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(Upcoming Show) Pieta Brown with Carrie Rodriguez and Kelly Joe Phelps Bring An Acoustic Cafe Roadshow to CSPS Tuesday 1/31/12

Though we don’t get this fantastic show on Iowa Public Radio, Acoustic Cafe is an independently-produced 2-hour radio show hosted by Rob Reinhart focusing on a wide variety of music, but tending to center on the “unplugged” side of things.

Acoustic Cafe also sponsors a tour, and for some of the dates on their evening tour Pieta Brown is joining the 2nd half of the run replacing Erin McKeown in the lineup with also includes Carrie Rodriguez (who Pieta toured with in 2011) and Kelly Joe Phelps. This is the lineup that will be gracing the big stage at Legion Arts/CSPS on Tuesday, January 31st.

We always welcome a chance to see Pieta live, and it will be great to see her at the remodeled CSPS along with a couple of complimentary acts like Rodriguez and Phelps. Rodriguez’s latest album is We Still Love Our Country, which is an album of covers with collaborator Ben Kyle of Minneapolis band Romantica. Phelps has been recording since 1994, and his latest album Western Bell came out in 2009 and is a beautiful John Fahey-esque album of instrumentals. While I’m sure he will perform songs from all points of his career– I’m hoping he includes some of these instrumentals!

Click Here to read my review of Pieta Brown’s new album Mercury that I wrote for Little Village Magazine.

An Acoustic Cafe Evening with Pieta Brown, Carrie Rodriguez and Kelly Joe Phelps will happen at 7PM on Tuesday, January 31st. Tickets are $17, $21 at the door. Visit the Legion Arts website for more details.

It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 10 Albums of 2011

Here we are in the final month of 2011 and it is time for the Top lists. I started this last year for the first time, and I think it was a pretty good exercise. 2011 for me personally was a time of change– I was laid off from a job I had for over 13 years and spent most of 2011 unemployed. As I write this, I’m happily employed, though I’m having to deal with the fallout of being unemployed for so long.

If it wasn’t for the friends and contacts I made through this blog, the time I spent unemployed would have been unbearable. As people found out about my family’s situation, they reached out with concern, help and well-wishes. Frankly, writing for this blog and the other places I sometimes contribute gave me a much-needed distraction as I experienced first-hand the employment conditions and lack of hiring in the U.S. It seems like things are turning around, but we are far from recovery, I’m afraid.

So, I look at this list of albums as being kind of a soundtrack for my unemployment– sometimes expressing hope, sometimes expressing despair, but 2011 was a good year for music. As 2012 brings new hope and opportunity for me, I look forward to bringing my music blog into its sixth year.

While there were a lot of notable releases in 2011, these are the ones that spent the most time in rotation for me– had more staying power.

1. Hiss Golden Messenger – Poor Moon – M.C. Taylor’s post Court & Spark band makes my list for the second year running– Poor Moon is a full-band companion-piece to last year’s Bad Debt in that they share a few songs. You can read my summary and review here. Mike’s in the running for 2012, too, as he has started work on his next album already!

2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver – Like last year’s The Suburbs from Arcade Fire, this is an album that will make a lot of 2011 “Top” lists. Already the album has been nominated for a few Grammys. I was not a fan of the first album from Justin Vernon, but this album quickly has found a seat in my regular rotation and gets played often at my house. The fact that it shares common DNA with the brilliant album from Eau Claire-Minneapolis supergroup GAYNGS helps, too.

3. Pieta Brown – Mercury – With a boost of moral support from her new label home Red House Records and continued support from her musical family and friends, Pieta Brown has created what is her best recorded statement to date. I wrote a review of Mercury for Little Village here.

4. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire – In some regards this album can be heralded as the triumphant return for Ryan Adams whose last new studio effort was 2008’s swansong for Lost Highway as a label and The Cardinals as a band, Cardinology. Life has changed pretty dramatically for Ryan who seems to have embraced his life and career with new perspective. Ashes & Fire is a return to the simpler sound of Easy Tiger— arguably a sound he has refined and polished. For a guy whose love of metal and punk are public record, he has the ability to make some of the most beautiful folk-rock-country songs this side of Neil Young. He is on a sold-out solo acoustic tour at the moment as he re-familiarizes himself with his legacy and live performing in general. I hope he gets the itch to bring a band on the road with him in the near future.

5. Dawes – Nothing Is WrongDawes is back and their sophomore release is even more confident than their first album, Taylor Goldsmith is embracing his role as lead guitarist and this album features some very polished guitarwork. In 2011 we saw more of the indie space contributing videos to VH1’s Top 20 and Dawes spent a week or two with “Time Spent in Los Angeles.” I think that the almost-universal embrace of Dawes’ own spin on 70’s singer-songwriter classic rock is showing that people are looking for strong melodies and honesty in the face of mostly manufactured pop music. The songs for Nothing Is Wrong got a lot of mileage on the road, many songs were familiar to dedicated fans like me, it will be interesting to see what the next songs will be like. I don’t expect any dramatic change in the band, but I would like to see some envelope pushing– maybe a change in production.

6. Kelly Pardekooper – YonderKelly cut his songwriting teeth here in Eastern Iowa writing and recording his first five albums while he lived here. A brief jump to Wisconsin and a permanent displacement to the yonder of L.A. seemed to silence the songwriter, but after some recognition by the new tastemakers that assemble soundtracks for TV shows he was kickstarted to record his most Iowa-sounding release to date with Bo Ramsey and a band of Backslider regulars. Relased in the fourth quarter of 2011, I’m hoping the album gets some legs in 2012 before returning to the lockers.

7. Canasta – The Fakeout The Tease and the Breather – Technically this release from Chicago band Canasta came out late in 2010, but I heard it in February when they made a stop in Iowa City.  This quote from my article for Little Village says it all, “There nestled in the extensive list of influences is what appears to be the nearly 30 years of my record collection. While this list seems impossibly diverse on paper, the thing that unifies all of these artists is a strong knack for melody and composition that Canasta brings in spades.” Watch their great video for “Mexico City” here.

8. Chicago Odense Ensemble – self-titled – This album– a meeting of members of Tortoise and Isotope 217 and Causa Sui– had been announced for months before it was eventually released this year by French label AdLuna. A sliced and diced approach to assembling a record from hours of improvisational recording by the group a la In A Silent Way resulted in a beautiful record with gorgeous packaging to match. You can read my article about the release here.

9. Kerosene Circuit – self titled EP – This was an EP that really reached out of the stereo and shook me. Rockin’, diesel-powered bar chords. You can read my review for Little Village here.

10. The 4onthefloor – 4×4 – Minneapolis stompin’ bar-blues band The 4onthefloor may seem on paper to be tied to a schtick with each member of the band playing a kickdrum on stage, but the formula of 4/4 time heavy blues is one that works. Lead singer Gabe Douglas transforms to the on-stage personae of the possessed while riding the chugging rhythm provided by the rest of the band. The album captures a lot of this live energy, but catch them live if you can.

Pieta Brown Drives “Mercury” to Town on 9/27

Red House Records and Pieta Brown announced today that her new album titled Mercury— her second for the label will release on September 27th with an iTunes download of the title track available immediately.

There is also a pre-order on iTunes with two-minute samples of every track on the 13-song album.  At first blush the album continues the honey-drenched laid back bluesy folk sound that is her trademark sound.

Pieta’s first album on Red House Records, One and All, marked the re-entry of the label back into vinyl records, and although the e-mail sent out today doesn’t specifically mention Mercury vinyl, I know the label is supporting more releases in the future, so it stands to reason that this album will be too.

I’ll post more information as I get it!

Tracklisting for Mercury

  1. Be With You
  2. Butterfly Blues
  3. Mercury
  4. How Much of My Love
  5. I’m Gone
  6. I Want It Back
  7. Blue Rider
  8. Night All Day
  9. Closing Time
  10. I Don’t Mind
  11. Glory to Glory
  12. So Many Miles
  13. No Words Now

Upcoming shows:

8/20/2011 Bayfield WI Big Top Chautauqua
John Prine
8/21/2011 Bayfield WI Big Top Chautauqua
John Prine
9/10/2011 Iowa City IA Iowa Women’s Music Festival
9/25/2011 Santa Monica CA McCabe’s Guitar Shop
Jim Lauderdale
9/29/2011 Minneapolis MN The Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
10/7/2011 Evanston IL SPACE
Nora O’Connor
10/8/2011 Iowa City IA The Englert Theatre – 99th Anniversary Celebration
10/14/2011 Pella IA Pella Opera House
10/20/2011 Rockford IL Severson Dells Nature Center

(Free Download) Pieta Brown Encore Daytrotter Session

Today Daytrotter posted a session I’ve been waiting over a year-and-a-half to hear– Pieta Brown‘s encore session!

The session was recorded Thursday, June 11, 2009 using a short-lived band lineup called “Dream #9” with Jim Viner on drums, Jon Penner on bass and Bo Ramsey on guitar. They performed only two shows in this configuration. June 11th at The Redstone Room in Davenport and then on June 12th at The Mill in Iowa City, which I reviewed.

Here is a picture of that band lineup from The Mill Show:

Pieta Brown and Dream #9 at The Mill

Pieta’s first Daytrotter session was recorded in March of 2008. Between these two sessions recorded less than a year apart, Pieta would go from being on a semi-major label to being “in limbo” with no label. A situation which was remedied by September 2009. Nevertheless, Pieta had self-released an EP titled Flight Time in October 2008 and both sessions include songs from Flight Time as well as her Shimmer EP— produced by Don Was and her debut release on Red House Records.

The session is a nice cross-section of Pieta’s career:

1. “#807” is from her 2005 release In The Cool, which was released on Valley Entertainment and apparently is still in print!

2. “Going Away Blues” is a Frank Stokes cover that Pieta also recorded for her self-released 2003 EP I Never Told which is impossibly out-of-print. I managed to get one of these when Pieta discovered a box last year.

3. “4th of July” also on In The Cool.

4. “Sunrise Highway #44” is from her self-released EP Flight Time which is still available on CDBaby.

5. “You’re My Lover Now” is from her debut Shimmer EP on Red House Records. This version differs from the EP version by having some nice subtle brushwork from Jim Viner.

Pieta Brown Daytrotter Encore Session: The Faint Light of All Lungs and Hearts

Pieta  Brown has tour dates coming up (from her website) with a show at the Mill Restaurant on April 9th:

Date Time Location
Sat Mar 19 Bluegrass & Roots Festival, River Falls, WI more info
Sat Apr 09 The Mill, Iowa City, IA more info
Sat Apr 16 Stoughton Opera House, Stoughton, Wisconsin more info
Thu May 26 SPACE, Evanston, IL more info
Sat May 28 Crossings At Carnegie, Zumbrota, MN more info
Fri Jun 03 Mountain Jam Music Festival, Hunter, NY more info
Sat Jun 04 Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA more info
Sun Jun 05 Club Passim, Cambridge, MA more info
Sat Aug 06 Edmonton Folk Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA more info
Sun Aug 07 Edmonton Folk Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA more info

 

It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2010

Welcome to the first Top List for It’s Time to Play B-Sides. I’ve considered doing one of these lists every year since 2006, but never before have I had a year filled with as many really great albums that have compelled me to compile a year-end list. 2010 has been a pretty busy year for me as far as music has been concerned. Some fantastic concerts and events and some really interesting local (Eastern Iowa) releases have come out. This list represents releases that spent the most time on my playlist– in some cases I have had direct working relationships with the bands and that certainly was a factor in their appearance in the list, but nothing appears on this list that I didn’t feel very strongly about and in almost every case these were releases I was recommending to others either verbally or in print whether it was here at Play B-Sides or at Radio Free Chicago, or The Little Village.

One thing I’d like to point out is the number of strong releases from Iowa artists this year– this list doesn’t include a comprehensive list of Iowa releases, but I’m proud to include some music from my back yard.

This list is roughly in order of rank– rather than reverse order, I’m listing top to bottom. Truthfully, though narrowing this list to 20 was a tough act, and I left some albums off that I really enjoyed, but these are the albums that I think really struck me this year.

1. Tired Pony – The Place We Ran From –  No album this year has moved me as much as this one has. Brilliant work by Peter Buck and Gary Lightbody who are the core members of Tired Pony. Sounds the way I hope the new R.E.M. album will. “Dead American Writers” is easily one of my favorite songs from this year as well (even if it has a confoundingly bland video). Here is my review at Radio Free Chicago on The Place We Ran From.

2. Hiss Golden Messenger – Bad Debt – MC Taylor released what is the second album for Hiss Golden Messenger this year. Titled Bad Debt, it is a collection of “spirituals” in as much as it deals with the matters of faith. It was recorded during the dead of last winter in his kitchen to a cassette recorder– just Taylor and his acoustic. The results are a stark and chilling introspection and really one of my favorite albums this year. The simple approach of this recording lays bare the amazing singer and songwriter that Taylor is. Here is my article on Bad Debt.

3. Death Ships – Maybe Arkansas EP – Although I’m convinced that Dan Maloney– constant frontman for former Iowa City band Death Ships— doesn’t like the songs on this EP based on the fact that he didn’t play any of them the last two times I saw him perform live at The Mill– this is still one of the strongest releases from this year. It’s a little unfair to call this a 2010 release for a number of reasons– first the songs were recorded some time back in 2006, I think and have kind of lingered in Dan’s archives until last year when he was planning to release an EP of them. The EP was finally released this year. To be fair, I guess Dan has moved on to writing songs for the followup to his last full album, so I’m sure he’s less excited about these songs than the prospect of newer songs. Still, this is a fantastic collection of songs and it would be a shame to let these songs die without people hearing them, in my opinion. Read my review of Maybe Arkansas.

4. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs – I’ll come right out and say it– I was not really a fan of Arcade Fire’s first album Funeral. I have friends who really loved it, but it didn’t really move me. Neon Bible was interesting to me mostly because Calexico covered “Ocean of Noise” on an import 7″ and I really liked “Keep the Car Running.” When the buzz started around The Suburbs, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first “leaked” track was “Month of May” which showed a distinctive change in sound for the band, but I was still skeptical. In what proved to be a genius move by the band and the label, they made the album $3.99 at amazon.com the day of release– so I downloaded it. It quickly took over my playlist and even today, I’ll listen to this album a couple of times a week. Significant holding power for me. On my short list for acquiring on vinyl.

5. Gayngs – Relayted – This is an example of an astonishingly great album that came out of leftfield. Almost any blogger whose opinion I value ranks this as one of the best releases of this year. Smooth, sexy 80’s influenced pop with electronic twiddling interludes by a supergroup of bands from Minneapolis and Eau Claire, WI. The honest-to-goodness legacy to the original Minneapolis sound started by Prince and his minions years ago. Here is an article I wrote about the release.

6. The Right Now – Carry Me Home – A bit of a disclaimer first– I’m the executive producer on the vinyl pressing of Carry Me Home by Chicago R&B band The Right Now, which came out in September. While this might disqualify me from being an unbiased perspective on the album, the fact of the matter is that I loved Carry Me Home from the first time I heard it on CD when it came out in March. I guess, much as Victor Kiam liked Remington razors so much he bought the company, I guess I liked the CD so much I invested in the vinyl! The Right Now is part of a what appears to be a pretty substantial revival in R&B music right now, but in my mind provides a unique spin on the genre in that it draws as much influence from the classic Motown, Stax and Bell sides as it does from more contemporary R&B and funk. In fact, the band might have more in common with The Roots than it does with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings even though all three bands could be considered to fit in this space. A great record from beginning to end and the band’s live shows are not to be missed. The band is planning to hit the studio in 2011 to start recording the follow up and the songs I’ve heard so far are great as well. Here is an article by the band about the vinyl…

7. Backyard Tire Fire – Good To Be – I loved BTF’s last album and their live shows are high-energy straightforward blues-leaning rock. Good To Be marked the move to a new record label for BTF and Ed Anderson’s blue-collar sensibilities and humor (and production by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos) makes for a great and rocking album from beginning to end. Here’s an article I wrote about the album.

8. Pezzettino – LubDub – Brooklyn-via-Milwaukee singer-songwriter and Accordion Girl Wonder Margaret Stutt, who performs as Pezzettino released her third album LubDub this year which was co-produced and created with Milwaukee HipHop producer Jerry Gruvis aka LMNtlyst. Much as her music and art influences before her, Pezzettino draws inspiration from her own life and each of her albums to date have been autobiographical in nature and LubDub is no different. Although we don’t know who the romantic suitors were in songs like “Cold Hard Chick,” “You and Your Headaches,” and “Only One” we know that they may have been star-crossed. The album, taken in whole, can be seen as a progression of sorts in one woman’s journey in love and loss of it. The album started as a tentative collaboration between Stutt and Gruvis who met at a show in Milwaukee last year. As the songs came together it became apparent that this was to be her follow on to Lion. The album is fun, funky and has a sense of humor along with the pain. LubDub was done as a Kickstarter-funded project to wild success which yielded a wonderful CD+vinyl package with the record itself a brilliant transparent yellow. Here is my article about LubDub.

9. Pieta Brown – One and All – The news of Pieta Brown moving to Red House Records was one that I felt was going to be the beginning of a fruitful relationship. Her one foray into major label land was 2007’s Remember the Sun on One Little Indian Records that ended after one release. None worse for the wear, she packed up her guitar and moved home– home being the record label her father Greg Brown was very instrumental in forming in 1983 and continues to be his label today. One and All is Pieta’s seventh release of her very distinctive lazy soprano floating on the Eastern Iowa sound started largely by constant partner Bo Ramsey– but it seems to me like she’s just getting started– maybe it feels like that to her, too. One and All just came out on 180g vinyl, too! Here is my review of One and All.

10. Cheyenne Marie Mize – Before Lately – Postitively lovely, ethereal album from Ms. Mize who is known for her collaboration EP with Bonnie Prince Billy which was her previous release. This album is stripped down to a minimalistic endeavor drawing to focus her longing vocals. Every time I listen to this album I crush on it all over again. She helpfully puts the entire record up on Bandcamp so you can listen to the whole thing. Check out her wonderful Daytrotter session, too. There needs to be vinyl of this release. Here is my article on Cheyenne Mize.

11. Gold Motel – Summer House – I had not heard of Gold Motel until they made an appearance at the August Codfish Hollow show. Chicago-based band has roots in lead singer Greta Morgan’s previous band The Hush Sound. The album is sunshine on CD– 60’s girl bands meets Debbie Harry. I meant to write a review about this album following the afterglow of this show but didn’t manage to– so, here is a review for Mezzic.com by Indie-Rock’s biggest fan, Ms. Amber Valentine.

12. John Legend and the Roots – Wake Up! – I’ve always respected John Legend although I wasn’t really a fan. The prospects of an album with his Philly brethren The Roots seemed like it could be magic. It was. I hope that this is not the last we’ll hear from this pairing. The 2 LP version of this album is the way it is supposed to be enjoyed.

13. Katharine Ruestow – self-titled EPKatharine Ruestow ends up on my list twice– she’s also part of The Diplomats of Solid sound. This is her first solo effort– a collaboration with Matt Grundstad of Euforquestra. Jazzy, almost Trip Hop sounding pop. Totally worth your digital-download dollar. Click Here to read the review I wrote for Little Village Magazine.

14. The Wandering Bears – self-titled EP – This album came crashing onto my Top List in the last couple of weeks. I was doing research for my review of the Pieta Brown “This Land is Your Music” show. The opening act was a trio from Iowa City known as The Vagabonds. Two of the Vagabonds are also in The Wandering Bears which released an EP earlier this year that really took me by surprise! The sound comes off as a combination of maybe Rilo Kiley and Throwing Muses. Free download, so just go get it.

15. Beth Bombara – Wish I Were You – Around the same time that Pezzettino kicked off her Kickstarter campaign for LubDub, St. Louis musician Beth Bombara kicked off one for Wish I Were You. In fact, before I ever heard any songs for this album I offered up a video of me talking about why I love vinyl to help promote her campaign. I found out about Beth through Arial Hyatt’s publicity website– back when there were fewer artists on it and the odds of finding very talented artists was much greater (my opinion). Her CD Robotic Foundation, was a mainstay in my listening rotation for over a year. Robotic Foundation was an edgy indie rock. Wish I Were You has its edgy moments- particular “Lately”, but the album seems to explore a few different styles drifting between blues, folk and country.  I love the album ending track “Don’t You Know” with it’s strings, banjo and harmony. Beth seemingly is part of like 16 bands in St. Louis, but she really shines as a solo artist here. Click Here to read my article about Beth.

16. Wolfgang Schaefer – self-titled EPWolfgang Schaefer is a relatively new musician on the scene and this is his first release. I met him during the tour this fall where he opened up for Pezzettino and both of them shared his very talented brother Ben on percussion and electronic wizardry. Margaret had been praising Wolfgang’s music, but I foolishly hadn’t followed up on it. Then I saw him perform live and was very impressed with his command of an audience. His music is VERY dynamic, so it’s a trick to keep your typical bar crowd in sway. Finger-picked acoustic guitars propel his hoarse vocals delivering pained recounts of love and loss. My friend Amber wrote a really great review of this EP.

17. The Diplomats of Solid Sound – What Goes Around Comes Around – The Diplomats are back with their second release on Italian soul label Record Kicks. Like last time, the Diplomats are fronted by the female vocals of the Diplomettes who have by name apparently been absorbed into the band since they are not singled out in credit. Name detail aside, the band came back with a really strong release filled with the sounds influenced by the 60’s R&B bands. I feel like the band has grown a bit in their songwriting with this release, too. Read my review at Little Village.

18. Drive By Truckers – The Big To Do – Love this album front to back– great party music with typical tongue-in-cheek lyricism from Patterson Hood and Co. It’s cool to see this band blowing up a bit. I finally got to see them live this year when they opened for Tom Petty in Chicago. “The Fourth Night of My Drinking,” “Birthday Boy,” “Drag the Lake Charlie,” “This F*cking Job,” and “After the Scene Dies” are all instant classics for me. I never got around to writing anything about this release, although I listened to this album a lot in 2010. Here is the fantastic Daytrotter session for Drive By Truckers.

19. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Mojo – This might be some of my “old guy” coming out a bit. I have been a constant fan of Tom Petty since the 80’s. That said, his last two efforts– The Last DJ and Highway Companion (one a Heartbreakers release and one a solo release) were not as strong or consistent as some of his previous efforts in my opinion. When I started hearing the tracks that “leaked” via videos on line, Saturday Night Live appearances and his XM radio show “Buried Treasures” really started the interest in this release early. Petty stated that for this album they went to the studio loose and welcomed a more jamming approach and this, I feel, really makes for one of the most consistent albums from Petty in a long time. For an artist that could reasonably rest on his back catalog, it is great to see that he’s trying to push the creative envelope.

20. The Budos Band – III – Any release from Daptone Records is worthy of note, but I really love the Afro-Rhythms guitars and Farfisa organ of The Budos Band. The band said that they went into the studio trying to break new ground for the band by braving psychedelic rock and ended up recording an album that sounding like a Budos Band album. After four releases, I feel like this album really shows the band in its element and this album is darker, I feel than the previous releases. Some recent tweets from the band had them soliciting ideas for a new album of psychedelic rock covers for them to tackle which should be interesting. Here is an article I wrote about the album.

(Review) Pieta Brown – This Land Is Your Music II: First Night – 12/4/2010

Pieta Brown at This Land is Your Music II at The Mill on 12-4-2010

Pieta Brown’s second songwriter-in-residency called “This Land Is Your Music” at The Mill Restaurant kicked off on Saturday 12/4 right on the heels of a six-day mini-tour of Australia which wrapped up the previous Saturday.  I had been looking forward to seeing these two shows. Last year’s three consecutive Thursday night shows in November (read my reviews for 11/5/09, 11/12/09, 11/19/09)  were truly magical, intimate shows. Pieta considers The Mill her home venue– she got her start playing The Mill, so she was happy to bring these shows to that stage.  The combination of music and art is a way for Pieta to give back to the community that spawned her career.

The opening band was the folk trio The Vagabonds which includes Sam Blickhan from The Mayflies. Sam is also in The Wandering Bears with Sarah Mannix of the Vagabonds. Their set was very good, pretty three-part-harmonies of original songs with the occasional cover– one of which was a Be Good Tanyas song. I really liked their original songs and am looking forward to being able to see them again.
The Vagabonds at This Land is Your Music II
Like last year, set and light design was done by Stan Crocker. Last year the stage was lit like a small living room with umbrellas and lamps– this year Stan washed the stage in dramatic blue light.

Pieta Brown at This Land is Your Music II at The Mill on 12-4-2010

Pieta’s set was a solo acoustic set and included primarily songs from her new album One and All, the Shimmer EP and Remember the Sun, but she also added some new songs. “Be With You” had only been played one other time according to Pieta. The song “No Words Now” was described as being influenced by meeting Mark Knopfler (whom she toured with this year) and JJ Cale, who are both heroes of Pieta’s (as is Tom Petty— the subject of “Faller”).

Not content to be the only performer, Pieta invited her sister Constie on stage to sing duet on “The Other Way Around” from One and All. Constie provides harmony vocals on the new album, as well. For the finale of Pieta’s set she invited the Vagabonds to join her on stage for a gospel track which drew some comments by Iris DeMent who was in the crowd and soon joined the crew onstage for a rousing version of the Reverend Gary Davis song “Morning Train.”

Pieta Brown Joined onstage by Constie Brown, The Vagabonds and Iris DeMent

As with the first This Land Is Your Music shows, there was an artist gallery. Lighting designer Stan Crocker had a really cool installation of light boxes in the green room. Each of the parts of the display had its own light source and illuminated individual subjects.

Stan Crocker Light Box Installation

Watch the video for a walkthrough I did of the installation while The Vagabonds play “Ransom”:

The entryway of the Mill had photos from regional photographer Sonya Naumann. Here is a set from her series titled “Dunce”.

Entryway Exhibit of Sonya Naumann

The This Land is Your Music shows are something anyone who is a fan of Pieta Brown or the Eastern Iowa music scene in general should really get out to see. I’m really happy that Pieta was able to pull this off again this year and am looking forward to seeing tomorrow night’s show. Pieta will be playing in a trio with Bo Ramsey and a drummer and the opening act will be Alexis Stevens. The gallery will be provided by Jamie Hudrlik.

The tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door and the proceeds will again be donated to Friends of Hickory Hills and Iowa Public Radio. Pieta’s sister Zoe designed teeshirts for the event as well as the poster seen above and both will be available at the show along with Pieta’s new vinyl for One and All!

Click Here for the Mill Restaurant Website for more details.

Pieta Brown Setlist:

1. Be With You *
2. West Monroe
3. No Words Now *
4. Hey Run
5. Out of the Blue
6. Are You Free?
7. You’re My Lover Now
8. In My Mind I Was Talking To Loretta
9. El Guero
10. Other Way Around (w/Constie Brown)
11. Faller
12. I’m Gone *
13. Closin’ Time *
14. Calling All Angels
15. Over Your
16. Morning Train (Rev. Gary Davis) (w/The Vagabonds and Iris DeMent)

* new songs!

A slideshow of the pictures I took:

(Upcoming Shows) Pieta Brown & Friends – This Land is Your Music Residency at The Mill 12/4 & 12/11

It’s hard to believe that it already has been over a year since Pieta Brown hosted her first artist-in-residence at The Mill Restaurant. That show was three Thursday night shows in November last year (see my reviews for: 11/5, 11/12, 11/19). Next to the Daytrotter Barnstormer shows, these were some of my favorite shows of 2009– very intimate and special. The stage lighting and design by Stan Crocker was a great touch– an eclectic little living room. Pieta was using these shows to try out some live band configurations– solo, duo and full band. To help bring some awareness to the art scene in the area, she set aside the room normally reserved as the green room as a gallery which was really cool, too. The only disappointing thing to me about these shows was the lack of audience on a couple of the shows. By the 11/19 show, it seemed like word had gotten out about these gigs. But, mid-week shows are always hit-or-miss in Iowa City, even when school is in session.

Pieta is bringing This Land Is Your Music back to the Mill for two shows in December– Saturday 12/4 and Saturday 12/11. The tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door and the proceeds will again be donated to Friends of Hickory Hills and Iowa Public Radio. Doors will be at 7PM Here are the details:

Saturday, December 4. Pieta Brown performs a solo set. Her special guest will be Iowa City trio The Vagabonds. The art in the gallery will be done by Stan Crocker and Sonya Naumann. Sonya Naumann has a really interesting photography project called “Thousand Dollar Dress” that maybe we’ll get to see some of in the gallery.

Saturday, December 11. Pieta Brown & Terraplane headlines. We don’t know exactly who is in the band, but Bo Ramsey lists this show in the tour section of his site. Alexis Stevens will open. The gallery will have works by Jamie Hudrlik (who happens to be the very talented daughter of Iowa City photographer Sandy Dyas who showed photographs last year).

I suspect that Pieta will have some of her wonderful new 180g vinyl pressings of One and All with her, too. (I got my copy this week!).

Click Here for Pieta Brown’s website

Click Here for The Mill Restaurant website.

Click Here to visit midwestix.com to pre-order tickets to This Land Is Your Music II.

Here are my reviews for last year’s shows:  11/5, 11/12, 11/19

(Upcoming Release) Pieta Brown Releases 180g Vinyl Version of “One and All” 11/29/2010

Just ahead of the shopping holidays, Red House Records and Pieta Brown have announced a 180g vinyl version of her latest album One and All which was released on April 6th this year on CD. As I’ve pointed out earlier, this album and the previous EP Shimmer marks a sort of coming home for Pieta as Red House was the original label started with Greg Brown, and is also where The Pines have been for the last two albums.

Based on the conversation I had with the gentleman taking phone orders at Red House, this marks the first vinyl put out by Red House since the early 90’s to the best of his recollection. He said that Red House had licensed a recording for vinyl recently, but this is the first that Red House has done under its imprint.

For this foray back into vinyl, I think Red House is getting the release right– pick a relatively high-profile artist like Pieta Brown, issue it on audiophile-appeasing 180g vinyl, and they are offering new packaging for the release. This cover seems to be based on the poster I got with the CD release back in April which I think is pretty striking. I think the label is testing the vinyl waters a bit, the gentleman I talked to on the phone hinted at a Pines release possibility as well!

One and All 180g vinyl is available for pre-order right now through Red House for $23 (plus shipping).

Click Here to read my review of One and All.

Click The Red House Logo to Order:
Red House Records Online Store

Click Here for Pieta Brown’s official web site

Click Here for Pieta Brown’s Facebook Fan Page

Pieta Brown Paints Her Masterpiece in One and All (Review)

“I always wished I could paint, but I really can’t. My sisters Constie and Zoe got that gene. So, I made a painting here– of one kind.” — Pieta before a live performance of “Over You”

I’m awoken by the flash and rumbles of the first spring storm. 5:55 AM floods into my retinas rinsing recent dreams into faint images. In my head there’s music– like every morning– a score played over the final scenes of my sleeping film I’ll soon forget.

I roll on to my back and look at the runny light reflected on the ceiling and listen to the music in my head– it’s “El Guero” from One and All.

Shady grove & tattoo sleeves
Pink birds in a pile of leaves
All night
All night
All night long

Honeysuckle along the street
They say you never missed a beat
Records piled against the wall
Old bass & a wrecking ball

In conjunction with the Mission Creek Iowa City music festival that happened last week where she performed, Pieta Brown put her new CD One and All (Red House Records) in a couple stores to sell a week before the release date of 4/6. Over lunch last week I ran down to Iowa City to RSVP to pick up a copy.  The week I’ve had with it has apparently contributed to the music that plays in my head.

One and All is the first full album and the second release (the first being the EP Shimmer, produced by Don Was) by Pieta Brown on her new label home Red House Records. Red House has become kind of a center of the Eastern Iowa Blues and Folk scene. Starting with Pieta’s father Greg Brown they also have Greg’s long-time friend Dave Moore as well as The Pines which has Bo Ramsey’s son Benson in it. I’ve mentioned here before that I think the partnership of Pieta and Red House is one that ultimately should help foster her career.

After years following Bo Ramsey’s career, I find myself gravitating to albums that he produced or played on and One and All has that pull for me as well.  As with the previous six releases dating back to her self-titled 2002 release on the now-defunct Trailer Records, her constant collaborator Bo Ramsey takes a key role in the sound of the album providing his vocal harmonies and trademark clean country blues guitar riffing. Joining Bo and Pieta is their regular bass player Jon Penner and drummer Steve Hayes. JT Bates who played drums on The Pines newest album also played on One and All— apparently together with Hayes on some songs according to an entry on Bates’s blog.  Brian Wilkie from Chicago Bluegrass band Majors Junction provides some tasty pedal steel. Pieta’s sister Constie contributes harmonies and Bo’s son Alex Ramsey provides keyboards on “Faller.” Additionally, Joey Burns from Calexico returns the favor of Pieta and Bo contributing vocals and guitar to “Slowness” on their 2008 album Carried to Dust by contributing cello and accordion.

Pieta delivers a gentle– almost dreamy vocal over the balanced and paced instrumentals. This is music with a sense of place more than an urge of destination. We could go somewhere but let’s sit on the porch enjoying the breeze blowing through the screen door.

“Making a record always reminds me of taking photographs because it is just one moment in time, or just one version of the way that song is– kind of like a photograph.” — Pieta in her “Making of One and All Documentary

This quote as well as the one at the beginning of this review helps frame– if you will– the lyrics to Pieta’s songs for me. The lyrics on One and All are made up of images– the “shady grove and tattoo sleeves”, the “Pink birds in a pile of leaves” of “El Guero.” The passage of “You got your fine shirt/I got a cheap cigar/You’re in the sunshine/I’m in a dirty bar/Back by the jukebox/I’m lost in the sound” sets up two people in different places in their lives and in their surroundings.

These are the parts of her “painting– of one kind.”

We’re never told who these portraits are of– or even the full story. These paintings are not studies in the hard oil of realism, but more the impressionistic water color. The fading dream recounted to another. The details leave, but it is the feelings that hold.

If art is in the eye of the beholder, it is because we can become part of a piece by completing it with our particular experience. With One and All we are left to interpret this picture with our own details– the jukebox at our local bar, our own records against the wall, the pile of leaves at our feet. Pieta has created in One and All an album that draws the listener in– a welcomed– if gently engaging soundtrack.

Note:  In concert, Pieta does offer a clue about one song on One and All. In “Faller,” Pieta describes seeing Tom Petty backstage at a show she and Bo played at McCabe’s Guitar Shop opening for JJ Cale in March of 2009. The story goes that JJ ran into Tom Petty and Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers at a bar across the street and invited them to come sit in on his set. As a result, Bo and Pieta met Tom. Pieta sings “I see you leaning/against the wall/looking like/You might fall.” I picture a tall, lanky Petty precariously leaning on a wall. “It’s a long hallway/for a small place/A crowd of people/In your face.”

Click Here to visit Pieta Brown’s website.

Click Here to download or listen to “Faller” from One and All.

(Free Download) Pieta Brown’s New Full Length “One & All” Out April 6th

This week we have been treated to some news about Pieta Brown’s follow up to her Shimmer EP from the folks at Red House Records. Pieta’s new album and first full-length for her new label home, titled One & All will be released on April 6th!

Co-produced by Pieta and Bo Ramsey the record is a culmination of material she’s been performing live since the release of her last full-length Remember The Sun which came out in 2007. She started performing “Calling All Angels” during that solo tour, and I first heard it when she played it on Nic Harcourt’s Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW.

In November, Pieta did a three-night artist-in-residence at The Mill Restaurant called “This Land is Your Music”, which she used as a way to try out different band configurations– solo, duo and full band. She also took the opportunity to perform some of the songs which would become part of One & All, including “Other Way Around,” “Prayer Of Roses,” “Calling All Angels,” “Faller,” and “It Wasn’t That.”

Right now on Pieta’s MySpace page she has “Out of the Blue,” “El Guero” and “Faller” in her music player. Additionally, Red House is making “Faller” available for download. At the first This Land is Your Music show Pieta said that “Faller” is based on meeting Tom Petty when she opened for JJ Cale at McCabe’s Guitar Center. Apparently JJ Cale ran into Petty and Mike Campbell at a bar across the street from McCabe’s and invited them to join him on stage. So, Pieta and Bo met Petty and Campbell. Here is a picture of Bo talking to Petty.

Pieta is going on a 28-date tour with Mark Knopfler who is out supporting his new album Get Lucky, which should gain her some new fans. Bo will be on tour with her and I think that Knopfler and Bo have complimentary music styles so it would be interesting if they’d perform together!

Red House Records will start taking pre-orders for One & All on March 30th and pre-orders will be autographed! Also, you can preorder One & All from Amazon.

Tracklisting for One & All

Wishes Falling Through The Rain
Other Way Around
Out Of The Blue
Prayer Of Roses
Calling All Angels
El Guero
Faller
Flowers In The Kingdom
Shake
Grass Upon The Hills
Never Did Belong
It Wasn’t That

Pieta Brown on Tour With Mark Knopfler (from The Rosebud Agency)

4/8/2010      Seattle WA      Moore Theatre
4/9/2010     Vancouver BC CANADA     Queen Elizabeth Theatre
4/10/2010     Portland OR     Keller Auditorium
4/11/2010     Eugene OR     Hult Center for the Performing Arts
4/13/2010     Oakland CA     Paramount Theatre of the Arts
4/14/2010     Santa Rosa CA     Wells Fargo Center For The Arts
4/15/2010     Temecula CA     Pechanga Resort & Casino
4/16/2010     Los Angeles CA     Pantages Theatre
4/17/2010     Los Angeles CA     Pantages Theatre
4/18/2010     Phoenix AZ     Dodge Theatre
4/20/2010     Denver CO     Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre
4/21/2010     Kansas City MO     Midland Theatre
4/22/2010     Saint Louis MO     Fox Theatre
4/23/2010     Chicago IL     Chicago Theatre
4/24/2010     Milwaukee WI     Riverside Theater
4/25/2010     Minneapolis MN     State Theater
4/27/2010     Ann Arbor MI     Michigan Theater
4/28/2010     Buffalo NY     University of Buffalo – Center For The Arts
4/29/2010     Toronto ON CANADA     Massey Hall
4/30/2010     Montréal PQ CANADA     Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place Des Arts
5/1/2010     Mashantucket CT     MGM Grand at Foxwoods
5/2/2010     Washington DC     Warner Theater
5/4/2010     Boston MA     Orpheum Theatre
5/5/2010     Red Bank NJ     Count Basie Theatre
5/6/2010     New York NY     United Palace
5/7/2010     Upper Darby PA     Tower Theater
5/8/2010     Atlantic City NJ     Caesars Circus Maximus
5/9/2010     Albany NY     Palace Theatre

Click Here to download “Faller” from One & All.

Click Here for Pieta’s Website

Click Here for Pieta’s MySpace Page

Click Here for Pieta’s Facebook Page

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