Erin Foley, From the Conan O’Brien Show, Wins Standing Ovation Saturday With New Routines, Classic Bits at Catholic U.

Erin Foley , a comedian, actress and writer emerging into the national spotlight  from steady touring, the Conan O’Brien Show and Comedy Central,  brought her rapid-fire speech, physical agility and acerbic wit to the Hartke Theater (Catholic University), Saturday, October 26  — and slayed the  crowd with her vivacity, humor and fresh imagination.  Overcoming some early mike problems to deliver her powerfully funny set unamplified, she won over old fans and newly converted Foley followers with new material  on everything from abortion rights — lampooning the right-wing notion that a fetus that can’t talk or move its fingers has constitutional rights like adults  —  to a recent break-up with her girlfriend.
And she offered fresh routines that will likely be be showcased in her forthcoming album, Lady With Pants,  including a hilarious  routine early in her set about going to a “top-optional” pool party in the morning in Las Vegas surrounded by women with fake boob jobs. She described the breasts as “giant, awkward  bags of low self-esteem,” and then brought the routine to a new level by brilliantly miming the breasts  — which she described as looking like hubcaps with a door-knob — as determined sentries “guarding the sternum,” while she adopted the pose of a vigilant Roman centurion looking from one side to another.
Some of her greatest routines killed  those who never heard them as well as her loyal fans who may have seen them, but for many, never in person. These included her astounding bit about the cascade of pleasure and excitement that she’d get from winning the Superbowl. The routine keeps adding funnier and funnier details, somehow including in  her personal fantasy sequence both  Halle Berry and grilled cheese sandwiches.
By the end, the crowd stood  to give her a standing ovation she certainly deserved.
Note: The going-viral video of her Conan set about gluten-free food is even richer and more ambitious in person, incorporating more details about the absurdities of Los Angeles and New Age lifestlyes.
More on Erin Foley:
Check her out on the web:

Foley, known from Conan O’ Brien, the film Almost Famous, Chelsea Lately, her own Comedy Central Presents Special, Curb Your Enthusiasm, the host of the Sports without Balls podcast, among a slew of others, is one of the most incredible comedians touring the country today, her PR people claim — and it’s not hype, either. Erin has branded a unique position for herself in the industry as not only a gifted stand-up but a talented actress. “Her versatility makes her one of the most sought after women working the comedy scene today,” one press release notes, and that’s certainly true for anyone familiar with her work at all. Small wonder that she has been ranked in the top 20 (#19) of female comics in the country by The Huffington Post.

The Huffington Post  also writes: “She offers smart comedy on politics, culture, sports and commercialism that can appeal to anyone in an urban area or with a college degree, regardless of sexual preference.”
She more than delivered on that and other rave reviews, meeting and exceeding the promise she’s shown as an opening act for other great comics, such as Maria Bamford, and demonstrating why she’s a  headliner selling out clubs on her own in Portland, Seattle, Austin and virtually anywhere else smart people live.



After Her Conan shows, Erin Foley coming to Catholic U. Theater on Saturday, Oct. 26th.

Nationally known comedian, actress and writer, Erin Foley is bringing her rapid-fire speech and acerbic wit to the Hartke Theater on the campus of Catholic University, Saturday, Oct. 26th.

Foley, known from Conan O’ Brien, the movie Almost Famous, Chelsea Lately, her own Comedy Central Presents Special, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the host of the Sports without Balls podcast, among a slew of others, is one of the most incredible and admired comedians touring the country today. Here’s her amusing take on sports:

Erin Foley, who has won rave reviews for her appearances on the Conan show, recently drew wide notice for her latest Conan appearance riffing in a smart, funny way on gluten-free diets:

She is following up her previous CD, Lower the Bar, available through Spotify, Itunes and Amazon: 

A new album is expected to be released next month.

Buzz on her is spreading, as shown by her loyal following on Twitter and Facebook while’s she’s touring the country to often sold-out crowds: 

Here’s the background on her recent shows that sold out in Portland and Seattle: (a web link which features her first Conan appearance). 

The range of her work, uniquely blending personal and political humor, is illustrated by this recent set at New York City’s prestigious Gotham Comedy Club:

“She offers smart comedy on politics, culture, sports and commercialism that can appeal to anyone in an urban area or with a college degree, regardless of sexual preference.” –Art Levine, The Huffington Post: 

John Waters: Oscar Wilde’s Heir?

 Here’s the article on John Waters from The Spit Take magazine. And here’s an earlier draft that’s roughly the same:

            Genuine wit is so rare in American culture that it is well worth the cost of a ticket to see filmmaker and author John Waters do a revamped version of his one-man show, “This Filthy World.” Perhaps best known as the director of such cult classics as Pink Flamingos and his breakout mainstream hit, Hairspray, the 67-year-old former underground provacateur has been embraced by mainstream arts institutions and late-night television shows.  Indeed, as anyone who has seen him on television or read his  books knows, he is at heart an amusing, quick-witted conversationalist and writer more akin to legendary British wits such as Stephen Fry and the swishier Quentin Crisp than anyone on this side of the pond since Gore Vidal. 

                So while his original appeal to his fans stems from his reputation as the “Pope of Trash,” a  purveyor of  shock value and the bizarre low comedy  of his films, underlying it all is man with a fine mind who crafts witticisms and anecdotes that unfurl seamlessly on stage.  But he is not a gut-busting stand-up or story-teller, although he still won regular laughs from  a packed house at the refurbished, re-opened legendary chitlin’ circuit Howard Theatre in Washington.

              Some of his fans, including me,  missed the first part of his 90 minute show because he was mistakenly rushed onstage a half hour before his 8 p.m. start time. Yet as I entered, he remained unmistakable: dressed in a checkerboard gray-and-black suit and bow-tie while sporting his trademark pencil-thin mustache, he was winding up in his sardonic, understated way a commentary about an obscure gay homosexual subculture of men who display explicit online photos of the results of anal fisting. “It’s called  blossoming,” he said dryly. “You can Google it,” but he doubted that we would want to.

              It also was a reminder that no matter  how many elevated circles he travels in — including serving  on the jury at the Cannes Film Festival – he is aware of the oddities and dark corners of “this filthy world” in a way that few other artists know. With 95 percent brand-new memorized material, though, his delivery at times seemed rushed. Yet he didn’t lean on bad taste to win his audience with behind-the-scenes tales of his film career and his acerbic commentaries on  political correctness and social trends. At one point, in talking about his film Cry Baby,  he decried the passing from the scene over the decades of true rebel role models from juvenile delinquents to punks: “What can you be today: a hacktivist? You’re sitting home in your parent’s house, they’re leaving food outside the door and you’re shutting down the governments of three countries. The problem is that there’s no style about it…except poor posture.”

                    That’s a bon mot that might have been written by Oscar Wilde. But only Wilde’s unlikely heir, John Waters, would dare to describe a hairy gay man  — “I thought his back was a hedge,” he quipped — in Provincetown for “Bear Week”  pushing along a “completely retarded” ( he apologized before using the term) 12-year-old girl in a baby carriage. “Was she having fun at Bear Week? Diane Arbus would have run from this photo,” he observed. “Then I had this terrible thought in my mind: Was she his ‘dick magnet’ for the weekend? I can’t stop thinking about it– and I hope you can’t either.”

             John Waters, no matter how respected these days,  is still proudly  wearing his crown as the “Pope of Trash.”





Songs for the New Depression: Americana Icon Gillian Welch Storms Charts, Brings Stark Songs to DC

With the economy teetering on collapse with the new debt deal, music fans can prepare for the mournful times ahead by listening to the sad, evocative songs of Gillian Welch, whose sound is steeped in Depression-era bluegrass but updated for today’s hard times.


On Tuesday night, she brings her music — and a tour that’s been selling out several venues — to the Washington area at the Strathmore concert hall in the  Bethesda, Maryland suburb. This past weekend she appeared at the Newport Folk Festival and enraptured the crowd as recorded by NPR.  

With their perfect blend of melancholy voices, guitars and the occasional banjo, Gillian Welch and partner David Rawlings have ended the long wait of roots music fans for original music from Welch.

Amazingly enough, for an independently released album by a relatively little-known Americana artist, her album debuted at #20 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.  

And if critical reaction is any guide, The Harrow and The Harvest is winning enough praise to propel the CD forward in a time of free-fall for the music industry. Part of their strategy was to sponsor “listening parties” at independent music stores, with Music Millennium in Portland being among the first stores in the country, on June 19,  to sponsor the promotion for the album officially released last month, June 28. Although skeptical about the predatory role of piracy in undermining professional musicians, as she eloquently described in the song “Everything is Free,” she also turned to NPR to showcase the album through streaming audio in their First Listen series, as well as on Fresh Air. It’s well worth listening to– and buying. (You can buy the CD and a digital download in the format of your choice directly from her website, as well as, of course, from Amazon, your local record store  and Itunes.)


The long wait  –eight years — for original material from Welch (not counting her work on Rawlings’s recent solo CD) was due to a perfectionism that’s reminiscent of early Lucinda Williams. In this case, Welch wanted to make sure that the songs were good enough to release, unlike their friend, the  over-prolific Ryan Adams, who cheapened his reputation by releasing too much music in too many styles, and never achieved the heights of his work in Whiskeytown and the CD Heartbreaker. But if the critics are right about Welch’s new release, it was well worth the wait. Indeed, one British-based review aggregator site, AnyDecentMusic, ranks it as the best-reviewed new release in the world, beating out Bon Iver.


Here are some sample raves, with original reviews and links available at

The Independent (UK), [rating] 100: “On this, Gillian Welch’s fifth album, the familiar blending of traditional sounds and moods with modern sensibilities is effortlessly sustained through songs like the mordant “The Way It Goes” (“Betsy Johnson bought the farm, stuck a needle in her arm, that’s the way that it goes”).”

The Telegraph (UK),  100: “There cannot be another musical duet around at the moment who are able to make two acoustic guitars and two voices produce a sound that is so subtle and yet powerful.”

MusicOMH , 100: “This is one of the most defiantly traditional, non-radical and deceptively simple albums in recent memory.”

The American-based Paste liked it too, 90:

While it’s true that Gillian Welch isn’t the first artist to use the rugged quality of early American folk music–with its rich iconography and imagery–as inspiration, what separates her from other artists who have done so is the deftness with which she employs familiar themes from archaic songs and adapts them to reflect the concerns of a person living in the 21st century. It’s a difficult conceit to pull off, but on song after song, Welch balances the ancient and the modern with an ease and grace that scarcely seems possible…


Listening to these songs, one can hear that the eight years taken between releases has caused Gillian Welch to ruminate and pour all of her weighing up and accounting of life’s sad twists and turns into one of her best albums.The Harrow &The Harvest is simply one of the richest, most expansive roots albums to be released in some time.

Even though, in an earlier song, she wrote how piracy was undercutting her work, this time around, the critical reaction is so strong it might actually prompt enough people to legally buy or download the CD if they want to ensure they’ll hear more from her in the future. That way, we won’t be facing a reluctance to release more songs worthy of her high standards:

Everything is free now

That’s what they say

Everything I ever done

Gotta give it away.

Someone hit the big score

They figured it out

They were gonna do it anyway

Even if doesn’t pay.


Every day I wake up

Humming a song

But I don’t need to run around

I just stay home.

Sing a little love song

My love and myself

If there’s something that you want to hear

You can sing it yourself.

Let’s hope that won’t happen. We don’t want to wait another eight years for an album from the incomparable Gillian Welch, especially in times like these.



This article has been updated from one that originally appeared on the all-genre Oregon Music News website.


Lucinda Williams Brings Blues, Heartache and Protest to Washington

Lucinda Williams, perhaps America’s greatest songwriter for just over two decades, is coming to Wolf Trap in suburban Washington this week singing a different kind of blues.  The bruised and aching heart that lies embedded in her greatest songs is still very much there, but a new, personal happiness, arising from her marriage to her manager Tom Overby in 2009, has allowed her to lift her artist’s gaze to address the suffering going on in the world outside.

Her triumphant new album, Blessed, ranks with her very best work, and with the production help of Don Was her music sounds as good, if not better, as anything she’s ever done.

Yet her albums, including this one, don’t even begin to capture the overwhelming impact of her live performances, such as the one I saw in March at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 club. The trim, 58-year-old Lucinda had some of the rough shadings and cracks in her voice that make her so expressive, but she delivered with a new purity and power that made the audience that had taken her deep repertoire of literate songs into their hearts almost as giddy as teenyboppers at a Justin Bieber concert.

Watch, for instance, “World Without Tears” live:

At the Washington show, it was a mad love-fest between audience and performer that I’ve rarely seen outside of a Bruce Springsteen concert. Here at last was a baby-boomer, like many but hardly all in her diverse audience, singing and writing songs with an undiminished power that few of their other musical heroes could now match.

In an interview with <em>Music and Musicians </em>magazine she said simply, “I feel my voice is better than it’s ever been.” As Muhammad Ali once said, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.”

Known in part for heart-breaking ballads about lovers and friends who were killed or committed suicide, such as “Sweet Old World,” “Drunken Angel,” and “Pineola,”  she not only chronicles the loss of loved ones on her new album, including the masterpiece, “Copenhagen,” about the death of a former manager, but also looks at the pain of everyone from dying soldiers to people living without hope. And she offers healing and promise with her compassionate new songs. One of those songs came relatively early in the set, and its slow, direct, blues-inflected plea cut through the audience like a knife. One can only imagine the impact it might have on an abused woman stuck at home or a runaway selling himself on the street or just a person grappling with loneliness. It’s called “Born to Be Loved,” and she sang plaintively in the opening, “You weren’t born to be abandoned/You weren’t born to be forsaken/You were born to be loved…”

So her broad palette of songwriting is now even more deeply infused with the feel of the blues that has always informed her work. Of course, her brand of eclectic Americana can’t be pigeonholed into any one format or standard chord structure.  Still, it’s not well-known that her very first album, <em>Ramblin’,</em> cut on Folkways in 1979 for about $250, had several blues covers, including Robert Johnson’s “Rambling on My Mind.”

She shows her deep ties to the blues — her earliest musical love along with the songs of Bob Dylan — in some of the metaphors she chooses, her taste in blues covers, including Howlin’ Wolf’s, “I Asked For Water (He Gave Me Gasoline),” and her eye for the landscapes and culture of the South, the original home of the blues.

Yet the Louisiana-born Williams had never even been to the Mississippi Delta or a juke joint when she wrote the song, “2 Kewl 2 Be 4-Gotten,” inspired by a juke joint photo she saw. Her relationship to the bues was  nonetheless so strong, and the devotion she inspires among critics and fans is so intense, that it inspired <em>The New Yorker</em>’s Bill Buford to write a masterful portrait of her. He tells the back story behind her most mournful ballads,  and opens the article with scenes of him visiting the sort of rural Delta clubs that shaped the blues and inspired Lucinda. The National Magazine Award-nominated article appeared in June, 2000, and was headlined, “Delta Nights: A singer’s love affair with loss.”

“The Delta has served Williams as highly personal, emotional reference library, something she keeps coming back to in her music, for images or metaphors, or, sometimes for its famous twelve-bar arrangements and its flattened blue notes…She gets stuck with knotty, contradictory labels, like the blackest white woman in Louisiana (or the white woman with a black man’s soul), or Raymond Carver with a guitar (because of her stark narratives), or a female Hank Williams,” Buford notes.

As Walt Whitman might have said, she contains multitudes, but she transcends any one musical label, which is one reason it took her so long to achieve commercial success — with her Grammy-winning <em>Car Wheels on a Gravel Road</em> in 1998.

Yet the blues has– regardless of the musical form she chose for each song —  seeped into her soul. So when she described that juke joint, it was with absolute authority:

In this dirty little joint
No dope smoking no beer sold after 12 o’clock
Rosedale Mississippi Magic City Juke Joint
Mr. Johnson sings over in a corner by the bar
Sold his soul to the devil so he can play guitar
Too cool to be forgotten

And when she chooses to perform a blues song, as she sometimes does in concert, she does so with an uncanny understanding of the song that unveils its emotional core, remains true to the Blues form , and yet somehow turns it into a Lucinda Williams song.  Here’s a brief snippet of her version of Skip James‘ “Hard Times Killing Floor Blues:”

It’s an apt song for today’s economic distress, and when she hums along it’s a female version of Skip’s mournful hum that can also send chills up your spine. She’s one of a relative handful of white singers — Van Morrison and Bonnie Raitt are some others — who can capture the resonance and emotional impact of blues and soul music without descending into mimicry.

At the same time, her performances are not all about heartache, and even when there’s a deep sadness in some of her songs, it has the transformative effect of the blues itself. How could singing those sad songs make us all feel so good? One reason: She offers a kick-ass live show, propelled by a crack band, that draws on the best of all her songs and sings  them with an intensity that’s stunning. Always a cause for exultation in her audiences.

Women especially respond to songs that are kiss-off anthems to ex-lovers, although the lyrics are still sometimes mingled with regret over what’s been lost. She draws on this sentiment in songs such as “Changed the Locks” and her new one, “Buttercup,” aimed at an addict ex-boyfriend coming around again. It’s her feminist update of one her favorite Bob Dylan songs, “Positively 4th Street,” the sneering put-down of the folkies who felt abandoned by Dylan’s rise. The crowd went wild when she sang over a bouncy roots rocker (quite different from the slow ballad on the original demo included on the expanded CD):

You talk about the junk you did,
Like you talk about climbing trees.
You look like a little kid,
With bruises on your knees.

You will never cop,
To the damage that’s been done.
You will never stop,
Cos it’s too much fun.

Now you want somebody to be your buttercup,
Good luck finding your buttercup.

She doesn’t need him anymore, but her heart is still open to caring for the people in her life and those who haven’t found the hard-won love, and even happiness, she has obtained so recently. She titled her second Folkways album <em>Happy Woman Blues,</em> and now, finally, she is coming to live out that aspiration without leaving the blues behind.

In interviews she’s sought to address head-on the question that seems to fascinate critics and some of her fans: Can she continue to write great, moving songs of heartbreak and loss if she finds happiness in her personal life? As a <em>Wall Street Journal</em> critic notes: “She wonders if her satisfaction will confuse fans who have heard her songs about how, for her, love has often led to betrayal.”

“I’m in such a different place now,” said Ms. Williams, who is dressed in denim, her eyes raccoon-ringed with blue mascara. “I’m with Tom and I’m content that way. I’ve got much more freedom. I always wanted to write about something other than unrequited love. Unrequited-love songs are the easiest to write. I think I speak for all songwriters when I say that. I had to field these questions: ‘Are you still going to be able to write?'” Ms. Williams then shrugged. “Everywhere I go, I’m picking things up. I’m like a sponge. People think all my songs are autobiographical. They aren’t.”

Even by her standards, “Blessed” is an extraordinary album, the best by a singer-songwriter in quite a long while…</blockquote>
Still, the notion that personal unhappiness was a necessary fuel for maintaining creative achievement was something that she once seemed to believe. During <em>The New Yorker'</em>s 2000<em> </em>profile, Buford witnessed a testy dispute between Williams and her then-boyfriend, bass player Richard Price in a New Orleans bar, with Williams anxious about how she hadn’t written a new song in three years. (Since then, starting with 2001’s <em>Essence,</em> though, she’s been remarkably more prolific.) Buford writes:
<blockquote>The problem, it seemed, was that she was too happy. Richard didn’t believe that this was a problem–happiness, he thought, was not a bad thing. But Lucinda wasn’t listening. She was speaking longingly of her melancholy “Silver Lake period”– the time when, fourteen years before, living in a downtown apartment in Los Angeles and, having just broken up with Clyde [Woodward, an alcoholic bass player who inspired “Lake Charles” ], alone, emotionally wounded, with little money and few distractions, she was focused and wrote some of her best songs, one after the other: “Crescent City,” “Passionate Kisses, “Changed the Locks” and “Side of the Road”….</blockquote>
<img class=”size-medium wp-image-82227 alignleft” src=”×200.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”300″ height=”200″ />But now happily married, she still found herself writing songs in a spurt of creative energy. <em>Music and Musicians</em> magazine observed that she started composing songs for the new album in May of 2010, soon producing enough material for two albums  — and moving beyond just writing about unrequited love. “It’s like I’ve been hibernating, and then once  I get into that mode, I dive in,” she said. “I’m more prolific now than I’ve ever been.”

But now she was taking a broader view: “I grew up listening to Bob Dylan’s songs, which were so majestic and so topical. I always wanted to write songs like ‘Masters of War’ or ‘Times They Are A- Changin.’ This album was an exercise in writing those kinds of songs.” Indeed, for an encore,  at the end of the Washington show in March, for instance, she gave a shout-out to the workers fighting against union-busting in Wisconsin, and launched into the Buffalo Spingfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” with its intense images of protest:

There’s something happening here
 What it is ain’t exactly clear
 There’s a man with a gun over there
 Telling me I got to beware
 I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
 Everybody look what’s going down
 There’s battle lines being drawn

Yet it was quite fitting that she ended her set, before the encore, with the stirring title song, “Blessed,” from her new album; it notices the everyday, unnoticed miracles that can give us grounds for optimism.

In some ways, it’s a reverse, positive version of “A Hard Rain’s Going to Fall,” but which finds in her array of kaleidoscopic images — although not as richly surrealistic or innovative as Dylan’s song written in the shadow of the Cuban missile crisis — a reason for hope, not despair or terror:

We were blessed by the minister
Who practiced what he preached
We were blessed by the poor man
Who said heaven is within reach
We were blessed by the girl selling roses
Who showed us how to live
We were blessed by the neglected child
Who knew how to forgive
We were blessed by the battered woman
Who didn’t seek revenge
We were blessed by the warrior
Who didn’t need to win
We were blessed by the blind man
Who could see for miles and miles
We were blessed…

And the Washinton area’s music community will be blessed when Lucinda Williams takes the stage this Tuesday at Wolf Trap  to sing her unique, deeply felt songs that offer, in their own way, the redemptive power of the blues.

a searing documentary film, Incendiary, t

Gov. Rick Perry, a likely GOP presidential candidate, faces a new burden: a searing documentary film, Incendiary, that looks at the railroading of a suspect for an arson incident that killed his children. The executed convict was Cameron Todd Willingham, but the new film and extensive print journalism makes a compelling case that he was wrongly convicted and that Gov. Perry brushed aside strong evidence for his innocence.
As the Chicago Tribune summed up: “Man executed on disproved forensics…Fire that killed his 3 children could have been accidental.”

Some highlights of its investigation, echoed by other accounts:

New Film at Silverdocs Exposes Gov. Rick Perry’s Burning Scandal

              Gov. Rick Perry, a likely GOP presidential candidate, faces a new burden: a searing documentary film, Incendiary, that looks at the railroading of a suspect for an arson incident that killed his children. The executed convict was Cameron Todd Willingham, but as the new film and extensive print journalism makes a compelling case that he was wrongly convicted and that Gov. Perry brushed aside strong evidence for his innocence.

As the Chicago Tribune summed up: “Man executed on disproved forensics…Fire that killed his 3 children could have been accidental.”

          Some highlights of its investigation, echoed by other accounts:
            “While Texas authorities dismissed his protests, a Tribune investigation of his case shows that Willingham was prosecuted and convicted based primarily on arson theories that have since been repudiated by scientific advances. According to four fire experts consulted by the Tribune, the original investigation was flawed and it is even possible the fire was accidental.

             Before Willingham died by lethal injection on Feb. 17, Texas judges and Gov. Rick Perry turned aside a report from a prominent fire scientist questioning the conviction.”

                This miscarriage of justice, though, probably sells well with Perry’s hard-core ideological base. Nonetheless, as New York Times columnist Ta-Nehishi Coates points out:

                “The fire investigators who fingered Willingham relied on the kind of sorcery that fire scientists have tried for the past 20 years to chase from the field. The informant, for his part, claimed that Willingham had inexplicably blurted out a confession, then recanted his tale. Then, in the words of New Yorker reporter David Grann, he “recanted his recantation.” When Grann tracked him down in 2009, he told him that “it’s very possible I misunderstood” what Willingham said, pausing to add “the statute of limitations has run out on perjury, hasn’t it?'”

               “Perry was unswayed by pleas from Willingham’s lawyers and rejected their request for a 30-day reprieve. This registers as a rather mild atrocity in Texas, a state that does not so much tinker with the machinery of death as it gleefully fumbles at the controls.”

              Now the film about his prosecution and conviction — and all the mishandling of the allegations against him — gets an East Coast premiere at the AFI Silverdocs festival in Silver Spring this week.

             Here’s a trailer from the movie — but who will pay attention to what it says about Gov. Rick Perry and the American Way of Justice?