club cafe

pittsburgh, pa
Albert Lee with Special Guest The Cryers

Albert Lee is one of the most respected and renowned guitarists in music history, having worked with The Everly Brothers, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris and The Cricketts over his long and illustrious career. The British-born country-rock artist started his career during the emerging rock 'n' roll scene of sixties London, when he swapped bands with the likes of Jimmy Page and Chris Farlowe.

After moving to the U.S. and assimilating himself into the country music scene, Albert quickly garnered a reputation as one of the fastest guitar players in the business. He recorded a number of solo albums, and won a Grammy in 2002 for his contribution on 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown'. He continues to tour today, and plays his signature Ernie Ball Music Man Guitar.

Albert Lee is one of the most respected and renowned guitarists in music history, having worked with The Everly Brothers, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris and The Cricketts over his long and illustrious career. The British-born country-rock artist started his career during the emerging rock 'n' roll scene of sixties London, when he swapped bands with the likes of Jimmy Page and Chris Farlowe.

After moving to the U.S. and assimilating himself into the country music scene, Albert quickly garnered a reputation as one of the fastest guitar players in the business. He recorded a number of solo albums, and won a Grammy in 2002 for his contribution on 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown'. He continues to tour today, and plays his signature Ernie Ball Music Man Guitar.

(Early Show) An Evening of Magic and Music: Phat Man Dee + Tanya Solomon

Tanya Solomon

Direct from NYC, magician Tanya Solomon pulls into town for one night of startling effects including live fish appearing from nowhere, blindfolded targeting with a knife, baffling sleight of hand, and things you never knew could be done with creamed corn.

In this one-woman magic show, the astonishing and the absurd converge in a delightfully unsettling theatrical experience. You will leave feeling like a carnival has arrived in the night and turned reality upside down.
Logic and laws of nature guaranteed violated!

Tanya Solomon has been a cast member of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and Coney Island Sideshows by the Seashore, and produces Force Majeure Vaudeville. She has been a professional clown, a sideshow artist, and has specialized in magic for the past several years.
www.tanyasolomon.net

Phat Man Dee:

Phat Man Dee is a vocalist, bandleader, events producer, videographer, poet, retired sideshow marvel, music educator, and social justice agitatrix. She regularly appears with her jazz group “The Cultural District”, "The Lemington Gospel Chorale" directed by Pastor Deryck Tines, and "Social Justice Disco" a collaborative musical project with Liz Berlin. She performs live approximately 100 dates a year in nightclubs, theaters, educational facilities, private events and festivals. She was voted #1 Best Local Jazz Act in the 2018 Best of Pittsburgh City Paper Reader’s Poll! Mandee teaches voice at the We Rock Workshop, and the Afro American Music Institute. She just released her 5th CD “Songs to Fight Fascists By!” with "Social Justice Disco", a collaborative musical project with Liz Berlin, co founder of Rusted Root. This exciting, socially minded, justice driven musical collaboration features over 60 musicians, dancers, and spoken word artists.
For more info her websites are: PhatManDeeMusic.com and SocialJusticeDisco.com

Tanya Solomon

Direct from NYC, magician Tanya Solomon pulls into town for one night of startling effects including live fish appearing from nowhere, blindfolded targeting with a knife, baffling sleight of hand, and things you never knew could be done with creamed corn.

In this one-woman magic show, the astonishing and the absurd converge in a delightfully unsettling theatrical experience. You will leave feeling like a carnival has arrived in the night and turned reality upside down.
Logic and laws of nature guaranteed violated!

Tanya Solomon has been a cast member of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and Coney Island Sideshows by the Seashore, and produces Force Majeure Vaudeville. She has been a professional clown, a sideshow artist, and has specialized in magic for the past several years.
www.tanyasolomon.net

Phat Man Dee:

Phat Man Dee is a vocalist, bandleader, events producer, videographer, poet, retired sideshow marvel, music educator, and social justice agitatrix. She regularly appears with her jazz group “The Cultural District”, "The Lemington Gospel Chorale" directed by Pastor Deryck Tines, and "Social Justice Disco" a collaborative musical project with Liz Berlin. She performs live approximately 100 dates a year in nightclubs, theaters, educational facilities, private events and festivals. She was voted #1 Best Local Jazz Act in the 2018 Best of Pittsburgh City Paper Reader’s Poll! Mandee teaches voice at the We Rock Workshop, and the Afro American Music Institute. She just released her 5th CD “Songs to Fight Fascists By!” with "Social Justice Disco", a collaborative musical project with Liz Berlin, co founder of Rusted Root. This exciting, socially minded, justice driven musical collaboration features over 60 musicians, dancers, and spoken word artists.
For more info her websites are: PhatManDeeMusic.com and SocialJusticeDisco.com

(Late Show) Luxury Machine with Special Guest Levi Bronson

Luxury Machine are Pittsburgh based grunge/blues/soul.

Luxury Machine are Pittsburgh based grunge/blues/soul.

(Late Show) Reconquista with Special Guest Swampwalk

Reconquista is an EXPLOSIVE Americana band from Pittsburgh.

Reconquista is an EXPLOSIVE Americana band from Pittsburgh.

Patrick Sweany

Nashville vocalist/guitarist Patrick Sweany doesn’t hold back on his latest studio album, Ancient Noise.

Sweany recorded the new tunes with GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer/producer Matt Ross-Spang after Ross-Spang invited Sweany to check out his new homebase at legendary Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis. The studio that Phillips had custom built in the 70s has been meticulously refurbished by the Phillips family.

“Sam Phillips Recording is the best place on earth to record a rock ‘n’ roll album,” says Sweany. “I live for going into the sessions with no pre-production rehearsals with the band, we just cut the album on the floor of Studio A song-by-song.”

For the sessions, Sweany recruited longtime collaborator Ted Pecchio on bass (Doyle Bramhall II, Col. Bruce Hampton) and ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer both from Nashville. When Sweany needed some organ on a song, Ross-Spang got in touch with Charles Hodges, a veteran Memphis session player best known for playing with Al Green on all of his seminal records.

Hodges fit in so well, he ended up on nearly every track on Ancient Noise. “Charles truly elevated the entire experience,” says Sweany. “In fact, when we met on the first day of recording, Charles led us through a prayer before we had even played a single note together. I’m not particularly religious, but I have to say that was quite the experience and really set the tone of the album. The music is refined, emotional, and I was taken out of my comfort zone many times, which leads to the magic you’re looking for when the tape is rolling.”

The record opens with two tracks (“Old Time Ways” and “Up & Down”) that recall the howling vocals and raw guitar work that first put Sweany on the map over a decade ago.

However, getting out of his comfort zone meant reimagining a lot of the songs Sweany had penned for Ancient Noise, none more so that the third track “Country Loving.” With Hodges’ grand piano front and center, Sweany croons like a young Tom Waits about long-term relationships, the stresses, the simple pleasures, the building of memories. It’s the most vulnerable song he’s ever recorded - and it heralds a new confidence in taking risks.

That confidence pushes through the rest of the record, where Sweany and the band delve deep into Allen Toussaint-style funk on “No Way No How,” the organ fueled “Get Along,” and “Cry Of Amédé,” which touches on the life of Amédé Ardoin, a brilliant, pioneering Creole musician who was brutally beaten in 1934 for accepting a hankerchief from a white woman.

Other tracks recall even wider influences: “Outcast Blues” has a bluesy lurch that recalls The Stones’ Exile On Main Street; “Play Around” has an early 60s do wop feel, and album closer “Victory Lap” ends with a raving coda that would make Bob Seger proud.

Ancient Noise is Patrick Sweany’s eigth full-length album, and it finds Sweany in top form, willing to push himself stylistically to great effect. The record comes out on Nine Mile Records on May 11, 2018.

Nashville vocalist/guitarist Patrick Sweany doesn’t hold back on his latest studio album, Ancient Noise.

Sweany recorded the new tunes with GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer/producer Matt Ross-Spang after Ross-Spang invited Sweany to check out his new homebase at legendary Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis. The studio that Phillips had custom built in the 70s has been meticulously refurbished by the Phillips family.

“Sam Phillips Recording is the best place on earth to record a rock ‘n’ roll album,” says Sweany. “I live for going into the sessions with no pre-production rehearsals with the band, we just cut the album on the floor of Studio A song-by-song.”

For the sessions, Sweany recruited longtime collaborator Ted Pecchio on bass (Doyle Bramhall II, Col. Bruce Hampton) and ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer both from Nashville. When Sweany needed some organ on a song, Ross-Spang got in touch with Charles Hodges, a veteran Memphis session player best known for playing with Al Green on all of his seminal records.

Hodges fit in so well, he ended up on nearly every track on Ancient Noise. “Charles truly elevated the entire experience,” says Sweany. “In fact, when we met on the first day of recording, Charles led us through a prayer before we had even played a single note together. I’m not particularly religious, but I have to say that was quite the experience and really set the tone of the album. The music is refined, emotional, and I was taken out of my comfort zone many times, which leads to the magic you’re looking for when the tape is rolling.”

The record opens with two tracks (“Old Time Ways” and “Up & Down”) that recall the howling vocals and raw guitar work that first put Sweany on the map over a decade ago.

However, getting out of his comfort zone meant reimagining a lot of the songs Sweany had penned for Ancient Noise, none more so that the third track “Country Loving.” With Hodges’ grand piano front and center, Sweany croons like a young Tom Waits about long-term relationships, the stresses, the simple pleasures, the building of memories. It’s the most vulnerable song he’s ever recorded - and it heralds a new confidence in taking risks.

That confidence pushes through the rest of the record, where Sweany and the band delve deep into Allen Toussaint-style funk on “No Way No How,” the organ fueled “Get Along,” and “Cry Of Amédé,” which touches on the life of Amédé Ardoin, a brilliant, pioneering Creole musician who was brutally beaten in 1934 for accepting a hankerchief from a white woman.

Other tracks recall even wider influences: “Outcast Blues” has a bluesy lurch that recalls The Stones’ Exile On Main Street; “Play Around” has an early 60s do wop feel, and album closer “Victory Lap” ends with a raving coda that would make Bob Seger proud.

Ancient Noise is Patrick Sweany’s eigth full-length album, and it finds Sweany in top form, willing to push himself stylistically to great effect. The record comes out on Nine Mile Records on May 11, 2018.

Southern Ave

SOUL-STEEPED YOUNG MEMPHIS QUINTET SOUTHERN AVENUE SPARKS A ROOTS REVOLUTION WITH SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM ON STAX

Southern Avenue is a Memphis street that runs from the easternmost part of the city limits all the way to Soulsville, the original home of Stax Records. Southern Avenue is also the name of a fiery young Memphis quintet that embodies its home city’s soul, blues and gospel traditions, while adding a youthful spirit and dynamic energy all their own. “If Memphis music is a genre, this is it!” proclaims American Blues Scene, and Rock 103FM calls Southern Avenue, “The most-talked-about band in Memphis.”

Their self-titled debut album is a breath of fresh air with its own unique blend of gospel- tinged R&B vocals, roots/blues-based guitar work and soul-inspired songwriting. And Southern Avenue’s upcoming release on the fabled Stax label is a testament to the young combo’s talent and vision.

Southern Avenue features five young but seasoned musicians who came from diverse musical and personal backgrounds to create music that spans their wide-ranging musical interests, while showcasing the powerful chemistry that the group has honed through stage and studio experience.

Southern Avenue encompasses Memphis-born, church-bred sisters Tierinii and Tikyra Jackson, respectively a soulful, charismatic singer and a subtle, powerful drummer; guitarist Ori Naftaly, an Israeli-born blues disciple who first came to America as an acclaimed solo artist; versatile jazz-inspired bassist Daniel McKee; and the band’s newest addition, keyboardist Jeremy Powell, an early alumnus of Stax’s legendary music academy.

The band members’ diverse skills come together organically on Southern Avenue, scheduled for release on February 24, 2017 via Stax Records, a division of Concord Music Group. Produced by Kevin Houston (North Mississippi Allstars, Lucero, Patty Griffin), the 10-song album features guest appearances from Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and trumpeter Marc Franklin of the Bo-Keys. But it’s Southern Avenue’s own potent musical chemistry that drives such sublimely soulful originals as “Don’t Give Up,” “What Did I Do,” “It’s Gonna Be Alright,” “Love Me Right” and “Wildflower.” The band also pays tribute to its roots with an incandescent reading of Ann Peebles’ Memphis soul classic “Slipped, Tripped and Fell in Love.”

The seeds for Southern Avenue’s birth were planted when Ori Naftaly, who’d grown up in Israel with a deeply rooted passion for American blues and funk, came to Memphis in 2013 to compete in the prestigious International Blues Challenge. That experience led to Naftaly moving permanently to Memphis and successfully touring the United States with his own band.

Although his talents were embraced by American audiences, Naftaly felt constrained in his own band, feeling the need to include a more expansive, collaborative musical vision. That opportunity arrived when he met Memphis native Tierinii Jackson, who’d gotten her start singing in church, before performing in a series of cover bands and theatrical projects.

According to Ori, “When I saw Tierinii perform, I thought, ‘This is why I came to America.’ I met her and we clicked. At our first rehearsal, she told me that her sister was a drummer, and she thought it would be great to have her in the band. We had such a good vibe, and suddenly I didn’t care so much about my solo thing.”

“I initially clicked with Ori really well, but it was his project,” Tierinii remembers. “Then he came to me and said ‘I want this band to be a collaboration, I want this to be our vision and our music.’ So we started writing together, and that’s when I realized that we were really the same, musically.”

“We started over,” Naftaly continues. “We threw out most of the songs I’d been playing in my solo band, and Tierinii and I wrote a whole new set, and we became Southern Avenue. The more we played together, the closer we got, and the more we became a family. We started getting a different kind of crowd, and from there things escalated quickly.”

“Ori said, ‘My band is done, this is y’all’s band,'” Tierinii recalls. “We all quit our other gigs and started focusing on this, working and writing and living together in a way that you don’t experience when you’re playing somebody else’s music. Now we’re playing songs that we wrote ourselves and we’re playing them from our hearts. That is when I realized that we had something special.”

Despite not having a record deal, Southern Avenue quickly found success touring in America and Europe. They won additional attention playing some prestigious festivals and competing in the International Blues Challenge, in which they represented Memphis. Less than a year after the band’s formation, they were signed to the resurgent Stax label.

“I feel like being on Stax is a responsibility,” says Tierinii. “I grew up in Memphis, seeing the name Stax everywhere. It was a constant presence, and now it’s up to us to live up to that. I feel like this band can be a platform to do a lot of positive things for the city of Memphis. I want to change the world, but Memphis is home.”

Tierinii views Southern Avenue as “a perfect soundtrack to our first year together. We wrote these songs in our first nine months of being a band. We’d all done so many things and come from so many different places, but the music represents all of us.

“It’s been a real crash course,” she continues. “We haven’t been a band for very long, but what we have feels very special, and it’s made us a strong unit. I think that we represent something that people need to see right now.”

“This band has already made our dreams come true,” Ori concludes. “I’ve waited all my life to be in a band like this, and it’s amazing to me that I get to play with these people every night. Our goal is to keep doing this for a long time and leave our mark. We’re trying to build a legacy.”

SOUL-STEEPED YOUNG MEMPHIS QUINTET SOUTHERN AVENUE SPARKS A ROOTS REVOLUTION WITH SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM ON STAX

Southern Avenue is a Memphis street that runs from the easternmost part of the city limits all the way to Soulsville, the original home of Stax Records. Southern Avenue is also the name of a fiery young Memphis quintet that embodies its home city’s soul, blues and gospel traditions, while adding a youthful spirit and dynamic energy all their own. “If Memphis music is a genre, this is it!” proclaims American Blues Scene, and Rock 103FM calls Southern Avenue, “The most-talked-about band in Memphis.”

Their self-titled debut album is a breath of fresh air with its own unique blend of gospel- tinged R&B vocals, roots/blues-based guitar work and soul-inspired songwriting. And Southern Avenue’s upcoming release on the fabled Stax label is a testament to the young combo’s talent and vision.

Southern Avenue features five young but seasoned musicians who came from diverse musical and personal backgrounds to create music that spans their wide-ranging musical interests, while showcasing the powerful chemistry that the group has honed through stage and studio experience.

Southern Avenue encompasses Memphis-born, church-bred sisters Tierinii and Tikyra Jackson, respectively a soulful, charismatic singer and a subtle, powerful drummer; guitarist Ori Naftaly, an Israeli-born blues disciple who first came to America as an acclaimed solo artist; versatile jazz-inspired bassist Daniel McKee; and the band’s newest addition, keyboardist Jeremy Powell, an early alumnus of Stax’s legendary music academy.

The band members’ diverse skills come together organically on Southern Avenue, scheduled for release on February 24, 2017 via Stax Records, a division of Concord Music Group. Produced by Kevin Houston (North Mississippi Allstars, Lucero, Patty Griffin), the 10-song album features guest appearances from Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and trumpeter Marc Franklin of the Bo-Keys. But it’s Southern Avenue’s own potent musical chemistry that drives such sublimely soulful originals as “Don’t Give Up,” “What Did I Do,” “It’s Gonna Be Alright,” “Love Me Right” and “Wildflower.” The band also pays tribute to its roots with an incandescent reading of Ann Peebles’ Memphis soul classic “Slipped, Tripped and Fell in Love.”

The seeds for Southern Avenue’s birth were planted when Ori Naftaly, who’d grown up in Israel with a deeply rooted passion for American blues and funk, came to Memphis in 2013 to compete in the prestigious International Blues Challenge. That experience led to Naftaly moving permanently to Memphis and successfully touring the United States with his own band.

Although his talents were embraced by American audiences, Naftaly felt constrained in his own band, feeling the need to include a more expansive, collaborative musical vision. That opportunity arrived when he met Memphis native Tierinii Jackson, who’d gotten her start singing in church, before performing in a series of cover bands and theatrical projects.

According to Ori, “When I saw Tierinii perform, I thought, ‘This is why I came to America.’ I met her and we clicked. At our first rehearsal, she told me that her sister was a drummer, and she thought it would be great to have her in the band. We had such a good vibe, and suddenly I didn’t care so much about my solo thing.”

“I initially clicked with Ori really well, but it was his project,” Tierinii remembers. “Then he came to me and said ‘I want this band to be a collaboration, I want this to be our vision and our music.’ So we started writing together, and that’s when I realized that we were really the same, musically.”

“We started over,” Naftaly continues. “We threw out most of the songs I’d been playing in my solo band, and Tierinii and I wrote a whole new set, and we became Southern Avenue. The more we played together, the closer we got, and the more we became a family. We started getting a different kind of crowd, and from there things escalated quickly.”

“Ori said, ‘My band is done, this is y’all’s band,'” Tierinii recalls. “We all quit our other gigs and started focusing on this, working and writing and living together in a way that you don’t experience when you’re playing somebody else’s music. Now we’re playing songs that we wrote ourselves and we’re playing them from our hearts. That is when I realized that we had something special.”

Despite not having a record deal, Southern Avenue quickly found success touring in America and Europe. They won additional attention playing some prestigious festivals and competing in the International Blues Challenge, in which they represented Memphis. Less than a year after the band’s formation, they were signed to the resurgent Stax label.

“I feel like being on Stax is a responsibility,” says Tierinii. “I grew up in Memphis, seeing the name Stax everywhere. It was a constant presence, and now it’s up to us to live up to that. I feel like this band can be a platform to do a lot of positive things for the city of Memphis. I want to change the world, but Memphis is home.”

Tierinii views Southern Avenue as “a perfect soundtrack to our first year together. We wrote these songs in our first nine months of being a band. We’d all done so many things and come from so many different places, but the music represents all of us.

“It’s been a real crash course,” she continues. “We haven’t been a band for very long, but what we have feels very special, and it’s made us a strong unit. I think that we represent something that people need to see right now.”

“This band has already made our dreams come true,” Ori concludes. “I’ve waited all my life to be in a band like this, and it’s amazing to me that I get to play with these people every night. Our goal is to keep doing this for a long time and leave our mark. We’re trying to build a legacy.”

Eilen Jewell

Eilen Jewell laughs when told her label’s president called her a musicologist. But she confirms she and her husband and bandmate, Jason Beek, have a passion for studying American music. “We really love to uncover the past. It’s almost like digging for buried treasure,” she says. “For me, that’s where music is at. I like all kinds of music as long as there’s the word early in front of it.”

For her new album, Down Hearted Blues, on Signature Sounds, they unearthed 12 vintage gems written or made famous by an array of artists both renowned and obscure, from Willie Dixon and Memphis Minnie to Charles Sheffield and Betty James. Then, like expert stonecutters, they chiseled them into exciting new shapes and forms, honoring history while breathing new life into each discovery.

Eilen Jewell laughs when told her label’s president called her a musicologist. But she confirms she and her husband and bandmate, Jason Beek, have a passion for studying American music. “We really love to uncover the past. It’s almost like digging for buried treasure,” she says. “For me, that’s where music is at. I like all kinds of music as long as there’s the word early in front of it.”

For her new album, Down Hearted Blues, on Signature Sounds, they unearthed 12 vintage gems written or made famous by an array of artists both renowned and obscure, from Willie Dixon and Memphis Minnie to Charles Sheffield and Betty James. Then, like expert stonecutters, they chiseled them into exciting new shapes and forms, honoring history while breathing new life into each discovery.

Ellen Starski

During the years leading up to her solo debut, The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants, songwriter Ellen Starski explored both her homeland and herself, traveling from the coal country of rural Pennsylvania to the roots-music hotbed of Nashville, Tennessee.



Released in May 2018, The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants acts as the soundtrack to that period of self-discovery. It's an autobiographical album, rooted in a lush mix of indie-folk, orchestral Americana, and organic pop. Starski wrote the songs during a span of a dozen years, tracing her trek from Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania — where she began playing guitar at 19 years old, before cutting her teeth as the singer of a bluesy bar band — to Knoxville, where she kicked off her solo career with pub gigs and open mic performances. The journey then winds its way to Nashville, Starski's adopted hometown since 2008. It was there, alongside producer Anne McCue and a handful of the town's top sideman, that she recorded The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants.



It's a record that's as dynamic and driven as its creator. Sonically influenced by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan's Desire, and the Alison Krauss/Robert Plant collaboration Raising Sand, The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants offers up a combination of sweeping string arrangements, stripped-down piano ballads, finger-plucked folksongs, and everything in between, all held together by a voice that's both emotional and elastic. "I've been singing in front of people since I was a child," says Starski, whose lyrics shine a light on the triumphs, missteps, and stories she's picked up along the way. "I've been writing songs for years, too, but I'd always hide them when I was singing with blues bands and funk groups. They didn't fit. Things changed once I had my daughter. It opened up a whole new world to me, and I knew I was strong enough to express how I feel."

The album's title nods to the symbiotic relationship between peony flowers and ants, who rely on one another for growth. Peonies produce nectar outside of their buds, encouraging ants to climb up the flowers' stalks in search of food. In doing so, the plants' dense flowers are opened. At the end of the process, the plant fully blooms and the ants walk away with full stomachs. Starski's writing explores similar themes of give-and-take and cause-and-effect.

"The record is about growth," she explains. "It's about all these things that have happened to me, which have helped me blossom as a human being."



There are songs about loss, heartbreak, and family, all of them filled with details from Starksi's own life. "Miss You Mary" pays tribute to her mother, who helped steer her daughter out of a dark hole as a teenager. Laced with acoustic guitars and cinematic strings arranged by McCue, "Ode to Nanny and Cookie" opens the album with a salute to Starksi's two grandmothers. Meanwhile, her own daughter inspired the lovely, lilting "Daughter of the Sea," while the country-inspired "Honey I'm Not Him" was written during a nighttime drive around along the Nashville backroads, with her infant sleeping in the backseat. Personal anecdotes are woven throughout, but The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants ultimately delivers a universal message: that you cannot come to grips with yourself until you come to grips with the beautiful wreckage of your past.



Raised on a wide spread of music — the Lilith Fair-era earnestness of Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan; the heartland rock of Tom Petty; the moody, nocturnal music of Portishead; the articulate, lyric-based writing of Aimee Mann — Ellen Starski shows her full range as a writer, vocalist, and storyteller with The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants. The album is a team effort, with a number of music-industry heavyweights (including drummer Paul Griffith, bassist Jimmy Sullivan, pianist Carl Byron, strings Deanie Richardson, manager Erin Anderson, and producer/guitarist/mentor McCue) all pulling their weight. Starski is the captain of this ship, though, and Peonies points her toward a genre of her own making.

During the years leading up to her solo debut, The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants, songwriter Ellen Starski explored both her homeland and herself, traveling from the coal country of rural Pennsylvania to the roots-music hotbed of Nashville, Tennessee.



Released in May 2018, The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants acts as the soundtrack to that period of self-discovery. It's an autobiographical album, rooted in a lush mix of indie-folk, orchestral Americana, and organic pop. Starski wrote the songs during a span of a dozen years, tracing her trek from Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania — where she began playing guitar at 19 years old, before cutting her teeth as the singer of a bluesy bar band — to Knoxville, where she kicked off her solo career with pub gigs and open mic performances. The journey then winds its way to Nashville, Starski's adopted hometown since 2008. It was there, alongside producer Anne McCue and a handful of the town's top sideman, that she recorded The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants.



It's a record that's as dynamic and driven as its creator. Sonically influenced by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan's Desire, and the Alison Krauss/Robert Plant collaboration Raising Sand, The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants offers up a combination of sweeping string arrangements, stripped-down piano ballads, finger-plucked folksongs, and everything in between, all held together by a voice that's both emotional and elastic. "I've been singing in front of people since I was a child," says Starski, whose lyrics shine a light on the triumphs, missteps, and stories she's picked up along the way. "I've been writing songs for years, too, but I'd always hide them when I was singing with blues bands and funk groups. They didn't fit. Things changed once I had my daughter. It opened up a whole new world to me, and I knew I was strong enough to express how I feel."

The album's title nods to the symbiotic relationship between peony flowers and ants, who rely on one another for growth. Peonies produce nectar outside of their buds, encouraging ants to climb up the flowers' stalks in search of food. In doing so, the plants' dense flowers are opened. At the end of the process, the plant fully blooms and the ants walk away with full stomachs. Starski's writing explores similar themes of give-and-take and cause-and-effect.

"The record is about growth," she explains. "It's about all these things that have happened to me, which have helped me blossom as a human being."



There are songs about loss, heartbreak, and family, all of them filled with details from Starksi's own life. "Miss You Mary" pays tribute to her mother, who helped steer her daughter out of a dark hole as a teenager. Laced with acoustic guitars and cinematic strings arranged by McCue, "Ode to Nanny and Cookie" opens the album with a salute to Starksi's two grandmothers. Meanwhile, her own daughter inspired the lovely, lilting "Daughter of the Sea," while the country-inspired "Honey I'm Not Him" was written during a nighttime drive around along the Nashville backroads, with her infant sleeping in the backseat. Personal anecdotes are woven throughout, but The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants ultimately delivers a universal message: that you cannot come to grips with yourself until you come to grips with the beautiful wreckage of your past.



Raised on a wide spread of music — the Lilith Fair-era earnestness of Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan; the heartland rock of Tom Petty; the moody, nocturnal music of Portishead; the articulate, lyric-based writing of Aimee Mann — Ellen Starski shows her full range as a writer, vocalist, and storyteller with The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants. The album is a team effort, with a number of music-industry heavyweights (including drummer Paul Griffith, bassist Jimmy Sullivan, pianist Carl Byron, strings Deanie Richardson, manager Erin Anderson, and producer/guitarist/mentor McCue) all pulling their weight. Starski is the captain of this ship, though, and Peonies points her toward a genre of her own making.

DAVE ALVIN CELEBRATES THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF KING OF CALIFORNIA with Special Guest Dead Rock West

Dave Alvin Celebrates The 25th Anniversary of King of California


Recorded in Los Angeles the day after the historic 1994 Northridge earthquake and produced by Greg Leisz, King of California had its genesis in the album’s title track, a readymade folk ballad, written for his mother, in which an aspiring suitor heads west to make his fortune in the wild, still-young Golden State. “’King of California’ is when I decided I would let the song tell me what it sounds like,” says Alvin. “Ever since then, that’s been my rule.”

Featuring acoustic interpretations of some of the finest songs in his catalog, along with new, folk-inflected compositions, and notable covers, Dave Alvin found the true measure of his own voice with King of California. “It was ironic that for a guy who was known as a loud guitar player and questionable singer, his best seller was an acoustic album,” says Alvin.

Included are songs written and originally recorded during the ‘80s like: “Barn Burning” from American Music (1980), “Bus Station” and “Leaving” from the Blasters’ Non Fiction (1983), “Little Honey,” written with X’s John Doe and featured on the Blasters Hard Line (1985), and the “Fourth of July,” which appeared on both X’s See How We Are (1997) and on Romeo’s Escape (1987). “Every Night About This Time” also appeared on the album.

Like the records he made as a member of the Blasters, King of California features a variety of covers, including Tom Russell’s’“Blue Wing,” Dallas singer-pianist Whistlin’ Alex Moore’s “West Texas Blues,” retitled “East Texas Blues,” Memphis Slim’s classic “Mother Earth,” and “What Am I Worth,” a George Jones song, featured here as a duet with the incomparable Syd Straw. The album also includes co-writes with Rosie Flores (“Goodbye Again”) and John Doe (“Little Honey”).

“I’m real proud of it twenty-five years later,” Alvin says. “The whole process was a revelation, to record with everybody in the studio sitting roughly in a circle. Sitting there on the edge of my chair with an acoustic guitar knowing that if I blow this chord we have to start over. And I could use my voice; when I was recording electric my voice couldn’t lead the band. In this situation I could. That allowed a certain openness and freedom I hadn’t experienced before. And for Greg, this was his baby, his chance to produce me and get my voice right. His calmness in all of this led to the vibe of the record.”

Dave Alvin Celebrates The 25th Anniversary of King of California


Recorded in Los Angeles the day after the historic 1994 Northridge earthquake and produced by Greg Leisz, King of California had its genesis in the album’s title track, a readymade folk ballad, written for his mother, in which an aspiring suitor heads west to make his fortune in the wild, still-young Golden State. “’King of California’ is when I decided I would let the song tell me what it sounds like,” says Alvin. “Ever since then, that’s been my rule.”

Featuring acoustic interpretations of some of the finest songs in his catalog, along with new, folk-inflected compositions, and notable covers, Dave Alvin found the true measure of his own voice with King of California. “It was ironic that for a guy who was known as a loud guitar player and questionable singer, his best seller was an acoustic album,” says Alvin.

Included are songs written and originally recorded during the ‘80s like: “Barn Burning” from American Music (1980), “Bus Station” and “Leaving” from the Blasters’ Non Fiction (1983), “Little Honey,” written with X’s John Doe and featured on the Blasters Hard Line (1985), and the “Fourth of July,” which appeared on both X’s See How We Are (1997) and on Romeo’s Escape (1987). “Every Night About This Time” also appeared on the album.

Like the records he made as a member of the Blasters, King of California features a variety of covers, including Tom Russell’s’“Blue Wing,” Dallas singer-pianist Whistlin’ Alex Moore’s “West Texas Blues,” retitled “East Texas Blues,” Memphis Slim’s classic “Mother Earth,” and “What Am I Worth,” a George Jones song, featured here as a duet with the incomparable Syd Straw. The album also includes co-writes with Rosie Flores (“Goodbye Again”) and John Doe (“Little Honey”).

“I’m real proud of it twenty-five years later,” Alvin says. “The whole process was a revelation, to record with everybody in the studio sitting roughly in a circle. Sitting there on the edge of my chair with an acoustic guitar knowing that if I blow this chord we have to start over. And I could use my voice; when I was recording electric my voice couldn’t lead the band. In this situation I could. That allowed a certain openness and freedom I hadn’t experienced before. And for Greg, this was his baby, his chance to produce me and get my voice right. His calmness in all of this led to the vibe of the record.”

Lula Wiles - Presented by Opus One & 91.3fm WYEP

What will we do? For Lula Wiles, the trio made up of Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland, and Mali
Obomsawin, the question is central to the creation of their music—and it’s the title of their
sophomore album, out in 2019 on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. “We wanted to make an
album that reflected, in a current way, what we are all staying up late thinking about and talking
about over drinks at the dinner table,” says Obomsawin. “What is everyone worried about,
confiding in their friends about, losing sleep about?” Anchoring the band’s sharp, provocative
songcraft is a mastery of folk music, and a willingness to subvert its hallowed conventions. They
infuse their songs with distinctly modern sounds: pop hooks, distorted electric guitars, and
dissonant multi-layered vocals, all employed in the service of songs that reclaim folk music in
their own voice. The musicians take turns in different roles––Burke and Buckland on guitar and
fiddle, Obomsawin on bass, all three singing and writing—but no matter who’s playing what,
they operate in close tandem. All three members grew up in small-town Maine, and the band
came of age in Boston’s lively roots scene. Since then, they have toured internationally, winning
fans at the Newport Folk Festival and the Philadelphia Folk Festival, garnering acclaim from
NPR Music and a Boston Music Awards nomination, and sharing stages with the likes of Aoife
O’Donovan, the Wood Brothers, and Tim O’Brien. Lula Wiles exists in the tense space where
tradition and revolution meet, from which their harmonies rise into the air to create new
American music.

What will we do? For Lula Wiles, the trio made up of Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland, and Mali
Obomsawin, the question is central to the creation of their music—and it’s the title of their
sophomore album, out in 2019 on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. “We wanted to make an
album that reflected, in a current way, what we are all staying up late thinking about and talking
about over drinks at the dinner table,” says Obomsawin. “What is everyone worried about,
confiding in their friends about, losing sleep about?” Anchoring the band’s sharp, provocative
songcraft is a mastery of folk music, and a willingness to subvert its hallowed conventions. They
infuse their songs with distinctly modern sounds: pop hooks, distorted electric guitars, and
dissonant multi-layered vocals, all employed in the service of songs that reclaim folk music in
their own voice. The musicians take turns in different roles––Burke and Buckland on guitar and
fiddle, Obomsawin on bass, all three singing and writing—but no matter who’s playing what,
they operate in close tandem. All three members grew up in small-town Maine, and the band
came of age in Boston’s lively roots scene. Since then, they have toured internationally, winning
fans at the Newport Folk Festival and the Philadelphia Folk Festival, garnering acclaim from
NPR Music and a Boston Music Awards nomination, and sharing stages with the likes of Aoife
O’Donovan, the Wood Brothers, and Tim O’Brien. Lula Wiles exists in the tense space where
tradition and revolution meet, from which their harmonies rise into the air to create new
American music.

@clubcafelive

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