Grace & Tony at World Cafe Sat., Kenny Wayne Shepherd at The Keswick Fri.
By Denny Dyroff, Correspondent, The Times
A concert performance by Roger McGuinn is more than just a music concert. It is a history lesson in the evolutionary development of rock music in America.
McGuinn, who will be performing June 12 at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, has had a major influence on rock music over the last four decades.
As a founding member of the Byrds, McGuinn was part of a band that could be considered “early birds.” The Byrds were a rock band based in Los Angeles. They are universally regarded as one of the most influential rock bands ever.
The Byrds led the way for the folk-rock movement with hit covers of songs by folk legends such as Bob Dylan (“Mr. Tambourine Man”) and Pete Seeger (“Turn, Turn, Turn”).
They were one of the first groups to make psychedelic rock and, along with the Beatles, pioneered raga rock with songs such as “Eight Miles High” and “Why” — compositions that spanned both genres.
In 1967, their song “Going Back” featured the use of a pedal steel guitar and that paved the way for their next album “Sweethearts of the Rodeo.” That album featured a variety of genres (rock, folk rock, jazz, bluegrass) and laid the groundwork for the soon-to-happen country rock movement.
After numerous lineup changes, the Byrds eventually disbanded in the 1970 leaving behind a legacy of trailblazing efforts and great music. Since then, McGuinn has continued on with a solo career. In the late 1980s, he toured with Dylan as the opening act.
McGuinn released five solo albums in the 1970s. In 1991, the veteran guitarist/singer/songwriter released his comeback solo album “Back from Rio” which included the hit single “King of the Hill.”
He has released several albums in the last decade including “Limited Edition” in 2004, “Folk Den Project” in 2005, “CCD” in 2011 and his new album “Stories, Songs & Friends.”
His latest album is a two-CD project that was recorded live and features McGuinn singing songs and telling stories that span his entire career. It is this format that McGuinn currently uses for his live shows.
“I do 50 gigs or more each year,” said McGuinn, during a recent phone interview while walking with his wife Camilla in a park in Orlando, Florida. “I have a 30-show tour in Europe later this year. I’m careful about the venues I play. I prefer theaters. Outdoor venues fizzle in that you can’t control the sound.”
“I’ve got a lot of good memories and I like to share them. In my live shows, I do different stories at different times — things like how the Byrds got formed or what it was like playing with Dylan and (Tom) Petty.”
McGuinn has a lot of songs from which to draw for his live shows but some choices are predictable.
“Obviously, I do a lot of Byrds songs,” said McGuinn, whose jingly-jangly playing style on Rickenbacker guitars influenced an amazing amount of musicians (including R.E.M., the Kennedys and Sloan).
“There are songs than fans always want to hear such as ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,’ ‘Turn, Turn, Turn,’ ‘Eight Miles High,’ ‘So You Want To Be A Rock’N’Roll Star,’ ‘Feel A Whole Lot Better’ and ‘My Back Pages.’ It’s a loose set so I can change things in the middle.
“I was inspired by Pete Seeger when I was a kid and he’s been my inspiration ever since. For my live shows, it’s just me and my instruments — just like Pete Seeger. I play a seven-string (guitar), a banjo, a 12-string acoustic (guitar) and a 12-string Rickenbacker.”
The Rickenbacker guitar became part of McGuinn’s signature sound almost 50 years and still figures prominently in his songs.
“Rickenbacker did a signature 12-string for me in 1989,” said McGuinn. “It was a limited edition of 1,000. It was very much like they did with Pete Seeger.
“I’m still writing. I’ve got some new songs so the next thing will be to go into the studio. Writing is the same as always. You have to sit and work on it.”
McGuinn, who will turn 72 in July, knows the key to staying young is to stay busy.
“I play my guitar an hour a day,” said McGuinn, referring to his regimen for staying young and healthy. “And, I walk every day. Performing live shows also helps.
“It’s nice because I’m seeing a new crop of fans — fans in their late teens and early 20s. They figured it out somehow. I get a lot of 17-year-olds telling me how much they love the early Byrds albums.
“But, the demographics are definitely changing. I used to have people asking for my autograph for themselves. Later, they were asking for autographs for their fathers. Now, they’re asking me to write an autograph for their grandfathers.”
McGuinn will perform in concert at 8 p.m. on June 12 at the Colonial Theatre, which is located at 203 Bridge Street in Phoenixville. Tickets range from $20-$38.50. For more information, call (610) 917- 1228 or visit http://thecolonialtheatre.com.
Another music act that brings aspects of rock and country together is performing in the area on June 14. Grace & Tony, who merge bluegrass and punk rock, will play a free show at 7 p.m. on the Upstairs stage at the World Café Live (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400,http://queen.worldcafelive.com).
November plays a big role in Grace & Tony’s history. Grace Shulz and Tony White met in November 2010. And now, “November” is the title of the band’s debut album which was released on November 11, 2013.
When they met a few years ago, Tony developed a crush on Grace and asked her to jam when he was between bands. What evolved from that was a marriage in July 2013 as well as a musical style which they have labeled “punkgrass” — a sound that was a natural fusion of their music backgrounds.
Tony’s roots were in punk rock while Grace’s background was bluegrass and other Southern traditional music such as gospel. Together, theyexperimented with an odd blend of genres by mixing punk, folk, rock, bluegrass and Texas swing to create their own sound.
“Musically, it was a great fit,” said Grace, during a phone interview this week. “He had just gotten out of a punk band. I played some of his band’s songs on mandolin. Some of those songs later were on our first EP ‘Inside a 7-Track Mind.’
“Mixing punk and bluegrass does seem strange. We’re not sure why it works. It wasn’t really our intention. It’s evolved since then. It’s become more a rock band. We want to keep it as a duo but we are travelling with a cellist from Nashville named Chris Wilson. The cello playing fits in well with our new stuff. It’s more creepy.”
Grace & Tony’s debut album was scheduled to be released in March 2013 but then got delayed.
“We were going to release it on our own,” said Grace, who graduated from nursing school in December and works as a nurse at home in Tennessee when she’s not on tour. “Then, a couple record companies became interested in releasing it. So, we signed with Rock Ridge Music and it came out in November.
“It’s been a while since we wrote those songs and we’ve been writing a lot of new songs lately. Tony writes more of the music and I write most of the lyrics. We’re doing five or six songs in our current set.
“It’s frustrating that we had to wait so long for it to come out and now wait more until we can put out our next album. I think it’s more frustrating for our fans that have been with us since the beginning. They’ve been listening to the same songs since 2011.”
The entertainment on the main stage shows this weekend at the World Café Live at the Queen gets underway on June 12 with a show by Vanessa Carlton. The singer-songwriter from upstate Pennsylvania burst onto the music scene in 2002 with her platinum Grammy-nominated album “Be Not Nobody.”
On June 13, Delta Rae, a six-piece rock band from North Carolina, will headline the main stage with Gabe Dixon as the opener. On June 14, there will be an Eric Clapton tribute concert performed by the Charlie Phillips Band.
On June 17, the DuPont Theatre (1007 N. Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 800-338-0881, http://duponttheatre.com) will host — for one night only — a special attraction titled “America’s Test Kitchen Live.” Ticket prices start at $45.
Christopher Kimball, star of the popular television show “America’s Test Kitchen,” will present an informative and lively look at the popular PBS television program. Attendees will get an insider’s view into America’s Test Kitchen, which is one of the top-rated shows on television.
The presentation will feature a behind-the-scenes look into how the equipment testings, food tastings, and science experiments take place. In this multi-media experience, fans will get to meet — via video and audio — colorful personalities such as competitive food eaters, Mrs. Patmore from Downton Abbey, vengeful cheese makers, and Mary Roach (who spent years investigating the inner workings of the digestive tract).
Audience members will also have a chance to ask questions during the Q&A with Kimball, who is the founder and editor of “Cook’s Illustrated” and host of “America’s Test Kitchen” television and radio shows.
The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, www.kennettflash.org) will host the improv comedy troupe Better Than Bacon on June 12. Then, on June 13, the headliner will be Los Festingos, a lively rock band from Philly, with Hot Breakfast as the opening act. On June 14, there will be an “Open Mic Night” hosted by Sam Kwietniak, who is also a member of Los Festingos.
The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Beaucoup Blue, the Philadelphia based father and son duo, David and Adrian Mowry. The duo, which has released three albums in the last 11 years, plays a blend of blues, rock and bluegrass. Brad Hinton and Bethany Brooks will open the show.
Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com/schedule) will feature a pair of shows featuring three acts. The concert on June 13 will have The Aponic Blue, Lost have and the sister duo of Danielle & Jennifer. The tripleheader on June 14 will feature The Axiom Project, Hayley Jordanna & Her Favorite Men and Bluesuits.
Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Marco Benevento on June 12 along with a pair of opening acts — Beth Sorrentino, a singer-songwriter from Lancaster, and Bird watcher, a duo from Philadelphia. Benevento is a highly-acclaimed keyboardist who has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival.
On June 13, Philly Bloco will bring its lively blend of samba, funk and reggae to the Ardmore venue. Veteran blues guitarist Popa Chubby will headline on June 14. The lineup for June 15 includes Brothers And Sisters, Black Stars and the Mike Baylor Band.
The Ardmore Music Hall has another event slated for June 17 — the “BVTLive! – Dance Party!” featuring Sid Miller Dance Band, Contagious, Bounce, Back2Life and Dynamic Ground.
On June 13, the Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, http://www.keswicktheatre.com) should be a destination for fans of virtuoso guitar work. The comfortable theater will host a twin-bill featuring Louisiana-born guitar ace Kenny Wayne Shepherd and his band along with pedal steel master Robert Randolph & His Family Band. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are priced at $39.50 and $49.50.
Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will feature a member of one of country music’s most famous families — Carlene Carter.
The singer/guitarist, who will perform on June 13, is the daughter of country music legends June Carter Cash and Carl Smith, and granddaughter of “Mother” Maybelle Carter” of the original historic Carter Family.
The lineup for June 14 lists Twin Ghost with Eric Sommer as the opening act. On June 15, Malcolm Holcombe will headline with Michael Braunfeld opening the show. All concerts start at 8 p.m.