Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Irish Have Been Coming Here for Years

Over at Feast of Music, Peter Matthews reviews various Irish sessions around New York City.

Folk Alliance 2009, According to Ellen

Last weekend I attended my 8th International Folk Alliance Conference, along with fellow Sound of Blackbirds blogger Jess Byers. We had a good time in Memphis (as evidenced by this photo!) and heard lots of incredible music. I'm sure Jess will have lots of her own highlights of this year's conference, but here are mine...

- Market Monkeys Room - As in years past, the room hosted by manager Michelle Conceisson and her Market Monkeys was one of the places to be. They kicked things off with a fun Wednesday night cocktail hour and continued throughout the weekend putting on great showcases featuring established artists like Cliff Eberhardt and young rising artists like Chris O'Brien and Danny Schmidt. Mother Banjo might also have made an appearance there...

- BettySoo - Pictured here, she is a young Korean-American songwriter from Austin, TX who has a great voice that can belt out an Americana gospel tune just as well as she can sing a pretty melodic love ballad. She had a great little band with her that included famed Austin guitarist Will Sexton.

- Natalia Zukerman - Joined by a great electric bass player and Anne Heaton on keyboards and vocals, Natalia did a great official showcase, featuring her most catchy songs to date...many of which are featured on her 2008 release Brand New Frame, which was produced by Willy Porter. Don't know if that trio has a plan to hit the road together, but that would be a show to see.

- Folk Alliance Awards - Broadcast again on XM/Sirius' folk channel The Village, this year's awards were pretty uneventful, but the highlights were Ray Bonneville performing his song "I Am the Big Easy" (which won him a Folk Alliance Award for Song of the Year) and Rosalie Sorrels' moving tribute to Utah Phillips.

- Loudersoft - A music blog I was introduced to after last year's Folk Alliance Conference, when he raved about Meg Hutchinson's showcase. Although I had emailed with blog host E.J. Friedman, I had never met him...we fixed that this year. I'm sure he'll share his own Folk Alliance discoveries on his blog soon.

- Noelie McDonnell - I saw this Galway songwriter (pictured here) in the infamous Canadian "Beaver Suite." Really great songs and a nice live charm--very crushable. He opens a few shows for Greg Brown this weekend in Minnesota, including one Saturday at the Cedar Cultural Center.

- Lucy Wainwright Roche - Although she first attended Folk Alliance in Cleveland years back when she was a fellow student at Oberlin, she made her first official appearance as singer-songwriter this year. She wowed everyone at her official showcase with her poignant songwriting and her charming on-stage presence. Her story about introducing Aussies to the "cool kids" in American marching bands resonated with the crowd of music geeks in a big way.

- Devon Sproule - I enjoyed this Virginia songwriter's old-fashioned sounding Waterbug release Keep Your Silver Shined and played it on my show but had never seen her live. The live performances I caught did not disappoint with tunes like "I Asked God for a New Job." Her surprisingly funky sound was enhanced by her scratchy amplified guitar. She's pictured here playing a particularly strong showcase with pals Carrie Elkin and Raina Rose--another definite highlight.

- Lynn Miles - Although I work with Lynn at Red House, I haven't seen this Canadian in a couple years since she has been mainly staying north of the border. It was great to catch up with her and hear lots of new songs, which will hopefully be on an album in the near future. I particularly liked "Fearless Heart," which you can check out on Music Fog, thanks to Jessie Scott. Jessie recorded all kinds of great performances at Folk Alliance on the Music Fog bus...all worth checking out!

- Molly Venter - I had been hearing about Molly from musician friends Brianna Lane and Justin Roth and had even played a few songs from her CD on my radio show but had not met or seen her play until Saturday of Folk Alliance...especially strange since she is from my original hometown of New Haven, has played my current hometown of Minneapolis and even turns out to be cousins of a guy I met at a friend's wedding this past fall. With all those connections, I'm very relieved to learn she is as good as everyone says. She has a soulful voice and a driving live energy. Can't wait to hear her again.

- Drew Nelson - I hadn't seen this Michigan songwriter since the 2006 FARM (Folk Alliance Region Midwest) Conference, when he joined me on a performance of "Come Life." He just finished a nice new recording called Dusty Road to Beulah Land and played some songs from it on a great late-night showcase. When catching up after his performance, I learned that his beautiful sounding guitar was made by him--his first. Needless to say, it got passed around between the guitar even got loaned to my pal Chad Elliott, who played it for his showcase that followed Drew's.

- Jess Byers - Getting to catch up in person with my friend Jess Byers (who I originally met at a Folk Alliance Nashville?) was a real treat. You can see her here, taking a break from showcases with Jonathan Byrd and partaking of the MoJo flask. You West Coast folks should definitely check out the stellar line-up she has coming up at her Shining City concert series in Portland. As you can see, Jess rocks it as a promoter and as an agent, now booking such acts as Annabelle Chvostek (who also did a stellar Folk Alliance showcase with her trio!) and Heather Masse. She also probably came to more Mother Banjo showcases than anyone else...thanks, Jess!

And those are just some of the highlights. All in all, Folk Alliance 2009 was great. Although attendance may have suffered due to the economy, the talent did not. I thought the level of musicianship and writing was a cut above what I've heard in past years. With 5 showcases of my own and 6 Red House artists present to support and promote, it was also my most busy Folk Alliance ever, and I'm sorry to say I missed a few folks I had really wanted to see play, including John Elliott, the Ebony Hillbillies, John Boutte and Tim Eriksen (although I at least got to catch up with Tim over a breakfast meeting). I guess there's always next year...

Leonard Cohen Everywhere

There has been a lot about Leonard Cohen in the news recently, as his performance at the newly restored Beacon Theatre last Thursday was his first in 15 years in the United States.

In the New York Times, Nate Chinen wrote of him "bask[ing] in the rapture of the crowd, artfully courting adulation" and of how his "mix of humility and sovereignty felt effortless, entirely true to form."

And then a few days later in the New York Times, Larry Rohter published parts of an interview with him, in which Cohen busted out some George Jones lyrics and described the fact that his manager had run off with all of his money while he was in a Zen Buddhist monastery as the result of "a long, ongoing problem of a disastrous and relentless indifference to my financial situation."

Well, but wait a second here. If he was truly absorbing the teachings of Zen Buddhism, wasn't this "relentless indifference" to his financial situation really something akin to a successful Zen experience of dispatching with the cares of the world and not needlessly desiring after material things which only bring suffering anyway? How exactly should we think from a Buddhist perspective about the $9.5 million that Cohen recouped in legal proceedings?

I guess a boddhisatva could do a lot of good work with $9.5 million...

The latest news is a just-announced concert at the Highline Ballroom featuring Conspiracy of Beards, a 30-member male choir from San Francisco that performs "gritty, original arrangements of the songs of Leonard Cohen."

Yes, really.

April 4th.

You think I could make this stuff up?

Playlists: Womenfolk (February 15 & 22, 2009)

Here are my playlists from the last two weeks...As you'll see, Beth Shaw sat in for me this past Sunday when I was in Memphis attending the 2009 International Folk Alliance Conference...something that you'll be hearing more about soon!

This Sunday I'll be back in the saddle to welcome a few guests--legendary songwriter Claudia Schmidt (who had to postpone her visit from a few weeks ago) and classical Indian musician Nirmala Rajasekar, who will play some tunes with her ensemble and talk about her performance as part of the Womenfolk Live concert series at Gethsemane Church. Hope you can tune in and/or join us for the concert!


WOMENFOLK (February 15, 2009)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley.
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

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

*Joan Baez / Rose of Sharon / Day After Tomorrow / Razor & Tie
June Tabor / O my luve's like a red red rose / Rosa Mundi / Green LInnet
Tracy Grammer / Gypsy Rose / Flower of Avalon / Signature Sounds

Eliza Gilkyson / Fall Into the Night / Lost and Found / Red House
The Weepies / Gotta Have You / Say I Am You / Nettwerk

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*Yeltzi (featuring Sara Softich) / Red Boot Song/ Snow in August / Self

*Chastity Brown / Damn the Weatherman / Sankofa / Self
Kris Delmhorst / Weatherman / Appetite / Big Bean Music

Karan Casey / Ae Fond Kiss / Ships int he Forest / Compass
Lissa Schneckenburger / The Fair Maid by the Sea Shore / Song / Footprint Records
*Shannon & Matt Heaton / Brad's Honeybees / Lover's Well / Eats Records

[Behind Twin Cities Women's Calendar]
*Liz Carroll & John Doyle / Lament for Tommy Makem/Within a Hen's Kick/The Slippery Slope / Double Play / Compass

Alison Krauss & Robert Plant / Through the Morning, Through the Night / Raising Sand / Rounder

*Heather Masse / Moon River / Many Moons / Self
Cheryl Wheeler / Lighting Up the Mighty Mississippi / Sylvia Hotel / Philo

Dar Williams / February / Mortal City / Razor & Tie
*Susan Werner / Hazy Shade of Winter / Classics / Sleeve Dog Records

Indigo Girls / Get Together / Strange Fire / Epic
Dolly Parton with Nickel Creek / Blowin' in the Wind / Those Were the Days / Sugar Hill
Patty Larkin / The Letter / In the Square / Philo

Red Molly / May I Suggest / Love and Other Tragedies / Self
Terri Hendrix / Prayer for My Friends / Americana / Putumayo
*Linda & Robin Williams / Going, Going Gone / Buena Vista / Red House


WOMENFOLK (February 22, 2009)
Hosted by 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

Catie Curtis / Memphis / Catie Curtis / Guardian
Kelly Willis / That's How I Got to Memphis / Real: The Tom T. Hall Project / Delmore
Lucinda Williams / Memphis Pearl / Sweet Old World / Chameleon

Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem / Limo to Memphis / Cocktail Swing / Signature Sounds
* Shemekia Copeland / Never Going Back to Memphis / Never Going Back / Telarc Blues
Rosie Flores / It Came From Memphis / Dance Hall Dreams / Rounder

[Women Folk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*Yeltzi (featuring Sara Softich) / Already Gone / Snow in August / Self
* Julia Brown / In Hurt's Arms / Strange Scars / Self
* Alice Russell / Lights Went Out / Pot of Gold / Six Degrees

* Jolie Holland / Palmyra / The Living & The Dead / Anti-
* Carrie Rodriguez / Absence / She Ain't Me / Back Porch
* The Duhks, Tougours Vouloir, Fast Paced World, Sugar Hill

[Behind Twin Cities Women's Calendar]
Nirmala Rajasekar / Karunimpa(Varnam)-Sahana-Adi-Thiruvatriyur Thyagaiyar / Melodic Expressions / Self

* Cosy Sheridan / Agnes of the Sorrows / Eros / Wind River
Eleni Mandell / Salt Truck / Miracle of Five / Zedtone
* Linda Nelson / Through the Window / Letter Home / Self
Kristin Hersh / Pretty Polly / Murder, Misery & Goodnight / 4AD

Diane Jarvi / The Bells / Flying Into Blue / Lupine Records
Karan Casey / Mother Earth's Revenge / Chasing the Sun / Shanachie
Frances Black / Fear is the Enemy / A Woman's Heart 2 / Dara
Cowboy Junkies / Mining for Gold / Trinity Sessions / BMG

Janis Ian / Play Like a Girl / God & the FBI / Windham Hill
* Laura Marling / Failure / Alas I Cannot Swim / EMI/Astralwerks
Suzzy & Maggie Roche / Clothes Line Saga / A Nod to Bob / Red House
Switched at Birth / Let It Rain / First Born / Self

* Asa, No One Knows / Acoustic Live in Tokyo / Mercer Street
* Bird to Prey / Well Seasons They Change / We Are Not Kings Here / Self
* Jenny Reyolds / One Red Light Town / Next to You / Self

* Shir Harmony / Rosh Chodesh Candlelighting / Like A Watered Garden / Self

Monday, February 23, 2009

The EarRegulars at the Ear Inn

Last night, I caught a touch of jazz at the legendary Ear Inn on Spring Street. This bar is a classic cozy little joint in a historic landmark building. Well worth the trip whether there is music or not. (Trivia: The Ear Inn is the setting for Bob Hillman's terrific song "Valentine's Day" about one February 14th that he spent there with Jack Hardy and Suzanne Vega and maybe Tim Robinson, too. And then Jack Johnson showed up, allegedly non-plussed at Jack Hardy's witch's hat.)

Last night -- and I guess every Sunday night -- there was music. Guitarist Matt Munisteri (who I recently mentioned here) leads the band. He also was playing some jazz banjo last night. Munisteri was joined by Joel Forbes on bass, who is apparently a New Haven, Connecticut, native. Dennis Lichtman (who has appeared on the Moonshine Show with the band Astrograss) was playing mandolin and clarinet -- Dennis said it was his first time as an EarRegular. And then Andy Stein, who is part of the A Prairie Home Companion house band, was tearing things up on the jazz fiddle and baritone sax.

It was a great sound. I couldn't hear what Matt was saying between the songs, but when the band was playing, they filled the front room of the bar loudly and clearly.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 22 February 2009

Today, we spent some time celebrating Ralph Stanley and Pete Wernick's birthday -- both of them were born on February 25th: a good day for banjo players apparently. We also played some Flatt & Scruggs, since today is the 40th anniversary of their final appearance together. And we played this year's Grammy-award winner in the bluegrass category (Ricky Skaggs' Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947) and also the first-ever winner in the category (Bill Monroe's Southern Flavor).


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 22 February 2009 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Hosts: Matt Winters and Logan Ledger

Ralph Stanley [b. 25 February 1927] and the Clinch Mountain Boys; "I've Just Seen a Rock of Ages"; _Clinch Mountain Gospel_ (Rebel)

Earl Scruggs with Family & Friends; "Earl's Breakdown"; _The Ultimate Collection: Live at the Ryman_ (Rounder)

Pete Wernick [b. 25 February 1946] & Flexigrass; "Leavin' Town"; _What The_ (Niwot)

Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper; "In My Mind to Ramble"; _Leavin' Town_ (Rounder)


Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder; "When You're Lonely"; _Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947_ (Skaggs Family)

Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys; "White Rose"; _Southern Flavor_ (MCA LP)

Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys; "Goodbye Old Pal," "My Little Georgia Rose"; _1950-1958_ (Bear Family)


Flatt & Scruggs; "I Don't Care Anymore," "A Hundred Years from Now"; _1948-1959_ (Bear Family)

The Osborne Brothers & Mac Wiseman; "The Bluebirds Are Singing for Me"; _The Essential Bluegrass Album_ (CMH)

Mac Wiseman; "Love Letters in the Sand"; _The Mac Wiseman Story_ (CMH)


Blue Sky Boys; "Worried Man Blues"; _1964_ (Rounder LP)

Hazel Dickens, Carol Elizabeth Jones and Ginny Hawker; "Forsaken Lover"; _Heart of a Singer_ (Rounder)

Hazel Dickens; "The Ballad of Ira Hayes"; _By the Sweat of My Brow_ (Rounder LP)

Wilma Lee Cooper; "Sinful to Flirt"; _Wilma Lee Cooper_ (Rounder LP)


The Dillards; "Old Man at the Mill"; _There is a Time (1963-1970)_ (Vanguard)

Jim & Jesse; "The Golden Rocket"; _Bluegrass and More_ (Bear Family)

Northern Lights; "Living without You"; _Wrong Highway Blues_ (Flying Fish)


Blue Highway; "Some Day"; _Lonesome Pine_ (Rebel)

Joe Val; "Poor Ellen Smith"; _Diamond Joe_ (Rounder)

The Charles River Valley Boys; "Yellow Submarine"; _Beatle Country_ (Rounder)

Sam Bush; "Spirit is the Journey"; _King of My World_ (Sugar Hill)


Ralph Stanley with Vince Gill and Patty Loveless; "A Lonesome Night"; _Clinch Mountain Country_ (Rebel)

Stanley Brothers; "The Wandering Boy"; _The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers_ (Columbia/Legacy)


The Bluegrass Album Band; "Take Me in the Lifeboat"; _Volume Two_ (Rounder LP)

Blue Harvest; "Raleigh and Spencer"; _Just Around the Bend_ (self-released)

Robin and Linda Williams; "Things I've Learned"; _Radio Songs_ (Red House)

John Starling & Carolina Star; "In My Hour of Darkness"; _Slidin' Home_ (Rebel)

Pete Wernick; "June Apple"; _On a Roll_ (Sugar Hill)


Dry Branch Fire Squad; "Where We'll Never Die"; _Memories That Bless and Burn_ (Rounder)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Video from the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival

Here is some video from the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, held two weekends ago in Framingham, Massachusetts. Shot by Steve Ide.

Scenes from the 2009 Joe Val Bluegrass Festival from The Patriot Ledger on Vimeo.

The Latest in Tribute Bands

Can I introduce you to Misstallica, the all-female Metallica tribute?

They'll be playing at Asbury Lanes with Tragedy, the all metal tribute to the Bee Gees, next Saturday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lack of Uniqueness

Ack! I'm not the only Matt Winters who is a radio DJ.

WKCR is often confused with KCRW in California, which long has been a bastion of freeform radio. In Ogden, Utah, at Weber State University, there apparently is radio station KWCR. And the current Music Director at KWCR? Matt Winters.

It looks like they mostly kick it college rock style at KWCR. So I might still be able to claim that I'm the only bluegrass DJ named Matt Winters.

From one Matt to another, though, take some time off before you jump into that Ph.D. program, Matt Winters!

I Missed Them, And So Did You, It Seems

Allan and I had plans to go see Dailey & Vincent at Joe's Pub on Tuesday night. Although I've seen them play with Doyle Lawson and Ricky Skaggs respectively on numerous occasions, I have not seen them since they became a duo, although (as I described here) I really, really like their first CD -- a new one called Brothers by Different Mothers is on the way. But after spending all day at an academic conference without eating, I had a headache, and Allan thought that the show was on a different evening. So we ended up not going.

And according to Jon Caramanica's review in the New York Times, apparently not that many other people went either:

Dailey & Vincent, the most celebrated new bluegrass act of the last few years, could be playing any number of towns where they, or their genre, have a significant following. But instead there they were at Joe’s Pub, flat-footed and sober, singing to a crowd of a few dozen, a not-even-half-full room. The lesson: You might not always be in the place where you’re most needed.

That's sad to hear, although, to be fair, it was a 10:00 p.m. show on a schoolnight -- something that doesn't happen in a lot of places outside of New York -- and I also think that it was only recently announced. (Certainly I know that on the Moonshine Show, I had only recently announced it.)

Caramanica says that nonetheless it was a "sharp performance ... with dignity and, ultimately, joy," featuring "nimble, complex arrangements." And I am definitely sad to have missed a show where a band "spent about a third of their set paying tribute to the Statler Brothers."

So I hope that Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent will come back to New York soon nonetheless, as I still really would like to see them. (Really.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New York Memorial for Odetta

One week from tonight, there will be a memorial for Odetta at Riverside Church. Quite a wonderful line-up, too. Here are the details:

Tuesday, February 24th at 7:00PM

Riverside Church,
490 Riverside Drive (at 121st Street)

Along with Odetta's family, many of her close friends will be honoring her as well:

Harry Belafonte, Maya Angelou, Pete Seeger, Ruby Dee, Sonia Sanchez, Josh White, Jr., Peter Yarrow, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Bernice Reagon, The Holmes Brothers, Maria Muldaur, Marie Knight, Guy Davis, Steve Earle, David Amram, Tom Chapin, Wavy Gravy, Emory Joseph, Geoffrey Holder, and Oscar Brand, in addition to Odetta's accompanying musicians.

More special guests will follow.

Odetta died the first week of December. We paid brief tribute here.

And Then Some More Banjo

I've wanted to see the Steep Canyon Rangers for some time now, and after having interviewed banjo player Graham Sharpe on The Moonshine Show Sunday morning, I was pleased that Sarah and I were able to catch them that night at Joe's Pub in a solo show.

They came out on stage to play, not letting up for three or four songs, just rolling them one off of the other, as bluegrass bands are sometimes known to do. The band's choreography was superior, coming in on the vocal mic for duets and trio and quartet gang singing. Mike Guggino and Woody Platt's duets were powerful forces in and of themselves -- they sounded like a trio or quartet. But when the other band members joined in for the gospel songs "Be Still Moses" and "I Can't Sit Down," the harmonies pushed the sound out another few feet into the audience.

Nicky Sanders shredded on fiddle all night long. On one tune, I watched the horsehair on that bow burn through one after another. On "Knob Creek," Graham Sharpe took this terrific solo using harmonic notes up and down the banjo neck. And Mike Guggino got more than a couple nice runs to fly off of his mandolin.

Banjo player Steve Martin was in attendance (see this previous post) and joined the band on stage for two numbers -- his own "The Crow" and Earl Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." He and the band had a lot of fun, and when Sarah texted her father to let him know that she was watching Steve Martin play banjo at a small club in New York, he responded with an incredulous vulgarity! (Allan also was sad to have missed him.)

The show was mostly straightahead bluegrass, although the band plays nearly all originals. But they did one of my favorites, "Call the Captain," about a mine-worker deciding that he's not going into work, which is slightly folkier, and they did it beautifully.

I do believe that in requesting an encore, Sarah screamed out "I love you! Come back!" to the band, and although this inspired a bit of jealousy in me, it was appropriate sentiment because these Steep Canyon Ranger kids can pick.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Back-to-Back Banjo Blasts

Ben Fishman was in town on Friday night, so after a jovial happy hour at the Amsterdam Cafe and a decent dinner at Max SoHa (the prosciutto appetizer was delicious; the rigatoni al ragu Napoletano was a touch saltier than I remember), we piled into Ben's car, picked up David Stevens and the fair Sarah Green and made our way across town, down the FDR, across the Brooklyn Bridge, onto the BQE and to 315 Columbia Street in Brooklyn, the home of Jalopy.

We walked in just as the Hunt Family was finishing their set. We found some seats up front -- although there is not a bad seat in the venue, which has a big stage with red curtains and a disturbing bust with glowing eyes on it and then lines of instruments made from found objects lining the walls. And soon Curtis Eller took the stage.

Put yourself in a graveyard on a humid summer night. There is some noise coming from behind a tombstone -- the slowly arpeggiated notes of a minor chord. And then you see a leg rising from behind that tombstone: the foot impossibly high in the sky. And before you know it, there is Curtis Eller.

Sometimes stepping off the microphone to sing to the crowd and sometimes spinning himself in circles while letting those banjo rolls roll along, Eller was a blast of what Greil Marcus describes as "the old, weird America": the America of bearded-lady sideshows and carnival barkers -- lots of suspenders and whiskers. Until Allan arrived -- having come his own route from the West Village -- and took the open seat in the front row, Eller had been stepping off the stage and out into -- yet above -- the crowd, balancing himself on the church pew seating at Jalopy and never losing that gothic banjo beat.

With songs referencing Jack Ruby (multiple songs, in fact), Richard Nixon and President Ulysses S. Grant (in his cups), Eller had more than a few neat turns of phrase (e.g. "put a little sugar in my coffin"; "burn like a sweatshop fire") and helpfully informed us when a song was "in the key of B-flat minor in case you're dancing." In a song about P.T. Barnum, he told us how "that muthaf*cka always knew what to do" -- at least, I think he did. And he had a beautifully sad song about setting trained pigeons free, just like you sometimes have to in that old, weird America.

When the lights went up for the Two Man Gentlemen Band, the tap dancing started. To the sound of piped in music, the Minsky Sisters did their first dance of the night, losing their topcoats in the process and warming up the stage for some banjo and bass-accompanied two-man music. As the dancers walked off, Smilin' Andy Bean and The Councilman launched into audience favorite "William Howard Taft," and most of the crowd started singing along without being asked. "Fancy Beer," another great sing-a-long followed, and the energy never let up.

These guys just keep getting better and better: both in their presentation and their musicianship. The rhythm was right on throughout their set. Andy Bean was killing on the four-string banjo, including a little bit of skat singing over a twangy accompaniment, and The Councilman keeps it steady and solid on the bass. In between songs, the Gentlemen held hands on the neck of The Councilman's bass -- that's how two-man music is made, I guess -- and sometimes Andy Bean would take a nip from his new trout-covered flask.

Other hits from the night included "Rabbit Feet" (although I apparently was too dense to understand the double entendre), "Nobody Likes You When Your Sloppy Drunk," "Prime Numbers" (during which two-man-music devotee Alex Battles, sitting to the side of the stage, shouted out "83!" and was met with a single digit from Andy Bean's direction) and "I Can Get Drunk and Sing Songs." But without a doubt, they floored me completely when they busted out a funkified, bass-and-banjo version of the theme from "Ghostbusters." I don't know if there ever will be a better two-man 1980s cover. (Yes, that's a challenge.)

The new Two Man Gentlemen Band CD is called Drip Drying, and it's best to buy it after you see them live.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 15 February 2009

On today's show, we played a bunch of Ralph Stanley in advance of his appearance on Wednesday evening at B.B. King's -- we gave away two pairs of tickets for the show. And we spoke on the phone with Graham Sharpe, the banjo player and songwriter from the Steep Canyon Rangers, who appear tonight at Joe's Pub. Personally, I really liked the two songs that we played from Ernie Thacker's new CD, The Hangman, one about Keith Whitley and the other about rumors.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 15 February 2009 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Hosts: Matt Winters and Logan Ledger

Ralph Stanley with Hal Ketchum; "How Mountain Girls Can Love"; _Clinch Mountain Country_ (Rebel)

Ralph Stanley; "Black-Eyed Susie"; _Old-Time Pickin': A Clawhammer Banjo Collection_ (Rebel)

Stanley Brothers; "I Love No One But You"; _The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers_ (Columbia/Legacy)

Ralph Stanley; "This Little Light of Mine"; _Shine On_ (Rebel)


Buzz Busby; "Buzz's Ramble," "Me and the Juke Box"; _Going Home_ (Starday)

Reno & Smiley; "Where Did Our Young Years Go?"; _Bluegrass Hits_ (Copper Creek/Universal)

Bobby Osborne & Jesse McReynolds; "Cheyenne"; _Masters of the Mandolin_ (Pinecastle)

Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder; "Mighty Dark to Travel"; _Ancient Tones_ (Skaggs Family)


The Osborne Brothers; "I'll Just Pretend"; _Hyden_ (Pinecastle)

Doc Watson; "Dream of a Miner's Child"; _At Gerde's Folk City_ (Sugar Hill)

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; "Mississippi River Let Your Water Flow"; _More Behind the Picture Than the Wall_ (Rounder)

Longview; "The River Underground"; _Longview_ (Rounder)


Dan Tyminski; "Carry Me Across the Mountain"; _Carry Me Across the Mountain_ (Doobie Shea)

Rhonda Vincent and the Rage; "Bluegrass Express," "Muleskinner Blues"; _Ragin' Live_ (Rounder)

David Parmley & Continental Divide; "Ain't Gonna Let You Drag Me Down"; _Three Silver Dollars_ (Pinecastle)


Ralph Stanley with Dolly Parton; "Lovin' You Too Well"; _Clinch Mountain Sweethearts_ (Rebel)

Ralph Stanley; "Calling You"; _Calling You_ (Columbia)

Jim Lauderdale, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys; "Redbird"; _Lost in the Lonesome Pines_ (Dualtone)

Stanley Brothers; "Come All You Tenderhearted"; _An Evening Long Ago_ (Columbia)


Ernie Thacker; "Keith How Many," "Word of Mouth"; _The Hangman_ (Pinecastle)


Paul Williams; "The Other Side of Jordan"; _Where No One Stands Alone_ (Rebel)

Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder; "The Old Crossroad"; _Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947_ (Skaggs Family)

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

Steep Canyon Rangers; "I Can't Sit Down"; _One Dime at a Time_ (Rebel_


LIVE Phone Interview with Graham Sharpe from the Steep Canyon Rangers


Steep Canyon Rangers; "Call the Captain"; _Lovin' Pretty Women_ (Rebel)


J.D. Crowe and the New South; "I'm Walkin'"
The Rice Brothers; "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"
Both from _Bluegrass Goes to Town: Pop Songs Bluegrass Style_ (Rounder)


Tony Trischka; "New York Chimes"; _Hill Country_ (Rounder)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hockey Rock Lives

I forget how I first heard The Zambonis. Quite possibly, my father brought home a CD for me that he had picked up from lead singer Dave Zamboni. Or maybe I saw them on public access television (WFAC-TV, Channel 34) in southern Connecticut -- on The Lone Shark perhaps, where Dave Zamboni once was the referee in a boxing match for which I was one of the managers (see here).

But I've seen them probably a dozen times over the years: once on the ice at a hockey rink; once in Jasper McLevy Square in Bridgeport; and once at the Tarquin Records Holiday Party at the now-defunct Brownies. During that last concert, Dave said, "Hey, Matt, do you need a hat?" and threw me a navy-blue stocking cap from stage of the type that my mother had been trying to get me to wear for years; a woman sitting next to me turned to me and said, "If you're anything like my son [who was sitting next to her], you're going to put that hat on your head and not take it off for the next three years"; well, it didn't quite go down that way, but I definitely gave that hat a privileged position in my winter wardrobe.

So it was very nice of Dave to throw me a new hat during Friday night's show at Freddy's Backroom. He didn't really remember who I was (e.g. when I said, "Go Steelers!" after he said that the band would be traveling on to Pittsburgh later in the night, he said, "Who are you, buddy?") -- although after the show, we cleared that up.

The show was classic -- short-shifts on different instruments, multiple vocalists, an appearance by the Hockey Monkey (who may or may not live in Co-Op City with Dick Manitoba) and every single song about hockey. At the end of the night David -- my friend David, not Dave Zamboni -- said, "Well, that was better than I expected." (Those who know David will recognize that as a rather ringing endorsement.)

The setlist looked like this:

"Referee's Daughter"
"Hockey Monkey"
"Beware of the Trap" - space-aged
"Goalie" - 'What do you do when your fifteen hundred pounds? / You play goalie!'
"Russian Pop Song"
"Helmets On"
A song about the Rangers dedicated to the late Lux Interior
"Lost My Teeth"
"Time to Shine"
A hardcore tune of unknown title
"Fight on the Ice"
"Slapshot Man"
"Davey Hat-trick"

Davey Hat-trick begins with a long and low-pitched "Oooooooooo." When they announced they would be playing the song, I began the "Oooooooo" from the audience in anticipation. Dave said, "Hey, that guy's our potential pitch." (At first, I thought he had said something else, and I wasn't really up for the task, but when I realized what he had said, I was a bit more enthused.)

The new hat is bright orange, by the way -- you'll see me coming from the other side of the ice.

The Fray Sounding Like The Frames

This review in the New York Times intrigued me to check out Denver-based rockers The Fray, who played at Webster Hall here in New York the other night. The first thing that caught my attention was the headline:

Tender Folk-Rock With Arena Oomph

That sounds like something that I could get into.

And then there was this tempting description:

Dave Welsh plays keening lead-guitar notes like the Edge in U2.

As it turns out, the Webster Hall show was available yesterday and today on the band's website, so I've been checking it out. (Maybe it will stay up longer?)

First off, the recording is pretty amazing -- both in terms of having a good live sound (an appropriate blend of well-mixed music and crowd noise) and then also having very high-quality video images.

Second off, this band sounds a lot like The Frames, the Irish rock band that became a bit more famous when lead singer Glen Hansard starred in the movie Once. Jon Pareles' review nails it on the head, then, when he writes:

Hooks are laid out neatly as each song begins — a piano riff, repeating guitar notes — and the Fray understands dynamics. Its songs head for dramatic plateaus and linger there, building insistently as Mr. Slade moans lines like “Maybe you want her, maybe you need her.”

That sounds like The Frames to me, and when David and I first saw them together four or five years ago, I had a negative reaction to it: they (The Frames, not The Fray) struck me as one-trick ponies -- using dynamic build in every single song to get things to an emotional climax that would come around again in a few minutes during the next song.

But when I started listening to their CD, The Frames grew on me a bit, and I would have been more forgiving, I think, if I had been more familiar with their material.

And maybe that would have been the case for Jon Pareles, as well, who ends his review of The Fray saying,

Isolated on a soundtrack a song by the Fray can underline the sentiment in a scene. But at a full-length concert, the limits of the Fray’s music emerged. After a while the piano hymns and pealing-guitar anthems all ran together as one long whine.


The third thing about this band is that, damn, they also sound a lot like the Counting Crows -- the guitar and piano hooks could be straight off of August and Everything After and the vocals strongly channel Adam Duritz. But like the similarities to The Frames' dynamics, neither of those things are necessarily bad.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Playlists: Womenfolk (February 15, 2009)

Today on Womenfolk we celebrated the upcoming Valentine's Day holiday with our "Crazy Love" special, featuring your favorite love songs--romantic and hilarious--as well as live poetry by Terri Ford. If you missed it, you can hear it here on the KFAI archives!


WOMENFOLK: Crazy Love (February 8, 2009)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley.
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

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

Toshi Reagon / Big Love / Toshi Reagon / Razor & Tie
Lynn Miles / Love Sweet Love / Love Sweet Love / Red House
*The Bittersweets / My Sweet Love / Goodnight, San Francisco / Compass

*Jonatha Brooke / King of My Love / The Works / Bad Dog Records
Edie Carey / My Heart / Another Kind of Fire / Self
The Wailin' Jennys / This Heart of Mine / Firecracker / Red House

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*Yeltzi (featuring Sara Softich) / Valentine / Snow in August / SElf
Linda Thompson / The Way I Love You / Versatile Heart / Rounder

Claudia Schmidt / Winter Love / It Looks Fine From Here / Red House

Madeleine Peyroux / Dance Me to the End of Love / Careless Love / Rounder
The Be Good Tanyas / Hello Love / Hello Love / Nettwerk

[Behind Twin Cities Women's Calendar]
Kaki King / Everybody Loves You/Fortuna / Everybody Loves You / Velour

Salamander Crossing / Trip Me Up / Passion Train / Signature Sounds
Laurie Lewis / Kiss Me Before I Die / FolkScene Collection, Volume III / Red House
Susan Werner / Maybe If I Sang Cole Porter / Live at Tin Angel / Self
Norah Jones / Turn Me On / Come Away With Me / Blue Note

Kasey Chambers / Guilty As Sin / Wayward Angel / Warner Bros.

[Live in the Studio: Terri Ford]
Terri Ford / Valentine
Terri Ford / For the Love of an Anaconda Woman

Carrie Newcomer / What Kind of Love Is This / My True Name / Philo

[Live in the Studio: Terri Ford]
Terri Ford / Yes, I Can Give Some Examples

Ann Reed / Love Online / Valentine Collection / Turtlecub Productions
Erica Wheeler / Crazy Love / Almost Like Tonight / Blue Pie

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Falcon Ridge 2009

After the tornado back in July, there were a few doubts raised about whether there would be a Falcon Ridge Folk Festival this year or not. But an e-mail from Anne Saunders announcing the Winter Ticket Sale Blitz has just popped up in my inbox, and the show will go on:

Very few artists confirmed so far, Clayfoot Strutters and Wild Asparagus. As mentioned, very late start BUT thanks to this community, artists who gave back their fee, volunteers who refused their annual stipend & many of you who donated to our Tornado Relief Fund, we are definitely good to go.

Sam Amidon Video

Marjorie's sister (via Marjorie) points us to this rather charming video for Sam Amidon's song "Wedding Dress." (Well, the song is traditional, but he gives it a distinctly modern treatment, as is his wont.)

The video was directed by Icelander Sigga Sunna Reynisd├│ttir.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lukas Foss

I actually learned quite a bit about Lukas Foss from his New York Times obituary -- which is a bit regrettable: considering what a crucial figure he has been on the New York City arts scene and the frequency with which I used to play his music on WKCR, I would have liked to already have known the things that I learned. I was most tickeled, however, by the following revelation about his work Baroque Variations:

Johann Sebastian Bach is spelled out in Morse code by a xylophone.


New Steve Martin CD

In case you missed it, the New York Times ran an article on Steve Martin's new CD, The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo, in Sunday's edition. The article details Martin's long history with the five, including its recent place in his life:

[S]tarting in 2001 he began a banjo resurgence. That year Earl Scruggs, the bluegrass pioneer, asked him to play on a recording of the song “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” for the album “Earl Scruggs and Friends.” In 2007 he contributed an original composition, “The Crow,” to the Tony Trischka album “Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular.”

That track, on which Mr. Martin and Mr. Trischka performed together, became Mr. Martin’s first hit single since 1978’s “King Tut.” “It made the bluegrass charts,” Mr. Martin said. “I don’t know how much that means. It might have sold two.”

In an article about Tim O'Brien in the latest Acoustic Live -- which as of today is not yet up on the web site, it seems -- Richard Cuccaro recounts bumping into Steve Martin at Tim's recent New York show at the Rubin Museum:

We found our press reserve seats at third row left and settled in. A few minutes later we turned when we heard the voice of banjo master (and Bela Fleck influence) Tony Trischka. He was entering the row behind us and offering his latest CD to someone, admonishing jokingly, “Don’t listen to it here.” Swiveling around a bit more we saw the recipient: actor/comedian/avid, long-time banjo picker Steve Martin. Yes, that Steve Martin. We turned to say hello and offer a copy of Acoustic Live, suggesting (farfetchedly - is that a word?) that we get together for a chat about a feature article (hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained). Steve asked about our on-line availability, then raved about Tim: “This guy is the best!”

That article also contained a great Tim O'Brien line:

“And remember… bluegrass is a whole lot better than it sounds.”


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Playlists: Womenfolk (February 1, 2009)

Today we got a preview of tonight's Womenfolk concert at Gethsemane Church, as Pam K and her roots/bluegrass band Switched At Birth played live in the studio. Duluth-based duo Yeltzi also stopped by to play tunes from their new album. If you missed it, you can hear it here on the KFAI archives.

Next Sunday tune in as Claudia Schmidt and poet Terri Ford stop by the studio to share songs and poems to celebrate Valentine's Day!


WOMENFOLK (February 1, 2009)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley.
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

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

*Rachel Kilgour / Bluebird / Rachel Kilgour / Self
Rachel Unthank & The Winterset / The Bairns / Real World
Eliza Carthy / The Snow It Melts the Soonest / First Person Singular: A Woman's Voice / Topic

[Live in the Studio: Yeltzi, featuring Sara Softich & Jason Wussow]
Yeltzi / Duluth

[Womenfolk Find: Sara Softich]
Sara Softich / Pipe Dream / Pipe Dream / Self

[Live in the Studio: Yeltzi]
Yeltzi / Red Boot Song
Yeltzi / Snow in August

*Alicia Wiley / Halfway Home / Halfway Home / Self
Mary Everest / Little Things / Little Things / Self
*Keri Noble / Emily / Keri Noble / Telarc

[Behind Twin Cities Women's Calendar]
*Alison Brown / The Road West / The Company You Keep / Compass

*Mavis Staples / Down in Mississippi / Live: Hope at the Hideout / Self
*Nikki & The RueMates / I Can't Be Satisfied / We All Live Together / Self

[Live in the Studio: Switched At Birth]
Switched At Birth / Simple Girl
Switched At Birth / Please Don't Answer
Switched At Birth / Almost Persuaded

*Abigail Washburn / Banjo Pickin' Girl / Lost Highway 2008 / WMBR Cambridge
Rachael Davis / Everyday / Live in Bremen, Germany / Self

*Rokia Traore / Dianfa / Tchamantche / Nonesuch

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 1 February 2009

Midway through today's show, a listener alerted us to the fact that it is Del McCoury's 70th birthday today! Well, we immediately switched into Del McCoury mode at that point and regret not having known earlier. (It also is the 36th birthday of Del McCoury Band fiddler Jason Carter, as another listener alerted us.)

Before that turn, we heard a set of songs from jazz bassist Charlie Haden's roots music CD, Rambling Boy, which includes a couple of very interesting treatments of bluegrass and old-time country hits. And we listened to two tracks from The Gibson Brothers' latest CD, which is a terrific mix of well-chosen covers and well-written originals.

The first song of the show was for Super Bowl Sunday.

Next week, Logan Ledger and Jeff Kandel will co-host the show.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 1 February 2009 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Hosts: Matt Winters and Logan Ledger

John Lawless; "The Guilty Pig"; _Five & Dime_ (Copper Creek)

Paul Brewster; "Roll Muddy River"; _Everybody's Talkin'_ (Ceili)

Pete Wernick & Flexigrass; "Leavin' Town"; _What The_ (Niwot)

Bruce Hornsby with Ricky Skaggs; "Darlin' Corey"; _All-Star Bluegrass Celebration_ (Sugar Hill)


Charlie Haden; "20/20 Vision," "Old Joe Clark," "Ocean of Diamonds"; _Rambling Boy_ (Decca)


Norman Blake; "Bringing in the Georgia Mail"; _Blue Trail of Sorrow_ (Rounder)

Tony Rice; "Misty Morning"; _58957: The Bluegrass Guitar Collection_ (Rounder)

Del McCoury Band; "Moneyland"; _Moneyland_ (McCoury Music)

Mac Wiseman; "I Wonder How the Old Folks Are at Home/I'd Rather Live by the Side of the Road"; _Moneyland_


The Gibson Brothers; "The Other Side of Town," "Somewhere Trouble Don't Go"; _Iron & Diamonds_ (Sugar Hill)

Steve Dilling; "Nashville Blues"; _Cuppa 'Jo: The Huber Banjo Sessions, Vol. 2_ (Huber)

Charlie Waller and Randall Hylton; "Ballad of Forty Dollars"; _The Singer & The Songster_ (Rebel)


Keith Whitley & Ricky Skaggs; "Dream of a Miner's Child"; _Second Generation_ (Rebel)

Del McCoury Band; "Count Me Out," "Bluegrass Country"; _Del & The Boys_ (Ceili)


Del McCoury Band; "Son of a Smoking Gun," "Member of the Blues," "Blue Darling"; _The Cold Hard Facts_ (Rounder)

Del McCoury Band; "Led by the Master's Hand," "Sit Down with Jesus"; _Promised Land_ (McCoury Music)


Del McCoury Band; "When Fall is Coming Down," "Blow Away and Gone"; _The Company We Keep_ (McCoury Music)


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


Del McCoury Band; "Travelin' Teardrop Blues"; _Del & The Boys_