We sat with Lori McKenna before her recent show celebrating the 15th anniversary of her album Return To Bittertown at Cary Memorial Hall in Lexington, MA.
The Stoughton, Mass. native is a multi grammy-winning singer songwriter and the first woman ever to win the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year two years running as well as Academy of Country Music’s first female Songwriter of the Year.
In addition to her own songs, she has written for Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Little Big Town and Tim McGraw to name just a few. And just this past week we were all able to watch her on the Americana Music Honors and Awards show where she, well as former ATB guest Mark Erelli were each nominated for Song of the Year.
Along with her incredible songwriting chops and beautiful voice, we discovered that Lori is truly one of the most down to earth and nicest person you could ever meet.
When we think of the blended art forms of music and photography, there is a something iconic that can come out of a still picture of the great artists of the past.
Catching a glimpse of Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock or Leonard Bernstein conducting at the Philharmonic, it’s as if you can see the music coming out of the page - the thoughts coming from the artist as they glance to the side, backstage. We can let our imagination come up with scenarios, like picturing a scene or portrait while we listen to the music itself.
Recently Ronnie was fortunate to be introduced to Mr. Jack Bradley at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on Cape Cod. Nancy, His wife of 48 years, who you just heard, spoke of the death of “Louie” in 1971. That man was legendary Jazz trumpeter, vocalist and composer Louis Armstrong, who from the 1920s-60s was the lead influencer of both structural and improvisational elements of instrumental and vocal jazz for decades to follow.
Ronnie's colleague Dr. Anne-Marie Thomas had known of Above The Basement and wanted to connect him with Mr. Bradley. At first glance, Jack is indeed a man who visited the emergency room after a fall and a man living with Parkinson’s Disease. But when he picked up the microphone to speak about his story of the love of music, which eventually led to a career as personal photographer for Mr. Armstrong, his face and body illuminated with excitement.
Jack took us on his journey as a kid with eyes and ears glued to the local bandstand, to his Merchant Marine work that took him to NYC, which led to the nightly discovery of jazz with a camera around his neck at all times.
We met up with Jake Shimabukuro before his concert in front of a sold out crowd at Cary Memorial Hall in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Jake became an international sensation in 2006 when a YouTube video of him playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps in Central Park - without his knowledge - became one of the very first viral videos on that site with millions of views.
Jake plays the ukulele (which we also discovered can be pronounced "ookelele") - and has performed at numerous festivals including the Stockholm Jazz Festival and Blue Mountains Music Festival and has appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live, A Prairie Home Companion, NPR’s Morning Edition and World Cafe, and has spoken at several TED conferences.
In 2012, an award-winning documentary was released tracking his life, career, and music, titled Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings.
Jake is the founder The Four Strings Foundation, which creates music education workshops nationwide and provides ukuleles and other materials and training tools to schools and music teachers.
Song 1: While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Song 2: Clip from the "Wow" kid - Courtesy of WCRB Classical Radio Boston & The Handel and Haydn Society
Song 3: Bohemian Rhapsody
Song 4: Chuck Minor (a brand new song!!!!)
Song 5: The Greatest Day
Here is the long awaited live acoustic set that the wonderful Circus Trees performed for us after their episode back in June of 2019.
They played three songs for us - two from their amazing album Sakura and a new one that we hope will be on their next album.
Please enjoy, share, and then purchase their music at circustrees.bandcamp.com.
You can listen to their great episode at www.abovethebasement.com.
Recorded on June 10, 2019 at Woods Hill Table, in Concord Massachusetts.
Song 1: The Theft
Song 2: Despondent
Song 3: The OE (The Observer Expectancy Effect)
We saw Circus Trees at The Sinclair in Cambridge when we were there to celebrate The Record Co. and their upcoming new space in Boston.
Three young women came on the stage in front of a full house. And once they began playing, everyone paid attention. They blew us away.
Finola, 15, Giuliana, 17 and Edmee, also known as Egg, 13, are sisters from Marlborough, MA. And they play sad music.
We love sad music. And by the time they finished their set we had already gone over to Robert McCarthy - their manager/dad and founder of Five By Two Records - and he kindly gave us some vinyl of their debut album Sakura.
Giving us free vinyl is a sure way to get on ATB, but in their case they did not need to bribe their way on.
We thoroughly enjoyed our conversation with Egg, Finola and Giuliana and talked influences, writing, rehearsing and how three sisters can get along, collaborate and create intelligent, amazingly sad, but gut-wrenchingly beautiful and emotional rock music in a band that is garnering a lot of attention in Boston.
Here is a short live interview that we did on 91.5 WMFO radio with Anngelle Wood from Boston Emissions for On The Town with Mikey D - a show that was started 30 years ago.
Sadly, Mike passed in 2003 but the show continues in Mikey’s D’s name, broadcasting On the Town every Wednesday night, from 9PM to Midnight EST on Tufts University’s WMFO, 91.5 FM.
You can also hear it streaming at www.wmfo.org
Being on the other side of an interview reminds me of the movie The Jerk with Steve Martin when Navin Johnson worked at a carnival guessing people’s weight and a daredevil biker named Patty Bernstein says she would like to guess his weight and he says "Hey that would be interesting for me – no one has tried to guess my weight – this will give me a whole different perspective in this!"
Anyways – we digress – it was a lot of fun being on the other side of the mic.
With a voice that transcends not only genres but generations, it is fitting that Melinda Doolittle came back as a special guest performer for the third time with our friends at The Boston Children’s Chorus.
We sat with Ms. Doolittle just before the BCC’s final performance of the season at the iconic Wang Theater. The theme for this concert was “Lift Every Voice,” with gratitude and celebration of the women in our lives - past, present and future.
While Chuck was taking the day off celebrating two young women in his life as they performed in dance, Ronnie was joined by friend and ATB guest co-host Ike Walker. Ike and Ronnie had the honor to share the mic with a couple of super women of the future, their own daughters and BCC singers, Izzy and Abby.
Melinda is a highly sought after background vocalist singing for musical icons including Michael McDonald, Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville and Jonny Lang. She was introduced to millions of listeners and viewers on American Idol in 2007 and she brought the house down.
She has sung at the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame and The White House and has been a guest at Boston Pops and a featured performer at the 2015 Boston Pops Fourth of July Spectacular.
She is currently headlining her own soulful show Great American Soul Book.
We are always fascinated to talk about the state of Boston music and Boston music history with people in the business. Terrestrial radio is a huge part of that – WBCN, WFNX, WZLX - if you grew up in Boston those stations were a seminal way to discover new bands that inspired so many musicians.
We met Anngelle Wood at a State of Live Music event that she hosted at iZotope offices in Cambridge when we were trying to learn a bit more about – well – the current state of live music. Whatever your thoughts on the Boston music scene, Anngelle is doing her part to share the legacy and tell the story of Boston Rock and Roll that continues to inspire musicians young and old.
Anngelle began and is still passionate about radio and has worked at all the legendary Boston radio stations including WBCN, WFNX and WZLX. She is the host of Boston Emissions which began airing on WBCN back in the 80's and has been instrumental in introducing and establishing thousands of bands from Boston and New England and she also hosts and produces the great Rock and Roll Rumble that just celebrated their 40th Anniversary.
We plan on publishing a retrospective on the Rumble and its history in the next month or so.
But it was great to talk with Anngelle who works hard to promote and support great Boston Rock and Roll.
Note: Explicit Language
Song 1: Cut from Boston Emissions, broadcast March 14th, 2019
Song 2: Suburban Murders – Brix n’ Mortar (Freshcut)
Song 3: Still - Corner Soul (Instant Gratification)
Song 4: Falling Backwards –Set Fire (Aura)
Song 5: The Theft – Circus Trees (Sakura)
Song 6: Smoke Rolls – Set Fire (Aura)
We sat with Zumix founder Madeleine Steczynski. ZUMIX is an East Boston-based nonprofit organization dedicated to building the Boston community through music and creative technology.
What began as an idea around a kitchen table has blossomed into a wonderful place for kids to create and learn. As you will hear from Madeleine, they are taught valuable skills to instill confidence, collaboration and creativity in music that will follow them their entire life.
Their core belief is that music is the most powerful means of developing adolescent self-identity. Their award-winning music and creative technology programming is designed to equip youth with the tools necessary to reach their full potential, while creating a safe space for youth to explore who they are and who they want to be.
Co-hosting this time around is Kristina Latino. Kristina is founder and owner of CornerScape - an independent artist management company.
(All songs by Wild Painting, from their album Emotions (available on iTunes & Spotify). Members include ZUMIX participants Angelina Botticcelli, Mario Dueñas, Juan Gutierrez, and Mario Jarjour.)
Song 1: Within You
Song 2: Voice Memo
Song 3: Ride
We met up with phenom guitarist and singer Arielle and her band as they road tripped in from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to The Red Room @ Cafe 939 at Berklee College of Music.
Arielle has toured North America and the UK, opening for the likes of Eric Johnson, Greg Alman, Heart, Joan Jett and many others and none other than Brian May of Queen hand picked her for his production of We Will Rock You which was based on the songs of Queen.
She’s been on the cover of Guitar Player magazine and Vince Gill proclaimed her as one of the top 5 Best New Guitarists.
She has quite a story, and you should read her entire bio and hear her music at www.imarielle.com.
\We talked about guitars, lyrics and melody, and women in music and took questions from the cozy audience at Café 939 and then had the treat of watching her play for a house full of Arielle fans.
We had a great evening taking to this thoughtful and talented musician.
Song 2: Magick Again
Song 3: Devil's Disguise
Kabir Sen, AKA MC Kabir is an educator at heart who teaches through music. He teaches at Shady Hill School in Cambridge and his students are some of his biggest fans, as we discovered when several of his students attended our latest ConcertCast at City Winery Boston.
Kabir also plays with hip-hop reggae band Krush Faktory and they appear often at local establishments like the Lizard Lounge, The Plough and Stars and Bull McCabes.
He’s gotten great reviews in Billboard, The New Yorker, Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune, Boston Herald, SPIN, VIBE, NPR and others.
We all met up in front of an intimate crowd at the Haymarket Lounge to talk hip-hop, education, lyrics and their message.
When we first began this podcast and started putting together names of people we would like as guests, Billy Beard was on the primary list. Not necessarily because we had heard him play, but because we saw him playing with everyone else.
Billy got his start in Boston with the pop band Face To Face. And not to date ourselves but we totally remember their hit song and video 10-9-8.
He has worked over the years with Patty Griffin, Melissa Ferrick, Kris Delmhorst, the late Mark Sandman from the great Boston band Morphine, Rose Cousins, Lori McKenna and Kim Richey to name just a few.
Billy is part of the award-winning band Session Americana, and has toured extensively in the US and Europe and is another example of how he continues to draw amazing musicians together.
We just caught him recently at the Lizard Lounge playing with some of the same wonderful singer-songwriters with Sub Rosetta – a smaller version of the Sub Rosa collaboration with some of Boston’s great musicians. They will be at the Lizard Lounge every third Wednesday.
It is appropriate that Billy won a Boston Music Award for Unsung Hero in 2008 – in celebration of his hard work and commitment to the Boston music scene.
Our friend and drummer Jonathan Beakley joins us this time around a co-host.
Song 1: Love Changes Everything - from Love and Dirt (Session Americana)
Song 2: Around The Bend - from Into This World (Dennis Brennan)
Song 3: 10-9-8 - from Face To Face (Face To Face)
Song 4: Fallin’ - from Bitter Sweet (Kim Ritchey)
Song 5: Little God - from Silver Bell (Patty Griffin)
Song 6: Mighty Long Time - from Live at the Haybarn Theatre (Session Americana)
National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins is a rock-star of science who was instrumental in the identification of multiple genes for hereditary disease including cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s and neurofibromatosis.
He led the Human Genome Project in the 1990's that resulted in the mapping of the entire human genome sequence in 2003.
In 2009 he was nominated by President Obama to be Director of the Nationals Institutes of Health, with unanimous confirmation by the Senate. Since that time, he has boosted research efforts in Alzheimer’s disease, innovative brain science, set the stage for precision medicine, and many other areas.
We had the great honor to sit down with Dr. Collins and talk about scientific surprises and musical exploration, about the importance of collaboration and listening, and about how music, family and spirituality seem to travel in similar circles.
Song 1: Hallelujah / Leonard Cohen, performed by: Francis Collins, Renee Fleming and the National Symphony Orchestra - 2017
Song 2: New River Train / The Ward Family of Galax, performed by: The Monroe Brothers - 1936
Song 3: The Times They Are A Changin’ / Bob Dylan, performed by: Francis Collins, Joe Perry, Rudy Tanzi - 2009
Song 4: Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 “Eroica” 2nd movement / Ludwig van Beethoven, Berlin Philharmonic with Herbert von Karajan - 1986
Song 5: The What Makes Scientist Cry Blues, performed by Francis Collins, Joe Perry, Rudy Tanzi - 2009
Song 6: Disease Don’t Care / Francis Collins, performed by Francis Collins - Live at the NIH - 2019
A performance by A Far Cry - Live at City Winery Boston - February 28, 2019 in Boston, MA.
Recorded after our fourth ConcertCast - a conversation and performance in front of a live audience.
To listen to the entire conversation, go here: http://abovethwww.abovethebasement.com/131-a-far-cry
Johannes Brahms, Viola Quintet in G Major, Op. 111
Antonín Dvorák : The Terzetto in C, Op. 74 (B. 148)
Episode 131 - a ConcertCast Event with A Far Cry
Classical music is pretty much the only music in the world that still sounds beautiful when the musicians are tuning up. It sounded so great we decided to start the episode with a brief tuning session.
We were joined by Megumi Lewis, Omar Chen Guey, Caitlin Lynch, Jae Cosmos Lee, Michael Unterman and Jason Fisher, several of The Criers from the Boston based chamber orchestra A Far Cry.
We invited these fine musicians to City Winery Boston for another live ConcertCast.
Founded in 2007, A Far Cry has been nominated for three Grammys. Playing music from various time periods they incorporate both new and time tested works with the goal “to wrestle the music they love back from the cultural baggage it's accumulated”.
Throughout the episode you will hear movements of Dvorak’s Terzetto, played by Jae Cosmos Lee, Omar Chen Guey and Jason Fisher. Caitlyn Lynch then joins Jason and Jae for a conversation with us and they answer a few questions from the audience.
The final piece they play by Brahms is published separately as part of our In Concert Series above.
They both sound absolutely beautiful.
ConcertCast: Antonín Dvorák : The Terzetto in C, Op. 74 (B. 148)
In Concert Series: (separate episode) Johannes Brahms, Viola Quintet in G Major, Op. 111
Episode 130 - a conversation with Ari Hest.
With a distinctive voice and beautiful melodies, Ari Hest has carved out a diverse career as an independent artist. Several of his songs have appeared on TV and Film soundtracks, and 2014 collaboration with Judy Collins earned him his first Grammy nomination for their album Silver Skies Blue.
Now with a brand new baby in the mix, he and his wife, the very talented musician Chrissi Poland, have settled in the South Shore of Massachusetts.
We sat with him at of Lucky Finn Café overlooking the harbor in Scituate, Massachusetts. While sipping our espressos, we talked about how he started out in music, guitars, collaboration and babies.
Special guest co-host David Moore otherwise known as MALIN sits in for Ronnie Hirschberg this time around.
Song 1: Bird Never Flies (The Break In)
Song 2: Heart of a Lion (Natural)
Song 3: I Choose Love (Silver Skies Blue with Judy Collins)
Song 1: Sato (Single)
Song 2: Leaving Her Alone (The Break In)
Episode 129 - a conversation with Livingston Taylor.
Boston’s own Livingston Taylor is a musician, teacher and interested man. Yes – we said interestED, not interesting. Not that Livingston isn’t interesting, because he certainly is. This will all make sense in our conversation.
Liv is a full professor at Berklee College of Music where he teaches Stage Performance. He is currently celebrating a 50+ year career with a brand new album called "The Best of LIVe – 50 Years of Livingston Taylor Live". This album has 11 tracks from his upcoming box set of the same name featuring unreleased live performances spanning his career from 1969 through 2016.
There is also a fantastic documentary called "Livingston Taylor: Life Is Good” that won The Van Gogh Award for the Feature Documentary category at the Amsterdam International Film Festival and you can check that out on Amazon.
Livingston has played with Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, Jimmy Buffett, and Jethro Tull to name just a few and he continues to play and tour internationally.
Liv flew in from Martha’s Vineyard (and I mean he actually flew himself in as he is an instrument-rated pilot) to have a truly great conversation in his Watertown offices with us.
We talked about teaching, performance, learning and even about Steel manufacturing – he’s a man who has an insatiable thirst for being interested and he will tell you without asking that he loves you.
And he means it.
Song List: All songs from the album "The Best of LIVe – 50 Years of Livingston Taylor Live"
Song 1: Our Turn To Dance (From Snapshot)
Song 2: I Ask You Once (Demo)
Song 3: Get Out Of Bed (Live)
Song 4: Good Friends (Live)
Song 5: Sit On Back (Live)-
We are taking a little detour from our usual format to bring you this very special episode.
We hosted a conversation between the illustrious sports reporters Gordon Edes and Steve Buckley with arguably the most well know Presidential Historian in the world - Doris Kearns Goodwin.
With the 2018 Red Sox World Series Trophy in the room, we talked, sang and celebrated Red Sox Baseball while raising money for the amazing Pete Frates Family Foundation.
We would bet that most of you listening either participated in or at least heard of the Ice Bucket challenge. Started by Pete Frates who was struck with ALS a few years ago, with his parents John and Nancy and the millions of people who took part in the challenge, the foundation has raised a ¼ of a billion dollars to fight ALS, which is just astounding.
We were truly honored to have John and Nancy Frates join us on that Sunday evening to say a few words as well as Red Sox great Sam Horn, Red Sox Poet Laureate Dick Flavin and the Sox Fenway Park organist Josh Kantor.
It was a special night, made all the more wonderful not only by the money raised but the gathering of friends and family.
Episode 127 - a conversation with Jared Bowen.
We took a ride early one morning to the WGBH studios in Brighton, Mass to sit with arts and entertainment reporter and Boston native Jared Bowen. Jared has talked with all sorts or amazing people.
Jared can be found, well – really everywhere. He is an Emmy award-winning host of the TV series, 'Open Studio with Jared Bowen', a contributor to the WGBH magazine program, 'Greater Boston” and you can also hear him the radio on 89.7, where he talks about what’s going on in Boston for the performing arts on WGBH’s 'Morning Edition' and 'Boston Public Radio'.
He is also a coach and judge on the choir competition show 'Sing That Thing!' These are only a few of the things Jared does. He is a busy guy and we were happy to get a chance to sit and talk Boston arts and culture.
Music and narration outtake courtesy of WGBH Boston from Open Studio with Jared Bowen
Episode 126 - a conversation with Oompa
We first ran into Oompa at Boston One Night Band back in 2018 – listen to Episode 123 for our conversation with Richard Bouchard about that event - but Oompa immediately stood out to me and I quickly put her down as someone to reach out to.
Fast forward almost exactly a year later and we happily got a chance to sit with her and also guest host and Hip Hip know it all Ike Walker for a great conversation.
Oompa is fresh off her two Boston Music Awards for Best Unsigned Artist and 617 Sessions winner and is currently in the studio to release her next album.
We talk hip hop of course, but also touch on teaching, writing, and her being the gay auntie of Boston. Oompa is all energy and is passionate about her music, poetry and the City of Boston.
Song 1: Nicky’s Song (November 3rd)
Song 2: Say Her Name (November 3rd)
Song 3: Dear Mama (November 3rd)
Song 4: Dope
Song 5: Catch 22 (November 3rd)
Episode 125 - a conversation with Peter Gammons.
As a Boston Red Sox fan living in the NY/NJ area back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, life as a Sox fan was...well...difficult. Especially after Game 7 of the ALCS when the New York Yankees walked off the Sox in 2003.
But that was just the beginning of a Red Sox renaissance that eventually brought the city of Boston 4 World Series Trophies since - including the recent 2018 championship. With 11 championships since 2001 – Boston fans really have nothing to complain about when it comes to sports.
But during that painful time of losing before all the winning, there were a few people we turned to for our Red Sox fix. Peter Gammons was number one on that list.
So what is a world class sportswriter and analyst doing on a music podcast?
Peter is also a songwriter and guitarist and has played with the likes of Eddie Vedder, Will Dailey, Buffalo Tom and many others. He also started Hot Stove, Cool Music – which is the signature fundraiser for The Foundation To Be Named Later started by Paul and Theo Epstein.
But Peter is much more than just a sportswriter and musician, he is also a humanitarian who works hard for the kids in the city of Boston. We spoke with Peter at his scholarship dinner for the Peter Gammons College Scholarship in Boston and got to talk with Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, CEO and Executive Director of The Foundation to Be Named Later Allyce Najimy, Scholar Program Manager Lesly Suriel, the Foundation's founder Paul Epstein and Boston musician Will Dailey.
All songs from the album Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old
Song 1: Tanqueray
Song 2: Come, Labor On
Song 3: Model Citizen