(Upcoming Show) The Pines Return to CSPS Thanksgiving Weekend 11/28 – New Album Details

The Pines at csps

To add to the things we’re thankful for this year, The Pines are making a return to CSPS Thanksgiving Weekend! The combination of the soft atmospheric folk of this band and the passionate, attentive crowds and the huge ambience of the room (and frankly, well stocked selection of handcrafted beers and local wines) always makes for a memorable not-to-miss show.

This show is on the heels of the announcement of their new album Above the Prairie, due out February 5th on Red House Records. This is their first new album since the brilliant Dark So Gold in 2012. In the interim, the band released a digital single of “The Highwayman” in 2013,  and earlier this year they released an EP of covers titled Pasture: Folk Songs.

Above The Prairie includes help from the extended Ramsey and Brown families with contributions from Greg Brown, Iris DeMent, Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey, who also co-produced the album with The Pines. The first listen we’re getting from the new album is “Aerial Ocean” with Benson Ramsey on lead vocals, it has all of the trademark nuances of The Pines– the chimey clean picking, the washes of synths, but owes a lot to classic Dire Straits. But, they always kind of had that same vibe as mellow Mark Knopfler as well as JJ Cale.

So, grab a quick sandwich of leftover turkey and dressing on your way out the door to CSPS Saturday night to see The Pines. I can’t think of a better way to cap off the weekend.

The Pines with opener Ryne Doughty

Details at LegionArts.org

Sat Nov 28 2015 – 8:00 pm • CSPS Hall
$16 advance | $19 door

Above The Prairie tracklist:
Aerial Ocean
There in Spirit
Lost Nation
Hanging From the Earth
Where Something Wild Still Grows
Sleepy Hollow
Come What Is
Time Dreams feat. John Trudell & Quiltman

New EP From Pieta Brown Collects Paradise Outlaw Outtakes, Remix by Justin Vernon

Pieta Brown Drifters Cover

This week Pieta Brown announced a new EP for sale. Titled Drifters, it is a collection of outtakes from the sessions for Brown’s 2014 album Paradise Outlaw. Recorded at Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon’s studio April Base, Paradise Outlaw was another new spin on the ethereal folk sound Brown has crafted over six albums. Paradise Outlaw really seemed to capture the spirit of the sessions at April Base- like friends gathering around the campfire in the woods telling stories and singing songs. Crazy-talented friends who were writing songs at that campfire, but you get the idea. I exchanged emails with April Base engineer BJ Burton back in September 2014 about those sessions for the review I wrote for Little Village, but ran out of space, so I didn’t use it. Here’s what he said about those sessions.

…There are times when I catch myself smiling in the control room because I realize that I’m working with the best in the world. Working on Pieta’s record was one of those times. I wanted to capture the entire vibe of the session, and let each musician bleed into one another. More than any other record that has come out of April Base to date, Paradise Outlaw captures what the live room is capable of manifesting.

The six-track Drifters EP is released on Brown’s new, in her words, “underground label” Lustre Records and is currently only available from her website and from her at shows– tonight’s show at the Englert in Iowa City with Iris DeMent is the first opportunity to buy it directly from her at a show. Helping Brown out on the EP is Outlaw session sidemen Bo Ramsey, Jon Penner, Michael Rossetto, JT Bates and David Mansfield. Greg Brown, Constie Brown and Iris DeMent show family support on “Goin’ Up The Country.” The EP also includes a remix of the instrumental track “Little Swainson” by Justin Vernon and BJ Burton which was sacrificed when the album changed from being a double to a single.

Brown’s liner notes sum up her motivation for releasing the tracks,

After many sweet inquiries at shows from fans about the songs Goin’ Up The Country, Drifter, and Just Slip Away I decided to go back and listen to the outtakes. In spite of many rough edges, I could hear and feel the openness of the session and the music coming through. Offered now with love and hope for more musical experiments everywhere. x pieta

Drifters is available today via Pieta Brown’s website for $15 (which includes U.S. shipping) HERE. You can purchase most of her other releases here as well, including the fantastic vinyl pressing of One And All.


1. Goin’ Up The Country
2. Parataxis Blues
3. Drifter
4. Why Now
5. Little Swainson (Remix)
6. Just Slip Away

(Upcoming Release) Son Volt Previews Record Store Day 2016 Live Vinyl

son volt 1996On October 30th, we were blessed with the 20th Anniversary remastered reissue of Jay Ferrar‘s debut post-Uncle Tupelo album Trace. Widely regarded as one of the great early Americana releases, it was due for some reissue love and attention. For one thing, it got a much-needed 180g vinyl release, which saved me personally– I narrowly avoided spending $75 on a new-old-stock copy from Ferrar’s site (Discogs.com has had copies going for over twice that amount!). Secondly, the CD and download versions were expanded to include bonus demos and a 2nd disc of their February 12, 1996 performance at The Bottom Line in New York City.

This week on Son Volt’s Facebook page, they posted two videos of the test pressings for a 2 LP vinyl release of the Bottom Line show which is slated for Record Store Day 2016.

Ferrar said in a recent interview about the show, “In terms of the Bottom Line show, yeah, it’s a live show, and there will be some hiccups here and there, but part of what I can hear is that it sounds like my singing voice is almost scorched from smoking cigarettes. You know, there was a very small dressing room at the back of that club, and it was probably the size of a closet. At that time, all five guys in the band were smokers, so that record could’ve just been called, Five Dudes Smoking in a Closet. [Laughs] I can still sing it seems like, but I can barely talk… It was recorded with that mobile recording truck on analog tapes, so you’re not going to get a better sound than that. I wish I had more information on that truck; I couldn’t really track it down. There was a similar show, if not this one, that was recorded with the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording truck. Doing a little research, their truck was in New York in 1996 when this show was recorded, but I just can’t say for sure it was the one.”

Here is the tracklist. We don’t know how the songs will be split up by LP side yet. It includes most of the songs from Trace (not the Ron Wood cover “Mystifies Me”) as well as some Uncle Tupelo songs and a Del Reeves cover.

Live from the Bottom Line/February 12, 1996
01 – Route
02 – Loose
03 – String
04 – Catching On
05 – Live Free
06 – Anodyne – Uncle Tupelo
07 – Windfall
08 – Slate – Uncle Tupelo
09 – Out Of the Picture
10 – Tear Stained Eye
11 – True to Life – Uncle Tupelo
12 – Cemetery Savior – from Straightaways
13 – Ten Second News
14 – Drown
15 – Looking for a Way Out – Uncle Tupelo
16 – Chickamauga – Uncle Tupelo
17 – Too Early
18 – Looking at the World Through a Windshield – Del Reeves cover
Here is a YouTube playlist I created of all of the songs that are conveniently there:

(Upcoming Show) JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound Bring Their Powerhouse R&B Show to CSPS 11/13/15


One of my favorite albums of 2013 was JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound‘s third album Howl. I was already a fan of the band and their cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” was a smart, if calculated play to get some attention from the Indie Rock crowd.

But for me, the more sparse, stripped down– both musically and emotionally– approach of Howl was eye-opening. The album is reminiscent of 80’s soul like Fine Young Cannibals or Terence Trent D’Arby and maybe a little like The Smiths at times (particularly the guitars). The video for “Rouse Yourself” is really great with Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson in it.

JC and band have been in the studio recently working on their fourth album. Brooks told me that they would be performing some of the new songs on their upcoming live dates, which includes a stop in Cedar Rapids at CSPS in New Bohemia on Friday night! This will be the first time I’m seeing the band live, and I can’t think of a better place to catch them. Beautiful, big, room with a cozy bar on the side with great beer on tap and wine. If you haven’t been to CSPS yet this would be a great first show!

Details at Legion Arts Website

Fri Nov 13 2015 – 8:00 pm • CSPS Hall
$16 advance | $19 door

(Upcoming Release) Pre-Order New Lissie Album “My Wild West” Out 2/12/2016 – New Video


Lissie has been playing a few new songs on her fall tour dates which come from her upcoming album My Wild West, which she announced today will be out on 2/12/2016. She’s already put a number of pre-order packages up on her online store which include orange vinyl, CD, a signed poster or a teeshirt and combinations of these. My Wild West represents the first full-length release on Lissie’s own Lionboy imprint which was also the home for her last EP of covers Cryin’ To You. The last couple of shows that I caught she was reenforcing the point that she is completely independent now, and really if anyone can pull this off with her collected base of fans worldwide, she should.

As part of the announcement today, she debuted a video for a new song from My Wild West, “Hero.” I had already heard two songs during the fall tour– one called “Ojai” which is the farewell song to her former home. She’s moving to NE Iowa! The other song is “Sun Keeps Rising” which is a tribute to her late aunt and is a gorgeous song I can’t wait to hear fleshed out on the album.

The video for “Hero” is pretty fun– made from footage shot by the filmmaker back in 1983! If you pre-order the new album, you get this song as a digital download.

(Upcoming Release) Ohio Soul Label Colemine Announces Subscription Service and Black Friday RSD Reissue of Ikebe Shakedown 7″

Hard Steppin RSD ReissueThe southwestern corner of Ohio might not be on the list of notable hotbeds of soul music like Memphis, Philly or Detroit but Loveland, OH is the home of Colemine Records. Label head Terry Cole has been diligently curating releases of hot Soul 7-inches and LP’s since 2007. I’ve been following his releases closely since about 2009 and next to Daptone, I think that Colemine is an important documenter of the new resurgence of R&B and Soul.

One of Colemine’s early releases was a 7″ from Brooklyn “Cinematic Soul” ensemble Ikebe Shakedown. Released in 2009 to acclaim, the record has been out-of-print for a few years and copies on discogs.com have gone for up to $60! For Black Friday Record Store Day, Colemine is re-issuing this landmark single in yellow transparent vinyl. There are only going to be 300 of these Ikebe Shakedown yellow 45s available on Black Friday Record Store Day and you’re going to have to go to an actual physical shop to get them.  Ask your favorite record store to hit up Colemine if they are interested in stocking this rare single or any other of the fine releases.

So, you get this all sorted out and you’re asking yourself, “How can I avoid ever missing another Colemine release?!” Well, Colemine is here to help. Starting this week they have announced a groovy subscription service. This service seems to be MUCH more convenient than others I’ve looked at. For one, you are opting in to be informed of a new release (which will include rare pressings and alternate pressings) and will have one reserved for you. They’ll send you a PayPal Invoice for the release plus shipping and you have ten days pay the invoice before the offer expires. Easy-peasy and you don’t have to worry about being on the hook for a release.

Two Faces of Iowa Electronic Music: Jack Lion With Maids At CSPS – Friday 10/23

Friday, October 23rd CSPS/Legion Arts will be presenting a show I’m really excited about– two Iowa bands with their roots in electronic music– but both taking it to different places.


The opening band, MAIDS, calls themselves “Midwest Disco” and although the music certainly leans to a clubby disco sound, I’m not sure that “Midwest” adds any discernible spin to their music. Danny Heggen and Mickey Davis make something between Postal Service and Four Tet with the occasional Scissor Sister in for dance floor leanings. Midwestern, certainly, since they’re both from Des Moines but for electronic pop it holds its own against anything spun in a dusky, crowded club outside the rows of corn here.



The headliner Jack Lion is one of my favorite bands out of Iowa in the past few years and I’m VERY excited to be able to see them at CSPS as I think they’ll be able to really take advantage of the beautiful acoustics and general vibe of the attentive and warmly supportive crowds.  Jack Lion is a jazz trio of trumpet, bass and drums that fuses electronic and ambient creating some really engaging and immersive soundscapes. They’ve released two EP’s so far “JAC” and “K L” and are working on a third (“ION” presumably). I wrote a review of the JAC EP for Little Village last year comparing it favorably to Kieran Hebden of Four Tet’s side project with jazz drummer Steve Reid. When I listen to Jack Lion, I can’t help but think about the experimental directions Miles Davis took and I’d like to think that he might have taken his music in this same direction.

“Miles Ahead” indeed.

Here are the deets– Jack Lion with MAIDS:

  • Fri Oct 23 2015 – 8:00 pm • CSPS Hall
  • $10 advance | $13 door
  • Details and Ticket Information at Legion Arts Website

Lissie Announces “Road to RAGBRAI” Solo Tour – Teases New Song “Sun Keeps Risin’

For the uninitiated, RAGBRAI is the “Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.” Each year thousands of bicycle riders take a week at the end of July and ride across Iowa. This has been going on for 42 years in 2015. From Lissie’s website:

I’ve always wanted to do (RAGBRAI), so I will be doing the ride in the middle of the tour. Having grown up just across the river in Illinois, Iowa is a gorgeous state that I love! So to make it a reality I’ll be going back to my roots in more ways than one. I started in music playing acoustic guitar and singing from the heart, so it’s only fitting that I sing my way back to the heartland solo! I hope that you can all join me at a show leading up to, on the ride or at one of the gigs after.

So, she’s doing a run of dates with Tyler Lyle leading up to and following RAGBRAI. What we don’t know is if she might be busting out her guitar on the ride! Even if she doesn’t, these shows promise to be really special and intimate affairs.

Along with this announcement, she teased a new song titled “Sun Keeps Risin'” which is slated for her new album which is slated for January of 2016.


Here are the dates of the solo tour with links to where to get tickets.

July 11 – Los Angeles @ Troubadour (Sold Out)
July 12San Francisco @ The Chapel
July 14Salt Lake City @ Urban Lounge
July 15Denver @ Bluebird Theater
July 16Omaha @ The Waiting Room
July 27Chicago @ Lincoln Hall

August 4Milwaukee @ Turner Hall Ballroom
August 5Minneapolis @ Varsity Theater
August 7Nashville @ 3rd & Lindsley
August 8Atlanta @ Terminal West
August 9New Orleans @ The Parish at House of Blues
August 11Austin @ The Parish

New Tom Petty Song from Wildflowers Sessions Out – “Somewhere Under Heaven”

Tom Petty - Somewhere Under Heaven

With seemingly very little fanfare a new song was released by Tom Petty today. Titled “Somewhere Under Heaven” it is a song from his planned reissue of his 1994 album Wildflowers. He mentioned this reissue in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine last year.

Petty has another release that could be out by Christmas: a two-disc reissue of his 1994 Top 10 solo album, Wildflowers, which includes 10 previously unreleased songs. Petty claims one of those finds, “Somewhere Under Heaven,” came as a surprise when he heard it again: “I did not remember writing it, recording it, anything.” He smiles. “And it was really good – uptempo but very unusual, in some strange time signature.”

“Somewhere Under Heaven” will also be on the soundtrack to the upcoming “Entourage” movie. But, you can listen to it on Spotify and download it from Amazon and iTunes as well.

I’m hopeful that this means the expanded Wallflowers possibly titled All The Rest as well as the reissue on vinyl are still on the radar.


(Upcoming Show) Nellie McKay at CSPS in Cedar Rapids Tuesday 4/28/15

Nellie McKay is in a lot of ways an artist from a different time. Compared to what is generally regarded as “pop music” currently, popular music from the 50’s/60’s and even the 70’s seemed to cut a much wider swath through genres. Jazz, Rock, Country, Folk and American Songbook. In that same spirit Nellie McKay has not been content staying in one genre– even per album in most cases.

For McKay’s sixth album titled My Weekly Reader, she opted to dive into the rich catalog of 60’s pop and rock and create an album of covers that demonstrates her incredible musical chops and catalog knowledge as well as presents the songs with her unique and smart sense of subtle irony and humor. While I really appreciate her original music more, the opportunity to see her dive into covers (as she did on her album of Doris Day covers Normal as Blueberry Pie) also reveals her influences.

And I haven’t even mentioned her stints on Broadway and film!

McKay is bringing her solo show back to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, April 28th. She was here in September of 2012 (which is where the picture above was taken). Her shows are a lot of fun– she’s a great artist, musician and wonderful singer. Her adopted stage personae at first seems a little scatterbrained, but she uses that disarming “aw-shucks” delivery to make some sharp and thoughtful commentary about everything from veganism to feminism to current politics. When she performed last time, she improvised a cute song about Iowa.

She was interviewed recently on NBC 4 in New York City about her new album:

She is a performer who continues to impress me and we are fortunate that she chooses the big stage at CSPS to bring her show. Don’t sleep on this!

Tickets are $21 in advance and $26 at the door. The show is at 7PM. More information at the Legion Arts website!

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