Alicia Brown/Tori Powers
Alicia Brown/Tori Powers
Philadelphia is a city of convergence and divergence. Things come together, things fall apart. They coexist on the same block, sometimes with ease, sometimes with painful friction. A South Philly punk show house is shut down, three show houses open in West Philly. A troupe of bluegrass players are joined by a clarinetist, as the banjo player leaves to practice with his hair metal band in a Fishtown apartment. Some kind of circle of life. The effect is an equally beautiful and freak-show melting pot of diverse culture, tradition, and heritage. Similarly, local music and art styles don’t just approach or touch or rub against one another, but instead they overlap, extend beyond, and mash up on each other. It’s messy, it’s gross, but it’s organic and homegrown. Philadelphia exemplifies a consistent disregard for clearly designated “genre boxes.” We’re all a bunch of reprobates and degenerates when it comes to purity, but that’s why we’re a scrappy and lovable music scene.
As far as musical classification goes, Philly’s Liz and the Lost Boys are a mixed-breed band. I mean that in the most endearing way. Speaking of convergence and divergence, the Lost Boys exist at the edges of most things music. Their sound is where jazz rubs against classical, where pop overlaps on indie rock, where the theatrical and musical meet. They are an example of the building up and a building upon of musical ideas on top of one another, but in another sense, they also represent the dissolution of the importance of classification. If you are a listener of Folkadelphia, you recognize our frequent long-winded tirades on the meaninglessness (and honestly, nonexistence) of clear-cut genre boundaries in the present day, obviously because of our show, focusing on folk music. FOLK MUSIC (capitalized) has splintered off into nearly endless sub- and mini-genres. Purists be damned! Evolve or die! So, in a way, Liz and the Lost Boys have staved off a musical existence of tedium, banality, and unimagination in favor of creative richness, possibility, and hopefully longevity. With this in mind, we invited the band in for a session earlier this year to show off songs from their latest full-length and single. Here’s what we captured:
Person, place, or thing? Animal, vegetable, or mineral? These are legitimate questions when considering the often performed “Shady Grove.” Hundred of variations exist, some featuring minor changes in wording or verbiage, while others seem unrecognizable from each other. The biggest difference that exist seem to hinge on the fact that we are not sure if Shady Grove is a person or a place. A particular interesting idea is that “Shady Grove” is a bastardized version of the name “Sadie Grove,” mispronounced somewhere along the way (this actually does happen – in Liza Wells, for instance, ”…he knew Liza well” becomes “he knew Liza Wells.”) As sung in some renditions, if Shady Grove is a place, where in relation to Harlan is it located? If Shady Grove is a person, who is she? Options include, but are not limited to, a wife, a child, and, in one interpretation, a victim of obsessive abuse from the narrator. I believe that much of the confusion stems from the lack of concrete source material. Some scholars posit a connection to the 17th century ballad “Matty Groves,” which then degraded and transformed after its transatlantic journey and through the years. The Library of Congress has a instrumental fiddle take performed by Henry Reed in 1966, which incorporates variations on a “widespread British and American air, showing up in such disparate places as the British ‘Boyne Water’ march and some Appalachian variants of the ballad ‘Barbara Allen.’” This could give creedence to some suppositions that “Shady Grove” originated as an instrumental song with an assemblage of lyrics tacked on. In keeping with the immigrated explanation, the African bania (banjo), as well as the mountain dulcimer (see Jean Ritchie), were used by Scots-Irish Appalachian settlers attempting to imitate the drone pipes of Celtic bagpipes, perhaps legitimizing the 18th century Appalachian connection for “Shady Grove.” Whatever the case may be, “Shady Grove” continues to delight and entertain, as it also continues to transform and mutate.
Tonight on Folkadelphia Radio, we will premiere a session from one of our favorite up-and-coming Philadelphia local groups, Liz And The Lost Boys. They ran a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2012 to fund a full length album and single released last year, working with our friend, engineer, producer, and musician Jeff Zeigler. The band, led by Liz Ciavolino who sings and doubles up on harp and piano, have found a sonic comfort zone at the convergence of baroque pop, skittering jazz-rock, and chamber classical. Listening, you never know quite what to expect around the corner of a verse or chorus.
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band will bring their country blues to The Abbey Bar’s stage tonight. With seven albums and one EP under their belt, they’ve got lots of material to draw from and they do so quite often, playing more than 250 shows a year. Get tickets here and watch “Devils Look Like Angels” below from 2012′s Between the Ditches.
Chamber pop group Liz & The Lost Boys will play at Ortlieb’s Lounge tonight. With jazzy vocal stylings and semi-theatrical structures their music is filled with elegant instrumentation, a vibe that’s prominent on their latest 2-track EP of “February” and “The Forest and The Farmer”. Listen below and come see the FREE show tonight at 9:00p.m.
Retro soul crooner Eli Paperboy Reed will play at Prince Music Theater tonight. As charming as The Temptations and gritty as James Brown, Reed takes old school soul music to new heights. Get tickets here and listen to his new single “Shock To The System” from his upcoming album Nights Like This (due April 29th) below.Eli Paperboy Reed, Liz and the Lost Boys, Ortlieb's Lounge, Prince Music Theater, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, The Abbey Bar
Jazz-tinged Philly four-piece Liz and the Lost Boys headlines Kung Fu Necktie tonight. Fronted by singer, songwriter and harpist Liz Ciavolino, the band just released a digital single for the songs “February” and “The Forest and the Farmer,” and the new compositions are their most expansive to date. Moving far from the folk-pop of their earliest EP, both new songs are steeped in metaphor and mythology, and harness complex structures for an almost prog vibe. Listen below, and get tickets and more information on the show at the XPN Concert Calendar.Former Belle, Hard Rock Philly, Kung Fu Necktie, Liz and the Lost Boys, Nightlands, Ortlieb's
On their debut EP All My Charm and Grace, West Philly’s Liz and the Lost Boys had a quirky, folksy thing going on; since its release, the band’s sound evolved exponentially. A studied classical pianist and harp player, frontwoman Liz Ciavlino pushed her songwriting in more expansive directions, incorporating sultry jazz, pop and rock sounds into the mix with players Will Wright (bass), Dane Galloway (guitar), and Eric Huefner (drums). We got a taste of that broader sound and scope when Liz and the Lost Boys recorded a Key Studio Session last month, and even more so when the band released its self-titled debut album this week. The band celebrates the album’s release tonight at MilkBoy with Anjuli Josephine and Son Step on the bill. We caught up with Ciavolino to talk about musical growth, teaching versus performing, and skirting the pigeonholes that come with playing harp.
The Key: Compared to the your EP, there’s a very exploratory element to the full album. How did that develop?
Liz Ciavolino: Good question. I think that the album that I have right now is something that I’ve been working on for a long time, and it’s kind of almost, I always wanted to make something like this, but I wasn’t capable of it before. I came out of a classical music background. I always envisioned music that was a little bigger than that EP, just a little more varied and longer songs and stuff like that. That’s what I wanted to do, but since that EP I felt like I had to put a lot of time into a lot of different skills – not only my instruments and songwriting, but also learning how to collaborate with people, how to work with other musicians in a way that we all were making something that I was happy with and they were happy with. That’s been something I’ve definitely spent a lot of time working on and thinking about. It might sound silly, but that was a really hard thing for me to get my head around.
TK: You teach music too, right? Has that affected how you perform and collaborate?
LC: I’ve just been teaching for a year now. This is my one year anniversary this month, of being a piano teacher. That definitely has helped me to be a stronger musician on the whole, just to get to talk and think about music all the time, everyday is awesome. I couldn’t ask for a better job.
TK: And since you have to talk to your students about what they’re playing, does it make it easier for you to your band mates about what you’re collectively playing?
LC: I would say so. When it comes to being a musician, there are all these different skills that you have to have, and work on. It’s not just being able to play scales really fast or be awesome at your instrument. I definitely think being a teacher has made me a much more well-rounded musician, and collaborating with my band mates has made me a much more well-rounded musician. So it’s these different skills that all help each other in lots of different ways. Continue reading →Liz and the Lost Boys, Milkboy
XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week featured Joseph Arthur and his new song “Saint of Impossible Causes.” The track comes from Arthur’s upcoming album The Ballad of Boogie Christ. Stream and download the song below, and learn more about Ballad here.
Wednesday’s My Morning Download featured a quartet from Nashville called The Features and their song “The Disorder.” The band is a musical chameleon, drawing their quirky sound from classic rock, indie rock, southern soul and more with ease. They’ll be at MilkBoy Philly on Wednesday, May 8th; go here for info.
Mount Moriah delivered a stirring performance for this week’s Folkadelphia session. The North Carolina band performed songs from their recent Miracle Temple LP – download the full set on Folkadelphia’s Bandcamp here, and listen to “White Sands” below.
We got a double dose of Key Studio Sessions this week. Liz & the Lost Boys turned in a preview of their upcoming LP on Wednesday, with jazzy harp-playing and theatrical vocals. Thursday saw the release of the Key Studio Sessions Vol. 7, featuring tracks from Waxahatchee, Pissed Jeans and more. Download the compilation here, grab the full Liz & the Lost Boys appearance here and stream their song “I’ll Stay” below.
In advance of its release on May 7th, Grandchildren‘s Golden Age was the topic of this week’s Unlocked series. The in-depth look at the local band’s new album kicked-off with a download of “End Times.” Revisit the full feature here and download “End Times” here.Grandchildren, Joseph Arthur, Liz and the Lost Boys, Mount Moriah, The Features, The Postal Service
When Liz & the Lost Boys released its debut All My Charm and Grace, it kept things simple. Led by frontwoman Liz Ciavolino’s intricate harp playing and lilting vocals, the songs mixed light keys, accordion and melodica to craft a serene and folksy vibe over four tracks. But since that release in late 2011, the band has grown. The group that performed in our studio for The Key Studio Sessions a couple weeks ago – Will Wright on bass, Dane Galloway on guitar, Eric Huefner on drums – brings out other elements of Ciavolino’s songwriting. Jazz, rock, even a bit of a theatrical flair. The sound you hear in these recordings is a hint of where Liz and the Lost Boys is heading in their new, Jeff Zeigler-produced LP, due out in June and celebrating its release June 14th at MilkBoy. Get a taste of the new album here, get tickets and information on the show here and enjoy the performances in the downloads below.Liz and the Lost Boys, Milkboy, The Key Studio Sessions
Liz and the Lost Boys is a Philly-based act I was happy to make the acquaintance of this week after their slot opening for William Tyler at Ortlieb’s Lounge on Sunday. The project of Philly songwriter Liz Ciavolino has been around since 2009 dabbling in various breezy, exploratory sounds led by ethereal harp, folksy guitar and jazzy keys and vocals. Their debut EP All My Charm and Grace was a breathtaker, and since its late 2011 release, the project has expanded into a four-piece band configuration. It just wrapped up recording a full-length record with Arc in Round’s Jeff Zeigler at Uniform Recording, and will play its album release at MilkBoy on June 14th. (It also just recorded a Key Studio Session, which you’ll hear in a couple weeks.) Today, the band released the first single from the album called “Escape.” The wandering, whimsical song can be streamed below, or downloaded for free at Liz and the Lost Boys’ Bandcamp page.Liz and the Lost Boys, Milkboy
Let’s start with Boston country/jazz-types Mornin’ Old Sport, who’ll be shacking up at PhilaMOCA along with a whole slew of good-time folky songsters. Also playing are local acts Liz & the Lost Boys, On the Water, and Joshua Alvarez. Admission is on a $7-10 sliding scale; show starts at 8. Listen to “Katie” from Mornin’ Old Sport’s forthcoming album below.
Singer-songwriter extraordinaire Jackson Browne will be plucking strings and crooning verses at the Academy of Music. Opening up the show is folk-and-fiddle hero Sara Watkins, whose latest album Sun Midnight Sun came out earlier this summer. Tickets are available here starting at $40. Stream “When It Pleases You”– from Sara Watkins’ latest album — below.
Rufus Wainwright and singer-songwriter Josh Ritter were scheduled to appear at the Festival Pier tonight. The show has been postponed, and a new date will be announced soon. Wainwright is touring to promote his latest album, Out Of The Game, out on Decca. Below, watch the video for the title track from Wrainwright’s Out Of The Game, featuring actress Helena Bonham Carter.