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Folkadelphia Session: Leyla McCalla (formerly of Carolina Chocolate Drops)

I first learned about Leyla McCalla the way that most people probably did – as a cellist and member of the progressive traditional African-American string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, during their Grammy award-winning release Leaving Eden. I’m sure glad I did. Without wasting any time, McCalla embarked on a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund her debut solo album entitled Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes, which was released in early 2014 (around the time we had her group in for this session). Vari-Colored Songs is a testament to McCalla’s creativity, passion, and diverse upbringing and influences. Of Hughes, she explains that “reading his work made me want to be an artist. I wanted to honor his life and legacy and my own creativity through him.” She does that and much more on the album. For the most part, the classically trained McCalla weaves together plucked, pulsed, and percussively performed cello with Hughes’ words. She also incorporates Haitian folk songs, Creole influence, and bluesy soul into her sound. The album is not showy or dramatic, and like Hughes, is powerful with concision, featuring simply a few instruments – voice, banjo, cello, guitar – used to great effect. She is certainly a rising artist who is following her dreams, not deferring them.

Leyla McCalla and her trio – Taylor Smith on upright bass and Marshall Baker on fiddle – recorded with Folkadelphia at the WXPN Performance Studio on February 8th, 2014 before their concert at the Tin Angel.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Juana Molina at Boot and Saddle, Family Vacation at World Cafe Live and Carolina Chocolate Drops @ Strand Capitol PAC

molina
Photo via facebook.com/juanamolina

Tonight, singer-songwriter Juana Molina will play at Boot and Saddle. The Argentina native released her moody sixth album Wed 21 late last year and is known her songs’ complex arrangements and undeniable sincerity. Watch “Eras” below and get tickets here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: St. James and the Apostles at Ortlieb’s, Bipolaroid at MilkBoy, and Carolina Chocolate Drops at Sellersville Theater

Photo via facebook.com/stjamestheapostles
Photo by Samara Talkin | via facebook.com/stjamestheapostles

Self-proclaimed “acid gospel power trio” St. James and the Apostles continue their residency (which takes place every Wednesday of this month) at Ortlieb’s tonight. The band plans to release the follow-up to 2012′s Baphomet in September. With religious undertones, the band’s garage rock sound takes the listener to church and back. Listen to “Kiss & Tell” below, hear frontman Jamie Mahon’s appearance on the Going to Hell podcast here and come out to see the band for free.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Purling Hiss with Spacin’ at Johnny Brenda’s, Glitter at World Cafe Live, Restorations at the First Unitarian Church, They Might Be Giants at The TLA, Meek Mill at The Tower Theater and more

Photo by Peter English for Shaking Through | shakingthrough.com
Photo by Peter English for Shaking Through | shakingthrough.com
Local rockers Purling Hiss celebrate the release of Water On Mars at Johnny Brenda’s tonight.  The new LP is the trio’s major label debut (through Drag City) and presents the bristly lo-fi guitar rock of previous releases in a more polished, hi-fi resolution while retaining the amped up excess of feedback and noise.  The Key explored Water On Mars for a March edition of Unlocked, which you can check out here.  Mike Polizze’s band will be joined by his Birds of Maya bandmate Jason Killinger’s newish basement fuzz rock project Spacin’, as well as AXIS:SOVA.  Tickets and information the 21+ release show can be found here.  Below, watch Purling Hiss’ video for “Mercury Retrograde.”

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Gathering feat. Rhiannon Giddens at Sellersville Theatre, Young Statues with Heartwell at the Barbary, Slingshot Dakota at The Fire, John Fullbright at the Tin Angel, Antibalas at Union Transfer

XPN Welcomes a Holiday Concert with The Gathering featuring Rhiannon Giddens at Sellersville tonight. The string band’s enchanting harmonies weave a different set of carols to celebrate the yuletide. The Gathering, which is Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Laurelyn Dossett, Mike Compton, Joe Newberry, and Jason Sypher, started playing together in 2011 as a seasonal project of the North Carolina Symphony. Their reputation escalated and they were soon being commissioned for more performances, finding their own among the embrace of holiday tours. Tickets for tonight’s all-ages performances can be found here; below, watch the band perform “Breaking Up Christmas.”

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Purling Hiss at Kung Fu Necktie + Marnie Stern, Free Energy, Carolina Chocolate Drops

Purling Hiss

We’ve shown Purling Hiss quite a bit of love this week, so why stop now? Especially given that the Philly-based rock trio is performing with a pair of other local acts: Watery Love and the garage-goth quartet Far-Out Fangtooth. If you haven’t given Purling Hiss’ Key Studio Session a listen yet, you can do so here. Purling Hiss performs with Watery Love and Far-Out Fangtooth at 8 p.m. at Kung Fu Necktie; tickets to the 21+ show are $8.

Also playing: Marnie Stern + Tera Melos, Many Arms at First Unitarian Church (8 p.m., all ages, $12); Carolina Chocolate Drops + Birdie Busch, The Great Unknown at TLA (8 p.m., $19); Free Energy + The Spinning Leaves, Hezekiah Jones, Toy Soldiers, Kuf Knotz at Drexel University’s Mandell Theater (7 p.m., $10)