On Stage: Larry the Cable Guy still makes ’em laugh

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Larry the Cable Guy

Daniel Lawrence Whitney is coming to the area for a show at the Xcite Center at Parx Casino (2999 Street Road, Bensalem, 888-588-7279, https://parxcasino.com)

it’s a show guaranteed to make you laugh. He is a world-famous stand-up comic as well as an actor, producer, country music artist and former radio personality. Audiences know him by his stage name — Larry the Cable Guy.

“I started out by doing a bunch of characters,” said Larry the Cable Guy during a phone interview last week from his home in Walton, Nebraska.

Walton is a small town in Nebraska that had 306 residents according to the 2010 census. It is the home of the Prairie Creek Inn – and not much else.

“I was born in this part of Nebraska,” said Larry. “I’ve lived in other places, but I had to come back here. I missed looking at the bean fields. Right now, I’m looking at bean fields to the east and corn fields to the north, west and south. I have a 180-acre farm here. Nebraska is awesome.

“I grew up on a pig farm in Nebraska. I grew up in a small town and there’s no secrets in a small town. I’ve always been a farm kid and somehow ended up being a comedian.

“When I was living in Florida, a buddy had a radio show. I’d be on his show doing different characters. I threw in a bunch of people I knew. And, that’s where I came up with the name.

“Larry the Cable Guy was born in Florida – in a radio show. I’m not sure how it started. The character happened by accident. I just did it because he was funny.

“I was a single guy trying to get through life, make money and pick up chicks. I enjoy making people laugh with one-liners and funny situations.”

From a single guy trying to make people laugh in the Sunshine State, Larry the Cable Guy became a multiplatinum recording artist, Grammy nominee, Billboard award winner and one of the top comedians in the country.  He has his own line of merchandise and continues to sell out theatres and arenas across the United States.

“Back in my heyday, I was selling more tickets than any comedian,” said Larry. “I was doing shows in front of 12,000-13,000 people a night. I was on the Forbes List eight times.

“I’ve been on tour forever and I do well pretty much everywhere. I think I’m relatable everywhere – even in places like Seattle and Portland.”

Larry starred in the movie “Jingle all the Way 2” for FOX Home Entertainment. Other recent film credits include “A Madea Christmas,” “Tooth Fairy 2,” “Witless Protection,” “Delta Farce,” and “Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.” He is also the voice of Mater in “Cars,”  “Cars 2” and“Cars 3.”

On July 4, 2009 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, Larry performed in front of more than 50,000 and taped his hour special “Tailgate Party” for Comedy Central.  The show was a thank you to his fans in Nebraska for their longtime support of him.  Tickets were sold for only $4 and the show sold out in one weekend. The comedy CD of the same name debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard Comedy Charts.

Larry the Cable Guy gives back in a lot of ways.

He created The Git-R-Done Foundation, which was named after Larry’s signature catchphrase, and has donated more than 7 million dollars to various charities. The Git-R-Done Foundation is a non-profit organization with its emphasis on children’s and veterans’ causes.  For information, visit www.gitrdonefoundation.org.

“I’m still having fun,” said Larry. “I love being onstage making people laugh. Then, I’m on a plane home.”

Video link for Larry the Cable Guy – https://youtu.be/GsXBvzy6qiI.

The show at the Xcite Center at Parx Casino will start at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $45-$85.

Ben Folds

There will be a lot of music history onstage on August 16 at the Mann Music Center (Mann Center, 5201 N. Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-566-7900, http://manncenter.org) with a triple bill featuring Ben Folds, Cake and Tall Heights.

Folds has released nine albums since 2001. Cake started 10 years earlier and has released nine albums. Tall Heights has been around since 2009 and has four albums and two EPs to its credit.

Originally formed as a somewhat antagonistic answer to grunge, Cake’s democratic processes, defiant self-reliance, and lucid yet ever-inventive music has made them a nation-state unto themselves. Cake’s most recent album – “Showroom of Compassion” — debuted at Number 1 on Billboard’s “Top 200” Chart. The band recently has been in the recording studio working on its ninth album, which is due for release later this year.

According to his biography on his website, “Ben Folds is widely regarded as one of the major music influencers of our generation. He has created an enormous body of genre-bending music that includes pop albums with Ben Folds Five, multiple solo albums, and collaborative records with artists spanning Sara Bareilles, Regina Spektor, and William Shatner. Folds has performed with some of the world’s greatest symphony orchestras and, in 2017, was named as the first-ever Artistic Advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.”

Folds’ most recent album release was “The Sound of the Life of the Mind,” which was released in 2012.

“With regard to recording lately, I’ve done nothing really,” said Folds, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in New York City.

“I just recorded one song recently. That’s it. I’ve been involved in a lot of other projects. I’m an adviser to the National Symphony Orchestra. I did art work with the National Geographic. And, I’ve spent a lot of time writing a book.”

Folds’ last album was a blend of pop songs and his “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra” that reached Number 1 on both the Billboard classical and classical crossover charts. Folds continues to perform with symphonies and also recently returned to solo touring around the globe reminiscent of his earliest years, delivering a high energy rock performance using the intimacy of just a piano.

He has also worked in television having been featured for five seasons as a judge on NBC’s critically-acclaimed a capella show “The Sing Off.”  He also has appeared in cameo roles on cable and network TV shows including “Billions,” “You’re the Worst” and “Community.”

An avid photographer, Folds is a member of the prestigious Sony Artisans of Imagery, completed an assignment in 2017 as a photo editor for National Geographic, and was recently featured in a mini-documentary by the Kennedy Center’s Digital Project on his photographic work.

Folds also is working on a book, which will be published by Ballantine Bantam Dell, a Random House imprint.

“The book is a memoir,” said Folds. “It’s compartmentalized essays about music, art and the making of creativity. It’s a lot of work. I should have it wrapped up by September.

“Some of it goes way back. For a long time, I’ve been writing just for writing. I had to really turn it up this year because I signed a book deal and have deadlines.

“Writing a book is a lot like songwriting. In learning how to write a book, I look at writing stories as writing songs. When I started, I thought about keeping the two separate. Now, I find it helpful to do it more as songwriting. My mind is crossing the gap.

Folds is performing with the Boston band Tall Heights on his tour.

The Boston progressive folk duo features Paul Wright on cello and vocals and Tim Harrington on acoustic guitar and vocals.

“We grew up together,” said Wright. “Tim is two years younger, so we had a one-year overlap in high school. We started making music together after college. I went to Dartmouth and Tim went to Holy Cross.

“I got my degree in ecology and environmental research. I was doing research on heavy metal bioaccumulation in plankton — heavy metals like cadmium. I spent time in Costa Rica and Jamaica.”

Ironically, Tall Heights played the Philadelphia Folk Festival, which is going on this weekend, almost two years ago to the day.

“In addition to the two guys from Tall Heights, my band for this tour also has a bass harmonica player – Ross Garren,” said Folds. “The band is a little unusual and it’s just exclusive for the Cake tour.”

Video link for Ben Folds Five – https://youtu.be/VNMms_zGbnI.

The show at Mann Music Center, which also features Cake and Tall Heights, will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $39.50-$79.50.

There are few music events in the country with more tradition than the Philadelphia Folk Festival, which will celebrate its 57th anniversary this year.

The Philadelphia Folk Festival will be held from August 17-19 at the Old Pool Farm in Upper Salford Township. For a complete list of acts, venues and starting times, visit the festival’s website at http://pfs.org/folk-festival.

Chris Smither

One of the featured acts at the 2018 PFF will be Chris Smither. The veteran singer-songwriter has released more than 25 albums in his long career. His most recent LP is “Call Me Lucky,” which was released on March 2, 2018 on Signature Sounds/Mighty Albert and distributed by Redeye.

Smither’s career as a musician covers a time span almost identical to the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

“I’ve been writing songs for 54 years,” said Smither, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

“My 50th anniversary of performing came in 2016. I first started playing in the Philly area at the old Main Point in Bryn Mawr back in 1967. I’ve played the Philadelphia Folk Festival at least a half-dozen times. It’s the last of the great 60s-era folk festivals that has stayed a folk festival.”

“Call Me Lucky” is his first set of brand new originals in six years. Recorded at the Blue Rock Studio in the Texas foothills, the album features Smither trademark songs that offer commentary on the human condition along with a few surprise covers.

“I never build up songs between albums,” said Smither. “I don’t start writing until I think it’s time to make a record. It had been two years since I made the retrospective album.

“My philosophy is that when it’s time to make an album, then it’s time to book the studio and line up musicians. That way, you have a deadline to keep you on track.”

“Call Me Lucky” features longtime producer and multi-instrumentalist David Goodrich, drummer Billy Conway (Morphine), Matt Lorenz (aka The Suitcase Junket), Mike Meadows, and engineer Keith Gary. They went into the session to record10 songs. What they ended up with is a double record. Disc 1 features the eight originals and two covers they started with. Disc 2 catapults some of the very same songs into another dimension — essentially Smither covering Smither.

“I recorded the new album about a year ago. I spent nine weeks of writing. Every day that I was home, I’d sit down and write. I don’t write in the road much – maybe just snippets of guitar parts. The lyrics I always do at home – usually in the morning.

“I almost always have the guitar parts when I finish. I do the guitar part and then the melody with scat singing – just sort of nonsense syllables – figuring out what the rhymes will be. Then, a line of a phrase will pop out.

“Sometimes, I have a line or an idea that will come to me and I write it on a Post-It note. My songwriting is a funny process. It’s very foggy in the beginning.

“Then, once you finish writing a song, you never know how it’s going to go until you play it for people. Sometimes, it’s not until you perform live that you realize a line doesn’t work.

“We recorded the album in Wimberley, Texas at Blue Rock Studio. It’s in the middle of nowhere so there are no distractions. You get totally immersed. I couldn’t believe how deep we got into it. We worked each song individually and in 10 days the album was done. When we listened back the first time, we were delighted.”

Smither is deeply appreciative of his longevity as a musician.

“It’s hard to believe I’ve been making music all these years — but it’s what I do,” said Smither. “I’m still doing a fair amount of live shows.”

Smither’s sophomore album “Don’t Drag It On” came out in 1971. He didn’t get into releasing albums regularly again until 1991.

“In the mid-80s, I quit drinking and got healthy again,” said Smither. “I was lucky. I’m one of the survivors. I was in pretty bad shape — but nothing irreversible. Quitting was enough to get me back to good health.

“When I was drinking, I stopped doing music full-time. I only did occasional gigs. I was keeping ends together doing carpentry and construction work. One day, this woman I knew asked me — what do you do? I said — I’m a carp …  and that was all I could say.

“It was right then that I realized that I’m a musician — that’s what I do. I started getting back into music. It was sort of serendipitous — opportunity meeting the prepared. I ran into people who were interested in representing me. It didn’t take that long to get back. The first year or two — it was a lot of work.

“But, I still had a reputation for being a pretty good singer and guitar player. The first album that came out then was ‘It Ain’t Easy.’ Actually, I recorded it when I was still drunk. We just wanted to put something out. After that, I started to work steadily. I put out ‘Another Way to Find You’ in 1991 and ‘Happier Blue’ in 1993. ‘Happier Blue’ did really well.”

Fortunately, it’s been smooth sailing for Smither ever since.

Smither’s show at the Philadelphia Folk Festival is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. at “Folk Faves” and at 4 p.m. on the Main Stage – the Martin Guitar Stage.

Video link for Chris Smither — https://youtu.be/gWylOtoDUKc.

Vanessa Collier

Another talented act slated to perform on Saturday is Vanessa Collier, who will play a set at 2 p.m. at Lady Sings the Blues

Master musician and multi-talented blues performer, Collier, was recently nominated for a 2017 Blues Music Award (BMA).

The Philadelphia-based vocalist/saxophonist/songwriter recently concluded an 11-country European tour with Ruf’s Blues Caravan, alternating between tour legs in Europe and touring back in the U.S. with a talented five-piece band, throughout 2017.

With searing saxophone solos, soulful vocals, and witty lyrics, Collier’s songwriting features a blend of blues, funk, rock, and soul.

“I grew up in Clarksville, Maryland and then graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston,” said Collier, who now lives in Chadds Ford. “Right now, I’m basically just playing and teaching.”

Collier is primarily a sax player, singer and songwriter but is also well-versed in playing clavinet, flute, electric organ, and percussion.

“Playing sax, songwriting, singing – I think of them as equals,” said Collier. “I really enjoy the songwriting process. I’ve always been a sax player. I keep the balance when I’m writing.

“When I was little, I really wanted to play piano. I don’t know why. I started taking piano lessons but didn’t like the teacher, so I quit after six months. I saw someone playing sax on television and fell in love with it. We rented a sax for me when I was in fourth grade. That was in school. Then, I studied with a private instructor for a few years. Then, I took lessons with Chris Vadala, who played sax with Chuck Mangione. I studied with him for seven years – classical, jazz and funk. He started me doubling on flute and clarinet. I still play those instruments. Mainly, I play sax — tenor, some soprano and some baritone.”

Collier’s alluring vocals and stinging saxophone work saw her light up stages as part of Joe Louis Walker’s band in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, her debut album “Heart Soul & Saxophone” won her accolades as a “Best of 2014 Blues Breaker.” In March 2017, she released her sophomore album “Meeting My Shadow.”

Collier’s latest album “Honey Up” was released on July 6, 2018.

According to Collier on her website, “This album is a snapshot in time of what I enjoy writing/playing/singing and brings together my diverse inspirations and ideas and, on this album especially, more of my personality. Of course, there’s always a purpose to some of my songs as they are based on things I struggle with, like why we can’t listen and respect each other, why we can’t work to find common ground, and why we can’t find our way out of the small boxes we place (or accept) in our lives, but even those songs drive us forward and the music is upbeat and funky.

“Similar to my previous records (which I also produced), the songs on ‘Honey Up’ pay respect to the traditions and roots of blues music, but branch out with my own blend of rock, funk, gospel, NOLA, and soul grooves and, of course, my love of

the saxophone. Each song is different, and I hope you find a favorite (or two or three…)!! Thank you for listening!”

Ironically, the final track on the album is a cover of a Chris Smither song – “Love Me Like A Man.”

“The album came out at the beginning of July and it’s done well so far,” said Collier. “It’s a Top 5 Billboard Blues Album and it’s bene well-received by radio deejays.”

“Honey Up” provides a good look at Collier’s influences.

“With jazz, the first person I was turned on to was Cannonball Adderley,” said Collier. “Other major influences were John Coltrane, Junior Walker, and Maceo Parker. Vocally, I started with Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and that morphed into Norah Jones and Bonnie Raitt.

“This weekend will be the first time I’ll be performing at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Video link for Vanessa Collier — https://youtu.be/fC5kSCUNQ1g.

On Saturday at 10:05 p.m., the Martin Guitar Stage at the PFF will be the site of a performance by David Myles.

David Myles

Myles is a Canadian singer-songwriter who grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick and currently is a Haligonian (resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia). His music has often been labeled folk jazz.

Myles is a Juno Award-winning independent artist who self-releases his albums – 11 to date with the most recent being “Real Love” in 2017. He has amassed an increasingly large audience because of his active touring schedule and his cross-genre musical collaborations (including a single made with the rapper Classified that became the biggest-selling rap single in the history of Canadian music.

“Real Love,” which was released via Little Tiny Records, is his second full-length U.S. release. Written entirely by Myles and produced by Daniel Ledwell, “Real Love” is a departure from his previous record in that it is fully electric. It features members of his touring trio — Kyle Cunjak on bass and Alan Jeffries on guitar—plus Joshua Van Tassel on drums and additional vocals by Mahalia and Reeny Smith.

Myles’ path to life as an award-winning musician was not a usual one.

“I had a big family – three older brothers and they’re all doctors now,” said Myles, during a recent phone interview from his home in Nova Scotia.

“We had two pianos at home when I was growing up and my dad directed musicals. But, being a professional musician wasn’t what I was supposed to do. Still, my parents have been very supportive of me even though they were terrified at first. Now, I’ve been doing it for 12 years.”

Myles was brought up practicing Canada’s Royal Conservatory repertoire on trumpet. After earning a political science degree and briefly pursuing politics, Myles deviated. During his third year in college he bought a $30 plywood guitar while studying Chinese abroad and changed course from law school to music.

Since then he has recorded ten albums, accumulated numerous accolades in his home country and built a dedicated live following where, in addition to his songwriting and musicianship, he is widely recognized for his signature suits and animated stage presence.

“I went to university as a political science major and studied in China for a few years,” said Myles. “I also worked in politics for a year. But, I realized that music was what I really wanted to do.”

Myles released his debut album “Together and Alone” in 2005.

“My music has changed a lot over the years,” said Myles. “I’m a lover of music – and a lover of collecting records.

“I’ve approached my songwriting career based on the music I loved. In the early days, it was artists like James Taylor. Then, I got into R&B and Motown and then hip hop. Right now, I’m into early rock-and-roll and rockabilly. When I’m playing live shows, a lot depends on where I’m playing or what inspires me.”

“Real Love” is a presentation of the diverse music styles that have influenced Myles throughout his career.

“We recorded the album here in Nova Scotia two years ago,” said Myles. “We recorded it at a studio on a lake outside Halifax – half-analog and half-digital. This one has more of an analog sound.

“We played as a band the whole time and did complete takes. I wanted a complete sound that you can’t get when you’re recording tacks and adding to them.”

Video link for David Myles — https://youtu.be/yBsyfuVSXVE.

Myles will also perform at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Northern Lights and 11 a.m. on Sunday at Quirky Folk.

Know Return

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) hosts “Flash Funniest 2018 – A Summer Comedy Festival – Week #2” with Megan Goetz, Buddy Harris, Ari Felber, Natalie Levant, Christian Mangual, Marc Staudenmaier on August 16, Know Return – A Tribute to Kansas on August 17, Crowded Streets – A Tribute to Dave Matthews Band on August 18, and Open Mic with guest host Simon Godfrey on August 19.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will present Alex LeBlanc & Kristina D’Amico with
Sara Henya on August 17.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will have Dick Dale alonbg with Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band on August 16, Splintered Sunlight (Grateful Dead tribute) + John Kadlecik (of Furthur): Solo Acousti’Lectric on August 17, and Tortured Soul with Lady Alma and King Britt on August 18.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Jean-Luc Ponty on August 18.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present Shawn Mullins and Annalise Emerick on August 16, Old Blind Dogs and Kelly Rogers on August 18, Craig Thatcher With Nyke Van Wyk & Introducing Adam Web on August 19, Selwyn Birchwood & Nikki Hill on August 21, and Guitar Shorty and Bushmaster on August 22.

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?”

The theater’s current production is running now through August 26. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $63 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

Now through August 19, Cirque du Soleil is performing its new show “Volta” under the Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) which has been erected on the grounds adjacent to the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks. “Volta,” the show in Oaks Center (100 Station Avenue, Oaks, www.cirquedusoleil.com) will be Cirque du Soleil’s first Big Top production in five years.

“Volta” is a captivating voyage of discovery about finding yourself, unveiling your personal powers and fulfilling your true potential. It’s about the ultimate freedom that comes with self-acceptance and the liberation from the judgement of others.

Performances of Cirque du Soleil’s “Volta” will be presented until August 19 under the Grand Chapiteau in Oaks. Ticket prices range from $49-$155.

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