Folkadelphia Session: Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion

As the saying goes, two heads are better than one, and that’s exactly the case with the married dynamic duo of songwriters Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion. Both are stellar musicians solo, but together, the sum is greater than the parts – that’s some chemistry! You might say that America runs strong in their veins — SLG is the granddaughter of Woody Guthrie (and daughter of Arlo) and Irion is the grand-nephew of John Steinbeck. The two have been crafting their own brand of Americana since the turn of the millennium and have, in addition to solo and other collaborative work, released four albums, including last year’s Wassaic Way. On their latest, recorded with help from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone, the couple indulge their sweet tooth, maximizing big ol’ hooks and bolstering their twang with some heavy power-pop guitar. All in all, you can’t help but have a good time with the band.

On their visit to our studio, Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, along with their band, stripped the songs from Wassasic Way down to bare bones, shining new light on these wonderfully catchy compositions. They return to Philadelphia to perform at the Boot and Saddle on June 25th.


Guitar wizard Nels Cline mezmerizies a sold-out Johnny Brenda’s crowd

Nels Cline | Photo by Chris Sikich |
Nels Cline | Photo by Chris Sikich |

Buck, Brownstein, Hitchcock, Stern, Timony, and Cline. On Friday I added the final of this list of great guitarists to my list of whom I have seen on the small stage of my favorite Philly venue, Johnny Brenda’s. (And in case first names are necessary, they are Peter, Carrie, Robyn, Marnie, Mary, and Nels.) With his oddly named crew in tow — Nels Cline Singers — 120 minutes or so of experimental jazz and rock crackled and popped among the packed audience.

Hanging on Cline’s every guitar flourish, the crowd was certainly mesmerized. From six strings to twelve, Cline employed his guitars with unexpected twists and turns. With pedals, knobs, metal apparatuses galore and even some plastic box he blew through into the guitar, Cline kept one’s ears and eyes startled with his techniques. The rest of the Singers belted out notes from their varying instruments to further build on the texture. Trevor Dunn played both the upright bass and bass guitar with expertise, while two percussionists had a blast — drummer Scott Amendola and toybox and triangle soundsmith Cyro Baptista.

Vocals did appear in minor spurts, even from Cline himself, but they played a backing role to the cacophony of aural information. By the end of the encore, the Philadelphia audience’s applause also became a common piece of sound that Cline will never be a stranger to.


XPoNential Fest: An Americanarama grand finale with Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Ryan Bingham

Bob Dylan and his Band | Photo by John Vettese
Bob Dylan and his Band | Photo by John Vettese

Though yesterday’s record-setting torrential downpour washed out Wiggins Park headliners Dawes, the 2013 XPoNential Music Festival ended on a high note with tremendous Americanarama lineup of Ryan Bingham, My Morning Jacket, Wilco and the legendary Bob Dylan and his band.

After an earnest performance from Bingham, MMJ came on and electrified the crowd with a broad-reaching set “I’m Amazed” to “Wordless Chorus” and a special appearance by Dawes compatriots Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, who joined Jim James and company on a cover of “Waiting On A Friend” by The Rolling Stones. Next up was Wilco, whose set also drew from across their catalog; impressive moments included a breathtaking “Poor Places” (from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), a jaw-dropping “Impossible Germany” (from Sky Blue Sky) and a rousing finale of “Dreamer in my Dreams.”

Dylan and his tight band closed out the night with a set frontloaded with material from his recent LPs Time Out Of Mind, Love and Theft and last year’s Tempest. As it continued, though, Dylan worked further into his catalog for new arrangements (not immediately recognizable) of classics like “Tangled Up In Blue” and”A Hard Rain’s-A Gonna Fall”, as well as nuggets like “She Belongs To Me” from Bringing It All Back Home. Though his set did not feature any of the collaborative moments of previous tour stops, the XPoNential crowd did get an encore of “Ballad of a Thin Man.” See photos from the show in the gallery below.


Watch Wilco and My Morning Jacket cover Neil Young (playing XPoNential Music Fest)

Wilco and My Morning Jacket have been on the road with Bob Dylan as part of his AmericanaramA tour, and they’re all stopping by the Susquehanna Bank Center for the XPoNential Music Festival on July 27th. Here’s what might be in store: covers!  Alt-folk rootsy rock heavyweights My Morning Jacket joined Wilco on stage in Tuscaloosa for a rendition of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” Watch a video of the performance below, and find more information on the festival here.


The Week So Far: 12 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Firefly, The Flaming Lips, The Downtown Club)


Relive the weekend’s Firefly Festival with reviews and photos [link]

William Tyler stops by for a Folkadelphia [link]

David Dye, Michaela Majoun and the XPN hosts list their favorite albums of 2013 so far [link]

Vampire Weekend will perform at the Mann Center on 9/19 [link]

Italian prog-rock film composers Goblin will make their U.S. debut this fall, playing Underground Arts on 10/5 [link]

The Flaming Lips will play Festival Pier with Tame Impala on 10/3 [link]

Members of Belle & Sebastian will DJ a party at Dolphin Tavern following their July 10th show at the Mann Center [link]

Dr. Dog drummer Eric Slick goes solo / acoustic on his new track “Creature Comfort” [link]

Stream local electronic / R&B duo Marian Hill‘s new single “Whiskey” [link]

Set times for this year’s XPoNential Music Festival have been announced [link]

Check out pictures of Wilco‘s Solid Sound Festival set, get ready to see them at XPo Fest next month [link]

Local new wave outfit The Downtown Club recorded this week’s Key Studio Session [link]