Groovelily’s folk-pop

Violinist Valerie Vigoda leads Groovelily at Club Helsinki on May 2

by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., April 24, 2002) – Another weekend featuring live music in North, South and Central county. Pinch me – am I really in the Berkshires?

Princeton graduate, classically-trained violinist, granddaughter of the legendary cantor Samuel Vigoda, and daughter of jazz pianist Bob Vigoda, Valerie Vigoda makes a somewhat unlikely frontwoman for a folk-pop trio. But Vigoda’s Groovelily, featuring keyboardist/husband Brendan Milburn and drummer Gene Lewin, is rapidly amassing a following for its distinctive yet eclectic, guitar-free approach.

The group’s sound, which combines many different influences, is so hard to describe that the group itself is running a contest on its website ( asking fans to help come up with a one-word term for Groovelily’s music. A listen to its latest CD, Little Light, reveals Squeeze-like pop-soul (“Prayer for the Unrequited”), Police-meets-Steve Miller reggae-rock (“Hole”), Seal-like soul-pop (“Weight of the World”), The Story-like folk-pop (the album was produced by Story producer Alain Mallet), Stevie Wonder-meets-Paula Cole (“Little Nemesis”), rootsy country-pop (“I Don’t Wanna Fall in Love”) and a Jamaican dancehall version of Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is.”

Vigoda has toured the world with Cher, Joe Jackson, Cyndi Lauper and Tina Turner, playing her unusual, six-string, V-shaped electric violin called the Viper, which she can hold on her chest, allowing her to sing and play at the same time. At Princeton, which she entered at age 14 as the youngest female ever to be accepted at the Ivy League institution, Vigoda studied sociology and rose to the rank of second lieutenant in ROTC.

Groovelily is at Club Helsinki in Great Barrington (528-3394) next Thursday at 9.

The Hunter Center at Mass MoCA will be transformed into a 1930s Parisian nightclub tonight at 8 for a dance party featuring the sounds of Paris Combo, a jazzy, retro-cabaret quintet which spices its vocals and dance music with contemporary splashes of rhythm and effects. As heard on its CD Attraction (Ark21), the group has an eclectic, swinging sound that jumps from tango to Gypsy to flamenco with ease. Lead vocalist Belle du Berry is a sinuous vocalist, and the group’s arsenal of accordion, keyboards, Django Reinhardt-style guitars and Manu Dibango-influenced horns is put to good use in a variety of settings that conjure a cosmopolitan crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Americas, reflecting the musicians’ wide-ranging backgrounds and experience.

The second annual W.A.M. Festival, the Pioneer Valley’s answer to LilithFair, takes place tomorrow at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Featuring two stages, vendors, artisans, hot air balloons and food, the festival is a family-friendly celebration of some of the top independent national and regional female talent, including the Tex-Mex folk of Tish Hinojosa, the grungy folk-rock of Patty Griffin, the pop-folk of Jill Sobule, and the glam-punk of Antigone Rising.

Also featured in the all-day event is rock-soul artist Toshi Reagon, the daughter of legendary Freedom Singers Cordell and Bernice Johnson. Reagon who was named after Pete Seeger’s wife, Toshi, has a brand new eponymous CD produced by Craig Street, which veers from funk-blues to Led Zeppelin-inspired rock to acoustic folk-pop to a sleepy duet with Marc Anthony Thompson on the Cars’s hit, “Just What I Needed.”

Also on the bill are Ani DiFranco protégées Bitch and Animal, Williams College alumna and singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst, spoken word artist Alix Olson, pop-rock sensation Amy Fairchild, Doria Roberts, Edie Carey, Anne Heaton, Carla Ryder and Jennifer Nettles, plus others. The festival also features entertainment provided by improvisational comedy troupe the Villa Jidiots. For more information call 1-800-477-6849.

Pittsfield native Susan Jayne has made good in Nashville with her blend of country and pop-r&b. In 1992 she won the CMAA award for single of the year for “You Don’t Belong to Mommy,” for which she was also nominated for single and artist of the year at the MCMAA awards. In 1996, she was New England winner of the True Value Country Showdown. For the last nine years, she has been a featured performer at the Grand Masters Fair. In addition to her work as a singer, Jayne has been a professional dancer and choreographer since age 18.

“One Mississippi,” the first single from Jayne’s most recent album, The Bright Side of the Morning, is a very Bonnie Raitt-like bit of soul-country, featuring slide guitar and keyboards underneath Jayne’s twangy, soulful, country vocals. Her most recent single, “I’m Gonna Miss That Man,” is currently in the Top 20 of the Independent Country Artist radio airplay chart, where Jayne is rubbing elbows with the likes of Loretta Lynn, Bellamy Brothers, Confederate Railroad and Lee McCormick.

Jayne performs tomorrow night at 9 with her band, Help Wanted, at the Brewery in Pittsfield (442-2072). She returns to the region next month when she plays the Home Club in Hinsdale (655-0167) on May 18.

Bluz House Rockers is an eclectic, blues-based rock band from the Capitol Region. Guitarist Bob Boyer and bassist Paul Riley share lead vocals with frontwoman Trish Anderson. The group’s repertoire includes original compositions, as heard on its eponymous CD, as well as classic-rock covers by the likes of Steppenwolf, Otis Redding, Delbert McClinton, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt and Etta James, offering a pretty good hint of the group’s style and reach.

Together since 1996, when the group was formed as the house band for Albany club Park West, the group has since shared stages with the likes of Pat Benatar, Little Feat, Marshall Tucker, Eddie Money, Joan Jett, Delbert McClinton, John Mayall and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Bluz House Rockers has played everywhere in the Albany and Saratoga region, including the Pepsi Arena and Empire State Plaza. They make their Berkshire debut tonight at Red in Pittsfield (442-0313) at 8:30.

Caroline Herring

Twilight (Blue Corn)

Move over Gillian Welch and Iris Dement. There’s a new female vocalist on the scene who boasts an authentic Mississippi-bred twang but whose rich, dusky alto separates her from the faux-Emmylou pack. Caroline Herring’s natural vibrato and sustain recalls Joan Baez more than any of the squeaky, high-pitched retro-country singers, but she brings more of an organic quality to her phrasing than Baez. Herring also write her own literate, country-drenched songs, accompanied here in all-acoustic, traditional arrangements by some of Austin’s best, including Peter Rowan, John Inmon and Lloyd Maines. RIYL Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, O Brother, Where Art Thou? [4/28/02]

Caroline Herring is at the Iron Horse in Northampton on Thursday, May 2, at 7.

Various Artists

Songcatcher II (Vanguard)

Where to go after hearing the contemporary versions of old folk songs on O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Songcatcher: Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture? Songcatcher II: The Tradition that Inspired the Movie is as good a start as any, featuring 17 vintage tracks, most of them about 40 years old, by artists including Doc Watson, Granny Riddle, Roscoe Holcomb, Maybelle Carter and Cousin Emmy, roots musicians who played key roles in passing on the folk tradition to the recording generation. Highlights includes Hobart Smith’s haunted version of “The Coo Coo Bird” and Dock Bogg’s take on “Oh Death.” [4/28/02]

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on April 26, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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