Thursday, June 26, 2008

New albums of note: Annabelle Chvostek and Eliza Gilkyson

You need to know about two new albums by two stellar singer-songwriters.

The first is Annabelle Chvostek's album Resilience. Annabelle is a former member of the Wailin' Jennys, a band that won several Juno Awards for their album Firecracker, which featured four of Annabelle's songs, and built quite a buzz during her tenure, touring internationally, playing festivals, and appearing frequently on Prairie Home Companion. Resilience is her first solo release since leaving the Jennys (there were several before she joined). It was recorded in New York and Montreal with Grammy-nominated Canadian record producer Roma Baran (Laurie Anderson, Rosalie Sorrels, Penny Lang, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Bitch & the Exciting Conclusion). The album features Bruce Cockburn, Mary Gauthier, Michael Jerome Browne, Julie Wolf (Ani DiFranco's keyboard player), and a slew of other great players. It's getting rave reviews so far. I am partial to the title track and the last track, "Nashville". Those songs are what songwriting is about, to me. There is also a great cover of the Ella Jenkins song, "Racing With The Sun" which she introduced to the Jennys' repertoire.

Full disclosure: I am doing a little bit of booking for Annabelle. But the reason I am doing it is because I loved this album, not the other way around.

The second new album I need to mention is Eliza Gilkyson's Beautiful World. It almost goes without saying that each album she puts out these days is stunning, and possibly a little better than the last one. I don't know of any other artist who can write political songs so effectively. There are so many stand-out tracks on Beautiful World that I find it hard to know which ones to mention. “Beautiful World is Gilkyson’s masterpiece," according to All Music Guide. I will say that the title track is gorgeous, and I think the last track, "Unsustainable", is brilliant. It's basically a parody of Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable". With that tune in mind, here are some of the lyrics:

Unsustainable, unmaintainable
We’ve gone too far and now it’s uncontainable
Let’s tear it down and start all over again
Reprehensible, indefensible
The way we are is truly incomprehensible

Back to the drawing board
Start all over again
Madly, we loved you madly
We would have gladly maintained the status quo
Badly, we’ve behaved badly
And now, sadly, we’ll have to let you go

So my point is that you should order both albums online immediately and then look up both artists' tour schedules and see them as soon as possible. I might mention that both will be in Portland this fall...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My First Music Video Appearance

About a year ago, a film crew from the PBS program Nova came to film members of the Seminar in Quantitative Political Science Research at Columbia University as we discussed the so-called "wisdom of the crowds."

The results are finally available.

Watch it here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Suzanne Vega on the New York Times Web Site

Greetings from Manchester, England, where I'm currently watching the Spain-Italy Eurocup match. On my computer. So I don't have much time here. (I thought that there was a longer break between regular time and extra time than there is. It's nil-nil right now!)

Anyhow, the point is that there is a very cool and interesting blog post by Suzanne Vega on the New York Times web site. She talks about writing "Luka," turning it into a hit and the reaction to the song.

And she's damn right that she is not just a two-hit wonder.

(Thanks to Natasha for the head's up.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Scenes from the Matt Winters' 10th Anniversary Party

A week ago today -- the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend -- the East Village music club Banjo Jim's was gracious enough to host a concert in honor of my 10th anniversary as the host of The Moonshine Show on WKCR.

The line-up was as follows:

  • The Y'All Stars - Fran Leadon (guitar), Charles Puckette (guitar), Diane Stockwell (fiddle) and Nancy Polstein (snare drum) with Joe Choina (bass) and Peter Elegant (fiddle)

  • The Rockhouse Gamblers - Bill Christophersen (fiddle), Gil Sayre (guitar) and Aron Weinbach (mandolin) with Geoff Harden (bass)

  • Kenny Kosek (fiddle) with Gene Yellin (guitar)

  • Bill Christophersen (fiddle), Mark Farrell (mandolin) and Gene Yellin (guitar)

  • Danny Weiss (guitar) and Mary Olive Smith (guitar) with Jon Graboff (pedal steel), Kenny Kosek (fiddle) and Clarence Ferrari (fiddle)

The music was just amazing -- it was non-stop solid bluegrass and old-time action for over four hours. A good number of listeners and friends showed up to make for a truly wonderful evening.

My friend Ben Fishman did his best to document the evening, but he eventually ran out of room on my memory card -- apparently because of my fondness for the cats of Istanbul. Nonetheless, here are a few highlights:

Dan Shapiro fanning the flames on our sidewalk barbecue while my father and Ben look on. (I took this one.) New York's Finest later told us to shut down the barbecue.

Pete Elegant taking a solo during the Y'All Stars set.

Me soliciting money for the Y'All Stars.

Introducing the Rockhouse Gamblers.

Kenny Kosek outside of the venue.

Bill Christophersen, Mark Farrell and Gene Yellin singing some sweet bluegrass harmonies.