Soulful Glory – Danielle Miraglia

DanielleMOriginally appeared in 23 June 2016 Seacoast Scene | Photo Credit: David Dyte

In bygone times, when radio was king and fans paid for music, one imagines Danielle Miraglia’s latest CD Glory Junkies bursting upon the airwaves in her home town of Boston. Carter Allen at WBCN would praise its Exile on Main Street esprit title song, gush over her soulful strut on “Warning Fair Warning,” and note the elegiac beauty of “Carmella,” written for her late grandmother.

That was then, and as the album’s penultimate song points out in its title, most people these days are “Famous for Nothin’.” A People magazine nip slip or YouTub lip sync gets more attention than actual music. “You gotta sink to the occasion,” laments Miraglia.

The cover features the singer-songwriter and guitarist snapping a deliberately ironic duck-lipped selfie. “People were like, why did she do that, it doesn’t look like her,” Miraglia said in recent phone interview, “and I’m like, ‘don’t you get it?”

This theme runs throughout the record, and is captured neatly on “Pigeons,” a spare song recorded near the end of sessions for the album in March 2015. With studio crosstalk between her and producer Tom Bianchi – also her husband – it’s sounds like an outtake, but it cut to the core of what it takes to make a living as an artist.

“All those stories of rock story glory that once felt attainable … hit with a wrecking ball,” she sings, then adds, “but the suntanned child in me still hopes for more.” That’s a good thing. Miraglia made two records before Glory Junkies, the bluesy Nothing Romantic in 2005 and 2011’s stripped down Box of Troubles, but the new disc out-rocks both,, and is her most fully realized effort.

“My influences are rock ‘n’ roll, not folk,” Miraglia said; she grew up in Revere, Mass. listening to Guns n’ Roses and Rolling Stones cassettes on her Walkman. “What made me want to play music was the rock stuff, so it makes sense that I went in that direction. I still like the singer-songwriter stuff, too, but I wanted to make a rock record.”

With a degree in creative writing from Emerson College, Miraglia knows how to turn a phrase, as evidenced on the tender “Heat of the Win,” which uses her father’s Red Sox devotion as a metaphor for love and loss. “Carmella” captures with unflinching honesty her grandparents’ struggles and enduring love. Both recording the song and sharing it with her mother proved challenging.

“I have been so reluctant to record that song because my mother hadn’t heard it, and it’s such a personal story,” Miraglia said. “I actually had a little panic attack while I was doing vocals … I started getting where I couldn’t breathe.”

She sent the finished record to her mom, followed by a warning text. “She sent me this long text saying ‘I love the song – I can’t call you right now because I’m too emotional to actually talk, but I think it honored her and showed her side of the struggle … I think you honored her, and you honored Grandpa.’ It ended up being a really beautiful family moment.”

The best thing about Glory Junkies is its well-roundedness, with guest horn players, rocking viola, smart harmonies and a few licks from accordion player Michael Bergman. “My husband grew up with him,” Miraglia said. “He’s played with Yo-Yo Ma and done work with Francis Ford Coppola. He’s done really well for himself over the years.” Bergman emailed his contribution, and other contributors stopped by the couple’s home studio to do their parts.

When guest tracks were done, they spent the early months of 2015 fleshing out the record – and battling the worst winter in Boston’s history. “It was dreadful … making a record with my husband in between going out and shoveling out cars and trying to find parking spots in the city,” Miraglia said. “When I talk about the record I keep saying that it was a test of all relationships. If you could get through last winter with your spouse or your loved one, then it’s real.”

Danielle Miraglia
When: Saturday, June 25, 9 p.m.
Where: Portsmouth Book & Bar, 40 Pleasant St., Portsmouth
Tickets: $5 – see

Beyond – Worth driving out of town

MichelleMaloneCapitol Center for the Arts
44 South Main Street
Concord, NH

Distance: 59 miles
Why: Michelle Malone opening for the Indigo Girls
When: Sunday, October 4, 7:30 PM
Tickets: $12.50-$42.50

How did someone this good stay under the radar for so long? That’s what comes to mind while listening to Debris, Malone’s slide-guitar punctuated collection of reckless youth, stalkers and one-night stands. It’s raw Americana, a fist in the face retort to the Stones’ Some Girls, 30 years on.

The Atlanta, Georgia native has a blues grrrl trifecta going – a howl at the moon voice, harmonica chops and a knack for coaxing killer licks from a vintage Supro Dual Tone guitar (Link Wray’s axe of choice).  With smart songs containing lines like, “the Tennessee river’s just a block away/I could jump in at anytime,” you feel her pain.  Playing live, she stays front and center, backed by just a bass player and a drummer.

Since 1988, Malone’s made 10 solo albums, and worked with some industry heavyweights.  Clive Davis signed her first band, Drag the River, to Arista in 1990, and Walter Yentikoff had her under contract for a time.

She must have learned her lesson – now she runs her own label.

Helping Ground Zero

Ground Zero is a substance-free teen music venue in Allenstown, New Hampshire.  This is a bit of e-commerce to help them stay open.  I have no idea if it will work, but why not help them out buy clicking through, even if you don’t smoke?










HELPING GROUND ZERO “all ages music venue” IN THE PROCESS!!! 🙂

250x250 banner

Blu Electronic Cigarettes

15 Minutes with a rock God – Ian Hill of Judas Priest

Ian Hill, founding member of Judas Priest

Whatever your opinion of Judas Priest’s sturm und drang music, you’ve got to love lead singer Rob Halford – for his common sense, if nothing else.

A 1990 lawsuit accused the band of inserting subliminal messages into their songs, and driving two disturbed young men to suicide.   Bollocks, was Halford’s retort.  Urging fans to kill themselves is counterproductive.  Better to secretly urge them, he said, to “buy more of our records.”

Sunday, ‘Priest’ hits Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion in Gilford for the final night of their American tour with headliner Whitesnake.  The show will feature a complete performance of the band’s most successful album, “British Steel.”

Bass player and founding member Ian Hill spoke recently spoke with Michael Witthaus:

MW: Any favorite moments on the tour?

IH: We’ve done so many places; the main thing is the show, which we always enjoy.  Days off are few and far between.

MW: You’re ending in Gilford.

IH: Beautiful part of the country, New Hampshire, it’s our first time playing in Gilford. We’re looking forward to somewhere with a bit of scenery.  Last time around, we went to Lake Champlain in Vermont.  We rented speedboats and motored from one end of the lake to the other, peered through people’s back windows.

MW:  How has the response been to the nightly performances of British Steel?

IH:  Fans know what to expect, which is great.  Though really, it’s something we’ve never done. Someone pointed out it was the 30-year anniversary; when you play the songs every night, you tend to forget which album it came from.  British Steel was the first one we had a U.S. tour with where we were the headliner.

MW: When did you first come to America?

IH:  In 1977; in 1980 we opened for REO Speedwagon. Then we were special guests with Foghat and Journey. We began British Steel as special guests with KISS – damn good start that – and then went on our own.  We must have done something right.

MW: How did you start the band?

IH:  We were both about 17 when we started playing together in 1969. Kenneth [guitarist K.K.” Downing] and I weren’t really close friends until we realized our common interest in music. We formed what was really a school band, with a chum called John Ellis.  Judas Priest was another band. Their lead vocalist, Alan Atkins, came round and asked to sing.  Family commitments caused him to leave, but we kept the name.

MW:  What were your influences?

IH:  Honestly, I listened to white boy blues – Eric Clapton, John Mayall.  But my big influence was Jack Bruce, and Cream.  I thought their live recordings were stand up.  I still listen to Wheels of Fire today.

MW:  You moved away from finger picking your bass in recent years.  Why?

IH:  Clarity, really – it’s a cleaner, sharper sound.  When you have a couple of distorted guitars, you need that clean sound to put it through.

MW:  How has the second time around with Rob Halford been?

IH:   All was well when Rob came back.  Everything clicked into place like an old jigsaw puzzle.  We did some good material with Tim (“Ripper” Owens, who replaced Halford from 1996-2003).  He’s a great vocalist, great bloke.  But being a fan of the band, he could see the sense of it.  In every interview, we were asked if Rob was coming back.

Jackson Browne does his thing @ Meadowbrook

Picture 2For a guy who named his latest album “Time the Conqueror,” Jackson Browne has held up well.   Of course, the grey beard he sported on that record’s cover is shaved, and the white highlights of his straight pageboy haircut re-colored.  So perhaps time has conquered the California man-child, but as Browne played on a warm night to a near-sold out house at Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion, he looked limber and sounded sharp.

After several years of touring alone in support of “Solo Acoustic Volumes 1 & 2” greatest hits collections, Browne’s out with a band this time, and a hard rocking attitude.  There was nary a wooden guitar in sight. Though his two-hour set relied on a lot of material from the latter part of his career, the crowd didn’t seem to mind.  In fact, the biggest ovation of the night came at the end of “About My Imagination” from the 2001 release, “The Naked Ride Home,” which showcased Chavonne Morris and Alethea Mills, two young vocalists Browne found in a South Los Angeles prep school.

Other highlights included “Lives In the Balance,” reworked with a new verse (sung by Morris), “The Pretender,” the rarely heard “Late Show” (an underappreciated gem from “Late for the Sky”), a spare “Jamaica Say You Will” and the encore, Browne’s cover of Steven Van Zandt’s “I Am A Patriot.”

It’s likely that many in attendance were unfamiliar with “I’ll Do Anything” and some of the other obscure nuggets Browne chose, not to mention the four songs he played from “Time The Conqueror” – a good record that, unfortunately, can only be heard on a few satellite radio stations.

The encore incorporated an Isley Brothers’ funk classic into the middle portion, which turned out to be a perfect representation of Browne’s apparent mood.  ‘It’s your thing/do what you wanna do,” he sang, and did just that.  He gently complained mid-set that the set list he chose never seemed to please everyone. So he chose to please himself.  Fortunately, the audience was with him for most of the ride.

Diana Krall @ Meadowbrook

Diana Krall - Photo by Michael Witthaus

Though threatening skies didn’t open up, Diana Krall still had to contend with nature Friday night in Gilford.  Every bullfrog, cricket and critter in the Lakes Region seemed to stir during the quiet moments of her sublime, two-hour set.

Considering Krall’s appearance was in support of a new release called “Quiet Nights,” this occasionally proved problematic.

“I … just … want … silence,” sighed Krall at one point.  “I’m going to meditate on that.”  Despite the intrusions, Krall was in fine form and good humor throughout.

As she prepared to play a Nat King Cole song, a baby’s cry broke through the darkness. Responding to a sound perhaps more familiar to the New York City-dweller and recent mother of twins, she switched up and played a few bars of “When You Wish Upon A Star,” calling it her “Jiminy Cricket” moment.

She then launched into “Deed I Do,” from her 1996 Cole tribute “All For You,” and never looked back. Diana Krall is the proverbial whole package, combining wit, charm and a raw talent that few musicians can match.

She’s able to shape her voice to not only match the mood of whatever song she’s playing, but to unearth previously undetected nuance and meaning.  While there may be more technically proficient piano players around, none owns their instrument quite like Krall.

When she cut loose, on Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek” (from her recent “Live in Rio” DVD), or the show closing “I Don’t Know Enough About You,” she was utterly, jaw-droppingly sensational.

The chemistry between Krall and her band – guitarist Tony Wilson, drummer Jeff Hamilton and bass player Robert Hurst – was stunning.  When Krall leaned back from her piano to watch Hurst bow his upright bass or take in one of Wilson’s many amazing solos, it was clear she was having as much fun as the audience.

Other highlights included the sultry “Where Or When” and the title track from “Quiet Nights,” as well as the early favorites “Peel Me A Grape” and the bouncy, buoyant “Let’s Fall In Love.”

Both Krall’s latest CD and DVD are elaborate productions, layered with orchestral flourishes and bright studio wizardry.  But Friday, it was simply Krall and her band on a sparsely furnished stage, lit by moody blue lights.  She nearly succeeded in shrinking the Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion down to the size of a smoky Lower Manhattan jazz club.


The crowd behaved with polite deference, but the insects didn’t quite cooperate.  “It’s a bug’s life up here,” joked Krall after one of them bit her leg mid-song.  Though it was undoubtedly one of the most superlative shows the comfy shed had witnessed, the music was a little too quiet for the rustic amphitheatre.

No complaints about the music, or for that matter the venue, which is by far the best for (most) outdoor music in all of New England.  But next time through, let’s hope Diana Krall plays a smaller room, charging twice as much, for half as many fans.

Paisley shines, Bentley intrigues @ Meadowbrook

Picture 1Country music today is what rock and roll was in 1974 – exciting, surprising and fan driven.

It’s exciting when guitar legend B.B. King lends his talents (on “Let The Good Times Roll”) to Brad Paisley’s guitar mash note, “Play.” It’s surprising when Americana goddess Patty Griffin trades vocals with Dierks Bentley on the tender, twangy “Beautiful World.”

On Sunday night at Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion, Paisley delivered the goods in spectacular fashion. But it was Bentley who ended up leaving the strongest impression.

Trucker caps and cowboy hats outnumbered headbands in the crowd, but onstage the power chord quota was high. Bentley laid out his agenda on the first song of the night (“Sideways”), declaring, “Take that redneck stuff outside, that’s what parking lots are for.”

The lanky Bentley mixed decent guitar playing with better singing, ranging across the enormous stage like a sprinter and covering a lot of real estate in the process. By his second song, the whisper/scream “Trying to Stop Your Leaving,” the crowd was also on their feet.

They remained standing until Bentley finished his 45-minute set, which included “Every Mile A Memory,” Feel That Fire,” “What Was I Thinking” (his first hit, with a tasty Tim Sergeant dobro solo) and his closer, the good-time anthem, “Free and Easy Down the Road I Go.”

Paisley, wearing  a white cowboy hat and CAO Cigar T-shirt, opened modestly enough, strolling to the end of a long ramp (extending across two-thirds of the floor) to sing the opening notes of “Start A Band” into a Grand Old Opry-branded microphone.

But the rest of the show was a full-scale production, as Paisley worked the stage’s risers and catwalks, while giant images flashed, music video style, across a 20-foot high screen stretched behind him. The entire set requires 14 semi trucks to move from town to town (it’s hard to believe Gilford was the tour’s third stop in three nights), and would have been more at home in a hockey rink or baseball stadium than the relatively intimate amphitheatre.

The show’s spectacle also seemed at odds with Paisley’s working class sensibilities, and at times it overshadowed the music. Fortunately, he eschewed smoke bombs and lasers.

Paisley devoted a good part of the evening to selections from the forthcoming “American Saturday Night” album, some – “You Do The Math” and the title cut – better than others. “Water” was overly earnest, while “The Pants” was a bit silly. Women in the crowd, however, did delight in the song’s refrain – “it’s not who wears the pants/it’s who wears the skirt.”

Even though serious selections like “When I Get To Where I’m Going” and his current chart-topping ballad, “Then” resonated with the crowd, Paisley played most of the night for laughs.

“Ticks,” “Alcohol,” “Celebrity,” “Online” and “I’m Still a Guy” are all charming, funny songs, and they worked as crowd pleasers. But too much shtick gets old.

And it was disappointing to see Brad Paisley, one of country music’s most gifted guitarists, perform form 90 minutes without playing a single instrumental – even if he did play an crackling cover of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer.”

Next year, Dierks Bentley should headline his own Meadowbrook show – he’s that good. At the same time, Brad Paisley probably won’t ditch the entourage, tour buses and gear-laden tractor-trailers to hit the road with just a pickup truck and a guitar – but one can hope.