25 locals (plus!) come together to sing for retiring XPN Folk Show host Gene Shay

Photo by Lisa Schaffer

“Sing For Gene Shay” is a new tribute song to the “Dean of Folk DJs” Gene Shay in honor of his retirement this Sunday, February 1st as the host of WXPN’s Folk Show. Written, recorded and produced under the name of “Friends Of Gene,” 25 local musicians and a team of four producers and engineers came together to pay a loving tribute to Shay, who has been on the air for 50+ years hosting folk music in Philadelphia. Continue reading →


Folkadelphia Session: Chris Kasper

Philadelphia is a true hotbed of musical activity. Cheap rent, collaborative vibes, an abundance of musically-minded people, and a solid support system for developing acts are just a few of the factors that help to make this city into a real deal music town. My favorite aspect of the greater musical community is, well, just that – that it’s a community. Philly feels tight-knit, but it isn’t exclusive or closed off to newcomers. It’s a support thing. Folks here play in lots of bands, they pop into each others’ recording sessions, and are always seeking ways to include one another in projects. Recently, I was thinking about the WXPN Performance Studio, the space where Folkadelphia, as well as Gene Shay’s Folk Show, World Cafe, The Key Studio Sessions, and most other WXPN-related in-studio sessions are tracked, and what musicians come through to record. I got to thinking that there is a contingent of local musicians that have spent a significant amount of hours in the room, that returning to WXPN is like coming home in a way. For these musicians and since the building’s construction, the space perhaps represents a safe zone for collaboration, experimentation, and uninhibited performance.

Chris Kasper is a Philadelphia local songwriter that we have looked for opportunities to include in what Folkadelphia does. We’ve seen how amazing he’s been working with WXPN on various events and we’ve listened to his four albums, especially his most recent Bagabones, with attentive ears, feeling considerable excitement at his impressive lyricism and turns of phrase. What has always drew us closer to Kasper is his collaborative spirit; many of our favorite Philly musicians play with or alongside Kasper, to name a few: Kiley Ryan (the two also work together with Foxhound), Phil D’Agostino, and Daniel Bower. For fun, you should construct a diagram where each of these musicians were connected to other bands they have collaborated with in some way, then expand from there, then expand from there, and so on. You’d need a lot of paper. What you’d get is a spider web of musical community goodness and that’s what Philadelphia is all about.

Towards the final days of 2013, Chris Kasper, along with Kiley Ryan on fiddle and Phil D’Agostino on bass, spent an evening recording with Team Folkadelphia. It’s a case of total chemistry, where the musicians are tight locked-in with each other, existing only in the present moment, and playing with a sense of joy. You didn’t need to give them a tour of the recording space, they’ve been here before.


Poor murdered “Pretty Polly” and a session with Chris Kasper, who fronts a strong local crew, tonight on Folkadelphia Radio


Pretty Polly” is the name of a rather grim and gruesome American murder ballad based on an even older British ballad called “The Gosport Tragedy.” The biggest difference between the two is a matter of narrative darkness. In both versions, a man murders his girlfriend after he learns she is pregnant, but, whereas in “Gosport,” the murderer receives his swift comeuppance while trying to escape his fate, the perpetrator in “Pretty Polly” often leaves the scene of the crime without punishment in this world, instead deferring his “debt to the devil” until the end of his own life.

Depending on the version, things can take a cringeworthy turn involving incest, insanity, premeditation, pejorative language, obsessive behavior, and, of course, the supernatural. It’s no wonder that this story continues to be one of the most popular and widely covered in the folk music world and beyond. To put it plainly, it’s a messed-up story. We’ll hear a few of the many versions available to us on the air.

Continue reading →


The Week’s Best Free MP3s, incl. Lushlife, The Chelsea Kills, Caroline Rose


Raj Haldar tracking piano for the 4th movement of Toynbee Suite | Photo by Phil Bradshaw
Raj Haldar tracking piano for the 4th movement of Toynbee Suite | Photo by Phil Bradshaw

Shaking Through premiered their latest recording this week, a collaboration spearheaded by Lushlife‘s Raj Haldar with several other local musicians.  The end result, Toynbee Suite, is a 10+ minute hip hop symphony circling the mysterious Toynbee Tiles that are inlaid throughout hte city.  Watch the Shaking Through episode here.

Local musician Chris Kasper brought his band in for this week’s Key Studio Session.  Kasper recently released his fourth solo record Bagabones and performed tracks from that LP for this session.  Joining him for these takes are Phil D’Agostino, Kiley Ryan, Jerry Bernhardt and Daniel “Scrappy” Bower.  Check out “Don’t Want to Lose Your Way” below and get the full set here.

Continue reading →


My Morning Download: “Have A Seat” by Phil D’Agostino

Photo by Howard Pitkow
Photo by Howard Pitkow
Philly bassist Phil D’Agostino is typically the guy you see somewhere behind the lead singer of a band, out of the spotlight, working the groove with drummer. Last week though, the light shined on Phil as he released a new album, Inlets, and played his record release party at Ardmore Music Hall. This past year, Phil has worked on records by some of our favorite locals including Chris Kasper, Scot Sax, Ali Wadsworth, Brad Hinton, Quarry St Hymnal (Bethany Brooks), Joe D’Amico, and The Doublewides. It’s actually incredible to think that a guy this busy had time to record his own album, however Inlets was recorded in one day at Kawari Sound. D’Agostino says the record was done “live in one day with very little overdubbing, editing, or rehearsal. What you hear is what we played.”

Phil was recently profiled by Kate Bracaglia. Kate writes:

For D’Agostino, music is more than just a hobby—it’s a full-time job. He makes his living playing gigs, teaching music, and working as a session musician—a set-up he loves due to its warm environment and flexible schedule. “It’s a great gig,” he says with a smile—“but it’s also more that. The people I play with give me the confidence and inspiration to make my own music. My days are filled with beautiful people who cram my head full of creativity.”

Below, download the funky “Have A Seat” from Inlets.


The Key’s Week of Folk: John Hartford’s classic 1971Aereo-Plain to get the full album tribute treatment at #PFF2013

left to right: John Hartford, Norman Blake, Tut Taylor
left to right: John Hartford, Norman Blake, Tut Taylor

The Key’s Week of Folk is our series of interviews, reviews, artist spotlights, playlistings and general ephemera to get you ready for the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival, happening now through this Sunday at Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville.

In 1971, folk/country/bluegrass singer-songwriter John Hartford released his groundbreaking Aereo-Plain album on Warner Brothers Records. For many, it become the blueprint (a very early one at that) for “newgrass.” No Depression, who says Hartford put the “American in Americana,” assembled a band of virtuoso players and acoustic music legends: Norman Blake, Vassar Clements, Tut Taylor, Randy Scruggs (son of bluegrass / country legend Earl Scruggs). The album was produced by David Bromberg. Old timey, eccentric, often tender yet equally as bizarre, Aereo-Plain was richly steeped in folk tradition. The album has some of Hartford’s most memorable songs on it including “Boogie,” “Turn The Radio On,” and “First Girl I Loved.” All this from the same musician who wrote the classic mainstream Grammy award winning pop hit “Gentle On My Mind.”


Tomorrow at the Philly Folk Festival (2:30PM at the Craft Stage), Hartford’s Aereo-Plane gets the album tribute treatment by a group of Philly’s most talented players: Phil D’Agostino, Brad Hinton, Jay Ansill and Michael Beaky. John Vettese of The Key reached out via e-mail to Phil and Brad to hear more about the project and to get their perspective on the importance of the album. Continue reading →


The Week So Far: 11 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Laura Jane Grace, Vacationer, 2nd Street Festival)

Photo By Abi Reimold |
Photo By Abi Reimold |

Vacationer drop in for a soothing Key Studio Session that includes free downloads and a video by BITBY [link]

Unlocked takes a look at Lantern‘s new Rock ‘N’ Roll Rorschach LP [link]

The Low Anthem, Banned Books, Denison Witmer and more tapped for this year’s 2nd Street Festival in Northern Liberties [link]

Stream and pre-order Psychic Teens‘ COME ahead of the goth-punks’ record release show at Long in the Tooth on August 9th [link]

Watch Pete Donnelly‘s new video for “Face the Bird” from his upcoming full-length of the same name [link]

Emmet Drueding and Grave Goods collaborate on “Area 51” and release the track as a free download [link]

Local bassist Phil D’Agostino has release a new solo track called “Footballs” off of his forthcoming Inlets LP [link]

Download The Downtown Club‘s “Dance” from a new compilation of local bands [link]

Enter to win tickets to see Against Me!‘s Laura Jane Grace at MilkBoy on August 10th [link]

Sean Hoots will create original music for Shakespeare in Clark Park’s production of The Tempest this month [link]

Members of Dashboard Confessional and The Narrative bring their new Twin Forks project to Folkadelphia [link]


Philly bassist Phil D’Agostino releases new track “Footballs”

Local bassist Phil D’Agostino – who’s played with a wide variety of Philly acts such as Chris Kasper, Scot Sax, and Ben Arnold to name a few – has just released a new solo track, “Footballs”, from his forthcoming 2013 release Inlets. The delightfully upbeat instrumental is referred to at one point (via a shot of the song’s sheet music in the below video) as “Latiny Type Jawn in D.” Oddly enough, that description seems pretty accurate. The jazzy tune certainly does have a “Latiny” sense about it, yet also occasionally features smooth guitar work more reminiscent of Grant Green or Kenny Burrell. Take a listen below, and decide for yourself.


Download new music from Queen Electric (new project from Scot Sax)

Queen Electric is the latest musical project from Scot Sax. The power trio includes Sax on guitar, piano and vocals, Phil D’agostino on bass, and Mike Pietrusko on drums. Their seven song self-titled debut album is up on Bandcamp here; you can download it for “name your own price.” There are familiar touchstones on this collection: Zeppelin, McCartney, and Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World. With Queen Electric, Sax continues to showcase his versatility as a musician who is an excellent songwriter, player and pop craftsman.


Helen Leicht’s 2nd Annual XPN Local “Home For The Holidays” show tonight at 10 p.m.

Tonight at 10 p.m., Helen Leicht is hosting the second annual “Home For The Holidays” show, which was recorded at the home of Scot Sax and includes performances by Sax, Chris Kasper, Suzie Brown, Phil D’Agostino, The Fleeting Ends, and others. The set is highlighted by John Galla’s cover of Alan Mann’s little-known 1983 Christmas song “Christmas On The Block,” which is about the blind residents of a group house in Upper Darby, who—despite their inability to see—made an annual tradition of decorating a Christmas tree in front of their home. You can check out the full set list—as well as a video preview (recorded by none other than Kuf Knotz)—below; tune in later tonight to listen to the show.

1. Scot Sax “Holiday Road”
2. Chris Kasper “Silver Bells”
3. Suzie Brown “By the Mark”
4. Phil D’Agostino “O Christmas Tree”
5. The Fleeting Ends “Little Drummer boy”
6. John Galla “Winter Wonderland”
7. John Galla “Christmas On The Block”
8. John Stanton “Father Christmas”
9. Jake Snider “A Holiday”
10. Brad Hinton “Blue Christmas”
11. All “Imagine”