From the Santa Monica Pier to Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble, with three solid years of touring under their collective belt, Angel Band has rapidly expanded their following from opening act up to headliner status. No audience has been known to have been unmoved by Angel Band's all-out stage presence, signature rootsy, bluesy Americana songs, superb back-up band and the vocals of leader and lyricist Nancy Josephson and fellow Angels Kathleen Weber and Aly Paige. Initially performing as opening act and backup singers for Josephson's husband, world-class roots musician David Bromberg at Bonnaroo, Merlefest, the Philadelphia Folk Festival and other high profile events, Angel Band has moved up to playing prestigious concert venues on their own. Voted one of the Top 10 Favorite Bands at Bonnaroo, Angel Band are clearly a group on the ascent.
Born and raised in new York City, Nancy Josephson says "I don't ever remember not singing," and was thumping on an acoustic guitar at age six. She learned to play stand-up bass and was a founding member of the all-girl bluegrass group, the Buffalo Gals. After a move to California in the mid 70's she performed with a number of well-known bluegrass and "new grass" performers, including Arlo Guthrie, Peter Rowan and the Free Mexican Airforce, Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick (of the Good Ol' Persons), and The David Bromberg Big Band. She has also sung back-up with Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow, among others.
In 1980, David and Nancy moved to Chicago, where he studied violin making while Nancy sang commercial jingles, joined The Annettes as the only Caucasian in a 30-voice women's choir, raised two young children and switched to visual arts as her main creative outlet. When the city of Wilmington, Delaware asked David and Nancy to become artists in residence in 2002, Nancy initially refrained from joining the bluegrass sessions David organized there, until Bromberg started raving about a mother and sister vocal duo that might accommodate a third voice. "Mainly to satisfy David" Nancy attended the next jam and was hooked by the resultant three-part harmonies. Thus began the formation of Angel Band.
Kathleen Weber comes from a musical family in Philadelphia. She is a four-year veteran of the Angel Band and a lifelong singer; one critic exclaimed "her deep, bluesy voice seems almost out of place in her small frame." You can really hear her influences channeled: Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin and and Alison Krause, among others. Her versatility allows her to move easily between Angel Band's low down and dirty and simple, sweet songs. Aly Paige's vocals are clear, clean and powerful. Originally from Delaware, now living in Philadelphia, Aly joined the band as a novice in the Americana world, but with some roots in the world of opera. Aly belts with the best of them, and one can hear a little Etta James in her approach to the material; soulful, soaring, then close up and intimate, Aly's approach captivates and ignites the audience.
Matthew Sweet is on tour in support of the 20th Anniversary re-issue of his classic 1991 album, Girlfriend and plays World Cafe Live at the Queen in Wilmington, on Friday night October 28, and Sellersville Theatre on Thursday, November 3. He'll play XPN Free At Noon at the Queen on Friday, October 28.
Creating catchy rock/powerpop music seems to always have been an integral part of Matthew Sweet's life. Sweet was off to an early start in his musical career, self-recording several solo pieces onto four-tracks and later recording with his high-school band Specs for a battle of the bands LP. Such mild stepping stones in Sweet's life lead him straight to the heart of the 80's Athen's music scene. After settling in Athens for college, he found himself collaborating with several groups and top artist including Community Trolls with Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), Oh-Ok and Buzz of Delight. By the mid-80's, Sweet landed himself a deal with Columbia Records and later A&M Records. While his poppy tunes and catchy riffs were praised, he never quite achieved mainstream status. It wasn't until the release of his third album "Girlfriend" (1991) that his expanding melodic sound broke through the boundaries of the pop aesthetic and paved the way to a more successful career. With a newfound momentum, Sweet embarked on assembling new bands, such as The Thorns (2002), and working on several new solo projects. Among his most recent work is his solo-album Modern Art. Full of yearning pop, infectious medolies, and witty wordplay, "Modern Art" proves to be another successful release for Matthew Sweet.
Formed in New York City in 1988, the Spin Doctors have been honing their unique blend of pop, funk, and progressive rock for over twenty years. Current members Chris Barron (vocals), Eric Schenkman (guitar and vocals), Aaron Comess (drums and percussion), and Mark White (bass guitar) have been releasing singles and playing one-off shows throughout the US and Europe up until the present. The unique brand of alt-rock built by the Spin Doctors, infused with elements of funk and an unmistakable flair for pop, has seemed to grow even more revered with time.
In fact, 2011 marks the twenty-year anniversary of their five-time platinum-selling debut album, "Pocket Full of Kryptonite". Fueled by the mega-hit singles, "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong," the album, was a critical and commercial success. After a string of other successful releases – and more Platinum certifications – the Spin Doctors are have rereleased "Pocket Full of Kryptonite". Known for their catchy jams, clever lyrics, and laidback vibe, the Spin Doctors continue to earn the adoration of fans and critics alike. In addition to the special release, the Spin Doctors embarked on a tour with stops throughout the US. They're wrapping things up with a stop at the World Cafe this weekend.
Come check out the Spin Doctors with XPN on Friday, October 14, for another awesome Free at Noon!
And, you can hear the band perform Kryptonite live, in its entirety, Friday night, October 14, at World Cafe Live.
One of the longest-running bands to come from the first-generation British punk
movement, The Mekons have been making music since 1977. Punk at the core but not afraid to mix it up, The Mekons have dabbled in a range of other genres, from folk to reggae. But the eight members of The Mekons are still defined by their brand of post-apocalyptic cowboy punk, which has garnered them a significant amount of acclaim. Their 28th album, titled Ancient and Modern, was released just this past September--and it holds to Mekon sound, albeit some evidencing some of the Mekon's mellowing over time. But that doesn't mean it's any less charming.
True to form, the Mekons have infused Ancient and Modern with plenty of hooks and clever, thought-provoking lyrics. Group choruses abound in The Mekons' music and the band actually sound they are having fun when they play. It is this fact that makes The Mekons so appealing: in an age where being cool means acting unaffected, The Mekons are still not afraid to put everything on the table and to have fun while doing it.
Wrapping up a list of tour dates in the Midwest and Eastern US, the Mekons will be visiting World Cafe. Come see one of the longest-running, and still rocking, bands in the history of punk at XPN's Live Friday on October 7. It's free and it's undoubtedly the best way to start your weekend.
Scarcely over 30 years old, Rachael Yamagata is a vibrant and emotional songstress. She honed her skills as a vocalist for the funk band Bumpus, touring extensively and recorded three albums. As she shifted into a solo career in 2001, her rich vocals – tinged with jazz influences – landed her a record deal with Arista. With the 2004 release of her first full album, Happenstance , Yamagata distinguished herself from a coalescing crowd of contemporary pop artists.
Her newest album Chesapeake only heightens Yamagata's reputation as one of today's most gifted singer-songwriters. With a smoky voice that rises above elegant keyboard melodies, the album is a lush landscape of bluesy-pop rhythms. In anticipation of the album's release, Yamagata joined forces with her brother, director Josh Ruben, to produce a video for the single "Even If I Don't." You can watch the video on The Key. The product was a whimsical yet heartbreaking tapestry of lost love.
Yamagata was an XPN Artist To Watch in 2004, and her album Happenstance reached no. 11 that year on the XPN Year In Review Countdown. In addition to XPN's Live Friday Free At Noon, you can catch Rachael at World Cafe Live in Philly on October 31.
Click here to stream/download the just-released "Starlight," a first taste of the new record.
XPN Artist To Watch, Diego Garcia is on tour in support of his debut album, Laura, and plays two shows at the Tin Angel on September 21. He'll be here for a Free At Noon show Friday, September 23.
Former frontman of the indie band, Elefant, Diego Garcia went solo in 2010. His new album Laura is on many "Best of the Year 2011" lists, and is also a XPN Featured Album of the Week.
Incorporating his Latin background – his parents are both Argentinean – into his lush, delicate music, Diego Garcia’s deeply reflective music calls to mind the likes of Leonard Cohen and Morrissey. Garcia writes incredibly introspective, often-anguished lyrics, and subtly fuses the Spanish guitar with a more traditional folk sound. With lyrics that explore a range of emotional planes, Garcia is a master of subtlety: Whether it is with panicking guitar strums, twinkles of Spanish guitar, or his soft and intimate musings, Garcia is able to delicately move the listener on an emotional level. He manages to weave his sounds like a tapestry, crafting a dreamlike, confidential album that is sure to leave listeners wanting more. After all, the album is all about his wife, Laura, and signifies a new, more personal chapter in music-making for this talented artist.
Don't miss this Free at Noon--Diego Garcia's emotional web of sound can't be beat when it comes to starting off the weekend.
And be sure to listen to his live session in the World Cafe Archives, including two web extra songs - at WorldCafe.NPR.org.