Today’s Hippo – blues, trip-hop and more

Rynborn reborn, at the Draft in Concord:

Andy and Laurie Sanborn remember a time when Luther “Guitar” Johnson lived down the road from them in Antrim, and on any given night something magical might happen in a rough and tumble blues shack called the Rynborn.

“We’d go there all the time,” says Laurie. “It was nothing fancy, but it was the best blues.”

“When the Rynborn left Antrim and went to Keene and then closed, it left a void in my soul,” Andy said. He added: “I consider the blues to be the foundation of original music.”

Chemical Distance moves away from metal:

Otto Kinzel IV bowed out of live music for a while last year. He was bored with the metal scene, an endless succession of peaks with no valleys. He likened it to a crowded NASCAR field, with everyone going 180 miles an hour, all the time.

“It was all very predictable — two down-tuned guitars and a screaming vocalist. If you stood in the back of the room, everything was a wash,” he said — a wall of sound with no discernible elements.

He also sensed an unwillingness on the part of most bands to move beyond the genre’s narrow boundaries.  “When they hear drum machines and synthesizers, it’s met with resistance,” he said.

So he stepped away and went looking for new musical challenges.

In Nite Roundup, Mama Kicks ends 13 years of Wednesdays at Black Brimmer, Claremont duo Second Wind plays Concord, a blues jam moves in Manchester, John Waite and Alan Jackson announce upcoming shows.

This week’s Hippo

St. Patrick’s Day on the way

This year, St. Patrick’s Day lands smack dab in the middle of the week. The entertainment choices run across the spectrum, from steak houses pouring green beer alongside plates of corned beef and cabbage, to places where March 17 is New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and the Fourth of July rolled into one day.

You know the latter type — more Irish than thou, with a Guinness-logo digital clock above the bar that’s been counting down the days to St. Patty’s since mid-October. A word of warning: such places usually fill up early, so advance planning is a good idea.

Here’s a checklist of choices to consider while rummaging around for your shamrock pin and green bowler hat.

Band Karaoke with Mindseye:

So you want to be a rock and roll star?

According to the song, that involves first getting an electric guitar and then learning how to play. In today’s world of instant gratification, who has time for that?

Instead of setting for another turn at Rock Band, why not go for the real thing, with a ready-made band that already knows “Free Bird,” not to mention “Kryptonite,” “Use Me” and most of your favorite Tom Petty songs?

That’s the idea behind Band Karaoke, hosted by local cover combo Mindseye every Thursday night at the Peddler’s Daughter in Nashua.

Continue reading “This week’s Hippo”

Local Rhythms – St. Patty’s Old School

Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but some more than others.

99 percent of taverns serve corned beef, cabbage and green light beer.

The rest have a digital clock on the wall with a Guinness logo that’s been counting the minutes and hours to March 17 since last autumn.

These are the ones I care about.

For Emerald Isle fealty, it’s hard to match Salt hill Pub, where St. Patrick’s Day is a weeklong celebration at their three locations, beginning on Saturday in Lebanon with a visit from Burlington’s Longford Row.

The five-piece band specializes in traditional, whisky-soaked fight songs.

Guinness Stout and Irish breakfast, complete with beans and black pudding, is de rigueur on the big day at Salt hill, along with lots of music.  In Lebanon, it starts with a ceremonial pint at 9 a.m., followed by an All-Star Irish Breakfast Session at 10.

The Short Brothers provide evening entertainment at Salt hill Newport, but music begins there at 11:30 a.m. with the Junior Stevens Traditional Band followed by O’hAnleigh at 4 p.m. – both perform later in Lebanon

Over at the new pub in Hanover, there’s a special afternoon traditional session with Anthony Santoro and Geordie Lynd at 4, followed by the hard working Junior Stevens All-Star Traditional Band at 9.

Another Hanover restaurant gets into the act this year, as Canoe Club welcomes Skellig to play reels and jigs.

The Killarney in Ludlow sponsors a family-friendly scavenger hunt at Okemo resort, with music from Gypsy Reel, who then take the party down the road to the pub for the rest of the night.

Up in Killington, McGrath’s Irish Pub has old school cred, with the distinction of being the first tavern in Vermont to offer Guinness on tap.

McGrath’s welcomes the fine Burlington trio Trinity for their St. Patty’s party.

For those looking to avoid the bars but still craving a Celtic fix, consider the Tartan Terrors, performing irreverent folk songs that frequently employ break-dancing sheep and saucy women in mini-kilts.

The Tartan Terrors are three Canadian brothers masquerading as Scotsmen – not exactly Irish.

Don’t forget, however, that St. Patrick was born in England, and only migrated to Ireland after finding religion.

Similarly, Ireland waited until the early 1970s before really embracing his day.

Why? They noticed what the United States was doing, and decided it looked fun.

So I guess St. Patrick’s is really an all-American holiday.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, March 11: Supply & Demand, Bentley’s – This Woodstock restaurant, a big player in the area nightlife scene for nearly 35 years, is among the many dishing up corned beef (and Tad Davis) on the 17th. But their real specialties are steak, meatloaf and chicken schnitzel. They also serve up live music most every Thursday night, including this cover band.

Friday, March 12: Kind Buds, Jesse’s – I think of these guys as the Dark Star Duo – they love the Grateful Dead (enough that they once sat on a symposium about the band), and they perform a lot of their songs – very well. But this is not a one-trick pony – their spirited originals are pretty tasty, too. Hearing them makes me think of summer – they pair are a mainstay on the New England festival circuit.

Saturday, March 13: Jandee Lee Porter, Curtis’s BBQ  – A few weeks ago, I watched this Charlestown born singer-songwriter delight a crowd in Manchester with her soaring voice and heartfelt songs.  Country music fans should not miss a chance to see her close to home. Porter writes like she means it, and if I didn’t know otherwise, I’d swear she hails from Nashville – but she’s all ours.

Sunday, March 14: Mike Gordon, Lebanon Opera House – A brief 8-date swing through the Northeast includes a rare Lebanon appearance for the Phish bass player, who will likely draw from his recent release, The Green Sparrow, a record rich in funk, groove and jam elements. Gordon’s band includes Max Creek guitarist Scott Murawski, jazz drummer Todd Isler, UVM teacher and pianist Tom Cleary and percussionist Craig Myers.

Tuesday, March 16: Acoustic Coalition, Murphy Farm – This loose affiliation embodies the Upper Valley scene. Most of the players at this weekly Quechee jam session gig with other bands, some with several. Listen to Acoustic Coalition recordings on, my favorite website for local music, for a sense of the inspired fun that transpires.

Wednesday, March 17: Gully Boys, Firestones – Here’s an alternative St. Patrick’s Day gathering to think about, hosted by the area’s jam band standard bearers. Speaking of Yellow House, their lineup includes site founder, the many musical hat-wearing Dave Clark.  They always provide a good time, and any excuse – green beer or brown acid (just kidding) – can get the party started.

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 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.

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 and

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.