courtesy Mike Heidorn

In the late 1980s, Jeff Tweedy, Jay Farrar and Mike Heidorn were students at Belleville High School, playing 60s era cover songs in their parents’ garages. But somewhere around the time they became known as Uncle Tupelo, they transitioned into a new sound. Today it’s called Alt Country, but at the time they just knew it was different.

Adam Bielawski / via Wikimedia Commons

Despite a musical career that has spanned decades and provided inspiration for the civil rights movement, until recently the only information available about the Staple Singers was from interviews, articles and songs.

A new biography by Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot changes all that by providing the back story of the musical family in book form for the first time. With a nod to two hit songs, the book is titled “I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom’s Highway.”

The Jungle Fire Is Catching On

Jan 22, 2014
From left: Matt Berra, James Fields, Justin Haltmar, Kristen Luther, Adam Barr, John Wright, Dan Johanning
Provided by the band

The Jungle Fire is a seven-piece soul group that has been playing the local scene since early 2011. The sound comes from the musical backgrounds of its members: jazz, classical, punk, alt-country and hip-hop.

Those players start with songwriter and guitarist Dan Johanning, who brought the band together. The rest of the group consists of drummer Matt Berra, bassist Justin Haltmar, organist and vocalist Adam Barr, tenor saxophonist John Wright, flutist Kristen Luther and lead vocalist James Fields. 

Vanity Projects

Using words like “play” and “permissiveness” in its promotional materials, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts wants to make sure St. Louisans know it's operating on a different frequency in the upcoming “Reset” program.

With fifteen a capella groups, including the 100 year-old ensemble the Whiffenpoofs, it’s an understatement to say a capella is big at Yale University.

“It’s fervent at Yale,” Ian Miller said. He’s the music director for one of those fifteen groups, Shades of Yale, and a St. Louisan.

“It’s almost like sports at some other university,” Shades of Yale Tour Manager Hannah Sears added. “It seems like every other person you meet is somehow involved.”

slso image for a gospel messiah
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Only 11 more shlepping days ‘til Christmas. But if you need to take a break from the season’s ritualistic mass consumption, upcoming local holiday arts offerings range from ho ho ho to Handel.

“Too Hot to Handel: A Gospel Messiah,” presented by the St. Louis Symphony: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13, Powell Hall, 718 North Grand Blvd., 63103. $30-$65.

Reign, aka Michael Rainer
Provided by Michael Rainer

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - His name is Reign. Before that it was Wildmann. And through all that, it is Michael Rainer.

Wildmann? "I got the name back in 2001 when I was on tour with K-Ci & JoJo. They told me that when I play, I tear the stage up and have so much energy. I was a little wild then … So, they gave me the name Wildmann. From that moment, I took the name and ran with it."

Divided & United is the name of a new, two-disc collection of songs from the Civil War. The selections tell tales of fear, loneliness, exhaustion and triumph. All recordings featured on the album, which was produced by Randall Poster, are new takes on old songs; historian Sean Wilentz wrote the liner notes for the record.

The collection features lesser-known songs of the Civil War, some by a songwriter named Henry Clay Work. According to Wilentz, Work was a key member of a group of composers that wrote the history of the era through song.

ProPhoto STL / (Courtesy Autumn's Child)

Native American flutist Mark Holland has been performing with the ensemble Autumn's Child since 1995. The group’s music has been described as something of a “musical smoothie,” and Holland himself calls it “a delicious mix of various genres,” including Native American music, world music, jazz, classical and folk.

(courtesy Five Eight)

The Old North Restoration Group is holding a benefit concert Saturday that will feature the band Five Eight.

The group out of Athens, Georgia was named by All Songs Considered last year as one of five bands that should be way bigger than they are.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Beacon very seldom reviews one-evening concerts. By the time the review would appear, the chance for a person to see the show is gone. So a review either reinforces the experience for those who were there or tells many others that they missed an opportunity.

But what should never be forgotten is the importance of music. Associate editor Robert Duffy has written eloquently about the ability of music, usually opera or classical concerts, to elevate the mind and touch the soul.

(Courtesy HEARding Cats Collective)

In keeping with the mission to "keep St. Louis strange and wonderful," the HEARding Cats Collective is holding an underwater concert at the Webster University Student Center's Pool next Saturday.

Rich O'Donnell, artistic director of the HEARding Cats Collective, said the idea for an underwater concert came to him from floating in rivers and lakes," seeing through the lens of the water, seeing as the fish see."

"When you're in the water, you're completely focused on your senses," O'Donnell added. And the concert will give the audience plenty for their senses to experience.

(Courtesy University City Children's Center)

The eighth annual concert to benefit the tuition assistance program at University City Children's Center will be held next Saturday at Powell Hall. Melissa Brooks, Associate Principal Cellist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, pianist Ruth Price with the St. Louis Children's Choirs and pianist Catherine Kautsky, Professor of Music at the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music will all be performing.

The program is titled "Fairy Tales Do Come True," but it is not a concert aimed specifically for children.

(via Flickr/Abby Gillardi)

Bob Reuter, St. Louis musician and long-time host of Bob's Scratchy Records on community radio station KDHX died in a tragic accident last week. He was 61.

We remember Bob's life, music and legacy through highlights of two previous interviews with Reuter: a 2010 Sound Portrait by Mike Schrand and a 2013 Arch City Radio Hour interview with Nick Garcia

 Jordan KylieAcoustic singer/songwriter Jordan Kylie talks about her style of music and the literary influences on her music.  She also performs a few songs as well.

Boxing Clever

Prince Ea

St. Louis rapper Richard Williams, aka “Prince Ea” discovered hip-hop through the big beats and big egos of his east coast idols—artists such as Biggie Smalls, Mace, and Puff Daddy.

Over the past several years Prince has been making waves developing his own brand of hard-hitting, socially conscious lyrics, often about subjects as varied as Charles Darwin, colonialism, politics or brain chemistry.

via Flickr/Nina Matthews Photography

Vinyl records are making a comeback.

As of October, Nielsen Soundscan reported sales of vinyl records up more than 16 percent over last year.

Joe Schwab, owner of Euclid Records has sold LPs for 30 years, and the store’s record label, Euclid Records...Records, releases artists on 45s.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman spoke with Schwab about what he’s seen at his own store and why he thinks records are coming around again. 

via YouTube video/nyrainbow5

Fontella Bass, a St. Louis-born soul singer who hit the top of the R&B charts with "Rescue Me" in 1965, has died.

The singer's daughter, Neuka Mitchell, says Bass died at a St. Louis hospice Wednesday night of complications from a heart attack suffered three weeks ago. She was 72. Bass had also suffered several strokes since 2005.

Singer Andy Williams, best known for his rendition of Moon River, his Christmas TV specials and his long-running show in Branson, Mo., has died.

He was 84.

Williams' publicist, Paul Shefrin, says in a statement sent to reporters that the singer "passed away last night (Tuesday) at home in Branson, Mo, following a year long battle with bladder cancer. ... Williams, 84, who also had a residence in La Quinta, Calif., is survived by his wife Debbie and his three children, Robert, Noelle and Christian."

(via Mike Keneally official website)

Composer/guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Mike Keneally has had some good luck in his musical career, which has led to some admirable creative endeavors.

A phone call to Frank Zappa’s information hotline number in 1987 led to Keneally’s hiring as stunt guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist in Zappa’s final touring band in 1988. On the European leg of that tour, a phone call placed by bassist Scott Thunes to Virgin Records led to Keneally’s meeting with Andy Partridge, composer/guitarist and singer for British rock/pop band XTC.