On Stage: Empty Hearts new, yet still familiar

Carlene Carter, Kim Richey and ballet among weekend highlights

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

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While The Empty Hearts might be a new band, its members are very familiar, coming from The Cars, Blondie and The Romantics among others. They play Oct. 17 at the Ardmore Music Hall.

You may not have heard of The Empty Hearts yet but you surely have heard the group’s members play on a wide variety of recordings.

The band, which is performing on October 17 at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com), features Wally Palmar of the Romantics on lead vocals, rhythm guitar, and harmonica; Elliot Easton of the Cars on lead guitar and vocals; Andy Babiuk of the Chesterfield Kings on bass and vocals; and Clem Burke of Blondie on drums and vocals.

In the past, the quartet probably would have been labeled a “supergroup.” Instead, the band describes itself as “four guys with impressive musical résumés who’ve joined together to play music they love — simple, straightforward, but soulful rock and roll informed by ’60s garage rock and British Invasion sounds.”

“The music the Empty Hearts plays is rooted in the heart of rock-and-roll,” said Burke, during a phone interview earlier this week during a rehearsal break at Babiuk’s studio in Rochester, New York.

“Its roots are in the late 1960s and the 70s with bands like Cream and Jimi Hendrix. We’ve all had success in the 70s and 80s. Younger audiences have been able to learn about our earlier bands by watching videos from that time.”

Easton said, “Even though we have reputations from previous bands, we’re still a new band and we have to prove ourselves.”

Burke added, “We’re tapping into early music but it’s fresh because we’ve never played together before. We’ve kind of come full circle. Not too many bands are doing what we do. It’s rooted in the past but it’s also 21st century too.

“We’re focusing on being a really good live band. We’re the antithesis of programmed music. We recorded the album live in the studio. It’s almost modern because it’s nee again.”

The band was formed in 2013 by Babiuk, who was the bassist for the Chesterfield Kings, a band that recorded more than 15 albums between 1982 and 2009. The rhythm section is completed by Burke, who still is the drummer for Blondie. He and vocalist Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein formed the nucleus of Blondie’s original line-up in 1975.

Easton is guitarist for both The Cars and the Empty Hearts. Palmar handles vocals for the new band just as he did with the Romantics. He was a founding member of the Detroit new wave/pop bad — a band that also included Burke in its line-up in three separate incarnations.

Blondie, with Burke on the drum kit, had numerous hit singles including “Call Me” and “Heart of Glass.” The Cars had a slew of hit singles, including “Just What I Needed,” “Since You’re Gone,” “You Might Think,” “Good Times Roll,” “Shake It Up” and “My Best Friend’s Girl.”

Easton explained the genesis of the Empty Hearts.

“It was an idea that Andy had,” said Easton, a Brooklyn native who studied music at the Berklee School of Music. “He called everybody up and talked about the line-up. He said that he would get us all together — and he did.

“I’ve known Andy for about 25 years. Clem and I have played together before. We all thought that this band would work well. We’ve been together a couple years and the first album (“The Empty Hearts”) came out last August.

“We recorded it here in Rochester in the studio where the Chesterfield Kings made their last record. And, Ian (McLagan) came in and played Hammond (organ). He really helped a lot.”

Ironically, former Small Faces/Faces keyboardist McLagan and his own band have been in the area this week for shows at the World Café Live at the Queen on October 15 and the Sellersville Theater on October 16.

“We doing all the album’s songs live — and a few covers,” said Burke. “We’ve all been around for a long time so it’s great to be doing something new.”

The concert starts at 8 p.m. with tickets priced at $25 advance and $35 day of show.

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Il Sogno del Marinaio returns to Philadelphia, Oct. 17.

Another musician who has been around a long time and is doing something new is Mike Watt — who, in an obvious aversion to upper case, prefers to be listed as “mike watt” and introduces himself simply as “watt.”

He is one of rock’s revered veterans — a talented bassist whose career has included stints as a founding member of DOS, The Minutemen and fIREHOSE. He has also been a key member of Banyan and has performed or toured with an amazing array of the best musicians from southern California, including Porno for Pyros, the Stooges and Sonic Youth.

On October 17, watt returns to Philadelphia as one-third of Il Sogno del Marinaio (“the sailor’s dream” in Italian), an American-Italian trio performing at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com). The band, which also features guitarist Stefano Pilia and drummer Andrea Belfi, is touring the United States — 53 shows in 53 days — in support of its sophomore album “canto secondo.”

The new album came out in America on August 26 and the band began its exhaustive tour two days later. Il Sogno del Marinaio’s debut album ‘La Busta Gialla” came out in January 2013.

“The first album was recorded in two days during a mini-tour of Italy,” said watt, during a phone interview Tuesday night after a sound check for a show in Providence, Rhode Island. “It was done quickly and we had some extra musicians come in.

“On this one (“canto secondo”), we spent eight days in the studio with no guests. It was just the three of us playing music 10 hours a day. Just three guys playing together in a room — that’s where I come from.

watt emphasized that Il Sogno del Marinaio was not his band or another of his side projects.

“These two talented younger musicians from Italy put it together,” said watt. “At times, things just happen. There was a music festival in Italy. Stefano told me that he had a buddy who played drums. He asked me to come over and play the festival.

“I suggested we do it and also play a couple more dates. That’s how we got together. It was never my band. It’s more like collaboration — more like the Minutemen. I’m not telling them what to play. I’m not giving directions. I can’t be self-important.

“These guys are composers as well as players. We each have our own style. I come from the days of punk — interesting players and interesting things. I write on bass. The drummer is into midis and likes Soft Machine’s drummer Robert Wyatt.

“The guitarist likes to run licks by you and see what you think. Sly and the Family Stone is a common interest. And, both of them like experimental music. They have a good gung-ho spirit.

“They bring out parts of me that weren’t in any of the other bands I’ve played in — like playing in 11. This is the type of trio that I’m pretty partial to — guitar, bass and drums. They’re taking me to different places musically.”

The trio used Bruno Germano as producer for the album and recorded it at Vacuum Studio, Germano’s barn studio located just outside Bologna.

“When we made the new album, we already had our first tour under our belts,” said watt. “We found our own voice. The second album was more organic. We knew each other better.”

While watt and the Empty Hearts have large musical family trees, another act coming to the Ardmore Music Hall this week has a large family tree that is musical. On October 16, Carlene Carter will perform an early show (7:30 p.m.) at the popular venue along the Main Line.


Country music royalty Carlene Carter is at the Ardmore Music Hall, Oct 16.

Carter is the daughter of June Carter and her first husband, Carl Smith — and granddaughter of “Mother” Maybelle Carter of the original Carter Family.

Her first recorded release was an eponymously titled album on Warmer Brothers Records in 1978.

In 1987, Carlene Carter joined with the singing trio The Carter Sisters, consisting of her mother June Carter Cash and June’s sisters Helen and Anita Carter. Together, they formed a revived version ofThe Carter Family and occasionally performed with Carter’s stepfather Johnny Cash.

Carter’s new CD “Carter Girl,” which was released in April 8 on Rounder Records, is an homage to the Carter family’s long musical history — and a representation of what the family’s music sounds like in this era. The songs on the album cover three generations of Carter Family music.

Carter shares writing credit on one track with her great uncle A.P. Carter (recently in the Billboard Top 10 as co-writer of the pop phenomenon “Cups”) — and the track features vocals by Vince Gill.  Other guest artists on the CD are Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Elizabeth Cook.

“It was always encouraged in me to do this someday,” said Carter, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Saratoga Springs, New York. “I just had to have all the ducks in a row. We started it three-and-a-half years ago and finished mixing in December.”

The CD was produced by Don Was and mixed by Bob Clearmountain. Session musicians included Was on bass, Jim Keltner on drums, Rami Jaffee (from The Wallflowers and Foo Fighters) on keyboards. Greg Leisz on steel guitar, acoustic and electric guitars, Sam Bush on mandolin and Blake Mills on stringed instruments.

“I waited for a year for Don Was to become available,” said Carter. “I told him I wanted to play all the acoustic stuff like my grandma did. We did all the tracks in one week. We cut 13 but one got erased. I don’t know how it happened. We had different people in to sing on it. We turned on the tape and nothing was there.

“My husband Joe Breen works with me in the studio and goes with me on the road. We’ve been touring pretty much solidly since June. It’s just me and him and our SUV. He sings with me and drives.

“In the live shows, I play the songs and talk about the music. It’s different for me because usually I have a high-energy band with me. This is the first time to go out like this since ’76 or ’77 when I had my first gig with Tracy Nelson. It’s fun because I’ve learned more about being a musician.

“I tell stories about growing up — stories about mom, Helen, Nita and grandma. I don’t have a set pattern. It’s very off-the-cuff. I try to have it seem like I’m talking to an old friend. I can do the whole album. It depends on how long the set is. If I only have 90 minutes, I do nine of the songs.

“I try to intersperse with old stuff. I have to do my hits like ‘Every Little Thing,’ ‘I Fell in Love’ and ‘The Sweetest Thing.’ I do songs from my 1980 album ‘Musical Shapes.’ They’re good songs and they were originally like this (acoustic) when they first saw the light of day. That’s how they were done so it’s nice that they have come full circle.”

Carter’s current shows allow audiences to get up-close and personal with the veteran recording artist.

“There is a nice intimacy to the show,” said Carter. “Basically, it’s all down to me and the song. A song always starts with one voice and one instrument.”

Tickets for Carter’s show are $30. The Ardmore Music Hall also has a late show on October 16 at 10 p.m. with Grateful Dead tribute band Splintered Sunlight. On October 18, there will a show at 7:30 with Steve Polz and a late show at 10 p.m. featuring The Band of Rivals and Damn Tall Buildings.  Spuyten Duyvil and Tin Bird Choir will play on October 19.

While Carter’s music has always been firmly rooted in the country music genre, there are many artists whose music has had one foot in country and one foot in the world of pop/rock.


Kim Richey brings her blend of pop, rock and country to The Flash in Kennett Square, Oct. 19.

One of those artists is Kim Richey, who will be performing on October 19 at The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org).

Richey’s debut album “Kim Richey” was released in May 1995 on Mercury Nashville Records. She has released seven albums since then — the most recent of which is “Thorn in My Heart,” which came out last year on Yep Roc Records.

“People have never been able to pigeonhole me or my music,” said Richey, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon while riding through the Great Smoky Mountains on her way to a gig in Asheville, North Carolina.

“I like to listen to all kinds of music and it shows up in my music. I’ve been fortunate to make the kind of records I wanted — to make music I’m proud of. Since I started on a country label, I think that’s how people perceive me.

“Growing up in the 1970s, the music on the radio was James Taylor, the Eagles, Jackson Brown and acts like that. It was called rock then but they would all fall into Americana now. Popular music was more country influenced back in the 70s.”

This show will be Richey’s first show in the area since she played the Tin Angel in Philadelphia a little over a year ago right after “Thorn in My Heart” was released.

“The album has been out a little over a year now,” said Richey. “We tracked for about five days in Nashville. I had great people come in and sing or play with me. I have a lot of good friends who participated in making the album — Trisha Yearwood, Jason Isbell, Wilco’s Pat Sansone, My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel and Will Kimbrough.

“Some were brand new songs. I was living in London for three years. I wrote about half the songs when I got back. Others were ones that had been stockpiled. I write a lot and then only use 12-23 on each album. So, the songs build up.”

After awhile, the hectic pace of life in London drove Richey back to the more comfortable style of living in Nashville.

“I was in London writing and playing shows,” said Richey. “I was writing for myself and with other artist over there. I wrote the song ‘London Town’ there with Nat Campani.

“I loved living in London. But, after awhile, the big city and the crowds were starting to get to me. So, I returned to Nashville. Musically, it was better for me to get back to Nashville.

“I like to work with people in the same rooms so Nashville was the place to be. Recording by file-sharing is good — but it has its place. I like sitting down and talking when I’m writing songs. I really love collaborations.”

Richey will play many of the songs from “Thorn in My Heart” but they will definitely sound different. Instead of singing with a band backing her up, Richey will be performing just with keyboard ace Dan Mitchell.

“This is a fun way to do shows,” said Richey. “Audiences seem to really like it. And, I always try to do stuff off all my records. I like to play what my fans want to hear.”

Tickets for Richey’s show, which starts at 7 p.m., are $25 in advance and $29 on the day of the show. Other acts performing at the Kennett Square venue this weekend are The Bullbuckers on October 17 and The Rob Dickenson Band on October 18.

World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) lists “Brett Dennen Presents Watercolors — Apecial Acustic Evening with Odessa” om October 17, the Peek-A-Boo Revue on October 18 and Southern Culture on the Skids on October 22.

The schedule for the Sellersville Theatre (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) includes Ian McLagan and the Bump Band on October 16, Jimmy Webb and Robin Spielberg on October 17, Paula Cole on October 18, Larry Campbell & Jim Weider on October 19, Todd Snider on October 20, Rocco DeLuca & Motopony on October 21 and Stick Men with Caryn Lin on October 22

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) presents Catherine MacLellan and The Cabin Project on October 17 and Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank with Orion Freeman on October 22.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) is hosting Cycle and Knightlife on October 17 and JoyCut, Pansy and Zach Alex on October 18.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) hosts the Dukes of Destiny on October 17, John Valerio, Matt Spitko, Zach Sagrantz and Jason Riggs on October 18 and Thrifty Discount DJs on October 19.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) has the following schedule for the next week — “Cuff Me! –The Fifty Shades of Grey Unauthorized Musical Parody” on October 18, “An Afternoon with Groucho starring Frank Ferrante on October 19 and the Charlie Daniels Band with Mason Porter on October 23.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) presents Gregory Porter on October 17, The Delaware Symphony Orchestra’s “Classics 2” on October 17, Habaneros on October 19 and The Milk Carton Kids & Sarah Jarosz on October 23.

The Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net) will have “Smoker’s Club Tour Starring…Method Man & Redman” on October 17, “Lil Dicky…The Professional Rapper Tour” on October 18, Thousand Foot Krutch on October 20, “Breaking Benjamin — Unplugged” on October 21 and Ingrid Michaelson on October 22.

The national tour of “Sister Act,” which features Unionville High School grad Kristen Litzenberg in the ensemble, is running through October 19 at the DuPont Theatre (Hotel DuPont, Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-656-4401, http://duponttheatre.com).

The Tony Award nominated musical, which is based on Whoopi Goldberg’s 1992 hit movie of the same name, tale of Deloris — how her gangster boyfriend wants to kill her because she witnessed a murder, how she enters a convent as part of a witness protection program and how she and the nuns transform each others’ lives.

Tickets for the show range from $35-$85. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, 8 p.m. on Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The hit musical “The Addams Family” is running now through November 2 at the Media Theatre (104 East State Street, Media, 610-891-0100, www.mediatheatre.org. Tickets for the show are $42 for adults, $35 for seniors and $25 for children. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays.

There also is currently another option for live theater in the area. “Fiddler on the Roof,” which is one of the all-time favorite American musicals, is running now through November 2 at the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.nctstage.org). Tickets, which include a tasty buffet dinner, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

The Candlelight Theater is also presenting a special evening — Candlelight Comedy Club — on October 16 featuring Coleman Green and Laura Hayden. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the show scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $27 and include a complimentary light fare buffet. `

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The First State Ballet under the direction of Pasha Kambalov will perform “Giselle” On October 18 and 19.

On October 18 and 19, the First State Ballet under the direction of Pasha Kambalov will perform “Giselle” at the Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577 ext. 3851, www.thegrandwilmington.org).

The ballet portrays the story of Giselle. Betrayed by her love, Albrecht, Giselle dies of a broken heart and joins the Willis, a band of spirits of young women jilted before their wedding day. The Willis exact their revenge by forcing men found abroad after sundown to dance to their death.

Performances are October 18 at 7 p.m. and October 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets for adults range from $28-$48. Seniors receive a $5 discount and students (18 and under) can purchase tickets at half-price.

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