On Stage: Seth Walker rocks his roots

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By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

Seth Walker

Seth Walker’s show on May 11 at MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) may have a large city downtown location but the vibe inside the venue will be country – with a healthy dose of the blues.

Over the past 10 years, Seth Walker has become recognized as one of the most revered modern roots artists in the United States — an artist with the gift for combining melody and lyric alongside a rich, Gospel-drenched, Southern-inflected voice with a knack for getting around on the guitar.

Walker’s latest studio album, “Gotta Get Back,” which was produced by Jano Rix of The Wood Brothers, is another gem that adds to his reputation.

“I recorded it in Nashville at Southern Ground Studio,” said Walker, during a phone interview Monday as he travelled from Akron, Ohio to a show in Pittsburgh.

“I started making the album at the end of 2015 and it came out in September 2016. It usually takes a year to get it all together.”

Walker, who is the son of classically-trained musicians, grew up on a commune in rural North Carolina, the son of classically trained musicians. He played cello long before discovering the six-string in his 20s.

“I grew up studying classical music,” said Walker. “The first contemporary music I heard was Willie Nelson.

“I liked cello. It wasn’t something I was super passionate about but it also wasn’t something taught to me with an iron fist. It wasn’t until I got to college that I discovered electric guitar – artists like Stevie Ray, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. I was going to East Carolina University. Once I heard the music, I never went to class. I just played guitar all day in my dorm room. My parents were upset a little when I dropped out but now they’re my biggest fans.”

Actually, they’re more than fans.

“On ‘Gotta Get Back,’ my father composed the arrangements and played cello, and my mother and sister played violins,” said Walker.

“When I was making the album, I worked closely with Jano Rix, who is the drummer for the Wood Brothers. Oliver Wood produced my previous record and I went on tour with them.

“I’d bring songs to Jano and we’d tweak them. We were on tour together and we’d work on the songs as we went along. After the tour, we worked together in Nashville. I live in New Orleans but I got to Nashville a lot.

“As we were making the album, unbeknownst to me, a vibe developed. When we looked at the tunes as a whole, they all had a lot of movement –with themes like moving on, gotta get back, and fire in the belly to get back.

“It also had a gospel feel we didn’t plan on. I don’t know where that came from. But, gospel, blues, jazz – they’re all connected. Look at Ray Charles. He had a big gospel influence.

“On this tour, I’m playing a lot of songs from the new album along with a bunch of older stuff – and some new tunes. It’s a trio – bass, drums and myself. I do a lot of trio stuff. Playing as a trio makes for a dynamic show.”

Video link for Seth Walker – https://youtu.be/wlg2ht20Ir8.

The show at MilkBoy, which has A Fistful of Sugar as the opener, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Low Cut Connie

Live music on May 12 will get off to an early start when Low Cut Connie perform a set as part of WXPN’s “Free at Noon” series at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

Every Friday at noon, WXPN brings live music to the air with the Free At Noon Concert series at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. From NPR Music and WXPN, fans are treated to a live mix of roots rock, folk, country and more every week. Shows are free and open to the public.

On May 19, Philadelphia-based Low Cut Connie will release its fourth studio album “Dirty Pictures (Part 1),” which will be available worldwide via Contender Records.

Low Cut Connie — Adam Weiner, James Everhart, Will Donnelly, Larry Scotton, Lucas Rinz – recorded the new album at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.

“We recorded the album at the studio in Memphis last July,” said Weiner. “It’s the home of Alex Chilton’s band Big Star. I’m pals with drummer Jody Stephenson, who is the last living member of Big Star.

“Last year at SXSW, we talked about going to Ardent to record. I produced the record myself with great help from engineer Adam Hill and also from Dave Chale.

“We were in the studio for 12 days recording. Then, we went back in the fall to mix it and again in January to finish everything. We did all the recording analog and we’ve also cut it straight to vinyl.”

If there is a “Part 1,” there must be a “Part 2.”

“‘Part 1,’ comes out this May and ‘Part 2’ will be out next year,” said Weiner. “I felt strongly that these were two distinct albums. There is a thematic/vibe difference that will be obvious to people.

“The ‘Part 1’ vibe is dirtier – a little raunchier. The sounds are a little crunchy. The ‘Part 2’ vibe – you’re just gonna have to wait until then to find out.

“Our last album ‘Hi Honey’ came out in 2015 but we recorded it starting at the end of 2013. So, I had quite a lot of songs built up by the time we headed to Ardent last year.

“When you’re writing songs, you never know how they come. I write on piano and have my own little voodoo that I do.”

Low Cut Connie, which was formed in Philly in 2010, is Weiner’s band. Weiner performed as a solo artist in Bew York City prior to starting Low Cut Connie.

Weiner started the project that would become Low Cut Connie with former members Dan Finnemore (from Birmingham, U.K.) and Neil Duncan (from Gainesville, Florida). The band’s name refers to a waitress who often wore low-cut tops at a restaurant near where Weiner grew up.

“Low Cut Connie, like certain other bands, has a rotating cast of characters and I’ve been the ringleader,” said Weiner, a South Philly resident who grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

“We’ve had 13 different people in the band in the last five years. The current line-up has been together a couple years. The only recent addition is Lucas Rinz.

“Our show is like a rock-and-roll review. We’re playing a lot of songs from ‘Dirty Pictures (Part 1)’ – and songs from all our albums. ‘Rio’ from our first album ‘Get Out the lotion’ is still one of our most popular live songs.”

Video link for Low Cut Connie — https://youtu.be/JO73a0HjuHg.

The show at the World Café Live will start noon. Tickets are free.

Live shows in Philadelphia on May 12 will range from small intimate shows at venues like the World Café Live to a monster show at one of the city’s huge sports stadiums.

The big show will be Metallica’s “WorldWired Tour” at Lincoln Financial Field (1020 Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia, www.ticketmaster.com) – a tour that includes Avenged Sevenfold and Volbeat as the opening acts.

One of America’s top heavy metal bands, Avenged Sevenfold — Synyster Gates, Zacky Vengeance, M. Shadows, Johnny Christ, and Brooks Wackerman — is touring in support of its new album “The Stage,” which was released in October 2016 on Capitol Records.

“The Stage” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Rock, Hard Rock and Alternative Albums charts, No. 4 on the Top 200 and debuted Top 5 on iTunes in over 35 countries. 

The album’s title track hit Top 5 at rock radio and its companion video has amassed over 15.5 million YouTube views to date. The band just released a video for the song “God Dam” and it’s already amassed over 1.2 million views.

“We started recording ‘The Stage’ in the summer of  2016,” said Gates, during a phone interview Wednesday evening from a tour stop in Baltimore, Maryland.

“We kinda messed around for a while. We didn’t know which direction we would go. We stopped taking about it while drinking together at night and talked about it with coffee at lunch.

“That was where the space and science themes came in. And, it was when we first thought about these different soundscapes.”

“The Stage” features 11 ambitious tracks tied together by an Artificial Intelligence theme. Inspired by the writings of Carl Sagan and Elon Musk, the album is the band’s first thematic release.

Its epic 15-minute-plus closing track, “Exist,” features a guest appearance by award-winning astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson giving a spoken word performance he penned specifically for the album.

“We’re all into reading about Artificial Intelligence,” said Gates. “Our singer got really excited about writing lyrics about it. And, we’re all admirers of Stephen Hawking.

‘The concept made it a lot easier to make this album. Our prior album ‘Hail to the King’ seemed more simple but it was more difficult to write.

“With this album, we had more fun because it was progressive. We could throw in the kitchen sink if we wanted. We did a lot of experimentation.

“We had Joe Barresi as our co-producer. He’s an amazing aural painter. He has all this gear and love to create original sounds.

“We demo-ed almost everything in its entirety to get the counterpoint lead lines. Zack’s little brother Matt Baker helped put the finishing touches on the orchestration.

“It got a little difficult after four months of recording. So, we took a small break to develop some ideas. Then, we came back with inspiration. We had a lot of fun finishing the record.”

Unfortunately, Avenged Sevenfold fans will not hear too many songs from “The Stage” in this show.

“This is Metallica’s tour so we don’t get to do a real long set like we do when we headline,” said Gates. “We’re doing what we call our ‘slambanger’ set.

“We’ll play our hits, our new single ‘God Damn’ and the single ‘The Stage.’ We go all the way back to 2003’s ‘Waking the Fallen’ for songs the fans want to hear.

“We only get to do a 55- or 60-minute set. It is kind of a humbling experience because we can sell out arenas and play for two hours. But, it can also be fun at times when you have to go out and win over the audience.”

Video link for Avenged Sevenfold – https://youtu.be/wapOqjQ4r_M.

The show at the Linc will start at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $71.50.

For Mexicans, “Cinco de Mayo” is a day for celebration.

For fans of the band The Black Crowes, “Duodecimo de Mayo” is a day for celebration.

The Black Crowes were an American rock band formed in 1989. Their discography includes eight studio albums, four live albums and several charting singles. They announced their final break-up in 2015.

The band’s debut album was “Shake Your Money Maker” in 1990 followed by its landmark album “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion,” which was released May 12, 992.

On May 12, the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host a special show — the “25th Anniversary Celebration of The Black Crowes’ ‘Southern Harmony and Musical Companion’” featuring Taller along with a host of guest artists.

The core band includes: Rekardo Lee: lead guitar; Jeff White: lead guitar; Alec Meltzer: drums; Chris Bicksler: bass; Justin diFebbo: keys; Ansel Barnum: harmonica; and Freddie Berman: percussion – with singers Hannah Taylor, Ali Wadsworth, Paul Keen, Dan Reed, Nik Greeley, Casey Parker, and Michael Baker.

“Jeff White and I were sitting in at the Dawson Street Pub talking about how ‘Southern Harmony and Musical Companion’ is our favorite album,” said Lee, during a phone interview this week.

“Then, we realized that Friday May 12 is actually the 25th anniversary of the release. I found that Ardmore had the date open and we set up the show.

“‘SH&MC’ had four Number 1 hits – ‘Remedy,’ ‘Thorn in My Pride,’ ‘Sting Me’ and ‘Hotel Illness.’ It was a Number 1 album on Billboard’s charts – and a return to a classic rock, guitar-centric sound which was missing from radio.

“Now, the Crowes are super relevant again because http://themagpiesalute.com/ is a reunion of the guitarists from the album — Rich Robinson and Marc Ford. Also, Chris Robinson is still touring. So, people do care.”

Taylor and Lee go back several years.

“We met three years ago in the Philadelphia music scene,” said Taylor, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

“I had done some solo stuff and sang as a guest with different bands. He asked me if I wanted to form a rockabilly band with him. For the last three years, that has been my main band.

“A little while ago, he said that he and Jeff were nerding out about 25 years to the exact day. I was on board from the start – even though I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”

Taylor needed an introduction to “Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.”

“I had never heard the album,” said Taylor. “Actually, I had never heard any of The Black Crowes’ stuff except their radio hits. I realized I had been missing out on a lot of great music.”

Lee assembled a strong crew of musicians for this show.

“Dan Reed is a DJ on WXPN,” said Lee. “Paul Keen fronts Pawnshop Roses, who are opening. Casey Parker is a bar owner and well-known personality in Philly—and a killer singer. Ali Wadsworth is one of Philly’s best singers. Nik Greeley fronts Swift Technique — and works at Ardmore.

“It’s a bunch of good friends, and we’re having a blast doing this. To me, this record is in the same category as ‘Zep II,’ ‘Exile on Mainstreet’…you name it.

“This is just so important in my learning to play guitar and work in bands. I saw them a million times back in the day, and at their peak, they were the best live band around.

“This project is like our high school play. We’ve all been working hard and it will be a great show.”

Video link for Hannah Taylor and the Rekardo Lee Trio — https://youtu.be/-jtUntANxHo.

The show at Ardmore, which has Pawnshop Roses as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are Gary Tallent on May 11, Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers with Ben Arnold on May 13, and Soraia on May 17.

Lilli Anel

In a recent message to fans on her mailing list, Lili Añel wrote – “I know it’s been a while since I’ve sent out notices and kept you informed with what’s going on. I’ve been busy.

“I have allowed myself a breather while I worked on my new CD, have had a song included in an upcoming play about the late Harvey Milk, which is currently being worked on and I’ve continued on my adventures as a home owner.

“All this along with the business of music and only 24 hours in a day (you know how that goes). So, here’s what’s up – my new CD “Another Place, Another Time” will be officially released April 7, 2017.”

The record is out and Añel has been performing a series of shows to celebrate its release. On of those shows is scheduled for May 12 at the Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com).

“Everything is going well,” said Añel, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from her home in Philadelphia. “So far – so good. I’ve been doing a lot of CD release shows.

“I started working on the album last fall with Dale Melton, my band mate and co-producer,” said Añel. “It’s difficult at times because we use different musicians for the sessions and we have to work around their other commitments.

“Dale is an excellent engineer. We worked together on my last record ‘I Can See Bliss From Here’ and it went really well.

“We recorded ‘Another Place, Another Time’ at his studio out in the country — Sandbox at Buck Hollow Farm. It’s a really quiet place in the Coatesville area. We worked on it in the fall and the winter and we were done.”

Ironically, both Añel and Melton are twins. Dale and Dennis have been performing together since the 1970s with the Melton Brothers Band.

“I write a lot,” said Añel, who moved to Philadelphia from New York over a decade ago. “Some of the songs on the album were written a while ago. There are songs that take a long time to finish writing and some that are really quick.

“The song ‘Forgotten’ on the new album – I wrote the music in one session and then wrote the lyrics in one session. Writing takes a lot of work – writing and rewriting – but not always.

“One of the new songs — ‘I’ll Never Forget You’–  took a minute to write. It was inspired by the death of a friend of mine – Philadelphia’s legendary session guitarist Jef Lee Johnson.”

 “I Can See Bliss From Here” was released in 2013 – four years after her previous release “Every Second In Between” (which won three New York Music Awards). Another four years passed until the release of “Another Place, Another Time.”

“The reason there was a long gap between albums is money,” said Añel. “People don’t realize that it takes money to make records. It takes time and money to make a record. It’s never for lack of material.”

Añel’s music shows influences of jazz, folk, Latin, pop and blues. Añel, who is a New York-born Cuban-African American, came by these influences naturally.

“I’ve never referred to myself as jazz but I have jazz inclinations based on people I listen to,” said Añel, who grew up in the South Bronx.

“I like sophisticated harmonic structures. My music is very varied including songs that are straight-up folk songs and others that are Latin jazz.” 

 Video link for Lili Añel — https://youtu.be/HtFYIsYLbps.

The show at Steel City, which has Joy Ike as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

California Guitar Trio

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Better Than Bacon Improv Comedy Troupe on May 11, California Guitar Trio on May 12, Angaleena Presley and Grady Hoss on May 16 and The Susquehanna Floods and Airpark (former members of Apache Relay) on May 17.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Michael McDermott on May 11, Quixote Project, Three Strands, and Jay Players on May 12, and Mary Bragg and Anna Spackman on May 13.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents “Whose Live Anyway?” on May 11, Jim Jefferis on May 12, Brian McKnight on May 13, My Favorite on May 14 and Midnight Oil on May 16.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have Robben Ford on May 11, The Graham Parker Duo featuring Brinsley Schwarz on May 12, Life On Mars: Inspired By The Sound & Vision Of David Bowie on May 13, and the Artie Shaw Orchestra on May 14.

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