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

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

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.

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.