Monday, November 25, 2013

And the Nominees are...

I just want to put a HUGE thank you out there to everyone who gave me their feedback and nominated their friends and colleagues for this whole ordeal. It has been wonderful to see musicians and fans come forward to support each other. Every single person/band on this list and the people who nominated them are already winners in my book.Voting will be up a bit later this week, but in a feeble effort to generate some more excitement, I wanted to release the nominees today. You know, so you have something to talk about over Thanksgiving and what not. So please, share if you or a fellow friend is on the list below and lets get people amped up about local music. Whether or not we will have an actual event is TBD (any ideas around this are welcome...a small night at a local club where winners play some tunes..something low key but special?) but until then...

Ladies and gentlemen, the very first (and hopefully not last) Red Line Roots "Big Red Local Music Recognitions" for 2013 are....(drum roll)

Favorite Local Female Songwriter- I feel that the music world can be tough on the ladies sometimes. So when a really great gal songwriter comes along, my ears perk up and I take notice (and listen and listen and listen). The following gals are not just a pretty face strumming a guitar and belting out words (though, they are all that as well), they are talented, introspective, intelligent writers and masters of the songwriting craft.

Danielle Miraglia
Eva Walsh
Hayley Sabella
Susan Cattaneo
Michelle Lewis
Abbie Barrett
Annie Lynch

Favorite Local Male Songwriter - Any college bro can pick up a guitar and strum out some chords to impress the ladies, but it takes a real talent to write a tune that will make them weep and...well, feel feelings. The following gents do just that. Artfully create emotion driven songs about things all over the spectrum. Great musicians, yes, but also incredibly talented poets.

Mark Kilianski
Dietrich Strause
Dan Baker
Ian Fitzgerald
Ryan Fitzsimmons
Chuck Melchin
Dan Blakeslee

Best Picker Guitar - Self explanatory, but that person who makes noises come out of an acoustic guitar that make your jam drop and wonder "how the hell did he/she do that?"

Michael Reese
Andy Cambria
Mark Kilianski
Sam Reid
Erin Harpe
Casey Abrams

Best Picker Banjo - (insert Deliverance music) Yeah, not THAT type of banjo player. The kind of player who takes the traditional bluegrass instrument to a whole entirely different level, adding hints of jazz, maybe playing other instruments at the same time, or just killing it each time you catch them out.

Mark Whitaker
Eric Royer
Lukas Pool
Maggie Mackay

Best Picker Mandolin - I hold a special place in my heart for mandolin. While I wish I could grace the list below, these fellas are just at a completely different level of playing that I am (plus I am not nominating myself for an instrument playing category!). Maestro's of the mando!

Jimmy Ryan
Greg Klyma
Aaron Goff
Forrest O' Connor
Sean Staples
Joe Walsh

The Multi-player- "Wait, wasn't he just playing fiddle, but now has a guitar in his hands...last week I saw him playing mandolin and an organ. What the hell?!" Yeah, "that guy".

Michael Spaly
Dinty Child 
Eric Royer
Evan Gavry
Ethan Robbins

Unsung Hero - That person who has been at it, out there working for the community and helping to build up "something" in this town, but never asks anything in return. They are doing it because they love the music in this town and that's reward enough.

Noel Coakley
Tom Bianchi
John Colvert
Eran Shaysh
Patrick Coman

Bad Ass Rock n Rollers - The band that rocks your socks off every time you see them. Whether it be bluesy swamp rock, toe tapping goodness, or just that there are so many people on stage making one wonderful output that you cannot believe its actually happening, these folks shake you to your core every night they play.

Coyote Kolb
The Blue Ribbons
Ryan Fitzsimmons Band
Tim Gearan Band
Sarah Borrello Band 

Baker Thomas Band 

Roots Americana Act - All around Americana, not so heavy that its rock n roll, but is tinged with folk, roots, bluegrass, whatever. Americana is the shittiest thing to "define" but we all kind of have our view of it. These bands are examples of that.

Rusty Belle
Girls Guns and Glory
Marc Pinansky and Bored of Health
The Bean Picker's Union
Glenn Yoder and the Western States
The Mallett Brothers Band
The Whiskey Boys
Session Americana

Favorite Local Duo - A duo is perhaps the hardest thing to make work. Solo, what you are making come out is exactly what it is. In a band, you can quite frankly hide behind the other folks for any mistakes made or just distort your guitar to sound like it was purposeful. A duo is what I consider to be the most beautiful and difficult avenue for making music. Each artist's personality either shines, or falls flat and the relationship between the two people is obvious. These folks are clearly successful at the duo thing...

Tall Heights
The Coloradas
North of Nashville
Ian Fitzgerald and Courtney Gallagher
Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards
Iron Harvest

Best Local Roots music Venue - we are spoiled as hell with great, supportive, pick one.

Lizard Lounge
Club Passim
The Plough and Stars

Best Local Community Residency- The residency that exists to create a community within our community. People sitting in, giving folks a chance to play with other wonderful folks.

Americana Monday's at PAs Lounge 
David Gallagher's Round Table at Tommy Doyles
Roots in the Round at Toad
Lizard Lounge Open Mic Challenge
Bluegrass Tuesdays at the Cantab
Jam n' Eggs at Canary Square

Favorite Local Fiddle - Jesus, there's a shitload of fiddle players in this town...and most of them are friggin excellent. The below seemed to be of the most popular per your nominations. Have at it!

David Delaney
Rob Flax
Laurence Scudder
Eva Walsh
Laura Cortese
Joe Kessler
Kara Kulpa
John Mailander

Too much (or never enough) twang guitarist- The guitar player of the genre that can sit in with anyone, at any time and make the band just sound great. Ripping solos, but tasteful in their playing. They don't come around often, but when they do you never forget them!

Lyle Brewer
Duke Levine
David Deluca
Kevin Barry
Tony Savarino
Mike Castellana

Well...that is it. Like I said, voting logistics will be announced later on this week.

A Note Regarding "The BIG RED" Recognitions

I was sitting at Toad over the weekend enjoying some truly fine music from some great musicians and was thinking to myself, I really wish I could just let everyone in the world know about ALL of the wonderful musicians from this city. I wish I could make it my life’s work to cast a light upon those musicians who are out rocking every night for 17 bucks and a beer, the songwriter who you won’t hear on the radio but writes incomparably better than 90% of the garbage you will likely hear on terrestrial radio, and those people who live for collaborating and creating a space for people to just “feel” the music. I wish that I could just build a perfect music community, give everyone incredible full house gigs where every member is listening to their songs, or claps at every solo. I wish I could tell you all about every single wonderful musician in this town and recognize them deservingly, but sadly I cannot. I am one person and it would be extremely tough even if I quit my day job to do so. So, I will just do the best I can for now.

The past couple weeks of having nominees float in has been interesting to say the least. There are a lot of people on the ballots who I was fully expecting a flood of nominations to roll in for (and they did), some that I was surprised to hear brought up, and some I was sad to not have at least 2 nominations for to include in one of the categories. Regardless, I am very happy with the outpouring of support that you all have for one another. It is truly humbling and a beautiful thing to witness.

I do want to say that I played this as fairly as I possibly could. I stuck to the “must have at least 2 noms” rule very strictly. I took the community’s input rather than my own, or a committee of “music industry buffs”, or anything along those lines. I hate to be the jaded local picker or bad mouther, but I despise seeing the same people nominated for ill-adapted, out of place categories every year. Or see “the award director favorites” always seemingly end up on a ballot regardless of whether or not they may have released an album or even played in town in the last 8 months. 

If you weren’t included and think you should be, I am sorry. If you think someone else should have been included that you nominated, I am sorry as well, but as previously mentioned I stuck to that “2 fer” rule pretty tight. And if you nominated yourself, then I am sorry because you clearly do not get the point of this blog and its ideals.

I started this whole blog thing 9 months ago because I felt that there was an unmet need to draw attention to great local roots/folk music in the NorthEast. These are YOUR awards. No, f*ck that, they aren’t awards, they are recognitions of your peers for being amazing and talented in what they do. I hope that it at least shines a little more light on those independent artists who I am tremendously grateful to share a community with every single day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My New England Americana Fest - Day 3 (finally)

It is hard to believe that its almost the end, but still there is a full day left of the festival to enjoy. I kick my day off at the Brattle stage. 

Michelle Lewis is joined by fiddler extraordinaire Eva Walsh, and guitarist (who’s name I am totally blanking on right now) but he kicked ass. Lewis is a very positive light within the cavern of sad songs about love lost, murder ballad, sad folk we call Americana. Her disposition matches the beautiful day we have kicking off (the gal even brought homemade mini apple pies for her guests). A beautiful voice, wonderful songs, and a really amazing person to boot!

Brandon Mastrangelo was over at the Park stage so I ran over to listen to a few of his jams. Usually I am used to the rocking sounds of his band Larcenist, so it was really cool to catch his stripped down and raw in an acoustic setting. Really awesome voice and songs.

Danielle Miraglia just has something about her man. She just exudes badassery. She kicks ass at guitar, has an amazing voice, and a giant kick box thing that makes boomy percussive noises. The whole set up and execution is just awesome. She is totally into the music and its completely sincere. All I can say is I loved shooting a bunch of pics during her set because of how “into it” she gets and because I got to hear her incredible tunes...oh yeah, and Laurence f'ing Scudder was playing viola with her...hell yes.

I stuck around to watch Sarah Blacker kick off a few songs at Brattle and like the veteran that she is, she had the audience in the palm of her hand within the first verse. Her backing band was tight, the sun was shining, and it was a great few tunes I got to catch before I noticed my stomach start grumbling. 

I grabbed me a veggie burger and fries at Tasty burger then headed across the way to watch Dave Gallagher band. As if Gallagher’s souful voice and incredible guitar playing isn’t enough he also has a RIDICULOUSLY talented backing band. The band was in tip top shape, playing a slew of really excellent tunes to an attentive audience. Awesome stuff!

Ian Fitzgerald and Courtney Gallagher…my favorite set of the entire weekend and that’s all I have to say about that.

Mark Whitaker plays the banjo unlike any other banjo player in the history of banjo playing. He is ridiculous. Plus he writes great songs, has a super smooth and pleasant voice, and plays with insanely talented people like Eva Walsh on Fiddle, Forrest O’ Connor on Mandolin, and Gian Pangaro on upright. A friggin + all day long!

GGG rocked n rolled. People danced, it was grand.


Brendan Hogan was the final performer of the festival. As a guy who has paid his dues on the Boston scene it was fitting to have him close out the festival. Him and the band were excellent, but what struck me the most was their poise and grace. A homeless, rather inebriated gentleman was trying to “be in the band” and Brendan and the boys didn’t miss a beat. The true mark of a seasoned veteran and being able to play under any pressure.

Til next year…

Friday, November 15, 2013

Catching Up With: Susan Cattaneo

Susan Catteneo is a songwriter, musician, and professor at Berklee College of Music who just so happens to be in the midst of releasing a new album. A more darkly painted and introspective work than she has been previously been known for, this record marks a new adventure in the singer-songwriters career. An adventure I am excited to watch unfold.

I caught up with Susan for a few Q's and A's about the record and the slew of exciting shows she has on the horizon in a new feature called "Catching Up With"...

1) So you are releasing a new album, tell us about it, whens the release, whos on it, where did you record? All that goodness?

SC: The new album is called Haunted Heart and it’s release date is January 21st.  It’s definitely a more darker, Americana sound than my previous work, and I was fortunate enough to work with some amazing musicians on this project.  My producer was Lorne Entress (Lori McKenna, Mark Erelli) and the band was amazing – it included Marco Giovino on drums (Robert Plant, Buddy Miller), Kenny White on keys (Peter Wolf, Shawn Colvin) and the rest of the band was the cream of the crop of top New England musicians including Kevin Barry (Ray Lamontagne, Roseanne Cash), Richard Gates (Katie Curtis) and Lyle Brewer (Ryan Montbleau).  I was also lucky enough to have Stu Kimball, Jimmy Ryan and Duke Levine to come in to play as well. We recorded most of the instrumental tracks with Chris Rival at his Middleville studio in North Reading and we did most of the vocals with Andy Pinkham at Mortal Music in Charlestown.

2) I know you have done some time in Nashville writing. With that sometimes comes the "pop country" stigma, but I know this record for you has moved in a different direction with some darker undertones and emotions. What instigated/inspired that writing?

SC: Two and a half years ago, I saved someone’s life.  While the experience had a happy outcome, it was an incredibly traumatic event for me.  Up to that point, I had been writing mainstream country music, but after this event happened, I had to write from a more personal and intimate place. The songs are darker than my other work because this experience “marked” me for while.  At times over the past few years, I have felt “caught in a haunted heart”, and that informed the album and also the title track. This album was transformative for me as an artist because for the first time ever, I wrote all the songs for myself.

3) You've done a lot of collaborating with local favorites as well. To date, who has been at the top of the "must write/play/collaborate" with list?

SC: You are right, I have been blessed to work with some great people. At the top for me as a co-writer has to be my Berklee colleague and best friend, Scarlet Keys.  There’s just something amazing that happens between us when we write together.  And on this album, the song we wrote and sang together, Memory of the Light is one of my favorite tracks.  And I love the musicians I’ve been playing with:  talents like Jimmy Ryan, Jim Henry, Andrew Jones, Richard Gates, Steve Mayone, and Stu Kimball just to name a few.  Not only are they amazing players, but they’re good people and they remind me why I love what I do.  It’s all about making music with people you enjoy being with. In terms of new collaborations, I would love the opportunity to write with Lori McKenna.

4) As a songwriting professor, I have to ask your input on this...what makes a "good song"?

SC: Hmm – that is a great question, because I think I might have answered it differently a few years ago.  Before this album, I probably would have told you a good song has to have a strong hook and a great melody and story.  While I still believe that all that makes a memorable song, I think that I’ve evolved into feeling that a good song is one that connects to other people, because of its honesty and heart.  People respond to and recognize when a song is the real deal.  Maybe I sound a little touchy feely here, but I think listeners can like a song a lot because of it’s complexity and craft, but love a song when that craft is supported by an inner connection to something real.

5) And finally, any last thoughts or plugs that you want to get out there?

SC: I have some wonderful shows coming up!! This Saturday November 16, I’m doing a joint show with the incomparable Jimmy Ryan at the Bull Run in Shirley, MA.  Then, on Thursday November 21, I have my official local release party at Club Passim in Cambridge.  And then, on December 7th, I’m at the River Club Music Hall in Scituate.  

YOu can check Susan out online at

And be sure to catch her out live!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In a Nutshell - Amy Alvey "Big Ten" album review

I, myself, have been at Ten Gartland Street a number of times and the echoes of instruments from every room seem to ring through the house. I like how the liner notes say “All tunes written by Amy Alvey at Ten Gartland Street…”. Really makes it quite personal, and quite frankly, that’s what music is supposed to be. A personal depiction of something that you share with others to relate to and enjoy.

“Christine/Big Ten” starts off a sparse arrangement and has a very distant, "cold woods in December" kind of feel to it. It slowly builds and is a really adventure through the track. I really love when an instrumental tune does that for me. It goes from a wander through the snow laden oak trees to a wintery thrill ride on a horse drawn carriage (or something to that extent). The production value is great. Not overdone, not too raw, just right.

“Ask John”, is another quiet track with a Alvey’s faint fiddle pulls in the back, Lukas Pool’s banjo over the top, and then the fiddle takes over. I think the key to a really great fiddle tune is a repetitive and pleasant melody with interspersed sections of really great improvised playing and interesting diversions from that main melody. Alvey nails that formula on this tune.

“Smokey in the Kitchen” has clogging in it…yes, clogging, awesome, excellent! In that respect, the song pays homage to its (perhaps) celtic roots? I can picture folks sitting around a table in an old Irish pub with young lasses dancing and tapping their shoes to the beat. Very visceral and engaging track indeed.

I love when a musician takes on a traditional tune and Amy does just that with the tune “Troubles”. Her voice stands out in the mix, again strong and clear. The build of the instruments is really great and captures the vibe of the tune. In a world of crappy pop and paparazzi it’s nice to see folks paying homage to the great music that came before and acknowledging our roots.

Alvey has a simple, but solid vocal that lies in the folk/bluegrass realm. It really lends itself to be coupled with some great harmonies from picker/grinner/singer Mark Kilianski. The two play off each other effortlessly and their voices meld to create a beautiful, harmonious and uncomplicated quality. It’s very comforting and warm. The instrumental arrangements are familiar enough to grasp any audience (as far as instrument choices) but they certainly have a unique flair that makes them interesting and keeps the listener hanging on til the bitter end. Over all, the 7 tracks are full of intelligent and bright arrangements, some really on-point singing, and it’s clear that this young lady surrounds herself with like-minded and equally talented friends. Alvey’s voice fits perfect in the folk-bluegrass genre and her fiddle playing dances that line between pitch perfect and emotion-filled robustness.

Check out Amy’s record Big Ten on bandcamp at: