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I've always thought of John Hiatt as simply a prolific songwriter.  His songs have been covered by numerous artists.  At his concert Friday night he proved that he was more than just a writer of songs, he is truly a gifted singer-songwriter and performer.

John Hiatt shared the stage with a very talented combo of players.  Doug Lancio on guitars, Kenny Blevins on drums and Patrick O'Hearn on bass.  What I found intriguing was that only Hiatt had a microphone.  He provided the vocals, along with accompaniment on various guitars. For over two hours, Hiatt sang, played a guitar and told stories; like about being married and the importance of the toilet paper being placed correctly on the dispenser (under or over).  Hiatt mixed in a few songs from his newly released CD "The Open Road", including the title track, "Haulin'", "Carry You Back Home" and "Like a Freight Train".  But, really, it was like being at a 'best of' concert: "Drive South", "Master of Disaster", "Crossing Muddy Waters", the fun "The Tiki Bar is Open", "Buffalo River Home", "Perfectly Good Guitar", "Tennessee Plates" (by request), "Feels Like Rain" (definitely a highlight), "Memphis In The Meantime" and the encore of "Riding with the King" and "Have a Little Faith in Me".  Hiatt is a consummate performer whose songs continue to endure the test of time whether performed by the writer himself or another artist.

Opening the show was the granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr., daughter of Hank Williams, Jr. and half-sister of Hank Williams III.  Holly Williams did a brief 30-minute set of 7 songs, pulling from her 2 releases: "The Ones We Never Knew" and "Here With Me".  "Sometimes." "Mama" (about her mother.) "Three Days In Bed" (about the men she met while touring internationally.) Williams is a newlywed and her husband Chris Coleman joined her on guitar, harmonica and vocals mid-way though her set.  A cover of her favorite John Prine song "Angel from Montgomery."  Ending with "Without Jesus Here With Me" (chronicling a near death experience for her sister in a car crash.)  Williams celebrated her 29th birthday in Pittsburgh; the audience sang "Happy Birthday" to her before she left the stage.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host




holly williams john hiatt

The shortest of these three themed singer-songwriter cruises may go down as the best one to date. We heard a lot of music and witnessed amazing performances in our five day journey through song.

Of the 29 acts on-board, thanks to much collaboration, between the two of us, we saw all but Rachael Yamagata. You sometimes have to take a nap, shower or eat.

Day One: Glen Phillips (solo), accompanied by Jonathan Kingham, was a great way to begin our journey out to sea. We were supposed to attend our first headliner show, Lyle Lovett, but due to technical difficulties the start of the Lovett show was delayed. So we checked out other artists instead: the married couple Luke & Melissa (Luke Doucet & Melissa McClelland) from Canada, then Darrell Scott, followed by Shawn Mullins (who brought Chuck Cannon up to share the stage for a few songs), then Ben Taylor (joined by Brandi Carlile and the Twins on an Everly Brothers song) and ended the evening with a show by Edwin McCain. Our day began at 3:00 a.m., ending after 12:30 a.m. the following day. Thank goodness we sailed into Central time & gained that hour.

Day Two: A day at sea. In the morning, I attended a Songwriting Workshop hosted by Shawn Mullins and Chuck Cannon. Cannon has written six #1 hits and many top 20 country songs. They talked about the mixed blessing of having a hit song. The hardest part is getting the idea. Mullins praised AAA radio stations. They discussed their pick up systems (both use bags). Cannon tunes down. Using a new song “I Just Want to Light You Up”, Cannon and Mullins talked about writing that song and invited us to all sing along on the chorus. Mullins is old school, melodic; as is Cannon. Cannon noted that even the great songwriter Leonard Cohen re-writes his songs to make them better. Using a computer and GarageBand are modern conveniences to songwriting. Cannon does not write down anything, if it’s good enough, he will remember it. Jimmy Webb uses a rhyming dictionary. Love only rhymes with so many words. Both Cannon & Mullins value hard rhymes (love, above; true, blue) vs. soft rhymes. Even if you’re never heard a song before, with a hard rhyme you know what line is coming next. Jimmy Webb has the top 5 performed songs (e.g. "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", "Galveston", "Wichita Lineman") Theater music is another example of hard rhymes, where they have only one chance to grab you. With hard rhymes, those songs have staying power for 25-30 years. You don’t have to hear them over and over again on the radio. Someone asked about the bridge in a song. Mullins said it was an extra while Cannon said he doesn’t need that approach. Smokey Robinson songs typically are verse, chorus, chorus, chorus, chorus, etc. thus, getting in to your head. The bridge needs to say something. Mullins talked about starting out on a larger label and moving to a smaller label where he has more creative freedom. When co-writing, Darrell Scott was quoted “gotta be honest”. You need to have chemistry. It was a very interesting hour hearing the two songwriters talk about their craft. Cannon is so modest about his songwriting abilities and a definite find for us on this cruise.

Day two performances: Gregory Alan Isakov, Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers, Shawn Mullins, Vienna Teng & Alex Wong (with Jonathan Kingham doing an impromptu rap about the cruise, which he had done the previous year – one of those memorable moments), Hoots and Hellmouth, our headliner that night, Brandi Carlile brought out Shawn Mullins to sing “Beautiful Wreck” and Katie Herzig and her band to do “Wish You Well”, and later Brandi’s younger sister, Tiffany joined her on stage. Another show by Edwin McCain, followed by the first show of Works Progress Administration which performed as a 7-piece band, including Sara Watkins on fiddle and vocals and Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar (Every show, WPA started with “Always Have My Love” and with the addition of the pedal steel guitar it was just amazing), and we ended the night with Robert Earl Keen (solo), who told the funniest stories (at one point I was laughing and crying) and the highlight each show was “Merry Christmas from the Family”. Keen is one of our favorite discoveries from the cruise.

Day Three: Belize City, Belize, Central America: A chance to get off the ship and bask in their one season of 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity. The evenings music began on the pool deck with Works Progress Administration, followed by Darrell Scott and friends, which included two of his former students (Sarah Sample being one) and Luke Bulla from WPA. While we were having dinner an announcement was made that a special concert was being added in the movie theater. The Watkins Family Hour. Sara & Sean Watkins were joined by other members of WPA and Mr. Buddy Miller on a couple of songs (including one by Hank Williams). That’s an example of some of the surprise unexpected collaborations on-board. The Watkins regularly get together to play in Largo and the people they usually play with were on the ship, so why not get together and play for us. And it was wonderful to listen in on such an amazing group of musicians. After a quick visit to the chocolate buffet (including chocolate sushi), we went to see Ben Taylor again who was once again joined by Brandi Carlile who eventually made her way to sing with Katie Herzig and her band, along with Carlile’s drummer and the Twins.

Day Four: Costa Maya, Mexico was the port city. As we sailed away, I went to see Edwin McCain on the pool deck. Despite some rain drops, the show continued. Afterward McCain graciously signed autographs and posed for photos. McCain’s song “I’ll Be” was a #1 hit in the Philippines and some of the wait staff on the cruise from the Philippines were there and they treated McCain like a rock star, each posing with him for a photo. While I was seeing McCain, Mr. Barb checked out Sara Watkins, who of course had members of WPA join her on stage. We had to catch Robert Earl Keen. Then I saw Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers again, while Mr. Barb went to see Brandi Carlile again (she was joined on stage by John Hiatt, Ben Taylor and Gregory Alan Isakov). Followed by Buddy Miller, who filled the room past capacity (Mr. Barb and I had to share a seat) and he brought on stage a few of his friends including Ms. Emmylou Harris (they did “Sea of Heartbreak”), Sara Watkins and a previous headliner on the cruise, who was just on-board as a guest, Ms. Shawn Colvin. We ended the day with Shawn Mullins and friends, which included (among others) Edwin McCain, Alex Wong, Glen Phillips, Chuck Cannon and Jonathan Kingham (who did another cruise rap). Before we turned in we caught the energized band Scythian.

Day Five: Back into the Eastern time zone and a very rocky day at sea until mid-afternoon. David Dye, host of NPR’s World Cafe was on-board for the first time to conduct interviews with John Hiatt, Robert Earl Keen, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Ben Taylor & Stephen Kellogg. These interviews and performances from the cruise will be broadcast on the World Cafe in April. I was able to attend the interview session with Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle. Dye focused on both performers’ musical roots in Texas. No spoilers, but Earle impressed me as being very articulate (even if some of his comments will have to be edited for radio). Lovett, as usual, was very professional. While I was at the World Cafe interview, Mr. Barb caught a bit of Lissie performing. We then attended the Session which included Shawn Mullins, Glen Phillips, Rebecca Lovell, Chuck Cannon, and Edie Carey along with Megan Lovell on dobro. These talented singer-songwriters gathered together in the fall to write songs. Six songs were written in three days. They discussed the process with each song and performed them, along with a few other songs in this 90-minute session. All of the songs written during that session would be a wonderful addition to any of their future CD’s (although Cannon added at this rate he didn’t think his next CD would be out until 2018). The songwriters really respect each other and enjoyed co-writing. Mr. Barb got to see Samantha Crain, and then we went to an autograph session with Shawn Mullins in the merch area. I went to the Songwriters In the Round with Katie Herzig, Luke Doucet and his wife Melissa McClelland, Gregory Alan Isakov and Vienna Teng.  Each artist talked about the songwriting process for a song and then performed that song. Luke and Melissa performed a song they wrote while on the cruise. Mr. Barb went to see Larkin Poe (formerly The Lovell Sisters) instead, on the pool deck. In the evening we went to the final performance by WPA, then to see our headliner, Mr. Steve Earle (solo). We rounded out the evening with a bit of Vienna Teng, who was joined by The Lovells, Luke Bulla and a member of Hoots & Hellmouth. We just had to catch Robert Earl Keen again and a little of the final act, Darrell Scott, before heading off to sleep.

The amount of collaborations and the chance to interact more with many of the artists, including the headliners, really made this cruise even more amazing than previous years. Next year they are thinking about going back to a 7-day cruise and have confirmed John Prine as a headliner. I wasn't able to bring back any warmth and sunshine, (reality check, as we landed at the airport while it was snowing); instead I came back home with a cold.  Amazing is the best word to described the memories and music going around in my head for this very unique and special journey through song.

Barb S.- Sunday Mix Host


Music News Personal Picks

29 acts. Five days. Ports of call in Belize and Mexico.

During the last week of February, Mr. Barb and I embark on our 3rd journey through song. The chartered cruise is on the same ship as last year.

The returning headliners: Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile are joined by Steve Earle .

Other returning singer-songwriters on-board will be: Katie Herzig, Edwin McCain, Buddy Miller, Shawn Mullins, Darrell Scott, and Vienna Teng & Alex Wong.

New to the line-up: Chuck Cannon, Edie Carey, Luke Doucet, Hoots and Hellmouth, Gregory Alan Isakov, Robert Earl Keen (solo), Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers, Lissie, Melissa McClelland, Scott Munns, Larkin Poe (formerly the Lovell Sisters), Samantha Crain, Scythian, Ben Taylor, Francisco Vidal, Sara Watkins, Works Progress Administration, and Rachael Yamagata.

Again this year, the organizers of the event sent us a 2-CD set of 24 songs from the artists scheduled to be on the 2010 cruise.

It’s always great to see the returning artists; and we know we will discover some new artists too. In addition, there are some events I’m really looking forward to: A Songwriting Workshop hosted by Shawn Mullins and Chuck Cannon; Songwriters in the Round with Katie Herzig, Luke Doucet and his wife Melissa McClelland, Gregory Alan Isakov and Vienna Teng; plus on the last day a Session that will include Shawn Mullins, Glen Phillips, Rebecca Lovell, Chuck Cannon, and Edie Carey who will discuss their writing process and perform some of their collaborative songs.  In addition, as third-time alumni we will have the chance to sit in on one of the special interviews with artists, hosted by David Dye of NPR's World Cafe.

We chose the earliest headliner show time of 6:00 PM this year. In previous years I’ve been known to (ahem) take a nap during the headliner shows, so I can be rested for the late night shows. The schedule this year is mercifully more friendly to those of us who are “morning people” and don’t necessarily want to try to stay awake until 12:30 AM to see a performer. Although I must admit some of my favorite memories are from the post Midnight shows, as you never know what you’re going to get. Our first headliner act on the day we sail is Mr. Lyle Lovett.

We expect plenty of sunshine, happy smiling faces, unexpected impromptu collaborations, and to add to our CD collection. Besides some stories for the WYEP Music Blog; I plan to bring back some sun and warmth in my suitcase for a winter weary Burgh.

Barb S.- Sunday Mix Host



A singer–songwriter is a musician who writes, composes and sings their own material including lyrics and melodies. Recently I had the chance to see a couple of sets of singer-songwriters; from the local and national level.

The quarterly local songwriters spotlight hosted by Joe Grushecky and Rick Witkowski featured guests Billy Price, Carol Lee Espy and Bob Corbin. All five songwriters took turns performing three of their signature songs, old and new. There were stories and laughter and a good camaraderie and mutual admiration and respect. I would watch the other singer-songwriters sing and play along almost spontaneously being caught up in the moment. Grushecky did some older songs “Fingerprints”, and “Pumping Iron” and something new, the title track of his latest release “East Carson Street”. Witkowski started with “Soul Control”, then did a personal song about “Love & Food & Rachel” for the daughter they never had and B.E. Taylor Groups “Vitamin L” became a sing-a-long (taking us back to the MTV video days and a #1 hit in Pittsburgh). In between the guests took their turns in the spotlight. Billy Price offered “Who You’re Workin’ For,” “Eldorado Cafe” and a new song he co-wrote with someone from France “Under the Influence”. Carol Lee Espy kept commenting how hard it was to follow Price’s energetic performances with her laid back country tunes. Espy sang what she called her signature song “My Name is Mary” along with “Cross the River” (written from a farmer’s point of view; she had to think like a man) and “The Allegheny Song”, about the river. Bob Corbin began with a new going away tune “I’ll Be There”, then did “Scooter, Michael, Danny and Me” and one the six songs which he wrote that reached #1, Alabama’s “Fire in the Night”.

The most interesting part of the evening was when each of the songwriters performed a song that they wish they had penned. “You Better Move On”, by a relative unknown (except to the Beatles and Rolling Stones) Arthur Alexander was the choice by Grushecky. Price chose an Al Green song “Love and Happiness”. Espy likes the 3-chord songs by John Prine and sang “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”, a song about the dissolution of a relationship. Another John; Hiatt, was the choice for Bob Corbin, at the piano he sang “Have a Little Faith in Me”. Witkowski went with “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.

After a standing ovation, the songwriters came back on stage to sing a song from The Band, “The Weight”. Does anyone really know all the lyrics to the song or even the words to the chorus? A sheet was passed around to each performer as they took a verse and the audience joined in on the chorus. It was an wonderful two hours of music and a great way to spend a Saturday evening.

Just a few days later Pittsburgh was the first stop on a brief tour for a trio of singer-songwriters. Ben Sollee and Carrie Rodriguez have been joined by Erin McKeown. All three came on stage to start the show, then Rodriguez did a solo set. She used two different guitars and really knows how to play the fiddle. The half-dozen songs included a couple of tracks from her 2008 release “She Ain’t Me”: “Infinite Night” and “Absence”. Her new CD is going to be a covers CD, including the Townes Van Zandt song “Rex’s Blues” (appropriate tune for the venue, The Rex Theater) and a song that her dad e-mailed to her “When I Heard Gypsy Davey Sing”. Ben Sollee’s set was filled with long, lavish instrumental introductions on the cello, proving that songwriters can also compose beautiful music without lyrics. At the end of his set, Sollee was joined by Rodriquez and McKeown and really “electrified” the stage. After a short break, it was McKeown’s turn. Despite jet lag (returning from a European tour), she took center stage. She treated the audience to three tracks from her most recent release “Hundreds of Lions”, by introducing each song as “Track 1”, “Track 2” and “Track 3”. For the encore, the trio played Cat Stevens “Wild World” and rounded out the two hour show with a rousing instrumental. Despite little rehearsal, these singer-songwriters really came together and treated the “school night” crowd to a warm, enjoyable evening of music.

Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host


New Music Personal Picks


ben sollee billy price bob corbin carol lee espy carrie rodriguez erin mckeown joe grushecky rick witkowski singer-songwriters

A singer–songwriter is a musician who writes, composes and sings their own material including lyrics and melodies.  They often provide the sole accompaniment to an entire composition or song, typically using an acoustic guitar or piano.  Their lyrics are often personal.  The song is more important than the performance.  The sound can be sparse, direct and reflective, again placing the emphasis on the song itself.  Singer-songwriters came into popularity in the early 1970’s and are still sharing their stories with us as we embark on a new decade.

Join me January 10th on The Sunday Mix as we explore the best of... singer-songwriters.  From the 1940’s until the present, artists from all around the world.  Sunday, January 10, 2010 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host


Music News Personal Picks



What a bountiful crop of new releases this fall. I can’t recall the last time, at the end of a decade, when I’ve had so many quality CD’s to listen to. 


Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers The Bear (Vanguard Records)

The CD cover looks like most of the albums in my collection from the 1970’s. Worn, but comfortable; just like the music on this CD. The title track, “Oh Adeline” and “Satisfied Man” stand out. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers opened up for Toad the Wet Sprocket in May. I do pay attention to the supporting acts; in fact, I’ve been known to go to concerts, just to see the opening act. This CD is on my 2009 best of list.

WPA Works Progress Administration (WPA Music/Umami Music/Red Distribution)

You will find this album in the top 3 of my best of 2009 list. “Always Have My Love”, the first track and first release proves that Glen Phillips continues to write those catchy lyrics and melodies. My new favorite track, especially after hearing the acoustic version during their studio session at WYEP, is “Already Gone” with Sean Watkins singing lead and Glen Phillips on backing vocals. The other core WPA member Luke Bulla wrote the touching “Remember Well”, after a visit to a nursing home with Alzheimer’s patients. My wish is that this talented group of musicians will follow up this debut release with even more songs that take us on another ride beyond a single genre of music .

Will Hoge The Wreckage (Rykodisc)

A singer-songwriter out of Nashville, TN who caught my ear. I’ve been asking myself why I’ve never heard of Will Hoge until now. It took 10 months for Hoge to recover from an accident that left him seriously injured and “The Wreckage” is the end result. A song like “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” resonates loud and clear not only for the performer but for us music fans as well. I can absolutely say that I-love-every-song on this album. This CD is in the top 5 of my best of 2009 list.


Brandi Carlile Give Up the Ghost (Columbia)

Talented with anuber-amazing voice. I turn up “Dreams” every time I hear it on the radio. “Dying Day” is another great song. Carlile will be in Pittsburgh in January. What a great way to start off the new decade, hearing Carlile belt out tunes. This CD is also made my list for best of 2009.

The Swell Season Strict Joy (Anti)

The follow up to the “Once” soundtrack. I’ve been waiting for more from Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. I fell in love with “Low Rising” the first time I heard it. “The Rain”, “Feeling The Pull” and “Back Broke” are vintage Hansard songs. Oh yeah you know this CD made the top 5 in my best of 2009 list.


Peter King Dancing on a Long Leash (Raincheck)

This is the sophomore release (the follow up to the 2006 “The Road to Ubatuba”) by local writer and musician Peter King. I had the pleasure of attending the CD release show for “Dancing on a Long Leash”. King assembled an amazing set of local musicians to showcase his latest effort. The smile on King’s face was infectious. He was enjoying himself and so was the audience as he drew us in to his music. The dominant themes in King’s songs: his wife, his dog and samba music. I must confess that my favorite track on the new CD is the tongue and cheek “Number One in Liechtenstein." What fun.

John Mayer Battle Studies (Columbia)

This is only the 4th studio album for 32-year old John Mayer. I was hooked immediately by “Who Says”. Newly crowned CMA Entertainer of the Year Taylor Swift joins Mayer on “Half of My Heart.” Mayer does catchy pop well and there's nothing wrong with that.

Livingston Taylor Last Alaska Moon (Whistling Dog Music)

Hearing a new CD by Livingston Taylor for the first time is like putting on an old pair of flannel pajamas. It’s soooo comfortable. I had a smile on my face the whole time I listened to “Last Alaska Moon” all the way through. The first song I previewed was “Kitty Hawk”. Taylor has been singing this tribute to The Wright Brothers in concert for years and it has always been a show highlight (Taylor is also a pilot). "I'm in a Pickle" is certain to be another of those lovable quirky songs that fans will request he sing live. "Call Me Carolina" is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in a long time. The only cover on the album is 1982’s “The Girl is Mine” (Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney) and Taylor even gives that a magical touch, with some help from his nephew Ben Taylor. Members of Union Station (Alison Krauss) join Taylor.  This CD is a gem.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host


New Music Personal Picks

Two shows at two different venues.  From a three-piece to a five-piece band .  WPA played at both WYEP and Diesel on the South Side November 7th.

Despite getting up at 5:30 a.m. to begin the drive from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, the core group of members from WPA (Luke Bulla, Sean Watkins and Glen Phillips) performed and answered questions at a WYEP Studio Session during the Noon hour.  WPA did an acoustic performance of a handful of songs from their debut release "Works Progress Administration".  Each WPA member took a turn on lead vocals as well as answering questions.  After the on-air broadcast the studio audience was treated to an encore.

A singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who says she comes to Pittsburgh often, Erin McKeown, opened for WPA at Diesel.  She performed 10 songs in an almost 45-minute set, while alternating between the electric guitar and electric piano. Half of the songs were from her latest release "Hundreds of Lions", including the title song and "Santa Cruz".  McKeown ended her set by fulfilling two requests: "Melody" and inviting audience participation on "La Petite Mort".

WPA, as a five-piece (Bulla, Watkins and Phillips with Sebastian Steinberg on bass and Jerry Roe on drums) came on stage at 8 p.m.  The fast paced 1-hour and 20-minute set included 17 songs and a much deserved and well received 2 song encore.  WPA's music can not be clearly defined. It's part Americana, part Bluegrass, part Folk and part mixture of everything else.  You can hear the influences of the core member's past experiences with Lyle Lovett, Nickel Creek and Toad the Wet Sprocket.  To prove the point, let's look at a sampling of the WPA setlist that evening.

WPA began their show by launching quickly into five songs from "Works Progress Administration": "Always Have My Love", "End This Now", "Paralyzed", "Cry For You", and "Rise Up". 

Then the core members took turns doing various songs from their repertoires, in between some WPA songs.

"Solar Flare" (Phillips)

"I Feel The Blues Moving In" (Bulla choice of a Del McCoury song)

"Already Gone" (WPA, Watkins lead)

a sad song sung by Watkins that he originally placed on GarageBand

"Drive By" (Phillips)

"Whatever I Fear" (Toad the Wet Sprocket, Phillips changed to acoustic guitar)

"Pink Triangle" (a Weezer song, Watkins took lead on)

"Good As Ever" (WPA with the full band)

"Somebody More Like You" (Nickel Creek)

"Remember Well" (WPA, a touching song penned by Bulla, with Bulla switching from fiddle to acoustic guitar)

Watkins performed a song written by Phillips

"A Wedding or a Wake" (WPA bluegrass tinged track)

Nine songs from "Works Progress Administration" (mainly omitting songs that Sara Watkins would sing lead on), with the other portion of the set balanced with songs from the core group members from their previous groups, their solo work, or songs they just liked to perform.

The first song of the encore, "Cherokee Shuffle" featured the picking of Bulla and Watkins. 

The night ended with a version of Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" and a standing ovation.

Each of the core members took turns singing lead and singing songs written by other members of the group.  Bulla was a stand out on fiddle, vocals and in the amount of passion he displayed. 

At the end of the evening, Phillips thanked the audience for coming out to see them, even though they probably didn't know what to expect from WPA.  Their playing was tight in both the 3- and 5- piece ensemble, despite the fact membership in WPA, outside of the core group of 3, can vary depending on the show.  

"Works Progress Administration" by WPA is one of my top releases of 2009 and after seeing WPA perform many of the tracks live, I'm really looking forward to hearing more of what WPA can share with us musically in the future.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host 





Glen Phillips will be back in town, this time as part of WPA, on Saturday November 7th (Check out the WYEP Concert Calendar for more info) and WPA will be doing a Studio Session at WYEP on November 7th.

Barb WYEP’s Sunday Mix Host (WYEP): Glen, thanks for taking the time to talk to us again for the WYEP Music Blog.

Glen Phillips (GP): You're very welcome.

WYEP: You were in Pittsburgh co-headlining a show with Jonatha Brooke in December 2008, then in May 2009 with Toad the Wet Sprocket, now you’re returning with WPA.  I asked you in the spring (Toad the Wet Spocket - an interview with Glen Phillips) about transitioning from solo artist to being a part of a group and you said it kept you on your toes and that you enjoyed each style.  You also noted that playing with WPA was the most fun you’ve had “ ages, if not ever.”  So now that you are currently focusing mostly on WPA, are your feet firmly on the ground and are you still having a lot of fun?

GP: It's still pretty wonderful. The biggest problem for me has been having "wedding mouth" after shows from smiling too much. Painful cheeks are a small price to pay, though.

WYEP:  “Works Progress Administration”, the first CD from WPA, was released as an independent effort on September 15th.  Having creative control has to be great, is it one of those labors of love, where you get what you put into it?

GP:  I've been spared corporate meddling for most of the last 10 years, and actually for pretty much all of Toad's career as well. It was shocking to see how much that had changed in the music business by the time I was talking to record companies again. So - I'm used to getting to make the music I want to with the resources at hand. This was a new level of resource, though - really inspiring at a number of levels. It's definitely a labour of love. Indie is great, but it's shocking to see how much money and/or luck it takes to break above the noise floor and have an album get some traction. It's not for the faint of heart. Creatively this has been a great experience. Ask me about the business in a year or two…

WYEP:  I have to ask you about the artwork in the booklet that accompanies the “Works Progress Administration” CD.  I believe each song title is integrated into a poster from FDR’s 1939 New Deal Initiative era.  Where did this idea come from?  I particularly like the one from Harrisburg, Penna.  They look so authentic.  Like mini pieces of art.

GP: As soon as we decided on the band name I knew I wanted to integrate original WPA art. It's beautiful, and in the public domain, so the idea of remixing some posters came pretty naturally. I did mockups on my laptop and then sent them to some real graphics people to make the fonts match up properly and such. I think about half the posters I used were from syphilis awareness campaigns. Not sure why, but those just seemed to have the right vibe for the songs. I hope it's not a bad omen...

WYEP:  Since February, I’ve had the chance to sample the future first release “Always Have My Love”.  In the final product there’s more strings, giving it a fuller more polished sound.  The song has really evolved.  Will WPA continue to evolve and change?

GP: I think the only difference since February would have been the mastering. We cut the album in five days, and took about five more to mix it. It just took us a couple years to get it out…As far as evolving - yes! We're excited to be writing for another album, now that we have some better idea of our identity as a band. 

WYEP: Along those same lines, WPA has a core group of founding members made up of yourself, Luke Bulla and Sean Watkins, along with “executive board” members.  Which members of WPA will be in Pittsburgh for the show?  Does the line-up change which songs you play and/or how you play them?

GP: We'll be a 5 piece in Pittsburgh - Sean, Luke and myself with Sebastian Steinberg on bass and Jerry Roe on drums. We play everything on the record except the songs Sara sings, and play a few from our various previous projects and solo records as well as a handful of covers. I've been loving the 5 piece. It's leaner and meaner, and actually rocks a little more than the 8 piece in a certain way. 

WYEP:  There’s a broad range of musical styles, genres and backgrounds within the members of WPA and your debut CD.  Do you plan to experiment with different sounds in the future and to continue to record and perform together?

GP: We're looking forward to making the next album and moving forward. I think we'll concentrate more on the songs than anything - the thing that makes this band work is that no matter how many people we have on board the song is the first priority - there's a lot of playing ability but nobody's showboating. That's the attitude we'll keep in the future - just playing the best material we can as well as we can, and enjoying the company while we're at it.

WYEP: Best of luck in the future and much success to you and the members of WPA! 

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host


New Music


glen phillips wpa

Club Cafe was packed Saturday night to welcome back Jill Sobule for her first of two visits to Pittsburgh this year.  As the early show, Sobule entertained for over 90 minutes beginning with "Where is Bobbie Gentry?" from her latest CD "California Years".  She wore a sleeveless pink/red dress with a large peace symbol on the bottom, and boots. Sobule showed she can play electric guitar, and even briefly sounded like Jimi Hedrix.  Also on the stage was a stand to hold her music and lyrics.  Sobule is not afraid to do covers, she did her take on The Association's "Never My Love", inviting the audience to sing-along, as she did on quite a few of her tunes.  Themes in her songs seem to be often about people ("Margaret", "Karen by Night") or places ("Cinnamon Park", "Somewhere in New Mexico").   Older songs like "Heroes" mixed with newer material that has yet to be recorded, like the song inspired by her visit to a Bearbucks in Castro, CA.  Typical of a singer-songwriter, Sobule had many stories to share.  Additional songs from "California Years" included "Palm Springs", "Mexican Pharmacy" and during the two-song encore "San Francisco".  Sobule promised to do songs that she didn't get to this time during her set in November (check out the WYEP Concert Calendar for more info.)




jill sobule

Singer-Songwriter Jill Sobule will be in Pittsburgh on Saturday, August 15th (check out the WYEP Concert Calendar for more info) 

Barb WYEP's Sunday Mix Host (WYEP): Hello Jill! Thanks for taking the time to respond to some questions via email for the WYEP Music Blog!

WYEP: I have to get the obvious question out of the way first. Were you surprised by the attention “I Kissed A Girl” received back in 1995?

Jill Sobule (JS): Well of course. When the song was written, I thought it would just be one of the later album cuts -a kind of palate cleanser from the more depressing songs that came earlier. I had no idea it would be a single or  the song I was most known for.

WYEP: Where did you get the idea to ask your fans to donate money to record your seventh studio album? Did you start the trend? Amy Correia is now in the process of asking her fans for donations to record her next album, do you have any advice for her?

JS: I had the idea almost 3 years ago. I was definitely not the first to ask for fan support. There was a band from the UK called Marillon who have since 1996 have gone to their fans. Jane Siberry has, I think, had a similar relationship with hers. But, I think I might have been the first that put up a website that had different donation levels for various "gifts and services". I know there had been some generic sites, but none with the individual personality of the artist. Mine was pretty funny: Amy and I had lunch the other day. I think she is just done recording.  My advice was have fun, but get ready for a ton of work -stuff that a record company is supposed to do -unless of course she decides to go with a label. I think Amy is great.

WYEP: In 2008, in 53 days, you were able to raise the $75,000 you needed to record Jill’s Next Record/”California Years”. I noticed on your Tote Board that a majority of the donations were $100 or less and in the Pewter and Polished Rock level. Does this prove that every donation really did count, no matter the amount?

JS: Oh yes! That's the bread and butter. Those are the ones I am most grateful to. Although the woman from the UK that gave me the most has a special place in my heart. Actually, we are good friends now

WYEP: You also broke down your Tote Board by State and Country. I’m proud to say that Pennsylvania was well represented. So how do you explain the lack of donations from Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Wyoming? You also had support from outside the USA, especially from fans in the United Kingdom. Were you surprised that you received money from such faraway places like Greenland and Singapore?

JS: Yes, I have no idea where the girl from Greenland heard me. But these days, it's not like you have to wait for imports to come in; you just go online and listen to your favorite stations from around the world. It's always exciting when you hear from someone who lives many time zones away.

WYEP: In concert, what kind of reaction are you receiving from fans when you play a song from “California Years”? Does it feel extra special or different for you and them, knowing that the fans played a financial role in making this album happen?

JS: It's been great. It was fun having fans sing along to the songs -the donors heard  the record way before it was released.

WYEP: As a fellow Capricorn, I have to say you seem to personify many of the strong qualities under this sign: responsible, patient, ambitious, resourceful and loyal. You certainly showed your Capricorn independence by recording and releasing “California Years”. Do you believe that being a Capricorn has had any influence on the decisions you’ve made on the many paths your career has taken over the years?

JS: Well, I am an iffy Capricorn. Yes, I am all those traits you mentioned, however, I am uncharacteristically unorganized. and sometimes undisciplined . If I can get those two in order, I would be the uber Capricorn bad ass.

WYEP: You had the opportunity to work and tour with the late Warren Zevon.  What was that like?

JS: Warren became a good friend and a mentor. We had the best time on the road together. I think about him every day.

WYEP: They say you write about what you know, yet you’ve delved into so many different topics, including fiction, how do you keep coming up with fresh new ideas?

JS: Well, there is always an interesting story out there (or within). You (meaning me) just have take notice and remember to write it down. Also, it's good to get your nose out of "the internets" and go explore. Again. I am lecturing myself on that one.

WYEP: So what can we expect to hear at your show in Pittsburgh on August 15th?

JS: Songs to make you laugh, songs to make you cry.  Just kidding. I never use a set list, so I never really know what the tone of the show will be. A lot depends on the feel of the crowd. But, I promise it will be worth it.

WYEP: Jill, thanks for your time!

JS: Thank you. Oh, tell folks to go to my website I have tons of free stuff and great t-shirts. That's right!  Thank you Barb.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host




jill sobule


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