• Working-man's troubadour Mike Stout has delivered a birthday gift to the city and its inhabitants with "The Point of Pittsburgh," an album of songs that celebrates our hard-scrabble history.
The moody folk-rock album, a companion piece to the Charles McCollester book of the same name, deals with such subjects as civil rights, worker safety, child labor laws, fair wages, freedom and justice. Among those celebrated by Stout's pleasant voice are abolitionist Martin Delany, boxer Billy Conn ("The Boxer and the Blonde") and labor leaders Fannie Sellins, The Cotton Mill Workers, Crystal Eastman, Monsignor Charles Owen Rice and Sean George.
The violent McKees Rocks strike of 1909 is recalled in a harder rock song, "Blood on the Rocks," and the demise of the steel industry is a delivered in the country-flavored tune "Homestead Town"
The CD opens with "Happy Birthday to Pittsburgh," a song that summarizes everything to follow and even touches on "Steeler Nation spread all over the globe."
Stout will deliver some of the songs, along with Joe Grushecky and The NewLanders, and Pittsburghers such as state Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Highland Park) will read stories from the book Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Carnegie Lecture Hall in a benefit for Just Harvest and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The $35 ticket price includes copies of "The Point of Pittsburgh" book and CD. Call 412-460-3663, ext. 205, or go to www.pointofpittsburgh.com.
• Most singers get around to the Christmas album midway through their recording career.
Rosa Colucci is jumping right into the mistletoe and holly.
"This is my first solo project," says Colucci, a PG staffer who has performed with everyone from the CCAC Gospel Ensemble to the Little Wretches. "I wrote an original Christmas song many years ago and never recorded it. So, I sent an e-mail to friends and family and asked them about the project to get some feedback. The response was overwhelming."
The result is "The Gift," a 13-track CD that doesn't sound like the typical Christmas album. Working with notable local musicians such as Jay Hitt, Bob Banerjee and David Cutler, Colucci, a fine singer who will remind some of Sarah McLachlan, has come up with alternative arrangements for classics, like a folkier "Silent Night" and a jazzy-bluesy cover of Joni Mitchell's "River." She also dipped into the contemporary Christian pop community for some lesser-known carols.
"I've spent many years singing Christmas music in the church and also reviewing it for this paper," Colucci says, "so I have heard it all. I wanted to make a collection that was unexpected, more like an iMix that you would find on iTunes. The real trick was not losing the main idea behind the song. For Instance, I recorded 'River' as a blues song. To me, the lyric was just longing for some real raw emotion. We basically kept the same chord progression but changed the rhythm and syncopation of it. It is just smokin'! I think when the lyric speaks about holiday heartache, a little blues is necessary."
The CD release party and concert, with full band, is at 10:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cabaret at Theatre Square. Jay Hitt will open with his own set. Admission is $5. 456-6666.
• Mike Tamburo has assembled the ambitious two-day Fantastic Voyagers Festival 2 at Modern Formations Gallery, 4919 Penn Ave., Garfield, focusing on Outsider music from folk to experimental. Here is the lineup, with headliners listed first:
Saturday at 3:30 p.m.: Harangue, Indoor Park, R Keenan Lawler, Insect Factory, Ryan Jewell, Geoff Mullen, Eric Carbonara, Layne Garrett, Teen Milk, Robert Dingman, Daryl Fleming, Pairdown, Chris Niels, Ian Bonnet and Dean Cercone.
Sunday at 3 p.m.: Mike Tamburo, Melissa St. Pierre, Black Forest/Black Sea, Gangwish, Tusk Lord, Jim Storch, Margaret Cox, Nature, Hunted Creatures, Evil Twin, Pete Spynda, Noctuelles and thoel:eme.
Admission is $8; $14 for both days.
• Lovebettie, the kind of tough-sounding alt-rock band that fits comfortably on The X, will release its debut album "... And We're Never Coming Back" Wednesday at 9 p.m. at Altar Bar, 1620 Penn Ave., Strip. Lovebettie, fronted by singer-pianist Alexandra Naples and guitarist C.T. Fields, will be joined by The Dream Intended, Kill The Drama and Liz Berlin. ... Bill Toms and Hard Rain, Bill Deasy, Shari Richards and Tom Breiding will perform a benefit for the ALS Association of Western Pa. Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Cefalo's in Carnegie. There will also be an auction of signed sports items and baskets. ... The Boogie Hustlers celebrate the return of lead singer Vince Wylie, absent for nearly a year, with a show at Club Cafe Saturday night at 9. During his hiatus, the band recorded a forthcoming EP with singers Margot B and Gene Stovall.
Scott Mervis can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-2576.