Local musicians step out
by Seth Rogovoy
(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass, June 13, 2002) -- While the major focus of summer concertgoing tends to go to the big names that come to town, there are also plenty of opportunities to catch local talent in summertime. This seems especially so this year, when seemingly everywhere one looks series featuring local performers are sprouting.
The “substance-free” concert series at Burbank Park at Onota Lake in Pittsfield includes the cream of the crop of local bands and singer-songwriters. Robby Baier’s band, Melodrome, kicks the series off on July 10. Other performers include the Albert Cummings Blues Band (July 17), the Vikki True Trio (July 24), the Reverend Tor Band (July 31), the Chris Collins Band (August 7), Robby Baier (August 14), Fly By Night (August 21), and Redding, Mandeville and Sweet (August 28).
The Berkshire Historical Society is presenting “Our Roots Are Showing,” a series of folk and roots-music bands, at Arrowhead in Pittsfield. The next show features the Housatonic Philharmonic on June 22, with more shows to be announced soon.
The annual Jerry Garcia tribute concert to benefit the Amazon rain forest at LaCocina in Pittsfield takes place this Saturday, with the Reverend Tor Band, Liberty Bus, Dark Hollow and Gadams Equation. Reverend Tor will also be at Bucksteep Manor in the town of Washington on July 4. Other Bucksteep concerts include Redding, Mandeville and Rothberg on June 22, Bobby Sweet, Rick Leab and Pete Adams on July 21, and a bluegrass picking party on the weekend of July 26-28. Bucksteep will probably also host a jam-band festival of some sort on Labor Day weekend – stay tuned for details.
In addition to its series of headlining performers on Saturday nights, the Guthrie Center in Housatonic will present local headliners on Friday nights (many of whom will also be seen opening for the national acts on Saturdays). The local series kicks off on July 5 with singer-songwriter John Flynn. Other performers in the series include Eric Underwood and Eladia and Adam Michael Rothberg (July 12), the Mammals (July 19), Melodrome and Hector on Stilts (July 26), Meg Hutchinson (August 2), Jeffrey Folmer (August 9), Bobby Sweet (August 16) and Robby Baier (August 23).
This summer, the Guthrie Center is also the site of the “You Play Like a Girl” series, featuring female performers including Meg Hutchinson this coming Sunday, June Millington (July 7), Bernice Lewis (July 28), and JoAnne Redding (August 4).
Over at Butternut Ski Area in Great Barrington, local bands will be part of the mix at the Summer Art Festival on July 5-7. Then a mix of local and regional bands will be on tap for the “Great Barrington Jam” on July 20, an all-day festival with Zodiac Mambo (featuring members of Max Creek, Jiggle and the Slip), the Reverend Tor Band with one-time Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten, Electric Blue and the Kozmic Truth, Gadams Equation, and Frequent Flyer. The big August festivals at Butternut, including BerkFest (August 9-11) and the Berkshire Jazz Festival (August 24-25), typically include a few token local performers in their mix of national and regional headliners.
The Dream Away Lodge in Becket (623-8725) features a mix of local and regional performers each weekend. Folk-pop singer-songwriter Adam Michael Rothberg performs this Friday night, with fiddler Rick Tiven holding forth on Saturday. In coming weeks, Dream Away presents Erin Larkin (June 21), soul-jazz group Patiokings (June 22), Redding, Mandeville and Sweet (June 28), and singer-songwriter Celia (June 29).
Local performers also hold forth at Club Helsinki (528-3394) on occasion, including this Friday night when Robby Baier’s Melodrome performs. Baier returns to Helsinki on July 3.
Up in Williamstown, the Flying Garbanzos kick off the Clark Art Institute’s popular free outdoor concert series on July 9 at 6, followed by the Steve Murray Seven on July 23 and the Quintessential Brass Quintet on July 30.
For the better part of the last decade, Reed Foehl was the frontman of Acoustic Junction, a Colorado-based folk-rock group that co-existed amicably on the jam-band scene – although the group, which sometimes performed and recorded as Fool’s Progress, was much more song-based than most jam bands. The members of Junction also rubbed shoulders on stages with such big-name groups as the Dave Matthews Band and Widespread Panic.
But all good things must come to an end, and last year Acoustic Junction called it quits. But Foehl wasn’t ready to put down his guitar for good. He recently released his debut solo album, “Spark” (Planet), a fresh, contemporary-sounding album that avoids some of Junction’s more annoying neo-hippie tendencies, substituting for them a more dreamy soundscape, more soulful vocals, and a more introspective approach that serves Foehl well.
“When it brightens, when it all gives way/I know there is more, more I’ll want to say,” Foehl sings on “When It Comes Around,” a John Lennon-style ballad that could function as his new mission statement. “Am I Falling” is a quiet rocker that skitters along on a hip-hop-fueled drum line, and “Give You More” is the sort of piano-folk that made Elton John a respectable singer-songwriter in the early-1970s.
Foehl hasn’t totally left behind the neo-hippie sound that gained Junction a loyal following on the jam-band scene: the piano-driven “Days Are Like” has a Bruce Hornsby-like feel. Foehl is at Club Helsinki in Great Barrington (528-3394) tonight at 9.
Another in our series of periodic tallies of the most-played recordings -- most new, some old – on our imaginary radio station:
1. Jen Chapin/Stephan Crump, “Open Wide” (Purple Chair Music)
2. Wilco, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (Nonesuch)
3. Shannon McNally, “Jukebox Sparrows” (Capitol)
4. Elvis Costello, “When I Was Cruel” (Island)
5. Gogol Bordello, “Voi-La Intruder” (Rubric)
6. Jessica Lurie Ensemble, “Zipa Buka!” (Zipa)
7. Dave Tarras and the Muziker Brothers, “Tanz!” (Epic/Legacy)
8. Jewlia Eisenberg, “Trilectic” (Tzadik)
9. Amy Fairchild, “Mr. Heart” (So Fair)
10. Dave Douglas, “The Infinite” (Bluebird)
Jen Chapin and Stephan Crump
“Open Wide” (Purple Chair Music)
This remarkable album features 10 original songs by singer-songwriter Jen Chapin (daughter of the late Harry Chapin) accompanied only by husband/bassist Stephan Crump straddles the jazz/folk line and works remarkably well as either/or. The closest approximation to what she does here stylistically are some of Cassandra Wilson’s rootsier efforts. Like Wilson, Chapin has one of those voices with which you could easily fall in love, a voice with which you want to curl up with and get cozy. There’s more than a hint of funk and blues in Crump’s bass playing (and Chapin’s singing). If Ani DiFranco were a jazz singer, maybe this is what she’d sound like. An amazing debut by an artist to watch. [6/9/02]
Matt Munisteri and Brock Mumford
“Love Story” (Old Cow Music)
Matt Munisteri is one of those singer-songwriters born out of time, the kind of guy who listens to a Beach Boys tune and imagines what it would sound like played on accordion and acoustic guitar. His band, Brock Mumford, takes its name from the guitarist in Buddy Bolden’s original jazz band and its inspiration from all over the map: from Gypsy jazz to Willard Robison to Hoagy Carmichael to Bob Dylan, and it comes out sounding like the Band’s second album as written by Dave Frishberg. Will appeal to fans of everyone from John Pizzarelli to Tom Waits. [6/2/02]
“Trojan Women” (ECM)
This original soundtrack to the classical play by Euripides breathes with ancient overtones supplied by haunting choral passages and the sound of ancient Mediterranean instruments, including lyra, kanonaki, santouri, laouto and ney. Karaindrou is one of modern Greece’s foremost contemporary composers working for film and stage, and her background in history and archaeology is palpable in the texture of the music, which
sounds like Enya meets Philip Glass on a hike up the Acropolis.[6/16/02]
Badly Drawn Boy
“About a Boy” (XL/BMG)
As one has come to expect with movies adapted from novels by some-time rock critic Nick Hornby, the soundtrack to “About a Boy” – minus the sentimental use of a certain 1970s hit in the film’s climactic scene – was one of the best things about the flick. Much of the credit goes to Badly Drawn Boy (aka Damon Gough) for his original score of baroque folk-pop, including incidental music and several catchy pop songs that recall the Swinging Sixties sound of London pop, that netherish region where the Kinks, Cat Stevens, Harry Nilsson and Carnaby Street never met but could have. This is no mere disposable soundtrack album, either – it sits comfortably aside recent, similar-minded works by Wilco, Radiohead, Elliott Smith and Ben Folds. [6/16/02]
[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on June 13, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]
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