Local Rhythms – 5 Years Down the Road

dsc03502I began writing “Local Rhythms” in April 2004 equipped with more curiosity than actual knowledge.

Even if no one read my dispatches from the area arts scene, I reasoned, I’d find something to do on the weekend.

Five years later, I’m still looking for the heart of Saturday night – or any other day of the week where there’s music to be found.

Happily, the joy of discovery is still a weekly occurrence.

Though a lot of my favorite haunts closed their doors, and some talented bands gave up the ghost, the thing has grown.

Coyote Club is gone, but the Imperial thrives across the street.  The Windham ended and Oona’s burned, but Boccelli’s now thrives.  Closed last year, Elixir is returning May 5 with a new owner, chef and – of course – live music.

Sophie & Zeke’s is bigger and better, and there’s now two Salt hill Pubs. Roots on the River is celebrating its’ 10th birthday; how long until FredFest lasts the whole week?

Ingrid’s Ruse and Ben Shippee may have left the game, but recent discoveries like Chris O’Brien, Aloud, Twiddle, Oneside and Jenee Halstead keep me looking forward.

I’m thankful for the club owners and impresarios who showcase this talent. Ray Massucco, Josh Tuohy, Buzz Boswell and John Chapin top the list, but are by no means the only names.

Mostly, I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made. These musicians toil in the trenches at a time when big label dreams are a distant memory, For some, the greatest aspiration is simply to quit their day job to play music.

Terry Ray Gould’s recent thoughts about his joy of sharing music represent this passion quite well.

He picked four “perfect moments in life” (another Facebook meme – we have that in common).

One was seeing a friend get goosebumps in response to his guitar playing.

Another came while watching “Second Wind” partner Suzi Hastings share a tearful connection with three audience members at a retirement home appearance, as their version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” ended.

It’s that spirit which draws me back to my subject week after month after year.

For some, music is a living; for others, music is life.

My beat is filled with more of the latter.

For that I am fortunate, and not just because it means no more dull weekends.  Speaking of which:

Thursday: Habib Koité, Woodstock Town Hall Theatre – Bonnie Raitt enlisted Koité for her 2002 “Silver Lining” CD, comparing his guitar playing to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.  But don’t expect ‘Voodoo Chile’ from Mali’s biggest pop star.  He’s lightning fast on the fret board, to be sure, but features a traditional that’s hypnotic and spirited. Habib makes his instrument sound like much more than a guitar, so I guess he shares that with Jimi and Stevie as well.

Friday; Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Oxbow High (Bradford) – The closing of Middle Earth Music Hall left a void in Bradford that’s yet to be filled.  The hobbit hole was a second home for this frenetic band, whose special brand of “punk-classical-hillbilly-Floyd” music reaches a rabid fan base that includes Dar Williams, who says watching them “reminds me to write and perform with my whole heart and soul.”

Saturday: Yellow House Jam, Casa Del Sol – A high point of the last five years was meeting Dave Clark, musician, raconteur and purveyor of Yellow House, a web site rich with information on all aspects of local music.  Dave’s mailing list just reached 2,000 subscribers; to celebrate, his band Juke Joynt is playing an open jam at this Ascutney Mexican restaurant.  All (especially musicians) are welcome to attend.

Sunday: Hard Times, Hopkins Center – Singer/guitarist Ricker Winsor leads a band that includes Keith Friedland on harmonica, bassist Christopher McCampbell and Cathy Friedland, playing accordion on few songs.  ‘Hard Times’ features the music of Skip James, Stephen Foster, Mississippi John Hurt and others. Says one critic of Winsor,  ‘he clearly loves singing these old songs, wrapping his warm mellow voice lovingly around the words.”

Tuesday: Irish Sessions, Salt hill Pub – There’s a lot of excitement ahead at the Pub.  Two bands that knocked me out at last summer’s Harpoon BBQ Festival appear in May – “Kansas City Techno” stalwarts Antennas Up, and Otis Grove, a junk-shaking funk band with local roots.  Each Tuesday, of course, it’s the traditional sounds of Chris Stevens, Roger Burridge and anyone who happens to stop by for the sessions, which start at 6.

Wednesday: Willy Porter, Flying Goose – The singer-songwriter is approaching 20 years in the game, with a new album, “How to Rob a Bank,” set for June release.  Porter’s guitar playing is sensational, and an evening with him at this intimate New London brewpub/restaurant should be a real treat.

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