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Album Review: Dr. Dog’s B-Room (XPN Welcomes them to The Electric Factory 1/31 and 2/1)

dr-dog-b-roomWith each Dr. Dog record there is an immediate reminder of why we became fans, yet also that inspiration you get from a band that continues to search for new and interesting ways to make music. For over a decade the Philadelphia band has been putting out albums and their latest, B-Room, is as consistent as it is adventurous. Recorded in a studio that the band constructed prior to the sessions, ­B-Room is an honest and signature collection of songs.

The title B-Room refers to the studio which, yes, the band built themselves and recorded the album in. And ironically for a band that has loved to tinker in the studio, much of B-Room was actually recorded live. It’s a setting that favors the band and their interplay. For years they’ve conquered stages and built a fan-base through their live shows. Those on-stage dynamics and energy translate to the songs on B-Room. Songs like “Broken Heart” and “Distant Light” crave a live audience. And the band offers up some dreamy soundscapes on the lead-off track “The Truth” as well as the bright & bouncy “Love”.

For fans of Dr. Dog, B-Room continues a progression of albums that satisfies on just about every level. Frontmen Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman continue to be wonderful complements of each other. And the band is fully realized and captured in stride on this new collection.

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Album Review: Amos Lee’s Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song (playing The Tower Theater on 11/27)

amos_lee_mountains_of_sorrow_rivers_of_song-portadaOn Amos Lee‘s fifth studio album, Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song, the Philadelphia songwriter hit the road with his band and headed down to Nashville, Tennessee to record. As we’ve seen and heard with Amos before, he soaks in his surroundings. The results on Mountains of Sorrow showcase that unmistakable, soulful voice with the twang turned up on a collection of songs that would make ‘Music City’ (as well as Philadelphia) proud.

As you listen to Mountains of Sorrow, you have to credit Amos and his band for continuing to explore new musical territory with each new album. You could deem this a ‘country’ record (and you wouldn’t be wrong). But despite labels or genres, Amos embraces and executes with great engagement. He’s right at home on powerful, must-listens like “Stranger” and first single “The Man Who Wants You”. With the help of one of Nashville’s top producers, Jay Joyce, Amos was able to recruit some truly incredible musicians to help make Mountains of Sorrow pristine. Just listen to “Chill in the Air” and allow yourself to be draw in as Amos and Alison Krauss sing side by side. Same for the title track, “Mountains of Sorrow”, which see’s Patty Griffin sitting in.

You can also add musicians Jerry Douglas (Alison Krauss) and Jeff Coffin (Dave Matthews Band) to the folks who help round out the album and make Mountains of Sorrow what it is. But just like the past four albums, it’s really about Amos – as a singer and as a songwriter. His work is always surrounded with a warmth and a sensitively that’s made him such a desirable songwriter to listen to and apparently to work with as well.

Amos Lee’s Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song is WXPN’s featured album of the week this week. On Wednesday, November 27th, XPN Welcomes Amos to The Tower Theater with opening acts Mutlu and Deathfix. Tickets and information can be found here.

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Review: Wise Up Ghost by Elvis Costello and The Roots

elvis&thetrootsDepending on how you look at this, the paths of Elvis Costello and The Roots represent a much more natural crossing that it seems. The ‘How’ is answered rather simply. We can thank The Jimmy Fallon Show for putting them both in the same room (and on the same stage). But why they took it one step further to produce one of the year’s most intriguing albums really lies within the musical character of both acts. For The Roots, collaboration has always been a constant. And their versatility to play alongside any and all musical ensembles is the reason they’re the one of the most sought after live acts. For Costello, much the same. He’s never been shy of a musical challenge and since the late 70s has tried his hand at just about all styles. So does their collective desire for musical exploration lend itself to a fruitful collaboration on Wise Up Ghost? It sure does.

As cliché as it sounds, the music really speaks for itself on Wise Up Ghost. In terms of Costello, he’s the main voice on the album with The Roots laying down the foundation and coloring in the sonic landscape. ?uestlove and the band lead us into soulful, funky territory on songs like “Refuse to To Saved” and the seductive “Wake Me Up”. Costello sounds reinvigorated on the collection. It’s a definitive and welcomed departure from the country and folk inspired albums (Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, National Ransom) that preceded this. With songs like “Walk Us Uptown” and “Come the Meantimes”, Costello confidently steps right back into a contemporary world (even if The Roots are drawing from classic soul).

Unlike so many collaborative records, Wise Up Ghost is truly as interesting as the headlines read. And not only does the music offer the best of what both parties are capable of, but it’s a direction, for Costello at least, that many have been craving for.

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Unlocked: Read The Key’s review of Birdie Busch and The Greatest Night

2013 is shaping up to be a great year for Philadelphia and the musicians who craft the soundtrack for the city. One early indicator is the new album from Philly singer-songwriter Birdie Busch and her band The Greatest Night. Birdie’s fourth full-length album further embraces her charming storytelling, but amidst a sonic backdrop that is all at once more confident and dynamic.

Recorded partly in Philadelphia and partly in Brooklyn, Birdie Busch and The Greatest Night greets us the first week in January. One can only guess after spending some time opening shows for fellow Philly indie-rockers Dr. Dog, the excitement of playing with a band rubbed off on Birdie. In fact, she enlisted Nathan Sabatino to record the new album. Nathan was the engineer for Dr. Dog’s Be The Void release last year. Most of Birdie’s new album was recorded live with the band and the result is batch of songs that breathe in a lot of open space, creating a dramatic musical canvas for her to craft her stories upon. It’s easy to get as consumed in the sonic space of songs like “Far from the Tree” and “Part of Apart” as it is Birdie’s clever songwriting. There are sweet, charming moments like “This Must Be” and quirky, vibrant songs like “Body Body” that keep making hit the repeat button. Continue reading →

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Gary Clark Jr turns on the bright lights at the TLA (photos, review, setlist, video)

You had to crack a smile as Gary Clark Jr. sang to a sold out crowd “you’re gonna know my name by the end of the night” – the signature line to his trademark song “Bright Lights”. But trust me; there was nobody at the TLA this past Saturday night who didn’t know the name Gary Clark Jr. In fact, between nearly every song the crowd showered the Austin-based guitarist & songwriter not just with applause, but with chants of “Gary! Gary! Gary!”. It was a fanatical response to one of the most dynamic new artists in music. And on the heels of his full length debut Blak & Blu, Gary gave Philly a performance that lived up to all the hype and all the expectations one could’ve expected. He and his band sizzled on straight ahead blues-rockers like XPN-favorite “Don’t Owe You A Thang” and album standout “Travis County”. And yes, the new tunes from Blak & Blu came to life on Saturday night. “Blak and Blu” and “Ain’t Messin’ Around” were comfortable fits alongside some of Gary’s more traditional blues-rock staples. No one was safe from the bone-rattling close to the set as Gary and the band brought all the thunder the TLA could handle with the anthemic “Bright Lights”. Well, that until his encore of “Numb” – which may have had the walls shaking and sweating. The only downside of the night was when it ended. Continue reading →