Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Joint Will Be Jumpin'

Friday, September 16, the Narrows hosts a fundraising gala for the Fall River Festival of the Arts.

This year we're featuring Bellevue Cadillac. You've heard their music on "Sex and the City," "The Sopranos" and other shows. They've performed on VH1, and played with Ray Charles, James Brown, Keith Richards, Kool and the Gang and others.

And they were asked to do JFK Jr.'s secret wedding--but turned it down! (What??)

They play jazz, gospel, blues, soul, swing & rock & roll. Tickets are available RIGHT NOW by going to

The Narrows is going to be jumping! Don't miss this one!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Rock Mind Trapped in a Bluegrass Body

On Wednesday, September 14 the Narrows welcomes for the first time Chatham County Line, a bluegrass group out of North Carolina.

I interviewed banjo player Chandler Holt, who's in the photo, via email. Here's the interview:

1) You'll be playing the Netherlands, Norway and the UK in the near future. Are you getting radio airplay over there?

...It seems like the UK has gotten behind both records pretty well. Holland has been positive as well. There is a suprising amount of fan mail coming from overseas.

2) When the audience comes to the Narrows, what kind of show should they expect? Lots of energy, more mellow, humour?

It's a roller coaster ride. There are a lot of high energy tunes, but also many ballad type tunes and a few covers that most people wouldn't expect from a band like us. Everything has lots of gusto whether it's fast or slow.

3) What makes your group different and special for the listeners?

We write all our own music and we don't rely on a lot of the cliche things that plague the genre. CCL is a rock mind trapped in a bluegrass body is one way of putting it.

4) Where would the group like to be careerwise in 5 years?

Sitting on a beach in Jamaica drinking rum from a coconut w/a banjo in my hands!! Seriously, I'd like to be headlining theaters and larger concert halls while also playing the higher profile festivals as well. Really, just keep doing what we're doing now, which is traveling to awesome places and seeing folks getting energized about what we do. It's pretty awesome at times!

5) Any artists that you are recommending? Who are your listening to?

Ry Cooder's early records are all fantastic. The 88 is a new band John found that is pretty cool. I'd love to say something more obscure, but Coldplay just sounds good.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Strange Trip of Jay Bennett, Ex-Wilco

One of the first shows your humble blogger emceed at the Narrows was a performance by Jay Bennett and Edward Burch, who were promoting their new CD "The Palace at 4 a.m. (Part I)." This was back in 2002, if memory serves.

Jay Bennett, in the photo, had been recently fired from media darlings Wilco, the most famous band you may never have heard of. I certainly hadn't at the time.

I remember Bennett and Burch huddling in the Narrows office to see something on the Internet about a movie that had just come out about Wilco.

Over the weekend, your humble blogger finally saw the film, which is called "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." It chronicles the band's recording of what was hailed as a classic after its release, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." The movie also portrays the split between Jeff Tweedy, the band's lead guy, and Jay Bennett, often Tweedy's co-writer, and Wilco keyboardest, guitarist and--from what I saw in the movie--consulting engineer. He also was interesting--Tweedy and his cohorts struck this writer as boring and distant.

Almost from the beginning, the chain-smoking Bennett and the sullen Tweedy engaged in a low level battle--with Bennett repeatedly explaining a recording issue and Tweedy responding with mumbles and a blank look. After one argument, Tweedy goes into the bathroom and vomits, saying he often regurgitates due to migraine headaches.

About halfway through the film, Bennett gets the boot (it's Tweedy's band), to his apparent disbelief, though he says leaving Wilco had been in the back of his mind. The film notes that Bennett would have to start over, playing small venues--which is why he was at the Narrows talking to your humble blogger and staring at a computer screen for info about the movie.

The film continues with the band's dispute with Reprise records, which didn't want to release "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." After shopping the recording to several companies, the album was released through Nonesuch.

I found the movie as bland as I find Wilco's music. Somebody--critics particularly--thinks Jeff Tweedy and Wilco are phenoms. They hear something I don't.

Jay Bennett is another matter. "The Palace at 4 a.m. (Part I)," released in 2002, is an exciting record that--for you Wilco fans--features two Bennett/Tweedy songs: "Shakin' Sugar" and "Venus Stopped the Train."

His first stop at the Narrows with Edward Burch was magical; however, a follow up visit was a disgrace, as Bennett and Burch seemed too inebriated to perform. If memory serves, your humble blogger left the show early as he was bored to tears--and insulted--as Bennett and Burch noodled around the stage, emitting yelps of drunken joy. Yuck.

Apparently, Bennett went on a self-imposed hiatus not long after.

Since then, Bennett has reportedly dropped a lot of weight (in "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" he looks like a heart attack waiting to happen; and I remember seeing him remove his t-shirt in the Narrows' office, revealing a sizeable beer belly), and has recorded several CDs.

And there are rumbles he may return to the Narrows. If he does, don't miss him. He's an excellent musician, singer and songwriter.

To learn more about Bennett and Wilco, check out these resources:

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Wall of Fame

When you walk into the Narrows' performance area, if your head makes a hard left you'll spot our "Wall of Fame." This is a list of generous folks who have donated a $100 or more to the Narrows.

Is your name up there? It can be. Send at least $100 to the Narrows Center for the Arts, 16 Anawan Street, Fall River, MA 02721. The Narrows is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.

So keep the smiles on our volunteers in the picture (from left to right Deb Charlebois and Marilyn Edge). Please send your donation today!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Photos from the Danu Show

Danu did a wonderful show on Thursday night at the Narrows.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Review of Re-Release of David Allan Coe's First

“Take This Job and Shove It” was made famous by its singer, the late Johnny Paycheck. But it was written by a guy who probably spent more time working inside prison than at any regular job before he came up with that song—David Allan Coe.

According to the booklet provided in the advance materials from his new record company, from age 16 to 21 he was in the National Training School for Boys, the Lewisburg Penitentiary, the Chillicothe Reformatory, the Lima State Hospital, and the Ohio State pen. At age 23 he went back to the Ohio State Penitentiary, then apparently was free for a year, then went to the Marion Correctional Institution until he was 27.

Clearly, he had issues.

Speaking of issues, Shout! Factory/Hacktone Records is re-issuing Coe’s “Penitentiary Blues” album, out of print for decades.

The guitar work is often harsh, the chords are few and bluesy, and the singing is unrestrained (when he’s mellow his voice reminds me—believe it or not—of Chuck Berry’s; when he laughs he echoes, at times, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins).

Perhaps not surprisingly, in recent years he’s worked with the now defunct thrash metal legends from Texas, Pantera (a member of the group, Dimebag Darrell, was recently shot to death on stage). And though Coe is country, his lyrics fit metal:

Now they’re taking blood tests
From my heroin vein

According to the press materials, Coe was serving his eighth consecutive stretch in the joint when he wrote some or all of these tunes. Not good for a career as an insurance salesman, but “street cred” for a writer/performer. And that’s what the promotional stuff is focusing on.

But it is a good CD?

Yes, if you like your Americana simple, nasty, bluesy and to the point. Note for our younger readers: This CD clocks in less than thirty minutes. That’s how it was back then.

Congrats to Shout ! Factory/HackTone Records on this release. It’s not in the same league as a Beatles rarities, but hot damn it’s fun!

Photo from

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Danu Tonight

From Ireland, it's Danu tonight (Thursday) at the Narrows!

Tickets are still available at this writing!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Deke Dickerson's Melody

Thursday, October 20, the Narrows welcomes once again rockabilly guitar superstar Deke Dickerson, coming to us from the land of Governor Aaaalnold.

Deke's got a nifty new CD out called "The Melody," which he proclaims (on the back of the CD case) as a concept album "carefully engineered to bring you songs with melodies and hooks that you won't soon forget."

That's up for you to decide if you get a chance to listen. (You can hear samples at Deke's website). I found it like I've found him during his shows: entertaining, smooth, professional, and interesting.

Rockabilly lives with a double-edged sword: Most of the mainstream popularity it has is linked to the 1950s--this brings people to its shows, but may turn "hipper" listeners off. At the same time, as shown on Deke's records, there are newly written rockabilly songs. How can they be nostalgic when they're new songs?

Clearly, since it is embraced by roots enthusiasts, it is seen as genuine Americana by hipsters like your humble blogger, which is why the music is featured at the Narrows. I tend to view rockabilly as a genre like reggae or polka music or even blues. It's a category not necessarily defined by time, although for marketing purposes rockabilly artists aren't afraid to grease their hair back and sing about girls with pony-tails.

Deke--who wears his hair short, no grease--has plenty of originals on "The Melody" and I suspect he wasn't alive in the 1950s much less twanging his guitar. The CD is toe-tappin' fun, and something you can play with the kids in the car.

But, if you listen closely, you'll note that some of the lyrics are nasty, even cruel. For example, in one of the CD's best tracks, "Good Time Gal," he wrote (and sings):

Well I bet she used to be pretty
Now she only gets your pity
Good time gal I wish you'd drink up and go home

For you Gram Parsons fans, the sound is less rockabilly and more like something Gram or the Flying Burrito Brothers might have recorded. "D.B." Berzansky fills in for "Sneaky Pete" on pedal steel.

Deke doesn't just get nasty with women--he takes whacks at guys. In his "Mister Cheater" he wrote (and sings):

Hey Mr. Cheater
You'll break her heart, but you won't leave her
But if you ask me, I don't know
If Mr. Cheater has a soul

Buddy Holly fans will delight at his cover of an obscure Holly tune "Tell Me How." I've never heard Buddy do the song, but Deke is faithful to the Bud-I's usual sound, like the Beatles were when they did "Words of Love."

If you have seen the Dekester twang his thang, you'll remember his drummer Chris "Sugar Balls" Sprague plays a big part in the show, and he contributes several songs, drums and backing vocals as well to "The Melody." (No, I don't know why his nickname is Sugar Balls.)

If you like the Deke, you'll like this CD. If you don't know him, the recording would be a swell introduction.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Update on Michael Troy

Michael Troy continues his battle with cancer, but he is at least out of the hospital. According to the medical team, everything is going as anticipated.

The word I'm getting is that Michael will perform in December at the Narrows Center for the Arts along with friends J.P. Jones, Mary Ann Rossoni and others. Don't know if details have been finalized.

Remember, if you'd like to make a donation to help Michael's family cover costs, send your donation to:
Somerset Federal Credit Union
Attn: John
740 County St.
Somerset, MA 02726-0426

In the memo portion of the check please put this account number: #42831.

Also--the frozen pudding fundraiser at Cafe Arpeggio's continues at both the Fall River and New Bedford locations.

Monday, August 22, 2005


I previously reported that the Duhks were coming to the Narrows in January. Although we are trying to schedule something, it turns out that nothing is in place.

Please forgive this grievous error on the part of your blogger. Nice picture, though, huh?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Photos from Mentalist Show

Mentalist Rory Raven put on a great show on Saturday night at the Narrows.

Rory is a mind reader, who doesn't believe in ESP. In fact, he doesn't appear to believe in many things, if anything, supernatural, despite the fact that he dabbles in what appears to be a form of magic.

As he noted in an interview featured a few days back, he's a skeptic.

Took a few shots of Rory alone and reading the minds of audience members.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Supernatural Tonight

Tonight (Saturday night) at the Narrows, it's mentalist Rory Raven.

Yes, we know a guy reading minds, bending spoons etc. is unusual to have at the Narrows. But, hey, we heard good things, so what the heck.

Tickets are still available for the show.

Friday night, it was jam banders Roots of Creation. This was their second appearance at the Narrows. They had some local guys open for them (we didn't know ahead of time) who were good jam banders themselves. They're called, believe it or not, "Jon the Cartoon Whale."

Backstage at the Narrows Gossip: The Narrows was empty early on and we figured nobody was showing for the show, when just before Roots of Creation went on a steady stream of people came in, including women who must have been supermodels or something. We're not exactly sure why the supermodels apparently love Roots of Creation, but the fact that they came to the show is all that matters.

Here are some photos of Roots of Creation at the Narrows (sorry, no supermodels):

Friday, August 19, 2005

Who's Tonight, and Photos from Last Night

Jam banders Roots of Creation are at the Narrows tonight (Friday). Tickets are still available. And with the milder weather, the Narrows has been much more comfortable.

Last night, our guy Ryan Fitzsimmons was the opener for Ryan Montbleau.

The photo is of Mr. Fitzsimmons, bearing down on his guitar. Unlike a lot of singer/songwriter types, he's a talented guitar player. In the background, that's a window showing a glimpse of our unique, natural backdrop. Maybe we should put up some curtains or something (it's tricky shooting photos because your flash will reflect off the windows if you're not careful), but, on the other hand, staying "au natural" is kind of cool.

The other Ryan brought his band down--he performs solo or with his band--to this gig, since they're all living in the Boston area. Some of the band members apparently had relatives at the show, including parents. We're such a wholesome venue!

Below is Ryan Montbleau with his trademark cap.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ryan, Ryan & Belanger

Tonight (Thursday) our headliner is Ryan Montbleau. Scroll down to Tuesday, August 9th to view an interview with him.

Opening is our good buddy Ryan Fitzsimmons.

Tickets are still available, and there should be plenty at the door as well. So if you're looking for something to do that's affordable and fun, come to the show! Remember, if you are of legal drinking age you can bring in alcohol, even though we don't sell it. Of course, we ask that you always drink responsibly.

Just wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to a longtime volunteer at the Narrows, Pete Belanger. Pete hosts the Wednesday night open mikes, and is former president of the Narrows back when it was on the other side of town. We think the photo below captures Pete's bubbly personality.

If you spot Pete, make sure you shake his hand and thank him for his longtime commitment to improving the quality of life in the Fall River area.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Chuck Riffs, Chuck Grimaces, Lucky 57 Loads Out

Chuck Prophet, out of San Francisco, did a heck of a show at the Narrows on Monday night.

On the left, he gets down and nasty with a scorching solo. Chuck is a damn fine guitar player, though most people focus on his songs and singing.

Backstage at the Narrows gossip: We learned from one of the band members that Chuck's music is a favorite among 17 to 19 year old females browsing Go figure!

Over in the photo to the right he grimaces about something. That's a "grimace" isn't it? Or am I getting confused with the "Grimace Who Stole Christmas." But I digress.

That's his wife Stephanie Finch behind him playing keyboards. We don't think she had anything to do with his expression.

Backstage at the Narrows gossip: Chuck, despite being the star, was hauling equipment like any band member. This is not the case for some bands that perform at the Narrows. Chuck is probably a Commie.

The opener was the Providence-based Americana group, Lucky 57, the Providence Phoenix's Best Roots Act for 2005 . We had some nice stage shots, but we weren't used to our new camera and, poof, they went to digital heaven. Or maybe digital hell.

But we did get (and keep!) decent shots as they were loading out on the "dock of death" right behind the Narrows. Despite having treacherous steps, poor lighting, and probably rats with big teeth, not one person hauling musical equipment has been killed, permanently maimed or sustained an injury that could stand up in a court of law.

In this photo, Lucky 57 is thanking their lucky stars that every band member made it off the loading dock alive.

Wait a minute. Where's the bass player?

Uh oh.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Spoons Will Bend At The Narrows

Saturday we have something completely different for the Narrows, mentalist Rory Raven, well known for his Providence Ghost Walks.

I interviewed him to get a feel for what kind of show we'll see Saturday night.

Q. Do you see dead people?

No. And I'm very skeptical of people who claim that they do -- which, I suppose, is a diplomatic way of saying I think they're just liars. I've seen a number of supposed "mediums" at work, and they always seem like they're just throwing out guesses and hoping that someone in the audience bites. "I see someone -- an older man -- with a heart condition? Or something in the chest? Does this make sense to anyone?" It's pretty amoral to tell someone that you're in touch with a deceased loved one, play a macabre game of 20 Questions, and then charge them for it.

This kind of thing has a long history behind it. Talking to the dead in America can be traced back to a farmhouse in Hydesville, which is in upstate New York, near Rochester. In March of 1848, two little girls, Katie and Maggie Fox, were kept awake night after night by strange rapping sounds that echoed throughout the house. Eventually, the family discovered that these raps could actually respond to questions -- two raps for no, three for yes. Word went out that the Fox sisters were in touch with the spirit world and soon people were coming from miles around and paying 25 cents for a seance. The sisters were brought to New York City by Horace Greeley ("Go West, young man!") and people like James Fennimore Cooper, Julia Ward Howe, and Harriet Beecher Stowe went to seances and heard the mysterious raps. A semi-religious, semi-philosophical movement called "spiritualism" coalesced around the seance, and it spread rapidly through America and overseas to Europe (particularly England).

Forty years later, in 1888, the sisters confessed that the whole thing had started as a hoax to frighten their mother. The famous spirit raps were caused by the sisters cracking the joints of their toes. They hoped that, as the first spirit mediums, their confession would finally put an end to what they felt was a girlish prank that had gotten out of control, but of course people still go to seances today.

Q. You read minds. How do you do that?

Very well, thank you. Actually, it's a combination of things. I know a thing or two about psychology, about how people think and react, I'm pretty quick on my feet, I have a good memory, I've spent time people-watching and observing, studying theater craft ... all of those things, and a few others, come together to allow me to do what I do.

Q. What can people expect to see and experience when they come to the show at the Narrows Center for the Arts?

I call the show BRAINSTORMING!, and it consists of some ninety minutes of psychic-themed entertainment. Minds are read, predictions come true, spoons bend, and volunteers test their own “powers.” In the second half of the show (“the strange half”), I'll demonstrate a remarkable memory, explore the power of suggestion and the so-called “trance state,” and conclude with the kind of manifestation you might have witnessed in a seance chamber over a century ago! Think of it as a guided tour through the world of the mind and its powers, both real and imagined. It's good spooky fun. While audience participation is a must (it's not all that entertaining if I just stand there and read my own mind, after all), no one is ever embarrassed or made uncomfortable in any way.

Q. Is what you do an art or a science?

An art. But any art has some science underlying it -- visual artists need to know about scale and perspective, musicians have math as the foundation of music, and so on.

Q. Who are your favorite mentalists?

Among my heroes is a man named Joseph Dunninger, who performed a mindreading act on radio in the 1940s. He had a big, forceful, persuasive personality, and was famous for saying "Any child of ten could do what I do -- with forty years practice!" He was quite a performer.

In England, the husband and wife team of Sidney and Leslie Piddington also made waves on radio in the 1950s. The husband was often challenged to mentally send a thought to the wife, who was remarkable able to pick up on it. Probably the most famous of their tests involved having Sidney at the BBC studio and Leslie in a cell at the Tower of London. In the studio, a line from a book was selected by a volunteer and Sidney concentrated on it. In her cell at the Tower, Leslie slowly recited the sentence word for word. The Piddingtons never said that they were or were not psychic, but always left it to the audience to decide for themselves. It was said that Sidney Piddington had the second most recognizable voice on British radio -- the most recognizable being Churchill.

Anna Eva Fay was a woman who toured through vaudeville in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, creating a sensation wherever she went. She would answer questions being thought of by audience members. One of her assistants, Washington Irving Bishop, later struck out on his own, performing a similar show and also exposing the methods of fake spirit mediums. During one private performance in the 1880s, Bishop fell into a cataleptic trance and was taken for dead -- and autopsied!

There are some pretty colorful characters in this line of work.

(photo by Christopher Martin)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Tonight: Chuck Prophet with Opener "Lucky 57"

Tonight (Monday) at the Narrows, it's Chuck Prophet, coming to us from the "body builder' state, California. The photo is Chuck with his wife, singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Stephanie Finch, who plays in his band and on his recordings.

Click here for a review of his latest CD.

The opening act is "Lucky 57" which is the Providence Phoenix's Best Roots Act for 2005.

Tickets are still available!! See you tonight at the Narrows!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Cool Album Cover, It That's What It Is

My old friends Folks Together, one of the great New England Americana groups, has a CD release party at the Narrows on Saturday, September 10th.

The other day they sent out this "postcard" via email to invite people to the show. While I haven't confirmed this yet, I suspect this is the cover of the new CD, which is still being "nipped and tucked" for release.

It would be a neat cover, huh? That's singer Donna Olson, next to her husband, guitarist/singer Jeff Olson (who has produced a couple compilation CDs with your humble blogger), guitarist/banjo player/singer Rick Bellaire with the big smile, bassist and singer John Dunn hugging his bass, and Vinnie Pasternak apparently looking at a map or something as the "Pilgrims" seek their way. Vinnie plays anything with strings, but mostly violin and guitar, and can sing too. If you enjoy JP Jones' CDs, you may be interested in knowing that Vinnie pops up on JP's stuff from time to time, though only on record, not on stage, to the best of my memory.

If you enjoy folk music with a 1960s feel, you'll enjoy Folks Together. Listen to some of their stuff by clicking here.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

View Chuck Prophet In Action Online

Psychedelic roots cowboy from the Left Coast, Chuck Prophet, streams into the Narrows Center for the Arts this MONDAY night. That's right. Monday. Sorry about that, chief, but that's the only date available.

Don't know him? Well, you can sample the goods, baby, if you got Windows Media Player. Don't know if it works for other players.

Chuck has a video for the title track for his latest fab CD "Age of Miracles." Scroll down the page and look to your right after you click here. This is the cut that sounds to these furry ears as very John Lennonish circa "Walls and Bridges," which is about 1974. Chuck doesn't sound like Lennon (he sounds more like Jonathan Richman, actually), but the background strings echo the ones on Lennon's "Steel and Glass" song.

(P.S. For those of you unfamiliar with Jonathan Richman, he's the fellow who sang the theme for "There's Something About Mary," the Farrelly Brothers comedy starring that blonde actress who just won her lawsuit over nude photos--God, what's her name? She's in the Charlie's Angels movies too. She's terrific.)

Towards the end of the video you can catch a glimpse of Chuck's wife Stephanie Finch doing back up vocals.

Tickets are still available for the show. Go to for info.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Shake Hands with a Volunteer

The Narrows Center for the Arts is made possible through the hard work of a valiant band of volunteers.

Every time you buy a ticket to a musical performance, your money goes to pay the artist and to help the Narrows pay rent and maintain the space. Nobody draws a salary. Same goes for every time you purchase a work of art in the gallery. And when you make a donation, 100% of the proceeds are used for non-salary expenses.

Speaking of the gallery, in the picture is the guy who heads it, Jim Bartley. Jim is known for not only working in the gallery, but doing a lot of upkeep tasks for which there is little glory.

Jim is truly a Backstage at the Narrows guy, keeping a low profile. If you see him, you might want to shake his hand and thank him for donating his time to keep the arts alive in Southern New England.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Age of Miracles

Lennon meets Beck meets Richman meets whatever.

That's how I think about Chuck Prophet's "Age of Miracles" CD, released on New West Records.

It's a funny, serious, goofy, catchy recording that--if the world were a just place--would make this San Franciscan a big star.

The sound on some cuts is reminiscent of John Lennon's "Walls & Bridges" album, particularly the title track. On others he's got eclectic rhythms linked mostly to Beck. And throughout, Prophet sings with the lazy, nasal sound of Jonathan Richman, except Chuck actually is a singer.

(Above is a photo of Chuck and his wife Stephanie Finch, who also can sing, which she does on the recording, along with playing several instruments.)

That said, "Age of Miracles" takes these classic influences and comes out sounding fresh as Febreze. In fact, when I stuck the CD into my car's player for the first time, I couldn't believe how cool "Age of Miracles" sounded. (Even my 19-year-old-daughter agrees, a rarity to celebrate).

I'm not one to pay much attention to lyrics, but this album has some memorable ones.

From "Automatic Blues"--

I feel like a pair of sneakers
in a washing machine
I'm bouncing off the walls
trapped in the heat.

From "Age of Miracles"--

Don't go now, there's more to see
All lost time will be retrieved
I know it's true, it's on TV
In the age of miracles.

Chuck plays guitar, organ, lap steel and other instruments. He wrote or co-wrote all the songs.

Country soul producer/writer Dan Penn co-wrote "Heavy Duty" on the album. Penn is famed for his "Dark End of the Street," covered by Gram Parsons and many others, and for his production of the Box Tops' records in the 1960s. More recently, Penn produced one of the finer Americana albums of 2005, Greg Trooper's "Make It Through This World."

Songstress Kim "Bette Davis' Eyes" Carnes wrote "Just To See You Smile" with Chuck. Kim is known for her duets with Kenny Rogers and for penning memorable tunes for pop and country performers. (In case you didn't understand the reference, "Bette Davis' Eyes" was Kim's smash single that dominated pop radio a million years ago.)

Another country Kim--Kim Richey--also co-writes a track, "You Got Me Where You Want Me." Ms. Richey is a well-respected fairly mainstream country songwriter and performer. (Her website is under construction, but just Google her name if you want to learn more.)

Chuck Prophet comes to the Narrows Center for the Arts on Monday, August 15, and going to the show just to buy this CD is worth the effort.

For those familiar with John Doe--who also has recently put out a fantastic CD--you'll like Chuck Prophet. He's got Doe's rockin' feel, although Chuck's more lighthearted.

For more information about the Chuck Prophet show at the Narrows, go to

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Twangy Punk on a Monday Night

We'll be having an extremely rare Monday night show this coming Monday, August 15, with San Francisco's Chuck Prophet and his band headlining.

But the opener is no filler. They're called "Lucky 57" and they are this year's winner of the Providence Phoenix's"Best Roots Act" poll.

The funny thing is, your humble blogger never heard of them. Apparently a lot of people have.

Nonetheless, the fun of this business is discovering something new, so you can join me by going to the band's website and listening to their MP3s. There's one song that's cut short for some reason or another, but the track "Arms Around a Memory" is there, and it's fab!

Get your tickets for Monday night's show by visiting pronto!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"Living on peanut butter and jelly and $4 burritos..."

Thursday, August 18th, the Narrows Center for the Arts welcomes for the first time Ryan Montbleau along with his band. Since his is a new name on the circuit, we thought a brief interview might be helpful as you choose what to do entertainment-wise on that date.

Q. Could you write out your last name phonetically so we pronounce it correctly?

mont - BLEW. The correct French pronounciation is montBLOW, but my mother always said it the other way, so I'm going with mont and the color blue (which I believe is what it means anyway). Plus, I'd rather not have "blow" in my last name. But spelling it phonetically, I guess I can't avoid it! Bummer. Next question...

Q. When folks come to your show, what should they expect? Lots of ballads, upbeat stuff? Even comedy? Since you're a new artist, people like to know what to expect.

Well, I tend to play all sorts of different shows, so it really depends on the night. On a weekend club-date with the full band, we can really funk it up and get people moving. But I really prefer a listening room, where the slower stuff can be just as powerful. No matter what, we always aim to play the room. Our mission is to sound as good as possible so that people enjoy themselves. I want people to say "I had a good time" much more than "That band is good." People can expect an eclectic mix of music.

Q. How do you describe your music?

We really do bounce all over the map with our songs. I'd like to think that all of it is "soulful." One can expect to hear soul-infused folk songs, two-step rippers, a few ballads, tight funk, true rhythm and blues and all-around American music. It is rooted in something older than ourselves, sort of a rootsy soul music with a breath of fresh air.I hope that helps! I still have trouble describing it all...

Q. As a performer, what do you look for in a performance space? We know when you come to the Narrows, it will be your favorite! But for now, what are some of your favorite venues?

I loved The Point in Bryn Mawr, PA. The Paradise in Boston is nice and cozy for me. And I will always miss the House of Blues that was here in Cambridge, MA. One major thing for me is the overall attitude as soon as you walk in the place. There's a vibe that you can really pick up on at many clubs. If it's full of rude bouncers and a club-owner who could care less, treating you like a second-hand employee (which happens), that's not the place for me. But if people are simply kind to you and appreciative of what you do, that makes all the difference in the world. I love a place where people can truly listen, not just come and get drunk.

Q. Have you gotten a lot of flack from family members in your choice of profession?

No, my family is very supportive of what I do. I'll admit, my parents were a tad concerned when I got my English degree (which they paid for) and said, "I want to be a musician!" But they know that I'm in this for the right reasons and it is truly what I believe in doing. Now they support me 100% and there is no way in the world I could have done this without them. Studying that poetry in college has proven to be crucial for my songwriting, just to cite one example.

Q. Any radio stations playing your stuff? If so, which ones? Maybe the Narrows crowd will follow up and request your songs.

WERS 88.9fm in Boston has been supporting me for years. It's Emerson College radio, and one of the top college radio stations (if not THE top) in the country. That's the main one, but I've also been played on WBOS 92.9 and many college stations in random parts of the country. I haven't pushed much for radio play, but I certainly will when this new record comes out in the fall.

Q. What are the most difficult things you face in the life of a performer?

Paying my rent!I guess just instability in general. I've come to understand that there will never be much stability at any level in the music business. But especially where I am now, with no real support for the touring, no surefire way of making records, I'm really in a place where I have to struggle every day to get the music out there. It's all on the up and up, so I'm not overly concerned. But I'm working my tail off, believe you me. Sleeping on floors, making barely enough money to get by, living on peanut butter and jelly and $4 burritos...Those are the good parts! Difficult is getting out of debt and facing the unknown every day. Pouring out emotion in your songs night after night after night can start to wear on you as well. Still, I love making music more than anything and the ability to do that for a living far outweighs any difficulties that come along with it times ten.

Q. Where do you want to be in five years in your career as an artist?

I'd like to still be playing live as much as I can, and be in a situation where I can make records the right way---you know, to really have support behind me as an artist. But the fundamentals are the same---I want to roll into a different town every night and have people waiting there to listen to my music.

Q. What are you listening to these days? Any recommendations of CDs and artists we might want to check out (In addition to yourself, of course!).

Well, I think everybody should hear Martin Sexton if they haven't already. Everyone should experience that man in person at least once. "Black Sheep" would probably be my disc of choice, but you really can't go wrong. Peter Prince of Moon Boot Lover is another artist that I think everyone should hear. He's become a good friend and I still remain a straight-out fan. I listen to "Back on Earth" regularly. And it seems everyone's caught on to Ray LaMontagne by now. "Trouble" is one of the best new discs I've heard in years.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Photos from Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops Show

Last Friday featured Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops, with the Lonesome Sisters opening.

Up above, that's Jennie and Jim "Backstage at the Narrows" relaxing before the big show.

And, while we can't say that Jim and Jennie and the Lonesome Sisters will be collaborating on a project in the near future, we can say that they at least talked (about what, we don't remember). That's Jim and Jennie kind of in the middle with the Lonesome Sisters on the two sides. Snappy dressers, aren't they?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Ramblin' and Gamblin'

In the previous entry, your most humble blogger noted that the Fall River Festival of the Arts--featuring Duke Robillard, The Slip, and Steve Forbert--won't cost you a plug nickel. But there are still costs we need to cover.

One of the ways we are raising funds is a Texas Hold 'Em Poker Night on Friday, August 26 at the Venus DeMilo Restaurant, 75 GAR Highway (that's Route 6) in Swansea. Donations are $50. You must be 21 years of age.

Registration is at 6 p.m. The Tournament begins at 7 p.m. Pre-registration is recommended and you can pre-register at the Narrows (during a show between now and then; we have several coming up) or at the Venus DeMilo (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the week).

Prizes include a laptop computer, a 36 inch television (which is way too big for your blogger's trailer), DVD players and Apple I-Pods.

But the biggest prize is that you will be helping to foster the arts in our area. And have some fun doing it. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Fall River Festival of the Arts and the Narrows Center for the Arts.

Your favorite Narrows Center for the Arts volunteers will be doing the dealing etc., so if you're a regular attendee at the Narrows, you'll feel right at home.

Your humble blogger is one of the world's worst card shufflers. Small children actually are known to laugh while viewing my hapless card antics. I'll be attending a training session to improve my skills before my debut as a dealer--but don't expect much from these useless mitts.

For more information, please call 508-324-1926.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

For Free: Duke Robillard, The Slip, Steve Forbert

Patrick Norton, president of the Narrows Center for the Arts, has put together an incredible line-up for this year's Fall River Festival of the Arts, taking place Sunday, September 18, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

And it's all free.

Blues guitarist and founder of Roomful of Blues, Duke Robillard, and his band will be doing their thing in the streets of Fall River.

For free.

Duke is up for another "Blues Grammy"(actually called the W.C. Handy Award). So, despite getting Roomful of Blues rolling nearly 40 years ago, Duke is playing better than ever!

While Duke has never played the Narrows Center for the Arts, jam banders, The Slip, have. They'll also be playing at this year's Fall River Festival of the Arts.

For free.

Don't know 'em? That's okay. Listen to some of their stuff by clicking here.

Our buddy Steve Forbert--who played the Narrows earlier this year--is also on the bill. Steve is best known for his monster hit record "Romeo's Tune" way back when. He's done so much since! Listen to some of it by clicking here.

Actually, even though you won't have to pay anything to attend, there are a lot of costs that need to be covered to bring these and other performers to you. More details on the fun ways you can help coming soon!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bluegrass and Lonesome

Big show tonight featuring two groups you can see at the Newport Folk Festival on Saturday at a much higher price.

The Lonesome Sisters are the openers, coming to us from upstate New York. They specialize in rootsy lonesome songs. That's them playing a gig in your blogger's former hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio, the Gateway to the South. Cincinnati almost became what Nashville became. Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, James Brown and the Isley Brothers all recorded in Cincinnati. Apparently some of the studios relocated to Nashville in the 1950s for whatever reason, and the rest is history.

Steven Speilberg is from Cincinnati. Actor George Clooney comes from a family in the Cincinnati area; his dad, Nick Clooney, had a local television talk show. Doris Day is from Cincinnati as well; in fact, your humble blogger's late mother used to see her (when she had a different, German-sounding name) in the neighborhood growing up. Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods (they had a hit "Billy Don't Be A Hero" in the 1970s) is from Cincy, and John Fred and the Playboy Band (who had a hit "Judy in Disguise" in the 1960s) was known as "Ivan and the Sabres" when they played your humble blogger's grammar school in the Western Hills area of Cincinnati, a farming region. Dwight Yoakam is from the Cincinnati area. Pete Rose not only played for the Cincinnati Reds, but lived in the Western Hills area your humble blogger resided in. In fact, your humble blogger once went to his house and sold a candy bar to his wife at the time. She came to the door in a rather alluring nightgown. Sure, she'd support our team and buy a candy bar!


Also playing Friday night at the Narrows is Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops. Here's how Bluegrass Now magazine described them:

"Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops are the sort of upstarts who have rustled a few feathers amongst bluegrass purists - as only a 4-piece from Philadelphia can. Yet there's no denying the powerful harmonies projected by Jim Krewson and Jennie Bedford, recalling such greats as The Carters, Hazel Dickens and Red Allen - but with more spunk. "

See you tonight at the Narrows!!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Meet Hit Songwriter Darrell Scott

Singer/songwriter extraordinaire Darrell Scott, playing the Narrows in October, is interviewed in a podcast called The Nashville Nobody Knows.

It's a half-hour chat about how he grew to be an award-winning songwriter whose stuff has been recorded by the Dixie Chicks and others.

If you can listen to MP3s, you can listen to the interview. Click right here.
photo by Senor McQuire

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

That High Lonesome Sound

The Lonesome Sisters, out of New York state, are opening for Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops on Friday night at the Narrows.

And like Jim and Jennie, the Lonesome Sisters will perform at the Newport Folk Festival the next day. At a much higher ticket price we might add!

They're not sisters, by the way, but their voices blend like those of kin. They specialize in sad and lonesome songs; hence "the lonesome sisters."

Hear them for yourself if you got speakers on your computer. They've got several tracks on-line. Click right here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ever Hear of "Song Grass"?

You've heard of bluegrass. Maybe even the term for progessive bluegrass, "newgrass."

How about "song grass"?

That's what I think Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops are doing in their first release for Bloodshot Records, "Rivers Roll On By."

It's the song, not just the manic banjo pickin' or fiddle fiddlin'. And eight out of the 13 are ORIGINALS. Not stuff written by somebody planted in an unmarked grave in some old hilltown.

No disrespect intended, of course. After all, this is "roots" music. And they do perform some traditional songs, and a couple written by the late bluegrass legend Don Reno.

If you're an old-timey country song person, one who likes simple, unadorned music, you'll probably like "Rivers Roll On By." And if you're a bluegrass aficianodo, you'll probably like the CD as well, because there is some apickin' and agrinnin' too.

The sound is as rustic as their photo.

But don't let 'em fool you. These modern "Dustbowl refugees" from Pennsylvania are reformed punks (Jim was into hardcore, baby, until he heard bluegrass). And reflecting the punk ethic, they don't mess around with songs that go on forever.

Despite having thirteen tracks, the CD clocks in under forty minutes, which is rare these days. Maybe Jim and Jennie are starting a healthy new trend: self-editing. Unless you're Lennon and McCartney--and they wrote and recorded mostly short tunes--chances are you can leave some of your precious musical ideas on the "cutting room floor" so to speak, or for another album. Just because a CD can contain a lot more stuff than a vinyl record doesn't mean you've got the material to fill it up. Leave the listener hungry for more!

The originals are simple, likeable and grow on you with each listen. My favorite track is Jennie's "Stars Fall," which has her singing in a voice as pure as a mountain stream before it's used for beer. Her "Mt. St. Helens" is also memorable.

Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops perform at the Narrows this Friday, August 5th. Tickets are still available.

They play the Newport Folk Festival the next day, but it will cost you a lot more!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Michael Troy Battles Cancer

Our buddy and musician Michael Troy (that's him with the suspenders with ex-Byrd and founding father of country rock Chris Hillman) is fighting for his life against his longstanding nemesis: cancer. Michael has headlined and been an opener many times at the Narrows.

Most of us have been touched by cancer in some form or another, or may be in the future (God forbid!). For example, I'm at high risk for colon cancer. A beautiful 30-year-0ld cousin of mine down in North Carolina died from it. I get a colonoscopy every 5 years (I used to get them every year, after they found some stuff that may have turned into cancer; but I've been clean for about 10 years now.) My mother died from cancer. She was a pharmacist, and we suspect her cancer was caused by a venting mechanism in a pharmacy that was installed wrong. The mechanism was supposed to suck out cancer-causing fumes; instead, it blew the fumes toward her.

So in her memory, I'm sending a check to help Michael Troy to pay costs uncovered by health insurance (there are a ton).

His manager/promoter/friend Marilyn Edge has sent out the following:

Anyone wishing to make a donation to help offset the cost of Michael's treatment and continued care can send a check or money order, payable to Michael Troy, to:

Somerset Federal Credit Union
Attn: John
740 County St.
Somerset, MA 02726-0426

In the memo portion of the check please put this account number: #42831.

Also from Marilyn:

Rob Gould, owner of Cafe Arpeggio's...has renamed Michael's favorite ice cream (frozen pudding) for Michael. All the proceeds from the sale of that particular item in both the Fall River and New Bedford stores will go into Michael's Somerset Federal Credit Union account.