May 2012

If you’re a fan of the Block Party (weeknights from 8pm-12am EST) on 91.3fm, each month we feature one of the artists featured on the Block Party as an Album of the Month with a New or Renewing Membership to WYEP. The Block Party Featured Album is available in CD format for a $60 donation to WYEP or on vinyl for your gift of $75. June''s Block Party Featured Album of the Month is Blunderbuss by Jack White. Become a WYEP Member at and grab a copy as your thank you gift this month.

Blunderbuss review by WYEP Block Party Host Andy Cook: What happens when someone like Jack White finds himself without a band?  This is a pretty interesting question. The guy has been in bands, usually multiple ones simultaneously, for about two decades now.  A lot of highly talented charismatic musicians would have wanted to go solo a long time ago, but it seems to not come so naturally with Mr. White.  He clearly must love something about being in a band.  Is it the camaraderie?  Is it that, to at least some small degree, he can then share the limelight?  It would seem at first glance that this solo thing doesn’t sit well with him.  Even in a recent New York Times profile he admitted that if it were up to him he would still be going full steam ahead with The White Stripes.  He seems a little hurt and confused that Meg, his former bandmate, doesn’t share in this desire any longer.  Therefore, it seems this solo thing might at least partially be out of necessity.  If it’s any consolation, Jack, it seems that you are extremely good at it. Yes, the combination of his recent divorce from Karen Elson and the current distance between Meg White and himself is all over this release.  Right from the first track, “Missing Pieces”, he details losing appendages and feeling lost. “Sometimes someone controls everything about you/ …they’ll take pieces of you / And they’ll stand above you and walk away”. The song “Love Interruption” has a refrain that almost works as a mantra. “I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt, or interrupt me”. It seems White’s determined to enjoy love, but no longer let it leave him emotionally destroyed. Please do not think that this release is a real downer, though.  Jack White seems to be fully aware that you can sing about pain while matching it with upbeat melodies.  “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy”, seems to lyrically have some  incredibly harsh bite, but musically is about the most pleasant and happy thing he’s ever done.   It all adds up to some of the strongest songwriting we have yet to experience from White. White is easily one of the most intriguing and compelling rock stars so far this century.  One might say that it’s an easy label to achieve with the lack of true rock stars these days.  Anymore we find potential specimens, dissect them, swallow them, and almost always cast them aside within a few months.  However, it seems White keeps sticking around.  This is not an accident.  It’s because he keeps giving us something slightly different to examine. Pick up a copy of Blunderbuss by Jack White with your Membership today at

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): The Ready Stance, "Rancho Christo" - I'm digging the urgency and hooks on this rookie effort from a Kentucky/suburban-Cincinnati band that's mining the rockier side of Americana. The Riverboat Gamblers, "Bite My Tongue" - They gave the best performance at the 2010 Warped Tour, and these Texas rockers, with punk energy, released last week one of the most exhilarating albums so far this year. The single is "Comedian" but here's a deeper cut to give you a fuller scope of the band's confident and compelling songwriting.

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 (talking to us from Isreal via Skype!), contributing writer to Billboard & Relix Magazine. In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Justin: of Montreal, "Dour Percentage" - Kevin Barnes and company put on a wild show in Tel Aviv a few weeks back — complete with dancing pigs, folks in white sheets, lots of colors and dancing and whatnot. of Montreal's new album, Paralytic Stalks, is a darker take on the band's psychedelic weirdo-pop, and this song captures the band at its best. I liken the band on record to David Bowie: really funky and wild, but in a buttoned-up way. But live, the buttons come off, and so do most of the clothing. Balkan Beat Box, "Part of the Glory" - One of Israel's best exports, these guys make Middle Eastern pop music (not what you're thinking) that could play in any Western club, with saxophone lines cutting through spicy, dusty chants and tons of start-stop beats that make you wanna move. I think pop radio would be a better place if bands like this got some play. Extra bonus! Liars, "No. 1 Against the Rush" - Liars are back! Everyone's favorite endlessly-creepy freak-out rockers are going to drop their sixth album, WIXIW, in a few weeks, and this electronic, churning cut is a great teaser. This summer's going to get weird!

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: Triggers, "In the Offing" - On its first album in four years -- it got tripped up by some label issues -- the Pittsburgh band gets a nice sonic sheen in an LA studio with producer Dave Trumfio (Wilco, Built to Spill). The resulting album, "Forcing A Smile," draws again on long-running influences, ranging from the Beatles to Elvis Costello to Weezer. This one is on the easy-flowing countrified side. Joey Ramone, "I Couldn't Sleep" - This Jerry Lee Lewis-style rocker comes from "Ya Know?," a second posthumous solo album from the lead Ramone. The whole things was pieced together from demo vocals by adoring musicians, including Steve Van Zandt and Joan Jett. Clearly, it isn't Joey Ramone at his best, but it's great to hear his voice again, and if this gets people to pull out their Ramones albums, it's done the trick.

... in Washington County where the reception isn’t quite what you’d hope for as there’s some interference from a local lower power station.

Here’s how we fixed that problem.  By way of explanation, my buddy Scott and I are both retired. Between us we have probably 55 years of WYEP support and membership. And we both volunteer at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum where we work on the signals and wiring, including the 600-volt wire that supplies electricity to the antique trolley cars.

Our “shop” is in the southwest corner of a steel frame, metal clad building. The WYEP transmitter, in the best tradition of Murphy’s Law, is located far to the northeast. So not only do we have interference from the solar panels and various voltages in and around the building, the building itself blocks the radio signal. Necessity being the mother of invention, we built an old-fashioned folded dipole antenna using the flat twin conductor wire that was once popular when TV antennas were the norm rather than cable and other digital media.  (For those of you who don’t recall this technology, you could get decent reception of local channels with an aluminum antenna on the top of the house, or with “rabbit ears” or by taking a piece of twin lead, and shaping it into a “T.” The stem of the “T” is wired into the center of the top arm, then into the FM receiver or TV set. With a little judicious fiddling, you’d get reception – of some kind!) A quick on-line search revealed that for the lower FM bands – which includes WYEP – the top arm of the antenna needed to be 61.5 inches long for optimum reception. So after ordering the wire from a local chain electronics supply store, and procuring some ¾” inch plastic conduit and fittings, we soon had our own “T” with a 61.5” long top arm and a stem about 8 feet tall. This enabled us to raise the antenna high enough to clear the adjacent roof line. We hooked the lead to the receiver, and with a little fiddling by the guy perched 30 feet off of the ground (“Twist it just a hair more clockwise  -- little more – wait – go back a smidge.”) we soon had reception that sounded as if we were actually in the studio.  Success. This is good for listening in the shop when we work on bench projects – like painting, rebuilding relays, wiring assemblies, puzzling through 80-year-old wiring diagrams, etc. Then we came to Part 2 of the project.  When we’re out on the trolley line we use a 75-year-old work car that allows us to maintain and repair the 600 volt DC trolley wire while it’s still energized. All of the electricity in the car is Direct Current – popular back in the early 1900s – and totally incompatible with modern appliances, including radios.  So, how do we take WYEP along while we’re working on the railway? We did have a source of lower voltage DC, your choice of 24 volts or 12 volts. With a little scrounging in my basement, I found a portable FM/CD/tape player that operated on 8 D cell batteries. Hmmm.  8 times 1.5 volts equals 12 volts! Problem solved, sort of.  The task was to make the wiring necessary to plug the radio into the trolley car’s 12 volt electrical system.  So with some wire, solder, trailer connectors and tape, we soon had our boom box on wheels working.  We’re still tinkering with the antenna there as sometimes the car is oriented north-south and other times east-west or any combination in between depending on the twists and turns of the museum railway trackage. But we’re calling it a successful project. Now WYEP helps to power the crews that keep the power flowing to the streetcars at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.  Thanks, WYEP. -WYEP Volunteer Rick you can talk trolleys, antennas, and public radio with Rick at [email protected]

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: Jaill, "Waste a Lot of Things" - I was way into this band's Sub Pop debut in 2010, and buzzed a tune from that record; next month, they return with a follow-up, Traps. They've got a slacker-rock, sometimes almost surfer-y vibe, except they're from Milwaukee, so they're probably not surfers, right? Jill Barber, "Tell Me" - I saw this Vancouverian songstress at Hard Rock Cafe, making her Pittsburgh debut, a couple of weeks ago. Not many folks can pull off the retro-jazz-standards-revival thing, but she's a great songwriter and a charming performer, and has a wonderful voice. Here's hoping she makes her way back soon.