Local Rhythms – Post-Millennial Valentine’s music

For my money, the most romantic song ever is “Save the Last Dance For Me” – because of the story of how it came to be written.

Doc Pomus was stricken with polio as a child. So the songwriter, who penned classics like “This Magic Moment” and “Lonely Avenue,” stood at the altar on crutches as he married Willi Burke in 1957.  Later at their reception, he encouraged his new bride to dance, even though he couldn’t.  She did and he watched, admiring of her beauty and amazed at his good fortune.

A few years later, he found a wedding invitation in a hatbox. Remembering the way he felt that night, Pomus began to write on the back

“You can dance every dance with the guy who gives you the eye, let him hold you tight.

He ended with:

“Don’t forget who’s taking you home, and in whose arms you’re gonna be; darling, save the last dance for me.”

60 years later, those sentiments still resonate. But where are the similar songs by today’s artists?

Every year, I make a playlist for Valentine’s Day.  It’s invariably top heavy with old songs, and inevitably the exercise leaves me feeling fossilized.

So this time around, I challenged myself to focus on the modern, and choose ten songs released in 2000 or later.

Does this generation have a Van Morrison?  Has anyone written a song in the last 10 years to rival “Someone Like You”?

Soul music gave us Al Green and Teddy Pendergrass once upon a time, but the genre has surrendered to hip-hop’s baser instincts

Country, on the other hand, has put down the beer car and picked up the torch, and when it comes to songs about staying together, none can compare to crooners in cowboy hats.

A lot of singer-songwriters made the list, though admittedly a couple of choices might not mean anything to anyone but me.

There’s one dinosaur, too – but trust me, the Henley song’s a gem.

Here’s my list of the last decade’s best love songs:

1.     Alan Jackson, “Remember When”

2.     Norah Jones, “Come Away With Me”

3.     Peter Bradley Adams, “For You”

4.     Vienna Teng, “City Hall”

5.     Chris Smither, “Time Stood Still”

6.     Colbie Caillat, “Bubbly”

7.     Matt Nathanson, “Come On Get Higher”

8.     Brad Paisley, “Then”

9.     Don Henley, “For My Wedding”

10.   Michael Bublé, “Everything”

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Feb 11: Proctor Academy Music Ensembles, Flying Goose Pub – Thursday nights in New London are back in a big way, with upcoming shows from Vance Gilbert (2/25), Catie Curtis (3/25) and Willy Porter (4/25). Tonight, however, is devoted to the stars of the future, with young musicians from the Andover prep school showing their stuff on trumpet, guitar, flute bass, drums and vocals.

Friday, Feb. 12: Haiti Benefit, Hanover High School – The Gully Boys, Daley Double, Cindy Geilich and Hanover High a capella groups perform a special “Valentine for Haiti” variety show to raise money for Partners in Health, an organization that’s been helping poor countries for over 50 years, that sprang into action soon after the earthquake struck Port-Au-Prince.  Tickets are $10/adults and $5 /students.

Saturday, Feb. 13: Mardi Gras & Valentine Ball, 33 Bridge Street in Bellows Falls – Two Vermont-based bands playing Louisiana inspired music are featured in a benefit for local independent radio station WOOL-FM.  Lil’ Orphans Cajun Express and the Black Sheep Brass Band’s appearances can only be heightened by the afterglow of the New Orleans Saints’ stunning victory in the Super Bowl. $15 tickets include a Cajun buffet and beads.

Sunday, Feb. 14: Pete Merrigan, Digby’s – Pete spent the week in Florida playing some of his old haunts, and returns to the Granite State for an après-ski party indoors at the bar/restaurant where he holds down Sundays during the summer months.  Hopefully, he’ll bring a warm weather glow to the Valentine’s Day revelry; I’m craving sunshine these days.

Tuesday, Feb. 16: Open Mic, Benning Street Bar & Grill – Hosted by Jim Ruffing and Mike Benoit, this is the latest open mic to start up in the area.  Most music at this West Lebanon complex happens in back at Electra, but this happens in the main room, where there’s plenty of good food and TV in case the talent wears thin, or if you’re nervous while waiting your turn to play.

Wednesday, Feb. 17: Rubblebucket Orchestra, Green Mountain College – A musical collective recently likened to a musical love child of Brooklyn and New Orleans, Rubblebucket specializes in hypnotic rhythms and has won many accolades in the short time they’ve been together, including the most recent Boston Music Awards live act of the year.  This show is a bit of a drive, but worth every mile.

This week’s Compass

Players – Local Music Spotlight
Who: Crashgirl
What: Alternative rock covers
Sounds Like: Post-millennial Heart
Crashgirl is a relative newcomer to the local music scene, but the band has built a steady following with frequent appearances at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, along with other venues around the state, including their hometown of Keene.
Fronted by Kelly Darling-Snow on lead vocals, Crashgirl’s experienced musicians are well versed at making familiar material sound fresh. The band includes Neil Moxham on guitar, Roy Brown playing bass, drummer Jeff Costello and Paul Occhiaro on keyboards.  Each member also sings, and Occhiaro add another dimension with an occasional saxophone solo.
Crashgirl recasts classic rock songs with a modern sheen.  A good example of this is their cover of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” which is much bluesier and decidedly more upbeat than the original. A typical Crashgirl set includes several modernized chart-toppers like this from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, along with revamped versions of today’s pop hits with a rock style.
Upcoming gigs:
Friday, Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. – Imperial Lounge, Washington Street, Claremont
Saturday, Feb. 20 at 9 p.m. – McCues Billiards and Sports Lounge, Keene
Friday, March 5 at 10 p.m. – Gusto’s in Barre, Vermont
Horizon – Mark your calendar
What: Hey Mama
Where: Salt hill Pub, Lebanon
When: Friday, February 19 at 9 p.m.
More: 448-0400 or go to http://www.heymamamusic.com
Among the many stellar performances at the recent Lebanon Opera House Local Legends, none excited the crowd quite like Avi and Celia, a young duo who met as freshmen at the University of Vermont, and have been performing rootsy Americana together for the past 7 years.  Celia Woodsmith’s raw, bluesy voice, reminiscent of Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt, rolled over the stunned audience like a tidal wave, and the pair sold out their merchandise in the lobby when their set ended.
Avi & Celia recently hooked up with bass player Ben Kogan and drummer Jared Seabrook to form Hey Mama.  As a duo, the pair (not romantically involved, in case you were wondering) relied on spare elements for their sound – acoustic guitar, washboard and hand percussion and, of course, Celia’s powerful pipes.  With a rhythm section, they chug along like a freight train, as evidenced on the band’s eponymous first album, made last fall with Grammy nominated producer Jack Gauthier.
This is the Hey Mama’s first Upper Valley club appearance, though it should be noted that Avi & Celia will be playing as a duo using the Hey Mama name.  There’s no cover charge, but it’s a good idea to bring an extra 10 or 20 bucks for a CD purchase.
Beyond – Worth driving out of town

What: Jeffrey Foucault & Anders Parker
Where: Hooker-Dunham Theatre, 139 Main St. in Brattleboro
When: Saturday, Feb 13, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $15
Distance: 48 Miles
“Northbound 35,” a great tune about the end of love and how wearying it can be, is reason enough to pay attention to Jeffrey Foucault.  But that’s just one favorite among many. The Wisconsin-born singer/songwriter, who nowadays calls Western Massachusetts home, has a lot in common with John Prine.  Like Prine, Foucault’s songs often reveal flawed characters with human pain searching for redemption that’s not completely out of reach, but very close to it.
So it makes sense that Foucault made Shoot the Moon Between the Eyes, a loving tribute to Prine’s music released last year.  He’s currently working on a follow-up to his last studio album, 2006’s Ghost Repeater, with help from pal Peter Mulvey and longtime producer David “Goody” Goodrich, and will likely play a few new selections at the Brattleboro show.  Also appearing is Anders Parker, a talented songwriter who’s been making critically acclaimed music for the past 15 years.
The Hooker-Dunham is an intimate space that seats a little over 100 people; it’s the perfect venue for Foucault and Parker’s music.