Monday, January 02, 2012

Landing This Plane

Well, this is it for this blog.

Thank you to all you readers.

As you may know, I've retired as the Narrows emcee, and am also bringing "Backstage at the Narrows" to an end.

"Backstage at the Narrows" will still be around as an archive of sorts, but I will no longer be updating it. I urge you to follow Patrick's blog to keep up with Narrows info, plus follow the Narrows on Facebook and email. Exciting things are happening!!!

With our fabled venue just celebrating its 10th anniversary, it feels like the right time to make a change in my volunteer activities.

Been blogging since 2005; been at the Narrows as emcee etc. for something like 9 years. Before that, I hung out at the old Narrows in the 1990s when it was over on Martine Street in Fall River, playing guitar and hosting open mics.

Thanks to all who made these opportunities possible: Patrick, Maggie, Bert, Peter, Deb, Kathy, Clem, Marilyn and many others.

I urge all community-oriented music lovers to offer your volunteer services to the Narrows. It's a great experience with wonderful people.

For me, I'm looking forward to, maybe, taking classes, goofing off with Laura, playing my guitar, running in road races (recently ran the Alexandria, VA five mile "Turkey Trot" with my son), reading (just finished a fine biography on the late Senator Claiborne Pell), going to bed early on Friday nights, going to the movies (just saw the new Sherlock Holmes and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--both pretty good), hanging out with my son and daughter, and attending concerts at the Narrows! I'm also looking forward to getting music and movie tips from my brother-in-music, Carl, one of the Narrows' fine volunteers (he should start his own blog).

Enough said. Landing this plane. Bye!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Faves of 2011

Thanks for all the nice messages about my retiring from the Narrows. Thank you Patrick Norton for the very kind blog post as well.

Before exiting this blog, I wanted to do, for one last time, a wrap up on the year. Please feel free to add your thoughts.

Some of my favorites:

--David Johansen in January. Very New York. An honor to hear the guy who created one of my all-time favorite records: "Funky But Chic."

--Los Straitjackets in February. Guaranteed crowd-pleasers.

--Joan Osborne in March. Went into the show thinking I wouldn't like. Came out a fan!

--Rodney Crowell in March. Classy. I read his book, too. Chinaberry Sidewalks.

--George Winston in March. I didn't do the show but my significant other, Laura, did and really loved it. Since the show she's ponied up and bought a couple of his CDs. No greater tribute.

--Janis Ian in April. Another show I went into thinking I wouldn't like, but was knocked over by her talent. If you get a chance to see her, don't pass it by.

--Soul Rebels Brass Band in June. Great energy and musicianship.

--Jake Shimabukuro in July. Brilliance with class.

--Tommy Castro Band and friends in August. Tommy breathes new life into the blues.

--Deke Dickerson in September. Great energy, fantastic musicianship and upside down guitar playing by Deke's drummer Sugarballs. These guys know how to entertain!

--Rosanne Cash in November. One of the classiest shows I've ever seen.

--Lake Street Dive in December. New and worth noticing.

--Justin Townes Earle in December. I really looked forward to this show and was not disappointed. JTE is a solid songwriter and performer. He knows what he's doing.

And, of course, the last two shows I worked, Duncan Sheik and Savoy Brown, were faves. I didn't think I would like Duncan Sheik but something about his vibe I really enjoyed. Talented singer, too, by the way. And Savoy Brown--founder Kim Simmonds on lead guitar--is always solid.

But enough about me. Please post your favorites and why.

Then I'll land this plane.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

45th Anniversary Show

No, not the Narrows anniversary. That's only 10 years.

Actually longer if you count when it was over on Martine Street. Patrick, Louis, me and others strumming guitars, honking harmonicas etc., while Bert and various visual artists planted the seeds to what is now an art gallery that has finally achieved deserved recognition. (Did you see the Legos exhibit?)

But I digress down memory lane.

Talking Savoy Brown--celebrating 45 years. They brought their new recording, Voodoo Moon, to the show Saturday night, so it was a CD release party in addition to a concert.

Founder and guitar god Kim Simmonds, who is now in his mid-60s, looked great and played with energy that drove his band to inspirational heights and brought the appreciative audience to its feet.

At this writing, haven't had a chance to listen to Voodoo Moon, but noticed that Mr. Simmonds writes in the CD notes that he emphasized songwriting in developing this project. Always a good thing.

I interviewed him about playing guitar before a 2010 performance. Read it here.

Our friend Mark T. Small opened the show with his faster-than-lightning hands and his deep knowledge of the blues. Mark wowed the crowd so much that I'm told people literally ran over to the front table to buys his new CD, which I wrote about awhile back. See that write up here.

Overall, a great night for the blues.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Over from College Hill

Well not exactly.

Duncan Sheik spent time on Providence's East Side as a student at Brown and playing music with Lisa Loeb.

Since then he's had a gold record, written songs for theater and film, and done some acting too.

Friday night he made his Narrow's debut, and he took the occasion to play selections from his latest project, Covers 80's, in which he performs songs from the 1980s by The Cure, Depeche Mode and others.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Justin Townes Earle Gets Deserved Sell Out

Twenty-nine-year-old Justin Townes Earle is one of the finest singers, songwriters and performers on the scene.

We spotted that the first time he played the Narrows to a much-less-than-full house a few years back.

Sunday night he played to a sold out room, greatly deserved considering, to these ears, his latest long-player, Harlem River Blues, is one of the finer and funner recordings you'll hear. He's got a new one coming out in 2012. From what I saw surfin' on-line, it's supposed to have a Memphis-soul feel.

He played solo Sunday night (displaying some pretty good guitar playing btw), but check out his appearance on Letterman with a band.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

R.I.P. Hubert Sumlin

Just got word that Narrows alum Hubert Sumlin passed away today at age 80.

Mr. Sumlin was Howlin' Wolf's guitar player, and was named by Rolling Stone to their list of 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

You can see him jammin' with Narrows alums Robert Cray & Jimmie Vaughan on Eric Clapton's "Crossroads" DVD for 2010.

Friday, December 02, 2011



Are they retro, rockabilly, jazz, pop, camp? Yep! Most of all Lake Street Dive were fun as they made their debut at the Narrows Friday night.

No question, a retro vibe, but somewhat understated (compared to Jenny Dee), although they did a nifty version of one of my favorite tunes, "This Magic Moment," made famous by The Drifters and Jay and the Americans in the 1960s.

And there was a Motown feel, too.

But wait--they did one of the better Paul McCartney solo songs "Let Me Roll It" (the horn handled the song's riff) from Paulie's 1974 near-masterpiece Band on the Run.

Very cool.