Monday, March 30, 2009

Paul Krugman Song and Music Video

Jonathan Mann has been writing a song-a-day -- many of them by request. Here's a political one:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March Tribute Band Madness in New York

First off, apologies (to Ben, in particular, who actually complained) for all of the silence here on Sound of Blackbirds. I've been busy working on a paper for a conference and so have been letting some posts stew in my head instead of getting them out into the world.

Now, I have a big place in my heart for bands with a theme -- for instance, I just saw The Zambonis, America's favorite hockey band, recently. And one of the subsets of that category is the tribute band, a band that plays the music of another, more well-known band. So I was pretty excited a few weeks ago to get to see three tribute bands in one week!

First, on St. Patrick's Day, Sarah and I made our first voyage out to the Bell House in Brooklyn. And (like some others who were at the show apparently) I really thought that the place was a great space. There's a very comfortable bar -- where many people were opting to spend the night without even seeing any music -- with decent Guinness on tap and pleasant barkeeps. And then the performance space is a good size with a few stools around tables, a bar off to the size on a raised platform and a solid sound system. The show was a benefit for (and apparently raised over $500); the benefit included a buffet dinner of corned beef and shepherd's pie, which are both things that I like.

The featured band was The Fauxges, a Pogues tribute band. They took the stage with a blast of hard-strummed banjo-ukelele and some intensely pounding rhythm guitar chops. The drummer knocked out a simple march beat for most songs over the course of the night. And these guys put their hearts into being a good Pogues tribute band by drinking lots of liquor and screaming loudly into the microphones on such classics as "Sally MacLennane," "Jesse James," "Greenland Whale Fisheries" and "Navigator." The band was having fun and so was the crowd -- although I would have liked to see a little more pushing and shoving down front, frankly. The accordion player, who was off to the side (and who went to college with Sarah, for the record), laid down some good sounds apart from the band, clatter and yell of the rest of the band. Not the greatest musical experience I've ever had, but a fun night nonetheless.

The Friday after St. Patrick's Day, David and I found ourselves at B.B. King's -- amazingly to me, this was David's first time at the venue. This show featured not one but two tribute bands: Ziggy Starlet and the Spiders from Venus, an all-female David Bowie act, and The Unforgettable Fire, the great New York-based U2 tribute act.

Ziggy Starlet came out looking hot: she was wearing a shiny black and gold-stiped body suit with circular holes cut at buttocks, waist, shoulder and wrist-level along one side. She was glammed out and ready to rock. The Spiders from Venus included guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. The guitarist had her chops down, getting the "Ziggy Stardust" riff right and letting loose a little bit of shred on some other songs. They totally rocked out on "Suffragette City" and did their best to do so on "Rebel, Rebel" and "The Jean Genie," too.

The group lacked most in the vocal department, I'm sad to say. Ziggy Starlet looked the part, but going woman-for-man with David Bowie on vocals proved a little less workable. Her struggling to hit some of the notes helped me to realize the exceptional quality of David Bowie's voice, which I'm sure was not exactly the intent of the performance, but it was my lesson for the evening.

When it came to The Unforgettable Fire, however, I am pleased to say that nothing was lacking.

Jessica Shaw and I tried to see these guys years ago -- 1999 or 2000 -- at the Continental, but the band had to cancel for health reasons, and we drank shots of Jagermeister while watching some Long Island teenagers do Frank Zappa covers instead. Well, almost 10 years later, I finally got to hear some faux-U2.

The Unforgettable Fire has its act down. They sound like U2: Tony Russo totally has the vocals down. They do their best to look like U2: Russo in Fly sunglasses; guitarist Mick Normoyle in a ski cap; bassist Craig Kiell with close-cropped, dyed-blonde hair and glasses; and drummer George Levesanos with, well, um, a pair of drumsticks... (Perhaps not coincidentally, Levesanos is the only remaining original member of the band, which formed in 1995.) And their show is like U2's: they tack on bits of popular songs at the end of the U2 songs; slogans get flashed on the projection screens (including "The More You Drink, The More I Look Like Him" -- I guess that's not exactly like U2); buffalo go jumping off cliffs during "One"; the band moves out to the middle of the audience (even at B.B. King's) in the middle of the set; Russo grabbed a spotlight during "Bullet the Blue Sky" and flashed it on and off Normoyle like in Rattle and Hum; he waved the Irish flag around during "Sunday Bloody Sunday." It was an amazing simulacrum.

Except that makes it a bit weird... Both David and I had to kind of scratch our heads. Here we were hearing music that sounded like U2, and the performance was like U2's. But how excited could we get? It wasn't really U2 at the end of the day. These guys didn't write the songs or come up with the show. And for David, this was intensified by the fact that they already had the songs from the new CD down and integrated into their set: "Three years in the making; three weeks in the faking," he suggested. Well, a lot of the crowd -- including Irish John and Double A from the Howard Stern Show, who were guzzling Coronas in front of us-- didn't have this existential dilemma -- they got into it, yelling and screaming and grabbing, snapping photographs, shouting out the lyrics. (OK, I definitely didn't shy from singing along to the lyrics. That's for sure.)

At the end of the day, I had a great time seeing The Unforgettable Fire, and I would go see them again in a second, and I think that all U2 fans would enjoy seeing these guys. But there is still some pause in the fact that they are so realistic as a tribute band... Someone should write a dissertation on it! (Oh, wait....)

The set list went like this:

"Van Diemen's Land"
"Sexy Boots"
"Bullet the Blue Sky"
"Beautiful Day"
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
"I Will Follow"
"Stay (Faraway, So Close)"
"Wild Honey"
"Angel of Harlem" with "My Girl" tag
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" --> "Please" --> "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
"New Year's Day"
"I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"
"All I Want is You"
"Where the Streets Have No Name"
"Mysterious Ways"
ENCORE: "Gloria"
"With or Without You"

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 29 March 2009

On today's show, Vincent Cross joined us live in studio to talk about his CD Home Away from Home. We also played some music by Bruce Molsky in advance of his show on Friday night at Jalopy with the Whistlin' Wolves. Everyone should also note on their calendars that the Plunk Brothers will be at Jalopy on Saturday night, hosting a CD release party. (Check out Ken Ficara's review of those guys here from a show back in September.)


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 29 March 2009 - 10:00 - 11:45 a.m.
Hosts: Matt Winters and Logan Ledger

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; "Climbing Up the Mountain"; _Sacred Voices: An A Capella Gospel Collection_ (Sugar Hill)

Weary Hearts; "Power in the Blood"
Bill Evans with Suzanne Thomas; "Wondrous Love"
Both from _White Dove: The Bluegrass Gospel Collection_ (Rounder)

Larry Sparks with The Marshall Family; "I Need Jesus"; _40_ (Rebel)


The Del McCoury Band; "Moneyland";
Patty Loveless; "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive"
Both from _Moneyland_ (McCoury Music)

Dan Crary with Beppe Gambetta; "Foggy Mountain Special"; _Jammed If I Do_ (Sugar Hill)


Bruce Molsky; "Let's Go to Huntin'," "Wake Up Susan & Durang's Hornpipe," "Green Grows the Laurel"; _Contented Must Be_ (Rounder)

Bruce Molsky; "Grigsby's Hornpipe"; _Poor Man's Trouble_ (Rounder)


Flatt & Scruggs; "Flint Hill Special"; _Foggy Mountain Jamboree_ (Columbia/Legacy)

Vassar Clements with Ricky Skaggs; "Your Love is Like a Flower"; _Full Circle_ (OMS)

Dave Evans and River Bend; "Short Life of Trouble"; _The Best of the Vetco Years_ (Rebel)

The Roland White Band; "Hoping That You're Hoping"; _Jelly on My Tofu_ (Copper Creek)


Vincent Cross LIVE in WKCR-FM Master Control
"Home Away from Home"
"I Ain't Got No Home"
"After Hours"
CD: "Down to Earth"
"Put Away All Childish Things"


David Bromberg Quartet; "Sally Gooden/Old Joe Clark/Wheel Hoss"; _Live New York City 1982_ (Appleseed)

Laurel Canyon Ramblers; "Wait a Minute"; _Blue Rambler 2_ (Sugar Hill)

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


Blue Highway; "Where Did the Morning Go?"; _Through the Window of a Train_ (Rounder)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Playlist: Womenfolk (March 22, 2009)

This past Sunday Amanda Balagur sat in for me, bringing her special brand of indie-oriented acoustic music to the KFAI airwaves on Womenfolk. Meanwhile, I was in Austin, TX, wrapping things up at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival. To hear some new music I picked up there, tune in this Sunday to Womenfolk. I'll also be talking with singer-songwriter Edie Carey about her April 3rd show, her upcoming album and her recent trip on the star-studded Cayamo Cruise with Patty Griffin, Lyle Lovett and the Indigo Girls!


WOMENFOLK (March 22, 2009)
Hosted by Amanda Balagur
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Sunday 11 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

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

Goldfrapp / Clowns / The Seventh Tree / Mute

Dressy Bessy / Electrified / Electrified/ Transdreamer

Dar Williams / When I Was a Boy / The Honesty Room / Razor & Tie

*Now, Now Every Children / Have You Tried / Cars / Afternoon Records

*Laura Veirs / The Coo Coo Bird / Two Beers Veirs / Self-released

Heartless Bastards / I Swallowed a Dragonfly / All This Time / Fat Possum

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
Devon Spourle / Does the Day Feel Long? / Keep Your Silver Shined / City Salvage Records

Joan As Police Woman / Holiday / To Survive / Reveal

Shelby Lynne / Pretend / Just a Little Lovin’ / Lost Highway

Celebration / Heartbreak / The Modern Tribe / 4AD

Aimee Mann / Save Me / Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse / SuperEgo Records

*Nikka Costa / Can’t Please Everybody / Pebble to a Pearl / Stax

Jenny Lewis / See Fernando / Acid Tongue / Warner Bros.

The Lovell Sisters / Just a Promise / When Forever Rolls Around / Self

The Weepies / Take It From Me / Say I Am You / Nettwerk

CeU / Malemolencia / CeU / Fontana

School of Seven Bells / Half Asleep / Alpinisms / Ghostly International

Dean & Britta / You Turned My Head Around / Back Numbers / Zoe

*Tizzy Bac / Heather / If I See Hell, I Won’t Fear the Devil / Wonder Music

*Neko Case / This Tornado Loves You / Middle Cyclone / Anti

KaiserCartel / Okay / March Forth / Megaforce

Gillian Welch / My First Lover / Time (The Revelator) / Acony

Lykke Li / Little Bit / Youth Novels / LL

The Knife / Neverland / Silent Shout / Rabid Records

*Jolie Holland / Your Big Hands / The Living and the Dead / Anti

Laura Marling / My Manic and I / Alas I Cannot Swim / Virgin

The Bird and the Bee / I Hate Camera / The Bird and the Bee / Metro Blue

Friday, March 20, 2009

Two Man Music in Northampton

Sarah and I are on our way up to Northampton tomorrow to celebrate Sandro's 30th birthday, but it sounds like we missed a good one a week ago today at the Iron Horse. Luckily, Nick has posted a nice review of last Friday's Two Man Gentlemen Band show on his blog.

Some highlights:

In between songs, the rapport between the two consisted of quietly homoerotic gestures by way of Mr. Bean, who would reach out and stroke The Councilman's bass and touch his fingers, as he spoke affectionately of his bandmate and their life on the road together. The Councilman responded by looking nervous. The 2G were dressed in lovely suits and hats, and The Council wore a spiffy bowtie.


Andy played lead kazoo and The Councilman played back-up kazoo ("tenor kazoo," he protested, when Andy Bean introduced him, prompting him to make the correction).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

County Sligo Fiddling in New York

The New York Times had an appropriate article for St. Patrick's Day in yesterday's paper.

In 1971, 10-year-old Brian Conway hunted up 58-year-old Martin Wynne, who was working at the James A. Farley Post Office and not playing much music at all. Wynne taught Conway to fiddle, such that Brian Conway is now regarded as one of the top traditional Irish fiddlers in the world.

Every Friday night, the Conways would pick up Mr. Wynne at his apartment building and drive him to the family’s home for sessions that would sometimes last until midnight or 1 a.m.

“I used to bake a cake, make some tea, and they sat in the living room and played and played,” said Mr. Conway’s mother, Rose. Afterward, she said, she would drive Mr. Wynne back home, often with Brian asleep in the back seat.

Mr. Wynne’s knowledge of Sligo fiddling — which Mr. Conway describes as between the “bite and edge” of the Donegal style and the “mellower, smoother” tones of Clare and Galway — was unmatched. He could show how a particular tune was played by four or five different players back in Ireland, providing examples of improvisations considered acceptable within the parameters of the style.

And he communicated a reverence for the artistry of Michael Coleman, universally acclaimed as the greatest Sligo fiddler, who emigrated from County Sligo in 1914, when he was 23. Mr. Coleman, who died in 1945, is buried in St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.

“Martin would talk about Michael Coleman the way Catholics talk about Jesus; he would almost bow his head,” said Mr. Conway, who recalled listening to a cassette of Mr. Coleman’s fiddling while eating his Sugar Pops before school in the morning.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Toto Check-In

Allan draws our attention to the fact that other folks are as concerned about Toto's Africa as we are.

Most important is the revelation here:

[Group members] mentioned that if you listen close enough during the lyrics "catch some waves," some group members were singing "catch some rays."

No wonder those lyrics are so tough to figure out!

(This all started here last May.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Playlist: Womenfolk (March 15, 2009)

Today local singer-songwriter Sarah Pray stopped by to play live on Womenfolk and talk about her Linda Ronstadt Tribute at 400 Bar that happens every Sunday. We also enjoyed some Irish tunes to prep for you for St. Patty's Day and some banjo-inspired songs. You can hear it on the KFAI archives here. Also, photographer Elli Rader stopped by to take some photos so hopefully I'll have some nice pics to share soon!

I'll be out of town next Sunday as I attend South By Southwest (SXSW), but tune in for a special edition of Womenfolk, hosted by Amanda Balagur. I'll of course post news from the fray down in Austin!


WOMENFOLK (March 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

*Liz Olds / Waiting for Nancy/Sadie at the Back Door / You Could Put Your Eye Out With That Thing / Self
The Lonesome Sisters / Oh Sleeper / The Lonesome Sisters with Riley Baugus / Tin Halo Music
Eliza Gilkyson / Sleeper / Going Driftless / Red House
Tracy Grammer / April Come She Will / Book of Sparrows / Self

*Madison Violet / Lauralee / No Fool For Trying / Self
*Romi Mayes / Hard Road / Achin In Yer Bones / Self
Nanci Griffith / This Old town / Other Voices, Other Rooms / Elektra

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
Devon Sproule / Old Virginia Block / Keep Your Silver Shined / Waterbug
*Molly Maher/ Chicken / Beaner’s Central - One Week Live Volume VII / Self
Kris Delmhorst / Cluck Old Hen / Five Stories / Signature Sounds

*Shannon & Matt Heaton / Where the Moorcocks Crow / Lover’s Well / Eats Records

*Liz Carroll & John Doyle / Lament for Tommy Maken/Within a Hen’s Kick/The Slippery Slope / Double Play / Compass
Karan Casey / The Jute-Mill Song / Distant Shore / Shanachie

[Behind Women’s Calendar]
Grada / Lazy Sunday Morning / Lazy Sunday Morning / Cloudy Day Navigation / Compass

Dolly Parton / In the Sweet By and By / Little Sparrow / Sugar Hill

[Live in the Studio: Sarah Pray]
Sarah Pray / One Night Stand
Sarah Pray / Thank God
Sarah Pray / Blue Bayou

*Emmylou Harris / How She Could Sing the Wildwood Flower / All I Intended to Be / Nonesuch
Lucy Kaplansky / Ring of Fire / Over the Hills / Red House

Kasey Chambers / Wayward Angel / Wayward Angel / Warner Bros.

Indigo Girls / Southland in the Springtime / Nomads Indians Saints / Epic

M Shanghai String Band on Moonshine Show

As promised, here are some photos from this morning's show. First, the band warming up, and then two action shots.

That's Richard Morris on mandolin, Matthew Schickele on guitar, Philippa Thompson on violin, Austin Hughes on the resonator guitar, Patty Hughes on banjo and Shaky Dave Pollack on harmonica.

Thanks to Jeff Kandel for taking the photographs and for coiling up all the cables after the performance -- particularly for the cable-coiling.

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 15 March 2009

The M Shanghai String Band visited us on the program this morning to talk about their new CD The Mapmaker's Daughter. (There will be a CD release party at Joe's Pub on April 7th.) I'll get some photos up later in the day.

We also paid tribute to the late Citizen Kafka, Richie Shulberg, who passed away yesterday at the age of 61. And we also tipped our verbal hat -- but were unfortunately unable to play any music -- to Bob Guida of the Otis Brothers who passed away on Wednesday.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 15 March 2009 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

Sam Bush; "Eight More Miles to Louisville"; _King of My World_ (Sugar Hill)

Bobby Osborne & Jesse McReynolds; "Cotton Patch Rag"; _Masters of the Mandolin_ (Pinecastle)

Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; "Sunday Morning Coming Down"; _Try a Little Kindness_ (Rounder)

Old and In the Way; "I'm on My Way Back to the Old Home"; _That High Lonesome Sound_ (Acoustic Disc)


[Richard Shulberg (November 1947 - 14 March 2009)]

The Wretched Refuse String Band; "Bucking Mule," "Angeline the Baker," "Gold Rush," "Those Wheels of Karma"; _The Wretched Refuse String Band_ (Beet LP)


David Grisman; "You're the Girl of My Dreams" (with Mac Wiseman), "Unwanted Love" (with The Del McCoury Band); _Life of Sorrow_ (Acoustic Disc)

Jorma Kaukonen; "Red River Blues"; _Blue Country Heart_ (Columbia)

Ralph Stanley; "Gold Watch and Chain" (with Gillian Welch), "Thy Burdens are Greater Than Mine" (with Ralph Stanley II); _Clinch Mountain Country_ (Rebel)


M Shanghai String Band LIVE in WKCR-FM Master Control

"Meteor Storm"
"Windsor County"
"No Home in This World"
"Cookie Jar"
"Angel Full of Bourbon"


M Shanghai String Band; "Groundhog's Day"; _The Mapmaker's Daughter_ (Red Parlor)

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

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


Rob Ickes with Blue Highway; "Machine Gun Kelly"; _Big Time_ (Rounder)

Blue Highway; "Blues on Blues"; _Through the Window of a Train_ (Rounder)

The Gibson Brothers; "Angry Man"; _Iron & Diamonds_ (Sugar Hill)

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


Alan Munde & Country Gazette; "Pretty Boy Floyd"; _Keep on Pushing_ (Flying Fish)

Alan Munde; "Bill Cheatham"; _Festival Favorites Revisited_ (Rounder)

Earl Scruggs with Family & Friends; "Bound in Jail All Night Long"; _The Ultimate Collection: Live at the Ryman_ (Rounder)

Ernie Thacker; "The Ballad of Charlie Dill," "Word of Mouth"; _The Hangman_ (Pinecastle)


Country Gentlemen; "The Fields Have Turned Brown"; _On the Road (and More)_ (Smithsonian Folkways)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Boss Symposium

Allan calls our attention to Glory Days: A Bruce Springsteen Symposium:

You are cordially invited to submit abstracts and/or panel suggestions for an international scholarly conference devoted to the life, work, and influence of Bruce Springsteen.

The conference, organized by Virginia Tech and Penn State Altoona, will be held at Monmouth University in northern New Jersey from September 25-27, 2009. The festivities will include various live acts, as well as keynote addresses by rock critics and figures from the music industry.

Papers will be considered for, but certainly not limited to, the session rubrics below. Full-panel submissions are also encouraged. The deadline for paper submission is April 30, 2009.

Springsteen’s Musical Influences
Springsteen and Critical Theory
Springsteen on War: Vietnam, Iraq and Beyond Springsteen and Citizenship Springsteen and the Politics of Culture Springsteen and New Jersey Springsteen’s Musical Legacy Springsteen in the 21st Century Springsteen and Gender Springsteen’s Musical Contemporaries Springsteen and Dylans’s American Dreamscapes Springsteen and Performance Springsteen and the American Pastoral Springsteen and Work and Class Springsteen and Musicianship Springsteen and the E Street Shuffle: The Ever-Changing Instrumental Frame Springsteen and American Roots Music Traditions Springsteen and the Art of Staying Relevant Springsteen as Narrative Poet Springsteen and Rock n’ Roll Iconography Springsteen and Presidential Politics/Iconography

To submit an abstract, please go to and click on the abstract link.

For more information, contact:

Mark Bernhard, Ph.D.
Continuing and Professional Education
702 University City Boulevard (0364)
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
540-231-9886 (Fax)
Visit the website at

Is this something that could only be Born in the U.S.A.?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Larry Kirwan on Pub Culture

Two hat-tips in a row to Ben! He points out that this article on Irish pub culture cites noted Irish pub expert Larry Kirwan, the lead singer and songwriter for Black 47. (See my review of last year's St. Patrick's Day show here.)

In pubs like Mary’s, Mr. Kirwan said, “there’s almost a Talmudic sense of rules and conventions to be observed.” Chief among them is not getting overly plastered.

“Nobody wants drunks in Irish pubs because they’re boring,” he said, “and the last thing you want to be called is boring.”

Instead, traditional pubs foster warmth and fraternity.

“For the couple of hours that you’re in there,” Mr. Kirwan said, “you mesh with this community and your personal troubles are shed.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

Led Zeppelin in Maryland in 1969?

Ben pointed me to this story in the Washington Post that seeks to get to the bottom of whether Led Zeppelin did or did not play a show in Wheaton, Maryland, in 1969. A fun little musical mystery.

All I know is that Allan and I were "getting the Led out" in Alex Battles' truck on Saturday afternoon on the BQE with a gorgeous view of the Manhattan Skyline to my right en route to the Brooklyn Winter Hoedown.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Playlists: Womenfolk (March 1 & 8, 2009)

We've kicked off Women's History Month in fine fashion on Womenfolk on March 1st with live music by legendary songwriter Claudia Schmidt and classical Indian musician Nirmala Rajasekar. And today we had a one-hour special as part of KFAI's 24-hour celebration of International Women's Day, where I shared new music I picked up at the 2009 International Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis. You can read about more of my favorites from this year's conference here.

Happy International Women's Day!


WOMENFOLK: 2009 International Folk Alliance (March 8, 2009)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Sunday 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

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

*Samantha Robichaud / Answering Machine / Canadian Music: East Coast Style Roots II / East Coast Music
*Madison Violet / Baby in the Black and White / No Fool For Trying / Self
*Lynn Miles / Night Drive/ Black Flowers Volume I / Self

*K.C. Clifford / Johnny Cash / Folk Alliance: Showcase Compilation XIII / Folk Alliance International
*Bettysoo / If You Fall / Little Tiny Secrets / Self
*Lucy Wainwright Roche / Chicago / 8 More / Self
*Rhythm Angels / If I Had a Gun / Girls Like Us / High Horse Records

*Ashley Brooke Toussant / Way Up in the Tree / All Songs in English / Self
*Laurie McClain / Rosy Glasses / Ascend / Self
Devon Sproule / Dress Sharp, Play Well, Be Modest / Keep Your Silver Shined / Waterbug
*Carrie Elkin / Roots & Wings / The Jeopardy of Circumstance / Self
*Raina Rose / Desire / End of Endless False Starts / Self

The Maeve Gilchrist Trio/ Marni Swanson of the Grey Coast/Morning / Reaching Me / Self


WOMENFOLK (March 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

*Lynn Miles / Surrender Dorothy / Black Flowers Volume I / Self
*Meg Hutchinson / Somewhere / Come Up Full / Red House
Kris Delmhorst / Yellow Brick Road / Five Stories / Signature Sounds

Po’ Girl / 9 Hrs to Go / Home to You / Nettwerk
*Anais Mitchell & Rachel Ries / Come September / country e.p. / Righteous Babe

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
Devon Sproule / 1340 Chesapeake St. / Keep Your Silver Shined / Waterbug

[Live in the Studio: Claudia Schmidt]
Claudia Schmidt / What Luck's Been Up To
Claudia Schmiddt / Missy Ma'am

Erin Bode / Graceland / Over and Over / MAXJAZZ
Susan Werner / I Can’t Be New / Live at Passim / Sleeve Dog Records

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Laura MacKenzie / Out of Winter / Evidence / Self
Dervish / The Banks of Sweet Viledee / Midsummer's Night / Compass

[Live in the Studio: Nirmala Rajasekar]
Nirmala Rajasekar / Thamboori Meeti dava
Nirmala Rajasekar / Shree Rama

Nirmala Rajasekar / Enna Thavam / Melodic Expressions / Self

Sweet Honey in the Rock / Let Us Rise in Love / The Women Gather / EarthBeat!

*Chastity Brown / Bluegrassy Tune / Sankofa / Self
*Nikki Schultz / Docile Bones / Lost and Found (And Lost Again) / Self

Blue Wolf / Nashville Blues / Brown Shingle Shack / Self

Woody Guthrie at McSorley's

I have been learning an amazing amount about McSorley's Old Ale House, the legendary New York saloon to which I have been dragging friends and acquaintances for the length of my time in New York, from this podcast by the Bowery Boys. And I like to think that I know a bit about McSorley's! But that Elvis once got soused there? That was news to me.

And then there was this photo of Woody Guthrie that I had never seen before:

Wow! Great stuff.

Ellen and I once had a couple of mugs of dark there and a cheese platter that was accompanied by liberal amounts of hot mustard. Mmm-mmm good.

(Sibling hat-tip about the Bowery Boys: David Stevens' brother Peter.)

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 8 March 2009

We spent a fair amount of time on the show today celebrating Norman Blake's 70th birthday, which is on Tuesday. (WKCR will be celebrating Bix Beiderbecke's birthday on Tuesday with a full day of music and similarly Ornette Coleman's birthday on Monday.)

We also remembered Rob DePaolo, guitarist for the band The Electrix, who passed away last Monday at the age of 51.

And we played some more of Matt Brown's music in advance of his show tonight at Jalopy.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 8 March 2009 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Hosts: Matt Winters and Logan Ledger

Rhonda Vincent; "Lonesome Wind Blues"; _Back Home Again_ (Rounder)

Kristin Scott Benson; "No Steering, No Brakes"; _Second Season_ (Pinecastle)

Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands; "Diamond Joe"; _Live_ (Spruce & Maple)

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


Norman Blake [b. 10 March 1938]; "Hand Me Down My Walking Cane"; _Whiskey Before Breakfast_ (Rounder LP)

Norman Blake; "My Old Home on the Green Mountain Side"; _Old and New_ (Flying Fish LP)

Norman Blake; "Slow Train Through Georgia"; _Whiskey Before Breakfast_

Norman Blake and Tony Rice; "Fiddler's Dram/Whiskey Before Breakfast"; _Blake & Rice_ (Rounder LP)

Norman Blake; "New Bicycle Hornpipe"; _Lighthouse on the Shore_ (Rounder LP)


Norman Blake and Tony Rice; "Last Train from Poor Valley"; _Blake & Rice_

Norman & Nancy Blake; "Columbus Stockade Blues," "He's Coming to Us Dead"; _Back Home in Sulphur Springs_ (Western Jubilee)

Norman & Nancy Blake; "Randall Collins/Done Gone"; _Tellulive: 1979 Telluride Bluegrass & Country Music Festival_ (Flying Fish LP)


Matt Brown; "East Virginia," "Arkansas Traveler"; _Lone Prairie_ (5-String)

Matt Brown; "Green Spruce"; _Falls of Richmond_ (5-String)


Banjorama; "Leave Them Jugs Alone"; _Jugs Across America_ (Whiskey for Breakfast)

Bruce Molsky; "Fishin' Blues"; _Poor Man's Troubles_ (Rounder)

Bill Christophersen; "Rocky Pallet"; _Hell & High Water_ (self-released)

Bill Christophersen and Gil Sayre; "Railroad Bill";


[Remembering Rob DePaolo (26 May 1957 - 2 March 2009)]

The Electrix with Michael Falzarano and Tom Hanway; "Hobo Song," "Friend of the Devil";


Tony Williamson; "First Waltz of Spring"; _Sessions at McBane Mill_ (Bonfire)

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

Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass; "I'm Leaving Detroit"; _The Room Over Mine_ (Rounder)

Bill Emerson & Pete Goble; "You Can Keep Your Nine Pound Hammer"; _Emerson & Goble_ (Pinecastle/Webco)

Vassar Clements; "Tall Timber"; _Full Circle_ (OMS)

Larry Sparks with Don Rigsby and Chris Jones; "It's Too Late to Walk the Floor"; _40_ (Rebel)


Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys; "Wicked Path of Sin"; _1937-1949_ (JSP)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Horizon is Here: First Thoughts on the New U2 Album

After one listen, here are my assessments of the songs on No Line on the Horizon, the new U2 CD that came out today.

  • "No Line on the Horizon" - U2 sometimes chooses somewhat abrupt openers, songs that are not the catchiest ones on the disc. (Although "Vertigo" and "Beautiful Day" (from the two most recent CDs) don't fit this description, "Zooropa," "Discotheque" and even "Zoo Station" feel this way to me.) I found this song similar. Although it has the same rhythmic chop as "Ultraviolet" pushing the song along, I'm not sure that this is going to become a go-to song with which to start off my day.

  • "Moment of Surrendur" - A really nice song with a spiritual flavor helped along by the band's use of an organ and a rising chorus. The lyrical imagery is solid: e.g. "I did not notice the passers-by, / And they did not notice me." and "I was speeding on the subway / Through the stations of the cross."

  • "Unknown Caller" and "I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" - Both of these songs sounded like other recent U2 output -- from All That You Can't Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atom Bomb -- to me. They both feature Edge playing piercing arpeggios high up the guitar neck. On "I'll Go Crazy," he takes a solo reminiscent of the powerful notes that he plays on "Walk On." The chorus of "I'll Go Crazy" is a little poppier than U2 normally is, and that hurts some of the gravitas that flows through the lyrics of the verses. The shouted harmony vocals on these tracks don't work so well either.

  • "Get On Your Boots" - What a crazy mash-up of influences this one is! Following an opening that reminded me of "Vertigo," the song moves into something like Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" or The Escape Club's "Wild Wild West," and then we eventually end up in club land with a thumping beat and lots of effects.

  • "Stand Up Comedy" - This one is funkified in a way that U2 usually is not and has a very solid groove to it and good energy. It reminds me quite a bit of "Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me."

  • "FEZ-Being Born" - This album has a lot of production on it, and this particular song is the most located in a studio space. It feels a bit like a movie to me. I was seeing scenes from Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World (appropriately enough, I guess) while listening to it. After it wanders around in studio land for a while, there is a several-step progression into rock.

  • "White as Snow" - A well-matched lyrical and musical landscape, this one is desolate and reveals a distance. The song unfolds over time and makes use of a slight rhythmic gap between vocals and music to give it an Eastern flavor. (It also has a bit of a folk or country flavor to it.) It ends without a climax that it
    maybe could have used.

  • "Breathe" - At its beginning, this song is not sure what it wants to be: a drum groove gets suddenly slammed away by a blast of guitar. Bono tells a story in a very non-U2 way, a style that reminded me of some tracks Peter Mulvey has cut or a bit of Bruce Cockburn. The chorus brings it back to U2, especially Edge's guitar.

  • "Cedars of Lebanon" - Opening very quietly with organ and bass, the song moves into Bono talking us through a day over a low arpeggio. Larry beats out a steady march beat on the drums in the background.

Edge's guitar is quite recognizable across the album -- his arpeggios pop through on almost every song in a comfortingly familiar way. Adam's bass provides a warm layer of love running underneath the songs, and as usual, he provides some great melodic material, too. Larry seems to get to stretch out a bit on this disc, and the drums provide a variety of textures over the course of the disc. Bono's voice is a bit worn at times -- including on the opening number -- but he also tries some new styles out. Throughout, the use of stereo separation is excellent, as different guitar lines pop up on the left or right sides; at one point, there was the sound of a buzz saw cutting my head in half -- that's good production.

Snappy New York Times Reviews

So I have to admit that I like reviews -- of books, albums, shows, first dates, whatever -- that have a few snappy lines in them. (Before I let my Nation subscription lapse, I was always a fan of William Deresiewicz's reviews, which often brimmed over with snappiness, flowing slightly into the snarky subcategory.) And if one reads music reviews in Sing Out! or Dirty Linnen (or political science book reviews in Perspectives on Politics), it is extremely rare to see a negative review. In the interest of "supporting the industry," everybody loves to just dish out the praise, which is great for people like Ellen who need to slap some phrases into a press release but less helpful for those of us trying to make resource allocation decisions under a budget constraint. And that fact maybe makes the appearance of some negative reviews all the more enjoyable.

So in yesterday's paper, we first had Jon Caramanica serving it up to Van Morrison:

This return trip [to the 1968 album Astral Weeks] wasn’t quite a celebration, though. Nor was it a re-evaluation or much of a revision. Instead it often felt like obligation and, accordingly, Mr. Morrison treated the task perversely.


But too often he was mumbling, either in a race to get through his lyrics or in a struggle to remember their outlines. And communication with his band often seemed fraught, leaving the impression of a brusque taskmaster, not an organic leader. The musicians mostly stared at him, waiting to see when he would cut them short or when he would stop noodling on his harmonica so that everyone could get back to playing.

Youch! "[W]hen he would stop noodling on his harmonica so that everyone could get back to playing"? Wowsers.

And then Jon Pareles had some similar thoughts on David Byrne and Brian Eno:

Three decades ago Mr. Byrne, Mr. Eno and Mr. Byrne’s former band, Talking Heads, were thinking about mass media, African aesthetics, everyday surrealism, divinity and dance rhythms, among other things.

They came up with smart, strange songs that still echo through New York City avant-rock. Mr. Byrne’s career since the 1980s — Talking Heads officially broke up in 1991 — has dipped into enough cultures and collaborations to offer abundant new perspectives.

But something went badly wrong with “Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno.” What once was startling became cute.


The spectacle that went with the music in the 1980s was whimsical and enigmatic, hinting at ritual as well as comedy. Mr. Byrne’s new troupe was closer to Broadway, with smiley, loose-limbed dancers skipping in and out of the band, often sharing moves with the musicians.

Gimmicky numbers with props — office chairs, electric guitars — were especially distracting.
Well, keep tearing down those idols, New York Times. (Just no reviews of Sunday morning bluegrass radio programs in New York City, please...)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Red House Artists on Parade

Just recovering from my trip to the Folk Alliance Conference (which you can read about here), it was a busy week at the Red House office with lots of our artists passing through--Robin & Linda Williams, Danny Schmidt, Bill Staines and Greg Brown.

The newest Red House sign, Danny Schmidt was in town for a couple days and made his Twin Cities debut playing with me at the 318 Cafe. It was a fun show, swapping songs in front of a warm crowd, many of whom were already Danny fans. We hadn't worked anything up formally, but he did some nice guitar work on my song "Texas." The highlight for me, though, was getting to sing on "Company of Friends" and "Firestorm," my favorite song from his upcoming album Instead the Forest Rose to Sing. If you Twin Cities folks missed him, have no can see him open up for Lucy Kaplansky at the Cedar on April 17th.

Greg Brown's Saturday show at the Cedar sold out month ago--not a surprise given his last two shows here were sell-outs at St. Paul's Fitzgerald Theater (yes, the home of A Prairie Home Companion), which is twice the size of the Cedar. So it was a packed house, but despite that I was still able to find my friends Jerad and Rachel and catch up with The Pines. One of my favorite new Folk Alliance finds Noelie McDonnell opened the show. His set was great and totally won over the crowd. Here's what he played, all of which are available on his two great CD's Noelie McDonnell and Beyond Hard Places:

- Take the Evening Slow
- Belly of the Earth
- Steal a Rhythm
- Moths
- Galway Rebel Boys
- New York City
- Nearly Four

Before Noelie's set, I was in the green room, catching up with Greg, Bo Ramsey and David Huckfelt (one of those Pines boys). Greg asked what he should play, and David and I offered some suggestions, which were actually already on his list. Then I suggested "Brand New '64 Dodge." Greg said he hadn't done that in years and looked at Bo with a look as if to say "Could we give it a go?" Whether the answer was no or they just didn't get to it, I'm not sure. They didn't play it, although they played many of my other favorites, all with a funky mellow vibe aided by Bo (who rocked it in a particularly hip black and white cowboy shirt)...

- You Drive Me Crazy
- The Evening Call
- Think About You
- Laughing River
- Kokomo
- Driftless
- Why Do You Even Say That
- Blue Car
- Billy From the Hills
- Sleeper
- Dream City
- Never So Far
- China
- Treat Other Right
- Canned Goods

Encore: If I Had Known

The music was great that even Noelie bought a Bo Ramsey CD!

After the show I introduced him to local brews at the original Chatterbox Pub on 35th St. There we hatched up my plan to prepare for my retirement to Galway, where I hope to become Crazy American Banjo Playing Cat Lady. Noelie says that I would be very popular there and that within a day, everyone would know who I was and buy me a pint. Galway, here I come!

Neko Case and the Animals

I just finally got around to reading Daniel Menaker's lengthy piece on Neko Case from the February 13th New York Times.

I loved his description of her new CD, Middle Cyclone:

[It] comes close to immediate accessibility, but it is never pat, never ear Splenda. It has a Brechtian-sounding love song in march rhythm, two or three waltzes, a sweet Byrds-like salvo of opening guitars and vocal effects from wild to coy.
The disc comes out tomorrow on the Anti- label.

One of the neat things mentioned in the article is that Anti- would be donating five dollars to the Best Friends Animal Society for every blog that posted the song "People Gotta Lot of Nerve," an animal rights song.

As is typical, Sound of Blackbirds is a little late to the party: Anti- stopped making the five dollar donations at the beginning of February. But you can still download the song here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Playlist: The Moonshine Show - 1 March 2009

We spent some time today celebrating Doc Watson's 86th birthday, which is on Tuesday, and remembering John Duffey, who would have turned 75 on Wednesday. In addition, we played some music from Matt Brown and Tom Bailey, who will be appearing together at Jalopy next Sunday, and from Vincent Cross, who will be part of the Brooklyn Winter Hoedown next Saturday night. (My memories from last year's Hoedown can be found here.) We ended the show with a Stanley Brothers' song recorded 60 years ago today.


The Moonshine Show - 89.9 WKCR-FM, NYC
Sunday 1 March 2009 - 10 a.m. to Noon
Host: Matt Winters

Doc Watson [b. 3 March 1923]; "Shady Grove"; _Memories_ (Sugar Hill)

Doc Watson with Clarence White; "Farewell Blues"
Doc Watson; "Streamline Cannonball"
Both from _The Vanguard Years_ (Vanguard)


John Hoffman and Mac Benford; "The Wabash Cannonball," "Rolling Mills Are Burning Down"; _It's About Time_ (5-String)

Anderson & Strickland; "Been All Around This World"; _Been All Around This World_ (Virginia Folklife Program)

John Saroyan; "The Train That Carried My Girl from Town"; _Live and Pickin' in New Orleans_ (self-released)


Matt Brown; "Brushy Fork of John's Creek," "Train 45"; _Falls of Richmond_ (5-String)

Thomas Bailey; "Sister Sara"; _Brilliancy_ (Briarpatch)


Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands; "Alaska," "Live Forever," "The Wood Thrush's Song"; _Live_ (Spruce & Maple)


John Duffey [4 March 1934 - 10 December 1996] and the Seldom Scene; "The Old Hometown," "She's More to Be Pitied," "Walk Through This World with Me," "After Midnight"; _Always in Style: A Collection_ (Sugar Hill)


Doc Watson, Clint Howard and Fred Price; "Way Downtown," "Daniel Prayed"; _Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley's, Volume Two_ (Folkways LP)

Louvin Brothers; "The Great Atomic Power"; _The Louvin Brothers_ (Rounder LP)

Louvin Brothers; "My Baby's Gone"; _My Baby's Gone_ (Stetson LP)


Vincent Cross & Good Company; "Down to Earth," "Over You"; _Home Away from Home_ (self-released)

Straight Drive; "Don't Put Off 'Til Tomorrow"; _I'll Take a Page from Your Book_ (Cabinwood)


The Beth Coleman Band; "Teardrops Falling in the Snow"; _Back Home in Galax_ (self-released)


Blue Mule; "Blues for Lavinia," "Long Train Running"; _Scratchy_ (Flat Five)

Cadillac Sky; "2 Good 2 Last"; _Gravity's Our Enemy_ (Skaggs Family)


Tom T. Hall; "Fox on the Run"; _The Magnificent Music Machine_ (Copper Creek/Universal)

Tom T. Hall; "I'm Gonna Make a Song About You"; _...Sings Miss Dixie and Tom T._ (Blue Circle)

Tom T. Hall; "Bluegrass Festival in the Sky"; _The Magnificent Music Machine_


The Stanley Brothers; "The White Dove"; _The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers_ (Columbia/Legacy)