Local Rhythms – A legendary night

Of the musical highlights at last Saturday’s “Local Legends” awards night – there were many – what stood out most wasn’t on stage.
It was the crowd – more to the point, the audience, focused on the performers.
What a treat to see so many great bands on a big stage, without the clatter of plates being cleared, dinner being served or oblivious patrons talking over the music. It was a memorable evening, and hopefully not the last.
The players were clearly inspired by these trappings.  Early on, Rich Meijer spun off one crackling guitar solo after another, gathering steam each time the crow roared.
Meijer led the house band, which grew larger with each player’s set. Harp and harmony from Jed Dickinson perfectly complemented Dave Clark’s songs.
A conga and timbale player joined Pete Meijer for a Springsteen-like turn, with Matt Getman playing Big Man to Meijer’s Boss on the saxophone.
A Gully Boys quorum followed, with Bill Temple, barefoot in bib overalls, singing from his heart.
During Dr. Burma’s set, lead singer Linda Boudreault prowled the stage like a lioness, her long ponytail swaying, chewing up the real estate.
Pete Merrigan called it a “family reunion of folks who’ve never met,” and watched with a smile from the wings for much of the night.
When Pete walked onstage to play, he introduced “Tragic Hero” by quipping, “if you live long enough, eventually you’ll be called a legend.”
Arguably, though, the night belonged to a pair of youngsters.
Avi & Celia’s soulful set brought the house to its feet, whooping and hollering. Singer Celia Woodsmith dug low notes from under the floorboards and shot them into the stratosphere with operatic flourish, her entire body moving in emphasis.
Celia’s cowboy boot stomped the stage, and the entire building shook.
With Avi Salloway on resonator slide guitar, the duo played like a delta blues version of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.  Celia scraped and drummed a washboard wearing evening gloves customized with steel fingertips for a rousing rendition of Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh (It Takes A Train to Cry)”.
An astounded audience did everything it could to bring them back for an encore.
Of course, the biggest hero was event organizer Dave Clark, a man on a mission to champion local music.
Without his energy, or his invaluable http://www.yellowhousemedia.net web site, the scene would be much poorer indeed.
Thanks, Dave!
On to the rest of the week, which includes a few local legends:
Thursday, Dec. 24: Watch Television at Home – No one’s going out tonight, unless it’s to church.  That’s just how it should be, but there’s still music to enjoy.  If you have high definition, check out Christmas shows from Brian Setzer on HDNet and Melissa Etheridge on Palladia.  GAC and VH1 Classic are both running holiday music videos for most of the evening.  For country music fans, PBS has Faith Hill in concert – or you could just watch the video fireplace.
Friday, Dec. 25: Bill Temple, Casa del Sol – The longtime Gully Boy leader plays solo in Ascutney. The Mexican cantina has regular Friday night music, along with an expanded menu that includes fried clams and lobster rolls.  Hey, it might be five degrees outside, but it’s all right to eat like summer didn’t end.  Don’t be surprised if one or two friends show up to join Temple’s party.
Saturday, Dec. 26: Pete Merrigan, Salt hill Newport – Pete just came back from a week in Florida, where he groused a bit about the rain, but reveled in the chance to do a Mad Beach Band reunion show in St. Petersburg.  It’s always sunny when Pete plays, which is why I’m glad he’s now a permanent resident.  He’ll be at après-ski parties in Quechee and Sunapee soon – how weird is that?
Monday, Dec. 28: Coydog, Boar’s Head Tavern (Bromley) – I’ve never been much of a skier, but I’m a big fan of ski lodges.  Hot toddies, comfort food, and music by a roaring fire – what’s not to like?  Hailing from Southern Vermont, Coydog added new vocalist Ali Schelin in November.  The band has an easy blues rock sound, and a growing catalog of rootsy original songs.
Tuesday, Dec. 29: Dan Walker, Canoe Club – Back from the Rockies, with a new-ish (May 2009) album in town, Walker’s sweet spot is folk with elements of jazz and blues.  He’s built a big Seacoast following, with a soulful singing voice and a habit of using his acoustic guitar as a hand drum.
Wednesday, Dec. 30: Kerry Rose Band, Quechee Club – This is one of the many bands that counts Dave Clark as a member.  Dave compares lead singer Kerry Rosenthal to Bonnie Raitt, and sees her as a real up and comer.  The band also includes Jed Dickinson on harmonica and back-up vocals, Mike Gareau playing violin and guitar, along with percussionist Jaxson Morgan.

Local Legends Saturday

This is the big one – an evening of performances by all the musicians I’ ve been writing about for the past 6 years:

Lebanon Opera House and Yellow House Media present the First Annual LOCAL LEGENDS MUSIC AWARDS.

Come celebrate a night of original music with local songwriters and bands including Dr. Burma, Carlos Ocasio, Pariah Beat, Avi & Celia, Sensible Shoes, Pete Merrigan, Kurtis Kinger, Pete Meijer, Bill Temple, Dave Clark and Lisa Piccirillo.

Admission includes a Free local music CD and 2010 Desk Calendar for every ticketholder.

Pricing: General Admission: $22.50 ( includes cd & 2010 calendar)

This Week’s Hippo

Big cover story on the music scene from Concord down to Nashua and points beyond.  Worth downloading the PDF for, frankly (if you want to read my gift guide for music lovers, you’ll have to):

In some establishments, music stands front and center most every night of the week; for others it’s just one element among many that make up the room’s personality. From pleasant piano to mind-numbing metal, there’s something for every musical taste throughout the region. You just need to know where to look.

Also piece on a great benefit show tomorrow night at Milly’s Tavern (home of the best microbrewed beer in the Queen City) and an interesting collective effort to inspire musicians and artists to new creative heights.  Plus, Nite Roundup talks about Irish and country Christmas parties, the return of junk rockers Recycled Percussion to the area, upcoming shows from Dead alumni Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, and a funky horn band’s next local show.

Local Rhythms – The Twelve Songs of Christmas

My favorite Christmas movie is Die Hard, and I like holiday music that’s similarly offbeat – sometimes a little subversive.

Every year, I mark the season with a list of the best.

There few entries of recent vintage, proving the genre didn’t begin and end with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Little Saint Nick.”

Here are my 12 songs of Christmas:

Run Rudolph Run (Chuck Berry) – The tame “Jingle Bell Rock” was probably the first rock and roll Christmas song, but this one better captured the music’s rebellious spirit.

River (Joni Mitchell) – Until this song, most Christmas music was about the holiday experience. Mitchell captured the mood and left the trappings to other songwriters.

Christmas Wrapping (The Waitresses) – A song about two alienated artistes meeting in the checkout line on Christmas Eve, it’s full of jangling angst with a frothy pop coating.

Christmas in Hollis (Run D.M.C.) – From wrapping to rapping, this is an urbanized, hip-hop rendition of the Night Before Christmas story, with fried chicken and collard greens.

Last Christmas (Wham!) – One of those holiday songs that gets stuck in your head and won’t go away, it’s been finding a new audience with fans of the television show Glee.

All I Want For Christmas Is You (Olivia Olsen) – Featured prominently in my other favorite Christmas movie, Love, Actually; I prefer 10-year old Olsen’s version to the Mariah Carey original.

Christmas in Washington (Steve Earle) – The unrepentant leftist name-checks Emma Goldman and Woody Guthrie, with a sense of dread that seemed out of place when the song came out in 1997, but not today.

The Rebel Jesus (Jackson Browne) – It’s impossible to listen to this song, which paints Jesus as a rabble rouser whose actual deeds would likely appall the pious, and not be affected.

Raise the Tree (Trent Dabbs) – From Ten Out of Tenn., a holiday collection released last year by a group of Nashville musicians, it’s sentimental modern, both edgy and happy.

Santa’s Lost His Mojo (Jeremy Lister) – Goofy and infectious, another standout Ten Out of Tenn. track about the Big Man in a funk.  Buy this record!

O Holy Night (Trombone Shorty) – The most beautiful Christmas instrumental ever can be heard at http://www.localrhythms.com, where it’s a free download (with an optional charity link).

Carol of the Bells/Jingle Bells (Barry Manilow) – Back off, Barry-haters, this is great jazz.  Manilow’s backed by the MaD Fusion band, with Matt Herskowitz supplying jaw-dropping piano runs.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Dec. 17: Harvey Reid, Flying Goose Pub – “Master Minstrel” Harvey Reid brings his annual holiday concert tour to New London for a solo performance of seasonally inspired American contemporary and roots music, folk, blues, bluegrass, Celtic and ragtime.  The show is annual tradition at the Pub, and though this year it’s without Reid’s wife Joyce Anderson, Reid still own Christmas in the Granite State.

Friday, Dec. 18: Recycled Percussion, Claremont Opera House – For my money (and a lot of America) these “junk rockers” won America’s Got Talent with their unique brand of can banging, scratch mixing and guitar pyrotechnics.  In any case, they were the best band, finishing behind two vocalists.  There may not be room to saw a car in half, but rest assured sparks will fly and the opera house will rock.

Saturday, Dec. 19: Local Legends Music Awards, Lebanon Opera House – Over the years, I’ve written about most of the performers appearing at this celebration of the local music scene – Pariah Beat, Pete Merrigan, Sensible Shoes, Carlos Ocasio and major domo music maven Dave Clark of Yellow House, a leading force in organizing the event.  Here’s a chance to see it all – in one night.

Sunday, Dec. 20: Christmas Revels, Hopkins Center – “A Scottish Christmas” is the theme of this year’s holiday production by Revels North, as members of the community join professional performers for a mix of Renaissance Faire pageantry and Celtic-flavored music.  It’s the 35th year of Revels North, and by the end of the show everyone in the house should be singing along.

Monday, Dec. 21: Battle of the Bands, Kimball Union Academy – A group of high school musicians throws down for a variety of prizes including cash, and recording session in a real studio.  Tuck’s Rock Dojo and the Meriden Congregational Church sponsor the competition.  MCC youth leader Leslie Macgregor came up with the idea for the event, which benefits a pair of local charities.

Wednesday, Dec. 23: Reid Trevaskis & Friends, Andre’s – Tonight’s jam session is special; it’s Andre’s annual Christmas party.  $17 admission includes a sumptuous buffet prepared by the restaurant’s well-regarded chef, along with entertainment from Trevaskis, Ben Butterworth, Jan Bear and whoever else happens by.  Given the great eats, that could mean friends from Reid’s bands Manchuka or Lisa Marie and the All Shook Up.

Local Rhythms – Grammy makes me grumpy

When Jethro Tull took home a Grammy for, of all things, best hard rock/metal performance, it was already over for me.  Ever since Taste of Honey beat out Elvis Costello in 1979 on the strength of their execrable disco hit “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” I’ve expected nothing less than irrelevance from the annual music awards.

But this year’s nominees are just plain lazy.

How else to explain Daryl Hall and John Oates’ pick for their performance of “Sara Smile”?

Don’t check your calendars, it’s not 1977.

Really, though, the ceremony should be called the Mulligans. Every Grammy is a do-over, the musical equivalent of a Lifetime Achievement Oscar.

You know – the consolation prize given for missing the best stuff in an artist’s career.

Hey, Neil Young – sorry we blew it on Harvest and Rust Never Sleeps – how about a Grammy for the packaging of your Archives box set? Young’s nominated for that – and his latest album, Fork in the Road, which I’m betting you’ve never heard.

What really fries my oysters are all the live recordings in contention this year. 19 nominations are nothing but re-makes of songs that came out years ago, including Hall & Oates, Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood, Jeff Beck and Judas Priest.

The tunes, in case you’re wondering, are as old and gray as the guys singing them.

There should be an inverse rule to the one qualifying artists for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – no song older than 25 years makes the cut.

Probably won’t happen, since a song only has to “come to prominence” during the nominating period (which is well over a year) to be eligible.

Oh, and the new stuff is so predictable.  Beyoncé is nominated 10 times – I had to check the male categories to make sure she hadn’t slipped in there accidentally.

More injustice – there’s Madonna again, but no Tegan and Sara.

Come on.

Another crime of omission – Ida Maria’s “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” is nowhere to be found on Grammy’s list.

Americana and bluegrass are my only respite, and I think those decisions are outsourced to West Virginia – or maybe England.  There I find Maura O’Connell’s lovely, quirky a capella album, Naked With Friends, or the latest from Loudon Wainwright III – no doubt because they missed “Dead Skunk” in 1972.

But for the most part, Grammy just makes me grumpy.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Dec. 10: Second Wind, Carmella’s – Terry Gould and Suzi Hastings’ nights in downtown Claremont have been turning into impromptu jam sessions of late, with guests dropping in for dinner and a song or two.  A percussionist who missed last week due to a hand injury will probably be by tonight. “The smiles and laughter of friends is the music of life,” says Terry. ”A beautiful symphony of the world.” – wise words, indeed.

Friday, Dec. 11: Saylyn, Imperial Lounge – Tropical music is the best cure for the combination of cold weather funk and no cash for a southern vacation. Saylyn is the area’s homegrown reggae band, with a good vibe and an authentic rock steady sound, complete with horns and a deep groove bass line delivering an infectious backbeat. Fronted by two brothers born and raised in Jamaica, these guys are the genuine article.

Saturday, Dec. 12: Sirsy, Salt hill Pub – One of my favorite New York imports returns to the area.  If you haven’t seen them, Sirsy is a two-person band that plays like five.  Lead singer/drummer and flutist Melanie Krahmer belts it out like there’s an amp wired inside her chest, and guitarist Rich Libutti doesn’t just ride along – he drives the action, too.  Sirsy packs the pub’s dance floor every time they’re in town – no mean feat for a duo.

Sunday, Dec. 13: Willem Lange, Chandler Music Hall – Off topic, and bit out of town, but this man’s storytelling skills merit mention.  I’m a fan of Lange’s “Favor Johnson” story, but tonight he’ll read Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” using the same condensed version of the story that Dickens himself employed for reading tours of the United States..

Monday, Dec. 14: Community Concert, Charlestown Congregational Church – Bill Von Gillern again assembles of program of holiday music performed by locals for locals, sponsored by Charlestown Women’s Club to benefit the Fall Mountain Food Shelf.  Admission a dry good, and a silver collection will be taken for the area Christmas fund to help provide Christmas dinner to the needy and toys for kids.

Tuesday, Dec. 15: Natalie McMaster, Lebanon Opera House – Here’s an out of the ordinary holiday option – a special “Christmas in Cape Breton” program from that island’s official musical ambassador.  McMaster is a whirling dervish of energy, bringing world-class step dancing and fiddling fireworks to Celtic melodies and Christmas carols.

This week’s Compass

Players
Local Music Spotlight

Who: Reid Travaskis
What: Funk, Blues, Classic Rock, Oldies
Sounds like: Depends on the band

Reid is a Wednesday night fixture at Andre’s in Sunapee, where he’s led the open rehearsal since for  many years.  Most nights, singer Jan Bear and bassist Ben Butterworth join him for blues, oldies and whatever else he’s in the mood for.

Reid had a long career in New York City.  Look hard enough, and you’ll find YouTube videos of him onstage at CBGB with his prog-pop band Positron.  Billboard Magazine twice named his original band, The Funky Knights, as Best Unsigned Band.  They are at work on a new CD.

Since moving to New Hampshire, Reid has played as a sideman in many blues bands including several led by the late George Gibson and also fronted his own band, The 5 Woodies (their piano player, Travis Colby now plays with Roomful Of Blues).

This singer, musician and songwriter plays with several other New Hampshire bands, including the funk horn combo Manchuka, classic rockers Hurricane Alley, and with Nashua blues singer Lisa Marie, as either a duo or part of her band All Shook Up.

Upcoming gigs:

Friday, Dec. 11, Shenanigans in White River Junction (with Hurricane Alley)
Wednesday, Dec.16, Cafe Andre, Sunapee (special Christmas party – dinner & show for $17)
Friday, Dec. 18, Chandler’s, Manchester (with Manchuka)
Wednesday, Dec.23, Cafe Andre, Sunapee

Beyond
Worth driving out of town

Winterbloom: Holiday Traditions Rearranged
The IMA Big Barn
Rte 112/165 Cape St., Goshen, Mass.
Tickets: $16
Web: http://www.myspace.com/winterbloomholiday
Distance: 90 Miles

Winterbloom, the seasonal side project of Antje Duvekot, Meg Hutchinson, Anne Heaton and Natalia Zukerman, doesn’t stick to standard holiday fare.  Their eponymous 8-song CD includes evergreens like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Silent Night” (the latter sung in Duvekot’s native German) alongside bittersweet, lovely originals.  Hutchinson’s “Of the Magi” laments love gone by in the context of the timeless O. Henry story, while Duvekot’s wry “Thanks for the Roses” is undoubtedly the first Christmas song containing the word ‘thong’.

Their overall mood is more December than Christmas, though Hanukah gets a nod in “The Riddle (Tumbalalaika),” a Yiddish folk song re-imagined by Zukerman. Best evoking this melding of secular and mystical is their cover of Greg Brown’s  “Rexroth’s Daughter,” a song about longing, coping and holding out hope.

The band grew out of an in-the-round show the four did in Cambridge, Mass., at the Club Passim Campfire Festival’s 10th anniversary in September 2008.  The one-time performance led to a short run of shows a few months later, where the group had a sudden realization – they were on tour in December without any holiday songs.   No such trouble now, though.

Horizon
Mark your calendar

What: Cold River Ranters with Blackjack Crossing
Where: Mole Hill Theatre 789 Gilsum Mine Road, Alstead
When: Saturday, Dec. 19 7 p.m.
Admission: Donation at the door
More: http://www.myspace.com/coldriverranters or 352-0460

A little off the beaten path in Alstead sits a former industrial building that’s been transformed into a performance space. Metal Stamping was still using the space for manufacturing when occasional shows began in 2003. “It was a bit greasy then,” says owner/proprietor Dennis Molesky. Now it’s shined up, with the dormant machines painted bright primary colors, and hosting concerts in earnest.

The double bill on December 19 will features two of the area’s finest examples of American roots music – one a bit newfangled, the other so pure they could have been preserved in amber 60 years ago.

The Cold River Ranters call their music “hot gonzo primitive folk jive.”  If Leon Redbone shared a moonshine-soaked night with Daisy Dukes, their love child would sound like this.   With a repertoire that ranges from mountain music to sea chanteys, with the odd John Prine or Rolling Stones song, they’re a perfect fit for the era-spanning Mole Hill stage.

Joining them are old time pickers Blackjack Crossing.  Watch them play, and you’ll swear you’re in Nebraska circa 1950, listening to a tabletop radio broadcast of Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys.

This week’s Compass

Beyond
Worth driving out of town

Sweet, Hot and Sassy
The Middle
316 Central Street, Franklin
Saturday, Dec. 12 7:30 PM
Tickets: $8-$16
Web:  http://www.themiddlenh.org

Distance: 45 Miles

Tilton-based Sweet, Hot and Sassy had their heyday in the 1990s; the trio’s modern Andrews Sisters sound won them a large regional following. In 1992, the trio released a holiday CD, “Swingin’ ‘Round the Christmas Tree,” which mixed “Forties-fied” versions of classics with jumping modern songs like “Santa Baby” and “Mr. Santa (Mr. Sandman),” making it required listening for those in the know at Christmas.

By the end of the decade, the group went separate ways, with Mary McGuire fronting her own band, Val Blachly playing with Tim Mowry and the Mink Hills Bluegrass Band, and Ellen Carlson fiddling with several folk and country bands, most prominently High Range.

Their performance at the former Franklin Opera House was to be a full reunion – until McGuire was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September.  The good news is that the singer/guitarist is recovering (“I’m suffering more from chemo than cancer,” she said the other day) and will be able to appear to sing a few songs with her former mates.  It’s a Christmas miracle made even better by Blachly and Carlson’s announcement that proceeds from the show will be donated to McGuire to help ease the financial burdens of her recovery.

Players
Local Music Spotlight

Who: Wise R Katubadrau
What: Island Rhythms
Sounds like: Bob Marley, Ben Harper and Michael Franti

This singer-songwriter, once known as Wise Rokobili (he dropped the name lest anyone confuse him with Carl Perkins) is an mainstay at Casa del Sol, Silver Fern, Brown’s Tavern, Bentley’s and other area clubs. He brings an “island twist” to familiar songs.  A version of “Save the Last Dance For Me” that winds into  “Margaritaville” is a particular standout.

The Fiji-born Katubadrau (the name means “100 Doors” in his native country) has a natural talent for reggae, whether it’s the master (Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”) or the Anglicized rhythms of UB40.  Ever versatile, he also covers contemporary artists, including Jack Johnson, OAR and Wyclef Jean.

There are only a few more chances to see him before next summer.  He’s off to Georgia and North Carolina at month’s end, and will head for Southern California in January, where he plans to record some original material.

Hear music from Wise R Katubadrau at http://www.reverbnation.com/wiserkatubadrau.

Upcoming gigs (solo):

Thursday Dec 3   8p.m. Bentley’s Restaurant, Main Street, Woodstock, VT
Thursday Dec 10 9p.m. Ri Ra Irish Pub, 22 Market Square, Portsmouth
Friday, Dec 11 6p.m. Jesse’s Restaurant, Lebanon Rd, Hanover

Horizon
Mark your calendar

What: Holiday Concert
Where: Stevens High School
When: Thursday, Dec 17, 7p.m.
More: 543-4220

It’s as important a part of the December experience in Claremont as lighted houses in Nelmar Heights and the Broad Street Park display. The annual student performance features the Stevens concert band and choir; making their first appearance of the school year are the elite Jazz Band and Stevenaires singing group.

The program is a mixture of secular and traditional, with the first half including some songs – “Prelude and Dance,” “Love and Peace (The Father’s Wish)” and “Lord of the Dance” – originally scheduled for a fall concert that had to be postponed.

The second half features seasonal favorites.  The choir will perform “Carol of the Bells” and an Amy Grant medley of “Emmanuel,” “Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Christmas Hymn.”  They’ll also sing a Chanukah song called “Miracle of Lights.”  The band’s portion includes “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “Russian Christmas” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”

According to Stevens band director Pat Granter, the latter title isn’t a punctuation error. The comma belongs after the word “Merry.” It’s an olde world expression that means “God keep you well.”  Well, it is a school concert, after all.