On Stage: The Long Ryders roll out new album

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Long Ryders

The Long Ryders, who are headlining a show on September 19 at The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com), could actually be called the “Long Riders.”

The Long Ryders — Sid Griffin, vocals, guitar, mandolin, harmonica; Stephen McCarthy,  vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, Mellotron, bass; Tom Stevens, vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lead guitar; Greg Sowders, drums, percussion — had their start in Los Angeles in 1983 and have been on a long – and at time interrupted – ride ever since.

The four musicians could also earn the name based on the long ride between the band members’ residences.

“We’re hoping to make a new album soon but it’s tough because we don’t live near each other anymore,” said Griffin, during a phone interview Wednesday morning from Brooklyn, New York.

“Tom, our bass player, lives in Indiana Our guitarist Steve lives in Richmond, Virginia. Greg, our drummer, is from L.A. and I live in England.

“I’ve been living here in London for 27 years. I have a British wife and my kids go to a state school. I grew up in Kentucky – in Louisville. I moved to L.A. in the early 1980s and stumbled into the Long Ryders.”

The Long Ryders were formed Thanksgiving 1981 in west Los Angeles. Griffin left his 60s punk band The Unclaimed after having bonded musically with former Boxboys drummer Greg Sowders at a jam session in the notorious ON Klub in Silverlake. The other guitar player was Steve Wynn, but he left to form the Dream Syndicate and was replaced by McCarthy, who answered a “Musician’s Wanted” ad in a local Korean free newspaper.

The original bass player was Barry Shank who quit to return to graduate school and was replaced by Englishman Des Brewer. This lineup recorded and released an EP in 1983 called “10-5-60” and it was so well received they decided to tour the states. Brewer dropped out at this point to continue his career as a longshoreman in San Pedro and was replaced by Stevens, a former candidate in the NASA “Right Stuff” space program in Houston.

The band recorded its debut LP “Native Sons” with the late Henry Lewy producing. Lewy had worked with the Flying Burrito Brothers on their classic “Gilded Palace of Sin” LP as well as with the Association, Barbara Streisand, Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell. Together the Long Ryders and Lewy came up with an album called “a modern American classic” by Melody Maker and soon found themselves on the cover of the London’s New Musical Express as well as playing live on the BBC’s Whistle Test TV show.

The Long Ryders released the album “State Of Our Union” and their single “Looking For Lewis & Clark” stormed up the charts and became their signature song. In 1987, the quartet released “Two-Fisted Tales,” which was produced by Ed Stasium (Ramones/Smithereens) and yielded a radio hit with “I Want You Bad.”

The group disbanded in 1987 when Stevens left to be with his young family and McCarthy left to write musicals. The band reunited to perform at the 2004 Glastonbury Festival and several other major events. The Long Ryders played their first live dates in the U.S. in more than 20 years when they headlined in 2009 at The Earl in Atlanta, Georgia.

“After those two shows in Atlanta, I thought we’d never play together again,” said Griffin. “But we did a short tour in Europe in 2014.

“In January 2015, John Ferriter offered us $1000 a song to play a show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.We were headlining the show. It was great. That got us going on the West Coast.

“Then, Cherry Red Records asked us to put together a box set. Cherry Red’s Steve Hammonds and I hit it off and he wanted to release a Long Ryders box set. I got our bass player to work with Steve on the project.”

In January 2016, Cherry Red Records released a Long Ryders box set, “Final Wild Songs,” composed of all the material from their three full-length albums, their one EP, various demos and rarities, and a previously unavailable 15-song performance from a Benelux radio appearance in March 1985. In 2016, England’s Mojo magazine, gave the collection a lead review, saying, “They unwittingly invented Americana, but seldom receive credit for it. This four-CD box set puts the record straight.”

“Mojo and Uncut, England’s other major music magazine, had re-issue reviews and full-color photographs of our band,” said Griffin. “They were ejaculating about how good the box set was. Soon after, BBC started calling, Young DJs were worshipping the Long Ryders.

“We did two more box sets with Cherry Red Records. Now, we’re getting tons of offers to play around the world. There is more interest in the Long Ryders, and it keeps increasing.”

On February 15, 2019 The Long Ryders released “Psychedelic Country Soul,” the band’s first album of new material in 33 years. Once again, the Long Ryders used Ed Stasium as their producer.

“We recorded the album in November 2016 at Dr. Dre’s studio in L.A.,” said Griffin. “It got great reviews when it came out and was Number One on the U.K. Americana chart. Now, we’re touring again.”

Video link for the Long Ryders – https://youtu.be/P1_jpWxwzZo.

The show at The Locks at Sona, which has Joe Nolan as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25

Other upcoming shows at The Locks at Sona are The End of America and Matt Duke on September 20 and Chris Smither on September 21.

The Kennedys

The Kennedys are closing in on the silver anniversary of the release of their debut album, “River of Stars,” which came out in 1995 on Green Linnet Records. In 25 years, they have put out 24 albums including several solo releases each.

The Kennedys — husband-and-wife Pete and Maura Kennedy — are rockers, folkies, troubadours and out-and-out road warriors.

With a quarter-century of touring under their belt, the Kennedys have played more than 2500 shows and travelled close to a million miles bringing their music to their fans around the world.  They have also toured frequently as Nanci Griffith’s backing musicians in her Blue Moon Orchestra.

The New York-based duo has performed at venues all around the Delaware Valley including the World Café Live at the Queen in Wilmington, The Point in Bryn Mawr, the World Café Live in Philadelphia, Jamey’s House of Music in Lansdowne, and PSALM Salon in Overbrook.

The Kennedys also have played several venues in Chester County including Longwood Gardens in Chadds Ford, Eagleview Town Center in Lionville, Kennett Flash in Kennett Square, Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville, and The Art Scene at Café Menta in West Chester.

On September 20, the Kennedys will be back in the area to play a return show at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com).

“We’re on the road a lot,” said Maura Kennedy during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from the couple’s home in New York. “Right now, we’re busier than usual. We’re touring as much as ever — and writing as much as ever.

“My dad, who is 90, has Parkinson’s Disease and he’s been up and down. We cancelled a U.K. tour to be with him.”

The Kennedys, who are known nationwide as the hosts of the late lamented “Dharma Café” program on Sirius Satellite Radio, are touring behind their most recent album, “Safe Until Tomorrow.”

Life on the road and time spent in the creative ecosystem of the Village have informed their songwriting over the course of 14 duo albums and half a dozen side projects, and “Safe Until Tomorrow” is true to that tradition. What sets the album apart is the inclusion of several anthemic, rocking songs of social consciousness that convey a strong message best summed up in one of the song titles — “Be Silent No More.” The Kennedys’ music has been described as uplifting, empowering and encouraging.

“The album came out last year in in May and we’ve been writing ever since,” said Kennedy. “A lot of the tracks on the album deal with what we’re going through now – especially with my dad.

“I think it’s more about responsibility. With age, you have more responsibilities with which you’re charged. The theme is about responding to responsibilities – responsibilities to the truth, responsibilities to the globe. Pete and I are a couple, so we face things together”

A good example of the album’s vibe is the LP’s opening track – which is also the title track. According to the band’s press release, the song is “an impassioned call to support caregivers, the self-sacrificing ones who put aside their own lives to help others. For baby boomers who’ve reached the age when their parents need the kind of help that they once gave their children, this song resonates strongly.”

With such an ambitious touring schedule, the Kennedys long ago mastered the art of recording music while on the road. And, they have the home front covered too.

“We have our own studio space in Manhattan,” said Kennedy. “With the new technology, there are so many different recording devices and they’re all useful. We started recording like that a long time ago. We’ve done all our records in our home studio. It’s easy and you don’t have to worry about the clock or a budget. We can work until we’re finished.

“In the studio, we’ll play other instruments like bass and drums. But we like just playing our guitars in the live shows. We like the energy of two guitars. It forces us to a whole different energy level.”

The Kennedys have another connection to Chester County.

Three of their albums — “Half a Million Miles,” “Songs of the Open Road,” and “Better Dreams” – were released on the Appleseed Recordings label – a small record company that is owned by Jim Musselman and located here in West Chester.

Video link for the Kennedys — https://youtu.be/BUkqxKuTyxA.

The show at Jamey’s House of Music will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at Jamey’s House of Music are Lisa Chavous on September 21 and a tent with a “Blues Boulevard” theme at the Lansdowne Arts Festival on September 22.

Now through October 13, the Bristol Riverside Theatre (120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, https://www.brtstage.org/) is presenting “An Act of God” starring film and television star Kim Wayans.

“An Act of God” is a play by 13-time Emmy winner David Javerbaum. It was adapted for stage from Javerbaum’s “The Last Testament: A Memoir By God.” The play began as a “series of tweets” and a book before being written as a play.

The play began previews for its initial run on Broadway at Studio 54 in May 2015 and opened officially on May 28 for a limited run through August 2.

Jim Parsons of “Big Bang Theory” fame starred as God in the production directed by Joe Mantello and produced by Jeffrey Finn. The play featured Tim Kazurinsky as archangel Gabriel, and Christopher Fitzgerald as archangel Michael. The show returned to Broadway at the Booth Theatre for a limited engagement starring Sean Hayes in May 2016 and closed on September 4, 2016 after 90 performances.

The play, which was a smash hit on Broadway, was based on Javerbaum’s Twitter persona @TheTweetofGod, which now boasts six million followers.” An Act of God” is directed by BRT Founding Director Susan D. Atkinson. The show will run for 28 performances, from September 17 to October 13, 2019.

Kim Wayans is an American actress, director, and writer who became popular after appearing in the family comedy series “In Living Color.” She started off by appearing in a string of TV series in guest roles before joining the cast of the family show “In Living Color,” which proved to be her breakthrough.

After appearing in more than 100 episodes of the comedy series, Wayans started getting more roles in both TV series and movies. Her most notable performances include that of Tonia Harris in “In the House,” Mrs. Johnson in “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood,” Audrey in “Pariah,” and Vi Briggs in “Reckless.”

Her performance in the movie “Pariah” earned her several award nominations. She is also known for her one-woman show, which has received great reviews all over the country. Now, she is playing God.

“I believe this is the first production of the show with a woman as God,” said Wayans, during a recent phone interview during a break from rehearsals in Bristol. “I can’t think of another show that has God as a female.

“It’s quite a massive undertaking for a play and this is a one-run special show at the theater in Bristol. I never played God before. In real life, my husband would probably say less.

“My agent got a call making an offer. I read the script and it was hilarious. It seemed like a real good show. I never saw it or looked at videos of other productions. I wanted to keep it fresh.”

God is back and she has a lot to say. After many millennia, and in just 90 minutes, God (assisted by her devoted angels Gabriel and Michael) will answer some of the deepest questions that have plagued mankind since Creation. The “One” will give the first and last word on everything from monotheism to masturbation.

“An Act of God” is a mental romp around the Old and New Testaments, with a dissatisfied God who, having grown weary of the original 10 Commandments, has arrived in the theater to offer new version — a fresh set of commandments for a modern world. This sinfully funny comedy delivers a new meaning to the phrase divine intervention.

“I hope audiences see that the self-absorbed, tantrum-prone character introduced was not the true manifestation of God, but rather the collective version of how humans envision God,” said Atkinson. “It has an irreverence, the deity on stage is not the commander of the cosmos per se, but rather the naturally imperfect version of what humankind has tried to make God for eons.  I know through the laughter we will see some truths.”
When casting for the greater than life role of God, Atkinson looked far and wide across the country for the “holy” match. Atkinson knew that God was created for a celebrity to fill the greater than life role — and she knew she wanted to have a woman play God.

According to Atkinson, “I thought previous actors did an amazing job playing God. It was obvious to me we wanted a celebrity to play the part. But when I visualized God being played by a woman, I was inspired to bring the show to the next level. We didn’t want to recreate what had been done, but instead step out of the box to make something really special. We couldn’t be more thrilled with our choice.” 

Wayans was impressed with the play’s humor.

“It’s very funny – very irreverent and very funny,” said Wayans, who, in addition to her acting, has written a series of children’s novels. “It’s like ‘The Book of Mormon.’ If you have a sense of humor, you should have a good time.

“God comes down to earth with 10 new commandments. She comes down to converse with the audience and talk about humanity. She’s like a modern-day Moses to present 10 commandments and set the record straight about things.”

Charles Isherwood, reviewing the Broadway production in The New York Times, called the play “a gut-busting-funny riff on the never-ending folly of mankind’s attempts to fathom God’s wishes through the words of the Bible and use them to their own ends.”

“It’s thought-provoking and makes you think about ways you conceive God,” said Wayans. “Everybody who sees it will have a different take.”

Video link for “An Act of God” — https://youtu.be/jtPxsyukDZI.

“An Act of God” is running now through October 13 at the Bristol Riverside Theatre. Tickets are $43 and $50.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org)  is presenting Emily Scott Robinson with Lauren Kuhne on September 20, Mark Unruh with special guest Maxwell Brown on September 21, and YOU MIGHT THINK – A Tribute to The Cars on September 22.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Joe Miralles Trio with special guest Matt Vantine on September 21.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) is hosting Space Donkey & The Moonbouncers, Merchant Copy, and The Easily Fooled on September 20.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Steal Your Peach on September 19, Louis Cole on September 20, Damn the Torpedoes: Tom Petty Tribute with special guest Lennon Live on September 21, Beatles for Kids on September 22, Lee “Scratch” Perry on September 22 and Grateful Dread on September 25.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will host Pink Cadillac Club on September 19, Dead Friends on September 20, Professor Louie And The Crowmatix on September 21, and Brian Collins on September 22.

Annenberg Center (3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, https://annenbergcenter.org/events) will host 47Soul on September 19 and Sweet Honey in the Rock on September 21.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present Mark Hummel & The Blues Survivors Ft. Dean Shot w/ James Day And The Fish Fry on September 19, The High Kings on September 20, Sun Kil Moon on September 21, Spin Doctors on September 22, River Whyless with The Dead Tongues on September 23, Courtney Patton & Jason Eady on September 24, and Los Lonely Boys with James Pace Band on September 25.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will host Lucinda Williams on September 22.

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting its “Candlelight Comedy Club” on September 19 featuring Coleman Green as the headliner and Chipps Cooney as the opening act. The dinner theater’s main production – the hit musical comedy “Catch Me If You Can” – is running weekends now through October 20.

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