Local Rhythms – What’s the buzz?

sierrahull02-280x210Ever had a conversation that begins with the question, “have you heard [insert musician’s name]?” – followed by the statement, “they’re the next [insert musician’s name].”?

If you’re talking with Partridge “Buzz” Boswell, here’s some advice: pay attention.

Buzz has ears, as they say in the trade, and during his 10-year tenure at the Lebanon Opera House, he booked some great shows.

So when Buzz became Executive Director at Pentangle Council of the Arts, I expected good things.

He has not disappointed, with a sold-out Brandi Carlile show in March so far the highest of many high points.

Lebanon residents will welcome the news that Buzz is again curator of the Front Porch Music Series in Colburn Park, which begins next Thursday with Rustic Overtones.

The free shows (start time: 7:30) run through August 20.  Among the great names scheduled – Steve Forbert  (7/9), Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem (7/16) and Catie Curtis (8/6).

When I called Buzz to talk about this, he responded with a question:

“Have you heard Sierra Hull?  She’s the next Alison Krauss.”

The last mandolin player to get Buzz this excited was Chris Thile.  This led to Nickel Creek’s first area performance.

I still get a chill in my spine thinking about that concert, one of the ten best I’ve ever seen.

So I checked out the 16-year old prodigy on Rhapsody.  Sure enough, she’s the real deal, with a debut album featuring a who’s who of the bluegrass world.

Hull performs July 23 in Colburn Park.  She appears the day before in Woodstock (7/22) for a special “Market on the Green Community Concert”.

Speaking of Woodstock, Buzz also put together their Brown Bag Music Series, which happens every Thursday at noon.  This summer’s schedule kicks off June 25 with roots rocker Bow Thayer, repeating every Thursday through August 13.

Regional stars dominate the lunchtime shows (rain location: Town Hall Theatre), including 35h Parallel (7/2), Starline Rhythms Boys (7/9), Sensible Shoes (8/6) and the utterly unique Prydein, who mix hard rock with bagpipes.

As if Buzz’s plate weren’t full enough, Pentangle is also presenting the “@ Six Series” – three big-name summer concerts at the Suicide Six ski resort.

Shawn Colvin and Lori McKenna play July 18, Eric Hutchinson with Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers August 8, and a New Orleans night with the Neville Brothers and Dr. John August 29.

I’m glad Buzz is still in the game – here’s the rest of the week:

Thursday: Juke Joynt, Firestones – Take one part Foghat and one part Buddy Guy, mix it with a bodacious X factor that results from the chemistry of three players who do itinerant musical work all over the area, and you have this band. Juke Joynt focuses on original music inspired by the blues (when they were real) and classic rock (before it got cheesy).  Led by Dave Clark, the band also performs tomorrow at the Quechee Balloon Festival.

Friday: 6th Anniversary Party w/ Sirsy, Salt hill Pub – Lebanon’s tavern on the green marks another birthday – how soon before we can call it institution?  Since opening in 2003, ShP has expanded to Newport and announced plans for a new location in Hanover.  Along the way, proprietors Josh and Joe Tuohy have  been a first-rate source for exposing new bands like Sirsy (a two-piece that’s much greater than the sum of its parts) to live music fans.

Saturday: Blue Rooster, Lake Morey Inn – A rockabilly/alt-country band influenced by the Stones, Hank Williams Jr. and Led Zeppelin – how’s that for diversity?  Led by Kenny Odell, a musician who’s been a part of the local scene for about as long as there’s been a local scene, Blue Rooster plays covers and originals with one simple objective at the forefront: to make you dance.

Sunday: Quechee Balloon Festival – Starting Friday, the skies above Quechee are filled with beautiful hot air balloons, while the ground below teems with a multitude of diversions, including music, Bands include the Flames, Will Patton, Avi & Celia and Changes in Latitudes.  Check out queecheeballoonfestival.com for a full lineup.  Dads (accompanied by a child) get half-price admission on Sunday.

Tuesday: She Loves Me, New London Barn – This musical ran on Broadway in 1963, and was pretty much forgotten until 2004, when a revival at New York’s Paper Mill caused the New York Times to call it “a diamond salvaged from the dustbin,” praising its’ “witty lyrics” and “inventive melodies.”  Anyone who’s seen “You’ve Got Mail” will recognize the play’s ‘mystery pen pal’ plot.

Wednesday: New York Dolls, Higher Ground – Once upon a time, this band was the Next Big Thing, but drugs, excess and no small amount of hubris kept them from being more than an NYC curiosity.  Only two members survive; fortunately they – David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain – were the most charismatic and talented in the group.  Their new Todd Rundgren-produced album is pretty good, too.

Lindsey Buckingham Right At Home in Lebanon

Lindsey Buckingham/Lebanon Opera House/Lebanon, New Hampshire/12 October 2008

Midway through Lindsey Buckingham’s sold-out show Sunday night, he spoke about the tension that exists in making music for a “selling machine,” and working from what he termed “the left side of the palate.”

“I think one helps the other,” he said. “The audience for the ‘other’ is – you.”

Though obviously a reference to solo projects like the recently released “Gift of Screws,” Buckingham’s “left palate” includes a few turns his group Fleetwood Mac have taken away from their hit-making formula over the years.

The singer/guitarist evenly divided the evening’s music between solo material and Mac songs, but stayed esoteric, saving the big hits for the end of the show.

An enthusiastic crowd was with him for every note.

He opened with two songs from the new album, the frenetic “Great Day” and “Love Runs Deeper,” followed by a pair from his earlier solo works (“Trouble” and “Go Insane”),

The clearest indication that Lindsey Buckingham’s iconoclastic, left-leaning palate was on display came with the first Fleetwood Mac selection of the evening – “Tusk,” the title track of the 1979 album that confounded the music industry, and more than a few fans, who expected another “Rumours.”

He followed it with the poppy “I Know I’m Not Wrong” (also from “Tusk”), and the title cut from “Gift of Screws,” an Emily Dickinson poem turned punk rave-up.

A three-song acoustic interlude surprisingly provided the strongest guitar pyrotechnics of the night. A slightly revved-up “Never Going Back Again” (an overlooked “Rumours” gem) gave way to “Big Love,” a percolating boogie first stripped down for “The Dance,” Fleetwood Mac’s 1997 live reunion album.

The solo turn ended with “Shut Us Down,” as Buckingham’s fingers ranged up and down his guitar’s fret board with the finesse of Leo Kottke, taking the poignant song from a whisper to a scream.

The intimate opera house booking provided a special opportunity to see a performer usually at home in arenas and, during the heady 1970’s, baseball stadiums.  At times, the room seemed too small to contain him.

Several in the crowd reacted like smitten teenagers, rushing the stage and standing for the entire show.

For “World Turning,” drummer Alfredo Reyes tried his best Mick Fleetwood impression, flailing the drums with his bare hands, but came up a bit short.  What followed – a brief hip-hop excursion using Buckingham’s sampled voice – was equally unnecessary.

But all was forgiven with the incendiary “So Afraid,” which brought the entire crowd to its feet, where they stayed for the first finale, “Go Your Own Way.”

His three-song encore included the infectious Mac classic, “Second Hand News,” along with “Don’t Look Down” and “Treason.”  Buckingham was quick to point out that the latter song, the final track on the new album, had nothing to do with current events, but was more about “the lies we tell each other.”

As the night progressed, Buckingham opened up to the adoring crowd, and his stories grew longer and more personal. “You’re blessed to live in a beautiful place,” he said at one point.  “It’s transcendent.”

He was clearly having a great time, and after a feeble attempt to say good night, obliged demands for a second encore.  To the delight of everyone, he played an audience request, “Bleed To Love Her” (from Fleetwood Mac’s last studio album, “Say You Will”).

While he waited for a roadie to deliver a different guitar with a special tuning, he bantered with fans, and even signed a proffered copy of “Buckingham/Nicks” – the pre-Fleetwood Mac album he did with Stevie Nicks 35 years ago.

It was a neat closing of the circle, on a night that left everyone, band and fans alike, satisfied beyond expectations.

Saw Doctors @ Lebanon Opera House 3/13

bw-cup-of-tea-sml.jpgThe Saw Doctors’ short, nine-show tour this month will take them to big cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C and … Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Singer and guitarist Davy Carton says there’s a reason for the band’s upcountry detour. The Irish rockers, known for irreverent hits like “Useta Love Her” and “Bless Me Father,” have fond memories of a show they played at the Lebanon Opera House two years ago.

“The sound in the room was just amazing, we could hear everything,” Carton said on the phone from Ireland last Tuesday. “The sound was absolutely unique, it was one of the best gigs we’ve ever done. We were enjoying it hugely, the audience got up and enjoyed it; they were buzzing on the good sound.”

“We typically play in stand-up, dirty black rock clubs,” said Carton. “We generally don’t play sit-down shows at all, and rarely in theatres.”

“It also helped that there was a very friendly bar across the road from it, the Salt Hill bar I think it’s called,” Carton says. “The man there looked after us really well last time. Sometimes they can mess you around, they give you food and drink, but they want to take your picture and the like. But this man was genuinely nice, and we have good memories of it.”

For Salt hill Pub proprietors Josh and Joe Tuohy, the feeling was apparently mutual. The Lebanon restaurant is underwriting this year’s Opera House show.

The Saw Doctors sound is often called Celtic rock, a term they consider a misnomer. “It’s rock and roll with an Irish tinge,” he says. “We don’t do jigs and reels. We sing the way we talk, so you know we’re Irish. But we’ll have an accordion on stage in the same way The Band has one.”

Think of it as brogue-inflected Americana. Carton cites Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty and the Ramones as key influences. “We’re trying to write songs for the next album like classic Creedence Clearwater Revival.”

Over a 20-year career, the Saw Doctors have released six studio albums, and are working on a seventh, which they hope to release in early 2008.

One tune that will probably make it to the record is “Ivana In The Brogue,” a bouncy love ditty about a bar patron’s infatuation with a Polish emigrant. Songwriter and band co-founder Leo Moran’s clever wordplay is at work, rhyming “dance “ with “Gdansk.” and describing the girl as “a cross between Maria Sharapova and Kylie Minogue,” perhaps so the comparison rhymes with “brogue.”

Over the years, the band has cultivated an enthusiastic fan base in the region. In western Massachusetts, they began in the 150-seat Iron Horse Music Hall; now they appear at the Calvin Theatre, which seats 1300. This year, they’ve scaled back their usually rigorous touring schedule to work on the new record,

This is the band’s 14th consecutive St. Patrick’s Day visit to the U.S. Promoters and agents have figured out that Americans celebrate the holiday with more vigor than the Irish. Back home, says Carton, “it’s a day off, and there’s a good lot of drinking, maybe a couple of football matches,” and not much more.

“But we’d go to America and there’s this big exaggerated Irish thing. That was foreign for us,” he says. Strangely enough, says Carton, “the Irish are now imitating the Americans. There are parades and three-day festivals. The razzmatazz has seeped over to Ireland. It wasn’t there 15 years ago.”

Occasionally, the green-toned merriment backfires on the band. One recent St. Patrick’s Day, they sold out a New York show, but ended up performing for a half-full house. “People got too pissed (drunk) during the day and didn’t come to the concert, even though they’d bought the tickets,” laughs Carton.

Despite the city’s famous tradition of dying the river green for St. Patrick’s Day, he doesn’t think that will happen this year in Chicago; the Saw Doctors play the Old Vic Theatre March 17. “We’ve always found a very musical audience in Chicago,” says Carton. “We tend to get very hardcore fans, and the venue is a real rock and roll theatre. I think it will be a great gig, and the fans there will be coming for the Saw Doctors, not St. Patrick’s Day.”