Girls in the garage

Mr Airplane Man

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., July 22, 2004) – Years before Detroit began producing garage-rock bands like White Stripes and Von Bondies that spawned a national trend, Boston was home to groups like Treat Her Right and Tarbox Ramblers. What’s unique about Boston’s latest export, Mr. Airplane Man, however, is that the group is a female duo, consisting of guitarist/vocalist Margaret Garrett and drummer Tara McManus. The girls get a little help from a few boyfriends on their CD, “C’mon DJ” (Sympathy for the Record Industry), but mostly this is estrogen-fueled punk and primitive, blues-based rock -- heavily influenced by Howlin’ Wolf, country blues and the Stooges -- giving new meaning to the term “girl group.” Catch them when they make their Club Helsinki (413-528-3394) debut on Sunday night at 8:30. The like-minded Jeremy Wallace – a protégé of the late, great folk-blues singer Dave van Ronk, warms up the crowd for the duo.

JoAnne Redding shows how it is

After four years, JoAnne Redding is back with a new recording. Released only a few short weeks ago, Redding’s new CD, “How It Is” (For the Records), has already garnered national interest, including the licensing of the song “Tread Softly” for use in the fourth season DVD collection of the WB series “Felicity.” The album features more folk-oriented, singer-songwriter fare from Redding than in the past, such as “Love and a Song,” about an overlooked older musician who once tasted a bit of glory. There are still hints of Redding’s country background, such as in the mandolins on “Chameleon,” but the arrangements evoke a more mainstream sound and Redding strikes a more conventional vocal tone, as much rock and folk as country and blues, so that she would appeal equally to fans of Shania Twain, Melissa Etheridge, Shawn Colvin, Bonnie Raitt and Patti Scialfa. This homegrown effort features terrific instrumental support by an all-star cast of the best of the Berkshires, including multi-instrumentalists Bobby Sweet and Adam Michael Rothberg, drummer Dave Lincoln and bassist Jody Lampro, among others.

Redding celebrates the release of her new CD at the Guthrie Center (413-528-1955) in Great Barrington on Saturday night at 8. Her concert will feature solo acoustic numbers as well as accompaniment from two separate bands, including the group that accompanied her on the “mud and dust circuit” of country fairs and festivals in the early- to mid-1990s. Redding plans to play all 10 numbers from “How It Is” at the show, as well as selections from her first two CDs, “Run With It,” produced in Nashville in 1993, and her 2000 CD, “The Running Kind.” In addition to her Guthrie Center show, Redding will be performing in the Live on the Lake Series at Onota Lake in Pittsfield on August 4 and at the Dream Away Lodge in Becket on August 6.

Eliza Gilkyson whacks Bush

The 16th annual Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (866-325-2744) at the nearby Long Hill Farm in Hillsdale, N.Y., which starts today and runs through Sunday, boasts a bumper crop of new-folk and roots-music talent, including the likes of Lucy Kaplansky, Steve Forbert, Greg Brown, Richie Havens, Richard Shindell, David Bromberg (also coming to Club Helsinki next Thursday night), Erin McKeown and John Gorka (who is also at the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington tomorrow night).

Not to be overlooked, however, is Eliza Gilkyson, who celebrates the release of her terrific new CD, “Land of Milk and Honey” (Red House), with a four-day residency at the festival. Featuring eight original songs and two covers – one of which is a previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie song, “Peace Call,” featuring guest vocals by Patty Griffin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Iris Dement – the album is Gilkyson’s best yet, showing her to be the equal of these three as a writer and as an affecting, subtle singer with a whispery, gritty voice.

Gilkyson’s time spent exploring the work of Guthrie on the Woody Guthrie Tribute tour is readily apparent on “Hiway 9,” the protest tune that kicks off the album. Gilkyson favors a rootsy, mostly acoustic folk-rock approach throughout, carefully dusted with a few horns, fiddles and strings. “The Dark Side of Town” shuffles along on an easygoing, New Orleans beat with shades of The Band, and the anti-Bush “Hiway 9” cleverly hints at Arabic modes in some of its guitar lines. “Tender Mercies” juxtaposes images of a female suicide bomber with children swimming in polluted waters while others are safe in the First World, while she hints at her stint on the Los Angeles post-punk scene, where she was associated with the band X, on the sensual, cello-driven rocker, “Wonderland.”

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on July 22, 2004. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2004. All rights reserved.]

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