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
4. Why Now
5. Little Swainson (Remix)
6. Just Slip Away
Pieta Brown is kicking of the 2013 year of shows with a return to CSPS on Friday, January 18th. She’s bringing with her The Sawdust Collective which is her regular collaborators Bo Ramsey on guitars and backing vocals and Jon Penner on bass. The last time I saw Pieta at CSPS was during the Acoustic Cafe show in January of last year along with Kelly Joe Phelps and Carrie Rodriguez (my pictures here).
Since then, both Pieta and Bo contributed songs to the Iowa City Song Project album– a local-artists tribute to the Englert in celebration of the venue’s 100th birthday. I wrote a review of that album for Little Village back in October. You can check out her contribution “Doesn’t Take Long” here:
Martina by Pieta Brown
Boulevard & Wires by Pieta Brown
Pieta also lent a hand with Greg Brown’s new album Hymns to What Is Leftand Iris DeMent’s new album Sing the Delta. Pieta also contributed the photographs for the cover art of both albums. These photographs will be part of an exhibit of photographs that will be opened in conjunction with the show Friday night. Titled Boulevard & Wires, it’s a selection of shots she’s taken on the road that she shows on her Blue Streak section of her website. “The communion takes place in just a blink, no flash,” she says. “The simple process lends itself to chasing the gritty and mysterious essence of any given moment.” The exhibition will be in the Commons Gallery and will continue through February 28th– admission to the exhibit is free.
The performance on Friday night will start at 8PM and will be $17 in advance and $21 at the door.
Information on the Legion Arts Website HERE for the performance, and HERE for the gallery exhibition.
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.
Thursday night, November 19th, was the last of the three shows that comprised Pieta Brown‘s Artist-in-Residence at the Mill Restaurant in Iowa City. Each show had different opening acts and gallery exhibits, and Pieta used these shows to try out different performance configurations. The first show was a solo acoustic show, the second was a duo show with Bo Ramsey, and this show was a full-band show. The band, dubbed “Skyrocket” was Bo Ramsey on guitar, Steve Hayes on drums and Jon Penner on bass. Effectively this her “Dream #9” band with a swap of drummers from Jim Viner to Hayes. The opening act was Dustin Busch, whose photographs were in the gallery and who joined Pieta on stage as well for the first show. The gallery for this show was an installation of Sandy Dyas’s photographs.
I was looking forward to this show because I really enjoyed seeing Pieta with a full band back in June and this is as close to her records as she can sound live. I think she has really come into her own as a songwriter, musician and performer since her self-titled debut in 2002. Certainly her solo, duo and trio performances are the style that is associated with her, but fronting a band on stage is a new mode for her, and one I hope to see more of because, frankly, I like the drive of the drums behind her songs. Talking to her after the show about it, I get the idea that she doesn’t want to put too much focus on the full-band configuration over the other forms. She isn’t going to tour the full band, I’d say– if only because of the complicated logistics and economics of touring a full band.
Dustin Busch aka “Dusty B” opened the show with a solo acoustic set. Dustin’s set was comprised of covers and original songs which showcased his “hill-country” blues style. Dustin’s amazing slide guitar style was coupled with a characteristicly mush-mouthed vocal delivery which reminded me of R.L. Burnside or T-Model Ford. He had a microphone pointed at his feet so that his foot stomping could be picked up. I was really impressed with the set– I’d like to see him play again sometime when he’s in the area. I had a great conversation with him after the show about old blues artists– its clear his passion is in this as he possesses a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of this topic. I could have talked to him for hours! I managed to capture his set-closer which was an instrumental cover of Al Murphy’s “Quail is a Pretty Bird” with my iPhone which you can see below. This song is typically a fiddle tune, but Dustin transforms it for guitar.
Because the stage was occupied by more people, it left less room for the neat stage props, so Stan Crocker created a new set incorporating some of the original props, but included a steer skull and an interesting blanket of lights you can see in the above picture. I wish I would have gotten a wide-angle shot without the band– it was really cool.
Pieta brought out her new Reverend Flatroc electric in Rock Orange, although in these pictures under the red lights it appears that the guitar matches the pink in Pieta’s outfit. She was playing it through a Fender Silverfaced Twin Reverb, which according to an interview with Nick Stika I read with Bo Ramsey in Premier Guitar, is actually modded to a blackface circuitry. This means that it is a later Fender tube-based amp from the CBS period, but has been modified to the same circuitry a pre-CBS “blackface” spec. (sorry about the guitar gear geek stuff…).
The set was great, and included a run of songs that were very suited to the full-band experience. It was pretty evident that the Bo/Steve/Jon backing band was a good choice– they play together very frequently and it shows how easily they can be dropped into a setting like this. The crowd started warming up to the band and some people started dancing. I’ve said it before– I really like hearing Pieta with a full band– the energy is palpable and infectious.
Pieta was her typical humble and gracious self– thanking people for coming out and thanking the Mill for letting her try her “experiment” and stated that she hoped to be able to do this again.
This show’s art exhibit was one that I was really looking forward to– the Sandy Dyas installation. She utilized the backroom to its fullest with a sort of “mini” installation of her “Heaven & Earth” exhibit which will open at Simpson College in Indianola, IA on January 11th and will run through February 5th. She is using the walls as a larger canvas– if you will– where she is hanging photographs in groupings in relation to each other– the juxtaposition of which offers an interpretation of the subjects wider than the individual photos. Graphic arts is about the use of space, and this exhibit will be an interesting and compelling exercise.
After it was all said and done, these shows accomplished what Pieta set out to do– she got an opportunity to work out some of her material in different stage settings– a sort of warm-up to the touring she will be doing in support of her Shimmer EP and the upcoming full length this year on Red House. She also used these shows as a way to show the community of artists that exists in Eastern Iowa. I moved back to Eastern Iowa to follow a career opportunity, but I was also very excited to come back to the area to see the music and arts scene I grew up around. I hope that Pieta attempts another series of shows like this– there are a lot more artists and musicians who could benefit from the exposure Pieta could bring to them in this setting.
Pieta Brown and Skyrocket Setlist:
Rollin’ and Tumblin’
In My Mind I Was Talkin’ to Loretta
You’re My Lover Now
I Don’t Want To Come Down
Rollin’ Down The Track
Lovin’ You Still
How Many Times
Red Apple Juice
Looking the World Over (Memphis Minnie cover)
Dustin Busch Performing “Quail is a Pretty Bird”
Pieta Brown and Skyrocket performing “Hey Run”
Click Here to see my full flickr set of pictures from the show.
Click Here to read my review of the first This Land Is Your Music show on 11/5/09
Click Here to read my review of the second This Land Is Your Music show on 11/12/09
As I reported earlier, Pieta Brown assembled a band to shake up her live performances, which are typically a duo (usually with Bo Ramsey on guitars). This makes for a very intimate performance and Pieta’s music and vocals undeniably shine in this setup, but it’s been my opinion for a while that she should perform in a band setting to more closely approximate her albums. So, I was naturally very interested to see this lineup at the Mill. I wasn’t too concerned about the success of this, since Dream #9 is made up of regular sidemen– Bo Ramsey on lead guitar and Jon Penner on bass. Dream #9 also has Jim Viner on drums. Jim has worked with Bo and Jon frequently, and Jim is also on Pieta’s new self-released EP Flight Time with Bo and Jon.
Friday night was rainy, and the prospects of subjecting my gear to certain watery peril was eating away at my resolve it seemed. Eventually with the coaxing of my wife I made a late departure from Cedar Rapids. The show started at 8PM, and the opening act– Parlour Suite— came with good online reviews, but my late departure meant I would miss most– if not all of their set. Indeed, I walked in at 8:45 and they were just wrapping up their set.
I ran into Jim Viner and his wife Katy eating at one of the booths so I got the lowdown on the Daytrotter session. Jim finished his chicken strips and made for the stage and I ended up sitting with Katy most of the night– when I wasn’t out shooting pictures anyway.
One of the first surprising things about this band lineup is that Pieta is playing electric guitar, too! I sort expected that she’d rock the acoustic, and leave the electric up to Bo. She concentrated on two guitars– a black Gibson SG with a P-90 pickup, and a Reverend Flatroc with a Bigsby. I recognized both of these guitars as being Bo’s. I saw that SG for the first time at Bo’s last gig at the Mill. The Reverend is one he’s had for a while, and is a unique guitar in that Reverend didn’t make many with the Bigsby, and in fact isn’t a standard option. After the show I asked Pieta about the guitars and she said that the guitars she wanted to play hadn’t arrived. She said that she has a Reverend Flatroc coming as well as a white Fender Telecaster! Those will be very complimentary to Bo’s guitars since one of his primary axes is a Telecaster Deluxe, too. Pieta said that she used to play electric guitar out when she lived in Tulsa and had a band– a fact I hadn’t heard before.
Dream #9 is made up of seasoned musicians and are able to pull together a show on-the-fly with little prep. Effectively this band has only been playing Pieta’s songs for a couple of days– but they all found the pocket in Pieta’s songs perfectly.
The show was a quick hour-and-a-half single set. The Mill wraps their shows up pretty early– the show was over by 11PM. So, don’t worry about going to mid-week shows here– you should still be in bed in time for work the next day provided you behave yourself! I was surprised about the low turn out. I guess the rain kept folks home– like it almost did for me.
The set was made up of a nice selection from all of Pieta’s albums and included some new songs that I assume are under consideration for a new album. All of Pieta’s songs benefit from the country-blues sound that I equate with Bo Ramsey and his projects. It gives the songs a similar feel and recognizable to her albums– all of which Bo helped produce. I would have liked to hear more songs from the new EP, but I suspect that as the band plays together more there will be variation in the set list. It was pretty clear that having the two Iowa shows was giving the group the home-court advantage to work out any kinks that might exist with this new arrangement.
I really like Pieta fronting a band like this– it draws natural comparisons to other strong female artists like Lucinda Williams or maybe even Chrissy Hynde of the Pretenders. A good, structured driving rhythm really shows the strength of the songs– and not for a lack of intimacy where needed. On the song “Even When” from the Flight Time EP the band shows knows how to carry a gentle song, too.
Listening to the band and Pieta talking after the show it was clear that they were satisfied with the results, so hopefully we’ll start seeing more Dream #9-fueled shows in the future!
The band did record a Daytrotter show on Thursday, so I hope that session gets released in the near future.
Setlist (1 hour 27 minutes):
Sunrise Highway #44
In My Mind I Was Talking to Loretta
Rollin’ and Tumbin’
You’re My Lover Now
Rollin’ Down The Track
Loving You Still
How Many Times Do I Hear Myself Say These Things
Faller (introduced as a new song)
I’m Going Away Blues (Frank Stokes cover)
Fourth of July
Remember The Sun
Are You Free
In an e-mail announcement yesterday, Pieta Brown announced that she is creating a band to tour with her that she’s calling “Dream #9.” She says she formed the band to “expand the sonic landscape of her songs in a live setting.” Indeed, Pieta has successfully been touring in relatively stripped-down combos for her entire career– mostly, just as a duo of Bo Ramsey and her, and recently with Jon Penner.
I have been really impressed with Pieta’s last couple of albums and her new EP Flight Time, but I have admittedly been not very motivated to see her live, because I wanted to hear the songs with drums.
Dream #9 is made up of players who have worked with her live and in the studio– a pretty intuitive move, really. On guitar will be Bo Ramsey, of course, who is her constant touring partner and also produced all of her albums. On bass will be Jon Penner who has been working with Bo and Pieta for the last couple of years. On drums will be Jim Viner, who has worked with Bo, Jon and Pieta as well and, up until last year, was the drummer for the Diplomats of Solid Sound. Jon and Jim were in Bo’s band when I saw them for Springville Fun Days in 2006. Here is a picture of Bo, Jim and Jon from that show: