Local Rhythms – Summertime dream

Some cure the winter blues by browsing through seed catalogs; I think about outdoor music.

Things like news of Meadowbrook’s first booking (Reba McEntire, August 21), James Taylor and Carole King together again at Tanglewood in the Berkshires (July 3 & 4), the Mayhem Festival with KORN and Rob Zombie (Comcast Center, Mansfield, July 27) cause me to skip directly past spring, and dream about summer.

As sure as the inveterate gardener places the year’s first bulb order, in mid-January Ray Massucco starts shaking my tree about the annual Roots on the River Festival, known far and wide as Fredfest, for headliner Fred Eaglesmith.

Since Ray took over production and promotion of the June event from Charlie Hunter a couple of years ago, the festival hasn’t lost a step, and last years’ Fred X was one of the best yet.

The eleventh edition of Roots on the River, dubbed Fred Elevensmith and scheduled for June 10-13, is starting to take shape.

That’s exciting news.

Two big names from past festivals are returning. The always crowd-pleasing Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams will play during the all-day Saturday show.

The powerful and soul-stirring Mary Gauthier will close out the weekend solo at the Rockingham Meetinghouse, something she did memorably in 2008.

“Mary’s taking her rightful place,” says Ray

Last year Chris Smither inaugurated the Bellows Falls Opera House as a Fredfest venue, and another big name will kick off the festival in similar fashion for 2010.

Steve Earle was nearly booked to play, but scheduling conflicts got in the way.

DADDY, a duo with award-winning songwriters Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack, also appears Saturday. I always walk away from Roots with one new favorite – this year it could be DADDY.

Between now and June, Ray’s Vermont Festivals promotion company is keeping busy, with three shows set for the Boccelli’s on the Canal performance space (the café remains closed).

Eilen Jewell plays wonderful throwback country swing on Friday, February 26.  Guitar maestro Brooks Williams comes to town a week later on Saturday, March 6.

Local favorite Peter Mulvey returns Saturday, April 10 and songwriter Tom Russell appears Wednesday, June 2 – a rare Charlie Hunter presentation.

Friday’s Andre Watts gala at the BF Opera House, one of Ray’s more genteel projects, is nearly sold out. “Steinway concert grand, tuxedos, furs and champagne will be the order of the night,” he says.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Jan 28: Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Hopkins Center – Now in its fifth decade, this premier jazz ensemble began when Thad Jones and Mel Lewis left jobs with two jazz giants, Count Basie and Stan Kenton. They’ve been touring ever since, and last year won a Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble.  The New York Sun called them “the most influential jazz big band of the contemporary era.” The show includes a post-performance Q&A session with the band.

Friday, Jan. 29: Ron Noyes Band, Salt hill Pub – A gutsy, blues-infused brand of rock has allowed this Concord quartet to succeed where many area bands falter — playing mostly original music for crowds expecting covers. Their material “seems familiar, even on first listen,” said ShP owner Josh Tuohy, who called them “one of the best young groups in New Hampshire.” Noyes and company is hard at work on a new album; early previews indicate it’s a stunner.

Saturday, Jan. 30: Spectris, East Buffet – Recently, someone complained to me about a band – I won’t say which one – that’s covered the same songs for a decade.  No such problems with Spectris, constantly expanding their repertoire with new material.  The power trio’s original music is also first-rate, evidenced by last year’s CD, Industry.

Sunday, Jan. 31: Gully Boys Reunion, Casa del Sol – An Groundhog Day institution moves south to Ascutney.  The Gully Boys grew out of a Quechee Deadhead party a few days after Jerry Garcia’s death.  They’ve had a lot of members come and go.   Every year around this time, anyone who can make it gathers for a jam session that can last hours, which explains why this special Sunday show starts at 1 in the afternoon.

Monday, Feb. 1: Open Mic with Frank Greiner, Bentley’s – Everyone’s hosting open auditions these days, partly due to the economy.  Mainly it’s because the barriers to performing music have been stripped away.  This Woodstock restaurant is the latest in the fray, and Jim Ruffing recently began hosting one at Electra in West Lebanon.

Tuesday, Feb. 2: Adam McMahon Trio, Windsor Station – Good blues from a nice guy who’s also an Iraq veteran, while enjoying tasty bar food, a party vibe on Tuesday night and the occasional drone of a train lumbering by.  How many more reasons do you need to head to the Station to see Adam McMahon play?

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