By

Shelby Lynne will play the Keswick Theater come June; listen to her new single “I Can’t Imagine”

Alexandra Hedison
Photo by Alexandra Hedison | via facebook.com/shelbylynne

Soulful country crooner Shelby Lynne will take on the Keswick Theater this summer on June 21st where WXPN welcomes the artist to perform two of her albums, I Am Shelby Lynne and latest I Can’t Imagine, in their entirety. I Can’t Imagine is set to be released May 5th, but you can give a listen to her latest single release off the record, the title track “I Can’t Imagine”, below. For more information on her show this summer, head over to the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

By

As Comfortable as Home: Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield perform at the Keswick Theater

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko
Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko

“When I first heard Jessica sing this song, there was a spark,” Seth Avett said while sitting at the piano to the far right of the Keswick Theatre’s stage. He talked about when he realized their this common love for Elliott Smith had to become a project, and how he kept coming back to Jessica Lea Mayfield singing “Twilight” as the push to keep up with it over the years.

Conveying a sense of home, Avett and Mayfield performed in front of a kitchen backdrop on Saturday evening, complete with a working kettle, refrigerator, vacuum, shelves of teas and cereals, and a table placed to hold Seth’s various guitars. Touching on a bit more than cherished Elliott Smith tunes, the two musicians intertwined some of Smith’s influences along with their own works for the set. Continue reading →

By

Interpreting Elliott Smith with Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield | photo via sethandjessicasing.com
Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield | photo via sethandjessicasing.com

Jessica Lea Mayfield’s introduction to Elliott Smith was the song “Clementine” – some dude with a Weezer tattoo played it for her after a gig in Ohio, hoping to impress her, and she was pleasantly surprised.

Seth Avett’s gateway song was “Say Yes” – a friend wanted to learn it, and asked the singer-guitarist of The Avett Brothers to teach him.

This winter, the two musicians – both big players in the American roots / rock scene – are releasing a tribute album to the iconic singer-songwriter, who died tragically in 2003 at age 34. Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliot Smith is out on Tuesday, March 17th, and it’s an outstanding record (listen to it in its entirety via NPR Music’s First Listen to hear for yourself).

Over the course of twelve songs, Avett and Mayfield mix up well-known numbers with deep-cut fan favorites; some arrangements stay relatively faithful to the original recordings, others take thrilling liberties. And all around, they channel the raw emotion that lives at the music’s core. Continue reading →

By

Tonight’s Concert Picks: Divers at Boot & Saddle, Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Keswick, Liz and the Lost Boys at Bourbon & Branch and more…

Divers
Divers | photo by Abi Reimold

Local outfit Divers headline Boot & Saddle tonight.  The dark-rock four-piece, comprised of Emily Ana Zeitlyn, Ross Bellenoit, Todd Erk and Tom Bendel, is finishing up a new record that was funded by fans through a PledgeMusic campaign.  Divers recorded a Key Studio Session in 2013; check out “Eggshells” from the session below and learn more about the new record here, which is set for a release on December 15th.  Tickets and information for tonight’s show can be found here.

Continue reading →

By

Tonight’s Concert Picks: Angus and Julia Stone at Union Transfer, David Bazan at the First Unitarian Church, Todd Rundgren at the Keswick Theater

Angus and Julia Stone
Angus and Julia Stone | photo courtesy of the artists

Australian brother-sister act Angus and Julia Stone make an appearance at Union Transfer tonight.  The duo teamed up again for this year’s self-titled LP, following a handful of solo efforts that were released after 2010′s critically acclaimed Down the Way.  While primarily an acoustic folk project, the Stones approach their songs from a blues angle.  Watch their video for “A Heartbreak” below and pick up tickets here.

Continue reading →

By

Singular songwriter Chris Isaak takes to the Keswick stage

Chris Isaak | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Chris Isaak | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Whether you hear Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” for the first time or the 50th, it is still unlike any song from 1989 or 2014. And to see Isaak performing this and any of the dozens of songs he has created or covered is a must-see. I finally caught him on Friday at the Keswick and was as ecstatic with the show as the rest of the nearly sold-out crowd. Continue reading →

By

“It’s a big sky right now and I’m really happy”: Josh Ritter talks about the road since The Beast In Its Tracks

Josh Ritter | Photo via facebook.com/joshrittermusic
Josh Ritter | Photo via facebook.com/joshrittermusic

Just about a year ago, Josh Ritter released a moving collection of songs called The Beast in its Tracks. It was notably the first time that this favorite of the singer-songwriter scene wrote from a true first-person perspective, collecting a range of thoughts and emotions in the wake of his 2011 divorce and channeling them into songs that were remarkably stirring, beautiful and – on standout track “Joy to You Baby” – even optimistic. The album went on to receive widespread critical acclaim, and Ritter toured in support of it both with his five-piece Royal City Band and by himself.

On Thursday night, he splits the difference, playing at The Keswick Theatre in Glenside acoustically, accompanied by musical collaborators Zack Hickman and Josh Kaufman. It won’t be a full-on rock set, allowing Ritter to touch on the more nuanced moments of his catalog, but he won’t be by himself either, allowing the set to be built around a dynamic rise-and-fall. “It’s something I’ve been jonesing for,” he told me when I caught up with him via phone enroute to a show in Louisville earlier this week. We talked about the differences between playing with a band and playing solo, the unexpected success of Beast and what to do when your opening act gives you an axe.

The Key: Does the opportunity to do solo or more intimate shows like this become more of a rare thing for you the longer you’re a performing musician?

Josh Ritter: I would hope not! I started playing solo, for many years. When I write, I write solo. And there’s so much about that part of it that I find to be the foundational aspect of my songs. I really believe that songs, to be lasting, should be able to played by anybody. It shouldn’t require virtuosic talent and instrumentation – and that’s good for me because I’m no virtuoso when it comes to playing guitar! [laughs] And then I also believe that a song should only need to be delivered by a single voice. I really like the idea of a strand of melody going around in my head and the words kind of dovetailing that. I live for those moments, and I believe in a show those can be really important. You don’t need to have anything else to reach an audience then just voice and guitar or voice and some instrument. You can always add on [in the studio], and that’s great. But it’s best to remind yourself every so often that you can do it on your own.


“There’s a real tangible flow of energy between the performer and the audience.” Josh Ritter on stage at The Fillmore in San Francisco | Photo by Brian Stowell | Photo via facebook.com/joshrittermusic

TK: Yeah, and chasing that a little bit further, can you compare and contrast playing with your full band to playing a more scaled-down version of it like you’re doing on this tour, or even straight up playing solo? What do you like about playing with the guys ,what do you like about playing alone?

JR: Well it all basically comes down to – without sounding too much like a hippie – is there’s a real tangible flow of energy between the performer and the audience. I think when you’re performing, that is a strand or a power that you don’t want to sever or dilute any. When you’re playing on your own it’s just you and the audience and that’s a really incredible thing. With a band, that gets trickier. You’re sharing your energy with the band the band is focusing its energy through you and it can be an ecstatic experience, but it can also be something you can all too easily fold yourself into and get lost in the energy of the band and pay less attention to what’s going on between you and the audience. Continue reading →

By

Tonight’s Concert Picks: Kopecky Family Band at TLA, Jose James at World Cafe Live, Luscious Jackson at Union Transfer, and more

Kopecky Family Band | via Facebook

The Nashville natives of Kopecky Family Band will be headlining the TLA tonight, just one stop on a tour that is taking them around North America for the remainder of the year. Their full indie sound is created with the use of keyboards, horns, and cello in addition to the basic band set up. Their somewhat recent releaseKids Raising Kids, opens with the spunky lyrics “Oh! my wandering eyes / nothing’s gonna take me by surprise!” that are delivered in harmony over bluesy riffs and slowly marching drums. Sure to be an upbeat performance, get out to see Kopecky Family band, especially since they’ll be supported by California-bound locals Cheers Elephant. Find tickets to the show here, and pick up their album here.

Continue reading →

By

Interview: Talking about The Kinks and cover songs with The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy (playing The Keswick Theater on Saturday)

1331He’s a songwriter in his own right, but Colin Meloy of Portland indie troupe The Decemberists is also an appreciator of music, the pop hits and the deep cuts. In 2005, his Colin Meloy Sings… EP project made its debut to coincide with a solo tour. Over time, the series has tackled the music of Morrissey and Sam Cooke, as well as lesser-known names like English folk revivalist Shirley Collins, via limited-run tour-only EPs.

Since their wildly popular 2011 album The King is Dead, The Decemberists have been relatively quiet, allowing some of its members to play with the rustic ensemble Black Prairie, while Meloy launched a series of children’s books with his wife Carson Ellis. But this fall he is out on the road again, hitting up Glenside’s Keswick Theater on November 2nd, and this time he brings an EP covering the music of The Kinks; you can hear his rendition of “Do You Remember Walter?” at NPR Music.

On Tuesday I caught up with Meloy on the Phone from his Portland home; you can read our conversation below to dig into the origins of the Sings project, the function of cover songs in general, the greatest era of Ray and Dave Davies, and what might become of the new songs he’s testing out on tour.

The Key: You’ve been doing these Colin Meloy Sings EPs for about eight years now. What were the project’s origins?

Colin Meloy: The first solo tour I did was in 2005. It seemed like kind of a novel project, as far as just having something on the road to make it an event, and maybe induce people to come out to the shows. I think I mostly just thought as excuse to take on a weird project. And I think just Morrissey had drawn me because he is one of the few artists that I know pretty much his body of work, inside and out. I don’t think there is a single song that I don’t know pretty intimately. I mean, since 2005 I guess I haven’t really kept up with the post-You Are The Quarry output, but certainly prior to that. And it was fun to kind go through and dig through B-sides and kind of re-record these songs as my kind of interpretation of them. So that sort of set a precedent and so for the next solo tour I figured I should just keep doing it, and doing it in the same fashion. And that leads us to today with The Kinks.

TK: Were the other artists in the series ones that you knew their body of work just as intimately?
CM: No. With Shirley Collins, I kind of had given myself a crash course over the course of a year or two. So that came at a time when I felt like I was being kind of like a scholar of the British folk revival, and she was one of my intros into that. And it was also an opportunity to kind of maybe expose people to Shirley Collins; people who maybe haven’t necessarily known about her. And then with Sam Cooke, I just had a love for those songs. They’re the sort of songs that are just in your bones, everybody just knows them. I tend to think of them as pop songs and they do have a nice intimacy that I thought would translate nicely to really simple, spare renditions. So that’s really where the Sam Cooke one went. And The Kinks was trickier. I feel like I was really stumped this time around. I have their records and I know their work really well, but I never actually dug in that deep. Aside from playing “You Really Got Me” with a high school band, I had never actually learned a Kinks song really. So it was an opportunity to do that.

TK: I’m a little intimidated by how many albums they have. And I know a lot of people, a lot of people I know are in the same boat. With you, what do you think it really was that kept you from diving in till now?

CM: It’s the depth of the work and it just runs the gamut. I mean there’s just tons of kind of tossed-off stuff, as well as, songs that you know, but never maybe spent the time to really sorta focus in. They’re baroquely arranged, which can sometimes distract from the lyrics. For example, it was sort of a revelation to me that “Waterloo Sunset” – which I think everybody knows as being this love letter to London, so much so that it was even performed at the opening ceremony of the Olympics – that if you dig, if you get under the hood and actually learn the song it’s kind of a really sad song about an agoraphobe and kind of a misanthrope. I think that strain, that attitude goes through a lot of his music. So where it seems like this really romantic tune about the beauty of the London skyline, it’s actually about a guy who just doesn’t leave his house; which is kind of amazing. Continue reading →