WHAT'S PLAYING / WHAT WE'VE PLAYED on Birch Street Radio

Listen on Online Radio Box! Radio RoksScroll back through today's playlist or check past days

Saturday, November 10, 2018

David Crosby's here, plus new music by Joy Ike, The Wind + The Wave, The Revivalists, Lydia Luce

Photo by Anna Webber
David Crosby's new album Here If You Listen is billed as "a collaborative album with Becca Stevens, Michael League and Michelle Willis," who also backed up his 2016 album, Lighthouse. The Guardian writes that the music "retains [Crosby's] trademark unusual tunings and dreamy harmonies but is a thoroughly band effort," and that working with young musicians "seems to have turbo-charged Crosby’s muse." Our pick for the New Music bin is "Vagrants of Venice." It paints a post-apocalyptic picture of a once-great city submerged by rising seas and sparsely populated by "wild people / nearly feral / living on what they can find." There's a strong thematic echo of the classic "Wooden Ships," which Crosby co-wrote with Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner in 1968. Fifty years later, global warming has taken its place alongside nuclear war as a nightmare of civilization's suicide.

With so much new good music emerging every week, we're bound to miss some gems, and we're always glad when someone calls our attention to one that we overlooked. And so, six months or so after its release, we're catching up with Joy Ike's luminous album, Bigger Than Your Box. The Nigerian-American singer, songwriter and pianist describes it as a collection of songs "about dreaming beyond what you can actually see." Our featured track is "Ever Stay," an uplifting song driven by shifting rhythms. Ike says the song "is for the person who needs to be reminded that they are not alone."

We're only about six weeks behind in catching up with Lydia Luce's debut full-length album. Luce grew up in Florida in a musical family, played in her mother's orchestra as a teenager, studied at Berklee College of Music and earned a master's degree in viola performance at UCLA. She then moved to Nashville, where she recorded Azalea, combining her classical training with Americana and folk influences. We're featuring the moody, intriguing title track.

We've previously featured tracks by The Wind + The Wave, the Austin-based duo of Patricia Lynn and Dwight Baker. They've now released their third full-length album, Human Beings Let You Down -- recorded in hotels and backstage dressing rooms as they toured the USA behind their previous album, Happiness Is Not A Place. Baker does double-duty as producer, Lynn is the primary singer-songwriter, and they're joined on the record by their touring band. Now they're back on the road again. Our featured track, "Lay Me Down," evokes the excitement - and weariness - of the touring life: "I'm all fired up / and when I'm all dried up / I'm gonna lay me down."

Photo by Zackery Michael
From Austin we slide over to New Orleans and pick up a track from the latest album by The Revivalists, Take Good Care. It includes the single, "All My Friends," which has been out for a few months, and the just-released LP is packed with another 13 songs. The Associated Press suggests that's several songs too many, saying it starts off featuring "the band’s exciting mix of jazz-funk grooves, blues rock and warm melodies," but gets generic and boring toward the end. We'd put "You And I" in the first category, and that's our pick for the New Music bin.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Van Morrison plays on, plus new music by Cake, Cat Dail, Maggie Rogers, The West Coast Feed

How's this for a track record? 45 albums in 51 years. That's the creative output of Van Morrison - so far - and that doesn't count compilation albums or his work in the group Them in the mid-60s. Barely a year after the release of Roll With The Punches, his latest effort, The Prophet Speaks, is due in early December. It will include eight covers of the likes of John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke and Solomon Burke, plus six new Morrison compositions. The title track is peak Van, blending jazz sax and Latin rhythms with smooth, sophisticated blues and that distinctive voice.
Cat Dail has been playing New York clubs and touring since the 1990s, but we're just catching up with this indie singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist by way of her new album, Fight For Love. Each track on this collection has a style of its own, with strands of folk, rock, funk, blues, jazz singing etc., all pulled together behind a distinctive and captivating voice. It was tough to pick one for our New Music bin, but we settled on the slinky "Catch Fire." Others will pop up in our big mix.
Maggie Rogers recorded two albums on her own while in high school in Maryland and college at New York University, before breaking out in 2016 with the hit single "Alaska." Her major label debut, Heard It In A Past Life, is due in January from Capitol Records, but singles keep spinning out ahead of it. "Alaska" and "Fallingwater" are already in our mix, and we're now picking up the latest, "Light On."

We're tapping once more into The West Coast Feed now that its debut album has been released. We previously featured the raucous singles "You Belong To Me" and "Set Me On Fire." The band takes a lighter approach on our latest selection, "Sky Pines," while still bringing its big horn-filled sound and adding a touch of violin.

Cake has just released its first original song in seven years, called "Sinking Ship." Band member Vince DiFiore describes it as “a sobering meditation on the current human habitation of the planet.” It could also be heard as commentary on the current political situation in the U.S. and around the world. The lyric mocks complacency - "You said give this a little more time / and everything is going to be fine" - and warns that "Everything we were just trying to save / is now vanishing under the waves."
And on that note, let us remind all our listeners and friends in the USA: Do your part and VOTE this Tuesday as though your life and the world depended on it. Because they do.