On Stage: Violet Bell bring progressive folk to Delaware Valley

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Violet Bell

The Philadelphia area always has the Liberty Bell as a prime attraction.

On November 21, there will be two “bells” for area residents to enjoy – the Liberty Bell in Old City and Violet Bell, which is headlining a show at the Living Room (35 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, https://thelivingroomat35east.com)

Violet Bell is touring in support of its self-released full-length debut, “Honey in My Heart.”

Recorded at Fidelitorium in Kernersville, NC, and co-produced Jason Richmond (Avett Brothers, Steep Canyon Rangers), the album features 11 original compositions, and was cut live in single takes, without vocal tuning, isolation or click tracks. 

Violet Bell, a progressive folk duo from North Carolina featuring Lizzy Ross and Omar Ruiz-Lopez, came into existence in 2016.

“A mutual friend of Omar and me got us together,” said Ross, during a recent phone interview from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

“It was a few weeks before I was going to do a live recording. I just wanted to get these songs on tape. Omar brought a whole new level to these songs – and he learned them in just two weeks.

“We worked well together. Omar brought a whole new dimension to the music. We played shows together and became a band. We’ve done 350-400 shows in four years.”

Prior to forming Violet Bell, Ross fronted The Lizzy Ross Band from 2009-2016. Ruiz-Lopez, a multi-instrumentalist who studied violin, viola and cello, moved to North Carolina after hearing bluegrass for the first time while in college.

“We both came from other projects,” said Ross. “I recorded under my own name. Omar had played with other bands and had composed tracks for the Durham Symphony.

“Our first record together was an EP called Dream the Wheel.’ It was about life as a movement through the four seasons. They were environmental recordings of the space we were in – a 22-acre patch of land near Hillsboro. That was in 2017.”

The duo’s next studio project was the album, “Honey in My Heart,” which was recorded at a studio in the Tarheel State.

“We recorded the album at Fidelitorium,” said Ross. “It’s Mitch Easter’s studio in Kernersville

“It was co-produce with Jason Richmond. He’s a local treasure.”

“Honey in My Heart” was cut live in single takes, without vocal tuning, isolation or click tracks.

“We recorded live,” said Ross. “We stood next to each other, played instruments and sang. We just let the music come out and didn’t

mess with it too much – no overdubs, no click tracks. It was all very organic. The instruments and the textures were acoustic.”

Video link for Violet Bell — https://youtu.be/l_0nLGAS3bY.

The show at the Living Room on November 21, which also features Homestead Collective, will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at The Living Room are John Torres Band on November 22, Trevor Gordon Paul with Dan Pell on November 23,

Phil Nicolo Presents The Beatles Rare Audio Outtakes, Video and More on November 24.

The area schedule for live music contains a wider range of choices than an expansive Amish buffet – Americana, classic folk-rock, Brit-pop, singer/songwriter, hard rock, industrial and a heavy dose of blues.

There is a show on November 22 that is a “must see” for fans of natural American music and female singers.

On Friday night, The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host a twin-bill featuring 10,000 Maniacs and Nobody’s Girl.

10,000 Maniacs

In September 2017, 10,000 Maniacs celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the release of their critically acclaimed, break-out album, “In My Tribe” – an album that Rolling Stone Magazine included in its “100 Best Albums of The Eighties.” 

The band endeared itself to area fans when, as part of the celebration, it was the headline attraction at the annual; Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square.

10,000 Maniacs has other impressive anniversaries now and in the near future. The band will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2011 and this year marks Mary Ramsey’s 26th anniversary as the band’s lead singer.

“That’s a long time – 26 years,” said Ramsey during a phone interview last week from her home in Buffalo, New York.

“It’s crazy. If 25 years ago, you told me that I’d be doing this 25 years later, I probably would have laughed.

“We’re excited the way things are going. We’re out this weekend with the show in Ardmore and then two in Fairfield, Connecticut – Stageone on the 23rd and The Warehouse on the 24th.

“We’ve done quite a few shows this year – 50 or 60. And, we had the exciting addition of going to Hawaii and playing the Blue Note.”

Founded in the fall of 1981 in Jamestown, New York, 10,000 Maniacs won the hearts and ears of music fans around the world — and sold more than 10 million records. Together with artists like R.E.M. and The Replacements, they helped define “college rock” and the first wave of “alternative rock” bands with their pop-conscious, literate and lush aesthetic.

The current 10,000 Maniacs’ line-up includes founding members — Steven Gustafson (bass guitar) and Dennis Drew (keyboard, vocals) along with Mary Ramsey (lead vocals, viola), Jeff Erickson (guitar, vocals), John Lombardo (guitar, vocals) and Jerome Augustyniak (drums).

“We’re still based in western New York – in Jamestown,” said Ramsey, during a phone interview last week from her home in Buffalo, New York.

“I grew up in Fredonia, New York and then moved to Buffalo in 1985. John lives here in Buffalo too. We’re all still in this part of the state.

“My joining 10,000 Maniacs as their singer just sort of happened.

“John and I have had a folk-rock duo for 25 years called John and Mary. We opened for 10,000 Maniacs on tours in 1990 and 1993. We still do shows as John and Mary.

“We did the tour when Natalie (original lead singer Natalie Merchant) departed the band. The group asked John and me to write songs with them. The first CD we made with them was ‘Love Among the Ruins’ in 1997.

“Replacing Natalie was challenging. But, any kind of transition is challenging. The band wanted to keep going – and to keep its signature sound.

“With Natalie’s vocals, I just sing them and respect them. I just try to sing from my souk and hopefully sing in tune and do a good version of it.

“With the band, I sing, write and play violin and viola. There are songs in there that I’ve written. The support from then audience was the affirmation to keep doing what we were doing.”

In June 2016, 10,000 Maniacs released “Playing Favorites” on Omnivore Recordings. The live recording was the follow-up to the band’s highly acclaimed 2015 release “Twice Told Tales,” a full-length collection of traditional British Isles folk songs.

“We are piecing together a new studio album,” said Ramsey. “We’ll be working on it now. I write a lot of the lyrics and melodies, but everybody contributes. We bring what we’re working on to the table.

“When we play a show, we do a variety of things – hits, songs from other albums and some new songs too. Time travel wipes away the years.”

Video link for 10,000 Maniacs – https://youtu.be/0-1GFgbPCik. 

Nobody’s Girl

Like Victoria Bell, Nobody’s Girl is a project/band formed when three artists with already established singing music careers joined forces in Austin, Texas and embarked on a journey together.

Like so many Austin bands, Nobody’s Girl features members from all over – in this case…Texas, Georgia, and Alabama.

The trio features BettySoo, Rebecca Loebe, and Grace Pettis – all of whom have solid solo careers.

Friends now for a decade, they first met at the legendary Kerrville Folk Festival, each a winner of the prestigious annual “New Folk” award there. Beautiful singers, effortless instrumentalists, and seasoned touring artists, they recognized that what each can accomplish individually could be made all the stronger by this collaboration.

“About two years ago –December 2017 – we had the brainchild to go on a three-week tour together,” said BettySoo, during a four-way phone interview Tuesday morning as the trio travelled from New York City to as gig in Albany, New York.

“It was Rebecca’s brainchild. We had never played together before. But it was O.K. Wee decided to do one writing session at Studios at Fischer in Fischer, Texas. We wrote three songs that night.”

Pettis said, “Pat and Tracy Drennen, the owners of Lucky Hound Music, are friends of mine. They had this space (Studios at Fischer) and wasn’t in use right then and they use us use the space. We didn’t want to use any of the equipment. We just wanted to have a writing session there. In the morning, we played our songs for them. That same morning, they signed us to record for their label.

“The three of us have been friends for 10 years in the folk circuit way but we ever had sung or written together. So, all of this has been magic.’

Betty Soo said, “We’re all committed to juggling our solo careers with our Nobody’s Girls careers.”

In February 2018, they returned to the same studio to record their six-song EP, “Waterline.”

“We were at Fischer for solid week,” said Loebe. “They were four very long days. They were the only days where we all had time in our schedules. Michael Ramos produced the EP– and he’s producing our next record.”

This Fall, the trio released two Christmas songs (“Someday at Christmas”, and “Merry Christmas, Baby”) and their cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”. In January, the three talented musicians will complete the recording of their first full length album, “Nobody’s Girl,” which will be released on July 10, 2020.

“We just co-wrote a lull-length record,” said Betty Soo. “We’ve been writing together, and the arrangements are more complex. When we write and sing together, it’s special.”

The new album features three musicians who are now very comfortable together and are making music in a very organic way.

“We’ve been in the studio a lot and we have more work to do there in January,” said Pettis. “We have a great backing band in the studio. But we tour mostly as a trio.”

Video link for Nobody’s Girl – https://youtu.be/qDvSW81rYGQ.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall, which features Nobody’s Girl and 10,000 Maniacs, will start at 8 p.m.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers on November 23, Vintage Trouble with special guest Hollis Brown on November 24, and Splintered Sunlight featuring Jason Crosby on November 27.

Meghan Cary

Another female-fronted act will be playing to appreciative fans on November 22 when nationally-acclaimed folk rock artist Meghan Cary presents her “Gratitude Gathering” at the Mermaid Inn (7673 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-247-9797, www.themermaidinn.net).

Cary is dedicating her Thanksgiving holiday to showing her appreciation for the fans and community who have supported her long-standing career with a series of “Gratitude Gatherings” that kick off with a hometown show at The Mermaid Inn.

As part of this special celebration, Cary is inviting attendees to bring a canned good or non-perishable food item to the show to support Philabundance this holiday season and, in return, will gift them with a free download card for her hit single “Responsibility.”

Having debuted at the #6 spot on the US / International Folk DJ Radio Charts, this powerfully poignant song is a commentary on the homeless epidemic in America and each citizen’s role in helping to erase it.

“I’m so grateful for all the love and support that I have received from my Philly community,” said Cary. “I’m hosting this show to thank — live and in person — all the folks who show up at concerts with hearts open wide ready to take the ride.

“I’m asking those who are able, to bring a small food donation for Philabundance – my way of giving back to this community that has given me so much.”

During her performance, Cary will play a selection of songs from her latest album “Sing Louder” and other fan favorites with her band, Analog Gypsies, and special guest vocalist, Marion Halliday. The record, which debuted among the top 10 on the US / International Folk DJ Radio Charts, is being played at mainstream radio in more than 40 markets throughout the country and in Canada.

The current incarnation of Analog Gypsies features Peter Farrell, keyboards, guitar, vocals; Jocko MacNelly, bass, mandolin; Jimmy Coleman, drums; and Stacy Weathers, banjo, vocals. Cary handles guitar and lead vocals.

Many people have favorite mantras. Cary’s favorite – and very own – mantra is “Sing Louder” – and for good reason.

“Sing Louder” is one of her most popular songs. It was the title track an EP – “Sing Louder – the Festival EP” in 2015. It is also the title of her latest album.

“The ‘Sing Louder’ album came out in November 2017, but I think of it as a 2018 album,” said Cary. “My book – ‘Sing Louder — Stories Behind the Songs’ – is all about the songs that inspired the ‘Sing Louder’ album – 10 first-person stories. I released the book on March 8 – International Women’s Day.”

Cary, who graduated from Hershey High and then majored in biomedical engineering at Duke University, explained the inspiration for the book.

“I share a lot of my stories on stage,” said the veteran singer-songwriter. “I do a lot of storytelling in my shows – but it’s also a concert. My band would go crazy if I talked too much between songs.

“After shows, people ask me to tell them more about the songs. I’m a firm believer in sharing my stories – not only for the stories but also to help other people. People come up to me after shows all the time and say things like – I just lost my mom and didn’t realize that it was still affecting me.

“When I was making the record, I said I was going to write a book and let people pre-buy it. That way, I wouldn’t let other things get in the way. I knew I had to write the book and get it finished.

“There I one story for each song on ‘Sing Louder.’ It’s pretty straightforward. I think it’s a good read. The book I’m working on now is a companion to my first album ‘New Shoes’ from 1998. It’s about how I began my music career.”

Cary and her band Analog Gypsies produce a sound that is a blend of folk, rock, gypsy jazz and jam band. At the core of the band are Cary and Farrell. The keyboard and guitar duo produces a big musical footprint with cool grooves and tight vocal harmonies.

“The song ‘Sing Louder’ is a fan favorite – and very uplifting,” said Cary. “The key line is – ‘if you don’t know the words, sing louder…sing stronger…sing louder, sing stronger for all of the world to hear.

“We recorded the album at Morning Star Studio with producer Glenn Barratt. Glenn’s input on production is amazing.  We even brought 48 people – fans and friends – into the studio to sing on the title track.”

Cary is also a veteran actress who performed in the musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes” and, more recently, performed a one-woman play she wrote called “On the Way to the Waterfall!”

For the show at the Mermaid Inn, Cary will be joined by renowned Canadian Folk Duo Piper & Carson, who will be performing tracks from their latest self-titled release. Piper will also be celebrating her birthday at show with cake and other treats for the audience.

The award-winning artist will be joined by renowned Canadian Folk Duo Piper & Carson, who will be performing tracks from their latest self-titled release. Piper will also be celebrating her birthday at show with cake and other treats for the audience.

According to Cary, “As I stop to ruminate about all I’m grateful for in my life, our fabulous music community leaps to heart and mind. I would love to thank each one of you up close and in person for your support of live music and the power of connection…and I’m going to try!

“I hope you’ll join me for a ‘Gratitude Gathering’ this Friday at the Mermaid in Philly.  There will be ample opportunity to raise our voices together, raise our glasses to each other, and give back to our community (bring a non-perishable food item to add to our collection for Philabundance, and I’ll give you a free download of a special acoustic version of ‘Responsibility!’ And, there will be cake…for Piper’s birthday!!”

Video link for Meghan Cary — https://youtu.be/S1_NhpRwhe4.

The show at the Mermaid Inn, which features Meghan Cary with Analog Gypsies and special guest vocalist Marion Halliday along with Piper and Carson with Desiree Sky on Cello, will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $15-$20 suggested donation at the door (or pay what you will).

Another highly talented area female musician will be creating a different mood on Friday night in Center City Philadelphia.

Hannah Krupa

Hannah Krupa, a steamy songstress whose music oozes soul, will be headlining a show at MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455,www.milkboyphilly.com).

Krupa is an accomplished singer/songwriter, a top academic student in senior year at Drexel University, and a music business veteran.

“I’ve been singing my whole life,” said Krupa, during a phone interview from her home on a horse farm near Bordentown, New Jersey. “I started singing in church when I was three. And, I sang on ‘Kids’ Corner’ on WXPN. When I was young, it was mostly soul – and I was learning jazz. I love singing soul, reggae and blues.”

According to Krupa, “I grew up on a horse farm in New Jersey—running through the woods, swimming, singing and dancing in the kitchen to Annie Lennox and Sade, as my mom made dinner—these are the images that create the memories of my childhood.

“And like so many singer/songwriters before me, my first memory of singing was in church. My grandfather was a Methodist minister and having that gospel influence at such an early age takes deep root.

“Alongside going to horse shows and the shore, I was continually being exposed to music, from WXPN 88.5 concerts to a singer/songwriter cruise when I was 10 years old, featuring Emmy Lou Harris and Brandi Carlile. Music has been THE constant in my life for as long as I can remember.”

Krupa was involved in academics, music and sports when she attended high school at Notre Dame High School in Mercer County. She even played varsity tennis for the Irish.

When Krupa was 13, she recorded and released a pair of songs. One track, “Blush,” was described as “a high energy, schoolgirl crush, tween pop anthem. The other, “I Fall Hard,” was billed as “an insightful look at taking a chance and falling love through the eyes of teen girls everywhere.”

Krupa has come a long way in the decade that followed.

“My desire for a career in music started when I was really young,” said Krupa. “My dad said – you have to finish school first. My first band was called Local Honey – a six-to-seven-piece band.”

Local Honey released three songs in 2017 – “Skyline Sunset,” “All There Is To Say,” and “Come On Over.”

“I learned a lot in the band, but it was time to go solo,” said Krupa.

And, through her studies at Drexel, it was time to see the world.

“I just was in London earlier this year,” said Krupa. “It started in Hong Kong two years ago with an internship for writing. I also spent time travelling to Kyoto and Tokyo.

“Then, I went to London in spring 2018. I met a lot of eclectic musicians there. I played at Ronnie Scott’s and got to record at the BBC’s Tylie Arts Studios. After London, I lived in Montpelier, France last summer.

“When I came back to this area, I opened for Magic City Hippies at The Fillmore and I went to L.A. to open for James Bay at the Hotel Café in Hollywood. I stayed in L.A. until March and then went back to London.”

Now, Krupa is back on the East Coast writing and recording a new album – and developing her signature style of sultry soul.

Video link for Hannah Krupa — https://youtu.be/Jis2z1S_o-o.

The show at MilkBoy, which has Kuf Knotz and Rachel Andie as openers, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Sarah Shook & the Disarmers with special guest Travel Lanes on November 21, Jimbo Mathus’ Incinerator with special guest The Tall Pines on November 23, Andorra album release, Vital Stats and Jamie & the Guarded Heart on November 30.

The National Tour of “Mean Girls” is approaching the midway point of a two-week run in Philadelphia. “Mean Girls” is a bright, energetic Broadway hit musical that features lively tunes, sparkling dance numbers and lots of color. It also is thought-provoking – in a very subtle way.

Mean Girls

“Mean Girls” is running now through December 1 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333,www.kimmelcenter.org) as part of the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Philadelphia series.

One of the stars of the production is Mary Kate Morrissey, a Downingtown resident and Bishop Shanahan grad. Morrissey plays the role of Janis Sarkisian in “Mean Girls.”

“Mean Girls” is a musical based on the 2004 film of the same name written by Tina Fey, which, in turn, was inspired by the book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” by Rosalind Wiseman.

“Audiences like ‘Mean Girls’ because it is a really fun night out,” said Morrissey. “It is pop-rock music mixed with classical music theater. It’s very modern and it brings a lot of young people to the theater.”

Video link for “Mean Girls” – https://youtu.be/WMPtawcpIVk.

The show at the Academy of Music is running from November 19 through December 1. Ticket prices start at $20.

Albert Castiglia

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Albert Castiglia on November 21, Andrew Lipke on November 22, Live At The Fillmore – A Tribute to The Allman Brothers Band (Late Show) on November 23, and Brian Tuk Complex on November 24.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host JD Malone on November 23.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) hosts Kevin Lee on November 21, Midnight Flyer Bluegrass on November 22, and Hufamoose on November 27.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents The McCartney Years on November 22, Dru Hill and Ginuwine on November 23, and Trisha Yearwood on November 24.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will present Piff the Magic Dragon on November 22 and Damien Escobar on November 23.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) will present Justin Wade Tam/Angel Snow on November 21, Reina Del Cid on November 22, Valentina Sounds album release with special guest Jackson Howard on November 23, and Judah Kim Music presents: Jive Turkey Eve 2019 featuring: Judah Kim, Tommy Leahy, the Cuban Missle Crisis on November 27.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) will have Steve Katz on November 22 and Dave Coppa and Scrapple on November 23.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) presents Classic Albums Live: The Doors L.A. Woman on November 21, Suzy Bogguss  on November 22, A Rat Pack Christmas on November 23, Joe Conklin with w/ Paul Lyons & Bob Marsdale on November 23, Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestraon November 24 and Box of Rain on November 27.

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