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Philly’s Orion Sun shines on NPR Music’s Slingshot Artist To Watch list

Orion Sun at Made In America 2018 | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

In fall 2017 NPR Music and VuHaus‘ public radio network announced Slingshot, a collective effort of public music stations to elevate emerging artists they’ve discovered and want to share with the world. Since then many of the artists it showcased have become household names in radio and streaming playlists across the country and beyond; Tash Sultana, Ruston Kelly, Phoebe Bridgers, Tierra Whack, Dermot Kennedy, J.S. Ondara to name a few.

Today, NPR Music has released a list of 20 Slingshot Artists To Watch for 2019 – including Philly singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Tiffany Majette, aka Orion Sun. WXPN’s John Vettese speaks to why Majette deserves a spot on the list: Continue reading →

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Meek Mill is the SNL musical guest on January 26th

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

Though the folks over at Saturday Night Live are offering this season’s first clunker of a musical guest this coming weekend — the generic dude rock band everyone loves to hate, Greta Van Fleet — they’ve redeemed themselves today by announcing the January 26th musical guest: Philly rapper Meek Mill.

On the heels of his Championships LP, released in December, Meek is making his debut on the late night sketch comedy show; that week’s host is Glaswegian actor James McAvoy, who stars in M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, out January 18th.  Continue reading →

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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 →

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Find Your Tribe: Hermit High Priestess makes punk ethereal on their heavenly, heavy new EP

Hermit High Priestess | Photo by Sarrah Danziger | via facebook.com/atreenamedturtle

“THERE’S ALWAYS MORE”– Hermit High Priestess on trauma, eclecticism, and the hope of being understood

The idea of “shattering the binary” is often a lofty one in music, especially in genres and scenes as insular as punk rock. On the one hand, punk has a reputation for being unabashedly free, artistically daring, its practitioners eschewing constraint and announcing themselves as “other.” Yet if you dig beneath the surface — past the bullet belts, gas station attendant jackets, and spiked hair — you’ll find a uniform orthodoxy that often holds the genre in stasis.

Hermit High Priestess are two wandering spirits informed by an idealistic re-imagining of punk rock, where magic and incantation are as much a part of the punk rock process as are cryptically scrawled black t-shirts. Dani and Anna play music that is heavy, yet still somehow heavenly, forgoing the three-chord stomp and bash of yet another Ramones or Discharge reincarnation. Instead their music, like on “The Rake’s Wave”, a standout track on their forthcoming EP, infuses warm strings, mischievous bass and xylophone lines, along with Anna’s determined, heartfelt vocals ruminating on the necromantic nature of systems that corrupt our dreams.

It’s almost as if the still-expanding underground music scene struggles to make room for HHP, yet still they persist, turning up on bills with aggressive punk bands, spoken word artists, R&B acts, metal bands — when you’re an ethereal, romantic, tribal folk band evoking Dead Can Dance, and Tori Amos as much as more obscure Crass Records bands like Tappi Tikarras, there’s a certain amount of work you’ve got to be prepared to do to find your tribe. Although they’ve yet to be embraced fully, HPP, with their latest work, are ready to start the ritual to affect the change they want to see in their world — non-binary, brilliant, and free of the trappings of genre.

We sat down and talked with them on the precipice of their latest release to find out what conversations they were having as a band that led them to create such rousing work. Continue reading →

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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 →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: BRONCHO (2018)

BRONCHO | Photo by Eric Schuman for XPN

Joining us for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is a band whose members are no strangers to our studios. Back around the time of their debut album, Oklahoma’s BRONCHO made a stop for a performance on World Cafe. A few years and one album later they were back for a set on this very show! Now the band is back with a vengeance, which is to say they have a new album and it’s their tuffest yet. BRONCHO is still led by singer Ryan Lindsey, with guitarist Ben King, bassist Penny Pitchlynn and drummer Nathan Price rounding out the lineup. They stopped by before a show at Johnny Brenda’s to perform tracks from Bad Behavior live in our studio.

Continue reading →

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Hemming’s Candice Martello talks touring lessons, self-discovery, and the Philly community on 25 O’ Clock

Hemming | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Phillys Candice Martello brought her project Hemming back to the Philly stage this fall for the first time in six months, collaborating on a Roger Harvey Family show in October and playing a knockout set at the House Key Showcase at Underground Arts in November. Following that gig, Martello caught up with Dan Drago of the 25 O’Clock Podcast, and their conversation is on this week’s episode of the show.
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The High Key Portrait Series: Strand of Oaks

Strand of Oaks | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in recurring installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

It was by luck of the draw that Tim Showalter became a Philadelphian. Having spent his childhood in his hometown of Goshen, Indiana, the Strand Of Oaks frontman was sold on Philly by a childhood friend of his who’d already pioneered the relocation, and to hear Showalter tell it, it hardly even feels adopted, anymore.

He makes reference to that several times, in a recent interview with us, effusive in his affection for all he feels Philly has been able to offer him over the past decade and a half here. Wearing his beard long and his lumberjack coat red, Showalter reminisced warmly about wandering the Wissahickon, building out his band, getting to see Philly legend Jack Rose play hallowed local stages like Brenda’s — and then, with a sense of genuine gratitude, the good fortune of getting to later play them himself.

Showalter also talks “Winter Classic”: a lineup of several consecutive Strand Of Oaks shows that launches tonight at Boot And Saddle. On deck this week to celebrate a fourth year of these gigs with him are folk-singer Joe Pug, and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel. Continue reading →

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Watch John Legend get into the holiday spirit with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” video

John Legend in “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” | still from youtube video

There’s plenty of holiday music to go around, but the season always seems a little more festive when a new tune comes our way. John Legend recently put his own stamp on some classic holiday songs with his new album A Legendary Christmas, and just released a fun, retro-inspired video for “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The singer duets with Esperanza Spalding on the track, and the video sees both musicians decked out in their holiday best, reveling in the season’s festivities as they sing. Continue reading →

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Self-Discovery and Sincere Pop: In conversation with Helena Deland

Helena Deland
Helena Deland | photo by Jodi Heartz | courtesy of the artist

Patience is a virtue too often underestimated in today’s musical climate. When even the biggest pop stars of the world have taken to releasing their albums with little to no advanced notice, it can be easy to miss artists that take their time introducing their music, and themselves, to the world.

Take Montreal up and comer Helena Deland, for example. Over the past year, she’s slowly but surely made herself known by releasing a just handful of songs at a time, like a bedroom pop Body Talk. These songs, “volumes” of a collection called From the Series of Songs “Altogether Unaccompanied”, cover as wide a range of genres as they do feelings. Those emotions and genres come together under the umbrella of what Deland calls “sincere pop”. She’ll be presenting these songs, along with what could potentially be on her proper debut LP in time, via a run of U.S. shows through the first half of December that will include a stop at Philly’s own Johnny Brenda’s next Wednesday, December 5th.

Before those shows kick off, Helena was gracious enough to chat with The Key about what motivated her release schedule this year, what to expect on stage and on record, and how her view has changed on what pop music is and can be. Continue reading →