On Stage: A local musician lays down the law

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Michael Braunfeld

Most people don’t associate being a lawyer with being an entertainer – unless they take into consideration high-profile criminal lawyers like F. Lee Bailey or Clarence Darrow.

So, it’s a little unusual that two music acts playing in the area in a five-day period feature lawyers – Mike Cusimano, whose band played the Keswick Theater on April 23 and Michael Braunfeld, who headlines a show at Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) on April 27.

Braunfeld is a civil lawyer who has worked around southeast Pennsylvania, including Chester and Delaware counties. But his main focus in recent years has been his music career.

Braunfeld, a songwriter, guitarist and storyteller, is now performing select dates in support of “Driver,” his new album which was just released on March 22.

Recorded at MorningStar Studios in East Norriton, “Driver” was produced by GRAMMY® winning Glenn Barratt (Susan Werner, Melody Gardot) and Kyle Swartzwelder and features 13 new songs. The songs range in style from folk, to Americana to electric and driving and all feature Braunfeld’s signature narratives with focus on the characters he creates and the rich, sonic worlds they inhabit.

“We started recording it in December 2017 and went into 2018,” said Braunfeld, during a recent phone interview from his home in Radnor.

“We were in the studio on-and-off, so it took just under a year. We just got the masters in December. It was mixed and mastered by Glenn Barratt.

“We recorded the basic tracks live in the studio and then had additional players come in.”

Braunfeld will be playing Burlap and Bean with his band, The Boneyard Hounds — Tom Hampton, Tommy Geddes, Kyle Swartzwelder, Nate Gonzalez.

“We also had two of Philadelphia’s best session players on the album,” said Braunfeld. “The bass parts on the album were done by Ken Pendergast and we had Ross Bellenoit on guitars and mandolin.

“We hd a great assortment of ongs. We went in the studio with 40-50 songs and pared it down to the best 13. The idea was to make an album that demonstrated everything I do – funk, Americana and all-out rock. The title track made it all come together. I wrote it during pre-production.

“A lot of the songs were written recently but some are pretty old. ‘Fear,’ the oldest song, was written in 1998. It’s been a staple in my live set, but it was never on an album before.”

Braunfeld, a Harriton High alumnus who graduated from West Chester University with a degree in English and modern literature, has been making music for a while.

“This will be my seventh record – five LPs and two EPs,” said Braunfeld. “My last one before ‘Driver’ was the ‘Full Circle’ album in 2015.

“My songwriting methods depend on a lot of things. The songs on ‘Driver’ are examples of every way. ’40 Below’ was inspired by a newspaper article. Sometimes, it’s just picking up a guitar and coming up with a melody. I’m a topical songwriter and lyrics are a driving force.

Braunfeld has been garnering critical acclaim and industry recognition for his songwriting and intense performances.  In 2014, Michael was welcomed into the Writers’ Night family at The Bluebird Cafe.  He was named as a finalist in the Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Competition in both 2016 and 2018 and has been a featured performer at The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Spring Gulch Folk Festival, and the Philadelphia Folk Festival. 

According to Braunfeld, “I’m proud of ‘Driver.’ It’s really the first album that captures everything that I’m trying to do with my music. We spent a lot of time whittling down a list of songs to include a little bit of everything that I do while still forming a cohesive collection, which is important to me as a fan of albums. I don’t like to be pigeonholed as a writer or an artist and I feel like ‘Driver’ represents exactly where I am now, both sonically and thematically.”

Video link for Michael Braunfeld – https://youtu.be/8diUiqtwJaE.

Michael Braunfeld and the Boneyard Hounds “Driver’ CD Release Show will start at 8 p.m.

We Are Scientists

We Are Scientists, an act that is opening for Snow Patrol on April 27 at the Tower Theater (69th and Ludlow streets, Upper Darby, 215-922-1011,www.thetowerphilly.com), is a two-man rock band that came together in 2000 in Berkeley, California. Keith Murray handles lead vocals, guitars, keyboards and Chris Cain takes care of bass and backing vocals.

Murray and Cain met in 1997 at Pomona College in Claremont, California.  In early 2000, after graduating and moving to Berkeley, they formed their band – a band that is still going strong almost 20 years later.

They moved to Brooklyn, New York in 2001 and began recording their debut album in November 2001

The band’s breakthrough success came with its first studio album, “With Love and Squalor,” which sold 100,000 copies in the first six months. The second album, “Brain Thrust Mastery,” charted at number 11 in the UK album chart, with two top-40 singles – “After Hours” and “Chick Lit.”

The band’s latest album – “Megaplex” – was released a year ago to the day – April 27, 2018. It was recorded in New York City with producer Max Hart, a long-time collaborator. Hart played keyboards with the band from 2007-2009 and then moved on to play in Katy Perry’s band and with Melissa Etheridge.

“We recorded it in New York City, and it was only the seconds album we did completely in New York,” said Cain, during a recent phone interview as the band was traveling from Houston to Nashville.

“We’re used to New York City. I’m in Manhattan and the other guy is in Brooklyn. We recorded the album at Atomic Heart Studio — Irish band Ash’s studio in Chelsea. We finished it in January 2018.”

We Are Scientists liked “Megaplex” so much, they decided to release it twice. The two indie rockers just released “Megaplex: Rise of the Lycans (Deluxe Edition).”

“It’s a double album with some demos and remixes,” said Cain. “Some of the stuff on the deluxe version comes from the original sessions. We recorded the acoustic material in the last couple months and the remixes are all new.”

Cain talked about the evolution of the band’s sound over the last 19 years.

“The general thrust – we’ve let ourselves more and more to be free in the studio ad do stuff we couldn’t do live – keyboards, layers of harmonies, digital beats,” said Cain.

“With ‘Megaplex,’ we made the album we wanted without being concerned if the songs would work on the road. We did have some riffy rock songs and that’s always fun.”

Video link for We Are Scientists — https://youtu.be/ffWxTy-hZyk.

The show at the Tower, which also features Snow Patrol and Ryan McMullan, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35.

Wishbone Ash

On April 28, the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present a show featuring Wishbone Ash – A British band that has been around for a long, long time Wishbone Ash’s eponymous debut album was released in 1970.

Since then, Wishbone Ash has released albums on a regular basis and the total is now 24 original studio recordings, 11 live albums and five live DVDs along with a DVD rockumentary (“This is Wishbone Ash”). The most recent album was “Blue Horizon” in 2014.

Wishbone Ash, one of the most influential guitar bands in the history of rock, has returned to America this month for another cross-country tour. In the ramp-up to Wishbone Ash’s 50th anniversary, the band is celebrating its 49th year in characteristic fashion — with an extended tour dubbed “XLIX.”

Formed in 1969 in London, England, Wishbone Ash is one of the most influential guitar bands in the history of rock. True road warriors, each year they log around 30,000 miles, roughly equivalent to circumnavigating the earth.

Mark Abrahams, the group’s newest member, has been trading licks with Powell for two years. Right out of the gate, Abrahams earned rave reviews from critics and fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Long-time rhythm section Bob Skeat on bass and Joe Crabtree on drums continue to provide the solid groove that is their hallmark.

By 1969, The Beatles, the blues boom and psychedelia had made their impact on classic rock, and the creative possibilities were infinite. Pioneering the use of twin lead guitars, Wishbone Ash jumped on board the burgeoning progressive rock scene. Taking full advantage of the fertile musical environment, the band produced a distinctive brand of melodic rock.

Inspired equally by British folk traditions, American jazz and R&B, the group played to public and critical acclaim. Power and melody have made the Ash a hard act to follow, while they are currently being discovered by new generations of loyal rock fans. Through the years the band has delved into various musical genres, from folk, blues and jazz to pedal-to-the-metal rock and electronica.

“A band is a band because it keeps reinventing itself,” said Powell, during a recent phone interview. “We’re continuously producing. That’s what makes a band.”

Wishbone Ash’s signature is the distinctive twin-melodic lead guitar interplay that has influenced such bands as Thin Lizzy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Iron Maiden and Opeth.

According to Powell, “The band basically lives together year-round on the road, so we have a very strong level of communication that translates in our performances and recording. We’ve come to an era where the industry has to pigeonhole a band as Classic Rock, Prog Rock, Heritage Rock and so on.

“The truth is that we have always kept our options open and always relied on the musicianship of the players to lead the way. It’s fun to be stylistically diverse and this has, in its way, contributed to our longevity.”

Wishbone Ash has never followed trends.

“Back in the 60s and 70s, rock ruled,” sod Powell. “Now, you’ve got so many genres with multi subdivisions. There aren’t these great brush strokes any more. But rock still has its niche. We rely on our musicianship. We’re a guitar band. You can still make good music with bass, drums and two guitars. We just have to keep it interesting.”

The current Wishbone Ash line-up features Andy Powell, guitar, vocals (1969–present), Bob Skeat, bass, vocals (1997–present), Joe Crabtree, drums (2007–present) and Mark Abrahams, guitar (2017–present).

 “Our audiences are not leaping around anymore,” said Powell. “This show has good dynamics. After 49 years, the band has such a huge catalogue. Going through the catalogue, we have enough material that we can play a different set from night to night. Still, making a set list is tricky but we can get audiences going.

“It’s going to be stimulating for us too. We’re always open to pulling out a few additional songs from the past. When you pull thingsd out of the csnon, they seem more poignant than they did at the time you first made them. It’s good to mix it up.”

Fans waiting for a new Wishbone Ash studio album will have to wait some more.

Making a new album is always totally scary,” said Powell. “We’ve made a lot of albums, but we never take it for granted. An album is a record of you in that particular moment in time. There’s always a feeling of trepidation when you make a new album. If you’re truly creative, you’re always striving.”

Video link for Wishbone Ash – https://youtu.be/Irou5W1gEq8.

The show in Sellersville will start at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices range from are $26.50-$45.

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