Category Archives: mp3

The best time for Speed the Plough is ‘Now’

Now slice.jpg

Mark your calendar now: Speed the Plough is ready to party.

The North Jersey chamber rockers have been playing the songs from their splendid new album, aptly titled “Now,” for awhile. But now they’re ready to make it official with a record release party.

STP will jam the tiny stage of The HiFi Bar (formerly Brownie’s) in Manhattan’s East Village on Thursday night, Feb. 25, to celebrate its release.

nowcover “Now” is Speed the Plough’s eighth album, and is notable for its fresh-but-familiar sound and the fact that it’s the first release by the newly revived Coyote Records.

Coyote was responsible for some of the early releases by Yo La Tengo, The Feelies, Beat Rodeo, Chris Stamey,and other leading lights of the Hoboken indie rock scene that centered on Maxwell’s. It was co-founded by Steve Fallon, who also ran Maxwell’s before giving it all up and moving to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where he opened a collectibles shop called Gidget’s Gadgets.

It’s fitting in so many ways that “Now” is Coyote’s first release in years. Speed the Plough  started playing in 1984, during the golden age of the Hoboken scene, and has persevered — with an evolving membership always anchored by stalwarts Toni and John Baumgartner — through so many changes.

“Now” is a perfect example of Speed the Plough’s ability to ability to adapt.

The album preserves the feel of the band’s earlier work without  sounding dated. This disc embraces the talents of the new members — vocalist/guitaristsEd Seifert and Michael Baumgartner, bassist Cindi Merklee, and drummer John Demeski.

Seven of the album’s 12 tracks are John Baumgartner compositions featuring vocals by him or Toni, along with Toni’s traditional wind instruments. They’re every bit as good as anything they’ve done before. The haunting “Midnight in the World” — with its refrain of “Calling you ’cause I don’t know what to do” — is a particular earworm.

Their son, Michael, comes on strong with three contributions: “Garden,” a rocker that is probably the first of the gravel-voiced songwriter’s that I ever heard live, “Hey, Blue,” a gentle love song, and a brief (1:47), driving, Hüsker Dü-ish rocker, “Ed’s Song.”  that closes the disc.

Seifert contributes “Be With You,” a delightful, loping folk-rocker with spare, repeated lyrics.

Merklee steps forward in a way that I’ve been waiting to hear, offering a beautiful, plaintive homage to novelist Carson McCullers wiht “Miss Amelia.”

IF YOU GO

What: Speed the Plough record release party

When: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 25

Where: The HiFi Bar, 169 Avenue A, Manhattan

Tickets: Free, donations accepted, with all proceeds going to the artists. Shows in this small venue tend to fill up, but if you arrive early, you’ll likely have no problem getting in. Making a donation in advance online guarantees entry.

 

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‘Surface Noise’: A self-effacing title for Jennifer O’Connor’s brilliant new album

The cover of Jennifer O'Connor's album "Surface Noise" (March 4, 2016, Kiam Records) features an ambitious abstract painting, "There 48," by Brooklyn artist Joan LeMay.

The cover of Jennifer O’Connor’s album “Surface Noise” (March 4, 2016, Kiam Records) features an ambitious abstract painting, “There 48,” by Brooklyn artist Joan LeMay.

I’ve never been one to make best-of lists when it comes to music. I enjoy so much of what I hear that it’s difficult to pick favorites.

So I won’t say that Jennifer O’Connor‘s forthcoming album, “Surface Noise,” out March 4, 2016, on Kiam Records, is a sure-fire pick for my best of 2016 list, since I’m not likely to compile one.

I can say it’s the best new album I’ve heard so far in this still-young year — and I fully expect to feel that way about it when this year is winding down.

“Surface Noise” is packed with 12 songs that explore love, loss, and the challenges of life with a casual brilliance about this album that makes it the best work this talented artist has produced so far.

ORDER JENNIFER O’CONNOR’S “SURFACE NOISE” VIA KIAM RECORDS NOW — GO HERE

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Carlene Carter Pays Tribute to Her Family (Video)

carlene carter album cover

The onetime country wild child brings her love letter to family traditions to The Cutting Room in Manhattan on Wednesday Night

You might think that it would be a no-brainer for a blogger who named his blog after a Carter Family song to write about Carlene Carter’s latest album, Carter Girl.

But you’d be wrong.

I’ve been listening to her wonderful collection of a dozen tunes — drawn from three generations of her family heritage — regularly since its April release. But I haven’t been able to bring myself to write about it.

But now, with Carlene stopping in New York City for a show at The Cutting Room on Wednesday evening, the time has come.

Carter Girl is a loving tribute to Carlene’s family, with songs taken from three generations — her grandparents’, the Carter Family, her mom June and stepdad Johnny Cash’s, and her own.

It’s one of the most heartfelt tributes imaginable, but one that maintains a clear artistic vision that doesn’t fall into a fawning tone. Carlene embraces her family heritage in a seriously loving way, sounding as good as she’s ever sounded.

In a way, Carlene seems to have reached a point in her artistic life much like that of stepsister Rosanne Cash. But while Rosanne used new songs to explore her roots and more on The River & the Thread,  Carlene has tackled family classics to do the job.

Nine of the 12 tunes are credited in whole or in part, to Maybelle or A.P. Carter, her grandparents, who were the original Carter Family. One is her mom’s, one was written by her aunt Helen Carter, and the remaining tune — the unabashedly sentimental tale of her grandparents,  “Me and the Wildwood Rose” — by Carlene.

The album features Carlene in some memorable pairings — Willie Nelson duets on “Troublesome Waters” in a version that brings to the fore its heritage as an old Protestant hymn (Fanny Brice’s “Blessed Assurance” from 1873), Elizabeth Cook on the Carter Family take on a traditional song subject, “Blackie’s Gunman,” Kris Kristofferson on “Black Jack David,” another classic reinvented by the Carter Family, and Vince Gill on “Lonesome Valley 2003,” another Carter Family classic re-imagined by Carlene and Al Anderson as a take on her mother’s death.

She won’t have her star helpers with her when she takes the stage at The Cutting Room. But a reviews of her Oct. 12 show in Boston suggests that Carlene and her guitar are more than capable of putting across the Carter Girl tunes, along with some old favorites and some unrecorded gems, quite well.

You’ll be sorry if you miss this show.

If You Go

Carlene Carter performs at 7:30 p.m.. (doors open at 6:30), Wednesday, Oct. 15. The Cutting Room, 44 East 32nd Street, New York, NY.  Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 on day of show, and available by tapping or clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kristin Mueller steps into the spotlight tonight (video)

Kristin Mueller is serious locked in with her bandmates in Lucinda Black Bear. (© 2010, Steven P. Marsh/www.willyoumissme.com)

Kristin Mueller is serious locked in with her bandmates in Lucinda Black Bear. (© 2010 Steven P. Marsh/www.willyoumissme.com)

In-demand freelance drummer celebrates her move to Brooklyn with a set of her own songs at Park Slope’s Union Hall

You know Kristin Mueller‘s name. You’ve seen her name on this blog, and have read about her elsewhere. You’ve almost surely seen her behind the drum kit in many great local, national, and international acts — from Lucinda Black Bear and Gloria Deluxe to Dan Zanes and DBR (Daniel Bernard Roumain), along with some of Cynthia Hopkins’ stage shows.

What you may not realize is that she’s an accomplished singer-songwriter, too. But she’s so busy drumming for others that her own work has taken a  back seat. (It’s hard to believe, but it looks like she hadn’t released anything under her name before this year’s Deserts & Long Trails — which you can buy on Bandcamp by tapping or clicking here — since Ports of Call in 2006.)

Here’s a video of “Fault” from Deserts & Long Trails:

If you’ve seen her play, her percussion skills aren’t even slightly in doubt. She’s an energetic drummer who is always laser-focused and locked in on her bandmates. But she’s no slouch as a songwriter, either. While her songs exhibit the colors of indie country and pop rock,  like many of the bands she works with. But she’s followed her own path, resulting in a distinctive, personal take on the genres.

After the jump, read more about where and when Mueller is playing tonight, along with ticket info and links. Continue reading

Symphony Space celebrates 70th anniversary of Kurt Weill’s One Touch of Venus in spectacular style

kwThere was a lot to celebrate at Symphony Space in Manhattan on Monday night.

First, it was the reason everybody was there: a musical tribute to Kurt Weill’s longest-running Broadway show, One Touch of Venus, with an amazing orchestra and a fabulous array of singers.

First, it was the 70th anniversary of the snappy show — down to the day!

Second, it turned out to be the eve of the release of the decade-delayed Jay Records cast recording of the full show, which features quite a few of the singers from the Symphony Space performance — including a transcendent Melissa Errico (who noted “I’m wearing same dress I word 20 years ago … after three kids,” referring to her star turn in the lead role of the 1996 Encores! revival),  the always- welcome Ron Raines, and the smooth-voiced Brent Barrett. (It’s available now on iTunes, with a CD release to follow at an unspecified date.)

Third, the chief dancer from the original production, Sono Osato— whose work we got to see in a wonderful collage of moving and still images at the top of the show — was in the audience and took the spotlight for a hearty round of applause. Continue reading

New collection skims the cream of Caffè Lena’s rich musical history

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Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013 is slated for release on Sept. 24.

A review of Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013, with buying and streaming links after the jump

I’ve always meant to visit the legendary Caffè Lena, the tiny coffeehouse at 47 Phila Street in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Devonsquare, the sweet-harmonizing folk-rock trio, first piqued my curiosity about Lena and Bill Spencer’s cafe (or caffè, as they dubbed it, using two f’s) with their song “Caffè Lena” on the  1987 album Walking on Ice.

Caffè Lena was a place of mythical proportions to me then. For one reason or another, I never found myself in Saratoga Springs.

After all, I live close to The Turning Point in Piermont, N.Y., a music cafe that is, while 16 years younger than Caffè Lena, has a similar mission and musical profile.

And then there was the Towne Crier in Pawling, N.Y.,  from 1972 until closing in June with plans to reopen soon in Beacon. That gave me a backup option just a bit farther afield than The Turning Point.

So  I never got myself motivated sufficiently to make the trek to Saratoga Springs.

I should have known I was missing out. And now the Tompkins Square record label has  shoved into my face some very real evidence of exactly how much I’ve missed. Continue reading

Singer-songwriter Jamie Block shows he gets the rhythm of Rockland County life with Whitecaps on the Hudson

Jamie Block

Jamie Block

With the new album officially out, the long-MIA anti-folk artist is performing again, too

Nothing about Jamie Block suggests he’s a man of few words — just a man who doesn’t waste words.

For years, it even showed in his performance identity: Block. Not Jamie Block, just Block, thank you very much.

Jamie Block's new Whitecaps on the Hudson

Jamie Block’s new Whitecaps on the Hudson

It seems that he was saving the words for his songs, which on his latest (and long-overdue) album, Whitecaps on the Hudson, are perfectly crafted stories of a man whose life has had some twists and turns.

It’s a memorable work that reminds us why the music world has been much poorer during Block’s overlong absence.

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