CONNOR GARVEY with ERIC McDONALD/
Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA
After a wonderful introduction by Tony Toledo, Raina Rose asks him to come on the road with her, Tony immediately creates an imaginary scene of him introducing her while she’s buying cold slaw at a deli. We all laugh and then Raina takes over serenading with “When I Was Young.” On her acoustic guitar she’s using a quick melodic fingerpicking style while holding a drone (not the flying kind). Her beautifully clear mezzo-soprano fills the soothing acoustics of the church that is the home of the 46-year-old Me & Thee. Raina lets us know that her songwriting focuses around her two kids, three- and five-years-old. When she was young she dreamed of being a rock star AND a mom, but never thought she could actually do both. Her kids have picked up the knack of learning things the hard way, just like Raina did when she was young. Then she offers a “real story” song about meeting her husband in “Doing the Best We Can.” Before she was married she would offer boys to tour with her, treating it like it was a first date. The results was horrendous. One boy she actually liked got lyme disease while on tour in Alaska. She sways back and forth while she sings about it and makes a complicated guitar part look easy. This woman is a definitely star with her music and I’ll take her word on her mothering qualities.
Between sets booker Kathy Sands-Boehmer gives us the upcoming schedule and encourages everyone to invite friends to come see the high quality performances at Me & Thee. I totally stand behind Kathy’s plea – this place is too precious with it’s wonderful acoustics and amazing staff of volunteers to be missed. Google Me & Thee Coffeehouse and check out the wonderful folk artists that are lined up to play on Friday nights.
Back after the coffee and treats break, Connor Garvey (on a Gibson acoustic guitar) is in the spotlight with Eric McDonald on mandolin. I’ve seen Connor perform here before and he is quite the musician and master of speaking to his audience. I find in many folk shows that artists have this gift that is lacking too often in other music genres. Connors first few songs, although he connects them with spring are all about nature… “Will of Trail,” “Bright Morning,” “Willow,” and “Sky Watchers” are delivered with a relaxed friendly confidence. Eric provides dashing solos in most of the tunes. Connor talks about a songwriting group he’s part of and is supposed to come up with a new song each week. He often puts off the composing until the last day and runs with what ever little idea he can muster. We get to hear these songs and the results are amazing. He’s honed his craft. A shiny little red lantern sits on the stage and Connor references it when he thanks all the volunteers, saying we need more people bringing light into the world. His song “Lantern” follows. I must be an old dark grump because all I can think is, “Can’t he replace that new shiny red lantern that looks like it was purchased at Home Goods with one from a New England antique shop that is full of character and would better reflect the diligence of those who work and fight for the light in other people’s lives?” Yes, I must be an old dark grump because what Connor is doing, saying, and singing is beautiful. Ironically in the very next song Raina comes up to join Connor and Eric, leading “Tattered Shirt” – about the love of old worn things. The gentle three-part harmony in it hits the spot. Connor follows it with “Real Old” that he sang at his grandma’s funeral. A song that basically answers the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s his most beautiful song of the night. He keeps the beauty coming with “Bend the Light,” which brings to mind Martin Luther King’s description of the long bending arch of justice. Connor and Eric end with the uplifting “Shine” – and I’m still thinking about that little shiny lantern. All three performers come back for an encore that ends with the line… “trying to find our way home in the dark.” We’re all searching… and any lantern will help. Luckily we all found Me & Thee tonight. (T Max)
JESS FOX & ERIC ROYER
Sam, Jess and Eric team up to provide the music for the “Bluegrass Brunch” held at Highland Kitchen. This celebrated brunch spot is frequently listed as one of the areas best and as a result, there is a small wait to get seated. So we grab a couple spicy bloody marys, hang at the bar and listen to the high lonesome sounds of this trio as they pick through classic bluegrass ballads and fiddle tunes. Sam Reid is cooking on his guitar while Eric Royer dices up some hot banjo licks. Meanwhile, Jess Fox is serving up ample helpings of tasty fiddle throughout their musical masterpiece. The music provides some nice ambiance to the restaurant’s Southern hospitality home-style breakfast options like shrimp and grits, smoked pork hash and biscuits with sausage and gravy. It’s a welcoming place that leaves our ears and stomach feeling well fed and happily content. This family friendly experience is one all must try. (Kier Byrnes)
DON WHITE (featured artist at Julie Dougherty’s Open Mic)
VFW, Salem, MA
Julie Dougherty has a new open mic in Salem MA at the VFW (95 Derby Street) and she’s pulling in some pretty impressive artists to feature every last Wednesday of the month. Dennis Brennan was featured in the debut of this popular new gig for Julie. And tonight we have no other than Don White! Don is the most entertaining singer/ songwriter I’ve seen in the last year. He’s a natural comedian without even trying – but maybe that’s by design. Don is the only musician who gains from the tip jar being passed around the room, but there’s a whole lot more talent here tonight. Like who? Julie Dougherty starts off with a few songs then we get a couple each from Ryan & Joella, John Amoroso & Tom Uellner, Rick Drost, Jay DiBiasio, Charlie Ortolani & Melissa Fleming, Larry Scott & Rich Baker, Glenn French & Lisa Haley, Kathy Dougherty (with Julie), and your’s truly! But let’s get back to the featured artist… Don White does a very funny song about the effects of marijuana on people. It’s just prior to the presidential election and he feels like we need more communication between everyone… and inhaling the burning green-leaf tends to hinder that. Don’s delivery adds so much humor to his show. He gets a handful of people to join him on “Goodnight Irene” at the end of his set. Give a classic song like this to Don and he’ll dismantle it to make sure everyone at the VFW remembers his set with a big smile on their face. (T Max)
JIMMY RYAN & HAYRIDE
You’d think a Sunday afternoon show wouldn’t generate much of a draw but Atwood’s is packed today. Hayride is in the house, led by mandolin virtuoso Jimmy Ryan. The crowd gathers intensely to watch Jimmy dual solos back and forth with guitar luminary, Duke Levine. It’s master artists performing at their best. I like Duke and Jimmy playing together because they each push each other and I think that brings the best out in both of them. By the applause of the wide-eyed audience witnessing this spectacle, I’d say I’m not alone in my opinion. Big props for reformed drummer and recording engineer guru, Dave Westner on bass guitar, who along with session drummer extraordinaire, Mike Piehl, are top tier musicians in their own right. These boys hold it down. (Kier Byrnes)
THE DELTA GENERATORS (opening for Elvin Bishop)
The Cabot Theatre, Beverly, MA
This is my first time at The Cabot and I get here early to meet the band and the people in charge of this beautifully ornate movie theater. The Delta Generators are loading in when I arrive and my old friend Wiz from Wizard Security, who keep things in order here, takes me on a tour of the old venue currently under renovation. The Cabot gets my official seal of approval for its majesty and overall coolness; at the back of the room, behind the regular seats, is an area with small round tables and chairs if you’d prefer to drink and view the show from there. The Delta Generators start off their night with “Hand Me Down Blues” showcasing the killer slide guitar of Charlie O’ Neal and stellar vocals of Brian David Templeton who joined the group three weeks ago. And he plays killer blues harp too. This band really rocks and the general modus operandi has brother Rick O’ Neal on bass and drummer Jeff Armstrong powering the group as Charlie riffs and Brian emotes. And it works very well. I really love when the guitar and the voice play off each other in many of the songs. Sometimes they call and respond and sometimes they sing and play the same notes at the same time or right after each other for extra emphasis. My two favorite songs are “Can’t Keep A Good Man Down” and the last song “That Evil” where Charlie’s imaginative slide licks and Brian’s powerfully passionate and believable vocals showcase their interesting interplay. I also really appreciate the Robert Johnson-like slide leads that drive “Strawdog Strut.” The Delta Generators have the crowd screaming by the end of their set and they are my new favorite band in Boston. The theatre’s sound is very good too and you can clearly hear all the artists and their instruments in a good mix. Elvin Bishop has a six-piece set-up complete with a woman playing upright bass, an accordion/ keyboardist, another guitarist, a drummer and a trombonist. Their music is pretty much New Orleans r & b with only “Travelin’ Shoes” from his classic catalog on the set list. Elvin’s guitar playing is iconic and tonight’s audience is treated to a bit of his southern hospitality as Mr. Bishop entices the audience with his perfect playing and nifty narrative. (A.J. Wachtel)
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