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Maggi, Pierce And E.J.

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Hugely eclectic folk-rockers Maggi, Pierce & E.J. built a strong grassroots following through near-constant touring in the late '90s, even though their records were entirely self-released. Ranging from coffeehouse folk to rootsy rock & roll, country, jazz, pop, and the geeky, herky-jerky wing of alternative rock, MPE tied its freewheeling music together with smooth three-part harmonies and energetic concert performances in which all three members switched instruments at a dizzying pace. The group formed in Philadelphia, where Pierce and E.J. had been involved in the interracial hip-hop outfit the Goats; despite some early critical praise, the group imploded after two albums. In the meantime, Pierce and E.J. had struck up a friendship with singer Maggi, a regular presence on the local coffeehouse circuit. The three began writing songs together and gathered a local following, and released a self-titled independent album in 1995. Their next two releases, arriving in 1997 and 1998, kept the same title and cover design (childlike drawings of all three members), but changed the color of the artwork; as a result, they were dubbed The White Album, The Black Album, and The Red Album, respectively. Meanwhile, MPE steadily expanded their touring base, playing over 175 gigs a year at clubs, colleges, and festivals across the United States and Europe. Their fourth album, 2001's For, was a set of original material dedicated to the influence and inspiration of the late Jeff Buckley. ~ Steve Huey

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