On Stage: Son Step comes home to drop new album

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Son Step

Son Step has a new album to drop and the band knows when and where it wants it to drop.

On May 17, Son Step released its third full-length album, “Fossilillies” on the Grind Select label. The Philly-based band will start its support tour with a hometown album release show at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com).

The band also released the title track as a single along with an accompanying video directed by Bucky Illingworth on the same date.

According to a press release, “the video culls together footage from various themes and eras. It is about how humanity’s exertion might just be a fossil one day and nothing more, memorializing the fight for collective identity, the disillusioned exchange of one’s identity for the material imagination, and the drive for humans to live and tell stories.”

Son Step is a guitar-less, synth-drenched outfit featuring twin brothers Jon and Chris Coyle (vocals, synthesizers, bass), Joel Gleiser (vocals, electronics), and Matt Scarano (percussion). With its distinctive setup, the group assembles twisted percussive layers and electric textures that build upon each other. Maintaining a firm pop sensibility, complex rhythmic backbone and affinity for natural sounds, Son Step weave repeated vocal phrases and colorful, unpredictable instrumentation into a cacophonous collage.

“This band has been together in some form for around nine years,” said Jon Coyle, during a recent phone interview from his home in Philadelphia’s Mount Airy neighborhood. “We were all friends when we were going to school at Temple University.

“This group is more of a pop group – song structure with chorus and verses. We try not to worry too much about labels. This lineup with the four of us has been together five years and change.”

Son Step’s previous album was 2016’s “Natural Majique,” which was preceded by “Here Comes The Dreamboat” and two EPs — 2011’s “Spooky Tooth” and 2014’s “Ova Nova.” “Fossilillies” is very different from its predecessors.

“Fosslillies” is Son Step’s most dynamic, evolved offering yet — a whirlwind of novel soundscapes where each member is an integral part of the songwriting process. Raw, impromptu synth phrases and harmonies run rampant through each track with a dream-like atmosphere propelling the record forward.

“We were originally a four-piece and then the guitarist dropped out,” said Coyle, who graduated from Spring-Ford High School in Royersford.

“We were a trio for a while. Then, we got a fourth member and had two synthesizer players in the band. When Joel jumped in, we knew we wanted to dive further into synthesizers. We gelled with him as a musician. He does a lot with synthesized texture.

“We like really dense rhythms a lot. We like to bury catchy melodies under rhythms. We want our songs to take time to unfold. We think about more than just melodies over top of chords. We want to challenge listeners to a degree, and we like to wrap a lot of things musically around that. Recording the album was a long process.”

Son Step’s influences range from sonic pioneer Brian Eno to current bands such as Animal Collective, Jerry Paper and Palm.

“All of us listen to synth-pop,” said Coyle. “Joe liked to het into analog synthesizers and he has a Moog. Each member of the band contributes to the writing of the sings and influences where the music is going.”

Video link for Son Step – https://fanlink.to/SonStep_Fossilillies 

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Data and Great Time as opening acts, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Pat Finnerty and the Full Band on June 8 and Rooney on June 9.

Meghan Cary

On June 7, Meghan Cary, a Montgomery County resident, will bring her Mid-Atlantic Book-Signing Concert Tour to a venue close to home with a show at the Mermaid Inn (Germantown Avenue and Mermaid Lane, Philadelphia, www.themermaidinn.net). She will perform with her band – Analog Gypsies – and have a meet-and-greet/book signing for her just-published book, “Sing Louder — Stories Behind the Songs.”

“It will be a full band show,” said Cary, during a phone interview from her home in Erdenheim. “The doors open at 8 p.m. and the music starts at 8:30 p.m.”

Cary handles guitar and lead vocals. The current incarnation of Analog Gypsies features Peter Farrell, keyboards, guitar, vocals; Jocko MacNelly, bass, mandolin; Jimmy Coleman, drums; and Stacy Weathers, banjo, vocals.

Many people have favorite mantras. Cary’s favorite – and very own – mantra is “Sing Louder” – and for good reason.

“Sing Louder” is one of her most popular songs. It was the title track an EP – “Sing Louder – the Festival EP” in 2015. It is also the title of her latest album.

“The ‘Sing Louder’ album came out in November 2017, but I think of it as a 2018 album,” said Cary. “My book – ‘Sing Louder — Stories Behind the Songs’ – is all about the songs that inspired the ‘Sing Louder’ album – 10 first-person stories. I released the book on March 8 – International Women’s Day.”

Cary explained the inspiration for the book.

“I share a lot of my stories on stage,” said the veteran singer-songwriter. “I do a lot of storytelling in my shows – but it’s also a concert. My band would go crazy if I talked too much between songs.

“After shows, people ask me to tell them more about the songs. I’m a firm believer in sharing my stories – not only for the stories but also to help other people. People come up to me after shows all the time and say things like – I jut lost my mom and didn’t realize that it was still affecting me.

“When I was making the record, I said I was going to write a book and let people pre-buy it. That way, I wouldn’t let other things get in the way. I knew I had to write the book and get it finished.

“There I one story for each song on ‘Sing Louder.’ It’s pretty straightforward. I think it’s a good read. The book I’m working on now is a companion to my first album ‘New Shoes’ from 1998. It’s about how I began my music career.”

The “Sing Louder” album was in the works for a while.

“We released the record to folk radio – which is something I never do,” said Cary. “That was in November 2017 and ‘Sing Louder’ became a Number One single. The second single – ‘Responsbility’ – got to Number Six.

“We decided to send it to mainstream radio in the spring and it did well. We never really did anything at all with radio before.

“With this record, the groove has evolved. We went back and re-recorded stuff because I didn’t have a deadline. Without a record label, I could do it on my own time at my own pace. That’s one of the benefits of not being signed to a label.”

Cary and her band Analog Gypsies produce a sound that is a blend of folk, rock, gypsy jazz and jam band. At the core of the band are Cary and Farrell. The keyboard and guitar duo produces a big musical footprint with cool grooves and tight vocal harmonies.

“We were totally immersed with this record,” said Cary. “We had done a record as an acoustic trio. This time, we wanted to capture a full band flavor with Analog Gypsies. The ‘Sing Louder Festival’ EP was a trio with Stacy Weather on banjo, Bob Beach on harmonica, flute and vocals and my husband Peter Farrell on keyboards and vocals.

“We’ve been playing together a long time. We have a signature sound. We went into the studio with a bunch of new songs. It’s the next phase. The subject matter is different – more universal…speaking to the times. The song ‘Sing Louder’ is a fan favorite – and very uplifting. The song that feels like it is the heart of this album is ‘River Rock.’ It’s more a social statement than a political one.”

“Sing Louder” is a foot-tapping, bouncy song that gets fans singing along – even if they’ve never heard the song before.

“The key line is – ‘if you don’t know the words, sing louder…sing stronger…sing louder, sing stronger for all of the world to hear’,” said Cary.

“We recorded the album at Morning Star Studio with producer Glenn Barratt. Glenn’s input on production is amazing.  We even brought 48 people – fans and friends – into the studio to sing on the title track.”

Most of the time, when Cary spends an evening entertaining her fans, it’s as a singer-songwriter — a talented guitarist/vocalist with a pleasant voice and interesting songs.

Recently, there have been times when Cary has taken the stage in a different role — when she has entertained audiences as an actress performing a one-woman play she wrote called “On the Way to the Waterfall!”

This autobiographical play with music was originally created as a short piece for E.A.T.’s One-Woman Standing play festival in NYC in 2013 and was developed into a full-length play this past summer by Hypothetical Theatre Company. Two years ago, Cary performed it in the Boulder International Fringe Festival and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the both the audience and the critics.

“When I lived in New York, I used to help this playwright Tina Howe,” said Cary. “She heard me playing my music and told me — you have to write a play. I didn’t know how to do it.”

The play she was about to write was based on a personal tragedy.

While performing in the musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes” years ago, Cary met and fell in love with Matthew Black, one of the show’s musicians. Cary performed with Black as his backup singer with occasional solos. The pair became engaged and things were going great. But, Black died suddenly in 1995 and Cary’s life path took another unexpected twist.

“Music carried me through that time period,” said Cary. “Matthew and I made music together. When he died, I lost everything I had for the future. Music was something that I could keep. I wanted to keep making music. But I was writing songs with no intention of ever playing them for anyone.

“When I thought about the play, I knew had already written the story in songs. I had written music as a way to heal through this traumatic experience. The play is about going through the same thing — getting knocked off-course and ending up somewhere else.”

When Cary graduated from Hershey High a few years back, she headed off to Duke University to major in biomedical engineering. But, the path of life goes through many twists and turns and that’s why Cary now wears a guitar instead of a lab coat. She switched majors at Duke and finished with a bachelors’ degree in drama.

“I thought I wanted to be a biomedical engineer,” said Cary. “I looked at Cornell, but it was freezing up there, so I chose Duke instead. I was on a pre-med track and then got interested in theater. I finished Duke with a degree in drama with a minor in chemistry. Then, I got my MFA (master’s in fine arts) in acting from Florida State University.

“I realized back then that I wanted to perform. When I started, I wanted to do regional theater. I also did Off-Broadway shows and I’m a charter member of New York’s Actor’s Shakespeare Company. I love Shakespeare’s work. I love the way he used words.”

Now, Cary has established herself as a singer, actress, songwriter, playwright and author. She is also the mother of two musical kids who have already participated in making music with their family.

“Being a mom of two kids in school — Clara in middle school and Quinn in elementary school — means I inhabit two entirely different worlds in a given week…or day,” said Cary. “And, I was thinking how important it is for me to have both.

“It’s no surprise that sometimes trying to figure out the business of music can be pretty anxiety provoking — you know, how to afford to make records, if and how to sell records, and (most important for me) how to get the music out there so people fall in love and want to connect to and be a part of the music.

“And, for me, even the creative part of music-making can be less than peaceful at times. I sometimes suffer from writer’s block, lack of inspiration, over self-editing or just plain self-doubt.

“But I’ve been blessed – and challenged — with this other side of life that balances it all out. When I’m with the kids and just being and doing whatever it is we’re doing together, the drama that can be a part of the DYI musician’s world seems really inconsequential.

“So, the fact that both of our kids are musical and inspired to make music is really a gift. It means I don’t have to keep the two parts of my life so compartmentalized. Both of them sang on the new album.”

Video link for Meghan Cary — https://youtu.be/S1_NhpRwhe4.

The show at the Mermaid will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming shows at the Mermaid Inn are Steve and the Bluescasters on June 6 and the Dukes of Destiny on June 8.

Another show in the area on June 7 will be a concert that is not just a concert.

The DIO Returns Tour featuring the Ronnie James Dio Hologram

On Friday night, the Keswick Theatre (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) will host “The DIO Returns Tour featuring the Ronnie James Dio Hologram.”

“The DIO Returns Tour featuring the Ronnie James Dio Hologram” features a line-up of DIO band members performing aside the stunning Ronnie James Dio hologram. This 90-minute celebration of Ronnie James Dio, who died of stomach cancer in 2010, will include all of the great fan favorites such as “Holy Diver,” “King of Rock N’ Roll” and “We Rock” — taking fans on a DIO journey from Rainbow to Black Sabbath, to his own DIO material.

The official band line-up will feature Craig Goldy on guitar, Simon Wright on drums, Scott Warren on keyboards, and newer DIO family member Bjorn Englen on bass. The show will also feature renowned metal vocalists Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest/Yngwie Malmsteen) and Oni Logan (Lynch Mob).

In August 2016, Eyellusion surprised fans when it debuted the Ronnie James Dio hologram at the Wacken Open Air heavy metal festival in Germany. The hologram was also tapped to open the 2017 Pollstar Awards, wowing bookers and promoters in attendance and creating excitement for the forthcoming tour. Most recently in December 2017, thousands of fans in Germany, Poland, Spain, Romania, the UK, Netherlands, and Belgium experienced DIO like never before via the “DIO Returns Tour.”

For the past year, the presenting team at Eyellusion have been perfecting the production and unbelievable visual effects behind the amazing new Ronnie James Dio hologram.

According to Jeff Pezzuti, CEO of Eyellusion, “Ronnie James Dio was not only known for his amazing vocals, but also his incredible stage shows and performances. This show is a must see for all fans of Ronnie, new and old. The new stage production we have created plus the brand-new Ronnie James Dio hologram have to be seen to be believed.

“This is a first of its kind metal show! We are celebrating Ronnie, with his live vocals, with his band he toured with for the last 17 years, and with a show that his fans will love. It’s an over the top metal experience that will have the fans raising their horns throughout the show.”

Wright, Goldy, Warren, Englen and Owens also have a band called Dio Disciples which was formed to keep touring Dio’s music.

“’DIO Returns’ is different that Dio’s Disciples,” said Wright, during a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “The biggest difference is no hologram. This tour will take a good block of our time. Our first hologram show is in May and then we’re out all of June.

“The lineup for both projects is pretty much the same. Me, Craig, Scott, Bjorn and Oni have been playing together quite a while. We’ve been rehearsing the last week for the hologram tour and it sounds great. We’ve put in some older DIO songs and other songs that Ronnie wrote.

“We were out in Europe with the hologram tour in 2017 and it went great. The crowds kept getting bigger and bigger.”

For some, adjusting to seeing a dead person on stage in holographic form is hard.

“Some people have trouble getting used to it and say it’s blasphemous,” said Wright, a native of Manchester, England. “We’re not trying to raise the dead. I wish people would see it before they put it down. A lot of people never got to see Ronnie Dio live. Now, they can see the hologram.”

Video link for “The Dio Returns Tour featuring the Ronnie James Dio Hologram” — https://youtu.be/S94odyYYdKs.

The show at the Keswick Theatre, which also has Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $39.50 – $75.00

Another show this week at the Keswick will feature the Robby Krieger Band on June 6.

Jamie Lin Wilson

Jamie Lin Wilson just released her sophomore album “Jumping Over Rocks” and now is out on a national tour in support of the new record – a tour that brings her to Philly on June 9 for a show at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com).

“I recorded the album in February 2018,” said Wilson, during a phone interview Tuesday from a tour stop in Nashville.

“I cut it at Arlyn Studios in Austin. It’s a great historic studio. Willie Nelson has recorded there. It’s got a lot of great vibes. I’ve known about the studio for a long time. I sang harmony on a couple records there. I really like the room. It’s got a lot of great old equipment.”

The studio’s gear wasn’t the main factor in Wilson’s choice.

“I wanted to record there mainly because it has a big live cutting room,” said Wilson. “I wanted the album to be live with everyone in the room playing together. We cut all the tracks live. The only thing we added alter were the harmony singers. We did it digital. I’m not sure why. My last album was done to tape and it was fun.

“I just love cutting live so much because it makes everybody play together and play with each other instead of just creating parts. It’s all about playing as a band and everybody’s energy feeding into each other.”

The album gets its title from standout track “Death and Life,” an epic it took Jamie four years to write — a widow mourning her husband and not quite ready to let go; a son who copes with his father’s death by getting to work with his hands, hammers, nails, and 2x4s: the two true tales became intertwined thematically as Wilson mulled them over.

According to Wilson, “I realized the song is how people who are still here deal with death. It’s life after death, but not heavenly life. It’s how the living deal with death.”  

When Wilson recorded “Jumping Over Rocks” at Arlyn Studios, a great group of players joined her, including Charlie Sexton. Co-writing credits include Jack Ingram and Evan Felker of the Turnpike Troubadours.

“We cut the record quickly – four days and it was done and, in the can,” said Wilson. “I’ve been influenced a lot by the later stuff by Emmy Lou (Harris) and Lucinda’s essence, but I’ve never been able to do it because I’ve been in bands my whole life.

“I wanted this album to be less country and honky-tonk because I already have country in my voice. I hired Charlie Sexton to come and play on it. I wanted each song to speak for itself. I wanted it so that you hear the words and you hear each instrument.

“I tour with my band a lot but right now I’m doing solo acoustic shows. I’m on the road with my nine-and-one-half-month-old son Griffin, his nanny and my tour manager.”

Video link for Jamie Lin Wilson – https://youtu.be/TrCOsmkAvns.

The show at Boot and Saddle, which has Samuel Herb as the opener, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at Boot and Saddle are Anika on June 6, Grapetooth on June 7, The Rural Alberta Advantage on June 8, Nots on June 10 and Jesse McCormack on June 12.

Matt Andersen

On June 11, Canadian blues artist Matt Andersen will bring his stateside tour to the Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com).

A powerhouse performer with a giant, soul-filled voice and commanding stage presence, Andersen has built a formidable following the old-fashioned way — touring worldwide and letting his audiences spread the good word of his righteous tunes. As a result, he has amassed more than 18 million views on YouTube.

In addition to headlining major festivals, clubs and theatres throughout North America, Europe and Australia, Andersen has shared the stage and toured with Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, Greg Allman, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Randy Bachman, Little Feat, Jonny Lang, Serena Ryder, and more.

The Nova Scotia resident won the 2013 and 2016 European Blues Award for Best Solo/Acoustic Act, three Maple Blues Awards in 2012, and was the first ever Canadian to take home top honors in the solo/duo category at the 2010 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

Andersen has just released a new album on True North Records called “Halfway Home by Morning” and has embarked on a solo acoustic international tour with stops in the U.S., U.K., Europe and Canada. He will also appear as an opening act for the Steve Miller Band/Marty Stuart tour this Summer. This solo tour will feature Anderson performing an acoustic show.

“Everything I write, I write on acoustic guitar,” said Andersen, during a recent phone interview from his home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. “I have a band in the back of my mind, but it always starts acoustic.”

Andersen is known as one of Canada’s hardest-working musicians, averaging around 200 live performances per year. Specializing in an earthy blend of blue-collar folk, electric blues, and roots rock, the New Brunswick native began his musical career in 2002 with the group Flat Top. He issued his solo debut, “Second Time Around,” in 2007, followed in 2008 by “Something in Between” and in 2009 by “Piggyback,” the latter of which was a collaboration with acclaimed harmonica player Mike Stevens.

That same year he issued his first concert album, “Live from the Phoenix Theatre,” and later his first collection of holiday music, “Christmas Time.” A pair of studio albums, “Push Record” (with Mike Stevens) and “Coal Miner Blues,” followed in 2011.

Weightless,” which was produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, was released in 2014 and was his debut long-player for the True North label. It earned Andersen a Juno nomination for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year. For his follow-up, he traveled to New York, working with producer Commissioner Gordon (Amy Winehouse,Joss Stone) to record 2016’s “Honest Man.” The concert album “Live at Olympic Hall” appeared in 2018, and featured Andersen backed by his band the Mellotones at the historic Halifax, Nova Scotia venue.

“I got into the blues just from hearing it,” said Andersen. “My brother had Eric Clapton’s ‘Unplugged’ album and that got me started with an interest in blues.

“Then, I got into musicians like B.B. King, Sonny Terry and Roy Buchanan. I also liked Creedence Clearwater Revival ands the Allman Brothers because they were influenced by the blues. As time went on, I got more into acoustic folk and blues. I grew up with an acoustic guitar. My parents wouldn’t get me an electric guitar.”

As a result, Andersen is equally comfortable playing a solo acoustic set or performing with a band.

“I just finished a full band tour in Canada, so I played electric guitar,” said Andersen. “When I play the states, it’s mostly solo. When you’re playing small rooms, it’s too expensive to tour with a band.

“I’ve been lucky with my career in the U.S. I’ve gotten certain pockets where I’ve done great. Also, with this kind of music, you don’t need airplay.”

Video link for Matt Andersen — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inVZlx_tvto.

The show at Locks at Sona, which also features Erin Costello, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at the Locks at Sona are Bill Kirchen with special guest Dharmasoul on June 7 and Phil Roy on June 9.

Eilen Jewell

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host “Seventh Sojourn – A Tribute to The Moody Blues” on June 7, Muriel Anderson with special guests Tim Farrell and Dave Feder on June 8, Eilen Jewell on June 9, and Reece Ratliff with special guests Amanda Nolan and Evan Fox on June 11.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host

Summer Writer’s Series with Camille Zélan on June 6, and Philadelphia Main Line Ukulele Group on June 9.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will have Paul Gilbert with special guest Nita Strauss on June 6, Bonerama on June 7, Billy Joel Tribute on June 8, and Christian McBride and Tip City on June 9.

The Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) is presenting “The Book of Mormon” through June 9.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) presents The Subdudes on June 6,

Sawyer Fredericks with Brianna Nelson on June 7, Candy Volcano on June 8, Rhett Miller on June 9, and Lil Ed & The Blues Imperials And Selwyn Birchwood on June 12.

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