On Stage: Local acts in the spotlight this weekend

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

River Drivers

A lot of top-flight local talent will be on display at music venues around the area tonight.

On November 23, the Philadelphia Folksong Society (6156 Avenue, Philadelphia, pfs.org) is hosting a “CD Release Party” by Philadelphia-based Celtic-tinged folk-rock collective River Drivers.

River Drivers is a four-piece band whose unique passion-infused style of music draws from Celtic, Americana, and Appalachian influences – which are like not-too-distant cousins in the world of traditional music.

The band — Kevin McCloskey (vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass), Mindy Murray (vocals, guitar, banjo, bass), Marian Moran (tin whistle, low whistle, concertina, melodica) and Meagan Ratini (fiddle, Irish flute, tin whistle) – features powerful and distinctive vocals. The quartet’s high energy music explores pervasive themes of hard-working people and social justice.

“We have songs about working people including a few about miners,” said Murray, during a phone interview Friday evening from her home in Bristol. “The UMW (United Mine Workers) website just added a link to our website.”

River Drivers’ distinct flavor of music is a sum of its parts.

McCloskey’s passion for songs portraying the plight of working men and women was kindled by a childhood of performing Irish standards with his father, Irish tenor Tommy McCloskey. The intensity he brings to his music was shaped by years with the hardcore punk band Wrong Answer.

Murray’s works are infused with the music of the mountains and the miners, having witnessed firsthand the struggles of day-to-day life in Appalachia during medical school at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Years later, she and Ratini, who is her daughter, formed the duo Port Murray. Ratini got into Irish music over many years of mastering instrument after instrument. She became further immersed while helping to run the New Jersey Folk Festival.

Moran’s roots are in Ardara, County Donegal, which is a center of Irish traditional music. Whenever she has the opportunity, she travels back to the rugged coastline village to tap into its vibrant Celtic music scene.

“We’ve been together about seven years now,” said Murray. “Marion was a college roommate of mine while Kevin and my daughter were in grade school together.”

River Drivers has its roots in Bristol — not the historic city in South West England but rather the blue-collar town along the Delaware River in Bucks County.

“Bristol is a very small town and we’re all from Bristol,” said Murray. “That’s how we know each other. Big Oak Road is a road in Lower Bucks County and that’s where the album’s name came from.

“My dad lived on a farm on Big Oak Road. He was the youngest of 10 children. Two of the songs on the album were linked to that.”

River Drivers released a self-titled debut album in 2015. “Big Oak Road” dropped this year on October 18.

“The self-titled album – there was only one original song on that one,” said Murray. “The new album is all originals.

“We did a lot of the instrumental recording ourselves in our studio. Then, we finished it at Richard Hartline’s studio in South Jersey. He did all the mixing.

“Making the new album took a while. We recorded it over the course of last year. We recorded about 20 songs and then narrowed it down t the 10 that are on the album.”

Video link for River Drivers – https://youtu.be/TuVxVUr2um0.

The show at the Philadelphia Folksong Society will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

On November 23, there will be another “Album Release Party” featuring a talented Philadelphia act on the rise.

Valentina Raffaelli

On Saturday night, The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) will host the “Valentina Sounds Album Release” show featuring Italian-born, Philadelphia-based Valentina Raffaelli. Performing and recording as Valentina Sounds, Raffaelli will be celebrating the release of her debut album, “Bring on the Fire.”

“Bring on the Fire” is the story about the end of a long-term relationship told in a relatable, true-to-life manner. The songs portray the array of emotions — hope, sarcasm, determination, compassion, anger and sadness — felt during a trying time while still living life in the real day-to-day world.

Raffaelli, the former singer in Sunshine Superman and Sparkle Pony, creates music that is a fusion of catchy melodies and pop tunes, perfectly blended with a background in jazz vocals and a love for composition.

“I have been in the United States for 11 years in January,” said Raffaelli, during a recent phone interview from her home in Philadelphia.

“I fell in love with an American – a man from Philadelphia — when I was living in Italy. I was studying film and contemporary art at the Universita di Bologna.

“He waited until I finished college and then encouraged me to apply to Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. I came to Philadelphia and studied there. I learned about voice and music—and I studied piano. I started meeting musicians at University of the Arts. Then, I took a songwriting course and I was hooked.

“Putting a band together was easy. The first band was Sunshine Superman back in 2017. Then, I was in a band called Sparkle Pony with my ex-husband. It was a folk/bluegrass/Americana band that ended in January 2019.”

All the while, Raffaelli was writing songs and preparing for what came next.

“I started writing an album without knowing it,” said Raffaelli, a native of Forte dei Marni.

Forte dei Marmi is a seaside town in the northern part of Tuscany that is a major vacation destination for Italy’s upper class. In Italian, “Forte dei Marmi” means “Fort of the Marbles.” The town takes its name from the fortress that rises in the middle of the main square.

“I knew I wanted to make a full album,” said Raffaelli. “Then things started deteriorating.

“I moved out and began living on my own in January 2019. The biggest chunk of songs was written between December 2018 and May 2019 and then I got into the recording studio in June.

“I’m very sarcastic. I’m in an improv group and I love humor. I often deal with pain and depression with humor – like with mty song ‘I Won’t Buy It.’ I had to laugh. He was lying to me so much it was funny.

“Writing songs like this is absolutely a cathartic experience. Even now, when he makes me angry, I go back to the album.”

Video link for Valentina Sounds — https://youtu.be/6zKa7tCk38A.

The show at The Locks at Sona, which has Jackson Howard as the opener, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Another upcoming show this week at The Locks at Sona is “Judah Kim Music presents: Jive Turkey Eve 2019 featuring: Judah Kim, Tommy Leahy, the Cuban Missile Crisis” on November 27.

Another area venue is featuring a top local act on Saturday night — HumblemanBand.

Last year, HumblemanBand, one of the Philadelphia area’s longest-running rock bands, released its most recent album, “Beautiful Day.” The album officially dropped with a “HumblemanBand CD Release Party” at Rittenhouse Soundworks almost a year ago to the day.

On November 23, HumblemanBand  will play a special area show at its favorite local haunt — the Mermaid Inn (7673 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-247-9797, www.themermaidinn.net) on October 26.

“The HumblemanBand was formed in 1999,” said guitarist/songwriter/vocalist/founding member Charlie Cooper, during a phone interview from his home in Germantown. “I was in a band with our drummer Buck Buchanan. Three of us were living near each other in South Philly and we gradually picked up people.

“The third guy was bassist Bruce Koch, who just died a year ago from a massive heart attack. That was a real loss – as a friend and as a bandmate. We weren’t sure we were going to pick up the pieces. We were using hired hands to fill in. We just recently added a permanent bass player – Boz Heinly, who lives in Plymouth Meeting.

“Now, there are five of us in the band and four of us live on the same block of Johnson Street in Germantown. We get along really well musically and as friends. We have a lot of respect for each other.”

The band’s current lineup includes Wain Ballard on guitar, Kim Empson on vocals and percussion, Heinly on bass, Buchanan on drums and Cooper on vocals and guitar.

“We seem to have a cycle of putting out an album every five years,” said Cooper.  “We put out an album a few years ago called ‘Least Bad of Humbleman 1984-2009.’ That album was a 25-year compilation starting with our days in 1984 as a punk band called The Proles.

“Our most recent previous album was ‘Late Bloom’ in fall 2015 was self-produced – and mostly D.I.Y. “‘Beautiful Day’ was also self-produced – and also mostly D.I.Y. We recorded the album ourselves in our rhythm practice space and then did solos and vocals in my living room. For our previous album, we used CakeWalk. This time, we used REAPER.”

REAPER is a complete digital audio production application for computers, offering a full multitrack audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing and mastering toolset.

“We spent most of this year making the new album,” said Cooper. “After finishing recording it ourselves, we sent it out for the mixing. We had Scoops Dardaris do it. We were extremely happy with the mixing.

“We mastered it at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Germantown. That’s also were we’re doing our record release show. It’s mainly a studio but it also has a performance space.

“Jim Hamilton, a percussionist and tap dancer from the Kensington area of Philly who toured with Boyz II Men, put the studio together. He’s a terrific talent – and he knows an amazing amount of people in the music world.”

HumblemanBand, a rock quintet that is socially conscious, features songs that band members have written and arranged – songs with lyrics inspired by current events.

“We went out to Standing Rock (Indian Reservation) in North Dakota,” said Cooper. “That inspired a brand-new song – ‘AIM ’21.’ The title stands for ‘American Indian in the 21st century.’

“On ‘Beautiful Day,’ Kim wrote two songs, we did two covers and I wrote the rest. The two covers were songs by the late Gil Scott-Heron – ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’ and ‘Alien.’ Gil Scott-Heron was a very influential voice in music and activism and most-known for his song ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ and his poetry.

HumblemanBand, like Scott-Heron, has consistently delivered social commentary and positive messages, often with humor and a light touch, using spoken word lyrics, and generally delivered with dance beat arrangement. His influence upon the band has been strong.

Video link for Humbleman Band – https://youtu.be/SdTQKHtUC8k.

The show at The Mermaid Inn on November 23 will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Music fans who are looking for concerts on Saturday night that are louder and have more of an edge need to look west – to Lancaster where John 5 is playing or to Reading which is where Necronomicon is making a tour stop.

John 5

Those who love progressive music with an emphasis on tasty guitar should make Saturday night plans to head to the Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net) which is hosting a concert by John 5.

Four months ago, John 5 released his ninth solo album – “Invasion.” The LP, which features blistering yet melodic guitar work, was officially released on July 31, 2019.

“The new album is doing really well,” said John 5, during a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles.

“I’m super, sure happy with how it’s been received. I make records from my heart. So, if people enjoy them, it means so much t me.”

Fans were able to get a taste of the album throughout the first half of the year via a series of videos released each month. John 5 kicked off the year with the debut video clip from “Invasion,” the campy animated “Zoinks!,” followed by three equally eccentric videos for “Midnight Mass,” “I Am John 5” and “Crank It – Living with Ghosts.” “Invasion” was produced and mixed by Barry Pointer (Richie Sambora, Joe Perry, Steve Vai, Jackson Browne).

 “This was the first record I’ve done a record with Barry,” said John 5. “I cut the album in North Hollywood at his studio — Three Chords. ‘Invasion’ is anything but three chords.

“With ‘Invasion,’ we do this EDM style of music. I’ve taken that and used the riffs and then put all these guitar solos on top.

“I just created some cool things. I thought – what if I was the DJ up there, what would I want to hear? They (the EDM genre) have this great music but I wanted to take it further and put all these guitar solos on top – and it really worked.

“I’m making all the music up there with just my guitar. I’m pretty organic with my guitar – no looping station or anything like that. I just keep it simple and let my hands do the talking. It’s very organic.”

John 5 is a musician with impressive credentials. He has been the guitarist for a number of arena-filling acts including Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and David Lee Roth.

He is also a solo artist with a large discography. One of his more recent albums – “It’s Alive!” — was recorded at the Sellersville Theatre.

“It really came about unexpectedly,” said John 5. “We were at the Sellersville Theater setting up. A guy asked if we wanted to record the show that night and we said yeah.

“I told the band to be careful with their playing because of it. And, I told the audience we were recording. We didn’t change the order of the set list. I just told the guys – let’s do a perfect show. It’s such a great place and the people were awesome. Everybody that was at that show is on this record.

“I love all types of music – bluegrass, rock, country, metal, swing, hard rock. I love all music. We really have a wide demographic of fans. I’m covering a lot of genres and people really love it.

“When you come to our shows, you’ll see fans of Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, kids who like shredders, adults who are into hard rock and guitar fans. It’s a very diverse crowd. That’s all I want to do – to inspire people.”

Video link for John 5 – https://youtu.be/15WA_du4UHc.

The show at the Chameleon Club, which has Reverend Jack and Jared James Nichols as opening acts, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20.


The experience metal music fans get when they listen to Necronomicon’s music is somewhat like the experience of being gently caressed by a hand in a velvet glove and, at the same time, being struck in the temple by bone-crushing right hooks from that same hand.

“UNUS,” the new album by Montreal’s premier blackened death metal band, has been described as “crushing and cinematic” and “a searing cacophony of blistering riffs, machine-like drums, and a symphonic ambience.”

Necronomicon — Rob “The Witch” Tremblay on guitar and vocals and Divider (Jean-Philippe Bouchard) on drums — has been out on tour for the last month with Suffocation and Belphegor. The penultimate date on the tour is November 23 at Reverb (1402 North Ninth Street, Reading, 610-743-3069, www.reverbconcerts.com)

The record combines the furious elements of death metal with the orchestral prowess of black metal, creating the perfect synthesis of both genres.

“We’re not playing many new songs,” said Tremblay, during a recent phone interview from his home in Montreal, Quebec. “There are a lot of bands on this tour so we’re not able to play that long. Next year, we’ come back and headline our own tour.

“‘Unus’ came out on October 18. We actually finished making the album a while ago.”

“Unus” was recorded at Sliver Wings studio and produced by Rob The Witch. The album then was mixed and mastered at Darth Mader Music Studio by Logan Mader (Machinehead).

“Half of it was written when I was on tour in 2016,” said Tremblay. “I had a good part of the songs written before we started the recording sessions. I went through a divorce, so I had to take a break. I had to come back and finish it after that.”

While Necronomicon’s music is physical — rattle your ribcage physical. It is also very cerebral for Rob the Witch.

“With my songwriting, it’s the music that comes first,” said the Canadian guitarist. “I have the entire music coming in one block. It’s happened in the past where I’d be watching a movie or sleeping and wake up in the middle of the night. Then, I’d run into the studio to get the guitar part done.

“Inspiration just pops in my head. I consider myself more an artist than a technician of music. For myself, the music comes in waves. I can be walking in the street or shopping and it pops into my head. After that, the process goes really fast.”

Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s legendary grimoire, Necronomicon was formed in 1988 by founding guitarist and singer Rob The Witch/ Tremblay in the deep, northern part of Quebec, Fjord of Saguenay.

“Saguenay is really up there in the far northern part of Quebec,” said Tremblay. “It’s six hours north on Quebec.”

That probably a good reason why Necronomicon’s music has a lot of similarity to the dark, brooding death metal of bands from the northern parts of Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Norway.

Video link for Necronomicon — https://youtu.be/qJ35tWprbX4.

The all-ages show at Reverb, which also features Suffocation, Belphegor, Abiotic, and March to Victory, will start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Vintage Trouble

Vintage Trouble is a completely modern band that is also a throwback to another era.

The most apparent genre for the band is R&B but there are many more styles than just soulful rhythm and blues in the band’s DNA including indie rock, classic blues, lively pop and straight-ahead rock-and-roll.

The band, which features vocalist Ty Taylor, guitarist Nalle Colt, bassist Rick Barrio Dill, and drummer Richard Danielson, has released three albums and recently a pair of critically acclaimed EPs.

The versatile quartet, which is headlining a show at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) on November 24, is closing in on its 10th anniversary.

“Vintage Trouble got together in 2010 in Los Angeles,” said Colt, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

“Ty and I were in bands that fell apart. We had written a bunch of songs and had talked about putting a band together. We got the other two guys. Within a few weeks, we were doing shows in L.A. for a whole year.

“I grew up in Malmo, Sweden and left when I was 21. I came to America for the music and for skateboarding. Skateboarding is a big part of my life and I competed professionally.

“I always felt the urge to get to Venice Beach. Musically, I was always fascinated by American blues – Texas blues – as well as acts like Ritchie Blackmore, Deep Purple, Sweet and, of course, Jimi Hendrix.”

Taylor and Colt formed Vintage Trouble after setting up a basic home studio in Venice Beach. They invited their mutual friend Rick Barrio Dill to play bass for the band, and then recruited Richard Danielson to play drums

“I’ve been in the states for almost 30 years,” said Colt. “I first ran into Ty about 20 years ago. He had just moved to L.A. from the East Coast.”

Taylor is originally from Montclair, New Jersey. Prior to moving to the West Coast, he was a vocalist and guitarist for the R&B group Dakota Moon.

“It’s been really easy to get in the music business in L.A.,” said Colt. “Ty and I started writing a lot of music in Venice Beach. It has the perfect vibe for good rock-and-roll. Richard has his house studio in Laurel Canyon and that where we recorded out first album, ‘The Bomb Shelter Sessions’ in 2011. The spiritual vibe of Laurel Canyon is great.”

In March 2014, Vintage Trouble got its big break. Blue Note Records’ President Don Was signed Vintage Trouble and the band was soon in the studio working on its Blue Note debut.

At the time, Was said, “It’s so cool to have Vintage Trouble on Blue Note. I went to see them play at the El Rey Theater a few months ago…there were lines around the block and tickets were sold out based solely on word-of-mouth. They played a two-hour show…half of the songs were brand new and totally unfamiliar to the audience…yet the place was rocking from the first notes straight through to the final encore…do you know how hard it is for a new band to pull that off?? It requires tremendous charisma, thundering power, incredible grooves and top-notch songwriting…Vintage Trouble has it all going on!”

Since self-releasing its debut album, “The Bomb Shelter Sessions,” in 2011, Vintage Trouble has played hundreds of shows around the world, including the US, UK, Europe, Australia, Japan and South America.  The band also has played to massive arena crowds while opening for The Rolling Stones, The Who, KISS and Bon Jovi.

Video link for Vintage Trouble — https://youtu.be/0GXKn2A3t0g.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall, which has Hollis Brown as the opener, will start at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $22.

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