BSO Pulse with Rhiannon Giddens

I’m kind of cheating today and combining my New Music Friday post with a write-up of the concert I went to last night. I think it’s fair to say that it’s not that much of a cheat though because her newest album with Francesco Turrisi, there is no Other, came out only a week ago. Add on to that that she also released a collaborative album, Songs of Our Native Daughters with Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell earlier this year and I think it’s fully legit to say she is all over the new music. Though it’s actually a little funny to say that because one of her main goals with her music is to revive the folk music of the past and bring back the history of black string folk music that like much other culture has been co-opted and white-washed. There is a recent New Yorker article about her and black folk music that she said the author researched for 4 years. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m very much looking forward to digging into it.

As per usual the BSO Pulse concert started off with a set by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. This time it was a pared down 9 person string section only. They played four movements: Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums, Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst and Bartok’s Divertimento for Strings.

Rhiannon Giddens then had her own set in which she performed with her long-time collaborator Dirk Powell. They switched off between the bango, fiddle, and guitar and played a variety of music off of her albums as well as him singing a couple of his songs. During one of the songs he was singing she got into some knee slapping rhythms and wound up doing some barefoot clogging after which she had a hard time catching her breath after which she said she once spent 6 hours a day tap dancing preparing for a show, obviously not no more. Because I know things I knew she had to be referring to the fact that she was cast to replace Audra McDonald in Shuffle Along when Audra had to leave the show after getting pregnant. Apparently people only wanted to see the show for Audra because the ticket sales tanked and they closed the show before Rhiannon Giddens ever took the stage. It made me a little sad remembering that because I thought her casting was an excellent choice.

Anyway, it was a wonderful night of music. Rhinnon’s songs are very much story songs, and she very much has a way of taking traditional songs and updating them to speak to today. I really adore her. Her set at the Newport Folk Festival a couple years ago was my favorite of that year’s festival, and I’m very excited to see her this summer with Our Native Daughters.

The final part of the evening was the collaboration between Rhiannon Giddens and the BSO. At all the other BSO Pulse concerts I’ve been to there have only been 3 songs where they’ve played together, but last night they did 5 which was a pleasant surprise. They ended the show with a literally breathtaking (you could hear her gasping for breath between long spates of lyrics that I have no idea how she got through) rendition of “Mouth Music” which had everyone in the crowd leaping to their feet and cheering loudly at the end. It was another wonderful collaboration and I very much hope they keep this concert series going again next year.

And now as promised because it is Friday here is the song “I’m On My Way” off of Rhiannon Giddens most recent album.


New Music Friday: Love All Night (Work All Day) by Yola

I first got introduced to Yola in the music coming out of SXSW. Now she is one of the artists I am most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. Her debut album came out at the end of February, but it sounds like it’s from another time entirely. If you played it for me and asked me when these songs were from I would definitely go with the 70s. She totally reminds me of that country, soul, smooth R&B sound that was a thing back then. I absolutely adore the retro sound of this album.

New Music Friday: Wedding Bell Blues by Morrissey

In a complete twist for New Music Friday today I’m talking about a song I don’t actually recommend that you listen to. My friends Lindsey and Andrew are getting married today which had me thinking about wedding themed music earlier this week which led to me getting the song “Wedding Bell Blues” stuck in my head. It’s not actually a song anyone would play at a wedding (except Richard Gilmore I guess) because it’s about a woman whose boyfriend won’t propose to her, but because it’s wedding related it popped into my brain.

I adore the original version by the Fifth Dimension as well as the scene in Gilmore Girls alluded to above. The episode appropriately titled “Wedding Bell Blues” is one of my favorites of the whole series and I think this song has something to do with it. I went Googling to listen to it whereupon I discovered this new Morrissey version of it from an upcoming covers album he’s releasing. Big confession here guys, I have never liked Morrissey or The Smiths as a general rule though there are a few songs I enjoy. Morrissey as a human seems pretty terrible so I’m okay with that, but I feel like it probably takes away some of my music cred in certain circles. If I’m looking for some moody, broody Brit pop I’ll take The Cure any day. But I digress.

This insipid cover is the worst kind of cover song. It adds nothing to the original. Other than changing up the female vocalist for a male vocalist it’s a pretty straightforward cover, but somehow worse. The instrumentation both sounds exactly the like original but more annoying with whatever they are using to create it. The song also features Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day, which gives it another ding in my book. So look don’t listen to this song at all. It’s just a way for me to cheat my New Music Friday post to talk about how much I love the original Fifth Dimension version of “Wedding Bell Blues”. Do go listen to that.

New Music Friday: Pearl Cadillac by Gary Clarke, Jr.

I’m away at a conference, so I don’t have much time to write today but I didn’t want to leave you musicless. Plus, I’m in Cleveland home of the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame so I feel like I need to offer you up a little more rock-like music than I often do. I don’t love Gary Clarke, Jr. on the whole, but I have definitely been digging his new song “Pearl Cadillac” over the past couple of months. As far as I can tell from the lyrics it’s a love song to his mother. Enjoy!

New Music Friday: I Was Wrong by Bailen

Bailen is a New York City based band composed of twin brothers Daniel and David and their sister Julia Bailen. Their debut album is due out on April 26, but they have released a few singles from it including “I Was Wrong”. Musically this particular song has a very Fleetwood Mac vibe to it in my opinion, which I very much enjoy.  As many protest songs as I’ve posted here in the past few years, I think the message of this song is also very important. It’s important to stand up and fight against injustice, but we also all need to be willing to admit when we are wrong about something. And although the song doesn’t mention it we also need to be willing to forgive when someone does admit their wrongs, which is something we also seem to be very terrible at. Yes, there should be accountability, but we’re more into shame and eternal punishment than trying to find a way forward together. Anyway, let Bailen give you something to think about this gloomy (at least in Baltimore) Friday morning.


Songs I Love: Remind Me by Emily King

I missed my new music Friday post yesterday just because I didn’t feel like writing anything yesterday. The world has conspired to make sure I post something music related this week though. I have adored the song “Remind Me” by Emily King since the first time I heard it last fall, but for whatever reason I never wrote about it here. Then Emily King kept showing up in my life this week. She was on yesterday’s episode of World Cafe, and then today I started listening to this week’s episode of the podcast Switched on Pop and it turns out it was a live episode with none other than Emily King talking about her song “Remind Me”. It felt like a sign that I should finally write about this song.

It’s a lovely little song about someone reawakening love in you after not experiencing it for so long. I love the groove that the song has. They talk in the Switched on Pop episode about things in the song that do things that you as a listener don’t expect like the down chorus and pieces of the chorus popping in at a slight syncopation so that it’s not on the same exact beat as the previous verse which provides a nice little aural surprise. It’s a very satisfying song to listen to.

New Music Friday: Missed Connection by The Head and the Heart

I almost missed my connection to posting something for New Music Friday this week (ba-da-bump). I have a gross head cold. It’s the first head cold I’ve had in almost 3 years. It’s about as fun as I remember. I have a lot going on in the next few days for both work and fun, so I stayed home from work yesterday to rest up and try and knock it out. I didn’t wind up really sleeping at all last night, so I went into work for the one important meeting I had today and then came home again. Amidst all that I thought I might just skip my New Music Friday post this week because I didn’t have the energy to figure out what I was going to write about. Then The Head and the Heart dropped a new song in my lap today. I love The Head and the Heart. I’ve seen them in concert countless times. I don’t have the mental energy to say much about the song, but I do like it and look forward to hearing what follows.