Rene Marie + Experiment in Truth wow the Annenberg Center

Rene Marie and Experiment in Truth | photo courtesy of the Annenberg Center

There is so much oddity to the trade of Rene Marie that it’s made her a hot commodity. Rather than move through the womb as a mini Sarah Vaughn, Marie walked out of a job as a bank telling mom in her 40s and began a new career. Rather than solely vocalizing the jazz canon with deep reverence and nuanced expressiveness, she’s got an affection for soul and a proud R&B lean in her step, to say nothing of the occasional psychedelic rock cover (she likes Jefferson Airplane) and folk tune (as on 2011’s Black Lace Freudian Slip). The same goes for her songwriting in that Marie writes the lion’s share of her album’s tracks – lyrics and music – with 2016’s Sound of Red being her first album of all-original material. How many jazz vocalists can you name that write their own material? Continue reading →


Undead, Undead: Bauhaus celebrates 40 years of sound, vision and vibe

Bauhaus | photo by Graham Trott | courtesy of the artist

For all of what “Goth” would become, and has become, in its mass-mediation — everything from an inspiration to the monsters of Columbine to creating all-in-black characters in South Park — its roots were humbler and less violent (if no less theatrical), with its flashpoint occurring after its first focus had splintered: Bauhaus.

Though the British quartet assembled right after post-punk fellowmen The Cure, Magazine, Siouxsie & the Banshees and Joy Division had, Peter Murphy, Kevin Haskins, David J and Daniel Ash were on their own, loners stuck out in Northampton, England with their German art movement magazine images, stuffily serious bat wing impressionism and their T. Rex records before forming Bauhaus. Frankly, the four members of Bauhaus seemed like a gang of one without connection or camaraderie from other acts, coming into the end of the 70s. Continue reading →


Two to Tango: Steve Gunn and Meg Baird

Steve Gunn (l) and Meg Baird (r) | photos courtesy of the artists

Steve Gunn may live in New York. Meg Baird may live in San Francisco. Mary Lattimore may live in Marin County.  No one, however considers the guitarist, vocalist and harpist — respectively — as anything but dyed-in-the-wool forever Philadelphians. Therefore, their shared bill Union Transfer showcase on Saturday February 2 isn’t a homecoming. It’s a block party. Gunn and Baird phoned in from their respective homes to discuss their new albums (Gunn’s The Unseen In between, Baird and Lattimore’s Ghost Forests) and their friendly harp slinging pal. Continue reading →


Kacey Musgraves brings love, smoothness, and even an engagement to The Fillmore

Kacey Musgraves | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN |

Having witnessed the magic of East Texan singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves on an earlier turn through Philly country (the Trocadero, 2015), there were certain elements of her live showcase that I was prepared for when she hit the stage at the Fillmore for a waaaay sold out gig on Friday night. That she would be sassy and foul mouthed. That her well-dressed band would hit any joint passed up to the stage from the audience. That she would chattily interact with the audience. That there would be hats, and not all of them cowboy. That she and her ensemble would spend lots of time backlit and in the dark so to create an air of mystery that has little to do with her forthright songwriting skills and salted caramel vocals.

Touring then after the release of the sugar honky tonk modern classic, Pageant Material, required all toes and several fingers tucked into the tones of traditional country, skiffle rhythm and rockabilly to go with her sophisti-cosmopolitan take on C&W pop.

What a difference, however, several years, emotional and aesthetic growth and maturation, marriage, a shimmering new Golden Hour, and Grammy noms for Album of the Year make. The Musgraves & Co. that took that Fillmore stage on Friday night were a smoother, shinier lot with far fewer detours like the raw “Family Is Family,” the acoustic fairy tale “Merry Go ‘Round,” and the tender lyrical pragmatism of “We get bored, so we get married / Just like dust, we settle in this town.”

What was the order of the night — played to a super hyped-crowd, several ‘rainbow yeehah’ fans up front, and even a marriage proposal in VIP (congrats Navy serviceman Daniel Caton and Avery Davis) — was a set of love and like songs that was gentler, smoother, sleeker and even in tone. Continue reading →


The colors of Chromelodeon

Chromelodeon | image courtesy of the artist

If the Marios were more super than your brothers and the sounds of video game music (VGM) was your EDM from the years 2000 to 2007, then the seven-to-nine collective membership of Philadelphia’s Chromelodeon was your cup of tea. When they reunite at PhilaMOCA this weekend – January 19 and 20 – for their first shows in 11 years, it will be for the love of the game, past and present, as well as for the mutual respect of its metal machine music makers.

“Video games were definitely an important part of all of our childhoods,” says bassist Denny Barron of a South Jersey youth that led each member (synth men Dino Lionetti and Ryan Soloby), guitarists Danny Tarng and Eddy Tsang, drummers Patrick “Bucky” Todd and Joseph Idell, accordionist David Chapman and visual artist Chris Singer) to the Chromelodeon center. “The sound of those games was always something that we carried with us as well developed as musicians throughout our lives.” Continue reading →


The (com)passion of Karuna: old friends-percussionists Adam Rudolph and Hamid Drake join forces with saxophonist Dave Liebman

Liebman, Rudolph, Drake are Karuna | photo courtesy of the artist

From its name — the Tibetan word for compassion — to its conscious interplay and improvisation (or spontaneous composition), Karuna radiate soul, intimacy and humanity. Part of this touch-sensitivity surely stems from the fact that the trio’s two percussionists, Adam Rudolph (djembe, congas, tarija, sintir, electronics) and Hamid Drake (kit, vocals, frame drum) palled around as kids in Chicago, are dear friends, and have played together in diverse bands from leaders such as Baba Fred Anderson, Don Cherry, Yusef Lateef, Pharaoh Sanders, Hassan Hakmoun and more.

After one loving recording with reeds man Ralph M. Jones, Karuna’s Rudolph and Drake are touring and making music with legendary tenor and soprano saxophonist (to say nothing of bamboo flautist) Dave Liebman for an album called Chi, due out in February. Before that release, the trio (who also go by Liebman Rudolph & Drake) make a pit stop at Boot & Saddle on Monday, January 14, under the watchful curatorial eye of Philadelphia’s Ars Nova Workshop.  I caught up with Rudolph at home in New York City, just days before the live proceedings to see what friendship and fire mean to this union. Continue reading →


The new testament of Aaron Neville

Aaron Neville | photo courtesy of the artist

There is much to unpack when contemplating Aaron Neville, the improvisational, interpretive voice of the angels — to say nothing of the Cajun saints of New Orleans — renowned for his work (and life) with the Neville Brothers, duets with Linda Ronstadt, and a solo catalog that stretches back to 1960’s “Over You” and 1962’s”Tell It Like It Is.” By this point, it is triple (not second) nature to say that the large man with the high lilting voice is a wonder of the world not yet numbered. “I don’t plan what I’m going to sing or think through it too hard,” says Neville from his home in New York City about the level of in-the-moment improvisation that he and his vocals live through. “It just happens…that’s what comes out.”

Yet, for all of his time into the naturalistic art of song, a fleeting few tunes’ lyrics have been penned by Neville himself. Yet, when he did – with the sultry likes of 1989’s “Yellow Moon” – the effects were illuminating, haunting and oddly joyous.

With his muscular, most recent album, Apache, its release on his own Tell It label — and his stripped-down live showcases at ArtsQuest Cente’s Musikfest Café in Bethlehem, PA on Wednesday, and the South Orange Performance Arts Center on Saturday — Neville, at the age of 77, seems more ready than ever to take full control of his destiny. Continue reading →


Far beyond Philly, Meek has inherited the earth: The Year in Milly 2018

Meek Mill at Made In America | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Drake might have moved more units. Pusha T might stirred more shit. Childish Gambino might have made more multi-media moves. Offset might have truly fucked up by cheating on Cardi B. Kayne West is a MAGA-hat-wearing-imbecile.

Yet, when it came to snaring headlines for something solid beyond gossip and innuendo – and winding up with a surprisingly rich and righteously different new album in Championships – Philadelphia Meek Mill took the cake and made all the right moves in 2018. Not only was he able to pour the milk of human kindness on thick (beef squashing with longtime rival, Drake), Philly’s Milly became the wisely wordy brand ambassador for the anti-prison complex establishment after his time in the joint.

I don’t agree with Mill all the time or think his word is gospel, but in 2018, Meek showed that he cares, and is looking to make a difference. That says a lot in 2018, for any artist or man.

Here’s a rundown of Meek Mill’s year. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: The Django Pages 2018 – A.D. Amorosi’s greyhound rates the hits, disses the misses of the year gone

Django Amorosi at Kimpton Hotel Monaco | photo by Reese Amorosi | courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer A.D. Amorosi turns to his greyhound Django for another pass at the year’s hits and misses.

After the rush of respect, acclaim and fame from 2017’s The Django Pages at The Key – his critical debut – my fleet greyhound certainly felt a serious sense of responsibility when it came to documenting his continued love affair (and occasional disgust) with the music around him, and the multi-culturalism surrounding that. Plus, he got a gig writing for Pitchfork, something that has, so far, alluded me during my career as an arts journalist.

As it was a weird year (politically, socially), so much of what Django took in, and appreciated/dissected had to be filtered through the noise of rhetoric and correctness. With that came an addition to his usual outward signs of approval and disapproval (relaxed ears or laying with legs akimbo for the former, grimace and growls for the latter): a side-eyed glare as if to say, “c’maan, really?” Many of these looks got shot at me at the sound of anything having to do with Kanye West (from his innumerable rants to his Kids See Ghosts), Asia Argento, Jeff Sessions, 6ix9ine (even though his performance at Made in America was stellar), Larry Krasner and Justin Timberlake (really, just JT’s whole Man in the Woods burly guy routine. Everything else is cool). Continue reading →


Two to Tango: hackedepicciotto and Eric Hubel

HackdePicciotto | photo by Sylvia Steinhäuser | courtesy of the artist

hackedepicciotto and Eric Hubel may, at first, seem as if they come from two different worlds with wide paths. The married twosome behind hackedepicciotto – Alexander Hacke and Danielle de Picciotto – come from the noise and beauty of, respectively, Einstürzende Neubauten and the Love Parade, and together have found an elegant, elegiac center point filed with auto harp and kemençe, for their divergent aesthetics within cool works such as Menetekel and Joy.

When Eric Hubel isn’t busy with his certification from Manhattan’s Dharma Yoga center where he is both teacher and student), the string-focused multi-instrumentalist, composer and performance artist, has worked with the likes of Glenn Branca, Eliot Goldenthal and Hackedepicciotto throughout their recoded catalog. Now, the three are touring as a full-evening of thunder and lightning with Hubel not only opening for Hackedepicciotto, but playing with the ensemble on December 11 at PhilaMOCA.  Continue reading →