Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Support this open mic night

Ken Kennedy, a North Penn alum and the other half of my acoustic duo, Raspberry Tea, is introducing an open mic night at the Peppercorn Pub on Route 309 south in Coopersburg from 9 to midnight Jan. 14. IT WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO BE JAN. 7, BUT ILLNESS HAS POSTPONED IT.
Musicians, singers, spoken word artists, etc. are welcome to showcase their talents (and bring some friends) to the "Cousins Grimm Open Mic."
If you have an original song to try out on an audience, the time is now. If you've learned a song, please share it. The sound equipment and microphones should all be there, and all you need is your instrument.
And don't be surprised if Ken and his cousin, Rick, join in. Ken is fun to jam with!
Here's a link to Ken's MySpace:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Befriending an unsung icon

Earlier this month, my son and I caught one of the jazz cabarets at Allentown Symphony Hall. Bob Dorough has been making records since 1956, and he's the only vocalist that Miles Davis ever recorded with!

Dorough, who is now 82 years young, has a distinguished career, yet he is best known as the musical supervisor for ABC-TV's "Schoolhouse Rock."
If you grew up with "Schoolhouse Rock" like I did, you'd recognize the guy's voice right away.

I had the chance to talk to him before they opened the doors of the third floor Rodale Room (and served lasagna along with a cash bar). What a super nice guy he is!
Besides performing "Schoolhouse Rock" classics that he wrote, like "Three is a Magic Number," "Conjunction Junction" and "Figure Eight" with his trio, he also did a memorable version of the Gershwin Brothers-penned song "But Not for Me" and a terrific anti-Christmas song he wrote and recorded with Miles Davis (who Dorough referred to affectionately as "The Prince of Darkness") in 1962 called "Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)."
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was during the intermission when kiddo and I were talking with Dorough's guitarist. Steve was playing this cutsom built, electrified, acoustic guitar that was made by a friend of his in Philly who died from leukemia at age 44. When Jr. was talking to Steve about his ongoing jazz saxophone instruction, Dorough walked up, gestured toward Jr., and said, "This guy's a musician." Dorough and his guitar player raved about the Celebration Of The Arts (COTA) that's held annually in Delaware Water Gap, Pa., and were telling us we ought to move there because of what great music education they have in that community!
Also, if you're getting tired of the same old Christmas music on the radio, 88.5-FM WXPN has a breath of fresh air coming Christmas Day. Their syndicated "World Cafe" program will feature an interview with Sting from noon to 2, featuring tracks from his new holiday album "If on a Winter’s Night..." Sting will talk about where he drew inspiration for the album, what the holidays were like for him as a child and today, and why he feels the season is a mix of light and darkness emotionally. Sting will be coming to the area in January to perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Later on Christmas Day, "World Cafe" will air a special Christmas show featuring Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Aqua Teen Hunger Force (!) from 2 to 4 p.m.
The radio station's impeccable Year in Review is on tap for next week. The listener-selected best-of will feature the top 10 favorite CDs and top 100 songs of 2009, with the albums airing 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 28-31, and the songs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 1 and 4.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christy Christmas!

Since the subject of the first official post to Talk about the Passion was Christy Jefferson, there's a risk that I'm coming across as a stalker...

Last Christmas, Christy Jefferson was at a standstill making her soon-to-be released album "Agree to Disagree." And money was tight. Since nothing counteracts the winter blues like endorphins from nostalgic holiday tunes (ha ha), she recorded a few Christmas songs in her home studio in Doylestown to give as a gift to family and friends.
The five-song CD, "Merry Christmas with Love," grew to 11 songs -- 10 traditional numbers and an original about her family, "Memories We Build On, Year to Year."
C.J. opted for an eco-friendly sleeve made of recycled cardboard and skipped the shrink wrap.
In order to cover costs, Christy quietly sold the CD last November and December in markets far from family and friends, and pulled off what she described as 'a complete surprise' on Christmas morning.
“Making this CD was the perfect way to turn an unhappy situation around. I hope other people hear this story and are inspired to use their creativity and innovation to get through tough spots this holiday season and throughout the year ahead. The worst of times can be turned into the best of times with a little imagination and teamwork!,” she said.
Oh yeah, and she did get around to finishing the album that she had been working on in the first place. A CD release party for "Agree to Disagree" starts at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 26 at Puck on Printers Alley in downtown Doylestown. Cover is $5.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rhymes with stink-stank-stunk

Regional punk rockers Clashing Plaid have re-issued their single "All I Got for Christmas was Drunk" along with a cover of Chuck Berry's "Run Run Rudolph" and the new tune "Penny Collection." Hear these live during a show Friday night Dec. 11 at Traxx, 102 Bethlehem Pike, Colmar.
Holiday music tends to get on my nerves because it's so invasive for about a month and then disappears for 11 months. But ever since Clashing Plaid put out "Drunk" a few years ago, I must say, it's a keeper. I still have their one CD that has "Drunk" and the well-done originals "Emotional Wreck" and "Ghosts on Main Street."
"Drunk" is available as a free download from and "Penny Collection" is on iTunes and CDBaby.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What's the song in that commercial?

TV commercials need to be more like old-school music videos and tell you the artist and title of the song that's playing.
Two of the catchiest "edited for TV" commercial tunes playing right now are selling super-smart phones by HTC and Blackberry.
The HTC commercial sounds like a jazz piano riff that some DJ put a beat under. A little research shows that that's exactly what it is - the Felix Da Housecat Heavenly House Mix of "Sinnerman" by Nina Simone. Who knew?!
Blackberry does tell you that their song is by Switchfoot, but withholds the title. That would be "The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)." Being a Christian rock act, some of the band's ardent followers aren't too keen on their heroes being used to market the Blackberry Storm.
Also, kudos to Cadillac for exposing "1901" by the French indie band Phoenix to a wider audience. Love that song!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Send me your music today

A review of North Wales band Find Vienna's "In Your Favorite Colors" appears in "Go" Thanksgiving Day. Because of tight deadlines this week, I was unable to work in remarks from a conversation I had with their bass player, Paul. Good thing I have a blog, right?
These guys really have it together in that major record labels are taking notice. It is surprising considering that they've all graduated from North Penn High School within the past five years.
They're live at the Lansdale Center for the Performing Arts at 7 p.m. Nov. 25. There's also an acoustic show at 7 p.m. Dec. 20 at Puck in Doylestown.
They've played a Radio 104.5 Up and Coming show in West Chester and they're WSTW-FM Hometown Heroes.
Sample their tunes at or www.facebook/findvienna.
I'd like to keep this local music thing going on Talk about the Passion. So if you have a CD, send it to me at:
Brian Bingaman
The Reporter
307 Derstine Ave.
Lansdale, PA 19446

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ha ha...huh?

I've seen the VH-1 video countdowns of '80s one-hit wonders and the best songs of the '90s in the last few months.
In the midst of all the nostalgia lies a nagging question: What is the deal with all the commentary by comedians during these specials? Sure, the commentary from musicians makes sense, but what the heck makes a comedian qualified to comment on music?
I guess this is kind of like the criticism from conservatives that Jon Stewart is a comedian, but not an actual journalist (or that bloggers aren't really qualified to comment on much of anything - ha ha ha).
It's all about the entertainment value of the wise-cracking, snappy punchline, I guess.
Go to and create some commentary of your own.
Come on, you're every bit as qualified to comment on pop culture as a comedian is!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Discovering a song that becomes close to your heart

A high school classmate of mine turned me on to "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum. She even e-mailed me the guitar chords, so now I guess I have to learn how to play it.
Man, pop country keeps getting slicker by degrees! Love the duet arrangement, and the vibe reminds me of Hinder's hit song "Lips of an Angel." Except "Need You Now" is a better song.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dumb joke, but it serves a purpose

Nov. 6, country singer-songwriter Hal Ketchum plays the Sellersville Theater. His hits include “Small Town Saturday Night,” “Hearts Are Gonna Roll,” “Mama Knows the Highway,” and my personal favorite, “Sure Love.” Tickets are $27.50 and $39.50. Find a link to Hal's MySpace (and get tickets) at
And now for the joke:
Sherriff: Oh no, the bank robber's gettin' away!
Deputy: Don't worry, HAL KETCHUM!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

DJ Hero

Kind of digging that Jay-Z/Eminem mash-up in the DJ Hero video game commercial. Next question is is the game as fun as the mash-up is? A link to the commercial via the DJ Hero Web site is below.
By the way, as a guitar player, I don't play Guitar Hero. It is not the same thing as actually playing. The only praise I can give that game is there's a good varitety of songs in the games. The young whippersnappers end up getting into some old tunes that they otherwise wouldn't seek out.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Time to vote

Oh yes, there are school board races to cast your ballot for, but this is more fun. Cast your votes for the Lehigh Valley Music Awards at The 11th LVMA Annual Award Show itself is going to be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 1 at Allentown Symphony Hall on Sixth Street in Allentown. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Awards will be given in about 60 categories and there will be live music as well. Feel free to call (215) 421-5644, and feel free to post a comment if there's somebody on the ballot that really impresses you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Famous and almost famous

Going to the Oct. 23 Spectrum concert with Hall and Oates, Todd Rundgren and The Hooters. The following day, I'll be covering the John Oates songwriters workshop at Lansdale Center for the Performing Arts, which should have a bunch of North Penn students attending.

Speaking of musicians with ties to the area, I'm taking a first listen to the 8-song EP "In All Your Favorite Colors" by Find Vienna (they used to be called Clarity). If you like Coldplay, you'll enjoy this band. I know they've played around here. Anbody have a Find Vienna concert review they'd like to share as a comment?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Shout it out loud!

If you were alive in the '70s, you remember Kiss.
Who would've thought back then that they'd still be around for a "Kiss Alive 35" tour, which comes to the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia Oct. 12. Tickets run from $25-$128.
Did you know they have a new studio album called "Sonic Boom"? Maybe not, since it's a Wal-Mart and exclusive release. The album is the centerpiece of a three-disc set that also has a re-recorded greatest hits CD (Huh?!) and a live DVD from Kiss Alive 35's stops in Argentina.
When I got the first Kiss album LP as a Christmas gift in 1977, the song "Black Diamond" was both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. The thing I couldn't wrap my brain around was the ending fade of the song. It sounded like someone was tinkering with the rpm control on my record player, yet the record was still spinning at the same speed. 'AAAAAH those people at church were right - Kiss really does stand for Knights In Satan's Service. My turntable is possessed! Oh maaaan!'
What my older and wiser self knows today is that they were gradually slowing down the speed of the master tape till it came to a dead stop.
In the grocery store in those days, there would always be some magazine with Kiss pictures in it. As a wee third grader, I liked Peter Criss' cat makeup the best, and Gene Simmons' demon/vampire act scared the bejeezus out of me.
Still have my Kiss trading cards!!!
I remember well the Kiss dolls, that odd TV movie they made, the comic book that made news with the band sprinking vials of their own blood into the ink, the simultaneous release of four solo albums, and when they shocked the world by taking their makeup off. After that, they didn't do too much that was memorable till the mid-90s, when the theatrical pyrotechnics returned and Ace and Peter rejoined the group. Whew, I still wince thinking about that late '80s power ballad hit "Forever."
And go figure, Kiss is hip again thanks to Guitar Hero and "American Idol."
Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer have since replaced Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, respectively. Yet they're still wearing the makeup/personas of their predecessors. I'm not sure how I feel about that. You want to protect the integrity of the Kiss brand, yet it seems deceptive.
When you boil Kiss down to its essence, there is no occult conspiracy, like some people used to think. Kiss is quite simply a clever blend of pop hooks, heavy metal sleaze, and the excess of good, old-fashioned musical theater.
The Kiss Army is alive and well at

Friday, October 2, 2009

Phillies fans, let me hear ya.

Coming to "Go" on Thursday will be a fun piece on rooting for those Fightin' Phils for their 2009 playoff run. Is a World Series repeat possible? What did you think of this season? How about the challenges that Souderton native Jamie Moyer endured? Did you know that the Phillie Phanatic lives locally? Please share your thoughts and game day rituals by calling me directly at (215) 412-8905 or e-mailing me at

Monday, September 28, 2009

Friend (in a high place) of the print media

I'd rather read a newspaper than follow a blog any day of the week. Yes, I get the irony that I'm blogging about it.
Bloggers do not have to be held to any standards of journalistic integrity or accountability. President Obama gets this, and I'd like to share this encouraging story in The Toledo Blade about the President's disposition toward newspapers.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thoughtful tribute to meaningful artist

88.5 WXPN, Philadelphia marks Bruce Springsteen's 60th birthday Wednesday the 23rd in grand fashion. To get you lathered up, XPN mid-day host Helen Leicht will be taking Bruce Springsteen requests and Bruce cover requests from 10-2 Wednesday.
Then, an amalgamation of XPN Local artists calling itself the Phill-E Street Band will perform the "Born to Run" album in its entirety.
Scot Sax, who I interviewed for a story I wrote about Sharon Little, will be playing guitar at this sold out show that will be held at World Cafe Live.
"Born to Run" is one of my all-time favorite albums and it should be exciting to hear how this ad hoc band will pull this off. That means doing meandering, Phil Spector-esque epics like "Thunder Road" and "Jungleland," as well as songs Bruce never performs live such as "Night" and "Meeting across the River."
Go to

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Be still my beating heart!

Singer/songwriter Christy Jefferson plays Saturday Sept. 19 at Puck in her hometown of Doylestown. I didn't see any upcoming local dates on her Web site after that, but you never know.
The first time I met Christy was at an open mic night in 2006. She was the sexiest thing I had ever seen AND a gifted musician and songwriter!
I was fumbling for the right words to say to her as I bought her live CD. Pouring gasoline on a tiny spark, she told me she liked the songs that I had played on stage that night.
I later discovered at a CD release party that she was married. I was so crushed.
You too can be smitten at


Test post one for the Bing Blog.