club cafe

pittsburgh, pa
The Pittsburgh Air Sex Championships

The Air Sex Championships is an event that routinely sells out shows all over the country. It's a comedy show that appeals to the voyeur in all of us. It's a competition where the audience is invested in the outcome. It's a safe, respectful, and thought-provoking show about how awesome sex is.

Air Sex was born in 2008 at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX. Once comedian Chris Trew (Comedy Central, America’s Got Talent) discovered Air Sex, he immediately transformed from a casual competitor to the show's host/producer, giving the show a unique format, flavor, and creating a cheap, spectacular touring live experience.

The show itself is simple - roughly a dozen competitors pretend to make love onstage with a partner who isn't there while a panel of comedians/sex experts/celebrities judge their performances. The judges choose three people (sometimes four in the case of a tie) to move on to the final round. Then all three must perform to mystery songs and a winner is chosen by the audience’s cheers. No nudity, no physical contact with another person onstage.

A non-traditional concept for any live-performance or music venue, the Air Sex World Championships quickly became one of the hottest tickets in whatever town it rolled through. People of all ages (over 21 of course), genders, nationalities, religions, and sexual orientations signed up, cobbled together embarrassing or hilarious routines, and people's minds were blown.

As the brand built and spread, more and more fans started taking the competition seriously, crafting elaborate costumes and choreographed routines – some are silly and bizarre and others feel like you're watching an extremely intimate, private moment that you shouldn't be seeing. Yet, because anyone can compete (karaoke-style), sometimes a drunk, rowdy onlooker hops up onstage and blows all of the well-practiced competition out of the water. And that's what makes Air Sex so fun, enigmatic, and unpredictable.

The Air Sex Championships is an event that routinely sells out shows all over the country. It's a comedy show that appeals to the voyeur in all of us. It's a competition where the audience is invested in the outcome. It's a safe, respectful, and thought-provoking show about how awesome sex is.

Air Sex was born in 2008 at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX. Once comedian Chris Trew (Comedy Central, America’s Got Talent) discovered Air Sex, he immediately transformed from a casual competitor to the show's host/producer, giving the show a unique format, flavor, and creating a cheap, spectacular touring live experience.

The show itself is simple - roughly a dozen competitors pretend to make love onstage with a partner who isn't there while a panel of comedians/sex experts/celebrities judge their performances. The judges choose three people (sometimes four in the case of a tie) to move on to the final round. Then all three must perform to mystery songs and a winner is chosen by the audience’s cheers. No nudity, no physical contact with another person onstage.

A non-traditional concept for any live-performance or music venue, the Air Sex World Championships quickly became one of the hottest tickets in whatever town it rolled through. People of all ages (over 21 of course), genders, nationalities, religions, and sexual orientations signed up, cobbled together embarrassing or hilarious routines, and people's minds were blown.

As the brand built and spread, more and more fans started taking the competition seriously, crafting elaborate costumes and choreographed routines – some are silly and bizarre and others feel like you're watching an extremely intimate, private moment that you shouldn't be seeing. Yet, because anyone can compete (karaoke-style), sometimes a drunk, rowdy onlooker hops up onstage and blows all of the well-practiced competition out of the water. And that's what makes Air Sex so fun, enigmatic, and unpredictable.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah With Special Guest Laura Gibson

Like previous Clap Your Hands Say Yeah records, The Tourist nods to Ounsworth's musical heroes-a group that includes artists such as John Cale, Robert Wyatt, Tom Waits and Nick Cave. However, this album also shows a natural progression from previous records. "Better Off" and "The Vanity Of Trying" are lush, keyboard-augmented songs, while "A Chance To Cure" and "Ambulance Chaser" are rhythmically askew, and the sighing "Loose Ends" is delicate, acoustic-based folk-rock.

The Tourist emerged from a period where Ounsworth was doing a lot of intense soul-searching, and processing personal events that irrevocably shaped his life and future. But although most of these songs came together during this time of reflection, he considers the record to be cathartic-an exhale of sorts, rather than a collection of songs where he was indulging in self-pity or letting things stagnate or fester.

Appropriately, The Tourist's lyrics reflect how complex upheaval can be ("We can beat around this bush together/Sometimes it's all I think of/Other times I can forget") and explore the imperfect nature of blame ("The car left the road and was found without its mirrors/You play the victim/And I'll play the blind man"). Other songs try to make sense of the present time ("Now that the past is on fire/How can I look around and find I can't remember who I was") or employ clever wordplay- "Black cat let's not split hairs/I'm tethered to the weather/I assure I don't care about no lucky streak"-for effect.

Ounsworth spent about a week recording The Tourist at Dr. Dog's Philadelphia-based studio with a drummer and bassist. After that, he and engineer Nick Krill spent a few months "tidying things up" and recording additional embellishments: backup vocals, keyboards, guitars and more percussion. That gives The Tourist more of a band feel than the last album, and contributes to why the record possesses a musical lightness. The dreamy opening track "The Pilot" especially has a lilting edge, courtesy of Smiths-reminiscent acoustic guitars strums and Ounsworth's hiccupping, conspiratorial vocals.

The Tourist was then mixed by Dave Fridmann, who also worked on two previous Clap Your Hands Say Yeah albums, 2007's Some Loud Thunder and 2014's Only Run. Ounsworth says he and Fridmann are on the same musical wavelength, which makes their long-time working relationship an anchor of sorts. "Dave and I don't necessarily stick with what's easiest which is fine and anxiety-inducing, in a good way," he says. "He challenges me to do something a little bit different."

"I am a relatively solitary person and seem to work best alone," he says. "I do count on others to help the project as the process of making and releasing an album moves forward, but if it doesn't match what I have in mind, it's hard for me to really be there for it. I guess this is one reason why the project has been independent all this time. Trust me, I understand that thinking this way is both an asset and a liability."

However, this stubborn independence also reflects Ounsworth's commitment to musical integrity. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's career arc is all about building on previous successes while staying true to a core artistic vision. And although The Tourist may have emerged from challenging times, it reflects Ounsworth's uncanny ability to move forward, no matter what the circumstances.

"I'd rather not say that it was a dark time, but it was a difficult time in my life-among the most difficult," he says. "But I needed and need to try to let it go. And this is how I let things go. Though it's the same for any album-this one probably more than the others.

"But I have to try to do something each time that's new and engaging for me," he adds. "I mean, I could very well just write songs the way they were early on. But I don't think that people would appreciate listening to someone just going through the motions. We have to build something to last, rather than just build it because it looks good at the moment."

– Annie Zeleski

Like previous Clap Your Hands Say Yeah records, The Tourist nods to Ounsworth's musical heroes-a group that includes artists such as John Cale, Robert Wyatt, Tom Waits and Nick Cave. However, this album also shows a natural progression from previous records. "Better Off" and "The Vanity Of Trying" are lush, keyboard-augmented songs, while "A Chance To Cure" and "Ambulance Chaser" are rhythmically askew, and the sighing "Loose Ends" is delicate, acoustic-based folk-rock.

The Tourist emerged from a period where Ounsworth was doing a lot of intense soul-searching, and processing personal events that irrevocably shaped his life and future. But although most of these songs came together during this time of reflection, he considers the record to be cathartic-an exhale of sorts, rather than a collection of songs where he was indulging in self-pity or letting things stagnate or fester.

Appropriately, The Tourist's lyrics reflect how complex upheaval can be ("We can beat around this bush together/Sometimes it's all I think of/Other times I can forget") and explore the imperfect nature of blame ("The car left the road and was found without its mirrors/You play the victim/And I'll play the blind man"). Other songs try to make sense of the present time ("Now that the past is on fire/How can I look around and find I can't remember who I was") or employ clever wordplay- "Black cat let's not split hairs/I'm tethered to the weather/I assure I don't care about no lucky streak"-for effect.

Ounsworth spent about a week recording The Tourist at Dr. Dog's Philadelphia-based studio with a drummer and bassist. After that, he and engineer Nick Krill spent a few months "tidying things up" and recording additional embellishments: backup vocals, keyboards, guitars and more percussion. That gives The Tourist more of a band feel than the last album, and contributes to why the record possesses a musical lightness. The dreamy opening track "The Pilot" especially has a lilting edge, courtesy of Smiths-reminiscent acoustic guitars strums and Ounsworth's hiccupping, conspiratorial vocals.

The Tourist was then mixed by Dave Fridmann, who also worked on two previous Clap Your Hands Say Yeah albums, 2007's Some Loud Thunder and 2014's Only Run. Ounsworth says he and Fridmann are on the same musical wavelength, which makes their long-time working relationship an anchor of sorts. "Dave and I don't necessarily stick with what's easiest which is fine and anxiety-inducing, in a good way," he says. "He challenges me to do something a little bit different."

"I am a relatively solitary person and seem to work best alone," he says. "I do count on others to help the project as the process of making and releasing an album moves forward, but if it doesn't match what I have in mind, it's hard for me to really be there for it. I guess this is one reason why the project has been independent all this time. Trust me, I understand that thinking this way is both an asset and a liability."

However, this stubborn independence also reflects Ounsworth's commitment to musical integrity. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's career arc is all about building on previous successes while staying true to a core artistic vision. And although The Tourist may have emerged from challenging times, it reflects Ounsworth's uncanny ability to move forward, no matter what the circumstances.

"I'd rather not say that it was a dark time, but it was a difficult time in my life-among the most difficult," he says. "But I needed and need to try to let it go. And this is how I let things go. Though it's the same for any album-this one probably more than the others.

"But I have to try to do something each time that's new and engaging for me," he adds. "I mean, I could very well just write songs the way they were early on. But I don't think that people would appreciate listening to someone just going through the motions. We have to build something to last, rather than just build it because it looks good at the moment."

– Annie Zeleski

(Early Show) Nick Barilla with Special Guest Hannah Jenkins

Blending a soulful sound with bright pop-piano sty lings, Nick Barilla brings an inspiring and uplifting experience to every stage he performs on. His passion shines through his outgoing personality, and his genuine likeability connects with audiences of all ages. Barilla sings about love, life, and heartbreak, often stemming from personal experiences, and aims to stay true to himself. Uniquely marketable and relatable, Nick Barilla seeks to influence the future of live music one song at a time.

Blending a soulful sound with bright pop-piano sty lings, Nick Barilla brings an inspiring and uplifting experience to every stage he performs on. His passion shines through his outgoing personality, and his genuine likeability connects with audiences of all ages. Barilla sings about love, life, and heartbreak, often stemming from personal experiences, and aims to stay true to himself. Uniquely marketable and relatable, Nick Barilla seeks to influence the future of live music one song at a time.

Rocki Boulis - Release Party/Performance with Special Guest Harrison Wayne

Rocki Boulis is a singer/songwriter from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has been singing since the age of three and started realizing around eleven that she wanted to use her talents to seek a career in the music business. Her sound is a R&B/Pop type of vibe and her inspirations musically include Tori Kelly, Christina Aguleria, Jazmine Sullivan, Beyonce, and Jess Glynne. Rocki also enjoys acting, and has been in multiple musicals and commercials. She planned to major in musical theater after graduating in 2013, but decided to take time off school to pursue her music career. She has played in multiple venues around her home town and competed in a few singing competitions.

Rocki Boulis is a singer/songwriter from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has been singing since the age of three and started realizing around eleven that she wanted to use her talents to seek a career in the music business. Her sound is a R&B/Pop type of vibe and her inspirations musically include Tori Kelly, Christina Aguleria, Jazmine Sullivan, Beyonce, and Jess Glynne. Rocki also enjoys acting, and has been in multiple musicals and commercials. She planned to major in musical theater after graduating in 2013, but decided to take time off school to pursue her music career. She has played in multiple venues around her home town and competed in a few singing competitions.

Shawn James with Special Guest Douglas Lowell Blevins

Born in 1986 in the south side of Chicago, Shawn James had a hardworking, kind mother and a gambling, abusive, drunk father. He grew up singing in church and was drawn to the emotional and ethereal power that music could have over people. It was there that he found his escape and learned how to harness his unique, soulful voice.

Shawn now lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas and plays a mix of haunting folk and hard-hitting soulful blues. You might catch him playing on the street in the rain some night, with his band the Shapeshifters, or just find him performing an intimate set for friends at a house show. No matter where you see him, just make sure you have your eyes and ears open, his performance will be one you won't forget.

All of Shawn's recordings, solo and with his band can be found on Bandcamp.

Born in 1986 in the south side of Chicago, Shawn James had a hardworking, kind mother and a gambling, abusive, drunk father. He grew up singing in church and was drawn to the emotional and ethereal power that music could have over people. It was there that he found his escape and learned how to harness his unique, soulful voice.

Shawn now lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas and plays a mix of haunting folk and hard-hitting soulful blues. You might catch him playing on the street in the rain some night, with his band the Shapeshifters, or just find him performing an intimate set for friends at a house show. No matter where you see him, just make sure you have your eyes and ears open, his performance will be one you won't forget.

All of Shawn's recordings, solo and with his band can be found on Bandcamp.

Seth Walker

Over the past 10 years, Seth Walker has become recognized as one of the most revered modern roots artists in the United States; a three dimensional talent comprised by a gift for combining melody and lyric alongside a rich, Gospel-drenched, Southern-inflected voice with a true blue knack for getting around on the guitar. His latest studio album, Gotta Get Back, produced by Jano Rix of The Wood Brothers, is yet another masterwork that further expands upon this reputation.

Growing up on a commune in rural North Carolina, the son of classically trained musicians, Seth Walker played cello long before discovering the six-string in his 20s. When his introduction to the blues came via his Uncle Landon Walker, who was both a musician and disc jockey, his fate was forever sealed. Instantaneously, Seth was looking to artists like T-Bone Walker, Snooks Eaglin, and B.B. King as a wellspring of endless inspiration. The rest is history. He's released seven albums between 1997 and 2015; breaking into the Top 20 of the Americana charts and receiving praise from NPR, American Songwriter, No Depression and Blues Revue, among others.

In addition to extensive recording and songwriting pursuits, Seth is consistently touring and performing at venues and festivals around the world. Along with headline shows, he's been invited to open for The Mavericks, The Wood Brothers, Raul Malo, Paul Thorn and Ruthie Foster, among others.

Seth Walker is currently splitting his time between New Orleans and New York City after previously residing in Austin and Nashville. He's used those experiences wisely, soaking up the sounds and absorbing the musical lineage of these varied places. With a bluesman's respect for roots and tradition, coupled with an appreciation for-and successful melding of-contemporary songwriting, Seth sublimely incorporates a range of styles with warmth and grace. Perhaps Country Standard Time said it best: "If you subscribe to the Big Tent theory of Americana, then Seth Walker –with his blend of blues, gospel, pop, R&B, rock, and a dash country-just might be your poster boy."

Over the past 10 years, Seth Walker has become recognized as one of the most revered modern roots artists in the United States; a three dimensional talent comprised by a gift for combining melody and lyric alongside a rich, Gospel-drenched, Southern-inflected voice with a true blue knack for getting around on the guitar. His latest studio album, Gotta Get Back, produced by Jano Rix of The Wood Brothers, is yet another masterwork that further expands upon this reputation.

Growing up on a commune in rural North Carolina, the son of classically trained musicians, Seth Walker played cello long before discovering the six-string in his 20s. When his introduction to the blues came via his Uncle Landon Walker, who was both a musician and disc jockey, his fate was forever sealed. Instantaneously, Seth was looking to artists like T-Bone Walker, Snooks Eaglin, and B.B. King as a wellspring of endless inspiration. The rest is history. He's released seven albums between 1997 and 2015; breaking into the Top 20 of the Americana charts and receiving praise from NPR, American Songwriter, No Depression and Blues Revue, among others.

In addition to extensive recording and songwriting pursuits, Seth is consistently touring and performing at venues and festivals around the world. Along with headline shows, he's been invited to open for The Mavericks, The Wood Brothers, Raul Malo, Paul Thorn and Ruthie Foster, among others.

Seth Walker is currently splitting his time between New Orleans and New York City after previously residing in Austin and Nashville. He's used those experiences wisely, soaking up the sounds and absorbing the musical lineage of these varied places. With a bluesman's respect for roots and tradition, coupled with an appreciation for-and successful melding of-contemporary songwriting, Seth sublimely incorporates a range of styles with warmth and grace. Perhaps Country Standard Time said it best: "If you subscribe to the Big Tent theory of Americana, then Seth Walker –with his blend of blues, gospel, pop, R&B, rock, and a dash country-just might be your poster boy."

An Evening With Ellis Paul

"Despite his success and sense of history, Mr. Paul remains an artist with his eye on the future and an interest in discovering the transformative potential in his music." - The New York Times

Some artists document their lives through their music. Others chronicle their times. It’s a rare artist who can do both, telling their own story through songs that also encapsulate the essence of people and places who have helped define their era overall. Woody Guthrie comes to mind, and so does Bob Dylan. Bruce Springsteen certainly as well. Yet few others, for whatever genius they may possess, can relate their own history to the history experienced by those who find that common bond, be it in a coming of age, living through the same realities or sharing similar experiences.

Ellis Paul is one of those gifted singer/songwriters.Though some may refer to him as a folksinger, he is more, for lack of a better word, a singular storyteller, a musician whose words reach out from inside and yet also express the feelings, thoughts and sensibilities that most people can relate to in one way or another, regardless of age or upbringing. The exhilaration of the open road. A ​celebration of heroes.​ ​The hope for redemption. Descriptions of those things that are both near and dear. The sharing of love..., intimate, passionate and enduring.

These are the scenarios that emerge from Ellis Paul’s new album, Chasing Beauty, a set of songs which detail, in typical Paul fashion, stories of people and places that reflect larger truths about us all. “Kick Out the Lights (Johnny Cash)” pays tribute to that fearless American icon name-checked in its title. “Plastic Soldier” offers homage to a wounded soldier returning from Afghanistan. A real-life barnstorming pilot takes the spotlight in “Jimmie Angel’s Flying Circus,” while iconic Boston blue collar musician Dennis Brennan takes the focus in “Waiting on a Break.” Even the Empire State Building and the Boston Red Sox get their due, via “Empire State” and “UK Girl (Boston Calling),” respectively.

In reality, these stories are a continuation of tales Paul has told for more than a quarter century, over the expanse of nineteen albums, numerous critical kudos (15 Boston Music Awards alone), inclusion in several movie soundtracks, and stages he’s headlined both near and far. “I’ve got a car with over 4​75​,000 miles on it, and it's my third road vehicle,​” Paul declares. “I’ve been doing 200 shows a year for over twenty years. There isn’t a town in the country where I won’t find a friend. I’m a nomad. And I’m gonna write and play until I’m gone.”

No doubt he will. Still, it’s somewhat ironic that Paul gravitated towards this bigger world of intent and expression given that the place Paul considers his hometown these days isn’t New York or Nashville, or Boston or Austin or ​Charlottesville, VA. where he lives, but rather Presque Isle, Maine, a tiny enclave surrounded by three rivers. Not surprisingly, the name translates to “almost an island.” Presque Isle shares a vanishing tradition with many small towns these days, where family farms are giving way to industrializ​ation​ ​and giant corporations, and earning a livelihood from the land is no longer the simple option it once was. Nevertheless, it’s still a haven for traditional values and for people as real and authentic as the soil they once tilled. If there’s one grace left to cling to, it’s the grace of nature’s beauty, sealed off by the surrounding mountains and fields.

Likewise, his geographical origins also couldn’t have been further from the world at large. He was born in the dead of winter in the small town of Fort Kent, Maine, a place nestled right up next to the Canadian border. He came from humble origins, a family of potato farmers who could count among their forebears a veteran of the battle of Gettysburg, whose heroism on that field of honor earned him the 140 acres of Maine farmland that his descendants would continue to sow. It was the place that taught Paul the meaning of hard work and self-reliance, and the values that accompany as much drive and determination any individual could muster.

As a boy, Paul found his escape in athletics, working out as a runner and testing his mettle in the open spaces near his home. He became a star competitor, and enjoyed the advantage of traveling throughout the nation after being given opportunities to compete. Along the way, he saw more of the country than most people do in a lifetime. “I was lucky to be able to travel for competitions all over the U.S. and to see places I once could only dream of,” he recalls. “The Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles, the endless plains of Texas, the Kansas prairie, the Rocky Mountain in Wyoming. Every trip was funded by a hat the town passed around on my behalf, and it never came back empty.” When Paul finished second in a nationwide track competition, he was met at the airport by the high school marching band and a fire engine with spinning lights that drove him in triumph through town. In an expression of hometown pride, the mayor handed him the key to the city.

​No one ever told Paul he had to follow in his family’s tradition. He was a dreamer after all, and he had seen enough of America to know there was more out there than his little town could ever offer. Consequently, his ambitions were never destined to stay bottled up for long. He would write, paint, play trumpet and sing in the school choir. “I never had anyone tell me I had to be a farmer,” Paul insists. “I had plenty of people telling me how my hard work and talent ​c​ould take me places​. T​hat’s enough to get you dreaming, And enough to make you believe those dreams are within reach.”

Indeed, Paul found those dreams were within his reach, at least in terms of his imagination. However​ their pursuit would take him far from home. His first destination was Boston College, courtesy of a ​​track​ scholarship. Yet as Paul describes it, his athletic endeavors, combined with his academic responsibilities, served to rob him of his creativity. It was only after he suffered a knee injury which forced him to take a year off that he rebounded with a new form of expression, made possible when his girlfriend’s sister gave him a secondhand guitar. “A mysterious, lustful partnership with the instrument followed,” Paul concedes. “It became a marriage, a friendship, a lifelong bond that only comes when you find that one thing that becomes an extension of yourself. I played for hours, choosing to write ​my own original ​​songs and sing instead of studying, socializing or exploring what the Boston streets could offer after hours.”

After graduation, Paul did find time to explore those paths, while taking opportunities to indulge his creative ambitions. Working as a teacher and social worker with inner city children by day and pursuing the possibilities offered by Boston’s fertile music scene at night, he gained prominence in local coffeehouses and open mic nights. It was the same circuit that opened the door for other like-minded artists of the day, and in turn, gave Paul exposure to such creative contemporaries as Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams, Patty Larkin, John Gorka, Catie Curtis, and Bill Morrissey. It also helped him win a Boston Underground Songwriting competition and placement on a Windham Hill Records singer/songwriter compilation, bringing him his first hint of national exposure at the same time.

The major tipping point in his career came with the opportunity to open for Bill Morrissey, one of New England’s most prominent folk artists. Paul would repeatedly ask Morrissey about his own influences and seek his advice on who he ought to listen to. “You know, that’s a very smart thing to do,” Morrissey muses. “It helped set him apart. A lot of young singers I meet are not curious about what went on before; they just say, ‘I want to sing another song about my life.’ Paul has a sense of roots, of connectedness to the whole history of folk music; he sees the thread that runs through all the generations of this music.”

It was mutual admiration that caused Paul to ask Morrissey to produce his first full album, 1993‘s Say ​Something. It was released on Black Wolf Records, the label he founded with ​Ralph​ Jaccodine, the man who would become his manager. “​Ralph was fulfilling a dream to get into the music business,” Paul recalls. “Starting with a folk singer isn’t a rocket​ launch, but we got off the ground. We started a label and began a lifelong​, DIY​ ​partnership and have been​ ​in the trenches​ for over 20 years.​”

Paul also became infatuated with the music of Woody Guthrie, drawn to Woody’s social consciousness and the humanitarian streak that ran through his work. He even had a tattoo of Guthrie imprinted on his right shoulder, referring to it as “a badge of who he ​was.” His commitment to Guthrie’s legacy eventually led to his inclusion in a ten day celebration of Woody’s work held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in September 1996, an event that included such notables as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, the Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco and which was presided over by Guthrie’s daughter Nora. Later, when Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma hosted the first Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in July, 1998, Paul was tapped as one of the headliners. He has since made this an annual part of his touring schedule,​ garnering the honor of being named an honorary citizen of Okemah in the process. The connection with Guthrie continued into the new millennium when Nora Guthrie invited him to put music to a set of her father’s lyrics. He later participated in the “Ribbon of Highway” tour, a communal salute featuring such luminaries as Arlo Guthrie, Marty Stuart, Ramblin’ Jack Ellott, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark and Janis Ian, among others. ​

There’s likely no greater evidence of how Guthrie’s insights and humanity have rubbed off on Paul than in this particularly telling tribute from Nora Guthrie. "A singer songwriter is only as good as the times he reflects,”she said in praising Paul. “In times like these, when so many nuts are running the show, it's comforting to know that Ellis Paul is actually holding our sanity on his own stage! Wise, tender, brilliant and biting, Ellis is one of our best human compasses, marking in melodies and poems where we've been and where we might go if we so choose to. Personally Ellis, I'm goin' where you're goin'!​"​

Where Paul is “goin’” is to practically every place a microphone beckons and a crowd of the folk faithful awaits. He’s become a staple at the Newport Folk Festival, ​played Carnegie hall, and venues from Alaska to Miami, Paris and London. In addition to his 19 albums released on the Rounder and Black Wolf record labels, his music has appeared on dozens of distinguished compilations. A ​Film/​DVD entitled ​3000 Miles​​ -- part concert film, part documentary, part instructional video -- provides a further prospective on both the man and his music. He’s also released a pair of children’s albums, earning him honors from the Parent’s Choice Foundation ​for both.​ ​H​is latest, ​"​The Hero In You​" has been turned into a​ picture book, detailing the lives of great American heroes​.​ Ellis' literate, evocative and insightful writings are further showcased in a book of poetry and short stories entitled “Notes from the Road,​" already in it's third pressing. ​

It’s no wonder then that recently Paul received ​a ​prestigious​ honor: an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Maine, which also asked him to ​write the school's ​a​lma ​mater a​s well as ​deliver its commencement address in May 2014.

Happily, his music has been shared with a wider audience as well, through commercials, documentaries, TV shows and in the soundtracks of several blockbuster films, among them three by the Farrelly Brothers -- “Hall Pass” (starring Owen Wilson and Alyssa Milano), “Me, Myself, & Irene” (starring Jim Carrey) and “Shallow Hal” (starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow). Peter Farrelly summed up the sentiments of all those who have come to know and appreciate Paul’s music by referring to him as “a national treasure.”

Not surprisingly, Paul’s consistently been heralded by others as well. ​O​ne writer noted “that it reminds you how much we need storytellers back in pop music -- storytellers with empathy, fine eyes and an understanding that even though we live in a soulless, indifferent would, out music doesn’t have to reflect our culture." ​Another reviewer was even more pointed. “Ellis Paul is one of the best singer/songwriters of his generation,” she commented. “And for many of us he is the face of contemporary folk music. Few are as smart, as literate, as poetic as Paul. I cannot think of another artist on the acoustic music scene is better loved by fans, or more respected by his contemporaries.”

Indeed, he is all that, and in a very real sense, even more. He’s an observer, a philosopher, and an astute storyteller who shares with his listeners the life lessons he’s learned, and in turn, life lessons they ought to heed as well. By affirming and defining who he is, Ellis Paul affirms and uncovers the essence of us all.

-- Lee Zimmerman (writer/reviewer for American Songwriter, No Depression, New Times, Country Standard Time, Blurt, Relix, and M Music and Musicians​)​

"Despite his success and sense of history, Mr. Paul remains an artist with his eye on the future and an interest in discovering the transformative potential in his music." - The New York Times

Some artists document their lives through their music. Others chronicle their times. It’s a rare artist who can do both, telling their own story through songs that also encapsulate the essence of people and places who have helped define their era overall. Woody Guthrie comes to mind, and so does Bob Dylan. Bruce Springsteen certainly as well. Yet few others, for whatever genius they may possess, can relate their own history to the history experienced by those who find that common bond, be it in a coming of age, living through the same realities or sharing similar experiences.

Ellis Paul is one of those gifted singer/songwriters.Though some may refer to him as a folksinger, he is more, for lack of a better word, a singular storyteller, a musician whose words reach out from inside and yet also express the feelings, thoughts and sensibilities that most people can relate to in one way or another, regardless of age or upbringing. The exhilaration of the open road. A ​celebration of heroes.​ ​The hope for redemption. Descriptions of those things that are both near and dear. The sharing of love..., intimate, passionate and enduring.

These are the scenarios that emerge from Ellis Paul’s new album, Chasing Beauty, a set of songs which detail, in typical Paul fashion, stories of people and places that reflect larger truths about us all. “Kick Out the Lights (Johnny Cash)” pays tribute to that fearless American icon name-checked in its title. “Plastic Soldier” offers homage to a wounded soldier returning from Afghanistan. A real-life barnstorming pilot takes the spotlight in “Jimmie Angel’s Flying Circus,” while iconic Boston blue collar musician Dennis Brennan takes the focus in “Waiting on a Break.” Even the Empire State Building and the Boston Red Sox get their due, via “Empire State” and “UK Girl (Boston Calling),” respectively.

In reality, these stories are a continuation of tales Paul has told for more than a quarter century, over the expanse of nineteen albums, numerous critical kudos (15 Boston Music Awards alone), inclusion in several movie soundtracks, and stages he’s headlined both near and far. “I’ve got a car with over 4​75​,000 miles on it, and it's my third road vehicle,​” Paul declares. “I’ve been doing 200 shows a year for over twenty years. There isn’t a town in the country where I won’t find a friend. I’m a nomad. And I’m gonna write and play until I’m gone.”

No doubt he will. Still, it’s somewhat ironic that Paul gravitated towards this bigger world of intent and expression given that the place Paul considers his hometown these days isn’t New York or Nashville, or Boston or Austin or ​Charlottesville, VA. where he lives, but rather Presque Isle, Maine, a tiny enclave surrounded by three rivers. Not surprisingly, the name translates to “almost an island.” Presque Isle shares a vanishing tradition with many small towns these days, where family farms are giving way to industrializ​ation​ ​and giant corporations, and earning a livelihood from the land is no longer the simple option it once was. Nevertheless, it’s still a haven for traditional values and for people as real and authentic as the soil they once tilled. If there’s one grace left to cling to, it’s the grace of nature’s beauty, sealed off by the surrounding mountains and fields.

Likewise, his geographical origins also couldn’t have been further from the world at large. He was born in the dead of winter in the small town of Fort Kent, Maine, a place nestled right up next to the Canadian border. He came from humble origins, a family of potato farmers who could count among their forebears a veteran of the battle of Gettysburg, whose heroism on that field of honor earned him the 140 acres of Maine farmland that his descendants would continue to sow. It was the place that taught Paul the meaning of hard work and self-reliance, and the values that accompany as much drive and determination any individual could muster.

As a boy, Paul found his escape in athletics, working out as a runner and testing his mettle in the open spaces near his home. He became a star competitor, and enjoyed the advantage of traveling throughout the nation after being given opportunities to compete. Along the way, he saw more of the country than most people do in a lifetime. “I was lucky to be able to travel for competitions all over the U.S. and to see places I once could only dream of,” he recalls. “The Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles, the endless plains of Texas, the Kansas prairie, the Rocky Mountain in Wyoming. Every trip was funded by a hat the town passed around on my behalf, and it never came back empty.” When Paul finished second in a nationwide track competition, he was met at the airport by the high school marching band and a fire engine with spinning lights that drove him in triumph through town. In an expression of hometown pride, the mayor handed him the key to the city.

​No one ever told Paul he had to follow in his family’s tradition. He was a dreamer after all, and he had seen enough of America to know there was more out there than his little town could ever offer. Consequently, his ambitions were never destined to stay bottled up for long. He would write, paint, play trumpet and sing in the school choir. “I never had anyone tell me I had to be a farmer,” Paul insists. “I had plenty of people telling me how my hard work and talent ​c​ould take me places​. T​hat’s enough to get you dreaming, And enough to make you believe those dreams are within reach.”

Indeed, Paul found those dreams were within his reach, at least in terms of his imagination. However​ their pursuit would take him far from home. His first destination was Boston College, courtesy of a ​​track​ scholarship. Yet as Paul describes it, his athletic endeavors, combined with his academic responsibilities, served to rob him of his creativity. It was only after he suffered a knee injury which forced him to take a year off that he rebounded with a new form of expression, made possible when his girlfriend’s sister gave him a secondhand guitar. “A mysterious, lustful partnership with the instrument followed,” Paul concedes. “It became a marriage, a friendship, a lifelong bond that only comes when you find that one thing that becomes an extension of yourself. I played for hours, choosing to write ​my own original ​​songs and sing instead of studying, socializing or exploring what the Boston streets could offer after hours.”

After graduation, Paul did find time to explore those paths, while taking opportunities to indulge his creative ambitions. Working as a teacher and social worker with inner city children by day and pursuing the possibilities offered by Boston’s fertile music scene at night, he gained prominence in local coffeehouses and open mic nights. It was the same circuit that opened the door for other like-minded artists of the day, and in turn, gave Paul exposure to such creative contemporaries as Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams, Patty Larkin, John Gorka, Catie Curtis, and Bill Morrissey. It also helped him win a Boston Underground Songwriting competition and placement on a Windham Hill Records singer/songwriter compilation, bringing him his first hint of national exposure at the same time.

The major tipping point in his career came with the opportunity to open for Bill Morrissey, one of New England’s most prominent folk artists. Paul would repeatedly ask Morrissey about his own influences and seek his advice on who he ought to listen to. “You know, that’s a very smart thing to do,” Morrissey muses. “It helped set him apart. A lot of young singers I meet are not curious about what went on before; they just say, ‘I want to sing another song about my life.’ Paul has a sense of roots, of connectedness to the whole history of folk music; he sees the thread that runs through all the generations of this music.”

It was mutual admiration that caused Paul to ask Morrissey to produce his first full album, 1993‘s Say ​Something. It was released on Black Wolf Records, the label he founded with ​Ralph​ Jaccodine, the man who would become his manager. “​Ralph was fulfilling a dream to get into the music business,” Paul recalls. “Starting with a folk singer isn’t a rocket​ launch, but we got off the ground. We started a label and began a lifelong​, DIY​ ​partnership and have been​ ​in the trenches​ for over 20 years.​”

Paul also became infatuated with the music of Woody Guthrie, drawn to Woody’s social consciousness and the humanitarian streak that ran through his work. He even had a tattoo of Guthrie imprinted on his right shoulder, referring to it as “a badge of who he ​was.” His commitment to Guthrie’s legacy eventually led to his inclusion in a ten day celebration of Woody’s work held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in September 1996, an event that included such notables as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, the Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco and which was presided over by Guthrie’s daughter Nora. Later, when Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma hosted the first Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in July, 1998, Paul was tapped as one of the headliners. He has since made this an annual part of his touring schedule,​ garnering the honor of being named an honorary citizen of Okemah in the process. The connection with Guthrie continued into the new millennium when Nora Guthrie invited him to put music to a set of her father’s lyrics. He later participated in the “Ribbon of Highway” tour, a communal salute featuring such luminaries as Arlo Guthrie, Marty Stuart, Ramblin’ Jack Ellott, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark and Janis Ian, among others. ​

There’s likely no greater evidence of how Guthrie’s insights and humanity have rubbed off on Paul than in this particularly telling tribute from Nora Guthrie. "A singer songwriter is only as good as the times he reflects,”she said in praising Paul. “In times like these, when so many nuts are running the show, it's comforting to know that Ellis Paul is actually holding our sanity on his own stage! Wise, tender, brilliant and biting, Ellis is one of our best human compasses, marking in melodies and poems where we've been and where we might go if we so choose to. Personally Ellis, I'm goin' where you're goin'!​"​

Where Paul is “goin’” is to practically every place a microphone beckons and a crowd of the folk faithful awaits. He’s become a staple at the Newport Folk Festival, ​played Carnegie hall, and venues from Alaska to Miami, Paris and London. In addition to his 19 albums released on the Rounder and Black Wolf record labels, his music has appeared on dozens of distinguished compilations. A ​Film/​DVD entitled ​3000 Miles​​ -- part concert film, part documentary, part instructional video -- provides a further prospective on both the man and his music. He’s also released a pair of children’s albums, earning him honors from the Parent’s Choice Foundation ​for both.​ ​H​is latest, ​"​The Hero In You​" has been turned into a​ picture book, detailing the lives of great American heroes​.​ Ellis' literate, evocative and insightful writings are further showcased in a book of poetry and short stories entitled “Notes from the Road,​" already in it's third pressing. ​

It’s no wonder then that recently Paul received ​a ​prestigious​ honor: an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Maine, which also asked him to ​write the school's ​a​lma ​mater a​s well as ​deliver its commencement address in May 2014.

Happily, his music has been shared with a wider audience as well, through commercials, documentaries, TV shows and in the soundtracks of several blockbuster films, among them three by the Farrelly Brothers -- “Hall Pass” (starring Owen Wilson and Alyssa Milano), “Me, Myself, & Irene” (starring Jim Carrey) and “Shallow Hal” (starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow). Peter Farrelly summed up the sentiments of all those who have come to know and appreciate Paul’s music by referring to him as “a national treasure.”

Not surprisingly, Paul’s consistently been heralded by others as well. ​O​ne writer noted “that it reminds you how much we need storytellers back in pop music -- storytellers with empathy, fine eyes and an understanding that even though we live in a soulless, indifferent would, out music doesn’t have to reflect our culture." ​Another reviewer was even more pointed. “Ellis Paul is one of the best singer/songwriters of his generation,” she commented. “And for many of us he is the face of contemporary folk music. Few are as smart, as literate, as poetic as Paul. I cannot think of another artist on the acoustic music scene is better loved by fans, or more respected by his contemporaries.”

Indeed, he is all that, and in a very real sense, even more. He’s an observer, a philosopher, and an astute storyteller who shares with his listeners the life lessons he’s learned, and in turn, life lessons they ought to heed as well. By affirming and defining who he is, Ellis Paul affirms and uncovers the essence of us all.

-- Lee Zimmerman (writer/reviewer for American Songwriter, No Depression, New Times, Country Standard Time, Blurt, Relix, and M Music and Musicians​)​

(Early Show) Charlie Parr with Special Guest Chicago Farmer

An easily confused and very shy individual, Charlie Parr has been traveling around singing his songs ever since leaving Austin Minnesota in the 1980's in search of Spider John Koerner, whom he found about 100 miles north at the Viking Bar one Sunday night. The experience changed his life, made him more or less unemployable, and brings us to now: 13 recordings, 250 shows a year or more, 200,000 miles on a well broke in Kia, and a nasty fear of heights. Resonator fueled folk songs from Duluth Minnesota

An easily confused and very shy individual, Charlie Parr has been traveling around singing his songs ever since leaving Austin Minnesota in the 1980's in search of Spider John Koerner, whom he found about 100 miles north at the Viking Bar one Sunday night. The experience changed his life, made him more or less unemployable, and brings us to now: 13 recordings, 250 shows a year or more, 200,000 miles on a well broke in Kia, and a nasty fear of heights. Resonator fueled folk songs from Duluth Minnesota

(Late Show) Jackson Howard with Aris Paul

Distinguished by interesting and intricate acoustic guitar and floating vocals with a touch of blue-eyed soul, Jackson Howard’s songs grab your ears and your soul in captivating ways. In an age when lyrics are losing their importance, Jackson puts the poetry back into songwriting while remaining universally relatable.
In April of 2014, Jackson released his first EP A Place to Cross to a packed house at Blueberry Hill in St. Louis a few days after making his first television appearance on Fox2 News. Over the next year he gained momentum locally performing several times a week throughout the greater St. Louis area. That July, Jackson went back to the studio to begin work on his first full length album “About Life”, released on January 2nd 2015 at Off Broadway in St. Louis as well as at an East Coast release at Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center in Pennsylvania.
In the summer of 2015, a song from About Life caught the attention of Grammy-nominated producer Billy Smiley. By September the two were recording a new album at Dark Horse Studios in Franklin, TN. The album (set to be released in the spring of 2017) boasts the talents of Johnathan Crone, Daniel O’Lannerghty, Andre DiMuzio, Jared Kneale (drums – Kacey Musgraves, Ben Rector); sound engineering by Billy Whittington (Amy Grant), Ritchie Biggs (Civil Wars, Lone Below), and Billy Smiley (White Heart, Newsboys), and production by Billy Smiley.

Distinguished by interesting and intricate acoustic guitar and floating vocals with a touch of blue-eyed soul, Jackson Howard’s songs grab your ears and your soul in captivating ways. In an age when lyrics are losing their importance, Jackson puts the poetry back into songwriting while remaining universally relatable.
In April of 2014, Jackson released his first EP A Place to Cross to a packed house at Blueberry Hill in St. Louis a few days after making his first television appearance on Fox2 News. Over the next year he gained momentum locally performing several times a week throughout the greater St. Louis area. That July, Jackson went back to the studio to begin work on his first full length album “About Life”, released on January 2nd 2015 at Off Broadway in St. Louis as well as at an East Coast release at Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center in Pennsylvania.
In the summer of 2015, a song from About Life caught the attention of Grammy-nominated producer Billy Smiley. By September the two were recording a new album at Dark Horse Studios in Franklin, TN. The album (set to be released in the spring of 2017) boasts the talents of Johnathan Crone, Daniel O’Lannerghty, Andre DiMuzio, Jared Kneale (drums – Kacey Musgraves, Ben Rector); sound engineering by Billy Whittington (Amy Grant), Ritchie Biggs (Civil Wars, Lone Below), and Billy Smiley (White Heart, Newsboys), and production by Billy Smiley.

(Early Show) Overcoats with Special Guest Yoke Lore

Overcoats is the New York-based female duo of Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell. Their debut album YOUNG captures a sound rich in minimalism and melody: songs of connection and tension, on the depths of love and challenges of family. 

Overcoats' music draws strength from vulnerability, finding light through darkness, and the catharsis of simple, honest songwriting. YOUNG is about a transformation: the passage into womanhood, sung through the shared experience of two best friends.

On their first single "Hold Me Close," Hana and JJ's melodies are purity in unison, providing two distinct but entwined perspectives on the complexity of love. In their words, "the song is about finding solace in the present when the future and past seem impossible to understand. It's about loneliness and disillusionment that we can feel in relationships, and how we must persevere anyway in hopes of finding the beauty in love."

Elion and Mitchell were drawn to each other when they first met in 2011, finding connection in their diverse love of music and an immediate closeness that verges on sisterhood. Their meeting was transformative emotionally as well as creatively. Both halves of Overcoats describe the first time hearing each other sing as an epiphany: the harmony of their voices leading to personal, individual discovery. This bond forms the foundation of Overcoats, and it fills the ecosystem of YOUNG with its stunning sound and sentiment.

Album opener "Father" unfurls in clouds of three-dimensional sound: a cathedral of echo over waves of delay and the din of incidental noise. There is a rare resonance in Overcoats evident from these opening tones: between their separate (but inseparable) voices, flawlessly intuitive performance, and sublime musical production. Their harmonies slide from brassy to silken with elegant ease, floating over muted rhythms wrapped in lush swells of synthesizers.

YOUNG was written by Overcoats and co-produced by Nicolas Vernhes (Daughter, The War On Drugs, Dirty Projectors, Cass McCombs) and experimental R&B artist Autre Ne Veut, with additional production from Myles Avery and mixing by Ben Baptie (Lapsley, Lianne La Havas, Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson).

Their palette is stealth and simple electronics, with traces of folk, pop, and bluegrass embedded within. Like a spectrum from Sylvan Esso to Simon & Garfunkel, Overcoats creates music deeply rooted in emotion, and guided by the search for its innate expression through voice and electronics. Songs that began as bedroom creations flourished into rich but restrained productions, with careful craft illuminating the nuance of Overcoats' unique songwriting.

On YOUNG, Overcoats creates music of mutual empowerment, at once synthetic and organic, wistful and uplifting, triumphant and subdued.

"The Fog" is a bay of lonesome, oscillating synth chords: its boundaries defined by the reflection of echoic finger snaps. Elion and Mitchell find clarity through a lovers' haze, their stoic verses liberated by resounding chorus: Freedom is when I'm without you / When the fog lifts I'm the only one I see.

"Leave The Light On" layers looped and transposed vocals over thumping two-step 808 and punctuations of club-ready brass. Showing the true breadth of influence, songs like "Little Memory" and "Smaller Than My Mother" are laced with gospel and jazz, strands woven in with Vernhes' and Autre Ne Veut's natural touch.

YOUNG has a clear, vertical ambience that lets the topical vibration of the music shine through. This is the arrival of a magical collaboration: a rare unification of two hearts under one imagination. Elion and Mitchell are bound by absolute belief in one another, and the confidence that every creation is compelled by shared purpose.

Like its arc of transformation, from "Father" to album closer "Mother," Overcoats captures the notion that we are the intersections of our parents' greatest fantasies and biggest follies. YOUNG is a startlingly wise portrayal of these complexities: of love, on inspiration, and the legacy of family.

Overcoats is the New York-based female duo of Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell. Their debut album YOUNG captures a sound rich in minimalism and melody: songs of connection and tension, on the depths of love and challenges of family. 

Overcoats' music draws strength from vulnerability, finding light through darkness, and the catharsis of simple, honest songwriting. YOUNG is about a transformation: the passage into womanhood, sung through the shared experience of two best friends.

On their first single "Hold Me Close," Hana and JJ's melodies are purity in unison, providing two distinct but entwined perspectives on the complexity of love. In their words, "the song is about finding solace in the present when the future and past seem impossible to understand. It's about loneliness and disillusionment that we can feel in relationships, and how we must persevere anyway in hopes of finding the beauty in love."

Elion and Mitchell were drawn to each other when they first met in 2011, finding connection in their diverse love of music and an immediate closeness that verges on sisterhood. Their meeting was transformative emotionally as well as creatively. Both halves of Overcoats describe the first time hearing each other sing as an epiphany: the harmony of their voices leading to personal, individual discovery. This bond forms the foundation of Overcoats, and it fills the ecosystem of YOUNG with its stunning sound and sentiment.

Album opener "Father" unfurls in clouds of three-dimensional sound: a cathedral of echo over waves of delay and the din of incidental noise. There is a rare resonance in Overcoats evident from these opening tones: between their separate (but inseparable) voices, flawlessly intuitive performance, and sublime musical production. Their harmonies slide from brassy to silken with elegant ease, floating over muted rhythms wrapped in lush swells of synthesizers.

YOUNG was written by Overcoats and co-produced by Nicolas Vernhes (Daughter, The War On Drugs, Dirty Projectors, Cass McCombs) and experimental R&B artist Autre Ne Veut, with additional production from Myles Avery and mixing by Ben Baptie (Lapsley, Lianne La Havas, Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson).

Their palette is stealth and simple electronics, with traces of folk, pop, and bluegrass embedded within. Like a spectrum from Sylvan Esso to Simon & Garfunkel, Overcoats creates music deeply rooted in emotion, and guided by the search for its innate expression through voice and electronics. Songs that began as bedroom creations flourished into rich but restrained productions, with careful craft illuminating the nuance of Overcoats' unique songwriting.

On YOUNG, Overcoats creates music of mutual empowerment, at once synthetic and organic, wistful and uplifting, triumphant and subdued.

"The Fog" is a bay of lonesome, oscillating synth chords: its boundaries defined by the reflection of echoic finger snaps. Elion and Mitchell find clarity through a lovers' haze, their stoic verses liberated by resounding chorus: Freedom is when I'm without you / When the fog lifts I'm the only one I see.

"Leave The Light On" layers looped and transposed vocals over thumping two-step 808 and punctuations of club-ready brass. Showing the true breadth of influence, songs like "Little Memory" and "Smaller Than My Mother" are laced with gospel and jazz, strands woven in with Vernhes' and Autre Ne Veut's natural touch.

YOUNG has a clear, vertical ambience that lets the topical vibration of the music shine through. This is the arrival of a magical collaboration: a rare unification of two hearts under one imagination. Elion and Mitchell are bound by absolute belief in one another, and the confidence that every creation is compelled by shared purpose.

Like its arc of transformation, from "Father" to album closer "Mother," Overcoats captures the notion that we are the intersections of our parents' greatest fantasies and biggest follies. YOUNG is a startlingly wise portrayal of these complexities: of love, on inspiration, and the legacy of family.

@clubcafelive

56-58 South 12th Street, Pittsburgh PA 15203 (In Pittsburgh’s Historic South Side)