Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Guest Blogger: Old Crow Medicine Show in New York City

Ken Dixon, who has previously blogged for us about the Saratoga Music Festival, checks in with this report from the weekend:

The applause was so loud last Saturday, toward the end of the Old Crow Medicine Show set above the bouncing floor at Webster Hall in the East Village, that I had plug my ears with my fingers. Or maybe it was someone else’s fingers, since we were jammed so tightly together there up toward the front of the stage. The crowd just didn’t want OCMS to leave after 28 tunes spanning two hours.

The Fire Department sign at the back of the ballroom said capacity was 390 people, and there must have been 100 more upstairs for a set where a punk sensibility melded with the modest tools of a string band to inspire isolated instances of square-dancing-cum-slam-dancing that may also have been an ancillary effect of the Mets win over Florida.

Indeed, front man Ketch Secor – unaware that the Mets were on track to lose Sunday and sweep themselves out of the playoffs – introduced the band members as oldtime Mets. I didn’t pick up on it until the end, the ambient roar of the crowd was so loud, but I believe that Critter Fuqua, the resonator guitar and banjo man, was offered up to the crowd as “Gil Hodges” the former Brooklyn Dodger who managed the Miracle Mets of 1969. It all happened so fast, but I believe Secor introduced guitarist/singer Willie Watson as “Mookie Wilson,” the former Mets centerfielder on the World Series champs of 1986. It was a playful end to a show that had turned the old ballroom’s dance floor into a trampoline bed.

I don’t play music with enough people steeped in the music of OCMS, so when I sing “Wagon Wheel,” or “I Hear Them All” off the top of my head with a few friends, it’s different. But here were hundreds of people, mostly 20-somethings, singing along to every line. It’s testament to the timelessness of OCMS’s tunes and also I believe, years of relentless touring on college campuses.

The set began shortly after 8 p.m. with the traditional “Fire on the Mountain” and “Poor Man” and delved back and forth into their new recording “Tennessee Pusher,” which includes several cautionary tales about the true destructive power of methamphedamine (as opposed to the raucous winks they give twice each set to the anti-cocaine “Tell It To Me.”). I like the CD, although producer Don Was has included Beatles buddy Jim Keltner on drums on seven tunes. I don’t like drums with my banjos.

There was a lot of square-dance stompers among the first seven tunes, then “I Hear Them All,” brought forth Secor and David Rawlings’ hope for peace and coexistence in a huge singalong. By the tenth song, after the first from “Tennessee Pusher,” they broke into “James River Blues,” a meditation about the end of river cargo at the beginning of the railroad era.

The second set started with the traditional “Sally Ann,” then Kevin Hayes, the guit-jo player, sang “Humdinger,” which he wrote for the new CD. It might have the funniest line from the new work: “We got wine, whiskey, women and guns. How can you afford not to have any fun.” The first rendition of “Tell It to me,” was the fifteenth song, followed by “Wagon Wheel,” on which Watson/Wilson capoed his guitar up two frets, turning it into “A” instead of “G,” for you players out there.

The 20th song was “Union Maid,” which segued into “Caroline,” the last song on the new album (“You just feel fine…”). The crowd wouldn’t accept just one encore and even “Tell It To Me” again didn’t sate the audience. Finally, after “Take Me Back To That Shack No. 9,” and a quick version of “CC Rider” (I prefer the slower, sad version of it on the early O.C.M.S. record where you can almost imagine the jilted lover seeing the sunset in his girlfriend’s eyes), the lights went up, and we slowly herded ourselves down the two flights of stairs to East 11th Street. Outside, an entirely different crowd was waiting to get in for a dance party.

Doug Tuchman Tribute at WKCR in October

Five years ago next Tuesday, October 6th, the bluegrass world in general and the New York City bluegrass scene in particular prematurely lost a dear friend, Doug Tuchman.

As a bluegrass promoter, the editor of Pickin' magazine and the co-founder and frequent co-host of WKCR-FM's Honky Tonkin', Doug did much to support bluegrass, old-time and classic country music in New York City and the United States in general.

Over the course of October, WKCR will be remembering Doug by playing a series of interviews that he conducted over the years as segments within our regular programming. We hope that you will be able to tune in at 89.9 FM or at www.wkcr.org and join us in remembering that remarkable voice that delighted and informed New York City radio listeners for 25 years.

The current schedule is as follows:

Sunday 5 October
The Moonshine Show (10:00 a.m. to Noon) - 1998 Interview with Tom Paley
The Tennessee Border Show (Noon to 2:00 p.m.) - Country Festival Segment on Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper (including 1975 interview)

Tuesday 7 October
Honky Tonkin' (10:00 to 11:30 p.m.) - 1998 Interview with John Hartford about Roy Acuff

Sunday 12 October
The Moonshine Show (10:00 a.m. to Noon) - 1998 Rockhouse Gamblers Live In-Studio Performance
The Tennesee Border Show (Noon to 2:00 p.m.) - Country Festival Segment on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (including 1974 interview with John McEuen)

Tuesday 14 October
Honky Tonkin' (10:00 to 11:30 p.m.) - 1998 Interview with Richard Lieberson about Eldon Shamblin

Sunday 19 October
The Moonshine Show (10:00 a.m. to Noon) - Interview with Del McCoury

To read Doug's obituary in the New York Times, click here. To read some memories collected on Ben Freed's website, click here.

(Special thanks to Elizabeth Klaber for helping WKCR gather material for these broadcasts.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Playlist: Womenfolk (September 28, 2008)

After playing some new music and highlights from the 2008 Americana Music Asssociation (AMA) Conference that I attended in Nashville, I aired an in-depth interview I recorded with Dar Williams at the Guthrie Theater this past Monday. If you missed it, catch it on the KFAI archives here!


WOMENFOLK (September 28, 2008)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley.
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

**Kris Delmhorst / Everything Is Music / Strange Conversation / Signature Sounds

*Natalia Zukerman / Early Bird / Brand New Frame / Weasel Records
Ani Difranco / Cradle and All / Not a Pretty Girl / Righteous Babe

*Eliza Blue / Red Apple Juice / Screen Doors & Back Doors / Lucky Micah Records
The Roe Family Singers / Lizabeth Brown / Andronicus / Self
*The Floorbirds / Moonshiner / Field Recordings / Victrola

Alison Krauss & Robert Plant / Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us / Raising Sand
/ Rounder
*Crooked Still / Undone in Sorrow / Still Crooked / Signature Sounds

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
Red Molly / Ohio / Never Been to Vegas / Self
*Linda & Robin Williams / Maybelle's Guitar and Monroe's Mandolin /
Buena Vista / Red House

Melissa McClelland / Passenger 24 / Thumbelina's One Night Stand / The Orange
Records Label
*Anne McCue / Too Late for Love / East of Electronic / Self

*The Bittersweets / My Sweet Love / Goodnight, San Francisco / Compass

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Alison Brown / McIntyre Heads South / Stolen Moments / Compass

Shawn Colvin / Tennessee / Fat City / Columbia

[Interview with Dar Williams]
*Dar Williams / Go to the Woods / Promised Land / Razor & Tie

*Dar Williams / The Easy Way / Promised Land / Razor & Tie

*Dar Williams / The Buzzer / Promised Land / Razor & Tie

*Dar Williams / Book of Love / Promised Land / Razor & Tie

*Dar Williams / Holly Tree / Promised Land / Razor & Tie

Faux French Music on Gossip Girl

Over on Jeremy Parzen's blog -- underneath a photo of some illegal cheese (seriously) -- he announces that Nous Non Plus's song "Fille Atomique" will be featured on Gossip Girl tomorrow. Crazy!

Here's the official video to get you prepared for the big television event:

(Thanks to Allan for the tip.)

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 28 September 2008

This week, I played a mix of material including some new releases by Heather Berry and Tony Mabe, The Crooked Jades, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge and Hard Ryde (from Canada). (Some of them were new to me and not actually 2008 releases!) And then the show wrapped up with a special live appearance by New York City rockabilly stalwarts The Susquehanna Industrial Tool and Die Co. Despite a brief technical interruoption, those guys hit us with three hard-driving rockabilly originals.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 28 September 2008 - 10:00 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

Dailey & Vincent; "Poor Boy Workin' Blues"; _Dailey & Vincent_ (Rounder)

Tom Adams; "Old Joe Clark"; _Right Hand Man_ (Rounder)

Tony Trischka with Tom Adams; "Fox on the Run"; _Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular_ (Rounder)

Jim Mills; "Take the D Train"; _My Dixie Home_ (Sugar Hill)


Steep Canyon Rangers; "Lovin' Pretty Women"; _Lovin' Pretty Women_ (Rebel)

J.D. Crowe and the New South; "I'm Walkin'"; _J.D. Crowe and the New South_ (Rounder LP)

Boone Creek; "Walkin' in Jerusalem"; _Boone Creek_ (Rounder LP)

IIIrd Tyme Out; "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke"; _Back to the MAC_ (Rounder)


Heather Berry and Tony Mabe; "Hazel Creek," "Public Enemy Number One"; _Before Bluegrass_ (Blue Circle)

The Carter Family; "Sea of Galilee," "Jealous Hearted Me"; _1935-1941, Volume 2_ (JSP)


Rhys Jones and Christina Wheeler; "Johnny Bucker"; _Starry Crown_ (Vigortone)

Matt Brown; "The Hog Went Through the Fence," "East Virginia"; _Lone Prairie_ (5-String Productions)

The Crooked Jades; "Lizzy Flew the Coop," "Underlings"; _Shining Darkness_ (self-released)


Larry Keel and Natural Bridge; "Next Sunday Darlin'," "Farewell Blues"; _Larry Keel and Natural Bridge_ (self-released)

Hard Ryde; "Lonesome Road Blues," "Ridin' on the Midnight Train"; _Stages_ (Hapidawg)


The Karl Shiflett and Big Country Show; "Truck Driving Man"; _Worries on My Mind_ (Rebel)

Longview; "Listen to My Hammer Ring"; _High Lonesome_ (Rounder)

James Reams and the Barnstormers; "Troubled Times"; _Troubled Times_ (Mountain Redbird)

Auldridge, Bennett, Gaudreau; "We Live in Two Different Worlds"; _This Old Town_ (Rebel)


Ralph Stanley II; "Pretty Girls, City Lights"; _Pretty Girls, City Lights_ (Rebel)

Ronnie McCoury; "Evangelina"; _Heartbreak Town_ (Rounder)

The Gibson Brothers; "The Open Road"; _Bona Fide_ (Sugar Hill)

Blue Highway; "Homeless Man"; _Through the Window of a Train_ (Rounder)


Ron Stewart; "Gotta Travel On"; _Time Stands Still_ (Rounder)


Susquehanna Industrial Tool and Die Co. LIVE in WKCR-FM Studio
"Hey Mr. Romance"
"Had a Little Chicken"
"I Read It in a Book"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Peter Mulvey in Madison Square Park

Today in New York, San Francisco's fog was in town. There was a grey cloud covering Manhattan for nearly the entire day. Normally, I can see the Empire State Building from my bedroom window; this morning, I looked out and did a double-take because it wasn't there. But then I realized that the airborne moisture was to blame.

I stepped out into this misty atmosphere and made my way to Madison Square Park for the penultimate Mad. Sq. Music concert of the season. The Madison Square Conservancy distributed a number of WFUV ponchos to the concert attendees and showed no intention to not let the music go on. And the rain stayed mostly away. There was a light misting now and then but nothing that had anyone considering leaving.

Peter Mulvey is an artist that I have not seen enough of in my life. I remember him from some of my first Falcon Ridge Folk Festivals in the early-to-mid-1990s, where he took the stage to play a song with four capos on guitar called "Four Capos on My Guitar" (or something like that), and he also came out at the very end of a festival to sing "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" one year. (The multiple capos thing has now become the signature domain of Randall Williams, who I encountered for the first time at this year's Falcon Ridge. And frankly, the "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" memory might be wrong, so I'd love it if someone could confirm it.) I also have a memory of saying hello to Peter at some downtown club -- the old Living Room perhaps? -- in 1999 or 2000, telling him that I booked the Postcrypt, having him say, "I need to play that place again!" and then having nothing come of it.

Mostly, however, Peter Mulvey, for me, is his 1995 CD Rapture. That disc was his major label debut, and it was one that I fell in love with in high school and knew intimately. Featuring lots of different open tunings on the guitar and a deep and husky voice, this was a CD that spoke to me. The opening four songs -- "Rapture," "On the Way Up," "Questiom Mark" and "Smell the Future" -- are a rat-a-tat-tat of solid songwriting and engaging performance. Also notable is his cover of The Waterboys' "The Whole of the Moon," which appears twice on the album -- first in a studio version and then in a version recorded live in the Boston T.

"Smell the Future" is the stand-out track from that album, and I often find myself thinking of its evocative and aggressive portrayal of the 1992 L.A. riots:

Lying face down in the street, they beat the sh*t out of him --
His face was such a sight.
Lying to us blatantly, they handed down not guilty;
I say that's not right.
Lying on my mother's couch, screaming at the television,
Watching L.A. burn into the night:
That night we smelled the future
We smelled the future.
Do you smell the future?
Well, it smells like gasoline.

Peter was fresh back from his No Gasoline Tour, where he traveled from gig-to-gig for 10 days on a recumbent bicycle. He spoke several times about the tour, saying that next year he's going to rename it the "Up Yours, Big Oil Tour" and also referring to it as "the most incredibly stupid thing I've ever thought of -- burning your body to go 100 miles!" And later, "I learned a lot this summer. I learned you should never mess with a male redwing blackbird when he is feeling territorial, and I learned that dogs are nicer and better behaved in Wisconsin than they are in West Virginia."

The set opened up with "The Knuckleball Suite," which is not a rocking song, but the strum of Peter's guitar was powerful (and also complex as the overtones kicked in), and his resonant voice carried throughout the park. After a somewhat lackluster opening set by the husband-and-wife duo Hungrytown, my ears perked up, and I said, "Yes! This is what I'm here for!"

The second song was a new one, called "Some People." It's allegedly going to be the only original on a forthcoming CD of jazz standards that Peter will record this winter. Let me do my best to capture a topical verse about Larry Craig:

Some people go to the synagogue;
Some people go to the church.
Some senators go into the men's room,
And end up with their reputations besmirched.

At the end of the third song, "Let the Mermaids Flirt with Me," a car horn sounded on 23rd Street (right behind the stage), and Peter said, "Wow! I love this town! That was a major third above the final note." He later referred to New York's propensity for "John Cage moments."

He then played "Old Simon Stimson" and his terrific song for jazz bassist Charlie Haden, "Charlie," which he prefaced with a great story about Charlie Haden and Ornette Coleman playing free jazz at The Blue Note, and Haden playing with his eyes closed, partly out of fear for the way that the crowd was reacting to the music. When he opened his eyes, there was a man with his ear right up against his bass! That man was Leonard Bernstein.

He introduced "The Dream," a song from my beloved Rapture CD inspired by the Boston T, by saying, "When you get a liberal arts degree in theatre, it's in your contract that you have to become a subway performer." A great cover of Mose Allison's anti-war song "Everybody's Cryin' Mercy," which Mulvey had worked out in a hotel room in Pennsylvania a few days earlier, followed. He described it as a "surprisingly relevant song."

"If Love is Not Enough" was again from Rapture and remains classic Mulvey. The capo covers five strings on the guitar, and the sixth string is tuned down to provide this pounding bass throughout the song -- a great sound. A new song called "Kids in the Square" (written with Timothy Geering of Somerville, Massachusetts) followed. Then came "Tender Blindspot" and the Duke Ellington song "I'm Beginning to See the Light." He closed the set with "Mailman" and "Faraway from Home."

A lot of the songs that Peter played in the set can be found on his most recent CD, Notes from Elsewhere, where he has stripped them all down to be (mostly) just him and an acoustic guitar.

Monday at the Guthrie

Monday was a crazy day--first day back at work after my trip to Nashville for the Americana Conference. From a hectic day of internet problems and an overflowing inbox at the office, I ran over to KFAI to pick up a recorder and meet Dar Williams for an interview. The conversation was lovely, and I was suprised to learn she remembered my grandmother Alice Stanley from her days at Aloha Camp, where she spent many of her summers as a camper and counselor. (Incidentally, it was also the first place I saw Dar play when I was 15 years old.)

I met up with KFAI DJ Beth Shaw, who was my +1 for the evening, and we found our very nice seats at the beautiful new Wurtele-Thrust Stage at the beautiful new Guthrie Theater arts complex on the Mississippi. The stage was set for the play, which is now up in that theater--Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge." The design was beautiful and perfect for a concert of singer-storytellers, with simple wood furniture, a street exterior with brick buildings and a striking sykline. One could imagine all kinds of characters coming and going from that place.

Opening up the show was Shawn Mullins. Although I had always found his music pretty dull and predictable, I was pleasantly surprised by his solo acoustic set. There were some good songs in there, and I was impressed with his voice, which had much more nuance than his polished pop recordings would indicate. Dar came out to sing on one of his big hits "Beautiful Wreck," which made the audience go crazy. In fact, there some pretty hardcore Mullins fans behind us that had clearly come for him and nearly blew out our eardrums with all their hooting and hollering.

After the break, Dar came out with a small band featuring percussionist Everett Bradley and keyboard player Bryn Roberts (whose parents live in Minnesota and were in the audience that night). Here's what was played...

- "The Easy Way" (From the new album--heard this at Falcon Ridge.)
[Here she gave a long intro, talking about how she grew up in a place like Minnesota--a place where people took pride in weathering the cold and ate lots of root vegetables. She then talked about how she used to think she was immune to material things until she realized it was just that she had been broke.]
- "Spring Street" (Nice backing vocals from both Everett and Bryn and great drums.)
- "Farewell to the Old Me"
- "It's Alright" (With Shawn Mullins...another one from the new CD and my current favorite from it--a really great poppy post-breakup song.)
- "Book of Love"
- "Blue Light of Fame" (Dedicated to 2 friends named Rachel who died--pretty sure one of the ones she was talking about was Rachel Bissex.)
- "The Buzzer" (About the 1960's Milgrom experiments--this one rocked with the band.)
[At this point, Bryn and Everett left the stage, and Dar played 2 songs solo.]
- "The Holly Tree" (A really beautiful truly folkie tune--my other favorite on the new CD.)
[Dar then launched into a super-long intro about how she admires parents who are raising their kids to be really out there. The she dedicated it to teachers and in particular this one man that raised great kids, who went to good colleges and have gone on to do all these wonderful things in the world..."So I'd like to dedicate this to my good friend Al Franken." It was a pretty brilliant intro because no one expected it to end like that.]
- "The One Who Knows"
- "Echoes" (Although this wasn't one of my favorites from her album My Better Self, this sounded great with the band, which returned.)
- "As Cool As I Am" (A really rockin' version of this fan favorite.)
- "You Are Everyone" (with Shawn)
- "Midnight Radio"
- "Mercy of the Fallen" (Really great ender!)
Encore: "The Babysitter's Here" (solo)
[Up until the encore, the audience was a well-behaved, polite Minneosta audience, but by this point, fans let loose with all the old-school Dar requests that you'd expect--"Iowa," "When I Was a Boy," "The Babysitter's Here." She went with "The Babysitter's Here"--the only one she actually played from that early Dar era. It was kind of cool that she managed to play mostly new stuff, although I have to say if we were going to hear one old song, I'd have preferred "Iowa" but...a lot of fans were happy, and it was sweet end to a lovely show.]

Following the show, Beth and I hit Grumpy's for a late dinner...best mushroom swiss burger I had had in who knows how long. A tasty end to a busy but great day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Folk Takes Center Stage

True folk music takes late night network TV by storm this Monday, when activist and folksinger (and banjo player!) Pete Seeger plays on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman at 11:30 pm Eastern. Joining him will be Red House bluesman Guy Davis and Seeger's grandson and former Mammals member Tao Rodriguez-Seeger.

Pete Seeger's new album is appropriately called At 89 and comes out Tuesday on Appleseed Recordings.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dar Interview Rescheduled

Dar Williams sat down with me last night before her show at the Guthrie Theater, and we had a lovely chat. This in-depth interview will air this Sunday on KFAI at 11 am Central...I promise!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Playlist: Womenfolk (September 21, 2008)

Today we honored National Singles Week with songs celebrating the single life. Although the Dar Williams interview did not end up happening (there was a mix-up in the time), we did debut her new album and gave away tickets to her show tomorrow and to Sonya Kitchell's October 12th concert at the Varsity. Dar and I are working at rescheduling the interview while she's in town, and I hope to air something soon so stay tuned!

Remember if you want to hear the show, you can hear the archived show online...just click here!


WOMENFOLK (September 21, 2008)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley.
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

**Kris Delmhorst / Everything Is Music / Strange Conversation / Signature Sounds

Kate MacKenzie / Single Girl/Sally Ann / Age of Innocence / Red House
The Wailin' Jennys / The Devil's Paintbrush Road / Firecracker / Red House

Nanci Griffith / Anything You Need But Me / Flyer / Elektra
Eliza Gilkyson / Not Lonely / Land of Milk and Honey / Red House

Alison Krauss / It’s Over / I’ve Got That Old Feeling / Rounder
Lucy Kaplansky / Everybody Knows But Me / The Tide (2005 Version) / Red House

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*Red Molly / This Farmer Needs a Man / Love and Other Tragedies / Self
Jenny Whiteley / Needle in a Haystack / Hopetown / Black Hen Music
Kim Barlow / Slim Pickins / Lucky Burden / Caribou Records
*Julie Lee / A Good Man Is Hard to Find / Take Me Out to Hear the Band / Self

*Linda & Robin Williams / That’s the Way Love Goes / Buena Vista / Red House
Nerissa & Katryna Nields / Yesterday’s Girl / Love and China / Zoe

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
*Joan Griffith & Laura Caviani / Triste / Sambanova / Pleasing Dog Music

*Dar Williams / It’s Alright / Promised Land / Razor & Tie
*Dar Williams / Book of Love / Promised Land / Razor & Tie
Dar Williams / As Cool As I Am / Out There Live / Razor & Tie

Dar Williams / I’ll Miss You Till I Meet You / My Better Self / Razor & Tie

Susan Werner / All of the Above / New Non-Fiction / Self
Amy Rigby / Shopping Around / Til the Wheels Fall Off / Signature Sounds

Rose Cousins / Good Enough / If You Were For Me / Self
Kasey Chambers / Not Pretty Enough / Barricades & Brickwalls / Warner Bros.

*Meg Hutchinson / I'd Like to Know / Come Up Full / Red House
The Weepies / Not Your Year / Say I Am You / Nettwerk

*Lucy Wainwright Roche / Awhile / 8 More / Self
Pat Carroll / Single Girl / Songcatcher / Vanguard

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More on AMA

For more sound opinions of the AMA Conference, check out my friend Craig Shelburne's blog postings on CMT.com. He's a great writer that champions true country and roots-based Americana music...and like me, he's a runner!

Dar Williams on Womenfolk Tomorrow

Yup, I'm interviewing Dar Williams tomorrow on Womenfolk...You can hear the show live or archived here!

I'll also be honoring National Singles Week with songs celebrating the single life. All lonely hearts and bitter dedications welcome...Just tune in tomorrow at 11 a.m. Central!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Music in Music City: AMA Conference

Greetings from Nashville, where I'm in town for the Americana Music Association (AMA) Conference! I flew into town via Midwest Airlines early Wednesday morning (the best flying experience I've had in the last two years, by the way) and had some down time in my hotel before meeting up with Compass Records publicist Stephanie Fields, getting some sweet butter-cream cupcakes from Dulce and meeting the whole Compass Records crew at their offices. Weighted down with guac, chimichangas and pure sugar, I somehow managed to eek out a very slow run across the pedestrain bridge from the Titans stadium to downtown. That night I met up with my pal Craig Shelburne, who writes for CMT.com, where we hit a local Tex Mex place for some Yazoo Dos Perros (local brew that is sort of a maltier Dox Equis). Our plan was to go to 3rd & Lindsley to see Red House artists Robin & Linda Williams, but their van broke down, and they were unable to make it back in time. So, we hit Mercy Lounge instead to see St. Paul-based alt-country band Romantica. Headed up by sweet-voiced Belfast native Ben Kyle, they play really great lyrical songs with up-tempo Americana hooks. The set featured lots of Minnesota shout-outs (yeah!) and a ton of great songs from their new album America, including "The National Side" (about his mom playing for the national field hockey team in Northern Ireland), "God Walks on the Water," and "Queen of Hearts." After chatting with Ben, Craig and I went to 3rd & Lindsley, where we saw Nels Andrews. He had two guys playing with him--an electric bass player and a dude who played some pretty busy mandolin and banjo. Nels' set was really nice, but the highlights were the last two songs that he played solo. I especially liked his song "Between the Dollar and the Dream."

Yesterday morning I went to the radio listening meeting, hosted by Americana radio promoters Sean Coakley and Leslie Rouffe, where people from the industry get to hear and give feedback on 12 new songs coming out in the next several months. Like last year, I found my opinions did not often align with the rest of those in the room. Many of the folks seemed more interested in the vibe of the song rather than the song itself. Many had a preference for high-octane forgettable country/rock tunes--a genre of Americana that my friend brilliantly dubbed "genericana." There were, however, some songs that rose above that bar--my favorite was by Canadian band Elliott Brood. I also enjoyed Jessica Lea Mayfield and a new duet from Todd Snider and Loretta Lynn.

After catching up with Peter Blackstock, one of the editors of the nearly revamped No Depression magazine (look for the new site on the 30th and a bigger book format of the magazine, published by University of Texas Press), I went out for lunch at legendary lunch place Arnold's with Signature Sounds president Jim Olsen. After a nice southern style meal (with pecan pie to die for!), we went back to the convention center, where I shmoozed and made the rounds in the very small exhibit hall. As usual, our Canadian friends brought it, offering margaritas at the Six Shooter Records/Starfish Management booth.

I met up with the Craig and the Compass Records crew at their pre-awards show party, on the 4th floor balcony, where we had more Yazoo beer (yay!) and heard a really nice live set by new Compass sign The Bittersweets, who have recently relocated from California to Nashville. Notorious character Beetle Bob was dancing up a storm, and it was entertaining to say the least. [It seems that every festival and conference has some crazy dancing character...Matt will remember Grey Fox's Dancing Guy and Dancing Judy from Winnipeg and Falcon Ridge fame.] Also ran into Julie Lee, who I had last seen in Minneapolis, when she stopped by my show last winter.

After the party, a few of us had grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet potato fries at Robert's on Broadway (across the back alley from the Ryman). We enjoyed the regular house band Don Kelley Band (featuring a bassist who played with Johnny Cash), which played lots of traditional country tunes.

That night I caught some of the Americana Music Awards Show, hosted by Jim Lauderdale (sporting a much tamer country suit than last year). Here are the performers and awards I saw...

- Ryan Bingham, who was nominated for New Emerging Artist of the Year. Caught him at the Cactus Cafe at SXSW this past year and thought the show was pretty forgettable. This, however, was nice...maybe it had something to do with special guest Joe Ely or the house band that included Buddy Miller. I still don't think it deserved the standing ovation it got.
- Sam Bush (with Byron House) played "Bluegrass Train."
- Kane Welch Kaplin did really great tune, very down-home all sitting in chairs.
- The Steeldrivers did their hit "Blue Side of the Mountain." Fiddler and harmony vocalist Tammy Rogers was the real star of this...great singing and fiddling and attitutde. I want to hear more of her!
- Robert Earl Keen and Elizabeth Cook presented Duo Group of the Year Award to...no surprise...Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.
- Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer played a tune from their upcoming record.
- Tift Merritt played "Broken," nominated for Song of the Year.
- Song of the Year Award went to "She Left Me for Jesus," performed by Austin singer/songwriter Hayes Carll. His co-writer Brian Keane is the one who accepted the award.
- Americana Lifetime Achievement for Songwriting Award winner John Hiatt played "Have a Little Faith In Me" solo on the piano--probably the highlight of the evening.
- Steve Earle presented "Spirit of Americana" Free Speech Award to Joan Baez, who was lovely and gracious. She played the title cut from her new album, produced by Steve--Tom Waits' "Day After Tomorrow."

Then I went with some folks over to the Station Inn to meet up with Craig and Nels Andrews. We saw Casey Driessen (who was playing instead of fellow Sparrow Quartet member Ben Sollee), who did a funky set backed up by a very sweet drummer and upright bass player. The highlight was their last song--a hip version of "Working on a Building." Before heading to my hotel, I caught a few songs from Crooked Still, featuring the band's new line-up. It was a nice end to a great music-filled day.

Now I'm off to the Country Music Hall of Fame and a lunch meeting...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shining City on Facebook

And now for some blatant self-promotion: My little business, Shining City Productions, now has it's very own Facebook page. Please come by and visit there, leave a comment, become a fan, etc etc. How else will you see the stellar fall line-up of shows? Well, you could go to my regular web site...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Playlist: Womenfolk Food Special (September 14, 2008)

Since Matt insists...here's what I played this past Sunday on my radio show...

I presented a special food show, featuring some tasty songs and an interview with Barbara Spenader of Barsy's Almonds, who talked about how she turned her passion for food into a new business. We shared information about Twin Cities farmers' markets, co-op groceries and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). You can get more info and listen to the archived show here. Enjoy!


WOMENFOLK: Food Special (September 14, 2008)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley.
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

**Kris Delmhorst / Everything Is Music / Strange Conversation / Signature Sounds

Crooked Still / Come On In My Kitchen / Shaken By a Low Sound / Signature Sounds

Julie Lee / Made From Scratch / Stillhouse Road / Compadre Records
Barb Ryman / Strawberry Pie / Earthbound / Renegade
Lui Collins / Making Pies / Closer / Waterbug
Kim Barlow / Gingerbread / Gingerbread / Caribou Records

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*Red Molly / Beaumont Rest Stop / Love and Other Tragedies / Self
Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem / Butter & Egg Man / Cocktail Swing / Signature Sounds

Natalia Zukerman / Ice Cream / Only One / Talisman Records
Sue Foley / Sugar In My Bowl / Change / Ruf Records
Kate McDonnell / Sticky Buns / Don’t Get Me Started / Self
Michelle Shocked / Strawberry Jam / Arkansas Traveler / Mighty Sound

Jamie Anderson / A Little Chocolate / A Promise of Light / Tsunami Recordings
Ann Reed / Deep Fat Frying / By Request / A Major Label
Christine Lavin / Cold Pizza For Breakfast / The Bellevue Years / Philo

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Katie McMahon / Katie’s Kitchen / Shine / Swallowtail Records
Abigail Washburgn / Coffee’s Cold/Tater Patch / Here In This Room / Self

[Live in the Studio: Barbara Spenader of Barsy’s Almonds]

Karen Mueller / Shortening Bread/Shady Grove / Clarity / Streamline Productions
Full Frontal Folk / Angeline the Baker/Cuckoo’s Nest / Sweet Myster of Life / Self

The Ginn Sisters / Let It Burn / Blood Oranges / Self
Gillian Welch / Wayside/Back In Time / Soul Journey / Acony

Ruthie Foster / Church / Stages / Blue Corn Music
Kate Campbell / Funeral Food / Visions of Plenty / Compass

10,000 Maniacs / Eat For Two / MTV Unplugged / Elektra

Kasey Chambers on Conan O'Brien Tonight

I'm a big fan of Kasey Chambers as a writer and a performer, so although I haven't heard her new album with husband Shane Nicholson, I'm betting she'll tear up the Late Night Studios as she takes the stage tonight on Conan O'Brien!

More on the Park Slope Jamboree

Peter Matthews over at The Feast of Music has put up a nice post about the Park Slope Bluegrass and Old-Time Jamboree including some nice things about me. (Although I have to confess that I've made it out to Park Slope for nearly all of the Jamborees but not actually all of them.) Most importantly, he has some photos from over the course of the night. (Can you find the back of my head?) Here is a really nice shot of David and Linda Lay:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 14 September 2008

Without having consulted Ellen to see how she feels about it, I've decided that Ellen and I should start posting our radio playlists here on The Sound of Blackbirds.

So here is my playlist from this morning's Moonshine Show. I spent some time remembering Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, whose 97th birth anniversary was yesterday. I played some material from No Speed Limit, a great, young bluegrass band from Virginia who are playing at Jalopy tonight. And then Alex Battles and the Mighty Sammo stopped by to play two songs and tell us about next weekend's Brooklyn Country Music Festival.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
14 September 2008 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

Bill Monroe [13 September 1911 - 9 September 1996] and His Blue Grass Boys; "New Muleskinner Blues," "New John Henry Blues," "Brown County Breakdown," "I'm Sitting On Top of the World"; _1950-1958_ (Bear Family)


Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys; "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (1946); _The Classic Bluegrass Recordings Volume 2_ (County LP)

Elvis Presley; "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (1954); _The Sun Sessions_ (RCA LP)

Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys; "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (1955); _1950-1958_


Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys; "Live and Let Live," "Devil's Dream," "With Body and Soul," "Travelin' Down This Lonesome Road"; _Anthology_ (MCA/Decca)


John Hartford and the Hartford String Band; "The Cross-Eyed Child"; _Good Old Boys_ (Rounder)


No Speed Limit; "Blue Night," "New East Virginia Blues"; _Sweet Virginia_ (Arhoolie)

Steve Barr; "Sally Ann"; _Stevie Barr with Friends_ (Arhoolie)


Red Molly; "Coal Tattoo"; _Never Been to Vegas - Live_ (self-released)

Salamander Crossing; "Rocky Mountain Side"; _Passion Train_ (Signature Sounds)

The Dixie Bee-Liners; "Down on the Crooked Road"; _Ripe_ (Pinecastle)

Ralph Stanley with Laurie Lewis; "Old Love Letters"; _Clinch Mountain Country_ (Rebel)


Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs; "Don't Cheat in Our Hometown"; _Second Generation_ (Rebel)

Red Allen; "Hello City Limits"; _The Folkways Years, 1964-1983_ (Smithsonian Folkways)

Balsam Range; "The Boat of Love"; _Marching Home_ (Mountain Home)

Tony Trischka; "John Henry Medley"; _Territory_ (Smithsonian Folkways)


Alex Battles and Sammo LIVE in WKCR-FM Master Control
"Last Night in Town"
"Community Property"


M Shanghai String Band; "Devil, You and Me"; _From the Air_ (Red Parlor)


Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys; "I'm Working on a Building"; _Live from Mountain Stage_ (Blue Plate)

11th Annual Park Slope Bluegrass and Old-Time Jamboree

Yesterday was the 11th Annual Park Slope Bluegrass and Old-Time Jamboree (or is it the Park Slope Old-Time and Bluegrass Jamboree? -- it seems to switch every year) at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture.

Organized by James Reams and Tina Aridas, this event is a consistently wonderful weekend of music in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It starts with a James Reams and the Barnstormers concert on Friday night, and then Saturday afternoon is dedicated to workshops and jamming all over the grounds of the beautiful 1900 neo-Jacobian mansion on Prospect Park West. In recent years, there has also been an afternoon film festival. Then on Saturday evening, a group of great old-time and bluegrass bands -- definitely with more of the former than the latter -- come together for a concert.

A few highlights from this year:
  • American Flyer - A bluegrass group featuring Ben Freed on banjo, Bill Christophersen on fiddle, Gene Yellin on guitar and vocals, Phil Zimmerman on mandolin and vocals, Ethan Kende on bass and Deb Griner on vocals and guitar, these guys put on a really, really solid set of music consisting mostly of bluegrass standards. I found myself particularly impressed with Ben Freed's banjo last night. He took a really nice solo on Bill Monroe's "Travelin' Down This Lonesome Road", provided the classic kick-off to Jimmy Martin's "Hold Whatcha Got" and also hit the right notes on Red Allen's "Hello City Limits." Gene Yellin had some wonderful vocals, too.

  • John Cohen and Annabel Lee - This set was exactly what I would have wanted from John Cohen, one of the founding members of the New Lost City Ramblers -- celebrating their 50th anniversary this year -- and an important folk music collector and scholar. With Annabel Lee singing and playing guitar, and John switching between guitar and banjo, we heard a number of great old-time tunes.

    "Rolling Mills," a song that John collected from George Landers of North Carolina, featured this particularly evocative verse:

    Now bring my revolver here.
    Come and shoot out my brains.
    For I'd rather be dead and buried in my grave
    Than to be in the trouble I'm in.

    "Going Down the Georgia Road" was a variant of "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad" that featured a slight melodic variation. (Having had a sip from the brown jug after being awarded the annual Brown Jug Award (along with Tom Paley), John Cohen said, "Whoa... I forgot where that one ended!")

    And then John told a terrific story about looking up Cousin Emmy when the New Lost City Ramblers were playing out at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, and he and Mike Seeger went to her house, and she was giving them a hard time, not really wanting to talk to them. So when she stepped out of the room, John picked up her banjo and started playing her version of "Johnny Booker." This instantly changed her tune -- so to speak -- and she came back in the room and said, "Where did you learn that? ... You got that note wrong there!"

  • Tom Paley - The other founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers on hand -- Mike Seeger wasn't there -- Tom Paley played a solo set with a couple of terrific classics ("Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train" and "Oh My Little Darling") and a lovely Swedish fiddle tune.

  • New Lost City Ramblers Reunion - Tom Paley and John Cohen did get together to play a few tunes with Bill Christophersen, the consummate journeyman who doesn't need to leave New York, on fiddle. They played only a few songs, and the ratio of time tuning to time playing was approaching 1-to-1, but the crowd jumped right in on the choruses of Charlie Poole's "Baltimore Fire" and "Leaving Home" (the encore), which I think spoke to the importance of the band in the collective memory of the audience.

  • David and Linda Lay - From Virgina, this husband-and-wife team (married after 10 weeks of dating and one true-love foot massage complete with udder cream) put on a really great show. Linda plays autoharp and sings absolutely beautifully, while David plays rhythm guitar and sings shy harmonies. They opened with "Just Someone I Used to Know," known as a classic Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner or George Jones and Tammy Wynette duet and done here with an autoharp! The crowd felt free to join in immediately on the chorus of "Drifting Too Far from the Shore" and also "Angel Band" with which they closed their set. Her autoharp playing was lovely, and the level of professionalism in their performance was a notch above. On tour as part of the Virginia Folklife Program, definitely do try and catch these guys.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Le Poisson Rouge

All right, I have to confess that I haven't been there yet, but Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street seems to quickly be becoming the hippest music venue in New York. I just keep hearing about one great show after another there.

Check out Peter Matthews' post on Feast of Music.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ralph Stanley Weighs in on the Presidential Race

Ralph Stanley has endorsed Barack Obama!

Edie Carey in the Paste Rock 'n' Reel at Sea Cayamo Contest

News from Edie Carey in my inbox this morning:

I just heard the exciting news that I am one of 20 semi-finalists in the Paste Rock 'n' Reel at Sea Cayamo contest. If I win, I will get to perform aboard the Cayamo Cruise in February '09 alongside Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin, Lyle Lovett, Brandi Carlile, The Indigo Girls, and more! (gasp)

Now that I made it to the semi-finals, I need to gather as many votes as possible to advance to the finals. I would be so grateful for your vote(s). You can vote once per day per email address, and the way they've got it set up, you get to listen to a bit of each artist's song to vote. I just did it, and it took me about 7 minutes.
It's a bit more time-consuming than your basic select-and-vote,
but it's a great way to hear some wonderful new artists.

Voting begins today, and it will be up for 2 weeks: http://www.pastemagazine.com/action/rnr_vote

Sisters Folk Festival.

And now for my quarterly post..... I had a great time at the Sisters Folk Festival this weekend with The Wailin' Jennys (I do love to be a roadie sometimes...). Its not new news that I love them. Though I must say that for a while I was pretty sad that Annabelle Chvostek had left the band, and worried that I'd never quite love it as much again. But Heather Masse rocks. I hope they record an album with her. In the meantime, you should check out her solo stuff. And see them live.

You should also check out Rose Polenzani (her main web site is under construction right now, but listen to You Were Drunk on her Myspace page) and The Waifs, if you haven't before.

I'd like to say that I saw a lot of new and interesting acts at the festival, and while I did catch a few others (Tim O'Brien, Richard Julian, Keith Greeninger, Joe Craven, Stonehoney....), I mostly just saw a lot of The Jennys, Rose, and The Waifs. I like what I like, I guess.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Radio in Eastern Congo

Here's a story about an unusual radio DJ in North Kivu. His playlist consists of "Rwandan and Congolese pop hits and American country music," but his back announcements are not very much like mine or Ellen's.

(Discovered on Chris Blattman's blog.)