Saturday, January 31, 2009

Michael Shelley on WFMU

It's been a lazy Harlem morning so far today, and I've really been enjoying listening to Michael Shelley's show on WFMU-FM out of the Hudson Valley.

He has been playing a great mix of upbeat music -- from a soulful Odetta track ("Mama Told Me Not To Come") to the gospel classic "Jesus Hits Like The Atomic Bomb" to Lalo Schifrin's "Samba De Uno Nota So" -- and he throws in an announcement after almost every song, frequently punctuated with cool little pre-recorded stabs (e.g. "Number one hit!!!") He is putting a lot of energy into the show, and his sense of joy in the music travels right across the airwaves.

Some other great songs that he has featured: Bill Wimberly's "Springfield Guitar Social," featuring imitation guitar of a bunch of country guitar legends; Albert Lee's R&Bish version of "Mama Tried"; and the Everly Brothers' "I've Been Wrong Before."

Looking back at last week's playlist, one can find a mix of Faron Young, The Monkees, The Muffs, Roy Orbison and Jonathan Richman. Free form radio lives!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Demolition String Band's Americana Family Jamboree

The Demolition String Band has been putting together a family show called the Americana Family Jamboree for a couple of years now. This past Sunday, they hosted an edition of it at the Rodeo Bar in Manhattan. I had thought maybe that I would make it down, but I didn't in the end. But Nick did, and from his write-up, it sounds like I missed quite a good show:

An interesting moment came approximately half way into the performance when the band’s frontwoman, Elena, called a special guest to the stage: Hank Williams. A voice-over announced his appearance on a radio show, and the great country singer walked to the stage and greeted the audience as if he were performing on the radio circa 1950, complete with a medicine advertisement. After the greeting, he launched into a medley of his hits, beginning with “Jambalaya” and “Hey Good Lookin’,” before moving through “Move It on Over,” “Why Don’t You Love Me,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” and a few others that I can’t remember. After the medley, he did “Lovesick Blues,” took a bow, and left.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Heather on PHC, again.

Well this time it's too late to catch it on the radio, but Heather (new web site) was on Prairie Home Companion again, this time live from Duluth. I think Garrison likes her... So, you can listen to it online here, the whole show as well as a clip of her own song, "Mittens." Myself, I recommend listening to the medley she did (Battle Hymn of the Republic/I Shall Be Released/Wade in the Water). Go to about 77:30, then listen for about 6 mins:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Molly Dean at e.p. atelier

Because Minneapolis-based Molly Dean had been in Alaska for several months last year, it had been awhile since I had seen her play live so I was excited to see her play at e.p. atelier at the beginning of the month to play Womenfolk Live. A special event celebrating e.p. atelier's 5th anniversary, this was a special evening with even more special music. I was surprised to see Molly use guitar effects and loops, but it really rounded out the ambience of her moody, soulful songs. I particularly enjoyed "Resonate" (the title cut from her latest album) and "A Melody" as well as her two inventive covers of Greg Brown's "Driftless" and Haley Bonar's "Bless This Mess" (which I actually enjoyed more than the original). Molly didn't talk much, but she didn't need to--the music entranced all those present, and she won over many new fans.

Playlists: Womenfolk (Jan. 25 & 18, 2009)

Today we got a preview of tonight's show at the Cedar when Catie Curtis and Meg Hutchinson stopped by to play live on Womenfolk. We also celebrated Virginia Woolf's 128th birthday and the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships happening this weekend on Lake Nokomis. (By the way, when I was at the Pond Hockey Championships yesterday I met Fred Haberman, one of the organizers, who said he's looking into having bands play next year...Let's cross our frozen fingers!)

Last Sunday we enjoyed live music from Brianna Lane and also some music celebrating MLK Day and the Inauguration. If you missed either of the shows, you can hear them on the KFAI archives.

Next Sunday tune in to KFAI as Pam K and her roots/bluegrass band Switched At Birth play live, previewing their performance that night as part of the monthly Womenfolk concert series at Gethsemane Church. Also joining us in the first hour will be Duluth-based duo Yeltzi...Hope you can tune in for all the fun!


WOMENFOLK (January 25, 2009)
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

Julie Lee / Change Is Gonna Come / Take Me Out to Hear the Band / Self
*Susan Werner / Help Somebody / Live at Passim / Self
*Eliza Gilkyson / Great Correction / Beautiful World / Red House

Kathleen Edwards / Hockey Skates / Failer / Zoe
Sarah Harmer / Basement Apt. / You Were Here / Zoe

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*The Roe Family Singers / White Horse / The Earth and All That Is In It / Self

Switched At Birth / Hora de la Bim Bam / Now & Then / Self
*Yeltzi / Star/Red Rose/Little Gram's Jig / Snow in August / Self

Indigo Girls / Virginia Woolf / 1200 Curfews / Epic

[Behind Twin Cities Women's Calendar]
Joan Griffith & Laura Caviani / La Bellevue / Sambanova / Pleasing Dog Music
*Alison Brown / Crazy Ivan / The Company You Keep / Compass

[Live in the Studio: Catie Curtis & Meg Hutchinson]
Catie Curtis with Meg Hutchinson / Water and the Stone
*Meg Hutchinson / Travel In
Catie Curtis with Meg Hutchinson / Sweet Life
Meg Hutchinson with Catie Curtis / I'd Like to Know

Brianna Lane / Dreams & Nightmares / Radiator / Self
*Ellis / How Would It Be / Break the Spell / Rubberneck Records
*Anne Heaton / Jump / Blazing Red / Spill Records


WOMENFOLK (January 18, 2009)
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

Laura Love / This Train/Ezekial and The Wheel / NeGrass / Octoroon Biography
*Mavis Staples / Freedom Highway / Live: Hope at the Hideout / Anti

Gillian Welch / The Devil Had a Hold of Me / Hell Among the Yearlings
/ Almo Sounds
Miss Tess / Child of the Devil / Modern Vintage / Self
Erin McKeown / Sing You Sinners / Sing You Sinnners / Nettwerk

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*The Roe Family Singers / Lizabeth Brown / The Earth and All That Is
In It / Self
Wilma Lee Cooper / Poor Ellen Smith / O Sister 2 / Rounder

*The Wailin' Jennys / Glory Bound / Red House 25: A Silver Annviersary
Retrospective / Red House
*Neal & Leandra / Penny on the Track / Red House 25: A Silver
Anniverisary Retrospective / Red House

Maria Sangiolo / No Love / Follow Your Own Road / Signature Sounds
*The Bittersweets / Wreck / Goodnight, San Francisco / Compass
*Judith Avers / Rocketship / Mountain and Shore

[Behind Twin Cities Women's Calendar]
*Kristin Scott Benson / Trying Times / Second Season / Pine Castle
*Kristin Scott Benson / No Steering, No Brakes / Second Season / Pine Castle

Kris Delmhorst / Ithaca / Redbird / Signature Sounds
*Katie Sawicki / Longest Year / Time Lost Spent / Bend Records
Brenda Weiler / Noise and Sound / End the Rain / Speaker Phone Records

[Live in the Studio: Brianna Lane]
Brianna Lane / Stranger
Brianna Lane / Walking Shoes
Brianna Lane / Till and Sow

*Tracy Chapman / Our Bright Future / Our Bright Future / Elektra

Meg Hutchinson / Come Up Full / Come Up Full / Red House
Odetta / This Little Light of Mine / Gonna Let It Shine / M.C. Records

Kings County Strings on Moonshine

The Kings County Strings were on the Moonshine Show today. The band consists of Matt Check on banjo; Kari Denis on fiddle; Walter Wells on bass; Brad Einhorn on mandolin; and Joel Turoff on guitar. Here are some photos.

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 24 January 2009

Our first Moonshine Show after a two-week break for the Roy Haynes Festival featured a mix of bluegrass, gospel and old-time material and an appearance by Brooklyn-based Kings County Strings (a band named after an instrument shop). (I'll put some photos up here soon, so check back!) They play tomorrow night at 7:00 at the Parkside Lounge.

Instead of going into the Tennesse Border Show at noon, we turned things over to DJ Jazzvan and the rest of the Som do Brasil crew for the annual Antonio Carlos Jobim broadcast. The music runs until midnight tonight, and the musical team is live-blogging the broadcast here.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 24 January 2009 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

Jesse McReynolds; "Night Runner"; _Bending the Rules_ (OMS)


Rhonda Vincent; "Hit Parade of Love"; _Good Thing Going_ (Rounder)

Johnny Staats; "Coal Tattoo"; _Wires & Wood: The Johnny Staats Project_ (Giant)

Dry Branch Fire Squad; "Roanoke"; _Live at the Newburyport Firehouse_ (Rounder)

Cherryholmes; "Don't Believe"; _Don't Believe_ (Skaggs Family)


Larry Stephenson; "Press On O'Pilgrim"; _Thankful_ (Pinecastle)

The Whitstine Brothers; "River of Jordan"; _Sing Gospel Songs of the Louvin Brothers_ (Rounder)

The Jeanette Williams Band; "Got My Walking Shoes On"; _Get in the Boat_ (Bell Buckle)

Paul Williams; "That Same Road"; _Where No One Stands Alone_ (Rebel)

Claire Lynch; "Paul and Peter Walked"; _The Angels are Singing: A Women's Bluegrass Gospel Collection_ (Rounder)


The Freight Hoppers; "Dark Hollow Blues"; _Where'd You Come From, Where'd You Go?_ (Rounder)

Crooked Still; "Tell Her to Come Back Home"; _Still Crooked_ (Signature Sounds)

Troublesome Creek; "Rockbridge Blues/Brushy Fork of John's Creek"; _Fast as Time Can Take Me_ (County)

The Wilders; "Jenny on the Railroad"; _Throw Down_ (Free Dirt)


The Two Man Gentlemen Band; "The Hindenburg Disaster"; _Great Calamities_ (Serious Business)

The Stanley Brothers; "Handsome Molly"; _An Evening Long Ago_ (Columbia/Legacy)

The Monroe Brothers; "Nine Pound Hammer is Too Heavy"; _What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul?_ (Rounder)

Bill Monroe and Doc Watson; "Have a Feast Here Tonight"; _Live Duet Recordings, 1963-1980_ (Smithsonian Folkways)


The Vern Williams Band; "I Hear a Choo Choo Coming," "In Despair"; _Traditional Bluegrass_ (Arhoolie)

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder; "Mother's Only Sleeping"; _Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947_ (Skaggs Family)


Kings County Strings LIVE in WKCR-FM Master Control
"Bootleg John"
CD: "Jealous"
"Chinquapin Hunting/Cumberland Gap"
"Home is Where the Heart Is"
CD: "Wild Rose of the Mountain"


Tom T. Hall; "I'm a Coal Mining Man"; _Sings Miss Dixie and Tom T._ (Blue Circle)

Shawn Lane; "Love Me Darling Just Tonight"; _All for Today_ (Rebel)


Alicia Jo Rabins; "My Sister Sally/Martha Campbell/Nine Mountain Road"; _Sugar Shack_ (self-released)

Del McCoury Band; "Get Down on Your Knees and Pray"; _The Family_ (Ceili)


Chesapeake; "Last Train from Poor Valley"; _Full Sail_ (Sugar Hill)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Nous Non Plus CD and CD Release Parties

Once upon a time, there was a faux French band in New York called Les Sans Culottes. Then there was a little bit of a faux French band scuffle (described brilliantly here by faux French bass player Dan Crane). The result? New York now has two faux French bands. The one with which Sound of Blackbirds´ loyalties lie is called Nous Non Plus.

Faux French guitarist Jeremy Parzen has alerted the faux French loving world that Nous Non Plus has a new CD coming out called Mènagerie.

In addition, there will be CD release parties by the faux French for the real French in Paris and Lyon and then in New York at the Mercury Lounge on February 9th.

(I would have included an image of the album´s cover in this post, but the public terminal here at the Hotel Pasado San Javier in Taxco, Mexico, has vetoed that idea.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Footage from the Inauguration Concert

Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing ¨This Land is Your Land¨:

Comments on the Inauguration Concert

My friend Ben writes:

After freezing our asses - or mainly feet - off for 4+ hours, it was not overwhelming. Not sure if it was the cold or the constant interruptions for readings from Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, etc... the show didn't have an overall vibe to it and the crowd never really went nuts. U2 and strangely Garth Brooks had the most energy and gave the best performances with the ensemble pieces with Stevie Wonder (with Usher and Shakira) and then James Taylor (with John Legend and some other people I didn't know) closely behind. Definitely could have done with more U2, Bruce, and less Navy Glee Club and Tom Hanks.

Hope the Navy Glee Club doesn´t come after you now, Ben...

An Editorial on Opera, Eh?

The New York Times editorial board comments on George Steel´s new posting at City Opera:

He has his work cut out for him. He will have to struggle to keep the chorus and the orchestra on salary while there are essentially no revenues. And he is facing a fund-raising and endowment crisis, like almost every other institution on the planet.

The operatic ground has also shifted in recent years. City Opera used to be a roguish young company compared with the grand dame of Joseph Volpe’s Metropolitan Opera. But Peter Gelb’s Met is staging vibrant, often hip productions that will compete directly for the City Opera audience. We hope that Mr. Steel will hurl himself at these problems with all the passion of an operatic tenor, if perhaps more focus and business sense.

New New Haven Venue

My parents recently sent me this article in the New Haven Register about Guitartown, a venue that is supported by Neighborhood Music School, where I spent much of my teenage years taking music theory classes and voice and oboe lessons. Wish a venue like this had been around when I lived in New Haven, bringing in great bluegrass acts like The Del McCoury Band, Tim O'Brien and The Tony Rice Unit. I can't wait to check it out when I'm back in the Elm City in June...

Monday, January 19, 2009

NYC Jazz World Gets Hip to House Concerts

From the New York Times.

Once again, folkies leading the way!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Here is the latest news from the Punch Brothers website:

p-Bingo Night is Punch Brothers’ creative process (made slightly more entertaining, hopefully) on display at the Living Room every Thursday night that they aren’t collectively elsewhere. In addition to other delights, you can expect to find the Brothers trying out new material, improving existing material, and appropriating material that they wish was theirs, i.e. Radiohead, Bach, D’Angelo, James King, etc., right in front of your very eyes… or ears, rather, though music is generally better seen than heard. Also, there will be Special Guests, the coattails of whom the Brothers will surely ride to fame and fortune! Please note: little to no bingo will be played.

Sounds pretty cool, huh?

Particularly, as far as I'm concerned, the James King part.

James King is one of the best bluegrass singers out there. He's a terrific performer who doesn't seem to make it to the Northeast often enough. I highly recommend his The Bluegrass Storyteller CD. (And yes, Tom T. Hall did approve that nickname.) That said, he is more of a singer than a songwriter, so I'm not sure exactly what the lads have in mind, but I'm willing to roll with it for a bit. (Or maybe they are referring to a completely different James King...)

Anyway, the Punch Brothers (as I have detailed here) are some pretty creative and inventive musicians, and this open workshop format should be a lot of fun.

(Hat tip to Sandy Jenkins.)

Ken Waldman and Peter Stampfel at Jalopy

Peter Matthews caught some good music at Jalopy this week.

What's on the Radio in Mexico City?

I meant to mention this in the previous post.

We were driving around on Wednesday evening, and the radio station was featuring a number of 1980s pop hits from north of the border.

Well, of course, we eventually got to the Sound of Blackbirds' favorite (see here, here and here): Toto's Africa. Woo!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cafe Tacuba Redux

Greetings from Mexico City!

Back in November, I saw the Mexican band Cafe Tacuba play a show in Falls Church, Virgina (as described here).

Well, I think this is the place after which they are named. (And perhaps my friend Thania will correct me if I'm wrong.)

Friday Night Fun at KFAI

Tonight I'll be joining forces with DJ Pam Hill (host of Pam Without Boundaries) to guest host the cult favorite KFAI show Crap From the Past. We will revisit our youths, playing rock and pop music that we listened to as we came of age in the 80's and 90's. I also might just sneak in some crappy folk and banjo music...who knows what could happen as we take to the KFAI airwaves on a Friday night? Tune in to find out!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Triumphant Return of George Steel

Well, that was really f'n quick...

From the New York Times:

City Opera Names Steel as General Manager

The tottering New York City Opera said on Wednesday that it had found a savior after two years of financial and leadership turmoil, appointing the impresario and conductor George R. Steel as its general manager and artistic director.


His hiring came as a blow to the smaller and less prestigious Dallas Opera, where he had just started as general director in October. The company is to move into the glamorous new Winspear Opera House next fall.

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Mr. Steel said in explaining his jump to City Opera.

It was a touch obvious that this was going to happen.

Congratulations, George!

Top Folk CD's of 2008

Below you'll see what KFAI listeners voted as their Top Womenfolk CD's of 2008 on my January 4th playlist. If you're curious to see my top 10 of the year, you'll find them on My picks were featured along with those of 11 other DJ's and writers from around the country. Check them out, along with all of FolkAlley's sweet musical offerings!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Playlists: Womenfolk (Dec. 28-Jan. 11)

So I have been rather remiss in posting my last several playlists...Here they are at long last! Remember you can always check them out along with archived shows here.

On January 4th I played the Top Womenfolk CD's of 2008, as determined by KFAI listeners, DJ's and your favorite musicians. There were so many wonderful releases this past year that we had a four-way tie for the top album of the year between...

Rosalie Sorrels - Strangers in Another Country: The Songs of Bruce "Utah" Phillips
Jonatha Brooke - The Works
Dar Williams - Promised Land
Eliza Gilkyson - Beautiful World

But when the call went out on the air to vote between these four, Eliza Gilkyson won hands down! In addition to playing the best CD's of the year, we enjoyed a lovely in-studio performance from Molly Dean, previewing her performance as part of our monthly Womenfolk concert series.

This past Sunday we played wintertime tunes, bird songs and lots of listener requests. Thanks for all the great calls and emails and for making 2008 a great year for women in music!


WOMENFOLK (January 11, 2009)
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

Joy Kills Sorrow / Fall on My Knees / Joy Kills Sorrow / Self
Eliza Blue / Oh My Lord / Screen Doors & Back Doors / Self

Brianna Lane / True North / Let You In / Self
*Catie Curtis / Are You Ready to Fly? / Sweet Life / Compass
*Jonatha Brooke / Little Bird / The Works / Bad Dog Records

Polecat Creek / Leaving Eden / Leaving Eden / Yodel-Ay-Hee
Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem / Eve / Gambling Eden / Signature Sounds

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*The Roe Family Singers / My Heart Took to the Earth/ The Earth and All That Is In It / Self
Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands / The Wood Thrush’s Song / Live / Spruce & Maple Music
The Wailin’ Jennys / Arlington / 40 Days / Red House

Erica Wheeler / January Wind / Three Wishes / Signature Sounds
Lynn Miles / Over You / Unravel / True North
*Catherine MacLellan / January Song / Church Bell Blues / Self

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Alicia Jo Rabins / My Sister Sally/Martha Campbell/Nine Mountain Road / Sugar Shack / Self

*Yeltzi / Snow in August / Snow in August / Self
April Verch / Sneaky / Verchuosity / Rounder

Alison Krauss / Simple Love / A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection / Rounder
Sarah Siskind / South Side of the Light / Six Songs of Mine / Infrasound Collective
*Norah Jones / Peace / Holiday Sunday Music 5 / bigHelium Records

*Patty Larkin / Hallelujah / Watch the Sky / Vanguard
Sharon Isbin / La Catedral: ii Allegro solemne / La Guitara / Vanguard

*Rose Polenzani with Session Americana / You Were Drunk / When the River Meets the Sea / Self
Brandi Carlile / Josephine / The Story / Columbia
Lucy Kaplansky / Promise Me / Ten Year Night / Red House


WOMENFOLK: Top Womenfolk CD's of 2008 (January 4, 2009)
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

*Annabelle Chvostek / Wait for It / Resilience / Borealis
*Kathleen Edwards / Run / Asking for Flowers / Zoe

*Meg Hutchinson / Ready / Come Up Full / Red House

*Edie Carey & Rose Cousins / Lost in the Valley / itsgonnabegreat / Accidental Pony Records
*Anais Mitchell & Rachel Ries / Come September / country e.p. / Righteous Babe
*Abbie Gardner/Anthony da Costa / Red Barn / Bad Nights/Better Days / Self

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*The Roe Family Singers / Shallow Grave / The Earth and All That Is In It / Self

*Nikki & The RueMates / Burning Up / We All Live Together / Self
*Natalia Zukerman / Brand New Frame / Brand New Frame / Weasel Records
*Jaspar Lepak / Make a Pretty Thing / Make a Pretty Thing / Self

*Lucy Wainwright Roche / Snare Drum / 8 More / Self
*Emily Kurn / Far Away / I’m Just Like You / Self

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
*Kaki King / Montreal / Dreaming of Revenge / Velour

*Stoney Lonesome / I’ve Endured / Red House 25: A Silver Anniversary Retrospective / Red House
*Roma di Luna / Silver Dagger / Casting the Bones / Self

[Live in the Studio: Molly Dean]
Molly Dean / Coincide
Molly Dean / Untitled (new)

*Crooked Still / Did You Sleep Well? / Still Crooked / Signature Sounds
*Lissa Schneckenburger / The Drowsy Sleeper / Song / Self

*Rosalie Sorrels / Goodnight Loving Trail / Strangers in Another Country: The Songs of Bruce "Utah" Phillips / Red House
*Jonatha Brooke / Madonna on the Curb / The Works / Bad Dog Records
*Dar Williams / The Buzzer / Promised Land / Razor & Tie

*Eliza Gilkyson / Emerald Street / Beautiful World / Red House


WOMENFOLK (December 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

Rose Cousins / Edmonton / If You Were For Me / Old Farm Pony Records
Shawn Colvin / Killing the Blues / Cover Girl / Columbia
Janis Ian / My Autobiography / Folk Is the New Black / Rude Girl Records

*Krista Detor / A Traveler in Winter / The Silver Wood: Wintersongs / Self
Anais Mitchell / Song of the Magi / The Brightness / Righteous Babe
Joyce Anderson & Harvey Reid / We Three Kings / Christmas Morning / Woodpecker Records

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
Molly Dean / Resonate / Resonate / Self
*Kym Tuvim / Birdsong / Nothing Sweet Nothing / Retrofit Records

*Rose Cousins & Edie Carey / Veering From the Wave / it’sgonnabegreat / Accidental Pony Records
*Annabelle Chvostek / Resilience / Resilience / Borealis

Alison Krauss with Natalie MacMaster / Get Me Through December / A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection / Rounder

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Natalie MacMaster / The Farewell / In My Hands / Rounder
Rachel Unthank & The Winterset / Fareweel Regality / The Bairns / Real World
Patty Griffin / Icicles / Impossible Dream / ATO
Alison Rae / What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve / December / Self

The DitchLilies / Fan It / The DitchLilies / Self
*Nikki & The RueMates / Down on Me / We All Live Together / Self
*Roma di Luna / The Romance of Wolves / Casting the Bones / Self

*The Roe Family Singers / Woe Is Me / The Earth and All That Is In It / Self
*Crooked Still / Undone in Sorrow / Still Crooked / Signature Sounds
Zoe Mulford / Welcome In Another Year / Hudson Harding Sampler Volume I / Hudson Harding Music

*Lisa Redford / New Year’s Day / Clouds with Silver / Self
Odetta / Shout for Joy / Gonna Let It Shine: A Concert for the Holidays / M.C. Records

*Rosie Thomas / Why Can't It Be Christmastime All Year / A Very Rosie Christmas

RIP Rev. Claude Jeter

Claude Jeter, one of the great voices in gospel music, died last Tuesday.

A few things in his obituary struck me.

First, I simply didn't know the following:

A line he sang in the Swan Silvertones’ 1962 song “Mary Don’t You Weep” — “I’ll be a bridge over deep water if you trust in my name” — inspired Paul Simon to write “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

And then I definitely didn't know the following:

A longtime resident of Harlem, he worked at the Hotel Cecil on 118th Street and occasionally performed.

Now, WKCR has a terrific gospel program called Amazing Grace that airs on Sundays from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m., right before the Moonshine Show, and for periods in the late 1990s, I was the host. To think that one of the great voices in gospel music has been living not too far from the station for who knows how many years and that we -- to the best of my knowledge -- never had him up for an interview is a little disappointing. I wonder if there are other undocumented voices that we could be bringing into the studio and capturing for the historical record.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Seldom Scene at B.B. King's

With the greatest bands, it sometimes is difficult to put your finger on exactly what makes them different from other bands. Seemingly all of the same pieces might be there -- musicianship, vocal talent, song selection -- with other bands and yet something fails to gel. Back in December, Sarah and I took in a bluegrass show at B.B. King's Blues Club in Times Square where this was on display.

The opening band, Greensky Bluegrass from Kalamazoo, Michigan (a place which clearly should produce bluegrass bands), had a good sound to them. Featuring banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass and dobro, they played tightly together and had good solo chops, too, particularly mandolinist Paul Curry and dobro player Anders Beck. They did a nice job with "Jesus on the Mainline," and on an extended jam, everyone got to show off his skills.

Yet somehow, their set lacked energy. The crowd clapped politely and applauded the solos, but there was no sense of being on the edge, no sense of rollicking forward, no sense of forgetting that there would be a second act.

For a moment, I thought that maybe it was me and the mood that I was in, but then the Seldom Scene came out, and -- as one might expect from these guys -- they blew the roof off the place from the first song. Even though Ben Eldridge was having some monitor issues, the band just ripped straight into the Stanley Brothers' "Too Sweet to Last," and they weren't going to look back. In fact, they pretty much blasted through "Walk Through This World with Me" (despite its slower tempo), "Sad Old Train" and "110 in the Shade" -- the following three songs.

Now, the comparison is a little unfair. The Seldom Scene are one of the best name-brand bluegrass bands out there. They've been playing in one form or another since 1971 (although Ben Eldridge is the only founding member still in the group), and each member of the band has wide-ranging bluegrass experience and serious accolades following his name.

Also, this was the first time that the band had played in New York since a 2001 show -- 2001! Who books this city? -- in Battery Park (which I remember attending with the late WKCR DJ Doug Tuchman). So maybe they had seven years of love for New York City to let loose on stage.

The band -- Dudley Connell on guitar; Lou Reid on mandolin; Fred Travers on dobro; Ronnie Simpkins on bass and Ben Eldridge on banjo -- was augmented by the presence of Ben Eldridge's son Chris Eldridge on guitar. Chris was on loan from Punch Brothers -- a band that has been covered on this blog here, and I had the same complaint as the last time that I saw that band: he was too quiet! I don't know if it a microphone issue, an instrument issue or something about Chris's style, but I definitely want this guy to be turned up next time! When he as been up at WKCR, and I've gotten to see him up close, it is jaw-dropping playing, and concert audiences should get to hear it, too. He took a particularly sweet solo on "I'm Blue and Lonesome, Too."

Lou Reid's playing was also great throughout the night. He tossed in some particularly good licks on "Lay Down Sally."

One thing about the Seldom Scene is their sheer vocal power. On "110 in the Shade," Dudley Connell just belted it out, and Lou Reid nailed "Breaking New Ground" toward the end of the set. The Seldom Scene version of "Darlin' Corey" was a team effort, and you could have told me that the choral ending was J.S. Bach, and I would have believed you.

This is not to say that the band played perfectly. They kicked off John Prine's "Paradise" at too quick a tempo and then had to rush through the song, and they also got a little sloppy on the set-closing "Rider." But it is to say that they put on a hard-driving and sometimes captivating show. (And I also got to hear the two songs that I most want to hear at a Seldom Scene show (and back-to-back, no less): Bob Dylan's "Boots of Spanish Leather" and Herb Pedersen's "Wait a Minute.")

The set list looked like this:

  • Too Sweet to Last

  • Walk Through This World with Me

  • Sad Old Train

  • 110 in the Shade

  • This Morning at Nine

  • I'm Blue and Lonesome, Too

  • Love of the Mountains

  • Darlin' Corey

  • Paradise

  • Hometown Blues

  • He Was a Friend of Mine

  • Rollin' and Tumblin'

  • Boots of Spanish Leather

  • Wait a Minute

  • Big Train from Memphis

  • Heart and Soul

  • Lay Down Sally

  • California Cottonfields

  • Breaking New Ground

  • The C&0 Canal

  • Rider

  • ENCORE: Another Lonesome Morning

Bono on Frank Sinatra

It was there in the New York Times on Friday:

Interesting mood. The new Irish money has been gambled and lost; the Celtic Tiger’s tail is between its legs as builders and bankers laugh uneasy and hard at the last year, and swallow uneasy and hard at the new. There’s a voice on the speakers that wakes everyone out of the moment: it’s Frank Sinatra singing “My Way.” His ode to defiance is four decades old this year and everyone sings along for a lifetime of reasons. I am struck by the one quality his voice lacks: Sentimentality.

YouTube Symphony

If you haven't heard about this thing, Peter Matthews sums it up nicely over at Feast of Music:

Here's the deal: composer Tan Dun has written a crowd-pleasing piece for orchestra called the Internet Symphony No. 1 "Eroica", which he says was inspired by random street and garage sounds that reminded him of Beethoven's 3rd symphony (which he quotes in the piece.) But, instead of just having some professional orchestra perform the work, he's offered it up to the public via the Internet, which he sees as an opportunity to recapture Beethoven's loose, primal energy.


As such, musicians are invited to upload a video of their performance of Dun's piece on their preferred instrument, or any other object ("from the erhu to wine glasses") that are in the same range and pitch; parts are available for download online.

I'm putting my money on some good fingerstyle guitarists getting in there.

Daisy Mayhem at 92Y Tribeca

Last night, Sarah and I found ourselves at the 92Y Tribeca again (see previous post here). We were there to see Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem.

I have been listening to Rani Arbo for years. Before the formation of Daisy Mayhem, she was in a group called Salamander Crossing, and when I was getting into bluegrass and roots music, they were a band that I listened to quite a bit and also was able to see live a number of times. (Andrew Kinsey, the bassist in Salamander Crossing, also plays in Daisy Mayhem.)

I have listened to and followed Daisy Mayhem a little less religiously but always have enjoyed their shows when I've had the opportunity to see them. And last night's at the 92Y Tribeca was no exception.

They hit several of the usual bases -- diving down to the Georgia Sea Islands twice for the Bessie Jones' songs "Turtle Dove" and "Oh Death" and giving us a terrific jazzy rendition of Lefty Frizzell's "I Do My Crying at Night" -- and these were spot on. I was most moved during the middle of the set when they offered up a beautiful cover of Leonard Cohen's "Heart with No Companion" that featured Andrew Kinsey on the banjo followed by Bob Dylan's "Farewell Angelina," both of which they have recorded on their most recent CD, Big Old Life. One review mentioning "Heart with No Companion" in its final sentence apparently said of the band, "They can even make Leonard Cohen sound hopeful," and it's true! The band livened up "Farewell Angelina" by playing with the tempo and the density of the instrumentation over the course of the song.

Toward the end of the set, the band got into their "agnostic gospel" vibe. This started with guitarist Anand Nyack's song "Road to Heaven" and then an absolutely beautiful song written by the improbably named Daisy May Erlewine called "Shine On" before they brought the audience into the mix with a hand-clapping and chorus-hollering "I Want to Be Ready." (The audience had only sung quietly on an earlier sing-a-long, and so Rani challenged us to do better next time. One of her bandmates, referencing her growing up in New York said, "Ah, you understand the New York psyche." "But I don't condone it!" she replied.) As an encore, they sang an a capella rendition of "Moonshiner," which has been in the band's repertoire since the Salamander Crossing days.

Jazz guitarist Matt Munisteri played the second set with bassist Danton Boller. They offered up some really nice treatments of some of Matt's originals and classics that he is doing his best to save from obscurity on dusty old 78s. "Get Acquainted with Yourself," recorded by Willie 'The Lion' Smith in the 1920s, was a particular highlight.

Matt's playing was terrific -- he moved up and down the fretboard using both chord-form and single-note runs with great ease and polish -- and the bass solos also were quite solid.

Matt is apparently at work on a CD of music composed by Willard Robison.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

People Searching Out Toto Lyrics

...end up here! Particularly when they search on the Mondegreen version of the lyrics.

From our Google Analytics report, we find out that one of the Google searches that brought someone to the Sound of Blackbirds was: "catch some rays down in africa".

That search will take you to this post.

New Venue Review in the New York Times

Former WKCR DJ Ben Ratliff reviews Thursday night's Steve Earle/Alison Moorer show at City Winery in today's New York Times. Terrifically, the review is as much about the venue as the show:

Most of us would agree that this is an exquisitely strange time, anywhere, for the opening of a club and restaurant with wine-making facilities on the premises, where annual membership will cost $5,000, and a barrel of your own custom blend somewhere around $2,000. (Although you can buy a ticket for an individual concert without a membership, and order a Riesling and a sampler of cheese from Murray’s. Or just a glass of water; there’s no minimum.)

It’s strange that the restaurant — unlike comparable operations in Napa Valley — is located far from a major wine-making region; when you create your own wine here, you’re only halfway buying local. And it’s strange (but kind of funny) that what most people call a double bill — two artists whose work has something in common — City Winery calls “Pairings.”

But it was strangest of all that Steve Earle — a self-defined socialist and generally a songwriter and performer who doesn’t waste a sticky situation — did not comment on the dissonance of the evening.

Mentioning that Ben Ratliff was a WKCR alum led me to find this interview with him from Dusted magazine in which he offers some thoughts on the greatest radio station on the planet:

Ben Ratliff: I played various instruments growing up, clarinet and guitar and piano. The technical schooling I’ve had in music is just through private teachers. In college I took music classes, but they were history, music history. I studied Latin and Greek. But at the same time I was working at the college radio station, and that was a very intense community of people.

Sam Frank: Does Phil Schaap [WKCR eminence; prolix on mic] preside, or does he just come in and do his show?

Ben Ratliff: You mean does he actually live there? He spends a lot of time there. It was common to see him around the place. It was a social hub, and if you did a show there, it was likely that you were going to spend a lot of time in the station. So you just had very close proximity to an enormous record library that you could borrow from all the time, and that was something I did. They had an incredible, huge library of jazz records, and I got to know it. That helped a lot. I don’t know how I would have gotten that knowledge otherwise, the money I would have had to spend—scary thought. Then I got into writing, and for some reason, I don’t know why, I really wanted to write about jazz. I think because I was checking out cultural criticism, American cultural criticism, writing about movies and art and jazz, and I really locked into writing about jazz as a great way to deal with subjects bigger than the music itself. Dealing with jazz is a decent way of dealing with a lot of American issues and larger cultural issues.

My understanding is that when Ben was an on-air personality at WKCR, he called himself Buddy Ratliff -- although maybe that's just a general nickname that he uses.

Speaking of WKCR, I was enjoying the Max Roach Birthday Broadcast last night and this morning, and a two-week long -- yes, two weeks -- festival of the music of Roy Haynes starts at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. (And yes that is preempting the Moonshine Show.)

And who else will be at City Winery soon? Suzanne Vega, Philip Glass, Marianne Faithful, Jill Sobule... Not a bad line-up.

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll Revisited

From the New York Times:

William Devereux Zantzinger, whose six-month sentence in the fatal caning of a black barmaid named Hattie Carroll at a Baltimore charity ball moved Bob Dylan to write a dramatic, almost journalistic song in 1963 that became a classic of modern American folk music, died on Jan. 3. He was 69.


On Aug. 29, The New York Times published a dispatch by United Press International, reporting on the sentencing. A friend of Mr. Dylan showed the singer the article. Some accounts say he wrote the song ["The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll"] at an all-night coffee shop on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, others that he wrote it at the singer Joan Baez’s house in Carmel, Calif.

The stories of the caning and Zantzinger's life are pretty sad material.

On the Mondegreen front -- see here and here for previous examples -- I always thought that the lyric was

Williams and Zinger killed poor Hattie Carroll.

I guess I should have paid more attention to the verb conjugation elsewhere in the song.

Surprising They Might Be Giants Trivia

From the latest They Might Be Giants newsletter:

We have been told They Might Be Giants has appeared more times on Late Night with Conan O'Brien than any other rock band.

Wow! Who knew?

The newsletter continues,

To celebrate this obscure fact, we have been invited back to bid Conan a fond farewell on Thursday, February 12th, 2009. Everyone here in TMBGland wishes Conan, the writers, Max, Loveman and the rest of the gang the best of times in their fancy new West Coast digs!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Award Winning Ellen

The Freeform American Roots DJs have voted! The results have been published in 3rd Coast Music. And the result is that Sound of Blackbird's own Ellen Stanley is the fourth Best Person in the Industry!

1 Bill Hunt (Cow Island)
2 Joe Swank (Bloodshot)
3 Martha Moore (Somuchmoore)
4 Ellen Stanley (Red House)

Go Ellen!

Here are some other ways that those Freeform American Roots DJs rank people:

1 Miss Leslie
2 Eliza Gilkyson
3 Carrie Rodriquez
4 Eilen Jewell
5 Caroline Herring

1 Alejandro Escovedo
2 Hayes Carll
3 James McMurtry
4 Cornell Hurd
5 Darrell Scott

1 Starline Rhythm Boys
2 Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson
3 Joe Ely & Joel Guzman
4 Drive-by Truckers
5 Cornell Hurd Band

Macroeconomically Conscious Rock Stars

Catching up on my reading over at Chris Blattman's blog filled me in on the following story from the Guardian:

As a million bankers flee the plunging markets, one brave Icelandic singer – known for coos, shrieks and a swan dress – is proudly taking their place. Björk has turned venture capitalist, with a new fund that aims to revive Iceland's economy.


Björk's fund will be called, er ... Björk.

Reminds me of Bowie Bonds.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sweet Memphis Soul on TV

Although I almost definitely will not watch it tonight -- the whole not having a television thing makes it difficult -- I enjoyed reading Jon Pareles' article from Saturday's New York Times about Sweet Soul Music: Stax Live in Europe 1967, which will air at 8:00 p.m. tonight on Long Island's WLIW (Channel 21) and then nationwide on PBS in March.

Stax Records did not choose timid singers. The tour lineup was all belters — Redding, Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd and Arthur Conley — who bounced percussive phrases off the band’s unswerving beat. They were R&B troupers from an era when performers didn’t need to lip-sync when they danced. The Stax singers commanded the stage with moves no choreographer taught them, and they didn’t rest until their audience became an ecstatic congregation.

Sign me up! I wish I could have been there, and I hope to see the documentary some day.

I also love the description of Steve Cropper's playing:

The Norwegian audience, which gets generous camera time throughout, looks earnestly appreciative as Booker T. and the M.G.’s steam into “Green Onions,” with Steve Cropper flicking out vicious jabs of blues guitar.

For my money, Stax reigns supreme.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 4 January 2009

On today's show, we gave away tickets to see Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder at B.B. King's next Sunday and had the Steam Powered Water Taxi Boys (Jordan Shapiro - guitar; Jonah Bruno - banjo; James Kerr - dobro; Jared Engel - bass) on to talk about their Friday night John Hartford Tribute at Jalopy. And we played some Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem to promote their show on Saturday night at the 92Y Tribeca.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 4 January 2009 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

Earl Scruggs with Family and Friends; "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"; _The Ultimate Collection: Live at the Ryman_ (Rounder)


Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder; "Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong"; _Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947_ (Skaggs Family)

Ralph Stanley with Ricky Skaggs; "Shouting on the Hills of Glory"; _Clinch Mountain Country_ (Rebel)

Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs; "All I Ever Loved was You"; _Second Generation_ (Rebel)


Dailey & Vincent; "Poor Boy Workin' Blues," "By the Mark," "Don't You Call My Name"; _Dailey & VIncent_ (Rounder)


The Country Gentlemen; "Roving Gambler"
The Red Clay Ramblers; "The Girl Behind the Bar"
Fred Price, Clint Howard and Doc Watson; "Daniel Prayed"
Bill Monroe and Peter Rowan; "Walls of Time"
All from _Classic Bluegrass Volume 2_ (Smithsonian Folkways)


Cody Kilby; "St. Anne's Reel"; _True Bluegrass Instrumentals_ (Rebel)

The Dixie Bee-Liners; "Lord, Lay Down My Ball & Chain"; _Ripe_ (Pinecastle)


The Steam Powered Water Taxi Boys LIVE in WKCR-FM Master Control
"Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation"


John Hartford; "Take Me Back to My Mississippi River Home"; _Gum Tree Canoe_ (Rounder)


The Steam Powered Water Taxi Boys LIVE
"I'm Still Here"
"On the Road"
"Presbyterian Guitar"


John Hartford; "No Expectations"; _Gum Tree Canoe_

Old & In the Way; "Catfish John"; _That High Lonesome Sound_ (Acoustic Disc)

Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem; "Red Rocking Chair," "Turtle Dove"; _Gambling Eden_ (Signature Sounds)


John Hartford; "Down at the Mouth of Old Stinson"; _Wild Hog in the Red Brush_ (Rounder)

The Earl Brothers; "Dark Days"; _Moonshine_ (Big Hen)

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder; "Pig in a Pen"; _Ancient Tones_ (Skaggs Family)

Charlie Sizemore; "I'll Never Do Better Than You"; _The Story Is... The Songs of Tom T. Hall_ (Rebel)

Blue Highway; "I Hung My Head"; _Celebration of Life_ (Skaggs Family)

Del McCoury Band; "1952 Vincent Black Lightning"; _All-Star Bluegrass Celebration_ (Sugar Hill)


John Hartford; "Bye-Bye"; _Morning Bugle_ (Rounder)


The Moonshine Show will be pre-empted on both January 11th and January 18th by the Roy Haynes Festival, which begins at 8:00 a.m. on January 11th. We return on January 25th.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Heather Masse CD

Hiya. So Heather Masse's new 5-song EP, Many Moons, is now for sale online. Its a lovely jazzy little thing with just Heather and her brilliant keyboard player, Portlander Jed Wilson. The EP features two original songs by Heather, Our World and Stars, as well as some standards, Moon River and Secret Love, plus a Medly of some other Moon-related songs. Thus the album title... I am personally partial to Our World, and I think Heather is going to do great things. And I mean besides singing duets about New York with Garrison Keillor on Prairie Home Companion. :) (You can hear clips of that show here under "audio highlights".)

Plamegate Rock

(Thanks to Rebecca for the pointer.)