The Pines Release Sparrows in the Bell and Tour

Photo of the Pines by Jim Herrington

Last weekend my wife Sherry and I were in the Twin Cities for a wedding. On Sunday we visited the Sculpture Garden and hit The Wedge in Uptown, which is our favorite grocery store in the Cities and is only a couple of blocks from my wife’s sister. My wife and I have some food allergies and sensitivities so we buy foods that aren’t always readily available in regular stores.

So, we racked up a pretty sizable bill for what should have been a quick run. The checkout person suggested that we join the Co-Op by buying a share as we would get a discount on this purchase as well as future ones. We are going to be back up here at least two more times this summer and thought it might be nice to not need to pack a bag with just food. So, we joined. While we were talking to a guy in customer service it came up that we were from Cedar Rapids/Iowa City. He said that he was from Iowa City, too! It turned out that our customer service guy was Benson Ramsey from the Pines! He remembered me from the Bo Ramsey show in Dubuque where I gave him a copy of the KUNI radio show from last year. Benson said that Dave Huckfelt also works at the Wedge

We talked for a bit and he said that the new Pines release Sparrows in the Bell on Red House Records— home of other Iowa folksters Greg Brown and Dave Moore– would be June 12th. There are three record release performances: a “Live from Studio One” on KUNI on June 4th, Thursday, June 7th at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis (where I’m seeing Tortoise at the end of June), and Friday, June 8th at the Mill in Iowa City. They will be playing the Busted Lift in Dubuque on the 9th as well. We said that we’d try to make the Mill show, which is a great place to see a low-key performance like the Pines. Benson said that they’d have a full band for those shows.

Listen to “Don’t Let Me Go” from Sparrows in the Bell performed on KUNI last year.

Listen to “Bound to Fall” from the Pines debut CD.

The Pines Tour Dates

Lindsey Buckingham to Perform on World Cafe

Per a blog entry from Lindsey Buckingham’s MySpace page, he will be appearing on WXPN’s World Cafe with David Dye on October 26th. Thankfully, World Cafe is syndicated by most of the good Public Radio Stations, including Eastern Iowa’s KUNI. If you don’t get it, there will be a live feed from the website at 2PM Eastern on the 26th.

Information about the upcoming show will be here.

Bo Ramsey and Stranger Blues and Solo Live Dates

The much-anticipated (at least as far as I’m concerned) new Bo Ramsey album Stranger Blues has been out since July 18th and I ordered it as soon as the fine folks at CDBaby sent me an e-mail telling me it was available. I’ve been listening to it on and off since I got it. Stranger Blues is the mark of a seasoned performer– a consistent, balanced recording — a calling card showing why so many artists have asked Bo to contribute to their albums.

Bo’s last album In The Weeds was released in 1997, so it’s been nine years since we last heard him solo. It isn’t like Bo has been kickin back with his boots on the porch rail with his signature straw hat pushed down on his nose taking a nap, though. He spent this time in the studio contributing the signature Bo Ramsey sound for what looks like over twenty records for artists like Greg Brown, Lucinda Williams, Joan Baez and the Trailer Records regulars like The Pines, Kevin Gordon and Dave Zollo. He contributed to Pieta Brown’s last records and has spent most of the last two or three years touring with her.

My first live show at a bar was in the mid-Eighties at the bar at the then-newly-renovated Potter’s Mill in Bellevue, Iowa with Bo Ramsey and the Sliders which included Radoslav Lorkovic. I was hooked. Over the years I had seen Bo many times at all kinds of bars in Eastern Iowa– some still around, some not. The Corner Tap in Cascade, The Silver Dollar in Dubuque, Jimmy B’z in Dubuque, Fife’s in Maquoketa, Goose Island Tap, and in Cassville, Wisconsin opening for the remainders of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils (I think only the drummer was an original member).

When I moved back to the Eastern Iowa area in 1997 after over two years in the Twin Cities, one of the things I was looking forward to was seeing Bo play live. I managed to get about six or so shows in before he switched to primarily being a sideman for the Brown Family, including a couple of real barnburners– one of the last ones I saw was billed as “Bo Ramsey and the Body Electric” at the former Green Room (R.I.P.) in Iowa City. This was Bo fronting Dave Zollo’s band. I brought my wife’s aunt and uncle from Minneapolis down for that show and they loved it. Sometimes when the mood is right, Bo moves into this space and plays these blistering guitar solos and that night had couple of those great moments. The last Bo show I got in was at the Mill where he did a largely acoustic set in a three piece band that was completely different than I was used to. In retrospect, this show was the precursor to Stranger Blues as it was largely old blues covers, which is where Bo’s heart is.

Stranger Blues is an album of blues songs interpreted by Bo in his distinctive style. Most of the songs are delivered in a slow deliberate almost smokey way. Bo seems to be mellowing like fine scotch as the years go on. When I compare the songs on Blues with the songs on Bo’s 1988 more-rocking release Either Way you can hear the passing of time between the two releases– maybe wisdom or maybe reflection? This is a record, after all, of his influences that says “this is how I got here.” One of the things I find most interesting about this release is that while these are blues songs originally performed by such greats as Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Willie Dixon and Howling Wolf, he didn’t pick the obvious songs– these are deep catalog choices picked by someone who is well-educated in blues history.

How Bo manages to be so connected and respected by the music community and not become more widely known is beyond me. I know he prefers to stay out of the limelight and it seems his career is exactly how he wants it.

Here are some samples from Stranger Blues thanks to CDBaby (you can listen to more samples here):

Stranger Blues

Little Geneva

Freight Train

My favorite track from In The Weeds is Forget You cowritten by Greg Brown.

In the Weeds from In The Weeds

A great track from his Trailer Records release Live is Sidetrack Lounge

555 x 2 from Down to Bastrop

Bo will be doing some live shows in support of Stranger Blues. The first one will be on 9/22 at River Roots Live. Then, on 10/5 he will be doing a live show at the Reverb in Cedar Falls sponsored by KUNI. I don’t know if they will be broadcasting this– but it is conveniently taking place during the timeslot for “Down on the Corner” which is a show about regional music. This will be followed by a show at the Mill in Iowa City on 10/6. I sincerely hope we will get more solo dates! More news as I get it.

Update: I just heard back from KUNI and they said that they don’t currently have plans to broadcast the 10/5 show at the Reverb. If they do decide to tape it, it will be for later broadcast and not a live broadcast.

WXPN News – Y100 is Back (sort of)!

I was in Philly again this week for work. While I was there I listened to one of my favorite stations in the US, WXPN. A public radio station, they have the flexibilty to play whatever they want. It isn’t uncommon to hear everything from Jamband to Classic Rock to Alternative and Indie, which makes for an entertaining listen. WXPN announced this week that they are going to start two new features of the radio station in August. First, they are going to launch a partner website called XPoNential Music On Demand. This site will be a place to get all of the content from the libraries of WXPN including all of the World Cafe shows and lunchtime concerts– all on demand. This is meant to supplement the podcast content they have today.

As if that isn’t enough, XPN will add Y100Rocks.com’s programming and overall operations rebranding it as “Y-Rock on WXPN.” Y100/WPLY was Philadelphia’s Alternative Rock-format station until February 2005. It ceased operations after 12 years. Y100Rocks.com was started after the stations demise and is managed by the former manager of Y100. Y100Rocks will continue to run pretty much the same as it has since it started, but XPN will air Y100Rocks-based shows three nights a week, which means that they will have more alternative content available to them.

So, that is pretty good news for the Alternative-starved Philadelphians. I’m looking forward to tuning in on line and when I’m out there again.

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