Salt N Pepa Coming to The Clay Center in March!

The Clay Center just announced their Spring/Summer schedule, which includes classic rocker Greg Allman, country star Vince Gill, comedian Whoopi Goldberg and…Salt N Pepa!! As you can probably tell by my #tbt choices, I love ’90s r&b and rap. So I’m happy The Clay Center is booking artists from those genres. Salt N Pepa, along with Coolio, will perform at The Clay Center on March 25th.

Aretha Franklin @ The Clay Center in November!

Aretha Franklin will perform live at The Clay Center in Charleston, WV on Tues, Nov. 25th. The Queen of Soul! In Charleston, WV?! Yes!

General public tickets will go on sale Monday, Oct. 13th at 10 a.m. Tickets are $65, $90, $115 and $150 and can be purchased online at the Clay Center box office or website.

Punch Brothers: Live at The Clay Center

By: Brendan

My only problem with the Punch Brothers concert at The Clay Center Sunday night was an over-familiarity with their 2012 album, Who’s Feeling Young Now, which is one of my most listened-to albums of the past few years. My eagerness to hear those songs led to some small frustration with the inventiveness of their set list. It was however, a very memorable concert.

Photo by Danny Clinch

Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan was a welcome solo opening act. Highlights from her set included “Lay My Burden Down” and “Beekeeper.” I also appreciated her mention of Irish singer Paul Brady having introduced her to “The Lakes of Pontchartrain,” and the crowd welcomed a mention of local coffee house Moxxee.

The Punch Brothers kicked off with a Josh Ritter cover, “Another New World,” from their Ahoy EP. A a good choice, the wave of music built to climax until a tsunami of sound was unleashed. Chris Thile was amiable as always during his crowd banter, mentioning that since he’s only played here on Sundays, he’s not sure Charleston WV exists outside of that day. During “This Girl,” the seeming effortlessness of Thile’s efficiency with his mandolin was staggering. Paul Kowert’s double bass was given time to shine during a new instrumental “about beer” and Noam Pikelny exhibited his banjo expertise during “This Is The Song.” Thile then managed to get a cheer for Debussy, leading the group in “Passepied” from the composers Suite Bergamasque. He even sang a phrase from “Clair de Lune,” the preceding movement, in his introduction.

Photo by Danny Clinch

Aoife O’Donovan joined the five guys for “Here and Heaven,” which was one of two tracks on which she collaborated with Thile for The Goat Rodeo Sessions. Her voice was very welcome and I wish it had seasoned some more familiar Punch Brothers sings.

Photo by Danny Clinch

The one-quarter West Virginian, warm-toned-suit wearing Chris Eldridge fronted the group for a highlight of the evening, cultivating crowd enthusiasm with particular emphasis on the lyric “well, she ain’t much to see but she looks good to me through the bottom of the glass.” The song was perhaps most famously recorded by The Seldom Scene, a band featuring Eldridge’s father Ben.

Photo by Danny Clinch

The band returned to Who’s Feeling Young Now for “New York City.” I closed my eyes and basked in its light. For me, there’s something magical about that particular set of songs. You can get a taste here.

I was taken with Thile’s movements. At times he looked like a flatfoot dancer, at times like a tree wavering in the wind. Not since Natalie Merchant whirled around the stage at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center in 2006 have I been so captivated by a performer’s motion. The concert wound down with another new track, “Julep,” which reminded me of the Kent Haruf novel Benediction.

Another charming moment came at the encore. Responding to the crowd’s pleas for a Radiohead cover, Thile said “Would you believe we have one all picked out? Bands and their plans.” I was very happy with their choice, “The Auld Triangle,” which originated in a Brendan Behan play and was featured on the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack. The concert concluded with one of their most popular songs, “Rye Whiskey,” with cries of “Oh Boy!” emanating from the audience.

Punch Brothers Official Site

These boys are busy. Gabe Witcher co-wrote and arranged some music for HBO’s True Detective. NPR is now streaming the new Nickel Creek (featuring Chris Thile) album for a limited time. Paul Kowart is featured on this new album with Brittany Haas & Jordan Tice. You can sample Noam Pikelny’s work outside the group here. And Chris Eldridge will soon tour with Julian Lage.

Some other notable Punch Brothers works include the song “Dark Days” for The Hunger Games soundtrack and three collaborations with Dierks Bentley on his Up on the Ridge album. And you can hear Punch Brothers live on Mountain Stage.

Buy Punch Brothers Music @ Amazon

Punch Brothers Promotional Photographs by Danny Clinch, Posted Here With Permission of None Such Records

Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.: That’s Life

Local readers will need no introduction to Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr., who is pretty much West Virginia’s version of Susan Boyle. After he won America’s Got Talent, it seemed the entire state of West Virginia caught Landau fever. The Logan County crooner has already played two of this month’s three sold-out concerts at The Clay Center in Charleston, has more sold-out shows coming up in Parkersburg and Morgantown, and just released his debut album, That’s Life.

Rat Pack purists may balk at the album’s collection of Sinatra covers, but Landau fans should be very pleased. Landau won America’s Got Talent with his Sinatra act and a tribute to his idol is fitting for his debut.

I do hope his sophomore album will explore other genres like folk, rock and blues in addition to jazz. His rich voice reminds me a little of Richie Havens and I think his vocals would shine more with either sparser or more bombastic arrangements.

Highlights of That’s Life are the title track, “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and of course, “My Way.” I also like the touch of the Wicked Witch’s theme at the end of “Witchcraft.”

Landau will meet fans at the FYE in the Morgantown Mall today at 3pm.

I wasn’t granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples of each track and watch videos at the links below…

Buy @ Amazon

Landau Official Site

Live Review: WV Symphony Presents “Classical Majesty”

West Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s “Classical Majesty” concert was held at The Clay Center’s Maier Foundation Performance Hall this past weekend and featured guest violinist Corey Cerovsek.

Maestro Grant Cooper led his orchestra through performances of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis,” Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 5, K. 219,” and Antonín Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 8 in G, Op. 88.”

The “Classical Majesty” theme centered on musical architecture, focusing on pieces structured around classical principles. Each of the compositions also had some kind of connection to the past, whether it be the influence of a particular composer or a certain style.

I was disappointed that the pre-performance “Preludes” discussion by Conductor Grant Cooper didn’t include its usual insights into the composers and compositions. Instead, it consisted entirely of a mostly biographical interview with guest violinist Corey Cerovsek. The conversation regarding Cerovsek’s background was a little dry for my taste, but I did enjoy the demonstration of his vintage Stradivarius.

“Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis” (a.k.a. “The Tallis Fantasia”) by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was written in 1910 and revised in 1919. The piece has been featured in several movies, including Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, and inspired the score to Field of Dreams.

The Tallis Fantasia is a variation on a melody originally written by sixteenth century English composer Thomas Tallis. I realize the majority of my readers are not well-versed in classical music, so a modern comparison to this would be when a pop or rap star samples a classic tune – not a true cover, but an incorporation of an older song into a new, original work.

Vaughn Williams was first drawn to Tallis’ theme while researching liturgical material – Thomas Tallis was one of the earliest composers to write for the non-Roman Anglican liturgical service. Tallis also enjoyed a long association with the English royal family during the reign of Elizabeth I.

The work was composed for a double string orchestra, so the WV Symphony was reduced to just the string players for the duration of the piece. After a brief introduction by long-time trumpet player David Porter, Maestro Cooper dedicated the evening’s performance to recently departed symphony supporter Mary Price and gave a moment of silence in her honor.

The piece’s focus on strings – as well as its Elizabethan influence – creates a serene, almost hymnal quality. The Fantasia ebbs and flows with sweeping cinematic flourishes that gracefully pull back into quieter moments of beauty.

I had never heard of Mary Price until last night, but I can think of no better tribute to anyone than the flawless performance the WV Symphony gave of Vaughn Williams’ gorgeous work.

Violin soloist Corey Cerovsek joined the orchestra for the performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 5, K. 219.” The orchestra remained reduced to the string section, with the addition of two oboe players and two horn players.

The concerto begins with the entire ensemble playing the main theme before the solo violinist takes the lead. The final movement includes references to Turkish music, alluding to the failed 1683 Turkish assault on Vienna.

I’ll skip the biographical comments on the composer this time since most people are familiar with Mozart whether they like classical music or not. I’ve personally never understood why Mozart is so widely considered to be the equal, or in some cases the superior, of Beethoven. I guess it’s like what they say about people either being fans of The Beatles or Elvis – I like The Beatles and Mozart, but I love Elvis and Beethoven. At any rate, the work itself is not one of my favorites, but I would enjoy hearing the WVSO perform just about anything.

And it must be said that guest violinist Corey Cerovsek did a splendid job of staying in harmony with the rest of the orchestra while still standing out enough to make the piece interesting. As much as I love Joshua Bell, I think his recording of the same concerto falls flat because his violin blends in too much with the other musicians.

Cerovsek’s performance earned him a standing ovation, which prompted an encore, which prompted another standing ovation, which prompted another encore, which prompted another standing ovation. I’m not kidding. The elderly members of the audience looked exhausted by the time he finally left the stage.

The orchestra returned to its full size for Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 8 in G, Op. 88.” The four-movement Symphony was one of the more exhilarating pieces I’ve heard the symphony play, with its heady mix of bouncing jubilance (particularly the cheery “bird call” theme in the first movement) and bombastic bursts of drama in the finale. The performance was beautiful, uplifting, and absolutely sublime.

I was six years old when I first attended the symphony in the mid-1980s. I remember having an intense feeling of wonder and awe at what seemed to be such an immense, powerful force…the same thing I felt when I visited the ocean for the first time the year before. Two decades later, I still feel the same way.

Cameras and recording devices were prohibited, so I have no audio or photographs from this performance to share. But I did find videos elsewhere…

Ralph Vaughan Williams – The Tallis Fantasia (YouTube video)
Mozart – Violin Concerto No. 5 (YouTube video)
Antonín Dvořák – Symphony No. 8 (YouTube video)

Buy Vaughan Williams @ Amazon
Buy Mozart @ Amazon
Buy Dvořák @ Amazon

WV Symphony Official Site