I wanted to write about the Grammys this week. I was pleased by the Academy’s awkward yet spirited defense of free speech evidenced in the Dixie Chicks sweep of all their nominations. The only thing worse than stealing music, they said, is trying to stop musicians from creating it. They closed ranks around the Chicks – a noble thing.
But I lost interest in the broadcast the moment the Police finished playing “Roxanne.” Don’t feel bad if you missed it.
You should have seen Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda’s set last Saturday at the Heritage, however. Those who did enjoyed an inventive and thoroughly original band.
I’d heard some of their MP3s, but really wasn’t sure what to expect of them live. Their most recent EP, “Happy Song,” is smoother than 20 dollar gin. In particular, “The Myth” blusters with Lucretia McEvil horn charts; Pete Pidgeon holds down the center with wicked guitar triplets and fifth-gear-on-an-icy-road vocals.
On record, they take all that’s great about melting pot Americana music and add a few drops of high-energy hot sauce. But what if it was all overdubs, multitracking and multiple takes? How would they sound in a bar, surrounded by pool tables, milling patrons and NASCAR beer lights?
Turns out I needn’t have worried. My first indication that Arcoda has a knack for pulling musical rabbits out of their hat was their arrangement of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster.” Most everyone does it as a slow growling blues. Arcoda gave it their own stamp by turning it into a booty-shaking jump shuffle.
Pidgeon plays guitar like a roadhouse Pat Metheny, with a dash of prog-rock spiderfingers thrown in, on a big, hollow bodied Gibson six-string more typically seen in the hands of guys working behind monogrammed bandstands.
He has the easy, natural touch of George Benson combined with the frenetic fret-ranging of Yes’s Steve Howe.
My favorite number of the evening was “Funk #49,” a James Gang song from 30 years back. Arcoda gave it their own shape, playing the 4/4 intro as a Jimi Hendrix burlesque, then shifting into blistering solo trade-offs between Pidgeon and talented second guitarist Kurt Schellenberg.
Don’t miss them on their next trip to town. Here are a few more hot choices:
Thursday: A New Kind of Blue, Sophie & Zeke’s – The musical lineup’s been shuffled a bit at this downtown Claremont eatery. Piano man Matt McCabe now alternates Thursdays with New Kind of Blue, who are branching out and playing places like Canoe Club and the Quechee Inn. Coming up at Sophie & Zeke’s next Saturday night (February 24) is a special after hours blues dance show with Kid Pinky and His Restless Knights. There’s no cover, but reservations, I’m told, are recommended.
Friday: Aloud w/ Fireflies, India Queen – A band that’s gotten a lot of attention in their home town of Boston, Aloud combines the slashing wall of sound guitars of early U2 with CBGB’s-era Blondie courtesy of lead singer Jen de la Osa. If Tom Snyder still hosted the Tomorrow show, he’d book this band. Fireflies opens the 9:30 show with moody glam rock – could it be any more 1979? India Queen is on the main drag in Hanover, in case you were wondering.
Saturday: Benefit Rock Show, Newport Moose – Six area bands – Sun King, Saylyn, D’Brotherhood, Smoke & Mirrors, Vision and headliner Stonewall – play to raise money for Andy Dickinson, a Newport man paralyzed in a motorcycle accident last Thanksgiving. Money from this show will be used to equip Dickinson’s house so he can come home from the hospital. The show runs fron noon till way past dark; before six is all ages.
Sunday: Tracy Grammer & Jim Henry, Hooker-Dunham – Grammer is an ace songwriter who’s attracted fans like Mary Chapin Carpenter, who sang backup on her last album, and Richard Shindell. She lost longtime musical partner Dave Carter to a heart attack in 2004, but she seems to have struck the right balance with Jim Henry, a fine guitarist with a long list of his own folk releases.
Tuesday: Tierney Sutton, Iron Horse – A jazz singer with a voice custom-made for a David Lynch movie. Sutton sings “Get Happy” like she’s serenading a jumper on a ledge – eerie and hypnotic. She’s not completely morose, though; Sutton does another version of “Get Happy” that jumps like Jiffy Pop on a stove.
Wednesday: James Cotton, Ascutney Mountain Resort – Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cotton headlines, but this is a blues summit, with James Montgomery and ex-Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau joining in. Cotton trading harmonica licks with Montgomery, who doesn’t look a day younger than when he burst upon the early 70’s New England scene, should be very special.