On Stage: ‘Rain’ brings back spirit of Fab Four

Also: red-hot music to keep you warm this frosty weekend

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times


“RAIN — A Tribute to the Beatles,” returns to Philadelphia for a six-show run this weekend at the Merriam Theater.

Year after year, there is a parade of new tribute bands on the entertainment scene offering their interpretations of music by bands from the past such as Pink Floyd or the Grateful Dead and, at times, even current acts such as Bruce Springsteen or U2.

Tribute bands and rock singer impersonators are everywhere and they come in all shapes and sizes. Their most favorite targets are Elvis Presley and the Beatles. Some are worth listening to. Some are pretty bogus. Some range from downright laughable to pitiful.

But, there are a few that take their mission a lot more seriously than others — especially one particular Beatles tribute band.

On February 7, 1964, the Beatles stepped off a plane from England and put their feet on American soil for the first time. It was a truly historic moment in the history of rock music.

On February 7, 2004, exactly 40 years later to the minute, “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles” walked off the Concorde in Seattle to a group of over 7,000 screaming fans, and performed live all of the songs the Beatles played on their three consecutive Ed Sullivan appearances in 1964.

Obviously, RAIN is the real deal.

The group’s award-winning live Beatles show “RAIN — A Tribute to the Beatles,” formerly known as “The Beatles Experience,” features performances by the look-a-like, sound-a-like band that has been paying homage to the Beatles for more than 40 years.

“RAIN — A Tribute to the Beatles,” which has always played to packed houses in the area, is returning to Philadelphia for a six-show run from February 11-14 at the Merriam Theater  (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-893-1999 as part of the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Philadelphia series.

RAIN performs the full range of The Beatles’ discography live onstage, including the most complex and challenging songs that The Beatles themselves recorded in the studio but never performed for an audience.

Additionally, there are updated sets that include brand new LED, High-Definition screens and multimedia content, as well as new Beatles songs not previously performed by RAIN.

“Tech-wise, we keep improving,” said Joe Bithorn, during a recent phone interview from his home in San Francisco. “Our lighting has been amazingly great. With the video walls, we can project anything up there. Sound-wise, a couple little tricks are happening.”

Bithorn performs the role of George Harrison. The group also features Steve Landes (John Lennon), Joey Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Joe Bithorn (George Harrison), Ralph Castelli (Ringo Starr), Mark Beyer (keyboards), Jim Irizarry (John Lennon), Paul Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Aaron Chiazza (Ringo Starr), Chris Smallwood (keyboards, percussion) and Mark Lewis (bandleader/manager).

“There is one cast and there are alternate guys,” said Bithorn. “You have to keep yourself ready for life.

“I’ve been with RAIN since 1983. I played with ‘Beatlemania’ for two years. I had heard about RAIN. We understood that they did things pretty cool musically — for example playing ‘I Am the Walrus.’

“They came through the L.A. area when we were there. I met some of the guys from RAIN at a party and they said they were looking for a George. Later, I made some contacts, joined the band and drove back out west from Long Island.”

Together longer than the Beatles, RAIN has mastered every song, gesture and nuance of the legendary foursome and is able to create a totally live, note-for-note performance — from the early hits such as “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Hard Day’s Night” to later classics such as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Hey Jude.

Right from the start, Lewis was the mastermind behind the group.

“RAIN started in the 1970s as an original band,” said Lewis. “I joined that band. When we started being a Beatles tribute group, I took over the band and pushed it up a level or two with costumes and sets.

“The music has always been the primary factor. I think the guys we have do a great job of looking like the Beatles and, especially, sounding like the Beatles. We’ve changed a certain amount of songs in the set list around. There are certain ones people expect to hear. We also perform songs that weren’t Top 10 hits.”

Bithorn summed up RAIN’s enduring popularity when he said, “Beatles music brings you back to a different era and, at the same time, still is fresh.”

Video link for “RAIN — A Tribute to the Beatles” — https://youtu.be/v6bKPZDvSFA.

Show time is 8 p.m. on February 11 and 12, 2 and 8 p.m. on February 13 and 1 and 6:30 p.m. on February 14. Ticket prices start at $30.


Mindy Rhodes

Mindy Rhodes is an artist — an artist who has found her niche both in the arts and in life.

Rhodes is a actually a multi-tiered artist — a veteran singer-pianist-songwriter and a top-flight floral artist. She is also a woman enjoying life in a country home — sharing that life with her man, her horse, four cats, two miniature donkeys and a rabbit.

Over the years, Rhodes has built a legion of local — and loyal — fans who have heard her perform at a variety of venues around the Brandywine Valley. One of her favorite venues is the General Warren Inne (Old Lancaster Highway, Malvern, 610-296-3637, www.generalwarren.com).

On February 11, Rhodes will return to the General Warren Inne — a venue where she has maintained a residency for many years.

“I love performing at the General Warren Inne,” said Rhodes, during a phone interview last week. “It’s a great place to play and the people there are wonderful.”

Rhodes performs at times as a solo artist and at times as a duo with different local musicians — Alex Wadolny (guitar, bass), Bill Schilling (bass, keyboards) or Rich Budesa (keyboards).

“For this show at the General Warren Inne, I’m playing as a duo with Bill Schilling,” said Rhodes, a graduate of Westtown School. “I still play some originals with a duo. It’s been fun. Playing with someone else opens me up. It allows me to concentrate more on my singing.”

Rhodes is a versatile performer whose music transcends genres. She plays in nightclubs in New York as a jazz vocalist with a backing band and at smaller venues with her solo cabaret show. She performs standards, originals and various covers while spicing up the show with between-the-songs dialogue.

“I can’t even count the number of original songs I have — 30-40 or more,” said Rhodes. “And, my repertoire of standards and cover tunes is close to 100. I’ve been working on a Karen Carpenter song. She was such a great singer.

“In my live shows, I do jazz, standards, American classics and originals. I’ll also take a jazz standard and turn it into a sultry blues song. I try to keep it fresh and different from show to show. I have a lot of regulars at the General Warren Inne and I’ll play their favorites and requests.”

She has released two full-length CDs and is looking toward to more recording later this year.

“My heart is definitely in songwriting,” said Rhodes. “When I’m playing and singing, I try to crawl inside the song. It has to be something that means something to me. When I write songs, I look to give myself comfort and to give comfort to the listeners.”

 The list of songs that Rhodes has already recorded reflects this philosophy. She has cut emotionally-charged standards such as “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” along with heartfelt originals such as “It’s All Right Tonight”, “Short Fuse” and “Promise”.

Rhodes’ creative realm includes painting and floral arranging as well as music. Samples of her work can be seen at her website – www.whisperingwindstudio.com. She will be performing at the General Warren Inne from 6-10 p.m. on February 11 and again on March 10.


Jeff Lorber

Jeff Lorber, who will perform February 11 at South (600 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-600-0220, http://www.southrestaurant.net/jazz.php), is an internationally-acclaimed jazz musician who grew up in the Philadelphia area.

Cheltenham High in Montgomery County is known for its sports with alumni such as Hall of Fame baseball player Reggie Jackson and a trophy case filled with state championship trophies in sports such as track and field and girls’ basketball.

Other notable alumni are Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netenyahu and Dr. Michael S. Bown, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine in 1985.

Cheltenham also produced a number of the best jazz musicians in the world, including the Grammy Award-winning Brecker Brothers — Michael and Randy — and Jeff Lorber.

“I was lucky to grow up in a family where they really appreciated music,” said Lorber, during a phone interview last week from his home in Los Angeles. “I was exposed to jazz when I was pretty young. I remember when I was growing up in Philly I had an aunt who lived in West Philly and my cousin would go hear John Coltrane play.

“My greatest memory when I was 12 or 13, my family took me to the Academy of Music for a concert featuring the Jimmy Smith Trio with George Benson, the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Lou Rawls.

“But, I was more into rock when I was a teenager. I remember going to the Spectrum to hear concerts by acts like Frank Zappa and Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart. I didn’t really get into jazz until I went to Berklee College of Music.”

His first group — The Jeff Lorber Fusion — released its self-titled debut album in 1977 on Inner City Records.

“We made two records for Inner City and six albums for Arista,” said Lorber, a Grammy-nominated keyboardist/composer/producer.

The final album by the Jeff Lorber Fusion was “Galaxian” in 1981 and then the group disbanded.

“It had run its course,” said Lorber. “I was changing styles.”

Lorber continued on with his solo career and then brought the Jeff Lorber Fusion back to life a few years ago.

“Even after the first Jeff Lorber Fusion broke up, it was still called Jeff Lorber Fusion whenever we toured Europe,” said Lorber. “When we were making the ‘Now Is the Time’ album in 2010, I decided to use the name again. The name conjures ambitiousness. It’s a statement that we’re trying to take things farther than smooth jazz.

“I feel like music should be compelling and exciting and challenging. I’m a student of be-bop and the history of jazz. I love jazz and my music is an outgrowth of it. I’m always listening to everything that’s going on”

The Jeff Lorber Fusion released “Now Is the Time” in 2010 and “Hacienda” in 2013 on Heads Up Records/Concord Records. The band followed with its latest album “Step It Up” in 2015 on the same label.

“Step It Up” is the fourth consecutive collaboration between Grammy- winning bassist/composer/ producer Jimmy Haslip and Lorber since the two virtuosos reactivated Jeff Lorber Fusion five years ago. “Step It Up” features 11 new Lorber compositions, several co-written with Haslip.

“The new album has more of a ’70s vibe — a lot of modal songs that allow more freedom to explore,” said Lorber. “We were listening to Weather Report albums — and old Joe Henderson records. We recorded it at my own studio here in L.A. and then mixed it at Electric Lady in New York. We had some great guests on the album.”

Video link for Jeff Lorber — https://youtu.be/dILC2aLKc9A.

Show times at South are 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $35. Other upcoming shows at South are Lori Fulton & The Love and Lori Quartet from February 12-14, South’s Jazz Jam Session on February 16 and Gillian Margot on February 17.

ana popovic

Ana Popovic

Traditionally, blues musicians and blues music in general have been linked to various rivers — especially the Mississippi River (Delta blues), the Chicago River (Chicago blues) and, from the late 1960s on, the Thames River (British blues).

Ana Popovic, who has built an international reputation as a stellar blues guitarist, hails from a totally different river area. She was born and raised in Beograd (Belgrade), the Serbian capital that is located at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers.

Popovic, who has released 10 albums since 1998, will headline a show on February 11 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

After leaving Serbia, Popovic settled alongside another river — The Amstel in Amsterdam. Her next relocation brought her to the banks of the Mississippi River in Memphis. Her most recent albums are “Blue Room,” which was released in 2015 and “Can You Stand the Heat,” which came out in 2013.

“I won’t be playing any songs from ‘Blue Room’,” said Popovic, during a phone interview Tuesday from her home in Memphis, “That was an album I made with my father Milton and the only time I’ll play those songs is when I’m performing with him.”

Serbia was part of Yugoslavia when Popovic was growing up and Communist-controlled Eastern Europe was hardly a place where blues music flourished. But, Popovic didn’t have to go far to hear blues music — it was all around her.

“I grew up with blues music,’ said Popovic. “I had listened to blues music since I was little in my house because my dad was a blues musician. He’d hold jam sessions in our house every week.

“Also, he was playing blues records all the time — albums by artists such as Robert Johnson, Son House, Elmore James, Albert Collins and Bukka White. We also listened to jazz and funk albums too. When I heard Ronnie Earl and T-Bone Walker, I liked the jazz element too.

“I was 15 when I started playing guitar but I had been involved with the blues for a long time before that. When my dad had his jam sessions, I would be in there singing along with the band. I formed my first band and started performing on my own when I was 18.

“I studied graphic design in Beograd and then started studying jazz at the Conservatory of Music in Amsterdam in 1999. I decided to study jazz so I could create my own style that combined blues and jazz. I wanted to go out and play with people other than those who were totally into blues.

“I didn’t want to just stay in the same place musically. I wanted to get out and not be afraid to swim in a new style. I love to play a variety of styles with respect to each other — rock, jazz, funk and blues. I like to look at the guitar as a sound instrument more than just a solo instrument. I like to be different in every song. I love writing about the things that I see and the things that I feel.”

When it came time to make a new album, Popovic had music ready to record in a variety of genres — blues, funk and jazz. So, she made an album of each — a triple album called “Trilogy” that will be released in may.

“It has more than 25 songs on three CDs — three CDs for the price of one,” said Popovic. “There are three different sounds — blues, funk and jazz — with three different producers.

“The inspiration for it came when my fans would tell me about compilations they made of my songs from different albums. My new album is a celebration of musicianship. I was able to feature musicians whose strength was in each genre.”

“Trilogy” was produced by Grammy Award winner Warren Riker (Lauryn Hill, Carlos Santana), Grammy Award winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi) and Delfeayo Marsalis, one of the top trombonists, composers and producers in jazz today.

Some of the standout musicians who made guest appearances on the ambitious project were Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph, Bernard Purdie (The Purdie Shuffle), Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), rapper Al Capone and many others.

“I was in Nashville to do the blues,” said Popovic. “There was a whole different crew in New Orleans for the final funk part — including Ivan Neville and George Porter, Jr. The funk was done pretty much in New Orleans and Memphis. The jazz was done in New Orleans except for some parts that were done in New York with drummer Bernard Purdie. For the blues album, I used my band musicians along with players such as Joe Bonamassa and Robert Randolph. I love to surround myself with a lot of great musicians. I spent a lot of time on this album.”

Video link for Ana Popovic  — https://youtu.be/cKEQUwkcNBk.

The show at Sellersville will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 and $45.

Other shows at the Sellersville Theater over the next week are Marc Cohn (February 12), Crack the Sky (February 13), Noam Pikelny (February 14), Michael Monroe (February 16) and John “Papa” Gros Band (February 17).

nils lofgren

Nils Lofgren

One of rock music’s all-time great guitarists — a musician who recently released a 10-CD career retrospective — will be playing in Philadelphia on February 12 at the Wells Fargo Center (Broad Street below Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia, 800-298-4200, www.wellsfargocenter.com)

But, that guitarist — Nils Lofgren — will not be performing any of the songs from his “Face the Music” box set.

Instead, he will be filling his role as guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band — a role he has been filling for the last 32 years. The call to do “The River Tour” interrupted Lofgren’s own tour supporting his “Face the Music” release.

“I’m still waiting for the final E Street Band schedule,” said Lofgren, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his hotel room in Manhattan. “I have to make up for 28 club dates of my own that got cancelled. When something like the E Street tour happens, you have to jump on it. I want to keep my seat on the bus.

“I was in England and was ready to tour Europe and the states. There was also a plan to play Saturday Night Live. Then, this tour got added. Hopefully, people will forgive me.”

Lofgren’s resume includes his start with his own band Grin back in 1971. Over the years, he has played with a myriad of rock legends including Neil Young, Lou Reed, Ringo Starr and, of course, Springsteen. He also has released more than 20 albums as a solo artist.

Much of the best of his music is captured on “Face the Music,” a nine-CD/one-DVD retrospective covering near five-decade career that was released on Fantasy Records/Concord Music.

“I was approached by Fantasy/Concord and they said they wanted to do this retrospective and I agreed,” said Lofgren. “In the past, I had troubles when I tried to get some of my masters back from different record companies.

“There were 170-180 songs and the people at Fantasy went and got the rights to every single one. It took two years of hard work to put the set together. It was shocking to me to be able to do that with 50 years of no hit records.

“I put the running order together. That took a lot of work. My goal was to put together something that flowed. Collectively, it was a very beautiful journey. It was kind of amazing to get everything together in one place with all this to listen to. I don’t regularly go back and listen much to my older music. It was an inspirational situation.”

Lofgren went on the road to tour in support of the “Face the Music” box set and one result of the tour was the album “UK2015 Face the Music Live.” The album concept and design came from his wife Amy, who felt these were the best shows she’d seen him do, and insisted the last half of the tour be recorded for an album. The resulting fifteen tracks span Lofgren’s long, memorable career.

“The one thing that I love the most — and have done the most — is touring,” said Lofgren. “I have a good idea of what will work. The energy of the audience influences my improv on guitar. That influx of energy from the audience — I always know that I’ll feel it.”

Video link for Nils Lofgren — https://youtu.be/coNqbqnH3AM.

The show at the Wells Fargo Center will get underway at 7:30 p.m.

If you’re not familiar with this history of Bob Dylan and the music scene in Woodstock, New York, this might sound a bit confusing.


The Weight

The Weight is a band. “The Weight” is a song by The Band. The Weight is a band named after The Band’s song “The Weight.” The Weight is a band put together to keep alive the music of The Band.

On February 12, The Weight will visit the area for a show at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com).

The Band was a Canadian-American rock group featuring Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson. In 1965, Dylan hired them as his touring band when expanded for a solo folk artist to a folk-rock musician with a group behind him.

After awhile, Roberston left to pursue a solo career and then later Manuel died. The remaining three members continued to tour and record albums with a succession of musicians filling the departed members’ roles. The final line-up included Richard Bell, Randy Ciarlante and Jim Weider.

Danko died of heart failure in 1999, after which the group broke up for good. Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998 and continued to perform until cancer won the battle in 2012.

A passing wish of Helm was for the music and spirit of The Band to live on. The Weight was formed to do just that. The Weight came into existence to bring a live performance to fans of The Band — but not as a tribute band.

All of the members of The Weight (Jim Weider, Randy Ciarlante, Brian Mitchell, Marty Grebb, and Albert Rogers) were either actual members in The Band, or are directly and deeply connected to the legacy of The Band. 

The Band just might have been one of the tightest musical groups ever and replicating the music of The Band is no easy task. The Weight, a five-piece ensemble featuring Weider and Ciarlante from The Band, Brian Mitchell of the Levon Helm Band and Marty Grebb, who worked with Rick Danko and Richard Manuel of The Band, has proven equal to the task.

“Two-and-a-half years ago, after we lost Levon, Randy and I put The Weight together with a couple other musicians,” said Weider, during a phone interview last week from his home in Woodstock. “We did songs of The Band and the shows sold out.

“Then, we got Marty Grebb. We did a few shows and it really started to take off. We added Brian Mitchell and Byron Isaacs. Now, Byron has left the group and we pulled in a new bass player — Albert Rogers. He had played in my band — the Jim Weider Band — in the ’90s.

“We’ve been going out in spurts — three shows and then come back. It’s on and off. We’ve done shows in Florida, California, Tahoe — and New Years’ Eve in San Francisco. But, we don’t want to go out for weeks at a time. We do nice rooms on three or four-day tours — five days at the most.”

The members all have other projects but it is the music of The Band that binds them together.

“I started playing with Levon in the early ’80s in the Levon Helm Band,” said Weider. “Randy was in the band too. In 1985, when Richard and Garth moved to Woodstock, we toured with Crosby, Stills and Nash. We went out as The Band. That really changed my life.

“With The Weight, we do everybody’s favorites such as ‘Up on Cripple Creek,’ ‘The Rumor’ and ‘Look Out Cleveland.’ We do stuff from the early records and tunes I never did with The Band. We try to change up the set list all the time to keep it fresh.

“We’re getting a real mixture in our audiences. Of course, there are a lot of older folks who want to hear the songs they know. But, we’re also getting kids who have started listening to the Band’s music. This music is such a strong part of American music.”

Video link for The Weight — https://youtu.be/mN99msqH__M.

The show in Ardmore will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22 in advance and $28 day of show.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are Splintered Sunlight (February 13), Jackie Greene and Hollis Brown (February 14) and Bill Frisell on February 16.

On February 12, Bruce Springsteen will be performing at the Wells Fargo Center. On February 13, his namesake will be part of a different show when the World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) presents Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam.

Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam take their native New Jersey surroundings seriously. So much so that they named their dinosaur puppet “Bruce” and sing original songs that profess their love for family vacations on the Jersey Shore. They will bring that Jersey rock sound paired with kid-friendly lyrics to the Queen on Saturday and to the Sellersville Theater on February 20.

At a Jungle Gym Jam show, interactivity is key. Special moments in the show that elicit audience participation include freeze dancing, jumping (pretending you’re jumping on the bed), playing peek-a-boo with a giant Moon cut-out (ideal for the younger kids), learning the differences between sea lions and seals (while dancing and pointing to the one specific facial feature that’s different between the two creatures), and correcting Jason’s silly “mistakes” in between songs.

The energetic music is a tight match to the interactive content and warm, intelligent lyrics. Didner’s music has been described as “Bruce Springsteen for kids” and “Elvis Costello in a particularly good mood.”

Jason and Amy Didner are the couple that created the Jungle Gym Jam out of the inspiration they got from parenting their now-4-year-old daughter. They co-write all their lyrics, often as a way of recapturing special family memories and making them universal.

They perform with a full rock band in situations of larger audience and wider age ranges like at the Bronx Zoo or Jones Beach Band Shell. They play as an acoustic duo in more intimate settings and a younger audience, at libraries, museums, pre-schools and birthday parties.

“When my daughter got to be a year-and-a-half old, her curiosity about the world around her got my attention,” said Jason Didner, during a recent phone interview from his home in Montclair, New Jersey.

“Amy and I found ourselves writing songs. It led us down this rabbit hole of seeing things all new ways. Now that our daughter Holly is almost five, our songwriting has grown with her. She’s become a big part of the music.

“We started writing songs more than three years ago. Having a band with other musicians will be three years in March. We probably do 40-50 shows a year.”

The appeal is simple and the approach is direct.

According to Didner, the heart of their music-making is pure rock-n-roll while their lyrics strive to entertain through humor and good storytelling. The lyrics also sneak in some learning while the young audience is busy having fun. Puppets and skits play a large role in their live show — providing visual variety and engaging the kids’ sense of wonder.

“We came out with our first CD two years ago,” said Didner. “The follow-up CD will be out in May. We’ve already released three songs from the upcoming CD. We’re up around 80 videos on YouTube. It’s a mix of live videos in our home studio. Some are acted out and some are animated.

“The lyrics are geared to learning and discovery. In our live shows, we’ve entertained all the way up to tweens and teens. When we have a full band, we can rock out.”

Video link for Jungle Gym Jam — https://youtu.be/ZFz_OmiMOCg.

The show at the Queen on February 13 will start at 11 a.m. with tickets priced at $10.

The show in Sellersville on February 20 will begin at 1 p.m. with tickets listed at $10.

Other shows at the Queen over the next week are SuiteFranchon presents “A Tribute to Whitney Houston” (February 12), Clint Coley (February 13) and Wilmo Wednesdays on February 17.

No matter how cold it gets on Saturday night, it’s guaranteed to be a hot night inside at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com). That’s because the headline act on February 13 is Dressy Bessy.

Ever since its formation in 1996, Dressy Bessy has been one of the top music acts to come out of Denver, Colorado — joining a list that includes Lothar & The Hand People, Zephyr, Flobots, Kip Winger, Jill Sobule and The Lumineers.

Dressy Bessy is now on the road in support of its Yep Roc Records label debut “Kingsized.”

Recorded in their home studio, the 13-track set features Tammy Ealom (vocals/guitar), John Hill (guitar), Craig Gilbert (drums), and Jeff Fuller (bass). It marks the band’s first studio album in seven years.

“We started working on ‘Kingsized’ about two years ago,” said Ealom, during a phone nterview last week from her home in Denver. “We finally decided to go with Yep Roc. The album was just about finished when we approached them. John and I have a pretty nice studio in our house and we recorded it there.

“I do the songwriting. The songs all came in a chunk — except for two of them. When the songs started to come, they just kept coming. When the muse arrives, I start writing. Something inside me has to come out and tell me to do it.

“I write mostly on guitar. It usually starts with chords and riffs and some sort of catch line. Usually, it all comes at the same time. The main thing is being in the mood. John’s parts come last. He gets inspired when he hears the bass and the melody.”

Formed in 1996, Dressy Bessy have released numerous singles, had tracks featured on various compilations and recorded six studio albums, including “Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons” (1999), “California EP” (2000), “SoundGoRound” (2002), “Dressy Bessy” (2003), “Electrified” (2005), and “Holler and Stomp” (2008).

“I met John back in 1995,” said Ealom. “I was in a band called the Minders. I quit that band and wanted to form my own band. That band was Dressy Bessy. Ironically, we’re still together after 20 years — as a band and as a couple.

“This is a great band. We actually all really like each other. The only new member is bassist Jeff Fuller, who joined three months ago and he’s a perfect fit. He’s a great musician and he played his ass off to learn 40 songs to get ready for the tour.

“We’re really stoked for this tour. We’re playing most of the songs from ‘Kingsized’ and another 10 from past albums — all the way back to ‘Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons.’ I’m not surprised that we’re still together after 20 years because it’s what we do. It’s cool to look back at all the good music we’ve put out.”

Video link for Dressy Bessy — https://youtu.be/pdx-KI1MjT8.

The show at Boot & Saddle will start at 8:30 p.m. with opening acts Old Monk, The Not Fur Longs. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

Another show interesting show at Boot & Saddle will take place on February 17 when Freakwater headline a show at the venue.

Freakwater is an alternative country band that had its start in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1989, Janet Beveridge Bean and Catherine Irwin founded the band, and they have been supported by bassist David Wayne Gay since the early days.

“We’ve been playing together since we were little tots,” said Bean, during a phone interview last week.

“And, we both got kicked out of the same school,” said Irwin.

Bean said, “In the early days, we go to Catherine’s apartment and sing songs together. There was a punk rock venue that had an open mic night and we did that.”

“Then, we made a four-track recording,” said Irwin. “Eventually, we made up a name. Then, we went into the studio for our first record. That’s where we met Dave Gay. He’s been our third member ever since.”

The band’s self-title debut album came out on Amoeba Records in 1989.

“With the whole punk rock thing, people didn’t know how to play their instruments and just tried to sound like that,” said Irwin. “With us, I’d write songs that I felt were regular country songs.”

Bean said. “When we were starting out, we were just playing covers of country artist like Tammy Wynette and George Jones. Then, we decided to write our own songs so people couldn’t figure out if we were screwing up.

“We always had connections that allowed us to get our own music out there. We just played — went out there and did it.”

Irwin said, “We came from a punk rock background but we didn’t really just play punk rock. We just played our music and hoped that people would like it. Now, 30 years have gone by. I didn’t expect to be still alive after 30 years let alone still making music with Freakwater.”

But, Freakwater is still alive and well in 2016 — and touring the states in support of a new album. The ladies released “Scheherazade” on Bloodshot Records on February 5.

“This new record we made is really good,” said Bean. “We recorded it at La La Land Studio in Louisville. It’s got a laid-back vibe. We recorded it analog. We did the last one digital and it was a disaster because the hard drive got corrupted.”

Video link for Freakwater — https://youtu.be/2gmAn4FRDoE.

The show at Boot & Saddle will start at 8:30 p.m. with opening act Jaye Jayle. Tickets are $15.

The term “world music” is used in descriptions of a lot of different musical acts but rarely is it as appropriate as when referring to the New York-based band Matuto. On February 14, Matuto will make a return visit to the area for a show at Calvary Church (801 South 48th Street, Philadelphia, www.crossroadsconcerts.org).

Clay Ross and Rob Curto officially started the band in February 2009.

Mixing influences of steamy Brazil with backwoods America appears to be highly unlikely combination but it was a combination that worked when Matuto was in its formative stages.

According to Ross, Matuto started by playing Appalachian and bluegrass mixed together with Brazilian music. The project started very organically. Since then, the band has since toured the world numerous times and expanded its scope of international musical influences.

Matuto, which is a Brazilian slang reference for country bumpkin, has widespread roots. Percussionist Ze Mauricio is a native of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and is a master in a number of rhythmic Brazilian music styles. Guitarist/vocalist Ross is a Southern boy with “twang” in his DNA.

Accordionist/composer Rob Curto hails from New York and has made music in a variety of genres. Curto is widely regarded as forró’s foremost ambassador in the States. Forró is the name of a dance style from northern Brazil and the music that accompanies it.

“We tour mostly as a four-piece,” said Curto, during a phone interview last week from his home in New York. “We’ve had a pretty busy tour schedule. We were out west last summer and we also did a tour of the Pacific Northwest.

“This year, we’re going on a tour that is sponsored by the U.S. State Department — a tour that will take us to China, Cambodia and Thailand. We’ve done tours for the State Department in the past.

“We did a five-country State Department tour in 2013 in Africa — Maputo, Mozambique; Accra, Ghana; Yaounde and Douala, Cameroon; Dakar, Senegal; and Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. We also did a tour that went to Malta, Kuwait, Oman and Spain.”

The African tour resulted in a Matuto album on Motema Music called “Africa Suite” with a track featuring each of the five countries.

“When we were in Africa, we collaborated and performed with local musicians,” said Curto. “In our music, we mix styles from Brasil and roots USA. All that music has African roots so to play in Africa was particularly meaningful. In Ghana, we listened to a lot of High-Life music with its clave pattern.

“Right now, we’re just putting together material for our next album. We’re in pre-production. We try things out in sound check and let things develop on the road. We’ve been thinking about using keyboards on the next record.”

Video link for Matuto — https://youtu.be/HvT0OInkkfE.

The show at Calvary Church will actually feature two performances. There will be a free children’s concert at 6 p.m. and a full-scale Matuto concert at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices range from $10-$30.

Chuck Ragan is a rocker/singer/songwriter/guitarist who has numerous avenues for his music. He performs as solo artist, occasionally is the organizer of his multi-artist Revival Tour, is a founding member of the Florida band Hot Water Music and, now, is recording and performing with his latest band The Camaraderie.

Ragan and the Camaraderie recently released an album titled “The Winter Haul Live.” The band has also been hitting the road to do shows in support of the album. One of those shows will be on February 15 at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com).

It is no co-incidence that Ragan first talked about camaraderie when he brought one of his Revival Tour shows to the Troc in Philly in 2012. The tour featured Chuck Ragan, Dan Andriano (who played in Alkaline Trio and The Emergency Room), Tommy Gabel (who is a member of the band Against Me!), Dave Hause (from the band The Loved Ones) and longtime Lucero collaborator Cory Branan.

At the time, Ragan said, “The most special thing about this tour is the camaraderie it’s all built on — going into an entire tour with the mindset of all ending up onstage together. It’s real loose. Having a good time is an important aspect. Everyone is there in the same spirit and same mind frame.”

Now, Ragan has a band called Camaraderie — a group that features Jon Gaunt on fiddle, Joe Ginsberg on bass, Todd Beene on pedal steel guitar, David Hidalgo, Jr. on drums and Ragan on guitar and vocals.

“My last studio album was ‘Till Midnight’ in 2014 and my last live album was ‘The Winter Haul Live,’ which came out last month,” said Ragan, during a phone interview Monday morning from his home in Grass Valley, California.

Ragan also has a special project that is ready to take his music into a new realm — a videogame soundtrack “The Flame In The Flood,” which was just released on February 4th via Ten Four Records.

Ragan and the Camaraderie recorded “The Flame In The Flood” last year at Basecamp in Grass Valley with Beene and Ragan as the producers. All the songs were written by Ragan excerpt for three he co-write and one that was written by Gaunt.

The vibe of the game is summed up in the lyrics of the title track — “In the backwaters beyond fables and years, there’s freedom in moving on.
There’s a silence that may be heard loud and clear in a simple, wild and natural cadence.
Keep my eyes open.  Keep my ears sharpened.
There’s nothing to fear but fear itself in desperation.
Chasing horizons and the flame in the flood.
Through the briars and the brambles of our tears, there’s no failure in true survival.
All the trials and tales of old that cut us near will help keep our head above the water.

Keep my eyes open.  Keep my ears sharpened.
There’s nothing to fear but fear itself in desperation.
Chasing horizons and the flame in the flood.”

 “The Flame in the Flood” is a project from Scott Sinclair the Art Director of BioShock, and a team of veterans of the BioShock, Halo, Guitar Hero and Rock Band series.

“Scott Sinclair is a friend of mine,” said Ragan. “He approached me with the concept that I fell in love with — music for a videogame — writing songs about drifting down a river.”

Ragan is an outdoorsman and a top-flight fisherman who takes fishing expeditions out on his boats in the High Sierra area of northern California. He loves nature and spends as much time as possible enjoying it.

The recent phone interview took place at 9:30 a.m., which is pretty early in the day for a rock musician to be coherent. Impressively, Ragan was at his home in California where it was 6:30 a.m.

“I’m a 4:00-4:30 a.m. kind of guy,” said Ragan. “If I’m not rigging up and getting ready to get out on the water by 6:00 a.m., I’m working on things around the house. It’s my favorite time of day. I’m also a fly fishing guide and I have two boats — a drift boat and a bass boat.

“So, it was great to be writing downs about going down the river and songs about survival. When I was writing the songs, I camped on the river and put together lyrics and the foundation for the music.”

When asked if he were forced to give up either fishing or music, which would it be, Ragan said, “That’s a really hard question. I don’t think I can give you an answer to that.”

Fortunately for Ragan, his fans and his fishing clients, it’s a choice he probably will never have to make.

Video link for “The Flame in the Flood” — https://youtu.be/kNm0u_XxHJ4.

The show at Union Transfer, which also features Cory Branan and Song Dogs, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Lee DeWyze released his debut album “So I’m Told” in 2007 and followed with four more full-length albums through 2013. Now, after a few years between discs, DeWyze will release his new album “Oil & Water” on February 12.

While all his previous albums were released the traditional way by record labels, the new one was done featuring a PledgeMusic campaign. DeWyze will perform songs from the new album in a show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, philly.worldcafelive.com) on February 16.

“We went to Pledge because we wanted to connect with the fans,” said DeWyze, during a phone interview last week from his home in Los Angeles. “We offered things like signed guitars and lyric sheets. It was all for the fans. We weren’t aiming for a monetary goal.”

DeWyze built a legion of fans through his performances on the “American Idol” TV show. He was the overall winner in the ninth season of the show. Television also helped him gain exposure when his song “Blackbird Song” was used in the TV series “The Walking Dead.”

“I’ll always appreciate ‘America Idol’ but it’s not what I hang my hat on,” said DeWyze. “I recorded ‘Oil & Water’ in my own studio in North Hollywood. I did all the recording myself. I produced it and worked with an engineer. I specifically set out to make the record on my own.

“On ‘Frames,’ my last album, I produced it but also had a co-producer. The new one was the first one I did solely on my own in my own studio. I had a drummer come out but I did all the keys, vocals, harmonies and bass myself. With the production, it was really a collaborative effort between me and my engineer.”

DeWyze took his time making “Oil & Water.”

“It took about a year-and-a-half,” said DeWyze. “I started writing and wrote about 25 songs. I recorded a bunch of them and then whittled it down. I’m all about the lyrics. My favorite records from the 60s and 70s are all about lyrics — artists like Cat Stevens and Paul Simon.

“When I’m writing a song, it comes with the lyrics first. Sometimes, I’ll write lyrics as a poem. It’s usually an experience of something that has happened and I’ll write about it — maybe a topic like being on the road and having to leave my wife at home.”

The “Oil & Water” CD will be released on Shanachie Records.

“The people from Shanachie heard the music and said they wanted to release the album,” said DeWyze. “I’m happy with their passion for my music. And, they allowed me to do what I wanted to do.”

Video link for Lee DeWyze — https://youtu.be/SNlE9yqsraw.

The show at the World Café Live, which also features Wakey Wakey and Shayna Leigh, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are priced at $17.

Even though Mardi Gras was a few days ago, the Mardi Gras spirit will come alive again on February 17 when the Soul Rebels headline a show at the Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com).

The Soul Rebels are a New Orleans-based brass ensemble with a sound that features elements of soul, jazz, funk, hip-hop, rock and pop music within a contemporary brass band framework.

The eight-piece group features Lumar LeBlanc – Snare Drum; Derrick “Oops” Moss –  Bass Drum and Percussion; Edward Lee – Sousaphone; Marcus “Red” Hubbard – Trumpet; Julian Gosin – Trumpet; Paul Robertson – Trombone; Corey Peyton – Trombone; and Erion Williams – Tenor Saxophone.

The Soul Rebels started with an idea — to expand upon the pop music they loved on the radio and the New Orleans brass tradition they grew up on. They took that tradition and blended the elements together.

Right from the start, the Soul Rebels built their reputation around an eclectic live show that harnesses the power of horns and drums in the party-like atmosphere of a dance club. When not touring, The Soul Rebels’ weekly show at Le Bon Temps Roulé is known to erupt with the kind of contagious, shout-along musical mayhem that The Rebels bring with them wherever they perform.

“The band started in 1991 as an offshoot of the Young Olympians,” said Julian Goslin, during a phone interview last week from his home in New Orleans.

 “Lumar and Derrick were the ‘young kids’ at the time. They were into funk, hip-hop and R&B. In order to complement the other styles of music, they had to start a new band. That’s what started the train rolling.”

From 1999-2011, the Soul Rebels released six albums — the most recent of which was “Unlock Your Mind,” which came out on Rounder Records in 2011. In 2013, the band released a mix tape titled “Power=Power.”

“I’ve been in the band full-time for six years,” said Goslin. “Lumar and Derrick are the only originals left. I’ve played with pretty much every brass band here in New Orleans but Soul Rebels is the main one.

“We kind of have our own niche. I think we’re a little different. We try to step out of the box. When we’re not on tour, we play every Thursday night at Le Bon Temps Roulé on Magazine Street and those shows are always great.”

The Soul Rebels know how to get a crowd moving — and how to keep them happy.

“We mix up songs from all our albums,” said Goslin. “The residency is our home base so we do a lot of experimenting. Maybe the sousaphone comes in with the bass line or the horns come in with a melody — as long as you have the beat going. We do a lot of New Orleans covers — and contemporary covers.

“Right after Mardi Gras, we have an East Coast tour including six or seven dates featuring Talib Kweli. Last year, we played shows in Shanghai and this year we’re going over to Beijing.

“We’re already getting ready for a new album right now. We’re just waiting to have the time to settle down and get back in the studio.”

Video link for the Soul Rebels — https://youtu.be/QT-W0H3o9nE.

The show at the TLA will start at 8 p.m. General admission tickets are $20.

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Harrah’s Philadelphia (777 Harrah’s Boulevard, Chester, 484-490-1800, /www.caesars.com/harrahs-philly) is throwing a lively 80s dance party at its newest venue The Block Entertainment Center on Saturday, February 13. The casino is showing its love for all things 80s as it hosts a special “iHeart The 80s” show featuring Debbie Gibson, Rob Base and Pretty Poison.

The “iHeart the 80s” concert will feature three of the decade’s hottest artists. In addition to the memory-stirring performances, guests will also be treated to an 80s Video DJ, dancers, celebrity impersonators from the Drag Queen Mafia. Those attending the dance party will have the opportunity to win an all-expense-paid trip for two to the “iHeart the 80s” concert at The Forum in Los Angeles with backstage passes to meet all the favorite childhood stars on February 20, 2016. Additional prizes and giveaways will be provided throughout the night courtesy of iHeart Radio.

Gibson is best known for her break-out debut single “Only In My Dreams,” which reached Number 4 on the Hot 100 chart. Four singles from Gibson’s debut album reached the Top 5 of the Hot 100 chart — “Only in My Dreams,” “Shake Your Love,” “Out Of The Blue” and “Foolish Beat.”

Base is best known for his work with the late great DJ-EZ Rock. Philadelphia-based Pretty Poison, which is fronted by Jade Starling, earned a spot on the top 10 U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1987 for “Catch Me I’m Falling” thanks to heavy MTV rotation and after being featured in the film “Hiding Out.”

All attendees must be 21 to enter. Tickets start at $25.00 for general admission and front stage standing room only, Group and VIP bottle service packages with reserved seating are available on a limited basis.

The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Better than Bacon on February 11, Jeffrey Gaines with Cliff Hills on February 12 and “Hello, I Must Be Going! – A Tribute to Phil Collins” on February 13.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will present Matt Spitko and Ryan Tennis on February 12, Bruda and Former Fools on February 13 and Jeffrey Gaines’ Valentine’s Show with Greg Sover on February 14.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will host What’’s Next and The Odyssey on February 12 and Chestnut Grove and The Phibs on February 13.

Doc Watson’s Public House (150 North Pottstown Pike, Exton, 610-524-2424, docwatsonspublichouse.com) will feature Fooling Aperil on February 12 and Green M

Machine on February 13.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Devon Sproule and The Sea The Sea on February 12 and Craig Bickhardt and Michael Ronstadt with Lizanne Knott on February 13.

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