Friday, March 14, 2014

Cover Your Friends Feature: Wise Old Moon

I came across Wise Old Moon via Idlewilde Creations. Connor Millican and Corey Pane run this multi-media organization specializing in everything from video to photography to screen printing and drawing/painting. It truly is a multi-media landscape that these boys cover. I participated in a video shoot for their Old Guitar series about a year ago or so (other amazing folks like Ian Fitzgerald, Steve Allain, Kerri Powers, and Jonah Tolchin have as well!), then they came and shot a bunch of footage for last year's New England Americana Festival. I had been so impressed with their work and their attitude about music and community that I wanted to bring Idlewilde in to help with our Locals Covering Locals recording project and have been blow away so far by the outcome. These guys have become more than just folks I run into on occassion or business partners, they have become really good friends and people I respect wholeheartedly. So when Connor shot me an email asking for chord charts for one of my songs I was ecstatic. I have been watching their progress as a fairly new band and they have really been making waves for themselves down in CT. Playing with great bands, at great venues, and recording their new record with my good friend Eric Lichter at Dirt Floor Recording Studio. These boys are going to be a name you will be seeing around soon, I am sure of it.

The band is rooted in what we all often call Americana but explores different textures within the genre. Corey Pane switches back and forth from bowed saw to all sorts of percussive elements throughout songs. Connor Millican is the story teller and drives the songs forward with his voice and acoustic guitar. And violinist Christian Schrader paints fine violin lines on top and adds wonderful vocal harmonies to the mix. I get hints of stripped down 90s country rock like Wilco and The Jayhawks, but they are certainly deep seeded in early American roots music and that influence in evident in their music.

Connor asked if it would be ok if they covered one of my songs. While I don't like to use this as an outlet for my own music, I was so taken aback by their performance (and how equally amazing and weird it is to see someone else singing words that you wrote) that I wanted to share it with the Red Line folks. Check these guys outs. I am trying to get them to swing through town sometime in the near future so be sure to keep and eye out and their new record should be around in the new few months.

Stay updated with them online at:

Here is Wise Old Moon covering "Train Keeps Rolling" by Brian Carroll

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Club Passim Iguana Fund Night Recap

I had been checking in on the reservations for this night pretty frequently over the past week...I was hoping there would be a few people in the room to hear about all the wonderful projects taking place because of the Iguana Grant. Boy was I wrong...there wasn't a few people in the room, the place was overflowing with people. A wonderful, beautiful testament to this foundation and what Passim strives to bring the community all year round.

The night kicked off with videos from the folks who couldn't be in attendance. It was great to hear from afar about people's projects. Annie Lynch's struck a chord with me, because she is a dear friend and she panned the camera away to her beautiful new baby boy sleeping in his little rocker. I cannot wait to hear what she comes up with as a result of this grant. Her music has always been one of my favorites. I was also very taken by the Stray Birds video (partly because one of Maya's wonderful songs is covered as a part of our project) and their explanation of the recording process. Wanting to capture the live energy that they put forth night after night and stay true to their craft. Really great to hear from people even if they couldn't be there.

Once the "live" updates began, it was great to see so many friends awarded with these grants. Will Dailey and Mark Whitaker were up before my update. Will upgrading his studio to better suit the needs of the wonderful musicians who come through it and Mark working on his debut album (which is one of the records I am most anticipating this year local or otherwise). My little project was well received, though I forgot to mention that as a result of the grant and additional donations, we will be able to offer this project to the community for free download and free hardcopy for those who attend the release (also at Passim in July). I also forgot to mention we documented it on video and those will be rolling out as time allows Connor at Idlewilde to get a grasp on the hours of footage he has!

As the night rolled out I was immersed into what drives and inspires people. Alastair Moock and his recording of "medical rap" and children's songs. His inspiration, his daughter and her diagnosis of cancer (she is doing much better!). His performance was a truly uplifting and inspiring one. Dan Cloutier was another winner who really inspired me. He will be using his grant to record a coffeehouse show that he runs for people with special needs. He was joined on stage by two friends helping him belt out one of his songs. I don't think anyone in the whole room wasn't moved by the performance. People continued to talked about their projects, thanking Passim and those "secretive folks behind the Iguana curtain" over and over again throughout the night. Barnstar! followed up by Mark Erelli light up the stage and had people moving and shaking. Laura Cortese's performance was wonderful and I didn't catch her cello player's name (correction, Valerie Thompson), but watching her play is an absolute joy. You can tell that she adores performance and sharing music with people.

I left the club that night with a very full heart. No one tried to one up each other with their projects. We were all there because we wanted to share the special things that we have been gifted to complete as a result of this wonderful thing. So thank you Club Passim, thank you Iguana Fund, and thank you to all the wonderful people who shared their stories this evening. It was a memorable one that I won't soon be able to shake.

Random Thought Thursday: Kickstarters and Fan Funding

It's been funny for once being the one on the other end of the "please help us" campaign run. Not funny "haha" or anything like that. Just interesting and humbling to see the kinds of folks that gravitate towards helping out a cause like ours-for the record, those kind of folks are beautiful, wonderful human beings. It is truly amazing and puts me in disbelief of how incredible people can be when they believe in something you are doing. To those who have helped with our project so far, thank you so very much. I cannot even begin to tell you what it means to me and the greater good of this project. This is just the beginning.

The other evening at the Iguana Fund showcase at Club Passim a friend approached me with a proposition. I haven't known this friend particularly long, but as long as I have, I always knew them to be an avid supporter and lover of music, particularly local songwriters. I won't get too into the details (as I have already posted them up on the social media scape), but his offer was absolutely and completely selfless and wonderful. I looked at him for a minute in disbelief and he assured me it was something that he wanted to do, he believes in what we are doing and wants it to succeed. I just find people like this friend to be amazing and wonderful people. Regardless of what they are donating and who they are donating to, it gives me faith in humankind and the kindness that we can share. So if that friend is reading this reading this, thank you. You are a wonderful soul.

On the other end, I always find it interesting when campaigns just blow up...not even Amanda Palmer raising 1.5 million or whatever the insane amount of money she took home was, but people who manage to raise 2-4k in a day. I guess them have a lot of those really supportive folks in their corner (like my friend from the paragraph above) or they just have kickass rewards. I don't know. I helped on a similar "community based" project in the past and found similar results. Now, with our little project, there isn't much in the way of incentives. The artists being covered have all agreed that they are fine with their songs being used for this purpose so long as it's not for profit - so no presale of the record. We are offering original tracks from some of our gracious recording artists on the record, and I am putting my own music on the bidding block. But I am still in awe of those folks that are able to pull in so much so fast...maybe I just suck at marketing.

The last and most confusing thing about these that I  always question is why folks seem hesitant to donate the smaller amounts. I have already mentioned countless times that every little bit of money counts, but it seems that there are so few 1, 2, 5 donations to the cause. I am not sure what it is, some stigma of. But if everyone I knew (at least through the blog) donated a buck we could kill this thing and do another volume right out of the gate. Man, I wish everyone would donate a buck! Is there a weird stigma with not donating a lot of money? I'm not sure. Just something I find a little curious and hope that people don't feel that way. When I say every little bit counts, it truly does.

So far I am so blessed and happy with the outpouring of support we have received. It has been both redeeming to know that people care about what we are creating and also just delightful to see this thing coming to fruition because of our supportive community. We only have a little way left to go...lets do this.

What do you guys think? How can we make this thing really take off in the future? Had a successful campaign in the past? What works? What doesn't?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Rationales "Dream of Fire" EP review

When you listen to a Rationales record you say to yourself "I bet this band is f***ing fun as hell to see live" and in thinking this, you would be right, because they are. Their new effort is no different, mixing the best parts of pop rock hooks and riffs with independent local goodness and modesty.

"Drunk all the time" is an upbeat (yet perhaps downtrodden themed) tune with some great make you want to sing along moments. Fun, fun, fun. Thats what the band is exuding throughout this new record. Head bopping, rump shaking, PBR slamming songs that you want to go catch at your favorite local rock club and have a killer night from start to finish.

"Radio" is a re-release and I loved it the first time around and again this time. It brings me back to that early teenage rock goodness. The song for me just feels very nostalgic. I don't know why because its not 20 years old or anything...but it just emotes something inside my head and heart I can't explain, mission accomplished boys.

"Let it Go" is the most reserved of the tracks. A bit scaled back in the noise factor. Probably the most solemn of the bunch. It shows the gents have a softer side and can (soft) rock a sad ballad like nobody's business.

                                                  Said it all before / with one foot out the door

The EP strikes a different tone lyrically than what their listeners are perhaps used to. Dave Mirabella pours a lot of himself into some deeper and burdensome themes in his writing. As always, the writing is on point and the hooks are at top notch. The musicality dulls the edge of the cutting thematic lyrical context a little and in true Rationales fashion, the songs still come out with that really uptempo and fun feel. So, it all sounds happy! But, I do have to say, its great to see Mirabella finding an emotional release through song an exploring some of that darker territory. He absolutely succeeds in that realm.

Sonically, the record is what I have come to expect from these guys. The musicianship is top notch, its rock n' roll / Americana but their chord progressions and riffs are NOT run of the mill stuff and their choices are always creative, different and exciting. The lead guitar playing is excellent, the rhythm section is prime, and this line up melds together is such a sublime way that you know they are meant to play together.

I am not really sure what else to say to sum it up aside from I just like these guys. Its hard to listen to their music and not simply just enjoy the hell out of yourself.

Check out the boys on bandcamp to listen to this record, you won't be disappointed.

First Listen: Highway’s End "Nor’easter"

First Listen is when I listen to an album, or a song, or work one time through. The very first time and regurgitate my initial thoughts. No going back to tracks, no pondering on deeper meaning...its just my very initial impressions. Take it or leave it.
The first tune starts with a flamenco vibe to it. A little ‘Sultans of Swing toned down a bit’ kind of feel. Its upbeat and drives along pretty well. I tap my foot, bop my head. 'House of Straw' is going to be the standout track on this record and I can tell right away that is the case. A little drawn out, but it puts the bands ability on full display right away, and in the case of this song its a good thing.

The vocals on the second track and third track don’t really do it for me as much. The songs are just not as exciting as the first track, a little stale. The lead singer has a good voice, its pleasant, not pitchy, but the range is kind of just static for me. The second song drags me along to the “End of the Road” rather than me running along it excitedly.

The final song “Mutiny”, has a different feel to it altogether. It’s has a bit more of a moving and distressing feel to it. I dig it. It works for me. The two part vocals in the chorus part works well for the vibe of the track. I enjoyed this song quite a bit.

The band has worked out their harmonies to a T, both vocally and instrumentally and it shows in the performance. They are very tight with their playing, the stops, the way they play off of one another. The musicianship is great. There are some really great uses of acoustic guitar sprinkled throughout the EP. I think the playing is truly the strong point of the record. Lyrically nothing really catches me. It’s good songwriting, but nothing too poignant or brilliant here that I latch onto and sticks with me a long time after the listen.

Over all this collection of songs is pretty good. It certainly doesn’t blow me a way and finds my mind wandering a bit a few tunes in. I think that predominantly has to do with 3 of the 5 tunes being over 5 minutes long and the other 2 being over 4 minutes. There is something to be learned about “radio friendly” arrangement of tracks and then lengthening those tunes in a live setting. That’s not to say that the songs aren’t good, just a bit longer than necessary and perhaps something to consider the next go around. The bookends of the EP are the strongest points with the middle losing me a bit.

I think the band would be a fun one to catch live. I am sure there are extended jam parts, they likely have a good time with each other on stage and it filters to the crowd. I would recommend folks from the Rhode Island area go check them out for a live show for sure. From a recorded work standpoint, it just falls a tiny bit shy of the mark for me to be blown away. Nor’easter is good, but not terrific.

Check out the band Highway’s End on bandcamp:

Show you need to know: Brendan Boogie and the Broken Gates - Saturday 3/15 , Davis Square Theatre

I first saw Brendan Boogie I believe about 4 years ago, with thick framed rose colored glasses, belting out Roy Orbison tunes in the basement of the Lizard Lounge. I knew that night that this guy was something special and his cover project was something amazing. I have heard rumbling of "The Mayor of Rock n' Roll", seen its posts for extras on the old Facebook and eagerly awaited the release of this wonderful project. For those of you that don't know, its been a busy year for the man...I would imagine that writing and producing a movie takes a bit of a time toll on a person. But I cannot wait to see the fruits of his labor. The band is dusting off the old axes and getting back out on the stage this Saturday at The Davis Square Theatre and is a sure show not to be missed! I caught up with Brendan to answer some questions about the break, the movie, and his life as a Boston musician. Check it out below...

 1) For those that have been living under a rock, tell us a little about the band. What kind of vibe to expect, the sound, the inspiration? 

BB: We’re like Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem without the gravitas. 

2) There has been somewhat of a hiatus with the band…what gives? Why are you guys coming out of the shadows this Saturday and can we expect more in the upcoming months?

BB: We took some time off from gigging in 2013 to work on a movie I wrote called THE MAYOR OF ROCK AND ROLL.  The story takes place in the Boston music scene, so there is a ton of live music in the movie.  So while we weren’t actively playing out, we were very busy working on music for the movie.  Though it was fun to play in front of audiences full of adoring extras, I suspect they might have been faking it.  So I’m bringing the troops to the Davis Square Theatre this Saturday night to see if I’ve still got my fastball.

3) What inspires you as a musician?

BB: Fear of failure.  And gas.  Mostly gas.
Actually, right now I’m most inspired by the amazing people in my band – Chris Coughlin, Jess Fox, Scott Kremer, Scott Miller, and Phillip Ouellette.   Playing with them inspires me.  My approach has definitely changed in my old age.  I used to bring songs in with all kinds of ideas for sounds, structure, and arrangements.  Over the years, my songwriting process hasn’t changed at all but I’ve learned to let go more.  Now, I play the chords, sing the melody, and say “Play whatever you want, guys.”  The sounds that float back to my ears from these incredible talents are so much better than anything I could have pre-conceived.  As a result, Brendan Boogie and the Broken Gates has a much more diverse, organic sound than anything I’ve previously done. 

4) Boston is known by its musicians for its community and being more supportive than its counterparts when it comes to “band envy” and competitiveness. How has that affected you as a local musician over the years?

BB: I owe almost every bit of happiness I’ve had in my life the last decade to the generosity of the great people in the Boston music scene.  It’s only because of other people’s support that I’ve been able to make my dreams come true.  In the last ten years, I have been graciously allowed to make a movie, host my Rock Therapy interview talk show, play 2 Rumbles and One Night Band, impersonate Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Freddie Mercury and countless others during the run of the Cover-Up, make eight records and counting with various versions of my band plus another two with Scamper and one with Parlour Bells, and play countless shows with some of the best musicians in town.   I’m so lucky I sometimes feel like pinching myself.  But that would violate the restraining order I put on myself for excessive pinching.  Wait, what was I talking about?

5) Tell us anything and everything else you want us to know about Brendan Boogie and what the future holds.

BB: Brendan Boogie and the Broken Gates are currently working on our record with Jack Younger at Watch City Studios.  We’re recording on all pre-1970s vintage equipment directly to two-inch tape, so it sounds incredibly warm and retro and amazing.  Two-inch tape is like the yoga pants of recording.  It smoothes out the rough edges and even makes an ass like me seem good.  Now that the film is “in the can,” we’ll be out gigging more this spring and summer, starting with this Saturday night March 15 at the Davis Square Theater with the Easy Reasons and Summer Villains.  I hope people come out and like the new direction of what I’m doing.   


Get at Brendan online:

And be sure to check out the show this weekend. More info on the Davis Square Theatre and this show:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Catching Up With: Joshua Black Wilkins

I first came across Joshua when I was looking for a new archtop...kind of a funny way to run across someone, but I guess that's music, right? He intrigued me, so I checked out his music...was hooked...then checked out his photography...was enthralled...then caught his live set last year at Joe Fletcher's 'Nashville to Newport' at NFF. I was immediately made a hardcore fan and I think I made a friend for life. We have kept in touch over the past months and it turned out that he is finally making his way through town. He is headlining a great bill at Atwood's Tavern ( in Cambridge on March 25th. Two weeks from today. His music is great, it has an edge to it but still his songwriting is captivating and poignant. Country attitude tinged with haunting folk vibes, its just good stuff. Really, really good stuff. This is going to be an amazing night of music capped off with his performance, be sure to make it out for this one.

1. In a short phrase, describe your sound and what makes you unique. Be it inclusive of influences, your voice, guitar picking style...all that kind of stuff.

JBW: Haunting sounds of Tom Waits, the iconic swell of Bruce Springsteen and the fever of rebellion in Johnny Cash

2. Within Boston and this style of music, there has been a large community building over the past couple of years. I know that there is a similar situation on the east side of the river down in Nashville. Tell us about your experiences living there and mingling with those folks
 JBW: East Nashville is a huge melting pot of extremely talented musicians in many different genres of music. And with any creative community, those people blend their styles and gifts with everyone, so East Nashville doesn't have a "sound" as much as a level of talent that can be overwhelming to anyone/anywhere else.

3. Any particular Nashville songwriters that you would like to turn a broader audience on to?
JBW: Derek Hoke for sure. Now that Joe Fletcher lives here, and Brett Detar just moved to Nashville too from LA, I'm pretty excited that the talent pool is increasing.

4. You have a pretty decent backlog for people to dive into. How has your sound honed itself over the past couple of records? What kind of a set up and sound can people expect to hear at one of your shows on this particular tour?
JBW: I moved to Nashville in Oct 2002 and played with a Rock-a-billy band, and my first two records, 'Black Boots and A Suitcase' and '17th and Shelby', represented that time.  I spent 2.5 years on Lower Broadway at Layla's Bluegrass Inn. I left that scene to focus more on playing rock clubs. I also spent a lot more time studying songwriting and improving on that craft.
   Now that I only tour solo, I've spent the past several years really working on making the "guy with an acoustic guitar" show more interesting to watch/listen to. Playing solo shows has made me a much better guitar player and singer because there isn't anyone else to hide behind (or in front of).  

5. Aside from being a heck of a songwriter, you also are a brilliant photographer. Tell me about how
those two worlds overlap. Is there anything from one that you bring into the other art?
JBW: 9 years ago, I had no intention of being a professional photographer. It had been a hobby since the mid 90's, and I took it up the same time I got into music.
   After moving to Nashville, I would shoot my friends playing music, and then quickly started shooting general publicity stuff for my friends. Then money got involved.
   Only in the past couple years have I let those two worlds coexist.  I have certainly gained followers for music through my photography credits, and vis-versa.  Thankfully I have been able to balance my photography jobs with touring. As a rule, I don't shoot commercial jobs while on tour, but do try to always shoot personal work when I travel.
  A lot of people do make some connections between both of my careers when it comes to subjects and mood and emotion. It isn't intentional,  but I do see why/how the connections are made.
   Music is, and has always been first my priority career, but photography has certainly allowed me to work with some of the very best musicians the world has ever known, and I have never taken that for granted. 


Again Joshua will be in town on Tuesday, March 25th at Atwoods Tavern, 877 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA. Also on the bill are Sarah Borrello and Brian Carroll (me, and everyone in the door gets a free download of my new record)

And check out Joshua online at: