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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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Darwin Deez and his band have been known to break out in choreographed dance routines. To some, that alone would be worth the price of admission. But Deez is much more than just loose feet: his saccharine pop bounces around in your head and leaves you with a dizzying sugar high.

His self-titled debut was just released in April on Lucky Number Music, and it's a winner. We caught up with Deez as he prepared to embark on an opening gig for the 2010 NME Radar Tour with Hurts and Everything, Everything. Read More..

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The lineup at Mr. Smalls on Tuesday night was a confusing one, with Here We Go Magic sandwiched between garage rockers Tokyo Police Club and grunge-punk band The Edukators. Here We Go Magic’s brand of psych rock was the stylistic opposite of the other two acts, and I was curious as to how they would handle their odd placement. Continue Reading...

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It's been seven years since Natalie Merchant's last album (2003's The House Carpenter's Daughter). That's a pretty big gap in albums, but it all makes sense, now that she has revealed the story behind her latest, Leave Your Sleep. It's a research-based project that had Merchant digging into 19th and 20th century poetry about childhood (sometimes composed by children) from America and England. Check out the making of video and pay your respects to this incredible concept album!

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Cindy Howes Leave Your Sleep Natalie Merchant

If you haven't had a chance to hear Seabear, drop everything and go purchase their new LP. Aptly titled We Built A Fire, it's the perfect album to keep you warm on a chilly night. With its lush arrangements and soothing vocals, you can't help but be whisked away to "Seabearia" on a wave of trumpets, strings, and pianos.

Sindri Már Sigfússon is the creative force behind the Icelandic band's beautiful melodies and heartfelt lyrics. He took some time out from mixing the new album for his solo project, Sin Fang Bous, to answer some questions for us. Continue Reading...

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Everyone's favorite Indie super-group is back with thier new album Together and our friends over at NPR Music have it streaming it in its entirety for your listening pleasure.

Together picks up right where all thier previous albums left off, with joyous harmonies and toe tapping goodness just in time for summer. So click the link already, you know you want to. Listen Here.

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In 2009, The Love Language released their brilliant self-titled debut. It went largely overlooked.

I take some pleasure in loving an under-appreciated band -- a secret treasure that you don't want to share, for fear that its meaning might be taken away from you. They're bands that teeter on the edge of obscurity, armed with great songs that beg to be heard, and for at least a little while, they're yours alone. But you know that the day will come when everyone gets wise and flocks to them too.

And there's nothing you can do about it.

On the other hand, how can these bands get their deserved adoration if I keep them to myself? Continue Reading..

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May 25th Bettye Lavette releases Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, featuring interpretations of 13 classic British rock songs.

Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook tracklist:
1. The Word (John Lennon/Paul McCartney)
2. No Time To Live (James Capaldi/Stephen Winwood)
3. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood (Bennie Benjamin/Gloria Caldwell/Sol Marcus)
4. All My Love (John Baldwin/Robert Plant)
5. Isn't It A Pity (George Harrison)
6. Wish You Were Here (David Gilmour/Roger Waters)
7. It Don't Come Easy (Richard Starkey)
8. Maybe I'm Amazed (Paul McCartney)
9. Salt Of The Earth (Michael Jagger/Keith Richards)
10. Nights In White Satin (David Hayward)
11. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad (Eric Clapton/Bobby Whitlock)
12. Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Elton John/Bernard Taupin)
13. Love Reign O'er Me (Peter Townshend) [BONUS TRACK]

FIRST LISTEN: Cover of The Rolling Stones "Salt Of The Earth"

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Bettye Lavette Cindy Howes Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook

Photo credit: Josh W.

Roots rock, alternative country, folk, and indie are all terms to which Wilco's sound has been likened. Most bands loathe being pigeonholed into a particular sound, and if you ask them what genre they fall into, you can actually see them cringe. Yet we all feel the need to relegate bands to made up genre names, and in recent years defining a band by a specific sub-genre (chillwave, anyone?) has become the norm. But, for me, Wilco are an American rock and roll band: plain and simple. Continue reading... -->

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Something you gotta hear --->

Anaïs Mitchell - Hadestown

Anaïs is truly a genius. She conceived and wrote Hadestown (in collaboration with Ben Matchstick and Michael Chorney), a folk opera based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. She recorded and released a star studded version of the opera- including Ani Difranco and Greg Brown.

Do yourself the pleasure of listening to a song from the recorded version. This features Ben Knox Miller from The Low Anthem and Justin Vernon from Bon Iver - "Wait For Me"

Anaïs Mitchell all alone was already at genius status in my book. Her CD The Brightness was one of my favorites in 2007. This is the lead track "Fonder Heart":

Both Hadestown and The Brightness are available online from Righteous Babe & your favorite local record store

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