Sunday, December 27, 2009

Narrows Alums Make Top Blues List

'Tis the time for lists. Came across this one, listing the top blues CDs of 2009. Narrows alums Ruthie Foster and Shemekia Copeland made the grade.

More here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

R.I.P. Vic Chestnutt

I was listening to the BBC World Service overnight when I learned that Vic Chestnutt, who opened for Jonathan Richman at the Narrows in 2009, has died. To the right is a photo I took at his performance.

He was particularly known for working with Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and for the recording of his songs by Madonna and others on a benefit album.

During his visit to the Narrows, I recall briefly speaking with him. To the best of my knowledge, he's the first Narrows' artist to perform in a wheelchair, which he needed as a result of an automobile accident when he was a teenager.

It's been reported that Chestnutt, who is said to have taken his own life, was depressed from high hospital bills he incurred. This is the second time this year that medical costs have possibly played a role in the death of a Narrows' alum. Jay Bennett, formerly of Wilco, needed an operation he couldn't afford, and reportedly overdosed on a painkiller as reported here.

From what I read from various sites, Narrows alum Kristin Hersh's Twitter messages alerted many to Chestnutt's coma and subsequent passing.

To see a NY Times report, please click here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Afternoon Musings

Your humble blogger is working his way through Christmas afternoon with some musings and some news related to upcoming performers.

--Back Eddy Bluegrass kicks off 2010 with a CD release party at the Narrows January 8. Back Eddy is a local group of nice folks we've hosted a bunch of times over the years. True devotees of bluegrass. Which is why they probably will be coming to the Ralph Stanley show, as we all should be! See the next item.

--Grammy-winner Dr. Ralph Stanley, performing January 22 for his first time at our fabled venue, has an autobiography that came out recently, telling about the founding of the Stanley Brothers in 1946 and much more. Apparently the 80-something Stanley isn't famous for talking much. Did you see him perform "O Death" in "O Brother Where Art Thou" starring George Clooney?

Steve Forbert, who has played the Narrows a number of times, comes January 23 with a new 2-CD set featuring 39 new studio and live recordings. Steve is famous for "Romeo's Tune" but your humble blogger especially enjoys his version of Ray Davies' "Starstruck."

--J.D. Souther, a Narrows newbie coming January 30, also has a new CD, his first in 25 years. He's associated with writing hits for The Eagles and James Taylor, but one reviewer called his new CD one of the best jazz albums he's heard in a long time. Hmmm.

-Peeking ahead to February, on the 5th--just added--is first-timer Commander Cody of "Hot Rod Lincoln" fame. Opening are our friends Professor Louie and the Cromatix, which is kind of an offshoot of The Band. This under-appreciated group out of Woodstock, NY, has released several excellent CDs, and is outstanding in concert, especially if you appreciate quality musicianship. We haven't had Professor Louie at the Narrows for several years, and your humble blogger is delighted that they're returning.

--Question: anybody interested in seeing the Turtle Island String Quartet at the Narrows? They're not booked or even on the horizon as far as I know, but it strikes me that folks might enjoy seeing them. You may have heard them on Prairie Home Companion, like I have. By the way, they've shortened their name to the Turtle Island Quartet.

Big Brother Guitarist Passes

James Gurley, longtime guitarist for Big Brother and the Holding Company, passed away a few days back.

Big Brother in the past year or so played the Narrows, without James and, of course, without Janis Joplin, who became the band's voice, taking it to international stardom. Apparently James split with Big Brother among some nastiness.

To read some remembrances from several band members, visit the band's website here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sarah Borges & Broken Singles Recording Live

The word from Narrows faves Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles is that they are recording a live CD and DVD. And they need our help!

Here's an excerpt from their latest newsletter:
We wanted to let you know that as a result of overwhelming demand, we have decided to record a live record, as well as a live show DVD.
The LIVE RECORD will be recorded on New Year's Day (1/1/10), and 1/2/10, at the club where we got our start, the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA. Tickets are still available, but it's a very small venue, so we urge you to get them now (last minute Christmas gift anyone?) We will be recording a full length album, culled from the performances over these two days. Wouldn't it be great to say you were then when?
The live record will be available at performances and on our online store upon completion, in the early part of 2010.
You can buy tickets here for the January 1 & 2 shows.
The Lizard Lounge
1667 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA
We also wanted to tell you that we'll be shooting a live DVD on January 17th at the Livery in Benton Harbor, MI. This will be a band-funded production (no record label help or money involved), and we're asking for your support. A link will go up on our new online store asap to donate to the cause. You will of course receive a copy of the finished DVD product, but we are asking you to donate whatever you think is appropriate for an undertaking of this sort. We've had so many requests for a DVD of our live show, since the records can't quite capture it, and we need your help to make it happen. More info to come...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Would You Come to a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Concert

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has its first new album in five years. Apparently all the original members are still in the group, which rose to fame with their version of Jerry Jeff Walker's
"Mr. Bojangles."

Later they went on to soft rock and country fame, using the name "The Dirt Band" for at least some of their releases.

Not saying we could bring them to the Narrows, but was curious if people are still following them or would come to see them?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bye Bye Folk Music on WGBH

The above headline is not entirely true: "A Celtic Sojourn" is still on Saturday afternoons, but at a new time, 3 to 6 p.m. And "A Prairie Home Companion" is still on as well.

But Saturday afternoon non-Celtic folk is gone on WGBH.

Your humble blogger was at a holiday celebration Friday night (yes, I missed everything at the Narrows this weekend because of parties) and the hostess bemoaned the loss of folk on WBGH, which has a pretty good signal in these parts. "But they still have jazz at night," I helpfully pointed out. "I don't like jazz. I like folk," she retorted.

Of course there are myriad alternatives through the Internet, including our good friends and partners But, of course, this is not as portable as good old FM. (WUMB, which is folk, in Boston seems nearly impossible to get around here.)

Likewise, classical music fans are bemoaning the loss of Mozart et. al. on WGBH, which has eliminated classical, telling listeners to tune to WCRB, now part of WGBH. Trouble is, you really can't get the WCRB signal in the Fall River/Providence area.

There is one alternative for classical music: high definition radio. No, not satellite. This is radio with more channels, like HD TV. WGBH broadcasts WCRB on 89.7 FM HD2. Of course, you don't know what I'm talking about unless you have an HD radio. I bought one at Radio Shack a couple weeks back. I also bought an extra antenna because it's challenging grabbling HD signals from Boston. Locally, Clear Channel stations have secondary channels--e.g. WHJY HD2 is alternative rock; The Coast HD2 is smooth jazz; and B101, where your humble blogger used to work for nearly 20 years, has a classic rock station on HD2. Citadel Broadcasting's WPRO FM and Lite Rock broadcast in HD but don't have content on their HD2 channels as of yet.

Any opinions or suggestions on folk music or classical on the radio? How about those who listen to it on college stations. Any recommendations?

Catching up with Geoff Mulduar

Narrows alum Geoff Muldaur was featured recently on NPR's "Fresh Air" as he takes his band on the road.

More here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Top 10 Folk Songs of 2009: Jorma's #1

NPR has tapped into Folk Alley for the Top Ten Folk Songs of 2009. At the top--Narrows' fave Jorma.

See the list here.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Hither and Yon

Some notes regarding the Narrows and the artists who perform there:

--If you have been a Patron of the Narrows, like me, please note your Patron membership has expired or will expire by years' end. Please renew your membership, or become a Patron! More info here. Remember, the Narrows is a non-profit.

--Congrats to Narrows fave Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles for being recognized in the Boston Music Awards as Americana act of the year.

--Crooked Still goes into the studio in January down south. Here's an excerpt from their newsletter:

While there aren't any more Crooked Still shows until January, we're hard at work preparing to head back into the recording studio to record our 4th studio album this month. We're really excited to be working with producer/engineer Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, Dixie Chicks) and to be recording at Haunted Hollow, a studio retreat in Virginia owned by none other than Dave Matthews! It should be a great week down there. We've got a whole bunch of new material and can't wait to get into the studio and bring it to life. Look for the new CD to be released in May 2010.

--Been listening to Robert Cray's "Sweet Potato Pie" CD from the late 1990s. Terrific. He's making his debut at the Narrows in March. More info here.

--Your humble blogger chatted briefly with Eilen Jewell at the Chuck Prophet show. She and her group have been touring a fair amount overseas! Anyway, she always puts on a great show--she's one of my favorite songwriters too. She'll be at the Narrows in January. Details here.

--Thank you for all of the kind words after some recent concerts I emceed. Patrick Norton and Deb Charlebois, and others do the heavy lifting these days. Back in the Narrows' early days, when I still lived nearby, I used to haul out most of the bands, sometimes in less than stellar conditions (e.g. snowstorms!). It was a great way to get to know the artists and learn about life on the road. I miss that, although I don't miss the late nights and sometimes back-breaking work. I appreciate the folks who do that these days and salute them as unsung heroes at the Narrows. And I must not forget the amazingly talented and humble Brian Shriver who is a jack-of-all trades.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Jim Lauderdale Nominated for Grammys

Narrows fave Jim Lauderdale is up for a Grammy or two or three. Details here.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Top Concerts of 2009

It's that time of year...time to list what, in your opinion, were the best shows of 2009. Of course, we have a few more weeks to go, but feel free to list in the comments area your favs. Some of my mine:

Los Straitjackets
Marc Cohn (both times)
Nick Lowe
Richie Furay
John Davis
The Flatlanders
Coco Montoya
Glen Tilbrook
Eilen Jewell