Friday, May 31, 2013

Random Cool: New England Americana Festival needs your help

New England Americana is a group of musicians and music lovers who plan and execute the annual New England Americana Festival every year. Three years ago New England Americana brought over 30 acts together for three nights of music in effort to start a conversation about unifying their music community. Launching into their fourth year, the team has vocalized their aspirations to significantly grow the festival and help the spirit of the community become every stronger.
Now something that people may not realize about a grass roots organization like this is that there is no real “income” persay – at least not in the initial years. For the most part, every dime that is raised through fundraising, sponsorship, and merchandise is sunk right back into paying for licenses, paying the bands, projects like the recording, covering rental space/gear/etc. and all the other little things that no one thinks about when they are enjoying a great set from an awesome band at an event. The members of the planning group, often times, dedicate their own time, expertise, sweat, and sadly, sometimes money to the efforts in really lifting an event off of the ground to help a community thrive and bring great music to the public. But with that growth, comes the need for more money to make it happen…
You can help to keep the spirit of this roots music movement alive. Head on over to their pledge page and at the very least, pick up the new recording project that they are currently working on. 10 bucks gets you a collection of traditional songs performed by musicians from the New England Americana family (so far I have seen through Facebook posts that artists included are Tallahassee, Chasing Blue, Adela & Jude, Brian Carroll, Mark Kilianski, David Delaney, Andrew Kramer…though I am sure there’s more behind the scenes as well) in an effort to keep what came before us going strong. As of this morning, they are at about 18%, let’s help get these guys boosted to 25% by the end of the weekend!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Random Thought Thursday - Website Content: Lyrics?

As I get deeper and deeper into this “review people’s music thing” I have tried to make a point to really listen to the words of people’s songs, understand where they are coming from, and then completely judge them based on whether or not I think they are full of it (I kid, I kid!). But seriously, songwriting is just that, its writing and crafting songs that say something. Some people just blow me completely away with what they are able to create and project through writing and others, well, some other musicians (who I happen to even associate with) write nonsensical garbage that just happens to rhyme…so boom, they got a song.
I’ve listened to some records where the annunciating is perfect, I can hang on every word and its just pure delight to listen to the song, others I find have the potential to be amazing writers, but I can’t understand a damn thing they are saying...and that saddens me. I notice that very few artists provide their lyrics on their website, but it doesn’t seem at all like a common practice amongst the local music community.
What do you guys think? Is having your words written out there a good idea or a bad idea? Why do you (or don’t you) include the lyrics to your music on your own websites?

American Thread "Fool's Gold" first listen

American Thread is a rock n' roll band made up of Brendan Ahern on guitar and vocals, Geoff Downing on drums, and newer additions Michael Taggart on lead guitar and Gary Taggart on the bass. I gave their track "Fool's Gold" a listen to acquaint me with the band and what they are doing...heres my thoughts.

The guitar tone kind of brings me back to my high school days, playing in rock n’ roll bands with my pals and just having a fun time. That’s what this music does for me. It’s really just fun, whether they are playing in your local dive, irish pub, or on a larger stage in the city, I think these guys would be a pretty great band to see live. There is a gentle, confident twang to Brendan Aherns’s voice. As with most Americana music, there isn’t a necessity for extreme faked tremolo or Pavarati type vocals. Ahern sings strong and simply, a little gravely but not too much so and with great tone. Balance is what I get from the song. At first I get a bit of Petty, but then I get something else that I am not sure of, and thats a good thing...keep me guessing and thinking, boys.

signed our names on the dotted line / we went looking for love, blood and wine
and you know, yeah it was fool's gold

A lot of the lead guitar parts seem to be a bit lost in the mix. If I saw these guys live, I would really like that guitar tone to scream and maybe that’s how they do it. Regardless, this is a rather solid song, the structure is nice and I could picture is on college radio and doing relatively well.

Overall, I get some nostalgia from listening to these guys. I dig it, they do this well and I hope they continue to do this well and make some great headway in 2013.

Check these guys out on can download the record for free, but seriously, its name your price, toss the guys a few bucks. And they just came off a great show (which I stupidly forgot to post this review before...sorry dudes) with Autumn Hollow Band, The Old Edison and Tigerman WOAH! at The Middlesex in Cambridge last night. Check them out soon though. THey play The Vintage Bazaar in Salisbury, MA on June 23. Good stuff.

Man Alive! "Four Songs" Album Review

“Four Songs” is a new EP from the waltz-driving folk band Man Alive!, which consists of (you guessed it) four new songs...I am sorry, but that is just simple genius. I listened to some of their back catalogue and checked out the old YouTube to acquaint myself better with this cast of characters and the exuberant sounds coming forth from their instruments.

Sonically, the band is a powerful force. Stomping, pounding, driving accordion lines make for a hell of a ride when listening to these guys. One of them must be practicing witchcraft, because their music truly possesses you into moving and shaking a bit, you just can't help it. The choppiness of the acoustic guitar, whirling accordion parts, Matt Chieffo’s strong and unique vocal backed by a subtle, but steady bass part and balanced by the higher pitch of the fiddle, makes for a really eclectic and distinctive sound that you don’t hear around the city. It’s “alt-folk” but it is certainly not like anything else I am hearing around the clubs that cater to “alt-folk” groups. These guys have a sound that is all their own.
My favorite track of the 4 is probably “Time”. A great plucked banjo, the fiddle high over the top, that damn excellent accordion filling in the back and the bass line keeping it all in time (see what I did there…the name of the song is ‘Time’). It’s the best harmony effort on the work by far and I think the more stripped out emotion kind of works for them to that effect. Not over doing, just letting the words fall where they will. There is a nice back and forth between Chieffo and fiddle player Amber Hoggart which I love to see when there are two vocalists. It’s almost like a conversation between the two, melding together in the chorus. A really nice dynamic and it displays the thought process that went into the arrangement of the track. The song, as a whole, just plain succeeds in delivering that feeling of “I have tried and tried but I just can’t seem to have control over anything”. Well played, Man Alive! Well played indeed.
Over time, it seems that Chieffo’s lyric writing and arranging style is getting a bit more solemn than previously. The songs on this collection have a certain sense of sorrow to them in comparison to their previous songs’ more upbeat and energetic feel (especially shown in the beginning of the track “It’s Over” and the downtrodden “Time”). The playing still makes for a nice and strong groove in the tunes, but it’s just a bit darker, I suppose. That is really the best I can describe it, the previous EP feels lighter to me and given the fact that these guys recorded this in a dark basement somewhere in the bowels of the city (I believe I heard that somewhere and saw pictures? Can someone from Man Alive! confirm?) perhaps that was the intention. If so, that’s a huge win in my book.
Now, it is time for the constructive criticism part of the review. Chieffo’s vocal is extremely pronounced, effective, and confident. The mix with the female harmony distracts a bit from that. Some of the older recordings I dug up had a female part that was sung a bit more in unison with the male counterpart. For me, that just worked a bit better for the songs and felt more natural and cohesive.  Something was simply more smooth, solid and plain worked. Another piece that could use work is the overall tone of the fiddle within the recordings. It doesn’t feel as confident and warm as the other pieces and stands out a bit too much. That may be just the recording, but something that took a little away from my listening experience. That being said, dynamics can always be worked on, recordings cleaned up and chemistry established with a young band…regardless, I am really excited to hear more in the future from this young alt-folk outfit. I think 2013 will be really kind the group so be sure to check them out!
Check out Four Songs from Man Alive! here (and buy the damn thing for pete’s sake!):
Man Alive! is : Matt Chieffo: guitar, vocals, Amber Hoggart: fiddle, vocals, Jordan Allain: bass,
Jeff Shattuck: accordion

Friday, May 24, 2013

Red Line Scene Feature Friday: Danielle Miraglia

In my Red Line Scene feature with Tom Bianchi I mentioned the behind every great man there is a great woman (dealing with his crap). Well in Tom’s case (and lucky for him), that woman just so happens to be the bad-ass-blues songstress, Danielle Miraglia. Danielle has been a strong thread in the fabric of the Cambridge scene for many years now, adding her strong thumbed, gritty (but somehow suave…yeah, I just used suave) blues sound to an otherwise, rather folk driven scene. You can catch her out in many different forms, sitting in with folks, playing solo, or being back by a band on any night of the week either in town or throughout the northeast. I was lucky enough to catch up with her (electronically) to answer a few questions for RLR…

1)       What projects are you currently working on?
DM: I recently released a single called “Heat of the Win.” It’s the story of the 1986 World Series between The Red Sox and The Mets when the ball rolled through Bill Buckner’s legs.  I never thought I’d write a sports-related song, but that story is fascinating to me.  How one man could be ostracized for years over one mistake. Also, the idea of coming so close to a big win only to hugely lose. Lot’s of life-related stuff in there.
It was produced by Tom Bianchi and is up as a “Pay What You Want” download on Band Camp at

(side note: I will have to review this soon...)
2)       Why do we have the best music scene? (if you don’t think we do, what do you love about the scene here in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville)
DM: Whether it’s the best is subjective, but I can say for sure that it’s my favorite.  I was born and raised and went to school in this area.  Just after graduating college for Creative Writing, before I started playing out around here, I planned on moving to Arizona. I didn’t know where in AZ, I just had a fantasy about wearing sundresses and writing novels on a typewriter.  I started hitting the open mic scene around here and realized I wanted to focus on music and I was already in the best place to do that.  As a solo musician starting out, the Boston area has endless opportunities to gain experience. You can play an open mic every night of the week and there is busking, which is like musical boot camp.  We also have some incredible talent around here, which sets the bar high and keeps you constantly working to improve.
3)       Favorite OR least favorite/most embarrassing moment on stage from your career?
DM: Years back, I played the Skellig in Waltham with a full band.  We were greeted there by a bachelorette party with a Madonna theme. As is the case with many bachelorette parties, there were various penis shaped things going around…lollipops, candy etc.  Seeing all the ladies were dressed as Madonna from various eras, we spontaneously turned into an 80’s cover band.  As I was playing along to “Like a Virgin” a big rubber dildo came flying at me, hit my guitar and fell to the floor.  I picked it up and strummed a chord with it.  Every guy in the room winced. 
4)       If you could collaborate with anyone from the area (general New England) who would it be?
DM: The cool thing about being in a tight music scene is that if you want to collaborate with another musician, you can.  I often sit in with the Baker Thomas Band.  I’ve played as a duo on occasion with Lydia Warren, Dana Price and Ryan Fitzsimmons. Will be playing some Bob Dylan songs on the Johnny D’s stage soon with Tim Gearan.  Jenee Halstead and I have been getting together, recently just to talk about music and inspire each other to write a song a week.  It’s always good to have others to connect with musically.
As for someone I’ve never collaborated with who I’d love to, Chris Smither comes to mind.  I had the pleasure of opening for him a while back, but I’d love to actually share the stage with him sometime.  If you see him, tell him to give me call!
5)       3 records that shaped you when you first started playing and 3 records that best represent who you are now/are listening to now? 
DM: So many!  Tough to narrow it down.  It’s not so much a “then and now” list as it is a timeline. 
 Rolling Stones – “Tattoo You” – The first album of my own that wasn’t sung by Sesame Street monsters (of course that had an influence too!).  It was my intro to gritty guitar and Mick Jagger, who was my first crush aside from Mr. Rogers and John Ritter. 
Prince “Purple Rain” – This was the era that made me obsessed with Prince for life and made me understand that music should get you either in the heart or the groin.  If it’s neither, it ain’t doing its job.
Guns n Roses “Appetite for Destruction” –  GnR was a big part of why I started learning guitar.  At that time, I just wanted to play leads and shred…I still do!
The Janis Joplin box set.  I got this in high school and it changed my life.  My intro to complete fearlessness.  Janis poured every bit of herself into every note.  She sweated it out – all the beauty, the pain, the ugliness and soul. 
Joni Mitchell “Blue” – Lyrically as raw and real as it gets. Taught me the value of being emotionally honest just right to the bone.
Bill Hicks  “Relentless” – Yes, this is not music, but a comedy album. Honestly, until I heard Bill Hicks’ comedy, politics was a foreign language to me.  Hicks was my biggest influence in becoming socially aware and figuring out how to incorporate that into art in a way that’s rousing and relatable. 
As for the acoustic blues influence, that comes mostly from various recordings of Mississippi John Hurt and Big Bill Broonzy who taught me the power of a strong thumb.
6)       Why is creating music important to you?
DM: Being able to create any kind of art is something that nothing and no one can take away from you.  It’s like having an emotional bomb shelter.   It’s a gift to have an outlet to either escape from or zoom right into and make sense of all the chaos in our personal lives and the world.  It’s even more of a gift to be able to provide that for others.  Often, I feel like being a performer is a selfish endeavor, but when someone takes the time to write me and say a specific song means a lot to them, that alone keeps me doing it.  That’s the writing end of it.  I also get extreme pleasure out of just hanging out, playing my guitar and discovering a new lick or way to play a chord.  As Keith Richards once said “You can never get bored with one of these things!”  
7)      Music you listen to that you otherwise wouldn’t tell your friends about?
DM: At this point in my life, I don’t worry about friends judging what I like.  But there are some songs that I surprise myself with. 
Most of the stuff I love is from an older era, but occasionally I’ll roll up the car window and belt out a current pop hit.  The most recent one that gets me is Bruno Mars “When I Was Your Man.” 
I’m also a sucker for a good cheesy 70’s love song.  Two songs I can’t not listen to when they come on, Loggins and Messina’s “Danny’s Song” or “You Are My Shining Star” by The Manhattans.  
8)       Aside from music, do you have any other pastimes? What would you want people to know about you aside from your musical endeavors?DM: I always wish I could answer this question with something cool like cat juggling or extreme water wrestling…those are things right?  I spend a lot of time driving to gigs in various parts of the country.  As a way to pass the time, comedy podcasts have become an obsession for me.  I’ve been as much a fan of comedy as for music since as early as I can remember.  And it’s something I can still enjoy from a pure perspective without constantly analyzing it like I now do with music.  My favorite podcasts WTF with Marc Maron and Walking the Room have gotten me through some otherwise boring rides through the long states.  Jenee Halstead and I have been talking about starting one together.  If that happens, I’ll be able to mention that as a pastime in the next interview.
And then of course, there’s date night. (See Tom Bianchi’s feature). 

9)       Anything else you want to plug or we should know?
DM: You can get all that updated info on new recordings/tours etc. at my web site.
Follow me on Twitter.  I love Twitter! 
Oh, and I have a Tumblr blog

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Annie Lynch "My Bonneville" album review

Every once in a while an artist and a record comes along that you need to revisit. Which is why I am throwing it back on Thursdays for records released a ways back, but that still deserve some love. Annie Lynch is the real deal. In a growing world of gals with guitars, she stands out far above the rest. Her voice is effortless but yet seems to put most other singers to shame. The songs are crafted in a manner that is purposeful and dynamic. The words are great, the playing is wonderful, and the delivery is amazing. I do have to admit, as a fan of Lynch’s music for quite some time, a new line up and sound scared me a bit, but alas, I had nothing to fear…

Bonneville is a bit more rock n’ roll and a bit less sad folk than previous efforts, however, it undeniably still has the charm and beauty that Lynch infuses into all of her music. That’s not to say that this is a rock n’ roll album, but it certainly has a bit of a heavier feel on the instrument end with electric guitars and throbbing drums on a few tracks. There is, however, a fine balance of softer, stripped down tunes such as “An Island” with those more rockier jams like the title track. The record is filled with rich vocal harmonies, like double chocolate fudge brownie rich…now that’s real rich…and just the right nuance of instrumental parts. Everything has a place and was very carefully put there to create a sonic experience that is deep, evocative, and gorgeous.
Its damn near impossible to pick favorites from this record (without picking the whole thing), but if I had to, I would choose the banjo propelled “Wake Up Mama” and the haunting and distant (yet hopeful) “Light at the End”.

"Wake Up Mama" starts off a bit slow with Annie's slow vocal and a plucked banjo and before long launches into a full force of vocal harmonies-especially during that chorus line. It's fun with a nice full melody and beat, yet eery and mysterious in its own way.

"Light at the End" harkens back to that "sad folk" side of the band...a side that made me fall in love with their music to begin with. It is a bit more of an atmospheric feel to it. Very light and almost trance like. The song itself tears my heart out, but gently, and then carefully places it back in its cavity by the end of the song. True enchanting and beautiful art.

I have been trying to be a bit more constructive in these reviews lately, and this is a STRETCH for me to find any sort of non-positive feedback for the group. The closing track “Come On” has a video version done with the previous line-up that I find to be overwhelmingly breathtaking. While the video and production is wonderful, even listening without watching the video is quite overpowering. The record version is great, don’t get me wrong, but I needed to make note of the video in this review as well. I may just be a sucker for the live, stripped down thing, but it’s pretty incredible. Check it out:
(the only place I still see it up is on their old kickstarter page...lucky for you its still there!)
Be sure to put this one on the list of "must listens" and check Annie and the Beekeepers when they buzz through the Bean. They make it up to Boston every couple months, so check on their webpage for dates and give them a listen!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Vincent Cross "A Town Called Normal" album review

I am not really sure how to classify Vincent Cross’s music. It has definite bluegrass roots in its instrumentation, but also hints of folk and country. Perhaps, “new-grass” is a better term when attempting to narrow it down. His vocal has a mild twang, that isn’t overbearing and suits the music very well. In my head, I hear nuances of Robert Earl Keen mixed with a bit of Bob Dylan (but perhaps, it’s just being a roots/folk artist that does that) and a touch of Michael Daves high and lonesome on the top. The songs are driven by strong chorus lines with nice hooks, lending them to be crowd pleasers simply after hearing one choral run through.

“Turn Your Eyes” is one of my favorites from the album. It kicks in pretty upbeat and hard with the chorus right off the bat and eases into the verse, to be brought back up again. I really like the flow of up and down that the song brings and the instrumentation is excellent. A nice banjo line, smooth and typical bluegrass guitar, a hint of mandolin chop, and a strong rhythm thump from the upright bass. This tune brings me to summer bluegrass festivals, people dancing out on the grass and just having a good old time. The lyrics are good and strong, easy to hang on to. Cross is able to address and almost hide a somewhat solemn theme within a buoyant and upbeat vessel, a feat that is certainly respectable.

Turn your eyes from the burning sun / she's not what your looking for
she's just brazen just for fun / you know that it's not enough

It’s nice to see someone who appreciates the traditional songs of folk and bluegrass as represented in the inclusion of “The Cuckoo” on this record (though there is dispute on whether its origins are English or American). The songs is very banjo driven with some nice frails and picking throughout the track. It also has a nice breakdown/jam section at the end of the tune that really excites me to hear. A lot of the players in the Americana genre these days have hopped up on the bandwagon without paying homage and respect to what came before them. It is obvious through Cross’s writing style and arrangement choices, that the past is not lost on him.
As a complete work, the instrumentation on this album is impeccable. I may be a bit bias, as its exactly what I love to listen to regardless, but you cannot deny that all the playing is solid and the mix is great. It has hints of the old roots tunes of American, backporch pickin’, but perhaps a bit more contemporary in its presentation. Simply put, it just works. All backed by Cross’s songwriting and powerful and unique vocal, it makes for a great listen and strengthens my belief that roots music is still alive and well in the Northeast.

Check Vincent Cross out online at:         

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mark Kilianski "I Will Find My Lover By And By" - album review

I’ve always been a big fan of The Whiskey Boys and Mark Kilianski’s guitar playing in general. He is one hell of a picker and his range runs the gamut of everything from jazz to bluegrass to folk to blues. Really an all utility kind of guitar player (and I hear he can pick a mean mandolin as well). A couple months back, Kilianski left his long time gig as 1/2 of The Whiskey Boys and embarked on a southern adventure to find himself musically, spiritually, emotionally, whatever you want to call it…regardless, it is truly evident by this project that he has found his sound and where his art is going forward. “I Will Find My Lover By and By” is the product of a man and musician’s search for his voice and the results are pretty fantastic.

Whereas with the WB’s there was a significant amount of (what seemed to be) "story-song writing", I find an artist that is coming out of his shell and exposing a bit more deep emotional insight. There are some dark places, some more lighthearted narratives (driven by Kilianski’s tenor timbre), but certainly a more personal touch to this collection of songs. Heartbreak, weary and hardened by the road, and the optimism of finding that “one” who mends all, seem to be a common theme throughout the record. I believe the words and the conviction in Kilianski’s voice and find an artist who is cracking open the door a tad and letting folks in.
Stand out tracks for me are the excellent instrumental guitar piece “Christine / Whistlin’ Down That Lonesome Road” (honestly, I hope to see a full instrumental guitar record from this guy soon) and “Cigarettes and Coffee”. “Cigarettes” is a driving, bluesy number with a great narrative of driving cross country to find your lady fueled by nicotine and caffeine (frequently used in the genre, however well placed in this song). I can see it being a nice closer to a live set, people stomping and clapping along.
Another tune that speaks to me is “Hallways In My Head”. It’s probably the darkest of the tunes in the lot, both in the instrumentation, ambiance and lyrical content. Most of what I have heard from Mark has had a certain innocence (again, driven by the tone of his vocal) and light to it, but this feels different. There’s a bit of angst and anger in the vocalization and playing in this one as if he injects a bit more emotion both in his guitar playing and singing. You can tell this was one that he was itching to release some bad feelings by writing this tune. It’s also one of the strongest vocal performances on the record. All around this song really works for me.
I locked you in the house with me instead / still walking through the hallways of my head
Sonically, ‘IWFMLBAB’ is stripped down, but well produced…which suits me perfectly. The guitar playing, singing, and songwriting is all at the front and center with no frills to hide its simple complexities (and again, Kilianski is a ridiculously talented guitar player). Although, there are places I wish there was a fiddle or upright bass part, I think it suits the songs well and certainly is an accurate depiction of the songwriter, which is equally as important as production in my eyes.

Mark’s signature guitar picking rings solid throughout the entire work, but he has unquestionably found his voice as a singer-songwriter and that shows in the depth and maturation of the subject matter and presentation of the songs on this work. While he may not have the most polished of voices, I think it suits him and the music extremely well and its sincere and true and that’s something I can appreciate as a listener. I don’t think that folk/Americana/roots music was made for “polished” anyway. It needs a bit of dirt and grit to make it work right. From start to finish, this is an honest and raw compilation of tracks that I hope is just the beginning of what is to come for Mark’s solo career.
Mark will be releasing the record on May 25th, which co-insides with a performance at Passim’s campfire weekend –he plays twice this weekend. Be sure to get out and check out this new release and Mark live at the show! (
Also check out Mark on the interwebs at:

Monday, May 20, 2013

'Miles Away Monday': Ex-Cowboy "Old Man" listen

As a new week is upon us, I diverge a bit on my “keep it local” theme for Red Line Roots. I was recently sent some music all the way from Tuscon, Arizona and felt the urge to give a listen and toss a few thoughts down. I may or may not keep with this, but for now, here’s “Miles Away Monday”…
I was sent some music from Ex-Cowboy of Tuscon, Arizona and had to give it a listen. The track I chose randomly from the bunch was “Old Man”.

(kick ass cover art too)
Immediately I am immersed into some really interesting textural music…some kind of Middle Eastern bazaar meets bat-mitzvah meets waltz or something along those lines. It takes a clever individual and a keen ear to mix various sounds as Ex-Cowboy does, and they do it rather well on this track. The song is very hypnotic and mesmerizing in its own way. Original to say the least and I really don’t think I have heard much like this in the genre.
I am getting definite small hints of Radiohead in the vocals and way the music is inflected alongside it. But it took a while for me to pinpoint it, so kudos for creating some real unique and creative music here. There are also some really beautiful female harmonies in the mix as well. Regretfully, the vocal doesn’t cut through as much as I would like in the mix (not a music issue, but a technical issue I suppose). As a songwriter, I actively seek out great songwriting and the lyrics are lost on me because of the mix. Which is a shame, because based on the dark folk feel, I am sure the writing is great as well. This is definitely something I would listen to at work, it has a bit of a soothing aspect to it that kind of puts me in a “let’s just zone out and get this done” mode.
Is it super “exciting” music? Not particularly, but I am certainly intrigued to check out some more of these folks. I do like it and think I will like it more as I listen even more. In the end, I think that’s what you aim for being a musician, capture peoples interest and get them wanting to see what else you have up your sleeve. I think I will do just that and you should do the same.
Check out Ex-Cowboy on soundcloud and bandcamp

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Random Thought Thursday: “The Balance”

There is something I dread almost every time I play a gig, the fine balance between keeping an audience captivated and entertained and playing to the back of a bunch of people’s heads and a Bruins game on a big screen (Go Bruins!).

It’s something I am sure that all artists struggle with. Let’s face it, there are only so many rooms in this city geared towards hosting an audience that actually shows up to listen (Passim, Lizard, Toad…) . The vast majority of spots are watering holes where, so long as your voice isn’t an abomination, people could pretty much be indifferent to what they are hearing. Sure, there is the polite applause at the end of a set or a really good solo, but more and more I find it difficult to play gigs without tossing in a tune (or teasing one at least) that people find familiar or engaging. Quite frankly, that sucks, it sucks real bad.
What do you guys do to keep an audience engaged? Do you always have the “recognizable cover card” up your sleeve? Do you do an excellent cover rendition of Darius Rucker’s cover of “Wagon Wheel” (shoot me in the face)? Wear a low cut shirt and bend over often (talking to you gentlemen)? I mean, really, is the world out there truly accepting of original music or are we all fighting for the slots at that handful of venues where your music and heard and not simply background noise?

The Brooklyn's "Swords and Lies" Album Review

Tom and Mo Leger, the fronting team of the Brooklyns, are some of the sweetest rockers you will ever meet.  They intermingle a traditional songwriting style with hints of country, a bit of blues and a heaping load of rock n’ roll to form a sound that really is all their own. The band has sharpened its skills playing all over the fine city of Boston throughout the past couple of years and truly established themselves as a fun, dance your ass, slam a couple brews back until you can’t take no more act…even venturing off into some side projects, some really “rod-ical” side projects.

The record launches into its title track right off the bat, with an acoustic guitar and nice country guitar jangle. Mo’s vocal is somewhat reminiscent of Linda Perry on this particular track. She has a certain comforting warmth to her voice, but at the same time has a nice edge to her, a bad ass folk songstress indeed. There is a nice mix of tunes lead by Mo and then shared responsibilites with guitar player, Tom Leger. In some cases this can create a strange divide in a project, but it works rather well in the case of "S&L". Another stand out track is “Stay Alive”. It’s had a bit of a grungy, urban feel where the verses are a bit held back and then the chorus hits hard and to the heart before launching into a great distorted guitar solo. The blues and classic rock influences are also hard to ignore and “War” is a perfect example with its driving tones, fall out during certain vocalizations and a great sing-along chorus.
When it comes down to it, these guys know what they want and how to deliver it. They are cool and confident and it shows in this album.
One thing that runs true throughout the record is the Brooklyn’s ability to write great hooks, catchy rhythms, and songs that would do great on your local radio, live in your favorite bar, or to a sold out crowd at an outdoor concert. It’s fun, its cohesive, and a great listen.
Head on over to the bands page and check out some more at:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Gig you need to know about : Rising - Songs of Hope & Recovery

                Love your city? Love the music in your city? Want to see a boatload of great musicians for a great cause that helps your great city? Well, excellent, then you should head to Johnny D’s tomorrow night (5/14) and check out: Rising “Songs of Hope & Recovery”. Each performer will play for 10 minutes, in a rapid fire fashion so that you get as much Boston music as you can (for the short price of $15) in a couple hour run time. There is a pretty good variety of acts throughout the night, from americana, to straight country, folky, to a bit more rock n’ roll. Regardless, it’s going to be one hell of a show. Theres even supposed to be some silent auctions, CD compilations, and other cool stuff. You can buy tickets at the door or in advance at . I even hear some folks will be performing songs they wrote soon after the marathon tragedies in response to the events.

A list of the folks playing include:
Matt York
Jason Dunn
Amy Black
Patrick Coman
Corin Ashley
Tsunami of Sound
Melissa Gibbs
Nate Rogers
Johnny Arguedas
Jim Healey
Lauren Flaherty
Barrance Whitfield
Dan Blakeslee
Brian Carroll
Butterworth & Co.
Adela & Jude
Melissa Gibbs
Matt Koelsch
Tad Overbaugh & The Late Arrivals
Marc Pinansky
Triple Thick
Renee & Joe (from Bandit Kings)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"Poetic Thoughts Thursday" : Songwriter Dan Baker

As of late, it’s been a bit difficult keeping up with the review portion of the blog, and while I am looking to get back on the horse, I am going to try a number of new features. Starting with today, ‘Poetic Thought Thursdays’…yeah, I know the name could use some work. But the basic idea is around the fact that I listen to a lot of music. Much of this is good to listen to on a long drive, or while at work, but every once in a while I get to listening to an artist who’s writing just hits me in a way that I feel needs to be shared with as many folks as possible. I am pretty sure most folks could write a few rhyming lines down, hum out a melody and create what would commonly be referred to as a “song”, but there are really a choice few who can craft something more. Those are the true artists of the songwriting trade
Dan Baker is a musician I ran into a few years back at a gig. Seemed like a rather unassuming guy, I had heard his name around songwriter circles and such as a rather talented songwriter and guitar player. Boy, was that an understatement. These are the kind of songs that I sit back and just say to myself “I really wish that I wrote this before he did”, but regretfully, I don’t think I am on the same level as this guy. Self deprecating, dry humor that isn’t afraid to be honest and candid. A perfect example is the tune “Saturday Night”.
I run out of beer so I head down the street / and I get a 12 pack of Miller genuine draft
And then I get home, and I drink all twelve / Then I puke in the toilet, all by myself
I mean, does it really get much realer than that. I have a problem, “I feel so fucking pathetic” (as the song states), but I am going to put that emotion into this song and share it with the world. Just pure brilliance.
The arrangements of upright bass, fiddle, and a nice finger picked acoustic style spread across the backing of just fucking awesome songwriting (I really can’t think of anything better to describe it, it’s just plain fucking awesome) are flawless and the harmonies complement each other perfectly. At the same time Baker’s voice somehow manages to be smooth but rugged all in the same breath. It’s like a cigarette smoke tinged, whiskey drowned rasp with a sense of deep soul and warmth.
A little Tom Waits, a little John Prine, and perhaps a sprinkle of Dylan…but still managing to be completely original. Whispers tell that Baker has been working on a new record due out in the not so distant future. I do tell that you should keep and ear to the ground and an eye out for it in the future. You won’t be disappointed.
Check out Dan online at

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Bean Picker's Union : Demos and Covers review

Broken down to its simplest terms, a good song should speak to a person at its most basic and primal center. Tell a story whether articulated in spoken form or backed by 18 instrument tracks. At his very core, Chuck Melchin of the Bean Pickers Union is a storyteller, a folk singer, and is just so damn good at it he really is in a playing field all his own. I love the last two records (2007’s Potlatch may be one of my favorite records of all time) he has put out, but chose to review his recent Demos and Covers release as I think it tells its own story about Melchin as a songwriter and what drives him to write and create.

The mass of the recording is driven by a well picked acoustic guitar and Chuck’s unimposing, yet affable vocal. Other instrumentation throughout the record displays Melchin’s ability to pick up, what seems like, any stringed instrument and play it in a gentle harmonious way that brings the narratives to another level. Each piece is very much fitting and is obviously placed there for a reason. The cover song choices also paint the portrait of where the musician’s inspiration truly comes from. Classic country-folk spanning to alt-country roots run deep within the songwriter’s veins, and it shows with his cover choices of Hank Williams and Drag the River. There is a very nice union of songwriter and music appreciator in this mix.
As a collective the 6 tracks work very together. There is a very natural reverb to the whole recording. Like it was done over an early morning cup of coffee, sitting in the breakfast nook overlooking the backyard, sun shining down in the time of year right between where spring turns into summer. It just has a very warm feeling to me, and despite Melchin’s occasional tendency to swing to the darker side of life, the recordings here really make me happy.
For those who enjoy well done home recordings, or something that’s just a little less polished than what you hear on the radio (you know, like how the person actually sounds when they make music?), this should be right up your alley…it certainly is right up mine!
Check out The Bean Picker’s Union demo’s and cover tunes online:
and buy their studio records while there, the music is well worth it!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Random Cool: Idlewild Creations – The Old Guitar video series

Random Cool: Idlewild Creations – The Old Guitar video series
Professional quality video and sound, top notch singer-songwriters, shitty beat up acoustic guitar…the perfect combination? I do believe it is so. I came across the series while perusing youtube after reviewing Ian Fitzgerald’s lastest record a couple weeks back and have become completely fascinated with this idea and why someone hasn’t thought of this already.

Sure there are “offstage” show video blogs that are great, but really leveling the playing field with every artist they shoot playing the same instrument. Something so simple, but yet so intriguing can really make an incredible series and it really does. They have a pretty good assortment of artists represented so far as well. Ranging from the folk side of the spectrum to more punk-ish kind of vibes (playing a beat up acoustic guitar, of course).
The duo of Visual artist Corey Pane and film-maker Connor Millican have really done something pretty damn cool with this. Keep an eye out for them and their work in the future. I really think they have something here.
Check them out and some folks playing the old guitar at