2014 Year In Review- Part 3: Top Live Shows

Crowd - TTB @ Keswick Theatre 12/5/14

Every year end I sit down and realized how great it is to live in a city that loves the arts. The music scene is so vibrant in Philly that many times it is hard to choose what to see on a given night. I’ve been here long enough to know you can never see em all. One can only hope to catch a band or an artist on a night that the energy is high, musical artistry and creativity are working at peak performance. Sharing in a moment like that, ‘hitting the note’ as they call it, is truly something special. Here are my favorite live shows of 2014..


Leon Russell @ Keswick 1/10/14

Hot Tuna @ Keswick 1/10/14

Mason Porter @ Ardmore Music Hall

Experience Hendrix @ Keswick 3/21/14

The Hard Pans @ Dan’s Silver Leaf -Denton TX 5/9/14

Jamie Cullum @ Keswick 5/29/14

Taj Mahal @ Keswick 6/19/14

Sturgill Simpson @ Philly Folk Fest 8/14/14

Jason Isbell @ Philly Folk Fest 8/15/14

El Caribefunk @ Philly Folk Fest 8/15/14

Poor Old Shine (Parsonfield) @ Philly Folk Fest 8/15/14

NAS @ Keswick 10/5/14

Charlie Daniels Band @ Keswick 10/23/14

Ages and Ages @ Milkboy Philly 10/25/14

Hot Rize w/ David Grisman and Del McCoury @ Keswick 11/13/14

Tedeschi Trucks Band @ Keswick 12/5/14


The Hard Pans






2014 Year In Review- Part 2: Top Songs



Now for 2014’s top songs. There have been some amazingly innovative and catchy songs out there this year. Here are the songs that topped my list and stayed on my playlist all year long.


16. Sweet Amarillo – Old Crow Medicine Show

15. Longer Than You’ve Been Alive – Old 97’s

14. Let Me In – Mason Porter


13. Gotta Get Away – The Black Keys


12. Entitlement – Jack White


11. I Know Its Wrong (But That’s Alright) – Hurray For The Riff Raff


10. Next To You – Max Johnston

Here’s the link to the song: Click Here


9. Stranger to My Happiness – Sharon Jones & The Dapkings


8. Riptide – Vance Joy


7. Down On The Bottom – The New Basement Tapes


6. Shake It Off – Taylor Swift


5. Ages and Ages – Divisionary


4. Ain’t Gonna Have It – The Hard Pans

Budget Cuts by Hard Pans


3. Call Me – St. Paul & The Broken Bones


2. Happy – Pharrell Williams


1. Turtles All The Way Down – Sturgill Simpson





2014 Year In Review- Part 1: Top Albums



Its that time of year again where we can all reflect back on the past year. I think its safe to say that this year has been a great year for music. There have been some great new releases of old stuff, solid debuts by new artists, veterans crushing comebacks, and just some overall bad-ass albums. For those of you that know me, I’m a big fan of albums that have solid songs from front to back. I love albums that flow well, start well and end well. I need to be able to push play, sit back and enjoy the whole damn thing. These are the ones that got my attention, and kept my attention throughout the whole year.


Unknown11. Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy

New album from the old folk standouts. The new tracks feel like they’ve given the band a rejuvenated energy.




Unknown-110. Max Johnston – Dismantling Paradise

The debut album from Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, The Gourds alum Max Johnston is a great play front to back. Some of the Gourds lend a hand and make this a very good album.




Unknown-29. Jack White – Lazaretto

This album broke records for record sales and is a stellar release. A couple of my favorite Jack White tunes in there.




Unknown-38. Old 97’s – Most Messed Up

Its hard not to like the Old 97’s. Rhett Miller sings about 20+ years in the music business…And how he’s loved every minute of it.




Unknown-47. The New Basement Tapes – Lost On The River

New reincarnations of un-recorded Bob Dylan tunes. Music written and recorded by some of the best musicians in the biz (Mumford, Jim James, Elvis Costello, Taylor Goldsmith). Plus it was produced by Tbone Burnett. How can it not be good?



Unknown-56. Sharon Jones & The Dapkings – Give The People What They Want

Sharon Jones made this album with a newfound view on life. After winning in her battle with cancer, she hit the studio right away and cut it. With great tracks and new funky standards, it is sure to please.



Unknown-65. St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Half The City

Great debut album by the Alabama band. Massive amounts of energy and soul on this release. They’re touring extensively right now, but when they get back in the studio I can’t wait to see what they do next.




Unknown-74. Hurray For The Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes

Some great New Orleans folk rock for ya. This was hard to stop playing when I first heard it, and I continue to play it through to this day.




Unknown3. Ages and Ages – Divisionary


This album has been a breath of fresh air all year long. Backed with several solid tunes, a great groove and spot on harmonies, the band really cooks. They definitely had a breakout year.




Unknown-82. The Hard Pans – Budget Cuts

Another Gourds off-shoot bands. This one is from the Gourds other primary songwriter, Jimmy Smith. Along with Claude Bernard (accordion, piano, guitar) and the Gourds sound tech Mark Creaney, this band really rocks.





1. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

They say he’s gonna save country music. I don’t know about that but I do know that Sturgill and his band has got a great sound. He also backs it up with a Merle Haggard-like growl, some Dylan-esque lyrics at times and comes at it with a pretty jamming/rocking feel. I’ll definitely be playing this for years to come.




Honorable Mention:

The Black Keys – Turn Blue

Beck – Morning Phase

Mason Porter – Home for the Harvest

The Gourds – All The Labor Soundtrack



Tedeschi Trucks Band @ The Keswick – Dec 4-6 2014

TTB live

This band is top notch. Whenever I think I’ve heard something, or I’ve heard them play a song before, they change it up. I’ve seen TTB several times now, and what’s most incredible is that they seem to be able to bring something new and amazing each time. Their improvisation skills are impeccable. They don’t even play the same song, the same way twice. During this epic 3-night run at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside PA I saw them play 3 different set lists with a different opener each night.

Right now they are playing a ton of new songs and from what I’ve heard, its a solid batch. Looking forward to a new album sometime next year.

It’s great knowing that a band like this is still finding different and ever-changing ways to stay exciting. They will be doing their thing for years to come and I will keep following wherever they may go.

Here’s the setlist from night #2 (amy ray from indigo girls opener) –


All That I Need

In Every Heart (new one)

Get What You Deserve (Derek Trucks Band song)

Midnight In Harlem

Break In The Road (new one)



Calling Out To You

Rollin and Tumblin

Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright (With Amy Ray) (Bob Dylan song)


Let Me Get By (new one)

Anyhow (new one)

The Sky Is Crying

Bound For Glory

The Storm



Fire and Rain (James Taylor)

Space Captain (Joe Cocker)



2013 Year In Review: Top 10 Live Shows

Mayer Hawthorne


One of my favorite things about doing this Shady Groove thing, living in the Philadelphia area, and being friends with the Keswick Theatre, is that I get to go see a ton of live music. Here’s my favorite concerts of the year:


10. Cyndi Lauper @ The Keswick Theatre – November 15

A Sellout crowd poured in for the 30th anniversary of “She’s So Unusual”. Cyndi talked at length about the origin and making of each of the songs off of the huge album from 1981. Radio songs of my youth. It was great to hear her speak about pop music and its roots. This album actually originated in the Philly area, with the Hooters playing the music and them jamming in a warehouse in Manayunk, PA. Cool stuff.

9. Zappa Plays Zappa @ The Keswick Theatre – October 16

Dweezil and friends killed it as they recreated dad Frank’s “Roxy and Elsewhere” album.

8. Michael McDonald @ The Keswick Theatre – December 7

Iconic songs and soulful sounds bellowed from the stage at this show. Love Michael McDonald. It was worth it to see every 40 something adult stand and sing all of the lyrics to “What A Fool Believes”.

7. Colin Meloy @ The Keswick Theatre – November 2

The Decemberists front man played an intimate solo show at the Keswick and rocked the house.

6. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band @ Philly Folk Fest – August 18

Funny because the band consists of just 3 members. But the sound is big. Rev Peyton rips the slide guitar and Ben “bird dog” Bussell keeps the rhythm driving. It makes for some highly danceable music.

5. Richard Thompson @ Philly Folk Fest – August 17

His mind-blowing guitar and thoughtful lyrics are always on display when you see Richard Thompson. This show was no exception.

4. Avett Brothers and Trombone Shorty @ The Mann Center – September 14

Gotta love a double bill like this. Trombone Shorty never disappoints. And as much as I complain about the Avett Brothers new stuff, its really pretty good. Plus their live presence is unmistakable.

3. Mayer Hawthorne @ Union Transfer – September 7

Mayer brought his brand of new-age motown/hip hop/soul to the Union Transfer and rocked the house down. Great show.

2. Spirit Family Reunion @ Philly Folk Fest – August 16

This band blew me away at the Folk Fest this year. My favorite new (to me) band of the year.

1. Jimmy Cliff @ The Keswick Theatre – September 29

An absolutely amazing performance. A sublime experience. I waited all year and my whole life to see this show. Jimmy lost not a beat over the years. I originally thought this show would be mainly promoting his 2012 grammy-winning album, Rebirth. And he did play a couple of tunes off of that album. But he played the hits and he played them well. And it wasn’t just his hits but hits from reggae as a musical genre. This show was a chronology of the songs and ideas that made reggae popular, played narrated by one of its founding fathers.



Honorable Mention:

– Billy Bragg @ The Keswick Theatre – April 20

Perennial folk hero played us some awesome tunes at the Keswick.

– Joe Pug @ Johnny Brenda’s – May 1

Always a treat to hear one of my favorite new (ish) folk writers. Plus I love Johnny Brenda’s.

– Hogmaw and Dom Flemons @ Philly Folk Fest – August 17

I had the pleasure of helping run the Culture Tent at this years Folk Fest and this was one of the highlights. Dom (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) produced Hogmaw’s new album. So the band and Dom were on the Culture Tent stage playing and explaining the though process behind the album.