Chuck Wicks Keeps Things Cool


Chuck Wicks
Claremont Opera House
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Tickets – $20.00

7:30 PM – Order Tickets

Though he’s out straight juggling gigs and learning to dance on national television, Chuck Wicks is in a breezy mood.

“My songwriting buddies are coming out to L.A,” says the rising country star, who has two hit singles, a top 10 album, and a new song heading up the charts.

At the moment, though, his mind is on fancy footwork.

During the first week of “Dancing With The Stars,” he and girlfriend Julianne Hough waltzed their way into the middle of the pack.  The couple is practicing hard for the second round, which starts Monday, with an elimination vote on March 17.

Hough is a two-time DWTS champion, but it’s all pretty new to Wicks.

“I have 5 days to learn how to salsa,” he says, but if Wicks is nervous, you’d never know.

“It always looks better than it feels,” he says with a laugh

“I just want to have a decent show and maybe win the thing.  But it’s only about 3 months, and then I go back to touring.”

“The music never leaves,” he concludes.

That’s where the focus will be Thursday night, when Wicks and his four-piece band perform at the Claremont Opera House.

The singer-songwriter tasted success when his debut single, “Stealing Cinderella,” went to number five in the country charts.

The song also caught the attention of Tennessee Volunteers then-coach Philip Fulmer, who declared – “it hit me like a ton of bricks.”

He asked Chuck to play it at his daughter’s wedding.

Says Wicks, “to have a song you wrote touch someone so deeply that they ask for you to perform on one of the most special days of their lives – that is incredible.”

Learning of Fulmer’s interest pleased Wicks – musicians love attention, after all – but upon reflection he realizes his initial response may have seemed a bit nonchalant.

I said, “cool, dude – OK, let’s do it.”

“Little did I know he was Tennessee royalty,” Chuck says. “You don’t really know unless you’re in the state.”

Wicks was born and raised in Delaware, and went to the University of Florida with dreams of playing professional baseball.

But after arriving, he picked up the guitar.

“Freshman year, you don’t know what your major is gonna be,” he explains.

By the time he was a junior, Wicks had a record deal and was on his way to Nashville..

“The minute I got here, I got dropped by the label,” he recalls.  “But I dug in and got a job parking cars.”

He also worked with some of country music’s best songwriters.  Through the multi-year apprenticeship, says Wicks, “I really found out who I was as an artist.”

The success of “Stealing Cinderella” led to “Starting Now.” his debut on RCA Nashville.  For the album, Wicks selected a diverse mix of songs that reflected his own tastes.

“Growing up, I listened to R&B, pop, jazz and everything in between. I’m a big fan of music,” he says. He recently bragged in his blog about attending an AC/DC concert.

Wicks wrote all but one of the album’s 11 tracks, including arena country-rock (“All I Ever Wanted”), James Taylor-flavored folk pop (“When You’re Single”) and Brian McKnight-like country soul (“Mine All Mine”).

But his knack for tapping into universal emotions on ballads like “Stealing Cinderella” may lift Chuck Wicks to stardom on the order of Keith Urban or Brad Paisley (who he toured with in 2008).

The just-released single “Man of the House” tells the story of a 10-year old boy who wakes up early every morning to make breakfast for his sister and coffee for his mother.  He’s trying his best to stand in for his father, who’s serving overseas.

“It’s hard to be a kid when you’re the man of the house,” sings Wicks.

Co-written with Mike Mobley, Wicks says it “was a tough song to write.  We wanted to make sure to do this song justice because there are so many people who are living it.”

Wicks thinks that the song’s little domestic details – Captain Crunch in cereal bowls, Larry King on television – help people better relate to it.

After playing it in concert, many teary-eyed fans have thanked him for telling their story.

Says a humbled Wicks – “it’s mind blowing.”

Fans at Thursday’s Opera House show can expect  “a good hang.”

“We’re gonna have a good time, and we’ll do a very intimate show, maybe have a little Q&A,” he says.  “Don’t be shy about shouting a song if you want to hear it.”

Greedy Artists Hide Behind Their “Fans”

screwedI’ve long suspected that musicians were profiting from the so-called secondary concert ticket market.  How else to explain the availability of premium seats on Ticketmaster’s TicketExchange site literally seconds after they go on sale?  The site is advertised as a “fan-to-fan” source for the best ducats, which is a joke.  These people are speculators , not fans.

But it turns out that the speculators are the artists themselves, according to a story in the WSJ.  After discussing how Neil Diamond and Celine Dion profited from the practice, writer Ethan Smith added:

Selling premium-priced tickets on TicketExchange, priced and presented as resales by fans, is a practice used by many other top performers, according to people in the industry. Joseph Freeman, Ticketmaster’s senior vice president for legal affairs, says that the company’s “Marketplace” pages only rarely list tickets offered by fans.

The vast majority of tickets are sold by the artists and their promoters with the cooperation of Ticketmaster.

That’s not the sleaziest part.  These greedy rock stars – the article named Bon Jovi, Van Halen, and the upcoming Elton John/Billy Joel tour, but no doubt there are many more – masquerade as fans:

The ticket listings are offered in small batches, each at a price, such as $1,164.01, that mimics prices set via online auctions. After inquiries from The Wall Street Journal, the “tickets posted by fans” message was removed from the TicketExchange Web site. Prices also fell, narrowing the gap between Ticketmaster and TicketExchange Marketplace.

Yeah, big surprise.  Here’s another non-shocker:

Spokesmen for Bon Jovi and Ms. Dion had no comment. A spokesman for Van Halen said that the band could not be reached. A booking agent for Messrs. Joel and John did not respond to requests for comment.

For years, groupies tried to screw rock stars.  Now the rock stars are screwing the fans.

Local Rhythms – Greening St Patrick’s Day

p1011584The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration on this side of the pond happened in Boston in 1737, 19 years ahead of New York.

It’s satisfying to know that, even if NYC has a bigger parade.

Here’s another fun fact: though it’s been a public holiday in Ireland since 1903, the religious focus of the observance – Patrick was a saint, after all – kept Irish bars closed on March 17 until 1970.

It’s safe to say that we approach the “wearing of the green” differently, which explains why Guinness is pushing to make St. Patrick’s a US holiday with their “Proposition 3-17” effort.

There are probably more Irish-Americans than Irish, and they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with gusto, pouring dye in rivers (Chicago), canals (Indianapolis) and fountains (Savannah), while painting traffic lines and sometimes entire blocks Kelly green.

Our streams are too frozen for such antics, but there’s still plenty of local Irish energy.

If you can’t bear to party on a weeknight, Celtic Crossing plays the Chandler Music Hall Sunday night, but the real action is on Tuesday.

Good Celtic bands are doing double duty this year.  Over at Okemo, Gypsy Reel is at the resort’s pub in the afternoon; later they serenade The Killarney, a lovely slice of the Emerald Isle.

Reaganta, a talented trio from Exeter, appear at the Holy Grail in Epping (2 PM) and Harlow’s Pub in Peterborough (7 PM).

O’hanleigh plays both Salt hill Pubs – 4 PM in Newport and 7 PM in Lebanon – as does the Chris Stevens Band.

Of course, St Pat’s at Salt hill is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  So it’s multiple days of fun at the Lebanon location – an Irish-themed open mike on Thursday, the 8th annual Shamrock Shuffle 5K after-party Saturday, and a special evening of Irish music with Longford Row on Sunday.

Salt hill also hosts a traditional Irish breakfast at 9 AM Tuesday, which includes the raising of the first pint.

Colcannon, with Samantha Moffatt on hammered dulcimer and accordion, and Patricia Stebbins on harp, perform at Canoe Club.

Less traditional but just as fun is Mark and Deb Bond’s 3rd annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Walpole Village Tavern.

Local heroes Yer Mother’s Onion will electrify the first ever Sophie & Zeke’s SPD soiree.

So there are several good excuses to cut loose on a Tuesday.

Or, you could just wait until next Friday and catch the Saw Doctors in Northampton.

What else is happening?

Thursday: Lucinda Williams, Capitol Center – Her cigarettes and whisky drawl could make the “Star Spangled Banner” sound sultry.  Williams rocked pretty hard at last year’s Green River Festival, closing with an AC/DC song.  The trend continued with the release of “Little Honey,” her ninth and most upbeat album.  There’s hardly a razor-gazer on the disc – it’s nice to see Lucinda lighten up a bit.

Friday: Comedy & Music, Bistro Nouveau – Boston comic Paul Nardizzi headlines, while Pete Merrigan (who can cut up with the best of them) provides the music.  Nardizzi likes to riff on sports, changing steroid poster child Alex Rodriguez’s nickname to “A-Needle” on his blog.  I’m sure he’ll have plenty to say about the upcoming Sox season and the Celtics acquisition of loopy Stephon Marbury.

Saturday: Ninja Monkey, Heritage Tavern – Ezra Veitch and Josh Maiocco’s call their latest project “SouthernVT Rock” – a dash of Elvis (Costello), a dollop of Fred Eaglesmith and a slice of Greg Brown, mixed with elements of their own various bands.  Ninja Monkey’s a monthly fixture at PK’s in Bellows Falls and they’ll be greening up next Tuesday’s St. Pat’s celebration at Harvest Moon in Saxton’s River.

Sunday: Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, Stonewall Farm – A first rate Americana show presented by Orange Earth, promoter of the occasional Sunday folk shows at Armadillo’s Burritos.  Arbo made amazing music with Salamander Crossing in the mid-90s.  “Big Old World,” the third Daisy Mayhem album, is a gem.  It’s full of spirit and hope, along with good singing and playing.   Stonewall, a back-to-basics Keene dairy farm, sounds like a good place for a show.

Monday: Bobby K & the Peace, Bentley’s – Citing Antonio Carlos Jobim, Dave Matthews and Tupac as influences, you know this combo is out of the ordinary.  They’ve dubbed their music “folk-hop,” and this Vermont trio gets the crowd involved when they play. Since it’s an open mike night, audience participation is de rigueur.  No, seriously, bring your guitar and get in on the action.

Wednesday: Second Wind, Green Acres Café – Let’s coax spring with a wine tasting and music from this fine local duo, who regularly perform at the Claremont Farmer’s Market.  This Opera House Square café/grocer is a perfect place to enjoy gourmet food and good conversation.  Terry Gould and Suzi Hastings reach across the musical spectrum, moving between Heart, Springsteen and Lyle Lovett with ease.

Dublin City Ramblers Kick Off Lebanon St. Patrick’s Day

p1011548The lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day began in Lebanon Tuesday night with a performance by the Dublin City Ramblers.  The three-piece band scored an international hit with “Dublin in the Rare Old Times” in 1970 and, led by the picking and singing of Sean McGuinness, have been going strong ever since.

Their Opera House performance was, in the words of one audience member, “just like Dublin pubs in the 1960s,” filled with songs both sad (“Grace”) and spirited .  Finishing with a medley of the Irish national anthem (sung in Gaelic) and the “Star Spangled Banner,” the Ramblers headed over to Salt hill Pub.

Earlier in the evening, the weekly Irish Sessions, led by Chris Stevens and Roger Burridge, played in the center of the room.  Musicians improvising jigs and reels included Jeremiah McClane of Nightingale, and Krista Lampe of the Upper Valley Music Center.  Pints poured, and a Champions League football match between Juventas and Chelsea played in the background.

Ramblers guitarist/vocalist Derrick Keane sat down in the circle and was soon joined by McGuinness.   Even without a microphone, Keane’s voice soared over the crowded pub.  Later, bass player Tom Miller joined his mates, and three played past midnight, accompanied by two fiddles and a bodhrán.

Though typically less star-studded, the Irish Sessions are a weekly fixture at Salt hill, located on the Lebanon Green.

Local Rhythms – 15 Discs That Changed My Life

picture-9Though I’m pretty caught up in Facebook, their gimmicks don’t appeal to me.  A poke (or God forbid, a super poke) won’t get a response, my flirts are apparently hurting, and I’ve no pieces of flair adorning my corkboard.

Fort that matter, I don’t have a corkboard.

But Facebook lists are a different story.  I’m a sucker for surveys asking me to answer 20 questions with just one word, or list 25 random personal facts.

This recent Facebook meme really fished me in, along with a few thousand music fans:

“Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it,” it asked, that, “no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world.”

Making my own list was fun, but I was more interested in other responses.

I’m not one of those people with a thousand Facebook pals.  Rather than make new friends, I prefer to do a better job with the ones I’ve already got.

I learned plenty with this exercise.

My oldest friend in the world is a certified metalhead, but his picks surprisingly included Blind Faith and Herman’s Hermits.

A lot of women had Carole King’s “Tapestry” and Joni Mitchell’s “Blue,” but my sister, bless her heart, also put “Best of Bread” on hers.

Way to take that “no matter what they were thought of musically” caveat seriously, Sis.

The sixty-something friend who, in Facebook-speak, first “tagged” me with this “note” chose lots of classic rock (Clapton, Hendrix & Joplin), but also had the Kingston Trio.

He couldn’t limit his Beatles picks to just one album.

Plenty of folks needed more than 15 slots, including one friend whose list ran to 35 choices.  Excessive maybe, but it produced an eclectic mix including Tommy Clancy and Duran Duran.

I prowled the Internets to see if the rest of the world resembled my friend list, and found one wag who had Chris Whitley’s “Dirt Floor” keeping company with Boston’s first disc and a Nicola Conte acid jazz 12 inch – technically, not an album.

The whole experience reinforced my belief that music to some extent shapes everyone, especially my Facebook friends.

I’m going to start my own list called “songs that confuse me,” beginning with “A Horse With No Name” and “Take Me To the Pilot.”

Here are my picks for the week:

Thursday: Pete Merrigan, Brown’s Tavern – This may be the first time I’ve ever picked Pete in March.  He’s acquired a lot of new fans via the Yellow House Media web site, which recently added a lot of songs.  “Born Here” held the top spot on the most popular song stream list for several weeks.  He’s heading down to St. Pete (no relation) for a show later this month, along with a radio interview.  Lucky guy.

Friday: Talkin’ Smack Band, Imperial Lounge – Formerly known as Junk in the Trunk, it remains to be seen if this band has some new tricks to go with their new name.  Not that they need any, as they serve up a steady diet of the kind of selections that fit well on my 15 best list (multiple decades at that). Imperial is shaping into a great music room, with lots of room for dancing and good sound.

Saturday: Extra Stout, Killarney – My better half is named Patty and was born on St. Patrick’s Day, so we tend to celebrate the whole month of March.  That’s also true for this Okemo-area pub, which touts an authentic Irish vibe.  The music of this Vermont-based band is described as “drinking and rebel tunes, ballads, jigs and reels.”  All perfectly served with a pint of Guinness.

Sunday: San Jose Taiko Drums, Hopkins Center – Based in my former California home town, they specializes in kumidaiko – ensemble drumming on Japanese drums.  These colorful, propulsive and hypnotic performers also appear Saturday at the Colonial Theatre in Keene. The Japanese-American troupe draws from samba, rock and Afro-Cuban rhythms as well as their native roots.

Tuesday: Dublin City Ramblers, Lebanon Opera House – The Upper Valley’s official St. Patrick’s Day headquarters, Salt hill Pub, is sponsoring this traditional Celtic band’s appearance.  Better yet, they’ve agreed to visit the pub after their Opera House set to join weekly Irish session musicians Roger Burridge and Dave Loney for a tune or two.  Indeed, a big night on the Green.

Wednesday: OK Go, Pearl Street – A few years back this power pop combo won an MTV Video Award, even though their inventive treadmill dance clip was entirely a MySpace phenomenon hardly shown on the former music channel.  They’re featured in the upcoming film “I Love You Man,” playing a wedding band with the classic name Tastes Like Chicken.  Wait, I was going to use that!

15 Albums

records_1A Facebook meme that’s sweeping the Internets:

Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically, shaped your world. When you finish, tag 15 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you’re it!

I’m going in chronological order, and since this is my blog, providing commentary on my choices.

Oh, and please post your own lists in the comments section, with or without commentary.

1. Cast Your Fate to the Wind, Vince Guaraldi – My father’s greatest gift was instilling a love of creative expression, particularly music.  The moody piano figure that opens this piece is as haunting today as it was the first time I heard it nearly 50 years ago.  It provided the first hint of a world beyond “The Wheels on the Bus.”

2. The Beatles Second Album, The Beatles I heard about the Fab Four, watched them on Ed Sullivan, but this Capitol cannabilization hooked me, plus it exposed me to the music of Motown, Chuck Berry and Little Richard for the first time. Hey, I was 6 years old!

3. Monkees Headquarters, Monkees I loved that the Prefab Four demanded artistic control, and this, their third album, showed what that was all about. The Monkees also produced the first crack in my unwavering loyalty to one band only – the Beatles.

6. Bookends, Simon & GarfunkelSensing my musical mind becoming more open, my parents gave me “Sounds of Silence” for Christmas and “Bookends” for my birthday in July.  These introduced me to the poetry of singer-songwriters, still to this day my favorite genre of music.

5. Woodstock, Original Soundtrack In 1970, the top 40 station in town (on the AM dial, no less) switched to AOR.  Suddenly, you could spend the whole day listening and never hear the same song twice.  That’s where I heard about Woodstock – it passed me by completely when it happened in real time.  The corrupting force on my 13-year old brain of naked girls swimming in a creek while stage announcements warned of “brown acid” cannot be fully measured.

6. A Question of Balance, Moody Blues Though I would become a bigger fan of prog-rock bands like Genesis, Yes, Nektar, Caravan, Camel, Amon Duul and Focus, this album launched my love of swirling orchestral synth-rock.  Still sounds good too.

7. James Gang Rides Again, James GangI spent my paper route money at a record store called Sound Expression.  One day, I asked a clerk, who were like clerics in my church of music, for a recommendation.  I want hard rock, I said, not knowing what that meant.  He pointed me to this crunchy blues rock masterpiece, which I bought without question.

8. For Everyman, Jackson BrowneI purchased it for “Redneck Friend,” with Elton John’s frenetic (and frankly, poorly recorded) piano. But I love it for the title cut, “The Times You’ve Come” (my first exposure to Bonnie Raitt’s voice) and Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s gorgeous steel guitar on the bridge between “Take It Easy” and “Our Lady of the Well.”

9. Something/Anything, Todd RundgrenIt was either this or “A Wizard, A True Star” – I heard both around the same time, but being rooted in Beatles makes Todd’s double album magnum opus the one that sticks.

10. Warren Zevon, Warren Zevon A different side of singer-songwriter – darker, melancholy, sardonic.  Greg Copeland’s “Revenge Will Come” better typifies the style, but Zevon was the first, and he has a larger body of work (sorry, Greg).

11. Hejira, Joni Mitchell She fused jazz and lyricism at a time in my life when a line like “white flags of winter chimnies waving truce against the moon” spoke directly to the core of my being.  World weary, wondering whether it was all worth it, and a few thousand miles from home, I needed Joni’s travelers journal like a parched man needs water.

12. Graceland, Paul SimonI hadn’t thought about South Africa much until this record came out, let alone its culture.  The night I saw this performed live, with Hugh Masakela, Miriam Makeba and of course Ladysmith Black Mambazo, remains one of my top 5 concerts.

13. Steady On, Shawn Colvin This came out of nowhere, and as good as Colvin is as a songwriter (she is amazing), the years have shown that the mood, texture and strength of “Steady On” belongs to John Leventhal, the most talented and underrated producer in the world.

14. Blister Soul, Vigilantes of Love – Christian rock never sounded like this, and I guess the only reason this record wasn’t a giant success is that no one could figure out where to put it.  Fortunately, Tim Tobin recognized its’ genius and put it on The River, one of the last great music stations in the Upper Valley (all you Point lovers, don’t go hatin’ on me now).

15. Delivered, Mark Erelli – The greatest thing about music is that it continues to surprise me.  I never expected this – Erelli’s made some good records over his career, but this one captures a moment in time perhaps better than anything that’s come out of the Bush years.  It’s a combination of outrage, curated faith and love for the things that can’t be wrenched from our grasp.