August Chronicles IV: Shovels and Rope at Tellus360

August Chronicles IV: Shovels and Rope at Tellus360

I mentioned this show in one of my blogs for Fig Lancaster but wanted to give it the full treatment.  I had seen Shovels and Rope open for the Felice Brothers at Chameleon Club last fall.  When I heard they were going to be the first ticketed show at Tellus360 in Lancaster, I pretty much went ape.  It’s hard to imagine that just two people can stir up such a rockin’ ruckus but I’ve seen them do it twice now.  Cary Ann Hurst and Michael Trent are Shovels and Rope and they are a roots/rock, wild-timey revival show!

Cary Ann plays guitar, stomps her feet, and sometimes kicks some drums.  Michael plays guitar, drums, harmonica and pretty much anything else he can get his hands on.  They both sing and their voices sound great together in both wails and whispers.  She has the classic country sounds of Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton in her voice and every bit of their power and range.  His voice is subtle yet stylish: think Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakum, John Doe.  The themes and tones are classic but the phrasing and delivery make everything feel contemporary.  It’s hard to explain yet easy to understand when you see and hear it live.  You are back in time yet hurtling through the present moment.

Have no doubt; this is rock and roll.  Their latest album O Be Joyful might look like an old-timey hymnal but it convinced Jack White to ask them to join his tour (they said yes).  It might not be a kind of rock and roll you know but you will feel the familiarity.  Remember watching O Brother Where Art Thou and your reaction to “Man of Constant Sorrow?”

My recommendation is to watch some of my videos from the show, follow Shovels and Rope on Facebook, subscribe to their email list and get out to see them immediately if not sooner.

As for Tellus360, you will not find a more intimate or rewarding music venue in this area.  They only sell 60-70 tickets for each show.  The entire building and all its contents are recycled or reclaimed wood.  It resonates like a fine cello with every note of these performances.  The shows are BYOB and folks come prepared to share.  Their second ticketed event was Carsie Blanton and hell yeah, I went and blogged about it.  Upcoming shows included the Table Top Anniversary show on November 3rd.  These shows are how it all started at Tellus360: free, BYOB, SRO and open to the public.  Sunday November 18 will also be very special with Tellus360 hosting Andrew Combs and Angel Snow, singer-songwriters from Nashville.

August Chronicles III: Pasadena Goes Looney’s

The August Chronicles III: Pasadena Goes Looney’s!

When I heard Pasadena was playing a place called Looney’s North in Bel Air, MD, I made two phone calls.  The first was to Pirate Rob to thank him for booking the band within an easy drive of Lancaster.  The second was to Ryan: party pal, fellow Airy Hillian, audiophile, concert lover and Bel Air native.  A road trip was born!

I’m a big Pasadena fan.  I knew their latest cd was about to drop and a coast-to-coast tour was imminent.  I wanted to see the band, wish them well and try to snag some advanced copies of the cd.  I didn’t get the cd’s but we were treated to a stellar night of music.

This was my first time seeing the band without a trumpet player.  I noticed it right away since they opened with “NFS.”  I think Joey should play those opening notes on harmonica, or the whole band should take up kazoos.  I’d hate to see the song pulled from the playlist but that trumpet call was like a call to arms for me.  I really missed the sound as they began with “NFS” but honestly, I rarely thought about it the rest of the night.

The new songs will be favorites before long!  We heard “St. Augustine,” “Paper Bag,” “If I Don’t Make it Home,” “Great Wide World” and the new theme “Nowhere Fast.”  They have that signature reggae/rock sound and Joey’s thoughtful, heartfelt lyrics.  I think anybody who liked Sublime even a little would love Pasadena, especially live!  They rounded out the first set with “Ron’s Song,” “Realize,” and “Spinning Wheel” so no worries that all our old favorites are going away.

As for Looney’s North: this is a GREAT sports bar with serious food and a million TV’s big and small.  They had dozens of beers to choose from, cheap food and drink specials and a fun, stadium-like atmosphere going.  The Orioles were playing and the Ravens had a pre-season game so the band got delayed until halftime.  I’m from Pittsburgh so neither of those teams is my favorite but I had to admire the team spirit and conviviality of all the patrons gathered to cheer it and beer it.  Plus, it gave Ryan and I a chance to eat some great burgers and wings and sip a few Natty Bo’s before the show.  The stage, sound and lighting for the show were impressive!

NOTE: The show was August 23rd but I wrote this October 23rd.  Pasadena and Bumpin’ Uglies have been on the “Nowhere Fast” tour since September 23rd and killing it all across the country.  They are in Texas tonight and headed east.  I can’t wait to see them again live but for now I and you and everyone can enjoy videos of their Looney’s North show at

To All the Girls I’ve Loved: Meet Carsie Blanton

To All the Girls I’ve Loved: Meet Carsie Blanton

Most of the guys I know like girls: just not in front of a band.  I like girls and I like music.  I think there is good singing, great singing and poor singing and gender is immaterial.  Maybe it’s that those guys don’t want to hear what women have to say.  I don’t know; it’s not my problem.  I like to know what women really think about things but so few will tell you directly.  I was raised to respect women so I’m not threatened by Aretha Franklin wanting “…just a little bit!”


Carsie Blanton earned my respect right away.  Her songs radiate genuineness and honesty about the strengths and frailties of the human condition.  She maintains a great sense of humor and perspective about what motivates us as friends, lovers, scoundrels and saviors.  Her most recent album, Idiot Heart, offers ten songs about love, lust, longing and loneliness with a wry grin.  What she doesn’t love about life, she can still laugh off.  Her clever rhymes and sparrow voice lift the heaviness away but still resonate the impact of bad choices, blunt honesty and the tug of emotions in the face of logic.

He was a dark-eyed man and I knew right away

It was gonna take a turn for the worst

So I said “hey heart if you’re gonna go crazy

Give a little warning first”

Idiot heart

I shoulda left you at home

You give me nothing but hard love, bad luck

When you gonna leave me alone?

“Idiot Heart”


Carise doesn’t look to lay blame for life’s foibles.  She sees that we’re all odd and we’re all in this together.

What’s that feeling makes you sick?

What’s that cuts you to the quick?

What’s that habit you can’t kick?

It’s love, and it’s the only thing you know.

Love is clumsy, love ain’t smart

Seems so harmless at the start

Then trips and falls and breaks your heart

But love is all we got

“All We Got”


She doesn’t weep, whine or waste away pining for what might be.  This is a lady who seeks what she wants and all she asks is a little patience, support and honesty in that quest.  She calls herself a pop singer with quirky little songs and a cute voice.  I can’t deny those claims or their charm, having spent time during each song giggling, tapping my toes and shaking my head in agreement.  If this is pop, I guess I love pop.  I had no idea it could be deep as the ocean yet keep you surfing atop every wave.


So it’s not goodbye to Aretha, Billie, Chrissie, Lucinda or Janis.  It’s not, “See ya later” to Loretta, Jessica, Alexandra, Sarah, Joy, Julie or Dana.  I’m not leaving my wife to follow Carsie to New Orleans either.  I hear every one of those women when I hear a Carsie Blanton song.  She speaks for them, for all of us, as we “…die a little death” in those moments where we challenge ourselves to feel alive, come what may.


Check out Carsie Blanton in her own words and in the glowing praise of others here.

See a video I shot at the magical Tellus360 in Lancaster, PA the night Carsie “popped” me.

Watch Carise’s pro videos and see life as her muses see it.  Then vote for what you want to see next.  It’s like you can become an assistant muse.

August Chronicles 2: Kalob Griffin Band at MilkBoy Philly

August Chronicles: Week Two

MilkBoy Philly One Year Anniversary

Kalob Griffin Band, Pete Donnelly, Up the Chain

MilkBoy Philly on Chestnut Street is a model club if you ask me: cool bistro/bar downstairs and great music room upstairs.  I was glad to be there to celebrate their one-year anniversary and wish them continued success. Even better was seeing Kalob Griffin Band headline there again.  The supporting acts sounded good too but KGB just packed this place and made it a party.

KGB calls themselves a Philly band but I don’t get it.  Drummer Eric Lawry is from Pittsburgh and Kalob himself hails from Clarion.  They all met and formed the band in State College.  I think of them as a full-PA band and one of the best!  It won’t be long until they are a national act so catch them in a small venue while you can.  On this night, fans had driven in from all over the state including those notorious Norristown boys.  When you meet them at a show, you’ll know who they are!

The band rocks with a sound all its own, mainly due to Kalob’s unique voice and the masterful keyboard work of John Hildenbrand.   Robert Dwyer runs constant, stylish riffs on guitar and mandolin.  Jonathan Davenport holds it all together on upright and electric bass.  Eric is an animated drummer and harmonizer.  Somehow, it’s all familiar like cousins you only see every few years but still find a way to crush on or fight with.

The songs are funny, genuine, heartfelt narratives; they are drinking songs, heartbreak songs, revealing natural and unnatural disasters.  “Honeymooners” is charming and swooning.  “Take Me River” calls up adventure and mystery.  “Whiskey My Love” makes the drinks and dancers fly.  “American Dream” paints landscapes at once endearing and disheartening yet somehow keeps you optimistic.  You meet a lot of characters in these very literate songs.  Some are underdogs you root for.  Some are under-handed and you can’t look away.  One thing I’ve noticed.  Even when KGB debuts a song, the audience seems to know it.  The connection between band and fans is unshakeable from the minute the first chord is struck.

This link will take you to “Take Me River” from the MilkBoy Philly show 8/16/12.  It will take you away.

August Chronicles: Toy Soldiers

August Week One: Toy Soldiers and Juston Stens

At Chameleon Club 8/11/12

I started August on vacation and anyone who knows me will say I was on vacation all month.  It’s not my fault my work looks like play!  Play is cutting loose in OCMD for a week and kicking it off with DNL Entertainment’s Blockstock IV.  The work that followed is good work if you can get it.

My return to Lancaster was met with a much bigger return: that of Toy Soldiers to Chameleon after a summer of touring and recording.  The fellas had guests The Kid Carsons, Mike McMonagle and his Experience and Juston Stens and The Get Real Gang.

Toy Soldiers continues to impress me as a unique, talented and hard-working band.  Their blues sound draws from a deep well of soul and honky-tonk.  Ron Gallo holds sway with a rich voice and stylish phrasing.  The musicianship is polished without sounding too tidy; it’s sincere and genuine. There is a depth, a historic quality that echoes Everly Brothers, Motown, early Stax Records and (somehow?) early Stones.   They keep promising a new record and the new songs they are playing out live really deliver.  Until they have them finalized, let me recommend a song that leads all their views on my YouTube and drives crowds nuts every time: “Throw Me Down.”

Juston Stens was once in Dr. Dog and now leads The Get Real Gang.  This is a tight band filled with talent.  I recommend you check them out at your earliest opportunity.  Here’s a link to my favorite video of theirs from 8/11/12.

A heads-up on a show I highly recommend: Toy Soldiers and Kalob Griffin Band at Club Café Pittsburgh 10/12/12. Get info and tickets at or