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Month: April 2019

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, Soulful Femme, George Jones, Pittsburgh’s generations, Royce

Brian Auger at Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland

One of the joys of being a host on an independent music station in a friendly city is close engagement with the listening audience. I can’t remember exactly when, but a caller told me years ago to get to know the UK’s Brian Auger and his Oblivion Express, which has been around since the sixties. I did what he said and started playing him, and then another learned listener pointed me to BA’s collaboration with Julie Driscoll on “Season of the Witch.”

Two years ago, while spinning some Auger in between band sets at Feastival, a guy walked up incredulous. “Nobody knows Brian Auger,” he said. I do, fortunately. In the Brit world of keyboard gods, I think there is a kingdom of Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Rod Argent and this guy. A little-known tidbit is that after Rod Stewart got his start with Long John Baldry, he moved on to Auger’s band – this was before he found Faces and himself, and wayyyyyyyy before he got pop-stupid.

When the Oblivion Express show was announced, I set a personal record for jumping on a ticket. Beachland is 2h15m from Pgh, situated in an artsy zone that it spawned, and just east of CLE. Brian was sitting in the front lobby before the show, hamming it up with people. He’s very approachable and, as I came to find out during the show, Cleveland is a special place because his radio break occurred there.

Soulful Femme debut on The Soul Show

In the last issue of soulBlog, we mentioned that The Soul Show would be playing the first single from Soulful Femme. The duo is composed of vocalist Stevee Wellons and guitarist Cheryl Rinovato. Cheryl wrote the track. I played it on my 2pm-5pm broadcast during my “Three Rivers at Three” local segment. Wrett Weatherspoon of Big Town Blues followed up with another play. We love our local artists, and we love the song.

Here is the archive of The Soul Show for that day. If you don’t have time to check out the whole episode, scroll forward an hour to find Set You Free. Enjoy.

George Jones at Backstage Bar, plus generations

Backstage Bar on Tuesday evenings is always an intimate joy, and the venerable Geo. Jones makes it extra special. Ron Carter would be playing in the adjoining Greer later on, so the crowd thickened at the end of Jones’ set. Poogie Bell’s son Winston, of Funky Fly Project, ended up being the best subject of my evening’s captures. Roger Humphries carries the torch, and Winston impishly smiles before the bearer.


Several months ago at a Soulful Femme concert at Pointbreezeway I was introduced to Royce, who promised I’d be kept abreast of his new project. The debut EP “Black Rock” releases on 5/31. We’re planning an interview and first airing of some tracks; stay close to for more details.

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Brian Edwards at Prince tribute in Minn., Soulful Femme at Jergel’s; upcoming Pittsburgh releases by Starship Mantis, R Romero, S Strickland, J Crawford; Reggie Watkins at Backstage

Brian Edwards

Pittsburgh percussionist Brian Edwards, who plays regularly at Rock’s Landing on Sunday nights, sat down with me in March to discuss his upcoming performance with The Time’s Jesse Johnson at the annual Prince tribute at Paisley Park. He spent an early part of his career in Minneapolis working with Jesse, DeBarge, Alexander O’Neal and Prince.

As the April concert date approached, the Tribune-Review posted a really nice article about Brian:

…and on The Soul Show on WYEP last weekend, I presented the March interview, interwoven with some of his recordings. These included a limited-print Jesse Johnson album called “Bare My Naked Soul.” Here are the interview segments from that program:

Edwards interview, Part One
Edwards interview, Part Two

The entire episode is available here:

The Soul Show (Brian Edwards interview episode)

Upcoming Pittsburgh releases

Here is a sampling of the upcoming recording releases on my radar. Shanyse Strickland interviewed with me a couple of months ago, so that will be presented here and on The Soul Show just preceding her “Perspectives” release. Jaron Crawford had a March release planned for his first hiphop project, but is reworking some tracks and will complete everything soon. An acoustic/electric project is targeted for next spring.

  • Starship Mantis (sophomore release) – CD release party June 1
  • Roger Romero, Feralcat (freshman release) – CD release party June 1
  • Soulful Femme (freshman release) – soon
  • Shanyse Strickland (freshman release EP “Perspectives”) – July 11, which is also the date for her “Shanyse & Friends” show at the Ace Hotel in East Liberty
  • Jaron Crawford (Carnegie Mellon junior from WA) – soon
Jaron Crawford release artwork

Soulful Femme opener at Ana Popovic show

Soulful Femme, the female duo spinoff of the Stevie Wellons Band, has been getting busier and busier. April 19th was one of their most important bookings yet, the opening act for blueswoman Ana Popovic at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille. Stephanie Wellons had a raspy throat before the show, so we fixed it with a Virgin Islands indigenous concoction of Cruzan Rum, honey and a lil lime, to my specification and courtesy of the bartender. Cheryl Rinovato, as always, killed it on guitar. I’m waiting for a copy of their new single to feature on the “Three Rivers at Three” segment on The Soul Show.

Reggie Watkins Quartet, Backstage Bar

Herbie Hancock had a 79th birthday recently, so here was a timely rendition of his Chameleon by the Reggie Watkins Quartet at Backstage Bar in mid-April.

Cliff Barnes on keys, Dwayne Dolphin on bass, David Throckmorton on percussion.

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BASSCHAMBER, Van Hunt, Interview with Sembène Film Festival’s Sabira Bushra, “Songs Of Our Native Daughters”


We interviewed Tania Grubbs about the upcoming BASSCHAMBER event a couple of months ago. It lived up to expectation: five PSO bassists, an electric bassist with Mahavishnu Orchestra lineage, Tania as vocalist, James Johnson III and Hugo Cruz in rhythm support. This was a collaboration with Chamber Music Pittsburgh, part of whose mission is to present new and interesting creations beyond their normal confines. The setlist swept through Seals & Crofts to Zep to Aretha. BASSCHAMBER was performed at the Joe Negri Auditorium, an intact portion of the now-converted school he attended on Mt. Washington.

BASSCHAMBER, Joe Negri Auditorium 03.19.17

Van Hunt at Creative Alliance, Baltimore

Van Hunt with his son on co-vocals, plus some excellent guitarist named José

The first time I saw Van Hunt was at Thunderbird Café (Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pgh) show a long time ago. After the high energy of Vintage Trouble‘s opener that night, VH was a little quiet for the crowd. When his last album came out a year or two ago, I was totally impressed, and I wanted to see him again. Baltimore was the closest place I could find.

Creative Alliance is a former movie theater converted to a multipurpose arts space. The first thing I noticed on the website was that I could have stayed for three consecutive nights of exceptional music: Hunt, then Ghost-Note, then Bombino. Impressive.

Van came with himself, guitars and a drum machine. I’m not a fan of drum machines, but this was the best execution I’ve ever seen. He is a consummate entertainer, his voice and guitar and lyrics exquisite. Everyone in the full house knew every word. He invited his son, 16yo Drake, to share vocals on a song, then brought out some amazing young local cat named José to share guitar duties. Toward the end of the night, the drum machine was off and it went to the next level.

Interview, Sembène Film Festival’s Sabira Bushra

In the 2/7/19 edition of this soulBlog, I talked about the local gem that is Sembène Film Festival, which has now expanded to 30 presentations in one season, and has migrated a significant number of them to Pittsburgh’s eastern neighborhoods. After recently attending the viewing of South Africa’s “Nothing But The Truth” at the Community Engagement Center, I interviewed Sabira Bushra of SFF about the organization’s mission and offerings. She is particularly excited about the April 29th showing of “True Conviction,” with a talk by one of the film’s real-life figures. Have a listen here:

Sembène Film Festival interview
Sabira Bushra, opening remarks before South African film “Nothing But The Truth”

Songs Of Our Native Daughters

Rhiannon Giddens, a founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, has impacted American music with her banjo mastery, her beautiful voice and, most importantly, her educative mission. This morning I posted a flashback photo to FB from her “Protest” performance with Leyla McCalla and Bhi Bhiman (Club Café, Feb. 2016).

McCalla, Club Café, February 2016

Giddens and McCalla collaborated once again on a 2019 release entitled “Songs of Our Native Daughters.” The first song I heard was a cover of Bob Marley’s “Catch A Fire” – Wrett Weatherspoon was playing it on WYEP’s Big Town Blues as I was packing up to leave the on-air studio, and I stopped dead in my tracks. That piece alone made it a candidate for 2019’s Top Ten Albums. Listen out for that and more on The Soul Show.