Local Rhythms – Cover Songs & Paying It Forward

I spend way too much time talking about stuff that bugs me, but after getting mugged by Ticketmaster and Tropical Storm Hannah at a big-name show last Saturday, the trend seemed ready to continue.

Paying 300 bucks for seats in the rain makes me cranky, though I have to say that the parking lot party was fantastic.

But when I left the show soggy and in a mood it looked like Great Woods (Tweeter, Comcast or whatever that shed in Western Massachusetts is called – the name changes like New England weather) was in for a slagging.

Then I heard Sugarland’s cover of “Come On Get Higher” and it made me smile and forget.  Great music does that.

Sometimes it takes another artist to bring a song to life, like when Jose Feliciano exposed the Doors’ “Light My Fire” in 1968.

At the Johnny Cash memorial concert in 2003, Marty Stuart’s churning version of “Rock Island Line” made me a fan.  But it was Kid Rock’s revelatory take of “What is Truth” that really moved me.

The cross-pollination of country and rock – call it the “Crossroads” effect – gets better every day.  It’s best when established stars bring lesser-known players into the spotlight.

Sugarland got a career boost when Jon Bon Jovi invited Jennifer Nettles to sing on his record. Now, with sold-out shows and a number one album, the band is paying it forward by releasing a live take of Matt Nathanson’s spirited ballad.

The original version is great, but the buoyant, romantic song calls out for a bit of twang.  Throw in a little harp and harmony, and it was like hearing it for the first time.

That song, a “Love on the Inside – Deluxe Fan Edition” bonus cut, made me seek out Nathanson’s other work, which one writer said evokes “a new human emotion known as ‘craffing’” – crying and laughing at the same time.

He shares that trait with other singer/songwriters – Jason Mraz, David Gray and Steve Poltz come to mind.  But Matt Nathanson probably invented it.

And right when I needed him, he cured my angry blues.

See, that’s the thing.  When I’m ready to explode like some Roger Rabbit extra with steam coming out of his ears, something happens to remind me why I love music.

It’s a paradox – while the business is a horror show, there’s so much great music it’s almost impossible to keep up.

But keep trying.  It’s hard work, but worth it.

What’s the local buzz?

Thursday: Terry Diers, Salt Hill Pub – Blues night at Salt Hill with a guy who’s like a lot of Upper Valley musicians – it’s hard to keep track of all the bands he’s in.  Tonight Terry keeps it down and dirty with a few of his friends, but on other occasions he rocks it up with Skinx, goes Celtic with Samantha Moffatt (who’s at the Farmer’s Market this afternoon), or plays solo. Thursday Blues runs through October 22.

Friday: Kelly Ravin, Canoe Club – Another intriguing singer-songwriter at this fun (and typically on Friday night, crowded) Hanover eatery. You know the drill – finagle a table close to the stage so you can hear this guy, who sings a bit like Damien Rice or Jeffrey Foucault, and writes spare, storytelling songs.  Before going solo, Ravin played with the Burlington band Lucy Vincent.  Every few weeks CC books a gem, and this could well be another.

Saturday: Adrienne Young/Olabelle, Tunbridge World’s Fair – This upcountry fair, now in its 137th year, features bluegrass from Young, a serious picker with a great voice, and bluesy Americana from Olabelle, which includes Levon Helm’s daughter Amy.   Along with some great guests (Gilliam Welch, David Rawlins, Calexico), Levon and Amy played a fantastic set at last month’s Newport Folk Festival.

Sunday: Acoustic Open Stage, Umpleby’s Bakery – Cakes aren’t the only thing great about this Hanover bakery, located a stone’s throw from downtown on South Street.  This open mike sounds like an audition for future music – I certainly hope so.  I love the vibe here, a cozy alternative to Starbucks that knows how to treat a sweet tooth.

Tuesday: Jackson Browne, Orpheum – He’s probably my favorite singer-songwriter, as much for commitment and integrity as music.  Over the past several years, Jackson’s played solo, releasing a pair of unplugged recordings.  But with a new album due soon (“Time the Conqueror”), he’s back on the road with a full band.  Unfortunately, this Boston show is the closest he’ll get to here (though you can watch him on the Colbert Report September 23).

Wednesday: Tomatoes on the Terrace, Hanover Inn – No music here, but plenty of tomatoes – a contest for area growers sponsored by the Upper Valley Slow Food Convivium.  Prizes will be awarded for best looking, most surprising, biggest, smallest, and of course, best tasting.


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