Double Decker Music Series brings Ursula Rucker, Madam Data, Rosali and more on Philly’s best bus tour this summer

Shinjoo Cho at Double Decker Music Series 2017 | photo by Scott Troyan | courtesy of the artist

The Double Decker Music Series will return to the streets of Center City this summer. The mobile concert experience pairs performances by local musicians with a guided tour of Philadelphia’s best attractions, all on the top of a double decker tour bus after sundown. Continue reading →


Lady Alma, Ursula Rucker, Jacqueline Constance and more bring the love to Kimmel Center’s Valentines Day edition of Sittin’ In

Lady Alma at Kindred Presents | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Need last minute Valentines Day plans? The Kimmel Center’s regular Sittin In live session is back with a lineup curated by jazz bassist Anthony Tidd and featuring lots of awesome Philly artists like poet Ursula Rucker, singer Lady Alma, experimental sound-looper Jacquline Constance, guitarist Tim Motzer, plus Range da Messenger, Chartel Findlater, Lee Mo, Luke O’Reilly, and Mario Crew.

It also happens to be the 6th anniversary of the Kimmel’s Sittin In, and they hope to channel some historic Philly party energy. Continue reading →


The Key’s Week of Folk: Richard Thompson, Ursula Rucker, The Lawsuits are Friday’s highlights

Richard Thompson | Photo by John Vettese
Richard Thompson | Photo by John Vettese

The Friday lineup at the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival was eclectic and exciting, beginning with a cluster of Philadelphia music scene staples and wrapping up with electrifying and impressive performance from folk scene mainstay Richard Thompson.

The Lawsuits kicked off the day on the main stage with an assortment of songs from their forthcoming LP Cool Cool Cool; they were poppy, they were country, they were classic rock, with songwriter Brian Dale Allen Strouse stepping behind the Steinway for a snappy take on “Onion” and singer Vanessa Winters owning “Long Drive Home” with a twangy vocal.

Lancaster trio The Stray Birds performed an assortment of songs from the as-yet-untitled album they just finished recording last week, Marc Silver rocked out some songs from his new story-centered album A Miner’s Tale, andToy Soldiers tore across a lively set of bluesy rockabilly from their forthcoming sophomore LP The Maybe Boys, due out September 10th.

Poet Ursula Rucker’s collaborative set with Philly guitar wizard Tim Motzer was easily the day’s highlight. While she read (and occasionally sang) pieces addressing social justice, racial prejudice,. gender and identity (among other topics), Motzer played a hypnotic guitar backing. Her performance of “Philadelphia Child” was particularly moving, as was the concluding call-and-response of “Super Sista.”

After an enjoyable performance from Philly-area celtic crew Runa, Richard Thompson took the stage to a thinning (but devoted) crowd. Thompson has played the fest several times as a solo artist; this time he was with his electric trio, which began on a jarringly funky note, but quickly settled into a groove that let Thompson’s guitar skills shine through. His nimble guitar shredding was impressive, “Shoot Out The Lights” backed by the band packed a punch that the song lacks when Thompson plays it solo. And his solo stab at “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” while not unexpected, didn’t disappoint either. Check out photos from the day in the gallery below.


The Key’s Week of Folk: Ursula Rucker, and four other artists you didn’t realize are playing #PFF2013

RuckerThe Key’s Week of Folk is our series of interviews, reviews, artist spotlights, playlistings and general ephemera to get you ready for the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival, happening August 16th to August 18th at Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville. This installment highlights a handful of artists we didn’t even were realize were playing – so it’s possible you didn’t know either.

On Monday we talked about what a daunting task navigating a festival lineup can be. Between sheer volume of names, late lineup additions and lag time between initial announcements and the actual show, I find myself at festivals – any festival – saying at least once “oh, woah, they’re playing!” (Confession: it even happens at our own XPoNential Music Festival.)

For this installment of The Key’s Week of Folk, we’ll highlight a handful of don’t-miss you-almost-missed-thems, beginning with the one and only Ursula Rucker. Her’s is a name that Roots aficionados should know well; the Philadelphia poet first came to prominence closing the group’s first several albums with spoken word pieces (and appearing throughout the mix on 2003’s Phrenology). Sometimes tender, sometimes shocking, but always marked by beauty and eloquence, Rucker’s collaborations with The Roots – as well as with Bahamadia and King Britt – ultimately paved the way for a solo career that notably includes 2001’s Super Sista, 2006’s Ma’at Mama and most recently, 2011’s She Said. Along with writing, Rucker is an educator and activist, and recently has been combining her words with the stylish guitar of fellow Philadelphian Tim Motzer. The two will perform together at the Cultural Tent on August 16th at 7 p.m. Below, watch a video of Rucker and Motzer on the 1k Sessions, and listen to Rucker’s contribution to The Roots’ Things Fall Apart, “Return to Innocence Lost.”

Tim Motzer & Ursula Rucker – 1k Sessions, Episode 11 Preview from Dejha Ti on Vimeo.

Continue reading →


Tonight’s picks: Chiddy Bang, Ursula Rucker, Ben Arnold

Chiddy Bang
Chiddy Bang

If you’re wondering why you’ve got the overwhelming urge to see tonight’s performance by local hip hop duo Chiddy Bang—in addition to the fact that the young outfit is currently garnering national acclaim left and right and has quickly become one of the biggest names in the Philly scene—it might be because they dropped some pretty big news recently. Yesterday, the duo’s PR people issued a press release stating that—in advance of their major label debut on EMI (which has been pushed back to early 2011)—Chidera “Chiddy” Anamege and Noah “Xaphoon Jones” Beresin will digitally release an eight-song album titled “The Preview” on Tuesday, October 12. “The Preview” will feature a mix of old and new tracks, providing an “insightful look into the many things the band have experienced over the last year as well as the personal battles they have experienced by being thrown into the limelight so quickly.” Make sure to give the duo your deepest sympathies regarding their struggles with success during tonight’s performance. Chiddy Bang performs at 8 p.m. at Theatre Of Living Arts; tickets are $18.

Poet, spoken-word artist, and Philadelphia-born musician Ursula Rucker performs within the comfy confines of Johnny Brenda’s, where she’ll likely offer her crowd a preview of her upcoming album She Said, set to be released in October by King Britt’s FiveSix Media. (Did we mention she also earned a degree in journalism from Temple University? See, J-School students—there is still hope for a bright future, despite getting your degree in what is now an all-but-dead industry.) Ursula Rucker performs at 9 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets are $10.

If you can fight through the heat, local singer-songwriter (and WXPN favorite) Ben Arnold performs for free alongside Cowmuddy and Birdie Busch as part of the outdoor summer concert series at Gorgas Park.


A Def Poetry reunion brings Sonia Sanchez, Ursula Rucker to PMA’s Final Friday in April

Sonia Sanchez | photo by Jen Zhu

This season’s Final Fridays schedule at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will include a special gathering of some of Philadelphia’s most recognized poets on April 26. The event will reunite poets who appeared on Def Poetry Jam, a TV series that aired on HBO between 2002 and 2007 and featured performances by spoken word poets both established and up-and-coming.

Curated by co-founder Danny Simmons, the Def Poetry Reunion at Final Fridays will feature legendary poet, author and playwright Sonia Sanchez, a former City of Philadelphia poet laureate and professor emeritus at Temple University who was an influential figure of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 70s. Continue reading →


Ursula Rucker: tender, torrid, tough

Ursula Rucker
Ursula Rucker | photo by Neal Santos | courtesy of the artist

Philadelphia’s Ursula Rucker is part of America’s continuum of Afro-conscious performance poets such as Gil Scott-Heron, Wanda Robinson, Sonia Sanchez and The Last Poets. Yet, since the early 90s – her work with King Britt, Josh Wink, The Roots, a series of electronically devised solo albums – Rucker has modernized its musical form, while maintaining a uniquely seductive éclat that is hers and hers alone.

In the last several years, she has tucked into her past, and that of her family’s to come up with a lengthy performance piece My Father’s Daughter. Now, after spending the month of October performing its tales of motherhood and survival at NYC’s Club Theatre at La MaMa, the guileless poetess and atmospheric guitarist Tim Motzer have returned home to co-craft a love letter to the City of Brotherly Love’s present day changes in gentrification and beyond at the Kimmel’s SEI Innovation Studio on December 9.

Motivated by percussionist Doug Hirlinger and joined by co-composers John Swana (valve trombone) and M’Balia Singely (lyricist), the currently skeletal “Dear Philadelphia” tone poem is part of the Kimmel’s Jazz Residency program with its final, staged performance occurring next spring. So, at the very least, we know what Rucker has planned for the next six months. Though we conducted this interview via email, Rucker’s rhythms and cadences come roaring through. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Ursula Rucker at Germantown Kitchen Garden, PVRIS at the Electric Factory, Chicano Batman at TLA

Ursula Rucker | Photo by John Vettese

Before the weather gets cold, spoken-word artist Ursula Rucker closes out Germantown Kitchen Garden’s Golden Hour Concert Series tonight with an intimate outdoor performance. The Philly native’s latest project is one-woman show My Father’s Daughter, to be staged in New York this month. Ivy Sole and Osiris Wildfire are also playing, and the event features a potluck dinner before the music starts. Find more information on the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →


Ursula Rucker is My Father’s Daughter in NYC one-woman production

via Facebook

Philadelphia spoken word artist Ursula Rucker is bringing her one-woman performance, My Father’s Daughter, to New York City’s LaMaMa from October 10th through the 15th, and it won’t be a show to miss.

Detailing the life and struggles of mother and how it overlaps into her own, Rucker uses the art of spoken word along with live sound — provided by frequent collaborator Tim Motzer — to tell us her story. The show, presented in conjunction with Daryl Sledge and Rhymes Over Beats, reveals the stark differences of two lives, but also hints at where they could almost be the same. The tragedy is balanced with plenty of Rucker’s lively personality, and the uplifting message in the end is enough to keep any crowd moving. This is a live memoir about what it means to be a warrior and what it means to overcome. Continue reading →


Ursula Rucker reflects on the idea of home in “Soil”; see her at the African American Museum on Friday

Ursula Rucker | Photo by John Vettese

Bringing together a host of legends such as Chaka Khan, Andy Bey and Marvin Gaye collaborator Leon Ware, Dutch producer / composer Stephen Emmer’s latest project has a diverse guest list and a global focus. Proceeds from the album, Home Ground, will benefit international charity War Child, whose work provides support for children who have been traumatized and displaced by violent conflict.

The album’s standout track, “Soil,” features Philly spoken word heroine Ursula Rucker. Emmer lays down a delicate bed of music for Rucker’s resonant voice to explore. The track comes complete with jazzy piano chords, thematic strings and a skittering kick and snare pattern that suggests hip-hop. Stepping confidently into a powerful vocal performance, Rucker plays with the idea of home. Not just home as a physical space, but home as a feeling of safety, love, community and family. “What is home? Not just house or country or place home, home like heart home, soul home… We all just nomads, looking to be rooted in something….real.” Continue reading →