New Music Friday: Have to Do for Now by Christopher Paul Stelling

Ask and you shall receive. I literally had no idea what song I was going to write about this morning. I hadn’t come across anything new this week, and the new songs I’d heard in the past month or so hadn’t really inspired me a whole lot. I thought I was going to have to do some digging to find something I wanted to write about. Then I woke up this morning and opened Facebook and literally the first thing I saw was this video posted on the Newport Folk Festival’s account.

Christopher Paul Stelling’s set at the Newport Folk Festival back in 2015 is still one of my favorite sets there ever. He blew me away, which is kind of a funny sentiment for someone who was out there by himself with an acoustic guitar for the most part. Based on the music alone I would have been enthralled, but then in probably my favorite Newport moment he proposed to his girlfriend, which I know I have written about here before. 

Julia Christgau, who I presume is now his wife since it’s been 4 years, is featured in the video for his new song “Have to Do for Now”. The song is produced by Ben Harper and has a wonderful sense of place with a real Southern feel that the video just adds to.

Here’s what Christopher Paul Stelling had to say about it:

“Have To Do For Now” is a song about September. It’s a song about memory and fear. It’s about the fear of losing memories and the relief of letting memories go. When imagination starts spinning out and we return to the center, back to the present, where everything is a bit more calm. For me this was the end of something and the beginning of something entirely new. This beautiful video directed by Andrew Anderson captures my vision in a way I still can’t believe.

It’s a beautiful song, and it feels right that it just dropped in my lap at the perfect moment.

Baltimore: Actually I Like It

I started this blog years ago to try and be mindful about the good things in life. I have obviously gotten very bad at posting about anything other than music. Music is still something that makes me extremely happy, so I don’t feel bad about those posts. I would just like to try and get into a better habit of posting about other things. Part of the reason why I am better about writing about music is that I have some set music related things I post about like New Music Fridays and reviews of all the concerts I go to. I don’t have that routine for anything else.

After about 6 months of not really being able to exercise due to various issues, I was finally able to start getting back into my daily walks this summer. As I’ve been out walking I’ve been trying to be more mindful about what’s around me and have thought of multiple things that would make great posts, but as is often the case I never take the time to sit down and actually write about them. I even have pictures for three blog posts that I’ve never written.

Then last week one of my friends wrote about how her love for Baltimore has grown as she walks around, pays attention, and takes photos of it. It sort of inspired me to finally do something with all these posts I write in my head but never put down on “paper”. So I’m going to try and start a fairly regular series in which I write about the things both big and small that I love about Baltimore.

There’s no denying that Baltimore is a hard city with a lot of problems, but it also has a lot of really wonderful things. At some point in the last year my husband and I watched an episode of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love featuring Baltimore. After watching it I was like wow that does remind me that Baltimore is a great place. My husband replied something to the effect of that’s the thing about Baltimore. All the bad stuff is true, but all the good stuff is too.

It’s so very easy, especially these days, to let the bad outweigh the good. Baltimore has always had it’s issues, but the past three to four years have been especially brutal and the tide does not seem to be turning. It’s for sure the worst it’s been in the 19 years I’ve lived here. It’s easy to look at everything that’s wrong and feel hopeless and forget about all the things that make this city great. Hopefully these forthcoming posts will be a reminder to myself and to others that there are great things about Baltimore and that it’s worth fighting for.

Brandi Carlile with Mavis Staples at the Mann Center

Friday night I dragged my husband up to Philly to see Brandi Carlile with Mavis Staples at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. He’s a good guy and indulges my whims to travel places to see concerts even though it’s not his thing. If you’ve been around this blog at all you know how much I love Brandi Carlile and that I’ve seen her many, many times in concert. Having already seen her in Baltimore this summer I probably would have skipped this one until I found out that Mavis Staples was opening. That tipped the scales and made me decide I had to go. The show being on a Friday made it totally doable.

This was my first time at the Mann Center. It’s a really pretty venue. It’s in the middle of a park and has a gorgeous view of downtown Philly.

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Had we been in different seats I probably would have been a lot happier with it. I usually have great seats at Brandi shows because I buy them through the fan club presale, but in this case I didn’t decide to go until well after tickets had gone on sale so I missed out on anything close in the orchestra level of the pavilion. In my experience usually sitting in the front row of the balcony is better than sitting in the back of the orchestra. Not so in this case. My husband called it the poor man’s Filene Center (the outdoor pavilion at Wolf Trap). They do share a lot of design elements and the Mann Center was built about 10 years after the Filene Center so I do wonder if they share the same DNA. Anyway, like at the Filene Center the upper level has box seats at the front, an aisle, and then the balcony seats. At the Filene Center though the balcony is raised up enough such that people walking in the aisle are essentially below where you’re sitting so they don’t block your view. Not so at the Mann Center. If you’re sitting the front of the balcony you just get a steady stream of people walking through the aisle in front of you (though it did taper off a lot during Brandi’s set). Also the part of the balcony we were in really should have been marked as obstructed view seats anyway. That end of the venue had the ADA seating on the aisle behind the boxes. At best you had railings and empty chairs from the little ADA alcoves in your view if no one was sitting there and if anyone was actually sitting in them there was no way to see at all.

I would have been marginally less annoyed if anyone sitting in that area throughout the night actually needed ADA seating. At both Merriweather and Wolf Trap if I’m sitting in the pavilion I’m used to having to show my ticket like 80 times on my way to my seat. I remarked on the fact that we didn’t have to show our ticket at all to get to our seat. Now I understand the problem with that because it was just madness. Some people who decided they didn’t like their actual seats or possibly even people from the lawn (it was kind of rainy thanks to Dorian so not a great lawn night) came in and sat down. As they obviously didn’t have anyone who needed ADA seating with them the usher did stop and ask, but then let them stay and told them they’d just have to move if anyone came for those seats. Then apparently some people from the lawn paid to upgrade to get into the pavilion and out of the rain and the usher just put them in those seats. Those people left early. Meanwhile back in the balcony people were just moving all over the place trying to be able to see anything. The girls who wound up sitting next to us for awhile moved down to the ADA seating when it opened up, which annoyed me the most of everything because they knew they were going to be blocking everyone’s view. Once they got down there they realized there were some open seats in the box below and went down there and left me to see about 3/4 of a song as unobstructed as it was ever going to get before 3 random guys appeared from nowhere and sat there. I’m really annoyed with the venue for not indicating that the view was obstructed when I bought the tickets because I never would have bought them and also for not enforcing where people were sitting and letting people who didn’t need ADA accommodations sit in those seats.

It was like the worst show to have terrible seats for too because it was so amazing. I finally realized at some point last week that I was going to see this show on the same day that The Highwomen, the new country super group Brandi Carlile is a part of along with Amanda Shires, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby, were releasing their album. I figured there was going to be some fun around that, but this was beyond anything I could possibly have imagined.

First up of course was Mavis Staples. She just an amazing legend. She turned 80 this year and has been doing this since was a kid as part of her family’s band The Staple Singers. Now she’s pretty much the only one left, and she’s still out there doing her thing. She put out a new album this year and is still touring. She’s joy personified and I just love her.

Brandi’s set was amazing and full of so many surprises. The setlist was largely the same as when I saw her at Merriweather earlier in the summer aside from the songs she sang as collaborations with all her surprise guests. I knew she and Mavis would sing at least one song together, which they did a cover of Mavis’ father, Pops Staples’s, song “Friendship”. What I was not expecting was Lukas Nelson joining them on the guitar. He apparently was playing the BB&T Pavilion the following night and got into town in time to come over and join Brandi for a few songs. It was obviously unclear whether he was going to make it in time because Brandi welcomed Mavis to the stage and then a stangehand walked over to her and obviously told her that Lukas Nelson was indeed in the house.

Country music legend Tanya Tucker was also there. Brandi produced her newest album and has been doing a lot of promotion of it with Tanya. So of course Tanya came out and sang “Delta Dawn”. Her dog even came out on the stage at one point.

That was not nearly the end of the surprises though. Fellow Highwoman Amanda Shires flew in from Nashville for the night to help celebrate the release of The Highwomen’s album. She joined in for about half of Brandi’s set playing the fiddle. When she’s not off doing stuff for her own career she plays in her husband Jason Isbell’s band the 400 Unit. I’m always disappointed when I see him in concert and she’s not there. I told my husband now I have to be disappointed every time she’s not backing Brandi on the fiddle too. They finally sang some Highwomen songs as the first two songs of the encore. In between there was yet another surprise with Tan France from Queer Eye coming out on the stage and talking about how much he loves Brandi. They invited everyone back out on the stage to sing The Highwomen’s first single “Redesigning Women”, complete with cardboard cutouts of Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby the two Highwomen that weren’t there. Then Brandi sang “If She Ever Leaves Me”, which is one of the Highwomen songs that she sings. I had pretty much already figured she was going to sing at least that one. I wasn’t sure about any of the other songs that are sung by the other Highwomen or as collaborations, but “Redesigning Women” makes sense because that song can be a singalong with just about anyone.

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It was a magical show, and I’m so happy I went up for it. I would have been so disappointed to have decided not to go and then heard about all of the amazing things that I missed out on later. I can’t wait to see Brandi again in January at the Ryman where I’m sure so much more magic will happen.

New Music Friday: If She Ever Leaves Me by The Highwomen

I thought about not writing about yet another song by The Highwomen today I really did. I even picked out “Love is Love” by Grace Potter, but although I really like the way that song sounds the more I think about it the more annoyed I am that she kind of co-opted a phrase from the gay rights movement to sing about cheating on her husband. So instead I’m bestowing upon you a gay country song instead. It’s only right because after all it is The Highwomen’s album release date, and not only that but I’m also going to see Brandi Carlile in concert tonight (with the legendary Mavis Staples!).

So here you go. Enjoy “If She Ever Leaves Me”, which they termed the world’s first gay country song. It was written by Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell and is sung by Brandi Carlile. Listen to what Jason had to say during their set at the Newport Folk Festival about writing the song. It amused me greatly and still does so I’m sharing it. Then go listen to the official audio of the song and the whole album while you’re at it. I promise it’s the last The Highwomen song I’m going to share for New Music Friday unless they ever come out with another album.

New Music Friday: Threads by Sheryl Crow

Today I don’t have a new song for you, I have a new album. I have never been a huge Sheryl Crow fan. I never really cared for any of her 90s pop rock that was so, well popular. The closest I came to actually really liking one of her songs was “Strong Enough”, but decades of overhearing it has sort of soured me on it too. I’ve marginally liked some of her country music that she’s been doing in the last decade somewhat better, but it’s still been nothing that I’ve ever gone out of my way to listen to and since you can be sure country music radio wasn’t playing any of it I didn’t have much occasion to hear it.

Today, Sheryl Crow’s final album Threads is out and it’s as if she purposefully created it just for me to make sure I wanted to listen to at least one of her albums before she quit making them. To be clear she’s not quitting music. She just said this is her final album because people don’t listen to albums anymore. She’s just going to keep writing music and putting it out when it’s done instead of waiting to compile it for an album.

Threads is 17 songs in which she collaborates with other artists, and it’s like she said who are all of Danielle’s favorite artists. Let me do a song with them. Seriously just look at this (incomplete) list: Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile, Mavis Staples, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Lucius, Emmylou Harris, James Taylor, Maren Morris, Chris Stapleton. So congratulations Sheryl Crow you finally got me.

Summer Clothing Staples

I’m trying to get a little bit better about posting non-music stuff around here. Let’s face it, it’s probably still going to be like 90% music related content, but since no one who reads this blog cares that much I’m trying to mix it up every once in awhile. I used to try and write about stuff that makes me happy no matter how small. With summer starting to wind down (not that you’d know it based on this heat wave), I thought I would share a couple of my favorite summer clothing items.

I few years ago Target started making these tank tops. They were originally under one of the house clothing brands that Target retired. When I saw that they were getting rid of that brand I was super sad because I thought it meant these tank tops were going away, but they just started making them under the A New Day brand (which whenever I see the tags I always think says And Away). I own this tank top in approximately one million colors. Since white tanks get dirty so easy and the tanks are so cheap, when I need something to fill out an online Target order to get the free shipping I will toss one in my cart.

The other thing I absolutely love are these Abeo Kadie flip flips from The Walking Company. I posted here once before about a pair of flip flips that I loved, but bit the dust because they were so old and I wore them so much. Those flip flips having nothing on these. It took me literally years and so many wasted flip flop purchases to finally find a pair that I really loved and I felt like I could wear without tearing my feet apart. These are great. They are super comfortable. They have great arch support and most importantly the straps don’t rub at all. From the very first second I put them on I could wear them with no issues. I’ve owned far too many flip flips that I just hoped the straps would eventually soften up or my feet would get used to. Not so with these. I can wear them for long periods of time with no problems. They have never cut my feet or caused blisters. They are just plain comfortable. They are definitely more money than I ever wanted to pay for a pair of flip flops, but they’re really worth every penny. I wish that I had managed to snag another pair on summer clearance as backup before they sold out of my size. Now I just have to hope they bring them back again next summer.

New Music Friday: Love is Everywhere (Beware) by Wilco

“Love is Everywhere (Beware)” is the first single off of Wilco’s forthcoming album Ode to Joy, which is due out October 4. I’ll let Jeff Tweedy tell you what the song he wrote is about since he obviously knows better than I.

There MUST be more love than hate. Right?! I’m not always positive we can be so sure. In any case, I’m starting to feel like being confident in that equation isn’t always the best motivation for me to be my best self—it can kind of let me off the hook a little bit when I think I should be striving to contribute more love outside of my comfortable sphere of family and friends.

So… I guess the song is sort of a warning to myself that YES, Love IS EVERYWHERE, but also BEWARE! I can’t let that feeling absolve me of my duty to create more.

I will just tell you that I think it’s a lovely song. I adore the lilting guitar rhythm in it and the sort of ethereal feeling it creates. I for sure added the song to my chill summer playlist because the music is perfect for it. Any song that makes me imagine being in a field on a warm summer day (among other things) automatically goes on that playlist, and this song does.

There isn’t an actual video for the song yet. It’s just an animated graphic of the logo for their record label dBpm Records and I can’t deal with it because the movement of the metronome graphic does not match the tempo of the song and it’s driving me batty. So you know just listen to the song and don’t look at it.