barbmstein@aol.com's blog

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

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

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

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

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

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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I've had the pleasure of interviewing singer-songwriter Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet SprocketWorks Progress Administration) via email for the WYEP Music Blog a couple of times.  Now you have the opportunity to ask Mr. Phillips a question.  Ask Glen Phillips / Toad / WPA - Fan Questions. You will find some interesting questions and even more intriguing answers from Mr. Phillips.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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It's summer!  A perfect evening for music as Livingston Taylor performed an entertaining 90-minute show Friday at the South Park Amphitheater.

Livingston Taylor came to sing songs from his most recent release "Last Alaska Moon", pop songs like Stephen Bishop's "On and On" and some fun songs with titles like "Railroad Bill", "'I'm Not as Herbal as I Ought to Be", "The Dollar Bill Song" and "Olympic Guitar" complete with a running commentary as he played the guitar.

Mr. Taylor mentioned that he flew his own plane from Boston to Pittsburgh before singing "Kitty Hawk" (his tribute song to The Wright Brothers first flight in December 1903), a song off his fall 2009 CD "Last Alaska Moon". Along with the title track,  he also sang "I'm in a Pickle" and told us how difficult it was for him to find something to rhyme with the word hope in the song "Never Lose Hope".

Mr. Taylor is not afraid to go way back in time to share with us his love of well constructed pop songs.  He tried to imagine Irving Berlin convincing a producer to listen to "God Bless America" with the word foam in the lyric:

"To the oceans, white with foam"

Mr. Taylor also knows how to write pop songs of his own like "Carolina Day".

Great stories.  Great music.  What a treat to have Livingston Taylor back in the Burgh.  Ah - It's summer!

Review of Livingston Taylor's concert in Carlisle, PA, October 2008

Review of "Last Alaska Moon", November 2009

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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If it's August  then it must be John Mayer in Burgettstown.  Just two years ago in my review I was lamenting that Mr. Mayer needed polish; his sophisticated lyrics were not matching his performance.  Sunday night he convinced me that he was able to combine the singer-songwriter with the musician.  And he's only 32.

The 120 shows since his last visit to the area have helped him to perfect his act. It was all about the musicianship.  Covers of "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Raspberry Beret" added to Mr. Mayer's ever growing catalog of music.  His seven-piece band often shared the spotlight.

Mr. Mayer also showed off his expertise on various guitars.

The two-hour set was well paced and made for an entertaining evening.  I hope we don't have to wait another two years to see Mr. Mayer here.

Opening the show was the band Train.  As Mr. Mayer noted they are headliners in their own right and we fans were treated to a double bill of amazing music.

Train's dynamic lead singer, Erie native, Pat Monahan not only used the whole stage, but ran out to the lawn for "Marry Me".

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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Marc Cohn

“Listening Booth:  1970”

July 20, 2010

Saguaro Road Records

Produced and Arranged by John Leventhal

Co-Produced by Rick DePofi

So.  I’ve been waiting (and hoping) for that one CD to review this year that would surely make it to the top of my best of list for 2010.  Over six months in to the new decade I finally heard that CD.  “Listening Booth: 1970” - Marc Cohn (Saguaro Road Records).

Marc Cohn has referred to this CD as his best.  I’m not willing to go quite that far (just yet), since, after all, it is a CD of covers.  Over the years, Cohn has proven to be a genuinely gifted songwriter.  On this CD he shares his soulful voice.

Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Cohn felt the year 1970 was pivotal for him.  He would go to the local record store, choose some records and enter the Listening Booth to check them out before buying the music.  Thus the concept for this CD:  listening to, or in Cohn’s case, recording those songs that made an impact on him during his formidable years.

As a fan of singer-songwriters, I usually have low expectations of a covers CD.  After all, a singer-songwriter is supposed to sing and record songs that they actually write.  Hence the term singer-songwriter.  So when they sing songs written by other people, I tend to wonder what the motives are.  Fulfilling a contractual obligation to the record company?  Writer’s block?  I need not have worried when it came to Marc Cohn.  Actually, any new music from Cohn is a cause for celebration.  From his debut in 1991, he has only released 4 CD’s of original material over a 16+ year period.  Only four!  I consider each of those CD’s as a greatest hits collection.  Thus, something new from Cohn is a big deal in my book.

Marc Cohn exemplifies the term “quality over quantity”.   So I should not have been so surprised that I would enjoy a CD of covers by Cohn.  There is not bad song in the bunch.  The list of writers include some of the most successful artists of all time:  John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, and Van Morrison, just to name a few.  Cohn shares vocals with India.Arie, Kristina Train, Aimee Mann and Jim Lauderdale.

If I must choose some favorite tracks: “Wild World” and “Maybe I’m Amazed”.  Despite my initial hesitation that “Make It With You” is only meant to be heard on AM Radio; Marc Cohn & India.Arie give it plenty of soul.  Cohn is at his best on the mid- to up-tempo songs.

Here is a track listing for “Listening Booth: 1970” with writer credits in (italics) and a sampling of some of the other artists who have recorded these songs:

Wild World (Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens) Jimmy Cliff, Jose Feliciano, Mr. Big, Maxi Priest

Look at Me (John Lennon) John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Band

Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney) Petula Clark, Joe Cocker, Faces, Lena Horne, Nancy Sinatra

Make It with You (with India.Arie) (David Gates) Bread, Marc Anthony, Philip Bailey, Aretha Franklin. Teddy Pendergrass, Dusty Springfield, The Whispers, Andy Williams

The Letter (Wayne Carson Thompson) The Box Tops (1967), Joe Cocker (1970)

The Only Living Boy in New York (Paul Simon) Simon & Garfunkel, Everything But the Girl, David Mead

After Midnight (John J. Cale) Eric Clapton, J.J. Cale, Chet Atkins, Jerry Garcia, Sergio Mendes, Leon Russell, Steve Winwood

The Tears of a Clown (with Kristina Train) (Henry Crosby, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder) The Beat, Petula Clark, The English Beat, The Miracles

No Matter What (with Aimee Mann) (Pete Ham) Badfinger, Def Leppard, Jellyfish, The Knack

New Speedway Boogie (with Jim Lauderdale) (Jerry Garcia) Grateful Dead

Into the Mystic (Van Morrison) Paul Carrack, Ben E. King, Michael McDonald, Van Morrison,

Long As I Can See the Light (John Fogerty) Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker

A partial Marc Cohn Discography:

Marc Cohn

Release Date: February 12, 1991

Label: Atlantic / Wea

The Rainy Season

Release Date: May 25, 1993

Label: Atlantic / Wea

Burning The Daze

Release Date: March 17, 1998

Label: Atlantic / Wea

Marc Cohn Live 04/05

Release Date: 2005

Label: United Musicians

The Very Best Of Marc Cohn

Release Date: June 20, 2006

Label: Atlantic / Wea

Join The Parade

Release Date: October 9, 2007

Label: Decca

Join The Parade Live EP

Artist: Marc Cohn

Label: Miles Away Records

Release Date: 7/8/2008

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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The Singer-Songwriter

A musical genre that can be acoustic and introspective.  Driven by the simple craft of songwriting.  It’s all about the song.  From the troubadours in the 1970’s through today, singer-songwriters are still keeping it real.  Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens, Tom Waits, John Hiatt, Morrissey, Randy Newman, Shawn Colvin, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Warren Zevon, Norah Jones, Brandi Carlile, Paul Simon, just to name a few [Feel free to insert your favorite singer-songwriters name here]. 

Join me Memorial Day weekend on May 30th during the Sunday Mix from 2p-5p for a salute to the Singer-Songwriter.  Where the Music Matters, 91.3 WYEP.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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The 3rd installment of the Songwriters Spotlight, hosted by Joe Grushecky and Rick Witkowski, featuring Karl Mullen , Margot B., and Jon Belan was held Saturday night at the New Hazlett Theater.

The format: Each of the five songwriters shared stories about their original songs and then performed them. Then, each songwriter chose a song they wish they had written, talked about why they selected it and then performed it.

As one of the hosts, Joe Grushecky began the evening with "I Remember It" from 2002's “Fingerprints”, following up with "Don't Give up the Ghost" and "Talking to the King” from "End of the Century" (which was ironically released in 1992). "Talking to the King" came to him in a dream - he found Elvis Presley looking into his fridge.

The other host, Joe Witkowski said that he was now big with the 3 to 6 year old age group thanks to Nick, Jr. and we sang along on "Happy". Witkowski also did a song that he and his wife wrote with Ann Wilson of Heart in mind. She did not end up recording "The Last Heartbreak", but B.E. Taylor did.

For Karl Mullen (Carsickness, The Ploughman's Lunch) "Love Don't Walk Away" was his first choice. On the second go round, Mullen told a long story about a 13-hour train ride to record a folk album and then couldn't remember the lyrics, so he sang "Family Life" before going back to "True Romance". Mullen lives in Philadelphia now (via Dublin, Ireland) and in 1976 was a fixture at The Electric Banana.

Margot B.'s soulful songs all had one-word titles "Cool", "Timeless" and "Complete". She resides in New York City and had much praise for The Boogie Hustlers.

Jon Belan (of Gene the Werewolf) was introspective, selecting songs from Gene the Werewolf's debut EP. He sang "Superhero", "Light Me Up" (title track) and "I've Got the Love" (which became the 6th song on the EP; even though they recorded 12 songs, this was a new song written just for the EP).

Then the spotlight was put on a song that each songwriter had wished they had penned.

Joe Grushecky choose a Muddy Waters song "Champagne & Reefer". Karl Mullen selected an Ewan MacColl (father of the Kirsty MacColl) song from 1949 that was recorded by among others, The Pogues and Johnny Cash that reminded him of Pittsburgh, "Dirty Old Town". Margot B. went to the Top 40 for "Breakeven" by The Script which she said gives her the chills no matter how many times she hears it. Jon Belan performed a Pink Floyd Song "Wish You Were Here". The Beatles were again the choice for Joe Witkowski.

The final group number was another Beatles song. "Hey Jude", in which the spotlight shown brightly on Joe Belan as he sang and played the piano.

There was then a standing ovation for the songwriters. It was another wonderful two hours of great live music.

Also check out the post Singer-Songwriters Shine... for my review of the January 2010 Songwriters Spotlight.

The next Songwriters Spotlight will be held September 25th.

Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host

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Sorry.  I can’t resist the cliché.  It was a swell evening of music Monday night as The Swell Season (Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová and The Frames) returned to Pittsburgh to perform at the Byham Theatre.

The set-up was very similar to their September 2008 concert.  The Frames were in a semi-circle on the stage with white back-drops and back-lighting essentially framing the performers.  The front of the stage up-lighting  was very effective throughout the well paced two-hour and fifteen-minute plus performance.

Irglová quietly opened the show center stage with “If You Want Me”.  Hansard, talking about their drive in to town, sang the “Ohio River Boat Song”.  “Low Rising” came next with Hansard sampling Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”.

When I get a cold, I lose my voice.  When Glen Hansard gets a cold, he doesn’t cancel a show, instead he takes lots of drugs and still performs at the top of his game.

During “Leave” Hansard showed no signs of a cold.  Back in 2008, The Swell Season opened up with “Into the Mystic” and they didn’t forget to include it again this year, providing a stunning moment in the middle of their show.

Recently, American Idol brought “Falling Slowly” to the forefront again, but it will probably be most remembered for winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song from the movie “Once”.  Hansard said “Falling Slowly” was their final song.  He apparently meant before the long encore.

Hansard was talkative during the ending moments of the concert, but they still kept those heartfelt songs coming.  He sang “Say It To Me Now”, after sharing a story of meeting a woman in Chicago in a hotel elevator who lost her son in the 9/11 attacks.  Irglová debuted a new song called “Crossroads”.  We all sang “There” on the chorus of a new song (which apparently has already has been covered and can be found on YouTube).  They included a song from The Frames, with Hansard still able to give his all on the “Red Chord”.  The show ended with a traditional Irish song “The Parting Glass” and an extended standing ovation.

It was just, swell.

Glen Hansard’s friend, who is now a resident of Pittsburgh, Mark Dignam opened the show with a well received 40-minute set of 7 songs and also joined The Swell Season on stage for a song during the encore.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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The opening act is the entertainer who performs at a show before the featured entertainer. The opening act's performance serves to "warm up" the audience. The opening act will usually be an up-and-coming performer with a much smaller following than the featured artist.

I attended two shows recently, based upon the opening act.

Sunday night, Luke Brindley was the opening act for Willy Porter. Brindley is a Washington, DC based singer-songwriter, who was making his 3rd visit to Pittsburgh in a span of about 7 months.  He immediately grabbed our attention by playing an instrumental.  During his set he tried out some new material (for a yet un-named "fan funded" CD) along with older material like "Wrecking Ball" and another instrumental "Dervish"; as he alternated playing  his two guitars.

The Willy Porter show was re-scheduled from November (Porter cancelled then due to illness).  I was mesmerized the entire evening by Porter's finger-style guitar playing.   He told stories in a humorous style, took requests, and got us to sing-along.  Brindley did join Porter on a song.

Tuesday night 21-year-old Seth Glier was the opening act for Maia Sharp.  He plays the keyboards and guitar.  He writes his own songs. In this reality TV make a star overnight world, it's refreshing to see a young singer-songwriter doing it the old fashioned way with mature lyrics and a stage presence way beyond his years.  Glier began his short set singing a cappella, showcasing his amazing voice.  Glier also told stories about living with his parents and 99-year-old grandmother in a small town in MA and how it has influenced his writing. Ryan Hommel joined Glier on stage playing guitar and backing vocals.

Maia Sharp immediately caught my attention by doing a new song ("Sorry") that I had just heard her frequent co-writing partner Edwin McCain sing at his recent show in Cleveland.  Sharp also thanked WYEP for their support (applause applause).  She sang quite a few songs from her most recent CD "Echo" with Linda Taylor on electric guitar and backing vocals.  Sharp not only played the guitar, but keyboards and saxophone as well.  She shared songs and stories that she wrote that were sung by Bonnie Raitt and The Dixie Chicks.  Sharp also brought up on stage local singer-songwriter Bill Deasy to sing "Say Anything".  Deasy was aided by a lyric sheet to sing with his long-time friend. Sharp expressed her gratitude for all the fan support over the years and truly seemed to enjoy playing in Pittsburgh.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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Singer-songwriters came into popularity in the early 1970’s and they are still sharing their stories with us today. One such singer-songwriter is Washington, DC based Luke Brindley.

Barb WYEP’s Sunday Mix Host (WYEP): Luke thanks for taking the time to answer some questions via email for the WYEP Music Blog.

WYEP: There are many singer-songwriters out there today pursuing their passion for making music. How do you differentiate yourself from the others?

Luke Brindley (LB): i think what differentiate me is my lyrics and my guitar playing and also my life situation and perspective is different that most of the singer/songwriters out there - i'm supporting a large family doing this.  that responsibility and life experience informs my music.

WYEP: It’s interesting that you put a bonus instrumental track “Dervish” on your CD “Luke Brindley” and recently put out a five-track instrumental CD “Solo Guitar”. As a singer-songwriter, do you enjoy writing songs without lyrics and sharing what you can do with just your guitar (which you built yourself)?

LB: yes!  it's a nice break for me and the audience to have instrumentals in the set.  instrumentals like "dervish" really grab peoples attention because it's something unexpected.  i enjoy playing it every night.  i studied music in school and it's nice to be able to focus on the instrument without words once in a while! 

WYEP: You began recording with your brother Daniel and released a couple of albums as The Brindley Brothers. So how is it out there being a solo act?

LB: it's harder to get attention as a solo act i think - there are so many great singer/songwriters out there!  i enjoy the flexibility of touring solo but i miss the camaraderie of being in a band.  

WYEP: You are in the process of recording a new album. Why did you decide to go the fan financing route to make The New Record?

LB: i debated doing it for a while but then a few of my friends had done it successfully and that was inspiring.  i had put out the last couple records on my own with zero budget and i knew that i needed a budget behind me to record and promote this next record properly.  these are some of the best songs i've ever written and my fanbase has grown a lot since the last release.  the support of the fans has been incredible! knowing that i have them on my side every time i sit down to write or head into the studio is a fantastic and encouraging feeling!

WYEP: Did you ask for advice from other artists who have been down the “fan funding” road? If so, what has been the best piece of advice that you have received so far?

LB: i did.  i talked to a few of my friends who had tried fan funding and without exception they said it's a great way to go.  they gave me advice on how to structure the incentives, how to keep in touch with supporters along the way, etc.  i kind of took all the advice, what had worked for them and made it my own.  i think that's one of the attractive things about the process is each artist's program can reflect his/her personality.

WYEP: You maintain a food blog called What Exit?. What type of food do you look for when you’re on the road?

LB: yeah i did that for fun but i think i'm going to make it a little bigger soon - invite other artists to participate etc.  i'm always on the lookout for inexpensive food that's indigenous to the region  - like primanti bros in pittsburgh,  the nj style sloppy joes at the millburn deli, in millburn nj. philly cheese steaks, bbq in memphis, etc.

WYEP: You were born in Philly, raised in NJ and now call Northern VA home. You also have family in Pittsburgh. What’s it like for you to perform here with family in the audience?

LB: i love it.  my music is very much influenced by family and the spirit of family.  they're very supportive of me when i come to the area and it's cool to see them when i can.  sometimes even my grandparents will come out to the clubs!  

WYEP: Thanks for your time Luke and see you soon!

LB: thanks barb - see you sunday!!!

Luke Brindley will open for Willy Porter on April 18th.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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