Live at 435 welcomes Ben Smith into the studio for Episode 2

Ben Smith | photo by Josh Barker
Ben Smith | photo by Josh Barker

Launched earlier this month with an appearance by Kevin Manning, Downingtown-based video series Live at 435 is back with Episode 2.  Ben Smith is a long-time friend of 435 founder / musician Matt Magarahan so it was a no brainer to welcome him into the studio for a few songs.  Smith performed two stripped-down tracks, “I Recognize Your Fist” and “Someone, Somewhere, Sometime,” keeping it simple with just vocals and piano.  Between songs Matt sat down with Ben and talked about clothing choices, reminisced about their early recording days and what’s next for Smith.  Check out the episode below and stay tuned for more from Live at 435.


The Week’s Best Free MP3s, incl. Willy Mason, American Babies, Ben Smith

The Districts | photo via
The Districts | photo via

Closing out 2013, Weathervane Music premiered a Shaking Through session with The Districts this week.  The Lancaster natives wrote, arranged and recorded “Vermont” in two days at Miner Street Recording for the episode.  Watch the video here and stream and download the track below.

Todd Hamilton brought in his American Babies project for a Key Studio Session.  Hamilton has floated around the music scene for many years, fronting bands, collaborating with other artists and taking a seat in the producers chair.  For this session his band recorded tracks from their latest Knives and Teeth LP.  Stream and download “When I Build My Fortune” below and get the full set here.

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Ben Smith spreads holiday cheer with Old Man Winter, vol. 3


Local singer-songwriter Ben Smith has released the third installment of his annual holiday series, Old Man Winter Vol. 3.  This year pairs the synth-rocking “Santa’s All In” with the love balladry of “Christmas Down the Shore.”  The original songs represent two different holiday-time sentiments. “Santa’s All In” is a cynical tale of a fed-up Santa who moves to the land of “ne’er-do-wells” to play poker with Lady Luck and Jack Frost.  On the other side of the holiday cheer spectrum is “Christmas Down the Shore,” which details a romantic Christmas spent in the Ghost town that is the Jersey Shore in December. Stream the songs below and grab a name-your-own price download here.


The Week’s Best Free MP3s, incl. Balance and Composure, Free Energy, Ben Smith


Toy Soldiers celebrated the release of their full-length The Maybe Boys with a Key Studio Session. For their encore session (they first visited the WXPN studios in 2010) the rootsy blues rock band recorded a few songs from the new record, as well as an unreleased track called “Street Sweeper.” Stream and download “Heart in a Mousetrap” below and get the full set here.

West Chester’s Ben Smith has released a new EP called Ravine Road. The singer-songwriter recorded it himself in his home studio, using vintage equipment he picked up at the estate sale of his seventh-grade teacher. Listen to the title track below and get a name-your-own-price download here.

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Download “Ravine Road” from Ben Smith’s new EP


West Chester’s Ben Smith has released a new EP called Ravine Road, following up the singer-songwriter’s 2011 debut Crooked Earth and a handful of singles.  This record was an experiment in doing it yourself – Smith played all instruments and recorded it himself, and that individualistic approach was applied to the lyrics as well.  There’s a song about poison arrows, Broadway Danny Rose and The Fonz – incongruous as a whole but relevant in and of themselves to Smith’s encounters during this specific time in his life.  From Smith:

[The songs are] a bit looser this time around—which is a nice way of saying I recorded all the parts by myself this time, in my home studio, without obsessing over every little detail. There was still a lot of obsession but I was more interested in capturing little live moments rather than fussed over ones. And so, armed with that approach, a somewhat limited understanding of proper recording technique, and some recently acquired vintage instruments—some from the auction of the estate of Josiah Hibberd, my late seventh-grade Social Studies teacher—come these five songs.

Stream and download the title track below and check out the full EP here.


Ben Smith takes on Beck’s Song Reader

Singer-songwriter Ben Smith who just yesterday contributed this holiday song to the WXPN 12 Days of Local Christmas compilation, finds his musical inspiration from a variety of sources. One of those is old sheet music. Smith is a collector of sheet music, and when he heard about Beck’s recent Song Reader project, he decided to take part in it.

Song Reader is Beck’s new album, sort of. It is an exquisitely packaged collection of twenty new songs “existing only as individual pieces of sheet music, never before released or recorded.” Let’s just say it had Ben Smith’s name written all over it.

As part of the release of the project, Beck has been posting videos of musicians performing songs from Song Reader. You can watch the performances here. Smith couldn’t resist contributing; you can watch him perform “Last Night You Were A Dream” below and on the Song Reader site. We reached out to Ben via e-mail to reflect on Beck’s project, how it relates to his creative process and why he chose the song he chose to perform. Continue reading →


The 12 Days of Local Christmas: Download “Son, You Should Come Home for Christmas” by Ben Smith

WXPN’s Twelve Days of Local Christmas continues today with the song “Son, You Should Come Home For Chritsmas” by singer-songwriter Ben Smith. You can download the song below, but be sure to download the song’s B-Side, “Black Friday” from Smith’s Old Man Winter, Volume 2 here. Recorded at Milkboy Philly, the song includes Matt Magarahan on drums and bassist Tim Celfo. Smith has been one of XPN’s long time favorite singer-songwriters with an excellent body of work behind him as a solo artist and with his bands Missing Palmer West and Wise and Foolish Builders. A year ago Smith was featured in a Key Studio Video Session that you can watch here. The 12 Days of Local Christmas compilation is curated by XPN mid-day host Helen Leicht and the songs will be played daily during My Morning Download on the Morning Show with Michaela Majoun and on Helen’s local pick of the day. You can download the entire Twelve Days of Local Christmas compilation here.

Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company

Celebrate Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday with Mason Porter, Hezekiah Jones and more (tonight at World Cafe Live)

Next Saturday marks the 100th birthday of the man who charted the course of American folk music as we know it, Woody Guthrie. In celebration, a roster of regulars from the Philadelphia folk scene are converging on the World Cafe Live stage tonight to pay tribute in song. Led by long-standing West Chester folk trio Mason Porter, the bill will feature Hezekiah Jones, ubiquitous harmonica player Bob Beach, local troubador John Flynn, piano-playing storyteller Ben Smith, host of The Folk Show on WXPN and regional folk guru Gene Shay, and many more. Members of the Philadelphia Folksong Society receive a $2 discount at the door, and a portion of the show’s proceeds will benefit the Lansdowne Folk Club. The Woody Guthrie 100th Birthday Celebration With Mason Porter and Friends takes place at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street, tonight at 7 p.m. Admission to the all-ages show is $10.


This Weekend’s Concert Picks: Ben Smith at Milkboy, City Rain at North Star Bar

Ben Smith

Ben Smith, leader of the West Chester-based chamber-rock group Missing Palmer West, was the subject of our November Key Studio Video Session. For the session, Smith brought in a string trio and drummer to perform the highlights off his debut solo album Crooked Earth, which was digitally released in the fall. Tonight, Smith celebrates the official release of the album. Two of the tracks from his session are below; you can listen to his full Key Studio Session and watch the video interview here.

Smith Ben Smith performs with Joe D’Amico at 8 p.m. at Milkboy Ardmore; tickets to the all-ages show are $8–$10.

Also Playing: Anthony Green + The Dear Hunter at Union Transfer (8:30 p.m., all ages, $17–18); “Matthew Gallagher Photography Exhibit” featuring Nothing + Creepoid at The Level Room (7 p.m., 21+, $8); Akron/Family + Bad Weather California, Dangerous Ponies at The Blockley (9 p.m., 21+, $10–$13); Archives Of Oblivion + North Lawrence Midnight Singers, Andrew Gray at Milkboy Philly (10 p.m., 21+, $8–$10); Steve Goldberg And The Arch Enemies + Catnaps, Pete From Creeping Weeds at Kung Fu Necktie (7:30 p.m., 21+, $8);

Photo by Sarah Fry /

Last month, XPN2′s John Vettese brought the Philly electropop duo City Rain into the WXPN studios for one of our Key Studio Sessions, which we posted last week. After spending some time with the pair in the studio, Vettese wrote: “Ben Runyan and Jarrett Zerrer are serious balls of creative energy – and when they recorded their Key Studio Session last month, it became clear that the music they make suits them perfectly. ‘Creepin’’ phases up and down in Depeche Mode vibeyness, and then Runyan takes a 180-degree turn and vocally flips out on ‘Watch Out’ and ‘Don’t Stay Inside.’ He’s got an intense delivery, and actually loses his breath at one point, but what are you going to when you’ve got beats copped from Moby’s “Body Rock” goading you on?” You can listen to two of those tracks below; the rest are available here.

City Rain performs with Tygerstripe, Bad News Bears, and Mean at 9 p.m. at North Star Bar; tickets to the 21+ show are $8.

Also Playing: Man Man + Deathfix, NAH at Union Transfer (8:30 p.m., all ages, $15–$17); Wildlife + Adam And Dave’s Bloodline, Satellite Hearts at Kung Fu Necktie (7:30 p.m., 21+, $8); Sun Ra Arkestra + West Philadelphia Orchestra, Impressionist at The Blockley (9 p.m., 21+, $13–$15)

Twin Sister + Ava Luna at Johnny Brenda’s (9 p.m., 21+, $10–$12); Cass McCombs / Frank Fairfield at Kung Fu Necktie (8:30 p.m., 21+, SOLD OUT); Ports Of Call + Low Roar, Soporus (8:30 p.m., 21+, $8)


Download The Key Studio Sessions Compilation Vol. 3 (feat. mewithoutYou, Psychic Teens, White Birds, + more)


The Key Studio Sessions Compilation Volume 3—which you can download for free here—features one exclusive track recorded at the WXPN studios by 18 local acts, including DRGN King, Blayer Point Du Jour, Plow United, Weston, Surgeon, Break It Up, Black Landlord, Crills Wilson, Psychic Teens, The Bad Doctors, Ben Smith, The Tressels, Saturn Never Sleeps, White Birds, Andrew Lipke, Ports Of Call, mewithoutYou, and Young Statues.

Special thanks to all of the bands for coming to our studio, and to John Vettese for recording them. We’d also like to thank volunteer production assistants Zachary Deveraux Fairbrother, Jake “Rabid” Nisenfeld
Jeremy Quattlebaum, Joshua Pannepacker, and Maureen Walsh, as well as photographers Eric Ashleigh, Michael “Kraus Phade” Béon, Kate Bracaglia, Michelle Holshue, Mattias Nilsson, Eric Schuman, and Rachelle Lee Smith for sharing their work.

Click here the download the 18-track compilation in its entirety as a .zip file. Want to hear more? Click here to listen to the full sessions by all 18 local acts; you can also download The Key Studio Sessions Compilation Volume I and Volume 2.

Track listing:

DRGN King, “Holy Ghost”
Blayer Point Du Jour, “Mansion Party”
Plow United, “Martin”
Weston, “Love And Rockets”
Surgeon, “Greed”
Break It Up, “Subterranian”
Black Landlord, “Last Night”
Crills Wilson, “Grifter”
Psychic Teens, “Red”
The Bad Doctors, “Sisyphus And The Gate”
Ben Smith, “Love Potion No. 10″
The Tressels, “Cold Blue Eyes”
Saturn Never Sleeps, “Hearts On Fire”
White Birds, “Floating Hands”
Andrew Lipke, “Sleep Like A Child”
Ports Of Call, Ballinora
mewithoutYou, “Tie Me Up! Untie Me!”
Young Statues , “Athens”