Blogging at The Sound of Blackbirds

Several months ago I received and invitation from Matt Winters, formerly of the Moonshine Show at WKCR,  and the Ellen Stanley, of Womanfolk at KFAI, to contribute to their folk and bluegrass oriented blog, The Sound of Blackbirds.  Since this happened during my unintentional hiatus from music blogging there wasn’t much to do, but my inaugural post on the Low Anthem at Jazz Fest is now up.  Many thanks to Matt and Ellen for the invite!

I’ll keep posting music news and show reviews to The Sound of Blackbirds when I have them and place links to those posts here, but I encourage you to save the blog to your RSS aggregators.  The occasional non-TSOB post may still pop up here from time to time.

A Different Shade of Red

Big news in the local folk scene today.  The female trio, Red Molly, announced that founding member, Carolann Solebello will no longer perform with the group as they pursue a more nationally focused touring schedule.  The meat of the announcement that they sent out by email today is below:

“Many of you have commented on how much Red Molly is growing – playing larger venues, touring nationally, etc.  It’s true we’re getting lots of nice offers, and are eager to see how far we can go!  As Red Molly’s calendar shifts toward extended national tours, Carolann will no longer perform with the band, but will instead pursue solo opportunities that allow for greater balance between the two loves of her life – family and music.  Her final appearance with Red Molly will be in late July, at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.  Carolann invites anyone who wishes to stay in touch, or sign up on her e-mail list, to visit www.carolannsolebello.com.

We’re excited to announce that Austin-based singer/songwriter Molly Venter will be joining Red Molly!  Molly first caught Abbie’s attention as a New Folk Finalist at the 2008 Kerrville Folk Festival.  Laurie and Carolann met Molly for the first time in June 2008, when Molly opened for Red Molly in Arlington, VA, and both were stunned by the beauty and power of her voice.  That first opening slot led to eight more opening slots (in GA, AL, MI, OH, and MA), where Molly won over Red Molly’s audiences night after night, with her gorgeous singing and undeniable charm.”

Upstate Vinyl

Alison and I spent a few days before New Year’s at a converted barn near Ellenville, New York–across Monhonk    Mountain from where I grew up in New Paltz.  The barn was a great space with two bedrooms, an open sleeping loft, and an open kitchen-living room with a large fireplace downstairs.  One of the great features of the barn, in addition to the “read one, leave one” book collection and well-equipped kitchen, was the large vinyl collection.  Though it was heavy on 80s pop there were a number of rock and folk gems that we enjoyed while sipping wine in front of a well-stoked fire.  Below is fairly complete list of what we listened to.

We started off with “Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” by Phil Ochs.  I hadn’t known I was familiar with his stuff and enjoyed what turned out to be some familiar tunes.

I hadn’t listened to Janis Joplin’s Pearl in ages and it was one of my parents’ vinyl albums I listened to regularly.  They really don’t get much better than this.

Next came One Day At a Time by Joan Baez.

Home Free by Dan Fogelberg.

Breakfast on our first morning was cooked to Beggars Banquet.  It was nice to hear the album in full, contextualize the hits with the songs I didn’t know and hear the album the way it was first heard.

Linda Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel was on very heavy rotation and was the great discovery in the collection.  The album leads off with “You’re No Good,” moves on to a stirring version of “Dark End of the Street,” and peaks with the one-two punch of the tight harmonies on “When Will I Be Loved” and the what might be the best version of Little Feat’s “Willin'” out there.  It would have been worth driving to and from Ellenville only to discover this album.

Alarm Clock by Richie Havens came next.  I knew my dad was a fan but hadn’t heard much of Richie Havens.  I enjoyed alarm clock and we bought tickets to his show with John Gorka at Joe’s Pub once we got back to Brooklyn.

We also listened to Linda Ronstadt’s Different Drum.  It was good but it’s no Heart Like a Wheel.

I couldn’t resist listening to Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell though it did break the folky mood some.  All I can say is that this album really comes through well on vinyl.  The guitar solos just had a little something extra and the Scooter’s voice never sounded better.

John Denver’s Spirit.

We closed it out with Heart Like a Wheel, but before that we listened to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.  It made me want to relisten to all of their albums on vinyl.  It was just fantastic–deep and warm.

My Word Cloud Year in Music

Bruce and the Second Education

My friend Emma brings to my attention an editorial in today’s New York Times where David Brooks muses on the music of Bruce Springsteen as a cornerstone of his second, emotional rather than school-based, education.   Two paragraphs really resonated with me:

What mattered most, as with any artist, were the assumptions behind the stories. His tales take place in a distinct universe, a distinct map of reality. In Springsteen’s universe, life’s “losers” always retain their dignity. Their choices have immense moral consequences, and are seen on an epic and anthemic scale.

And:

Last week, my kids attended their first Springsteen concert in Baltimore. At one point, I looked over at my 15-year-old daughter. She had her hands clapped to her cheeks and a look of slack-jawed, joyous astonishment on her face. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing — 10,000 people in a state of utter abandon, with Springsteen surrendering himself to them in the center of the arena.

It begins again.

I appreciate the first paragraph as a genuine and thoughtful interpretation of Bruce’s music–though one not completely in line with my own thoughts.   The second paragraph, however, is great simply by virtue of the fact that it captures the both the experience one has for the first time seeing the Boss and seeing others see him for the first time.  What was great though, was that with the last sentence it becomes clear that all the joy Brooks is expressing in the piece is really the joy in his belief that his daughter is now going to experience some version of his interactions with Bruce’s music.  Is it sometimes wrong for parents to want their children to follow in their footsteps?  Maybe, but not here.

Anthony Da Costa Residency at the Living Room – August 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th 2009

anthonydacosta4_largeAnthony Da Costa‘s recent “first four Mondays” August residency at the Living Room in Manhattan was excellent.  It included a number of guests appearances, most notably Anthony’s longtime collaborator Abbie Gardner (nights 2 and 4) and singer-songwriter A. J. Roach (night 2) as well as a fiddler on the first night who’s name I cannot recall and Oliver Hill (?), an undergraduate at Yale, who played viola on night 4.  Anthony, who’s most recent album, “Not Afraid of Nothing,” was released just before the series started closed each evening with a sing-a-long including “Just Like a Woman” on night 3 and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” on night 4.  The nights were a mix of ADC classics like “Upstate Living” and “Devil’s Won” and well selected covers by A.J. Roach, Johnny Cash (Long Black Vail on night 3 was full of wonderful harmonies), and others.

However, what made the series so memorable was that it was confirmation that Anthony has entered into a new stage in his career and his development.  Gone from his songs are what I used to think of as the “young moments” that would sometimes crack through the well-developed lyrics and song structures that have men past mid-life calling Anthony “an old soul.”  Anthony’s lyrics still have moments that give me a jolt, but now it’s because his leap forward seems to have allowed him to access a set of images and feelings that are moments suggestive of reflection and experience that most adults probably never have.  They add a raw touch to Anthony’s songs that, for a moment, pull you out of the aesthetic he has created and remind you that he is exercising solid control over his songs and audiences.  All of this has me excited for the New York chapter of Anthony’s career which will begin in a few weeks when he begins at Columbia.  After he and Abbie debut Denmark.

Dangerous at Bowery Ballroom – August 1st, 2009

Dangerous

Making Dangerous Happen

On Saturday Matt and Sarah and I headed from the most excellent XO in Chinatown to the Bowery Ballroom for the all metal tribute to Michael Jackson which is Dangerous.  After seeing Satanicide a few months ago I was pretty sure we were in for an irreverent but energetic evening.  At the same time there was a little bit of trepidation as well.  Satanicide wasn’t exactly gentle when it came to its ironic commentary on metal so I was a little nervous about the type of humor that was sure to be in the show.  As it turned out some gags definitely pushed the envelope, some were clever, and some made me cringe.

The entire band was in costume and the crowd favorite might have been keytar player and multi-instrumentalist “Neverland Raunch” who wore leather chaps and not much else.  The night was filled with special guests including an Axl Rose (not of Mr. Brownstone, the GNR tribute band), Tammy Fay Starlight, Vixen Neal of Girls! Girls! Girls, the Motley Crue tribute band, Slash (perhaps of Mr. Brownstone), and several others including one female vocalist who did a killer version of Smooth Criminal.  The show ended with We Are the World done in true ensemble style with the crowd eventually on the stage.

Set list below:

  • Thriller
  • Rock with You
  • Off the Wall (?)
  • Don’t Stop till you Get Enough
  • Billie Jean – w/ Vixen Neil of Girls! Girls! Girls!
  • Black and White
  • Smooth Criminal – Amazing guest vocalist on this one.  Don’t know who she was
  • I’ll be There (with a nice foray into Night Ranger’s ‘Sister Christian’)
  • Bad
  • Beat It – The guitar soloist on Beat It, we were told was the guy that did all the guitar shredding on Beavis and Butthead and his solo made my jaw drop.
  • Encore: We are the World