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Watch Lili Añel cover Jef Lee Johnson’s “Traffic Jam In A One Horse Town” on WRTI

Lili Anel and Jef Lee Johnson | photo courtesy of the artist

When Lili Añel joined Philly jazz and classical station WRTI for a live session last year, she brought along a cover of the late guitarist Jef Lee Johnson’s classic song, “Traffic Jam In A One Horse Town.” A video of the stunning performance is now available to stream via VuHaus. Continue reading →

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Five questions with Philly jazz vocalist Lili Añel

Lili Añel | photo by Joe Del Tufo | courtesy of the artist
Lili Añel | photo by Joe Del Tufo | courtesy of the artist

A staple of the Philadelphia jazz and singer-songwriter scenes since 2004, Lili Añel is back this spring with Another Place, Another Time — her first outing since 2013’s I Can See Bliss From Here. It’s her first EP and her eighth release overall, and it is a warm and inviting set, incorporating inspired arrangements and a throwback sound for an instantly classic effect.

The EP is inspired in part by the passing of Philly guitarist Jef Lee Johnson; Añel covers his “Traffic Jam In a One-Horse Town” in tribute and dedicates her own song “I’ll Never Forget You” to her late friend. It is also a testament of living one’s life to the fullest and continuing to push forward, and even 20 years out from her debut record, Añel tries new things on Another Place — from falsetto delivery to vocal improv.

With an EP release celebration tomorrow night, May 6th, at Wilmington’s World Cafe Live at the Queen, Añel and I swapped emails to discuss the new album and the inspiration that fuels it. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Jukebox the Ghost at Union Transfer, Chris Kasper at Johnny Brenda’s and Lili Anel at Melodies Cafe

Photo via Jukebox the Ghost Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jukeboxtheghost)
Photo via facebook.com/jukeboxtheghost
Indie rock trio Jukebox the Ghost will play Union Transfer this evening. The group appeared at our Free at Noon concert a few months back and brought the house down. With an ongoing flow of witty banter and high-energy performances, Jukebox the Ghost has quickly become a band known for a kickass live concert. They have recently released their self-titled album last week and are offering an opportunity to meet and greet with them. Tonight’s show is bound to be filled with indie pop fun and hilarious chatter from the musicians themselves. For more information on tonight’s show, check out the XPN Concert Calendar. Watch their video for “The Great Unknown” below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Heyward Howkins at Johnny Brenda’s, !!! at Underground Arts, and Lili Añel at World Cafe Live

Photo by Kate Harrold | kateharrold.com
Photo by Kate Harrold | kateharrold.com

Folk-pop singer-songwriter Heyward Howkins heads home tonight to celebrate the release of his new record Be Frank, Furness at Johnny Brenda’s. In a recent interview with Jason’s Jukebox, Howkins discussed his transition to becoming a solo artist following his work with The Trouble With Sweeney, Philly’s influence and calls the city “the perfect combination of size, culture, historical significance and even natural beauty”. Get a feel for his sound via the record’s title track “Be Frank, Furness” and get tickets to the show here.

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Philadelphia’s Lili Añel chases Bliss to make her most personal record to date

LiLi-438
Photo by Kyle Ober

There’s a definite hope implicit in the title of Lili Añel’s new CD, I Can See Bliss From Here. But in its image of a happiness on the horizon, there’s also a dark undertone, an admission that bliss is still something far off, something that needs to be journeyed towards.

That darker side is understandable given what the Philly-based singer-songwriter has lived through in the four years since her last release, 2009’s Every Second in Between. In rapid succession she lost both her job and her hair, the results of the recent economic crisis and her long-running battle with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. After all that, Añel could be forgiven for losing sight of anything resembling bliss, but has maintained an admittedly bitter-tinged optimism.

“If you can see bliss, it’s attainable, one would think,” Añel says. “It’s either something you’re going to or something you might never get to. Can you climb the wall, can you get over all the stuff you’re going through? That’s up to the listener. I think bliss is attainable.”

Añel will be celebrating the release of I Can See Bliss From Here upstairs at World Café Live on Thursday night, with special guest John Lilley of The Hooters sitting in with a band led by her co-producer on the album, Dale Melton of the Melton Brothers. Añel initially met Melton’s twin brother Dennis after a show in Kennett Square in 2007, and confused the two when she later met Dale – a mix-up she’s well acquainted with as a twin herself.

Melton proposed that she record some songs in his Chester County home studio, a suggestion Añel initially greeted with some trepidation.

“When most musicians say, ‘I have a studio,’ you go into their bedroom or basement and they’ve got a couple computers set up and some comforters on the wall,” she says. “Not the case. Dale has a full studio. When you look at the outside it’s a barn, and when you walk through the doors it’s like entering a whole other world.”

Initially intending to test the waters with a couple of songs, they emerged from Melton’s Sandbox at Buck Hollow Farm with the twelve soulful, deeply-felt songs on I Can See Bliss From Here, which fully capture the trials and joys Añel has been living through. The album also includes two covers: a version of Ray LaMontagne’s “This Love is Over” and “Today,” a song by Philly guitar great Jef Lee Johnson, who passed away in January. “Jef was supposed to play on this record,” says Añel, who hopes to record a whole album of Johnson’s songs. “I loved his playing. He had a discography a mile long, and his music was so influential to me. We often talked about wanting the world to hear our music. He was a brilliant songwriter, and I wanted the world to hear him on my record.”

Whether it was the studio’s bucolic surroundings, the hardships of the last several years, or simply Añel’s songwriting gifts, Bliss is the songwriter’s most personal effort to date. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Kristin Hersh, Richard Thompson, Jill Scott, Buddy Guy and more

Richard Thompson | Photo by Tom Bejgrowicz | courtesy of the artist

It’s not a week to stay home — not with this kind of concert rundown on the calendar. From legends like Richard Thompson and Buddy Guy to emerging artists like Blushed and Fawziyyah Heart, there’s something for everyone this week. Here are 20 concerts to see in the next seven days, all around Philadelphia. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Joy Ike at Steel City Coffeehouse, The Lawsuits at Johnny Brenda’s, Black Crowes Tribute at Ardmore Music Hall

Joy Ike performs at World Cafe Live for NPR Music's Tiny Desk Road Show | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com
Joy Ike performs at World Cafe Live for NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Road Show | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

Philly/Pittsburgh singer-songwriter Joy Ike heads out to Phoenixville for a show at Steel City Coffeehouse tonight. A few days ago Ike posted a newsletter update in which she announced news of a new album, her first in four years following 2013’s All or Nothing. Tickets and information for tonight’s set, which opens Lili Añel’s record release show, can be found here. Watch Ike perform “Walk” below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Moor Mother at ROCKERS, Madalean Gauze and Three Man Cannon at Kung Fu Necktie, Madeleine Peyroux at World Cafe Live and more

Moor Mother Goddess
Moor Mother | Photo by Chris Sikich for WXPN | sikichphotography.com

Philly’s Camae Defstar is the longtime organizer of the ROCKERS series, and also creates aggressive spoken-word sound-art under the name Moor Mother, which just signed to Don Giovanni Records. Tonight, the final ROCKERS happens at Community Futures Lab Everybody Hits, and Moor Mother performs along with The Kominas and Ghetto Songbird. More information can be found at Facebook; listen to “Deadbeat Protest” below.

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