On Stage: McKay offers perfect musical compliment to spring

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Nellie McKay

When Nellie McKay performs on stage, her warm voice and engaging delivery seem to make beautiful musical flowers appear in the air.

When people pay a visit to Longwood Gardens (Route 1, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000, www.longwoodgardens.org), there are beautiful flowers in the air and everywhere.

So, when McKay visits Longwood Gardens on April 12 for a show in the Ballroom, the audience can expect a flowery good time – especially since the title of McKay’s most recent album is “Sister Orchid.”

“I’m just finishing a straight month of touring,” said McKay during a recent phone interview. “I was doing a show pretty much every night for a full month. I was touring the Midwest and the West Coast. I’ve been primarily touring in support of ‘Sister Orchid’ – but not exclusively. The show I perform each night depends on where we go and what people ask for.

McKay treats fans to live renditions of classic songs that are commonly referred to as standards. Her set list might also feature a Beatles song or even the Frank Zappa classic tune, “Hungry Freaks Daddy.”

McKay is touring on-and-off in support of her new album “Sister Orchid” – an album filled with songs that were popular long before she was born. Back in December, she brought her musically-diverse and highly-interesting live show to recently-closed Rrazz Room in New Hope.

“Sister Orchid” includes timeless gems such as “Willow Weep for Me,” which was first recorded in 1932 by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and later was a hit for Billie Holiday in the mid-1950s; “Georgia on My Mind,” a Hoagy Carmichael song from 1930 that was a hit for Ray Charles in 1960; and “In a Sentimental Mood,” which was penned and performed by Duke Ellington in 1935.

On McKay’s website, “Sister Orchid,” which was released May 2018 on Palmetto Records, had this description – “Conjuring the image of a lonely all night truck stop along Highway 1 on the California coast, all but lost in the fog that comes creeping along the shoreline… this album speaks of the night, the outsider, the plaintive wail of those lost at sea. ‘Sister Orchid’ was conceived in solitude, executed in darkness. It comes from a place of quiet, a world of low lights and cool drinks, up against a hard wall.  An oasis of hungry eyes and easy promises, warm as a biscuit, the kind of place your mother warned you against.”

Tackling such classic standards was a tough challenge but McKay proved she was equal to the task.

“It took me a long time to make this album,” said McKay. “I’ve known some of these songs since I was little. All of them are standards. For many years, I thought about doing a solo album like this. It seemed right. Selecting the songs to record was extremely difficult – almost impossible – because there are so many great songs. The songs I chose blended together well on this album.”

The album features McKay on vocals with just piano accompaniment.

“I recorded it last summer in Pennsylvania and New York,” said McKay. “The song list was large. We had about 40 songs and then whittled it down. Everything had something going forward. It was just me on this record. I sang and played piano. I think it has a different flavor than most albums – no other instruments.”

McKay first played shows in this area back in 2004 to accompany the release of her debut album “Get Away from Me” on Columbia Records

When she was getting started, McKay’s music bridged the gap between jazz and hip-hop — a combination not often heard in today’s pop music.

The versatile performer was born in London and raised in New York, the Pacific Northwest and Pennsylvania’s Pocono Manor. When she was still in her teens, she was living in her own apartment in New York — at the edge of Harlem at 123rd and Amsterdam.

McKay, who attended school at Pocono Mountain Junior and Senior High, learned to play a variety of instruments including piano, cello, timpani, vibes, triangle and saxophone. Her main concentration has always been on keyboards.

“I played with the East Stroudsburg University Jazz Ensemble when I was still in high school,” said McKay. “Patrick Dorian, a music professor at ESU, gave me my first formal jazz training. He taught me a lot about composition.”

Eventually, McKay began playing gigs at New York piano bars such as Don’t Tell Mama’s, Stonewall Bistro, Psychic Cafe, Regents, Rose’s Turn, and Mozart Café (where she was canned because she liked to play Christmas songs in August when people weren’t sick of them). A record deal with Columbia followed and the rest is history.

“Sister Orchid” marks McKay’s seventh label release in just 31 years. Her previous albums include “Get Away from My Head,”  “Pretty Little Villagers,” “Obligatory Pie,” “Normal as Home: A Tribute to My Day,” “Sweet Mobile” and “Blueberry Reader.”

McKay is like a modern-day “Renaissance Woman.”

On Broadway, she won a Theatre World Award for her portrayal of Polly Peachum in “The Threepenny Opera.” She also co-created and starred in the award-winning Off-Broadway hit “Old Hats,” and has written and produced musical biographies around a compelling gallery of ladies – from environmental pioneer Rachel Carson to the life, conviction, and execution at San Quentin of underdog Barbara Graham.

Recent projects include “The Big Molinsky – Considering Joan Rivers,” and “A GIRL NAMED BILL – The Life and Times of Billy Tipton,” which was named one of the “Best Concerts of the Year” by The New York Times.

McKay’s screen work includes roles in “PS I Love You” and “Downtown Express.” She contributed movie music to “Rumor Has It,” “Monster-in-Law,” “Gasland,” “Last Holiday,” and “Private Life.”

In the television world, her music has been heard on “Mad Men,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Weeds,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “NCIS,” “Nurse Jackie,” and “SMILF.” Additionally, McKay’s writing has appeared in The Onion, Interview, and The New York Times Book Review.

“Right now, it’s a cabaret act,” said McKay. “That’s what we’ll do – a classic cabaret show. I’ll be playing all the songs from the album. Also, people call out request and I like to oblige them.”

McKay also has devoted much of her life to projects combating animal abuse.

She is a recipient of PETA’s Humanitarian Award and The Humane Society’s Doris Day Music Award in recognition of her dedication to animal rights.

“I’ve been a vegetarian since I was eight,” said McKay. “I’ve been vegan since 2004. Non-violence begins on your plate.”

Musically, McKay always has a lot on her plate.

“I think I’m doing a couple songs with Spencer Day,” said McKay. “And, I’m recording something with Angel Olson. There is always something going on.

“And, I’ve been writing. It would be great to have another album out this year. I’ve already got some songs ready.”

Video link for Nellie McKay — https://youtu.be/9X4ziRTmA-k.

The show at Longwood Gardens will start at 8 p.m. Reserved seating is $35 and includes all-day Gardens Admission.

Boney James

Boney James, who is headlining a show on April 11 at the Scottish Rite Auditorium (315 White Horse Pike, Collingswood, New Jersey, scottishriteauditorium.com), is a saxophonist, songwriter, and record producer – one of America’s most popular soul, jazz and R&B saxophonists.

James is still out on the road touring in support of his latest album “Honestly,” which was released in late 2017.

“The album came out in September 2017,” said James, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon during a tour stop in Newport News,

“I started recording it in June a year prior. I was doing a lot of it during the turmoil of the election.  It was influenced by the election. I wantd a positive theme. The music is fun and happy – a good antidote for all the negativity.

“A lot of it was about trying to find the positive energy by making music that is fun and uplifting. Music is a wonderful thing. Music is such a vital force in terms of human experience. Music is an important way to bring people together.”

“Honestly,” which is James’ 16th album, is his follow-up to “futuresoul,” another award-winning album. The album before that – “The Beat” in 2013 — was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Pop Instrumental Album.

“Honestly” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Jazz and Contemporary Jazz charts and has remained there for weeks.  In addition, the album debuted at #22 on the Billboard Current Albums chart, which was the highest debut to date for the four-time GRAMMY nominated artist.

“Every song on the album was co-written except ‘Skylark,’ which is a cover of a classic by Hoagy Carmichael’,” said James, who has racked up sales of more than three million records and four RIAA gold albums.

“Co-writing happens different ways – someone will send me something or I’ll have an idea and send it to someone. The bulk of my catalogue is co-writes.

“I always work with co-writers. This album had about the same number of collaborators as usual. We’ll be working on a song and, if it needs someone, we’ll get them.

“When I first start writing a song, I begin with a blank slate. The song could start with a melody or a keyboard chord progression or a sax phrase.

“I generally make a version of the song by myself. I’ll create a pretty full arrangement and then replace parts with musicians. Although, sometimes I stay with the original.

“The “Honestly’ album is a little more exposed. I thought the melodies were really strong and that the songs called for less treatment. It’s more sincere.”

Over the years, James has won a Soul Train Award, received nominations for two NAACP Image Awards and placed 10 albums atop Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. In 2009, Billboard named him the #3 Contemporary Jazz Artist of The Decade (trailing just Kenny G and Norah Jones).

“The current live set has four songs from the latest record,” said James. “For this tour, I’ve dusted off a lot of stuff I hadn’t been playing in years. With 16 albums, there is a lot to choose from. Some of the must-play songs are ‘Sweet Thing,’ ‘Grazing in the Grass’ and ‘After the Rain.’ I’m always trying to pay my homage to R&B. At the same time, I just try to make my music individual to me.”

Video link for Boney James – https://youtu.be/FU8TAWYq_z4.

The show at the Scottish Rite Auditorium will start at 7:30. Tickets are $59, $45 and $35.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Get the Led Out on April 12 and 13.

Grupo Fantasma

On April 11, World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com)  is presenting Grupo Fantasma, a Texas band that is touring in support of its new album “American Music: Vol. VII,” which was recently released on Blue Corn Music.

The nine-piece collective, which formed in 2000 in Austin, Texas, consists of Jose Galeano (timbales, vocals), Kino Esparza (vocals, hand percussion), Beto Martinez (guitar), Greg Gonzalez (bass), John Speice (drums), Matthew “Sweet Lou” Holmes (congas), Gilbert Elorreaga (trumpet), Josh Levy (baritone saxophone) and Mark “Speedy” Gonzales (trombone).

Austin’s cumbia all-stars Grupo Fantasma has been praised as one of the most important independent acts in the Latin genre and has continually defied expectations to create one of the most unique musical voices to come out of the United States in the 21st century. In 2011, they garnered further acclaim by winning a Grammy (their second such nomination) for their self–produced release “El Existential’ on Nat Geo Music.

Grupo Fantasma‘s incendiary live show has brought the band to major festivals and venues internationally including Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, North Sea Jazz Festival (Curacao and Rotterdam) and Lowlands in the Netherlands, Kennedy Center, London’s O2 Arena, Montreal Jazz Festival, WOMEX, WOMAD, Tempo Latino (France) as well as two tours to Kuwait and Iraq to entertain US troops and a recent tour in Pakistan and Qatar. Their diverse spectrum of devoted fans speaks to the ensemble’s universal appeal beyond just Latin or world music.

In addition, they have served as the backing band for and collaborated on several occasions with the late, great, legendary Prince (ALMA Awards on ABC, Golden Globes, CBS Super Bowl Bash, 21 Nights in London), Fania All–Stars pianist Larry Harlow, Sheila–E, GZA of Wu–Tang Clan, Maceo Parker, Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets, Ruben Ramos, GZA of the Wu–Tang Clan, cult–hero Daniel Johnston, indie rock standouts Spoon, Los Lobos and many others.

The title of Grupo Fantasma’s seventh full-length album “American Music Vol. VII” takes on definitions of identity, borders and who is illegal or “other.” In presenting their unique multi-ethnic musical mix to audiences over the years, Grupo were constantly challenged by “the concept of identity, citizenship, and the nationality of music,” especially in the press and music industry. Yet, as they attest, in many ways “music is the ultimate assimilator, crossing borders and cultures and mutating to represent the experiences of its performers.”

According to a statement on Grupo Fantasma’s website, “We maintain that regardless of language, our music is ‘American Music’ because we are from here. Our music is a product of our circumstances and we can still celebrate ethnic and cultural heritage while asserting our identity as Americans and sons of this country.”

It’s important to stress that Grupo has always had a special polyglot flavor that is an amalgamation of disparate sonic and thematic elements that defy easy characterization and seem to cohere with an impressive naturalness and grace. It’s an expansive and layered sound too, with two lead singers, multiple percussionists, a big brass section, prominent electric guitar, catchy bass lines, plenty of changes, and a whole plethora of influences. Thematically, the band’s lyrics range from the personal to the universal, the political to the social, from party tunes to down-tempo laments that carry the weight of romance gone wrong, loss and disappointment.

“We started recording the new album in January 2018,” said Beto Martinez, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from a tour stop in Washington, D.C. “We went to a studio outside El Paso to record it. It’s a really amazing facility. You stay there. People cook for you. It’s total immersion.”

The album was recorded at Sonic Ranch, the world’s largest residential recording complex and long on Grupo’s bucket list. The studio is located in the tiny border town of Tornillo, Texas, which, soon after Grupo finished their sessions at the ranch, became infamous as the site of an enormous and shameful immigrant detention center where countless children were housed separately from their families.

“We definitely were affected by this tragedy,” said Martinez.

According to the band, “This dissonance certainly impacted the album and inspired our message later on as we were creating lyrics and forming the message of the songs and the project as a whole.”

Martinez explained the challenges for a Grupo Fantasma recording session.

“With a band like this that has been around for 19 years, the members have a lot of commitments to the projects. When we were looking for a place to record, Sonic Ranch came to mind. We spent a week there with no distractions. We recorded all the basic tracks there.

“Over the next six months, we did overdubs at my studio in Austin and some with producer ‘Loco’ Bedoya – a super-talented Colombian guy who lives in Miami.

Carlos “El Loco” Bedoya is a highly-regarded Miami-based Colombian producer, audio engineer, musician, and songwriter. His credits are extensive, having worked with artists as diverse and successful as Beyoncé, Weezer, and ChocQuibTown.

According to the band, Bedoya “brought with him a wealth of knowledge and experience as mixer and engineer as well as huge ears and skills as a musician and songwriter.”

“When I first spoke to ‘Loco,’ he was very receptive,” said Martinez. “He propelled a lot of what we recorded. He even played keys on the record.

‘We had started doing the writing for the album a month prior to going to Sonic Ranch. Me and the bass player and the trombonist got together – trading demos and seeing what we came up with.

“When we went to Sonic Ranch, we had a number of tracks that weren’t fully finished. There were eight or nine tracks that we wanted to finish writing in the studio with a full band input. Different guys do it different ways. That’s why we wanted to get together in the studio.”

Martinez is the band’s main songwriter.

“I almost always start with a bass line or a guitar part,” said Martinez. “I start with a groove before a melody. I take it to the vocalists for the melodies.

“We finished mixing the album last summer in Miami with Loco and then started putting out singles in January this year. The album dropped on March 29.”

Video link for Grupo Fantasma – https://youtu.be/TkkyNMGiwtI.

The show at the World Cafe Live, which has Interminable as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Other upcoming shows at World Café Live are Kiefer on April 12, Minas on April 13, Cyrille Aimée on April 14, and Tommy Genesis an April 13.

Okilly Dokilly

Okilly Dokilly simultaneously sends very different messages to your brain – visually and aurally. If you see the band perform live, what you’re seeing does not match what you’re hearing.

You can see and hear this sensual enigma in person on April 11 when the band brings its “Howdilly Twodilly Tourdilly” to the Chameleon Club Lizard Lounge (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net).

If you just listened to Okilly Dokilly’s music and never saw any images of the band, you would expect to find a group of heavily- tattooed, grizzly characters dressed in all black with hair below their shoulders and sneers on their faces.

The music has all the force and impact you’d expect from top American metal bands or Scandinavian deathcore groups – all the way down to guttural screamed vocals.

On the flip side, if you just saw a picture of Okilly Dokilly – five guys wearing sweaters over collared shirts and wire-rimmed spectacles…with four of the five sporting short hair parted on the side and small, neatly-trimmed mustaches – you might expect a Christian Rock vocal group.

Okilly Dokilly is a metalcore band from Phoenix, Arizona that plays what it calls “Nedal” music — a subgenre of metal music themed around the animated character Ned Flanders from the television series The Simpsons.

All five of the band’s members perform dressed as Flanders, and the majority of the lyrics to their songs are quotes of his. The band’s original members went by the names Head Ned, Bled Ned, Red Ned, Stead Ned and Thread Ned. The current line-up features Head Ned (lead vocals, guitars, mandolin), Dread Ned (drums), Shred Ned (guitar, vocals, triangle), Bed Ned (bass) and Zed Ned (synth, vocals).

In November 2016, Okilly Dokilly released its Billboard-charting debut album “Howdilly Doodilly.” In 2017, the band’s first personnel change happened when original guitarist Stead Ned and original bassist Thread Ned departed the group. They were replaced by Cred Ned and Dead Ned.

“The band’s line-up change had mostly to do with touring,” said Head Ned during a phone interview from a tour stop in Omaha, Nebraska. “When we started, we just wanted to play locally. When the touring started, the rest of the guys got tired of being on the road so much and wanted to get back to their families. So, we just got some Neds who are used to the road.”

Okilly Dokilly has a strange storyline.

“It all started with drummer Bled Ned,” said Head Ned. “He wanted to come up with a heavy metal band with a silly name and Okilly Dokilly came up. Then, we thought – what if the front man dressed as Ned Flanders.  And then, we thought – what if the whole band dressed as Ned Flanders.

“We came up with the name because it’s one of Ned Flanders’ catch phrases. Our music centers around one of the friendliest characters on television fronting a band with angry music

“The idea came up in 2014 and we worked on the idea for a whole year – figuring out how we’d set it up. It was a side project. We weren’t adamant about a time deadline. That’s why it took so long to come together.

“We were playing in different indie/alt-rock bands. The band me and the drummer were in was compared to Weezer. This was a unique opportunity to branch out into a totally different genre.”

So, the five musicians went from average-looking indie-rock artists to nerdy-looking, mustachioed hardcore metal rockers.

“It was a little difficult to change how we played,” said Head Ned. “Screaming vocals was like a different instrument to try. Fortunately, the way that I scream doesn’t push on the vocal chords too much.

According to Head Ned, “Us Neds are very excited to be embarking on the ‘Howdilly Twodilly Tourdilly’ to say ‘Howdilly Doodilly’ to our neighborinos across the U.S. We’ve got some new tunes and we can guarantee it’s gonna be brutalino!”

The band spent a lot of time on the road prior to making its new album.

“We were touring a lot so we took a little break to write some new music,” said Head Ned. “By the time we were done touring, the original guys split. I knew I wanted to keep on touring. Getting new players for the band was a slow assembly. It started around December 2017 and into 2018.

“Most of it was word-of-mouth. The new band came together over a few months in 2018. Necessary requirements were 60 per cent mustache and 40 per cent ability to play the songs. As long as the old crumb duster works, everything is all right.

“In October 2018, we tiered the U.K. It was out first trip on the road with the new group. The album was recorded in December 2018 and we had already road-tested the new songs. We knocked it out in a month-and-a-half – not straight all the way through – more bits and pieces. I did pretty much all the songwriting and the other guys contributed theirs parts.”

Head Ned explained the evolution of the band’s music.

“The first album was written just for fun,” said Head Ned. “We didn’t know what the skill level would be. We kept the tracks pummeling and simple. On the new album, we kept the simplicity but also added parts more complicated – a tad more technical.”

Video link for Okilly Dokilly — https://youtu.be/8lnfOvc_jGg

The show at the Chameleon Club Lizard Lounge, which has Playboy Manbaby as the opening act, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Other upcoming acts at the Lizard Lounge are Wild Belle on April 12, and Split and Deep Rest on April 13.


If you want a metal act that looks more like a metal act, Cloak is coming to town.

On April 12, the Atlanta-based metal band Cloak will start its first tour of 2019 with a show at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

Cloak, which features Scott Taysom, Vocals/Guitar; Sean Bruneau, Drums; Max Brigham, Guitar; and Billy Robinson, Bass, will be on the bill of the Decibel Beer & Metal Prefest 2019 along with Integrity, Full of Hell, and Devil Master.

“Philly is our first show on this tour,” said Taysom, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in Atlanta. “We leave Thursday night and will be doing 16 shows in 17days. This is actually going to be our first tine to play Philly and it’s almost sold out.”

Cloak is still touring in support of its debut album “To Venomous Depths” as well as its new EP – “2 Hits From Hell EP” – which was just released on March 29.

“To Venomous Depths” is an amalgamation of Nordic black metal with catchy hooks and melodic rock. The quartet’s bold and blackened metal teems with dark energy, and “To Venomous Depths” is a testament to the genre’s primal power and magic.

“We started the band in 2013 and then went on hiatus,” said Taysom. “In 2015, we got back together with a solid plan. We wanted to do something different from what was out there. We wanted a vibe you could take seriously – something with a rock bottom. The metal scene was so oversaturated. I went back to the bands I listened to a long time ago. It’s got to be special. Anyone can sit in their room and make a record with GarageBand.”

Cloak’s music seems to have metal as its main ingredient with flavorings of classic Southern Rock.

“A lot of people have said the Southern Rock thing,” said Taysom. “I think I can sort of hear it. But it wasn’t a conscious move. But, something in southern soil is very haunting with a sinister presence. You can feel it at night.

“I don’t associate us with what is called ‘Southern Metal.’ Our roots are in black metal sound.  It’s not a genre. It’s about a presence I’m looking for. I still love classic heavy metal like Iron Maiden and Wasp.”

“To Venomous Depths” offers a strong glimpse at what the band is looking for.

“We recorded it at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 at Aria Studio in Atlanta,” said Taysom. “The songs were all ready before we went in the studio. We were very well prepared and organized. We did a lot of demos before we were ready to record. It took about three months in the studio, Then, it came out later in 2017.

“We’re almost done making the next album. Two more vocal tracks to finish up and the second album will be all done. It’s a total step up. I write most of it but everyone puts in their input. We’re plying one song from it on this tour. We’re not going to break them out until the album is done.

“We’re primarily a live band. The energy is there but you don’t quite get it on the record. When we’re onstage, we give it our all.”

Video link for Cloak – https://youtu.be/SHXSgMU7Z2U.

The show at The Foundry, which also features Integrity, Full of Hell, and Devil Master, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Function on April 13, Grimposium And Uneasy Sleeper Present Enslaved 25: The Early Years on April 14, Terror Jr on April 16, and This Wild Life on April 17.

For music fans who want a show that is a bit more gentle, the Philadelphia Folksong Society has just what you’re looking for – a concert of acoustic music.

Scott Mulvahill

Like so many of today’s singer/songwriters, Scott Mulvahill graduated from college and made the trek to Tennessee – to Nashville, the home of fresh, young, sensitive singer/songwriters.

But there was something different about Mulvahill, who will be performing on April 12 at Philadelphia Folk Song Society (6156 Ridge Ave, Philadelphia, https://pfs.org/).

Mulvahill is not a singer/songwriter who crafts tunes by strumming on an acoustic six-string guitar or by plunking melodies on a variety of keyboards. His instrument of choice is the acoustic bass guitar.

The talented singer/songwriter grew up in a little Texas town outside Houston called Friendswood and then attended North Texas State University in Denton.

“I graduated, got my cap and packed it up and headed to Nashville,” said Mulvahill, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon as he travelled to a gig in Port Clinton, Ohio.

“Compared to New York, Austin or L.A., I chose Nashville because of its reputation as a songwriting community. For me, it was just hearsay and a hunch. I now know there are a lot of great songwriters here.

“Playing bass wasn’t just a whim. My dad played guitar when I was growing up. A guitar was in the house, but I wasn’t interested. A friend at summer camp played bass and that got me interested. I asked if I could play bass and my family was OK with it. I stared with electric bass. The first garage and I was in was called Kid Charlemagne. It was so much fun. I stated writing songs toward the end of high school and then got more into it when I was in college. I was studying music, but it had mothing to do with songwriting. I majored in jazz bass in college – taking performance with composition aspect…classes in arranging in jazz and big band settings. It was really focused on upright bass. I kind of had a split personality. I was a jazz-trained bass player, but I also came up in rock and pop. I had this desire to write rock songs. I had this side dream of performing my songs. I’d write those songs on guitar and piano. As a songwriter, I was influenced by James Taylor and Paul Simon. With bass, Jaco Pastorius is my hero.

Once Mulvahill relocated to Nashville, his life changed after meeting American music icon Ricky Skaggs and joining his Grammy winning band, Kentucky Thunder.  He toured with Ricky for over five years, and in that time, first started writing songs on his upright bass.

“We were touring with Bruce Hornsby,” said Mulvahill. “Eventually, I got to a point where I asked Bruce if I could pick his brain about songwriting. He gave me some really vital constructive criticism. He said – the sings you’re writing are fine but there is nothing really special about them. He said to dig deeper to find what I had. That led me back to look at my work on bass. At first, it was hard to put the two things together but after a while I was comfortable enough to write on bass.”

The young Texas musician had found a new path.

According to Mulvahill, “I started music as a bass player, but when it came to singing and writing songs, all my favorite writers played guitar or piano, and I just figured I had to as well. But while in Ricky Skaggs’ band, I started performing ‘20/20 Vision’ in the show, which opened with just the bass and my voice, and it was a revelation.

“I realized that this sound, this concept could work, and I honestly wondered why I hadn’t had the courage to do it before. So, I started writing songs on the bass. I tried to make the bass parts complete arrangements with harmony and rhythm and weave my melodies between all that –the first song I wrote that way was ‘Fighting for the Wrong Side.’ And that’s when the music became unique. I was finally bringing all of my varied skills to the table and doing something that few others could.”

Now, Mulvahill is on the second leg of his nationwide tour supporting his new album “Himalayas.”

“A lot of the shows are just me onstage – all on standup bass,” said Mulvahill. “But on this nine-show run in the Midwest and Northeast, I’ll be joined by a guitarist named Zach Torres.”

Video link for Scott Mulvahill – https://youtu.be/HwgV6MJneR8.

The show at Philadelphia Folk Song Society will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Carsie Blanton

Area fans of Carsie Blanton are in for a double treat over the next few days.

Blanton is touring in support of her new album “Buck Up” and the tour will bring her to Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528,www.bootandsaddlephilly.com) on April 12 and Tellus 360 (24 East King Street, Lancaster, 717-393-1660, www.tellus360.com) on April 13.

Based in New Orleans, Blanton is not your typical singer-songwriter. She makes music that focuses on witty, intelligent songwriting. “Buck Up” is a melodic mandate for survival, commenting on the recent election and the changes we’ve seen in the country since. As much as Buck Up reflects political and personal catastrophe, these themes are always presented in a humorous and playful way.

Blanton’s sound is influenced by blues, jazz and pop styles On the new record, the darker subject matter is lightened by bright, catchy melodies and her engaging vocals. As much as Buck Up reflects political and personal catastrophe, these themes are always presented in a humorous and playful way.

“We cut the album over a year ago,” said Blanton, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Chicago.

Even though Blanton lives in New Orleans – a city with music everywhere a lot of great studios, she came to the Philly area to record her latest disc.

“We recorded it at Pete Donnelly’s studio in Haddonfield, New Jersey,” said Blanton.

Blanton is a talented singer-songwriter whose music spans a variety of genres. She is also adaptable when it comes to finding a place to call home.

Blanton grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountain area in Virginia, moved to Eugene, Oregon when she was 16 and relocated to Philadelphia a few years later.

“I was 21 when I moved to Philly,” said Blanton. “I had a fun and pretty easy time there. I still love Philly.”

Blanton released her debut album “Hush” in 2002 and followed with “Ain’t So Green” in 2009, “Beau” EP in 2010 and “Idiot Heart” in 2012. Her two albums prior to “Buck Up” were “Not Old, Not New,” which was released in 2014, and So Ferocious,” which came out on 2016.

“Buck Up,” which was just released on February 15, was produced by Pete Donnelly and Blanton and engineered and mixed by Donnelly at Westmont Station Recording Studio in Haddon Township, New Jersey. Some bass and vocal tracks were engineered by Patrick Firth at The Patty-O in Queens, New York. The album was mastered by Jim Salamone at Cambridge Sound Studios in Philadelphia.

“This was the third record Pete and I did together,” said Blanton. “He’s a great producer. We were there for two weeks and a couple days. We had a core group and then different crews of musicians in and out.”

The core group on “Buck Up” was Patrick Firth on keyboards, piano, and backing vocals; Nicholas Falk on drums, percussion, banjo, and backing vocals; Joe Plowman on bass, banjo, backing vocals, keys, and string arrangements; Donnelly on guitar, backing vocals, keys, drums, and percussion, and Blanton on vocals, guitar, toy piano, and percussion.

The list of “special guests” included Erin Busch on cello, Matt Cappy on trumpet, Zach Jones on drums and backing vocals, Oliver Wood on guitars and vocals on “Buck Up”.  The album also features ambient sounds gathered by Blanton in New Orleans.

“Most of the songs were pretty new and some older,” said Blanton. “A few of the songs were influenced by the 2016 election.”

One of the first songs for “buck Up” was “Bed,” which dates back to November 2016 and includes the poignant line – “I’m not gonna get out of bed today/I’ve tried to do it but what can I say/Every time I turn on the news it’s a kick to the head/Why don’t you wake me up when the president’s dead.”

According to Blanton, “That song shook loose a lot of feelings I had about the political landscape and growing up in America. If I can write one song that really captures the feeling of a project, then the rest come more easily. ‘Buck Up’ is a ‘rallying cry.’ Enough with the sadness and wallowing about America. We have to get people together to make change, even though it’s daunting. Though ‘Buck Up’ may be basically about being depressed, if there’s not a sense of humor or playfulness, I don’t want to listen to it. Music is about play.”

Making music that makes people smile and being a political activist have been parts of Blanton’s persona for a long time.

“I’ve been someone political my whole life,” said Blanton. “I’ve radicalized more in recent years.”

According to Blanton, “There are two themes on this record. One is the feeling of catastrophe happening in American politics, and the other is this feeling of personal catastrophe.”

But Blanton is not one to wallow in doom and gloom.

“It’s important that we all pull together,” said Blanton. “We must. I want to get across that feeling helpless isn’t going to work – being hopeful is. We need a revolution. It’s the most pragmatic. We need to buck up and make things happen.”

 Video link for Carsie Blanton – https://youtu.be/d89fe_p4gX4.

The show at Boot and Saddle, which has Chris Kasper as the opener, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

The show at Tellus 360, which has Chris Kasper as the opener, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18.

John Eddie

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Soften the Glare with iNFiNiEN on April 12, John Eddie and His Dirty ‘Ol Band on April 13, and Brad Rau with Tony Yoo on April 14.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Open Mic Night hosted by Steivan W. Johnson on April 11 and Beaucoup Blue Ans the Greg Sover Duo on April 13.

The Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) will host Point Entertainment presents Blue Öyster Cult on April 14.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) presents Rhythm of Recovery featuring Bernard Sarkissian on April 13 and Tribute Night featuring Mulberry Hill, LaBella & Poole, Brick Nova, and Icky Thump on April 14.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Golden Gate Wingmen on April 11, Peace Drums Project Fundraiser on April 13, Robert Glasper Trio on April 14 and Adrian Belew with special guest Saul Zonana on April 17.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Kris Kristofferson on April 11, “Ain’t I A Woman: My Journey to Womanhood” by Laverne Cox on April 12, and Heavy Hittas of Comedy on April 13.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) hosts Angel Ft. Punky Meadows & Frank DiMino And Starz  on April 11, Los Lonely Boys with Gary Douglas Band on April 12, Dar Williams with Jessy Tomsko on April 13, the church on April 14, llusionist Rick Thomas on April 15, Dimmer Twins: Patterson Hood & Mike Cooley Of Drive-By Truckers on April 16, and Ana Popovic on April 17.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) presents Roger Street Friedman and Marion Halliday on April 12 and Joe Burke & Co, Max Seidman and Hunter Tynan Davis on April 13.

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