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WHOSE MUDDY SHOES
Chianti, Beverly, MA
I’m in the middle of moving and manage to squeeze in the time to catch a set of this cool band that I saw a couple of weeks ago at Julie Dougherty’s Open Mic in Salem, MA. Whose Muddy Shoes could be from another decade –we’re talking about a sound that was prevalent about 75 years ago – a blues that swings with gorgeous melodies and harmonies – when blues was much more than a I/IV/V progression.
Chianti is kind of upscale looking but the prices on their food aren’t bad. I take a table right up by the stage and become part of the audience of about 30 folks. The first song I hear by this unique 4-piece group is “Fixing A Hole” – Paul McCartney’s ditty from the Sgt Pepper album. Whose Muddy Shoes adds a touch of a jazz to the song. The four sit abreast from each other – right to left we have William Manitone (clarinet/sax/vocals), Robin Winter (vocals), Mark Dix (guitar/vocals) and Jack Esher (bass/vocals). Notice that they all sing – and one thing I love is listening to harmonies. On the western sounding “Tennessee Blue” Robin Winter croons the lead as the guys follower her in tight three-part harmony. They cover Bessie Smith’s “You’ve Been a Good Old Wagon”… “but daddy you done broke down” with William delivering a rousing clarinet solo. When the song ends, Jack Esher quips, “Who is the daddy in that song?” I guess only Bessie knows. I should note that Jack plays a half-sized acoustic bass with what looks like black rubber strings. Sometimes this little guitars have terrible intonation, but Jack is in control – it’s a fretless bass with only flat lines for frets. The band has a single out and “Louisiana Call,” a slow swinging blues number is on it. William takes a lengthy clarinet intro and follows it up with a cool easy vocal melody. The other sing too – there is no lack of multi-vocal chords. Mark Dix takes the lead on a wonderful Christmas song he wrote – “A Better World” that brings the bands 1940s sound into the present. The like the songs sentiment implying that we need to do the loving of others – “Someone needs our love/ It won’t come from far awe/ It won’t come from up above.” The song has the qua lit to become a regular on a Christmas radio playlist. And I’ll leave you with the song that the band got their name from – an Elmore James tune that finds somebody else’s muddy shoes where his shoes are supposed to be. And on that note – have a happy 2017 – go see Whose Muddy Shoes when you can. (T Max)
Oppa’s Kitchen & Bar, Malden, MA
Tucked away in downtown Malden in the backroom of Korean restaurant isn’t exactly the place where I’d expect to see world-class music, but lo and behold, here it is! Don’t get me wrong, Malden has its charm and Oppa’s food is quite tasty but a gifted individual such as I saw tonight is a rare find in any city. Music is a wonderful thing and tonight’s show was no less than incredible. Behind the piano sits Santon, an accomplished musician and graduate of both Berklee College of Music and Perkins School for the Blind. Born in Russia and without the ability to see, Santon has mastered the piano, flawlessly playing from memory a wide variety of genres such as complex jazz numbers, Russian folk music, tangos and other songs with complex rhythms and melodies. The music ranged from up-tempo dance music to beautiful heartfelt melancholic ballads, which left the crowd speechless. Though I didn’t see it at this show, rumor has it he also plays violin. Do yourself a favor and seek out this talented young man. (Kier Byrnes)
No Problemo, New Bedford, MA
Its a cold night in New Bedford but cozy at No Problemo with their delicious burritos and cool decorations. New Bedford’s own Wishroom open the set with a super loud set of math rock with some metal inluence and even some solos that remind me of The Cure. The band has Bill Contois of Lazertuth on guitar and vocals. Since the band plays so loud, it is difficult to really hear the voices. That’s the only drawback of this great spot, the pa could use an upgrade for the louder bands.
Next up is Hil Haints from Western Mass. They play an amazing set equally influenced by alt and noise rock. The drummer has a sort of jazzy feel that sets this band apart, he propels the band forward as he plays busy but fitting fills and rolls. They end the set with the punk rock national anthem, also known as I wanna Be Your Dog by the Stooges. The bassist doesn’t seem to know the song, but that won’t hold this band back as they deconstruct 40 years of rock ’n’ roll in three minutes and fling their instruments around the club.
Hill haints are great and a hard act to follow. New Bedford’s lords of the new noise Picnic Lunch end the night on a high note, with slabs of sonic architecture that recall the Fall, Pere Ubu, and James Chance and the Contortions. There are traditional song arrangements with alternate tunings and other tunes that throw the traditional songbook out the window and into outer space. Take that, Sonic Youth!All hail Picnic Lunch! (Eric Baylies)
Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA
Host Tony Toledo starts off the night with a double intro going back and forth between the two artists. Antje Duvekot and Chuck Cannon would normally be playing separate sets tonight but Antje announces that they will be doing this in the round. Antje starts off with a very quiet performance – what I love about this is that it forces the audience to be in a perfectly still listening mode. Chuck does one of his about money not mattering anymore and I notice distinct extra reverb on his guitar and his low E string sounds like it’s down around C. Antje joins in on the chorus of “Everyone’s rich and nobody’s poor.” It becomes obvious that we’ve got a friendly duel of songwriting going on. Both artists are extremely talented writers. They just happen to have matching dark sunburst Gibson acoustic guitars, ’cept Antje’s is three-quarter size. She uses one effect on hers – tremolo – and it adds such a nice feel. Chuck tells the story of how Dolly Parton gave his house a call when she heard that Chuck’s dad was giving him grief about becoming a songwriter. Dolly recorded and released Chuck’s song “Why Can’t We Be” and it showed his dad just how wrong he was. Antje follows that with “Christian Boys” a politically motivated song she wrote 10 years ago for Trump (actually, she admits it was for George W. Bush, but it’s getting more mileage now). This friendly battle of songs keeps rolling into the night – it kind of like watching a home run derby. One after the other, each artist hits it out of the park. Chuck’s storytelling, which he didn’t plan to do tonight (my cohort Perry Persoff from WUMB made a request before the show started and it turned Chuck’s decision around), is the highlight of the night for me (thank you Perry!). Perry also provides me with these lines… “Chuck had become a fan of Antje Duvekot’s songwriting prior to the show – Antje had sent Chuck some of her CD’s. The smile on his face and the words he expresses show how impressed he is with her writing during the show.” And this home run derby of songwriting continues to go further into the night than any Me & Thee performance has ever gone… and the audience still wants more. Now listen to me very closely – thats right, put your ear up to the screen… if you enjoy intelligent melodic songwriting – please write “Antje Duvekot” and “Chuck Cannon” on your forehead backwards and look at yourself in the mirror everyday for a month to engrain their names into your mind. You WILL go see them perform the next time you see or hear either of their names again. Go ahead, write it. (T Max)
TRICK WALLACE TRIO/
THE REAL REAL BAYOU BOY/
DOUG MACDONALD BAND
The Midway Cafe, Jamaica Plain, MA
It’s an afternoon show today and why isn’t anyone here at The Midway yet? Ooops – I forgot to turn my clock back last night. At least I’m an hour early and not an hour late.
Before Doug MacDonald hits the stage he hands me his latest CD, Lightning Head, and I stuff it into my pocket for later listening. There’s no big soundcheck, Doug jumps right in with Patty Short on drums sticking to him like glue on “Drawbridge Troll” from the new CD. This is a unique two-piece band. Doug does the writing and can sing in the upper stratosphere when he gets going. He plays a red hollow body Gretsch and gets the most out of its big sound with a nice dose of reverb. He plays with elements of garage rock and a bit of Dick Dale guitar sensibilities. Doug and Patty are tight, they move from one song to the next as if they’re in the same mind. They play a lot of songs I’ve enjoyed from their past CDs including “Mr. Bones,” “Jack Joke Shop,” “Honk Your Horn,” and “No Fighting” which I’ve heard on WMBR recently. More and more people are realizing that there’s something special about this act.
The Real Real Bayou Boy lead by Greedy Geezer (on 12-string and voice) is the kind of band meant to be playing for a bar full of people out to hoop it up. Geezer’s got Lonesome Lil (Lillian Donnelly) on piano and singing, Uncle Joey Fingers on accordion, Andrew Crear on drums, and two of the Tokyo Tramps on percussion. They take an old Sam & Dave soul song, “I Thank You,” and make it into a hillbilly jamboree. They’re breaking in drummer Andrew Crear tonight and one song does get a little twisted with some people on the up beat while other are on the down – but it just adds to the thrills. They do the Stones’ “Play With Fire” and pour on some moonshine to fan the flames – reaching for that feeling of imperfect perfection. The band expands when Satoru takes off the washboard and straps on his Strat and Yukiko jumps on stage with her signature brown SG bass. They roll over “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and we all get what we need.
The Trick Wallace Trio does seem to make some magic on stage – starting off – this trio is made up of five members. Before things get rolling Trick’s mic stand starts drooping, so he quips, “It’s heard me sing before.” Behind Trick are Spencer Hargis (bass), Paul Giovine (drums), James Bryan (guitar) and John Mulrooney (lap steel). They are a refined bunch of excellent players reminding me of the Chandler Travis Philharmonic or Men & Volts. Good musicianship, smooth grooves, and easy-going presentation. The highlight of their set is a soulful song, “I Need a Love” – so good I figure it must be an old Curtis Mayfield number, but Trick later tells me that he wrote it himself. Wow – nice writing and performance. They end with “Christmas in the Slammer” and I don’t know if it was intentional or not but the solo section had a real Eno-esque quality to it.
Tokyo Tramps are also breaking in a new drummer tonight. He, Teruki Kameyama, starts off by himself with Yukiko Fujii on bass and Satoru Nakagawa on guitar slowing adding to the picture. The first tunes are “Flowing Water” and “Jeffrey Jive” both songs from their two-song teaser… before their album If I Die Tomorrow is released. “Flowing Water” has a Hendrix feel to it with Satoru showing off his guitar skills. “Jeffrey Jive” actually rolls in and out of “All Along the Watch Tower” in case we didn’t catch the reference. Yukiko gets serious when she performs “Someday You Will Come Home” for her mother who has passed. They play it up for their audience with “Shake Your Money Maker” and a bit of “Yakkit Yak” with their fans filling in the response “Don’t talk back.” Too much fun at the Midway today. (T Max)