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Download The Key Studio Sessions Volume 10 (feat. Modern Baseball, Elegant Animals, Marah and more)

TheKeyStudioSessionsVol10Summing up an entire region’s music scene in an hour-ish long compilation is pretty much impossible. But dangit, we try our best. I’m very psyched for the roster of artists we’ve lined up on The Key Studio Sessions Volume 10, out today as a free download you can grab below. Pop-punk wave makers Modern Baseball did a version of “The Weekend” from their 2012 debut LP Sports, and the mini XPN shoutout they deliver at the end of the first chorus might be my favorite moment of the set. The song as a whole is insanely fun and on point, and MoBo’s basement-scene brethren W.C. Lindsay (more synthpop leaning) and The Hundred Acre Woods (more folk-leaning) also make solid appearances. There are several acts on the comp who you’ll see this summer at the XPoNential Music Festival: Ginger Coyle, Commonwealth Choir, Marah and Marian Hill. I love using our studio to allow more experimental-leaning artists to blaze new paths, whether its Trophy Wife‘s expansive rager “Neil Young” (very reminiscent of the Dead Man score for sure), Tutlie‘s elegant dreamscape “Kaito” or Bleeding Rainbow‘s noise-punk jam “Time or Place.” Suave downbeat crooners Elegant Animals knock a track from their back catalogue out of the park, and though the comp is admittedly short on hip-hop, eclectic electronica soundscaper Ganou spits a fierce verse on “Detainment.” (We’ll have a lot more Philly hip-hop on volume 11 in August, don’t worry.) A summation of an entire scene? Of course not. I think of this more of an incomplete but nonetheless awesome snapshot of Philadelphia-area music circa spring 2014, one we’ll continue building on. Major thanks go to production assistants Dan Hatton and Dan Malloy; photographers Rachel Del Sordo, Megan Kelly, Allison Newbold, Dominique Montgomery and Ian Lewis; videographers Bob Sweeney, James PowersRyan Chowansky and Bands in the Backyard; and guest engineers Mattias Nilsson and Adam Staniszewski. Listen to the comp and download it for free below.

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Alt-country rockers Marah, playing #XPNfest, share video for “A Melody of Rain”

Alt-country rockers Marah are one of the 30+ bands playing WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival this summer at Wiggins Park/Susquehanna Bank Center July 25-27th. The band recently released Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania. The album was inspired by a 1931 book by Henry Shoemaker, “Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania.” Marah’s Dave Bielanko and Christine Smith wrote music for the early 20th Century and Civil War-era lyrics and recorded the album in an old farmhouse in Central Pennsylvania, where they relocated after leaving Philadelphia. The album is a impassioned collection of country & folk & gospel flavored rock-and-roll, recorded with a handful of local musicians including 9 year old fiddle prodigy and singer, Gus Tritsch. Gus steals much of the show on this new video for “A Melody of Rain,” a motley, yet swinging roots rave-up. Tickets for the XPoNential Music Festival are available here.

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Rodrigo y Gabriela, Hurray for the Riff Raff, The Hold Steady and more top the XPoNential Music Festival lineup

Rodrigo y Gabriela | photo via rodgab.com
Rodrigo y Gabriela | photo via rodgab.com

Dueling acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, eclectic New Orleans folk-blues combo Hurray for the Riff Raff, and stalwart rock n’ rollers The Hold Steady are just some of the 25 artists announced today in the full lineup of this year’s edition of the XPoNential Music Festival.

These acts will play the two stages in Wiggins Park from July 25th to July 27th of this year, alongside the festival’s headlining concerts at Susquehanna Bank Center featuring Ryan Adams, Jenny Lewis and Dawes (July 26th) and Beck, Band of Horses and The Districts (July 27th).

Hurray for the Riff Raff | Photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com
Photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com

The Wiggins Park bill is filled with WXPN favorites, like alt-country heroes Old 97s, Jersey singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins and Diego Garcia, all of whom are return-XPNFest-ers.

There is also an assortment of up-and-coming names like countrified Nashville singer-songwriter Caitlin Rose (featured on World Cafe’s Sense of Place: Nashville series); Bear’s Den, a UK rock trio with a flair for drama (they made a splash at the March Edition of the Communion Club Night at Underground Arts), the jazzy / folky vocal combo Lake Street Dive and the art-pop powerhouse Lucius, (who knocked our socks off at Free at Noon late last year.)

Man Man | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com
Man Man | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

The greater Philadelphia scene is nicely represented as well. Bigger names like avant-garde rockers Man Man (who leaked their appearance last week), punk rock troubadour Dave Hause and reinvented folklorists Marah will mix with emerging artists Commonwealth Choir, Our Griffins, Marian Hill, The Lawsuits, Ginger Coyle and Viv and the Revival.

And adding an even more eclectic scope to the lineup is a taste of zydeco from C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band and some Mississippi blues care of harmonica master James Cotton.

Three days passes for new and renewing WXPN members are available now here. Tickets for the general public go on sale on May 1st; as with previous years, three-day passes will include lawn admission to the Susquehanna Bank Center shows (seated tickets to those are on sale separately, here and here).

Below, listen to a Spotify playlist of the Wiggins Park lineup, and read the complete list of artists after the jump.

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The Week’s Best Free MP3s, incl. Marah, Auctioneer, Katie Frank & the Pheromones and more

Photo by Will Hoover
Photo by Will Hoover

This week on Unlocked, The Key got the full scoop on Counting Your Curses by Katie Frank & The Pheromones.  It’s the debut full-length from the local roots rock outfit, and you can download a track from it called “Halfway Gone” below before checking out the full feature here.

Joe Kille is the subject of this week’s Folkadelphia Session.  The fiddler for Morning River Band struck out on his own with a new record Arkadelphia, described by Fred Knittel as “a smart set of timeless sounding country-noir songs.”  Check out some live-recorded tracks from the LP for yourself below.

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The Key Studio Sessions: Marah

Photo by Adam Staniszewski | stanzstudios.com
Photo by Adam Staniszewski | stanzstudios.com

“It was hard to believe that some of these songs had faded so far so fast,” Dave Bielanko says. “We felt like if someone of our generation didn’t have a go at them they’d perhaps vanish completely.”

He’s talking about his latest project under the Marah monicker – Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania, a vibrant recording of songs collected by folklorist Henry Shoemaker in his 1931 book of the same name. Bielanko says the undertaking was the kind of idea musicians get all the time over beers: you think about how you’re going to record, you think about the types of rooms you’re going to play, you plan exciting and ambitious things – but don’t always follow through.

“Usually these big ideas fade away the next day,” he says . “But this time we didn’t let go, we kept pushing.”

When Marah caught the ear of the Philly music scene in the late 90s, it was revered locally and internationally as an outstanding live band. As we hear in this week’s Key Session – graciously guest engineered by Adam Staniszewski of StanzStudios – it still is an outstanding live band, though of a completely different sort. The instrumentation is acoustic and organic, not electric and rock club-ready; the beats come from snappy bootstomps more than hammering drums. The bass is upright and banjo is prominent. Christine Smith’s warm vocals match the old-timey arrangements, while Bielanko’s counterpoint singing has the same husky swagger as always, keeping a healthy mix of old and new Marah.

Probably the biggest surprise in the Mountain Minstrelsy ensemble is the 10 year old bandmate Gus Tritsch. He’s an ace fiddle player, and totally shreds (if “shred” can be used in a folk sense) on his lead parts, but also steps to the vocal mic for a roaring delivery on the lively, raucous parable called “Rattlesnake.”

Bielanko says that Tritsch “lives in the shadow of that church we recorded in” near the band’s new home base of Millheim in Central Pa. His proximity led to him becoming part of the project.

“At this point in my life I don’t believe I could possibly learn too much about music from anyone except a kid like Gus,” Bielanko says. “His fearlessness, his instincts. Watching him playing punk rock without really knowing what ‘punk rock’ is…performing this stuff live with him is an honor, he is a badass. We swap records now, for Christmas I gave him Every Picture Tells a Story.”

Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania came out last week; Marah plays Pittsburgh this weekend, Washington D.C. next weekend, and is shaping up plans for the summer. But, Bielanko says, “like a lot of cool things, we are not forever, we are not a ‘catch em next time’ kinda band. I love that aspect too.”

Listen and download Marah’s Key Studio Session below, and order Mountain Minstrelsy here.

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Marah presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania at Yards Brewing Co on 2/16

Photo via https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mountain-Minstrelsy/295990917129295
Photo via https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mountain-Minstrelsy/295990917129295

Following the December update of a new album from nineties roots rock outfit Marah, the band has announced that they will perform Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania at Yards Brewing Co on February 16th.  Presented by Philadelphia Folksong Society, the event will allow Marah to perform the new album with a full band ahead of its February 25th release.

Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania was inspired by a book of the same name that held “a collection of songs lyrics gathered in the mountains of Pennsylvania by Henry Shoemaker, a folklorist and “song catcher.”  Marah’s David Bielanko and Christine Smith reworked the music and lyrics and recorded the album in Millheim, PA.  Tickets and information for the night of “long lost Pennsylvania folk songs, waltzes, rafting chants and mountain ballads” will be available here.

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Marah return with a new album, Marah Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania on February 25th

Photo via https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mountain-Minstrelsy/295990917129295
Photo via https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mountain-Minstrelsy/295990917129295

In early October, we asked the question: Whatever Happened To Marah?. The short answer was that brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko, who took Philly by roots-rock storm in the late Nineties, began to break apart in the mid-aughts. While the brothers parted musical ways, Dave continues to evolve Marah with Christine Smith, and on February 25th release Marah Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania.

The album is based on an obscure book, Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania, a collection of song lyrics gathered in the mountains of Pennsylvania by folklorist Henry Shoemaker and published in 1931. After getting a copy of the book, Dave and Christine began to work on a new album, writing original music and using the lyrics in Shoemaker’s book. Working in their studio in an old church in Millheim, Pennsylvania, the record was made on a Studer 8 track tape machine and mastered directly to a vinyl lathe. They also collaborated with an 8-year-old fiddle prodigy named Gus Tritsch, who plays on the album.

Marah’s new album captures the rock and roll intensity and energy of their previous rock and roll records but this time they do it with folk songs, waltzes, chants and ballads. It’s rural rock and roll in all of Marah’s rootsy glory. Below, watch a video of the making of the album.

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