Local Rhythms – Reasons to be Thankful

turkey.gifOK, it’s time to thank the people who’ve made my life as a music lover enjoyable over the past year.

First of all, thanks to Ray Massuco, for keeping the flame alive in Bellows Falls. He promoted his first Roots on the River festival in June. The weather cooperated and the music was, as always, sublime. Because of Ray, I found a new musical treasure in 2007 – Chris O’Brien, who I’m assured will be back on the Boccelli’s stage very soon

Cheers to Dave Clark, for maintaining the wonderful Yellow House Media web site (www.yellowhousemedia.com). If you haven’t been there, you’re missing a chance to sample some of the area’s best bands. You’ve heard of the Stone Cold Roosters, but you won’t hear them on the radio. You can, however get a full dose of them and others – Anais Mitchell, the Cold River Ranters, Juke Joynt and the Gully Boys – at Dave’s place on the web.

Thank you Steve Smith, for talking the talk and walking the walk. WVRR’s new management ungraciously got him the hook after he’d performed the minor miracle of turning Lebanon’s Clear Channel affiliate into a local resource. Steve responded by bringing back WCNL from history and launching his own station – in his hometown of Newport.

Josh & Joe Tuohy – I can’t thank these guys enough. Salt Hill Pub is now a twin dynamo, bringing fine Irish fare and the best pints anywhere to both Lebanon and Newport. Of course, I’m wild about the music at both venues. Bands like Sirsy, Hot Day at the Zoo, Roamin’ Gabriels and others are always fun, never predictable.

Chris Jones: The Middle Earth Music Hall’s Buddah-In-Chief had this to say in a recent email: “When I come across something special and unique, the force that drives me is the desire to show it to my friends.” He calls his Bradford, Vermont hobbit-hole a place “where the odds are good that the goods are odd.” It’s been a struggle at times, but the Shire survives because Chris won’t cave to the ordinary. Thanks!

To Reid and Danna Hannula; what was downtown Claremont before Sophie & Zekes? I have a hard time remembering, but I know that Pleasant Street is jumping now. Jazz has new hometown, not to mention eclectic bluegrass (the upcoming Bradford Bog People), hot blues (Kid Pinky) and a landlocked Margaritaville every time Pete Merrigan comes to town.

Some others deserving a tip of the hat: Jim Olsen, for running a record label (Signature Sounds) with passion, not cupidity, Bob Lefsetz, for providing a provocative, albeit occasionally overheated, vision of the way the music business should and will be, and mavericks like Thom Yorke and a million MySpace bands for helping to make it happen.

It’s a great time to be a music fan. Here are a few good local options for the days ahead:

Thursday: Sacred Harp Singing, Hanover Friends Meeting House – If you’re looking for a diversion on Thanksgiving Day, this might fill the bill – but only if you love to sing. Sacred Harp, for those of you who didn’t see “Cold Mountain,” is shape note music sung at large gatherings, usually a capella. Think of it as a cross between open mike night and a flash mob, only holier.

Friday: Draa Hobbs, Sophie & Zeke’s – An in-demand guitarist returns to Claremont. Hobbs has played with a long list of jazz luminaries, did a stint in Al Alessi’s band, held forth at Oona’s before the fire, and most recently helped singer-songwriter Lisa McCormick with her newest album. Tonight, he brings along a saxophone player (whose identity is a mystery), so expect to hear his jazzier side.

Saturday: Kind Buds, Salt Hill II – This pair made a big impression over the summer festival season. I think of them as the Dark Star Duo – they love the Grateful Dead (enough that they sat on a recent symposium about the band), and they do a lot of their songs – very well. But they’re not a one-trick pony – their spirited originals are pretty tasty, too. You can hear them on Yellow House Media.

Tuesday: Little Big Town/Sugarland, Cumberland County Civic Center – Pop and rock have become a paint by the numbers game, but country music is impossible to pin down – call it the Eagles Factor. Little Big Town’s harmonies are cool enough to keep ice cream from melting, and Sugarland is fronted by Jennifer Nettles – definitely the best part of Bon Jovi’s recent hit, “You Can’t Go Home.”

Wednesday: Handel’s Messiah, Hopkins Center – With the holiday shopping season underway, it’s a good time to remember what a good many people are celebrating. First performed in Dublin in 1742, this edition of Handel’s Messiah is particularly special, with celebrated German conductor Helmuth Rilling leading the Handel Society. If there’s a chorale sample more ubiquitous than “Hallelujah,” I haven’t heard it.

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