Monday, June 29, 2009

More on Bela's African Banjo Travels

Bela Fleck will be doing a presentation on the African roots of the banjo at the Caramoor International Music Festival on July 3rd.

Of all Mr. Fleck’s endeavors, his Africa project may be the most ambitious. Like an anthropologist conducting fieldwork, he has moved among communities in Uganda, Gambia, Tanzania and Mali. Unlike many anthropologists, though, he does not just observe, he interacts.

Among the most fruitful of his interactions has been one with the Malian diva Oumou Sangare, the “songbird of Wassoulou,” whose group will join him at Caramoor. He said that he was impressed the instant he heard a recording of hers nearly a decade ago. “She was the person who made me want to go to Africa the most,” he said. “I fell in love with the sound of her voice.”

Michael Jackson's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star next to Lefty Frizzell's! (HT: Brian 'No Relation' Frizzell.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bird Call

It's time for "I'll Fly Away," my annual bird-themed radio show, and I'd love to include your favorite women's folk/acoustic bird songs. Just post a comment or contact me through the Womenfolk website by Tuesday, June 30th at noon.

And make sure to tune in on Sunday, July 5th at 11 am CDT as Womenfolk takes flight!

Playlists: Womenfolk (June, 2009)

Here’s what we played this month on Womenfolk. Today we played songs for summer, the 4th of July and some sweet traditional covers. If you missed it, check out the archived show here!


WOMENFOLK (June 28, 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

Nanci Griffith / Morning Song for Sally / Other Voices Other Rooms / Elektra
*Tracy Chapman / Sing For You / Our Bright Future / Elektra

*Emily Kurn / Symphony / I’m Just Like You / Self
Red Molly / Summertime / Love and Other Tragedies / Self
Eliza Lynn / Sing a New Song / Frisky or Fair / Civility Records

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
Raina Rose / Canary / Despite the Crushing Weight of Gravity / Sack of Hits

*Shawn Colvin / Tennessee / Live / Nonesuch
Becky Schlegel / Bound for Tennessee / For All the World to See / Lilly Ray

*Coyote / Wise Lorolina / Times of Drought / Self
Alison Krauss & Robert Plant / Your Long Journey / Raising Sand / Rounder
Annabelle Chvostek / Line of Ascent / Resilience / Borealis
*Alela Diane / My Brambles / To Be Still / Rough Trade

[Behind the Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Natalie MacMaster / Mother Nature/Interlude / Yours Truly / Rounder

*Neko Case / This Tornado Loves You / Middle Cyclone / Anti
Lucy Wainwright Roche / Chicago / 8 More / Self

The Wailin’ Jennys / Firecracker / Firecracker / Red House
Aimee Mann / 4th of July / Whatever / Geffen

Meg Hutchinson / Ready / Come Up Full / Red House
*Pamela Means / New Orleans / Precedent / Wirl Records

The Floorbirds / Moonshiner / Field Recordings / Self
Dawn Landes / I Don’t Need No Man / Fireproof / Cooking Vinyl
Kate MacKenzie / Single Girl/Sally Ann / Age of Innocence / Red House
The Mammals / Fall On My Knees / Rock That Babe / Signature Sounds

*Rita Hosking / Let ‘Em Run / Come Sunrise / Self


WOMENFOLK (June 21, 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

*Shannon & Matt Heaton / Lao Dueng Duen / Lover’s Well / Self
Karan Casey / Another Day / Distant Shore / Shanachie

Sophie Zelmani / Most of the Time / Masked and Anonymous / Columbia
*Tracy Chapman / Thinking of You / Our Bright Future / Elektra
Eliza Gilkyson / Think About You / Paradise Hotel / Red House

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
Raina Rose / Mary Mary Magdalena / The Prophet, The Panhandler & The Moon / Three Pin Records
Rosie Thomas / Kite Song / These Friends of Mine / Nettwerk
*Sarah Jarosz / Come On Up to the House / Song Up in Her Head / Sugar Hill

Tracy Grammer & Dave Carter / The Mountain / Tanglewood Tree / Signature Sounds
Sarah Harmer / I’m a Mountain / I’m a Mountain / Zoe

Nerissa & Katryna Nields / Love and China / Love and China / Zoe
*Dar Williams / It’s Alright / Promised Land / Razor & Tie

[Behind the Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
Alison Brown / The Sound of Summer Running / Stolen Moments / Compass

Rosanne Cash / Radio Operator / Black Cadillac / Capitol
*Courtney Yasmineh / Beautiful Lonely / Beautiful Lonely / Self

[Live in the Studio: Courtney Yasmineh]
Courtney Yasmineh / The Part I Like
Courtney Yasmineh / Stones

*Harbor Collective / California / The Monday EP / Super Solar Sounds
Ellis / Lake Calhoun / Break the Spell / Rubberneck Records
Meg Hutchinson / Come Up Full / Come Up Full / Red House

Mara Levi / Jesse James / What Are You? / Self


WOMENFOLK (June 14, 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

* Marianne Faithfull / Down From Dover / Easy Come, Easy Go / Decca

Rupa & The April Fishes / La Pecheuse / ExtraOrdinary Rendition / cumbancha

Eliza Gilkyson / Wildewood Spring / Beautiful World / Red House Records

Gillian Welch / Ruination Day Part 2 / Time (The Revelator) / Acony

Iris DeMent / I Miss A Lot Of Trains / Real - the Tom T. Hall Project / Delmore

Grey DeLisle / This White Circle On My Finger / The Graceful Ghost / Sugar Hill

*Raina Rose / Air & Water / End of Endless False Starts / Myckle Mirth Music

Carrie Rodriguez / Seven Angels On A Bicycle / Seven Angesl On A Bicycle / Train Wreck

* Stella Schindler / Death Valley / Distant Hum / Self

* Linda Draper / Pushing Up The Day / Bridge & Tunnel / Planting Seeds Records

* Colleen McFarland / Pretty Little Bird / Let It Shine / 9th Child Records

Maria McKee / My One True Love / Peddlin' Dreams / Eleven Thirty

* Sarah Jarosz / Mansinneedof / Song Up In Her Head / Sugar Hill

* Stephanie Bettman / Evening Prayer Blues / Get Close To Me / Self

* Antje Duvekot / Long Way / The Near Demise Of The Highwire Dancer / Black Wolf

* Mankwe Ndosi / Out Of The Hole / Do-Gooders' Blues / Self

* Amy Speace / After The Flood / Got To Get A Message To You / Wildflower

* Indigo Girls / Sugar Tongue / Poseidon and the Bitter Bug / Vanguard

* Sarah Jarosz / Come On Up To The House / Song Up In Her Head / Sugar Hill

* Julie & Buddy Miller / Don't Say Goodbye / Written In Chalk / New West

* Greencards / Water In The Well / Fascination / Sugar Hill

* Gemma Hayes / Chasing Dragons / The Hollow Of Morning / Self

Suzanne Vega / Straight Lines / Suzanne Vega / A&M

*Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson / One More Year / Rattlin' Bones / Sugar Hill

* Zee Avi / Darling / Zee Avi / Brushfire Records

Jolie Holland / Sweet Loving Man / The Living And The Dead / Anti-


WOMENFOLK (June 7, 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

The Be Good Tanyas / Lakes of Pontchartrain / Blue Horse / Nettwerk
Michelle Shocked / Oh! Susanna / Beautiful Dreamer / American Roots Publishing
Magnolia Sisters / Keep A Knockin’ / Apres Faire Le Boogie Woogie / Rounder

*Rokia Traore / Koronoko / Tchamantche / Nonesuch

*Annabelle Chvostek / Wait For It / Dirty Linen Editor’s Choice Sampler July/August 2009 / Dirty Linen
*Rose Polenzani with Session Americana / Dirty Linen Editor’s Choice Sampler July/August 2009 / Dirty Linen

[Womenfolk Find - Featured Artist of the Month]
*Raina Rose / Desire / End of Endless False Starts / Self

*Emily Kurn / I’m Just Like You / I’m Just Like You / Self
Patty Griffin / Dear Old Friend / 13 Ways to Live / Red House
Irma Thomas / Shelter in the Rain / After the Rain / Rounder
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings / This Land Is Your Land / Naturally / Daptone Records

[Behind Twin Cities Women’s Calendar]
*The Roe Family Singers / Invisible Dream / The Earth and All That Is In It / Self

*The Roe Family Singers / Shallow Grave / The Earth and All That Is In It / Self
*Harbor Collective / Hop High / The Monday EP / Super Solar Records

[Live in the Studio: Vicky Emerson]
Vicky Emerson / Winter Wind
Vicky Emerson / Ferris Wheel
Vicky Emerson / Long Ride

Michelle Malone / Suddenly! / Homegrown / Strange Bird Songs Records
Cry Cry Cry / Fall on Me / Cry Cry Cry / Razor & Tie

Kasey Chambers / Guilty As Sin / Wayward Angel / Warner Bros.
*Eilen Jewell / Shakin' All Over / Sea of Tears / Signature Sounds

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rotunda of Sound

I've seen a fair number of concerts at the Guggenheim Museum over the years, mostly Vox Vocal Ensemble Holiday Concerts, where George Steel has masterfully used the space to breathe new life into medieval and renaissance nativity music.

The "East Coast premiere" -- I cringe a bit at the term: do we really need more subcategories besides World/U.S./New York City? -- of Henry Brant's Orbits occurred there on Sunday night, as Anthony Tommasini described in the New York Times.

The piece is scored for 80 trombones, one soprano and one organ. Holy wall of sound, Batman!

This primordial, organic piece, by turns brutal and celestial, unfolds in thickly layered clusters and a maze of individual trombone lines. Brant’s vision was to have the players surround the audience.

That vision was excitingly realized at the Guggenheim. The trombonists were lined up on the walkways that encircle the rotunda, facing in, so that they could see down to Mr. Bruce, who conducted from the path leading up to the lower ring. An enormous rented organ with a row of loudspeakers was placed in a corner of the floor. The soprano Phyllis Bruce sang from on high.

Wow! What an amazing set-up! And what a blast of music it must have been.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Edie Carey Now a Midwesterner

Ever since since Boston bred songwriter Edie Carey moved to Chicago, folks here in the Twin Cities have been seeing even more of her, which is good news for her many local fans. She did a killer show at Little Apple House Concerts in April and was back just a couple weeks ago, playing a show at St. Paul's favorite acoustic listening room Ginkgo Coffeehouse. It was a lovely evening of music and community (I finally met the famous Ann Marsden, the talented photographer behind many of Edie's press photos and various Red House projects!), and as always, Edie kept us laughing all night long, on and off stage.

- Lay It On Me
- Lost in the Valley*
- The Night
- Red Shoes
- Lonely*
- For Mary (lovely song she wrote by special request for a fan)
- Under a Sky

- Falling Slowly (I love Edie's cover of this)
- What Love Looks Like
- I Need You
- Silver Bullet (a new song I heard back in April--love it!)
- With Our Hands
- If I Start to Cry
- Without a Fight
- Another Kind of Fire*
- Violently

*Songs I sang with Edie.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Ed Helms and Ellen Stanley Have in Common

So I was listening to NPR quiz show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! last week, and comedian-actor Ed Helms was one of the guest contestants, and I learned that we have three important things in common.

1) Both Ed and I are missing a front tooth. Although we were born with all our baby teeth, we were congenitally missing one of our permanent ones. This means in his new movie The Hangover where he is missing a tooth, it is for real--no special effects needed.

2) We both went to Oberlin College.

And most relevant to Sound of Blackbirds readers...

3) We both play the banjo. Apparently while on the set for The Office, he spends his time reading banjo and bluegrass blogs. Hopefully this one will catch his attention!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Trends in Southeast Asian Cover Bands

Warning: this post contains some terribly low-quality photos taken on my Motorola cameraphone.

Friday night was my last night in Yogyakarta after three weeks of language training. Some of the people staying at the homestay where I had been living were going out to a bar in the city's downtown called Bintang -- which also happens to be the name of the most famous Indonesian beer.

The Bintang Bar was a fairly typical ex-pat bar. It was pretty crowded with a lot more white skin than you would see anywhere else in Yogya. There were some Native American headdresses adorning one wall and the air was thick with clove cigarettes -- tasty little things those...

Pretty soon after we arrived, an Indonesian band took the stage. I had been told that it would be jazz or blues, but their first song was instead a pretty serious Pearl Jam cover. No problem, though, because we were digging it. Then they gave us "With or Without You" -- including the spontaneous Bono transition that is not found on The Joshua Tree but rather on later live recordings! Impressive! (The guitar part was played accurately, although the tone on the guitar was nothing like Edge's, so I can't say that it was nailed.) Other hits included The Cure's "Friday, I'm in Love," the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" (what a good song that one is), "Paint it Black" and "Message in the Bottle." Not a bad selection, huh?

As we headed out to get back to the homestay, we discovered a huge crowd listening to the band from outside the bar! While the ex-pats lived it up at the Bintang Bar, the Indonesians were filling up the Circle K parking lot across the street to take in the tunes!

The next morning, I flew -- bright and early -- to Singapore. (I needed to leave Indonesia in order to renew my visa.) That night, I met up with a Moonshine Show listener with whom I have corresponded over the years but never thought that I would meet, since he lives in Singapore. With a friend of his, we went out for some rather good beer at a brewpub along the redeveloped Singapore River.

From the brewpub, we made tracks over to a crowded ex-pat bar called the Crazy Elephant, where the service was bad and so were the dirty jokes being endlessly projected on television monitors around the bar (e.g. "Why do women like elderly gynecologists? Because their hands shake uncontrollably."). The mixed band on stage was pretty good. The lead singer, Jeanne French, could really belt them out, and the lead guitarist had some really nice, clean chops. There was a drum solo and maybe even a bass solo, too. The material included "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Hey, Bo Diddley!" and "Me and Bobby McGee." Dancing couples added some additional value; flirtatious ex-pats less so.

We left to catch some jazz music next at the Bellini Grande. After sitting through 30-40 minutes of a DJ spinning and projected Bond girls dancing on the screen behind the stage, the band took the stage. Well, again, this was not jazz. The opening number was "We Are Family." Most of the dancers cleared the floor, despite the band's encouragement to dance. There were some apologies at my table, too. When the guy in the Batman T-shirt busted out "Mony Mony," we started making our move to get out of there.

We ended up at the St. James Power Station, a converted electricity plant that now hosts seven, eight or nine different nightclubs. (The taxi driver nonetheless did first take us to the power company corporate offices before we corrected him.) We took a cool little tour through a skywalk where we could see what was going on in several different clubs, and we opted to go into the one where there was Latin music playing.

The band on stage was from Paraguay, and they were bringing the party to Singapore. Two energetic female singers and then a male MC to totally bring the party to the stage -- all three of them would get to dancing, bringing up various audience members for support. The band was solid and kept the time well. Although they took a break soon after we got there, we stuck around for their second set, which started to get a little schlocky with "Tequila" and "The Macarena."

At 3:30 a.m., we hit a random corner for some congee and pork products. Mmmmm! Delicious, delicious stuff. We had seven or eight small plates in front of us, and we would take a bit of food, mix it with a bit of rice porridge and let the goodness land in our stomachs! A wonderfully Singaporean end to a very fun night in Singapore.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Polka Tragedy

Two summers ago at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Jimmy Sturr hit the stage and stirred up the crowd -- ha ha -- with his full-scale polka band. Allan and I got fairly into it; it was a good time. Jimmy Sturr has won 18 Grammy awards for his polka recordings.

And now, he will win no more. The Recording Academy has eliminated the Polka category from the Grammy awards.

Of his Grammy award winning, Jimmy said
“There are a lot of great bands in the polka field. I’m not going to say I’m the best band in the whole world, but we’re just as good as any. But this put us over and above. It made us almost, almost a household word.”
In other -- perhaps more relevant to Sound of Blackbirds readers -- news, the "Contemporary Folk/Americana" award will be split into two categories: Contemporary Folk and Americana. I have always found the folk nominations for the Grammy awards fairly odd -- in terms of who is in what category -- so I look forward to seeing who gets classified as Americana versus Traditional Folk versus Contemporary Folk now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Grizzly Sound

In a pretty negative review of Grizzly Bear's appearance at Town Hall, Ben Ratliff brings up the venue's bad sound:
Burdened with murky sound for a band that has fairly high audio needs, Thursday’s show was mostly studied, intellectual tension.
I have seen several concerts at Town Hall with not-so-hot sound, including The Magnetic Fields (described here) and a Peter Rowan spectacular a number of years ago.

I think that it varies a lot depending on where you are sitting -- although I have trouble believing that the New York Times' critic got a bad seat -- but it is pretty surprising that they haven't either figured out a way to do the sound better or else renovated the venue appropriately.