Local Rhythms – Oscar snubs music

The Oscars is usually my favorite awards show.  The host is always funny, and the speeches are the best. After all, most of the winners talk for a living.

More than any reason, I like the Academy Awards because there are so few of them handed out each year.  The Grammy ceremony would last a week if every winner got a trophy during the broadcast.

Still, many complain that the event is too long. So the powers that be have declared that Oscar-nominated songs won’t be performed during this year – likely to allow more time for the super-sized list of Best Picture nominees.

Music has been getting short shrift of late.  In 2006 and 2007, three of five songs came from the same film.

Last year, only three songs were nominated and two of those were also from the same movie. Because the Academy would only allow him to sing for 65 seconds, Peter Gabriel declined to perform his song from Wall-E.

This year, the oft-nominated Randy Newman has two songs in contention, and there are many glaring omissions. “All Is Love,” Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ contribution to Where the Wild Things Are is nowhere to be found.

Ditto for great soundtrack songs by Duffy, Mary J. Blige or Leona Lewis.

I haven’t seen Invictus, but the songs are terrific – not that you’d know from the Oscars.

And where the heck is Twilight Saga: New Moon, one of the best modern rock soundtracks in years?  I’ve long been resisting Death Cab For Cutie, but “Meet Me On the Equinox” made me a fan.

Musical faux pas are practically an Oscar tradition – remember the year Phil Collins sat in the audience and watched Ann Renking perform “Against All Odds” because no one at the Academy knew him or his work?

This also means discoveries like Swell Season, who lit up Once in 2008, or Three Six Mafia, won’t happen (before “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp,” their song from Hustle & Flow, I hated rap music. Now I only mildly dislike it).

The Academy Awards are about getting people to the cinema. It makes sense that songs be jettisoned to make room for the next Sally Field to have her “you really like me” moment.

But in a year when MTV officially dropped the word “music” from its logo, it still hurts to be reminded of how irrelevant music has become.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, March 4: Tad Davis, Jesse’s – The other night, I ran into Dave Clark, curator of the great Yellow House Media site, who told me that this weekly open mic session really shines.  Davis holds down the host role very well, and many quality players make the pilgrimage.  Dave’s word is enough to make me check it out, and the possibility of good after work music on a Thursday night seals the deal.

Friday, March 5: Roadhouse, Imperial Garden – Music will won’t ever be irrelevant for this fun-loving working class band.  They play out because they love to rock, and this Washington Street bar is their venue of choice.  If you like AC/DC, Foghat, Bob Seger, Led Zeppelin and other classic rock, or metal music – Judas Priest, Scorpions, Metallica – Roadhouse is right in your wheel house.

Saturday, March 6: Brooks Williams, Boccelli’s  – If accolades were dollars, this acoustic guitar wizard would be a one-man stimulus package. Williams defies easy categorization, blending a musical stew of blues, jazz, classical and folk. Take “Johnny’s Song,” an instrumental from The Time I Spend With You, which is a bit of Acadian ragtime wed to something out of Cold Mountain – definitely a treat.

Sunday, March 7: Fedor Petrenko & Chelsea Vario, Canoe Club – One of the great things about  open mic nights is the way they bring people together for collaborations. New to Canoe Club, this pair met at one such jam session a couple of years ago.  Since then, they’ve been sharing their passion for jazz across the region and beyond, with a repertoire mixing standards, blues improvisations and a few originals around a guitar/flute/vocal framework.

Tuesday, March 9: John Hiatt, Lebanon Opera House – A musical treasure who’s been making records and writing songs for nearly 40 years.  Remember “Sure As I’m Sitting Here” by Three Dog Night?  In the late Seventies, MCA signed him to be an Elvis Costello knockoff, but he carved a singer songwriter niche, writing hits for Rosanne Cash and later Bonnie Raitt.

Wednesday, March 10: Emily Lanier, Quechee Club – Emily’s a natural talent, the perfect accompaniment to a night on the town. I enjoyed her with New Kind of Blue.  After leaving that group, the jazz vocalist formed the Emily Lanier Jazz Ensemble, with a rotating pool of talent playing a steady diet of standards like “I Don’t Know Enough About You,” “Deed I Do” and “Stormy Weather.”

This week’s Compass

Local Music Spotlight

Who: Loose Cannons Band
What: Classic covers
Sounds Like: The Band, Grateful Dead

Loose Cannons plays a versatile mix of blues, country, bluegrass, reggae, and rock and roll.

Randy Budner has been with the band for four years, doing lead and back-up vocals and lead and rhythm guitar John Sanchez joined three years ago on lead and rhythm guitar as well as lead and back-up vocals. Sanchez originally joined the band as a mandolin player easily moved to when the time came.

Dennis Ulatowski joined a year ago on drums and percussion. joined in the last year. The newest member of the group, bass player Mike Schwarz, is perhaps the most seasoned, with 35 years experience playing with different blues, rock and country bands in Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.

Budner feels that one of the keys to the band’s success is their shared vision of what they want to do musically from both an artistic and marketing perspective. He says, “Enjoying the music is paramount. Knowing what we are and focusing on our strengths is right up there as well.”

The band will be part of the upcoming Claremont Brew Fest in September. They can be also booked for private functions through the loosecannonsacoustic.com website.

Upcoming Gigs:

Thursday, March at 7:30 p.m. – Apres Ski at Whaleback Mountain Resort in Enfield
Friday, March 12 at 9:00 p.m. – Silver Fern Bar and Grille in Claremont
Saturday, March 13 at 3:30 p.m. – Apres Ski at Polar Bear Pub, Mt. Ascutney Resort Base Lodge
Saturday, March 27 at 3:30 pm – Spring Fling Event at Polar Bear Pub, Mt. Ascutney Resort Base Lodge

Mark your calendar

What: Stonewall & Spectris
Where: Alyson’s Orchard, 57 Alyson’s Lane off Rt. 12 in Walpole
When: Saturday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m.
More: http://www.spectrisband.com

Musicians and charitable deeds go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Two local rockers, Stonewall and Spectris, are often seen lending support to a worthy cause. This time around it’s Drewsville Head Start, an organization providing preschool education to low-income children, that is the object of their largesse.

“It’s a cause that means a lot to use,” wrote Spectris guitarist Chris Bergmann on the band’s web site. “Head Start is a national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing social and cognitive development through the provision of educational, health, nutritional and other services to enrolled children and families. They need us.”

Details about ticket prices can be found on the web at http://www.spectrisband.com and http://www.myspace.com/stonewallne

This week’s Hippo

Lori McKenna moves back to indie

Lori McKenna’s life used to include arena concerts, radio tours and appearances with Faith Hill on Oprah. Those heady major-label days are in the past, but otherwise life is much the same. McKenna still writes songs at home — in an office, not at the kitchen table — and flies to Nashville every few weeks to work with other songwriters.

If anything, she’s busier.

“I’m a little bit more organized with it now,” McKenna said. “I have it down to a science — flying down, getting myself around town. I’m going down more now, but it’s easier because I’m almost always familiar with who I’m writing with. I’ve done so much co-writing over the last two years that I’ve sort of found a home there.”

One advantage of living close to the Massachusetts border is frequent visits from Berklee School of Music alumni. The Boston arts college has an embarrassment of talent, and many of these bands choose to play out in New Hampshire. The latest is Nini+Ben, a young sextet with an original repertoire that melds folk pop, rustic Americana and country rock.

Named for leaders Christina “Nini” Fabi and Ben Gebert, the band released a full-length album, The Reasons We Try, last November, and it’s a gem. Frequently, it’s hard to translate a good studio effort to a live setting, and vice versa, but Nini+Ben have no such problems. They have an easy onstage chemistry, and possess a knack for performing note-perfect versions of the album’s songs in concert.