Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vote for Your Favorite CD's of 2008!

This Sunday on my radio show, I'll be featuring the Top Womenfolk CD's of 2008 as determined by you! To cast your vote for your favorite women's folk/acoustic releases, email them to me at by Saturday, January 3rd, and tune in to find out which are the big winners of the year and to hear the top picks of your favorite musicians, DJ's and other music celebrities...including maybe some of the contributors to this blog?

Also catch a live in-studio performance by Twin Cities talent Molly Dean., previewing her performance at e.p. atelier as part of KFAI's monthly Womenfolk concert series. It's all happening this Sunday, starting at 11 am Central on KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul. You can also catch it live or archived online. Hope you can tune in and that you enjoy the last remnants of 2008!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ridiculousness at the New York Phil

I had missed this miniature brouhaha over at the New York Philharmonic until I was getting caught up over at the Feast of Music.

The story starts with New York Phil trombonist David Finlayson speaking out on his blog:

Impersonators, alas, still seem to rise to the surface. I contend that the story of another impersonator is continuing to be written. It is the story of Gilbert Kaplan. Mr. Kaplan is a self-professed scholar and conductor of Mahler’s great second symphony, The Resurrection. ...

On December 8, 2008, Mr. Kaplan took the podium in front of the New York Philharmonic. My colleagues and I gave what we could to this rudderless performance but the evening proved to be nothing more than a simplistic reading of a very wonderful piece of music.

Yow-zoo-eee! Watch out over there!

The key assertion is that Gilbert Kaplan was allowed to conduct the Phil because of his generous contributions record. Nice work if you can get it, I guess.

Freddie Hubbard Memorial Broadcast on WKCR

Jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard died yesterday. (Peter Keepnews' obituary in the New York Times offers a rather frank assessment of his contributions to jazz history and the short-comings of some of his recordings.)

WKCR began a memorial broadcast at noon today (immediately following the conclusion of the Bach Festival). Phil Schaap has been hosting so far and doing a typically excellent job of paying tribute and providing an education-and-a-half. The broadcast is going to continue through New Year's Day, so there is a lot of time still to check out some Freddie Hubbard and learn a bit about this great player.

Holy Mondegreen, Batman!

Inspired by the inclusion of Toto's "Africa" on my New Year's CD (for the reasons described here), my Uncle Peter sent me this story of a terrific mondegreen from "Onward Christian Soldiers":

I remember reading an article some years ago in which celebrities (might have been musicians, don't recall) recounted their favorite misunderstood lyrics. One spoke of "Onward Christian Soldiers" and how he always thought the line

Christ the royal master leads against the foe

was actually

Christ the royal bastard leans against the phone.

Excellent imagery!

Playin' the Dozens During the Baroque Era

From the New York Times:

Arts, Briefly
From Scottish Pubs to Streets of the Hood
Compiled by DAVE ITZKOFF
Published: December 29, 2008

Scotland has already given the world Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Donovan, and now an American professor says it is also the birthplace of rap battles. Ferenc Szasz, a professor of history at the University of New Mexico who specializes in American and Scottish culture, says in a new study that the lyrical tradition of battle rap derives from an ancient Caledonian practice called flyting, The Telegraph reported. Examples of flyting, a kind of verbal dueling in which opponents would trade rhyming (and often obscene) insults with each other, date at least as far back as the 16th century; Mr. Szasz said Scottish slaveowners brought the practice to America, where it later evolved into hip-hop. Comparing practitioners of flyting and hip-hop performers, Mr. Szasz said: “Both cultures accord high marks to satire. The skilled use of satire takes this verbal jousting to its ultimate level — one step short of a fistfight.”

So "Scottish slaveowners brought the practice to America, where it later evolved into hip-hop"? Um, we're maybe missing a few steps in the causal chain there, I think...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Recreating the Studio Downtown at the 92Y Tribeca

In the late 1990s, the 92nd Street Y opened a venue near Lincoln Center called Makor, which featured a great variety of programming -- both musical and otherwise. The music was in a fairly intimate listening room (although some columns could cut into one's sightlines). And over the years, I saw a number of terrific shows there (e.g. Kate Rusby's American debut, where my parents and I sat with Jack Hardy and Frank Tedesso; a killer Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill set; and a fine night of music by the Krueger Brothers). The venue closed down in 2007, opening up a bit of a hole in the New York acoustic music scene.

The venue has recently been reborn as the 92Y Tribeca, which features a nice open-floor theatre-style performance space, which like Makor has a few sighhtline-blocking columns for charm.

A good friend of my girlfriend Sarah -- the lovely and talented Nadine Goellner -- has been involved with the booking, and so we have dropped by a few times to check things out. (The first show that we saw featured a pretty serious R&B review called The Sweet Divines and then a Boston-based ska group called Westbound Train.)

Yesterday, we rushed up from our holidays in Chester County, Pennsylvania, to check out a co-bill of Doria Roberts and Natalia Zukerman.

The show was a solid evening of entertainment. Doria Roberts opened up with a set full of hard-driving and occasionally angsty relationship songs. At times I was hearing Suzanne Vega, and at other times, I was moving rapidly toward Ani-land. Natalia joined her to play some slide guitar on one number, although the highlight during that piece was Natalia's scolding glance toward a talkative audience member. In her own set, Natalia offered up some imaginative, clever and emotive lyrical combinations and some really skilled guitar playing.

I was most intrigued, however, by Doria's use, during her set, of a loop recorder -- which she kept at the foot of its own microphone, such that she had two microphones in front of her throughout the set. The first time that I really noticed her using it, she recorded her vocals and a fingerpicked guitar accompaniment during the first verse of a dysfunctional-holiday-themed song. After having sung the second verse, she started the loop and returned to the first verse, harmonizing with her own vocals from minutes ago and riffing lightly over the prerecorded guitar before fading the song down.

This was nice and definitely striking, but I was really impressed with a spoken word piece-cum-song that she started by repeating a number of phrases in Japanese into the recorder until she had a loop of dozens of Japanese voices speaking around her, and then over this din, she began to tell the story of being in a Tokyo subway station one morning. The spoken word portion turned into song and then returned to where it had begun with the voices -- a whirlwind of her own voice -- swirling around her spoken vocals before eventually being faded down. (Doria had to stoop down to turn down the volume on the loop -- aesthetically, a volume pedal would be more pleasing, I think, but that is clearly a minor nit-pick.)

What was great about both of these songs was the clear live reproduction of studio techniques. Had I heard those songs on an album, I would have said, "OK. That's pretty well done," but getting to see the studio sounds recreated live on stage struck me as both meaningful and enjoyable art. It obviously happens not infrequently these days -- Patty Larkin altering her own voice on stage through a pedal or Janis Ian raging up the effects pedal on her guitar -- but Doria seemed to be taking it to a level beyond just altering the sound qualities of a single instrument, creating a layered and nuanced piece of music and letting the audience in on the production process.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Playlist: Womenfolk (December 21, 2008)

Last Sunday we celebrated the Winter Solstice with "Songs of Winter," including some Christmas and Channukah tunes. If you missed this holiday show, check it out on the archives here.

On January 4th I'll be playing the Top Womenfolk CD's of 2008 as determined by you! To cast your vote for your favorite women's folk/acoustic releases, email them to me at by January 1st, and tune in to find out which are the big winners of the year!


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

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

Denise Jordon Finley / Solstice Song / Hudson Harding Sampler Volume 3 / Hudson Harding Music
*Loreena McKennitt / Snow / A Midwinter’s Night Dream / Quinlan Road Music

Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum / The Snowy Road / Winter’s Grace / Signature Sounds
Lui Collins / Holiday / Closer / Waterbug
Maria Santiolo / All We Need / Blue Earth / Signature Sounds
Judith Owen / My Father’s Voice / Christmas in July

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
Molly Dean / All I Need / Resonate / Self
The Weepies / All That I Want / Happiness / Self

Brenda Weiler / Christmas Sweater / Cold Weather / Virt Records
Juliana Hatfield / Make It Home / You Sleigh Me! / Atlantic
Nanci Griffith / On Grafton Street / Flyer / Elektra
*Ingrid Michaelson / Snowfall / Holiday Sunday Music 5 / bigHelium Records

Dar Williams / The Christians and the Pagans / Out There Live / Razor & Tie

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Alison Brown Quartet / Carol of the Kings / A Winter's Eve / Compass

Rhonda Vincent / Christmas Time’s A-Comin’ / Beautiful Star: A Christmas Collection / Rounder
Linda & Robin Williams / Shotgun Shells on a Christmas Tree / The First Christmas Gift / Red House

Mary Gauthier / Christmas in Paradise / Filth & Fire / Signature Sounds
Herdman, Hills & Mangsen / Hot Buttered Rum / Voices of Winter / Gadfly

*Gretchen Peters / Careful How You Go / Northern Lights / Scarlet Letter Records
Erica Wheeler / Song for a Winter Night / Wonderland / Signature Sounds
Nerissa & Katryna Nields / Christmas Carol / Love and China / Zoe
*Krista Detor / Christmas in London / The Silver Wood: Wintersongs / Tightrope Records
*Tracy Grammer & Dave Carter / The Ditchling Carol / American Noel / Signature Sounds

Joni Mitchell / River / Hits / Reprise
*Emily Kurn / Light the Lamp / I’m Just Like You / Self
The Klezmatics / Spin Dreydl Spin / Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah / Jewish Music Group

Heather Masse on Prairie Home Companion today!

Very last minute news:

Just wanted to let you know that Heather Masse of the Wailin' Jennys will be on Prairie Home Companion tonight singing some tunes with Garrison and the amazing singer Jearlyn Steele as well as Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks big band. The show broadcasts at 5:45pm eastern standard time Saturday (3pm in a lot of places on the west coast) and then a rebroadcast on Sunday. Check for more info. Hope you can tune in!

And yes, Heather is a current Shining City artist... I am booking a tour for her and Aoife O'Donovan of Crooked Still in the Northwest in late April. You can contact me or go to the Shining City web site for more info on that. Also, I highly recommend Heather's new 5-song EP with the great Jed Wilson, Many Moons.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Vox Vocal Ensemble at the Guggenheim

I didn't actually attend this years Christmas concert at the Guggenheim that my former radio partner George Steel was back in town to conduct, but Allan Kozinn's review in the New York Times brought back a few memories from years past.

The photo above gives an excellent sense of how much fun the concert can be, as the audience chooses between sitting or standing on the floor of the rotunda or lining the Guggenheim ramp. I've enjoyed the concert from multiple positions over the years, although I would have to recommend being a level or two up on the ramp and getting to hear the resonant voices of the chorus rise up to you.

In the review, Kozinn describes

one pop number, performed by only the men in the choir, Mel Tormé’s “Christmas Song.”

I often have cited the first year ever that this happened as my favorite ever holiday music memory. It was December 2003, and bass Joe Chappel stepped forward and busted into "Chestnuts roasting on the open fire..." And my heart melted in yuletide glee. (Sadly, the performance the following year featured a less swinging bass, and the magic was not repeated.)

Kozinn also notes,

The program also included several carols in which the audience was expected to sing along. Mostly the audience saw the wisdom in demurring: far better to hear this choir do the singing than to inflict your questionable intonation on your neighbor.

In December 2006, I was standing on the ramp next to bass singers Steven Hrycelak and Richard Lippold, who did not demur and instead gave me an additional surround sound experience as part of the performance.

Ultimately, I'm glad that Kozinn got a George Steel fix, after concluding a recent article on new music in New York in the following fashion:

A performance of Xenakis’s non-pop-influenced “Oresteia” at the Miller Theater in September drew a similar response. But that proved a bittersweet season opener: Miller’s visionary director, George Steel, had just announced his decision to become general manager of the Dallas Opera. His successor has yet to be named, and finding someone with his originality, curiosity and daring is bound to be tough.
I'll have to confess to a slight groan at all of that effusion.

Steel returns to New York on Valentine's Day to conduct the Vox Vocal Ensemble in a program of old music -- early music, as they say -- entitled "Songs of Love, Lust and Lamentation."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lyrical Revelation

I'm at home, wrapping Christmas gifts and listening to Lonesome, On'ry and Mean: A Tribute to Waylon Jennings. Track three is the classic Bob McDill song "Amanda," which Waylon used to sing and with which Don Williams had a hit. I first heard the song sung by Jim Ringer and have heard Waylon's version and probably one or two other versions.

I always thought that the chorus was

Amanda, light of my life,
They should have made you a gentleman's wife.

And I always vaguely wondered who "they" were and why they had the power to decide who Amanda should become.

Well, on Lonesome, On'ry and Mean, Dave Alvin finally enunciated well enough for me to come to understand that the lyrics actually are

Amanda, light of my life,
Fate should have made you a gentleman's wife.

Got it. Makes a bit more sense now.

WKCR Bach Festival

As I mentioned at the bottom of today's playlist, WKCR's annual Bach Festival begins tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. It runs through December 30th at noon. That means nothing but the music of Johann Sebastian Bach 24-hours-a-day for eight days. Yes, really. Yes, we do this every year.

I'll be hosting a segment on Sunday 28 December from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., playing some chamber music.

Tune in at 89.9 FM or

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 21 December 2008

In addition to continued seasonal celebration (and anti-celebration in the form of "Blue Christmas," Tim O'Brien's "Bah Humbug" and Ralph Stanley II's "Mary, Merry Christmas"), I played a bunch of new releases. From the Pinecastle label, I've already described Kristin Scott Benson's disc; Nothin' Fancy has a nice new gospel CD out, and Ernie Thacker's The Hangman has a bunch of great songs and playing on it -- Ernie's return to bluegrass after a serious auto accident. Another new disc was Gardens in the Sky: The Bluegrass Gospel of James King, a terrific collection of new and old material from one of the best singers in bluegrass. And we started the show off with our traditional first snow of the season song.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 21 December 2008 - 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Host: Matt Winters

Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys; "Footprints in the Snow," "Dusty Miller"; _Anthology_ (MCA)

Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys; "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms"; _Live from Mountain Stage_ (Blue Plate)


Earl Scruggs with Family and Friends; "Salty Dog Blues," "Black Mountain Blues," "Step It Up and Go"; _The Ultimate Collection / Live at the Ryman_ (Rounder)


Kristin Scott Benson; "No Steering, No Breaks," "No Southern Comfort," "Sandy River Belle"; _Second Season_ (Pinecastle)

Nothin' Fancy; "Lord I Hear Your Call," "Heart That Will Never Break Again"; _Lord Bless This House_ (Pinecastle)


Open Road; "Christmas is Near"; _O Christmas Tree_ (Rounder)

The Johnson Mountain Boys; "The Friendly Beasts"; _O Christmas Tree_

Foxfire; "12 Days of Bluegrass Christmas"; _Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas_ (Pinecastle)


Ralph Stanley II; "Mary, Merry Christmas"; _Christmas in the Mountains_ (Rebel)

Tim O'Brien; "Bah Humbug"; _Christmas on the Mountain_ (Universal)

Open Road; "Blue Christmas"; _O Christmas Tree_


James King; "Will He Wait a Little Longer," "Will You Feel at Home," "Happy I'll Be"; _Garden in the Sky_ (Rounder)


Ricky Skaggs and Family; "What Child is This"; _A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume One_ (Skaggs Family)

Country Gentlemen; "Silent Night"; _Christmas in the Mountains_

The Del McCoury Band; "Bluegrass Christmas"; _Christmas on the Mountain_


Ernie Thacker; "This Drinkin' Will Kill Me," "Word of Mouth," "The Hangman"; _The Hangman_ (Pinecastle)


Various Artists; "Away in a Manger," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"; _Christmas Grass_ (Audium)


Next week: The Moonshine Show will be preempted for WKCR's annual Bach Festival. We will return on January 4th. The show also will be preempted on January 11th and January 18th for a Roy Haynes Festival.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not Me

This is not me, although I did used to read a lot of Charles Bukowski.

The Recession Special Hits New York City Rock Club

The following e-mail just came in from B.B. King's Blues Club:

Come Out and Sing the Blues at B.B. King

Wall Street may be sinking but Times Square offers some relief. Present a copy of your latest unemployment check along with a picture ID to our box office and we'll take fifty percent off the price of tickets to our evening shows* at B.B. King Blues Club for the month of February.

Even though you've lost your job, you can still:

· ...see soul and Broadway superstar ANGIE STONE on February 17 for only $15!

· ...bring your tribe to see THE CANNABIS CUP REGGAE BAND for the BOB MARLEY Birthday Bash on February 6 for only $11!

· ...hear legendary bluegrass balladeer RALPH STANLEY on February 18 for only $15!

· ...join us for reggae legend MAXI PRIEST on February 8 for only $14!

· your troubles away with BROADWAY UNDERGROUND on February 16 for only $13!

· ...see the reunited original members of BLACKSTREET on February 20 for only $18!

Sometimes you've got to sing the blues, but you shouldn't have to break the bank to do it.

Join us at B.B. King Blues Club at 237 West 42nd St. (between 7th and 8th Avenue) for a drink and some of the best music that the city has to offer.

For more information on this promotion or any of the shows on our schedule, contact ....

*promotion excludes Saturday and Sunday weekly brunch shows, Super Bowl and Valentine's Day; maximum of fifty half-price tickets available per performance; offer only valid in person at our box office, open 11am to 1am seven days a week; promotion begins December 22, 2008
Really? Eeek.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Some Gorgeous Banjo Playing (If You Can Believe It)

I hope that Ellen's alter ego won't be too upset with me if I say that it is quite rare that one describes banjo playing as "gorgeous." Driving, exciting, pounding -- those are the typical adjectives. (Also, clanging, jarring, annoying -- but let's not go down that path.)

Well, let me say that on Kristin Scott Benson's new CD Second Season, there is some really gorgeous banjo playing. She has an incredibly gentle and smooth touch. Listening to "Far Enough Away," one of the later tracks on the disc, I said, "Is that the mandolin? Is that a guitar?" But it was actually Kristin playing a graceful melody line on the banjo.

When Kristin Scott Benson won the International Bluegrass Music Award as banjo player of the year this year, I have to confess that this bluegrass DJ scratched his head and said, "Who?" It turned out that she had been playing with the Larry Stephenson Band for some time. (And in fact, once I knew that, I said, "Oh, yeah... I do remember some good playing on those discs.") She left that group in November, however, to join one of the hottest bluegrass bands out there, The Grascals (the 2006 and 2007 IBMA Entertainer of the Year winners), and it seems like a great move for her. (It also is great to have a woman playing as part of a leading bluegrass group. Rhonda Vincent and Dale Ann Bradley may be prominent bluegrass artists, but big name bands like Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder or The Infamous Stringdusters are all dudes.)

Just because her playing is gorgeous doesn't mean that it can't knock your socks off, too. "Don't Tread on Me," which kicks off the disc, is powerful bluegrass, and she hits top speed on "No Steering, No Breaks," too, which also features great work on guitar by Cody Kilby. (And her husband Wayne Benson plays delicious mandolin throughout the album.) But her nuanced playing on classics like "Sandy River Belle" and "Bugle Call Rag" are what really stand out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beth Amsel's new political blog: The Flutter Effect

I have just discovered that one of my favorite singer-songwriters and friends, Beth Amsel, has a new blog, mostly political. From checking out what she's posted so far, and from knowing her for years, I can tell you has a lot to say about politics and it would behoove you to read it. Go there and leave her a comment welcoming her to blogland.

Playlist: Womenfolk (December 14, 2008)

This week on Womenfolk Vicky Emerson stopped by the studio to play a few live tunes and preview her show this Friday at the 318 Cafe in Excelsior. We also gave away a copy of her latest CD, along with a pair of tickets to Joseph Scrimshaw's hilarious holiday show Fat Man Crying--congrats to the lucky listeners! If you missed her on-air performance or the other new tunes on today's show, listen to the archived show online here.

Next Sunday tune in for my annual "Songs of Winter" show, celebrating songs of Christmas, Channukah and the Solstice!


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

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

Dar Williams / If I Wrote You / End of the Summer / Razor & Tie
*Molly Ventor / Write a Letter / Love Me Like You Mean It / Pavilion Entertainment
*Cosy Sheridan / The Last Love Letter / Eros / Wind River
Robin & Linda Williams / Letter That I Wrote / Devil of a Dream / Sugar Hill

*Cherryholmes / I Can Only Love You (So Much) / Cherryholmes III: Don’t Believe / Skaggs Family Records
*Marcia Ball / Peace, Love & BBQ / Peace, Love & BBQ / Alligator Records

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
Molly Dean / Another Day / Resonate / Self
*Tracy Chapman / Our Bright Future / Our Bright Future / Elektra

*We're About 9 / Hold Me Up / Paperdust Stardust / Self
*The Bittersweets / My Sweet Love / Goodnight, San Francisco / Compass
*Catie Curtis / Happy / Sweet Life / Compass

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Alison Brown, Darol Anger, Mike Marshall & Tim O’Brien / Shalom Aleichem/Breakin' Up Christmas / A Christmas Heritage / Six Degrees Records

*Roma di Luna / These Tears Ain't Mine (reprise) / Casting the Bones / Self
Chastity Brown / Get So Low / Do the Best You Can / Self

[Live in the Studio: Vicky Emerson]
Vicky Emerson / Into the Woods
Vicky Emerson / Ferris Wheel

Vicky Emerson / I Miss You (More Than I Usually Do) / Vicky Emerson / Self
Lucy Kaplansky / Ring of Fire / Over the Hills / Red House
*Nikki & The RueMates / Burning Up / We All Live Together / Self
*Emily Kurn / The Heater's Broken / I'm Just Like You / Self

Neal & Leandra / This Road / Dancing With a Ghost / Uncle Gus Music

Michael Gordon and Bill Morrison

Over at Feast of Music, Peter Matthews has a nice write-up of a recent Michael Gordon concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM):

Lightning at our feet sets nearly a dozen Dickinson poems in a 90 minute program that felt more like an indie rock show than a piece of musical theater. Gordon left his usual battery of industrial noise at home, employing a modest, chamber-sized ensemble that played electronics, modified strings, piano and percussion. Stunning, dreamlike projections filled the stage, using both film and live-channel video that looked like something Bill Viola might conjure (especially the video for I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, which showed Charles floating slow-motion in a churning pool of water.)

The most famous Michael Gordon/Bill Morrison collaboration is Decasia, in which Gordon's music accompanies projections of decaying film stock collected and compiled by Morrison.

I saw Decasia in September 2004 at St. Ann's Warehouse. That concert featured the Tactus Contemporary Ensemble playing on two levels of scaffolding behind a scrim on which the film was being projected. The audience sat in the middle of the audio and visual cacophony. It was a rather amazing performance. (You can find Allan Kozinn's review here.)

Previous to that, in May 2004, I had seen a performance at Merkin Concert Hall as part of a Michael Gordon festival that featured the Michael Gordon Band accompanying several films by Bill Morrison. The images from those films -- an extended piece in which the camera jumped into the East River and traveled along with the waves and a foot-level film of one city block over time, among others -- have always stuck in my head. (When I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Morrison on WKCR's Live from Miller Theatre in January 2006 in advance of another Gordon/Morrison show at Merkin, he complimented my visual memory, but those films were just hard to forget.)

Here is their collaboration Light is Calling:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 14 December 2008

I started and ended today's show with some seasonal music, played some new music from David Parmley & Continental Divide and Robin & Linda Williams and included two sets of rather diverse old-time music in the show. (We dedicated Uncle Dave Macon's "Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train" to Rod Blagojevich.)


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 14 December 2008 - 10:00 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

Tony Trischka; "O Come All Ye Faithful"; _Glory Shone Around_ (Rounder)

Rhonda Vincent; "Christmas Time's A-Coming"; _O Christmas Tree: A Bluegrass Collection for the Holidays_ (Rounder)

The Del McCoury Band; "Bluegrass Christmas"; _Christmas on the Mountain (A Bluegrass Christmas)_ (Universal)

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder; "Deck the Halls"; _A Skaggs Family Christmas: Volume One_ (Skaggs Family)


David Parmley & Continental Divide; "Three Silver Dollars," "Winsborough Cotton Mill Blues," "Ain't Gonna Let You Drag Me Down"; _Three Silver Dollars_ (Pinecastle)

Robin & Linda Williams; "When a Thread Gets Caught," "Southern Shores"; _Buena Vista_ (Red House)


The Stillhouse Rounders; "Cold and Icy Mountain"; _Black Dog_ (self-released)

Matt Brown; "Shady Grove"; _Falls of Richmond_ (5-String)

Brittany Haas; "Black Jack Grove"; _Brittany Haas_ (self-released)

Uncle Dave Macon; "Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train"; _Hard Times in the Country_ (County)


Floyd Ming's Pep Steppers; "Indian War Whoop"; _Mississippi String Bands - Volume One_ (County)

Violet Hensley; "Mate to the Hog Waltz"; _Traditional Fiddle Music of the Ozarks: Volume One_ (Rounder)

Bruce Molsky; "Knoxville Blues"; _Contented Must Be_ (Rounder)

Tara Nevins; "Sitin' On Top of the World"; _Mule to Ride_ (Sugar Hill)

M Shanghai String Band; "From the Air"; _From the Air_ (Red Parlor)


Reno and Smiley; "Let's Live for Tonight"; _16 Greatest Hits_ (LP)

Tony Ellis; "Red Rocking Chair"; _Sounds Like Bluegrass to Me_ (Copper Creek)

Lou Reid, Tarry Baucom and Carolina; "My Little Girl in Tennessee"; _Carolina Moon_ (Rebel)

Wayne Benson and Friends; "Tillary Cove"; _Bluegrass 2001_ (Pinecastle)

Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper; "Leavin' Town"; _Leavin' Town_ (Rounder)


Mark Miklos; "Bad for My Own Good," "Gonna Paint the Town"; _Pocono Joe_ (Ampersand)

Tasty Licks; "(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such as I"; _Bluegrass Goes to Town: Pop Songs Bluegrass Style_ (Rounder)


The Dixie Bee-Liners; "Yellow-Haired Girl"; _Ripe_ (Pinecastle)

Straight Drive; "The Rock Island Line"; _I'll Take a Page from Your Book_ (Cabinwood)


Butch Baldassari; "What Child is This"; _Evergreen: Mandolin Music for Christmas_ (Sound Art)

Larry Sparks; "Blue Christmas"; _Christmas in the Mountains_ (Rebel)

Open Road; "Blue Christmas"; _O Christmas Tree_

Tony Trischka; "Precious Child," "Sleigh Ride"; _Glory Shone Around_

Country Gentlemen; "Silent Night"; _Christmas in the Mountains_

Playlist: Womenfolk (December 7, 2008)

Last Sunday on Womenfolk we remembered the late great Odetta, who passed away last Tuesday at the age of 77. We also highlighted some of this year's Grammy nominees in the folk categories. If you missed it, you can hear the archived show online here.

Tune in today as Vicky Emerson stops by the studio to play a few live tunes and preview some of her area shows...Hope you can catch it!


WOMENFOLK (December 7, 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

Odetta with The Holmes Brothers / Two Little Fishes and Five Loaves of Bread / Shout, Sister, Shout! / M.C. Records
Odetta / This Little Light of Mine / Gonna Let It Shine: A Concert for the Holidays / M.C. Records

Odetta / Give Me Your Hand / Movin' It On / Rose Quartz
Odetta / Movin' It On / Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Songs of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement / Folk Era Records
Odetta / Hit or Miss / Philadelphia Folk Festival 40th Anniversary / Sliced Bread Records

Miriam Makeba / Beware Verwoerd / Amandla! / ATO Records

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
Molly Dean / You Ask Me / Resonate / Self
Vicky Emerson / Wheat Fields / Vicky Emerson / Self

Stacey Earle / Up in Annie's Room / S&M Communion Bread / Gearle Records
*Jaspar Lepak / Clark and Foster / Make a Pretty Thing / Self

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Shannon & Matt Heaton / Belle of the Shout Shore & Jennifer and Don's / Blue Skies Above / Eats Records
Shannon & Matt Heaton / Redwoods in Winter & The Small Girl / Blue Skies Above / Eats Records

Norah Rendell & Brian Miller / Grogan's/Feliz the Cat Jigs / Wait There Pretty One / Self
Norah Rendell & Brian Miller / The Cocks Are Crowing / Wait There Pretty One / Self

*Maria Dunn / The Peddler / The Peddler / Self
*The No Shit Shirelys / How Can I Cry? / Nutrify / Self

*Peggy Seeger / Bring Me Home / Bring Me Home / Appleseed
*Rosalie Sorrels / Revolutionary mandate #1 / Strangers in Another Country: The Songs of Bruce "Utah" Philips / Red House
*Rosalie Sorrels / Talkin' Wolverine 14 / Strangers in Another Country: The Songs of Bruce "Utah" Philips"

*Joan Baez / Day After Tomorrow / Day After Tomorrow / Razor & Tie
*Emmylou Harris / Broken Man's Lament / All I Intended to Be / Nonesuch
Alison Krauss & Robert Plant / Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson / Raising Sand / Rounder

Katie McMahon / Christmas Day & Christmas Eve Tunes / Celtic Christmas / Credo Records

Friday, December 12, 2008

Skyline at WKCR

Have I mentioned recently that we're doing a Tony Trischka career retrospective at WKCR? (It probably will air Valentine's Day weekend in February as part of our annual Country Music Festival, but we're still sorting out the details.)

On Wednesday, Tony and I cut an extensive interview, and then the other members of the band in which he played in the 1980s Skyline -- Larry Cohen (bass), Barry Mitterhoff (mandolin) and Danny Weiss (guitar) -- showed up, and we recorded several songs with the band playing in WKCR's Moo Aquarium. (Excellent recording engineering was provided by WKCR-FM American Music Director David Seidenberg and Business Manager Parker Fishel. And Ben Young provided some essential fine-tuning.)

While we were doing the recording, WKCR was playing the music of French composerOlivier Messiaen, as it was his 100th birth anniversary. (Much like WKCR played nothing but Elliott Carter yesterday on his 100th birthday -- unlike Messiaen, Carter is still alive and had a big birthday party.) Larry Cohen was particularly into the Messiaen and recalled seeing a concert where Messiaen and his second wife Yvonne Loriod played together on the organ.

The Latest in Gangsta Rap

This is pretty well done.

(Hat tip to fomer WKCR-FM American Music Director Blythe Sheldon.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Minnesota Morning Institution Says Farewell

Set your alarms early because tomorrow morning the long-running Morning Show says farewell with a special live broadcast at the Fitzgerald Theater from 5-9 am Central. For over 25 years, hosts Dale Connelly and Jim Ed Poole (aka Tom Keith, sound effects man for A Prairie Home Companion) have brought an eclectic mix of folk, musical theater and rock & roll seasoned with some odd skits and jokes to Minnesota Public Radio (first on their classical station and most recently on The Current). Tomorrow's show will include performances by artists who have frequented the MPR studios and the Morning Show playlists, including Greg Brown, Prudence Johnson, Peter Ostroushko, Dan Newton, The Steeles and The Brass Kings. The show is free and open to the public so if you're in the Twin Cities come on down for the party...or tune in online here.

Although Jim Ed is retiring as DJ (don't worry, you'll still get to hear him on Prairie Home, doing bird calls and such!), Dale Connelly will continue to do radio programming for a new online service called Radio Heartland. So stay tuned in!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Postcrypt Flashback

As I continue to do research on Tony Trischka, I came across this Postcrypt schedule from the spring of 1993:

Saturday, May 1

KIM FOREHAND -- She comes all the way from Kansas to play Postcrypt on her way to the Nameless Coffeehouse in Boston. She's recently had a lot of airplay on the World Cafe radio show. Her newest release is entitled "Cinderella's Song."

TONY TRISCHKA -- Postcrypt welcomes back Tony Trischka, an old friend of the Coffeehouse who also played at our 25th Anniversary Benefit Concert in 1989. His latest recording on Rounder Records features solo and joint works with his former student, Bela Fleck. In addition, he has also recorded over 15 other records, both solo and with the bands Skyline and Country Cooking. He is also a highly respected session musician, and has appeared on Mountain Stage, Prairie Home Companion, and TNN. Time Magazine calls Tony an "urban bluegrass whiz," and the Washington Post has written about his "scintillating picking."

THE METROTONES -- Columbia-grown women's a capella at its finest need we say more?

Somewhat of a strange pairing to have Tony Trischka back-to-back with an undergraduate a capella group, but also very cool to think of Tony playing away down in the basement of St. Paul's Chapel on the Postcrypt stage. (Current Postcrypt managers take note?)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Appearing Sunday in New York: Gene Yellin, Bill Christophersen and Mark Farrell

New York fiddler Bill Christophersen just sent out this announcement:

Dear Folks,

Gene Yellin (guitar), Mark Farrell (mandolin) and Bill Christophersen (fiddle), joined by Ethan Kende (bass), invite you to come hear a newly formed ensemble of old friends. The material is mostly old-style bluegrass with a focus on trio singing. The venue, new to the bluegrass and old-time scene, is a comfortable room in McKenna's Pub. There is no cover charge; light fare (hamburgers, chili, etc.) is available. We hope to see you there.

Date: Sunday, December 14
Time: 5pm to 7pm
Place: McKenna's Pub, at 250 W. 14th St, NYC (between 7th & 8th Aves., nearer 8th, south side of steet)
Phone: (212) 255-2889

This trio performed as party of my 10th Anniversary Party back in May, and they put on a great show. I can think of no better way to enjoy a Sunday afternoon than going to see these guys play and -- this is important, too -- supporting a new venue for bluegrass music in New York.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular Flashback

At WKCR, we're preparing for a big Tony Trischka tribute that will air early in 2009. As part of my research, I just watched this video from The Late Show with David Letterman from April 2007. Wow! Tony Trischka with Steve Martin and Bela Fleck and Brittany Haas on fiddle and Michael Daves on guitar. It's hot stuff all around!

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 7 December 2008

This morning's show began with a birthday tribute to Bobby Osborne who turned 77 today. We played three songs from High Windy's new CD. From western North Carolina, they remind me a lot of the Lonesome River Band; all three songs were written by banjo-player Patrick McDougal. A listener named Paul (from Summit, New Jersey) called up to say that he had seen the Seldom Scene play last night -- they are at B.B. King's tonight -- and that he had gone out afterward with Dudley Connell, who talked John Duffy's final performance before he died of a heart attach: the song was "Walk Through This World with Me," so we played that. The listeners ate up Peter Rowan's reggaebilly song -- we got several calls about that one. The Kings County Strings are a new band from Brooklyn who are celebrating the release of their CD on Friday night at Jalopy. (It's also the name of mandolinist Brad Einhorn's instruments store.)


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 7 December 2008 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

[Bobby Osborne b. 7 December 1931]
Bobby Osborne and Jesse McReynolds; "Night Runner"; _Masters of the Mandolin_ (Pinecastle)


Bobby Osborne and Jesse McReynolds; "7th of December"; _Masters of the Mandolin_

Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; "West Virginia My Home"; _Try a Little Kindness_ (Rounder)

Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; "Color Me Lonely"; _Bluegrass Melodies_ (Rounder)

The Osborne Brothers; "Ruby"; _Hyden_ (Pinecastle)


High Windy; "Stuck Out in the Rain," "The County Fool," "Dance Around the Daisies"; _A Greater Storm_ (Mountain Home)


Parmley & McCoury; "I'm Going Back to Old Kentucky"; _Families of Tradition_ (BGC)

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; "Heart of a Little Mountain Girl"; _The Original Band_ (Sugar Hill)

Sammy Shelor; "North Carolina Breakdown"; _Leading Rolls_ (Sugar Hill)

Lonesome River Band; "I'm Coming Back (But I Don't Know When)"; _Carrying the Tradition_ (Rebel)


John Duffy & The Seldom Scene; "Walk Through This World with Me"; _Always In Style: A Collection_ (Sugar Hill)

Seldom Scene; "Boots of Spanish Leather"; _Scene It All_ (Sugar Hill)

Crooked Still; "Flora"; _Hop High_ (Signature Sounds)

Peter Rowan; "Fetch Wood Carry Water"; _Reggaebilly_ (self-released)


Hazel Dickens; "Hills of Home"; _It's Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song_ (Rounder LP)

Kenny & Amanda Smith Band; "Randall Collins"; _Live and Learn_ (Rebel)

Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs; "Pick Along"; _The Three Pickers_ (Rounder)

IIIrd Tyme Out; "Feed Me Jesus"; _Round III at the MAC_ (Chateau Music Group)


Kings County Strings; "Jealous," "Angeline the Baker"; _Kings County Strings_ (self-released)


Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass; "Don't Throw Mama's Flowers Away"; _The Room Over Mine_ (Rounder)

Dolly Parton; "Sugar Hill"; _Halos & Horns_ (Sugar Hill)


Dirk Powell; "Breaking Up Christmas"; _Hand Me Down_ (Rounder)

Bruce Molsky; "John Brown's Dream"; _Soon Be Time_ (Compass)

Walt Koken; "Salt River"; _Finger Lakes Ramble_ (Mudthumper)

Jimmy Gaudreau and Moondi Klein; "Sweet Sunny South"; _2:10 Train_ (Rebel)


Blue Highway; "Where Did the Morning Go?," "V-Bottom Boat"; _Through the Window of a Train_ (Rounder)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Remembering Odetta

Odetta died at the age of 77 yesterday.

From the New York Times obituary:

Bob Dylan, referring to [her first solo album, Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues], said in a 1978 interview, “The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta.” He said he heard something “vital and personal,” and added, “I learned all the songs on that record.” It was her first, and the songs were “Mule Skinner,” “Jack of Diamonds,” “Water Boy,” “ ’Buked and Scorned.”
She performed at Miller Theatre my freshman year of college in a tribute to Paul Robeson that also featured Pete Seeger. As the Artist's Assistant that day, I had the duty and honor of escorting her from the green room to the dressing room at one point. Walking with her through the dank and dim rear corridor, I distinctly noticed that there was something about her presence and stature that brought class and shine to that humble hallway.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

One Turntable, Skip the Microphone

There's an article in the New York Times today about records and turntables.

“Dave brought it home, and we dimmed the lights and sat on the couch with a glass of wine, and I felt like we were in a jazz club,” Ms. Walker said. “I could hear the musicians breathing. It felt like I could hear them smoking.”

Now she holds listening parties in her Brooklyn apartment, introducing friends to the rich sound of vinyl. “There is something I like about the process of listening that way,” she said. “Having to listen to it in the order the musicians intended, and turning it over. There is something social about it.”

As is frequently heard in the hallways of WKCR-FM: "Analog wins!"

Monday, December 1, 2008

Playlist: Womenfolk (November 30, 2008)

Yesterday I presented my annual Thanksgiving "Home & Hearth" special, celebrating food, family and the home place. Norah Rendell & Brian Miller also joined us in the studio to play some Irish music and give us a sneak peek of our next Womenfolk concert on December 7th at Gethsemane Church. If you missed the show yesterday or my interview with Jonatha Brooke last week, you can hear either archived show here.

Hope you had a wonderful holiday! -efs.


WOMENFOLK: Home & Hearth (November 30, 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

*Heidi Talbot / If You Stay / In Love + Light / Compass
Antje Duvekot / Long Way / Little Peppermints / Self
*Catherine MacLellan / The Long Way Home / Church Bell Blues / True North

*Carrie Newcomer / Biscuits and Butter / The Geography of Light / Philo
Beth Amsel / Inman’s Lament / The Reverie / Good Egg Music

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*Emily Kurn / Way Back Home / I’m Just Like You / Self
*Ellis / Words You Said / Break the Spell / Rubberneck Records
*Meg Hutchinson / Home / Red House 25: A Silver Anniversary Retrospective / Red House

*Lucy Kaplansky / Somebody’s Home / Red House 25: A Silver Anniversary Retrospective / Red House
*Red Molly / Wichita / Love and Other Tragedies / Self
*The Sacred Shakers / Ready to Go Home / The Sacred Shakers / Signature Sounds

Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum / Wintergrace / Winter’s Grace / Signature Sounds

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum / Cold Frosty Morning / Winter’s Grace / Signature Sounds

*Crooked Still / Tell Her to Come Back Home / Still Crooked / Signature Sounds

[Live in the Studio: Norah Rendell & Brian Miller]
Norah Rendell & Brian Miller / Light in the Window
Norah Rendell & Brian Miller / Letty Lee
Norah Rendell & Brian Miller / Rainy Day/The Group of Perches/London Lasses

Judith Edelman / Blood Reunion / Drama Queen / Compass
Karen Mueller / Shortening Bread / Clarity / Self

Another Night in the Round at the Postcrypt

The e-mail reached my inbox on a Friday, so when the phone rang at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, and it was my parents’ phone number, I knew why my father was calling. I said, “Yes, Dad, I’m going to the Postcrypt to see Jack tonight.” My father said, “All right,” and he rolled into town that evening, meeting me at Havana Central (formerly the West End Gate) for a pre-Postcrypt beverage.

Over at the Postcrypt, Jack Hardy and Tim Robinson were tuning up backstage. (See the setlist here from Tim Robinson’s appearance with Suzanne Vega and Richard Julian at the Postcrypt back in the spring.) The third performer for the night was Chris Fuller, another attendee of the Songwriter’s Circle, which is held in Jack's apartment on Monday nights. I was not familiar with his work, and by the end of the show, one of my companions assessed him in the following terms: “He has so many neuroses that he makes me feel normal.” His songs borrowed a little bit of Jack’s lyrical style but added in a touch of hallucinogenic drugs and some bubbling id -- they were intriguing, if not always completely comprehensible, concoctions.

The three had established themselves on the stage, and with no one taking the lead in introductions, my father suggested that I do it. So inspired by the concoctions available at Havana Central, I did, which was a rather fun flashback to the late 1990s.

During the first set, Jack played new material, starting the entire show off with a song about a cowboy friend of his named Rainer: “How could you not be a cowboy with a name like that?” Lamenting the upcoming departure of his greatest muse of late -- George W. Bush -- the source of one Jack Hardy song after another for the past eight years, he sang an inspirational (and serious) song for the incoming Obama administration: “If There Ever Was a Time.” Still he couldn’t help himself from ending the first set with “Worst President Ever.” In between, he played a cool song about memories with the repeated line “Brother, can you spare a dime for the crime of the century?” and a song called “Kansas.”

My first introduction to Chris Fuller was his response to Jack’s cowboy song opening: “This is a country song, too, but with no cowboys in it, and no Western themes, in fact. … When I’m hard up for a song, I consult the Encyclopedia of Mythology. This is a song about the centaur. … It’s about the roots of Western civilization!." “Another Fine Mess” sounded the most like a Jack Hardy song of Chris’s repertoire, which was amusing since he noted, “The Mr. Hardy in the song is not the same Mr. Hardy as on stage, although there are some grounds for comparison.” His most memorable song of the night was "Red," a phantasmagoric song with the repeated lyric “In the bloody mess of childbirth, / Your life gets painted red.” The song opens

Down at the corner
Of Psycho Path and Rue De Wakening
Johnny’s fryin‘ eggs on the sidewalk,
Scramblin’ all over the street.

Tim Robinson delivered a number of good tunes in the opening set. He started with his great “Orelia's Kiss,” followed it with “Tommy and Claire,” a song about two hippies in 1972, gave us a nice one called “No Place Wild But the Heart” and wrapped up with the terrific “Between the Moon and the Sun.” In the second set, he would play "Black Car," "Out on the Edge" and a brand new one called “Girl on a Train.”

Chris Fuller started the second set with a scary “song about Halloween that takes place on Christmas” called “Magic Lantern.” And Tim followed it with “Boho,” about Beatniks gone awry. Jack had been handed a number of requests during the setbreak, and he pulled out “Johnny’s Gone for a Soldier in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Wars,” inspired by his opening on a tour for Mitch Ryder, doing 29 gigs in 31 days, playing in front of “leather-jacketed types who wished they lived in Detroit” and becoming terribly sick at the mere mention of “Devil with the Blue Dress On.”

When Chris started the next round with “Colfax Avenue,” Jack gave us the history lesson that Colfax was President Ulysses S. Grant’s vice-president, but Chris said that the song was about the street in Denver, not the one in South Bend, Indiana, and that somehow settled that.

“This being a well-read, educated crowd, I’m going to guess that most of you are fans of Mexican wrestling!” That was Chris’s introduction to “Red Nomad of the Highlands.” “I’d like to introduce my pregnant wife. … I have CD’s for sale!” That was his conclusion.

Jack had the next zinger of an introduction: “I wrote this 10 years ago; I didn’t know that I was writing a campaign song for Sarah Palin,” he said before launching into the classic “I Oughta Know.” Jack also played “The Zephyr,” one of my all-time favorites, and one that I have entreated him to play at the Postcrypt in the past.

From Chris, someone requested “Get a Room,” a tune filled with lists of couples who should do so: “Church and state – get a room!”

As the show wound to a close, we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Jack -- the party was at his apartment after his show, although my father and I bowed out. (“You guys used to know how to party,” he chided us.) On the verge of turning another year, Jack closed the Postcrypt portion of the festivities with a new song: “Climb Up the Hill to the Capitol.”