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Discovering The Pines at Mercury Lounge, Opening for Israel Nash

I delighted in that most welcome of live music-going experiences on Oct 22. Going to hear roots rocker Israel Nash for the first time—an artist whose recordings I’d heard and enjoyed for several months—I encountered an opening act whose sound instantly captivated me, which I immediately adored. They are called The Pines. I urge you to listen to them, and go hear them live if they’re playing in your area on their current tour, which will take them to Winnipeg, Canada, as well as to North Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Iowa, the latter two being their home states. I was fortunate to arrive an hour early for Nash’s set, and so walked in to the Mercury Lounge just as The Pines were beginning their first song. Playing keys, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar, the trio had a gentle and disarming stage presence that was somehow emphasized by the fact they were all seated. My ears quickened to a lush and ravishing interplay of voices and instruments. I was evidently not the only stunned listener, nor the only person new to their sound, as, unusual at this venue, no one in the darkened music room spoke while they performed. It was easily the most hushed and attentive crowd I’ve ever been a part of at this usually noisy club. Their songs sounded as if they were either traditional ballads reworked by them, or originals that sounded like they emerged from the soil of the upper Midwest. One song, “Are You Ready for the Fair?”, reminded me of Greg Brown, a folksinger I’ve enjoyed for years.  Later, I got a copy of their CD “Pasture” and saw that that song is indeed written by Brown. And on The Pines’ website, I see that Benson Ramsey, who often takes lead vocals, while playing lead and slide guitar, and Alex Ramsey, who plays piano and organ, are sons of Bo Ramsey, Brown’s longtime producer and sideman. Greg Brown, it should be noted, is married to the great country singer Iris Dement.

Click here to see a video of their song “Cry, Cry, Crow” from their album “Dark So Gold.”

After The Pines finished their set, and before Israel Nash and his band took the stage, I introduced myself to Benson Ramsey, and his bandmate Dave Huckfelt. I told them how much I’d enjoyed discovering their music, and that I would be eager to write about them, and let others know of their music. Here are pictures from the show, including some of Israel Nash, who also played a great set, and who I appreciated for having invited The Pines to open for him. I was glad I had the chance to hear both of these bands, and that I had a meet up at Mercury Lounge with a new friend, Garrett Johnson, a Canadian music lover who like me is a member of the CBCRadio 3 music community. I’m glad he was in town and could join me to hear Israel Nash.

Excited I’ll be Attending the CBC Music Festival in Toronto, May 23

This should be lots of fun—an all-day outdoor music festival in Toronto sponsored by CBC Music, with some great acts. Tickets are available via this link

Elephant Stone, Making Mind-bending Music at Mercury Lounge

Rishi sitarI had a great time at the Elephant Stone show at Mercury Lounge Tuesday night. It was the third time I’ve heard the Montreal band (I earlier wrote about them here), and they were in great form, with frontman Rishi Dhir and his crew really getting down on several psychedelic and funk jams. As cool as Rishi’s sitar playing is, he’s also a really great bassist, and plays it like a solo instrument. Meantime, bandmate Gabriel Lambert is a wizard on 12-string electric guitar. The result is the band’s signature blend of soaring psychedelia, bright pop harmonies, thumping funk, and chiming guitar. If you’d like rock n’ roll that sounds like the Byrds crossed with Indian influences check them out. Frontman Dhir (shown at right) has playfully dubbed their sound ‘Hindi rock.’ I hear echoes of the Byrds and the Beatles, though more psychedelic-ized than either of those giant groups. I got a copy of their new album The Three Poisons after the show. Also in the house was Mike Renaud, aka “Parkside,” of Hidden Pony Records, which handles several of my favorite acts (like Rah Rah, Jeremy Fisher, Said the Whale, and Imaginary Cities) and Tyler Bancroft of the aforementioned Said the Whale, who was in NYC for a few days, then leaving to meet his bandmates for a StW show in Calgary. Parkside, Tyler, myself, and some new friends, Jillian Bordeaux and Michael, a colleague of hers from Caroline—a company that works with many indie music labels—went out for beers afterward.

Elephant Stone’s current US tour continues tonight in Philadelphia, and tomorrow in Asbury Park, NJ, Sept 12 and 13. Details here.

Here are more pictures from the fun night.

My NXNE Storify: “Great Music & Great Times in Toronto for NXNE 2014″


Storify screenshot

In completing my coverage of NXNE, the Toronto music festival I attended June 17-24 as accredited press, I’ve used Storify, the platform that lets bloggers incorporate social media posts in with their own writing. Once a piece is published on Storify, you can grab a handy embed code and paste it in at your websites, where it populates precisely as you assembled it. The piece is titled “Great Music & Great Times in Toronto for NXNE 2014,” “a collection of illustrated social sharing culled from my timelines 6/17-6/24, w/commentary; links to bands & venues; plus content I’m borrowing with acknowledgement of & appreciation for other music fans who shared about NXNE, creating a visual diary of the festival.” Please click here to read it on Storify, or here on Honourary Canadian. I hope you enjoy reading the piece which includes travel and tourism info about Toronto, offering some notes on restaurants, bookstores, shopping, and architecture, along with my music coverage.
 

 

 

Fun Night of Happy Music with Brain Cloud at the Rodeo Bar

Brain Cloud is a happy music-making outfit, maestros of western swing whose infectious repertoire harks back to the music of Bob Wills, Patsy Cline, and early country & western radio. They are fronted by Dennis Lichtman, multi-instrumentalist (clarinet, mandolin, fiddle), while also featuring fab vocalist Tamar Korn, and hot sidemen playing lap steel guitar (Raphael McGregor); hollow-body electric guitar (Skip Krevens); and a solid rhythm section with a stand-up bassist and drummer who also played a washboard vest. They have so much fun playing their tunes, and with such good humor, you can’t help but feel good, even giddy, as you listen to them play. Licthman sports a very open personality on stage, offering polite kudos to his bandmates, and clear announcements of song titles and their origins, while Korn is a veritable vocal gymnast who uses her voice in skillful and surprising ways, often mimicking the sounds of the instruments near her on stage, and miming the fiddling of her stage partner, Lichtman.

The Rodeo Bar is a long-running NYC venue for live music. On weeknights there’s no cover charge in their music room, with a reasonably priced Tex-Mex menu on offer. Kyle and I ordered dinner (tacos and pulled pork), which was served quickly, and cleared off our table before Brain Cloud’s 9:00 PM set began.

Before the show, we chatted with Dennis, whom I had first met in 2011, when Brain Cloud played the Brooklyn Folk Festival. He also plays with the jazz combo, Mona’s Hot Four, an outfit that plays weekly at Mona’s Bar on Avenue B on the lower east side. In 2012, I attended a joint launch of a documentary and a CD about the jazz scene at Mona’s, and wrote about it here on this blog. In 2013, I attended a CD release party for Brain Cloud’s album “Outside Looking In,” also the title of a signature song of theirs that Lichtman explained was composed by Izzy Zaidman (and I note from the CD below, Lichtman and Korn), musician and leader of Izzy and the Catastrophics. Like much of Brain Cloud’s repertoire, this song sounds like it could come from the 1940s, though it’s a modern evocation of that era. They appear at Rodeo Bar many Wednesdays, I recommend you go hear them some time. Here’s what their CD looks like, along with pictures I took during last night’s show.

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Ewan Turner at the Bitter End, 7PM May 25/Updated w/Photos

As I’d tweeted earlier tonight and shared here, Ewan Turner was going to be playing at the Bitter End tonight and it turned out to be a terrific night. The venerable music room—which has hosted such legendary performers as Joan Baez, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and Miles Davis—was quite full, and attentive to Ewan’s songs. He did six of his own songs, and he had time for one cover, Dylan’s “Abandoned Love,” a song that he told the crowd he’d learned Dylan had performed only once live, at the Bitter End, back in 1975. Here are images from the evening, beginning with a shot of an old poster in the club window, indicating many of the people who have played the venue over the years.Bitter End lineup

IMG_2331Set list

Rural Alberta Advantage, Another Great Indie Band from Canada

Had a great time last night at a live music show put on by the Toronto trio, The Rural Alberta Advantage, my first time hearing them live after enjoying them the past few years on CBC Radio 3. They played a sold-out show in front of a boisterously appreciative full house at the Mercury Lounge on the lower east side of Manhattan. I have a full post with pictures at my other blog Honourary Canadian. Here are shots showing all three band members, first Amy Cole, keys with Nils Edenloff, guitar and lead vocals, then Paul Banwatt, drums. I hope you enjoy the rest of the post over there.Mercury Lounge Jan 24 2014Mercury Lounge Jan 24 2014

Ewan Munro Live on Jesse Krakow’s WFMU Show “Minor Music”

WFMU posterTonight, November 18, my son Ewan Munro performed his music live and was interviewed by musician, music teacher, and host Jesse Krakow on his program “Minor Music,” which is devoted entirely to showcasing musicians 18 years of age and younger. It was broadcast on the great indie radio station, WFMU. If you want to listen to the show, which has already been archived on the Internet, please follow this link. If you want to hear Ewan’s recorded songs you will find them at this web page of his on the music-sharing site soundcloud.com.

Krakow has done the program for four years and he will soon learn if he’s going to be renewed by the station for another year. His program is the only outlet of its kind in the New York metropolitan area, and I hope his worthy efforts will be rewarded with an extension. If you agree with me, you can let station manager Ken Freedman know via this contact page on the WFMU site. Here are some pictures from our night at WFMU 91.1/90.1 FM in downtown Jersey City, NJ. Please click here to see all photos.