On a cold December Saturday night we went inside The Rex Theater for the double concert bill of Glen Phillips and Jonatha Brooke.
Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) accompanied by Jonathan Kingham (vocals/guitar) did a 55-minute, 15-song set. Jonatha Brooke came on stage to play the piano and sing two songs with Glen. Jonathan took a turn in the spotlight on “She’s So California”. Glen did a couple of songs from his latest project, Works Progress Administration (WPA), “Rise Up” and his final song of the evening “I Don’t Need Anything I Don’t Have”. From his EP “Secrets of the New Explorer” Glen did a kid’s song about radiation sickness “Solar Flare”, that Jonatha joined him on. Some songs can stand the test of time and be stripped down. That was the case of Toad’s “All I Want”, it was an acoustic gem.
We learned a few things about Jonatha Brooke during her 14-song, 1-hour and 20-minute set. Jonatha will probably never record a Christmas album, she can do an impersonation of a small dog, she’s more comfortable playing the guitar then the piano, for financial reasons she did not bring a band with her, adding that sometimes she likes to go out on tour alone and that she loves her latest release “The Works”.
Jonatha sang at least four songs from “The Works”. Most of the lyrics on the album were written by Woodie Guthrie. Jonatha told us the history of how she went to the Woodie Guthrie Archives and came out with the idea to do this album. “My Flowers Grow Green” was an especially beautiful tune, with Jonatha singing quietly at the piano. Returning the favor, Glen came back on stage to sing “Sweetest Angel” with Jonatha.
Each of Jonatha’s songs seem to have a story behind them, like title track from “Ten Cent Wings” and a song that was featured in MTV’s “The Hills”.
This was the final show together for Glen and Jonatha until the spring.
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
#1: Honeydew / Shawn Mullins / Vanguard Records / 3/11/08
I was very familiar with the songs on this album before I even heard it. For the past couple of years, Shawn Mullins has been on the road introducing us to its characters in “The Ballad of Kathryn Johnston” and “Cabbagetown”. “All in My Head” was the catchy first release, from “Scrubs”. I absolutely love the seamless transition of “Homeless Joe” into “Leaving All Your Troubles Behind”. “See That Train”, “For America”; actually all the tracks prove that Mullins is one of the great American storytellers. This is probably his best effort to date.
#2: Where The Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles / John Mayer / Sony / 7/1/08
A live 2-CD set that showcases John Mayer in three different genres, in one night, on one stage. Acoustic, jazz/blues (John Mayer Trio) and rocking with his band. I like Mayer's cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’”. Mayer continues to grow as a musician, singer-songwriter and performer.
#3: Detours / Sheryl Crow / A&M / 2/5/08
I fell in love with Sheryl Crow’s music when I heard “All I Wanna Do”. This album takes me back 15 years to the “Tuesday Night Music Club” sound. From “Out of Our Heads” to “Shine Over Babylon” to “Gasoline”, you’re hooked. “Detours” made the list of WYEP’s Top 50 Albums of 2008.
#4: Last Days at the Lodge / Amos Lee / Blue Note Records / 6/24/08
Amos Lee is an artist I discovered this year at WYEP. Hearing the track “Listen” made me want to listen to more. Lee's 3rd effort was produced by Don Was. All 11 tracks are easy to listen to.
#5: Skin Deep / Buddy Guy / Zomba / 7/22/08
One of WYEP’s Top 50 albums of 2008. The title track “Skin Deep” features Derek Trucks. A 72-year old blues and rock guitar legend teaming up with a 29-year old “new guitar god”. Also featured: The Memphis Horns, Willie Mitchell, Susan Tedeschi, Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph and Quinn Sullivan. Great guests. Great blues.
Barb's Favorite Concerts of 2008
#1: Marc Cohn / Mr. Smalls Theater / 1/26/08
What can I say, this is only the second time I’ve seen Marc Cohn perform live in Pittsburgh in 17 years. It was a great way to start off the year, and it remains my 2008 highlight concert. Cohn’s four studio albums are like greatest hits collections. It’s always very special to see an artist who does not get out on the road that often. What a great show!
#2: Shawn Mullins / Club Cafe / 4/1/08 (solo) and 9/15/08 (opening for Dar Williams)
Having the chance to see one of my favorite singer-songwriters in an acoustic show twice this year, at such an intimate venue, was quite a treat. Mullins knows how to weave stories in his songs. I’ve been a fan since “Lullaby”.
#3: The Swell Season / The Byham Theater / 9/21/08
A great big thank you to WYEP for introducing me to Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova and The Frames! Hansard shows so much emotion and just draws you in. This was such a wonderful discovery for me.
#4: Edwin McCain / The Palace Theater, Greensburg / 8/6/08
Edwin McCain is at his best in an acoustic setting. A great storyteller with an even greater sense of humor who knows how to relate to his audience.
#5: John Mayer / Post-Gazette Pavilion / 8/13/08
It’s been a pleasure watching John Mayer mature as a performer. There aren’t too many acts I will drive out to Burgettstown for, Mayer is on the short list.
My insatiable appetite for singer-songwriters was once again more than satisfied in 2008. I look forward to what 2009 will bring in music and concerts.
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host