Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brent Floren at Dunn Bros.

Right now I'm sitting at Dunn Bros. on Grand, near the Macalaster College campus, sampling a lovely mini-pumpkin pie and hearing an even tastier set by Brent Floren. Although I see him periodically in my songwriting group, I've never really gotten to hear him play a show. He has a nice easy style on stage and his mellow Lyle Lovett-like vocals blend beautifully with his groovin' electric guitar and foot-tapping accompaniment. Highlights of his first set included the lullaby "Louisa" and "Work."

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fantastic John Wesley Harding!

I headed back from Washington on Monday afternoon, killed a few hours at my apartment and then met up with Allan outside of Union Hall, a lovely little Park Slope pub with two indoor bocce courts and an intimate downstairs performance space. We got in the line and watched satisfied customers from the first show file past us, then we grabbed ourselves a couple of Modelo Especials (con limones) and settled into some semi-comfortable seats in the second row.

And then we waited for a while for John Wesley Harding's Medicine Show to start.

It had been a while since I had seen Wes. As of late, he has been concentrating his artistic efforts in the literature realm and not the musical realm. (Under his birth name, Wesley Stace, he has written two novels, Misfortune and By George. My mother read Misfortune and really enjoyed it. The comments on By George on Wes's Wikipedia entry are a little harsh: "it was widely considered to be cacophonously bad.") But I went through a phase in 2002-2003, where I saw him probably a half-dozen times in half-a-year, and I'll definitely catch myself singing one song or another of his in any given week.

Screwball comic Eugene Mirman came out to warm us up semi-briefly. When he asked how we were all doing, and I told him that I had had a beer, he said that it was good that we had all shown up with such high expectations for the show. He told a hilarious story about his gas bill, reading out loud the letter that he allegedly wrote to the gas company about the fact that they had been sending his bill to the wrong address for several years. I waited and waited for the expected introduction -- "Ladies and gentlement, the fantastic John Wesley Harding!" -- that is the trumpet fanfare that begins Wes's first album, It Happened One Night, but that wasn't the way it would go down. Instead Wes just kind of took the stage.

JWH had two sidemen with him: Robert Lloyd, who has accompanied JWH for 18 years (including nearly all of the times that I've seen him) on mandolin and accordion and other instruments, and Chris Von Sneidern on 12-string guitar. They played well together with Robert's mandolin providing able solos and lovely fills throughout the night, and Chris supplying some decent vocal harmonies and some rock 'n' roll groove on a few tunes.

After only a few songs, Wes called for a large cup of Maker's Mark. It was delivered, and by the end of the set -- he had been playing music for almost four hours -- things were getting a little loose, but only in a good way. The fact that this was a recording for a live CD/DVD didn't seem to bother him too much. (Well, there was maybe a little bit of anxiousness when someone from the crew informed him that maybe they weren't exactly recording everything...)

The stage was decorated with a painted backdrop from 1991 -- JWH had taken it around on tour with him, yet the road manager always said that it wouldn't fit in the club -- a bust of Groucho Marx and a taxidermy statue signed on the bottom by the sculptor, Dr. Strangeballs.

The show was about playing hits -- fan favorites that people request and Wes sometimes doesn't play -- and for me, it was a terrific show, as I knew every single song in the set -- although I could recognize some quicker than others, I'll admit -- and I could just sit back and enjoy. (Of course, if I'd had my way, "Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Steve Goodman, David Blue and Me" would have made the list, too, but you can't hit them all.)

Wes's banter was solid and relatively brief. His comment on the upcoming election was a non-comment: 'Look, I'm not like some Billy Bragg character who comes over here, tells you what to do and then f*cks off home for the summer.'

With some special guests and a lot of energy, it was all-in-all a solid evening of music. For me, it was a homecoming to a lot of songs that I know pretty well, and for Allan, it was his first exposure to these same songs. And I think we both walked away satisfied.

The set went like this:

  • "Kiss Me, Miss Liberty"

  • "The Person You Are"

  • "The People's Drug"

  • "Still Photo"

  • "Sussex Ghost Story" - JWH solo

  • "July 13, 1985" - 'This is probably the last time I'll ever play this song.'; also solo

  • "Cupid and Psycho" - with Robert Lloyd only

  • "Negative Love" - with Chris on guitar and Deni Bonet (who was sitting next to me in the audience) on fiddle; great job on this one -- it's the one I've been singing since Monday

  • "Monkey and His Cat" - with Deni Bonet only

  • "Kill the Messenger"

  • "Space Cowgirl" - a song that apparently was inspired by Roseanne Cash's "Seven Year Ache"

  • "The Truth"

  • "Our Lady of the Highway" - with Josh Ritter singing the second verse and on the chorus; great song and great to see Josh Ritter

  • "Save a Little Room for Me" - lots of energy

  • "Windowseat" - rockin' intro from JWH and CVS

  • ENCORE: "Hamlet" - JWH solo

  • CVS sang his own "Summertime Sun" solo

  • "Devil in Me" - good enough to wait for

  • Neil Young's "Star of Bethlehem" to close the show

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Folk Brothers on the Radio

This just in from the Jack Hardy Mailing List: the Folk Brothers -- separately and together -- will be doing several radio appearances this weekend. I am terrible, terrible at listening to radio besides WKCR online (and I used to listen to a lot of the BBC's Radio 3, too), but these should be fun:

  • October 30, 8pm ~ David Massengill on WICN w/ Nick Nobel (90.5fm, streaming @

  • October 30, 9pm ~ Jack Hardy on WICN w/ Nick Nobel (90.5fm, streaming @

  • November 1, 2pm ~ The Folk Brothers on WMFO w/ Morgan Huke (91.5fm, streaming @

  • November 1, 4pm ~ The Folk Brothers on WGBH w/ Brad Paul (89.7fm, streaming @

Monday, October 27, 2008

Banjo Player Sighted in Brooklyn

Catching up with my reading over at Feast of Music, I liked this short post.

Magnetic Fields Redux in W-A-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N, Baby, D.C.

Scrambling out of WKCR's studios yesterday and nearly being foiled by weekend construction on the B/D line -- such that getting to the Grand Street stop proved so much of a challenge that I went above ground and hailed a cab -- I made it down to our nation's capital on a Chinatown bus and walked past the White House to get to George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium, where I met up with my dear comrade Ben for our second dose of Stephin Merritt and company this year (the first is described here, where I apparently use the same lyrical allusion as in the title of this post).

As compared to the Town Hall show in February, the sound was much improved, and both the super-droll banter and the precision playing of the band were perfectly audible. In fact, it was so audible that pianist Claudia Gonson's mistakes were rather noticeable -- a few times, she fell out of the pocket, usually rushing the tempo a bit. (The drawback to being a band that specializes in precision miniatures is that those moments become fairly obvious.) Some of John Woo's guitar licks also seemed a hair off, as well. (I have nothing but good things to say about Sam Davol's sweet cello playing.) But all-in-all, there was no disappointment: this was a good show.

The opening act was a Japanese guitarist and singer whose name I didn't catch. Joined by a drummer, an accordianist/glockenspieler/percussionist and a synthesizerist/trumpeter/oboist/lap-steeler/percussionist, the leader played these hauntingly familiar melodies, although I could never precisely place any one of them -- was that a Dylan song being sung in Japanese? is that some 80's hit? He also really let his fingers fly on a couple of tunes, moving up and down the neck of the guitar with great agility. The last tune of the set sounded like it could have been straight out of the John Fahey songbook. It was a solid but not earth-shattering opening set.

Claudia began the Magnetic Fields' portion of the show by describing the performance in Philadelphia the night before in which they played on borrowed instruments -- "my 18-year-old cousin's guitar" and a cello from a friend of the cousin that came complete with a cobweb on the bride, which allegedly remained in place over the course of the show. Having arrived in Washington still without the instruments, Claudia announced her sense of accomplishment at having told the airline that she would "sue their ass" if the instruments didn't show up. And they did. At this point, Stephin Merritt said, "No more anecdote." But there was more anecdote for sure with varying levels of discomfort attached.

The setlist looked like this:

  • "When I'm Out of Town"

  • "No One Will Ever Love You"

  • Stephin tells a story about going to see Jefferson Airplane -- someone in the crowd yells out "Starship!"; Merritt requests "Security." -- and Grace Slick saying, 'They're killing children over there!' referring presumably to Vietnam, except that wee Stephin Merritt thought that she referred to stage left and became somewhat intimidated; therefore, he wrote a song about hacking California girls to death: "California Girls"; there was some debate at the end of the song about how many times Claudia was supposed to repeat, "I hate California girls" -- four or five -- yes, this band argues about these things on stage

  • Stephin says, 'This song is called "Walking My Gargoyle," and Claudia interjects, 'And I'm going to give you a long introduction to it,' with the aim of selling some old CDs

  • "The Nun's Litany"

  • "All My Little Worlds"

  • "Old Fools"

  • "I Don't Believe You" - with its brilliant opening line: 'So you quote love unquote me'; played at way too quick a tempo

  • "Dreams Anymore"

  • "This Little Ukelele" - 'But I'm playing a bouzouki -- everyone knows that,' says Stephin

  • Song with lyrics 'You never even called to tell me that you don't love me anymore'

  • "Xavier Says"

  • "Zombie Boys"

  • "Papa Was a Rodeo" - good choice to end the first set

  • --Set Break--

  • The second set opened with Stephin suggesting, 'Why don't you put away all of your electronic devices, and we'll play a show?' Oh boy...

  • "Lonely Highway"

  • "Take Ecstasy with Me"

  • "Courtesans"

  • "Crows"

  • "The Tiny Goat"

  • "Too Drunk to Dream"

  • Stephin asks, 'Could you turn off your electronic devices now? That way we can avoid any performer-audience violence.' Then he sings "The Book of Love"

  • "Give Me Back My Dreams"

  • "Drive On, Driver"

  • Song from The Orphan of Zhao, Merritt's 2003 attempt at Chinese opera, in which the character walks around with a child's head on a pole singing, 'What a f*cking beautiful day!'

  • "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!" - with Claudia dancing all around the stage

  • "It's Only Time"

  • ENCORE: The band left the stage, and the house lights came all of the way up, then they went down. Then Claudia came out and said that she would try to sing a verse of "Washington, D.C." Then she asked that John come out to help her. But he didn't come. Then she tried to sing a verse but mostly did not know the lyrics. Then the rest of the band came out and played "Grand Canyon" with its refrain 'And you used to love me a lot...'

Music on 4 House Concerts: Terence Martin

Last Thursday, I attended my first ever Music on 4 House Concert. Richard Cuccaro of Acoustic Live had hipped me to this series, introducing me to Ihor, who runs the house concerts along with Marisha, at their home on the Upper West Side, at a Terence Martin show at the Living Room (described here).

The setting is just wonderful. The "on 4" part of the title refers to the fact that Ihor and Marisha own an apartment occupying the entire fourth-floor of a classic New York City pre-war apartment building. The place is absolutely beautiful -- both the public living room in which the music is performed, where a very chill, bohemian vibe dominates, and in the private spaces of the kitchen and living area. As part of the $15 to get in the door -- all of which goes to the performers -- the hosts provide a selection of imported lagers and wines to drink and an assortment of delicious cheeses, and there was more than enough of each to go around several times.

The crowd was sizeable -- about 25 or 30 people -- and filled the room but did not make it crowded. The atmosphere was warm and comfortable. The featured performer was Terence Martin, who was accompanied on dobro and mandolin by trusty sideman Dan Bonis. They played a somewhat abbreviated set of Terence's usual material, bringing up a friend of Dan's to play fiddle on the last two numbers. Terence's voice gave him a little bit of trouble on one song, but he worked through the frog and was no worse for wear.

The set list was as follows:

  • "Weatherman"

  • "East of the River"

  • "Even Trade" - the title track from Terence's most recent CD, which was just reviewd in Acoustic Guitar magazine

  • "California"

  • "23rd Street"

  • "Folding Chairs" - one of my favorite songs, Terence it dedicated to me, Rich Cuccaro and his wife Vicky; Terence said, 'They've seen us so many times! ... And I don't know why they keep coming."

  • "Santa Rosa" - a song about a town in New Mexico, inspired in part by Dave Van Ronk; when Terence went into the Army, the only music that he took with him was two Dave Van Ronk CDs; Dan played some nice bluesy dobro on this one

  • "The Way It Didn't Go" - one of Terence's best songs, in which he imagines the life that he might have lived with a woman whose eye he caught on the street one time: 'I can't forget the love we didn't make'

  • "Between the Thunder and the Light"

  • "Where It All Begins"

  • "Augustine Creek"

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 26 October 2008

It was an absolute pleasure to have Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile live in studio today with us. We talked about their new CD of original compositions out on the Nonesuch label, and they played three pieces live. (The timbre of my questions had Chris jokingly -- I think -- refer to WKCR as "music geek radio" on the way out the door.)

We also played a few selections from Kenny and Amanda Smith's new CD, including the lead track "Changing," co-written by Buddy Woodward and Brandi Hart from the Dixie Bee-Liners with Tim Stafford. Moonshine Show intern Logan took us through three tracks from the new Ralph Stanley compilation of clawhammer banjo tunes.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 26 October 2008 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

Blue Highway; "Wondrous Love"; _Wondrous Love_ (Rounder)

Dry Branch Fire Squad; "Hide You in the Blood"; _Thirtieth Anniversary Special_ (Rounder)

Dailey & Vincent; "By the Mark"; _Dailey & Vincent_ (Rounder)

Paul Williams & Cliff Waldron; "Higher Ground"; _Higher Ground_ (Rebel)


Kenny and Amanda Smith Band; "Changing," "Drive That Fast," "Cruel Willie"; _Live and Learn_ (Rebel)


Ralph Stanley; "John Henry," "Little Birdie"; _Old-Time Pickin': A Clawhammer Banjo Collection_ (Rebel)


Ralph Stanley; "Old McDonald/Cindy"; _Old-Time Pickin'_


White House; "Blue Eyed Darlin'"; _White House_ (Pinecastle)

Buddy Merriam and Back Roads; "I Love You 1,000 Ways"; _Live at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall - 25th Anniversary Show_ (self-released)

Robin and Linda Williams; "So It Go"; _Radio Songs_ (Red House)

Big Spike; "Why, Baby, Why?"; _A New Day_ (self-released)


John Hartford; "Hi Dad in the Morning"; _Hamilton Ironworks_ (Rounder)

Bruce Molsky; "Let's Go to Huntin'," "Blackberry Blossom"; _Contented Must Be_ (Rounder)

Brittany Haas; "John Brown's Dream"; _Brittany Haas_ (self-released)

Troublesome Creek; "Lonesome Pine Special"; _Fast as Time Can Take Me_ (County)


Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile LIVE in WKCR-FM Master Control
"Concert Duo for Violin [Mandolin] and Double Bass: Movement IV"
"The Farmer and the Duck"
"Just as Well"


Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile; "Rabbit Cake"; _Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile_ (Nonesuch)


Doc and Richard Watson; "Walk On Boy"; _Third Generation Blues_ (Sugar Hill)

Larry Sparks with Vince Gill; "Blues Stay Away from Me"; _40_ (Rebel)


Open Road; "God's Not Dead"; _Open Road_ (self-released)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Response to Call + Response

On another political note...last night I saw Call + Response, a documentary about the current slave trade epidemic and the response of people and musicians to the call for its end. It was directed and produced by musician Justin Dillon and featured such notable indie acts as Moby, Cold War Kids, Natasha Bedingfield, Imogen Heap and The Scrolls (featuring Sara and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek). For my money, though, the most compelling musical performances came from Jewish reggae-rapper Matisyahu and hip-hop artist Emmauel Jal, who had been enslaved and trained as a child soldier in Sudan. Although there are many smart, informed people in the film, Dr. Cornel West was, as usual, the most entertaining and eloquent. My favorite bit of his was his take on funk music.

In short, Call + Response is a pretty engaging documentary that accomplishes its mission--to inform the world about the slave trade going on all over the world, even here in the U.S. Definitely worth watching.

For some reason, the film is not showing in New York (sorry, Matt!), but it is showing in Minneapolis, Portland and other cities across the country...To find out where you can see it, click here.

Bono at CA Women's Conference

You can see video of Bono, speaking at the CA Women's Conference here. I like the bit about being a traveling salesman.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Playlist: Womenfolk (October 19, 2008)

This past Sunday Beth Shaw joined me to co-host a special pledge drive show, where we played lots of new music and highlighted a lot of artists coming to town. Big thanks to all of you who pledged on the show, and remember you can pledge your support to Womenfolk any time by clicking click here. Thanks for listening and for supporting people-powered independent radio!


WOMENFOLK (October 19, 2008)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley & Beth Shaw.
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
The Weepies / Gotta Have You / Say I Am You / Nettwerk

The Wailin’ Jennys / Beautiful Dawn / 40 Days / Red House
Rose Cousins / Dance If You Want To / If You Were For Me / Self
*Oh Susanna / Pretty Penny / Short Stories / Stella Records

*Carrie Elkin / Gospel Song / The Jeopardy of Circumstance / Self

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
Natalia Zukerman / Ice Cream / Only One / Talisman Records
Po' Girl / Walk on and Sing / Vagabond Lullabies / Nettwerk

Lynn Miles / Love Sweet Love / Love Sweet Love / Red House
Joan Osborne / How Sweet It Is / How Sweet It Is / Compendia

Lucy Kaplansky / Ten Year Night / Ten Year Night / Red House

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Sharon Shannon / Hots & Heifers / The Sharon Shannon Collection: 1990-2003 /

Mila Vocal Ensemble / Medley: Dimitrija/Pavle mi pie / Leb I Sol / Self
*Rachel Unthank & The Winterset / Blackbird / The Bairns / Real World

*Tracy Grammer / Blue Wing / Book of Sparrows / Self
*Kate Campbell / Welcome to Ray / Save the Day / Large River Music

*Linda & Robin Williams / Going, Going Gone / Buena Vista / Red House
*Kathleen Edwards / Oh Canada / Asking for Flowers / Zoe
*Pieta Brown / Hey Run / Remember the Sun / One Little Indian

Neal & Leandra / Wild Horses / Accidental Dreams / Red House
Rachel Bissex / Wildflowers / Don’t Look Down / Alcazar Music

Monday, October 20, 2008

Eliza Gilkyson and Catie Curtis in Portland

Last Thursday night I had the honor of promoting a rare (so far, one-time) co-bill of Eliza Gilkyson and Catie Curtis at the Mission Theater in Portland, OR. Eliza brought along guitar superstar Nina Gerber (of Kate Wolf and Greg Brown fame), and Catie was accompanied by Jen Todd, from Seattle, who was a longtime member of Laura Love's band. Both sets were wonderful, and the best part was when they all got on stage together, first for Eliza's song "Tender Mercies" and later at the end of Catie's set for "Passing Through," a song that Catie co-wrote with Mark Erelli. It was a lovely night, and a great time was had by all, though I do wish the f-ing economy would shape up so we could get these guys the full house they deserve.

Here are a few pictures of us after the show:

Nina Gerber, Eliza Gilkyson, me, Jen Todd and Catie Curtis.

Nina Gerber, Eliza Gilkyson, Jen Todd and Catie Curtis.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Playlist : The Moonshine Show - 19 October 2008

On this morning's show, I featured (relatively) new releases from Cherryholmes, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper and Longview, geared up the listening audience for a Del McCoury Band show that is actually not happening and played two archival segments as part of our continuing tribute to the late Doug Tuchman (one of which was a pretty great interview with Del McCoury from 1998) and the other of which involved a story where Bill Monroe (as a practical joke) sent Don Reno to knock on the door of a house full of moonshiners and ended up with a shotgun pointed at his head.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 19 October 2008 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

Cherryholmes; "I Can Only Love You (So Much)," "Sumatra," "Goodbye"; _Don't Believe_ (Skaggs Family)


Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper; "Sold Down the River," "Leavin' Town," "Kickin' Back"; _Leavin' Town_ (Rounder)


Longview; "Old Log Cabin," "I'll Love Nobody But You," "Baptism of Jesse Taylor"; _Deep in the Mountains_ (Rounder)


The Del McCoury Band; "The Cold Hard Facts," "Hard on My Heart"; _The Cold Hard Facts_ (Rounder)

The Del McCoury Band; "She Can't Burn Me Now," "Mountain Song"; _The Company We Keep_ (McCoury Music)


WKCR Archival Interview with Del McCoury, Conducted by Doug Tuchman, 16 November 1998


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


Chris Thile; "Wayside (Back in Time)"; _How to Grow a Woman from the Ground_ (Sugar Hill)

Chris Thile and Mike Marshall; "J.S. Bach Dm Gigue (from Solo Violin Partita #2)"; _Live Duets_ (Sugar Hill)

Mark O'Connor; "Dixie Breakdown"; _Retrospective_ (Rounder)


Don Reno and Bill Harrell & The Tennessee Cut-Ups; "It's a Long, Long Way from the Bottom," "Hobo's Story"; _Dear Old Dixie_ (CMH LP)


WKCR Archival Recording of Doug Tuchman; February 2000


Don Reno and Bill Harrell & The Tennessee Cut-Ups with Arthur Smith; "B.G. Chase"; _Dear Old Dixie_


Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys; "Come Along Jody," "Little Moses," "Calgary Reel"; _2nd Avenue Square Dance_ (Traditional Crossroads)

Friday, October 17, 2008


On Wednesday night, I rushed into the city from Princeton to get down to the Highline Ballroom to see one of the hottest acts out on the bluegrass circuit -- Cherryholmes. A family band, fans of this group have been watching four kids grow up on stage over the course of the past nine years and propelled the band to be the 2005 Entertainer of the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Awards. I had seen them back in the summer of 2005 at the Mineral Bluegrass Festival in Mineral, Virginia, where they had put on a memorable evening set.

The opening act was the Bear Mountain Pickers, and they took the stage as if it were there show, launching into a rollicking version of "The Hobo Song" and not holding anything back. Featuring brothers David and Jonathan Cantor on guitar/banjo and saxophone/clarinet respectively, the group has a solid jam band sound, armed also with drums, bass and New Yorker Rob Hecht playing some fine fiddle -- they build on bluegrass but are not a bluegrass band.

Although the originals left me a little flat, I did like the bouncy "Spent All My Money on a Banjo" and "Early Morning Train," a song about commuting into New York from New Jersey -- the opposite of my commute -- that had a bit of a John Hartford feel (a la the magnificent "Tall Buildings") and did not have anything to do with Gordon Lightfoot. Their cover of Bob Dylan's "Mama You've Been on My Mind" was played at warp speed and a little loose and had a drum solo but was a pretty nice effort.

Announcing that they originally had been known as The Emergency Wedding Band because they would be called the day before the wedding and throw together some Crosby, Stills and Nash covers to sing while the couple walked down the aisle, the band tried its best at some three-part harmonies with the drummer coming out from behind his kit.

My friend Dan who was with me really enjoyed their set; I was left a little less convinced.

Cherryholmes played a very nice and long set. They opened up with "Don't Believe," the title track from their latest CD, a straight-ahead, hard-driving bluegrass song. Banjo-playing daughter Cia is well-known for her vocal chops -- she seems to have studied Rhonda Vincent quite well, in my opinion -- but I was really blown away by 14-year old Molly Kate's alto on the song "Goodbye." She has a thick and rich voice that I hope we'll get to hear more of in the future.

Molly Kate plays fiddle in the group, and her 20-year-old brother B.J. will switch between mandolin and fiddle. When both of them had their violins in hand, they were capable of producing some really sweet music. The instrumental "Sumatra" was of particular note. When they played a fiddle, mandolin and guitar version of a Stephane Grapelli tune, they unfortunately were held back a little bit by brother Skip on guitar.

The band mostly plays originals, but their cover of the Flying Burrito Brother's "Devil in Disguise" is noteworthy, and they dip into the repository of gospel songs now and then, which provides a spotlight for the beautiful sibling harmonies. The encore was a particularly nice example of this.

My main problem with the show was the sound, and blame probably lays at the feet of the band. They had several omnidirectional microphones on stage and then some unidirectional microphones, too. What they had was too many microphones! When the kids were soloing -- particularly the mandolin solos but also the banjo and fiddle solos -- the background noise easily drowned out the solos. This also was a problem with the vocals, where the music ate up a lot of the enunciation, so I could tell that Cia was singing well, but I couldn't tell what words she was singing. Since the Highline pushes the volume up toward rock 'n' roll levels, maybe the band doesn't normally encounter these problems, but the muddiness was really dissatisfying for me.

Living Large at the Living Room

Last Friday, I headed down to the Living Room with Allan, meeting up with Marie and eventually some friends of hers, to see the jam-packed triple-threat barrel-of-fun that was Raina Rose, John Elliott and Anthony da Costa. There was a very solid but not overwhelming crowd, including family and friends of the three performers.

Raina Rose

Raina Rose from Portland opened up. I knew nothing about her, but she drew me in pretty quickly with her strong voice and energetic guitar strumming. (In general, I think that all three acts were helped by the hot sound at the Living Room -- pushing the volume up on the guitar does a lot for strummers like these three.)

Introducing her first song, Raina said, "I wanted to write a song with a name in it, and men's names just don't work," and so we got "Beautiful Desdemona," a nicely written song with some Dylan-esque twists in it. Other highlights from her set included a strong rendition of Patty Griffin's "Poor Man's House" and her own "Not Not Love" with the chorus

This is not what we'd intended --
Still I'm willing to defend:
This might not not be love.
Radio antenna on the water tower,
The tidal passage of hours:
This might not not be love.

For her final song, Raina brought up Anthony da Costa and said, "I don't want to bring you down, but this is kind of a sad bastard song -- it doesn't matter: you just lost 40 grand in the stock market!" How appropriate for downtown Manhattan.

Anthony da Costa

As Raina walked off the stage, Anthony said, "I love John Elliott, but Raina was my first love." He opened with his song "Love is Love," which includes the great lines, "I think I'm tired of thinking, / So let's just give it a try," and "What's the use of living / If you only do it in songs?" At the end of the song, he proclaimed, "I'm done with standardized testing!" and we all applauded.

"Okemah Sunrise" and "The Devil's Won" (which is oh-so-much-Dylan rolled into one song) followed, and then he moved over to the piano to sing the terrific "Helen Rose" co-authored by Greg Klyma and Jonathan Byrd. A very solid set from Anthony.

John Elliott

John Elliott took the stage and opened up with his song that Anthony had used as his opener at the Postcrypt back in late September, which features the opening blast of "Let's go out tonight like it was last year!" and has a verse that begins "I want to fall in love tonight" and ends up talking about wanting to be a Mormon. I mean, if you need to kick a show off right, this is the one, folks!

Cutting close to home for me, John introduced the next song by saying, "I had a tour this summer with a bluegrass band, which taught me a lot of things. It taught me that I don't really like bluegrass music, for instance." A song for the summertime, he dedicated it to "all the mavericks out there": "Lucky to Live Here." In the middle of the song, John stopped cold and called out to three friends of Raina Rose's sitting in the dead center of the room who had been chatting and laughing throughout the song: "I really need to know what you guys are talking about! Really. I just want to know." After a weak explanation from the girls about how they were discussing their undying love for each other, John said, "Where was I? Oh, yeah... This verse is about a whorehouse in Texas; it's called Beavers..." And so the song went on. The chorus from the song featured a great line about being "born in the North with a Catholic mouth."

"The Ballad of Wallace Green" is an intense song that John wrote about a man he met in Joshua Tree National Park. And then he moved over to the piano to play Wilco's "Ashes of American Flags" with the intense line "I would like to salute the ashes of American flags," which apparently almost led to him getting beat-up in Georgia -- not surprisingly, I think.

John Elliott, Anthony da Costa and Raina Rose

When the three of them took the stage together, there was only one thing that I wanted, and I got it right away: "Feet to the Fire," the song that had left such an impression on me when I saw John Elliott at Banjo Jim's at the beginning of the summer and that Anthony da Costa busted out on Main Stage at Falcon Ridge. The talkative girls got up and danced during the song.

John Elliott described how the three of them had gotten to know each other: "We met at this thing called the Folk Alliance -- have you ever heard of anything more stupid and retarded than a folk alliance? That's one alliance that could easily be defeated!"

Raina led the way on a tune, and then the band brought up Alexa Woodward on banjo, who played "Mary," a long song with a hypnotic chorus. With John Elliott on piano, Anthony da Costa took the lead on an apparently unexpected cover of Bruce Springsteen's "My Hometown." Raina led a song with the lyric -- if I caught it correctly -- "I don't want to be the king; / I want to be the king's flashlight." John Elliott closed out the night with a song entitled "We Just Need to Take It Easy." He announced to the crowd, "For those of us who can drink, we'll be drinking for a while!" and an excellent 90 minutes of music came to an end.

(Note: The Anthony da Costa and John Elliott photos both come from the Me & Thee Coffeehouse (Marblehead, Massachusetts) blog. Anthony is playing there tonight!)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Playlist: Womenfolk (October 12, 2008)

Yesterday we had a special pledge drive show, co-hosted by Pam of KFAI's Pam Without Boundaries. We welcomed guests Janine and Ann into the studio to talk with us about the television show they host called "It's a Woman's World," covering a wide range of women's issues. You can catch it in the Twin Cities on MCN's Channel 6 Mondays at 9:30 am!

Big thanks to all of you who pledged today on the show, and remember you can pledge your support to Womenfolk any time by clicking here.

Thanks for listening and for supporting people-powered independent radio!


WOMENFOLK (October 12, 2008)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley & Pam Hill-Kroyer!
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

*Eliza Gilkyson / Emerald Street / Beautiful World / Red House
Lucy Kaplansky / Off and Running / The Red Thread / Red House

[Live in the Studio: Janine & Ann of MCN's television show "It's
a Woman's World"]

*Joan Baez / Jericho Road / Day After Tomorrow / Razor & Tie
*Mavis Staples / Down in Mississippi / Live: Hope at the Hideout / Anti-

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*Natalia Zukerman / Song for Ramblin’ Jack / Brand New Frame / Weasel Records
Eilen Jewell / Rich Man’s World / Letters From Sinner & Strangers / Signature

*Becky Schlegel / 99% / For All the World to See / Lilly Ray
*Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson / One More Year / Rattlin' Bones / Sugar

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Laura MacKenzie / Out of Winter/A Quiet Autumn / Evidence / Self

*Erica Wheeler / Brand New Starts / Good Summer Rain / Self
Cheryl Wheeler / When Fall Comes to New England / Driving Home / Philo
Adrienne Young / My Love Will Keep / The Art of Virtue / AddieBelle

Carrie Rodriguez / Never Gonna Be Your Bride / Seven Angels on a Bicycle / Back
*Lucinda Williams / Little Rock Star / Little Honey / Lost Highway
Indigo Girls / Fugitive / Swamp Ophelia / Epic

*Lucy Wainwright Roche / Awhile / 8 More / Self
*Dar Williams / It’s Alright / Promised Land / Razor & Tie

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 12 October 2008

On today's show, we featured some music from Cherryholmes -- although not our scheduled interview with Jere Cherryholmes unfortunately -- and gave away some tickets for their appearance on Wednesday night at The Highline Ballroom. In addition, we looked back at the winners from this year's International Bluegrass Music Awards. And as part of our monthlong tribute to Doug Tuchman, we played an archival recording from October 1998 featuring The Rockhouse Gamblers (Bill Christophersen, Gil Sayre and Aron Weinbech) live on Honky-Tonkin'. Matt Matlack, 'The Rowdy Redneck', who had been Doug's co-host on that program gave us a call from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to let us know that he was listening!


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 12 October 2008 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

Cherryholmes; "Tallahassee," "Makin' Time"; _Cherryholmes_ (Skaggs Family)


[IBMA Award Winners for Entertainer of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Album of the Year, Emerging Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year (Jamie Dailey) and Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year ("By the Mark")]

Dailey & Vincent; "Poor Boy Workin' Blues," "Sweet Carrie," "By the Mark"; _Dailey & Vincent_ (Rounder)


[IBMA Song of the Year]

Blue Highway; "Through the Window of a Train"; _Through the Window of a Train_ (Rounder)

[Dobro Player of the Year]

Rob Ickes with Blue Highway; "The Fatal Shore"; _Big Time_ (Rounder)

[Fiddle Player of the Year]

Michael Cleveland; "Hello City Limits"; _Let 'er Go, Boys!_ (Rounder)

[Guitar Player of the Year]

Josh Williams; "Cold Virginia Rain"; _Lonesome Highway_ (Pinecastle)


[Banjo Player of the Year - Kristin Scott Benson]

Larry Stephenson Band; "Lonesome Day," "Bully of the Town"; _Two Hearts on the Borderline_ (Pinecastle)

[Bass Player of the Year - Barry Bales; Mandolin Player of the Year - Adam Steffey]

Dan Tyminski Band; "The One You Lean On," "Knock Knock!"; _Wheels_ (Rounder)


Cherryholmes; "Don't Give Your Heart to a Knoxville Girl," "Darkness on the Delta"; _Black and White_ (Skaggs Family)

Cherryholmes; "Devil in Disguise"; _Don't Believe_ (Skaggs Family)


Three Tall Pines; "Jenny Mule"; _Short While Ago_ (self-released)

Stripmall Ballads; "Point of View"; _Since Jimmy Died_ (self-released)


Rockhouse Gamblers Live at WKCR-FM; Archival Recording from 20 October 1998
"Fiddler's Dream"
"Stagger Lee"
"Goin' Back to Jericho"
Fiddle Tune
"Think of What You've Done"


Michael Cleveland; "Rye Straw"; _Flame Keeper_ (Rounder)

Ralph Stanley; "I've Got a Mule to Ride," "Old McDonald/Cindy"; _Old-Time Pickin': A Clawhammer Banjo Collection_ (Rebel)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mother Banjo on MN Soundtrack

I had a really fun time being a guest on KFAI's local show MN Soundtrack last Friday...kind of fun to be on the other side of the interview! To hear me play some Mother Banjo tunes live and to hear a slice of our local music scene, click here.

Playlist: Womenfolk (October 5, 2008)

Sunday's show was jam-packed with live guests--Natalia Zukerman and Willy Porter in the first hour and local country/roots vocalists Eliza Blue and The Dimestore Dames in the second hour, previewing the kick-off to to this year's Womenfolk concert series at Gethsemane Church. They put on a great concert last night so big thanks to them for starting things off in fine fashion!

Next Sunday tune in for a fall pledge drive show with co-host Pam of KFAI's Pam Without Boundaries and guests from SPNN's television show "It's a Woman's World." There will be lots of autumn tunes, new music and special thank-you gifts! To get your pledge in early, just click here.

Thanks for listening and for your support of Fresh Air Community Radio!


WOMENFOLK (October 5, 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

Shawn Colvin / I Don’t Know Why / Live ‘88 / Plump Records
Ruthie Foster / Heal Yourself / The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster / Blue Corn Music

*Catie Curtis / Are You Ready to Fly? / Sweet Life / Compass Records
*Amy Ray / Out on the Farm / Didn’t It Feel Kinder / Daemon Records
*Brianna Lane / Learn to Fly / Let You In / Self

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*Natalia Zukerman / Brand New Frame / Brand New Frame / Self

Edie Carey / Lonely / Another Kind of Fire / Self
*Rose Polenzani with Session Americana / You Were Drunk / When the River Meets the Sea / Self
Linda Thompson / Dear Mary / Fashionably Late / Rounder

[Live in the Studio: Natalia Zukerman with Willy Porter]
Natalia Zukerman with Willy Porter / Better Me
Natalia Zukerman with Willy Porter / Only Trees

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Karen Mueller / Heart of the Heartland / Landscape of the Heart / Self
Becky Schlegel / Cheyenne / Drifter Like Me / Self
*Linda & Robin Williams / When a Thread Gets Caught / Buena Vista / Red House

*Eliza Gilkyson / The Party’s Over / Beautiful World / Red House

[Live in the Studio: The Dimestore Dames, featuring Kim Roe & Jennifer Markey]
The Dimestore Dames / Custom Made Woman Blues
The Dimestore Dames / Someday You Will Pay

Eliza Blue / Freight Train / Screen Doors & Back Doors / Lucky Micah Records

[Live in the Studio: Eliza Blue]
Eliza Blue / Mending Fences
Eliza Blue / Gospel Song

Liz Stahler / Miles Left / Stitches in My Sleeve / Self

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Folk Brothers Setlist from Sunday

Somehow it escaped my notice that The Folk Brothers (Jack Hardy and David Massengill) would be performing this past Sunday at the Uptown Coffeehouse, but they did. And WJFF-FM radio DJ (and Jack Hardy devoté)Jonathan Mernit posted the setlist on the Jack Hardy e-mail list, so I thought it worthwhile to reproduce here.

The Folk Brothers perform next in New York on December 13th at the People's Voice Cafe, and their complete itinerary can be found on Jack Hardy's web site.

And please let me note my extreme pleasure that Massengill's "The Pissed-Off Eunuch" might make it on to the second Folk Brothers CD.


The first set was pretty much The Folk Brothers CD, Partners in Crime:

Losers(Van Ronk)
Fairfax County(Massengill)
Worst President Ever(Hardy)
Rider on an Orphan Train(Massengill)
Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies
Ode to a Mouse(Massengill)
Go Tell The Savior(Hardy)
Saint James Infirmary Blues

The second set was The Folk Brothers soon to be recorded 2nd CD:

Reason To Believe(Hardin)
I Ought To Know(Hardy)
Another Time & Place(Van Ronk)
God Smiled Down(J. Byrd)
Derry Down(Massengill)
Baby Loves a Banjo(Hardy)
May Day(Hardy)
My Name Joe(Massengill)
The Goodnight Loving Trail(Utah Phillips)
Eunich Song(Massengill)
Deep, Deep Blue(Hardy)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Anthony da Costa Back at the Postcrypt

Back in February, I had the pleasure of seeing Anthony da Costa at the Postcrypt (as I described here) with Abbie Gardner. And he was all over the place at Falcon Ridge as well (as I described here). Well, I was pleased to be able to catch up with him again last Saturday evening there in the basement of St. Paul's Chapel back at the Postcrypt Coffeehouse.

Playing before Anthony was Tanner Walle, a songwriter and guitarist, who was playing with a second guitarist and a bassist. The band played as a pretty tight unit, and they whipped out covers of Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" and (for my generation) Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," both of which were major crowd-pleasers. Walle's originals, I'm afraid, didn't do much for me -- almost none of the lyrics took hold in my head -- but the band sounded good, and it was easy to get into their groove.

Anthony da Costa opened with a John Elliott song -- called something like "Let's Go Out Tonight Like It's Last Year" -- which had some great lyrics (references to "time wasted with your tongue" and how nice it must be to be a Mormon). (The photo to the right is of Anthony and John Elliott performing together.) He followed up with "Call Me Spent Tonight" and 'a song about falling in love for two weeks and then kidding yourself for another two or three,' "Upstate Living." "Hush Little Boy" was a new number. All of these were solid, although I find myself shaking my head and going, 'This guy writes a lot of broken hearted songs for a 17-year-old kid! How many relationships has he had?' (But I bet if I pulled down some notebooks full of poetry from high school...)

There's always free popcorn at the Postcrypt, and Anthony started riffing on kettle corn -- which has become a ubiquitous festival feature over the past few years -- and he revealed to all of us than John Gorka is a huge kettle corn fan (perhaps Ellen can verify this): 'We turned around for a second to watch Judy Collins sing about where the time goes, and Gorka was just shoveling it in! And who knows where the time goes?' Out of that story, he went into "Okemah Sunrise," receiving our applause at the end of the song by saying, 'Thank you very much. That was a sissy song for you.' On "Back of My Mind," Anthony had his foot stopping on the creaky old Postcrypt stage such that he came back to the same post-song motif as before: `That was a lot of testosterone for such a sissy song!' He followed with "At My Window Sad and Lonely," the Woody Guthrie lyric to which Jeff Tweedy put music for the Mermaid Avenue project. And then we got "The Wrestler," about a professional wrestler who always loses. "Snakes on the Plane" was followed by "Ghost is Back" to close the show.

Steve Kirkman accompanied Anthony on guitar for the evening and did a fine job but stayed clearly in the background to the wunderkind.

Along with John Elliott (see my review here) and Raina Rose, Anthony da Costa will be at the Living Room this Friday night, 10 October.

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 5 October 2008

I had the great pleasure of having Matt Brown and Brittany Haas (and her five-string fiddle) on the show this morning. They played some wonderful twin-fiddle old-time tunes for us. And we began our Doug Tuchman tribute with an archival interview of New Lost City Ramblers founding member Tom Paley from 2001.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 5 October 2008 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

New Lost City Ramblers; "Colored Aristocracy," "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," "Railroad Blues"; _Tom Paley, John Cohen and Mike Seeger Sing Songs of the New Lost City Ramblers_ (Folkways LP)


WKCR Archival Interview with Tom Paley Conducted by Doug Tuchman (3 July 2001)

New Lost City Ramblers; "Soldier's Joy," "Brown's Ferry Blues"; _20 Years -- Concert Performance__ (Flying Fish LP)

The Mysterious Redbirds; "I'll Fly Away," "Oh My Little Darling/Did You Ever See the Devil?"; _The Mysterious Redbirds_ (Copper Creek)

The New Deal String Band; "Didn't He Ramble?," "Done Gone"; _Dealing a New Hand (From the Same Old Deck)_ (Wild)


New Lost City Ramblers; "Who's That Knocking on My Door"; _...Sing Songs of the New Lost City Ramblers_

Chicken Chokers; "Diamond Joe"; _07_ (self-released)


Matt Brown and Brittany Haas LIVE in WKCR-FM Master Control

Swedish Polska
"Carroll County Blues"

"Train 45" from Matt Brown's _Falls of Richmond_ (5-String)

"Ways of the World"

"Oh, Agamemnon" from Crooked Still's _Still Crooked_

"Fire on the Mountain"

"Dry and Dusty" from _Brittany Haas_

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chris Thile Watch

As regular readers know, we do our best to keep tabs on Chris Thile here on the Sound of Blackbirds (see here and here), and as I mentioned in the last post, he'll be making a Moonshine Show appearance in the near future.

So we certainly would be remiss if we were not to point out this crazy combination concert at Le Poisson Rouge next Friday -- mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile and jazz pianist Brad Mehldau together! Wow! (If you need some Brad Mehldau exposure, check out these Radiohead covers on YouTube: "Exit Music (for a Film)" and "Paranoid Android".)

(100 percent of receipts from the concert go to some guy who is running for president apparently...)

(Alex Ross tipped me off.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Also Coming Up on the Mooshine Show

I mentioned on Tuesday WKCR's tribute to the late Doug Tuchman this month. But there are a number of other fun things happening on The Moonshine Show in the next few weeks.

This Sunday, 5 October, young old-time fiddlers Matt Brown and Brittany Haas will be live in-studio with us. Matt has just released his second CD, whereas Brittany, I'm sure, will have much exciting news to report from what it's like to be on the road with Crooked Still. I have never heard these two play together, but individually, they are two of the finest young old-time fiddlers out there -- with Brittany having learned extensively from the master himself, Bruce Molsky -- so it should be pretty amazing to hear what they sound like together.

On 12 October, I'll be talking to Jere Cherryholmes on the phone. He is the leader of Cherryholmes, the 2005 International Bluegrass Music Association's Entertainer of the Year award winners. They have a new CD out, their third on Skaggs family records, and will be appearing at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan on Wednesday 15 October.

And at the end of the month, on 26 October, Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer are going to join us live in studio to talk about their new CD on the Nonesuch label, which features 12 original tunes, as well as their appearance at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday 29 October. They're going to be playing the BIG room at Carnegie, for the record. Also, I believe that Edgar Meyer will be the first MacArthur Genius Grant winner ever to appear on The Moonshine Show.

Moonshine airs on Sunday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to noon (EST) on 89.9 FM in the New York area and elsewhere.

Ralph Stanley for Obama Radio Ad

Check it out here.

Virgina is pretty close to a toss-up state right now. has it going in Obama's favor by 4.4 points today. So the Ralph Stanley radio buy might really help Obama sure up the state.