On Stage: Philly Folk Fest and Musikfest top the bill

Summer music shows keep getting hotter as August rolls on

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

tom paxton

Tom Paxton, who played his first Philadelphia Folk festival more than 50 years ago, is one of the headliners of this weekend’s event.

Pennsylvania has two great music festivals every August — two of the longest-running music festivals in the country — and both will be in full stride this week. The Philadelphia Folk Festival will be held from August 14-16 at the Old Pool Farm in Upper Salford Township while Musikfest is running now through August 16 in Bethlehem.

One of the featured attractions at the Philadelphia Folk Festival will be a performance by Arlo Guthrie to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Alice’s Restaurant.” Other top headliners will be Tom Paxton, Lyle Lovett and his Large Band and the North Mississippi Allstars.

The Philadelphia Folk Festival is celebrating its 54th anniversary this year and Paxton has been performing there since almost the beginning.

“The first time I played the Philadelphia Folk Festival was the second year of the festival,” said Paxton, during a phone interview last week. “I can’t remember how many times I’ve played there since then. When I play there this year, it will be my only show in that area.”

Paxton’s fans should take advantage of his show this weekend because the veteran singer-songwriter has announced that this will be his final tour. He is touring in support of his brand-new album “Redemption Road” — his 61st album.

“Everything is all right,” said Paxton, who will turn 78 on Halloween this year. “I’m enjoying having a new record out. I’ve been writing like a maniac. And, I’m doing about 70 shows this year which is twice my usual. I’m not retiring. I’m just going to stop touring. I’ll stick to one-shot deals and festivals. Touring is really grueling.

“With me, it’s only a one-man show. But, I have guitarists playing with me — different guitarists wherever I play around the world. One is Robin Bullock. I work with him a lot. For the show at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, I’ll be joined by Rich Drueding on guitar and Ron Greenstein on bass.

“I had been working on the new album for about five years. I recorded it in Nashville last fall. My producer Jim Rooney has lived in Nashville for years so he knows everybody and his uncle. He knows where all the players are. I did my first album with him in 1995 and this is the fifth or sixth album I’ve done with him. Most of the players we’ve used have been the same.

“I worked hard on the songs and I hope it shows. There are a couple funny songs and some love songs. There is another song about how this country looks at its poor. That song is very political.”

As far back as the early 1960s, Paxton has been involved with causes that promoted human rights, civil rights and labor rights. In 1963, Paxton and a group of other folk musicians performed and offered moral support to striking coal miners in Hazard, Kentucky.

“I’ve written a lot of political songs over the years,” said Paxton. “But, I would never presume that my songs have changed anything. Hopefully, they’ve reinforced how people feel.”

With a catalog that dates back to his 1964 debut album “Ramblin’ Boy,” Paxton has hundreds of songs from which to draw when making up his set list for a show.

“I have a continuing repertoire,” said Paxton. “I have four or five old songs people always want to hear — songs like ‘The Last Thing on My Mind,’ ‘Bottle of Wine,’ ‘Ramblin’ Boy’ and ‘Whose Garden Was This?’

“The preponderance of songs comes from my last 20 albums — songs such as ‘My Favorite Spring’ and ‘One Million Lawyers.’ Maybe I should play Donald Trump’s theme songs — ‘We Shall Overcomb.’”

Video link for Tom Paxton — https://youtu.be/S755u2kvjQg.

larry campbell teresa williams

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, another top act at this weekend’s PFF, have been making music for years. Now, the husband-and-wife team are touring in support of their recent eponymous album release on Red House Records.

Campbell won a Grammy Award for his work with Levon Helm and has played with many of the era’s greats including Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Phil Lesh, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Keith Richards, Cyndi Lauper, Hot Tuna and Mavis Staples. He has also won the Lifetime Achievement Award (2008) and Instrumentalist of the Year Award (2013) from the Americana Music Association.

Williams was a member of Southern Comfort, and later Swing Fever. She created the role of Sara Carter, the lead singer of The Original Carter Family, for the stage and for the BBC and PBS. She has performed with Bonnie Bramlett, Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris, Little Feat and Hot Tuna and has toured as a member of Phil Lesh and Friends.

“On October 15, we will have been married for 27 blissful years,” said Campbell, during a phone interview last week from their home in Manhatan. “Surprisingly, this is the first album we’ve done together. The first time we really worked together professionally was with Levon.”

Williams said, “Prior to this, the husband-and-wife thing — recording together — just turned me off…except for George (Jones) and Tammy (Wynette). Playing as Larry and Teresa is new.

“We just came off a three-week run in the Midwest and then taught at Jorma Kaukonen’s Guitar Ranch in Ohio. We just got home. We’re doing a few shows in Manhattan, the Philadelphia Folk Festival and a few sporadic dates later in the month.”

The album mines the rich tradition of Southern roots music and is a satisfying blend of blues, gospel, country, folk and Americana.

“We finished the album last fall,” said Campbell. “We had been working on it sporadically over the course of five years. We did the rhythm tracks with Levon during the recording for ‘Dirt’ (Helm’s 2007 album “Dirt Farmer”).

“One of the tracks that survived was ‘You’re Running Wild’ with Levon on drums. We were so busy with so many other things we didn’t have much time to work on it. We’d get our creative flow going and then it would be time to do some other thing — like tour with Phil Lesh.

“We started working on our album at Levon’s studio with Justin Guip as the engineer. He’s the engineer I use when I’m producing other people’s records. Eight of the songs on the album are originals. ‘You’re Running Wild,’ ‘Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning’ and ‘Attics Of My Life’ are the only cover tunes.”

Campbell and Williams will soon be playing someone else’s songs on another venture.

“Right now, we’re studying Jackson Browne’s music,” said Campbell. “He’s going on a big tour and we’re playing in his band. He’s giving us a spot in the middle of his set to play our stuff. It’s a very generous thing of him to do so we don’t play to empty seats.”

Video link for Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams — https://youtube/q2SmeMOCQmE.

jesse terry

Jesse Terry

One of the busiest musicians at this year’s Philadelphia Folk Festival will be singer-songwriter Jesse Terry.

“I have four performance slots at this year’s festival so I’m going to be a busy boy,” said Terry, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Connecticut. “On Friday, I’m playing a Backstage Session. On Saturday, I’m playing the Craft Stage and the Front Porch Stage and then on Sunday I’m part of the Nashville Writers Roundtable.

Terry, who just played at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, is touring in support of his new EP “The Calm & The Storm.”

“I recorded the EP in December 2014 with Glen Barratt at MorningStar Studio in East Norriton,” said Terry. “It was a wonderful experience recording there. It was fairly organic.

“My manager and I wanted to re-cut the song ‘Noise’ from my first record. We wanted to use different instruments. So, I went to MorningStar. But, I didn’t want to go there and record just one track.

“Also, a Canadian singer named Maya Davies from the group Ladies of the Canyon happened to be in town. So, she did all the harmonies on the record — in one session. ‘Noise’ and ‘Never Heard the Storm’, which I wrote in 2007, were the only older tracks. The rest were brand new. And, I did a cover of ‘Starry Starry Night’ (Don McLean’s “Vincent — Starry Starry Night).

“This was my first time to do an EP rather than an album. I always want to feel strongly about every single song. Six songs as opposed to 10 or 12 — if we pushed it to 10 songs, the quality of the recording would have suffered.”

Terry’s other records were all full-length albums.

“My first album was ‘The Runner’ in 2009,” said Terry. “The next was ‘Empty Seat On a Plane’ in 2012. That was fan-funded as was ‘Stay Here With Me, which was done in 2013. ‘The Calm & The Storm’ wasn’t fan-funded. It was something that just came together quickly.

“In my live show, I try to play something from each album. I also play some new songs so it’s fresh for the audience — and for me. I’m writing songs for my next EP. I have a lot of music coming in 2016. I’ll be doing four shows with my father Michael Terry. He’s been a full-time musician his whole life. He’ll be playing with me at Steel City Coffee House on August 19. That will be my ‘CD Release Party’ for ‘The Calm & The Storm’.”

Video link for Jesse Terry — https://youtu.be/SKcyInZtFHE.

Terry’s show at the Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will start at 8 p.m. with The Sea The Sea as the opening act. Tickets are $14 in advance and $17 at the door.

Some of the other featured acts at this weekend’s Philadelphia Folk Festival will be No Good Sister, Mason Porter, Spuyten Duyvil, Selwyn Birchwood, Bruce Cockburn, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys and Kicking Down Doors.

Musikfest, which is celebrating its 31st anniversary this year, has a lineup that is more diverse with free performances on most of its indoor and outdoor stages. Musikfest presents over 300 live musical performances and draws over one million people to the Lehigh Valley every August.

nation beatThe roster of acts peaks over the next few days with Darius Rucker, Snoop Dogg and Alice in Chains. Some of the other interesting acts for 2015 are Nation Beat with Cha Wa, Nalani & Sarina,  John the Conqueror, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, Spuyten Duyvil, Christine Havrilla & Gypsy Fuzz, Los Straitjackets and the African Benga Stars.

Nation Beat joined with Cha Wa on a new EP titled “Carnival Caravan” and the “Brazil Meets New Orleans” collaboration is on a summer tour supporting the new EP — a tour that includes appearances at Central Park Summer Stage (with Nação Zumbi) series, Sun Fest in London, Ontario — and Musikfest.

Nation Beat’s music blends  Brazilian rhythms — maracatu, coco and forro — with New Orleans funk, rock, jazz, bluegrass and country blues. Led by drummer/percussionist Scott Kettner, the band continues to explore the traditional sounds of New Orleans and Brazil.

“I’ve had Nation Beat for 13 years now,” said Keltner, during a phone interview last week. “When I was living in Brooklyn, I studied the music of northeast Brazil. I realized it had a lot in common with the music I heard in southern United States. I wanted to put the music onstage and foster a cultural exchange between the two countries.

“I spent a lot of time in Brazil in Bahia but mostly in Recife. That’s where maracatu comes from. Billy Hart, my music teacher at New School in New York was teaching me Brazilian rhythms. I became obsessed with samba and bossa nova rhythms. He told me about maracatu and I learned a lot about it.”

Maracatu is an ancient carnival tradition from the northeast Brazil. Maracatu has its roots in the sugar fazendas and slave estates of Pernambuco state, where black African slaves formed religious brotherhoods to preserve African culture and heritage. It has been preserved by the maracatu naçãos (maracatu nations) which form the colorful parades of drums, dancers and costumed kings and queens of today’s world famous Recife carnival.

“My first trip to Brazil was six weeks and then I went back and lived there for a year,” said Keltner. “I go back every year — always to Recife. I go there and study with the masters. Maracatu is from a region of brazil that most people don’t know about — just like people don’t know about the Mardi Gras Indians and Second Line in New Orleans.

“I grew up with New Orleans music so I was aware of Second Line. I got deeper into it when I was in college. I spent a lot of time in New Orleans and paraded with the Mardi Gras Indians. Nation Beat’s first couple albums had a lot of Cajun and zydeco music. That’s why our album with Cha Wa came about because they are a Mardi Gras band from New Orleans.”

Video link for Nation Beat — https://youtu.be/zOk44YfOnN8.

For a complete list of acts, venues and starting times, visit the websites for the Philadelphia Folk Festival (http://pfs.org/folk-festival) and Musikfest (www.musikfest.org).

In addition to all the great music at the two festivals, there will also be a great lineup of acts at various music venues around the area beginning with a septet of interesting shows on August 14.


The Cringe

There are times when fans head to a show to see one of their favorites as headliner and cringe if they have to sit through an opening act.

When fans head to Mötley Crüe’s “The Final Tour” at the Wells Fargo Center (3601 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, http://www.wellsfargocenterphilly.com), The Cringe will be the opening act. The triple-bill will also feature Alice Cooper.

The Cringe is a New York-based rock quartet featuring singer and songwriter Cusimano, guitarist James Rotondi , bassist Jonny Blaze and drummer Shawn Pelton. The band has released three full-length albums — “Scratch The Surface,” “Tipping Point” and “Play Thing.”

“Our first album came out in 2004 but I’ve had the name as a project ever since I was in high school,” said Cusimano during a phone interview last week. “It was original, quirky punk rock. Eventually, I wrote enough songs that I could start gigging. I had different people that I played with.

“When I was in the studio for the first album, the engineer recommended Shawn Pelton and then Shawn introduced me to Roto (Rotondi). Then, Blaze joined the group. The four of us have been together since 2008.

“The new album is the first album we made with a producer. We hooked up with Don Gilmore. He gave me a list of songs on active rock channels so I could learn what was out there. He really knows what would work on radio.

“Don and I did a week of pre-production. The process with him is very organic. We really collaborated on a lot of the songs. The big thing — at the end of the day, it sounds like a modern rock record and it’s cohesive.

“On the last album, we really developed a cohesiveness to our sound. We really focused on having a steady modern rock sound. We’re releasing a new single next week called ‘Anything You Say.’ Having a song fans in the audience can recognize is important — especially when you’re opening for acts like Mötley Crüe and Alice Cooper.”

Video link for The Cringe — https://youtu.be/Gsv0RXdJVSo.

The show at the Wells Fargo Center will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are priced at $20, $29.50, $49.50, $75, $99.50 and $125.

humming houseThe Tin Angel (20 South Second Street, Philadelphia, 215-928-0770, http://www.tinangel.com) will host a concert by Humming House — a band that melds the folk, soul and bluegrass genres into a modern sound. The Nashville-based quintet features Justin Wade Tam, Leslie Rodriguez , Bobby Chase, Joshua Wolak and Ben Jones .

“Revelries,” which was released in March on Nashville label Rock Ridge Music, is the third recording bearing the Humming House name, yet it’s something of a debut. Version one of the band came together in 2011 when songwriter Justin Wade Tam called on some friends from a local Celtic music jam to flesh out recordings of songs he’d written.

After that, two personnel additions galvanized the band. Leslie Rodriguez brought a lustrous female vocal to mesh with Tam’s hearty singing. And fiddler Bobby Chase brought classical training and down-home fire. That rounded out a band of highly skilled instrumentalists, including Josh Wolak on mandolin and Ben Jones on acoustic bass.

“I knew Justin and Josh in college,” said Rodriguez, during a recent phone interview from her home in Nashville. “We played music together when we were students at Belmont College here in Nashville.

“Josh and I played together in a big band called Angus Whyt and the Irish Rednwecks. In 2012, Josh heard me saying I wanted to do more with music. I was actually already a big fan of Humming House at the time.”

Before long, Rodriguez was a full-time member of Humming House.

“Humming House became much more of a group project,” said Rodriguez. “The instrumentation and songwriting — telling a story with song — didn’t change but we took more ownership of the arrangements. Everybody is involved in the songwriting. There was a lot of co-writing on this album.”

The diverse music tastes of the five members greatly contribute to the band’s mostly-acoustic sound.

“We pull from a lot of different genres,” said Rodriguez. “We have a lot of roots-based instruments but we try to bend genre barriers as much as we can. To look at our instruments and think we’re a big band isn’t right. Justin plugs into an amp that he blends with acoustic. And, on some of the new somas, we use keys and electric tenor guitar.

“Our audience demographic is pretty crazy. It’s a really broad spectrum — fans from 30-65, college students of all ages and at outdoor family events, we even have kids running around. It’s nice to know that we appeal to such a wide audience.”

Video link for Humming House — https://youtu.be/hNneZWboVIo.

The show at the Tin Angel will get underway at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other shows at the Tin Angel over the next week are Alpha Rev with Jared and the Mill on August 15 and Philly Mignon, Kristen Sylvester and Flounder Warehouse on August 17.

rod picott

Rod Picott

On August 14, the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, philly.worldcafelive.com) will host Rod Picott with a CD release party for his new album “Fortune.”

“I’m on the road and hitting it pretty hard,” said Picott, during a recent phone interview from his home in Nashville. “I do a lot of shows every year. I’m from New Hampshire but I moved to Nashville 20 years ago to get a writing deal with a publisher. After a few years of playing out, I started to get attention. I had people in the industry telling me that I should be a performer.

“I played for a lot of publishers but I never got a job playing live. Then, I got a job driving the merchandise truck for Alison Krauss. They needed somebody to open the shows. So, I got a one-night audition. That was back in 1998.

“My first record came out in 2000. I met a guy from MCA Publishing and that was the catalyst. He told me to find a way to get my music to the people — that the (publishing house) songwriters just assemble songs. I started my own career after that. My first album was called ‘Tiger Tom Dixon’s Blues.’

“I had told myself that I wasn’t going to make a record until I had 10 songs that were worth people hearing. My songs were pretty narrative. It was an interesting experience. I made my first real record when I was 35. In retrospect, I’m glad I pushed myself so hard. Listening to that album now, I’m still proud of those songs. My goal wasn’t to get onstage and perform. My goal was to write great songs.

“I feel pretty fortunate. For some songwriters, the whole process is very sensitive and they can’t write on the road. I’m the opposite. My antenna is up and I’m always writing. I don’t seem to get blocked. I can write in motel room. I can write in my car.”

Picott has been a prolific enough writer that he has recorded 10 albums in the last 14 years — the latest of which is “Fortune.”

“I recorded ‘Fortune’ last winter in East Nashville,” said Picott. “It was very fast. We did seven songs the first day and were completely done with the mixing in seven days. It was the most introspective album I’ve done. I wanted it to be more emotionally vulnerable and naked. I wanted to use my own life and I wanted it to be raw. That was the marching order — raw.”

Video link for Rod Picott — https://youtu.be/ci6iEecO64c.

The show at the World Café Live, which has the DuPont Brothers and Dara Sisterhen s opening acts, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at the WCL’s Upstairs Stage are Mike Montrey Band (August 13), Damn the Torpedoes (August 15) and Penn Lightbulb Café (August 18). The schedule for the Downstairs Stage includes The Hype! (Augsut 13), Donavon Frankenreiter (August 14),Dylan Holland, Nick Tangorra Band, Reed Deming and Gavin Becker (August 16) and Todd Rundgren (August 19).

Another CD release party will take place in Philly on August 14 when Safety introduces its new EP “Congratulate Me, I’ve Lost My Mind” in a show at Ortlieb’s (847 North Third Street, Philadelphia, 267- 324-3348, www.ticketfly.com).

safetySafety is an indie-rock band that includes Andy Diaz (guitar , vocals), Grayum Vickers (bass, vocals) and Nick Dolan (drums).

“Me and my best friend Grayum started the band when we were 13 and in middle school in Tampa, Florida,” said Diaz, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from Brooklyn. “He got a bass guitar for his birthday and wanted to start a band. So, I got a guitar. Since then, we’ve put out a lot of records. We started playing a lot of shows around Florida when we were 15 and then played the Warped Tour when we were 16. We built a good fan base in our home area around Tampa. Then, we moved to Brooklyn three years ago and got a new drummer — Nick.”

The Florida natives quickly adapted to life in New York’s fastest-growing borough.

“Brooklyn has been great,” said Diaz. “Living in New York exposes you to so much more. There is so much culture here. Our producer Brian Russell is from Brooklyn and we’ve learned so much from him. We set up a recording studio in my apartment and recorded the guitars and the vocals here. We had already done the drum tracks in another studio. Then, we mixed the album at Brian’s studio.

“We started tracking last June and finally finished the mastering in November. But, the writing process went back much longer than that. Grayum and I write together. First, we write on our own and then we get together to work on the songs.

“For our live shows, it’s just guitar, bass and drums. On the record, I also play keyboards and mandolin. The new album is on Community Records. Our last album ‘Night Lights’ was also on Community. Before that, we put out five or six albums on our own — and an EP called ‘Season of Bad Dreams.’ The new EP officially comes out this week.”

Video link for Safety — https://youtu.be/eGVKcM3nK8A.

The show at Ortlieb’s will start at 9:30 p.m. and will also feature Clique, Latecomer and Girl Scout. Tickets are $8.

brick + mortarThere will be another show at Ortlieb’s the same night — an early evening show at 6:30 p.m. featuring Brick + Mortar. The show was moved from its original venue — the Barbary. Brick + Mortar is a duo featuring Brandon Asraf (Guitar, Bass, Vocals, Samples) and John Tacon (Drums, Vocals, Samples).

“I’ve known John for a long time,” said Asraf, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Los Angeles. “We started making music together 15 years ago. He was playing drums and he told me to pick up bass.”

The band’s music is described as “controlled chaos — a combination of choppy rhythms, smooth bass lines, tempestuous drumming and honest lyrics.

“I started writing songs because I had a messed-up childhood,” said Asraf. “The first song was ’20 LB.’ It was like therapy. Songwriting has always been my therapy. Now, it’s almost become social commentary. Usually, I’ll write about how I dealt with difficult situations. It helps. I write mostly vocal parts and I do a lot of it a capella.

“Our first show as Brick + Mortar was in 2009. It’s drum-and-bass and I switch to guitar when playing live. We also create our own samples and sue them to create a really big sound. Most of our music is sample-based.”

Brick + Mortar has an unusual story in dealing with a major label.

“We recorded the ‘Dropped’ album when we were signed to a subsidiary of Universal,” said Asraf. “Then, they dropped all their small bands. The EP ‘Bangs’ was supposed to be the first half of our first album. When we got dropped, we asked for our songs back but they wouldn’t give them to us.

“A few months later, I got an e-mail from Universal wanting my signature for a song I had recorded called ‘Voodoo Child.’ They used it for a track in a movie. But, they sold it before they had my signature. So, we worked out a deal and they gave us our songs back.”

Sometimes, David actually does get the better of Goliath.

“After we got dropped, we did things on our own to raise money,” said Asraf. “We’re going to record a new album this fall and winter — all new material. We have a bunch of demos done already. We always change a lot from record to record. The new stuff is darker. Our music doesn’t fit any specific genre. I guess you could call it strange pop music.”

Video link for Brick + Mortar — https://youtu.be/yGmfAag0AHM.

The Brick + Mortar show at Ortlieb’s starts at 6:30 p.m. with opening act Minka. Tickets are $12.



Another talented young music act will be visiting Philadelphia on August 14 when Palehound introduces its new album “Dry Food” at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com).

Palehound mastermind Ellen Kempner played everything on “Dry Food” except for the drum parts, and is joined live by drummer Jesse Weiss (Grass is Green) and bassist Nick Koechel. Recorded with producer Gabe Wax, the album is full of sonic and emotional twists and turns.

“This is my debut album,” said Kempner, during a phone interview last week from her home in Boston. “I put out an EP and a 7-inch before this. ‘Dry Food’ was recorded in the fall at Rare Book Room recording studio in Brooklyn.

“I had been going to school at Sarah Lawrence College but dropped out after 2 years to focus on making music. My father was a drummer, guitarist and songwriter. He showed me a lot of music and gave me my first guitar lesson when I was seven. I started writing songs when I was 11. I came home from a bad day at school and wrote an angsty song.

“Very quickly, I got involved in the local music scene. I started playing my own songs and then recorded my first EP when I was 13.When I was in high school, I played a lot of teen centers with my band.

“I didn’t really start working as a professional until recently. When I was in college, I started playing in New York — playing a lot of clubs in Brooklyn. It was a huge leap with not much in between.”

Kempner’s music career kept advancing at a steady rate.

“I started writing for the album a year ago,” said Kempner. “I write on guitar — sometimes on bass. It’s rare when the lyrics come first. Usually, it all comes together at the same time. I’ll get a hook with a lyric attached to it.

“This time, I had a plan– and a set list of songs. All of the songs were cathartic. But, I still haven’t got all the angst out. Songwriting isn’t easy. Sometimes, it is but I’m too much of a perfectionist.

“It took me a week-and-a-half to make the new album. I played all the instruments except the drums. The album officially was released on August 14 on Exploding in Sound Records.”

Video link for Palehound — https://youtu.be/a-jzuHhVfnc.

The show at Union Transfer, which starts at 7:30 p.m., also features Basement, Adventures and LVL UP. Tickets are $16 in advance and $18 at the door.

kasim sulton

Kasim Sutton

One measure of grading a musician is to look over the list of musicians that he or she has performed or recorded with. Using such criteria, Kasim Sulton would receive excellent grades.

Sulton, who will be performing at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) on August 14, has a list of names on his musical resume that looks like the “Who’s Who” of the world’s best rock musicians.

Sulton is most known for his work with Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and on a number of other projects with Rundgren. He also has spent a lot of time over the last few years playing bass for Blue Öyster Cult.

The long list of acts he has worked with includes Mick Jagger, Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf, Hall & Oates, Cheap Trick, Patty Smyth, Patti Smith, Richie Sambora, Lulu, Rick Derringer, Indigo Girls, Joan Jett, Bonnie Tyler, Steve Stevens and Eileen Ivers.

Sulton has been involved with the making of well over 100 albums — including three of his own. His most recent album “3” is set to be released on October 28.

“My ‘3’ album came out November last year,” said Sulton, during a phone interview last week. “I started making the record in 2010. Then, my wife got sick that year and I had to put it down. She passed away in 2011. Two years later, I officially finished the album.

“With the writing process, once you start, you have to figure out where the album is going. It’s a journey. The album takes on a life of its own. I took my time — no shortcuts or anything.

“I had about 15 musicians come in and play on it which was different. Usually, I do everything myself. This time, I asked a bunch of friends to join me in making the album. I recorded in several studios in New York.

“I finished the album around this time last year. This time, I didn’t move on with a song until I was totally satisfied with the recording of it. Finally, I had to accept that it was finished. I had other people do the mixing and then wrapped it up in November.

“In my live show, I do about six of the new songs. There were a couple I tried that didn’t translate well from the studio to the stage — mainly because I don’t have a full band. But, if you can’t play a song on just piano, it’s probably not a good song. For the show in Sellersville, I’ll be joined by Matt Beck on guitar and John Clancy on drums.”

Sulton has spent a lot of months on the road playing in other people’s bands — most notably Blue Öyster Cult and Meat Loaf.

“I’ve been working with Blue Öyster Cult a lot but now I’m making more time for my solo shows,” said Sulton, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

“I love Blue Öyster Cult but it’s not my band. I’m basically a hired sideman. And, they’re tour mercenaries. I played with Meat Loaf from 1993 until 2010. By 2010, it was enough. I had played ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ one too many times.”

The show at the Sellersville Theater will start at 7:30 p.m. with opener Graham Alexander. Tickets are $19.50 and $29.50.

Video link for Kasim Sulton — https://youtu.be/pNgw91iqJLQ.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Quinn Sullivan on August 13, Johnny A. on August 14, “All About Elvis” with Rex Fowler on August 16 and Jarekus Singleton on August 19.

rex fowler

Rex Fowler

Fowler is familiar to music fans as one-half of Aztec Two Step — a group that formed in 1972 and is still going strong. The duo of Neal Shulman and Rex Fowler has been around for over four decades and is still as popular as it has ever been.

If you’re trying to remember any of the band’s charting singles over the course of its 42-year career — good luck. There are none. In 1999, Aztec Two Step was the subject of the documentary “No Hit Wonder,” which was aired on PBS stations across America.

For Fowler’s latest project, he could borrow the title of one of Monty Python’s film “And Now for Something Completely Different.”

At the Sellersville Theater, Fowler will present a very unique program “All About Elvis” featuring a screening of an original short film and a live concert. The first portion of the evening will be a screening of “200 Cadillacs,” the 60-minute documentary film conceived and co-produced by Fowler, showcasing the often forgotten generosity of Elvis Presley. 

A Q&A session will follow the film, after which Rex & The Rockabilly Kings will take the stage to perform a lively concert of early Elvis classics. The Rockabilly Kings feature Fowler on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Joe Geary on drums and The Roues Brothers – Billy on electric guitar and vocals and Muddy on standup bass, harmonica and vocals.

“200 Cadillacs” is an hour-long documentary on the subject of the Elvis Presley’s habit of giving away cars to friends — and sometimes complete strangers. Interview subjects include posse member Sonny West, girlfriend Linda Thompson, drummer D.J. Fontana, and many others. There are some good anecdotes offered in the memories, especially stories involving The King handing out Cadillacs to people he happened to see on a dealership lot.

Video link for “200 Cadillacs” — http://www.200cadillacs.com/trailers.html.

“A few years ago, I finally got out the documentary film called ‘200 Cadillacs’,” said Fowler, during a phone interview last week from his home in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

“I had heard about Elvis giving away Cadillacs and though that it would be great for a film. It took about 10 years to get it made. Elvis Presley Enterprises sanctioned it and even sold it in their retail store. It kind of came and went.

“I’d been thinking more and more about Elvis. He took a lot of hits during his lifetime — being publicly strung out the last 10 years of his life, the weight gain, the Vegas jumpsuit. What got lost for me was this genius 19-year-old — an original artist who changed music in America — the top icon in the 20th century.

“I wanted to step back and take a look at the life of Elvis from the Sun Recording Studio days to the RCA days. ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ was his first Number 1 hit and his first gold record. His was a voice no-one had heard — emoting in a very genuine way. It was revolutionary with a great cultural impact. I had a mission to shine a light on Elvis.”

Elvis’ spirit is carried on by Rex & The Rockabilly Kings.

“It’s a three-piece rockabilly band — standup bass, electric guitar and drums,” said Fowler. “I play acoustic guitar with the band and they’re all great players. Nobody can sing like Elvis but we’re out there doing respectful versions of Elvis Presley’s music. We’re definitely not Elvis impersonators.”

Video link for Rex & The Rockabilly Kings — https://youtube/Rrlhb6_bF-0.

The show at the Sellersville Theater on August 16 will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $21.50, $29.50

On August 19, the sound of live blues music will fill the air at the Sellersville Theater.

Singleton, a young guitarist from Clinton, Mississippi, is one of the brightest new talents in the world of blues music. He released his debut album “Heartfelt” in 2011 and followed with his new disc “Refuse to Lose” in 2014.

“I grew up with gospel,” said Singleton, during a recent phone interview from his home in Mississippi. “My uncle taught me how to play bass guitar when I was nine. He needed a bass player for his church music at the True Gospel Church of God in Christ in Jackson.

“My grandfather would preach and play guitar at the same time. He got older and got arthritis. So, he came to me and said you’ve got to play guitar. We had this thing called ‘testimony service.’ Anyone could testify or sing a song. Older women would sing slower songs and younger people did faster songs. So, I had to learn to play in all different keys and tempos.”

Back then, music was never Singleton’s first love. It was basketball and the sport loved him back.

“Basketball was my main thing growing up,” said Singleton. “I was named the number one high school player in Mississippi in 2002 and I went to University of Southern Mississippi on a basketball scholarship. I played there three years and then they changed coaches.

“So, I transferred to William Carey University, a NAIA school that was also in Hattiesburg. I was the National Player of the Year and was ranked number one in scoring with a 25 point-per-game average and number five in assists with 6.3 per game.

“After I graduated, I played pro ball overseas. Then, I came back to the states and had tryouts with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indianapolis Pacers. But, I tore my ankle up and that ended my basketball career.

“I came back home on crutches. Lying in bed with my foot in the air, I started writing music and doing some soul searching. The blues has been a big-time healing process for me. For that, I’m really grateful to God.”

Basketball’s loss has been blues music’s gain. In 2009, he formed The Jarekus Singleton Blues Band and quickly built a reputation as a tremendously gifted musician and performer. He was named a “star on the rise” by Blues & Rhythm magazine in the UK and Guitar Center named him the 2011 King of the Blues in Mississippi.

“I’m still working ‘Refuse to Lose’ — and I’m always in the studio,” said Singleton. “There are new songs — a lot of stuff I’m working on. For my next record, I’m going back to P.M. Studios (Paul Matthews Music Productions) in Memphis. I did my last album there with Paul and the chemistry was great.

“I want to go back and do it again. I have a lot of songs ready to be recorded. I don’t know how many I have really. That’s just how I work. Just like when I go onstage. People ask me what songs I’m going to play and I don’t know. I never know what I’m going to play. I don’t know until I get up to the microphone

“The ‘Refuse to Lose’ album is doing well. It was just Number 12 on the Billboard charts last week — right behind Tommy Castro. Sales are good. At festivals, people are asking for songs from it and they’re singing along

“Every now and then I do a cover song in my set — but not very often. I like to pay tribute to Albert King and also to Freddie King. When I first started my band in Jackson, Mississippi, you had to play covers to survive. But, I got really tired of playing cover songs for four years. I like my originals a lot better.”

Video link for Jarekus Singleton — https://youtu.be/oGMyEFTksdo?list=PLeHRj2cn3C6U14rTtlQat-FZ8MOYagPxl.

Singleton’s concert will start at 8 p.m. with opening act Toney Rocks. Tickets for the August 19 show at the Sellersville Theater are $19.50 and $29.50.

Another hot show on August 19 will take place when Social Distortion plays at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing (601 North Columbus Boulevard at Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215- 629-3200, www.festivalpierphilly.com).

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of tits “self-titled” album, Social Distortion has announced a 2015 North American tour — a six-week tour where they will perform their “self-titled” album in its entirety.

Released in March 1990, “Social Distortion” was the iconic band’s third album and the first for Epic Records.  It became the group’s best-selling album worldwide — and the first one to enter the Billboard 200 album chart. Singles “Story Of My Life,” “Ball and Chain,” “Ring of Fire” and “Let It Be Me” all reached Top 25 Billboard single chart positions.

In addition to performing “Social Distortion” front to back, the band will also play classic tracks and rarities from their extensive back catalogue.

Social Distortion, one of America’s all-time great punk rock bands, features Mike Ness (Vocals, Guitar), Jonny Wickersham (Guitar), Brent Harding (Bass) and Dave Hidalgo Jr. (Drums). Amazingly, the band has recorded just seven albums in 32 years.

“We haven’t toured the states in a while so it was time,” said Wickersham, during a recent phone interview from his home in Southern California. “For a band like this, we have to stay on the road. We spend a lot of time touring.

“With us, records just sort of happen when they happen. We could do an album every two years like other bands but we won’t do it unless we feel like doing it. With a lot of bands that have a lot of albums, there’s not a lot of interesting material — not a lot to offer.”

Social Distortion’s first album was “Mommy’s Little Monster” in 1983 and its most recent release was “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” in 2011.

“Between each release, there’s at least five years,” said Wickersham, whose side projects include the Cadillac Tramps and Jonny Two Bags. “It’s going to be a little while until Social Distortion does some more recording.

“Social Distortion has its sound and we don’t stay far from it. But, we do have some change. Social Distortion’s catalogue is like a diary of Mike’s life. Mike brings the song to the band and we jam it out. Then, whatever sticks in the head becomes the song.”

Video link for Social Distortion — https://youtu.be/Qs-s0_yGpyg.

The show at Festival Pier, which starts at 6 p.m., will also feature Lucero, Benjamin Booker, Nikki Lane and Drag The River. Tickets are $35 and $40. 

The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Better Than Bacon on August 13; Mark Thousands, Brian Turner, Remory, Kevin Winstein and Mark Wheeler on August 14 and Johnny A. on August 16.

Doc Watson’s Public House (150 North Pottstown Pike, Exton, 610-524-2424, docwatsonspublichouse.com) will host Ehud Guy and T on August 14 and Nirvana tribute band Lithium on August 15.

Valley Forge Casino (1160 First Avenue, King Of Prussia, 610-354-8118, https://www.vfcasino.com) will host a performance by Ginger Coyle on August 14.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will host Redtail Court, Serotonin and HookahMen!? On August 14 and Bacton Hill and  boog on August 15.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Splintered Sunlight- Grateful Dead Tribute and The Brummy Brothers on August 13 and Rebirth Brass Band and the West Philadelphia Orchestra on August 14.

Melodies Café (2 East Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, 610-645-5269, www.melodiescafe.com) will host Rosemary Ostrowski’s “The Living Room Series” on August 14 and 81st Street, Bohdan Harik and Room 150 on August 15.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Jefferson Starship, Jazz Is Dead and Quicksilver Happy Trails on August 14, the Psychedelic Furs and The Church on August 15 and Miranda Sings on August 19.

“Nunsense” is running at the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) now through August 22.

Video link for “Nunsense ” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xscpTLQmrck.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

Rainbow’s Comedy Playhouse (3065 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, 800-292-4301, http://rainbowcomedy.com) is presenting “Over the River & Through the Woods” now through October 24.

Matinee performances are every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and selected Saturdays with an 11:30 a.m. lunch and a 1 p.m. curtain. Evening performances are every Friday, Saturday and selected Thursdays with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the show following at 8 p.m. There will also be “Twilight Performances” on selected Sundays with dinner at 2:30 p.m. and the show at 4 p.m. Ticket prices range from $30-$55.

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