Introducing The Company Stores…

The Company Stores are my favorite local band. They are very well known and beloved in Charleston, WV. With their recent set at Mountain Stage, I think/hope the band is poised for a national break-through soon. Their lovely, eclectic new album, Little Lights, has quickly become a favorite of mine.

Lead singer-songwriter Casey Litz’s lilting, robust voice at times reminds me of Rhiannen Giddens, Natalie Merchant, and Heartless Bastards’ Erika Wennerstrom, but their genre-bending, self-described “Hill Hop” sound–a mix of clangy Appalachian folk fiddles, swirling psychedelic rock guitars, big band brass, and occasional splashes of classical piano–is incomparable.

Standout tracks are “Fall From Heaven,” “Nightingale,” “Optimistic,” and “Shenandoah Fall,” but the album is fantastic in it’s entirety.

The Company Stores Official Site

Local Music & Poetry at Third Eye Cabaret

Third Eye Cabaret is a local music and spoken word poetry showcase hosted every other Thursday night at the Fireside Bar & Lounge (above Little India restaurant), 1604 E Washington, Charleston WV. Past performers have included Muruch favorites Crystal Good and Marium Bria. This Thursday’s Third Eye Cabaret will feature spoken word poetry by Rachel Tigerbeat Hicks and a variety of world music by Qiet, the Restless Natives, Alasha Al-Qudwah and Ancien. The show will also be webcast live on Youtube.

Third Eye Cabaret

Small Business & Indies First Saturday 2014!

Tomorrow, Saturday, November 29, 2014 is “Small Business Saturday” and “Indies First Day,” in which authors and book lovers are being encouraged (including by an open letter from Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman) to support their local independent bookshops. I once again encourage all local bookworms to visit Charleston, WV’s only independent bookstore, Taylor Books, on that day or any day. You can also order books and ebooks/epubs from Taylors online, but it’s worth the trip for the bookshop’s atmosphere.

Taylors is my favorite bookstore on this side of the Atlantic and has the best coffee in Charleston. If you don’t like books or coffee, I really don’t know how you live.

If you do like books and are looking for recommendations for Indies First Day, my personal favorite books of all time are: Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and pretty much everything else written by Kurt Vonnegut or Edith Wharton. More modern favorites have been Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Book Thief and anything by Brian Morton, Kate Morton, Maggie O’Farrell, Samanatha Harvey and Victoria Hislop.

I also highly recommend the more modern classic The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which is now being adapted for a movie. You can read my rave review of it here. I first heard about the Guernsey book from a former manager of Taylors and it was a longtime staff pick on the shelves there. I’ve since given copies of the book to several friends, all of whom loved it as much as I did.

Other favorite bookstores of mine on both sides of the Atlantic: Empire Books in Huntington, WV; Two Sisters bookery, Old Books on Front Street and Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, NC; and The Winding Stair, Hodges Figgis and Chapters in Dublin, Ireland.

It would be very nice if independent bookstores get the kind of support from Indies First/Small Business Saturday that Record Store Day brings to indie music shops.


Local Event: CYAC Production of Our Town in Charleston, WV Tonight!

“We like the sun comin’ up over the mountain in the morning
and we all notice a good deal about the birds”

“Some people just ain’t cut out for small town life

“This is the way we were: in our growing up and in our marrying
and in our living and in our dying”

Those three lines sum up why every West Virginian should see Contemporary Youth Arts Company‘s production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town tonight.

While anyone anywhere can relate to the allegory for mortality brilliantly woven into the story, Appalachia is one of the few regions in America who can still see their reflection in Grover’s Corners.

In Our Town, Wilder masterfully captured the heart of small town life — its bitter and its sweet, its bliss and its grief.

And CYAC gracefully capture the heart of Our Town, humbly and beautifully staying true to Wilder’s sparse setting and subtle delivery so as to allow the play’s inherent genius to shine through.

Every cast member does a superb job and the cast, as a whole, have a uniquely natural chemistry on stage. The actresses who portray Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibb were the main scene stealers. Mrs. Gibbs in particular is incredibly authentic and moving.

Local high school student Mariah Plante positively glows as the play’s central character, Emily Webb. Plante successfully elicited smiles from the audience during Emily’s innocent happiness and tears from even the crowd’s most sullen teenagers during her final heartbreaking scene.

My only complaint is the play’s climactic, most famous line “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?” was inexplicably left out. Whether due to director’s design or actor’s error, I don’t know. But despite that glaring omission, it was an otherwise excellent and heartfelt production.

I actually hadn’t intended to review this play when I bought my ticket. I wanted to be able to fully enjoy it if it was good and I wanted to avoid the inevitable battle between honesty and kindness if it wasn’t. After a decade of disillusionment with local theatrical productions, I stopped bothering to attend them let alone review them. But a writer can rarely resist the spark of inspiration born of great art. Such was the case last night. Since I missed the Charleston Gazette’s deadline, you Muruch readers get this spontaneous review instead.

Do yourself a favor and attend CYAC’s final performance of Our Town tonight. You won’t regret it.

Info: CYAC Production of Our Town
Time: Tonight, 8:00 p.m.
Place: WVSU Capitol Center, 123 Summers Street, Charleston, WV
Price: $8.00 Student/Senior, $15.00 Adult
Buy tickets at the show or call 304-342-6522 for reservations and group rates.

Upcoming Local Concerts: Carrie Underwood, Shawn Colvin, Old Crow and more!

May is going to be a spectacular month for concerts in Charleston, WV…

Country star and former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood will be at the Charleston Civic Center, with opener Hunter Hayes, on Wednesday, May 8th. Look for my review of that concert in next Thursday’s edition of The Charleston Gazette.

Lyle Lovett will visit The Clay Center on Friday, May 10th.

Comedian Lewis Black will hit The Clay Center on Thursday, May 16th.

Singer-songwriters Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter will perform as a duo during an extended set at a special Mountain Stage at The Clay Center on Sunday, May 19th. Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan is also on the lineup. As an almost lifelong fan of Shawn Colvin, I’m very excited to be reviewing the show for Muruch.

The free Live on the Levee summer concert series will return to Charleston on May 24th. The acts haven’t been announced yet, but I do know Kathy Mattea will perform in June during Festivall week.

Just when you think it can’t get any better, Old Crow Medicine Show will put on a full concert at The Clay Center on Friday, May 24th! OCMS is one of my favorite modern bands, so reviewing their concert for Muruch is also cause for much excitement.