Limited Edition Local Music

exsubel_logo.jpgFrom Exsubel Records, a fine local label:

This past year, our recording studio (Exsubel Recordings) took to the road to record several live shows. Two of them are special to us and we wanted to tell you about them.
The first is a bell choir from the town of Newfane Vermont. In December of 2006, we recorded the town bell choir perfoming sounds of the Holidays. The evening event features free presents, meals and then the performance – all free of charge to the community.

The Second is a show that occured at Fall Mountain High School this past Spring. The event was a benefit for Alex’s Lemonade Stand – a not for profit organization that raises money for childhood cancer research. On hand were Second Wind, Smoke and Mirrors, Sun King and Stonewall – all volunteering their time for this great cause.

Exsubel is selling 100 copies of each event. All proceeds go directly back to the respective cause. If you are interested in a copy please contact us. Samples of each event will be uploaded within the week.

Local Rhythms – Outdoor Music

summer-sun.jpegOK, say it with me – “summer’s best has yet to come.” I have to believe that this past rain-soaked, windswept month was simply Job-like preparation for splendid days ahead.

Are you ready? I certainly am.

So too are the many are venues presenting my favorite hot weather pastime, outdoor music. Here are but a few regional choices. All the details can be found in my Google calendar, linked at the Local Rhythms website.

Most Thursdays, the Claremont Farmer’s Market has music. Tonight it’s bluegrass, followed by a community band concert at 8.

In Sunapee, you can count on a one show every Wednesday at the Bandstand and Saturday at Flanders Stage (with a bonus day of blues on Sunday as well) through September. On the other side of the lake, Newbury presents live music on their bandstand each Thursday. This week it’s bluegrass from the Mink Hills Band.

New London gets into the act over three mid-August Fridays (the 10th, 17th and 24th) on the town common.

Also, there’s two big all-day rock shows on the way. Whalestock reprises last year’s successful show on August 11 at the Whaleback Ski Area. It features rockers Hexerei, Sarvela and Iron Box, along with alt-rock, reggae and folk pop.

The following Saturday’s “Field of Rock” presents good music for a good cause. Some of the area’s best bands – Stonewall, D’Brotherhood, Spectris and others – gather at Ludlow’s Bixby Field to raise money for the Ludlow Recreational Camp Fund. With 12 hours of music (a 10:30 start) at 10 bucks a ticket, it’s a bargain too.

Down the road at the Jackson Gore resort, the free Friday alfresco shows continue through the end of August.

The Okemo Chamber of Commerce just kicked off their Summer Music Series, which happens Tuesdays in Ludlow, Wednesdays in Proctorsville and Thursdays in Chester. There’s a fine assortment of musical talent, including Chris Kleeman, Gypsy Reel and the Starline Rhythm Boys, through August 23.

There’s also music every Thursday in Lebanon’s Colburn Park, Fridays on the Norwich Town Green, and Pentangle Arts has a few noontime shows lined up Thursdays on the Woodstock Village Green.

Finally, local Americana supergroup the Stone Cold Roosters plays Hanover’s sidewalk sale on Saturday.
So whatever the weather, you can still dance. What else can we look forward to?

Thursday: The Elmores, Salt Hill – The club’s regular blues night features a band which probably got its name after a few shots of rock and rye, led by the ubiquitous Ted Mortimer, he of Dr. Burma, Ted & Linda and the Stone Cold Roosters (is there a genre he hasn’t mastered?), with support from drumming ace Bobby Gagnier and Brian Kennell. BTW, Brian’s band the Squids are at the Newport Salt Hill tomorrow.

Friday: Kid Pinky & His Restless Knights, La Dolce Vita – The New London restaurant’s de facto house band does a pair of shows this weekend. I like the way Kid Pinky describes their music – “pure yet nasty.” That’s something to strive for. With a sultry sound that recalls Charlie Musselwhite, but with a soulful punch – think Billy Vera’s version of “At This Moment.”

Saturday: Championship of New England Barbeque, Harpoon Brewery – A big weekend event featuring seven bands over two days, along with every musician’s favorite combination – barbeque (pork ribs, brisket, chicken wings, sausage, pork chops) and beer. There’s an eclectic blend of music, too. On Saturday, El Gringo plays cactus funk, Otis Grove gets funky, and Distance to Empty (love that name!) specializes in Kansas pop rock & roll. Sunday, Nobby Reed does the blues, and Wherehouse, fronted by Jason Cann, just plain rocks.

Sunday: Day Four, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival – If you live, like I do, to discover new music, the long drive (just over the New York state border on the Pike) is worth it for this lineup. Friday’s probably the best day, with a song swap starring Richard Shindell, Marshall Crenshaw and others, as well as the mid-day New Music Showcase. But most of the musicians are around for at least two or three days. Who, you ask? Well, Arlo Guthrie, Dar Williams, Gandalf Murphy, John Gorka, Eilen Jewell and Mary Gauthier – plus a bunch you don’t know yet.

Tuesday: Rich Meijer, Elixir – White River Junction’s latest nightspot has been likened to Canoe Club for the small plate features and the frequent music. Recent guests include Lisa Rogak, Wise Rokobili and Terry Diers. Upcoming are Matt McCabe. Mark Shilansky and Dave Clark’s Juke Joynt. Sounds like a good vibe, and Gully Boy alum Meijer will certainly add to it.

Wednesday: Songwriter’s Night, Firestones – One of my current favorites, Lori McKenna, got her start this way, at an open microphone for original songwriters. Now, she’s a Nashville darling. OK, Quechee isn’t Cambridge, but who knows what talent lurks in our own backyard? Jason Twigg-Smith leads the festivities.

Local Rhythms – Check Out Middle Earth’s YouTube Site!

chrisjonessml.jpgRegular readers of this column are familiar with the travails of Middle Earth Music Hall, the fine little basement club in Bradford, Vermont. Although owner Chris Jones successfully beat back legal attempts to shut him down, his vigorous defense, aided by musicians and fans far and wide, came at a cost. “When something like this happens, it is pretty easy to let your resolve dissolve,” Jones said recently.

Fortunately for those of us who care about music, Middle Earth is both surviving and thriving.

The club just announced expanded hours and, with the hiring of chef Bobbi Alibozek, a new food menu. “As things settle in, we’ll further expand our hours with the eventual goal of being open, once again, 7 days a week.

Best of all is the club’s foray into cyberspace. Along with a MySpace site, Jones has set up a page on YouTube – – and started posting videos from the Middle Earth’s best musical moments.

I spent the better part of a day marveling at their quality of talent. There’s almost 200 videos posted, with performers who make up the heart of the local scene. Local folksinger Josh Brooks duets with Colin McCaffrey on the stunning “Rosetta,” McCaffrey fronts the Stone Cold Roosters with Ted Mortimer and Linda Boudreault. There’s Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem and regional legends Aztec Two-Step.

And so much more.

I’ve heard a lot about Session Americana but never seen them live; now that I’ve witnessed their spontaneous beauty courtesy of Mr. Jones, I can assure you that I won’t miss their next Vermont visit. Six, sometimes seven players crowd around a table (which appears to be covered with glasses of beer) and play the hell of great tunes by Townes Van Zandt and the Band, among others. It’s inspirational – and the camera work is pretty good, too.

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the Bradford Shire, their YouTube home should pique your interest enough to make the drive up there. At a minimum, it will provide insight into the quality of our area musicians, many of whom can be heard in watering holes all over the region.

Speaking of which, what’s worth wetting your whistle for in the upcoming days?

Thursday: Lydia Gray, Norwich Gardens Amphitheater – A superb bossa nova singer who dabbles in pop (Beatles, Elton John, Norah) celebrates the release of her new CD. She’s quite the vocal stylist, as anyone who caught her at Bistro Nouveau can verify. The venue is nestled in the woods off Route 5, and the show is part of the Open Air Summer Family Concerts, featuring music, magic, salsa and puppet shows.

Friday: Bill Wightman with Richard Gardzina, Sophie and Zeke’s – The Spiral Farm Band was scheduled to perform this evening, as they have done every third Friday since last summer, but the Vermont bluegrass combo called it quits recently. Too bad, I really enjoyed them. But I enjoy pianist Bill Wightman too, and tonight he’s bringing along his saxophone player from the JOSA band. Should be a real treat.

Saturday: Green River Festival, Greenfield (MA) – One of my favorite days of summer features an exceptional array of talent and a lit balloon launch at sundown, weather permitting. This year bluesman extraordinaire Buddy Guy headlines, but it’s Neko Case who has me most excited. I’ve been waiting years to see this indescribable singer-songwriter. Also on hand are Southern Culture on the Skids, Rani Arbo, James Hunter and the elfin Erin McKeown.

Sunday: Jennings Concert, Saint-Gaudens – I don’t normally tout “serious music” here, but any excuse to wander the grounds of this Cornish treasure is a good one. Award-winning musicians Andrew and Gail Jennings play violin and piano. Sunday’s program is entitled “Circle of Friends,” and includes works by Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms. The music starts at 2, and is included with admission to the historical site.

Tuesday: Irish Sessions, Salt Hill Pub – The Celtic version of Session Americana is in its third year, a rousing pick up band featuring some of the area’s best fiddlers, pickers and pennywhistlers. Dave Loney, Chris Stevens and Roger Burridge anchor the circle of chairs at the center of the room. If you’re craving Irish music sooner than Tuesday, you should check out Longford Row at the Pub tomorrow night.

Wednesday: Tammy Jackson Band, Ben Mare Bandstand – Sunapee is the place to be come summer, and this band, led by the husband/wife team of Cliff and Tammy Jackson, are regular harborside guests. They pack a one/two punch of Telecaster and twang, with a familiar song list (Reba, Patsy, Hank and Emmylou) punctuated with some fine originals and a few surprises. Betcha didn’t know Creedence’s “Green River” and the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” were country songs.

Internet Radio Stays Alive – For Now

netradio.jpgSunday, July 15 was destined to be the “day the music dies,” but as the sun rose Monday morning,, Pandora, MVY Radio and other webcasters were still streaming.  On Thursday, the nascent Internet broadcasting industry emerged alive from a closed-door meeting convened by Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey, yet still facing an uncertain future.

At the meeting, Sound Exchange the industry group responsible for collecting royalty payments, verbally promised to refrain from enforcing revised rates ordered by the U.S. Government’s Copyright Royalty Board last April.

Additionally, Sound Exchange offered to cap fees for smaller webcasters at $50,000 per year – the original judgment mandated a $500 per channel fee.  Many web stations allow their listeners to create hundreds, often thousands, of personalized music streams.  They faced multi-billion dollar royalty payments. Large providers like AOL, Yahoo! and Rhapsody were expected to start paying immediately; the fees are retroactive to January 1, 2006.
A motion to delay implementation of the new rates was denied by an appeals court Thursday. This left webcasters looking to mounting Congressional pressure to address the inequities of the fee structure, which most webcasters claimed would force them out of business.  The July 15 deadline had been extended from May 15, and on Thursday a bill to move it out another 60 days was offered in the House.

Legislative responses to the rate increases had been filed soon after the CRB decision. The Internet Radio Equality Act, introduced April 26, has attracted 134 co-sponsors, including Carol Shea-Porter.  The New Hampshire representative was an early supporter of the legislation, saying in a statement that the hike “would have a devastating effect on millions of listeners.”
A similar law was also under consideration in the Senate, but on Tuesday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy expressed hope that cooler heads would prevail.
“He’s been encouraging all the parties to calmly work towards private settlements on the rates, and there has been progress,” said Leahy spokesman David Carle.  “The parties are still talking, and we’ve heard from webcasters that there’s optimism about the final deal on royalties being reached.”
Jay Inslee, the Washington representative who submitted the House bill, agreed. An Inslee spokesperson told Congressional Quarterly Wednesday that “for Jay, the number one thing is reaching an agreeable solution to both sides, where artists feel like they’re being compensated fairly and webcasters can have a sustainable economic model.”

Even though the world of Internet radio breathed a sigh of relief Friday, all was not sanguine.   Sound Exchange’s promise was too vague, said AccuRadio’s Kurt Hanson, and wasn’t even offered in writing.  Referring to Internet advocacy group’s “countdown clock” to the rate hike, Hanson cautioned, “during this period of negotiations, I would probably set it at ‘2 days and holding.’”

A press release issued by Sound Exchange announcing their decision also raised concerns.  The fee cap, said the statement, was conditional upon stations working “to stop users from engaging in “streamripping” – turning Internet radio performances into a digital music library.”

The recording industry has long fought illegal file trading. But streamripping, the practice of recording songs from an Internet station, is similar in practice to a VCR.  “All you’re doing is time-shifting,” wrote Salon blogger Farhad Manjo – something that’s perfectly legal.  But he worried that web stations fighting for their lives would agree to industry demands for technical steps, such as lowering bit rates and interrupting songs mid-track, to make duplication more difficult.

“You have to wonder if the recording industry — now that it’s got webcasters locked in negotiations for their future — will have any trouble imposing such reduced-quality streams,” wrote Manjo.

YouTube Treasure – James Taylor 1970

James Taylor made a couple of little-noticed records before signing with the David Geffen-era Warner Brothers label, where he released his breakthrough album, “Sweet Baby James.”

Prior to that, however, Taylor was in England, one of the first artists signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records. He wrote “Fire and Rain,” “Carolina in My Mind” and “Rainy Day Man” during that time, which by all accounts was a pretty pain-filled interval of his life.

Which leads to today’s YouTube treasure, a recording of “With A Little Help From My Friends” performed on TV around that time. It’s a perfectly Taylor-esque transformation, full of lilt and easy cadences – a wonderful cover.

James looks somewhat uncomfortable on the stage, in a rumpled sweater, staring at his feet. Maybe it’s nervousness, but given the time and place, his itchinesses is quite likely chemically induced. Listen at the end of the song, at the familiar chorus – “I get by with a little help from my friends/gonna try with a little help from my friends,” where he adds an ominous little coda – “I just might die with a little help from my friends.”


Wolfgang’s Spotlight – Faces ’73

faces73.jpgRemember when Rod Stewart’s “Unplugged … and Seated!” CD came out? It was a great record because he reunited with Ron Wood and stuck mostly to music from their time together in the Faces.

That was a good call, because pretty much everything Stewart recorded after 1976 was self-parody, with the exception of “Young Turks” and his 1983 collaboration with Jeff Beck.

Come to think of it, he was kind of twittish in “Young Turks.”

Which leads to today’s Wolfgang’s Spotlight, a Faces show recorded in Anaheim, California in the early stages of their 1973 tour, the first without longtime bassist Ronnie Lane. The live album “Overtures and Beginners” came from this show, but it’s been out of print for years.

This Wolfgang’s stream contains the entire album, plus “(I Know) I’m Losing You.” It’s a good glimpse of Rod before he sucked. Enjoy!

Note: Wolfgang’s Vault registration required to stream FREE concerts.

Rhapsody Adds New DNA-Aware Portable Device

iriverclix.jpgThe list of portable devices capable of streaming Rhapsody Channels grew by one the other day, as the iRiver Clix debuted via a joint press release. At first glance, it’s a bit different from the Sansa Rhapsody. The Clix has a 4 GB solid state drive, but no SD expansion slot. It supports multiple file formats, including (unlike the Sansa device) OGG Vorbis. It has a bigger video screen, which is nice.

Like the original Clix, there’s no buttons; the face is almost all video screen, with the surrounding edges used for left,right,up and down navigation.

The best feature is, of course, full integration with Rhapsody, including their Channels feature which enables on-the-go discovery of new music. I’ve had a Sansa for nearly a year now, and the Rhapsody portable interface is far and away the easiest one I’ve seen. When I hear a Channel song I’d like to keep, I simply press and hold a button and it saves it, later syncing it to my PC.

My only complaint is that there’s still no way to look back at songs that have already played. If I have the device hooked up to speakers while I’m elsewhere, that’s a problem. A history list would be a great addition. Other than, that, I love Rhapsody.

To their credit, iRiver wrote code to make the Rhapsody integration backwardly compatible to other second generation iRiver Clix devices; the firmware is a free download on the iRiver website.