XPN MusicNotes: Hear an unreleased Elliott Smith song, see Bon Iver’s tour cancellation note

Elliott Smith | via

It’s hard to believe Elliott Smith left this world in 2003, but his music still graces us all. Smith’s old record label (Kill Rock Stars) is marking the 20th anniversary of his album Either/Or by reissuing it with previously unheard bonus material. Either/Or: Expanded Edition will features a bunch of rarities and live tracks. Continue reading →


As Comfortable as Home: Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield perform at the Keswick Theater

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko
Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko

“When I first heard Jessica sing this song, there was a spark,” Seth Avett said while sitting at the piano to the far right of the Keswick Theatre’s stage. He talked about when he realized their this common love for Elliott Smith had to become a project, and how he kept coming back to Jessica Lea Mayfield singing “Twilight” as the push to keep up with it over the years.

Conveying a sense of home, Avett and Mayfield performed in front of a kitchen backdrop on Saturday evening, complete with a working kettle, refrigerator, vacuum, shelves of teas and cereals, and a table placed to hold Seth’s various guitars. Touching on a bit more than cherished Elliott Smith tunes, the two musicians intertwined some of Smith’s influences along with their own works for the set. Continue reading →


Interpreting Elliott Smith with Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield | photo via
Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield | photo via

Jessica Lea Mayfield’s introduction to Elliott Smith was the song “Clementine” – some dude with a Weezer tattoo played it for her after a gig in Ohio, hoping to impress her, and she was pleasantly surprised.

Seth Avett’s gateway song was “Say Yes” – a friend wanted to learn it, and asked the singer-guitarist of The Avett Brothers to teach him.

This winter, the two musicians – both big players in the American roots / rock scene – are releasing a tribute album to the iconic singer-songwriter, who died tragically in 2003 at age 34. Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliot Smith is out on Tuesday, March 17th, and it’s an outstanding record (listen to it in its entirety via NPR Music’s First Listen to hear for yourself).

Over the course of twelve songs, Avett and Mayfield mix up well-known numbers with deep-cut fan favorites; some arrangements stay relatively faithful to the original recordings, others take thrilling liberties. And all around, they channel the raw emotion that lives at the music’s core. Continue reading →


Photo Recap: A modest tribute to Elliott Smith with Our Griffins, September Call-Up and more

Our Griffins | Photo by Elizabeth Mazenko

September Call-Up set the mood right with “Angel in the Snow”; Angel Ocana got choked up on “Rose Parade”; and the crowd adding the “Because I love you” line to Burned Out Still Glowing’s stripped-down version of “Kings Crossing.” Last night local blog, Tri State Indie, hosted a beautiful but modest tribute to the late singer/songwriter Elliott Smith at the World Cafe Live. Despite his tragic story, the performance was filled with a pleasant sweetness knowing that everyone in the room was there for the same reason – their intimate connection to Smith’s music. Read up on why the handful artists wanted to be part of the tribute here. Check out a photo recap of the show below.

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Philly songwriters on saying yes to Elliott Smith (tribute show tomorrow at World Cafe Live 8/21)

600full-elliott-smithI remember hearing Elliott Smith for the first time. It was the summer before my sophomore year of college. I just got through a semester long training for my school’s radio station, and having converted from my thrash punk stage to the more down-to-earth genre of indie rock only six months before, I excitedly asked my friends for suggestions to play on my upcoming show.

One handed me a mix CD of her favorites, and on there was a two-minute song that instantly tugged at my chest. A spidery whisper singing “I’m in love with the world through the eyes of a girl…” and checking the handmade lined-paper CD case, I fell in love with “Say Yes” and the haunting delicacy of Elliott Smith.

Celebrated for his quiet but powerful lyricism, Elliott Smith was a beautiful tragedy that left this world too soon. Inspired by the No Name concert series, local blog Tri State Indie has put together a tribute to the singer/songwriter held at the World Cafe Live tomorrow night. Starting the show at 8 p.m., seven artists will be featured, including Philadelphia’s Jonah Delso and September Call-Up.

Although a little skeptical of tribute shows in general, I knew this was going to be the closest I would get to actually seeing Smith live. I bought a ticket and checked out the all-local line-up. But as I listened though YouTube videos and looked at band websites, I started to wonder why each of the eclectic artists wanted to be part of such a tribute. Is it that their sound was similar to Smith’s? Or is there a deeper connection that pulled them to this performance? Continue reading →