On Stage: Aimee Mann comes to the Colonial

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann has probably played more different area venues than any other act on the scene – starting with her formative days in ’til Tuesday and  continuing through her long solo career.

Mann has played everywhere from huge arenas (the Spectrum) to outdoor venues (Mann Music Center, Philadelphia Zoo) to small clubs (Chestnut Cabaret, World Café Live at the Queen).

On December 14, Mann will add another venue to the long and varied list when she headlines a Point Entertainment show at the Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) with sometimes musical mate Ted Leo as the opener.

This time last year, Mann and Leo performed together in a special holiday show at Union Transfer in Philadelphia. This year, Mann’s lone holiday show will be at the Beacon Theatre in New York. The December 15 N.Y. show will be sandwiched between her regular shows at two Pennsylvania venues – the Colonial Theatre on December 14 and the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg on December 16.

Mann is touring in support of her new album “Mental Illness,” which was released independently in March on her own label – Super Ego Records.

“I’m home in L.A. right now – working on a project on-and-off,” said Mann, during a recent phone interview. “I’m working on turning a record into a musical. The record is ‘The Forgotten Arm,” which I released about 10 years ago. I stay busy – just little things here and there…like doing a song for a Tom Waits cover album.

“These shows I’m doing with Ted are not holiday shows. Ted has a new album out that he is touring as an opener. The shows are straight ahead. But, we’ll do some songs together and probably do a few Christmas tunes for the December shows. It’s always nice to do some around the holiday season.”

Mann has a huge repertoire from which to draw for her current shows.

“I don’t know that I have an any ‘must play’ songs,” said Mann. “It’s hard for me to know. It’s not always the same. A few years ago, I did an acoustic show with all requests.

“In my live set for this tour, probably half is songs from the new record. And, I always do a lot of older stuff. Sometimes, it’s not easy to choose songs. For this tour, we had a rehearsal the day before it started, and it was easier to see which songs fit. My producer Paul Bryan helps me choose the set. We’re rotating new songs in-and-out.”

“Mental Illness” is an album of mostly-acoustic, stripped-down songs augmented frequently by string arrangements by Bryan.

“We recorded ‘Mental Illness’ at Paul’s home studio in L.A.,” said Mann. “And, we had a string section work on some of the tracks at United Studio in L.A. There were a couple of songs I had written before but mostly were written specifically for this project.

“It does help to have a project that you’re working on – to work a little every day. Some of the songs were written about several people I know who are bi-polar.

“The album has a stripped-down sound because I wanted to make a record that was very quiet from beginning to end – an introspective album like the ones Leonard Cohen made in the early 60s.

“I’m looking forward to this show in the Philly area. Philly is the greatest. I remember the Chestnut Cabaret. We always had a great show at the Chestnut Cabaret.”

Now, it’s three decades later and time for a great show at the Colonial Theatre.

Video link for Aimee Mann – https://youtu.be/XSUF_umjo0E.

The show at the Colonial Theatre, which has Ted Leo as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $37.50, $47.50 and $54.50.

Jon McLaughlin

On December 14, the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host highly-acclaimed singer-songwriter Jon McLaughlin.

Born and raised in Anderson, Indiana, McLaughlin began taking classical piano lessons at an early age. During high school he began incorporating his piano skills into soulful pop music, then enrolled in the music program at Anderson University, where he studied piano and spent his free time writing songs.

“They have a great music program at Anderson University,” said McLaughlin, during a recent phone interview from his home in Nashville, Tennessee. “I studied music business with the emphasis on classical piano.

“I grew up in Anderson and began taking piano lessons when I was four. But, I didn’t get serious about music until I was in college.

McLaughlin released an independent album entitled, “Up Until Now” in 2003. This quickly led to McLaughlin becoming the first artist to sign on with the school’s rapidly growing record label, Orangehaus Records.

“I made my first album when I was still in college,” said McLaughlin. “I recorded it at Orangehaus, which is a student-run recording studio at Anderson.”

In 2006, McLaughlin signed a record deal with Island Records. After signing with Island Records and releasing his debut album, McLaughlin watched as his song “Beautiful Disaster” quickly climbed the charts, with “Beating My Heart” following quickly after.

Hollywood took notice of the young songwriter and began using his music for films and commercials. McLaughlin also had a role in the hit film “Enchanted,” where he performed his song “So Close.” The song was later nominated for an Academy Award. In 2008, he was onstage at the Oscars performing the song in front of 32 million US viewers.

McLaughlin eventually freed himself from Island Records and has been forging his own independent path for the past few years. He is currently gearing up to release a holiday EP this fall, with a new album on the way.

McLaughlin’s most recent album, “Like Us,” dropped in October of 2015 via Razor & Tie, and he spent the past few years touring extensively before heading back into his Nashville studio to work on new music.

The musician’s latest project is a Christmas EP, titled “Red & Green,” his second release celebrating the holidays. This one, recorded with various collaborators around Nashville, features three original tunes and two covers.

“The new album will come out next year,” said McLaughlin. “I could probably release a disc of songs I’d be proud of right now. For every Christmas song I wrote, I wrote three of four new songs. At the top of the year, I’ll start recording. We’ll pick the songs once we start recording.

“I like the idea of putting out two or three songs at a time – as long as there is an album coming at the end of it. I still want to make an album. I want an album to specifically be in people’s hands.”

The current tour is in support of “Red & Green,” which was released on November 17. The first song from the EP, “Christmas Time is Here (But You’re Not)” is available now on all digital platforms. To celebrate the EP, McLaughlin is on the road backed by Rich Brinsfield on bass and Chris Farney on drums. The trio will be performing a mix of Christmas music and songs from his previous albums.

“I just left rehearsals with the band,” said McLaughlin. “We rehearsed mo0re than we need. I’m trying to play all the Christmas stuff and then throw in some other non-Christmas songs chosen by an informal poll with my fans. After this tour, my focus will be on recording the new album.”

Video link for Jon McLaughlin – https://youtu.be/Hu3-0CMxQUM.

The show at Ardmore Music Hall, which has Maitland as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $26.

Richie and Rosie

There will be another show that is soft around the edges in the area on December 14 when Richie and Rosie perform at a Philadelphia Folksong Society House Concert in Philadelphia.

Richie Stearns and Rosie Newton, who are now based in Ithaca, New York, grew up in towns less than 200 miles apart — but in different generations. Ironically, professional cellists raised both. Stearns began playing banjo when he was 14. Newton got an even earlier start and started studying piano when she was eight years old.

Stearns’ family founded the iconic GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance (of which he is now president). He was – and still is – a member of Horse Flies, an American alternative rock/folk band, founded in the late 1970s in Ithaca, N.Y.

By the time Newton was 16, she was playing fiddle and touring with folk rock band The Mammals. During that time, the two were introduced at Saratoga Springs’ Flurry festival — a meeting that marked the genesis of their collaboration.

“I grew up near Woodstock, New York,” said Newton. “I came to Ithaca around 10 years ago to go to Ithaca College. I majored in viola performance there and got drawn to the old-time music scene in Ithaca. I was a big fan of the Horse Flies.

“I met Richie when the Horse Flies played the Flurry Festival,” said Newton. “I was playing the festival with my very first band when I was 15. I liked his music. And, I was struck by his attire. I had never seen an adult wearing Converse before.”

While studying viola at Ithaca College and playing fiddle on the side, Newton started incorporating folk with her traditional Celtic and classical upbringing. Meanwhile, Stearns was a well-established singer and banjo player in the community, having performed around the world with bands like Bela Fleck, Pete Seeger, David Byrne, Billy Bragg & Wilco, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Joan Baez.

“Richie was playing Maxie’s Supper Club & Oyster Bar in Ithaca once a week – every Tuesday,” said Newton. “I started sitting in on fiddle. Eventually, we started touring together as part of the Evil City String Band. We toured a little with them and then realized it was hard to travel with that many people. About nine years ago, we started playing as a duo.”

In 2013, Richie and Rosie released their debut album “Tractor Beam,” a 12-track mix of originals and classics, including Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” and “Say Darlin’ Say”, a traditional lullaby. Being their first exclusive release as Richie and Rosie, the pair wanted to give fans a polished recording of the songs that they played live.

After three years of touring and writing, the duo returned to the studio last December to record their second full-length album, “Nowhere in Time.” The record occupies a junction of Americana, old-time, and folk – and, at the same time, brings a new sound to traditional music.

“We recorded the new album with producer Alex Perialas at Pyramid Sound Studios in Ithaca,” said Newton. “We did it over the course of a year in three sessions.

“Richie writes the songs – but we did write ‘No Longer Lonely’ together. He just writes the songs and then we see what we can do together after that. A lot of songs on the new album are more introspective than the first – songs talking about life as a subject.

“Now, in our live set, 90 per cent of the stuff is from the new album. We also do some songs from the first album, a Towns Van Zandt cover and a few traditional fiddle tunes. But, the main focus is on the new songs.”

Video Link for Richie and Rosie – https://youtu.be/O0Aa6KATziQ.

Advance registration (https://www.facebook.com/events/1405809582863744/) for this performance is required. Admission is free for PFS members and $10 for Advanced Tickets for non-members. The location for the concert will be at the McGlinchey residence in South Philadelphia. Exact address given upon registration. Guests are requested to bring something to share with a “Pot Luck” at 7 p.m. followed by live music at 7:30 p.m.

For music fans wanting to rock out rather than to sit and listen, there is another show on December 14 that should be more to their liking.

The Family Crest

Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com) will host a twin-bill featuring The Dear Hunter and The Family Crest.

Considering that the band was founded by a frontman named Liam McCormick, you might expect a group of traditional musicians playing Celtic Rock.

But, such is not the case. The Family Crest is a seven-piece core band from san Francisco that has built a reputation based on its own brand of orchestral pop music.

The current lineup for The Family Crest includes Liam McCormick · Voice and Guitar; John Seeterlin · Bass; Charlie Giesige · Drums, Percussion; Laura Bergmann · Flute, Percussion, Voice; George Mousa Samaan, Trombone; Charly Akert · Cello; and Owen Sutter · Violin. The band also boasts of more than 400 “Extended Family” members who have contributed to the music

“We actually started as a recording project seven or eight years ago,” said McCormick, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Salt Lake City, Utah. “John, our bass player, and I had been in a different band and were becoming disillusioned.

“We were a little jaded and we were thinking about leaving music. I’ve always like collaborating with people. So, I reached out to friends and we had about 100 responses. We put ads everywhere. We posted on Craigslist and emailed old friends from school.

“I had to learn how to compose for different classical instruments. After a while, the extended family asked about seeing it done live. All this was happening in San Francisco. Over the years, the extended family stretched up and down the West Coast – from Seattle to Los Angeles.”

The Family Crest released its album “Beneath the Brine” in February 2014 and featured a wide range of instruments including bassoon, vibraphone and French horn. It demonstrated The Family Crest’s ability to infuse pop into complex arrangements – and served as a showcase for the incredible range of McCormick’s voice.

“I wrote all the music,” said McCormick. “It was conceptualized right after we made ‘The Village’ album. It allowed me to do a lot of writing.

“Our new album – ‘The War: Act 1’ is a record about conflict. Unintentionally, it’s being released at a time when there is so much conflict in America. We feel it’s important to release a record like this at this time. February 23 is when the record drops. Then, the train starts moving.”

Video link for The Family Crest – https://youtu.be/0zUpZKHy6N8.

The all-ages show at Union Transfer, which has Vava as the opening act, will start at 7:45 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Other upcoming shows at Union Transfer are “The Hoots & Hellmouth & Johnny Showcase Soulstice Spectacle” on December 15; Converge, Pile, and Give on December 16; and GAS on December 18.

The Shines

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will have The Shines, Wendell Woods, Jr. and Charis Latshaw on December 14, and “Better than Bacon – 7th Annual Non-Denominational Holiday Extravaganza” on December 16.

Jenni Lynn

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Jenni Lynn and Serene Green on December 15 and Hurricane Hoss with special guests The Martin Sisters on December 16.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will present Elastic Karma on December 15.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Far Pines with Ian Alexy of Hobo Nephews on December 15 and Tracy Grammer with Jim Henry on December 16.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Will Downing’s Soulful Sounds of Christmas on December 14, Victor Wooten Trio feat. Dennis Chambers & Bob Franceschini on December 15, and Shadows of The 60’s on December 16.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have Lloyd Cole on December 14, Girls Guns & Glory on December 15, the Glenn Miller Orchestra on December 16, Judi Collins on December 17, and Whiskeyhickon Boys on December 20.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will present Sinbad on December 15 and Damien Escobar on December 16.

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