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Episode 18 - Three Merry Widows

Episode 18 features our discussion with the Three Merry Widows. We sat down with the band in advance of their reunion show at The Ready Room. We discuss getting the band back together in the same room to play music after 20 years, stories about touring and living in Boston before they were signed, issues with the record label, what gear it took to recreate their sound, and much more. 

 Three Merry Widows - L-R: Sean Garcia, Brian Simpson, Alice Spencer, Charles Shipman, and Danny Hommes - Photo c ourtesy of Three Merry Widows

Three Merry Widows - L-R: Sean Garcia, Brian Simpson, Alice Spencer, Charles Shipman, and Danny Hommes - Photo courtesy of Three Merry Widows

For those of you reading who weren't around in the early '90s, the music scene in St. Louis had a different vibe. There was excitement in the air with multiple bands getting national attention from indie and major labels. While there wasn't a defined sound (read: Seattle or Athens, GA) in town, many of the bands drew influences from the 1960s and 1970s. The best of those bands merged elements from different genres into their own fresh take. In those days before the internet, these groups drew attention from the labels and getting their "shot" to share their album with the world. 

Formed in 1988, the Widows worked as a band for a couple of years around town honing their psychedelic-folk-rock sound and working on original material. In a truly dedicated effort to get signed by a label the band moved to Boston for the better part of a year to play to college crowds on the East Coast and a closer proximity to the A&R people at the record companies. 

In the fall of 1990 and winter of 1991, the quintet recorded their debut album, Which Dreamed It?, with producer Peter Henderson at Ardent Studios in Memphis and released it in the spring on TVT Records. The first single, "Black Halo," one of their earliest original songs, made it to the top ten of the College Music Journal charts. Their hard work drew praise and drew a strong, loyal following in St. Louis and won them top honors in seven categories in the 1991 Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis issue including Best Rock & Roll Band, Alternative Band, Local Band, and Best Club Concert, Original Music, Recording, and Female Vocalist. Their dreams were short lived when they came to understand the harsh realities of the music business. Rather than let the record label dictate their course, the group eventually decided the best route was to disband and went their separate ways to pursue other music projects. 

However, longtime fans of the Widows have a special treat to see them perform again. The group will play a reunion show with guests Cold Hearted Strangers on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at The Ready Room in The Grove located at 4195 Manchester in St. Louis. Original members Alice Spencer, Sean Garcia, Brian Simpson and Charles Shipman will be join by veteran St. Louis musician Danny Hommes on drums. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here

We appreciate the time we had with Alice, Sean and Brian to record this episode. Squeezing our session into a busy weekend of rehearsals was above and beyond and we could not be happier with the way it turned out. If you'd told me when I was 18 that in 2015 I'd be recording an interview and songs with a band that I enjoyed, influenced me as a musician and I generally looked up to in the local scene I would have never believed you. 

Moreover, we'd like to thank Thomas CroneHis love of promoting the music and art of his friends in the St. Louis scene is unmatched and he's been a true champion of the Widows for 25 years. He was gracious enough to let us record this podcast at the Tick Tock Tavern early on a Saturday morning before the bar opened. Again, if you have not had the chance to visit this little corner bar yet, we highly encourage you to do so at their location at 3459 Magnolia, St. Louis, MO 63118. Enjoy a cold tasty beverage, and while you are there head on next door and grab a delicious hot dog from Steve's Hot Dogs. We owe you, Thomas!

Thank you for listening and please tell your friends about our musical labor of love. We are working on more future episodes and always looking for more topics and bands to feature. 

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by clicking here.

As always, you can still listen to or download all episodes from their direct links. Just click below on your episode of choice. (To download: Right Click (PC)/CTRL-Click (Mac) and then select Save Link As….)

Episode 18: Three Merry Widows

Episode 17: Thomas Crone

Episode 16: Fragile Porcelain Mice

Episode 15.5: John Paul Keith Performances

Episode 15: John Paul Keith

Episode 14.5: Bruiser Queen Performances

Episode 14: Bruiser Queen

Episode 13.5: Jim Harper Part 2

Episode 13: Jim Harper

Episode 12.5: Ben Nichols Performances

Episode 12: Ben Nichols

Episode 11.5: Cory Branan Performances

Episode 11: Cory Branan

Episode 10.5: John Henry Performances

Episode 10: John Henry

Episode 9.5: John Moreland and Chris Porter Performances

Episode 9: John Moreland and Chris Porter

Episode 8.5: Mike Heidorn - Part 2

Episode 8: Mike Heidorn - Part 1

Episode 7.5: Amy LaVere Performances

Episode 7: Amy LaVere

Episode 6: Lizzie Weber

Episode 5.5: Chris Mills Performances

Episode 5: Chris Mills

Episode 4: Dana Anderson, Jesse Irwin, John Krane, and Dave Werner

Episode 3: Bart, Jeff, and Scott Rambling - Part 2

Episode 3: Bart, Jeff, and Scott Rambling – Part 1

Episode 2: The Trophy Mules

Episode 1: Best of 2012 and John Krane

Thanks for listening, more coming soon!

Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons on St. Louis televison 1979

You never know what you're going to find on the internet. I'm always surprised at what people dig out of the vaults to put up on You Tube. In researching the previous post about the new book by Ace Frehley I stumbled upon some surprising video linking iconic rock band KISS to St. Louis. I found footage of longtime St. Louis television newsmen John Auble and Dick Ford interviewing KISS members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons on the long-running, St. Louis, afternoon, TV series NEWSBEAT, live from the Checkerdome (The Arena as it was called then) during the band's 1979 Dynasty Tour.

John Auble also interviews a family about their young son's fascination with KISS.

In an interesting connection, a childhood friend of mine saw that very concert with his older brother and his dad. We were in our first semester of Kindergarten. When we were growing up he had his concert program with the ticket stub stapled to the cover. We were the kids that took our 8" action figures and made makeshift KISS dolls (complete with cardboard guitars and drums made from baby jars and batteries) to stage concerts in our bedrooms as Alive! and Alive II played on the stereo.

For a special added treat see some grainy 8mm black and white footage of the show at the Kiel Auditorium in 1976.

Cassie Morgan & The Lonely Pine debut new song via new video project

Last week, a press release from Cassie Morgan & The Lonely Pine showed up about an ambitious new project they were involved with a couple of weeks ago. Love Drunk studio, a live music video project out of Omaha, Nebraska, came to St. Louis on April 30th to shoot a live, one-take music video with St. Louis indie folk duo Cassie Morgan & the Lonely Pine. The band and crew spent part of an afternoon in an undisclosed warehouse in South St. Louis shooting the video.

You can watch the video of Cassie Morgan & the Lonely Pine - "These Years" below.  "These Years" is a new, unreleased track by Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine.


Cassie Morgan & the Lonely Pine: These Years from Love Drunk on Vimeo.

The press release advised that "the video shoot with Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine is part of a tour in which the folks of Love Drunk are shooting live sessions of 16 bands in 15 days, in 13 cities, for free.  These live, one-take music video sessions are featured on hearnebraska.org, which is a non-profit cultural organization that cultivates the state's vibrant, fertile music and arts community."

Recently I caught up with Morgan out on the town and she advised there are plans to make a record later in the year, but the schedule may be dictated by the producer's decision to go back to graduate school.

Next Friday, May 20 you can catch Cassie Morgan & The Lonely Pine playing the 10:00 p.m. slot at the "Home Grown Showcase" with Warm Jets USA, Ellen the Felon & the , and Riley James & the Bad Men at The Pageant in the U-City Loop.

In June, the folk duo will also play during Twangfest 15 presented by 88.1 KDHX. The show at Blueberry Hill Duck Room on June 9 with Jill Andrews, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, and Eileen Rose & the Holy Wreck.

And mark your calendars for July 8 when Cassie Morgan & The Lonely Pine will play The Sheldon with Kentucky Knife Fight and Pretty Little Empire.

Jessica Lea Mayfield w/Nathaniel Rateliff - Off Broadway - 5/13/11 [Live Review for KDHX]

Friday night I had the fortunate opportunity to review the Jessica Lea Mayfield concert at Off Broadway. Exceeding my expectations by a considerable margin, the show was one of the better ones I have seen this year. Both Jessica Lea Mayfield and opener Nathaniel Rateliff are early in their careers with plenty of room to grow as artists and musicians, but their early work is worth checking out on merit of both quality and depth. See my review of the show posted this afternoon on the KDHX blog.

Jessica Lea Mayfield - Blue Skies Again (Live on KEXP from SXSW - March 2011)

Jessica Lea Mayfield - Our Hearts Are Wrong (Live on the Late Show with David Letterman - Feb 2011)

Jessica Lea Mayfield - Sometimes At Night (Live at Kent State Folk Festival - Nov 2010)

Nathaniel Rateliff - Shroud (Official Video)

Nathaniel Rateliff - I Am

Sebadoh w/ Richard Buckner and Colour Revolt at Off Broadway - Sat. 4/2/11 [Preview]

For my spring break from college in 1994 I didn't go off gallivanting anywhere warm like Florida or South Texas. I called a childhood best friend then attending the University of Kansas and planned a trip to visit for a week. While he attended classes I hung out. Later, he and I would haunt the record stores of Mass Ave, flirt with waitresses and drink beer while watching college hoops.

Bakesale

On my way to Lawrence, KS that spring I booked a hotel room for one in Columbia, MO and bought tickets to see Sebadoh at The Blue Note. Then touring for their recent release, Bakesale, the band played a passionate set of indie rock that was as tight as it was loose; perfect for my early 20s self fully immersed in alternative rock. After that night, I went from casual Sebadoh fan to completest collector finding all of their main releases and tracking down hard to find singles on 7", import LP's, side projects, etc. Getting back to the room late that night and crashing, I awoke the next morning to several inches of snow covering the landscape. Checking out of the hotel, I hopped in my '68 Camaro convertible to finish the drive down I-70 to Lawrence to freeze my ass off for the rest of the week.

Filled to the brim with 15 songs of indie rock power, Bakesale, contained some of Sebadoh's best songs on record and one of the great album covers of the decade. The band abandoned the bedroom studio with recordings straight to cassette ethos for a studio treatment that led to a breakout album; their second with seminal '90's label Sub Pop. The follow-up, Harmacy, while slightly less gritty than its predecessor, still produced great indie rock songs by a band at their creative peak.

Currently touring 17 years later during the same late winter/early spring in support of their upcoming deluxe edition of their classic 1994 album Bakesale (due June 14 from Sub Pop), Sebadoh bring their lo-fi indie rock to the red velvet draped stage at Off Broadway in St. Louis tomorrow night with openers Richard Buckner and Colour Revolt.

This trip down memory lane is nothing new for the band. Following the lead of their '90s indie-rock contemporaries, Pavement, Sebadoh began a deluxe edition reissue program a few years ago. A deluxe edition of their 1991 album III was released in 2008 along with The Freed Weed and Bubble and Scrape (1993). Expect a similar deluxe edition treatment later this year for Harmacy (Sub Pop, 1996). However, the band has no plans to repackage their 1999 album The Sebadoh at this time. All of those demos, B-sides, rarities and live tracks that I spent hours and multiple trips to the record stores to collect can be yours (you lucky bastards) in one nice neat package.  

Cover of

To commemorate those initial reissues, a tour ensued with the "classic" Sebadoh lineup of Lou Barlow, Jason Loewenstein and Eric Gaffney promoting the expanded releases to fans in the United States in 2007 and in the United Kingdom/Europe in 2008. Currently on the second leg of their latest tour, Barlow and Loewenstein started playing shows this time around on the West Coast to rave reviews. Check out a four-part series from Backstage Rider recounting shows from February here: (1) (2) (3) (4)

Taking the place of Eric Gaffney on drums this tour (Bakesale era drummer Bob Fay was fired from the band during the making of their last studio album in 1999) is Bob D’Amico, who has played with Lowenstein in both Circle of Buzzards and Fiery Furnaces. According to all reports the band has never sounded better which gives props to good drummers all over the world that you really can make a difference.

Recently, Barlow sounded upbeat about the prospects of new material from the band who haven't released an album of original material since 1999's The Sebadoh. Barlow told Seth Graves from the Nashville Scenethat given what's transpired on this tour and with the reunion records of his former band, Dinosaur Jr., he wouldn't rule out an album of new material from Sebadoh.

"[A new record] seems like it would be possible," Barlow says. "The thing that really keeps us apart is the 3,000 miles between Brooklyn, New York and Los Angeles, California. We'd really have to make a very concerted and deliberate effort to get together and write the songs."

If you fall solidly in the Gen X demographic, for one night you can go back to the '90s remind yourself what the music of that era meant to you as a listener. If you're a bit younger please come get a proper education in a band that pioneered the indie rock ethic. Your learning will serve you well.  Get tickets now though, according to the Off Broadway twitter feed you don't to be left out on the sidewalk. Let's just hope it doesen't snow.

Here's a video of Sebadoh performing "Rebound" and "Crystal Gypsy" on Late Night w/ Conan O'Brien promoting their album Bakesale circa 1994.

Playing before Sebadoh is Richard Buckner, an important Americana performer in his own right. Here he is performing at the 88.1 KDHX studios in St. Louis.

Opening the show is Colour Revolt. Here's a video of their song "Moses of the South" recorded for a Paste Magazine session.