Local Rhythms – No just the opening act

While surfing around on YouTube this morning, I stumbled onto a video of Mary Chapin Carpenter performing at the 1990 CMA show.  She did an unreleased song, so bawdy that she had to change a few words and cut three verses to get past the network censors.

These days, awards show performances are tightly choreographed versions of a big hits or new singles. Taylor Swift recently brought out Stevie Nicks and sang – badly, I might add – a Fleetwood Mac song.

It’s safe, predictable and boring.

Chapin chose a song that no one knew and likely wouldn’t hear again – “Opening Act,” a hilarious skewering of the tendency most audiences have to ignore any performance that comes before a big star’s set.

“For 37 minutes I sang out my heart, I was so damn nervous I just wanted to barf,” she laments before conceding,  “you don’t know me – I’m the opening act.”

She’d probably opened for at least one or two of the country hitmakers in the audience that night, so it was a pretty gutsy move.

No wonder she didn’t last long in country music radio.

A few years later, she’d transformed herself into a star on her own terms and left country behind.

It got me thinking – has the opening act simply become an excuse to arrive late for a show?

Fortunately, Ray Massucco doesn’t think so.  This Sunday, the lawyer/promoter brings Cowboy Junkies to town for a Mother’s Day show at the Bellows Falls Opera House.

But the singer/songwriter opening the show, Chris O’Brien, is worth the price of admission.

O’Brien’s new album, Little Red, is a gem.  I can’t figure out which song on it I like the most.  The buoyant “I Don’t Know You” rivals “Rosa” from his first record; it’s a tune you’re singing along with by the second chorus.

I love his vivid images – “Hurricane Love” conjures up “a girl so fine she hurts the light,” while “This Old Town” recalls the “Friday glory and Monday pain” of small town high school life.

Of the latter, O’Brien emphatically states, “you never got me to care … I’m as ready now as I will ever be to go my own way.”

The standout “Blood Like Yours,” an achingly brilliant song about being an alcoholic’s son, hit me especially hard.

So be there on time Sunday night, lest you miss a tremendous talent due to a bad rationalization.

He’s not just the opening act.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, May 6: Jason Cann, Harpoon Brewery – With the warm weather finally here, it’s time to hit the brewpub after work and enjoy this fine singer songwriter. Jason’s a Wednesday regular at the new Salt hill in Hanover, where he teams up with Bonnie Waters of the Dream Band for a duet performance this Saturday night.  In the meantime, have a pint and some pub fries, and enjoy the music.

Friday, May 7: Pariah Beat, Salt hill Pub (Lebanon) – The wonderfully crazy band is now three core members – Billy Sharff, Emily Eastridge and Nick Charyk. They just posted a bunch of new material on MySpace that represents an evolution for them. It’s a bit more restrained and reflective, particularly on the title track from the forthcoming album, “Bury Me Not.”  They can still rave it up, but they can also get bruised.

Saturday, May 8: Lisa McCormick, Claremont Opera House – Sit on stage with this Vermont singer songwriter, who recently posted a video of a brand new song literally moments after it was born.  The ‘crazy beautiful’ “Levitate” is also something you can easily learn to play it, because the tab sheet is included with the music.

Sunday, May 9: Cowboy Junkies, Bellows Falls Opera House – Never has sorrow sounded so lovely. Trinity Session conjured up visions of lovers asleep at midday in tenement apartments with the windows thrown open, in the middle of a heat wave. At press time, there were a few premium tickets left that include a Mother’s Day meal at Boccelli’s on the Canal.

Monday, May 10: Dartmouth Glee Club, Hopkins Center – Something a bit more civilized – from a HOP press release, “the lightness and joy of spring takes musical form in this concert of romantic Viennese vocal music by Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Johann Strauss.”  This is a 40-voice choir with serious singing chops, something even non-classical fans will enjoy.

Wednesday, May 12: Second Wind, Marshland Farm – An early 6 p.m. start and a great menu provide the perfect excuse to duck out of work early and head over to Quechee to catch this tuneful duo.  Terry Ray Gould and Suzy Hastings will be a prominent part of the upcoming Claremont Farmer’s Market, and Terry tells me he’s got a diva fest planned for Newport later in the year. Good sounds, beautiful setting – what are you waiting for?

This Week’s Compass


Worth driving out of town

What: Dierks Bentley and the Travelin’ McCourys

Where: Calvin Theatre,

When: Sunday, May 9 at 8 p.m.

Tickets: $29.50

More: www.iheg.com

Distance: 80 Miles

Rising country star Dierks Bentley can really rock; he came close to stealing the show from guitar hero Brad Paisley a while back at Meadowbrook.  But on his current tour, Bentley steps away from the big sound of recent efforts like Feel That Fire to play bluegrass with legendary picker Del McCoury’s band, sans the patriarch. Bentley will preview tracks from his forthcoming Up on the Ridge album, an edgy work that includes a cover of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” with Del McCoury singing harmony.

Bentley’s roots are in bluegrass, and he’s correct in noting that the genre is often more willing to push the boundaries of music than country.  He’ll be plugging in soon enough, so don’t miss this chance to follow Dierks Bentley back to his beginnings. The wryly-talented Hayes Carll, who wrote the hilarious “She Left Me For Jesus” a while back, opens the show.


Mark your calendar

What: Roots on the River a/k/a FredElevensmith

Where: Various locations in and around Bellows Falls

When: Thursday, June 10 through Sunday, June 13

Tickets: Full weekend $99-$150 and $25 for single day tickets on June 10, 11 & 13 (June 12 – $40)

More: www.rootsontheriver.com

With the addition of the amazing David Bromberg to the all-day Saturday show, the lineup for the 11th edition of Fred Fest, named for burly Fred Eaglesmith, is now set.  Premium packages with VIP seating, goody bag and other niceties are selling at a brisk pace, with the two top levels already snapped up.

It kicks off Thursday, June 10 at the Bellows Falls Opera House, when Zydeco king Michael Doucet plays with Beausoleil, along with breakout Americana band Joy Kills Sorrow.

There’s a free show Friday, June 11 at the Bellows Falls Farmers Market with Traveler and the Johnson Boys, and a ticketed set at the Everyday Inn with the smoking hot Sarah Borges and her band the Broken Singles, Hot Mustard, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Fred Eaglesmith’s first show of the weekend.

The all day Saturday, June 12 show features Eaglesmith, Bromberg and his quartet, the Ginn Sisters, Starline Rhythm Boys, Roger Marin, Audrey Auld, festival favorites Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Will Kimbrough & Tommy Womack performing as DADDY and the Angel Band.

The unplugged Meetinghouse show on Sunday, June 13 features the heart-stopping Mary Gauthier, and of course Fred.


Local Music Spotlight

Who:  Arthur James and Northbound

What: Blues-rock

Sounds like: Stevie Ry Vaughn, Jay Geils

Consisting of Arthur James on guitar and vocals, bass player/singer Gil Rand and Alan Phenix on drums, Arthur James and Northbound can go old school or up to date with their blues. James his band specializes in “a contemporary nuevo-retro reworking of the blues, with smatterings of irrelevance, quasi-psychedelic-mystical reinterpretations of the good old 1/4/5 idiom that is the backbone of the blues.”

Last weekend, guitarist James sat in at the long-running Sunday afternoon blues jam at Goffstown’s Village Trestle. Maybe he was looking for yet another band to join.  In addition to Northbound – James also plays with Electric Marmoset, as well as unplugged with Acoustic Mayhem (he’ll also go electric with the latter band, calling it Unacoustic Mayhem.

Upcoming gigs (Arthur James & Northbound):

Sat, May 8, Salt Hill Pub, Lebanon

Sat, May 15, Sunset Grill, Campton, NH

This week’s Hippo

Roots of Creation goes back to their roots:

From its beginning as a Franklin Pierce College party band, Roots of Creation rose through the club scene to become a staple on the regional festival circuit. The four-piece band mixes improvisational island rhythms with electronic elements and loop treatments for a highly original sound they call “dubtronica.”

Drummer Mike Chadinha uses an electronic drum pad, while keyboard player Talmadge “Tal” Pearson also employs a full range of synthetic effects. Guitarist and lead singer Brett Wilson’s vocals are fed through a delay pedal.

It’s no ordinary reggae band.

“We have a lot of stuff going on,” Wilson said recently from his home in Milford.