On Stage: Chesco’s own Billy Penn Burger

Pin It

Adrien Reju, Beth Goldwater, Tom Rush and more in area this weekend

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

billy penn burger 1

Billy Penn Burger

Mark your calendars. Billy Penn Burger is coming to Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427- 4547, www.burlapandbean.com) on November 14.

What sounds like it might be a special menu item at a sandwich shop in the vicinity of Philadelphia’s City Hall is nothing of the sort. Billy Penn Burger is a veteran Philadelphia musician that performs both solo and with his band. The show this weekend will be a full band show.

Burger is still touring in support of his most recent album “Living Documents.”

“I started making the album in spring 2012 and finished it in October 2013,” said Burger, during a recent phone interview from his home in West Grove. “I started it at Target Studios in Newark and then worked on it more at a studio in Phoenixville.

“It was ‘fund it and pay my way as I go.’ And, it was also ‘feeling it out as I go.’ It is sort of a life’s project. After a lifetime of playing music casually — I’m an older guy who just turned 60 this year — I figured if I’m going to make a good record, now is the time.”

Burger made an album with a timeless feel. There are elements of jazz, jangly pop, singer-songwriter, folk, straight-ahead rock and blue-eyed soul.

The rock and soul parts of his musical DNA account for a number of songs that capture the vibe of an era when rock and soul merged — an era when solid guitar licks, cascading keyboards, heart-felt horns and sincere vocals came together to produce memorable tunes.

“I’ve been making music since I was small,” said Burger. “I was in rock bands in the 70s and 80s. Even before I was bar age, I was in a folk trio with John Lilley, who later was in the Hooters. I played acoustic guitar and was a folk-pop singer-songwriter. Later, I played bass in a rock band — with eyeliner and attitude.

“Then, I took time off and started a family. I got back into music in the late 1990s. That’s when I reached more personal potential in a creative sense. And, I acquired more confidence.

“What brought me back to music was that my daughter was getting older and I missed playing music. I started playing in an oldies band. Gradually, I grew more comfortable fronting a band playing my original material.”

Burger’s prowess as a writer impressed a lot of people in the local music scene — including his old friend John Lilley.

“The pivotal moment in my songwriting came when I went to visit John Lilley for the first time in years,” said Burger. “We started talking about old songs and that got me interested in starting to write again. One cover he had been doing in his shows was a song of mine form way back 40 some years — a song called ‘In Love This Way.’

“A few months ago, I was the winner at the 2014 Beta Hi-Fi Emerging Music Festival at the Queen in Wilmington. I found it interesting to be called ‘emerging’ at the age of 60.”

Actually, “energizing” would be a better description of the music Burger has been making — with a band and as a solo artist. Burger’s music also benefits from a powerhouse group featuring Chris Sherlock (drums), John McGovern (bass), Steve Prentice (keyboards), E.B. Hawkins (guitar), Rick Bucci (guitar) and Chuck Whiteman (sax).

Burger’s show will start at 8 p.m. with Ann Klein as the opener. Tickets are $15.

adrien reju 2

Adrien Reju

The comfortable BYOB venue in Delaware County has several attractive upcoming shows including Adrien Reju along with Buffalo Stack on November 13. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

Reju, who has a captivating voice and a penchant for writing songs that catch the ear, released her debut album “A Million Hearts” in 2009. She followed with an EP titled “Lucky Ones” in 2012 and released a single earlier this year which was a cover of Tom Waits’ song “I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You.”

Now, the talented singer-songwriter who was born in Ithaca (N.Y.) is working on a new as-yet-untitled album that will be out in February.

“It is an album of unconventional love songs,” said Reju, who lived in Philadelphia from 2002-2008. “I got the idea from a show I did at The Fire in Philadelphia on Valentine’s Day. I wanted to play love songs but I didn’t want to play the same old tired love songs. I wanted off-beat love songs.

“So, I sang covers like ‘Bang Bang — My Baby Shot Me Down,’ ‘If Our Love Was an Outhouse’ and ‘At the Dark End of the Street.’ That show gave me inspiration for the album. I did a successful Pledge Campaign to get money to make the album. I used some special guest artists. It’s really been fun.”

Reju, who currently lives in Woodstock (NY), recorded the new disc in a studio close to her home.

“I recorded the album with The Elegant Too — the music production team of Chris Maxwell and Phil Hernandez,” said Reju. “It was done at their studio in Woodstock and I used a full band for the recording.

“The album is half originals and half covers. Some of the covers I did were King Missile’s ‘Hemophiliac of Love,’ Elliott Smith’s ‘Waltz #1’ and David Bowie’s ‘Soul Love.’ I also did a cover of a John Cale song and a cover of a Prince song.

“I road-tested all the original songs before I recorded them. And, I’m happy to say that all my original songs from the album are in my current set. Right now, I’m touring solo with just a guitar. It’s mostly acoustic guitar but, if I don’t have to fly, I sometimes also bring electric guitar.

“I also just finished writing songs for a play called ‘Réjane.’ It’s not a musical but rather a play with music and it opens in L.A. this weekend. The play is about my great, great grandmother who was a stage actress in France.”

Gabrielle Réjane was the stage name of Gabrielle-Charlotte Reju, a French actress who lived from 1856-1920. The Parisian-born daughter of an actor became a pupil of Régnier at the Conservatoire and took the second prize for comedy in 1874.

beth goldwater 2

Beth Goldwater

On November 15, Beth Goldwater will present a unique show at Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse that also has a French connection.

The singer-songwriter’s brand-new album is titled “Seduisante” which is the French word for “Seduction.”

“With ‘Seduisante’, my music has aligned with my aesthetics,” said Goldwater, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from her home in Wayne. “It’s French and English — jazz and folk. There are seven original songs and two covers.

“I wanted to write a song about a mermaid but I didn’t want it to sound cheesy. So, I called Elodie Feuillerat, a friend of mine from Bordeaux (France), and asked her to translate it into French. After that, she and I co-wrote four songs for the album. One of the songs in French is all ballet terms.”

Goldwater, who graduated from Haverford High and Temple University, has ballet on her arts resume along with other musical ventures.

“I started doing musical theater in high school and college,” said Goldwater. “I was in a couple bands after college — an original rock band and a couple cover bands. After a while, I went back to theater and did shows at theaters like the Shawnee Playhouse. I also was a ballet teacher at Carmela’s Dance Studio in Springfield.

“Then, I started a family. After three kids, I needed an outlet. So, I started singing again. I also took guitar lessons and practiced when it was nap time for my kids. Four years ago, I started songwriting again. It was a much-needed outlet.

“I also wrote a book titled ‘Discovering Katherine.’ It is a historical novel that is the first in a series. I also teach writing with Mary Beth Lauer’s ‘One Book, One Philadelphia’ which is a project where writers go to elementary schools and work with the children.”

This Saturday’s show, which is a CD release party for “Seduisante,” will have an additional bit of French influence.

“Every table will have French macaroons and dark chocolate almonds,” said Goldwater. “I’m bringing them and I’ll be putting them out in antique glassware. I’ll also be selling a lyric book in French and English to go along with the album.”

Showtime for Goldwater’s concert is 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door with Cariad Harmon as the opening act.

natalie bermudez 1

Natalie Bermudez

Melodies Café (2 East Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, 610-645-5269, www.melodiescafe.com) will host a triple-bill with several top-flight young acts — Natalie Bermudez, Aaron Deming and Grace Guggenheim. Showtime is 8p.m. and tickets are $8 and $10.

Guggenheim will be performing songs from her debut album “Grace,” which was released in May 2012. The disc is a showcase for Guggenheim’s versatile voice and expressive songwriting style.

“It took me about a year to make the album,” said Guggenheim, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from her home in Long Beach, New Jersey. “I went back-and-forth to Nashville about 12 times to make it. I went there because that’s where my producer was.”

That producer was Mike Bonagura, who also is the guitarist for Baillie and the Boys.

“My mom connected with Baillie and the Boys on Facebook,” said Guggenheim. “She knew them from before. She worked at O’Connor’s (Beef ‘N Ale House in Warren, N.J.) where they frequently played.

“She told him about me and my music. He asked to hear some of my music so I sent him some. Then, he agreed to be my producer. I went to Nashville to attend Belmont College but I came home after one semester. That school just wasn’t right for me.


Grace Guggenheim

“But, I still went back to Nashville a lot to make the album. I’d record a few songs there on each trip. He’d get a skeleton track and I’d record over it. He’s very in tune with what I hear. And, on one of my trips to Nashville, I got to perform at Nashville’s Bluebird Café.”

Guggenheim has already embarked on her next project.

“I have an EP I’m working on,” said Guggenheim, who now attends Ocean County Community College. “I’m always writing. Usually, it’s based on an experience I’m having. It’s therapeutic for me. I write a lot of biographical songs and most of them are in first person. It may be a specific situation for me but anyone can relate.”

Like Guggenheim, Bermudez has also switched colleges between a private school and a New Jersey community college — only in reverse order.

“I’m a senior at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia,” said Bermudez, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from her home in Vineland.

“I’m majoring in vocal performance. When I started college, I was a music major at Cumberland County Community College here in Vineland. Now, I commute back-and-forth to Philly every day.”

Bermudez, who is known for her emotive vocals and down-to-earth lyrics, released her debut album “Arise” two months ago.

“I was still in school so that prolonged the process of recording the album,” said Bermudez. “I did a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to make the album andit worked. My goal was $6,500 and I got $6,700.

“The album came out on September 28. I had a CD release party at the Hard Rock Café in Philadelphia. There is one cover on the album — ‘Fly Me to the Moon.’ There are 10 songs and the rest are all originals.

“I consider myself a pop-rock singer. Some of my main influences are Sara Bareilles, Kelly Clarkson and Johnny Swim. I have a lot of songs in my repertoire. As a vocal performance student, you have to learn a lot of songs. In my live show, I play all 10 songs from the album and two or three more. Sometimes, I’ll throw in a cover.”

Bermudez started singing when she was in middle school. She began writing songs a few years later and has consistently worked on the craft.

“I started performing my junior year in high school,” said Bermudez. “I learned how to play guitar when I was a senior. Prior to that, I did my songwriting just with my vocals. Now, I’m writing songs on guitar and piano.

“I went to a songwriting workshop at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and that was a big help. I thought about attending Berklee but the University of the Arts was more affordable. I really like my school.

“With school, it’s hard for me to go out on tour so I just do shows locally. I’d like to do a full tour next spring or summer. That will be ‘Phase Two’ of the album.”

tom rush 2

Tom Rush

On November 14, Tom Rush, one of America’s most revered folksingers, will visit the area for a show at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

“Urge for Going,” which was written by Joni Mitchell and recorded by Rush in 1968, quickly became one of Rush’s signature songs.

“Urge for Going” is something that seems to happen to Rush when November arrives — especially if the destination is the Delaware Valley.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the veteran singer-songwriter established a tradition of performing a series of shows over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend at the now-defunct Main Point in Bryn Mawr.

“Yes, I’m heading back to Pennsylvania in November,” said Rush, during a recent phone interview from his home in the western suburbs of Boston. “I always played the Main Point at Thanksgiving. I probably did that at least six years in a row.

“The first show would be Thursday night and it was always a groggy show. I did two shows a night on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I enjoyed those days of doing multiple nights. And, the Main Point was a great place to play. Jeannette (Main Point owner Jeanette Campbell) was the patron saint of the Philadelphia folk scene.”

Now, there are some months when Rush doesn’t play seven shows in 30 days.

“I try to keep it down to one trip a month,” said Rush, who has released approximately 25 albums since 1962.  “I might do 50 shows a year altogether — maybe 60 at the most

“I still enjoy playing small clubs and also festivals. I like a lot of variety. I’d go crazy having to play the same type of venue all the time. I am playing Symphony Hall in Boston at the end of December again this year.”

When Rush played Symphony Hall in December 2012, it was a very special event.

To celebrate his 50th year of singing, Rush appeared in a gala show at Symphony Hall December 28, 2012. The performance featured Jonathan Edwards, Buskin & Batteau, Dom Flemons, Trevor Veitch, Eric Lillequist, Dean Adrien, Joe Mennonna, Marshall Rosenberg, Paul Guzzone and special guest David Bromberg.

Fortunately for music fans, the evening’s events were saved for posterity and made available to the public. The performance was streamed live on the web and was recorded for special DVD/CD 2-disc set — “Tom Rush Celebrates 50 Years of Music.”

“I mostly perform solo but I occasionally play with a keyboard player,” said Rush. “I like solo better. I have more time to roam around my repertoire. I introduce each song and talk about it. People say they enjoy hearing the story behind the song. One thing I learned early on is that if people like you, they’re much more apt to like the music.

“Talking to them gets them engaged more. Most of the songs are stories. One-quarter to one-third of what I sing is my own stuff. I’ve always enjoyed doing other people’s songs. A good song deserves to be done 100 different ways. Different singers bring new things to songs.”

Rush fans who attend this weekend’s shows will be treated to a higher percentage of Rush originals.

“There are a number of my new songs that I’ll bring to Sellersville,” said Rush. “I had a writing spell this summer. I’m not sure why. We moved out of our house in Vermont to stay in a house in New Hampshire for awhile. I brought just enough stuff to keep the wheels turning.

“The lack of stuff was liberating. I just picked up my guitar and started making songs. I wrote six or seven songs during that time. I was pleased with how things went. But, the real test will be when I get them onstage.”

Rush’s show at Sellersville is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and $49.50.

Other shows this weekend at the Sellersville Theater are Nicholas David and Amanda Duncan on November 13, Joe Conklin on November 15 and Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys on November 16.

Another veteran singer-songwriter is heading to the area this weekend for two shows — two entirely different shows — at two different venues.

yamagata  2

Rachel Yamagata

Rachel Yamagata released her first album “Happenstance” in 2004. The singer, who hails from Fairfax, Virginia, has been working on a new album which should see the light of day early next year.

Both albums are being showcased on her current tour — on different nights.

This tour will include career-spanning sets with the premiere of new songs from her forthcoming album due out in early 2015. There will also be a handful of special 10th anniversary shows in Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, Alexandria, Philadelphia and Brooklyn to celebrate Yamagata’s debut LP.

In Philadelphia, Yamagata will play a sold-out show at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 267-639-4528, bootandsaddlephilly.com) on November 14 and then will perform on November 15 at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215- 232-2100, www.utphilly.com). Tickets for the 8 p.m. show at Union Transfer are $17.

“This is a double tour with two different sets,” said Yamagata, during a recent phone interview. “There will be the ‘Happenstance’ set which I’ll be doing at Boot and Saddle. Then, I’ll play a set with a lot of new material the next night at Union Transfer.

“My last album ‘Chesapeake’ came out in October 2011 and I toured it a lot. I was on the road for a long, long time. I took time off and wrote most of the new record this summer. I did a couple weeks recording prior to coming out on this tour.”

“I bought a house in Woodstock (N.Y.) and did a lot of it there. I recorded a lot at home — whenever I felt the inspiration. When I set up for recording, my living room disappeared. My dream is to make a studio at my house outside the house.

“There were a lot of advantages in doing it at home. Unlike in a recording studio, you don’t have to look up at a clock, Also, being in familiar surroundings really helped. I’d write a song and then do a demo version. I didn’t have to record songs in parts.

“I produced myself which was a great feeling. I was able to work on instincts. What I have been loving is that some of the production ideas I used are ones I wouldn’t have arrived at with another person adding input.

“I worked hard on 15 songs doing a lot of revisions, re-recording and re-tracking — revising them until they felt really interesting to me. I used banjos, mandolins, sax and drums. I even sampled patterns of rain on a stool.”

The album is almost ready.

“In November and December, I need to finish them up,” said Yamagata. “I’m doing a bunch of them live. They definitely have an energy lift that happens when you’re onstage. But, I’m not sure I want that for the recorded version. I don’t have a problem with the recorded version being different.”

n.o. suspects 2

The New Orleans Suspects

The New Orleans Suspects, who are playing November 15 at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com),  are so tight musically, you might think they’ve been playing together for more than 20 years. In reality, the rocking quintet from Louisiana that features some of the best, most highly respected players in New Orleans, has only been around for four years.

The band features Reggie Scanlan on bass (The Radiators, Professor Longhair Band), “Mean” Willie Green on drums (Neville Brothers), Jeff Watkins on saxophone (James Brown Band, Joss Stone Band), Jake Eckert on guitar and vocals (Dirty Dozen Brass Band) and CR Gruver on keyboards and vocals (Polytoxic, Outformation).

“The way we initially got together was very accidental,” said Scanlan, during a recent phone interview from his home in New Orleans.  “The guy who runs the Maple Leaf (a popular New Orleans music club) occasionally has a band that doesn’t show up. He has a list of New Orleans musicians who he can call at the last minute.

“We all have come in to play at different times on nights like that.  Jake and I had never played together before. He was looking for a change from the Dirty Dozen. Everyone wanted something that was their own.

“Once we joined together, we played a couple times a month at the Maple Leaf. And, we started hanging out at Jake’s place while he was building his studio. That’s when most of it happened for us. We’d play at Jake’s and soon we were developing our own sound.

“It’s more a traditional sound within the realm of New Orleans funk — music like the early Meters, Earl King, Mardi Gras music and early Neville Brothers. Jake also has a background in southern rock. We do some Professor Longhair tracks. We do Doctor John stuff.

“George Porter was a huge influence — and more so Ervin Charles. CR is a James Booker fanatic and I used to play in Booker’s band. All the bands down here have this New Orleans funk as part of their DNA.”

As time went on, the New Orleans Suspects’ sound started to crystallize and shine.

“Jeff came in the band in 2012 and we started touring about three weeks after the last Radiators’ show,” said Scanlan. “He’s been a huge addition. In addition to his sax abilities, he’s an extraordinary engineer.

“He and Jake produced and engineered our new album ‘Ouroboros.’ They also did the mastering. Jake’s studio won a Grammy last year. It’s a great studio. Our album is half originals. The other half has some New Orleans funk and a Mardi Gras Indian song.”

According to the band’s press release, “Ouroboros, which is the band’s third album, ” features “fever-inducing funk, irresistible R&B rhythms, Longhair rhumbas, dancing-in-the-street second lines, jazzy soul-drenched horns, mind-melting swamp hoodoo, and feet-don’t-fail-me-now Carnivale music.”

“Even though we’ve been touring so much, we’ve already started on our next album,” said Scanlan. “It’s really in the early stages so we have no idea when it will to come out. But, when it’s ready to be released, we’ll know it.”

The New Orleans Suspects’ show at Ardmore will start at 8 p.m. with tickets priced at $22 in advance and $27 day of show.

Other shows coming up at the Ardmore Music Hall are Splintered Sunlight on November 13, and John Eddie with Scott McClatchy opening on November 14.

One of the more interesting shows this weekend should be the area debut by the Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha. The quartet, which is based in Kyiv (Kiev), will perform at the Arden Gild Hall (2126 The Highway, Arden, Delaware, 302-475-3126, ardenclub.org) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22.

DakhaBrakha is world-music quartet that blends elements of sound and soul to create what it calls Ukrainian “ethnic chaos.” The name DakhaBrakha is original, outstanding and authentic at the same time. It means “give/take” in the old Ukrainian language.

Having experimented with Ukrainian folk music, the band has added rhythms of the surrounding world into their music. Accompanied by Indian, Arabic, African, Russian and Australian traditional instrumentation, the Slavic foursome creates a trans-national sound rooted in Ukrainian culture.

The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Johnny Neel on November 14 with Janine Walters as the opening act. On November 15, the Melton Brothers Band is the headliner with the Reminders as the opener.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com)  will present Kim & Reggie on November 14  and Transistor Radio & Friends on November 15.

The schedule for Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) includes Awake at Last, Church Girls, Awaking Mercury and Centerpiece on November 13, Band of Rivals, Aaron David & the Wise Owls and Boog on November 14 and Barb Phillips on November 15.

The World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) will have Downstairs shows featuring Zoso on November 14, Phil Vassar on November 15 and the Supersuckers on November 19.

The schedule for the Upstairs room includes Michelle Karmin and Anthony Gallucio on November 13, Joe Trainor Trio Turns 7 on November 14, the Rvelations on November 15 and the Sermon on November 19.

Tellus 360 (24 East King Street, Lancaster, 717-393-1660, www.tellus360.com) will have Slimfit along with the Separators on November 14, Session Americana on November 15 and Naked Eye Ensemble on November 17.

The Keswick Theatre (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) is presenting Hot Rize featuring Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers along with Del McCoury and David Grisman on November 13, Racehelle Ferrell with opening act Kim Waters on November 14, Artie Lang on November 15, Cesar Milan on November 16 and Jad Abrumrad on November 19.

Share this post:

Leave a Comment