March 2013

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). J Mascis and Sharon Van Etten, “Prisoners” - We could use a new John Denver in this era of snarkiness. Denver’s simple, optimistic, pro-environmental acoustic songs still must resonate profoundly, judging by the bevy of musical hipsters who stepped forward to lend their voices to the new “This Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver.” From Jim James’ pretty singing on My Morning Jacket’s cover of “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” to Old Crow Medicine Show’s twangy “Back Home Again,” to Brandi Carlile and Emmylou Harris harmonizing winsomely on “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” there’s plenty here to make you appreciate Denver’s songwriting. Dave Matthews, Kathleen Edwards, Lucinda Williams, Josh Ritter, Mary Chapin Carpenter and a surprisingly restrained Train also make memorable contributions. I was most intrigued by the guitar saturated cover of “Prisoners,” a 1972 track on the same Denver album as “Rocky Mountain High,” performed here by the tantalizing pairing of Sharon Van Etten and Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis. Meeting of Important People, “Innocents Abroad” - The Pittsburgh garage-pop trio already is getting WYEP spins for their new single “Keep Your Eyes on Me.” The entire album, due out April 9, offers solid songcraft. I picked this track as a prime example of their multi-dimensional, accessible sound. I had the vocal hook stuck in my head all weekend (complete with the layered “whoa-whoa-o-o” harmonizing). I like how at the 2 minute mark they kick into another gear, then at 2:16 take things to an even louder, rawer level with cymbals bashing, and guitar slashing, which soon subsides back to that simple and catchy vocal hook. Way to represent, guys!

Austin, TX based, Patty Griffin has released a new song from her upcoming American Kid, which comes out on May 7th. "Ohio", is a beautiful affair of subtle acoustic guitars (provided by North Mississippi Allstars Bros Cody and Luther Dickinson) and harmonies provided by her main squeeze, Robert Plant (as in Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant). According to USA Today, Griffin claims the song is "a story about the Underground Railroad, about slaves escaping. It's inspired by something I read in a Toni Morrison novel a few years back". Check out the song, streaming below:

Illustrious UK chanteuse, Jessie Ware and her incredible debut album Devotion, will finally get a proper U.S. release on April 16th via Cherrytree Records. The album will include two new tracks: a remix of “Wildest Moments” featuring ASAP Rocky and “Imagine it Was Us”. BBC Radio 1′s Annie Mac premiered “Imagine it Was Us”. Here's a radio rip of the new song from Jessie Ware:
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 Israel via Skype!), contributing writer to Billboard & Relix Magazine.
In case you missed it, here is what he played with commentary by Justin: Phosphorescent, "Song for Zula" - The first single from Phosphorescent's latest album, "Muchacho," is this totally beautiful track called "Songs for Zula." Matthew Houck's voice is creaky and broken, and it sounds perfect against the song's soft, swirling sounds. Granted, this is a change for Houck, who has made his name on dusty country rock. Some risks are well worth taking. Young Galaxy, "Pretty Boy" - Tight, catchy, concise — it's pop's newest sensation, Young Galaxy! Wouldn't the world be better if that were true. No, this act won't become radio darlings, but this track is a lovely, affecting little piece of hard candy from a band that's been at it since 2006.

We learned yesterday that Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. balladeer, Jason Molina, passed away on Saturday. Here is a statement from Molina's label, Secretly Canadian: "We are deeply saddened to announce that Jason Andrew Molina passed away in his home in Indianapolis this past Saturday, March 16th of natural causes at age 39. Jason was a world class musician, songwriter & recording artist. He was also a beloved friend. He first caught international attention in 1996 when he began releasing albums under the name Songs: Ohia. In 2003 he started the band Magnolia Electric Co. Between those two bands he released over a dozen critically-acclaimed albums and — starting in 1997 — he toured the world every year until he had to stop in 2009 to deal with severe alcoholism. Jason was incredibly humbled by his fans’ support through the years and said that the two most important words he could ever say are “Thank you.” This is especially hard for us to share. Jason is the cornerstone of Secretly Canadian. Without him there would be no us — plain and simple. His singular, stirring body of work is the foundation upon which all else has been constructed. After hearing and falling in love with the mysterious voice on his debut single “Soul” in early 1996, we approached him about releasing a single on our newly formed label. For some reason he said yes. We drove from Indiana to New York to meet him in person, and he handed us what would become the first of many JMo master tapes. And with the Songs: Ohia One Pronunciation of Glory 7″ we were given a voice as a label. The subsequent self-titled debut was often referred to by fans as The Black Album. Each Songs: Ohia album to follow proved a new, haunting thesis statement from a prodigal songwriter whose voice and soul burned far beyond that of the average twenty-something. There was organ-laced, sepia-toned econimica (1998′s Impala) and charred-hearted, free form balladry (1999′s Axxess and Ace). There were the dark glacial make-out epics of 2000′s The Lioness and the jungle incantations of 2000′s Ghost Tropic. There was the career-defining agnostic’s gospel of 2002′s Didn’t It Rain, an album about setting roots that also seemed to offer solace to a world that had recently seen its bar on terror raised. It was followed in 2003 by a thrilling about-face, the instant classic Magnolia Electric Co., which took Jason’s songwriting to ’70s classic rock heights. The move was such a powerful moment for Molina that Magnolia Electric Co. became the new moniker under which he would perform until 2009. With Magnolia Electric Co., Jason found a brotherhood in his bandmates, with whom he built an incredible live experience and made a truly classic album in Josephine (2009). We’re going to miss Jason. He was generous. He was a one of a kind. And he had a voice unlike any other." Here's one of his best, "At Least The Dark Don't Hide It" from Magnolia Electric Co.'s 2003 What Comes After The Blues:

Rolling Stone is reporting a new musical based on the life and career of singer and songwriter, Carole King, will makes its debut on Broadway in Spring of 2014. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, follows King from her early days in Brooklyn to her partnership with Gerry Goffin and feat songs by King, Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

"What's so great about this for me is that musicals were a major influence on my songwriting," said King in a statement. "In fact, when Gerry and I first met, we made a bargain that I would write music for the Broadway show he wanted to write if he wrote lyrics for my rock & roll songs. The songs took off and the show idea never came to fruition. Now that our songs have merged with a Broadway show, we've come full circle." The production is currently working on an out-of-town debut and hopes to bring the show to Broadway in Spring 2014. WYEP is proud to present American Originals, our monthly spotlight on an essential American artist, featuring the music of Carole King on Monday March 25th at 7pm on 91.3fm and

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: Brooke Annibale, "Silence Worth Breaking" - This title track to her last album ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor. Two years later, the singer-songwriter from Moon, now based in Nashville, has pulled a Led Zeppelin, a la "Houses of the Holy," and put in her new EP, "Words in Your Eyes." It's a majestic beauty in the Sarah McLachlan vein with a haunted vocal and musicianship that heightens the longing in the song. The Replacements, "I'm Not Saying" - It's great to hear them again, even if it's under sad circumstances. Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson have reunited for "Songs for Slim," an EP to benefit guitarist Slim Dunlap who suffered a stroke. A cover of a Gordon Lightfoot song (of all things), it reminds us of the youthful exuberance of the band in the '80s.

Laura Marling's next album, Once I Was An Eagle, will be released on May 28 via Ribbon Music in the U.S. The album was produced again by Ethan Johns and is lead off with the song "Where Can I Go?". Says Marling "It’s just me and [producer Ethan Johns] this time. I gave him the songs and he pretty much ran with it. I’m very lucky to have him." [via NME]. Check out the track listing and the new song below ---

Once I Was an Eagle: 01 Take the Night Off 02 I Was an Eagle 03 You Know 04 Breathe 05 Master Hunter 06 Little Love Caster 07 Devil’s Resting Place 08 Interlude 09 Undine 10 Where Can I Go? 11 Once 12 Pray For Me 13 When Were You Happy? (And How Long has That Been) 14 Love be Brave 15 Little Bird 16 Saved These Words

She & Him (actor Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward) are back this spring with their Volume 3 release on May 7 on Merge Records. The pair have released their first single, the not surprisingly sunny sounding "Never Wanted Your Love". This single sounds more ambitious than previous material on the production side of things with M. Ward channeling his inner Phil Spector. Lyric-wise, Deschanel is inging about heart break, which is not unusual, but still very lovely. Check out the audio below.

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: Tristen, "No One's Gonna Know" - This is the single that you got if you helped back this Nashville singer/songwriter's recent Kickstarter project. I've been a Tristen believer since her last one, Charlatans at the Garden Gate, came out and I saw her at Stage AE two years ago. Her new stuff is less country, more synth-y, but has the same core pop songwriting featured.
The Features,"This Disorder" - Another Nashville act, because I'm a theme-oriented guy. This band has been starting to get some Buzz; thanks to the drunk Vanderbilt grad student I met at Gooski's a couple years ago who mentioned them as a Nashville band I should know. He was right!
Two bonuses: In this week's paper, I write about the new split LP from The Red Western and Grand Piano, two quality locals. Worth a try: