Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 WKCR-FM Country Music Festival

I just received word that WKCR's Annual Country Music Festival will begin this Sunday at 10:00 a.m.! Get my secretary -- I need to rearrange my schedule! (Oh, wait, I'm in charge of my schedule...) Here's the scoop:
The theme of this year’s WKCR Country Music Festival is “Radio on the Radio.” Country music began in the traditional music of rural towns. These forms were disparate and isolated; a musician wasn’t heard beyond the confines of his own small town. But in the 1930s, companies discovered they could market their products to rural consumers on the radio. When “hillbilly” music hit the airwaves, it spread like wildfire. Soon, country music blasted from high-wattage border stations and stations all over the United States broadcasted live country music programs. On the airwaves, country music developed as a cohesive, vibrant genre.

The WKCR American Department invites you to the jamborees, jubilees, hayrides, and barn dances of yesteryear. May 2nd, 10:00 a.m. through May 4th, 11:30 pm, we’ll broadcast full programs of country radio’s heyday from the 1930s to the 1960s. With Alex Battles, Jessica Rose and Friends playing live in the studio on Tuesday night, we’ll keep the tradition of country music radio alive.

Sunday, May 2nd: WLS National Barn Dance, Grand Ole Opry, Sage Brush Round Up, Carter Family on Border Radio, Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch

Monday, May 3rd: Hollywood Barn Dance, WCYB, Dinner Bell Roundup Time, Big-D Jamboree, Chuck Wagon Jamboree, Louisiana Hayride

Tuesday, May 4th: Western Party, Cowboy Hit Parade, Mother’s Best Flour, Pee Wee King’s Country Hoedown, Ozark Jubilee, Country Music Time, Country Style USA, Alex Battles, Jessica Rose and friends live in studio

Storyhill's Big Sky Tour, Day 2

After getting back into Bozeman late last night I slept really well in the comfortable apartment above Chris Cunningham's Basecamp Studio. I woke up to a beautiful snowy morning, made myself breakfast and drank tea to the sounds of classic country on local station KGLT. I braved the cold to go for a run and then tagged along with Storyhill to go to their performance at the hip music shop Music Villa, which was streamed online and will probably be archived there too. It's a sweet store with a very impressive collection of Gibson guitars.

Then we went to the Ellen Theatre for soundcheck. Funny enough, this was the one gig I wasn't playing at...but I at least got a photo of me with the sign.

Before the show, I explored a little of downtown Bozeman with John Hermanson, hitting the Leaf and Bean (apparently where Chris and Johnny played when they were kids) and Cactus Records, where I bought some fun gifts. Then I joined Storyhill, their families and some other friends for a nice dinner at the new Starky's (I had an amazing wild mushroom and asparagus polenta) and returned to the theater for a pre-show cocktail hour, where I caught up with KGLT's Ron Craig and Paul Oliver.

Missoula songwriter Tom Catmull opened the show and did a great set, totally living up to all the the lovely thing Chris and Johnny had told me. Highlights of his set included "Dirty Valley Lows," "The Crows," and an unusually quirky blues song with the line "I got a love as big as China and a shovel in my hand."

After a short break, Storyhill did an amazing 90-minute set, starting with songs from their new album Shade of the Trees and working their way back to older fan favorites. Seeing them perform in their hometown for their parents, old classmates and long-time fans was something special. There was such a warm vibe in the room enhanced by the amazing sound. Storyhill's voices never sounded better than they did in that room. The recently rennovated historic theater (where the boys remember seeing Star Wars and Batman as kids) has perfect natural acoustics, and the sound guy Rich did a beautiful job getting a nice tone out of their voices and guitars. Highlights of their set included "Avalon," "World Go Round," "Paradise Lost," and their older song "The Storm," dedicated to their mothers. After an enthusiastic encore, they came out in front of the mics to do a heartbreakingly beautiful unplugged version of "Give Up the Ghost" and then "Absorka Air." Then they plugged back in to do their traditional closer "Steady On."

After the show I got to meet KGLT staffer Jim Kehoe (who I have talked and emailed with for years but never met) and then joined a crew over at Plonk, the hip bar down the street. We closed the place down.

Another great day in Montana. Looking forward to seeing new territory tomorrow as we drive to Kalispell...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Storyhill's Big Sky Tour, Day 1

I got up this morning at 4 am Central to fly out to Big Sky Country to join Storyhill on their CD release tour. Landed in their native Bozeman at about 10 am, played merch girl at their noon show at Montana State University and met Chris Cunningham's adorable 7 day-old son Caleb before we hit the road to Billings for our gig at the Yellowstone Brewery.

I just had a blast playing an opening set. Both Chris and Johnny joined me on harmony vocals on "Wide" and "Revival Train"--so beautiful. Now I am enjoying one of Yellowstone's nice stouts and am reveling in Storyhill's set in front of their lovely enthusiastic Billings fans...
- Avalon
- Blazing Out of Sight
- Ballad of Joe Snowboard
- Caught in a Mess (this song makes me cry every time)
- Better Angels
- Cover Your Tracks
- Happy Man
- Full Circle
- Let the Wind Come In
- Getaway
- Well of Sorrow
- Town Talks (nice energetic version--perfect gor a drinking crowd)
- Stillwater
- World Go Round
- Absorka Air (by request)
- White Roses (also by request)
- Love Will Find You
- Trembling Tracks

- Mary on the Mountain
- Steady On

A good first night here in Montana.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Online Music Lessons

Earlier this month, in the education section, the New York Times briefly profiled online music lessons available through Connexions.

The profile focused on Catherine 'Kitty' Schmidt-Jones who at the time had 7 of the top 20 modules on music on the Connexions web site.
In her modules, Ms. Schmidt-Jones explains in spare, dry prose nearly every corner of music, from theory to gamelans to guitar technique to what a parent should know about playing in school bands to the best way to practice.


“I just kind of write about whatever I’m interested in,” Ms. Schmidt-Jones says in an interview. She studied the French horn in high school and at Rice, where she received a degree in music and in chemistry. She teaches music in Champaign, Ill., where her husband is a professor at the University of Illinois.
She lives right next door apparently! (Champaign is the city where the mayor goes to Tea Party rallies and questions the President's citizenship; I proudly live in Urbana.)

I have several started-but-never-finished music theory books on my shelf (right next to numerous started-but-never-finished books on playing guitar). I look forward to starting Ms. Schmidt-Jones' series of online lessons soon!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Vampire Weekend "Cousins" Video

I'm probably a bit behind the times on this, but I enjoyed watching this Vampire Weekend video that, I guess, came out last November. I like watching Chris Tomson drum -- what can I say?

I also thought that the comment "Have They Might Be Giants been reincarnated?" from YoTube user Triplethink was both humorously appropriate for the video and then also humorous because TMBG aren't dead yet!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Million Dollar Quartet on Broadway

On December 4, 1956, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley all bumped into each other at Sun Studios and started jamming. Sam Phillips slipped the tape machines on and captured a fair amount of the moment.

In 2006, WKCR dedicated its annual Country Music Festival to celebrating the happening, and the scratchy old LP has become a favorite of more than one new WKCR country music DJ over the years.

Apparently, the show also has reached Broadway.

Charles Isherwood is quite positive about the music in his New York Times review:
There’s a lot to like about this relatively scrappy variation on a familiar theme.


The actors portraying these pioneers — Robert Britton Lyons as Perkins, Lance Guest as Cash, Levi Kreis as Mr. Lewis and Eddie Clendening as Presley — don’t just play the roles but play the music too. Gifted musicians and likable performers, they tackle with no apparent discomfort the unenviable chore of impersonating some of the most revered names in pop music....
On the other hand, he critiques the book for being a bit formulaic -- ending up like a PBS documentary.

When we did that country festival four years ago, we found ourselves going, "Well, there's really only so much to say about the Million Dollar Sessions..." and therefore feeling like three days of music focused on this impromptu event was a bit much. So you do need to round it out somehow.

Not sure when I'll get a chance to see Million Dollar Quartet, but I hope it sticks around for a while because I definitely would like to.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Latest Changes in the Music Industry

A year and a half ago here on Sound of Blackbirds, we passed along the news that Richard Shindell was soliciting fan donations in order to record his latest CD. The effort led -- quite quickly, in fact -- to Not Far Now

My old friend from the Postcrypt days Erik Balkey has been writing custom songs for people for several years now as a way of supporting his own albums and touring.

The New York Times today turns its spotlight to fan-financing web sites where bands can put up appeals for money to finance particular projects.

The article concludes that these websites are probably best suited for small projects. For example:
One success story is that of Sgt Dunbar & the Hobo Banned, an eight-member group based in Albany. The group sought to raise $3,000 to help repair its eight-year-old van and to cover travel expenses to Austin, Tex., for the SXSW festival last month. It raised $3,782, including $100 each from 11 backers who got various goodies, like their name on the van as a tour sponsor.
I like it. I would have considered chipping in some cash to get my name on the side of the van.

But wait! There's more!

The Times also informs us today how symphony orchestras are turning to online distribution of their music.
The New York Philharmonic, for instance, a giant of the recording industry in the Leonard Bernstein years, has not had a long-term contract with a commercial label for a decade.
Daniel Wakin reviews the different things that orchestras are doing -- podcasting, streaming, selling CDs, etc.