Blues News

August 2 is a busy weekend, but blues fans should check out the “Barnful of Blues Festival” at the New Boston Fairgrounds, located near Route 13 a few miles south of Weare, New Hampshire.

It’s an all-day affair featuring two stages – acoustic and electric – and a dozen area blues bands, including Sunapee favorites Roxanne and the Voodoo Rockers, all for a mere 10 bucks.

Headliner TJ Wheeler mixes musical knowledge into his performances, taking audiences on a journey from Delta blues to New Orleans jazz.  Boston’s Love Dogs bring a Dixie vibe to a rocking blues sound that recalls the Fabulous Thunderbirds, with horns.

Singer/guitarist Bruce Marshall played with Toy Caldwell of the Marshall Tucker Band, and has a lightning touch on the fretboard.  He’s also playing the Newbury Bandstand this Thursday (July 24) if you need a fix right away.

The event is sponsored by the New Boston Blues Association, and benefits Webster House, which helps kids ages 8 through 18 who need to live away from home.  All of the NBBA’s efforts are focused on raising money for Webster House, whose work is focused on “providing stability to a child’s life and rebuilding family relationships leading towards family re-unification, foster placement or independent living.”


Barnful of Blues Festival – August 2, 2008


National Anthem          12:00 PM     12:05PM
Chris Bonoli                 12:45 PM     1:00 PM
Arthur James                1:45 AM     2:00 PM
Jackie Lee                     2:45 PM     3:00 PM
Francine Calo               3:45 PM     2:00 PM
Arthur James                4:45 PM     3:00 PM
RAFFLES                       5:45 PM     6:00 PM
RAFFLES                       6:45 PM     7:00 PM


Michael Vincent &
Double Shot                  12:05 PM     12:45 PM
The Hayes Brothers       1:00 PM     1:45 PM
Sweet Willie D &
the Continental Walk    2:00 PM     2:45 PM

Bruce Marshall             3:00 PM     3:45 PM

Lisa Marie &

All Shook Up               4:00 PM     4:45 PM
The Love Dogs            5:00 PM     5:45 PM
Roxanne &
the Voodoo Rockers    6:00 PM     6:45 PM
TJ Wheeler                   7:00 PM     8:00 PM

Local Rhythms – A Ride Down Autumn’s Highway

wcleaves.jpgAs I write this, the weatherman is forecasting warm, dry weekend weather.   

The New Hampshire state tourism bureau expects over 600,000 leaf-peepers, up 1 percent from last year.  Whether you’re a transplant like me or a multi-generation native, autumn’s charms are irresistible.

Is there a better time to be in New England? 

So let’s put aside our crankiness at flatlanders, who tend to slow down to 10 miles per hour at the oddest times, and map a local route to the pleasures of the season.

We’ll begin in Springfield, Vermont, a little town that’s the official home of the Simpsons, and for this Saturday and Sunday, the Vermont Apple Festival.   

Stop by and enjoy some warm cider, apple flapjacks and buy a few crafts. 

Be sure to make time for the music, which includes kid’s favorite Alli Lubin, Americana duo Josh Maiocco and Jesse Peters, the folksy Bradford Bog People and Three Way Street, an acoustic trio that travels a musical journey from 30’s swing to modern bluegrass. 

Speaking of travel … get in the car and take a ride across the Cheshire Bridge (I miss the toll booth, but not the toll), head down Lover’s Lane, and pick up Route 12 to Claremont.

The center of Saturday’s Fall Festival is the Chili Cook-Off, which closes off Pleasant Street for the day.  For a small price, any opinionated soul can be a food critic.  Though it’s a good-natured competition, the entrants take their chili very seriously.   

The only appropriate music for this soiree is Claremont’s Flames, for obvious reasons.  John Lovejoy leads the four-piece through classic rock chestnuts like “Hot Blooded.”

Now that our are bellies warm and full, it’s time for a slow drive to Warner.  Few vistas rival the Sunapee region in early October.   

Little Lake Todd, just before Bradford, is particularly beautiful. 

Take your time rolling along Route 103 – the other drivers will think you’re a tourist in a rental car, which is kind of fun. 

Warner hosts the Fall Foliage Festival (Saturday and Sunday), now in its 60th year.  There’s food, crafts and fun, including a pie-eating contest for kids, an oxen pull and a country bazaar.

The music has a decidedly old-time bent, with Dixieland from the Fountain Square Ramblers, the Stuart Highland Pipe Band and the gospel Shape Note Singers. 

All in all, it’s a lovely New England day.

What else is in store this weekend? 

Thursday: Little Feat, Lebanon Opera House – Superlatives don’t do this band justice.  If you love rock and roll and haven’t seen Little Feat, you must – it’s that simple.  I first saw them in the late Seventies, when founder Lowell George was still alive, and I literally could not stay in my seat.  By the third song, I’d moved to the back of the room.  My dancing feet would not stop moving. 

Friday: Ray DeVito, Electra – Lots of comedy in the area – when it rains, it pours.  DeVito riffs on slacker angst – the travails of dating, McJobs, and advertising (“Verizon says they have towers everywhere, which means if my girlfriend doesn’t call, it’s not their fault.  I’m just a loser”).  With the way they mix up their entertainment, this club should change their name to Eclectic. 

Saturday: I Love a Piano, Claremont Opera House – Six actors perform a musical that looks at America through the lens of Irving Berlin’s.  The show includes over 60 timeless songs.  This all singing, all dancing revue traces the journey of a piano from Tin Pan Alley to the present, as it winds its way through the lives of Americans.

Sunday: Woodchuck Hollow Band, East Thetford – An autumn discussion must include pumpkins, right?  East Thetford hosts a festival brimming with pumpkin pie, bread and soup, along with a mid-day performance from this nifty band.  They brand themselves “Organic White Mountain Music.” There are a few nods to the Appalachians and Ozarks, and on “Ruby,” a dash of Cash.  It’s all good-time country. 

Tuesday: ALO, Iron Horse – This band always makes me think of Salt Hill Pub, which booked them a few years back when they were up and comers.  These days, they are playing much bigger stages, opening for people like Jack Johnson – they recently signed with his Brushfire record label – and winning lots of new fans with their loose, rootsy sound.  It begs the question – are there other current Pub performers are due to break big?

Wednesday: Café Americano, Metropolis – Brattleboro’s newest club features some wonderfully varied talent, including this trio, which plays swing and jazz standards.  There’s also a cool open mike/jam session night Tuesday with fiddler Lissa Schneckenburger and Corey DiMario on tenor guitar and bass.  It’s worth a trip south – the leaves on the interstate should be nice for a few weeks.

Local Rhythms – Come to the Fair

fairlogo.jpgSomeone needs to make a cologne that smells like cotton candy and cow pie, and call it … August.

Yes, it’s the start of New England county fair season. There’s everything from corn dogs, fried dough and other decadent treats to agricultural competitions, crafts, and of course music.

Fans of tradition will enjoy the Cheshire Fair, which began Tuesday and runs through the weekend in Swanzey, and has been around since 1938. Amidst the sheep shearing, steer pulls and oxen log skidding is a healthy complement of bandstand performances, with an emphasis on country & western.

Teen prodigy Shelby Lyn Rogers plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday (where she’s joined by Shana Stack). The Hearts on Fire Band, Country Felix and Out on Bail also take the stage, which gives you an idea of the general mood.

If eclectic suits you better, the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s annual gathering at Sunapee Mountain should be enticing. Over nine days, quality art is everywhere – painting, textile, woodworking, glass, jewelry, pottery – and all of it’s for sale. Artists will demonstrate their techniques and conduct classes for the curious.

For music, there’s a different band each day, performing three one-hour sets. Among the more intriguing acts are the old-timey Acoustic Truffle (Saturday), island rhythms from the Panhandlers and singer-songwriter Tim Lewis.

Rockingham’s Old Home Days starts tomorrow with an antique truck show and music from the Nines Band. On Saturday, Claremont’s Flames (featuring John Lovejoy) and the Stockwell Brothers entertain. Strictly speaking, it’s not a fair, but with pies, pickles and preserves all competing for blue ribbons, and a big fireworks show in the evening, it’s not too far off.

Cornish, of course, delivers the authentic country fair experience, beginning August 17. Once again, the organizers have pulled together a nicely varied lineup. Mixed between the horses, goats, rabbits and sheep that give the fair its unmistakable character is some fine music.

The fair welcomes back Heather Walker Thompson, sounding like Patsy Cline meets Pat Benetar, and Bruce Marshall plays southern fried boogie. The Davis Brothers Garage Band hew a classic rock line, and for the kids, Bill Shontz emcees a teddy bear picnic. Finally, Gospel Train welcomes Sunday morning in reverent fashion.

For Big Deals, the Vermont State Fair in Rutland closes out the month, with headliner shows from George Jones, John Michael Montgomery and Chris Cagle (August 31 – September 9).

What else can I tell you?

Thursday:Click Five, Six Flags – With daily admission approaching 50 bucks, the old amusement park isn’t a bargain anymore. But throw in a free show by one of Boston’s better up and coming bands, and you’ve got my interest. I really enjoyed Click 5’s last album; new lead singer Kyle Patrick adds a lot to their punchy, power-infused sound. They’re preparing to tour with Hilary Duff – an end-of-month Boston date is slated.

Friday: Jason Cann, Bistro Nouveau at Crown Point – Busy times at both Bistros this weekend. I saw Jason’s band Wherehouse at Harpoon’s BBQ competion Sunday. The boy can sing – and he’s pondering a long overdue trip to the studio to lay down some of his own songs. Cann plays at the end of a day featuring golf and beer; the aforementioned Harpoon is taking part. Tomorrow, Lydia Gray serenades, while over at the other Bistro in Eastman, Pete Merrigan holds forth.

Saturday: Cold River Ranters, Farmers Diner – A good buzz developing about this militantly unplugged band. They call their music “all acoustic hot gonzo primitive folk jive,” and you can get a taste of what that means at, where two of their songs are posted. The Farmer’s Diner is a story in itself, with fresh, locally grown food, including beef raised at PT Farms, and entrees made with all-natural ingredients.

Sunday: Day 3, Great Waters Folk Festival (Wolfeboro) – August is also festival month, and this Lakes Region event is one of New Hampshire’s best, with three days of Americana, folk and traditional tunes. The lineup includes old favorites Chris Smither, Jonathan Edwards Greg Brown and the Roches, along with newcomers Anais Mitchell, Joel Cage and youthful guitar ace Ash Fischbein.

Tuesday – Carlos Ocasio, Elixir – WRJ’s newest nightspot is tastefully designed, and offers a way for gourmands to try a little of everything on the menu without breaking the bank. They have nice cocktails and a great selection of Vermont beer. I’m smitten – and they had me at “music five nights a week.”

Wednesday: Cara Dillon, Iron Horse – Irish sensation Dillon plays a headline set before heading to Boston for the ICONS Festival next weekend, which explores the crossroads of American and Celtic music. Performers include the politically charged Irish band Black 47, local pranksters the Dropkick Murphys, the sweet-voice Nanci Griffith and the lovely Antje Duvekot.