Thursday, May 29, 2014



As January 27 became January 28, folk and bluesman and Prairie Home Companion favorite Guy Davis stepped onto a redeye flight from New York to meet Dom Flemons and perform on the first recording sessions for the latter’s album ‘Prospect Hill,’ out July 22 on Music Maker Relief Foundation. Flemons recalls, “Guy was a guiding light within the whole process. The day before he came, he was at Pete Seeger's bedside saying goodbye. Guy has a long history with Pete Seeger: he was one of the singers in the Sloop Singers in the '70s. Guy had known Pete since he was a little kid. They were very close. Guy was torn up about it but he said, let's do this, that what Pete would've wanted. It was a heavy sort of thing to have at beginning of session.”

Esquire Magazine premiered “But They Got It Fixed Right On” today.

Brooklyn Vegan has previewed ‘Prospect Hill’ and Flemons’ set at the Brooklyn Folk Festival, which drew a standing ovation.

The connection between Flemons and Davis and the Seegers grew deeper as Davis playing a six-string banjo of Flemons’ that belonged to Pete’s half-brother and fellow musician and folklorist Mike Seeger, a mentor whom Flemons had met years earlier at the Black Banjo Gathering. He remembers, “We played together at his house in Lexington, VA. I went over there about a dozen times. He was very open to sharing his library, his information, his stories. I’d call Mike, ask him about stuff. He was a wonderful confidante and a good friend. He was also the first major person I’d met who I’d known from recordings. He took a lot of delight that I could quote liner notes and talk critically about music he produced. We got to be pretty close.”

Ultimately, Seeger’s passing helped bring the project into harmony with the missions of the Seegers. Flemons says, “Pete was never insular about getting music out there. A single person can help organize. Like-minded musicians organized together.”

In the liner notes for ‘Prospect Hill,’ Flemons writes, “As the year has progressed, I can proudly proclaim I see 2014 as the year of the Folksinger… When Pete Seeger passed the night before we began recording this record I knew that notion was a reality.”

Flemons tour dates, including NYC, Philadelphia, and Boston.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sip Happens 2014 photos


Ben Mezrich, Breslows, Room Pictures: Servidone Studios
Check Presentation:  Boston Red Sox Photographer, Brita Meng Outzen
Group photo credit Rob Cuni, L-R: Linda Henry, John Henry, Ben Mezrich, Craig Breslow, Jeffrey Ma, Tonya Mezrich

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Grace Askew "Empty Rooms" music video

Sip Happens recap



Nautilus Press has confirmed a September 15 release date for the book “We Are The Music Makers: Preserving The Soul Of America’s Music.” Written by Timothy and Denise Duffy, the book features over 65 photographs taken by Tim Duffy over twenty years along with the stories and songs. Tim Duffy's previous book “Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America” was released in 2002 and sold 15,000 copies.

In related news, Rolling Stone recently highlighted the Foundation’s twentieth anniversary by posting an acoustic blues song by Duffy with Eric Clapton. Clapton said, "Music Maker is a fabulous project, real evidence that the music I have always loved is alive and well."

Of the book, B.B. King said, “We are the Music Makers highlights an essential part of our culture, providing us a glimpse into the lives of the amazing, and often little known, musicians of the American South. Tim Duffy has taken every opportunity to sustain a dimension of Blues culture that could easily be lost forever, and nowhere is that more apparent than in his new book.”

Bonnie Raitt added, “The photographs in this book are not only beautiful, but reflect the deep love and dedication The Duffys have for both preserving traditional Blues culture and providing real support and opportunity for these wonderful musicians who might otherwise be forgotten.”

Character sketches and black and white photographs of great American musicians Etta Baker, John Dee Holeman, Jerry ‘Boogie’ McCain, Taj Mahal, Willie King, Othar Turner, Little Freddie King, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Ironing Board Sam, and the original guiding light for the Foundation’s formation Guitar Gabriel are shared in the book. The book also highlights other artists nestled deep in southern culture and telling a hidden story of American music. The book also highlights the musician’s place in the southern community, a vital role that serves the laborers.

Photos from the book are here.

 In the introduction, Denise writes, “Tim acknowledges a deep obligation to these artists, ‘It is no small thing to ask a musician for their song and their story. The only way we can hope to make an equal exchange is if the documentarian and the artist have a genuine relationship; they must share more than just the moment the photo is taken or the song is captured…’

Days spent sharing songs, food, laughter and far too many miles in vans and airplanes have built the bridges of trust that allow these artists to give their wisdom and art so generously. These artists share their life lessons with us because we are dedicated to presenting their music to the world with reverence and to be partners in their struggle for a better life…

We concluded that our nations musical traditions were suffering from starvation and underemployment… We get gigs for those that want to perform, guitars for those who want to play, and feed the hungry. Our initial grassroots effort to meet the needs of a handful of blues musicians in Winston-Salem, NC, has grown to assist hundreds through the generosity and passion of our supporters, employees and volunteers.”

“We Are the Music Makers” runs 144 pages and will be for sale at bookstores nationwide and on List price is $38. It can be pre-ordered here or here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014




Mississippi Delta pianist, songwriter, and emotive singer Eden Brent nods to her mentor Boogaloo Ames on the album cover of ‘Jigsaw Heart,’ out last week on Yellow Dog Records. There’s an Ampex 456 tape box front and center. “That’s Boogaloo!’” she exclaims. The cover art, as vivacious as Eden’s own spirit, is by fellow Mississippian H.C. Porter as part of her Blues @ Home series, which captures Mississippi blues musicians in their homes.

Abie “Boogaloo “Ames took Brent as an apprentice for 16 years, as portrayed in the 1999 PBS documentary “Boogaloo & Eden: Sustaining the Sound.” After they met when he played at her sister’s wedding, he took her under his wing. The duo played concerts together in the Mississippi Delta region and beyond, where Brent was raised and still makes her home and where she is now known as Little Boogaloo.

This month, The Nashville Scene wrote of her, "Her sophisticated command and creative breadth grow with each album, including the just-released Jigsaw Heart, which teams Brent with Nashville-based roots-music MVP Colin Linden as her producer... her live shows bring bawdy spirit and sprightly sophistication to her free-ranging mix of Americana, blues and jazz, driven by her superb keyboard technique and warm Mississippi drawl."

The Washington Post Express ran a feature on Brent, who made her New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival debut this year.

She taped a May concert for syndicated radio program Beale Street Caravan and also taped a video session for Birthplace Sessions, on the property of Elvis Presley’s birthplace.

Memphis Commercial Appeal calls her “captivating,” continuing, “her music combines Bluff City grit with Crescent City swing.”

Meanwhile, the Knoxville News-Sentinel said, "Plays and sings with soul and style. The uptempo tracks are a lot of fun, but Brent really shines on the torchier numbers, including the fine title track, and the easygoing songs... The latter includes some cool piano and slide guitar interplay that’s truly sweet."

Monday, May 19, 2014



Alongside Courtney Barnett, Scott & Charlene's Wedding, Twerps, Lost Animal, and The Stevens, the Icypoles are an Australian indie invasion. The new album ‘My World Was Made For You,’ featuring covers of David Lynch’s “Just You” (from Twin Peaks) and Martika’s “Love, Thy Will Be Done,” co-written by Prince, is out now on Highline Records. Black Book is streaming the entire album.

Here’s what we’ve been reading about the Icypoles:

“7.7… a little dreamy… understated intimacy.”
- Eric Danton, Paste Magazine, May 15, 2014

“Sounds a bit like the XX merged together with some old doo-wop style girl groups.”
- Marah Eakin, AV Club, April 16, 2014

“A sweet treat [with] a sinister vibe… Led by Isobel Knowles, formerly of Architecture In Helsinki, the Melbourne quartet serves up retro-flavored tunes in the vein of the Brunettes, Soko, and the Boy Least Likely To.”
- Katie Chow, Black Book, May 1, 2014

“Delicious… Severely cool… The magic is in their surprising sense of melodic timing and coy delivery that plays out in our heads like a Mona Lisa smirk set to some kind of sarcastic retro choreography.”
- Charity Painter, The Wild Honey Pie, April 18, 2014

“Reminiscent of The Blow, with handclaps, singsong vocals and a slightly jagged, funky bassline.”
- Lizzie Plaugic, CMJ, May 6, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014


Eden Brent walked us through the fascinating pieces of her new Americana album 'Jigsaw Heart' (out this week on Yellow Dog Records), her most deeply-felt album to date. Here are some highlights:

+ "Back in the 70’s the IRS auctioned some of Jerry Lee Lewis’s belongings to offset his outstanding tax debt, and my Daddy was highest bidder on his confiscated home stereo. So, I used to listen to Floyd Cramer’s 'Last Date' on a record player that once to belonged to Jerry Lee Lewis!"
+ "'Better This Way' is the only song I’ve ever written that made me cry while I was writing it."
+ A local Greenville, MS bluesman cautioned Brent about her reputation, which lead to the rollicking "Everybody Already Knows."
+ The McCrary Sisters add vocals to "Opportunity," giving it a hint of Nashville gospel flavor.
+ Though a pianist by trade, Brent wrote "The Last Time" on guitar, for a friend who died in a car accident.
+ "Let's Go Ahead and Fall In Love" features sly double entendre verses inspired by the blues tradition.
+ "Locomotive" was inspired by how Brent's father met Johnny Cash in 1956 and Brent likens the beat to that of "Folsom Prison Blues," which Cash dedicated to Brent's father at a show. "'Locomotive'" has the same country two-step rhythm with a strong backbeat."
+ "Valentine" strips down the arrangement and lays bare the emotions; Brent was in tears by the end of the recording.

Eden Brent will perform at Iridium in NYC and at Hill Country Live in D.C. Complete tour dates here.

American Songwriter is streaming 'Jigsaw Heart' in its entirety.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Eden Brent on each song from 'Jigsaw Heart'

1. Better This Way

I wrote “Better This Way” in the afternoon of a bright sunny day with the curtains wide open and a lot of sunlight shining in my piano room. Ironically, it’s the only song I’ve ever written that made me cry while I was writing it.

“Better This Way” is a country waltz, and the piano introduction reminds me of something that Floyd Cramer might play. Back in the 70’s the IRS auctioned some of Jerry Lee Lewis’s belongings to offset his outstanding tax debt, and my Daddy was highest bidder on his confiscated home stereo. So, I used to listen to Floyd Cramer’s “Last Date” on a record player that once to belonged to Jerry Lee Lewis! I was just a wide-eyed piano student, but I remember how magical it felt listening to Floyd on Jerry Lee’s stereo and wanting to grow up to be a great piano player just like both of them are.

2. Everybody Already Knows

Secrets are hard to keep in a small town. Everybody knows everybody, and gossip is a favorite pastime. During a brief love affair years ago, I hid my affections publicly, yet after only a couple of clandestine weeks, my secret romance was the talk of the town. To save my reputation serious damage, good friend and local bluesman Lil’ Bill Wallace whispered into my ear, “Baby, you’re messing up.” ‘Baby you’re messing up’ was his way of telling me that I was being foolish, and he was right. My behavior was foolish, and I abruptly ended the affair. “Everybody Already Knows” is a lighthearted recollection of romance and rumor in a small town and is inspired by the keen wisdom of the late Lil’ Bill.

3. Jigsaw Heart

Lots of songs mention broken hearts. My sister Bronwynne’s “Heartbreaker” asks the name of the game the heartbreaker plays, and my other sister Jessica’s “Broken Heart” asks “How many pieces does one broken heart make?” Counting all the pieces of a heart broken in sport was visual and memorable, and I borrowed that idea from both of them when I started writing “Jigsaw Heart.”

In my whole life, I’ve never completed a jigsaw puzzle because every time I tried, some of the pieces were lost or missing. I enjoyed poetically comparing pieces of a broken heart with pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I particularly liked juxtaposing the two title words together, “heart” because it is emotional and “jigsaw” not only because it is intellectual but because it describes both the puzzle variety and the tool that cuts the whole into pieces. I liked the aural and visual collision of the two words, jigsaw and heart.

It took some trial and error to harmonize the initial 4-bar piano motif that recurs throughout the song. I’ve developed it more completely since the recording, and it will continue to develop as the song matures. The riff reminds me of the piano vamp in “South Africa,” but in “Jigsaw Heart” the texture of Dan Dugmore’s pedal steel hangs over the piano part in a beautiful but haunting way. Incidentally, Dan did some great playing on my sister Jessica’s album “Deerskin Jacket” about ten years ago. He sure gets around a lot. Or maybe it just runs in our family!

4. Opportunity

Other than Joan Armatrading’s original, the only recording I’ve got of “Opportunity” is a solo rendition by Bobby McFerrin. Both are terrific. The lyric delivers a powerful hard-luck story that plays like a movie in the mind, like reading a great short story can do. For this song, I recorded Wurlitzer piano with vibrato for the very first time ever, and it underscores the lyric with a slightly seedy, ghetto mood. Two of the McCrary Sisters, Ann and Regina sang groovy background vocals, and Regina played mean tambourine. I’m pleased with the way it turned out, especially after being a fan of the song for more than thirty years.

5. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free

The first time I heard composer Billy Taylor perform “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” was at a Delta Blues Week concert in the early '90s. Boogaloo and I were the opening act. The song was an uplifting hit with the audience that night, and eventually led me to Nina Simone’s melancholy recording. I hadn’t planned to record it myself until we were a couple of days into tracking Jigsaw Heart. At one point during the session, I got too far inside my own head, second-guessing myself and my instincts, and walked outside to take a break.  Wishing I could just let go and enjoy the studio session as much as I love playing for live audiences, I started saying to myself, “Why can’t I be free? I wish I could be free.” Then it came to me. “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free.” The mere thought of the song made me smile, and so I decided to record it.

6. The Last Time

“The Last Time” recalls one of my last visits with friend and musician George Allen who died in a fatal car accident a few years ago. Although I recorded the song on piano, I actually wrote it on guitar without thinking about chord progressions or theory like I do when I’m writing at the piano. Writing on guitar is frustrating because of my limitations but liberating since I barely know what I’m doing. It frees the creative process to just make music without over thinking it.

7. Panther Burn

I recorded Jimmy Phillips’s “Fried Chicken” for Mississippi Number One, and he also wrote “Panther Burn.” Whether Jimmy is in town or not, his songs are always on the set list at Delta get-togethers (which invariably turn into living room jam sessions) because he writes about the Delta. Around here, everybody with a guitar knows how to play his songs, and everybody without a guitar knows all the words. So I’ve performed “Panther Burn” in living rooms and on stages for years. This was the warm-up song at the recording session, and it’s such a great song, I decided to keep it. The groove is a straight-ahead rock beat, and Colin plays perhaps his best guitar solo of the whole album on this one.

8. Let’s Go Ahead And Fall In Love

During preparation for the recording, my sweetheart asked me if I had written a song for him yet. I hadn’t so I answered “no,” but his mild disappointment gave me the idea for “Let’s Go Ahead And Fall In Love.” It’s a risqué blues with predicable melody and chord progression, and I borrowed classic blues double entendres that are the song’s joy. On a live album Delta bluesman James Son Thomas introduces “Catfish Blues” by instructing the audience to “listen to the verses. Don’t listen to the music. Listen at what I’m saying.” With that in mind I had so much fun jotting down classic, sexy blues to consider referencing in the song. By the end I had coined a few new “classics” myself like “bring a little spackling, you can fill my hole!”

9. Tendin’ To A Broken Heart

For Ain’t Got No Troubles I recorded “Beyond My Broken Dreams,” a song co-written by my Mississippi friend Tommy Polk who is a prolific songwriter with all sorts of credits. He wrote “Tendin’ To A Broken Heart” with Nashville songstress Joanna Cotten and the keyboardist Johnny Neel whom I’ve met a few times before. (The first time I met Johnny was with Boogaloo in Clarksdale.) I wanted to record one of Tommy’s tunes on this album, and I chose this one because it fit the “jigsaw heart” theme of the album, and it’s beautifully crafted. It’s easy to identify a song written by professional writers because you can hear the craftsmanship in every single line.

10. Locomotive

Daddy went to hear Johnny Cash in 1956 when “Folsom Prison Blues” was a hit on the radio. Arriving early to the show, Daddy walked up to a fellow and said, “Hey, man. I heard Johnny Cash was going to play here tonight.” That fellow looked straight at Daddy and said, “That’s me.” Immediately Daddy requested his favorite “Folsom Prison Blues.” Johnny Cash dedicated it to him during the show, and I’ve been singing it with Daddy ever since I can remember. “Locomotive” has the same country two-step rhythm with a strong backbeat. It’s the kind of song that’s a lot of fun to drive but hard to stop without a good plan, which is why we faded the ending. It’s like trying to stop a runaway freight train or a high-spirited, half-crazy woman who runs over you and keeps going.

11. Get The Hell Out Of Dodge

Mike Powers at Yellow Dog Records introduced me to Toni Price singing “Get The Hell Out Of Dodge.” Writing about a romantic break-up as if it’s an old western shoot-out is wildly clever. What imagination! So long, partner. This town just ain’t big enough for the both of us. The comparison is hilarious, and the western imagery is perfect. Words like showdown, ricochet, lonesome dove and swinging doors all make this a delightful masterpiece, and a perfect moment of levity for the album.

12. Valentine
When we recorded producer Colin Linden’s “Valentine,” (co-written with Tom Hambridge) Colin and I were standing next to each other in the studio with only a microphone between us, very intimate and totally exposed. I can’t remember if we did one take or two, but the performance was so honest that when we finished, I was crying. The lyrics are simple and Colin chose a delicate arrangement of only guitar, bass, string section and voice. This treatment allows the beauty of the song to reveal itself rather than creating a grandiose frame to display the song.



Lincoln Center Out of Doors and the Americana Music Association will present a performance by the Music Maker Blues Revue August 10 at the Damrosch Park Bandshell celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, the organization which helps traditional southern musicians living in poverty. The event is part of AmericanaFest NYC and Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, and Bobby Patterson will perform on the same bill.

The Music Maker Blues Revue will feature Dom Flemons, Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, and Ironing Board Sam:

* Dom Flemons – founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and American Songster – will release his third solo album 'Prospect Hill' on July 22 on Music Maker Relief Foundation. 'Prospect Hill' finds Flemons digging deeply into ragtime, Piedmont blues, spirituals, southern folk music, string band music, jug band music, fife and drum music, and ballads idioms with showmanship and humor, reinterpreting the music to suite 21st century audiences.

* In 2012, Ironing Board Sam was named "Comeback Artist of the Year" by Living Blues Magazine, made a triumphant return to a packed tent at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. In 2013 Sam performed at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Byron Bay, Australia, and will be traveling for gigs all over the USA. In 2012, eMusic said, "'Ninth Wonder' is a superb album for anyone interested in hearing a true maverick at work.... Here's the most entertaining eight tracks and nearly 22 minutes of blues-based music likely to be released this year, and it should leave you longing for more." He was crowned Most Outstanding Musician by Living Blues in 2013 and returned to the Jazz Fest stage in 2014.

* "My style is real Lightnin' Hopkins lowdown blues. I call it hard classic blues, stompin' blues, railroad smokin' blues," says Beverly "Guitar" Watkins. If you've never seen a blues lady who can play her guitar behind her head, belt out songs and roll over to sweet gospel, you've never been in the house when Beverly "Guitar" Watkins was on stage.

The performance will be in conjunction with a museum exhibition opening at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts, a new book "We Are the Music Makers," a 2CD set of the same title, and a festival in North Carolina in October.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Denver press clips

Country Weekly feature (June 16, 2014)

Paste session (August 13, 2013)

Hear Ya mp3 (July 26, 2012)

KEXP in-studio performance (May 2, 2012)

My Old Kentucky Blog (June 28, 2012)

Denver artwork & bio

Axe Photo Credit: Vincent Bancheri

This “Ramshackle All-Star Country Band” fashions itself a sort of modern-day Highwaymen. DENVER’s co-founders and chief songwriters Birger Olsen, Mike Elias and Tom Bevitori (Alela Diane’s Wild Divine) exchange lead vocals, swaying drunkenly between dusty saloons and that lonesome country air. The band has since filled out its line-up with a stellar supporting cast, which includes Blitzen Trapper’s Eric Earley and Michael Van Pelt, drummer Sean MacNeil, and a rotating crew of Portland’s finest.