Sophisticated. Elegant. Grace under pressure even when she makes a mistake. Vienna Teng is not just another singer-songwriter. Club Café hosted the Vienna Teng Trio: Vienna Teng, vocals and keyboards. Ward Williams plays the cello and electric guitar. Alex Wong is a multi-instrumentalist, who co-produced Teng’s new release “Inland Territory”. Teng talked about spending Easter in Pittsburgh and taking a ride on the Mon Incline before segueing into “In Another Life”. She highlighted many songs from “Inland Territory”, which I’ve already added to my personal list of the best of 2009. “The Last Snowfall”, “White Light”, “Antebellum”, “Kansas”, “Grandmother Song” and “St. Stephen’s Cross” were among the songs she performed from “Inland Territory”. From “Dreaming Through The Noise” Teng did “Whatever You Want” and the fun “1BR/1BA”. Teng’s expressions and delicate movements with her hands, shows that she’s really feeling the music. Teng’s set was over 90-minutes, including a 2-song encore.
When Ari Hest was at Club Café last month, we discussed the Cayamo cruise. He asked me if we saw Vienna Teng. I had to confess that we did not see enough of her performances. The venues were overflowing with people and we only caught Teng’s shows in passing. When Teng returns to Cayamo-2010, she will be on our must-see list.
He’s from Lexington, KY. He sings. He writes songs. He plays the cello exquisitely. Ben Sollee did a too short 35-minute set. Club Café was briefly transformed into a symphonic concert hall when the classically trained Sollee played his cello. You could see the audience trying to be quiet and leaning forward to hear all the notes. Sollee was joined by Alex Wong on “It’s Not Impossible”, a song he got to perform on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”. Also, from his debut full length release, “Learning To Bend”, he did the amusing “Bury Me With My Car”. I’d like to hear Sollee with a backing band, perhaps, in the future when Sollee headlines his own tour. Sollee may return to the area in August.
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
k.d. lang brought her dancing shoes and a brand new five-piece band to the Benedum Center for the WYEP 35th Anniversary concert. Sometimes lang played the guitar and even attempted playing the banjo, but it was her voice that was her most used instrument throughout the almost 90-minute set, which featured several encores. The large stage was set up with lighting and a projection screen in the back, with the band near the middle; allowing lang plenty of space to dance and interact with her band and audience. Some of the band members were multi-instrumentalists. Despite pleas from the audience, lang did not remove her shoes (she apparently usually performs without them) and she proved she’s very light on her feet. An early highlight was lang’s version of Neil Young’s “Helpless”. The first standing ovation came after she did a song from “Hymns of the 49th Parallel”, the Leonard Cohen penned “Hallelujah” in which lang showcased her extraordinary voice. lang did vintage tracks like “Miss Chatelaine” as well as “I Dream of Spring” from her most recent release “Watershed”. Of course lang sang “Constant Craving”, perhaps her most well known song. During one of the encores, lang referred to Tony Bennett as her mentor. The final song was “Lock, Stock and Teardrops” from “Shadowland”.
Fellow Canadian Meaghan Smith opened the show and this leg of the k.d. lang tour. Smith was joined center stage by her husband Jason Mingo on guitar and harp pedal and their friend Austin Nicholsen on upright bass. She was on stage for about 30-minutes, played seven songs and danced a little. Smith plays guitar and also played the omnichord. She engaged the audience using the harp pedal to accentuate what people did that day (working and laundry). The singer song-writer reminded me of a young Linda Ronstadt. Smith told the stories behind such songs as “Poor”, “You Got Out” and her final song about her parents sending her to bed in the summer when it was still daylight, called “Five More Minutes”. She shared with us that she does answer her own e-mail. Smith asked for a photo of herself from the stage with the audience in the background. I’m sure everyone was smiling.
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
You can’t just comment on the final product of “Twelve Mondays” without acknowledging the pool of ‘52’. I did not hear the songs as they came out each week in 2008; instead I listened to them in order over a 5-day period. I feel there is not a weak song in the bunch. Certainly some songs sounded like demos. Some started abruptly or just ended with no warning. There was one instrumental. Many songs had multiple instruments and sounds. Guitar, piano, percussion and harmonies. You could at least hear the potential of what Hest was attempting to do with a particular song. I was impressed by actually how polished many of the songs were.
The quality and integrity of Ari Hest’s music is evident. In one review, Hest was compared to John Mayer, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Matthews. I don’t think those comparisons do justice to the depth of the songs Hest has produced over his young career (Hest will be 30 in June). To me, Ari Hest sounds like … well, Ari Hest. He is unique. Maybe in the future other artists will be likened to … Ari Hest.
On 2006’s “The Green Room Sessions EP”, Hest covers Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies”. It’s hard to believe it’s one person singing that song, but Hest pulls it off brilliantly.
Ari Hest has recorded almost the equivalent of a whole career worth of music in one year. What an incredible accomplishment! Well done, well done! To date, “Twelve Mondays” is my favorite CD of 2009!
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
ELVIS COSTELLO’S NEW ALBUM ‘SECRET, PROFANE & SUGARCANE’ will be out on JUNE 2nd. The recording is Produced by T BONE BURNETT in Nashville.
Joining Costello were Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Mike Compton, Jeff Taylor, and Dennis Crouch. These guys are some of the most highly regarded recording artists and musicians in traditional American country music, Bluegrass and beyond.
The album includes ten previously unrecorded songs. “Sulphur to Sugarcane” and “The Crooked Line”, were co-written with T Bone Burnett while, “I Felt The Chill” marks Costello’s second recorded songwriting collaboration with Loretta Lynn.
I'm fairly certain that is the same group of musicians that helped create 'Raising Sand' with Plant & Krauss. Looking forward to this release !
Day 6: It’s a day with a moderate sea and strong winds. They had to cover the equipment once due to a quick rain storm. I was able to access the Internet on the Pool Deck, while listening to Bonepony. They were followed by The Greencards (re-scheduled from the previous day, due to the weather). They play quite a variety of music. Great energy and sound (especially when they did bluegrass)
We both got some sun and despite using 50 SPF, I have some sun burn on my shoulders, chest and neck.
As part of "Twice as Nice" we had our photo taken with Brandi Carlile. It was a nice opportunity, even if it was very quick. The photo came out nice and it's a good memory of the cruise.
The shows were all running a bit late on the Pool Deck, so we only caught part of Drew Copeland's (Sister Hazel) show. He's been working with Edwin McCain on his solo effort and you could hear the influence. We think Marc Broussard also sounds like McCain.
We finally got to see multi-instrumentalist Kathleen Edwards do a whole show. I had no idea she played the violin. She said her husband comforted her after her losses at the casino with goodies from the chocolate buffet. Edwards also freely used "adult language". She told an entertaining story about making the video to "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory".
Glen Phillips has some great guys backing him up. One is Luke Bulla on fiddle (Works Progress Administration), the other is Jonathan Kingham. Phillips gave each a chance to solo during the set. Kingham stole the show with a rap during a Bobby Brown song all about the Cayamo cruise experience on the Norwegian Dawn. He earned a much deserved standing ovation. Phillips did a song about being present when his father passed on. Mr. Barb and I could relate. After his performance I was able to chat with Phillips and get his autograph. He also kindly posed for a photo with me, doing a 2nd take, as he blinked the 1st time.
The Spinnaker Lounge was perhaps not the right venue for someone such as Webb Wilder. A tight band, but very loud! Very good at what he does. Other artists should watch him and learn how it's done.
Ed Robertson (Barenaked Ladies) was in Dazzles. The lounge we could never get into, and always had to settle for standing along the fringe. Roberston is very entertaining and we were glad to catch him performing again before turning in for the evening.
We sailed into the Eastern Time Zone and to the Bahamas. Of course we would lose the hour again when we went back to Daylight Savings Time on Sunday. Oh well. As Glen Phillips said we’re on a cruise, we get back to reality next week and can sleep then.
On a cruise, you can’t help but run into the performers in the hall ways. Lyle Lovett is impeccably dressed even when not on stage. Mr. Barb saw Ed Roland in the bathroom. You just never know. The performers seem open to chatting informally with fans. I usually was on the look out for performers in the Garden Cafe, like all of us, they had to eat sometime.
Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host
Another humid, windy day in the 80’s ashore, in the very quaint Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Shawn Mullins was supposed to play the Pool Deck, but due to rain and 2” of water on the stage and over the wires, his show was moved inside to the Atrium. Another part of the Cayamo experience is being flexible. Mullins was also joined by guests for his final set, including the banjo player from Oakhurst. Mullins stuck to his more familiar material. It was a so neat to see people gathering all around the Atrium, on the spiral staircases, in the glass elevators and in any free space they could find to see Mullins. Afterwards he signed autographs at the Merch Store. I finally got the opportunity to get my photo taken with him and I had not showered and was wearing a hat to cover my hair. Mullins was very gracious.
Next we caught Darrell Scott. Like the others, he had guests join him on stage throughout the show. After a shower and dinner we went to see Ed Robertson. He’s quirky. A good quirky and I bet a fun dad. He did a few Barenaked Ladies songs and had a few guest artists, including a “cruiser” who played a mean harmonica. Before we went to hear more music we went to a chocolate buffet (I drew the line tho on chocolate sushi). We caught a bit of Edie Carey, Vienna Teng and Beth Woods. We like all three ladies. Next we went to see Ed Roland (Collective Soul). He admitted he was not proficient on the guitar (I couldn’t tell). He’s working on writing songs for next Collective Soul CD and was looking for some ideas from the cruisers. It’s obvious he writes more for a group then solo, but it still translated quite well on stage. We ended the evening with the veteran Cayamo act Oakhurst.
Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host
Day 4: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Another humid, windy day in the 80’s ashore. Our evening entertainment was provided by David Ryan Harris, Joey Ely, Girlyman, Katie Herzig, Jim Bianco and Glen Phillips.
David Ryan Harris was on Cayamo last year when he joined Shawn Mullins and Edwin McCain on the Lido Deck. I was looking forward to seeing him solo. Harris is a combination of John Mayer and Prince. He's a talented singer-songwriter who’s not well known, but should be.
We sampled a bit of Joe Ely again (The Flatlanders), Girylman, along with a little bit of Katie Herzig in the Atrium, and checked in on Mindy Smith and then Jim Bianco.
Our “Twice as Nice” Show was Brandi Carlile (instead of Buddy Miller, who was unable to join the cruise due to triple by-pass surgery). Sixthman did a great job of trying to accommodate those of us who choose Buddy Miller. We were thrilled to see Carlile twice. We had 4th row center in the Stardust Theater. Wow. Brandi, one of The Twins and Josh performed barefoot again. Since we were close enough, I tried to get some photos of their feet. Marc Broussard and Vienna Teng were among the performers who joined her on stage. A large group sang “Let It Be” (Beatles) while holding lyric sheets. It’s that kind of impromptu atmosphere. You never know who will turn up on stage.
It was off to the late show of Glen Phillips. I have to admit here, I was not impressed with Phillips when we saw him with Jonatha Brooke in December at the Rex. I really wanted to give him another chance, as I had heard he was a good performer. Well, he won me over. Mr. Barb and I stayed for the whole show, until 2:15 a.m. The Spinnaker has very comfortable couches and chairs. Mr. Barb and I found a couch. It was ironic, that Phillips talked about the “bumper cars” (couches). He knew it was late and said was okay if we fell asleep in the bumper cars/couches. Phillips is still re-learning the guitar after his accident (injuring his hand after it went through a glass table). The late night show also seemed to affect his memory for lyrics. But that’s part of the ambiance of this cruise. It’s very casual and it’s okay to forget the words. Phillips hit his head on the microphone a few times when he just couldn’t remember anymore of the song. Mr. Barb and I left the comfy bumper car to move up front to get a closer look.
Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host
Day 3: Webb Wilder, Hub City Allstars, Tift Merritt, Glen Phillips, Brandi Carlile, Marc Broussard, Shawn Mullins, Ed Robertson, Zac Brown Band. After a day in Samana, we had plenty of music to come back on the boat for.
Webb Wilder followed by the Hub City Allstars were on the pool deck again. It’s a perfect location to hear their music.
Tift Merritt started off the night in the Spinnaker Lounge. She did “Broken” and mentioned watching the “Titanic” before going on the cruise. We were quite impressed with her performance. We caught a little bit of Glen Phillips (who noted he was enjoying getting re-acquainted with his wife on this cruise) before going to see our headliner Brandi Carlile. What a difference a year makes. Carlile, with Josh on upright bass and “The Twins” in her band were amazing. She has much more confidence (as she should with that voice and songwriting ability). Carlile likes to perform barefoot. She also sang a few new songs from her upcoming new release. The Indigo Girls joined her on stage. As usual, Marc Broussard was SRO and on again before Shawn Mullins. Broussard brought his dad on board to accompany him. Mullins’ changed up his set for his 2nd show of the cruise. He did a very impassioned version of the James McMurtry song “We Can’t Make It Here”. While I was seeing Mullins, Mr. Barb checked out Ed Robertson (Barenaked Ladies) – his quirky sound played well in the Atrium, and Mr. Barb recommended we check out his show later in the Spinnaker. After Mullins’ we stayed around to see the Zac Brown Band (Clay Cook pulling double duty tonight with Mullins & Zac.) There was a lot of buzz for this band, and their hit “Chicken Fried”. We only stayed for a few jams, but we were in awe over their sound. A little bit of everything.
Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host
It was very windy, as I sat at a picnic table in the shade, overlooking the Pool Deck, while Brandi Carlile was singing “The Story” … it’s the 2nd day of the journey through song ... we’re somewhere in the Eastern Caribbean. Carlile and the Indigo Girls teamed up this afternoon.
Our travels from Pittsburgh to our stateroom aboard the NCL Dawn were practically seamless. I discovered I can function, with some short naps, for 24-hours. Our day began at 3:30 a.m. in Pittsburgh and ended the next morning about 4:00 a.m. Atlantic Standard Time (yeah, we lost an hour when we went into another time zone).
Day 1 included performances from Beth Wood, Roddie Romero & The Hub City Allstars, Emerson Hart, Ken Block, Drew Copeland & Ryan Newell (3/5’s of Sister Hazel), Kathleen Edwards (who was introduced by fellow Canadian, Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies), Indigo Girls, Marc Broussard and Shawn Mullins.
Roddie Romero & The Hub City Allstars would sound perfect on the Roots & Rhythm mix (Sundays, 11a-2p on WYEP), with their Cajun Louisiana sound. Our discovery on Day 1 was the guys from Sister Hazel. Wow we had no idea how good they were & their CD was the 1st we purchased.
The Indigo Girls were our 1st headliner show. Brandi Carlile joined them on quite a few songs, as well as a few other guest musicians. They just rocked the Stardust Theater. A great way to begin the journey.
Despite a sinus infection, Shawn Mullins delivered an amazing performance that began about 12:50 a.m. Joining Mullins was the multi-instrumentalist and a great singer-songwriter in his own right, Clay Cook. With Patrick Blanchard on guitar. Mullins started off acoustic, and then invited the musicians up on stage for the remainder of the set. Mullins is returning to Cayamo and a veteran of four Sixthman cruises. He seemed genuinely happy to be on-board and appreciated those in the Spinnaker Lounge (AKA, The Listener’s Room) being there this late (early?) to attend his show. Mullins ended his 90 minute set, with his now trademark “House of the Rising Sun” and “Lullaby”.
My oh wow moment on Day 2 was seeing Glen Phillips. Mr. Barb and I were having a late breakfast, and Phillips came over to our table to ask us the time. I didn’t realize who it was at first, until I heard another musician call him Glen. Neat! (I might add, he’s nice looking in person).
On Day 2 we also sampled Webb Wilder, Over the Rhine, Girlyman, Ken Block (whose set started off solo, then he was joined by his Sister Hazel band mates), Girlyman, The Greencards, Kathleen Edwards (we were thrilled to hear her do “I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory”). Beth Woods introduced a fellow Texan, our headliner for the evening, Mr. Lyle Lovett. What a performer. He is the consummate professional. With a stellar band, impeccably dressed, just first rate. The artist’s should all come to one of his shows to see how it’s done. He performed over 90-minutes. Lovett continues to deliver the goods. We also checked in on Joe Ely, who performed some new Flatlander’s music.
It was 78 on our Day at Sea and it’s supposed to be 82 for our Day in Samana, Day 3. Internet access was spotty on Day 2 of the cruise, so I'm only getting around to posting on Day 3.
Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host