8 Reasons Why Quiet Concerts Kick Ass


live-music.jpgLast week, several of my singer-songwriting colleagues and myself gathered in a bar and shared original music to a quiet, attentive audience. And this was a bar that specializes in rock, punk, country, and blues, so this was far from some already-quiet coffee shop or house concert. We announced and promoted the concert as a “listening event,” kindly posting that talking was to be kept to a minimum. On the night of the show, one of the performers introduced the show, stating that we wanted to keep talking limited to the breaks in between sets and, of course, for ordering drinks. Aside from a few points where one of us had to ask a few people to quiet down, the evening was an incredible success. We raised significant dough for an important charity, had more personal interaction with the audience, and aside from a couple folks that were annoyed with the “please be quiet” reminders, everyone was incredibly pleased by the show.

There’s a time for loud, drunken concerts, certain music is meant more as background music, and any seasoned performer will have developed a thick skin when it comes to audiences. People are gonna request “Freebird,” talk during the show, fart, and heckle. That’s life.

Still, just like we need rowdy shows and need to keep concerts social events, we absolutely and I’d argue URGENTLY need more events that are quiet, intimate, and song-centric. I worry that, in a world of selfies, chatter, the enormous worth we currently afford to constant socializing, many of us have lost the ability to quietly, comfortably sit still and give every second of our focus to the performer and their music.

So here’s a list of 8 reasons why quiet concerts are not only needed, but well-worth the focus that listeners invest in them.

1. Quiet concerts depend upon a close connection between audience and performer(s).
It’s almost a little weird when you first attend a smaller, quieter show. We’ve all been to concerts and have felt like the singer was speaking directly to us. At listening rooms, they actually are. 

2. The lyrical content of the music is better heard in these environments.
As a result, listeners get a more holistic experience of each song. Listening rooms, quiet concerts, house shows etc. are exercises in music appreciation that will change how you understand music. Seriously

3.  They truly are QUIET.
Life gets noisy, whether we want it to or not. In a listening room setting, we each have a direct opportunity to step into a quiet space, get comfortable, and get inspired.

4. Musicians actually enjoy playing these shows.
I’ve talked to so many musicians, both as a performer and the many I’ve talked to via this site. Without exception, almost all of them seem to be tired of only playing noisy shows where the socializing, rather than the songs, are given center stage. Some musicians are only doing house shows as a direct response to disillusionment with louder, chattier concert experiences. 

House-concert-1pxlr.jpg5. It’s easier to meet other music fans and musicians.
Seriously. I’ve both attended and played at a lot of house shows, listening rooms, etc. Since time is often specifically set aside to chat, enjoy food together, etc. you can have great conversations and connections with the people attending. Also, in most cases the featured musician sticks around to hang out with attendees.

6. You get to enter places and experience things you never would otherwise.
I‘ve seen so many unusual, beautiful homes and small venues, ate delicious food that I can’t even pronounce, and enjoyed evenings of music that were unlike any I’ve had before. 

7. When it comes to smaller venues and house shows, you are directly supporting musicians with your attention AND your money.
Unless the concert is poorly organized or has too many performers, musicians can make a nice chunk of change at these events and in turn sustain their music careers.

8. The music sounds INCREDIBLE.
Seriously. Something about the small, cozy living rooms, with their wooden walls, floors and intimacy makes the music sound incredible. Also, quiet nights at usually-loud bars can improve communication between performers and the person running sound. Since it’s assumed that more attention will be given by the audience. those involved often become especially detailed in order to get the best sound.

There are plenty of other reasons why we need more listening rooms, quiet concerts, house shows, song-centric evening. But I hope this has given you a spark of curiosity in this approach to performance.

Christmas Ghost Stories!

For this week’s episode of Stovepipe Story Hour, we bring back the age-old but nearly-forgotten Christmas tradition of telling ghost stories! This is a good one: ghostly dolls, creepy kids, ‘scary old England.” This was once a favorite shared around the hearth at Christmas time. We also take a trip away from the campfire to stop at Quinn & Tuites Irish Pub for some great live music from Raven Griffin

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10 Musical Moments from Full & Fuller House


Fuller House Season 2 is on!!!! Some of you readers may have given up on any credibility you once thought I had based on the number of exclamation points alone. Oh well. Full House is dear to my child and Fuller House has plenty of eye rolling hilarity to keep fans happy. Music is always a big part of the show. Here are ten of the best moments!

10. Motown Philly Dance

9. Polkahontas and his Beer Sausage Seven

8. Danny Tanner’s heartbreaking rendition of “My Girl”

7. Uncle Jesse sings “Rock-A-Hula”

6. Jesse and the Rippers featuring SCOTT BAIO!

5. I thought this one was awful sweet.

4. Indian dance in FULLER HOUSE

3. Stephanie Tanner led band “Girl Talk” covers Ace of Base’s “I Saw the Sign”

2. A real tear jerker here

1. The number one spot? BEACH BOYS OF COURSE!

10 Great Songs to Celebrate TOM WAITS

Happy Birthday, Tom! Thanks for the music. Here are a bunch  of great ones.

1. Eggs and Sausages

2. Martha (rare live performance)

3. Tom Traubert’s Blues

4. Silent Night & Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis\

5. Clap Hands

6. Hold On

7. Yesterday is Here

8. The Piano Has Been Drinking

9. Make it Rain

10. Cold, Cold Ground

and just for fun….

The Ten Best Albums of 2016

We have needed great music this year. Needed. Music. We’ve lost some of the best rock n’ rollers who have ever lived. We suffered through an endlessly stupid election season with equally stupid results. We enter 2017 knowing that the world as we’ve known it will not be the same again. It may be better. Many of us feel like it won’t be.

We need great music.

So here are the ten best albums of 2016, according to Blue Collar Songwriting.  Treat yourself to this buffet of musical goodness. Devour each album, each song, and look forward to more.

And the best album of 2016 goes to……………………………………………………………..

1. Snail Mail: Habit


I loved this album. Loved-loved-loved-loved it, from its opening note to its stunning conclusion. Rarely have I been so pleasantly surprised, so immediately overtaken by an album all at once. I discovered this Baltimore-based outfit on Bandcamp, simply because the cover  for Habit is so cool looking. The music itself sounds like late 80s college rock (Blake Babies, Dramarama, The Feelies, The Dream Syndicate, to name a few) but is colored throughout with early 90s shoegaze (My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Mazzy Star to again name a few). The fact that it is released primarily on cassette gives it mystique, as if its a rare and forgotten gem found packed away in an attic. And not that it should matter, but the creator behind Snail Mail is still in High School. That’s right, band leader and principal songwriter Lindsey Jordan has many years ahead of her to continue making incredible music. I cannot wait to hear it. Without batting an eye, this is one of those rare rookie efforts that is also a masterpiece.


Standout Songs: Thinning, Static Buzz, Slug



2. Charles Bradley: Changes


Charles Bradley is an easy person to root for. He was raised in poverty, worked hard his whole life to stay afloat, lost a brother to murder, moonlighted as a James Brown impersonator, just learned to read a few years ago, took care of his ailing mother up until her recent death, and finally in his mid 60s landed a record deal with the renowned Daptone Records. He has since become one of the most acclaimed voices of soul music revival. Though the title track is a cover of a Black Sabbath tune, Bradley infuses it with such heartache, with a voice so specifically his own that, to no small degree, he makes the tune original to himself. Changes is his best and most balanced effort yet.


Standout Songs: Changes, Things We Do For Love, Ain’t it a Sin, You Think I Don’t Know-But I know



3. Coffin Problem


This is the kind of debut that bands dream of making. A moody, mesmerizing monster of an album that feels like the soundtrack to a nightmare, though with enough glimmers of light to make it at times feel like a bizarre daydream. Frontman Sean Stearn’s vocal moans pair perfectly with the gritty, symphonic soundscapes created by the members of Coffin Problem.  Themes of death, loss, and cosmology move throughout this 8-track record.  And even though it’s not an easy listen, it’s certainly a rewarding one.


Standout Tracks: Ghosts of Ourselves, Apparition, Child of the Sun



4. Haley Bonar: Impossible Dream


This Canadian-born, South Dakota-raised artist has been releasing solid solo work since 2003. But this year’s Impossible Dream is her best album yet. This is vicious, wild stuff that goes so much further than most other contemporary singer-songwriters can even imagine going. Each track  bursts with noisy explosions of color, melody, and intrigue that keeps you coming back for repeated listenings. It’s the kind of record you wish would just keep going, and going, and going, and going….


Standout Tracks: Kismet Kill, I Can Change, Called You Queen



5. Nick CaveSkeleton Tree


“You fell from the sky, crash landed in a field near the river Adur.

Flowers spring from the ground. Lambs burst from the wombs of their mothers in a hole beneath the bridge.

You convalesced, you fashion masks of twigs and clay.

You cried beneath the dripping trees. Ghost song lodged in the throat of a mermaid.”

Jesus Christ.

So begins the opening track, “Jesus Alone,” from Nick Cave’s devastating latest release Skeleton Tree. The album was penned and composed in the wake of his young son’s death earlier this year, who died after taking LSD and falling off the Ovingdean Gap cliffs in Brighton, England. Skeleton Tree is essentially one of the most acclaimed, gifted singer-songwriters and composers of our time dealing with something that no father should have  to deal with.There’s one part of the standout track “Girl in Amber” where a chorus of ghostly voices simply moan, and it rends your heart. If we’re gonna be honest with ourselves, it would be better if this album was never made. But it has been, and the result is a haunting, unsettling work that reaches  far into realms of despair, beauty, and utter transcendence.


Standout Track: Girl in Amber, Rings of Saturn, I Need You


6. Nathan Kalish & The Lastcallers: Continental Breakfast of Champions


Nathan Kalish is a songwriter’s songwriter. He makes the kind of music that other songwriters aspire towards. And on this latest release, Kalish and the Lastcallers avoid even the threat of a sophomore slump with the tremendous Continental Breakfast of Champions. The songs on it are a hearty brew of folk and honky-tonk country, all held together with the kind of lyric-heavy vibes that emanate from songwriting greats like John Prine, Warren Zevon, Tom Waits, and their kin.


Standout Tracks: Return to Stone, High Desert, Overdosin’ on the USA


7. SolangeA Seat at the Table


Solange Knowles has a sound recalling the more experimental Motown music from the late 70s, with a voice that always starts with a mellow vibe, gradually building into sudden and surprising bombast. Along with her notable vocal talents, the music itself presents a perfect soundscape of soft horns, dreamy synths, and piano lines that are flat out romantic.


Standout Tracks: Cranes in the Skye, Don’t You Wait, Where Do We Go, Don’t Touch My Hair



8. David MalletCelebration


Though known on a wider level for his oft-covered original “The Garden Song,” Maine-native David Mallett has built a solid career and ever-growing following with music as rich as it is poetic. With his 17th album Celebration, David offers what may be his most fully-realized album yet. The songs here are socially relevant yet always relatable, touching on political and personal struggles. Celebration is exceptional, hearty songwriting, reflecting an artist that shows no sign of ending  his long career anytime soon.


Standout Tracks: Celebration, Better Than That, You Deserve the Best


9. Sam Beam, Jesca Hoop: Love Letter for Fire


Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam is famous all over the world, and he deserves it. Jesca Hoop should be, too. Yet, until recently she’s maintained only minimal fame, much of it in Europe. Her debut album Kismet is as good as any album you’re bound to hear. With Love Letter for Fire, she finds a creative, collaborative spirit in Sam Beam. This is songwriting at its finest, with subtlety and warmth permeating the album from beginning to end. Keep digging into Sam Beam’s impressive catalog. But expect nothing less than further greatness from Jesca Hoop as well.


Standout Tracks: One Way to Pray, We Two are The Moon, Know the Wild That Wants You


10. Olafur Arnalds w/ Alice Sara Ott: The Chopin Project

For nearly a decade, Olafur Arnalds has managed to bridge contemporary trip-hop with classical music with a tremendous success. On The Chopin Project, Arnalds and classical pianist Alice Sara Ott create an album of darkness and light, with arrangements rich and simple, making each Chopin recreation all the more haunting.


Standout Tracks: Reminiscence, Nocturne in G Minor, Written in Stone

Stovepipe Story Hour: Sam Kenny, Brothers Grimm

Stovepipe Stover sits by the fire to share a brand new original song, a cozy reading of a horrifying Brothers’ Grimm tale, and ends the show with a visit and performance from acclaimed singer-songwriter Sam Kenny.
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BCS PODCAST: Mark Lavengood


Blue Collar Songwriting is VERY pleased to feature the great Mark Lavengood for our monthly interview podcast! Mark is a good soul, full of positivity and a rare musical talent that combines bluegrass, folk, and plenty of rock n’ roll goodness. We met up with him in his office for an in-depth chat about his life, his music, and we even dig into the story behind “Huggy,” a nickname that’s as beloved as the man and his music. He also performs a few tunes for us. Enjoy!
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Stovepipe Story Hour: The Election Episode

Voting day is tomorrow! On tonight’s episode, Stovepipe sings an original tune about an old man who gets nostalgic for the summer of love. Then there are a few thoughts on voting. Followed by a reading of the classic fable, “George Washington & the Cherry Tree.” Some listeners share their thoughts on freedom, voting, politics, you name it. Then we end the evening with some incredible, dreamy instrumental music from harpist and educator Kate Caliri. Now go vote!
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