing the title track of his latest CD The Next Right Thing acapella. He next performed Walk Katie Home and Gotta Get Away before Pittsburgh musician Brad Yoder joined him on stage to play sax on I Don't Need You and First.  Mr. Glier also tells stories:  living at home in a small town in MA with his parents and taking care of his 26-year old brother Jamie who is autistic.  The young singer-songwriter has been polishing his performance by spending 200 nights on the road each year.  Mr. Glier ended his set with the song he was thrilled to hear on the radio as he was driving into Ohio, Lauralee.  The audience rewarded Mr. Glier with a standing ovation.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host




brad yoder edwin mccain seth glier singer-songwriters

What a treat: two hours of stories and music from Colin Hay on Tuesday night.

There may have been more stories than music from this singer-songwriter, who was born in Scotland, moved to Australia and now calls California home.  He came to the Rex Theater alone, not only reminding us of his success with Men at Work, but also of his body of music as a solo artist.  Between sipping water and changing guitars were the stories of his father, touring with Ringo Starr, meeting Paul McCartney, Men at Work supporting Fleetwood Mac, writing Men at Work songs, and even goats.  There was some music too, in between the banter.  The title track of his most recent CD Gathering Field began the set. The title track of his 2nd CD Wayfaring Sons and his 5th album Transcendental Highway, with a track from his 3rd CD Into the Cornfields. In the early 1980's we probably would not have appreciated hearing acoustic versions of Down Under, Who Can It Be Now? and Overkill but the songs have aged very well. Another new song Invisible. Also Beautiful World and Waiting For My Real Life To Begin, which he gently reminded us was now 17 years old.  The evening ended with Kool & the Gang's Celebration playing over the speakers. To really appreciate that song, you would have had to be there to hear that story.

Opening was Chris Trapper, out of Boston, MA. You may know him as the leader of The Push Stars.  I came in near the end of his set as he was introducing a song which he had written in Pittsburgh. He ended with a song he wrote for his parent's 50th wedding anniversary.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host




colin hay singer-songwriters

Ellis Paul, playing a new space Thursday night, Calliope Center Stage, reminisced about the various venues, including house concerts that he has played in the Pittsburgh area over the years.  The Center Stage would be a welcome new home for Mr. Paul’s future visits.

Performing two sets of music, with a brief intermission, Mr. Paul was alone on stage with his guitar, harmonica and keyboard in a very intimidate setting.  It was like having your very talented singer-songwriter friend in your basement performing just for you.

Mr. Paul opened with Rose Tattoo from his most recent release The Day After Everything Changed and ended the set out in front of the stage with an acoustic version of Annalee.  In between, he also performed Hurricane Angel, Dragonfly and Once Upon a Summertime.  Roy Orbison would have been 75 this Saturday (April 23) and Mr. Paul paid tribute by doing his version of Crying. He did a new song that he co-wrote with a member of Enter the Haggis, which is about Johnny Cash.  The audience joined in on the chorus of “Kick Off the Lights – Johnny Cash”.  Mr. Paul said the song was about the time Mr. Cash kicked out the stage lights at the Grand Ole Opry.  There were old favorites like Alice’s Champagne Palace and 3,000 Miles.

The second set had older material, fulfilling some requests from the audience.  In addition to asking for song suggestions, Mr. Paul opened up the floor to questions.  He shared with us which guitars he favors, and how he tunes them.  He also revealed he was working on his second children’s CD (he recited a poem about Thomas Edison to us) and a Christmas CD.  Before singing Jukebox On My Grave, Mr. Paul mentioned the gravesites of famous musicians that he had visited and the audience let him know that he could add another to his list, as Stephen Foster’s grave is nearby.  Maria’s Beautiful Mess, Eighteen, Roll Away Bed and The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down were highlights.  Mr. Paul ended the evening at the keyboard singing Johnny Cash’s The Night Hank Williams Came to Town.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host




Ellis Paul singer-songwriters

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


Personal Picks


Ellis Paul singer-songwriters

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:


Is It For Me





Way Away




The Moment

Friendly Fire

Come Back Down



Better Off Here

Crazy Life

All I Want


Fall Down


Come Down


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


New Music


carbon leaf glen phillips jonathan kingham singer-songwriters toad the wet sprocket

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


New Music


glen phillips jonathan kingham marc cohn singer-songwriters toad the wet sprocket

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




ali klaren ari hest singer-songwriters

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




cayamo singer-songwriters

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




cayamo singer-songwriters

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




cayamo singer-songwriters


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