On Stage: Wright, Fischer bring distinctive voices to area

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

Chely Wright

Chely Wright

Two very distinctive and very influential female vocalists will be performing in the area in December 3 – Chely Wright in Sellersville and Lisa Fischer in Bryn Mawr.

Wright will be sharing the bill with the Amy Ray Band at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) on December 3.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Wright grew up in a musical family in a small town in Kansas. She began singing professionally at age 11, and by her senior year of high school was working as performing musician at the Ozark Jubilee, a country music show in Branson, Missouri. After graduating, she went directly to Nashville as part of the music production at Opryland USA theme park.

Wright burst onto the country music scene in 1994 and floored listeners with her debut album. The Academy of Country Music (ACM) named her Top New Female Vocalist in 1995. Wright’s first Top 40 country hit came in 1997 with “Shut Up and Drive.” Two years later, Wright’s fourth album “Single White Female” produced several hit singles, including the Number 1 title track and her first gold album certification.

But Wright is more than just a talented singer/songwriter that has been one of the best female vocalists in country music for more than two decades – she is also a gay rights activist.

In May 2010, Wright became one of the first major country music performers to publicly come out as lesbian. Country music is not a genre that is known for its tolerance for the LGBT community. In her 2010 Random House memoir, “Like Me,” Wright wrote about her coming out as a lesbian and about all the trauma and inner turmoil she had been through.

“Homophobia is real,” said Wright, during a recent phone interview from her home in New York City. “That’s why it was so scary to come out of the closet. It was a really hard decision – especially with my community on country music and where I came from. I knew my audience and it was pretty scary.”

A documentary film about Wright’s extended coming out, “Wish Me Away,” was released in 2011. The film shares its title with one of the tracks on her 2010 album, “Lifted Off the Ground.” The film premiered at the 35th annual Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco on June 22, 2011.

Wright took some time off from music. She married LGBT rights advocate Lauren Blitzer in 2011 and gave birth to identical twin boys in 2013.

Earlier this year, Wright jumped back into the country music scene and released a fresh new album filled with tasty songs. “I Am the Rain” was released via MRI/Sony/Painted Red Records on September 9, 2016 after being funded by fans through a Kickstarter campaign which was launched in September 2014.

Wright approached the writing process for “I Am the Rain” with a new-found hope and excitement that a musical and lyrical expression unique to her alone was in her reach.

According to Wright, “I spent time in the hospital room with my mother while she was dying. I’d recently written ‘At the Heart of Me,’ and as my mom listened to the demo of that song, it became clear to me that it was time to start a new record. The first song recorded for the album, “See Me Home,” set the stage for the rest of the songs to come. That song became the rudder of the whole album.”

With the release of “I Am the Rain,” Wright served notice that she was back.

“The album was recorded the first week in September 2014 and came out that exact same week in 2015,” said Wright. “I recorded in L.A. for the first time – at Sunset Studio. It’s an amazing studio. In the past, I’ve done records in New York, Memphis and Nashville but this was my first in Los Angeles.

“I was in L.A. for 10 days and recorded eight days in total. I cut 14 and kept 13. I’m always writing songs. I put them in the ‘Big Old Pile of Songs’ folder in my computer. In the summer of 2014, I had the urge to pull them out and put an album together.

“I teamed with (producer) Joe Henry and he dug through the pile. He said to me – there definitely is a narrative there. It’s a sonic narrative – a narrative in that’s it’s to be absorbed from end-to-end – put your phone down, put headphones on and hit play.

“It’s a vulnerable record for me in a way. On this one, I’m so right. I fully absorb the responsibilities and the right to be wrong – and I can also be celebrating a triumph in life. I’m a human and that’s O.K. I’m all right.”

Video link for Chely Wright — https://youtu.be/AZjgVEe34Cg?t=12

The show in Sellersville, which also features the Amy Ray Band. will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 and $40.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Gary Hoey on December 1, Popa Chubby on December 2, Ornament on December 4, and Peter Murphy on December 7.

Lisa Fischer

Lisa Fischer

Lisa Fischer will be performing at Bryn Mawr College’s Goodhart Hall (150 North Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr, 610- 526-5000, http://www.brynmawr.edu/arts/series.html) with her band Grand Baton as part of Bryn Mawr College’s Performing Arts Series.

Fischer released her first album “So Intense” in 1991 – an album that featured the hit single “How Can I Ease the Pain.” The song reached number one on the R&B charts and won her a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1992.  The album spawned three Top 20 R&B hits and peaked at #5 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and #100 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Fischer’s sophomore album has yet to be recorded. In the last two decades, Fischer has become one of the most sought-after back-up singers in the music world.

She began her music career providing backing vocals for artists such as Melba Moore, Billy Ocean, Chaka Khan, Teddy Pendergrass, Roberta Flack and Luther Vandross. Her duets with Mick Jagger have become staples in every Rolling Stones tour since 1989 –especially “Monkey Man” and “Gimme Shelter,” which showcase her vocal talents and are frequently on the set lists during their live concerts.

“My connection with the Stones began when I was touring with Luther Vandross,” said Fischer, during a phone interview Wednesday morning from her home in New York City. “Mick was going on a solo tour and was looking for a singer so they asked me to come down for an audition. I gave him my tape and he put it in his boombox. When he was listening to it, he got up and did his cat moves. There was a vibe there.”

Fischer joined the Rolling Stones on tour for the first time for their 1989 Steel Wheels tour and when the spotlight catches her singing with Jagger, she is a quintessential rock and roll goddess.

The unexpected success of the Oscar-winning documentary “Twenty Feet from Stardom” (2013) altered the course of Lisa’s musical journey. The film told her story, complete with clips of her 1991 Grammy-winning R&B hit “How Can I Ease the Pain,” live footage of her legendary duets with Mick Jagger on “Gimme Shelter,” and glowing testimonials from famous colleagues like Sting, Patti Austin, and Chris Botti. It showcased her virtuosity and vulnerability and earned her a second Grammy Award.

Fischer and her band Grand Baton first set out on tour in 2014, with no product to sell and no recordings or video to help book or promote shows. Despite all that, based on Fischer’s reputation alone, they were invited to play in clubs and at the Newport and Monterey Jazz Festivals.

“The catalyst for my solo touring was the film,” said Fischer. “I had been working with the Stones and Sting and was in between tours. I was living moment-to-moment. After the film became a hit, I’d do promotional gigs about the movie at film festivals and people kept asking me – are you going to do any shows?

“I asked Linda Goldstein, who is Bobby McFerrin’s manager, to help me. She found J.C. Maillard to be my musical director. Now, he plays keys, guitar and sings with Grand Baton along with Aiden Carroll on bass and Thierry Arpino on drums. We have great musical rapport. The whole trio listens to me and they listen to each other – and they listen to their hearts. I feel safe with them.”

Their music is an organic gumbo of progressive rock, psychedelic soul, and African, Middle Eastern, Caribbean rhythms and classical influences. In performance, they re-invent songs by Led Zeppelin, Amy Grant, Little Willie John, and The Rolling Stones as well as Fischer’s originals.

“I do songs that were close to me because of the work I’ve done throughout the years with acts like the Stones and Tina Turner,” said Fischer. And, I do ‘Breath of Heaven,’ a Grover Washington song. After that, I start branching out and choosing things that intrigued me – things that had stories – songs that I thought would be fun to cover.

“Melodies are important to me. They provide the pathway to timeless space. It’s kind of like working with clay – feeling it in your hand and then, all of a sudden, something takes shape. I always try to capture a story.”

Video link for Lisa Fischer – https://youtu.be/u6Xpj0Eag_c?t=6.

The show at Bryn Mawr College will get underway at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20, $18 for seniors over 65, $10 for students with ID and $5 for children under 12.


Consider The Source

Vocals will not be in the spotlight at the concert on December 1 at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com). When Consider the Source performs at AMH, there will be no vocals at all.

Consider the Source is an American instrumental trio from New York City. Formed in 2004, the group has released five studio albums, two live albums, toured extensively across The United States, and visited Israel, Turkey, Germany, and India. The band features Gabriel Marin, Guitars; John Ferrara, Bass; Jeff Mann, Drums and Percussion.

According to the band’s bio on its website, “If intergalactic beings of pure energy, after initiation into an order of whirling dervishes, built some kind of pan-dimensional booty-shaking engine, powered by psychedelics and abstract math, it’d probably just sound like a CTS tribute band. Drawing from progressive rock, fusion and jazz, with alien sounds soaked in Indian and Middle Eastern styles, CTS blends disparate parts into a striking, utterly original whole. Dubbed “Sci-Fi Middle Eastern Fusion”, the band’s music strikes a rare balance between cerebral and emotional, intellectual and primal.”

Consider the Source’s eighth album “World War Trio (Parts 2 and 3)” came out in June 2015.

“‘World War Trio’ was the last album we did,” said Mann, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in New York City. “It’s a three-CD series with close to three hours of music. We’re just beginning to work on material for a new album.

“Composing songs starts mostly with parts of ideas that we share with each other. But, there are times when someone will come in with a fuller idea for a piece.”

According to Marin, the group’s lone remaining founding member, “Our music combines influences from Turkish, Bulgarian, North and South Indian styles with jazz and fusion, and then we filter it through our own heavy, rock and psychedelic sounds and approaches.”

The band is also known for its use of alap, which is the opening section of a typical North Indian classical performance. It is a form of melodic improvisation that introduces and develops a raga.

“We don’t really take a raga structure,” said Mann. “It’s more the Indian rhythm that we steal. We will improvise with a solo piece and we do the alap to start every show. Actually, a lot of our influence comes from Turkish music.’
Mann is the newest member of Consider the Source.

“I joined a little over four years ago,” said Mann. “A friend who was a booking agent gave me a Consider the Source CD a while ago. Later, I was in another band that opened for them in Savannah.

“But, we actually got together through Craig’s List. I saw a Craig’s List ad that described the sound and said – world fusion progressive band seeks drummer who can play unusual time signatures. I answered the ad and finished by saying – is this Consider the Source. I think that’s a big reason they contacted me.

“I was definitely interested in world music. I’ve gained a lot more knowledge since I joined the band and have messed around with different types of percussion including dumbek and kanjira.

“For the show in Ardmore, we’ll be playing two sets. The first set will be our style covers of Radiohead songs. In the second set, we’ll be playing all original compositions.”

Video link for Consider the Source — https://youtu.be/DuhAwSVHB5E?t=19.

The show in Ardmore, which has the band Tweed doing a set between the two CTS sets, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are Hoots & Hellmouth on December 2, Lima Bean Riot on December 3, Sherwood Brothers on December 4, and BVT Live! on December 5.

If you’re looking for a live show to attend on December 2, you could face the daunting challenge of choosing between Barb Wire Dolls and Whores. – or you could opt to check out a show by Slim Cessna.

Barb Wire Dolls

Barb Wire Dolls

Barb Wire Dolls, who are headlining a show at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com), are a Greek punk rock band from Crete featuring Isis Queen on vocals, lead guitarist Pyn Doll, rhythm guitarist Remmington Pearce, bassist Iriel Blaque, and drummer Krash Doll. The group’s debut EP, “Punk the Fussies!” was self-released in 2010.

“Me and Pyn started off in an artists’ commune in Crete called Ikarus,” said Isis Queen, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Columbus, Ohio.

“We started a band because we were fed up with rock and roll. It was too predictable. In rock, you need to be yourself and be different. Punk rock was our main influence – band like the Sex Pistols and the Clash.”

Barb Wire Dolls are one of the most vital new bands in music today, representing all that is inspiring and furious about rock and roll. The band sold everything it owned and left crisis-ridden Greece in 2010 for Los Angeles, at the invite of legendary KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer. Upon their arrival in California, Barb Wire Dolls immediately sold out the world-famous Roxy Theatre in Hollywood.

The band’s latest album is “Desperate,” which was released earlier this year on Motörhead Music, a label founded by the late, great Lemmy Kilmister.

“Making ‘Desperate’ was an easy process,” said Isis Queen. “We wrote it on the road. Before Lemmy picked us up, we were a D.I.Y. band so we always wrote on the road. There is music all around you. When you’re aware of it, you can connect to it and that starts the process. There are always things to write about – what we’ve seen on the road is hard to describe.

“There is a lot of desperation in the world and it seems as if there is no answer for it. But, if you look within, you can find a way to do it. People shouldn’t try to escape. Our songs talk about ways to find to make the most of it. This album is about fighting the demon within.

“Our first album was ‘Slit’ a few years ago. It looked more at the world outside. It had a lot of our family in mind. The crisis hit Greece in 2010. People here became more accustomed to their surroundings and the politicians they voted for didn’t come through.”

Greece is known for handling times of struggle – as well as for great art and phenomenal food.

“Greek people are very passionate about their culture,” said Isis Queen. “They do express their emotions. The good thing about it is that great art will come from it. With Greece, whatever goes down must come back up. There definitely is going to be great art coming from this.”

Barb Wire Dolls’ latest work of great art has been aided greatly by the band’s association with Kilmister, who passed away last December at the age of 70.

“Lemmy was one of the first people we met when we arrived in L.A.,” said Isis Queen. “He was great. He liked what he saw in our live shows and he kept collecting our demos. It was a great honor for us that he took so much interest in our band.”

Video link for Barb Wire Dolls – https://youtu.be/2XPoOzj0Tm0?t=11.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which also features Molly Rhythm and Dr. Beardface and the Spacemen, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.



Whores., which shares the bill with Torche and Red Fang on December 2 at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org), is an American noise rock band based in Atlanta. The line-up features vocalist/guitarist Christian Lembach, bass guitarist Casey Maxwell and drummer Donnie Adkinson.

On October 28th, 2016 Whores. released its new album “Gold” via Entertainment One (eOne). The debut LP was recorded at Parhelion Studios with producer Ryan Boesch (Helmet, Fu Manchu, Melvins) “Gold” is the follow-up to the highly-acclaimed EP “Clean,” which came out in 2013 on Brutal Panda Records. “Clean” is now on its fourth pressing.

Formed in 2010, Atlanta, Ga. noise merchants Whores. have quickly become infamous, thanks to their crushing live shows and no-holds-barred punk rock attitude. The band signed to Brutal Panda Records in 2011 to unleash its debut, “Ruiner.” Recorded at The Factory in Atlanta, “Ruiner.” featured five crushingly-heavy tracks of noise rock perfectly suitable for fans of Helmet, Pissed Jeans, Harvey Milk and The Jesus Lizard.

“The line-up now is very different from when we started,” said founding member Lembach, during a phone interview Monday afternoon as the band travelled from a gig in Houston to a show in Atlanta.

“Donnie joined three years ago and Casey joined a year-and-a-half ago. Neither of them were on ‘Clean.’ It took a while to find a line-up that worked. You have to put your heart into it. Not everybody is built for touring.

“We recorded the new album in June and July. We did all the basic tracks at the same time. Once we got done with the guitar and singing, we mixed it as we went. We had a studio of our own in Atlanta to use so we weren’t chained to a clock.

“We had a few ideas at the end of last year. At the beginning of this year, we made a definite decision to take time off the road and to stay in our practice space a lot. When we’re writing, usually it will all start with one riff and maybe we’ll put a second part with it. So, it has a call-and-response thing. Then, it all takes shape when we start to play it together. We think about different arrangements and how to place the parts.

“On this tour, we’re one of the opening bands so we only get to play a short set. But, we like playing short sets – just riff as hard as we can and make the most intense music possible.”

Video link for Whores. – https://youtu.be/FDCkaw19u7A?t=4.

The show at Underground Arts, which also features Torche and Red Fang, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Slim Cessnas Auto Club

Slim Cessnas Auto Club

Also on December 2, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club will be headlining a show at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com). The band’s line-up includes Slim Cessna, Munly Munly, Lord Dwight Pentacost, Rebecca Vera, Ian O’Dougherty, and Andrew Warner. Led by Slim Cessna himself, he and his band of old traditionalists have been around in one form or another since 1993. The sound is classic country with elements of rock and bluegrass and Cessna delivers his lyrics with the fervor of a gospel choir.

Newly returned from a triumphal European tour, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is touring North American in support of its newest album “The Commandments According to SCAC.”

It has been 24 years since Slim Cessna formed Slim Cessna’s Auto Club with a group of talented peers after parting ways with The Denver Gentlemen.

Rather than resting on its laurels, the Auto Club challenged itself to break with well-worn modes of operating for the new record.

“The Commandments According to SCAC” will be the first full-length album of original material released on the Auto Club’s own imprint, SCACUNINCORPORATED. The title evokes the themes of cosmic punishment and redemption that have served the band’s songwriting engine so well in the past. But this set of songs sounds more hopeful and expansive.

“This will be our first time out since the release of the album,” said Cessna, during a recent phone interview from his home in Denver. “We put the album out in September on our own label.

“The album was pretty much recorded all of last year. We took our tine and used a lot of basements in our houses. Half of it was written before we started recording and the other half was written during the sessions. On this album, every song was written by Munly. That’s the direction we’ve been going for the last few albums. We’ve learned to use our strengths.

“Mostly, we did it and pieced it all together. It was almost like a collage project. We had to do a little tweaking at the end.”

By now, the band members are able to get on the same page fairly easily.

“Munly, Dwight and I have been together 17-18 years,” said Cessna. “Rebecca has been with us three years and Ina one. The drummer has been with us since summer. Hopefully, it’s all stable now. A lot of bands from Denver have gone on to significant success while others have come and gone. We just keep going. We’re older than most but we still blow away younger bands. We have more experience. We’re known for our live shows.

“With the new album, there was a concept. Every song was to be around commandments – but not Biblical commandments. We do have fun with making an album from beginning to end. We do enjoy making concept records. But, every song on this record also works as an individual song.”

Video link for Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – https://youtu.be/IWFOV1ZdTmg?t=3.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which also features Mercury Radio Theater, will start at 9:15 p.m. Tickets are $14.



Driftwood is a bluegrass band from upstate New York featuring Dan Forsyth (guitar, vocals), Joe Kollar (banjo, vocals), Joey Arcuri (bass) and Claire Byrne (fiddle, vocals). MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) is a rock club in downtown Philadelphia.

On December 3, they will come together when Driftwood headlines a show at the Center City venue. The match will work because Driftwood is not your average bluegrass band dripping with Americana vibes and MilkboyPHilly is not a genre-specific club.

Based in Binghamton, New York, Driftwood is a band with a rock-and-roll soul and a folk-art mind. Carving out a name for themselves with electrifying live performances, the four musicians bring one of the most unique, raw sounds to the Americana/roots music scene. Incorporating upright bass, banjo, acoustic guitar and violin, the ghost of traditional American folk music lives in their palette. But the melodies, the harmonies and the lyrics are something else entirely.

The band’s new album “City Lights” came out on November 4. The disc shows Driftwood’s versatility with songs representing a variety of genres including folk, old-time, country, punk, and rock.

“We recorded ‘City Lights’ in January 2016 after staring pre-production in November,” said Arcuri, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in Framingham, Massachusetts

“The process of making the album was longer than we expected with the overdubbing and mixing. We recorded it in our home studio in Binghampton. Joe Kollar has some great equipment. We had the freedom to take our time because we didn’t have the tight schedule of a studio. When we finished, we sent the tracks to a producer in Syracuse for the remixing. We also went back and did a few things over before we finished with it.”

In his description of the Driftwood sound, Kollar said, “I consider our sound to be more of an attitude and an approach – the result of all of our influences in a completely open musical forum where the only stipulation is to use bluegrass instruments and create it from the heart.”

“The other three write but I don’t,” said Arcuri. “They each write separately, bring it to the band and we all finish the song. It will evolve and everyone adds their input. For me, the song speaks for itself and a bass line will come out of the air.”

Arcuri is not one of the original members.

“I’m the most recent member and I’ve been with the band five years,” said Arcuri. “Joe and Dan grew up together and went to the same high school. They were in various bands together – funk, rock and electric guitars. Dan moved to Colorado for a year and was around bluegrass. When he came back, they started Driftwood and got into singer/songwriter music instead of jamming. That’s why Driftwood is a song-driven band.

“With the new album, we’re the tightest we’ve ever been. We’ve been in tihs formation the longest. It’s the most mature representation of ourselves. It’s also the first album with songs Claire wrote sand they’re just great. With producing it ourselves, it’s the most hands-on album we’ve done. We kept the string band ting and expanded it a bit. We spent a lot of time on it and it’s pretty special.”

Video link for Driftwood – https://youtu.be/hZrO9_uqloI?t=7.

The show at Milkboy Philly, which also features Black Horse Motel, will start at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Steve Forbert

Steve Forbert

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Steve Forbert on December 2, Angelee on December 3 and Open Mic with William Rose on December 4.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will have St. Phoenix, Stone Eye, Mind’s Eye Society and Mike Muli on December 2, and Kyle Swartzwelder and Ryan Cohen on December 3.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Claire Phillips on December 2, and Matt Duke with John Craigie on December 3.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Donovan on December 1 and Art Garfunkel on December 4.

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