Monday, December 31, 2007

Singing the Unsung

John Paul Viveiros used to roadie around the area for years. These days he's a volunteer roadie at the Narrows.

That means he specializes in the equipment load in and load out--behind the scenes, thankless tasks that sometimes hurt! (Ever have an amp land on your toe?) In the photo, that's J.P. up on the loading dock getting handed something-or-other from yackety sax player Doug James, of Duke Robillard's band, hours before the show. John Paul, as usual, is smiling.

J.P., as he is know, also often works the door and is available for other tasks--all for the love of the music.

So on this last day of 2007 let's give a salute to one of the Narrows' unsung heroes!

Thanks John Paul!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Achy Breaky Stuntmen

In addition to their high powered yet tuneful sound, the Drunk Stuntmen always are interested in providing a good visual for the fans. And that's what they did Friday night at the Narrows.

One of their devoted followers helped out with this one, bringing the spirit of the "mulleted-one" onto the stage.

Nonetheless, the Stuntmen got serious in all their wildness, putting out some solid sounds. They're no doubt psyched up about their new record coming out in March. It was produced by R.E.M. producer Mitch Easter.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Thursday night Alejandro Escovedo, above with his terrific sideguy, pushed back the post-Christmas blues with his energy and creativity. It was the opening of the winter season at the Narrows Center for the Arts after a few weeks off so we could get to know our friends and families again.

Jeffrey Foucault, below, was the opener.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mavis Staples Coming to the Narrows

Great new shows for the late winter and early spring, anchored by--for the first time ever--the phenomenal Mavis Staples! That's her in the photo. 2008 is looking great at the Narrows.

March 8
Coco Montoya

He learned the electric blues guitar from Albert Collins while playing drums in his band. John Mayall recruited him for his newly re-formed Bluesbreakers, filling the spot once held by the likes of Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor. "In a world of blues guitar pretenders, Coco Montoya is the real McCoy. Be prepared to get scorched," says Billboard.

$20, $23

March 22
Catherine Russell

A jazz and blues singer, the Village Voice has called her "incredibly talented and classy." Talk about a solid foundation: Her dad was Louis Armstrong's music director; her mom is a bassist and singer who has performed with Mary Lou Williams and Wynton Marsalis. To give you a better feel for her work, here are some of her gigs before playing the Narrows: the Panama Jazz Festival (Republic of Panama, where her dad was born); opening for the Levon Helm Band in Woodstock; several dates as part of the American Beauty Project, a tribute to the Grateful Dead, featuring Ollabelle and Jim Lauderdale; and a performance for the Mountain Stage Radio Show. Her new album was recorded at the Levon Helms Studios in Woodstock and will be released shortly before she plays the Narrows.

$18 , $20

May 17
Mavis Staples

She's a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and VH1's Greatest Women of Rock and Roll. She was a member of the Staple Singers, who had two #1 singles, "I'll Take You There" and "Let's Do It Again." During the 1960s the group was the spiritual and musical voice of the civil rights movement, and were closely associated with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Over the years, Ms. Staples has worked as a solo performer, recording her own albums and working with Bob Dylan (a Grammy nomination for her duet with him on the song "Gotta Change My Way of Thinking"), Prince, The Band, Ray Charles, Delbert McClinton, Natalie Merchant, George Jones, and others. Whew!!

$50, $55
To purchase tickets, visit
At this writing, the shows aren't on the official schedule, so you may have to check back in a day or so.

Lafave, Young, Greencards & Borges Get Top Spins has released its top 100 radio spins in 2007 list--and we're proud to say that Narrows' alums Jimmy Lafave, the Greencards, Adrienne Young (on the right playing the Narrows in 2006) and Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles made the top 20. Other Narrows alums, including Eilen Jewell and the Holmes Brothers, made it onto the overall list.

Here's the top twenty, artist and album name:

1) Lucinda Williams, West

2) Ryan Adams, Easy Tiger

3) Kelly Willis, Translated From Love

4) Son Volt, The Search

5) Patty Griffin, Children Running Through

6) Marty Stuart, Compadres: An Anthology of Duets

7) Jay Boy Adams, The Shoe Box

8) Joe Ely, Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch

9) Subdudes, Street Symphony

10) Gurf Morlix, Diamonds To Dust

11) Jimmy LaFave, Cimarron Manifesto

12) Various Artists, Endless Highway The Music Of The Band

13) Greencards, Viridian

14) Adrienne Young, Room To Grow

15) Joan Osborne,Pretty Little Stranger

16) Sarah Borges And The Broken Singles, Diamonds In The Dark

17) Sunny Sweeney, Heartbreakers Hall Of Fame

18) Steve Earle, Washington Square Serenade

19) Old Crow Medicine Show, Big Iron World

20) Doug Spartz, The One Who's Leavin'
For the complete list, including exactly how many spins each got, click here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Narrows Wins Big At Boston Music Awards

Well, not exactly--but Narrows' artists did quite well at the event, held December 1 (your humble blogger is a few weeks behind the times).

As mentioned earlier on this blog, Lori McKenna got album of the year for "Unglamorous." That was in the major label category.

Best local male vocalist was a guy we hosted just once, if I'm not mistaken: Ryan Montbleau.

Did I mention Sarah Borges received the best local female vocalist?

Our guy Chris Smither received the outstanding folk act of the year award and Josh Ritter received the outstanding singer/songwriter of the year award.

The complete list can be found here.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Top Americana/Folk/Jazz CDs of 2007

Well, well,'s time to gather around your Backstage Blogger to discuss the best Americana/folk CDs of 2007--or whatever you call the music we normally feature at the Narrows. We should include jazz, jam, etc. as well--and I don't know what you call the music made by the likes of Rasputina.

The CDs don't have to be by artists who have played the Narrows, though some may be.

For example, one of my favorites is Bruce Springsteen's latest "Magic." I'm not wild about the production, but it sure is a nice kick-in-your-face presentation. Great songs, great playing. The compression, or whatever you call it, is too squashed for these furry ears.

I kinda like the Eagles' latest, though as time goes on I'm not so sure. Not as interesting to me at least.

The Holmes Brothers' "State of Grace" CD was certainly a highlight, as they transformed Cheap Trick's lecherous "I Want You to Want Me" into a gospel number (!!), and interpreted tunes from folks like John Fogarty ("Bad Moon Rising") and Nick Lowe ("What So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding"). particulary took note of the Cheap Trick cover.

Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles released "Diamonds in the Dark" in 2007. "Open Up Your Backdoor," a fun, audience-participation song during their concerts, is one of the best tracks, but garage-bandy "Stop and Think It Over" is the hit for your humble Backstage Blogger, an unabashed Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles fan. It was the major label (Sugar Hill) debut for Sarah and the fellows.

Narrows alum--and now would-be country star with the help of Faith Hill and Tim McGraw--Lori McKenna put out a compelling record called "Unglamorous" in 2007 on Warner Brothers. Not sure if it made her a C & W star at this point (though she won "Album of the Year" in the Boston Music Awards), but still an excellent outing and worth a listen. She knows how to write a tune! As you may know, she lives up in Stoughton, MA with her husband Gene and five kids. We have hosted her only once, if memory serves, a few years back. Nice woman and a great talent.

Although the record came out in 2006, let's give a tip-0f-the-hat to Cassandre McKinley, a Boston-based jazz chanteuse, for her "Til Tomorrow" CD, a tribute to Marvin Gaye. Her website isn't up and running, but here's a link to a review of her recording. Cassandre played the 2007 Narrows Festival of the Arts, and your blogger never listened to "Til Tomorrow" until 2007. By the way, her cover of the Beatles "Yesterday" (which apparently Marvin Gaye recorded as well) is worth the price of admission. Her partnership with Brad Hatfield (she and Brad did the arrangements, and Brad plays keyboards on the record) works well, and your Backstage Blogger hopes it continues., for which your blogger used to write reviews, has polled its writers for their Top Ten. See their stuff here. Some of the Narrows alums making their lists are Eilen Jewell, the Avett Brothers, Mary Gauthier, Uncle Earl, Grace Potter, John Gorka and Jim Lauderdale.

Leave your fave CD list in the comments section.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Learn More About Old School Freight Train

Old School Freight Train, an extremely creative bluegrass-based type group, is once again coming to the Narrows--this time Friday, January 11.

(Your humble Backstage Blogger doesn't know how tickets are going, but chances are getting entrance should be no problemo for this show. Visit

These young guys are absolutely brilliant players and know how to entertain as well. But because they're young they're still in the audience-building phase, which is why I urge that you take the time to learn more about them and consider coming to the show. Your humble Backstage Blogger has proclaimed this show a "lock"--using a sports term indicating a sure thing.

Don't just look at the schedule and say "don't know 'em" and move on. If you dig the David Grisman jazz/bluegrass thing (he's a fan of theirs, btw) then you are almost required to learn more. These are your guys.

But your humble blogger must point out that these guys are SONG GUYS. Some great instrumentalists are so into riffing that they (to kinda quote Chuck Berry), they lose the beauty of the melody. Not Old School Freight Train.

Okay, enough blathering from yours truly. Check out this write up on jambase.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ben's List

Rasputina: Gothic but rockin' says Ben

You've heard of Craig's List? It's time for Ben's List for 2007.

Ben Norton, still in grade school, is one of the youngest volunteers at the Narrows. Nonetheless, since he's been growing up at the Narrows, his musical sophistication is well beyond his years.

Without further ado, here's the word from Ben:

In no particular order!

Rasputina--Gothic but rockin'.

Sarah Borges and Broken Singles--Good as usual.

Drunk Stuntmen--Drunk as usual (Note from your Backstage Blogger: Ben is just goofing here. At least I think he is!)

Old School Freight Train--Cool cats.

Tripping Lily--Local but good! (Note from your Backstage Blogger: Ben is apparently cleverly alluding to the misconception that if you're local, you can't be good--which as we all know, including Ben, is not true.)

Richie Havens--Awesome.

New Riders of the Purple Sage--Good show.

Holmes Brothers--Poppy is funny! Shout out to him. (Note from your Backstage Blogger: Hey Poppy! We're shoutin' out to you!)

The John Cowan Band--Great musicians.

Buckwheat Zydeco--He has cool alligator shoes.

l also liked: Henry Butler

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Not yet posted on

February 1
Rosalie Sorrels

Gonzo dude Hunter Thompson and folklore guy Studs Terkel wrote liner notes for some of her albums. As part of its Beat Generation Archives, the University of California set up a Rosalie Sorrels Archive. Etc. etc. etc. She's a folk icon and we're truly honored to have her perform. Don't know her? Check out her website and meet her--and learn a bit about America too:

$20, $23

February 2
Eilen Jewell

We first met her as an opening act; now her music is popular on Americana radio stations across the USA. She's gotta a kinda lazy, sexy, western swingy kind of voice and a cookin' band. And she knows how to write a tune. Give a listen to this young woman!

$15, $17

Feb 23

The Boston Globe's Steve Morse described Entrain as "like a lively summit conference between the Dave Matthews Band and Little Feat.” Says it all.

$15, $17

March 29

A strange name, perhaps, but these are serious young musicians who are classically trained, and play all sorts of guitars, banjo and mandolin to make what has been called a folk/pop/bluegrass sound.

$15, $17

April 19
Steve Forbert

Yes, he's the "Romeo's Tune" guy. But his career has been much more than that, as those who have seen him previously at the Narrows know firsthand. We particularly dig his version of the Kinks' "Star Struck."

$20, $23

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Guitar Beauty Pageant

Narrows piano tech Andrew Pettey shows off a Gretsch White Falcon worth $2,000+
He's sitting in front of some art from music legend Richie Havens

As you might have heard, the Narrows is holding a guitar auction to raise the dough to keep the music and art humming for many years to come.

A very generous collector donated a bunch of these bad boys to the cause, and you can help yourself and the Narrows by making a bid.

We're featuring just a few of the guitars on this blog. There are many more. Email if you want more info.

Narrows president Patrick Norton shows off a Tom Anderson Atom valued at $2,200+.
He's sitting below a visual art piece by Richie Havens on display in the Narrows' Gallery

Deb Charlebois, queen of the numbers at the Narrows, cradles a USA Parker Fly Mojo worth $1,500+

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Comes to the Narrows

Alison Brown's daughter Hannah sings "California Here I Come" while wild man Joe Craven looks on
Bluegrass/newgrass wonder Alison Brown and her extreeeeeeemly talented group brought the spirit of the season to the Narrows in a big way Saturday night.

Alison was simply brilliant on the banjo and guitar, and her group--featuring fab fiddler Joe Craven (formerly of David Grisman's group--and it showed), as well as Alison's husband Garry West on bass, an unbelievable pianist, and a fantastic drummer--were too. They were fast, tight and entertaining (They even hopped off the stage and played while walking through the aisles). Was it bluegrass? Newgrass? Jazz? Classical? New Age?

Alison and Garry's daughter, Hannah, even got into the act, belting out a rousing version of "California Here I Come." Course, that has nothing to do with Christmas, but a lot of the show did.

This is the first time Alison and her group have played the Narrows, but we hope to get them back soon--at least by next Christmas season! If you were at the show, we'd love for you to leave comments.

By the way (Whew, where did the year go?), Saturday night's show was the Narrows' last before Christmas. We start up our post-Christmas schedule on December 27th.

Alison Brown and Joe Craven coordinate their sound Saturday night at the Narrows

Sunday, December 09, 2007

In Heaven with Havens

Richie Havens with East Providence educator Judy DePerla
The first song he played Friday night was one he asked a friend to write down so he could learn it--but his friend had already made a demo recording so Richie learned it from that and started featuring it in his act. But then another friend, hearing him perform it, wanted him to write down the song so he too could perform it. Well, Richie says, that guy recorded the song and "nailed it," so much so that Richie stopped playing it for a time. The first friend was Bob Dylan. The second: Jimi Henrix. The song: All Along the Watchtower.

It was that kind of night, as Richie Havens brought humor, peace and energy to the Narrows' stage, merrily breaking strings along the way. After the show, Mr. Havens brought "personal heaven" to the fans as he met with as many as he could and posed for pictures.

Narrows prez and chief bottlewasher Patrick Norton and Richie Havens just after the show

Saturday, December 08, 2007

For Those Who Attended the Richie Havens Show

Richie Havens played before another sold-out crowd Friday night at the Narrows. Photos should be posted soon.

But, actually your humble Backstage Blogger is writing to provide further information about a story that Mr. Havens told last night (and I believe has told before; so this may make sense if you've ever seen Richie in concert).

Richie talks about a guy on "muscle beach" in California on his back playing one note on his guitar over and over again. Some guy goes up to him and says something to the effect "Hey man, why are you playing the same note over and over and over again. Can't you play something else?" To which the guy with the guitar replies that "there are a lot of guys on this beach looking for that note."

The guy Richie is talking about is the writer of "Get Together" (a big hit in 1969 for the Youngbloods). His name was Dino Valente. To find out more about him, click here.

R.I.P. Dino.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Top Concerts at the Narrows in 2007

It's getting to be that time of year when people start compiling "best of" lists, even though the year isn't quite over yet.

So, perhaps it would be fun to start listing what you think were the top concerts at the Narrows for 2007. Of course, if you only went to a couple shows, that's kind of tough. But we want to hear from you! My thoughts:

--The Karla Bonoff show, for me, was one of the best ever. And meeting producer/sideguy Kenny Edwards was a personal thrill. Karla's songs and performance were solid, and she had an interesting sense of humor, too.

--The Kim Wilson, Charlie Musselwhite show was another thrill , particularly when J.Geils' guy Magic Dick showed up.

--The John Cowan Band show was also one of the best of the year, although folks may not know who he is. Get to know him!

--I love the Holmes Brothers. Their most recent CD was groundbreaking, as they did a "gospel" version of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me." They got some notice on for this, which was nice.

--Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles continued to surpass expectations. They're just a fun band to watch. They released their first CD on major label Sugar Hill Records, which was cool. They're still "working" the record as we speak. I wouldn't be surprised if they head back into the studio in 2008.

--Did we have the Drunk Stuntmen in 2007? If we did, their show was certainly one of the best. Great energy, songwriting, arrangements, harmonies, musicianship. Always a "lock" for the Backstage Blogger.

--And let's not forget Eilen Jewell either. She continues to grow in popularity across the country. I wouldn't be surprised if she goes back into the studio, or gets signed by Sugar Hill or somebody.

Some of the best news at the Narrows was the soon-to-be-completed installation of an elevator (yaaay), and the guitar auction, which is going on right now. Visit for more info on that.

Leave your favorites and your thoughts in the comments section.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

David Grisman Quintet Alum Saturday Night

Saturday night's show at the Narrows starring Alison Brown will also feature Joe Craven, who is described thusly by Wikipedia:

"Joe Craven is a bluegrass musician who is known for wearing oversized Hawaiian shirts, playing fiddle, mandolin, and anything that he can get his hands on, such as a mug, a credit card, or a jawbone."

Mr. Craven also spent many years working with David Grisman btw.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Iris Dement: Her Narrows' Debut

Iris Dement started off with one of the Backstage Blogger's favorites, "Sweet Is The Melody," expertly tinkling the ivories to a delighted full house Saturday night at the Narrows.

(Your BSB used to play that tune in coffeehouses on his guitar back in the day.)

Her voice was strong, and she showed a self-deprecating sense of humor. She noted that her husband, Greg Brown, had played the Narrows and said nice things (we like that kind of talk from performers).

Btw, some inside stuff: We almost had to delay the show because we had to call in a piano guy to fix a something-or-other. But the job got done during the break.

Local guy Gary Farias opened the show and quickly had the crowd singing.

If anybody has some photos of Iris at the Narrows to share, please leave info in the comment section.