Sunday, January 31, 2010

Here she comes just a-walkin' down the street

I thought the day would never come. Lilith Fair is back, and it's coming to Tampa. The news was released little over a week ago and my mind has been reeling at the possibilities ever since. The sheer magnitude of this show blows my mind: Emmylou Harris, Loretta Lynne, Brandi Carlile, Ingrid Michaelson, Tegan & Sara, Sia, Sara Bareilles, Erykah Badu, The Indigo Girls, Cat Power, Kate Nash, Ingrid Michaelson and of course, the matriarch, Sarah McLachlan. The list goes on and on and on.

I was thrilled to see some of my favorite chicks-- Butterfly Boucher and Rosie Thomas--among the lineup, although whether they'll be appearing in Tampa isn't known yet. The exact dates are unknown but Aussie songbird Missy Higgins made it known via her official site that she'd be playing Philadelphia, Boston and New York the last three days of July and Hartford, CT and Washington, D.C on August 1 and 3, respectively. Can't wait to find out more!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

We want to live forever, we want to live forever

Part of my duties as a new intern at Tampa's hippest weekly publication, Creative Loafing, include updating the scrolling list of upcoming concerts to the West/Central Florida area. The amount of bands filling the local bars of Ybor City on a single night is enough to boggle your mind. So, how does one pick where to go? Well, if you're a Creative Loafing devotee, you'd probably check the weekend's 'Best Bets.' But I like to choose things a bit more randomly.

While slouched over the keyboard in an attempt to get some work submitted yesterday, I ran across Morningbell. This eclectic psychedelic rock quartet based out of Gainesville, FL has become so ingrained in Northern Florida culture that some considerate the band to be as equally important to the city as the Gators themselves. The footballers, not the reptiles (which might be an even bigger compliment.)

What I first noticed about the songs from their stellar 2009 offering Sincerely, Severely are the addictive percussive beats. "Dancing In The Jaws Of A Lion" and "Marching Off To War" in particular have one those groves that can only be bettered by a being packed into a dark bar with a cold beer in your hand. Child-like screams and rock swagger from lead singer Travis Atria compliment the smooth bass lines brother Eric lays down along with harmonies. Stacie Thrushman lends her talents to the keys (she's also Eric's wife) and Chris Hillman became the band's 6th drummer in 2007.

Originally hailing from Miami, the band recently told Delusions of Adequacy that the decision to move to a more friendly scene for rock music was essential if the band was ever going to reach its potential. The warm welcome received by a college town of more than 55,000 students helped the band develop a sense of community among up-and-coming local bands. Clearly the move was the right thing to do. In addition to playing at Bonnaroo in 2008, the band will add this year's SXSW to their line-up. Morningbell are scheduled to light up the Beauty Bar on March 17.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010's just life.

A few months ago on a cold, crisp November night I was coerced into attending a concert at a local bar by a few friends. It was one of those venues that literally shares its walls with a shack, has a section of the roof torn off so you can drink up the night sky and dig your feet into the sandy floor. A perfect pairing for the featured performers of the night-- Thomas Wynn & The Believers. The band has been winning fans over through non-stop touring for the last couple of years and with a new album (The Reason, Spring 2010) months away they show no signs of stopping. The song that really shook me was the stirring, powerhouse duet of Thomas and sister Olivia on "It's Alright." It was completely unexpected and inspired.

You can actually download the very show I attended that evening right here for FREE, courtesy of the band. You even get to choose the format. How can you pass that up?

Thomas Wynn & The Believers are playing at New World Brewery in Tampa tonight at 9P.M. If you're in the area, I highly suggest you check them out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Today marks the release of Patty Griffin's Downtown Church, a warm collection of tracks with surprising range for a gosepl album. Yes, gosepl. Bite your tongue- this isn't a very special evening with Michael W. Smith. This record has spunk. There's the secular band jam "Move Up," the Patty-originals "Little Fire" and "Coming Home to Me" in which she applies her finely tuned gift for heart-wrenching melodies. The former receives gorgeous harmony from Emmylou Harris; the latter from Julie Miller.

Downtown Church is in no way a "Patty Griffin" record. It's a team effort--and what a team it is. Buddy Miller-- who is quite possibly the luckiest man alive-- produced the record in addition to mixing, playing and lending his instantly recognizable chords to a handful of tracks. Rounding out the guest vocalists are Ann and Regina McCrary, Shawn Colvin, Jim Lauderdale, Mike Farris and Raul Malo.

But while Patty shares the spotlight with an impeccable team of musicians and vocalists, the album works on so many levels because of the strength of the material itself. With the exception of the two original Patty tunes, the most recently written song on the album was penned in 1967--and nearly half of the album belongs in the Public Domain.

One of those traditional songs--"Death's Go A Warrant"-- and the Leiber & Stoller track "I Smell A Rat" are two prime examples of the sweet soul pipes Mama Griffin posesses. To put it simply, Patty makes these melodies her bitch.

Never has a record in her discography so perfectly captured the many flavors of her voice. Children Running Through came incredibly close, but here it's evident within the first three tracks that this production quality puts her catalog to shame. I'm on my fourth listen of the night and all I can say is thank you, Buddy Miller. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

1. House of Gold [Hank Williams]
2. Move Up [Traditional]
3. Little Fire [Patty Griffin]
4. Death's Got A Warrant [Traditional]
5. If I Had My Way [Traditional]
6. Coming Home To Me [Patty Griffin]
7. Wade In The Water [Traditional]
8. Never Grow Old [Traditional]
9. Virgen de Guadalupe [Traditional]
10. I Smell A Rat [Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller]
11. Waiting For My Child [Sullivan Pugh]
12. The Strange Man [Dorothy Love Coates]
13. We Shall All Be Reunited [A. Karnes and B.Bateman]
14. All Creatures of Our God And King [Traditional]

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Talk to Me of Mendocino

The other night as I stretched my legs out on the couch and curled up to NPR's preview of Patty Griffin's gospel-bathed "Downtown Church," I was shocked to read that singer Kate McGarrigle died.

My introduction to the Wainwright family has been stretched over a period of five years or so, starting with the gorgeous melodies of Rufus' "Want One," catching up with father Loudon's "Attempted Mustache" last year and being introduced to Lucy over Christmas. I was aware of, yet managed to avoid, Martha's subtle songs somehow.

And I had only heard of Kate before her death on Monday. Upon reading the story I followed the page to a clip of Kate and her sister Anna singing a song from their highly acclaimed self-titled debut called "Talk to Me of Mendocino." To say I was floored is an understatement. Hymnal chords and some of the most impeccable harmonies I've ever heard seeped into my ears and I immediately felt compelled to get in my car and find my nearest record store. Unfortunately, it was after midnight. But this song has been on repeat for days and evokes the same feelings each time. Rest in peace, Kate.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A (belated) tribute to MLK

It's been well over a month since I sat down to squeeze some thoughts out of my finger tips, but what can I say--life. It struck me that yesterday was a perfect way to get back into the blogging regimen, but then I found myself standing under the largest tree I've ever seen and sorting through piles of vegetables and loaves of chocolate chip banana bread at a market. Like I said, life.

Living aside, there is no better way to get back into this than with a combination of my favorite singers and perhaps one of my favorite messages conveyed through song. By now many people are familiar with the song "Up to the Mountain" by Americana songbird and personal hero Patty Griffin, but not because they've heard her sing it.

First there was Solomon Burke, who covered it on "Nashville" in 2006 (Patty lent her mellifluous vocals to the track) and then the song appeared on Patty's 2007 release "Children Running Through."

The song reached its peak popularity thanks to Kelly Clarkson after an appearance on the 2007 charity show "Idol Gives Back." Bolstered with Jeff Beck on guitar, Kelly really brought the melody to a completely different level and being the obsessed Patty fan that I am, that's a big compliment.

The song took on a life of its own on YouTube after that--it was even covered by Bushwalla, and if you're familiar with his catalog that's pretty amusing.

Recently, Susan Boyle covered it on her monster debut album. I can't even wrap my head around the number of copies this has sold in three months, but I'm thrilled more people than ever are being introduced to this gloriously written song (the liner notes credit 'Patricia J. Griffin').

Now, clearly Patty is emotionally invested in this subject enough to write about it, but there's something about Kelly's delivery that pulls at my heart. People can rag on pop music all they want, and they're often justified, but you can't discredit the power of this woman's voice merely because she was discovered on a talent show. If anything, it only increased my faith in her abilities.

But that's all besides the point really. The point of this is to celebrate a day that should put a little extra spring in everyone's step. Civil rights should never be bargained, and I'm thankful Dr. King was here long enough to make an impact on the world.