On their own, there’s nothing traditional about the music made by Amir ElSaffar or Omar Dewachi. An Iraqi-American trumpeter born in Oak Park, Illinois, ElSaffar has integrated Iraqi maqam with jazz in a series of stunning and unique hybrid projects. Dewachi is an Iraqi-born anthropologist and professor at the American University of Beirut who plays the oud in the free-improv and experimental band City of Salt.
It’s romantic and it’s dreamy. Psych folk band Upperfields recently played a Random Tea Room Session, and the final product couldn’t have come out any better. Videographer Koofreh Umoren plays with subtle zooms, jump cuts and transitional focuses that colorfully play with the lyrics of the soft, supple song “Find My Way Home”. Check it out below. On May 28, the band returns to the Random Tea Room with Doylestown folk / psych outfit Heat Thunder. The show starts at 8 p.m. and ticket prices are TBA. Check out the session below.
XPN and The Key welcome Mason Porter to the Ardmore Music Hall tonight. The West Chester folk band has been the subject of this week’s Unlocked feature for their new record Home for the Harvest, and they will be celebrating the LP’s release at tonight’s show. The record is close-knit and intimate, with the trio and their contributing percussionists creating an escape from hectic, technology-focused city life and you can be sure the live performance will be the same. Tickets and information for the show with Sean Hoots can be found here.
Without exaggeration, if you continue down this page to the music player, you will hear two of our favorite Folkadelphia Sessions that we’ve recorded. Well, technically, it’s one session from two awe-inspiring and up-and-coming songwriters. Andrea Tomasi and Johanna Warren, both Northeasterners and on tour together, visited us at the end of October 2013 during their stop in Philadelphia. They return for another Folkadelphia Concert presentation this Saturday, February 1st at the Random Tea Room with Philly’s Abi Reimold.
My discovery of the two musicians happened organically, through the beauty of word-of-mouth recommendation. I received an email from Nate Krenkel of Team Love Records telling me about this amazing songwriter he had been following and would be working with soon. Then he sent me Andrea Tomasi’s album. Tracked outdoors on the Shawangunk Ridge at Minnewaska State Park in New York, the album blends nature, song, and recording together in a quiet but powerful way. Tomasi gives a voice to the trees, the insects, and the Appalachian spirit. It has been crystalized and digitized for us to hear.
It so happened that Tomasi was working on an autumn tour with a musical collaborator, Johanna Warren, and we communicated about setting a concert up in Philadelphia, which we soon did. I had the distinct impression that I had previously listened to Warren, some kind of sonic deja vu. After a time, I remembered that during college, a friend of mine frequently recommended a band called Sticklips to me, a group in which Warren is a key member. Is it coincidence or perhaps our musical destinies interwining? Who can say. The compositions that comprise Warren’s Fates release have hooks that pull you in and don’t let go; we hear the deadly beauty of a siren’s song.
Together, particularly at the live show, the musicians have unbelievable chemistry. Tomasi and Warren draw from the forest and its sounds and silences. They are two woodland deities, mythological elementals, spinning moss-covered stories and sap-scented spells through song.
Their albums, both solo debuts, steadily became two of my favorite releases of last year and continue to be frequently revisited. I hope that you will use these Folkadelphia Sessions to discover two extraordinary and uncommon songwriters. These sessions not only feature collaborative performances, but also unreleased tracks.
Philly rapper Meek Mill will bask in hometown glory as he rocks tonight’s Powerhouse event at the Wells Fargo Center. He released his highly anticipated Dreamchasers 3 mixtape on Maybach Music last month and was featured on the label’s collaborative album, Self-Made Vol. 3. The event, which also features performances from the top acts in hip-hop and R&B such as Chris Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Wale, and 2 Chainz, is certainly a must-see. Get tickets here and watch Meek’s video for “Levels” below.
The folks at Random Tea Room just released their latest Random Tea Sessions video, this time featuring Philly chamber-folk singer-songwriter Daniel Ryan Belski – who plays the Northern Liberties cafe tomorrow night. It’s a sparse, string-laden arrangement of his song “No Lights,” and sounds great – check it out below. If you can’t catch the show tomorrow, Belski also opens for Juston Stens and the Get Real Gang at Johnny Brenda’s in March; tickets and info on that show can be found here.
Philly guitarist and songwriter Daniel Ryan Belski had a solid flurry of activity last year, releasing his debut EP They Always Haunt at Night after years of tinkering (in between playing with bands like Lady and Arrah and the Ferns) and landing opening gigs for Rodriguez and Willis Earl Beal. Today, we got the first taste of the new album he plans to release this year (hopefully??) – a pensive, melodic song called “I Can’t Sleep” that very literally addresses insomnia, a state in which many artists are ironically at their most creative. Listen to it below, download it at Bandcamp, and catch Belski at Northern Liberties’ Random Tea Room on January 26.
You’ve got to hand it to singer-songwriter Birdie Busch – she knows how to pick day jobs that fit her artistic persona. Waiting tables at concert venue World Cafe Live, she’s surrounded by music. Working at Northern Liberties’ Random Tea Room, she’s immersed in an environment of wonderment, creativity, and zen-like tranquility. There’s music at that job, too – last month, the cafe launched it’s own web video series, the Random Tea Sessions. Busch, naturally, was one of the first performers, and surrounded by vintage lamps, porcelain cups and steeping pots of tea, she and The Greatest Night delivered a soothing rendition of “Be The Arrow.” Check it out below.