This week’s Hippo

Maria Muldaur is no ordinary woman:

In his sweeping new biography, Bob Dylan in America, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz discusses one of Dylan’s key influences, Blind Willie McTell. “He was a sponge … who soaked up every kind of music he heard and then expressed it in his own way,” writes Wilentz — much like Dylan.

It’s also true of Dylan contemporary Maria Muldaur. In junior high school, she led two doo-wop groups and was offered a record contract, which her mother nixed.

“She put an abrupt end to my hopeful little rock and roll career, which in retrospect is probably a good thing,” said Muldaur recently from a tour stop in Fredericton, New Brunswick. “The really cool, hip funky music [was] co-opted … Elvis got drafted and replaced with Pat Boone.

Slutty Pete’s birthday blues:

When Wan-Tu Blues Band harp player Pete Zona first began performing live, he was constantly searching for an open jam session. In 2004, his girlfriend Brenda Cadieux decided to bring the music to the couple’s favorite bar, the Village Trestle in Goffstown. She organized a surprise birthday party and invited the many musicians Zona had sat in with. “Point being they all had to let Peter play with them,” explained Cadieux recently.

On that day, guitarist Tom Bellerini dubbed him Slutty Pete, because, says Cadieux, “he will play with anyone.” When the participants all agreed the experience was so much fun it should be repeated a week later, the gathering also marked the beginning of an enduring Sunday afternoon tradition. But while the weekly Wan-Tu Blues Band session is one of the most popular in the area, nothing draws a crowd like Slutty Pete’s annual Birthday Jam.

plus, the week’s Nite Roundup

This week’s Hippo

Spiritual Rez is all about the groove, mon:

Start with a dose of old-school, Marley-Toots-Tosh reggae and infuse it with everything from Sun Ra Arkestra freak jazz to Steve Vai guitar pyrotechnics. Inventive intersections like these define Spiritual Rez, the Boston-based septet performing at Stone Church in Newmarket on Thursday, Sept. 16.

“It’s a melting pot left and right, a swirling vortex of music that comes together,” says the band’s drummer, Ian Miller.

Lenny Clarke moves on:

Over a career of 30-plus years, Lenny Clarke made movies, had a Boston variety show and starred in his own network sitcom. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, he hosted the open-mike night at the Ding Ho in Cambridge, a weekly event that launched the careers of Steven Wright, Denis Leary and others — “It was Sodom and Gomorrah with a five-dollar cover,” Bob Goldthwaite, who also got his start there, is quoted as having said.

It was a time, Clarke said recently, when comics were “rock stars. It was unbelievable …the best tables, best champagne, women, drugs, you name it. It was the greatest years of my life. It will never be copied.”

But befitting Clarke’s hometown, referred to in the documentary When Standup Stood Out as “a full-fledged metropolis with a first-rate inferiority complex,” the 57-year-old comic never got comfortable with his success. “In my eyes — I’m a working-class background, poor family — I still haven’t made it,” he says. “I’ll be working ’til five minutes before I drop dead.”

And Nite Roundup

Today’s Hippo

Guitar Slinger:

“How the frig am I supposed to play now?”

Well, Chris Beard used a more colorful word than ‘frig’ as he watched Ryan Kelly and Smokestack Lightning leave the stage at the C Note Club in Hull, Mass., after torching the house with their version of Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman.” Beard learned from players like Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Buddy Guy; he knew that Ryan was something special.

A few weeks later at the Blues and Brews Festival in Westford, WZLX Sunday Morning Blues host Carter Alan had the same reaction to the 18-year-old guitar slinger. Alan has good ears — in 1981, he was one of the first American DJs to play U2 on the radio — and he made a call that got the band a spot opening for Chris Duarte this weekend at the Bull Run in Shirley.

That’s the way life is these days for Ryan Kelly, who’s barely out of high school but making moves like someone twice his age.

Chad and Jeremy – Yesterday’s never gone:

Hushed, restrained, subtle as the slightest breeze — Chad & Jeremy’s trademark sound wrapped crew-cut college folk around early 1960s pop. The pair rode the British Invasion wave with hit after hit — “Yesterday’s Gone,” “Willow Weep for Me,” “If She Were Mine” and their biggest chart-topper, “A Summer Song.”

The whole thing, says Chad Stuart, was an accident, a combination of primitive studio equipment and producer John Barry’s struggles during the making of the duo’s first single in 1963.

“He was the one who got us to whisper, because he couldn’t figure out how to record our drama student voices,” Stuart said recently from his home in Idaho. “We were overdubbing the vocal to ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ and he said, ‘It sounds like a locker room full of football players!’ In the end, he said, ‘Oh for Christ’s sake, whisper it!’ We did that sotto voce Lettermen thing and we were screwed from then on out. I mean that was it, wasn’t it?”

This week’s Hippo

Burning love for the King at annual Elvis Festival:

Sometimes, a destiny is foretold — take Rick Huntress.

It’s safe to say that Huntress was born to sing Elvis Presley songs. At two years old, he was riffing on one of the King’s biggest hits. “‘Burning Love’ were the first group of words out of my mouth,” he says. “My mother and father told me I was shaking the side of the crib singing, hunka hunka burnin’ love.”

Bringing back rock:

A benefit show to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester this Sunday at Jillian’s is quickly shaping into a local music revival. Headliner Eden’s Lie holds a legitimate claim to being the city’s longest-running original band, but their last Queen City gig was more than two years ago. Alt rocker Jacob Heal won the New Hampshire Idol competition in 2006, but for the past few years he’s focused on carving a musical career in New York City.

Plus Nite Roundup.

Nite Roundup

• Smart Rock: Pete Townshend once wrote, “You can dance while your knowledge is growing.” That’s the idea behind the Rock to Educate benefit show, which raises money for school music programs. The local show features Keep Me Conscious, Sleep Alive, Streamline, Living Syndication, Kinetic Theory, Blind Assumption and DJ Vicious. Attend the Rock to Educate Spotlight Show on Friday, Aug. 20, at 7:30 p.m. at Milly’s Tavern, 500 Commercial St. in Manchester. Tickets cost $10; it’s 21+, ID required; more

• White Mountain Boogie: During a long weekend of blues music, Elvin Bishop, an original member of Paul Butterfield’s band, performs Saturday with famous progeny John Lee Hooker Jr. and Ronnie Baker Brooks, son of guitarist Albert Brooks. Sunday’s eclectic bill includes piano phenom Eden Brent and singer/songwriter Ruthie Foster. The Boogie ’N Blues Festival runs Friday, Aug. 20, through Sunday, Aug. 22, in a meadow located between Waterville Valley and Loon Mountain in North Thornton. Single-day ($25) and weekend ($45) tickets are available

• Aqua top: Though it’s unlikely that Steven Tyler or J. Lo will sit on the judge’s panel, 15 local hopefuls will compete in Liquid Planet Water Park’s Planet Idol finale, the culmination of a month-long regional competition with a top cash prize of $1,000. Judging by the enthusiastic response to this, the sing-off’s first year, it could well become a tradition. Attend the finale on Saturday, Aug. 21, 6-9 p.m. at Liquid Planet Water Park, 46 Route 27, in Candia. Attendance is free with admission.

• Al fresco: An outdoor music festival in Temple welcomes a varied array of local bands, with rockers Raising Scarlet, American Mixer playing reggae, the Boston-based Dirty Mac Blues Band and folkie Chris Horn playing solo. The all-day event closes with Rindge bluegrass band Hot Mustard. Admission is free, but bring a non-perishable item for the local food pantry. Attend the Temple Music Festival on Sunday, Aug. 22, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Old Town Common, Route 45 in Temple; call 878-1479 for more.

• Original voices: The latest entry into the local original music scene is the Jam Factory, located adjacent to Raxx Billiards in downtown Manchester. Two energetic bands — 23 Riddles and Porter — will perform Saturday night, with an opening set from acoustic guitarist Chris Emery. On Sunday, singer/songwriter Tanjoura Davis appears at a regular third Sunday event. See 23 Riddles, Porter and Chris Emery on Saturday, Aug. 21, at 8 p.m. (21+); see Tajoura Davis on Sunday at 1 p.m. (18+) at the Jam Factory, 1211 Elm St. in Manchester. For info go

Tore Down House helps out a friend

A strong sense of justice guides Mark Huzar. It’s evident in the music he makes with Tore Down House, the band he formed in 2006 with friend and drummer John Michaud. One Huzar original, “American Farmer,” borrows a riff from the Allman Brothers’ “Every Hungry Woman.” However, the song’s refrain is not about love gone wrong, but about a world turned upside down. Pondering a family farm facing foreclosure, Huzar rails, “Mr. Banker, tell me ain’t you got no soul? Breaking my back in the hot sun trying to dig out of this hole.”

“I get so fed up with the world sometimes, that I have to say what I gotta say,” said Huzar in a recent phone interview. “People are getting thrown by the wayside, losing jobs — it’s terrible.”

Wailin’ Jennys – Canadian (well, 2/3) Americana

Canadian folk trio the Wailin’ Jennys bring their lush harmonies to New England for a series of shows, including a stop on Thursday, Aug. 19, at Tupelo Music Hall. Joining soprano Ruth Moody and mezzo Nicky Mehta, newest member Heather Masse is the group’s third alto and, she jokingly says, its “token American.” The band’s latest CD, Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House, is the first to showcase her contributions to the Juno Award-winning group.

Masse brings a wide and varied background to the group. She studied jazz voice at the New England Conservatory, and later formed Heather and the Barbarians with a few of her classmates there; the band released one album, Tell Me Tonight. “But I also grew up going to church and singing in a choir,” Masse said recently from her home near Boston. “I had three sisters, and we all sang in harmony.”

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