Thursday, February 25, 2010

CD Review: Carrie Newcomer, Before & After

One the the most prolific, and possibly unknown artists, operating in the Americana\Folk genre is Carrie Newcomer, who just released her twelve CD for Rounder Records: Before & After. In the past we have liked Newcomer's material because at times it can be serious, other times comical, and then sometimes pays tribute to older styles. Her latest CD is no different and the title track even includes an appearance by Mary Chapin Carpenter. The duo provides impressive harmonies. The other tracks were also impression - clear acoustics and excellent vocals, all the while telling an important story. I really liked the second track, Ghost Train - I guess I like train songs. But this song speaks to anyone with a transient nature (pack it up and move along). The next few tracks, I Do Not Know Its Name; Stones in the River; and If Not Now move along nicely. They almost blend together - her vocals are sweet. Love the lyrics in A Small Flashlight - - we will find our way with a small flashlight - now that's life. The next few tracks were just nice, easy listening music; none really standing out - but all worth repeating. But Do No Harm immediately grabbed my attention; something about this song - a sad tale of innocence. The final two songs portray her lighter side, I Wish I May I Wish I Might and A Crash of Rhinoceros, with the later being silly enough that my son loves it. In sum, this is a worthwhile CD; some may think her other compilations are deeper - but for pure musical enjoyment - don't pass this up. I can't wait to see a live show.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2010 Everglades Bluegrass Festival

This weekend (February 25-28) we will be covering the 2010 South Beach Wine & Food Festival for and while searching for music options in the area, discovered that the 2010 Everglades Bluegrass Festival will be held over the same period. The festival is sponsored by the South Florida Bluegrass Association and is held at Haulover Park in north Miami Beach. Tickets range from $20 to $45 depending on whether a single day or entire weekend ticket is purchased. The lineup consists of local and national talent - particularly the headliner - Three time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year Dale Ann Bradley. Then there's Junior Sisk, 2009 IBMA Guitar Player of the Year Josh Williams Band, the Jackson Family Band: Lonesome Meadow, and James Rogers. Hopefully we can steal away from the wine and spirits to listen to some home grown music.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

NPR All Songs Considered - Tiny Desk Concerts

One of the weekly music podcasts I download is NPR's All Songs Considered, hosted by Bob Boilen. Boilen plays mostly pop songs which helps to expand our musical horizon - and at times he introduces us to artists that we start to follow quite closely. He also has accumulated a broad range of musical knowledge in which he imparts to the listener. They are always entertaining shows. Boilen also provides a video podcast called Tiny Desk Concerts which are filmed out of the NPR Music office. This is an interesting setting, the artists feel like they are playing next to you and the video sometimes contains and occasional outside noise - like an ambulance.

The specific podcast that caught my attention was David Rawlings and Gillian Welch. What an awesome performance; I sat mesmerized watching my tiny ipod. That weekly download also included Brooklyn Rider and The Low Anthem. These forced me to take a look at the archive. What a lineup - if that's what you call it. Sarah Siskind, The Avett Brothers, and one I will never erase, Ralph Stanley. Wow.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Evening with Tony Trischka

One of our favorite contemporary artists thriving in the bluegrass arena is Tony Trischka; although we hesitate to label him completely in this genre. For Trischka plays and is influenced by several music styles from the hillbilly music of A.P. Carter and the Stanley Brothers, to folk, to blues, to the traditional bluegrass of Bill Monroe. And his latest CD, Territory, showcases these influences. It includes a blues based fox chase, Celtic folk, classic Bill Monroe, an unlikely fusion of Earl Scruggs and Etta Baker, some West African kora and Hawaiian slide guitar, and, of course, some double banjo as in his Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular. Plus plenty of Mike and Pete Seeger. No wonder it was awarded Best Americana Album of the year from the Independant Music Awards.

Music from this CD was on full display during his appearance at Jammin' Java. But what is also appealing about the artist is that it's just not Trischka and his banjo. This is a band - fiddle, guitar, and bass - all grouped around a single mic as in the old time style. Michael Daves on guitar provides most of the singing and can even get up there with the Monroe vocals. Besides several songs from Territory and the Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular, they also paid tribute to The Carter Family with Foggy Mountain Top and Bill Monroe with Close By. They also played a couple waltzes, even integrating a Vienna waltz to honor the venue's location. The show was well worth not only my cover but my son's - who loved the fiddle. We hope to see Trischka and his band later this summer.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sing For Their Supper Tour

Many artists find unconventional means to promote themselves and we received a press release today which proves artists or their managers have a good imagination. Americana singer-songwriter Israel Nash Gripka and indie garage rockers The Fieros will be performing for food, one full meal in exchange for a few sons. They envision expanding their audience to where people dine:

Everyone eats food,” says Gripka. “So we’re going to bring our music to them, while they’re dining, for a completely different way of performing and listening to music and meeting people across the country.”

We wish them well.

March 7 Bridgeport, CT Acoustic Cafe
March 8 New York, NY Jae Deli **
March 9 Baltimore, MD Broadway Diner **
March 9 Richmond, VA Gallery 5
March 10 Asheville, NC Burgermeister's **
March 10 Asheville, NC The Garage
March 11 Knoxville, TN WDVX Radio #
March 11 Knoxville, TN The Square Room #
March 12 Nashville, TN Elliston Place Soda Shop **

March 14 Denton, TX NX35 %
March 16 Dallas, TX All Good Cafe **
March 17 Houston, TX KPFT Radio #
March 17 Houston, TX Mango's
March 18 Austin, TX SXSW

March 19 Fredericksburg, TX KFAN Radio #
March 20 Austin, TX MANIC FEST DESTINY @ The Belmont (Unofficial SXSW)
March 20 Austin, TX UT Block Party Benefit (Unofficial SXSW) %
March 21
Dallas, TX La Grange
March 23 Monett, MO
Mocah Joe's **

March 25
South Greenfield, MO
Grandma's **

March 25 Springfield, MO Lindberg's
March 26 Columbia, MO BXR Radio #
March 26 Columbia, MO The Blue Note

March 27 St. Louis, MO
Off Broadway

March 29 Louisville, KY WFPK #
April 2 New York, NY TBD

** Restaurant Gig
# Israel Nash Gripka Only
% The Fieros Only

Friday, February 12, 2010

Marshall Ford Swing Band & Joe Deninzon Trio

While being buried in with snow here in the Mid-Atlantic; we've been listening to a lot of music. Two that we'd like to share are from the Marshall Ford Swing Band and the Joe Deninzon Trio. Each disc has put a smile on our face during this week of shoveling snow.

The Marshall Ford Swing Band is a five-piece ensemble based out of Austin, Texas that play old time Western swing in the tradition of Johnny Gimble, Bob Wills, and Hank Thompson. In fact, the band is partially fronted by the grand daughter of Gimble, Emily Ann Gimble - who also contributes the piano. Greg Harkins (guitar) is the other frontman and along with Jeremy Wheeless (guitar), James Gwyn (drums) and Kristopher Wade (upright bass) - round out the band. And from the very first track of "It's About Dam Time", I've enjoyed their music. There is a little of everything in this CD, mostly swing, but also some old time country, some jazz, and even some Texas blues. No two songs are similar and is the unique CD that could only come out of Austin - definitely not from corporate Nashville. The CD starts with straight western Swing and Lyla Lou - and if this song doesn't wipe a grimace off your face - something is wrong. They slow it down with some old school country in Roy Lanham's Trouble, Trouble. Love the alternating vocals. Next is a county waltz and the first original piece - The Barroom Waltz - a place where there's not a care in the world. Next are covers of two famous songs Irving Berlin's Marie and grandpa Gimble's You're Why. Their interpretation of Old Joe's Hittin' the Jug sounded straight from another Austin band - The Belleville Outfit. The remainder of the CD is the same - some originals - some covers - some instrumentals - but all fun songs to listen to, especially Pickles n Tomatoes. And I love Gimble's vocals in I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire; some old school jazz vocals. In sum, this CD made shoveling snow a lot less painful.

Ever since listening to the latest from the The John Jorgenson Quintet, I've been in a jazz mood and a short sample CD from Joe Deninzon Trio came just in time to satiate my appetite. The CD is Ellipsis and should be available sometime this month. From reading Deninzon's bio I learned that he is considered the Jimi Hendrix of the violin - obviously very well respected. But then I realized that Deninzon is the leader of the rock-funk band Stratospheerius and I became even more interested in this disc. The first track (Bodhissatva) immediately grabbed my attention as Deninzon's violin sounded more like a fiddle than a classical violin - and combined with the Trio's bass and guitar - was an awesome arrangement. The second track, Nuages, was the complete opposite - slow and classic - and here Steve Bensen's jazz guitar really worked well with the violin. Great finale in that song as well. Jitterbug is more playful with a strong bass solo from Robert Bowen. And finally, Sun Goes Down starts as almost something out of a Western, but then female vocals ensued which produced a classic jazz sound. I'm looking forward to the full CD.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

CD Review: Joe Pug - Messenger

A couple years back I received an EP from an artist I’d never heard of and enjoyed the heck out of it, particularly the tune, Hymn #101. Passed the EP along to many others as well who had the same opinion. The artist was Joe Pug and the EP, Nation of Heat. I particularly liked the tune Hymn #101. Since then I’ve been able to hear additional songs from his Daytrotter session; but now I’m excited to announce that he is releasing a full-blown CD, Messenger on February 16th. And it exceeds all expectations.

Pug is based out of Chicago, and left the University of North Carolina his senior year in order to pursue the “easy and comfortable” life as an unknown singer songwriter. Quite a gamble. He worked as a carpenter by day and performed at night. His playwright education proved useful when he re-arranged a play he was drafting into the lyrics of Nation of Heat. He then sent out over 15,000 free 2 CD samplers of the EP. The vibe was building. That was when we received a copy.

And this week we received an advance copy of Messenger. It starts out with the title track and immediately the sound and vocals are fuller than his previous work and a bit more Americana - a Langhorne Slim feel. Helps to have a backing band as well, with some pedal steel and rhythm sections sprinkled throughout the compilation. How Good You Are displays Pug’s story telling ability and resembles more of his previous work. That’s what I like about the CD – some new some old. My favorite tracks were Not So Sure and The Door Is Always Open – both played in two completely different styles. Shows the versatility of the artist. The other tracks are just as good; I’ve already listened to this CD a dozen times and it never gets old. Messenger is highly recommended. Pug is also currently touring with Justin Townes Earle supporting the CD; two fabulous artists in one show. If they are playing near a town near you - go see them; if not – the CD is a good substitute.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Inaugural DC Bluegrass Festival

We want to remind our readers that the inaugural DC Bluegrass Festival will be held Saturday March 27, 2010 at Langley High School 6520 Georgetown Pike in McLean, VA 22101. Tickets: $35 adults, $30 for DCBU members, $10 for kids 12 and under. Current lineup: Mountain Heart, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper (2009 IBMA Instrumental Performers of the Year), Legendary bluegrass performer Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie, New acoustic bluegrass marvels Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Patuxent Music recording artists The Patuxent Partners, Folk and bluegrass virtuoso Walt Michael & Co., and More!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Deadline for Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, Hosted by MerleFest - February 18

The submission deadline for the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, hosted by MerleFest 2010 presented by Lowe’s, is fast approaching. All entries must be received by February 18, 2010.
Now in its 18th year, the contest is an extraordinary opportunity for aspiring writers to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of Nashville music industry professionals, under the direction of this year’s volunteer contest chairperson, Grammy®-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale.
Contest entries are now being accepted via the following methods:
  1. U.S. Mail – Send to P. O. Box 121855, Nashville, TN 37212
  2. American Songspace –
  3. Sonicbids –
Details about entry fees, eligibility and other requirements are available at To be eligible to enter, a songwriter must not derive more than 50% of his or her total income from songwriting or music publishing.
Once submitted, songs are judged by a volunteer panel of Nashville songwriters, publishers and other music industry professionals. Judging is based on a song’s originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential. Twelve finalists, three from each category, will be announced during the first week of April 2010.
Each of the twelve finalists will compete on the Austin Stage at MerleFest 2010. Two of the three on-site judges are Laurelyn Dossett, and Wyatt Durrette, who has co-written several Zac Brown Band hits including “Chicken Fried,” “Toes,” “Whatever It Is” and “Highway 20 Ride.” In addition, for the first time in the history of the contest, each of the twelve finalists will have the invaluable experience of a mentor session with Jim Lauderdale.
The contest recognizes winners in four categories—country, bluegrass, gospel and general. First place winners in each category receive: a performance on the Cabin Stage at MerleFest 2010 (April 29-May 2), a Taylor Big Baby acoustic guitar, a check for $300, two boxes of D’Addario strings and one-year subscriptions to both Acoustic Guitar and American Songwriter magazines. In addition, CASC media partner American Songwriter will offer exclusive on-site interview and recording sessions with each first place winner. Second and third place winners in each category receive performance slots on the Friday night Songwriters Coffeehouse, as well as cash prizes, D’Addario strings and subscriptions to Acoustic Guitar and American Songwriter.
Previous winners of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest include Gillian Welch, Tift Merritt, Michael Reno Harrell, Adrienne Young, Martha Scanlan, David Via, and Johnny Williams.
For additional information about the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, call the contest hotline at 1-800-799-3838 or Laurie Hayes, CASC Coordinator: 336-838-6158,
Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception the scholarship has awarded over $ $27,300 to 70 deserving students. The 2009-2010 Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship recipients are Ian Tucker Francis and Dustin Rubio-Serrano.
About Chris Austin:
Chris Austin, from Boone, North Carolina, worked as a sideman for Ricky Skaggs for three years, singing and playing guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle. During that time he was discovered by executives at Warner Bros. Nashville, who offered him a recording contract. While releasing singles including “Blues Stay Away From Me,” “I Know There’s a Heart in There Somewhere,” and “Out of Step,” Austin also developed his songwriting skills, as evidenced in “Same Ol’ Love,” recorded by Skaggs in 1991. On March 16, 1991, Austin’s life was cut tragically short when the private plane carrying him and six other members of Reba McEntire’s band, as well as her tour manager, crashed in the mountains near San Diego. Pete Fisher, then of Warnersongs and currently general manager of the Grand Ole Opry, and Kari Estrin, then MerleFest consultant and Pickin’ for Merle video associate producer, initiated the songwriting contest to honor Austin’s memory.