Whitney Thouvenelle

Howard Iceberg & the Titanics
Smooth Sailing

Putting the name Howard Iceberg & the Titanics next to an image of a sinking ship on a CD cover creates an impression of doom-and-gloom, but in a hokey, cartoonish way. Add the title Smooth Sailing, and you get something else: irony, or at least smart-aleck cynicism.


Kansas City musician Lauren Anderson has a master’s degree in music therapy, and her gritty new album “Truly Me” is loaded with sonic solace. This week's edition of Local Listen features “One Day,” a brash song that combines Anderson’s love of blues and soul.

Anderson is part of a stellar lineup of blues acts at Knuckleheads on Friday, Nov. 13. The show starts at 6 p.m.

Beth Lipoff / KCUR

Sam Baker calls himself “the worst guitarist who ever stood on a public stage.” Yet, the combination of the singer-songwriter's raspy voice and simple guitar melodies "just works," according to Up to Date host Steve Kraske. Baker reflects on his personal journey and performs live at KCUR studios.

As the guitarist of the Count Basie Orchestra, Will Matthews plays swinging Kansas City jazz around the globe. He often performs with an organist and drummer in his hometown when he’s not on the road with the big band. This week's edition of Local Listen features Matthews’ rendition of “Corner Pocket.”

Courtesy Johnny Hamil

Thanks for Everything (Johnny Hamil/GAV7D)

This extension of Kansas City's Mr. Marco’s V7 is a testament to the wide-ranging brilliance and vision of its bassist Johnny Hamil. Even though Hamil wrote virtually everything here — give or take the improvisation he encourages and the lyrical contributions noted on three cuts — and even though Hamil plays bass, keys or vibes on everything, key to that vision is humility and thankfulness.

Heather Burton / Facebook

Rock fans preferring disorientation to terror will congregate at Californos on Oct. 31. The Halloween party features Kansas City psychedelic rock bands that daze rather than scare. This week's edition of Local Listen features “January” by the atmospheric trio Riala.

The festivities begin at Californos at 8 p.m. Oct. 31. Also on the bill will be After Nations, Temp Tats and Drag Me To Safe Harbour.

Analog Heart Music

David Cook
Digital Vein (Analog Heart Music)

The mania surrounding David Cook was once so frenzied that the audience hardly seemed to notice his most notable opening act — Justin Bieber — at Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre in 2009.

Local musicians tell the story behind a recent song and explain how it was constructed musically in The Story of a Song, a monthly segment from  KCUR's Central Standard.

Artist: HMPH!

The Song: Sghetti Sauce


The guitarist and bandleader Ron Carlson has quietly become an integral component of Kansas City jazz scene during the last couple years. Musicians from New York and Kansas City combine their talents on Carlson’s new album “Kind Folk.” This week's Local Listen features the mainstream swing of “Beatrice.”

Carlson performs with pianist Roger Wilder and bassist Bob Bowman at the Art Factory in Overland Park at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23. 

Music Review: Lauren Anderson's 'Truly Me'

Oct 20, 2015
Rob Smith Photos

Lauren Anderson
Truly Me

It’s easy to miss the obvious with Kansas City blueswoman Lauren Anderson — that dangerous label after the slash after “singer.”

Lauren Anderson is a fine songwriter, too, versatile and honest. She puts her cards — and her heart — on the table, right there in the liner notes: “This CD ... includes most of what I know, who I am, who I’d like to be and where I’d like to go.”

 Howard Iceberg leads an unusual double life. He’s an immigration attorney by day …. and one of Kansas City’s most respected troubadours by night. Local Listen features “You and Your Hazel Eyes,” a song from the singer-songwriter’s new album…. “Smooth Sailing.”

Iceberg and his band the Titanics perform an early show at the RecordBar on Saturday.

Courtesy HMPH!

Headrush (Haymaker Records)

Hearing the instrumental math rock HMPH! is like watching a mastermind play an intense game of Tetris. Like blocks, notes keep coming with no indication of where they will fall, making the band’s debut album, Headrush, an unpredictable journey.

A founding member of the Grammy-winning, old-time string band The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens is out with her first solo album, "Tomorrow Is My Turn." She discusses her resistance to being called a "star" and how she's handled her sudden rise in fame. 

Cyprus Avenue Live at The Folly presents Rhiannon Giddens at 7 p.m Sunday, October 11 at the Folly Theater. For more information go to

Local Listen: Beautiful Bodies

Oct 7, 2015

With the band Beautiful Bodies, you wind up watching them as much as listening to them. Alicia Solombrino is a dynamic front-person while Thomas Becker climbs stage scaffolding like a guitar-wielding goat. This week’s Local Listen features “Animal” from the band’s 2015 album “Battles.”

Beautiful Bodies performs at the Fed Up Fest at Crossroads KC on Saturday.

Marina Chavez

Danielle Nicole
Wolf Den (Concord Music Group)

If the blues were an amputated, gushing heart, Danielle Nicole (Schnebelen) would gladly pick it up and pin it to her sleeve for the sake of a song.

After the Schnebelen family band, Trampled Under Foot, parted ways last year, Nicole wasted no time in creating the Danielle Nicole Band. Wolf Den, her debut solo album, hemorrhages tales of pain and vulnerability from the daily trouble of finding a love that lasts.

Hannah Copeland / KCUR

Bassist Johnny Hamil started out playing what he calls "sleaze-rock." Now, he performs and teaches in many musical languages, and he's trying to teach classically trained young musicians to shred with all-string arrangements of songs by AC/DC and the Ramones. 


Todd Rosenberg Photography

It's been a decade since Michael Stern started his appointment as the fourth music director of the Kansas City Symphony.

Stern's contract with the Symphony was up in June 2016, and it was not a given that he would choose to stay. But officials announced Wednesday that his contract has been extended through the 2019 - 2020 season.

Mark Lowrey is best known as a jazz pianist but he frequently performs in rock, folk and hip-hop settings.

This week's Local Listen features “Milonga For YJ’s,” an Argentinian-inspired track from his album “Tangos For 18th Street.”

Lowrey appears at The Majestic on Thursday, October 1, and at Broadway Kansas City on Friday, October 2.

The Grisly Hand

The Grisly Hand
Flesh & Gold (self-released)

A guitar lick playfully references Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” less than a minute into the opening track of the Grisly Hand’s Flesh & Gold.

It’s the first of several nods to classic rock songs on the Kansas City ensemble’s new album. Yet the six members of the Grisly Hand aren’t mere copycats. Their most potent work equals the hallowed music of their inspirations.

Ernest James Zydeco combines the funky styles of the bandleader’s native Louisiana with the good-time blues and swing of Kansas City. Local Listen features “Tough Times Waltz,” a selection from the band’s new album “Automatic Harvester.”

Ernest James Zydeco performs Friday, September 25, at BB’s Lawnside BBQ and Saturday, September 26, at Llywelyn’s Pub.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

"The Story of a Song" is monthly segment on KCUR's Central Standard, in which local musicians tell the story behind a recent song, and explain how it was constructed musically.

Artist: The Popper aka Walter Lee Edwin

The Song: I'm KC

Music Career: The Popper’s been rapping in Kansas City since 1996, straddling some of Kansas City’s different hip-hop scenes.

The Story: After a few days in jail early this summer, Edwin was on house arrest and wrote and recorded a whole album, Write (Right) Thru The Pain, about that experience. With that out of the way, he wrote, recorded and released the summer anthem "I’m KC" in a matter of days. 

Deco Auto

Deco Auto
The Curse of Deco Auto

In an earlier time and with a little luck, “One of a Million,” the opening cut to Deco Auto’s latest release, The Curse of Deco Auto, just might’ve been a hit.

It’s the sort of would-be single — power-pop-crunchy, sing-along-catchy, turn it up and play it again — that would’ve sounded right at home in heavy rotation on MTV’s 120 Minutes. 

Courtesy of Charlotte Street

This Tuesday might be a school night, but it’s also a special occasion, one that, if we're truly in touch with our existential status in the natural world, deserves a ritual. It’s the autumnal equinox, when the sun shines directly on the equator and the lengths of the day and the night are essentially equal.

Two Kansas City musicians want to help celebrate, so they’re putting on a sleeping-bag concert. They did the same thing for the spring equinox six months ago.

Making Movies, one of Kansas City most notable bands for the past five years, is committed to giving back to the community. The annual family-friendly Carnaval is a fundraiser for Making Movies' after-school music education program.

This week's edition of Local Listen features “Cuna de Vida,” the lead track from Making Movies’ most recent album “A La Deriva.” Making Movies’ Carnaval starts at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at Knuckleheads

Courtesy of Sky Smeed

Sky Smeed
Drive All Night (Sky Smeed Music)

Drive All Night, the fifth album from Sky Smeed of Chanute, Kansas, is a troubadour’s lament to the helplessness everyone feels.

Knowing that Smeed’s core backing band is Lawrence’s wonderfully irreverent Truckstop Honeymoon may prepare listeners for “Smoke N’ Spice,” a tribute to Kansas City barbeque in the form of a personal ad. But that irreverence makes for a deceptive opening, and even the darker “Blue Highways,” about a touring musician beginning to see two-lane blacktops as bars on a jail cell, isn’t likely to prepare anyone for the rest of the record’s quiet desperation.

  Katy Guillen & The Girls are a hard-driving, blues-drenched trio with deep Kansas City roots. Steve Kraske asks the band how they got together and developed their signature sound.

Katy Guillen and the Girls will perform at 1:15 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 13 at KKFI's Crossroads Music Fest. They'll play at  the Coleman Hawkins Blues Festival in St. Joseph, Missouri on September 12

 Karrin Allyson is one of the premier jazz vocalists in the world. On her latest album, "Many A New Day," she revamps Rogers and Hammerstein classics with jazz-world superstars Kenny Barron and John Patitucci.

Karrin Allyson performs tonight at The Blue Room in Kansas City, Missouri. 

The McFadden Brothers, Ronnie and Lonnie, have been front-line entertainers in Kansas City for years with their combination of singing, tap dancing, sax and trumpet. In this conversation with Steve Kraske, they recall the influences that shaped their professional lives.