Decomposing in Paris has performed a few times at The Empty Glass in Charleston, WV. Their sound is sexy femme Goth pop-rock that calls to mind bands like Miranda Sex Garden, Rasputina and Lacuna Coil. You can listen to all four tracks and purchase their EP, Personal Ad, below…
Saturday is apparently “Small Business Saturday” as well as “Indies First Day,” in which authors and book lovers are being encouraged to support their local independent bookshops. Therefore, I 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.
Now that Trans Allegheny closed, Taylor Books is my favorite bookstore on this side of the Atlantic and has thankfully survived the invasion and demise of chain bookstores in the area. Oh and if you don’t like books (how strange and sad), Taylors also has the best coffee in Charleston – I especially like the Nicaraguan Vienna dark roast blend. 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 (I recently bought this lovely edition from Taylor Books myself to add to my somewhat obsessive Return of the Native collection), 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 Kate Morton, Maggie O’Farrell 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 Saturday that Record Store Day brings to indie music shops.
and we all notice a good deal about the birds”
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.
The stage was lit with what appeared to be vintage glass baubles hanging from the ceiling and a ghostly mist rolled through as opening act Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys took the stage. They gave a peppy, old-fashioned set. I loved their retro Spaghetti Western vibe and harmonies. Mead’s croons and yodels are from another era. They elicited a standing ovation from the crowd with a twisted song about The Andy Griffith show featuring a pot smokin’, moonshine drinkin’ Opie.
Old Crow Medicine Show then took the stage, launching into the title track from their 2012 album, Carry Me Back. From the opening notes they had members of the audience on their feet dancing in the aisles.
They ripped through “Alabama High Test” with flashing lights and roadies switching out guitars for harmonicas mid-lyric.
Lead singer Ketch Secor threw out a lot of love to “the Charleston skyline,” “the Mountaineer state,” “the KRT bus terminal,” “the Kanawha Valley” and “where hillbilly music comes home to roost, West-by-God Virginia,” which earned him a lot of love in return from the exuberant local crowd. It also helped they have local boy Chance McCoy in the band.
There’s no greater musical sight to this country gal than a string band huddled together jammin’. And it must be said Secor plays his fiddle like Eddie Van Halen plays his electric guitar.
The concert was comprised of newer material from the Carry Me Back album as well as some gems from their earlier works.
Most notable was the rousing fan favorite “Wagon Wheel” from their debut, O.C.M.S..The song was written with a co-authoring deal with Bob Dylan, and it is by far OCMS’ best known, beloved and oft covered tune. The entire audience was on their feet cheering and singing along for the duration of the song and the band seemed to pause after it to stare, soak in and appreciate the adoration of the crowd.
Despite my disappointment with 2008′s Tennessee Pusher album, Old Crow’s “Methamphetamine” was one of the most powerful live performances I’ve witnessed.
I had hoped to hear more from 2006′s brilliant Big Iron World (#2 on my Best of the Decade list and one of my all-time favorite albums), but they did play “Cocaine Habit,” “Union Maid” and a soul-stirring, harmonious mashup of “I Hear Them All” and “This Land is Your Land.”
Other highlights were “Mississippi Saturday Night,” “Humdinger,” “CC Rider” and “Big Time in the Jungle,” but it was really a fantastic concert from beginning to end. One of the best I’ve ever attended.
Old Crow Medicine Show have a rare mix of chemistry, energy and artistry. They masterfully bridge the gap between the downhome bluegrass (and blues) past and rowdy rocked up modern Americana. They built the multi-instrumental, multi-genre stage groups like The Low Anthem, The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons now play upon.
OCMS’ sweet backwoods harmonies and barn burning instrumentation made for a very lively, impressive and thoroughly entertaining show.
Though it must be said the true star of the show was the Grassy Knoll Boy I believe Mead called “Reverend Dan,” who popped back on stage to “buck dance” during Old Crow’s set. That dude had pizazz.
Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys joined Old Crow on stage for encore duets of Mead’s old BR549 hit “Cherokee Boogie” and a concluding cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
The 1937 Flood call themselves an eclectic string band. They recently released a gorgeous version of “The Rose” featuring friend of the band Kathy Castner. You can stream the song here, or subscribe to their podcast for a downloadable version. The band will perform a free outdoor concert on Friday May 24th at Pricketts Fort State Park.
You can read my full review of last night’s Carrie Underwood concert in Charleston, WV at The Charleston Gazette website. An edited version of the review was also featured in today’s print edition of the newspaper.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Carrie Underwood (and certainly not of opening act Hunter Hayes) before the gig, but it turned out to be one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended. Both artists put everything they had into every song. The otherwise spectacular stage lighting was terrible for photos and I forgot my camera, but I snapped a few cell pics. And thanks to YouTube, you can see some videos by other concert goers below.
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.
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.
Listening to my ipod on shuffle, an unfamiliar track came on and I thought to myself: “Is this Norah Jones?” The singer was Marium Bria, a singer/songwriter based in Charleston, West Virginia. Marium Bria’s voice is like Norah Jones fused with Julie London – I yearn for her to record a jazz standards collection. Bria’s coruscating lyrics prove the profundity of simple love songs.
Some highlights from Marium Bria’s debut album, Billet Doux, include the appealingly Dylanesque “It’s Alright,” the bluesy “Die For Me,” and “In the Midnight,” which cries out for placement on the soundtrack to the upcoming Before Midnight. “You and me and the night makes three…“
You can stream selected tracks from the album here and purchase at the links below.
Put Your Loving Arms All Around Me is the latest release by Bare Bones, an acapella trio based in Charleston, WV. The songs range from traditional folk and gospel to blues and doo wop. The entire album is sung acapella by the three members of Bare Bones: Becky Kimmons, her husband Bill Kimmons and Mark Davis (formerly Crazy Jane‘s drummer and an occasional performer with the VooDoo Katz). It’s a refreshingly old-fashioned collection, free of artifice and featuring some truly dazzling harmonies.
I’d heard of local band Bare Bones for a while, but hadn’t actually heard them until a few weeks ago. The trio sang the traditional folk song “All I Want is You” on stage accompanied by dancers from The River City Youth Ballet as part of the RCYB’s recent “Music in Motion” performance. Bare Bones sounded so good, I kept forgetting to watch the dancers. I was disappointed the song isn’t included on their album, but there’s plenty of other great tracks to make up for it.
At times the three singers’ voices merrily dance with and around each other like a barbershop quartet, most notably in their cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold On Me.”
I’m not personally keen on the many old school gospel numbers they cover, with the exception of “Blind Bartimus,” but I’m sure they will appeal to a lot of folk and gospel fans. It’s just that a little of that goes a long way with me.
The standout tracks find lead singer, Becky Kimmons, singing solo – such as the haunting ballad “Old Virginia” and jaunty “I Loved a Roving Gambler.”
Bare Bones – You Really Got a Hold on Me (mp3 clip)*
*mp3 clip hosted by band
Muruch‘s Vic and Heather popped into Taylor Books on Friday night in search of chai and dessert. The cafe was packed with not a single seat to be found. The cause for the crowd seemed to be the scheduled musician for the night: The Disappearing Man (a.k.a. Brandon Mitchell). To be honest, we initially dismissed what appeared to be the standard local guy-with-guitar schtick and headed back toward the bookshelves instead. We eventually sat on the floor in the travel section, which was close enough to hear the music but private enough to chat.
A few minutes later we were pleasantly shocked when the formerly quiet, unassuming The Disappearing Man suddenly burst into a rousing rendition of Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Sun.” Granted, the song itself is irresistable, but his cover was good enough to have us singing along and floor-dancing. He followed that up with an equally worthy cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.”
Later, as we browsed books, The Disappearing Man spun things in a completely different direction with an acoustic rendering of Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” Not only did the crowd sing along, but one very enthusiastic guy jumped up to serve as The Disappearing Man’s backup dancer for the song. You can check out some of The Disappearing Man’s own music below. Even if you don’t like his original music, I recommend catching him live for the covers alone.