July 2011

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Justin Jacobs, contributing writer to Billboard Magazine In case you missed it here's what he played: Cloud Nothings, "Should Have" - I already listed this last month as one of my extra picks, but hell, I just couldn't get away from it. Few things are better than a three minute sugar rush of some catchy, electric power pop, and this song takes the cake this summer. White Denim, "Street Joy" - An ethereal cloud of dreamy acoustic folk, this song is alone stylistically on White Denim's album "D." That's a shame, too — the rest of the album is full of assorted rock genres, but none touch on the gorgeous ache of this brooder.

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Scott Mervis of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Scott: Tedeschi Trucks Band, "Ball and Chain" - It was only a matter of time until Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks just chucked everything else and started a real band together. After all, they've been married for 10 years. Not surprisingly, with her soulful singing and his dazzling slide work, it's a potent combination, especially with a full 11-piece band of seasoned players. They headline the Pittsburgh Blues Festival on Saturday. Joss Stone, "Newborn" - Like Derek Trucks, British soul-rocker Joss Stone started as a teen and had to be channeling some sort of spirit to sing the way she did. Eight years and five albums into her recording career, she's still blossoming. This is from her new album, "LP1," but you can also look forward to her work with Super Heavy, the supergroup featuring Mick Jagger, Damian Marley, Dave Steward and AR Rahman.

(Photo by Mr. Barb)

Lucinda Williams and Amos Lee performed on the North Shore Sunday Night. Amos Lee may be from Philadelphia, but he knew he was on the other side of the commonwealth and felt comfortable enough to refer to us as “yinzers” by the end of his 14 song 1-hour and 15-minute set. Mr. Lee brought a larger band with him than did Lucinda Williams. Pedal Steel, banjo, upright and electric bass, drums, electric guitars, keys and male and female back-up singers; while he stood center stage switching between electric and acoustic guitars. Mercifully, the stage and seating area were in the shade by the time Mr. Lee took the stage at 8 p.m. Mr. Lee began with El Camino and showed versatility though out the evening with gospel, country-tinged songs - varying the tempo to bring the crowd into his performance (those who had never heard of Amos Lee before this show, surely knew who he was afterwards.) There was the title track of Supply and Demand, (2006) Flower from Mission Bell (2011), along with Truth, Street Corner Preacher from Last Days at the Lodge (2008). One of his backup singers, “Angel” (Mutlu), came out all in white to do a song reminiscent of Soul Train circa 1976 (Shower with Love) as he sang about cereal and shampoo – it was hilarious. Ms. Williams joined Mr. Lee on Clear Blue Eyes. He ended his set with Windows Are Rolled Down. Lucinda Williams performed 16 songs (including 2 in the encore) with her 3–piece band (bass, drums, guitar) in a 1-hour and 20-minute set. A few new songs off of her current CD Blessed (including the title track as part of the encore): I Don’t Know How You’re Livin’, Copenhagen, Born to Be Loved and Buttercup. Ms. Williams never stood still, bouncing around and swaying even when she was just at the microphone without her guitar. She told us that a couple of people (her brother and a person in jail) were subjects in her songs previously. There was Pineloa (about poet Frank Stanford) and Metal Firecracker. Also Joy and Honey Bee. All delivered with passion and wrapped up neatly by 11 p.m on a warm night in Pittsburgh. Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host
Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald proved to be a dynamic duo Saturday night. Michael McDonald kicked off the evening with the sun beating directly down on him as he sat center stage with his keyboard.  Despite the heat, Mr. McDonald delivered a 14-song. 65-minute fast paced set.  After the third song, Mr. McDonald said he better introduce the band and 2 female back-up singers before he got "heat stroke" (the band pulled double duty, supporting Boz Scaggs as well.)  From my seat, I was only able to see the back-up singers and Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, so I will take Mr. McDonald's word for it that the band was made up of "middle-aged ugliness" - although I couldn't see them, the band sounded good on guitar, drums, bass, keys, Hammond B-3 organ, and sax.  Mr. McDonald started out strong with Doobie Brothers classics You Belong to Me and It Keeps You Runnin'.  He recorded three albums for Motown and sang soulful versions of I Made It Through the Grapevine, Aint No Mountain High Enough and Living in the City.  From his solo work he reached back for I Keep Forgettin', Sweet Freedom and Yah Mo B There.  During Minute by Minute a train roared by and Mr. McDonald said that was probably a comment from the Doobie Brothers management.  This segment of the show ended, as it began, with another Doobie Brothers song What A Fool Believes. After a brief 20-minute intermission, Boz Scaggs just casually walked on to the stage with his guitar for a 70-minute set of a dozen songs.  I felt transported back to my teen age years, listening to my 45 rpm records in the mid to late 1970s.  These were not the AM radio versions of the songs.  They sounded very true to the original recordings, only without the scratches and skips you'd often hear on a well worn vinyl record.  It amazed me that I still knew almost all the lyrics.  The setlist was a collection of Boz Scagg's greatest hits from the past 35 years: Jojo, Some Change, Lowdown, Breakdown Dead Ahead, Miss Sun, Look What You've Done to Me (a song that would be a must have on my MP3 player if ever I found myself stranded on a deserted island), Georgia and Lido Shuffle. One of the talented back up singers, Ms. Mone't, did an extended spirited version of Bonnie Raitt's Something to Talk About in the middle of the set. Within 5-minutes, a keyboard was added to the stage and Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs returned to perform a 5-song encore that extended the concert to nearly 3-hours:  Hallelujah, Drowning in the Sea of Love, Ces't La Vie (Chuck Berry) and It's Alright with Mr. McDonald on accordion, and the final song of the night was Takin' it to the Streets. Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Andy Mulkerin of Pittsburgh's City Paper In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Andy (plus  bonus songs): 1, 2, 3, "Work" - This is the first track on the local band's debut release on Frenchkiss Records. Two of the guys who used to be in Takeover UK spent some time revamping their stuff and have re-emerged with a more eclectic, weirdo-pop vibe. Rubblebucket, "Raining" - I saw this band at the Rex a few weeks back; it's an eight-piece with a lot of energy and some great tunes. Maybe slightly too jam-bandy for the hipsters and too avant-garde for the traditional jam-band types, which makes them all the more appealing to me. Jolie Holland, "All Those Girls" - One of my favorite artists, Jolie Holland released her latest, Pint of Blood, last month. This is the lead track. She's continued her trajectory toward bigger orchestration and more straightforward beats -- almost playing rock music -- and on the record she revamps "Littlest Birds," which was on her debut demo and that Be Good Tanyas record. Perhaps the third time's the charm? White Wives, "Indian Summer, Indian Summer" - Anthemic art-punk from members of Anti-Flag and Dandelion Snow. This local band released its debut, Happeners, last month; it's an original mix of old-style emo and singer-songwriter stuff that could be one of the definitive records of the year in relation to what the "kids" are listening to.

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Scott Tady of The Beaver County Times. In case you missed it here's what he played (with commentary by Scott): Digitalism, "2 Hearts" - This German dance-punk duo bolsters its club-thumping beats with indie-rock structure. This single from their sophomore album slips a straight-forward, poppy chorus into a whirlwind of icy keyboards, drum machines and pulsating bass beats. With well-received appearances at Lollapalooza, Coachella and South by Southwest, Digitalism has a buzz brewing. Another standout track on the day-old album, "Forrest Gump," was co-written by Julian Casablancas. Julian Casablancas, "Rave On" - Did somebody mention the Strokes' frontman? Casablancas supplies the bold title track to the new Buddy Holly tribute album that features an all-star cast including Paul McCartney, Justin Townes Earle, Lou Reed, Graham Nash, My Morning Jacket, Florence + the Machine, Nick Lowe and the Black Keys. Casablancas resorts to a heaping dose of reverb mixed with layered vocals and spry, retro organ riffs to inject an edginess and quirky sophistication to Holly's genius-in-simplicity songwriting. For Casablancas, the risk works; something that can't be said for every track on this album. The best cut on "Rave On Buddy Holly" is ("You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care" by Cee Lo Green, currently in rotation on WYEP.