Thursday, July 29, 2010

Playlists: Womenfolk (July 27 & 20, 2010)

This week on Womenfolk we interviewed legendary British songwriter Joan Armatrading, played tracks from her new album This Charming Life and talked about her show tonight at the Cedar Cultural Center. The week before we enjoyed a live in-studio performance by Billboard-charting songwriter Meg Hutchinson and a conversation with DJ Pam Hill about the recent Minneapolis stop on the Lilith Fair tour. If you missed either of these shows, you can hear both on the Womenfolk web page.

Next Tuesday tune in for a special preview of Red House Barnfest with artist interviews, ticket giveaways and a live in-studio performance by Ruth Moody from The Wailin' Jennys! -efs.


WOMENFOLK (July 27, 2010)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Every Tuesday, 2-4 pm
*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

**Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem - Cocktail Swing
album: Cocktail Swing; label: Signature Sounds

*Ruth Moody - We Could Pretend
album: The Garden; label: Red House

*Cowboy Junkies - I Cannot Sit Sadly By Your Side
album: The Nomad Series Volume 1: Renmin Park; label: Razor & Tie

Ana Egge - Sitting in the Midday Sun
album: Lazy Days; label: Grace/Parkinsong

Indigo Girls - Shame on You
album: Shaing of the Sun; label: Epic

Suzanne Vega - 99.9 F
album: Retrospective: The Very Best of Suzanne Vega; label: A&M

Womenfolk Find: *The Chapin Sisters - Left All Alone
album: Oh, Hear the Wind Blow; label: Self

Lucy Wainwright Roche - Chicago
album: 8 More; label: Self

Antje Duvekot - Long Way
album: The Near Demise of the Highwire Dancer; label: Black Wolf

Kris Delmhorst - Summer Breeze
album: Appetite; label: Big Bean Music

*Red Horse - Scorpion
album: Red Horse; label: Red House

Harbor Collective - California
album: The Monday EP; label: Super Solar Sounds

Behind Women's Calendar: Alison Brown - The Sound of Summer Running
album: Stolen Moments; label: Compass

*Joan Armatrading - This Charming Life
album: This Charming Life; label: SLG

Catie Curtis - Sweet Life
album: Sweet Life; label: Compass

The Waifs - Sweetness
album: Up All Night; label: Compass

Mary Chapin Carpenter - I Am a Town
album: Live at the Iron Horse; label: Signature Sounds

Joan Armatrading - Phone Interview
album: Live; label: KFAI

*Joan Armatrading - Best Dress On
album: This Charming Life; label: SLG

The Nields - Best Black Dress
album: Live From Northampton; label: Self

Shawn Colvin - Summer Dress
album: These Four Walls; label: Nonesuch

Kristin Andreassen - Heat
album: Kiss Me Hello; label: Self

**Rani Arbo - Cocktail Swing
album: Cocktail Swing; label: Signature Sounds


WOMENFOLK (July 20, 2010)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Every Tuesday, 2-4 pm
*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

**Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem - Cocktail Swing
album: Cocktail Swing; label: Signature Sounds

*Natalie Merchant - The Man in the Wilderness
album: Leave Your Sleep; label: Nonesuch

*Solas - A Sailor's Life
album: The Turning Tide; label: Compass

Dolly Parton - Down From Dover
album: Little Sparrow; label: Sugar Hill

*Megan Dudle - Little Bessie
album: You Are Always In My Dreams; label: Self

*Mary Gauthier - The Foundling
album: The Foundling; label: Razor & Tie

Crooked Still - Orphan Girl
album: Live; label: Self

Womenfolk Find: *The Chapin Sisters - Digging a Hole
album: Oh, Hear the Wind Blow; label: Self

Jonatha Brooke - Digging
album: Steady Pull; label: Bad Dog Records

Meg Hutchinson - Travel In
album: Live in the Studio; label: KFAI

*Meg Hutchinson - Something Else
album: The Living Side; label: Red House

Behind Women's Calendar: Joanie Madden - Flight of the Wild Geese
album: Songs of the Irish Whistle; label: Hearts O' Space

Meg Hutchinson - See Me Now
album: Live in the Studio; label: KFAI

Eliza Gilkyson - Paradise Hotel
album: Paradise Hotel; label: Red House

*Red Horse - Sanctuary
album: Red Horse; label: Red House

*Pieta Brown - Prayer of Roses
album: One and All; label: Red House

*Sasha Mercedes - That's Okay
album: Temporary Monsters; label: Self

*Jennifer Markey and the Tennessee Snowpants - That's What You Get (For Cryin')
album: The Sparta Session; label: Self

*Court Yard Hounds - Ain't No Son
album: Court Yard Hounds; label: Columbia

*Molly Maher - Chicken (live)
album: Cast Your Bread; label: Self

**Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem - Cocktail Swing
album: Cocktail Swing; label: Signature Sound

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Loudon Wainwright III w/ Rob Morsberger @ The Iron Horse, Northampton, MA, July 24th, 2010

Last night, I headed up Route 47 and onward to Northampton to meet up with my friend Alison for the great Loudon Wainwright's gig at the Iron Horse, which has come to feel like a proverbial (metaphorical?) summer home for me. I don't think it was a sold out show, but it must have been close. The man draws a crowd. This was my first time seeing him since his opening gig for Hot Tuna this past December. I could scarcely have been happier with last night's show.

The opening act was a singing, songwriting piano player named Rob Morsberger. He opened with something called "The Last Song," a sad, beautiful goodbye, from a husband to a wife. He sang and played with strength and warmth, sounding like a slightly gravelly version of Dan Bern. His 30 minute set went by quickly, and that's a complement. His melodies are very strong, and songs like "Old Jolly Farm" and "Details" are detail-oriented, wise and experiential. And I'm partial to his singing voice. Worth checking out.

On to the featured act. I was amused to see LWIII fumble around a bit, looking for a place to rest his glass of water, a routine that I recall from his last Iron Horse show. He wound up putting it on the piano, before launching into a song from High, Wide, and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project (2009) called "Moving Day," a funny one. From there, the pendulum swung to the other end of the emotional spectrum with "Dead Man." And then all the way back with "The Morgue," a song that combines, as he told us, "shitty love" with "death and decay," the themes that have defined his career. I love that one, myself.

As has been the case with most of the LWIII performances I've seen, the man had us in the palm of his hand almost immediately. His stage presence is amazing, with that expressive face and voice, along with the facial contortions and gesticulations in the middle of songs that signify...all sorts of emotions. Sometimes, they're just plan silly. But he's so mastered all these mannerisms that they transcend mere shtick. In the middle of a couple of songs, including a serious one, "You Can't Fail Me Now," he retuned a guitar string a bit, and he did it while barely breaking his stride, and with a big grin on his face. It barely disturbed the feel of the song at all. He once said in an interview that all his facial ticks were, at the beginning of his career, the expression of very real nervousness and stage fright. Over time, though, he began to realize that he could control all the ticks, and they have since become very much a part of his performance repertoire. In any case, Loudon was in fine form last night, very funny and passionate.

His set focused on newer material, for the most part. He played 3 of the 10 Songs from the New Depression (2010) which, he did not tire of telling us, were his attempt to cash in on the current economic downturn. These included the very best one of those 10, "House," which was a highlight of his performance with Richard Thompson at the Calvin back in October. Along with "Moving Day," he did "High Wide and Handsome" and "Rowena" from the Charlie Poole album. He also played the first three songs from Strange Weirdos (2007), "Gray in L.A.," "You Can't Fail Me Now," and "Daughter," and my favorite two songs from Last Man on Earth, "Surviving Twin" and "White Winos," the latter being a song that always gets requested at the man's shows. Someone at the back of the Iron Horse cried out for it rather forcefully, early in the set, prompting Loudon to very gently explain that perhaps he'd play it a bit later on, that he in fact had been considering playing it later that evening, and that he probably would. "But, in the meantime...SECURITY!"

Family is Loudon's great theme. All of his talents are on full display when he mines this topic, one that few singer-songwriters really address, and no singer-songwriter gets into with the depth that LWIII does. Last night, he played songs about being a father ("A Father and a Son"), a father's son ("Surviving Twin," "Dead Man"), a mother's son ("White Winos"), a grandchild ("Nanny"), and a brand new grandfather (a new song; can't remember the title). After a little recap of his own father's career as a Life Magazine columnist, he played his dad's song "Handful of Dust," which is from the History album (1990). But most moving of all was when he put down the guitar and sat at the piano to play "Another Song in C." That was the most powerful moment of the concert for me, a performance that conjured/elicited/displayed laughter, sadness, anger and regret. It was the greatest moment from the last time I saw him at the Iron Horse, and it was the highlight from last night too.

He played several songs that he has yet to record, including "Another Song in C" and the one inspired by his having become a grandfather. He debuted a powerful anti-drunk driving song that, I imagine, will be called "The Cross." And, much to my delight, he played the song that describes the mishap with his guitar. Check it out.

A couple of other tidbits....About halfway through the set, he introduced his teenage daughter, who was sitting at a table across the room from me. Apparently, they were taking some time during the tour to visit colleges, including Amherst and Williams. He wondered aloud how he was going to pay for it, before giving us (and, probably more to the point, his daughter) a big smile and saying, "we'll figure it out somehow!" Rufus came up a couple of time. First, he introduced "A Father and a Son" by saying that the song was about Rufus and himself, also prompting him to marvel at the fact that the song was over 20 years old. Then, in the middle of "Nanny," he inserted a spoken word interlude in which he described his grandmother's reaction to hearing the name of her first great-grandchild: "Rufus? RUFUS? That's a DOG'S name!" And he showed off his sharpie to us several times, letting us know that he'd be happy to sign the CDs that he had for sale. And he'd even pose for a photo, even from a cell phone "as long as you're under 30 and actually know how to work the damn thing!"

For the two-part encore, he gave us "Tip That Waitress," followed by "Middle of the Night," which is one of the New Depression songs.

I see from his website that he'll be back in New England in March of 2011, for gigs with Shawn Colvin at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, MA and at Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT. I'll be sure to get to one of those. You should too.

Red Horse Art

In Mike Regenstreif's review of the new Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka, Lucy Kapalansky collaboration, Red Horse, he points out that Tom Russell (see my post here) did the cover art. (And in fact, the cover art is instantly recognizable as a Tom Russell painting if you've seen Tom's other work, which is an impressive thing to be able to say about an artist, I think.)

What Mike did not mention was that the interior photo of the band was taken by ... Ellen! Yay Ellen!

For more on Red Horse, see the Red House Records website.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hot Tuna w/ Steve Earle @ The Shubert Theater, New Haven CT, July 23rd, 2010

I took the hour-long drive to New Haven last night to check out electric Hot Tuna. After the powerful experience I had at the sold-out Beacon Theater show last December, I was thirsty for more. At that show, I was sitting a few rows back in the balcony, and the sound was so loud and intense that, last night, by the time I walked into the theater, I was regretting not bringing earplugs. After all, for the New Haven show, I was sitting in the fifth row of the orchestra, dead center. Was I about to suffer ear damage?

The opening act was Steve Earle. I haven’t seen this guy in over a decade. I think the last time I saw him was in Newport, back in 1999. He was playing with a bluegrass band then. It wasn’t Del McCoury, who he recorded the excellent The Mountain (1999) with…..Ok, I just looked it up: he was there with Tim O’Brian and the Bluegrass Dukes. Here’s a pic from my archives:

Anyway, there was no band this time. Just him, his harmonicas, and a few stringed instruments: guitars, mandolins, and a bouzouki—which, he joked later in his set, you can’t call a bouzouki at the airport if you want to stay out of trouble. I don’t know the Steve Earle cannon particularly well, so I was happy that I recognized about half the songs. The high point for me actually came early, as he opened with “Christmas in Washington.” I’m so used to hearing Joan Baez’s version of this song that it took my ears a minute to adjust to Earle’s voice but, when they did, I found myself singing along. Toward the end, he encouraged us all to sing, which a few of us did. After that came “The Devil’s Right Hand,” eliciting big cheers. An excellent one-two punch to begin.

Earle played for about 75 minutes, a long opening set. He sounded great, slurring and moaning and playing some good guitar. He was in a conversational mood, too. He took the time to talk about the deli down the street where he lived in Brooklyn, and the Korean gentleman, Mr. Kim, who took the time to learn fluent Spanish to go along with his Korean and English, in order to get by in the city. A fine introduction to “City of Immigrants,” performed on the aforementioned bouzouki. He talked about Townes van Zandt, whose songs he played exclusively on his latest album, Townes (2009). He compared the task of playing “Pancho and Lefty” to attacking the biggest, toughest guy in your cell block in order to get respect of your fellow prisoners (or something like that). He talked about asking Townes where he learned a different song (that I didn’t know) that led him to ask relatives and friends of relatives, and on down the line to find its origins. He talked about Afghanistan, before giving us “Rich Man’s War.” He talked about the Lewis and Clark expedition before announcing that it had nothing to do with the next song, “You Know the Rest,” other than that they both exposed the b.s. of the doctrine of manifest destiny. He took up the mandolin to play “Dixieland” from The Mountain, which I was happy about. This was Earle the folkie, not Earle the rocker, and he’s good, real good, in this mode. I would go see him again if the opportunity came up. This breaks the streak of Tuna openers whose solo acoustic performances have gotten lost in bigger venues (I’m thinking of Loudon Wainwright back in December and, back in 2002, Chris Smither at the NYC Thanksgiving show).

On to the opening act…Jorma Kaukonen and The Barry Mitterhoffs. Seriously, folks, Jorma seems to really like this guy’s playing. I do too. He gets some very juicy solos, and he plays a variety of electric guitars and mandolins. Not to take anything away from G.E. Smith or Jorma himself, but Barry has the least stage presence of any of the Tuna gang while playing some of the best guitar. Jorma and Jack have staked their claim to history, and now Barry and G.E. have clearly given them new life. And Skoota Warner is my favorite Tuna drummer, with all due respect to Harvey Sorgen and Eric Diaz.

Contrary to my fears, the band did not, to paraphrase Spinal Tap’s “Heavy Duty,” make my eardrums bleed. I guess because the Shubert Performing Arts Center is so much smaller than the Beacon, and the show was noticeably not sold out, the band didn’t feel the need to pump the amps up to 11 (to paraphrase Tap once again). Here’s the setlist with my commentary:

1. Serpent of Dreams—-A most unexpected opener, but a great one. Jorma’s guitar started it off, with Barry on electric guitar too, and pretty soon, the intertwining guitars of Jorma, Barry, and G.E. were filling the theater with the spooky, psychedelic sounds of my favorite song from America’s Choice (1975). When Skoota and Jack burst in, the crowd erupted with applause.

2. I Know You Rider—-The instrumental portion of this one went on and on, with Skoota upping the tempo, and each of the stringmen given room to solo. Guess whose solo knocked my socks off? Barry’s, that’s whose. He was on the mandolin for this one, if I recall correctly.

3. I Wish You Would—-In my mind’s ear and eye, I’ll never forget this one as the opener to the 2009 NYC show that wowed me back in December. It didn’t rip my ears off this time, and thank goodness for that, but it was still the first really raucous moment of the night.

4. Ode To Billy Dean—-As near as I can remember, I haven’t heard this one live since the very first time I saw them, back in 1999. This was Jorma’s moment to shine, and his singing and solos were prime.

5. Long Gone Blues—-a G.E. Smith song with a very simple riff and some great singing from the man. During this one, I decided that I loved what G.E. Smith brings to the group, and I hope he stays.

6. Living Just For You—-one of Tuna’s most upbeat numbers, and one that brings back great memories from high school, listening to The Phosphorescent Rat (1973) on my headset, delighting in this new band I’d discovered, that no one else knew about. Also with a great Barry solo.

7. Hesitation Blues—-a favorite of the Tuna audience, Tuna themselves, and me. After each of the first two verses, there were solos from Barry and G.E. And after the next one, with Jack and Skoota revving the tempo, Jorma took off too. It’s always a thrill to hear this one.

8. Bowlegged Woman, Knock-kneed Man—-The rest of the band stood back at first, letting Jack repeat the funky bass part a number of times over, before joining in. Jorma stood watching him for a few seconds, hands in his pockets. This one also featured G.E.’s best moment as a supporting player, hammering out a great rhythm part, playing big fat chords against Jack’s bass.

9. Talkin’ Bout You—-…thereby completing a two-fer from Hoppkorv (1976). Less funk than the previous song, and more rock. This is a Chuck Berry song which, in its original recording, manages to be both rocking and funky. But then, that’s Chuck Berry for you. Another great one to hear live.

10. Arrowhead—-What a treat to hear Hot Tuna play this one. Yes, this is the Richard Shindell song, here performed by G.E., with an added verse: “Mama, there’s a rope around my neck / They say this is what deserters get / There’s a white horse resting between my knees / A crack of the whip, then I’ll be free / Mama, there’s a rope around my neck.” I’ve heard a rumor that Tuna is recording a new album. I would LOVE to hear them record this song.

11. Funky #7-—I think of this as having become the standard set-closer for electric Hot Tuna. And why not? It’s funky as hell, it features one of Jack’s best post-Jefferson Airplane’s bass licks, the lyrics are cool, it moves from funky rock to hard-driving rock, and it gives everyone, including Skoota, a chance to solo. More kickass playing from all the guitarists, with Barry in particular soaring away. The high point of the jam came when Jack and Skoota played a slow, quiet duet for about a minute, before the other guys joined in, Jack signaling for them to do so by playing the key lick at a high volume. Thus did America's Choice songs begin and end the show.

Prior to the finale, Jack did the stage introductions, with Jorma introducing Jack as “Jack Twinkle-toes Cassady.” No effort to hawk merchandise, and very little banter during the entire show, although, a few songs in, Jorma walked up to the mike and said, “Hot Tuna….Fuck yeah,” and gave the “devil’s horns” sign. Hilarious moment. Everyone, on and off the stage, laughed. Throughout the set, Jorma walked among his bandmates in between songs, having little conversations with each of them, just as I saw him do back at the Beacon. There were definitely a couple of moments where the band members looked a bit distracted and called crew members onto the stage to fix little things having to do with the mikes and the wires....All that aside, the band sounded great. I couldn't help but grin at Barry Mitterhoff, dressed in beige shirt and slacks, with his big glasses, looking very focused as he tore through incredible solo after incredible solo. Occasionally, he'd bop or rock back and forth as he got into things, and he and G.E. would exchange little smiles from time to time. He may not look 100% comfortable rocking out, but he sure as hell sounds comfortable! I read an interview with him in which he talked about how he's never soloed as much in a band-type situation as he has with Tuna. To repeat: he sounds fabulous.

No encore, in spite of some loud demands for one, and some whooping and hollering that extended beyond the lights having gone up. I wondered if this was, like the Beacon, a union hall. I checked Jorma’s website to see if he had anything to say about that…answer: yup.

This was my 8th Hot Tuna concert; four acoustic shows and, as of last night, four electric ones. I’ll be returning for more, of both varieties, and, in the meantime, I hope the rumor of a new album is more than just a rumor.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Varese Lives!

Allan Kozinn's review of the two-night more-than-complete Varese retrospective at the Lincoln Center Festival is terrific.

He situates Varese well, writing,
Varèse has long been a name to conjure with in new-music circles, and elsewhere too: the rock musician and composer Frank Zappa consistently cited him among his influences and published a touchingly naïve but enthusiastic essay, “Edgard Varèse: The Idol of My Youth,” about his early encounters with his music, and an attempt to meet Varèse himself. The brassy pop band Chicago admired him too, saying that Varèse expanded the group’s ideas about what was possible, and opening its fifth album with a song called “A Hit by Varèse.”
And then he describes the music itself quite articulately:
But one difference between Varèse and other modernists (and particularly Serialists) is that when Varèse’s music is not being assertively noisy it is built of shapely, smoothly flowing melodies rather than the angularity that characterizes so much contemporary music. Yes, these are wildly dissonant works. ... But perhaps audiences tolerate dissonance so long as a work offers melody and structure, and those were elements Varèse never abandoned.
He compliments the New York Philharmonic:
Mr. [Alan] Gilbert and the Philharmonic turned up to show — as it did in Ligeti’s “Grande Macabre” a few weeks ago — what this orchestra can do when it steps away from the 19th-century canon. The rumble, roar and magnificent intricacy of “Ionisation” and “Octandre” (1923) were thrilling for their drive and textural changeability. But the real highlight was “Amériques,” usually a barnstormer — or, really, a tornado that hurls a barn across a field — but here offered as a subtle essay in the distance between brutal volume and gentle delicacy.
And he even cites a Speculum Musicae concert of Varese's music at Miller Theatre from a decade ago.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Two Man Gentlemen Band in Lafayette, Indiana

I was a little unsure about whether or not I was ready to make the 100-mile (in each direction) drive from Urbana to Lafayette, Indiana, to see The Two Man Gentlemen Band. But after consulting with several of our graduate students, I realized that, of course, I had to go -- when was I going to get to see these guys again?

So I weathered some serious weather on I-74 heading into Indiana, but having forgotten that I would be transitioning from Central to Eastern Time, I couldn't let that get in my way. I had to get to The Black Sparrow. With the lightning still flashing in my rearview mirror, I made my way to what is actually a charming little pub in downtown Lafayette, across the river from Purdue University.

The Gentlemen had not started yet. As I ordered my first Pabst Blue Ribbon beer of the night, they descended from their dressing room, and we had a fond reunion. They were looking dapper. Andy Bean has discovered the magic of hair product and well-manicured sideburns -- he was ready to wheel and deal, to wine and dine, to pay to play...

The crowd was enthusiastic. There was the right amount of energy in the room -- a few people shouting things out to harass the band ("Are we accepting heckles tonight?" Bean asked the Councilman at one point. And at another, he asked, "WTF are you laughing about? I'm making jazz up here!") but not so many that the music suffered. I was seated at a table full of folks who had not seen them before, and they were near instant converts, buying a couple of TMGB discs at the intermission.

The band's playing was terrific. There have been a few changes since last I saw them. Bean has switched from the tenor banjo to a National steel plectrum guitar -- same tuning, but he uses a pick-up and ends up with much more of a jazz guitar sound on it. Although I was hoping that the banjo would make an appearance at some point, I definitely thought that the switch to the tenor guitar was for the better. The sound was crisper and cleaner, and Bean's excellent playing could really come through. He was reminding me of the mighty Matt Munisteri (see my posts here and here) at times -- I was impressed. Bean also has traded in his kazoo for the mouth trumpet, which he played with aplomb. (Have no fear, though: Fuller Condon keeps the kazoo tradition alive.) The Councilman was playing excellent bass throughout, and the energy was just right for the night.

They had just passed their 140,000 mile manniversary in the minivan that afternoon -- "It's so great to find a purely Platonic manfriend to travel around the country with," Bean told us all. A fair amount of the material was from their new CD, Dos Amigos, Una Fiesta.

The setlist went like this:
  • Let's Make a Sandwich
  • Me, I Get High on Reefer
  • Prime Numbers
  • Big Strong Man - sung by The Councilman
  • Chocolate Milk - a jazzy spelling song
  • William Howard Taft - Bean channeled Sam Cooke at one point
  • Dinah
  • Leisure Class
  • Into My Minivan
  • Drip Dryin'
  • They Can't Prohibit Love
  • There's Something in My Trousers
  • A Gentle Stomp - hot playing
  • I Like to Party with Girls
  • The Hindenberg Disaster
  • My Baby's Off the Market

    --Set Break--

  • Going Into Business
  • Can't Give You Anything But Love
  • Rabbit Feet - with new John Cougar Mellencamp ending
  • Wine, Oh Wine!
  • There'll Be Time for Lovin'
  • Yessir, That's My Baby
  • Stuff Your Ballot Box
  • Franklin Pierce
  • Jewel of 45th Avenue
  • Chinatown, My Chinatown
  • War of Northern Aggression - different melody
  • I Can Get Drunk & I Can Sing Songs
  • Fancy Beer

  • ENCORE: Folsom Prison Blues - with guest vocals from famed Lafayette producer Dustin
  • Corn Liquor

There is an impressive about of Two Man music up on YouTube. This one, though, captures the live energy quite well:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Womenfolk's First Few Tuesdays

As Matt pointed out in his May 23rd blog posting, I've been rather remiss about posting my playlists from my radio show on KFAI. Now that I've gotten settled in my new Tuesday 2-4 pm time slot, I thought I'd catch y'all up on what I've been playing on Womenfolk.

As you'll see in the playlists below, I've been playing some summertime songs and also had a live performance by The Flyin' A's from Austin, TX. Tomorrow Boston songwriter Meg Hutchinson joins me in the studio to talk about her new Billboard-charting album, her upcoming Lilith Fair performance and what inspires her poetic songwriting. Hope you can catch this special in-studio visit by tuning in via the live webstream or the archives here.


WOMENFOLK: Summertime Special (July 13, 2010)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Every Tuesday, 2-4 pm
*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

*New Releases
**Womenfolk Theme Song

**Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem - Cocktail Swing
album: Cocktail Swing; label: Signature Sounds

Joan Baez - The Lily of the West
album: Ring Them Bells; label: Guardian

Lucy Wainwright Roche - WIld Mountain Thyme
album: 8 Songs; label: Self

Eliza Gilkyson - Wildewood Spring
album: Beautiful World; label: Red House

Red Molly - Summertime
album: Love and Other Tragedies; label: Self

Gillian Welch - Summer Evening
album: Going Driftless; label: Red House

*Sara Watkins - Long Hot Summer Days
album: Sara Watkins; label: Nonesuch

Womenfolk Find: *The Chapin Sisters - Let Me Go
album: Oh, Hear the Wind Blow; label: Self

Kathleen Edwards - Summerlong
album: Back to Me; label: Zoe

Beth Amsel - End of July
album: The Reverie; label: Good Egg Music

Dar Williams - Teen for God
album: My Better Self; label: Razor & Tie

The Nields - Innertube
album: Play; label: Zoe

Maddy Prior - Swimming Song
album: Year; label: Park Records

Behind Women's Calendar: *Lissa Schneckenburger - Fisher's Hornpipe
album: Dance; label: Footprint Records

*Lissa Schneckenburger - Jamie Allen
album: Dance; label: Footprint Records

Janis Joplin - Summertime
album: The Woodstock Experience: Janis Joplin; label: Sony

Lucinda Williams - Fruits of My Labor
album: Live @ The Fillmore; label: Lost Highway

*The Flyin' A's - Ain't That Something
album: Live in the Studio; label: KFAI

*The Flyin' A's - So Long
album: Live in the Studio; label: KFAI

*Court Yard Hounds - The Coast
album: Court Yard Hounds; label: Columbia

The Sacred Shakers - Travelin' Shoes
album: The Sacred Shakers; label: Signature Sounds

*Anne McCue - Motorcycle Dream
album: Broken Promise Land; label: Flying Machine! Records

*Natalie Merchant - Bleezer's Ice Cream
album: Leave Your Sleep; label: Nonesuch

Marcia Ball - Peace, Love & BBQ
album: Peace, Love & BBQ; label: Alligator

**Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem - Cocktail Swing
album: Cocktail Swing; label: Signature Sounds


WOMENFOLK (July 6, 2010)
Hosted by Ellen Stanley
Fresh Air Community Radio, KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis/106.7 FM St. Paul
Every Tuesday, 2-4 pm
*New Releases

Sharon Shannon - The Whitestrand Sling
album: Libertango; label: Compass

*The Wailin' Jennys - Summertime
album: Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House; label: Red House

Annabelle Chvostek - Racing With the Sun
album: Resilience; label: Borealis

Po' Girl - Malaise Days
album: Live; label: Self

Ferron - Where Is Maria?
album: Going Driftless: An Artist's Tribute to Greg Brown; label: Red House

Shawn Colvin - One Cool Remove
album: Cover Girl; label: Columbia

*Mary Chapin Carpenter - We Traveled So Far
album: The Age of Miracles; label: Zoe

Womenfolk Find: *The Chapin Sisters - Bird Song
album: Oh, Hear the Wind Blow; label: Self

The Weepies - Little Bird
album: Hideaway; label: Nettwerk

Alison Krauss - You Will Be My Ain True Love
album: A Hundred Miles or More; label: Rounder

Crooked Still - Ain't No Grave
album: Shaken By a Low Sound; label: Signature Sounds

*Dixie Chicks - Sin Wagon
album: Playlist: The Very Best of Dixie Chicks; label: Sony

Gillian Welch & Alison Krauss - I'll Fly Away
album: Down From the Mountain; label: Lost Highway

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - The Devil's Inside My Head
album: Rattlin' Bones; label: Sugar Hill

Behind Women's Calendar: *Jelloslave - Purple Orange
album: Purple Orange; label: Self

*Monroe Crossing - Purple Rain
album: Heart Ache & Stone; label: Self

Dale Ann Bradley - I Won't Back Down
album: Don't Turn Your Back; label: Compass

Lucy Kaplansky - Swimming Song
album: Over the Hills; label: Red House

*Red Horse - I Am a Child
album: Red Horse; label: Red House

Eilen Jewell - Sea of Tears
album: Sea of Tears; label: Signature Sounds

Big Mama Thornton - Hound Dog
album: Hound Dog: The Peacock Recordings; label: MCA

Bonnie Raitt - Kokomo Blues
album: Philadelphia Folk Festival 40th Anniversary; label: Sliced Bread Records

*Chastity Brown - By the Train Tracks
album: High Noon Teeth; label: Self

Louise Taylor - Fire Box Coal Train
album: Velvet Town; label: Signature Sounds

Eliza Gilkyson - Runaway Train
album: Beautiful World; label: Red House

Davina & the Vagabonds - Back to Memphis
album: Live @ The Times; label: Self

*Patty Griffin - Move Up
album: Downtown Church; label: Credential Recordings

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chatham County Line Announces Appreciation for New Haven Pizza

My father reports from the Green River Festival in Greenfield, Massachusetts, that Dave Wilson, the lead singer and guitar swinger from Chatham County Line, announced at the end of their set, "Well, we've gotta get out of here now. We're playing in New Haven later tonight and we have to get there early enough to have pizza at Pepe's Apizza."

Excellent initiative, but one thing, Dave... It's pronounced "Sally's"...

(For more on Chatham County Line, see this post.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wild Accompaniment at the MN Zoo

I've been at the Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater three times in a week, MC-ing for some pretty sweet shows presented by Sue McLean & Associates, including Joan Baez, Greg Brown and Mary Chapin Carpenter with local boys The Pines.

I was contemplating just setting up a cot with the bears, but there was actually plenty of wildlife without adding more excitement to the mix. Here's a log of the animal activity during the shows:

1) No summer show in Minnesota would be complete without our state bird--the mosquito. The afternoon storms brought them out in full force the night of Mary Chapin Carpenter's show. Luckily she came prepared and walked out with a big can of bug spray.

2) During Mary Chapin's set there was a bullfrog that must have been right at the lagoon by the stage, and it went all night long, providing a steady beat--sometimes with the music, sometimes not.

3) Just as everyone was getting used to our friend the bullfrog, a bird let out an awful cry and dive-bombed the audience, just missing our heads before swooping down the stage--at which point, Mary Chapin pulls out the bug spray and gets everyone laughing. I didn't get a good look at the bird, but Jennette who was with me said it was a duck, which seemed crazy to me. I found out later that it was a mamma that got separated from her ducklings. Later the zoo was able to reunite the family--a happy ending.

4) Before Greg Brown got on stage last Friday, I was telling him about the duck incident, and he said that he remembered doing a show at St. Paul's World Theater (now the Fitzgerald Theater) where a bat flew at him. Sure enough, when Greg was in the middle of his set Scott and I spotted a bat flying about. He seemed to leave the band alone, though.

5) When Joan Baez got on stage this Tuesday, she said she heard about the bullfrog from Mary Chapin's show, and she was hoping to hear one during her set. She then proceeded to do the best human imitation of a bullfrog I've ever heard. We never did hear a real bullfrog during her set, but when Emily and I were walking back from scoring free fries from the closing food kiosk, we heard an animal let out some crazy groaning sound that we never did identify. My best guess--a moose.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nice Tribute to Composer Jack Beeson

Peter Davis's tribute to the late Jack Beeson in today's Times is worth a read.

I really do not know Beeson's music -- I simply knew him as a character who would occasionally walk through the doors of Miller Theatre to receive a particularly warm George Steel greeting.

But Davis does a great job of describing what made Beeson an excellent composition teacher and also nicely portrays the Columbia music department at the time, citing the diverse set of then-young composers who were crossing College Walk around the same time as him.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Matt Turino Playing Great Fiddle Music at the Urbana Farmers Market

Although you can't tell it here, Matt also was doing a great job dancing out the rhythm. Apologies for not knowing the banjo player's name.

Update: Bubba passes along word that Ben Leddy is the banjo player here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

James McMurtry at The Highdive in Champaign

Having driven past Champaign's Highdive before, I thought that I would be walking into a divey bar with a corner stage. Instead I walked into a big, beautiful and hoppin' space with a high tin ceiling, artistic red lighting, a raised stage and a serious sound system. I was there to see James McMurtry for the first time.

The opening act was Jonny Burke, a songwriter and guitarist from Austin. His website features a pull quote asking if "Keith Richards [has] become revitalized with one of his notorious blood transfusions," and the way that Burke came out ready to rock makes it a fair comparison. He received serious support from Corey Cooke on drums and a bassist. The threesome worked well: Burke laying down heavy blues lines on the guitar, bouncing off the bass lines and being pushed along by some really high-quality drumming.

They started off with two rockers, switched to two acoustic numbers and then played "The Long Haul" and "El Paso" from his debut EP. Those two songs were both quite catchy -- a bit formulaic perhaps, but it was a formula that was working. After another acoustic number, the band wrapped up the set with a raw and rumbling blues medley.

James McMurtry appeared on stage with a similar line-up: his lead guitar (alternating electric and acoustic) plus bass and drums. And again it worked pretty damn well. His set was a mix of material from over the years. There wasn't much banter, but he wasn't unfriendly or distant either -- he was in his zone, and the crowd seemed to be loving it.

The set opened -- like his recent Live in Europe CD and the studio Just Us Kids from 2008 with "Bayou Tortous." After a solo acoustic version of "Ruby and Carlos" a little ways into the set, the band returned with a second guitarist to up the ante a little bit. They immediately rocked out on "Childish Things." He concluded the set with the classic "Too Long in the Wasteland," and then made us work for a while before coming out to encore with a solo version of "Lights of Cheyenne."

There are many amazing lyrics that I could quote from over the course of the night. The way that McMurtry conveys desolation and small town decay in "Hurricane Party" with the repeated line 'But now there's no one to talk to when the lines go down' is terrific songcraft. Or the nastiness of love gone wrong from a single verse of "Red Dress":
Yes I'm drunk but damn you're ugly.
Tell you one thing -- yes, I will --
Tomorrow morning I'll be sober;
You'll be just as ugly still.
McMurtry is a great lyricist without a doubt, and now I can also attest to the fact that he puts on a great live show, too.

The full set list:

  • "Bayou Tortous"

  • "Red Dress"

  • "Just Us Kids" - not as much applause as I might have expected for its opening line ('I've had enough of this small town bullshit')

  • "Hurricane Party"

  • "You'd a' Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)"

  • "Choctaw Bingo" - applause for Illinois mention

  • "Ruby and Carlos" - solo acoustic

  • "Childish Things"

  • "Fraulein O"

  • "Restless"

  • "Lobo Town" - described as country music for KISS fans

  • "Fireline Road"

  • "No More Buffalo"

  • "Too Long in the Wasteland"

  • ENCORE: "Lights of Cheyenne"

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ringo at 70 and The Beatles

Lots of talk about The Beatles vis-a-vis Ringo Starr turning 70. (Mostly people going, "Oh my God, I am so old...")

I enjoyed Eduardo Porter's quick reflection in today's Times, talking about the staying power of The Beatles, which really is quite an amazing thing. My father and I listened to Let It Be in the car yesterday en route to see an Irish session at the Playwright Irish Pub in Hamden, Connecticut, and I was thinking exactly about the lasting accessibility and excitement of the songs. Are they truly timeless? I'll report back when I'm 70, I guess...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rosanne Cash on Governor's Island

It was a hot day in New York City, and Governor's Island was the right place to be -- the shady quad and the cool breezes coming off the harbor made the day quite pleasant. In addition, my friend Abigail had packed an excellent picnic lunch. And as if all that wasn't enough, we were going to get to see Rosanne Cash play.

The band was sounding good during the soundcheck; they checked out all of the dynamics using a noodly version of "This Land is Your Land." Her husband John Leventhal was on electric guitar; a second guitarist, a bassist, a keyboardist and a drummer rounded out the group. The second guitarist had a pedal steel in front of him, and I kept waiting for him to shred on it during the show, but it didn't really happen. The sound of the Hammond organ added a lot to the show, and John Leventhal had some good chops on the guitar.

The set was straightforward. Rosanne started off with a number of songs from her most recent CD, The List, which (as we mentioned here) is based on a list of 100 songs that Rosanne's father, Johnny Cash, have her. Then she moved into some of her classic material, and she wrapped up the show with a cover of Harry Belafonte's "Man Smart (Woman Smarter)" for the encore.

The set list looked like this:
  • I'm Movin' On - played with a lot of jazzy sounds

  • Miss the Mississippi and You

  • Heartaches by the Number - great organ solo

  • Sea of Heartbreak

  • Bury Me Beneath the Willow - dedicated to the librarians in the audience who went wild

  • Girl from the North Country

  • Long Black Veil

  • Motherless Children - rocking out

  • Tennessee Flat Top Box

  • Burn Down This Town

  • Ode to Billie Joe

  • Dreams are Not My Home

  • The Wheel

  • A song that Roseanne hopes her daughter will record

  • 500 Miles

  • This Land is Your Land

  • ENCORE: Man Smart (Woman Smarter)

Update: Eliot in the comments writes: "Rosanne's band (in addition to John Leventhal) consisted of Rich Hinman, guitar, Tim Luntzel, bass, Dan Rieser, drums and John Cowherd, organ."

I had written down "John Coward" instead of "John Cowherd." I know that I've seen Tim Luntzel with various folks around the City over the years -- didn't catch that it was him up there on stage on Sunday. (Indeed in this post, I refer to him as an "excellent bassist" based on seeing him with Teddy Goldstein.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Taste of MN 2010

This year's Taste of Minnesota got a makeover this year with higher end food vendors and more music stages, including one presented by Red House Records and KFAI Radio. Here are some photos from the festivities...

The Red House Records & KFAI Stage had the best location on the Harriet Island festival grounds--right on the river with beautiful views and a constant breeze amidst the humid heat. The steps leading down to the water made for great seating and a sweet sounding amphitheater.

Guy Davis and I geek out over banjos

Guy Davis prepares for his live interview on Fox 9 News on Friday morning

M.A. Rosko interviews Guy live by the Red House & KFAI Stage

Marcus Wise & Nirmala Rajasekar kick off the stage on Friday

Dave Moore put on a great set. The highlight was when he answered his cell phone on stage, and says: "It's my good friend Ray Bonneville." Everyone cheers.

Guy Davis plays the blues and brings out the first banjo of the weekend!

Guy invites Dave Moore to play harp...

...and then Iowa City's Joe Price on electric guitar. Joe & Vicki Price did a great set prior to Guy.

Joe Price & Dave Moore chat with Red House president Eric Peltoniemi

Before Minnesota music legend Willie Murphy played his set, I got to introduce St. Paul's Mayor Chris Coleman--how cool!

Just before Mayor Coleman comes on stage, Willie lights up a big stogie.

Mayor Coleman declares July 2, 2010 Willie Murphy Day in the city of Saint Paul.

The Mayor congratulates Willie...

...and then sits down to enjoy Willie's smokin' set of soul and classic R&B.

His kickin' band brought out the crowds and was the perfect way to end our stage on the first day.

Saturday morning I arrived early with Doug & Telisha Williams for some live TV spots

Doug on the stage before the music starts, looking very epic

Doug & Telisha enjoy Charlie Parr's set with "Sneaky" Pete Bauer

Virginia duo Doug & Telisha Williams play in Minnesota for the first time and win over the crowd handily with their great Americana tunes and fun outfits

After a hot day at the Taste, Doug, Telisha and their dog Annabelle joined me for some cold beers and grilled Italian sausages. They parked their RV outside my place so we enjoyed some good times Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Eliza Blue does her sound check as a train goes by on the other side of the Mississippi River

Eliza Blue kicks things off Sunday morning with Mikkel Beckman joining her on washboard and other odd percussion. This was his third gig at the Taste; he also played with Jeff Ray & The Stakes and The Brass Kings.

Mikkel & Eliza listen to The High 48s great bluegrass set

After MC-ing and talking with folks for two days straight at the merch tent, I lost most of my voice by Sunday morning. Thankfully, after loading up on several kinds of tea, some odd Canadian lozenges and 10 bottles of water, I was able to power through and do my set with the Mother Banjo Band (featuring Jim Parker on mandolin & guitar, Jon Olson on electric bass and Eliza Blue on fiddle and vocals) at 3 pm. We ended with Bad Company's "Feel Like Making Love."

After Molly Maher & Her Disbelievers rocked and closed down the Red House Stage on Sunday, DJ Pam Hill and I enjoyed some free drinks and eats at the VIP area and heard the evening's main stage set (the only one I heard all weekend).

The Gin Blossoms kicked things off with a nice but not memorable set that included some of their old hits ("Found Out About You, "Allison Road," "Hey Jealousy"), making folks in their 30's (like me) and 40's feel happy and nostalgic. Needtobreathe followed them, but I didn't catch their set because I ran into former Ron and Jean, former hosts of KFAI's "Radio Rumpus Room."

Then the Counting Crows finished things off with a great set. Part of their "Traveling Circus and Medicine Show," the concert featured commercial Augustana (a favorite on commercial AAA stations like main stage sponsor Cities 97) and MC Mike Notar, who made my friends and I question if Vin Diesel had taken up a second career as a rapper (see this video to see what I mean). With perfect weather and a pretty surprising setlist (that included Van Morrison's "Caravan," Dylan's "Just Like a Woman," "This Land Is Your Land" and my favorite song of theirs--"Omaha"), it really was an awesome high energy show with some cool collaborations between the artists and lots of good energy on the 4th of July, including a nice call to action from Adam Duritz to get involved with local organizations like Open Arms of Minnesota and the Harriet Tubman Center. For more about the show, check out Jon Bream's review in the Star Tribune, which I thought was a pretty good accounting of the show.

Following close of show, the fireworks commenced on the water, and I made my way home.

The weather, which had managed to hold all weekend, finally let loose Monday afternoon, when Cafe Accordion Orchestra played. Luckily our stage was well set up for rain with a very large tent covering so it really just packed the crowds in tighter to the stage. We did have to cut their set a little short due to lightning (although lead man Dan Newton attributed to the polka he played...and the polka he was about to play). While we were huddled under the tent, waiting for the storm to pass, we noticed a raccoon floating down a large log down the river--he looked rather distressed by the whole situation.

After about 20 minutes we were able to start things up again, and Ray Bonneville rocked the stage to a very happy crowd. During this time, some of us noticed that the tent had accumulated an alarmingly large bulge in one corner of the tent (over some of the gear) so we got everyone to move away from that area of the tent. While we waited on the crew to deal with it, hometown boys The Pines started their grand finale set. Finally the crew showed up with one very large stick (seen here) to push the water off.

Playing with the full band (JT Bates on drums and James Buckley on upright bass), The Pines did a killer set, including a few new tunes. They closed out with "Going Home"--one of my favorites and a perfect way to end the festival.

Other local highlights of the weekend included Davina & The Vagabonds, Big George Jackson, The Roe Family Singers and The Brass Kings, proving that Minnesota music is tasty indeed. All in all a great weekend of music...and oh yeah, food.