wpa

During the first full week of February, Mr. Barb and I embark on our 5th journey through song.  For the 2nd year our floating sold-out home is The Pearl.  Almost 2,400 passengers on a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise, with three days at sea and ports-of-call that include St. Maarten & St. Barthelemy.  There are over 40 performers.

Returning Headliners are:  Lyle Lovett , John Hiatt (Lovett & Hiatt will be performing together with Hiatt also performing solo), John Prine , Buddy Miller , Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainwright III .  New on board: Lucinda Williams and Keb’ Mo’.

Other returning acts include:  Shawn Mullins (a 5-time cruiser), Chuck Cannon , Enter the Haggis , David Ryan Harris , Edwin McCain , Holly Williams , Aslyn , Levi Lowrey , Beth Wood , Sarah & Christian Dugas (The Duhks) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) (WPA will include Glen Phillips , Sean Watkins , Sara Watkins,Greg Liesz on pedal steel, and Willie Watson from Old Crow Medicine Show).

New on the journey through song will be: Grammy nominated duo The Civil Wars , Greg Brown , Iris DeMent , The Belle Brigade , James McMurtry , Maia Sharp (who will be performing with Edwin McCain), Rhett Miller (of the Old 97’s) , Joe Purdy , Michael McDermott , Sarah Buxton & Tom Bukovac , Angie Aparo , Winterbloom (Antje Duvekot , Anne Heaton , Meg Hutchinson & Natalia Zuckerman ), Shannon McNally , Ryan Montbleau Band , Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion , Sarah Jaffe , Native Run (a trio comprised of Rachel Beauregard , Bryan Dawley and Luke Brindley ) Bobby Long , and Aurora Belle .

In advance of the cruise, we were able to download 37 songs from the artists scheduled to be on the 2012 voyage.

It’s a treat to see so many returning performers; and like always we will definitely become fans of the new acts on board.  There will be solo performances by members of WPA - Glen Phillips (who will be also, again, be hosting a beer tasting), Sara Watkins, and Willie Watson.  The Watkins Family Hour one evening at Midnight.  A Songwriting Workshop with Shawn Mullins and Chuck Cannon.  Shawn Mullins will be headlining a concert in the main theater (for which, again, we have front row seats!).  There’s Tai Chi, Name that Tune, Bingo, Wine and Beer Tasting, Karaoke, Guitar Workshop and Open Mics with the performers in addition to the shows.  We will start the journey with WPA and can end it with David Ryan Harris: The Band – The First Waltz.

We again chose the earliest headliner seated show time of 6:00 PM; many of the shows are general admission, even in the main theater.  The schedule starts as early as 10 AM and can extend to 1:30 AM.

We expect plenty of sunshine, permanent smiles on our faces, unexpected impromptu collaborations (which is what this journey though song is really all about), and to add to our CD collection.  I’ll have lots of stories to share upon our return via the WYEP Music blog (the lap top is staying home this year).  And we’re packing the sun block to prevent sunburn in the winter.

Barb S.- Sunday Mix Host

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Angie Aparo Anne Heaton Antje Duvekot Aslyn Aurora Belle Beth Wood Bobby Long Bryan Dawley Chuck Cannon David Ryan Harris edwin mccain Enter the Haggis glen phillips Greg Brown Greg Liesz holly williams Iris DeMent James MsMurtry Joe Purdy john hiatt John Prine Keb' Mo' Levin Lowrey Loudon Wainwright III lucinda williams luke brindley Lyle Lovett maia sharp Meg Hutchinson Michael McDermott Natalia Zuckerman Native Run Rachel Beauregard Rhett Miller Richard Thompson Ryan Montbleau Band Sara Watkins Sarah & Christian Dugas Sarah Buxton & Tom Bukovac Sarah Jaffe Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion Sean Watkins Shannon McNally Shawn Mullins singer-songwriters The Belle Brigade The Civil Wars Willie Watson Winterbloom wpa

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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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 

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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 “...in 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

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