New Music Friday: Homesick by The Lone Bellow

“Homesick” is the third single released off The Lone Bellow’s forthcoming album, Lovesongs for Losers. I’ve enjoyed the first two singles as well but just never got around to writing about them. I finally felt compelled to write about a song from this album this week not actually because of the song itself but because of the video Zachary Williams from The Lone Bellow posted on Instagram describing his inspiration for writing the song.

On the face of it the song is about his family and his childhood and memories of those times in his life. Had I not listened to him say more, that’s what I would have taken away from it and not really thought about any of the lyrics in any deeper way. However, he shared that the genesis of the song was actually the death of John Prine from COVID early in the pandemic. He didn’t know John Prine well. Prine was of course a musical influence. They had met and sung together a few times, but they didn’t have any kind of real meaningful relationship. Nevertheless John Prine’s death hit him hard, and as he was lying in bed that night not sleeping the line, “If you’re homesick, it’s your heart telling your mind that you love somebody”, went through his head. He got up out of bed and began thinking about those early childhood memories and combined all of it into the song “Homesick”.

All that background on the song made it hit differently with me especially in light of the loss of a beautiful soul this week. A few hours prior to hearing this song and his description of it for the first time I found out that Paula, the woman who had been the worship leader at my church had passed away. It wasn’t unexpected as I had known she was very sick, but news like that is never easy. Like with Zachary Williams and John Prine, I can’t say that I had any kind of close relationship with her. We occasionally chatted at church events or parties that we were both at, but I would not claim that we were friends. She was a weekly fixture in my life though, leading our worship services every Sunday with her amazing voice. Truly a gift from God.

That line about homesickness and knowing the background of where it came from made me start thinking about it in a different way. Normally I think of homesickness being about a place and perhaps also the people in that place, but not necessarily about actually missing specific situations or people, especially once they’re gone. Now I actually feel like it’s the perfect word to describe what I’m feeling. I don’t feel that immense sense of grief or loss because I didn’t have that kind of relationship with Paula that would cause that, but I do feel sadness and a longing for the experience of seeing her and hearing her sing that I know I will never have again. I never would have used the word homesick previously, but now I can’t think of a better word. So I’m dedicating this song to Paula and looking forward to one day beyond this earth when I can hear her sing again.

New Music Friday: Runner by Alex G

I’ve been enjoying the song “Runner” by Alex G for months now, but the album it’s on, God Save the Animals, was released today so it’s back to qualifying as new music. Alex G is an artist from Philadelphia. I gather that he has been around for at least a decade now, but this song and this album is the first I can recall hearing about him. Apparently the animal theme often runs throughout his albums and this one also layers in religion as well. There are a lot of really deep reviews of this album out there. I don’t generally interrogate my music as intricately as these songs apparently seem to warrant based on the reviews. I just happen to like the way this song sounds. I haven’t listened to the full album yet, but I will probably check it out even though I gather it might not all be musically to my taste.

Live Music Weekend

I packed a lot of live music into this past weekend much to my husband’s chagrin since he got dragged along for all of it. I have been a long time member of WXPN, the University of Pennsylvania radio station. I get free passes to their annual music festival, the XPonenential Music Festival aka XPNFest, with my membership level. However, until COVID happened the festival was always the same weekend as the Newport Folk Festival, so I was never able to go. Back when we were all young and naive and thinking COVID would be a thing of the past by fall of 2020, they pushed the festival back from July to September. Of course the festival didn’t happen that year, but they announced that they would be keeping the September date permanently because it would offer better weather anyway. They did have the festival in September last year, but I was still leery of large gatherings even outdoors so I didn’t go. I finally took advantage this year.

The festival is a half day Friday, a really full day on Saturday, and then a shorter Sunday. The only band I was super interested in for Friday was The War on Drugs, who I had already seen back in May, so we skipped out on Friday so that we didn’t have to take off work early and didn’t have to pay for an extra night in a hotel. It also meant that on Friday night I could drag my husband down to Annapolis to see Amos Lee in concert. He was playing as part of the inaugural Annapolis Songwriters Festival, which had a mix of over 70 paid and free concerts throughout the week. The concert was outside on City Dock. Madison Cunningham opened for him. I really want to like her more than I do because I keep seeing lots of people talk about her including critics and artists I am generally in alignment with musically, but I just can’t get into most of her music. She was fine, but even live I couldn’t get super into it. Oh well.

I have said it here before and I will continue to say it that Amos Lee’s Thursday night Instagram concerts during the first year of the pandemic really got me through that time, so I relish any chance I get to see him live. It doesn’t happen very often because he never plays in Baltimore. I saw him play a solo acoustic show last summer at Wolf Trap with a half capacity, socially distanced audience. I had tickets to see him play with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center back in April that was rescheduled from pre-COVID, but it was too close to our trip to Hilton Head for me to want to go and risk our vacation. So I was happy to finally get to see him play with his band. I will admit that it was not my most favorite of his sets. I paid to watch his shows from the Ryman and at Red Rocks on this tour and I liked those set lists more. I still enjoyed it though and will happily jump at the chance to see him again any time.

After getting home late Friday night from the Amos Lee show, we got up bright and early Saturday morning to drive up to Camden for XPNFest. We had a hotel booked at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is in walking distance to the festival. You’re pretty much not near anything else, but since we were essentially only going to the festival that was fine and it worked out well that we could just park over there and walk to everything.

I was kind of annoyed at both XPNFest and the Annapolis Songwriters Festival because of all the rules that differed across the 3 different venues I was going to be at and the fact that they didn’t enforce most of them. I think Freedom Mortgage Pavilion is the only one that actually enforced their annoying rules. I don’t consider it freedom to not be able to take my stuff into places anymore for security reasons, but I guess only gun owners freedoms count these days. The security at the other two venues was pretty lax though. I’m used to Newport where they literally do go through every little bit of your stuff thoroughly. In Annapolis and at Wiggins Park they barely glanced at anything. In Annapolis people had bags much larger than were supposedly allowed, and apparently they changed the no chair rule at the last minute I guess because they sold way fewer tickets than expected. I don’t know how other people found this out, but it would have been nice to know so we could have brought ours. Speaking of chairs, the chair height rule at XPNFest was way lower than at Newport, so I spent a bunch of money to buy us new chairs that fit their height requirements and so many people had tall chairs. We could have taken in whatever we want. Why have the rules if you’re not going to enforce them. I’m just mad because I spent so much time and money trying to make sure I complied with everything at each venue and then it mostly didn’t matter.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at XPNFest as the set up is kind of funky. During the day they have shows in Wiggins Park on the waterfront, but then the big headlining shows at night are next door at Freedom Mortgage Pavilion. That holds 25,000 people, but I gathered that they sold additional tickets to those shows beyond the festival and that the Wiggins Park capacity was smaller than that, I just wasn’t sure by how much. Turns out the answer is A LOT. I have no idea what the capacity or attendance actually were, but I know the Newport Folk Festival caps at 10,000 people per day, which is tiny for a music festival, and XPNFest was definitely just a fraction of that. It was a teeny, tiny little baby festival. It also skewed very old. Most of the people there were my parents age. I only saw a handful of people in their 20s and then there were middle aged people, some with kids. I guess it’s because it’s a festival put on by a radio station and kids these days don’t listen to the radio. I did appreciate feeling like I’m not the only old weirdo that’s still into new music, and doesn’t just want to listen to what I enjoyed in high school. I’ve got a long way to go to catch up to most of the people at that this festival.

There were two stages at XPNFest. The River stage is the main stage overlooking the Delaware River and then the Marina stage that is sort of behind it and off to the side a little overlooking, well the marina. They are very close together and you can totally hear the music from anywhere, but the topography of the park means you can’t actually sit at one stage and turn around and actually see the other. They music basically just flips back and forth between the two stages. While they change the sets on one stage music is playing on the other. It was kind of nice not to have the Newport problem of always feeling like I’m missing out on something because there is music happening in too many places at once.

We set ourselves up at the Marina stage both days because there was better shade. I was amused because at most venues people fill in from front to back, but at the River stage people filled in from back to front because that’s where the trees were to provide shade. The Marina stage had more trees that were larger, so there was better shade overall. My husband just stayed put and I just walked over and stood in the back to watch the sets on the River stage.

On Saturday we left the shows at Wiggins Park a little early so that we could go have dinner with one of my oldest friends. We’ve been friends since I moved to Massachusetts in 7th grade. We stayed in touch even after my family moved again right after my Freshman year in high school. Since Baltimore and Philly are fairly close, we have usually been able to see each other once or twice a year. Then COVID happened and we hadn’t seen each other in 3 years. So I wanted to make sure to see her while we were up there. We met up for dinner and got to catch up for a few hours, which was nice. Then my husband and I headed back to the headlining part of the festival in Freedom Mortgage Pavilion.

I’ve talked a lot about the setup but haven’t actually said much about the music. I won’t bore you with an in depth look at every artist. I will just point out a couple of my highlights. I was happy to finally see Lo Moon, who I had tickets to see at a small club in Baltimore back in May but that I didn’t use. I think their music fits better in a dark club at night, but hey if what I can get is a bright stage in the middle of the day I’ll take it. Bartees Strange was definitely the highlight of Saturday. His new album, Farm to Table, is definitely going to be on all the best of 2022 lists. He also has an incredible stage presence. His set was a lot of fun. Sunday was my highlight day though. I was excited to see Buffalo Nichols, who I had been looking forward to at the Newport Folk Festival before we had to abandon ship. I was happy to get a second chance at seeing him. The set I was most looking forward to all weekend was Kathleen Edwards, who I have never seen live but have wanted to for awhile. She was my favorite set of the weekend, and I immediately wanted to go see her live again. So I’m hoping that will happen at some point. Jenny Lewis was the Sunday night headliner, and she also gave a really great performance. I was extremely happy that she played “She’s Not Me” as her second song in the set because it’s my favorite and she doesn’t always play it.

All in all it was a nice little music festival, and I look forward to going again in future years. It’s not the Newport Folk Festival. Going to this just reminded me how special that is. The sense of history and the collaborations that happen there can’t be beat. This was a festival where artists played music and it was enjoyable, but it was each artist doing their own thing. That was not what Newport is about. I will go back to XPNFest and enjoy the music, but Newport is home and where I get to commune with my folk family.

New Music Friday: These Are the Good Old Days by Courtney Marie Andrews

“These Are the Good Old Days” is the third single off of Courtney Marie Andrews’ forthcoming album, Loose Future. It’s my favorite of the songs she’s released so far. It’s a song about love and living in the moment. I’m not so much worried about whether my love is going to last, but a good reminder about life in general and cherishing what you have here and now instead of worrying about the future or ruminating about the past which is always something I’m trying to work on.

Also, a fun fact about Courtney Marie Andrews specifically for one of my friends. (She knows who she is if she’s even reading this. I guess I’ll find out.) She sang backup on five songs on Jimmy Eat Worlds album Invented and subsequently toured with them on that album doing backup vocals and playing keyboards.

New Music Friday: Anywhere by Madison Cunningham

Madison Cunningham released her third album, Revealer today. Her second album garnered her some Grammy’s and she was a frequent collaborator on Chris Thile’s public radio show Live From Here, which was the successor to Garrison Keillor’s show A Prairie Home Companion. I don’t have a ton to say about the song I chose or the album, but since her new album came out today and I’m going to see her open for Amos Lee in Annapolis next Friday it felt fitting that I make one of her songs my choice for my New Music Friday post today.

New Music Friday: boy by The Killers

“boy” by The Killers is several weeks old at this point. I have considered writing about every Friday since it was released, but didn’t because I feel like I wrote a lot about The Killers last year with their album Pressure Machine. Also, I’m pretty sure people who like The Killers already know about the song, and I’m probably not going to sell anybody who doesn’t like The Killers at this point, especially not with this song which is very much Killersesque. So up until today I always chose another song to write about that people might not know instead.

Two things pushed me over the edge into actually writing about it this week. First, I didn’t have anything else new in the docket for this week. Second, this week’s Switched on Pop episode was a hilarious look at The Killers music. Seriously, I could not stop laughing at how outraged Nate was at their lyrics. I mean he’s not actually wrong at how ridiculous some of them are, but I honestly have never really processed them enough to think about it. I’m caught up in the momentum of the music and general story of the songs and the details of the lyrics don’t matter. As someone who thought I didn’t like The Killers for a very long time because the only song I really knew was “Mr. Brightside”, which I hated when it came out and still hate now, I loved the whole discussion even though my reasons for not liking them for a very long time were not the same as Nate’s. Once I dug further into their catalog, I discovered that I am in fact a big fan of The Killers. Pressure Machine was one of my favorite albums of 2021, and in October they very well may be my first big indoor concert since COVID happened. I have tickets and am telling myself that I’m going to go, but whether I chicken out last minute or not remains to be seen.

Anyway, “boy” is a new single they just released a few weeks ago. My understanding it is that the song was actually written prior to the Pressure Machine album and was sort of the springboard for it even though it didn’t wind up on the album itself. It definitely sounds like The Killers. You would immediately be able to peg it as being one of their songs as soon as you hear it. The real delight for me in the song is the synth that sounds very much like Erasure’s “A Little Respect”, which is a song I love. At first I thought they might have even sampled it though in listening to both songs together I believe it’s just inspired by rather than a direct sample. I’m shocked that in the podcast episode only Reanna was the only one who seemed to also recognize that similarity with Charlie and Nate only seemingly hearing it after she told them. Part of me thinks that had to be a bit for the podcast because it seems so obvious to me, but who knows. Anyway, if you haven’t managed to hear it yet take a listen.

New Music Friday: Me and the Moon by Devon Gilfillian

Devon Gilfillian has a new single out this week, “Me and the Moon”. It’s off of the SPELLJAMS album from which I started seeing songs from artists like pop-up up this week. It’s apparently a compilation of music that is supposed to soundtrack a new Dungeons and Dragons game, Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. It’s produced by Chris Funk of the Decemberists, who is apparently a long time Dungeons and Dragons player. I have never played Dungeons and Dragons and don’t intend to start now, so I will never know how this song connects to the game. However, it’s still a jam. It’s got a great groove, and I’m happy to have some new Devon Gilfillian music in the world.

New Music Friday: You’re Not Alone by Allison Russell ft. Brandi Carlile

Today’s song for New Music Friday is really only sort of new. The original version of the song appears on the 2019 album by Our Native Daughters, which was a temporary group with Allison Russell, Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, and Amythyst Kiah. It’s one of my favorite songs off of that album, so I’m happy to talk about it in it’s newest incarnation. Yesterday, Allison Russell released an updated version of the song featuring Brandi Carlile. Proceeds from the song on Bandcamp are going to go to Brandi’s foundation, the Looking Out Foundation, and specifically their EveryTown For Gun Safety Support Fund and The Fight For Reproductive Justice Campaign.

I was very excited when they dropped this song yesterday morning because it just so happened that that same night I was seeing Brandi Carlile in concert with Allison Russell (and the Indigo Girls) opening for her. So I knew we were going to get to hear them perform the song. I was 100% right about that, and it was wonderful. I’ll have more to say about that concert later this weekend, but for now go listen to the song and maybe purchase a copy and support a good cause if you so choose.

New Music Friday: Problem With It by Plains

Plains is a new collaboration project between Katie Crutchfield from Waxahatchee and Jess Williamson, who I don’t really know anything about. They have already said this is a one and done collaboration that will allow them to stretch and do something slightly different than they do alone. Although this first song still sounds very much in the wheelhouse of Waxahatchee to me. I can’t speak to how much it differs from Jess Williamson’s previous music at this point. They have an album coming out in October and will do a short tour around it and then just leave it to the sands of time. “Problem With It” is the first single off the album.

New Music Friday: Lissie and Lake Street Dive

It’s a crazy busy new album release day. Everyone else in the world is diving into the eagerly awaited new Béyonce album, Renaissance. As we’ve already established that’s not really my jam, but I am super excited for the Maggie Rogers’ album, Surrender and the new Amanda Shires’ album, Take It Like a Man. Plus the third part of Tedeschi Trucks Band’s 4 EP cycle I am the Moon is also out today. I have already written about songs from all three of those albums though, so I’m not going to talk about any of those today. There’s also a new King Princess album, Hold On Baby that I’m liking what I’ve heard so far, but I’m not going to talk about that either. Instead I’m going to share a couple of singles I’ve been digging this week.

“Night Moves” by Lissie

“Night Moves” is the first single off of Lissie’s forthcoming album, Carving Canyons, due out in September. Lissie is an artist who whenever I hear one of her singles I really love it and think I should check out more of her music and then I never, ever do for some reason. I really should remedy that because she is obviously someone I would be super into if I spent any amount of time with her work. I’m really digging the new song. It could not sound more like a Stevie Nicks song if it were in fact a Stevie Nicks song. That’s pretty much all I have to say about it, but I think that’s enough.

“Nick of Time” by Lake Street Dive

Ten years ago Lake Street Dive released the EP, Fun Machine, which was an EP of covers that helped springboard the start of their career. To celebrate the anniversary they are doing a sequel to Fun Machine this year. The first cover song they’ve released from it is Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time”. It’s probably my favorite Bonnie Raitt song and they are the perfect band to do a cover of it, especially with Rachael Price’s vocals.