Local Rhythms – What’s the buzz?

sierrahull02-280x210Ever had a conversation that begins with the question, “have you heard [insert musician’s name]?” – followed by the statement, “they’re the next [insert musician’s name].”?

If you’re talking with Partridge “Buzz” Boswell, here’s some advice: pay attention.

Buzz has ears, as they say in the trade, and during his 10-year tenure at the Lebanon Opera House, he booked some great shows.

So when Buzz became Executive Director at Pentangle Council of the Arts, I expected good things.

He has not disappointed, with a sold-out Brandi Carlile show in March so far the highest of many high points.

Lebanon residents will welcome the news that Buzz is again curator of the Front Porch Music Series in Colburn Park, which begins next Thursday with Rustic Overtones.

The free shows (start time: 7:30) run through August 20.  Among the great names scheduled – Steve Forbert  (7/9), Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem (7/16) and Catie Curtis (8/6).

When I called Buzz to talk about this, he responded with a question:

“Have you heard Sierra Hull?  She’s the next Alison Krauss.”

The last mandolin player to get Buzz this excited was Chris Thile.  This led to Nickel Creek’s first area performance.

I still get a chill in my spine thinking about that concert, one of the ten best I’ve ever seen.

So I checked out the 16-year old prodigy on Rhapsody.  Sure enough, she’s the real deal, with a debut album featuring a who’s who of the bluegrass world.

Hull performs July 23 in Colburn Park.  She appears the day before in Woodstock (7/22) for a special “Market on the Green Community Concert”.

Speaking of Woodstock, Buzz also put together their Brown Bag Music Series, which happens every Thursday at noon.  This summer’s schedule kicks off June 25 with roots rocker Bow Thayer, repeating every Thursday through August 13.

Regional stars dominate the lunchtime shows (rain location: Town Hall Theatre), including 35h Parallel (7/2), Starline Rhythms Boys (7/9), Sensible Shoes (8/6) and the utterly unique Prydein, who mix hard rock with bagpipes.

As if Buzz’s plate weren’t full enough, Pentangle is also presenting the “@ Six Series” – three big-name summer concerts at the Suicide Six ski resort.

Shawn Colvin and Lori McKenna play July 18, Eric Hutchinson with Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers August 8, and a New Orleans night with the Neville Brothers and Dr. John August 29.

I’m glad Buzz is still in the game – here’s the rest of the week:

Thursday: Juke Joynt, Firestones – Take one part Foghat and one part Buddy Guy, mix it with a bodacious X factor that results from the chemistry of three players who do itinerant musical work all over the area, and you have this band. Juke Joynt focuses on original music inspired by the blues (when they were real) and classic rock (before it got cheesy).  Led by Dave Clark, the band also performs tomorrow at the Quechee Balloon Festival.

Friday: 6th Anniversary Party w/ Sirsy, Salt hill Pub – Lebanon’s tavern on the green marks another birthday – how soon before we can call it institution?  Since opening in 2003, ShP has expanded to Newport and announced plans for a new location in Hanover.  Along the way, proprietors Josh and Joe Tuohy have  been a first-rate source for exposing new bands like Sirsy (a two-piece that’s much greater than the sum of its parts) to live music fans.

Saturday: Blue Rooster, Lake Morey Inn – A rockabilly/alt-country band influenced by the Stones, Hank Williams Jr. and Led Zeppelin – how’s that for diversity?  Led by Kenny Odell, a musician who’s been a part of the local scene for about as long as there’s been a local scene, Blue Rooster plays covers and originals with one simple objective at the forefront: to make you dance.

Sunday: Quechee Balloon Festival – Starting Friday, the skies above Quechee are filled with beautiful hot air balloons, while the ground below teems with a multitude of diversions, including music, Bands include the Flames, Will Patton, Avi & Celia and Changes in Latitudes.  Check out queecheeballoonfestival.com for a full lineup.  Dads (accompanied by a child) get half-price admission on Sunday.

Tuesday: She Loves Me, New London Barn – This musical ran on Broadway in 1963, and was pretty much forgotten until 2004, when a revival at New York’s Paper Mill caused the New York Times to call it “a diamond salvaged from the dustbin,” praising its’ “witty lyrics” and “inventive melodies.”  Anyone who’s seen “You’ve Got Mail” will recognize the play’s ‘mystery pen pal’ plot.

Wednesday: New York Dolls, Higher Ground – Once upon a time, this band was the Next Big Thing, but drugs, excess and no small amount of hubris kept them from being more than an NYC curiosity.  Only two members survive; fortunately they – David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain – were the most charismatic and talented in the group.  Their new Todd Rundgren-produced album is pretty good, too.

Jenny Brook’s New Tunbridge Home

Picture 3The Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival has a new home – Tunbridge, Vermont – and a more ambitious focus this year.

The latter, says founder/director Candi Sawyer, is a circumstance born of necessity.  The venue change required the four-day festival to begin a week earlier than usual.  Many performers who’d played Jenny Brook in years past were already committed to another regional event.

“I didn’t have a lot of local bands to choose from, so we just had to jump up to the next level,” says Sawyer.

So while a lot of the performers are new to Sawyer’s festival (which begins with a Wednesday night barn dance and continues through Sunday), they are well known in the bluegrass circuit, says Sawyer.

Relocating the festival’s home since its start nine years ago was simpler, says Sawyer.  “We had to move out of Weston we ran out of room. We had to relocate or cancel.”

“It’s too good a festival to let go.”

Sawyer is particularly looking forward to the Next Best Thing, a new band from Nashville featuring Rhonda Vincent’s daughters Sally and Tensel Sandker.

“They are hot out of the box,” says Sawyer, “I think that’s gonna turn some heads. I’m kind of excited because in years to come I can say I got them when they were brand new.”

The Katahdin Valley Boys from Maine and the Boston-based Reunion Band will perform at Jenny Brook for the first time this year.  Breakin’ Strings, a six-member group from Maine, appeared in a festival showcase last year and finished second to a preteen fiddler.

“I really think they should have come in first,” says Sawyer.  “They had the whole thing, the emcee work, they were dressed well – the whole package.”

So Breakin’ Strings was asked to perform Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  “I like to give credit where credit’s due,” explains Candi.

Sawyer was able to book a few bands from past festivals, including the Pine Hill Ramblers, Bear Tracks, Plexigrass and perennial headliners the Gibson Brothers.  Though she didn’t ask for the changes, Candi is optimistic.

“I think it happened for a reason, and we’re going to have a bigger variety this year.”

The new location allows for more activities like Wednesday’s barn dance.  Though dismantling the stage in Weston was bittersweet, the move to Tunbridge was, she says, elating:

“There’s a photo essay on our web site, and if you look at the pictures of us pulling in, you can almost feel the excitement.  It’s a very good feeling.  It’s a beautiful facility.”

“Weston’s really kind of a stuck up town in a way.  They really don’t like the music; the locals are not supportive at all.  Moving to Tunbridge, different people are coming down telling me how excited they are that we’re coming to the area, and thanking us for the business.  We never got that in Weston.”

“It’s a good feeling,” she says.  “It feels like we’re wanted.”

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival
June 18, 19, 20 & 21
Tunbridge Fairgrounds

The Gibson Brothers (Saturday)
Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper (Friday)
Leroy Troy & Tennessee Mafia Jug Band (Thursday, Friday, Saturday)
Audie Blaylock & Redline (Sunday)
Karl Shiflett & Big Country (Saturday)
The Next Best Thing (Saturday)
Bear Tracks (Saturday)
Reunion Band (Friday)
Smokey Greene (Thursday)
Katahdin Valley Boys (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Plexigrass (Friday, Saturday)
Breakin’ Strings (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Pine Hill Ramblers (Thursday, Sunday)
Brenda Mathews & Friends (Thursday, Friday)
Bear Minimum (Sunday)

Hosted by the Seth Sawyer Band and the Sawyer Brothers, who perform throughout the festival.

4-day – $85.00
Thursday – $20.00
Friday – $30.00 ($20.00 after 6 PM)
Saturday – $30.00 ($20.00 after 6 PM)
Sunday – $20.00

Children 16 & under free, 17 & 18 half-price (must be accompanied by adult)

Call 802-463-1184 for more information