Thursday, December 26, 2013

2014 is going to be amazing because...

I posted on the good old FB the other day asking who was releasing projects in 2014, you responded and I compiled a list and wrote why I, personally, am excited for those releases. Here they are below...

North of Nashville – because I still can’t believe that all that joyful noise comes from just two guys.

Glenn Yoder and the Western States – because “hail, hail rock n’ roll”, and these folks rock and roll.
Mando Mania – mandolins…a lot of them. Because that is what my version of heaven looks and sounds like.

Session Americana (2?) – because we need a reason to have more SA shows in town in 2014.

Jeff Byrd and Dirty Finch – because the best parts of “songs with hooks and harmonies” can rock.

Cold Chocolate – because Bluegrass needs more funk/soul infusion.

Joe Fletcher – because he’s Joe Fletcher…and we need an acoustic solo record from this guy with stripped down great tunes.

Mark Whitaker – because the world needs more ungodly talented banjo songwriters.

Anna Rae -because the world needs more honest, beautiful music.

Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards – because harmonies are what makes music beautiful.

Kate Redgate - because rock bands lead by a badass gal are excellent.

Michelle Lewis – because a beautiful voice and picked guitar can make you smile a mile wide.

Rob Flax – because he probably plays all the string instruments on this thing...better than you can.

Pesky J. Nixon - because dudes with beards can sing heart warming, beautiful songs.

John Mailander – because fiddle is f***ing awesome and John is the awesomest.

Mark Kilianski – because bluegrass guitar is f***ing awesome.

Dave Alpert – because sad, blunt, honest songs can sound upbeat.

Carlin Tripp - because he's got one of those comforting voices, you will like him.

Danielle Miraglia – because everybody got the blues, but this gal can sing em for us.

Christian McNeill - because he was off on that island too long and we missed his wonderful songs here in town.

Nathan Bell - because I am not that familiar with Nathan, but I am damn intrigued in my first listen.

Susan Cattaneo – because we need someone making Boston look good in Nashville.

Tracie Potochnik – because we need a gal that can tell a damn good story through song.

Abbie Barrett – because part 1 and 2 of the EP series were so damn good, we are begging for the third.

Sarah Borges – because she proves that girls can rock harder than guys.

6 East – because pop sentiment in acoustic folk makes you feel good.

Butcher’s Blind - because (and I quote myself) "this is alt-country music at its finest"

Matt Robert - because this dude can pick with the best of them.

Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers – because we need Charles River Delta music in this city…get dancing and shaking.

Patrick Coman – because good songwriting isn’t dead.

Comanchero – because jam bands can write great tunes and we need more jams.

The Curtis Mayflower - because I don't know what to call their music, but it makes me feel groovy.

Jenee Halstead - because whatever the "it" that people talk about is...this girl has "it".

Allysen Callery – because it’s going to be traditional British Isle tunes. We need to rep the traditions people!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dave Alpert "My World" album review

If there was ever a short list of people that make me think of the Cambridge music scene, Dave Alpert would be at the top of it. Any night of the week you may find him catching tunes (or playing on the stage) of my favorite little venue in Porter Square. Back in July, Dave released a collection of songs recorded with friends. From what I gathered from our last conversation Alpert just had a handful of tracks he was happy with, a studio that was open to record them in, and a bunch of friends who wanted in on the action. I would say if all records were recorded in this fashion the music world would be a much better place.

 “My World” is a collection of somewhat downtrodden tunes set to an upbeat soundtrack by Dave Alpert.  Alpert’s delivery throughout the short project is blunt, occasionally brooding, but bittersweet in the end. He weaves tales of characters that you route for and want to come out on top and feel optimistic that they will make it. 

Alpert has a very amicable and accessible vocal, lending itself to some commercial and radio appeal. The delivery of great hooks is that much more amplified to the listener as a result. Coupling a friendly voice with a really catchy tune is certainly prevalent throughout the 6 tracks.
The title track “My World” is perhaps the most heavy on the pop-sentiment, with some great lines and a bouncy type of feel as the song plods along over banjo plucking and a steady snare.

This is my world view / my world, my world

Another track that I am really digging on is “Find my way back to you”, it has a tiny bit of a John Hartford sound to me in the first verse. Locals will appreciate the local references throughout. Again, heavy on the stringed instruments will keep roots fans happen, but the overall tone still manages to keep the listener bopping their head and tapping their toe a bit.

To me the record hangs it hat on a bit of a nostalgic sonic quality. I get hints of 90s indie rock (ala Toad the Wet Sprocket) mixed with Roots/Bluegrass qualities courtesy of the banjo, violin, and ever present harmony vocals. It makes for a really excellent sound in the end. Add in an all star cast of players and you get a truly solid project here from Dave Alpert. There is a certain balancing act over the entire record. Not just in the genre juxtaposition, but also the mix between “acoustic simplicity” and “impressive studio production”. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing overly produced about the record, but Alpert and friends manage to take the songs and really breathe some inspiring life into them. Each song really stands strong on its own and as a collection.

Listen to “My World” on Dave’s bandcamp…and buy the damn thing, it’s only 5 bucks and gets my stamp of approval!

Holiday Spirit: Local Music Style

With Christmas Eve being tomorrow...and me being stuck at work today...I felt like I could best use my time to try and pull together some hardworking local musicians and post their takes on Holiday/wintertime songs here on the blog. Below is what I was able to come up with. What a great mix of tracks below. Be sure to check out the websites for all the artists below (linked below their media). Local music makes EXCELLENT last minute stocking stuffers!

Thanks to all of you wonderful folks who contributed your talents to this collection! And Happy Holidays to all you fine folks out there and your families.

Michelle Lewis and "In the Bleak Midwinter"

Susan Cattaneo and Steve Mayone "Merry Christmas Baby"

Michael Spaly 'Christmas Time'

Samantha Farrell 'Christmas Time is Here'

Eva Walsh 'The Love of Christmas' 
***I went with the video for this post...but get it free on her site here 

Brian Carroll 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'

Friday, December 20, 2013

Red Line Challenge: Cover your Friends Video

Earlier this week I put out a request for videos of you wonderful songwriters from around Boston to cover your favorite local songwriters as well...I realize it was a quick turnaround but a few brave and diligent souls have jumped at the challenge and provided me with the really amazing covers of their friends outlined below. I know you will enjoy these as much as I did.

Bob Bradshaw covers Annie Lynch "Again and Again"

I reviewed Bob's record back in June (HERE) and man, I just love this guy's voice and his finger picking style. Annie actually sung a few tracks on that record so it seems pretty fitting that Bob would take on her song "Again and Again". I have always been a big fan of the "haunting" vibe of Annie's earlier work and Bob's spin on it is really great. It gives it a little more of a different feel which I think is always cool to see come to fruition. He certainly remains loyal to the original arrangement but adds touches of himself to the track, which I really respect. 

David Gallagher covers Mark Whitaker "The River"

Dave and Mark play together quite frequently. Around tables, swapping songs, or just soundboarding new songs off of each other. Its always nice to see musically talented friends that respect each other's writing enough that they want to cover each other. "The River" is one of Mark's tunes that I always find myself going back to. A really beautiful track when he is picking it out on solo banjo, with his full string arrangement, or in this case when a good friend is playing it. Dave manages to retain the soulfulness of Mark's performance with his own passionate voice and great guitar playing. A great take on a great song. 

Evan Gavry covers Dan Johnson "Sleep on the way back"

And Evan Gavry goes and makes the rest of us look bad and plays as an entire band...this is a great cover of his pal Dan Johnson from Burlington, Vermont. I knew there was a reason Evan was in the BIG RED "multi-player" category. He goes and plays a ton of different instruments on this track and kills it on every one. A real solid arrangement and I think our pal Evan has set the bar for the next couple months of these "cover your friends" challenges.

Ryan Fitzsimmons covers Greg Klyma's "Helen Rose"

Ryan Fitzsimmons is a f***ing MONSTER! Yup, there I said it. And his cover of troubadour extraordinaire Greg Klyma's tune "Helen Rose" shows that just fine. Ryan really has got the whole package man. A killer voice that is unique enough to stand out, but still extremely approachable that a wide variety of folks will love it. Plus, he is an absolute beast of a guitar player. The combo in an acoustic setting just grabs you by the...uhhh...sides of the face and makes you pay attention.

Chad Gosselin Covers Girls Guns and Glory (Ward Hayden) "Baby's Got a Dream"

One rock n' roller covers another rock n' roller. I dig that! Chad fronts the local indie rock band "The Big Lonesome" and in this cover pays homage to Ward's tune from their last critically acclaimed release. I dig the acoustic treatment of the tune and the liberties that Gosselin takes on the track (its tough to hit those low notes that Hayden does with that low voice he is known for).

Brian Carroll covers Ian Fitzgerald "Galveston"

Ian Fitzgerald is a good friend and also one of the folks I respect most as a songwriter period, nevermind just locally. This song 'Galveston' is a fairly regularly told tale of love gained that slowly dissipates...but the way he uses words to create vivid images is simply unparalleled. "She rolled over gently/the whole room felt empty/she could have been in Galveston". Damn, I wish I wrote this song... 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Throwback Thursday/Guest Blogger: Kier Byrnes review of Jimmy Ryan's 'Readville' and 'Mandolin'

The second installment of guest-blogger Mr. Kier Byrnes. It seems as though Kier and I have very similiar tastes in music as this review is one of good friend and fellow mando maestro Jimmy Ryan’s latest Readville. To top it all off…it’s a double, two for one, feature today! Read on!

JIMMY RYAN – Readville

In his 30+ years of playing music, we have come to expect great things from this left hand mandolin
genius.  On his 5th solo release, Jimmy Ryan does not disappoint once again. Aided by Ed Reimer and Dave Westner, Jimmy takes the listener through expertly crafted songs, laden with mandolin hooks and clever lyrical twists. Most people associate mandolin with folk and bluegrass; on Readville, Jimmy proves that it can be quite an instrument to rock out on as well. The biggest surprise on the album was Jimmy’s fiddle playing. Everyone knows that he’s a talented mandolinist, but turns out he’s pretty sharp on the fiddle as well. There are 8 solid tracks on this record, a terrific listen from start to finish. This is a must have for collectors of fine music who enjoy just the right amount of eclecticism.

Never enough mando? Kier has provided ANOTHER review of ANOTHER one of Jimmy’s previous records aptly titled “Mandolin”

JIMMY RYAN – Mandolin

This EP is about as bare bones as you can get. One man, one mandolin. Sure there is some over dub style layering here and there but overall its complete minimalism. Jimmy Ryan, one of the best mandolin players in the country, call Boston his home and is a regular in the Cambridge folk and Americana scene. As one of the top session players in town as well, Jimmy is often sitting in with other bands, however here he is alone and the sound is sparse, but quiet beautiful.  His interpretation of the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” is alone worth the listen, but there are 6 other tunes on here equally praise worthy.

Red Line Roots Iguana Fund/Club Passim Grant Project...

So yesterday it was announced that the Iguana Fund from Club Passim has privileged little old me with a grant so that I can be able to carry out a project that I have been mulling over in my head for a long while. Before we get into the details of that…here is a little more about the fund itself:

The Iguana Music Fund was established in 2008 after a generous donor decided that he wanted to help artists pursue their musical goals. Artists often have the talent and ideas to create incredible music, but they do not always have the financial capacity to do so. To help musicians overcome financial limitations, the Iguana Music Fund awards annual grants worth between $500 and $2,000 to artists with a residential or tour-based affiliation to New England.

For more information on the fund, previous winners, how to apply and all of that goodness head over to the site and read up!

And while you are over at the Passim site, consider signing up for a membership!
Now back to business, back in August I applied for the grant on a whim. A friend of mine had won the grant the year previous to fund a new tour van. That’s what I think is so great about the Iguana Fund, they are helping people with their musical aspirations but the spectrum of what they choose is so varied. So I thought “ehhh, 5 minutes to fill out a form to potentially work on what I consider to be a really great idea come to fruition. Why not?” What is that idea? I am glad you asked!

 My proposal to the committee was to record an album of some of the brightest local songwriters covering songs from some of their favorite local songwriters. Yes, I realize this was just recently done  (see, but I am hoping this will add to that sentiment from a different “pool” within our vast music community here in town. I felt that my proposal gives me an opportunity to help bring light to a larger range of musicians in town, rather than just one artist or group and will be a really wonderful community building event. I am really blessed that I have been given the opportunity by the Iguana Fund and Passim to make this happen. 

From first glance and a quick and dirty budget look, I believe that the grant will allow me to record a compilation consisting of 10 songwriters covering a song each. That money will need to stretch across tracking, mixing, mastering, and a short hardcopy run of the project. I have already been lucky enough to have a studio to work with called Riverview Studios in Waltham ( owned by my good friends Sam Margolis and Andrew Kramer. 

Well, for now that’s what I am working with. We got some money to work with, some great people to
help record, and a few ideas of who I really want involved in this as far as songwriter’s are concerned. I fully intend this to be a very well documented process so hope that you all will follow us along the way as we see what unfolds in this crazy endeavor.

Thank you all for the support over the past 10 months of the existence of this blog. The fact that people are actually reading this stuff really makes it worthwhile to embark on this project and makes me truly feel inspired and motivated to pursue this!