Friday, December 20, 2019

New Christmas Music for 2019: Lots of Good, New Holiday Music From Paul Carrack, Chicago, Martina DaSilva & Dan Chmielinski, Mary Fahl, The McCrary Sisters, Idina Menzel, Keb' Mo', Pentatonix, Puss N Boots, Kate Rusby, Rick Wakeman, and Much, Much More

(Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives)

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there
Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year

The lyrics, above, are from "Christmas Time Is Here" (lyrics by Lee Mendelson, music by Vince Guaraldi) from the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. This first Peanuts special appeared on CBS; sometimes the big networks get it right. The writing struck just the right tone and the music was perfect. When I first saw this as a kid, I think the combination of Christmas and jazz went over my head. It was a few years later when I heard the soundtrack album that I began to appreciate what they had done. Now, fifty years later, that record remains at the top of my list of favorite Christmas music, a position that it has held all that time. It's one of those traditions that sounds better every year.

I still peruse the new releases every week and enjoy checking out the Christmas releases every fall. The trends this year are pretty much the same as last year: a nice balance of new original compositions to go with new takes on the traditional tunes, both popular and religious. It is gratifying to say that cliches are low, and "Christmas Time Is Here" along with Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" are modern standards. So, enjoy those warm nights by the fire, candy canes and Tollhouse cookies, and check out the titles below. Peace on earth everybody!

The New Albums:

Paul Carrack – Christmas with Paul Carrack
Journeyman singer (Ace, Squeeze, Roger Waters, Mike and the Mechanics, & Solo) has released Christmas with Paul Carrack. I was excited when I ran across this because I always liked the guy's vocals and never found an album with the consistent quality that's on display here. Recorded live last year in London, Carrack performs with the SWR Big Band. The combination of Carrack's soulful voice and the band's jazz capability sounds just about perfect. One of my all time favorite soul Christmas records is Let it Snow, a longish EP by AWB co-founder Hamish Stuart. This Carrack record has a very similar vibe to it and it kept reminding me of Hamish until late in the album when all of a sudden I started hearing Harry Connick Jr. in Carrack's voice. High praise indeed (Carrack did a similar Christmas album in 2013 entitled Swinging Christmas, mostly recorded live, again with the SWR Big Band). The twenty one tracks (71 minutes) are terrific and Christmas with Paul Carrack is a must for any Carrack fan.

Chicago – Chicago Christmas
Don't confuse it with the old Chicago Christmas album that was released in 1998 and expanded and reissued in 2003 with the additional name What's It Gonna Be, Santa?. Their all new record is also called Chicago Christmas, featuring mostly new, originals. Chicagophiles most likely know how many original members are left, I count three, at least for recording. The good news is that they still sound like Chicago. If you're into Christmas music, you might find the original compositions refreshing as compared to Chicago putting their stamp on the familiar Christmas repertoire. The lead single “Merry Christmas, I Love You,” was written by founding member and album producer Lee Loughnane with John Durrill of The Ventures. This new record is technically Chicago XXXVII and is their third proper Christmas album, their fourth if you count the 2003 expansion.

Martina DaSilva and Dan "Chimy" Chmielinski – A Very ChimyTina Christmas
When I first heard the debut album from Martina DaSilva and Dan Chmielinski, I knew it was something very special. DaSilva sings and Chmielinski plays upright bass with jazz arrangements so deceptively simple and as deliciously melodic that all of the songs on A Very ChimyTina Christmas are up there with the best renditions that you will ever hear, song for song. The album has one original, "Diamonds and Pearls", as well as some familiar favorites that you might expect, and a few tracks that you might not. There are some guest musicians too. Even songs that may not have needed new versions sound amazing, like "My Favorite Things", which adds a gorgeous solo on vibes played by Joel Ross, likewise "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" excels and features accompaniment by Lucas Pino on sax. These young jazz artists (in their twenties) started with some Youtube videos that have gone viral, and undoubtedly have a bright future. This record is so delightful that I dialed up DaSilva's other band, The Ladybugs, see below.

Mary Fahl – Winter Songs and Carols
Mary Fahl has no doubt been receiving high praise on her exquisite voice dating back to her initial success as the lead singer of the October Project. There have been Christmas albums before that featured winter songs, but none with the creativity of song selection and programming as Winter Songs and Carols. Joni Mitchell's "Urge for Going" is here as a song of winter complete with its extraordinary songwriting. The combination of seasonal songs on this record makes for one of the more enjoyable listens you could have with a Christmas album.

Órla Fallon – A Winter's Tale
With vocals in both English and traditional Irish, Órla Fallon creates the quite enchanting A Winter's Tale. The program is traditional songs of the season, some unfamiliar, some less so. Fallon, formerly a founding member of Celtic Woman, showcases her gorgeous voice and harp on this, her third Christmas release, her ninth overall.

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound - A Jazzy Little Christmas
With the sound of the multi-part vocals that fill this record, it reminds me so much of those jazz-pop vocal groups of the 1930s and '40s that I had to double check to verify that this is, in fact, something new. The vocal excellence is no happenstance. Ernie Haase's ensemble includes the traditional gospel vocal lineup: the baritone voice is amazing. You may not immediately realize listening to it, but this outfit also does gospel, releasing under the Gaither label. What makes it all work is the superb jazz and how it combines with the traditional Christmas tunes and even some originals. The performances, arrangements, and production make A Jazzy Little Christmas a happy one indeed.

The McCrary Sisters - A Very McCrary Christmas
Actual sisters, the McCrarys come by their music gifts honestly. Their father, Reverend Samuel H. McCrary, was once a founding member of The Fairfield Four. The girls grew up in a house of music where each listened to whatever they wanted but at church they learned to sing the gospel. With electric instrumental performances and vocal excellence that sometimes evokes Aretha Franklin, soulful southern gospel doesn't get any better than this. This album must be heard to be believed; check out "Away In A Manger". I don't think I've ever recommended that particular song before, but then again, I'd never heard it done like this. They completely reconstruct the song with a sweet electric guitar line. They are joined on vocals by Keb' Mo', one of a number of guests who appear on this fine record. The McCrary Sisters' first Christmas album is one of this year's best offerings.

Idina Menzel - Christmas: A Season of Love
If your family includes any youngsters, you probably already know the voice of Idina Menzel who performed the lead role of Queen Elsa in Disney's Frozen and Frozen 2. The selections on this record are good; mostly familiar favorites with some interesting surprises along the way, such as the title track, from Rent, which Menzel was in both on the stage and in the movies. There are a pair of originals, one a Menzel co-write, the other from the composers of Frozen. Christmas: A Season of Love features four duets with guests such as Billy Porter ("I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm") and Ariana Grande ("A Hand For Mrs. Claus"). This Christmas album even has a Spanish Hanukkah song, by way of Argentina, complete with the Hanukkah prayer that precedes it. The arrangements and production tend to be Broadwayish, while the big band /orchestra backing is traditional New York, as befits a stage and screen star who has won a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. I have just one question: Can a live television production starring Menzel be far behind?

Lea Michele - Christmas in The City
One of my favorite moments in the movie "New Year's Eve" is when Lea Michele's back up singer character does a duet with Jon Bon Jovi on John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith In Me." Bon Jovi is singing live on New Year's Eve in Times Square while Michele is stuck in an elevator with Ashton Kutcher, a bah humbug curmudgeon New York City apartment dweller. Like Idina Menzel, Michele started out on Broadway. She is best known for her television role in Glee. In fact, this album was produced by Alex and Adam Anders, also from Glee, who gave the music a throwback vibe to the middle of the last century. The tracks represent Michele's favorite songs with the addition of the original "Christmas in New York" and a couple of songs from Glee. There are also some guest duets that feature stars from both Broadway and Glee. Christmas in The City is a well made album that celebrates Christmas in her native New York.

Keb' Mo' - Moonlight, Mistletoe & You
With two albums released (this and Oklahoma), 2019 is shaping up to a very good year indeed for Keb' Mo'. Moonlight, Mistletoe & You is one of the best sounding records I've heard in many a day. Veering from the typical Christmas release, Mo' covers only three songs, preferring instead to include seven new compositions; this one can be played all year and not just during December. They have Mo' classified now as an Americana artist, which may be technically true as it is really an umbrella genre. More specifically, Mo's music is a combination of blues, soul, a little jazz and a little soft rock for the most part. While you might debate labels, there's no denying the result when you play it. The incredible sound hits you right on track one, which is a cover of the Charles Brown classic, "Please Come Home For Christmas" (most folks think of this as The Eagles' Christmas tune, which it is, but they are covering Brown, too). The sound of the electric guitar over the tight rhythm section combines with a sweet, sweet organ tone and a vocal that's smooth as silk for a track that's a new standard. Produced by Keb' Mo' himself, the sound he achieves is no small accomplishment. When needed these songs also get piano, horns, woodwinds, and even some strings. Guests stop by, too; Charles Albright adds his sax to the title track and Melissa Manchester sounds superb singing with Mo' on "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm".

Puss N Boots - Dear Santa...
Norah Jones formed Puss N Boots as a side project playing covers of country songs, the greasier the better. Think of them as an all female version of her other side project The Little Willies. When Puss N Boots first began, they were so crazy good that I managed to catch them four times during October 2008. Over the years, they've done one full length album and lots more great live shows, and now this holiday EP, Dear Santa.... It's nice to see that the lineup hasn't changed. Jones and Sasha Dobson play electric guitars and Catherine (Cat) Popper plays electric bass; all three sing. In the studio Jones and Dobson add drums and other instruments. This EP consists of four original compositions plus a live recording of "Silent Night". This threesome's Dear Santa... EP will make your holiday spirits bright.

Josh Rouse – The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse
If you're looking for a holiday album that doesn't sound like one, look no further. Josh Rouse has written nine new holiday themed tunes. Rouse is a talented singer, songwriter and musician, and he co-produced the recording. The sessions sound as warm and friendly as Rouse's voice. This is a holiday album that you could play beyond the holiday season. The CD comes with a bonus disc that contains three covers and three demos. One of the covers is of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You", which is having somewhat of a resurgence this year (see below). I have never heard a Josh Rouse record that I didn't like and The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse is no exception.

Kate Rusby – Holly Head
Kate Rusby is a longtime favorite singer of traditional English folk. Her vocals have a quality of purity and precision that is rarely heard. The twelve tracks on Holly Head are mostly traditional songs of the season. Finally illustrating (for me, at least) the principle of the exception that proves the rule, Rusby includes "Hippo For Christmas", and it makes me smile every time. The seeming contradiction of that sweet, delicate voice singing that song is utterly ridiculous (in a good way). I can't say that a sense of humor is something that I would associate with a Kate Rusby record, and therein lies the charm. By the way, the rest of the record is great, too.

Brynn Stanley – Classic Christmas
This is a first class jazz outing and here again the combination of jazz and Christmas music works so well that I'm there. Stanley has a voice that's not easy to pin down. She's definitely a pro, maybe jazz, maybe pop; it might be 2019 or it might be sometime in the last century. She's singing with a top flight band, they say it's the best of L.A. musicians, and it sounds like it. Considering all that, the relatively personal production style is well suited to the music. The song selection includes a cover of Elvis Presley's "Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)", an interesting choice for a jazz album. The entire record sounds good, but the last track is the one that really knocks it out of the park for me. You don't hear "What Are You Doing Christmas Eve" that often, and this piano based rendition gets it just right.

Various Artists – Sorted Noise Records: A Holiday Album, Vol. 5
Unless you live in Nashville, you're unlikely to have heard of many of the artists on Sorted Noise Records: A Holiday Album, Vol. 5. I found this by way of an email from Hannah Miller, an artist who I've listened to for some time now. She does a nice job on "Christmas Time is Here" with a very intimate sounding version of the classic from A Charlie Brown Christmas. This seven track EP features mostly familiar Christmas tunes as done by independent artists. All of these tracks have something different about them. But, what they all have in common is that the recording quality is exceptional, as are the voices, arrangements, and production. These are the kind of tracks that you might not hear about, so I am glad to include them here.

Rick Wakeman – Christmas Portraits
If you are familiar with Rick Wakeman it is probably because of the keyboard wizardry he brought to Yes and others back in the 1970s, including a solo career. If so, you may surprised to hear this solo piano recording. Wakeman takes a batch of some of his favorite Christmas songs and makes them his own with his original arrangements, his variations, and the way that he weaves two songs into one. The grand piano sounds simply beautiful and I am definitely liking this record. Wakeman has commented, "Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year. I love every aspect of it, especially traditional Christmas music and songs which have wonderful simplistic melodies that are perfect for adaptation to produce variations on the piano. That is something I love to do and that is exactly what this album is".

Also Check Out:

Molly Burch – The Molly Burch Christmas Album: The singer-songwriter penned a batch of original tunes, seasoned with a few familiar standards and a few guest artists.

Jonathan Butler – Christmas Together: The Grammy nominated guitarist/vocalist brought a veritable who's who of smooth jazz royalty to his home studio to produce this pleasing set of vocal and instrumental tracks including one new original he wrote with Sheléa.

Celtic Woman – The Magic Of Christmas: This is the latest Christmas album from the Irish powerhouse and it consists mostly of familiar favorites.

Ana Gasteyer – sugar & booze: The SNL comedian can sing, and after the clever title track it's upbeat jazzy big band and inspired song choices all the way.

Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra – Big Band Holidays II: Christmas jazz hits the big time with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra along with invited guests including Catherine Russell, Veronica Swift, Denzal Sinclaire, Audrey Shakir, and Aretha Franklin (who sang O Tannenbaum in both English and German while accompanying herself on piano).

Libera - Christmas Carol With Libera: Starting out as what has been described as a "YouTube sensation", Libera is now a top flight operation with music sales and television appearances all over the world, and the distinctive sound of a South London boy's choir on this 17 song array of Christmas carols.

Michael Lington – A Foreign Affair Christmas: A pleasing smooth jazz Christmas record in which Michael Lington plays familiar favorites on the saxophone.

Tatiana Eva-Marie – Wintertime Dreams: A Parisian Christmas: Tatiana Eva-Marie is a masterful Parisian style singer of jazz-pop. This album includes some swinging gypsy jazz and is sure to please.

Robbie Williams – The Christmas Present (Deluxe): The British pop star takes this double CD way beyond the usual Christmas album, with originals and covers, some guests like Rod Stewart and Jamie Cullum, and the deluxe package offering a hardcover book and four bonus tracks.

Something Old, Something New (reissues, expansions and such):

Mariah Carey – Merry Christmas (Deluxe Anniversary Edition)
Mariah's mix of soul, gospel, and pop helped to make this album an indispensable part of most holiday collections, and it still sounds great today. Along the way, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" has been covered so often that it has become a modern standard. For the 25th anniversary special edition there is a bonus disc chock full of alternate mixes and live tracks. For the casual listener, the bonus disc may be overkill, but for the collector, it's essential.

Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You (5 Track Single)
The good news is that for the first time since its release 25 years ago, Carey's “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has finally reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. As part of the 25th Anniversary celebration, the Christmas classic has also been reissued on this new CD single. In addition to the iconic track, two remixes, and a live performance from the year it came out, 1994, it also includes a previously unreleased version of “Hero”, performed live at St. John the Devine.

Bing Crosby with The London Symphony Orchestra – Bing At Christmas
I am normally totally opposed to the idea of altering old recordings of artists who are deceased and can't give their approval. But like other old recordings that have been updated by the LSO, Bing At Christmas in this new incarnation really does sound great. Christmas collections these days can certainly do with some Bing Crosby; there's no one out there quite like him. This upgrade isn't limited to new instrumentation, there are vocal guests on it too, including Pentatonix and the Puppini Sisters. Don't worry, "White Christmas" is on there twice, with and without Pentatonix. It's nice that Bing At Christmas includes the duet with David Bowie, which was recorded for a British TV special in 1977 shortly before Crosby's death. The combination of "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Peace On Earth" offers up a true gem and one of Bowie's best vocal performances.

The Ladybugs – Blue Christmas
Martina DaSilva (A Very ChimyTina Christmas, see above) produced and shared lead vocal duties in The Ladybugs and they released this album in 2017. Although it may be a little more produced than DaSilva's new one, it has much of the same charm. Blue Christmas includes a fantastic cover of the Elvis Presley signature song and six additional tracks, old favorites all.

John Legend - A Legendary Christmas (Deluxe Edition)
John Legend's A Legendary Christmas, originally released last year, has been reissued in a deluxe edition that adds four new tracks. The new songs include a duet with Kelly Clarkson on "Baby, It's Cold Outside", which features new lyrics that have some fun with the premise while remaining socially appropriate. Legend does equally legendary versions of the other new songs, namely “This Christmas,” “My Favorite Things” and “Christmas in New Orleans.”

Eugene Ormandy - The Complete Columbia Christmas Albums
Eugene Ormandy's long association with the Philadelphia Orchestra (44 years) saw both of their reputations skyrocket. At the top of their game, they recorded The Glorious Sound of Christmas (1962), which has everything you could want in a traditional orchestral Christmas album, some songs even have vocals by the Temple University Concert Choir. This may be the first Christmas album I ever bought, back in the day when records were only pressed in vinyl. Real Gone Music has remastered this album together with its sequel, A Christmas Festival (1964), on one CD with truly glorious sound and new liner notes.

Pentatonix - The Best of Pentatonix Christmas
It is remarkable what five human voices can do and Pentatonix regularly pushes the limit. With most of their success coming from their four previous Christmas albums, this year's entry is The Best of Pentatonix Christmas. In addition to a superb set of songs, this record adds four new tracks that are equally excellent. Even though it's not customarily a Christmas song, Pentatonix does such a nice job with "God Only Knows" that you'll be glad it's here. In addition to a couple of medleys, there are guest artists such as Maren Morris, Kelly Clarkson, and even Whitney Houston (on tape). This record is so good that you won't even worry about which are the new tracks.

Leon Redbone – Christmas Island
Leon Redbone's 2019 death has spurred the reissue of many of his albums that have sadly gone out of print. His Christmas Island has nothing new or different in its reissue, but I was so glad to see it back in print that I am listing it here. His voice and his entire persona was so unique, goodnatured, and good to listen to that this record holds down a spot in my Christmas essentials playlist. When reporting the news of his passing, NPR Weekend Edition offered this description, "Redbone's obscurantist tendencies, including his ever-present, masking uniform of sunglasses, bushy mustache and Panama hat, gave Redbone the aura of a quixotic time-traveler, someone who simply stepped onto the stage fully formed."

Various Artists – A Prog Rock Christmas
This curious collection has artists of varying progressive accomplishment covering Christmas tunes, rock and otherwise. There are some artists who are must hear such as Martin Turner of Wishbone Ash, Thijs van Leer (keyboardist, flutist, and leader) of Focus, to name two. Steve Morse is on here, Geoff Downes, too. I never knew there was a cover of Greg Lake's "I Believe in Father Christmas" but that's Martin Turner's track. His largely acoustic version makes the pomposity of the lyrics a little more down to earth. I could say that we didn't need a cover of "Wonderful Christmastime" or "The Twelve Days of Christmas" done straight, but that would be nitpicking. If you're a fan of both prog and Christmas music you're gonna want A Prog Rock Christmas.

Although these two reissues were not available to preview, you may wish to check them out as well.

Leroy Anderson - The Complete Christmas Collection
The band leader and composer of "Sleighride" gets the complete reissue treatment from Real Gone Music.

Jim Reeves - 12 Songs of Christmas (Remastered & Expanded Edition)
The good folks at Real Gone Music have remastered this country classic adding two more tracks.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Dido - Union Transfer, Philadelphia, 6/22/2019, Her Performance was Powerful; Jack Savoretti Delighted the Dido Faithful with His Opening Set

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Dido played Philadelphia's Union Transfer Saturday night, June 22nd and offered her usual masterful performance. Although she played the much larger Tower Theater the last time through, Dido reportedly opted for smaller venues this tour. Perhaps because it had been fifteen years since she last toured here, she wanted the intimacy of smaller houses. When the show was first announced last winter, it sold out immediately.

The upshot of all this was that the fans secured their tickets early, and I did likewise when the show was announced back in January. And so, the multi-generational crowd was missing the component that you usually get at a weekend show, the folks that just want to go out on a Saturday night. That's the sort of crowd that talks continuously through the show; venues generally deal with that by running the sound at a bludgeoningly loud level.

The sound mix was superb. Every instrument was well defined, even when loud, yet there was always room in the mix for Dido's voice. At full tilt this band could rock out gracefully with the excellent drum sound of Adam Falkner augmented by Jimmy Sims' ballistic bass guitar and by propulsive percussion played by Jody Linscott, reprising her role from Dido's last tour in 2004. Switching between piano and other keyboards was Jamie Norton. Guitarist Pete Rinaldi played some really tasty electric leads when he wasn't accompanying Dido's voice on acoustic.

Dido's twenty song set was well proportioned from her five studio albums, with most of the selections coming either from her new album or the first two. When she documented her first two albums with the Live at Brixton Academy DVD/CD, I found those live recordings to be the definitive versions of those songs. Although I usually consider studio albums versions to be definitive, Dido's live renditions at Brixton were so much more powerful.

Fifteen years on, the excellence of Dido's live performance continues. When a concert stays with you after it's over, and for the next week or so you are recalling songs from her set, you know you've been to a good one.

Watch "Life For Rent" complete with Dido's stage comments:

Setlist: Click on linked songs to listen
01 Hurricanes
02 Hell After This
03 Life For Rent
04 Hunter
05 No Freedom
06 Grafton Street
07 Sand In My Shoes
08 Give You Up
09 Thank You
10 Friends
11 Sitting On the Roof
12 Quiet Times
13 Here With Me
14 See You When You're 40
15 Mad Love
16 End Of Night
17 Take You Home
18 Take My Hand
19 Have To Stay
20 White Flag

Dido's Website
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Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Jack Savoretti opened the show thanking Dido for giving him the opportunity to tour with her. Although he talked about this being his first time visiting Philadelphia, Washington D.C., etc., his latest album Singing To Strangers is his sixth.

In the UK, Savoretti generally headlines and has sold out some major venues in the London area. Singing To Strangers represents his first time reaching #1 on the British album charts. He has a good band and a voice that when energized sounds a bit like Joe Cocker.

Watch Jack Savoretti explain the significance of the title, Singing To Strangers.

Setlist: Click on linked songs to listen
01 Home
02 Other Side
03 Better Off
04 Singing To Strangers
05 Candlelight
06 When We Were Lovers

Jack Savoretti's Website
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Jack Savoretti's Instagram
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Saturday, August 03, 2019

The Japanese House - The Foundry, Philadelphia, 5/26/2019, The Foundry Crowd Gave Amber Bain the Old Philadelphia Welcome; Art School Girlfriend Opened With Polly Mackey's Songcraft with a Side of Electronics

Photo: Courtesy of The Japanese House

The Japanese House played The Foundry reportedly for the fourth time, on Sunday night, May 26th. The Foundry is located inside the Fillmore in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia. The Japanese House is essentially Amber Bain, a musician, singer, and songwriter from England. Judging by the reception she got from the sold out Foundry, the crowd reaction sounded much louder than the venue's capacity of 450.

The crowd sang along throughout the set, and not just when asked. I was imagining that this must be what her performances might be like at home; at least we made her feel welcome here in Philadelphia. Home (away from home) is the place, incidentally, that was the source of the name. As the story goes, when Bain was young, her family went on holiday and stayed in Kate Winslet's house, which was called The Japanese House.

The Japanese House first caught my ear when I heard a single included in one of Lee Bennett's excellent playlists associated with his blog Teases and Dares. The promise of that single was more than realized when The Japanese House released their first full length album, Good At Falling, earlier this year after four solid EPs. The songwriting was exceptional and the execution was superb. At times, the album reminds of Imogen Heap's breakthrough record, Speak For Yourself, while being totally original and highly personal.

The set contained a nice mix of most of the new album along with some well chosen prior tunes. The crowd loved every one of them. There was a nifty cover version of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" contained within Bain's own composition "Saw You In A Dream"; nice.

As a full band, The Japanese House sounded phenomenal. Bain handled the lead vocals and played electric guitar throughout. The rhythm section, when it kicked in, sounded like the bass and drums were so in sync it was mind blowing, as you can hear in the videos below. The band also included a keyboard player who contributed some background vocals and duetted with Bain as well.

Watch "Lilo", and enjoy the audience participation.

Setlist: Click on linked songs to watch
01. Intro
02. Face Like Thunder
03. Cool Blue
04. We Talk All the Time
05. Somebody You Found
06. Lilo
07. Follow My Girl
08. Still
09. Sister/Everybody Hates Me
10. f a r a w a y
11. Saw You In A Dream - includes "Dreams" (Fleetwood Mac cover)
12. You Seemed So Happy
13. We Went To Meet Her
14. Maybe You're The Reason
15. Leon
16. Worms
17. Clean

The Japanese House Website
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Photo: Courtesy of Art School Girlfriend

Art School Girlfriend is the group name used by Polly Mackey, an electronic musician, singer, and songwriter. She is currently touring with The Japanese House, another instance of pairing artists who have significant potential to appeal to each other's audience.

Mackay possesses a terrific voice. At The Foundry she played guitar and also controlled the electronics using a rig that included a laptop computer. The full sound of Art School Girlfriend was the result of her remarkable solo performance.

Art School Girlfriend has released two EPs and a number of singles. She opened with "Bending Back", which came from her debut EP Measures (2017). There were two songs, "Low" and "Distance (Blank)" from her second and latest EP Into the Blue Hour (2018). Her set included two recent singles from this year, "Come Back To Me" and "Diving", and she did one composition "Eyes On You" that has yet to be released. According to Mackay, it will likely be on her next record, in 2020.

Seeing Art School Girlfriend open for The Japanese House at The Foundry was an unexpected treat.

Watch "Bending Back"

Setlist: Click on linked songs to watch
01 Bending Back
02 Come Back To Me
03 Diving
04 Low
05 Eyes On You
06 Distance (Blank)

Art School Girlfriend Website
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Monday, July 15, 2019

American Football & Pure Bathing Culture - Union Transfer, Philadelphia, 5/17/2019; A Dynamite Pairing If There Ever Was One

Photo courtesy of American Football

It's really sweet when you hear about a group you love being booked to play your town and you find out that they are second billed and although you're unfamiliar with the headliner, when you go listen to their latest release you love them too. Such was the case when American Football & Pure Bathing Culture played Union Transfer, Friday night May 17th.

American Football began their set with an epic version of "Silhouettes", which also leads off their latest album LP3. The song included sections where the xylophone mixed with rhythm elements that almost sounded like something that Yes once played on their Topographic Oceans record. In concert, the rhythmic last section added a trumpet and went right into "Every Wave to Ever Rise", which completed an impressive live suite of the new album's first two tracks.

They didn't just stick to LP3, their set provided a good mix of old and new. With that epic opening, their set started out super strong and it just got stronger with each composition they played. This band, American Football, playing live is a beauteous thing to behold. On the three songs from LP3 that featured guest vocalists (“Every Wave To Ever Rise,” “Uncomfortably Numb” - which the crowd especially loved, and “I Can’t Feel You”), Sarah Versprille of Pure Bathing Culture came out and sang with the band, sounding just terrific.

The first thing about this band that grabbed me was the way their guitar sound sparkles and shimmers. And then its the deliberately unhurried pace of the bass and drums that catches you next, reminding me a lot of the sound of Scotland's Blue Nile. The vocals, at least on record, sound a bit like Prefab Sprout.

I may not have been the oldest person in the room, but it occurred to me later that the crowd was mostly in their teens and twenties and probably were not listening to music during the 1980s and 90s. Heck, some of them were probably not even born yet. I've heard this band called "emo" and I've also heard "inde rock", but I say whatever you call it, American Football has a sound that I cannot get enough of, and their live show was all that and more.

Mike Kinsella - guitarist/bassist, singer
Steve Lamos - drummer, trumpet player
Steve Holmes - guitar player
Nate Kinsella - bass

Watch "Uncomfortably Numb"

Setlist - Click on linked titles to watch
01. Silhouettes
02. Every Wave to Ever Rise
03. My Instincts Are the Enemy
04. Give Me the Gun
05. Honestly?
06. The Summer Ends
07. Life Support
08. Uncomfortably Numb
09. Never Meant
10. I Can't Feel You
11. Heir Apparent
12. Stay Home
13. The One With the Wurlitzer

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Photo courtesy of Pure Bathing Culture

I found every minute of Pure Bathing Culture's set to be a thrill. These two bands are perfectly matched and in my book they could go out and co-headline.

Pure Bathing Culture opened the show with a sound that falls somewhere between Swing Out Sister and Everything But the Girl. It turns out that they recently released a new album, Night Pass. I was familiar with their debut full length, Moon Tides, from 2013; I relish catching up with Pray For Rain (that I somehow missed in 2015) as well as the new one. As much as I like them on record, they sounded even better live.

Pure Bathing Culture's sound is defined by Daniel Hindman's guitar and Sarah Versprille's voice. The backbone of their sound is the rhythm section, which at Union Transfer was provided by their touring members namely Zach Tillman (bass) and Christopher Icasiano (drums). The road band also includes Justin Chase (keyboards); Tillman also adds some keys.

One of the nice things I noticed is that both groups are making well written, well arranged, and well produced music - music to be listened to, music with a meaning, music with a purpose, and not just for the sake of sales. That's incredibly encouraging.

Sarah Versprille – keyboards, vocals
Daniel Hindman – guitar, bass, keyboards

Watch "All Night"

Also watch these videos from the show:

Pure Bathing Culture's Website
Pure Bathing Culture's Twitter
Pure Bathing Culture's Instagram
Pure Bathing Culture's Facebook

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Tash Sultana - The Met, Philadelphia, 5/17/2019, The Multi-Instrumentalist Street Musician from Melbourne Hits the Big Time; The Pierce Brothers Opened with Energy to Spare

Photos: Beverly Kates

Tash Sultana headlined a show Friday night, May 17th, at Philadelphia's new venue, The Met. Both Sultana and show opener the Pierce Brothers came to us from Melbourne, Australia, and all commented on the beauty of the room. And a fine job they did renovating this building and opening last year as a concert hall. The Hidden City website tells us that in 1908:
"Impresario Oscar Hammerstein (grandfather of the famous lyricist) brought his operatic franchise to Philadelphia, where he built one of the grandest opera houses in the nation: over 4,000 seats, a gorgeous design, and a bold challenge to the Academy of Music (run by the Metropolitan Opera Company) downtown. After only two sold-out seasons of grand opera in a full-on Philadelphia opera war, Hammerstein ran into debt and had to sell his wildly popular opera house to his competitor."
From a quick look at the internet, we know that Sultana started playing guitar at the age of three, dealt with drug addiction as a teenager, did busking on the streets of Melbourne, made videos which went viral and successfully converted that into a career, and identifies as gender non-binary using the pronoun "they". Each time Sultana has played Philadelphia, it has been at a larger venue. The Met has a capacity listed at 3,500 and Friday night the seats were nearly filled, which is remarkable when you think that this has been achieved more on the basis of word of mouth and the internet than by traditional radio play. The progression of Philadelphia venues (this is the fourth) isn't even half of the story. As impressive as Sultana's local success has been, according to the internet, the current world tour was already completely sold out in Europe and the UK before Tash even left Melbourne, including a three night stand at London's Brixton Academy.

Sultana's virtuosity on guitar during very intense solo performances may begin to explain the meteoric rise. Tash uses a lot of electronics on stage. In addition to the guitar work, Tash adds some very appealing vocals as well as other instruments into the mix.

The show was mighty impressive. Sultana wowed on guitar, and used the loops and beat box to build and create compelling sonic statements that were both similar to the records and new and unique at the same time. Sultana told Richard Kingsmill of Triple J Radio, "I want live to be a little glimpse of something that's going to happen once and the next night it will be different and the night after that it will be different again and that's what makes it special." (26 Aug 2018)

To the uninitiated it may have been hard to tell where one piece ended and the next began, but when it got quiet there was applause from the crowd and they clearly loved it. The feeling from the stage seemed mutual. Sultana mentioned, at one point, how thrilling it was to have such a diverse crowd: every age, gender, race, etc. It was a nice long show, about two and a quarter hours.

Watch this video of "Notion" (courtesy of shellsbells86)

(courtesy of WXPN's The Key)
01. Big Smoke
02. Gemini
03. Seven
04. Salvation
05. Free Mind
06. Can’t Buy Happiness
07. Harvest Love
08. Notion
09. Synergy
10. Jungle
11. Blackbird (encore)

Tash Sultana's Website
Tash Sultana's Twitter
Tash Sultana's Instagram
Tash Sultana's Facebook

Photo courtesy of the Pierce Brothers

Along for the tour to open for Sultana was the Pierce Brothers. Like their tour mate, twin brothers Jack and Pat got their start busking on the streets of Melbourne. This was not their first time on a world tour with Sultana, and they had the somewhat rare opportunity to be the opener and have a full hour long set.

My first impression was that of an Australian version of Mumford and Son. This talented multi-intrumentalist brother act quickly won me over with their songwriting and performance skill, enormously positive attitude, and their seemingly boundless energy. Watch these videos from the show and you will see what I mean. Jack is the one playing drums, didgeridoo, and all manner of percussion. Pat specializes in guitar. They both play acoustic guitar and they both sing, although Jack is more of the lead singer and frontman. According to their bio, they are delighting audiences worldwide.

Watch the Pierce Brothers open the show with "It's My Fault".

Setlist: Click on linked titles to watch
01. It's My Fault
02. Instrumental Jam
03. Amsterdam
04. Black Dog
05. The Records Were Ours
06. Blind Boys Run
07. Take A Shot At Me
08. Brother
09. Genevieve
10. Golden Times
11. Flying Home

Atlas Shoulders

Buy at Amazon
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Stream on Spotify

This is the Pierce Brothers' latest album, released last year. As impressive as their live performance is, I'm liking their recordings even more. In the studio they are a little more relaxed and you can more fully appreciate their songwriting, arrangements, performances and production. There are nuances that get replaced on stage with their energetic performance style. Their live show gets you into the tent and the records close the deal. Highly recommended.

Pierce Brothers' Website
Pierce Brothers' Twitter
Pierce Brothers' Instagram
Pierce Brothers' FaceBook

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Five Greatest Kills In Game of Thrones... And The Five Worse; Those Whose Demise Really Hurt, And Those Who Had It Coming

Photos: HBO

I can't quite believe I'm writing this. A quaker and a pacifist writing about "the greatest killings." I just remember to tell myself that this show is pure fantasy, based on a work of fiction and nobody really dies [spoiler alert!]. So, off we go.

The "greatest" killings in Game of Thrones happen to characters who really deserve it, in the sense that they themselves are responsible for senseless killings and worse, much worse.

The "worst" killings in Game of Thrones are those that happen to beloved characters who usually are good people. These are the ones that really hurt. When a favorite character bites it, you can't help feeling crushed.

These lists are completely arbitrary. If you disagree, or even if you do agree, have your say in the comment section below.

Spoiler Alert: The following includes events through Season 7.

The Greatest Killings

1. Ramsay Bolton, Warden of the North
Among his many transgressions was a particularly painful to watch sequence of episodes in Season 3, during which he tortured both physically (including the removal of his manhood) and mentally Theon Greyjoy, ultimately reducing him to the pathetic character of Reek, a victim of PTSD if there ever was one. Although I'm sure that similar torture occurs in real life, the graphic scenes in Game of Thrones earned the show some of the criticism it has received. Ramsay Bolton's brutality wasn't limited to Theon. When Littlefinger "sold" Sansa Stark to be Ramsay's bride, the wedding night rape was one of the cruelest scenes ever on an entertainment show. So, when Sansa unleashed his hungry hounds to feast upon him in S6E9 and the first thing they attacked was his "package", the manner of his death couldn't have been more fitting.

2. Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, Lord Protector of the Vale
Petyr Baelish, or Littlefinger as he is also known, has been a schemer since day one. He has only ever looked out for himself no matter how many characters he convinced otherwise. When the plans turn deadly, as they often did, he never shied away or displayed any sort of principle. So, it was sweet when Sansa and Arya Stark gave him a dose of his own medicine (S7E7). Littlefinger was also on Arya's hit list when Sansa conspired with her sister to bring the Petyr Baelish storyline to its ultimate and final conclusion.

3. Joffrey Baratheon, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms
King Joffrey was responsible for my #1 worst killing in Game of Thrones, the beheading of Ned Stark. You couldn't excuse Joffrey for his age. The boy king was obnoxious and callous as part of his personality. He would not even have inherited the throne if the secret got out that he was the product of incest. Littlefinger conspired with Olenna Tyrell to poison the wine that Joffrey was served at his own wedding, the Purple Wedding (S4E2). The viewers were not the only ones pleased by this turn of events.

4. Walder Frey, Lord of the Crossing, Lord of Riverrun
Every time Walder Frey appeared on screen he struck me as having an uncanny resemblance to Willie Nelson. That, did not get him killed. The fact that his duplicity knew no bound, did. Specifically, his execution of the plans as devised by Tywin Lannister and Lord Roose Bolton for the Red Wedding merited his throat the special attention of Arya Stark's knife blade (S6E10), good valyrian steel.

5. Tywin Lannister, Head of House Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock
That Tywin Lannister was killed by his son Tyrion, is not nearly as surprising as what took him so long. Mistreated by his father since birth because he was born an imp (How do you even tell with an infant?), he tried to drown his newborn son. Tyrion is a character who appears to be good at heart. Perhaps the final straw was being sentenced to death by Tywin for a murder he did not commit, that being the dispatch of King Joffrey. The method used by Tyrion, killing his father with a crossbow while he sat on the toilet (S4E10), put a fine point on the whole relationship. Note: In losing the Tywin character, the show lost an actor who was a great speaker and orator.

The Worst Killings

1. Eddard "Ned" Stark, Hand of the King and Lord of the North
Even though he didn't make it alive out of Season 1, it is obvious that Ned Stark is one of the most important, if not the most important, of characters in the show. There has been no other character so principled, loyal, and loving. It was crushing, to say the least, when he was summarily beheaded at the order of King Joffrey Baratheon (S1E9). Even worse was the scene in which Ned's young daughters had to see his head paraded on a spike.

2. Robb Stark, King of the North
Robb Stark, son of Ned Stark, died alongside his new bride Talisa and his mother Lady Catelyn, not to mention their 15,000 man army at the now infamous Red Wedding (S3E9). Watching these murders at their wedding banquet came as such a shock, and such a disturbing one at that, Game of Thrones actually lost some viewers. Regardless, it was pretty apparent at this point that the Stark family was under attack. This only crystalized viewer fascination with the survival of the deceased King's siblings namely Sansa, Arya, and Bran, also Jon Snow (then known as their "bastard" brother). This killing was intense.

3. Lord Randyll (father) and Dickon Tarly (son, and brother of Samwell Tarly)
Despite the name of his second born son with whom he died, Lord Randyll Tarly was such a "dick" to his first born, Samwell, that Sam took the family sword with him when he went north to the Wall to serve on the Night's Watch. But that was not a factor when, after his army lost badly, he refused to bend the knee with son Dickon standing bravely by his side refusing also to bend the knee. Both were burned to death by Drogon (dragon) at the behest of Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains and all that (S7E5). The new boss turned out to be a lot like the old boss.

4. Ygritte, Soldier in Mance Rayder’s army and Jon Snow’s lover
Long before Jon meet Dany, he was involved with Ygritte, one of the wildings. The wildings were an enemy living north of the wall. They had captured Jon Snow and Sam Tarly during a foray beyond the wall and as the wildings led them back to camp Jon was under the charge of Ygritte. One thing led to another and yada, yada, yada, they became lovers ...or should I say frenemies. Later, during a battle of wildlings vs. crows, Ygritte received an arrow to the heart and died in the arms of Jon Snow (S4E9). And Jon was not alone in feeling that her death was tragic.

5. Jon Snow, Commander of the Night’s Watch
Even before we learned the true details of Jon Snow's parentage, we knew that he was one of the VIPs of the show. That's why I have included him on this list. That, and the fact that his death (S5E10) turned out to be only temporary. He was brought back to life by the ministrations of magic and Melisandre. When he first returned to life, it was uncertain whether he would be the same. He is and he isn't...

HBO Game of Thrones Website

Monday, April 15, 2019

Game of Thrones' Return on HBO Merits Inclusion in the Top Ten Television Moments That Captivate the Culture; Plus Two GOT's Podcasts You Will Enjoy

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) riding one of her dragons
Photos: HBO

On the Season 8 preview Nerdette Recap podcast, Peter Sagal said something to the effect that the internet seems to be inundated with Game of Thrones right now. No kidding.

The nearly two year hiatus between Seasons 7 & 8 hardly seems as cruel now as it did in 2017 when it was first announced. The real problem was that the show got ahead of the books by George R. R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), upon which the series is based. Although critics have complained that as a result the writing in Season 7 was not quite up to snuff, as it were, the delay has obviously worked to the advantage of HBO's most watched and most expensive show. In the last couple of weeks (Season 8 debuted last night), attention on the internet has grown to a fever pitch. And the attention is only likely to increase over the next six weeks as Game of Thrones winds to its conclusion.

And so it is that Game of Thrones has touched many nerves and in so doing it takes its place in the pantheon of television 'moments' that have captivated the culture. The following list is completely arbitrary and you can decide for yourself where Game of Thrones falls in this context. Feel free to add your input by posting a comment below.

1. Last episode of M*A*S*H
Topping every list of series finale viewership is the dramatic, two hour conclusion titled, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" (I'm getting choked up just writing the name). M*A*S*H had so endeared itself to viewers during its eleven season run, which ended in February 1983, that the finale directed by Alan Alda drew nearly 106 million viewers.

2. Dallas: Who Shot J.R.?
On the hit show Dallas, Larry Hagman played J.R. Ewing, a character that America loved to hate. In March of 1980, the third season finale ended with J.R. getting shot. Viewers had to wait eight months to find out whether the character was alive or dead and CBS had a field day with the rampant speculation that went on all summer until Episode 4 of Season 4 aired that October. The conclusion to the Who Shot J.R. publicity juggernaut drew about 82 million viewers.

3. Last episode of The Sopranos
On June 10, 2007, America was glued to their sets for the series finale of The Sopranos. Although its estimated 12 million viewers looks paltry compared with the above, The Sopranos was on HBO, a premium pay channel, and had a cultural impact way beyond its numbers. Many attribute The Sopranos as ushering in the current "golden age of television". The open-ended conclusion to the episode left the fate of the characters up to the viewer and has stimulated discussions that continue whenever great series are discussed.

4. Assassination of JFK
If you were alive and sentient on November 22, 1963 you likely know where you were the moment you heard that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. The nation turned to television for news and comfort, many to CBS anchor Walter Cronkite. Dan Rather was a field reporter for CBS that day in Dallas. The collective viewership gasped in shock two days later when prime suspect Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered on live television.

5. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan
We started hearing the rumblings from England during 1963, but The Beatles didn't come to America until February 9, 1964 to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. They performed live on TV and in winning over the estimated 73 million viewers, The Beatles did, in fact, conquer America.

6. Watergate
Watergate, the scandal, took its name from the building where the Democratic National Committee had its office that was burglarized in June 1972 by operatives that were associated with the aptly acronymed Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). The President, of course, was Richard M. Nixon and as the extent of his involvement in this event began to unravel, the very definition of "must see tv" included Senate Judiciary Committee hearings chaired by Senator Sam Ervin. It concluded in August 1994 with Nixon's resignation and departure from the White House. For more Watergate, read this.

7. O.J. Simpson
The murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman unleashed a media firestorm. From the white Bronco car chase to the courtroom trial, presided over by Judge Ito, it was all on TV and the nation was riveted. No matter what opinion you held, the parade of evidence and the fact that all of the participants seemed to come from central casting (including defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit") made for compelling daily viewing in the summer of 1995. Even if the not guilty verdict didn't please everyone, the participation of defense attorney Robert Kardashian insured his family the tabloid recognition that ultimately resulted in a reality TV show that has haunted us ever since.

8. The last episode of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show
Johnny Carson so defined the concept of late night talk show that when he called it a career after 30 years it was the biggest of deals. After doing 4,500 shows, he did a full week of farewells culminating in a final two-hour episode for which NBC estimated a viewership of 55 million.

9. Last episode of Seinfeld
Seinfeld, the weekly NBC television show "about nothing", was so culturally influential and remains so ubiquitous that it's hard to believe that it ended over twenty years ago. Its dialogue became catchphrases and viewers knew the plots of every episode. So, after nine seasons and 178 episodes, Seinfeld took its final bow with a two part episode that aired in May 1998 with a viewership of 76 million.

10. The last episode of The Fugitive
Beginning in 1964, at a time when most television sets were still black and white, The Fugitive was on for only four years. It so touched a nerve in the culture that we remember it still, as well as a hit movie version produced in 1993. ABC made thirty episodes per year and when the weekly ratings dipped in the fourth year they ended the season and the series with a ground breaking finale that set the mold for future series finales. This show was a classic tension builder as the falsely accused title character, played by David Janssen, pursued the one armed man that he saw leaving the scene of his wife's murder, all the while with police lieutenant Gerard (played by Barry Morse) hot on his trail. The finale took place over the last two episodes 1967, drawing an astounding 78 million viewers despite the fact that it aired in August, a time when television networks aired only reruns during the summer.

Spoiler Alert: Do not watch unless you have seen Seasons 1 through 7 of Game of Thrones.

There are many podcasts dealing with Game of Thrones, providing further evidence of its impact on the culture. I've read about them and sampled some, and here are two that I wouldn't miss.

Binge Mode: Game of Thrones
This podcast comes to us from the good folks of The Ringer website. It is essentially a 1+ hour conversation between Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion, two people who are super knowledgable. You might find these two to be way too into it, in a good way. No detail of plot or presentation is lost on them. They really care about their popular culture. To my way of thinking, this is exactly what you want in a GOT podcast. I always listen to this one first.

Nerdette Recaps Game of Thrones with Peter Sagal
This show has high production values for a podcast, very similar to the NPR game show Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me, hosted by Peter Sagal. On the podcast, however, Sagal seems more like the guests than the host. There's a good reason for both things. Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda are always interesting women who do a podcast called Nerdette, about all things nerd. When it was determined that Sagal and they were kindred spirits, they decided to join together for this Game of Thrones podcast. Plus, all of the above are produced under the auspices of WBEZ, an NPR radio station which just happens to produce that hit radio game show. The thing that sets this show apart from the other podcasts is a strong and irreverent sense of humor shared by all three principals. The hour-long conversation is always a fun listen.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) with his direwolf Ghost and Nymeria

HBO Game of Thrones Website
Binge Mode: Game of Thrones Website
Nerdette Recaps Game of Thrones with Peter Sagal Website

Monday, March 11, 2019

Lindsey Webster, The Art of Sound, Lambertville, NJ, 11/14/2018

On Wednesday, November 14th, The Art of Sound, a high end audio store located in Lambertville, NJ hosted a performance by Lindsey Webster as part of their "Unplugged" jazz series. Attendance was limited to fifty by the size constraint of the space; The Art of Sound is located in a former nineteenth century paper mill nestled along the Delaware River and Canal. I had just seen an email from Webster listing two tour dates, one in California and the other in New Jersey. The NJ booking turned out to be The Art of Sound, and we were lucky enough to secure the last pair of tickets to this special show.

The conversion of the paper mill to an audio showroom can be seen in the pictures below. This had to be one of the coolest and most unusual spaces in which to see such an event.

Webster sat on a stool and just sang, accompanied by Keith Slattery on piano. Don't get me wrong, I love her three albums but this show was truly special in that Webster sang a good number of standards, too. She opened the show with a super soulful "God Bless The Child". After that, we might have expected jazz/pop classics like "Autumn Leaves" and "A Kiss to Build a Dream On". Her take on "Over The Rainbow" was beyond the usual making it more personal. As thrilling as it was to hear these selections from the Great American Songbook, it was even more extraordinary to hear Webster doing more modern classics like "Don't Wait Too Long", a Madeleine Peyroux cover, Prince's "Call My Name", and "Make You Feel My Love" her Adele cover written by Bob Dylan (watch below).

Her set was supremely well constructed to then survey all three of her albums with some well chosen originals. Webster's albums and singles have all had great success on the contemporary jazz charts of both Billboard and iTunes.

Webster brought it home with Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" followed by Etta James' "At Last" to end the evening. These were both superb renditions but I must say that the Stevie Wonder tune may have been my favorite number of the set. Regardless of the unlikelihood of Lindsey Webster "hanging out with those hoodlum friends of mine", the message of "I Wish" is universal. Your choice of covers can say almost as much about you as your own material, and I just love that Webster loves Stevie Wonder a much as I do.

The show was captivating in its simplicity. Slattery accompanied Webster with some very jazzy piano parts. Her songwriting and production partner as well as keyboardist in her band, he is also her one-time husband.

The unplugged nature of the event and the intimacy of the venue freed Webster to be conversational with the audience. There was plenty of laughing, stories, song explanations and song information like the tidbit that "Those Three Words" is her personal favorite among the songs she has written. Overall, she seemed to be free of the normal concert format and really enjoyed the performance. For me, as good as her albums are, this show offered a new dimension to this artist, and the backing by Slattery was just perfect; his piano was a joy to hear. Many thanks to The Art of Sound for holding this event, and many thanks to Lindsey Webster for appearing.

Watch "Make You Feel My Love"


1. God Bless The Child
2. Autumn Leaves
3. Don't Wait Too Long (Madeleine Peyroux Cover)
4. A Kiss to Build a Dream On
5. Over The Rainbow
6. Make You Feel My Love (Covering Adele singing Bob Dylan)
7. Call My Name (Prince Cover)
8. Where Do You Want To Go
9. Open Up
10. Those Three Words
11. Love Inside
12. I Wish (Stevie Wonder Cover)
13. At Last (Etta James Cover)

"The Art of Sound’s ongoing quest is to creatively and sincerely deliver the most premium sound in the most uniting, yet technological way, through our state-of-the-art expertise, inevitably propelling one to an utmost time and space, amid a sonic, custom-designed, personal music experience. We relish in the ability to share this with you. Sound never felt so good."

The Art of Sound
19th Century Location
21st Century Technology