Friday, March 27, 2015

In-Studio Performance: Markus James, March 26th, 2015.

Guitarist, singer and songwriter Markus James, known for his West African-influenced blues stopped by the studio to chat with Dave on March 26th, before heading over to his show at Johnny D's later that night. James grew up in the Washington DC area where his first musical influence, when he was just four years old, was an old blind man playing the blues on the sidewalk. As an adult James made R&B and Rock music in Northern California, but it was on his 1994 trip to Mali that his current style began to develop. Since then he has studied, written and recorded with many Malian musicians including the "Malian Bluesman" Ali Farka Toure.

With him on percussion was Marlon Green, a drummer who toured with John Lee Hooker during the last year and a half of Hooker's life. Green approached the percussion for each song in a very unique style. Rather than using actual drums Green alternated between playing his knees, a stool, and even an upside down recycling bin. James played a gourd banjo he had  built himself from a gourd, deer hide, and even Indian camel bone using a blue-glass slide on his pinky.

Markus James latest record, Head For the Hills was released on September 30th of last year and is currently available.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Remembering John Renbourn

John Renbourn was a beautiful and gentle man. His guitar playing was one of the foundations of the English Finger Style. First as a soloist, then with American Dorris Henderson, Renbourn worked the folk clubs of the U.K. In Glasgow he met Bert Jansch and things clicked. First as a duo and then as the foundation of the legendary band Pentangle. Following the breakup of that group, he often toured with his own John Renbourn Group and later Ship of Fools which included both Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle. His recordings were eclectic, ranging from American Blues and Old Time Country to Medieval music styles.

John Renbourn passed away today at age 70. He was both a master and an innovator. He is missed.

-Dave Palmater

Friday, March 20, 2015

Celebrating Women In Music: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sunday, March 8th was International Women's Day, an entire day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women across the globe. Here at WUMB we are celebrating the contributions of women in music for the entire month of March. Today we highlight American recording artist, singer, guitarist and songwriter, Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Rosetta Nubin Tharpe was one of gospel music’s first superstars, the first gospel performer to record for a major record label, and an early crossover artist from gospel to secular music. Tharpe has been cited as an influence by countless musicians, including Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash.. She is credited with bringing gospel music into the mainstream in the 1930s and 1940s. She toured until her death in 1973.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born Rosetta Nubin on March 20, 1915, in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Although the identity of her father is unknown, Tharpe's mother, Katie Bell Nubin, was a singer, mandolin player and evangelist preacher for the Church of God in Christ. The church encouraged musical expression in worship and allowed women to preach. With the support of her mother, Tharpe began singing and playing the guitar from a very young age. She could sing and keep on pitch and hold a melody – unusual for someone so young - and on guitar she played individual notes, melodies, and riffs instead of just strumming chords.

Tharpe began performing onstage with her mother from the age of four, playing the guitar and singing "Jesus Is on the Main Line." By age six, she had joined her mother as a regular performer in a traveling evangelical troupe. Billed as a "singing and guitar playing miracle," Tharpe accompanied her mother in sermons and performances in front of audiences all across the American South.

In the mid-1920's, Tharpe and her mother settled in Chicago, Illinois, where the duo continued to perform religious concerts in a church on 40th Street while occasionally traveling to perform at churches throughout the country. As a result, Tharpe developed considerable fame as a musical prodigy, standing out in an era when prominent black female guitarists remained very rare; blues legend Memphis Minnie was the only such performer to enjoy national fame at the time.

In 1934, at the age of 19, Rosetta Tharpe married a preacher named Thomas Thorpe, who had accompanied her and her mother on many of their tours. Although the marriage only lasted a short time, she decided to incorporate a version of her first husband's surname into her stage name, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, which she would use for the rest of her career.

In 1938, Tharpe moved to New York City, where she signed with Decca Records. On October 31 of that year, she recorded four songs for Decca: "Rock Me," "That's All," "The Man and I" and "The Lonesome Road." The first gospel songs ever recorded for Decca, all four of these recordings became instant hits, establishing Tharpe as one of the nation's first commercially successful gospel singer.

Then, on December 23, 1938, Tharpe performed in John Hammond's famous Spirituals to Swing Concert at Carnegie Hall. Her performance was controversial and revolutionary in several respects. Performing gospel music in front of secular audiences and alongside blues and jazz musicians was highly unusual, and within conservative religious circles the mere fact of a woman performing guitar music was frowned upon. Musically, Tharpe's unique guitar style blended melody-driven urban blues with traditional folk arrangements and incorporated a syncopated swing sound that is one of the first clear precursors of rock and roll. The performance awed the Carnegie Hall audience. Later Tharpe gained even more notoriety by performing regularly with jazz legend Cab Calloway at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem.

During the early 1940s, Tharpe continued to fuse the worlds of religious gospel music with more secular sounds, producing music that defied easy classification. Accompanied by Lucky Millinder's orchestra, she recorded such secular hits as "Shout Sister Shout," "That's All" and "I Want a Tall Skinny Papa." "That's All" was the first record on which Tharpe played the electric guitar; a sound that would have an influence on such later players as Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley.
Tharpe kept up a grueling tour schedule, performing her gospel music in churches as well as playing secular clubs. One highlight was a weeklong stint on stage at New York's famous Café Society before racially mixed crowds. Tharpe's considerable crossover appeal was demonstrated during World War II when she became one of only two African American gospel artists to be asked to record "V-Discs" (the "V" stood for "victory") for American troops overseas.

In the mid-1940s, Tharpe scored another musical breakthrough by teaming up with blues pianist Sammy Price to record music featuring an unprecedented combination of piano, guitar, and gospel singing. The duo's two most famous tracks, recorded in 1944, were "Strange Things Happening Every Day" and "Two Little Fishes and Five Loaves of Bread." However, in the face of intense criticism from the religious community, who viewed her jazzy collaborations with Price as the devil's music, Tharpe returned to recording more Christian music later in the 1940s. In 1947, she formed a duet with fellow gospel singer Marie Knight to record such spiritual traditional gospel songs as "Oh When I Come to the End of My Journey," "Stretch Out" and "Up Above My Head" ("I Hear Music in the Air").

Tharpe married again in July of 1951.The ceremony at a stadium in Washington, D.C., attended by some 25,000 paying audience members, featured a gospel performance by Tharpe in her wedding dress and finished with a massive fireworks display.

In 1953, Tharpe and Knight deviated from the gospel genre to record a secular blues album. The experiment proved disastrous. Not only was the album a commercial failure, it also earned both artists widespread condemnation from the religious community that had provided their most loyal fan base. Tharpe and Knight parted ways shortly after the album's release and neither ever recovered her previous popularity. Tharpe spent the remaining two decades of her career touring Europe and the United States, primarily playing gospel music.
Though she had a much lower profile during these years, Tharpe enjoyed several late-career highlights, including an acclaimed 1960 performance with James Cleveland at the Apollo in Harlem and a 1967 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival.

While on a European blues tour with Muddy Waters in 1970, Tharpe suddenly fell ill and returned to the United States. She suffered a stroke shortly after her return and, due to complications from diabetes, had to have a leg amputated. Despite her health woes, Tharpe continued to perform regularly for several more years. In October 1973, however, she suffered a second stroke and passed away days later, on October 9, 1973, at the age of 58, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
One of the most celebrated musicians of all time, Sister Rosetta Tharpe enjoyed a celebrity in the 1940s rarely attained by gospel musicians before or since.

Ira Tucker Jr., the son of the legendary gospel singer Ira Tucker of the Dixie Hummingbirds, put it simply: "She was a rock star."

More than just popular, Tharpe was also groundbreaking, profoundly impacting American music history by pioneering the guitar technique that would eventually evolve into the rock and roll style played by Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Eric Clapton. However, despite her great popularity and influence on music history, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was first and foremost a gospel musician who shared her spirituality with all those who listened to her music. Her epitaph reads, "She would sing until you cried and then she would sing until you danced for joy. She helped to keep the church alive and the saints rejoicing."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pledge Your Support To WUMB Today!

As you have probably noticed we are in the middle of our Spring Fundraiser. We want to send out a big thank you to everyone who has pledged their support to WUMB so far. We have five more days to make our goal and we are already 65% of the way there! And don't forget--the sooner we reach our goal the sooner we end the Fundraiser!

Most radio stations have getting the biggest audience as their goal--the more people who listen, the more stations can charge advertisers. Here at WUMB, our goal is to win your heart. Our goal is to have you enjoy this station and the music we play as much as we do. We use a lot of words to try to entice you to give to public radio, but really, it's a simple idea. You listen because you find music you enjoy here. We are here for you every day, whenever you want us, on the radio and also online. 

Now is when we ask you to step up to the plate. Call and pledge your financial support to help us pay the costs of operating YOUR public radio station. This is made possible by your contribution. 

Call and pledge your support at 800-573-2100 and online here. Thanks again! 

WUMB Member Concert: Sarah Blacker

·         Sarah Blacker was born and raised in Wellesley, Massachusetts and upon graduating from Wellesley High School chose to stay in the area, attending Berklee College of Music. While at Berklee Ms. Blacker studied classical vocal performance and Music Therapy, a form of expressive therapy in which therapists use music to help clients improve their mental and physical health. She worked full-time in the field upon graduation from Berklee and continues on a part-time basis in order to balance with her music career. It is only fitting that her message is, "Songs save lives."
·         Since 2009 Sarah Blacker has released three albums and an EP, and her new record In Waves is slated for an April 21st release through a Pledge Music campaign. She also took home the 2013 New England Music Award for Female Performer of The Year and her music has been featured on MTV's Jersey Shore and FriendZone.

·         If you would like to attend WUMB Member Concerts you can become a member today here or by calling the membership office at 617-287-6902.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Celebrating Women In Music: Tina Turner

Sunday, March 8th was International Women's Day, an entire day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women across the globe. Here at WUMB we are celebrating the contributions of women in music for the entire month of March. Today we highlight author, singer, actress and dancer, Tina Turner. 

Tina Turner is one of the great soul singers of all time, a powerful performer bursting with passion and sex appeal. She also has a story of overcoming an abusive relationship with her former partner Ike Turner.

Tina Turner achieved massive professional success with her 1984 album, Private Dancer, which sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Since that time, she has continued to top the pop music charts with subsequent recordings, has won countless awards, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has starred in several films. In July 2013, she also married her longtime boyfriend Erwin Bach.

Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, Tennessee. Her parents, Floyd and Zelma Bullock, were poor sharecroppers, who, early in her life, split up and left Turner and her sister to be raised by their grandmother. When her grandmother died in the early 1950s, Turner moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to be with her mother.

Barely in her teens, Turner quickly immersed herself in St. Louis's R&B scene, spending much of her time at Club Manhattan. It was there, in 1956, that she met rock-and-roll pioneer Ike Turner, whose band the Kings of Rhythm was a fixture at the club. It wasn't long before Turner was performing with the group, and she quickly became the highlight of their show.

In 1960, when another singer failed to show up for a Kings of Rhythm recording session, Turner sang the lead on a track titled "A Fool in Love." The record was then sent to a radio station in New York, and was released as "Ike and Tina Turner." The song became a huge R&B success, and soon crossed over into the pop charts. Before long, the group was touring as the Ike and Tina Turner Revue and became known for their electrifying stage performances. The group also capitalized on the success of "A Fool in Love" by releasing a string of successful follow-up singles in 1961, including "It's Gonna Work Out Fine," "Poor Fool" and "Tra La La La La."

With their popularity growing, Ike and Tina were married in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1962, and two years later their son, Ronnie, was born. The couple now had four sons in all including three from prior marriages.

In 1966, Tina and Ike's success reached new heights when they recorded the album River Deep, Mountain High with superstar record producer Phil Spector. The title track was unsuccessful in the U.S., but it was a massive hit in Europe and brought the duo new fame. In 1969 they toured as the opening act for the Rolling Stones, winning themselves still more fans. Their popularity continued well into the 1970s, with the group charting with tracks such as "Proud Mary" and "Nutbush City Limits." In 1975, Tina also appeared in her first film, playing the Acid Queen in the Who's Tommy.

But despite their success as a musical duo, by the mid-1970s, Tina and Ike's marriage was in shambles. In 1976, the couple separated both personally and professionally, and in 1978, they were officially divorced, with Tina citing Ike's physically abusive behavior, frequent infidelities and increasing drug and alcohol use. In the years following her divorce, Tina's solo career got off to a slow a slow start. According to Tina, when she left Ike, she had "36 cents and a gas station credit card." To make ends meet and to care for her children, she used food stamps and even worked cleaning houses. But she also continued to perform, only in lower-profile venues, and made guest appearances on other artists' records, though without achieving any notable success.

In 1983, however, Turner's solo career finally began to take off when she recorded a remake of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." The following year, she exploded back into the record industry when her much-anticipated solo album, Private Dancer, was released to overwhelming critical and popular success. It went on to win four Grammy Awards and eventually sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. By this time, Turner had become known for her uniquely energetic performance style and raspy singing style, as well as for her signature look—typically performing in short skirts that expose her famous legs, and with voluminously styled hair.

In 1985, Turner returned to the screen, starring opposite Mel Gibson in the film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (for which she contributed the song "We Don't Need Another Hero"), and in 1986, she published her autobiography, I, Tina, which would later be adapted as the film What's Love Got to Do with It? (Her soundtrack for the film would go double platinum.) The year 1986 also saw the release of Tina Turner's second solo album, Break Every Rule. Tina Live in Europe followed in 1988 and won the Grammy for Female Rock Vocal Performance, and Foreign Affair, which included the hit single "(Simply) The Best," outdid even Private Dancer in worldwide sales.

During the 1990s, Turner released Wildest Dreams and Twenty Four Seven. She also made several recordings for film soundtracks, including Goldeneye and He Lives in You. In 1991, Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ike was unable to attend the ceremony, however, as he was serving time for drug possession (he died of an overdose in 2007).
Though she is now semi-retired, Tina Turner does make rare appearances and recordings. In 2008 she embarked on her "Tina! 50th Anniversary Tour." It became one of the highest-selling ticketed shows of 2008 and 2009. 

In 2013, it was announced that Turner, at the age of 73, was engaged to marry her longtime partner, German record executive Erwin Bach. The couple has been living together in Switzerland since 1995. In July of 2013, the couple got married in Zurich, Switzerland, only months after Turner gained her Swiss citizenship in the spring.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Celebrating Women in Music: Ani DiFranco

Sunday, March 8th was International Women's Day, an entire day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women across the globe. Here at WUMB we are celebrating the contributions of women in music for the entire month of March. Today we highlight American songwriter, singer, poet, and multi-instrumentalist Ani DiFranco. 

Ani DiFranco has been in control  of her career from the earliest days. She is a maverick whose music defies genre and description, but which identifies with the truest spirit of folk music. Her songs are often laced with profanity on topics ranging from abortion and rape, to exploitation and sexuality. She formed a record label when she was 19, and released her first album at 20. Since then, DiFranco has grown a fierce following of fans through constant touring, performing, and recording.

Ani DiFranco was born in Buffalo, New York on September 23, 1970. She learned how to play guitar as a child, and played her first show at age 9. When DiFranco was 15, her mother moved to California. Rather than accompany her, DiFranco petitioned for emancipation and stayed behind in Buffalo, living on her own. By the time she was 18 she had played every bar in Buffalo, and after a year of art classes at college, she decided to move to New York City where she worked as a nude model, kitchen helper and house painter.

In 1990, DiFranco recorded a demo and approached some record companies, but received no interest. Instead she borrowed money from friends and looted her own bank account to finance the release of her debut Ani DiFranco. She produced 500 copies on cassette, which she sold at shows, and Righteous Babe Records was born.

As word of her music spread, DiFranco began to tour extensively around the country, building a grassroots following especially among college aged fans who identified with her ability to tackle personal subjects in her songs.

Throughout the 1990’s she released a number of albums including collaboration with folksinger Utah Phillips, which involved Phillips telling stories and DiFranco laying down music behind him. Like Phillips, DiFranco tooks pride in her independence as an artist, spurning offers from major labels as her popularity grew.

DiFranco maintains that although people often think that owning her own label is about retaining maximum profits, it is really her way of maintaining her artistic freedom and control over her music. Though this may be the case, her royalty rate per album sale is often more than twice the industry standard.

Although DiFranco refers to herself as a folk singer, she's also frequently categorized as belonging to the alternative-rock genre. Her influences are broad, and her songs often incorporate elements from other musical styles, including punk, funk, classical and electronic. Many of DiFranco's songs are drawn from her personal life and experiences, but equally as often, her lyrics are feminist and political. Her music has tackled topics like war, corporate greed, sexual assault and gun control.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Celebrating Women in Music: Yoko Ono

Sunday, March 8th was International Women's Day, an entire day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women across the globe. Here at WUMB we are celebrating the contributions of women in music for the entire month of March. Today we highlight peace activist, multimedia artist, and songwriter, Yoko Ono. 

Yoko Ono is a controversial figure in 20th century popular culture. She is Japanese multimedia artist, singer, and peace activist, perhaps best known for being the life partner and widow of The Beatles' John Lennon . The two worked extensively on music, art, and activist causes throughout the late 60s and 1970s.

Ono was born on February 18, 1933, in Tokyo, Japan, the eldest of three children born to Eisuke and Isoko in a wealthy Japanese banking family. She remained in Tokyo through World War II, including the great firebombing of 1945. Ono was an excellent student and became the first woman admitted to study philosophy at Japan's Gakushuin University in 1952. Ono moved to New York City in 1953 to study at Sarah Lawrence College. After dropping out, she became involved in New York conceptual art movements in Greenwich Village. During the early '60s Ono's works were exhibited and/or performed at the Village Gate, Carnegie Recital Hall, and numerous New York galleries. Her work often demands the viewers' participation and forces them to get involved. Her most famous piece was the "cut piece" staged in 1964, where the audience was invited to cut off pieces of her clothing until she was naked, an abstract commentary on discarding materialism. In the mid-'60s she lectured at Wesleyan College and had exhibitions in Japan and London, where she met Lennon in 1966 at the Indica Gallery.

Lennon was taken with the positive, interactive nature of Ono’s work. He especially cited a ladder leading up to a black canvas with a spyglass on a chain, which revealed the word "yes" written on the ceiling. The two began an affair approximately 18 months later. Lennon soon divorced his first wife, Cynthia, and three days later he and Ono released Two Virgins. Because of the full-frontal nude photos of the couple on the jacket, the LP was shipped in a plain brown wrapper.

On March 20, 1969, Lennon and Ono were married in Gibraltar; for their honeymoon, they held their first "Bed-in for Peace," in the presidential suite of the Amsterdam Hilton. The peace movement was the first of several political causes the couple would take up over the years, but it was the one that generated the most publicity.

That May, in their suite at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, they recorded "Give Peace a Chance"; background chanters included Timothy Leary, Tommy Smothers, and numerous Hare Krishnas.

In September 1969, Ono, Lennon, Eric Clapton, Alan White, and Klaus Voormann performed live as the Plastic Ono Band in Toronto at a Rock 'n' Roll Revival show. The appearance was released as Live Peace in Toronto. In October the Plastic Ono Band released "Cold Turkey", which the Beatles had declined to record.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon continued their peace campaign with speeches to the press; "War Is Over! If You Want It" billboards erected on December 15 in 12 cities around the world, including Hollywood, New York, London, and Toronto; and plans for a peace festival in Toronto.

In April of 1970, Paul McCartney announced his departure from the Beatles and released a solo LP. From that point on The Beatles were no more, allowing Ono and Lennon to focus exclusively on their own partnership.

At the time, much attention was focused on Ono's alleged role in the band's end. A racist Esquire magazine piece was an extreme example of the decidedly anti-woman, anti-Asian backlash against Ono that she endured for years to come.

In late 1970 Lennon and Ono released their twin Plastic Ono Band solo LPs. Generally, Ono's '70s LPs were regarded as highly adventurous works. In late 1971Ono and Lennon had resumed their political activities, drawn to leftist political figures like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Their involvement was reflected on Some Time in New York City which included some of their most overtly political releases.

On October 9, 1975, Ono gave birth to Sean Ono Lennon. Beginning in 1975, Lennon devoted his full attention to his new son and his marriage, which had survived an 18-month separation from October 1973 to March 1975. For the next five years, the couple took care of Sean while Ono ran the couple's financial affairs.

In September 1980 Lennon and Ono signed a contract with the newly formed Geffen Records, and on November 15 they released Double Fantasy. But on December 8, 1980, Lennon, returning with Ono to their Dakota apartment on New York City's Upper West Side, was shot seven times by Mark David Chapman, a 25-year-old drifter and Beatles fan to whom Lennon had given an autograph a few hours earlier. Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital. At Ono's request, on December 14 a 10-minute silent vigil was held in which millions around the world participated. At the time of his death, Lennon was holding in his hand a tape of Ono's "Walking on Thin Ice."

Three months after Lennon's murder, Ono released Season of Glass, an LP that deals with Lennon's death (his cracked and bloodstained glasses are shown on the front jacket), although many of the songs were written before his shooting. Season of Glass is the best known of Ono's solo LPs; it was the first to receive attention outside avant-garde and critical circles.

In 1982 Ono released It's Alright, Milk and Honey (featuring six songs apiece by Lennon and Ono), and Starpeace. During the Starpeace Tour, Ono performed behind the Iron Curtain, in Budapest, Hungary. Following a 1989 retrospective at New York's Whitney Museum, Ono's artwork found a new audience and has since been shown continuously throughout the world. In the wake of renewed appreciation for Ono's work, a box set Onobox was released in 1992 followed by a re-release of the entire Ono catalogue. In 1994 she wrote a rock opera entitled New York Rock, which ran off-Broadway for two weeks to largely positive reviews. Clearly autobiographical, the play was a love story featuring songs from every phase of her recording career.

Ono has continued to pursue her career, recording albums, performing concerts in addition to maintaining careful watch over the Lennon legacy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Celebrating Women in Music: Alison Krauss

Sunday, March 8th was International Women's Day, an entire day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women across the globe. Here at WUMB we are celebrating the contributions of women in music for the entire month of March. Today we highlightbluegrass-country American singer-songwriter and musician, Alison Krauss. 

Alison Krauss has enjoyed no shortage of accolades in her career. She has released 14 albums and received 27 Grammy Awards as of 2012, tying her with Quincy Jones for the most for any living artist. She helped bring bluegrass to a new audience in the '90s. Blending bluegrass with folk, Krauss was instantly acclaimed from the start of her career, but it wasn't until her platinum-selling 1995 compilation Now That I've Found You that she became a mainstream star. Between her 1987 debut Too Late to Cry and Now That I've Found You, she matured from a child prodigy to a versatile, ambitious, and diverse musician and, in the process, made some of the freshest bluegrass of the late '80s and early '90s.

Alison Maria Krauss was born in Decatur, Illinois to Fred and Louise Krauss. Her father was a German immigrant who came to the United States in 1952 and taught his native language. Her mother, of German and Italian descent, is the daughter of artists. Alison grew up in the college town of Champaign, home to the University of Illinois.

When she was five years old, Krauss began playing the violin, taking classical lessons. She soon tired of the regimen of classical playing and began performing country and bluegrass licks. At the age of eight, she began entering talent contests in and around Champaign. Two years later, she had her own band. In 1983, when she was 12 years old, she won the Illinois State Fiddle Championship and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America named her the Most Promising Fiddler in the Midwest. In 1985, Krauss made her recording debut on an album, playing on a record made by her brother Viktor, Jim Hoiles, and Bruce Weiss. The album was called Different Strokes and appeared on the independent Fiddle Tunes label. Later that year, she signed to Rounder Records. She was 14 years old at the time.

Too Late to Cry, Krauss' debut album, appeared in 1987 to very positive reviews. The album was recorded with Krauss' backup band, Union Station, which featured guitarist Jeff White, banjoist Alison Brown, and bassist Viktor Krauss; the following year, the group won the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America's National Band Championship contest. In 1989, Krauss and Union Station released Two Highways, which was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Recording. Although the album didn't win the award, her next album, 1990's I've Got That Old Feeling, did. The success of that record was unprecedented for bluegrass acts in the 80s and it laid the groundwork for Krauss' breakthrough in the 90s. By this time, Union Station's lineup had more or less settled. It now featured mandolinist Adam Steffey, banjoist/guitarist Ron Block, bassist Barry Bales, and guitarist Tim Stafford; Stafford later left the group and was replaced by Dan Tyminski.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Folk Alliance International 2015: Laney Jones and The Lively Spirits

Folk Alliance International is a non-profit organization that sponsors an industry conference for the folk music industry every year, attended by artists, record companies, manufacturers, music publishers, music support services, presenters, managers and agents. This year marks the second year that the conference takes place in Kansas City, Missouri. With a membership of over 2,000 people Folk Alliance is among the top five largest conferences in North America. Thursday, February 19th, was the second day of the conference and one of the best acts that night was a band called Laney Jones and The Lively Spirits.
                Laney Jones and The Lively Spirits were a band that I stumbled upon completely accidentally. And am I sure glad that I did. Though Jones and her band—Matthew Tonner, Curtis Seligson, and Alex Shames—are from Florida, they are not without local ties. Jones landed at Berklee College of Music in 2013 where she studied until, in typical Berklee fashion, she left to tour with her own band.  Since then she has  been busy touring up and down the East Coast. Recently she made her debut on national TV as part of Great Performances on PBS. She performed her track “Broken Hearts” as part of a masterclass with Alison Krauss. Her style is an even blend of the old and the new, Pop meets Americana, some Brandi Carlile and some Patty Griffin with a little bit of Sara Bareilles thrown in for good measure. She performed a selection of songs from her self-produced 2014 debut Golden Road, as well as from her upcoming new record, due out in 2015.

                Laney Jones and The Lively Spirits will even be making a pit stop in Cambridge at The Lizard Lounge on March 5th

Folk Alliance International 2015: Midwest Music Foundation Showcase

Folk Alliance International is a non-profit organization that sponsors an industry conference for the folk music industry every year, attended by artists, record companies, manufacturers, music publishers, music support services, presenters, managers and agents. This year marks the second year that the conference takes place in Kansas City, Missouri. With a membership of over 2,000 people Folk Alliance is among the top five largest conferences in North America.
                One of the best showcases of the night was that of the Midwest Music Foundation, an educational arts organization that unites performer and audience and fills a health care
gap for Kansas City musicians. Kansas City musicians, Nate Allen and David George, took turns alternating playing songs one at a time rather than each doing separate complete sets, which was an atypical showcasing technique but was successful given the variation in the musicians’ performance styles.
                Nate Allen, a Eugene, Oregon native who has been in Kansas City long enough to “almost call [him]self a local” is one half of the folk-punk duo Destroy Nate Allen. His other half, his wife, Tessa, was not with him on that evening. Allen’s voice has a Ben-Gibbard quality popular with indie kids and teen girls worldwide, combined with quirky lyrics such as, “Green Day changed my life in ‘94” from his 2010 song “Small Town” and his DIY attitude—most of his music has been self-released—and eccentric vibe made for a charming performance overall.

               David George had been playing with John Fogerty since 2012 but left recently to pursue a solo career. He said that while playing for John Fogerty he played him a song, and Fogerty said, “You wrote that song? That’s a great song” and those were the words of encouragement he needed. That song, “Good Man Gone” is about  two-month period of time in which he lived with four women, in their closet, until they kicked him out. Now under the name of David George and A Crooked Mile, George plans to release three singles and a full album by the end of the year. 

Black History Month at WUMB: :Lead Belly

The month of February is Black History month, and to celebrate it here at WUMB we are highlighting artists who have shaped the history of music over time. Today we highlight blues and folk musician, Lead Belly.
                Huddie William Ledbetter, better known by his stage name “Lead Belly”, was born the younger of two children in Louisiana, until moving to Bowie County, Texas at the age of five. By his early teens he was already performing in Shreveport, Louisiana where he began to develop his individual style of vocals and on guitar. In his early twenties he left his family to hit the road to make a living as a musician. It was in 1912 that he wrote the song, “The Titanic”, on what would become his signature instrument, the twelve string guitar. The song tells the story of a black man being denied passage on The Titanic because of his race, based on an actual experience of Lead Belly’s—though not on The Titanic.
                Lead Belly found himself in trouble with the law on numerous occasions, sentenced to time on a chain gang, as well as being sentenced to jail time multiple times, and it is believed that he acquired the name Lead Belly during one of his sentences.  In 1930 he was sentenced to time in Angola Prison Farm in Louisiana. Three years into Lead Belly’s sentence John Lomax and his son Alan, travelling folklorists, visited the prison and discovered Lead Belly’s musical talent. They recorded him for the first time in 1933. The next year the Lomaxes returned and recorded more than a hundred of Lead Belly’s songs including “Goodnight Irene”. It was the Lomaxes who wrote the petition to the governor that allowed Lead Belly to be released from prison.
                Lead Belly became well-known after performing at a smoker at a meeting for The Modern Language Association at Bryn Mawr College, where he became known as the “singing convict” who had sung his way out of prison. The publicity he received led to his being the subject of one of Time Magazine’s earliest March of Time newsreels. One week later Lead Belly found himself recording with the American Record Corporation recording over 40 sides, though only five were ever released. John Lomax became his manager, with whom he parted on bad terms. Lead Belly then went to New York and performed two shows a day at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in a live recreation of his Time Life newsreel. From there he went on to find success playing for folk audiences.
                In 1939 Lead Belly was imprisoned again for assaulting a man in Manhattan. Alan Lomax came to his aid this time, dropping out of graduate school to raise money for Lead Belly’s legal expenses. The relationship between Lead Belly and the younger Lomax allowed him to appear on nation-wide radio show Back Where I Come From, to become a fixture in the folk scene befriending the likes of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, and to become the first American country blues musician to be successful in Europe.

While on tour in in France in 1949 Lead Belly was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. John Lomax had died earlier that year, and it was to him that Lead Belly dedicated his final performance at the University of Texas at Austin. He passed away in New York in December of 1949. Since his passing Lead Belly’s music has been covered by musicians ranging from Elvis Presley to Nirvana. 

Black History Month at WUMB: Bessie Smith

The month of February is Black History month, and to celebrate it here at WUMB we are highlighting artists who have shaped the history of music over time. Today we highlight Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith.
On April 15th, 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee Bessie Smith was born. After the passing of both of her parents, Smith and her siblings were raised by their oldest sister, Viola. To earn money for the family Smith and her brother Andrew busked on the street—he played guitar and she sang and danced. Another of her brothers, Clarence, was in a performance troupe that also included Ma Rainey. Smith joined the troupe in 1912 first as a dancer and later as a singer.
It was at Atlanta’s 81 Theater that Smith’s career really took off, developing her own act and making a name for herself on the East Coast and in The South. Frank Walker saw her perform and signed her to Columbia Records. Her first recording featured “Downhearted Blues” as well as “Gulf Coast Blues” quickly became a hit turning Smith into a headlining act—touring year round—and the highest paid African American entertainer of the time. She ultimately made 160 recordings for the Columbia accompanied by musicians such as Charlie Green, Louis Armstrong, James P. Johnson and others. In addition to her recording career Bessie Smith also appeared on Broadway in the musical Pansy, and the film St. Louis Blues.

On September 26, 1937 Bessie Smith passed away of injuries sustained in a fatal car accident. Over 7,000 people attended her funeral, yet despite this fact she was buried without a headstone until Janis Joplin gave her one in 1970. Since her death three of Smith’s songs have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame; “Downhearted Blues”, “St. Louis Blues”, and “Empty Bed Blues”. “Downhearted Blues” is held in particular esteem, having been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock ‘n’ Roll, as well as being included in the Songs of The Century by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry of America. Bessie Smith inspired works of literature by J.D. Salinger and Edward Albee as well as a musical by Angelo Parra. An HBO film entitled Bessie and starring Queen Latifah will premiere on the network this spring. 

Black History Month at WUMB: Elizabeth Cotten

The month of February is Black History month, and to celebrate it here at WUMB we are highlighting artists who have shaped the history of music over time. Today we highlight folk and blues songwriter, musician and singer, Elizabeth Cotten.
Elizabeth Cotten was born Elizabeth Nevills, the youngest of five children, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1893. She started her musical career by playing her brother’s banjo, then saving her money to buy a guitar at the age of 11. Naturally left-handed,  Cotten taught herself to play guitar using a right-handed guitar and holding it upside down. She then played the melody with her thumb and the bass line with her fingers, inventing a style now known as “Cotten Picking”. She married Frank Cotten at the age of seventeen, gave birth to their child and subsequently retired from playing music for the next twenty-five years.
While working in a department store Cotten met composer Ruth Seeger of the musical Seeger family and went to work as the caretaker for the Seeger children and a maid for the family. It was due to the influence of the Seegers that she rediscovered her love of the guitar. Mike Seeger recorded Cotten in the late 1950’s, creating the foundation for her album Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar.

She started her touring career playing with Mike Seeger and then went on to play with the likes of Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, and John Lee Hooker, as well as performing at the Newport Folk Festival. She won the 1984 Grammy Award for “Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording” for her album Elizabeth Cotten Live and in 1989 was included in the photo documentary I Dream A World, depicting the 75 most influential African American Women . Her songs have been covered by artists including but not limited to Taj Mahal, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Doc Watson, Jerry Garcia, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.

Black History Month at WUMB: Nina Simone

The month of February is Black History month, and to celebrate it here at WUMB we are highlighting artists who have shaped the history of music over time. Today we highlight the “High Priestess of Soul”, singer, civil rights activist, arranger, songwriter and pianist, Nina Simone.
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in 1933, Simone was the sixth of what would be eight children in Tryon, North Carolina. Simone began playing piano at the age of three, and gave her first concert at twelve years old. This concert would later inspire her to join the Civil Rights Movement. Her parents had been sitting in the front row of the audience and were forced to move to the back so that white people could have their seats. Simone refused to play until they were allowed to return to the front row. Simone’s mother, Mary Kate Waymon, worked as a maid and her employer, upon discovering how talented Mary Kate’s daughter was, paid for Simone’s piano lessons. A scholarship fund was also set up in the town to pay for Simone’s education at Allen High School for Girls in Asheville, North Carolina. After graduating from Allen High School for Girls Simone auditioned for the Curtis Institute but was not accepted, a decision that she believed to be based on her race. So she moved to New York and attended Julliard instead.
In order to pay for private lessons Simone performed in Atlantic City and it was there that she adopted the name Nina Simone. A boyfriend had given her the nickname niña, meaning girl, so she took the first name of Nina. Simone came from the French actress Simone Signoret who she had seen in the film Casque D’or. It was while performing in small clubs that Simone recorded her only Top 20 hit, “I Loves You, Porgy” from the musical Porgy and Bess and her debut album Little Girl Blue. Unfortunately she sold the rights to the record for $3,000 and therefore never profited from the album sales. In 1961 Simone married Andrew Stroud, a New York police detective, who would later become her manager.
It was in 1964, after switching her record distributer from Colpix to Dutch Phillips, that she released Nina Simone in Concert. This album which featured tracks such as, “Old Jim Crow” and “Mississippi Goddam”, was her first to openly address racial inequality in America. As a Civil Rights Activist Simone spoke and performed at multiple Civil Rights meetings including but not limited to  the Selma To Montgomery Marches. On April 7th, 1968, three days after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, she performed at the Westbury Music Fair. Her entire performance was dedicated to Dr. King, and she performed the song that Gene Taylor, her bassist, had written immediately after receiving the news of his death, “Why? (The King of Love is Dead)”. She also converted the unfinished play, To Be Young, Gifted and Black by the late Lorraine Hansberry, who contributed greatly to Simone’s political and social ideologies, into a into a Civil Rights Song, along with composer, poet, musician and playwright, Weldon Irvine. The song was later covered by Aretha Franklin and Donny Hathaway.
Simone flew to Barbados in 1970 without telling Stroud, her manager at that time, that she was leaving. Upon her return it was brought to her attention that, due to unpaid taxes in protest of The Vietnam War, there was a warrant for her arrest. She returned to Barbados where she stayed for a period of time, then moving to Liberia, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and France where she settled in 1992. Her autobiography, I Put A Spell On You was recorded that same year. She died of breast cancer a year later and her ashes were scattered across numerous African countries.  She has been cited as an inspiration to artists including John Lennon, Emile Sande, Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave, Amanda Palmer, Van Morrison, Lana Del Rey, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys and many more.


Black History Month at WUMB: Robert Johnson

                The month of February is Black History month, and to celebrate it here at WUMB we are highlighting artists who have shaped the history of music over time. Today we highlight master of the Blues, Robert Johnson.
Robert Johnson , was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi on May 8th, 1911 though as a musician he moved  everywhere from the Mississippi Delta, to Memphis,  Arkansas. Along with fellow blues musicians such as Henry Townsend and Johnny Shines he also brought his music to Indiana, Chicago, Kentucky, Texas, Canada and New York.
Johnson’s first ever recording session was with famed producer, Don Law—who would be the only person to produce Johnson’s recordings, in Room 414 of The Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas on November 23rd, 1936. He played sixteen songs over the course of the three-day session, including “Terraplane Blues”, “Come On In My Kitchen” and others, along with alternate versions for most of the tracks. In 1937 Johnson and Law got together for a second session, this time in the Dallas Warner Brothers building. These proved to be his only recording sessions as he passed away on August 16, 1938. He was twenty-seven.
Now known as the Master of The Blues, Johnson was known in his lifetime for his ability to play various styles and allegedly could learn songs by ear. He was also known for his unique voice which Eric Clapton describes as, “the most powerful cry that I think you can find in the human voice”. His guitar has often been described as the “second voice” in his songs and on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 2010 “500 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” Johnson ranked at number five.

Though Robert Johnson was not commercially popular in his lifetime, in 1961 Columbia Records released a compilation of his records entitled King of The Delta Blues Singers which allowed his music to be heard by larger audiences and his influence has spread to genres beyond The Blues. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has  included four of his songs—“Love In Vain”, “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Hellhound On My Trail”, and “Cross Road Blues”, on their list of 500 songs that have influence Rock and Roll. He has also won two posthumous Grammy Awards, the first in 1990 for “Best Historical Album” garnered by The Complete Recordings, a collection of everything he ever recorded, and the second was a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. Today his legacy lives on and his music has been immortalized in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. More information can be found at 

In-Studio Performance: Patrick Coman, January 23rd, 2015.

WUMB’s very own Patrick Coman, host of Local Folk,(Saturdays from Noon to 2PM) switched sides of the mic on January 23rd to perform tracks from his brand new album Reds & Blues for Dominick’s weekly Local Spotlight. In addition to being a musician and the host of Local Folk, Coman serves as the organizer of the For The Sake of The Song series, a concert series featuring bands and songwriters performing either the music of or music inspired by their favorite artists. It was through this series that Reds & Blues really came together, particularly in the almost-title track “Red Diamond Blues”—inspired by Bob Dylan and The Band’s The Basement Tapes—with which he started the set.
                Being such a fixture in the Boston music scene it would  be reasonable to assume that Patrick Coman is a Boston native. This, however, is not the case. His journey began in Oklahoma and made a stop in Berlin before landing him in Boston, his home of the last five years. He chronicles this trip in the song “Foreign Tongue”—influenced by Tom Petty’s Wildflowers—written during his move to Boston.  When asked about living in such different locations he said, “I met a girl and followed her around”. Coman then finished the set with “My Baby’s Been Good To Me” written for that same girl.

                The Reds & Blues CD release party will be at The Lizard Lounge in Cambridge on January 24th. Coman and will play two sets;  one of his own songs followed by a cover-set featuring music from the seven albums that influenced the record. More information at