On Stage: A totally ‘Bogguss’ show worth seeing

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Suzy Bogguss

Suzy Bogguss recently wrapped up a U.K. tour with Jerry Douglas for the “Transatlantic Sessions,” and now is embarking on a stateside tour featuring a select number of dates in the Northeast with her new trio.

One of those dates will be March 1 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

Audiences can expect an intimate night of music filled with her memorable radio hits along with songs from her latest albums “Lucky” in 2014, “Aces Redux” in 2016, and “American Folk Songbook” in 2011.

“‘Aces Redux’ was the last thing I released,” said Bogguss, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from her home in Franklin, Tennessee (a suburb of Nashville.

“I’ve been writing. So, I guess I’m getting on deck to record again. It’s a weird situation. I know I’m going to keep writing but do I make an LP, an EP or just downloads. Do they even want you to make CDs anymore?

“I take CDs on the road with me to sell because it’s a souvenir for people to take home with them. At my shows, I always stay after the show and sign things for my fans.”

Back in the summer of 2016, Bogguss celebrated the 25th anniversary of the release of her platinum-selling “Aces” album in 1991. “Aces” also was her breakout album which brought her serious attention on country radio. On August 18 — the actual 25th anniversary of the release of the original “Aces” album, she released a new re-imagined and rerecorded version of the album entitled “Aces Redux.”

“With this album, I asked myself – did I want to sell the album that came out on Capitol Records 25 years ago with the production the way it was done back then. Or, do I want to sell the fans something new which they just saw in the stripped-down shows I’m doing now?”

“Aces Redux” was recorded with the help of a number of the musicians that have toured with Bogguss over the years and included background vocals by friends Beth Nielsen Chapman and Kim Carnes along with several others. The album takes a more acoustic and simpler production tact that the original which also reflects her more recent touring approach as a trio.

“It’s been 25 years since that album came out so obviously, things are much different sonically,” said Bogguss. “Back then, there were a lot of big drums and reverb. I’m on the road now in a more stripped-down form – 70 per cent acoustic and no drums anymore. I felt the songs were timeless. I wanted it to be more representative and hearing the music stripped-down accomplishes that. But, there are still the signature licks in all of them.”

During the creative explosion that was country music in the 1990s, Bogguss sold four million records with sparkling radio hits like “Outbound Plane,” “Someday Soon,” “Letting Go,” and “Drive South.” In the middle of her country popularity, she took time off to make a duets album with the legendary Chet Atkins. In 2003, she made an album of modern swing music with Ray Benson of Asleep At The Wheel. “Sweet Dagger,” an album of original music in 2007, landed her at number four on the jazz charts.

Her folk music roots show through in her frequent appearances on public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, in the Grammy she earned for her work on “Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster,” and in her critically-acclaimed album and book project “American Folk Songbook.” In 2014, she released “Lucky,” a collection of songs written by Merle Haggard and interpreted through a female point of view.

“American Folk Songbook” came as a stand-alone CD or as a package with a companion songbook. The album contained such American classics as “Shenandoah,” “Red River Valley,” “Git Along Little Dogies,” and “Rock Island Line.”

“I had been out on the road with Garrison Keillor,” said Bogguss. “What gelled in my head was that everyone who was singing along with his folk songs was 30 or older. Those under 30 didn’t know the words and they were unfamiliar with the melodies. I realized that they’re not being taught in school anymore. So, I thought to myself – I have to do these songs.

“When I was a kid, the songbook was a big part of growing up – the songs and the pictures. I went back in and remembered my songbook from fifth grade. I went in the studio with just my guitarist and bass player. I didn’t want to overproduce things so we didn’t take many liberties. We didn’t mess with the melodies. I wanted to keep it simple and just sing the songs.”

Bogguss has a large repertoire from which to draw for her live shows.

“I really try hard to have the songs that are considered hits in my show,” said Bogguss. “I also have some chestnuts that I can play. I have about eight ‘must play’ songs. Past that, I try to focus on the last few albums. I’ve been doing a couple Merle songs and a couple folk songs.”

Bogguss might also treat her fans to some new, as-yet-unrecorded originals.

“I’m an advocate of performing songs live before I go in the studio,” said Bogguss. “Doing it live is when I start feeling the feedback. I learn whether or not there is an emotional connection.

“On this tour, I have my guitar player Craig Smith and I’m bringing a new bass player. I had the same bass player since 2009 but he’s not available to go on the road. My new bass player is Elio Giordano. I made him learn some new songs I wrote with my husband – songs that are hot off the presses.”

Video link for Suzy Bogguss – https://youtu.be/o4QvMK4BRI8.

The show at the Sellersville Theater will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39.50 and $55.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are The Soul Survivors and Nalani & Sarina on March 2; Rob Scheider on March 3; Jamie McLean Band and Greg Sover Band on March 4; Ladysmith Black Mambazo on March 6; and Ross The Boss with Ethan Brosh on March 7.

On March 2, there will be a show featuring a female singer from a whole different part of the world making music in a whole different genre.

Elle Exxe

On Friday night, Elle Exxe, a singer from Scotland who now lives in London, will bring her blend of rock, pop and dance music to the Barbary (951 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-634-7400, www.facebook.com/thebarbary) for a show billed as “femme. collective presents: APHRA / Elle Exxe / Cheeky.”

Elle Exxe has released several singles over the last two years and recently put out her debut album “Love Fueled Hate.” Her latest video showcases her flamboyant style and her no-holds-barred music. It is a video as badass as anything M.I.A. has done – and more.

“‘Catapult’ is my current single,” said Elle Exxe, during a phone interview last week from her home in London. “My next single ‘Queen’ will come out in March.”

Defying cookie-cutter pop Elle Exxe is using her music as a platform for social reform. The fearsome artist delivers pop anthems with soaring energy, riotous vocals and her snarly rap. Filled with irresistible hooks and choruses, Elle Exxe’s genre-melding, guitar-inflected singles have quickly gained her fans in the U.K.

By using her role to empower, her forthcoming single “Queen” will be released Friday March 2 in honor of International Women’s Day.  Additionally, the show at the Barbary is part of a special showcase presented by The Femme Collective in honor of International Women’s Day.

Inspired by her own experience in the music industry and the women in her life, Elle crafted the female empowerment song before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements took off.

According to Elle Exxe, “When I was writing verse two, I remember thinking about some of my girl friends who lost their hopes and dreams at the hands of abusive men. I hope that ‘Queen’ will help empower people to take leadership over their lives and dare to dream again.”

Elle Exxe grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland but didn’t find her stride until she relocated to London.

“I moved from Scotland to London quite a while ago,” said Elle Exxe. “When I was growing up, London was a dream. I had just turned 17 when I dropped out of school and moved to London. I lived in a YMCA for two years and went to a music college.

“I was babysitting to make money. And, I taught kids how to play piano and write songs. I also did some web design. I was always really determined. Everyone has a bit of self-doubt. So, there were times I questioned my sanity and that conflict led to some good songwriting.”

Crafting a worthwhile song is something Elle Exxe has been good at for a long time.

“When I was at school at age seven, they started teaching poetry,” said Elle Exxe. “I had a real passion for it. People encouraged me to write more poetry. I also loved playing piano. As a result, I was always trying to create my own compositions. I wrote my first proper song when I was 15 and never stopped. I’ve written 200 songs at last count – and that was three years ago.

“When I sit down at a piano, songs come out. My favorite way of writing is when I collaborate with other people because there is more structure. When I write, I start by setting up a beat. Once you have a beat and some chords, you have a direction for the song. My songs are mostly first person – mostly about what I’ve bene going through.”

Video link for Elle Exxe — https://youtu.be/U8IWg5dH79w.

The show at the Barbary will have the following schedule — 7:30 p.m. – Cheeky; 8:15 p.m. – Elle Exxe; 9 p.m., APHRA. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.

Other upcoming shows at the Barbary are Mortal Techno on March 1, and Big League on March 3.

Vista Kicks

Another interesting show will take place on March 2 just a few blocks up Frankford Avenue from the Barbary when Vista Kicks headlines a three-act bill at

Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com).

If you watch a few of the videos released by the California band Vista Kicks, you’ll notice something unusual.

The four band members — Derek Thomas, Sam Plecker, Trevor Sutton, and Nolan Le Vine — are always dressed exactly alike.

It might be black jeans, black long-sleeved shirts and white sneakers. It might be black slacks with matching pop art print shirts. It might be black shirts and pants with stylish red jackets. No matter what, all four are dressed exactly alike.

Not surprisingly, the band’s influences are the early British rock bands like the Beatles and the Kinks and soul acts like James Brown and the Flames – all acts that dressed in identical outfits.

“Black with red jackets, that’s one of our favorites,” said Sutton, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from a tour stop in New York City. “We’re a four-headed beast. More importantly, we’re a band.”

The four lifelong friends from Northern California grow up obsessed with the sounds of AC/DC, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, The Bee Gees and Michael Jackson.

“We’re from Sacramento – actually Roseville, a little middle-class suburb of Sacramento,” said Sutton. “We’ve known each other since grade school and lived within a block of each other.

“Derek and Sam sing and play lead guitar. They’ve been playing music together since they were 10. In high school, Nolan, who plays drums, joined them in a jazz cover band that played weddings and other events. I had always been friends with the guys. I played drums but they needed a bass player. So, I picked up a bass and joined in.”

After their single “Make It Real” cracked two million Spotify streams, they made a collective decision to forego college and trade their small Sacramento suburb for Hollywood, forming Vista Kicks in late 2015. Living together in a cramped one-bedroom apartment, the quartet quietly ignited a buzz throughout L.A. — and beyond.

“‘Make It Real’ was the first song we put out,” said Sutton. “It got good traction. So, we decided that we wanted to keep making rock music. We moved to L.A. and lived together in a one-room apartment in Hollywood. We lived there for two years and now live in Highland park – in a two-bedroom apartment. And, we have our own studio there.”
Within a year, the band’s independent 2016 “Chasing Waves” EP and additional singles generated over five million cumulative Spotify streams and 3.2 million YouTube views. The biggest step forward came with the release of their 2017 full-length album, “Booty Shakers Ball,” which was self-produced by the foursome and engineered by their guitar player and vocalist Sam Plecker.

“We recorded ‘Booty Shakers Ball’ last year,” said Sutton. “The songs had been written over a few tours. We recorded it in July, got the artwork done right away and released it in September.”

According to Sutton, “This is ‘Booty Shaking Rock and Roll.’ I don’t think there’s anything else like us out there. Every song is different and eclectic. We’re old soul millennials. We’ve found an audience that’s just like us. It’s rock music that you can shake your booty to and party.

“In January, we got back from tour and put down 17 new songs. We’re very 60s-inspired. We like the Beatles and the Stones. We take those influences and do our own thing. And, the long hair and matching jackets give us a throwback vibe.”
Video link for Vista Kicks – https://youtu.be/EcX341g3HGM.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which has Rent Party and Kasador as opening acts, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at Kung Fu Necktie are Conan on March 3, 1000Mods on March 4, Nic Sanderson on March 4 and Milk & Bone on March 7.

On March 2 and 3, the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Soullive.


Soulive is a soul-jazz, hip-hop, R&B, funk and rock trio that formed in the late 1990s in Woodstock, New York.  The band features Eric Krasno (guitar), Alan Evans (drums) and his brother Neal Evans (Hammond B3 organ, bass keys, clavinet).

On February 23, Soullive released its new EP “Cinematics Vol. 1” through the band’s own imprint, Soulive Music. This initial volume is the first of a planned series of “Cinematics” EPs. The band’s most recent previous album was “Spark” in 2012.

All three members have kept busy in their time apart from Soulive. Alan Evans runs his own studio Iron Wax in Western Massachusetts, while touring with Matador! Soul Sounds, a band that he formed with guitarist Eddie Roberts from The New Mastersounds.

Krasno released a critically-acclaimed solo album, “Blood From A Stone” in 2016 and produced records for Aaron Neville, London Souls and Marcus King among others. Neal Evans has worked on film and television scores, as well as becoming an in-demand keyboardist both in the studio and on the road for a variety of high profile artists.

“At the end of last year, we talked about getting together,” said Alan Evans, during a recent phone interview from his home in western Massachusetts. “We spent two days in December at my studio up here – Iron Wax Studio. It’s a full-on recording studio. I record bands from all over the world. I do producing, mixing and engineering.”

The three versatile musicians came together at Iron Wax Studio in Erving, Massachusetts and immediately began creating the musical magic people expect from them.

“We spent two days and recorded five songs,” said Evans. “When we went in, we just had some vague ideas of songs and what we wanted to do. The chemistry is always there. My brother, who is older by two years, and I have been together all our lives. We’ve been a band for almost 20 years now. The hardest part for the three of us recording together is getting our schedules together.

“Neal and I were in a touring band – Moon Boot Lover – back in the early 90s. We left in ’96. I was playing in Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. It was the first time I had been in a hired gun situation and it didn’t suit me.

“Neal was in school at the Manhattan School of Music. I called him when I was living in San Diego. We were doing a show with Neal and me and Nick Mancini on vibes. Eric happened to be at that show and he sat in. We told Eric that we needed a guitarist and he agreed to fill in.

“We recorded our first album the day he showed up. We hit the ground running in 1999. By 2001, we were signed to Blue Note Records. It all happened really quickly.”

Soullive released its “Get Down!” album in 1999 and close to 20 albums since then. The chemistry has always been strong.

According to Evans, “We trust each other to bring our voices to each other’s ideas. I think Soullive creates our best material using that method. With the new EP, we didn’t have to talk about anything. It all unfolded as we were working on it. One song influences the direction of the next, and soon you find yourself going down this path. We want this music to take people on a little journey.”

It is a journey that will keep going and going.

“When we were making the new EP, we just wanted to make music,” said Evans. “We didn’t get caught up in quantity. A five-song EP works fine. Our plan is to release a few of these throughout the year. We like to put things out as fast as we can.”

Video link for Soullive — https://youtu.be/BHcV_4Bab74.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall on March 2 features Jon Scofield as a special guest. The show on March 3 has D.J. Williams’ Shots Fired as the opening act. Both shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 for either show.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Splintered Sunlight on March 1, and Definitely Leppard and The Flying Circus on March 4.

Molly Tuttle

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will have The Last Rewind – A Tribute to Phish and Plastic Shrines on March 2; Molly Tuttle and Michael Braunfeld on March 3; and Open Mic with guest host Dennis Melton on March 4.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host The Inner Urge & Jesse Gimbel on March 3.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will present Karmalatta, Joe Becton, and Abe Chappelle on March 2.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present

Suzanne Gorman on March 1, Cliff Eberhardt with Louise Mosrie on March 2, and Better Ducks with Cookie Rabinowitz on March 3.

Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) will host the hit musical comedy “Something Rotten!” now through March 4.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Jeanne Robertson on March 2, Eric Johnson and special guest Arielle on March 3, and Rachelle Ferrell on March 4.

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