Live Reviews

Session-Americana_WEBSESSION AMERICANA

me&thee coffeehouse, Marblehead MA  

9/12/14

My first time back for me&thee’s new season and it’s good to see booker Kathy Sands-Boehmer, host Tony Toledo, and musical guest, old friends Session Americana. What started out as Session Americana’s basic project with a bunch of cool guys sitting around one mic sharing tunes has developed into a more sophisticated stage setup—but that’s just to help the audience appreciate the sound of each of the musicians equally.

Setting the stage, at the center table sits Ry Cavanaugh (guitar/ mandocello/ vocals), Jim Fitting (harmonica/ vocals), and Laura Cortese (fiddle/ vocals). Behind them are Billy Beard (drums/ vocals) and Jon Bistline (bass/ vocals), and over to the right sits Dinty Child (pump organ/ mandocello/ banjo/ accordion/ guitar/ vocals). The show starts with Laura singing “Love Changes Everything” and Ry joining in. When the drums kick in, so do all the other voices. It sounds like a charged up tune from The Band. The cymbals wash and we’re into a new song with drums tapping along and the bass following. Jim, a personality among personalities, belts “Making Hay.” In the middle of the song Dinty and Jim casually flip comments back and forth before Jim’s wild harp solo. These songs range in the old folk/blues genre and truly reflect what has come to be known as Americana. More highlights from their two sets include: Dinty’s “Looking for Diamonds in a Gold Mine”—with the lesson: Take what you can get, instead of forcing what you want. Billy’s the lead vocal on a simple song where the choir of voices asks him “What’s her name?” repeatedly. He replies, “Her name is Doreen.” Jim sings “Don’t Forget to Take Your Vitamins”—and I have the funny feeling he’s referring to Viagra. Dinty chants another from the female perspective—”You Got to See Momma Every Night”—she doesn’t want her man runnin’ around on her. Laura offers the dance sensation, “Heel to Toe.” Ry ends the second set with a sea song about being in love—“Lighthouse Light,” and the crowd doesn’t hesitate in giving them a lengthy massive rumble of appreciation. They come back with Dinty youthfully jumping on and over the seats to cross the stage to get to his spot. After a big discussion about the encore number, Billy decides it will be “Burnin’ Coal,” with Mr. Personality, Jim Fitting ending the night.  It’s good to be back at me&thee.           (T Max)


JAMES MONTGOMERY/ 

ALIZON LISSANCE/

FLY AMERO/ 

JON BUTCHER/ 

CHELSEY BERRY/ 

ALLEN ESTES/ 

LYNNE WITTY/ 

TONY CIBOTTI

Paige Farley-Hackel 

Playground Benefit

First Baptist Church, Newton, MA   

9/11/14

An event like this, with its star-studded bill, is one of the great and under-appreciated things that happen in our music scene. There’s a million dollars of talent walking our streets all the time. Do you think Duluth, Minnesota has gigs like this? And everyone is here tonight to support a great cause; the maintenance and upkeep of a Dorchester lower-income area playground named after Paige Farley-Hackel who was taken on 9/11. Local musician Peter Hackel from ’80s band Bruce Marshall & The Clue holds this annually and I am psyched while sitting with the high donors at this gala affair.  Before the show, we are being treated to a catered dinner accompanied by Tony Cibotti, a middle aged man with gray hair and dressed in a tuxedo, who croons Frank Sinatra-style. The church itself is beautiful and the stage is set up right in front of the huge brass pipes of the organ and under a couple of stories high cupola with stained glass windows. Very different from my usual haunts to check out the music scene. And what a show! Lynne Witty starts it off with “Change the World” and then she dedicates “Blackbird” to Amanda Hackel, which is very touching. Allen Estes continues with his John Denver sounding originals “Peace and Harmony” and “I Know How It Feels” that he announces “deal with elements of hope.”  He is in top form and the crowd loves his country-inspired folk. Chelsea Berry comes up to sing with Allen and then continues with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with Jon Butcher. Later, Chelsea’s “The Star Spangled Banner” is stunning. This woman can sing and the audience goes nuts. Butcher stays and he does a great version of Jimi’s “Red House” with his Jon Butcher Axis band mate bassist Chris Martin.  Then Jon plays “Up from the Skies” on his acoustic guitar and I really dig when he scat sings notes and plays them on his guitar at the same time—a la Jimi. He does this a lot and it is very, very cool. When left handed guitarist and Gloucester legend Fly Amero comes up and does “I Am” with Butcher and Estes everyone appreciates the talent involved in these artists doing hardly rehearsed songs onstage in front of people, sounding like they are right off a recording. Just stunning. Fly continues with acoustic versions of “Beautiful World” and “Dance with Me” before Alizon Lissance from ’80s band Girls Night Out comes up to play keys and sing; and they do Del Shannon’s “Runaway” and Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man.”  Amanda Carr, Adrienne Melling, Jen Thayer, and Kaylee Federman add their backing vocals extraordinaire throughout the night for all the major acts; and these woman can all sing great!  James Montgomery takes the stage and romps through “Goodtime Charlie,” “Intoxicated,” a blistering version of The Stones’ “Miss You” and a killer version of Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack.” Memorable moments: Alizon Lissance shows me she is wearing a huge silver necklace that was owned by the late, great local guitarist Steven Paul Perry. Chelsea and Alizon harmonizing with Jon Butcher. Allen Estes and his Americana/folk set. And finally, I’m standing alone at the top of the steps off  the side of the stage watching and listening to the band up close; when saxophonist John Vanderpool comes up to me mid-song and blows a few measures to his audience-of-one—me alone! What a night. I cant wait until next year.   (A.J. Wachtel)


THE LYLE BREWER DUO

Atwood’s Tavern, Cambridge, MA    

8/23/14

In a town where it seems like everyone plays guitar, it may be hard to get noticed. That is, unless your name is Lyle Brewer. Lyle Brewer is still a relatively young guy on the Boston music scene but he regularly plays alongside the city’s top performers, like Jimmy Ryan and Eric Royer. Today, it seems so basic, on stage is just drums and guitar but woven together they make the most amazing music. Lyle’s guitar sings through tune after tune, playing instrumental versions of just about everything from The Beatles to jazz to classic ’50s pop songs. He even does a few kid songs that are quite fun and appreciated by grownups and children alike. Here’s raising a glass to one of the best guitarists in New England.               (Kier Byrnes)


DAISY NELL & CAPT. STAN/ 

LISA REDFERN/ 

THOMAS JUDGE & SUSAN GROCE/

MOSTLY BROTHERS/

DEAN STEVENS/

JOHN & RACHEL NICHOLAS/

DAVID DODSON/

DENNY WILLIAMS/ 

DOUG DAY/ 

GEOFF KAUFMAN

Sweet Chariot Festival, Swan’s Island, ME   

9/5/14 through 9/7/14

I am seated in the second row of the lovely, old, wooden Oddfellows Hall at Swan’s Island, Maine, sitting with over 225 people on this beautiful August evening. I got here after a four hour drive and a ferry boat earlier today. I’m tired, but excited to be here. Suddenly there is a commotion at the back of the room as a crowd enters and marches up the center aisle.

Geoff Kaufman, who once worked with Pete Seeger on the sloop, Clearwater, and who now hails from Mystic Seaport, sings out with his bold tenor voice, as everyone joins in a call-and-response that literally shivers me timbers. They sing in full voice the sea shanty “Rosabella,” quickly followed by another called “Bully in the Alley.” The tears stream down my face as the magical assembly takes the stage, waving flags and singing with a vigor I can hardly process. Wave after wave of emotion constricts my breathing— it feels the way I felt as a child watching a parade while the bass drums resonated in my chest.

Doug Day of Camden, Maine, (as well as Swans Island,) takes the stage as the MC. He’s a handsome man, resembling a kind of a swash-buckling Dick Cavett, wearing a colorful sash around the waist of his khaki shorts. He originated the idea of the event 25 years ago. Doug is a singer/songwriter in his own right as well as a great promoter of music and musicians.

To describe this concert is like trying to describe the individual flavors in a tea blend after it has steeped. The genres of music unfold before me in a promise of wonder: sea-shanties, folk, Celtic, jazz, pop, rock, Caribbean, and fusions of all of the above.

Denny Williams is a drummer/guitarist/singer/songwriter who performs his upbeat little ditty, “Busy.” He jokes, “What is hell? Sweat! What is hell? Whatever you’ve resisted all your life. Exercise!” He sings a Todd Rundgren-esque song called, “You Blew My Mind,” with help from the handsome-voiced, fine guitar player/singer, David Dodson, and the superlative team of John and Rachel Nicholas on guitar and vocals.

Dean Stevens, affectionately nicknamed the gentle giant, sings a tune called “Rain Night.” His guitar work is complex and wonderful. He is a tall, gentle soul with a beautiful tenor voice. He sings another about the salmon and I cry. He is a crusader for the sake of nature, I like him immediately.

Mostly Brothers is made up of Sean and Jamie Oshima and Alex Wilder. They are a young band from Camden, Maine. Doug Day advocates for them. What can I say?—three adorable young men singing and playing their hearts out, original tunes and a drop dead three-part harmony version of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Helplessly Hoping.” There aren’t enough young girls in the audience to scream and faint adequately, but us older folks applaud madly for them.

Thomas Judge and Susan Groce dive into some incredible Celtic reels and jigs on fiddle. They speak of Partridge Island which is Canada’s version of Ellis Island. It has many cemeteries because a large number of Irish and Scottish immigrants who arrived there never left because they died in epidemics. They play one particularly heartbreaking ode written about the death of a young boy during that era.

John and Rachel Nicholas have been a couple for over three decades. I feel the love between them. Rachel has a dancer’s presence and pipes like Aretha, John has great hair and is a wonderful guitar player and songwriter. They do their own tunes, such as “My Evolution” and others. They express gratitude about life, and the planet and love in sweet harmonies. Their band employs more of a driving rock sound than most of the performers here.

Lisa Redfernis another Maine treasure. She is wearing a summery red polka-dot dress and has a big red flower in her blond hair. She has a lovely, torchy voice and sings the standards “Stay Old Fashioned with Me,” and “This Is My Romance,” accompanied by an adhoc jazz band.

Daisy Nell and Captain Stan are sailors as well as singers. They belt out “Farewell Nova Scotia.” He looks a bit like Wilfred Brimley and she is a trim, page-boy blond. They have ’60s- era folk music voices, they play their guitars well, they’re funny and they both have a nautical personaes.

David Dodson plays a rockabilly song called “Slug It Out.” He is an expressive guitar player and singer.

The wonderful thing about this festival is that I feel like I am a guest in someone’s living room. It feels like I woke up in some kind of musical heaven. The performers all know each other. They don’t do long sets, they mix and match and shake and bake with each other. They stay as guests and are fed by island residents. There is no hotel or restaurant presence on this island. It feels like going back in time to mid-century America. I am raised to the rafters on the first night of this three-day concert. The entire assembly who come from New England as well as other regions, gather on the stage and close the night with a song similar to Elton John’s “Circle of Life” entitled, “The River of Life,” written by Teresa Tudury. It’s a big finish and everyone feels lifted to the heavens and drunk on the beauty of the music.  

               (Kimmy Sophia Brown)


GLENN YODER & THE WESTERN STATES AND FRIENDS

Toad, Cambridge, MA   

8/24/14

I have been a big fan of Glenn Yoder since I met him back in his days with the Cassavettes. It’s with mixed emotions as I spectate what is yet another amazing show as tonight, is Glenn’s farewell show before he leaves to move to Washington, DC. The band is solid and Glenn is as charismatic as ever. Afterwards, friends, old bandmates and collaborators like Mike McCullagh (Beware the Dangers of a Ghost Scorpion) and Jeff Katz (Three Day Threshold) jump in and take the mic to do some solo stuff in honor of Glenn. It’s a great night of friends and memories; a great reminder that music above all is about community. Good luck Glenn, we will all miss you.     (Kier Byrnes)


We get a lot of calls and emails from bands requesting coverage of their live shows. Please be advised that shows are never assigned for review. Noise writers cover what they choose to attend. It’s logistically impossible for us to honor or acknowledge these requests. The Noise has always had its ears close to the ground in Greater Boston. If you’re doing something even remotely exceptional, we’ll be the first to tell the world. If you’re horrible, same thing.

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