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

Fun

Wow!

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.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Narrows Grass

The "Father of Newgrass," Sam Bush, from Bowling Green, Kentucky, made his Narrows debut Saturday night.

Without Sam getting the ball rolling decades ago (at a fairly young age I might add), there might not be Narrows fave Crooked Still, jam banders, and others who've taken the banjo, mandolin etc. to a new level.

A 2011 Country Music Association nominee for "Musician of the Year," he's a 3-time Grammy winner and the 2010 Americana Music Association "Instrumentalist of the Year."

He was a founding member of the New Grass Revival, which is like being a Beatle for those following the genre.

The Narrows making history again with this show. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Night of Friends

It was like a gathering of old friends--because, in fact, it was!

The annual invitation-only show for Narrows' donors Friday night.

Narrows fave Seth Walker and his group provided the tunes and vibe, and people like Patrick, Clem, Deb, Peter, Marilyn, Laura, Fred, Eddie, Catherine, John, Helen, Mary, Mike, Deirdre, Maggie, Carl, Kathleen, Polly, Kevin, David, Sue, Gary, Joseph, Ed & Peggy, Beth & Buzz, Andrew, Bingo, Bill, Paul, Robin & Beth, Eileen, Valerie, Vangy, Kim, Jim, Alex, Senator Tom...provided the friendship.

Not a bad way to start the weekend!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Are You a Friend of the Narrows?

This coming Friday is an invitation-only event featuring a Narrows fave, Seth Walker.

Sounds kinda exclusive, huh?

It's not really--if you help the Narrows as a donor.

Not a bad way to help the arts and help the community, too. The Narrows is clearly an economic engine for a city that has fought high unemployment for decades. People flock to Fall River to attend the concerts and see the art shows--and many spend their money at local restaurants and other local businesses.

So keep the Narrows healthy for years to come. Join me in becoming a donor. Here's more information.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Rosanne Wraps It Up!

What if there were 101 songs? Rosanne Cash mused midway through Saturday night's concert at the Narrows, referencing her CD The List, from a compilation of 100 essential country songs developed by her dad.

The list includes "Long Black Veil," and "500 Miles," both performed during the show.

Hmmm. What would be the 101st? What might fall into the classic category?

Her husband--producer, co-writer, and sideman-- John Leventhal answered the question by strumming the distinctive, ominous yet bouncy rhythms of a song from decades ago: Bobbie Gentry's Ode to Billy Joe. Ms. Cash performed it reverently, breathing in new life, new feeling and a renewed interest in the question: Why did Billie Joe McAllister jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge? And what did the narrator and Billy Joe toss off the bridge?

It was a particularly special evening as the sold-out Narrows wrapped up its 10th anniversary celebration with a historic first visit to our performance space by Ms. Cash.

You may remember she came into the nation's mainstream consciousness through her 1981 country and pop hit "Seven Year Ache," which she performed last night. The track and the album of the same name were produced by Narrows alum Rodney Crowell, who happened to be her husband at the time.

Another momentous evening at the Narrows, thanks to Ms. Cash and Mr. Leventhal's warmth and musicality. Hope they visit us regularly!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Opening for Rosanne

Jeffrey Foucault opening for Rosanne Cash, as we celebrated our 10th anniversary tonight!

Jeffrey is an old friend of the Narrows, dating back to nearly our beginnings! So it was particularly appropriate he join us as we celebrate our 10 years.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Eclectic? You Bet!

Roots faves David Wax Museum brought their joy to the Narrows on Thursday night, as we continued our celebration of the Narrows 10 years!

The wonderful Parkington Sisters provided a strong opening to the show, no doubt winning new fans.

And You Thought We Were Only About Music

The show, "The Art of the Brick," continuing through November 19, is the most popular art exhibit in Narrows history!

Since the show opened in early October, we've been doing about 16 tours weekly of 4th graders from Fall River area public and private schools. Each tour has about 25 children. So that's a lot of kids! And more are coming!!!

And the Narrows has arranged for the transportation for many of the tours, with the help of the Rotary Club of Fall River. So the taxpayers aren't footing the transportation bill!!

And many of the kids get a hands-on Lego workshop, courtesy of the Children's Museum of Greater Fall River.

Congrats to Deb Charlebois, Patrick Norton and all making this happen!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Narrows' Ten Years: Personal Memories

This week the Narrows is marking 10 years at our Anawan Street location!

Concerts by Sonny Landreth, David Wax Museum, Jorma Kaukonen, and Rosanne Cash. Hope you'll be coming to at least one of 'em. Rosanne is sold out, btw.

I started hanging out at the Narrows when it was on Martine Street on the other side of Fall River. The focus was visual arts, but music was soon added, although I think there was maybe one concert from a well known performer. Anybody remember? The rest was us at open mics and the like playing our guitars and what-have-you.

My first exposure to the Narrows was as a weekly columnist with the New Bedford Standard Times back in maybe 1998 or thereabouts, interviewing Bert Harlow, a founding honcho, for a column. Soon I was hosting open mics and playing guitar with now executive director Patrick Norton and now frequent concert opener Louie Leeman.

After a couple years or so, property issues led the Narrows to re-locate to Anawan Street. Bert, Patrick, Peter Belanger and other hardy souls took up the challenge and got the ball rolling. Meanwhile, I was involved in other things, but soon re-connected by attending a Professor Louis and the Cromatix show, possibly the second concert at the new location (the first, I believe, was with the Continental Drifters, featuring Newport's Susan Cowsill).

Pretty soon I was working the door, hauling equipment etc. with Patrick, his wife Maggie (and their two boys), Bert, Peter, and a few others. The first show I remember being involved with was with Kris Delmhorst, who had come down from the Boston area despite a rather fierce snow storm. Don't think we had many at that show. Another early performer was Stephen Bruton, who was involved with the Crazy Heart movie before his untimely passing.

After a time I suggested I might start emceeing the shows, something I had done a bit of in Providence.

For years, since I lived in Fall River and there were fewer shows than today, I emceed nearly every show and often did the equipment load-out after the show (great way to get to know the artists). One of my fondest memories was carrying out former-Byrd Roger McGuinn's 12-string Rickenbacker guitar.

About five years in, the blogging technology was available, so I began writing a frequent blog for the Narrows called "Backstage at the Narrows." I remember asking people from the stage if they knew what the word "blog" meant. Few did.

In time, I moved to Attleboro, so I couldn't work as many shows, but fortunately the Narrows had great volunteers to replace me on stage and with the equipment, although I usually work a show or two every week, emceeing, taking photos and blogging.

To make a long story short: a lot more volunteers got involved, the physical plant improved (artist studios, the elevator, improved bathrooms, better sound, better lighting, better seating), more concerts, a fantastic partnership with mvyradio.com, and more as well as better visual art shows, some paid staff, and now fame and incredible respect nationally and internationally.

It's been a fun, enriching experience. Thanks to Patrick, Maggie, Bert, Louie, Peter, Deb Charlebois, Kathleen Duffy, and others who have put up with me for a long, long time.

Looking forward to our 20th anniversary! Hope you'll be along for the ride!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Quiet Night

During my more or less 10 years hanging around the Narrows I've developed a preference for quieter shows with new faces, new voices.

Catherine MacLellan fit the bill, as this Canadian songstress made her Narrows debut Friday night, accompanied by guitarist Chris Gauthier.

A beautiful rich voice singing beautiful rich songs, a combination somewhere in between Kris Delmhorst and Eilen Jewell in sound and feel.

Plus, for those of us who pay attention to such things, she's the daughter of the late Gene MacLellan, composer of the song "Snowbird," a hit for Anne Murray (and covered by Ms. MacLellan during the show and on her CD Silhouette), and "Put Your Hand in the Hand," a hit for a group called "Ocean."

Lovely concert. Hope she visits again soon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Strangler and Blondie Skinsman

Tuesday night was New Wave night at the Narrows, featuring Hugh Cornwell, former frontman of Brit group The Stranglers, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and Blondie drummer, Clem Burke making sure we got the beat.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Glen Campbell: Last Studio Recording a Gem (Rhinestone?)

Ghost on the Canvas--Glen Campbell--He's not the fresh-faced guy in the 1960s and 1970s who had what some called "countrypolitan" hits: "Gentle on My Mind" (written by the late John Hartford), "Galveston," "Wichita Lineman," "Rhinestone Cowboy" and others.

These days he's in his mid-70s; it's been announced he's battling Alzheimer's disease; and he says this is his last studio release (since he's touring, I figure there'll be a follow up live recording).

So, you may ask, "I haven't paid attention to Glen Campbell in years, or maybe never, so why should I now?"

I realize some hip tastemakers may not immediately give Mr. Campbell his due. He really wasn't part of the hippie folk scene of the 1960s, and his records had strings on them so he wasn't "rootsy." He had a popular mainstream television show--Johnny Cash did, too, by the way--and his image was wholesome, instead of "counter-culture."

But did you know that he struggled for years for solo success (his first single was in the late 50s, about a decade before the hits)? And did you know he was part of the "Wrecking Crew" (which included Narrows alum Leon Russell)? The crew consisted of crack studio players brought in by producers. Mr. Campbell, per the recording's notes, played on "Good Vibrations," "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin' " and other important records of the period.

So, the fact is Glen Campbell was no overnight sensation. He worked hard, and was a heck of a guitar player and singer. And I liked most of his hits; come to think of it, I liked ALL of his hits.

Ghost on the Canvas is a superbly crafted recording, with songs contributed by Jakob Dylan, alternative rocker Paul Westerberg and others. Contributing musicians include surf guitarist Dick Dale (from Massachusetts by the way) and Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen.

So has Glen gone hip and rootsy?

Not really. If you liked "Galveston," you'll like Ghost on the Canvas. And if you appreciate heartfelt music that is well-written, well-produced, and well-performed, you'll like it too. One more note: the last track "There's No Me...Without You" sounds like a John Lennon recording, probably deliberately.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

She Could Perform at a Narrows Comedy Night

She's very funny, as she reflects on the ordinary foibles that confront us all at one time or another. Cats, cruise ships, mean people, cell phones.

And she can write and sing a song with the best.

That's why we're always pleased to host the SouthCoast's very own Cheryl Wheeler.

And she likes the fact that the Narrows is something like 10 miles from her home.

She made her annual appearance before a packed house--she said she pretty much knew everyone--at the Narrows Saturday night. It was streamed live on mvyradio.com and should be in their archives soon in case you missed it.

By the way, although I was surprised when I learned this, one can now follow Cheryl on Twitter! Never thought she'd do it! Looks like she started November 5 of last year under the tutelage of Jill Sobule.

Becky Chace, who plays in Narrows' faves Forever Young, opened as a solo, something she noted she prefers not doing. She charmed us all nonetheless.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Gentle Ben

Jazz bassist Ben Allison teamed with guitarist Steve Cardenas to perform an understated evening of jazz Friday night the first weekend of October.

It was a "must see" for local jazz enthusiasts, according to the Providence Phoenix, because Mr. Allison rarely works in the duet format.

A highlight: an interpretation of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy."

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Comedy in this Economy

Imagine you, alone, on stage, in front of a crowd of strangers expecting you to make 'em laugh--not once, but many times.

And in this economy.

And after the Red Sox were just eliminated.

And after Tom Brady showed how throwing a bunch of interceptions is no way to beat the Buffalo Bills.

A nightmare? Maybe for you and me.

Saturday night, headliner Paul Nardizzi (photo), along with fellow comedians Mitch Stinson and Chris Pennie, showed how it's done at the Narrows.

If you haven't attended a Narrows Comedy Night, join the growing audience that has.

We can't do anything about the Red Sox and, apparently, the economy. Now if Brady will just throw passes to fellow Patriots this Sunday instead of guys on the other team...




Friday, September 30, 2011

Shawn Colvin Debuts

It was a long time coming, but Shawn Colvin finally made her Narrows debut on Friday night.

The Grammy-winner performed for a sold-out house, as you might expect.

Narrows-fave Liz Longley opened.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Candidate for Record of the Year

Revelator--Tedeschi Trucks Band--Narrows alum and Massachusetts native Susan Tedeschi has teamed up with husband Derek Trucks--current Allman Brother and nephew of original Allman Butch Trucks--to create a blues/rock/soul masterpiece.

Imagine if Bonnie Raitt were fronting the Allman Brothers, who brought in as special guests The Meters and a 70's soul horn section. That's the sound, although Ms. Tedeschi is an edgier singer than Ms. Raitt to these ears. (Off the record tidbit--a Narrows crew member told me the other day that he was, if memory serves, traveling in an elevator with Ms. Tedeschi during her visit to the Narrows in 2009 (photo), and she referenced how hard she works on her vocals.)

Hard work seems to be key to Revelator's success. According to the Tedeschi Trucks Band website, both put their solo careers on hold to make it happen. Says Mr. Trucks, "We spent a whole year putting a band together, with different lineups, different approaches, different mindsets, and during the same time began songwriting. After about six months we had over 30 songs to choose from." Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, said Thomas Edison. Clearly, Ms. Tedeschi and Mr. Trucks lacked neither in making Revelator.

This recording deserves a shot at a Grammy and to be in your CD player/computer/smart phone. Here's a video taste:


Friday, September 23, 2011

That's Entertainment!

What show features one of the hottest guitarists on the scene; a drummer, named "Sugarballs," who gets held upside down by a couple audience members while he plays guitar; and, on bass, a member of the nationally known cowpunk band Social Distortion?

Just another night with Deke Dickerson and his crew.

And these guys turned a soggy Friday night at the Narrows into a rockabilly, smilin', toe-tappin' experience.

One of the funnest shows of 2011. These guys get it done!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Singer and Her Songs

Karla Bonoff graced the Narrows stage Thursday night with her crystal clear vocals, side guitarist Nina Gerber, and, of course, stellar songs.

Her compositions include "All My Life," a Grammy-winner for Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville, and "Tell Me Why," a hit for Wynonna Judd. She had her own top 20 hit with "Personally" in the 1980s.

She has been closely associated with Linda Ronstadt, who covered a number of her tunes. And they shared Kenny Edwards, a member of the Stone Poneys (remember "Different Drum"?) with Ms. Ronstadt. Kenny worked for years with both artists, touring with Ms. Bonoff, including a show or two at the Narrows, until his passing last year.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Narrows Performer

Canadian icon Bruce Cockburn made an impressive Narrows debut Friday night, replete with chimes and a customized backdrop.

This after a busy day in which, we hear, he went to a Fall River laundromat to do a load or two. One of the many ways the Narrows brings dollars into the city to benefit business.

You'd be surprised what some of the artists do when they roll into town. Blues guitar great Robert Cray, for example, purchased shoes on Plymouth Avenue in Fall River during a visit. Greg Brown bought a guitar in Swansea. Eric Lindell bought a bass cabinet over there too. And, of course, local eateries regularly host the Narrows performers.

On a more serious note, with the thousands upon thousands of people that the Narrows draws to the city every month maybe we ought to change our name: the Narrows Center for Economic Development.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Narrows Jazz

Jazz trumpeter Christian Scott, accompanied by a fabulous pianist, bassist and drummer, wowed the crowd Thursday night at the Narrows.

Not even 30 years, he's already been up for a Grammy and even appeared with George Clooney in a movie (Leatherheads)! His--what might one call--"progressive" or maybe "fusion" stylings put me in the mood to listen to Miles Davis' Bitches Brew.

His appearance reflects the Narrows' commitment to bringing more jazz to the local stage, recognizing that jazz has some of the finest musicians in the world. Their artistry deserves to be heard, though filling a room for a jazz performance is challenging.

That's why we're asking all our jazz devotees to help us spread the word. When we have a jazz show, Facebook it, Twitter it, call up your friends. Then be here!

Our next jazz show is October 7 with Ben Allison.

Pass the word.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Narrows Festival 2011: Thanks for the Memories

It was Liz Longley's tears as she sang an a capella "Amazing Grace" recalling the 9/11 tragedy; the cool psychedelic country of the New Riders of the Purple Sage; and the rootsy Girls, Guns and Glory doing an energetic medley of Johnny Cash songs.

It was the many Narrows volunteers who not only made the event flow, but this year, through their work, honored the spirit of the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.

It was Amy Black (photo) who tore up the stage as she sang the traditional-- and covered by Johnny Cash--"Ain't No Grave"; the Dino Govoni Organ Trio Plus One and their instrumental jazz adventures; the classic folk photos, courtesy of the New England Folk Music Archives, on the Narrows' exhibition space walls, sporting a young Tom Rush, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Richie Havens and many others.

All of this and much more (including picture-perfect weather) made the 2011 Narrows Festival of the Arts one for the history books. Hope you were there!


Friday, September 09, 2011

A Rush for the Weekend

Looking like a very dapper Mark Twain, Tom Rush brought us into Friday night with a sold out show, and into a weekend filled with fabulous free music!

Will you join us this Sunday just outside the Narrows? It's the annual Narrows Festival for the Arts!

On the indoor stage (inside the Narrows) starting at 11:30 it's Rocky Roberts and Friends, Narrows fave Liz Longley, the Dino Govoni Organ Trio plus One, and the Amy Black Band.

On the outside stage, it's Girls, Guns and Glory starting at noon, Bill Kirchen, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and then Roomful of Blues.

Also, starting at 11 a.m. there will be entertainment and arts and crafts celebrating "music in motion," presented by the Children's Museum of Greater Fall River.

This is a rain or shine event, but we're hearing the weather will be perfect Sunday.

Hope you're there!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Your Next Door Neighbor Who Happens to be a Blues Guitar Phenom

Blacks, Whites & The Blues--Mark T. Small--Want to get a feel for blues history without chasing down records from scores of artists? Getting Blacks, Whites & The Blues by Narrows fave--and guitar wunderkind--Mark T. Small should be on your to-do list. "Blues is a 20th century music with roots in the 1880s and 1890s," he writes in the recording's notes. "My intention is to highlight various pieces and styles that have shaped my guitar playing," pieces and styles that, in fact, include songs not usually associated with the blues e.g. a Scott Joplin composition.

Some of the more familiar influences are "Bang Bang Bang Bang" by John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon's "Little Red Rooster," and Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago," all included. For those interested in the tunes' history, Mark has helpfully included write ups about the original version e.g. noting that Roy Hawkins was the first to hit the charts--back in 1951--with "The Thrill is Gone," usually associated with B.B. King. By the way, Mark does an adventurous and surprising interpretation of this classic, which Mr. King had success with about 1970.

Blacks, Whites & The Blues feels like your next-door-neighbor, who happens to be an under-appreciated guitar wizard and blues scholar--stopped by for pickin' and conversation.

If you've never seen Mark, check out this video from a festival out in Arizona:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pre-Hurricane Blues Blowout!

Friday night, August 26, 2011, was tense as the area prepared for Hurricane Irene, which, at the time, looked like it might hit us squarely between the guitar strings.

Folks needed to to relax--and our therapists were (photo left) Tommy Castro and the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Review--guitarist Joe Louis Walker, harpist Rick Estrin, saxophonist/keyboardist Deanna Bogart and a rocking band.

This was Tommy Castro's show and band, but he was more than generous in showcasing his colleagues who showed why they're stars on their own.

Check out this video from a 2010 blue cruise to get a feel for the evening:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dude

Tommy Malone, of the subdudes, playing without the group this time, Thursday night at the Narrows.

The subdudes, out of Louisiana, should be back touring next year. No doubt they'll be at the Narrows, since they have a strong fan base around these parts.

He kicked off a Narrows three show weekend, which includes the Holmes Brothers and David Wilcox.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Long Ago Sounds Today and Vice Versa

Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii (EP)--Carolina Chocolate Drops & Luminescent Orchestrii--An energetic collaboration that at times merges roots with rap. Both groups are new traditionalists who--one might say--make long ago sound today and make today sound long ago. The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Narrows alums (photo from September, 2010 visit) and purveyors of the black string band tradition, and the Luminescent Orchestrii, who describe themselves as "Romanian Gypsy Punks from NYC," may be serious musicians, but they never forget to entertain on this recording. Check 'em out performing a song from the EP, "Short Dress Gal." Recorded live and lively, this EP is an exciting pleasure. The Drops, who just performed at the Newport Folk Festival, return to our stage in March. Get this and be there.

Friday, August 05, 2011

What Did the Dow Do Today?

So Late It Hurts--the 'Mericans--These old ears hear the 'Mericans as sounding like the Byrds--harmonies, jingly-jangly--without the optimism. Maybe not much to be optimistic about. Gee--ya think? What did the Dow do today? Any other city besides Central Falls file for bankruptcy? Did your brother get a job yet? At the Narrows we're spotting a trend among some of the younger performers--volume down. Perhaps waiting to hear the next shoe drop? In person, the group's prime mover Chris Daltry (photo, August 4, 2011 at the Narrows) doesn't seem particularly depressed. He shouldn't be. This recording is to be proud of. And he and his group--who can rock pretty good live--have a spiffy interview in August's SOCO magazine to boot, and positive reviews for So Late It Hurts, including this one. They're based in the Providence area, so if you live in these parts you can likely easily catch 'em live at the Narrows or another nearby venue.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Outlaw Songwriter

We were honored to have one of the Texas country outlaws perform at the Narrows, Ray Wylie Hubbard. It was his second appearance over our 10 year history.

He, of course, enlivened Friday night with his songs, such as "Drunken Poet Dream" which he co-wrote with Narrows fave Hayes Carll. And "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother," made famous by Jerry Jeff "Mr. Bojangles" Walker.

But his between-song patter was entertaining as well, telling stories of how he admired his grandfather's guitar (on the stand in the photo above), though grandpa wouldn't let him play it--and sold it to Ray on his deathbed ("I wrote him a hot check"). And being whacked by his grandmother at something like eleven years old for smoking a corncob pipe behind the smokehouse. Even then he understood the irony of the situation, he said.

Hope Ray will come back and visit soon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Listening

Marc Cohn showed how a singer-songwriter can be entertaining as well as thought-provoking during his Narrows' performance Monday night. Tunes to contemplate, yes; but he didn't forget to rock either, with the help of extraordinary guitarist Shane Fontayne.

Marc's highly entertaining last CD was called Listening Booth: 1970, covering "The Letter" and other songs from that year. It was released in 2010, and chart-wise has been his most successful.

Did a little write up on it here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hoppin' Thursday Night

A beautiful Thursday night in July turned hoppin' as rockabilly's Kim Lenz and the Jaguars made their Narrows debut before the local sock hoppers.

Is it retro? Is it nostalgia? (Hey, she writes a lot of her tunes, so they're not really oldies.)

No matter. Whether it's Big Sandy, Deke Dickerson (coming in September) or Kim Lenz, the bottom line is "fun."


Saturday, July 09, 2011

Serious Fun

He's a serious artist who doesn't take himself too seriously.

For decades the ukelele was defined for many as a novelty instrument. Tiny Tim, a beloved act in the 1960s (and no stranger to Fall River, btw, playing this area frequently until his passing), had a ukelele hit with the campy "Tiptoe Thru the Tulips," warbling the tune in falsetto.

Now Hawaii's Jake Shimabukuro is defining the instrument worldwide, and others, like Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, who recently released a ukelele recording, are in his shadow. And he showed why Saturday night at the Narrows.

Aside from his instrumental prowess--which is in the same league as another Narrows fave, the California Guitar Trio--he's an entertainer, mixing artistry with amusing stories about growing up and going to high school.

A fabulous night and a sold out show (featuring two openers Tripping Lily and Jimmy Buffet discovery Ilo Ferreira) streamed live on mvyradio.com. Should be in their archives soon.

I leave you with a must-see: Jake and his version of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Nearly 1.4 million views on YouTube.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Classic

It could have been WZLX at the Narrows Thursday night.

And why not?

Hall of Famer Dave Mason was on the bandstand!

Traffic, the Stones, George Harrison, even Fleetwood Mac--he jammed with 'em all.

He wrote "Feelin' Alright," a monster for Joe Cocker, and a rock 'n' roll staple. "We Just Disagree" was a hit for him solo.

Classic.

Friday, July 01, 2011

New York Across the Water

Dancing Backwards in High Heels--New York Dolls--Narrows alum David Johansen, along with the other original Doll, Sylvain Sylvain, and other players gathered recorded this in Newcastle, England and mixed it there and in California.

But from note one it sounds New York, circa 1966, in the lyrics, in the noisy reverb-soaked production, and as they show their devotion to girl groups like the Shangri-Las, particularly in their backing vocals. Check out the video for "Fool for You Baby (Dom Dom Dippy). "

At this writing they're touring with hair metallers Motley Crue and Poison, two groups who borrows their looks if not their sound from the Dolls. A quick comparison: the Dolls in 1973. Fast-forward a decade and a half for Poison.

A clangy, goofy recording (lyrics like "Mello like a cello like Pablo Casals" and "I'm so fabulous, you're Las Vegius") that, in parts, sounds straight from a soundtrack of a "hip" 1960s movie. Garage rock, replete with a farfisa organ. Nobody makes records like this.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Buy This Now

KMAG YOYO--Hayes Carll--Narrows alum Hayes Carll's latest is one of the funnest recordings you'll hear, somewhere between a John Prine and a John Anderson record--twangy, goofy, poignant, and thought-provoking.

First, the name of the project: KMAG YOYO, which, I learned, is military slang for "Kiss My Ass Guys, You're On Your Own." It's the title of a stream-of-consciousness tune a la Dylan about...well, let Hayes tell it:

Put me in the Army on the day that I turned seventeen
Here I am standin' in the desert with a gun
Thought of going AWOL but I'm too afraid to run

But it's the song "Another Like You," a duet with Cary Ann Hearst, that may be up there with Mr. Carll's previous "hit" "She Left Me for Jesus." Check out this video, featuring a cameo from political couple James Carville (operative for the Democrats) and his wife, conservative icon Mary Matalin.

Another fab outing for Hayes, who last played the Narrows in 2009. Hope we get him back soon.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Day After Opening for Michael McDonald

This is the biggest crowd we played for this tour, said Zoe Muth at the Narrows Saturday night, noting, however, they somehow ended up opening for former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald the previous night in New Jersey. Fourteen hundred people.

Washington State's Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers are driving around the country making themselves and their pedal-steel music known.

It's working. Spoke to a guy in the crowd of about 100 before the show. He saw 'em a few days ago in his hometown of Amherst, MA. He wants to see them as much as possible, he said. A little obsessive, I pointed out, thinking maybe I needed to back off a few steps. Aw, he's alright. Just feeling what the Narrows crew has felt for months as we listened to Ms. Muth (pronounced like "ruth") and her twangsters coming out of the venue speakers before shows.

Keep an eye on this one. As opener Bob Kendall said after his set: She's going to be huge.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

You Had to be Here

Christine Olhman, who is the longtime singer for the Saturday Night Live Band--currently on summer hiatus--showed how straight ahead rock and blues gets played on a Friday night. She's known as the "Beehive Queen." Guess why.

She and her band, Rebel Montez, kicked off a night that also included the Swinging Steaks, playing cool 70s-sounding rock, country rock etc. Narrows patron saint Gram Parsons could have sat in.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Brass Attack

The Soul Rebels Brass Band flew into NYC Thursday and drove to Fall River, climbed up onto the stage without missing a beat or catching their breath, and proceeded to groove the house!

Whew! A mix of traditional New Orleans with a flavoring of hip hop--all in an energetic "let's keep the party moving" flow.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

You've Heard Him

Maybe you don't know the name, but if you've heard Rod Stewart's "Maggie May" you've heard Ian McLagan.

If you've heard one of my faves from Rod Stewart and the Faces, "Stay with Me," or, from The Rolling Stones, "Miss You." The hands of Ian McLagan on the keys.

And we hosted this member of British rock royalty--who will be touring with the Faces this summer (no Rod, but Ronnie Wood will be playing)--at the Narrows Wednesday night.

It all started way back when, as Narrows honcho Patrick Norton wrote in his blog recently, "when he joined a scruffy group from East London called The Small Faces...Steve Marriot on guitar and vocals, Kenny Jones (Keith Moon's replacement in The Who) on drums, Ronnie Lane on bass and vocals, and Ian McLagan, keyboard and vocals."

You can look the rest of it up. Suffice it to say that Mr. McLagan is doing well, these days based in Austin, Texas, even as Ronnie Lane (of whom he spoke often during the show) and Steve Marriot are gone.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Remember When Rock 'n' Roll Stood for Something?

Streetwise New York rock 'n' roll at the Narrows Friday night as Garland Jeffreys made his Narrows' debut.

Lou Reed, John Cale, John Peel, the Brecker Brothers, Dr. John, some of his early colleagues. Gerde's Folk City, the Bitter End, some of the venues.

"Wild in the Streets" his best known track.

Remember when it all meant something? Maybe it still does.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Two, Count 'Em, Two in a Row

Wow, the line-up of shows is amazing. Go to www.ncfta.org to see everything, but just a few new ones that that particularly caught my eye:
  • In January--I know that's a long way off--Americana star (and Narrows discovery we like to think) Eilen Jewell will be performing for 2 nights in a row. Who else has done this in Narrows history? Maybe Richard Thompson? She's become a Narrows sell-out, so we're going for two to warm up one of the most depressing times of year.
  • One of my faves Karla Bonoff has had a rough couple years--colleagues Kenny Edwards and Andrew Gold passed away. She's put on several fabulous shows at the Narrows, and she'll be on-deck in September, this time without Kenny, who performed with her last time. Great songwriter and performer.
  • Her last album was fab, she's got a book out, and she likes to Twitter--Rosanne Cash makes her Narrows' debut in November as part of our 10th anniversary celebration.
Gotta run. Writing this just before the Garland Jeffreys show and it's almost time to hit the stage.



Saturday, June 04, 2011

Sometimes Cutting Your Hair Like Keith Richards Helps

Just Kids (book)--Patti Smith--Poet/rocker Patti Smith's book Just Kids had been sitting on the shelf at the Seekonk public library just waiting for somebody to read it. Not me, I thought. I liked some of her work, but figured I wasn't interested. I caved, and I'm glad I did.

Just Kids--which doesn't need my approval since it has already won a National Book Award--is one of the more enjoyable books I've read. First, it's well written and the story is paced nicely, not getting bogged down. Second, it's a compelling tale of Ms. Smith's years getting to know, live with, leave, and then mourn controversial artist Robert Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS in 1989.

But it's about rock 'n' roll too--mid-to-late 1960s into the 1970s. She's hanging out with Janis Joplin, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Paxton, Todd Rundgren and Narrows alums Roger McGuinn and Eric Andersen. She tells of watching Kris Kristofferson playing 'Me and Bobby McGee' for Janis Joplin, apparently for the first time. Ms. Joplin went on to have a hit with the song after her untimely death.

A big career breakthrough, though, happened when she cut her hair like Keith Richards. She heads to a favorite club, Max's Kansas City, where people go wild. Suddenly, she's offered new career possibilities. Figure that!

Don't pass Just Kids by if you're a music fan. And the next time you get your hair trimmed, maybe you should think about Keith...or maybe, since it's 2011, Lady Gaga...hmmm.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Tie-Dye Thursday

Possibly the most colorful show we've seen in a long time at the Narrows Thursday night as the 7 Walkers brought their Grateful-Dead-meets-New-Orleans vibe.

The backdrop and the fans were tie-dye, and the music was "swampadelic," a description drummer Bill Kreutzmann uses on their website.

As you may know, Mr. Kreutmann was the Grateful Dead's drummer from the beginning until their end in 1995. That's him in the photo along with guitarist Papi Mali.

A bit oomp-pa-pa, a bit jam band.

The Dead's wordsmith Robert Hunter, by the way, contributed lyrics to the 7 Walkers' first recording, released last fall.

During the show's break I chatted with a guy who came down from the Burlington, VT, area specifically for the show. Wow.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Narrows Alum Offers Richly Textured Refuge

City of Refuge--Abigail Washburn--A beautiful recording from a Narrows alum who combines her banjo artistry with experience living in China. Even the CD package is gorgeous! Narrows audiences know her from her former membership in Uncle Earl, a celebrated string ensemble (Narrows photo above from 2006; Ms. Washburn is 2nd from left) that famously had a recording produced by Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. City of Refuge's sound is bluegrass mixed with a lushness that suggests China; supporting players include two members of a group from Mongolia called Hanggai. Vocally, she reminds me of Narrows alum Kris Delmhorst with a dash of Dusty Springfield. Bottom line: City of Refuge is a rootsy yet richly textured and well produced listening experience. Suggestion: Check out her "making of" video.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Simmers in with the Blues

The first day of the 3 day Memorial Day Weekend kicked off with the electric blues styling of former John Mayall guitarist Coco Montoya.

Mr. Mayall made his debut at the Narrows just a few days ago (check out an earlier entry in this blog), but Coco has been a Narrows' mainstay for years.

Traffic from New York City caused a show delay, quickly minimized by our lightening fast crew along with Coco and his band. A big salute to the fans for their patience!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dig These New Shows

Just added...wow!

CJ Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, August 6.

Carl Parlmer--yes that Carl Palmer--celebrating the music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. October 22.

Girlyman, November 12.

Shemekia Copeland, November 17--She did a heck of a show at last year's Narrows Festival of the Arts, didn't she?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The British Blues Had a Daddy

A tremendous honor to host the gent from across the pond who was doing the British blues before all the greats from the 1960s, and fostered the careers of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, John McVie, and others.

We're talking John Mayall, and he played the Narrows to a sold out house Thursday night.

Thanks Dad!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Meet Kenny White

A guy whose name keeps popping up at the Narrows is Kenny White. He's a musician's musician, and though the photo (taken as he opened for Judy Collins the other night) has him playing guitar, he's particularly celebrated for his keyboard skills.

If you've seen a Cheryl Wheeler, Peter Wolf or Judy Collins show either at the Narrows or elsewhere, there's a chance Kenny's been involved. And if you're a fan of Peter Wolf's CDs in recent years, you can thank Kenny White, who produced 'em.

So go to his website and get to know more about this huge talent. Chances are if you visit the Narrows on a regular basis, you'll bump into him--and will consider yourself lucky!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Don't Wait So Long Next Time

Low Country Blues--Gregg Allman--The voice and writer of the longtime Allman Brothers classic "Whipping Post" has put together, with the help of producer T Bone Burnett, an enjoyable collection of atmospheric blues tracks, including Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied," a personal favorite of mine. "On a gritty 1959 afternoon at a B.B. King concert in segregated and grimy Nashville, Tennessee, two white kids were caught in a sonic explosion that would change their lives..." say the CD notes, referring to legendary and late Duane Allman and his younger brother Gregg, both not even teenagers. "We gotta get into some of this," said Duane. They did, and one of the great voices in blues and rock continues although Duane passed decades ago. It's been nearly 15 years since Gregg's last recording of new material. He shouldn't wait so long for his next. Get this. It's great.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Narrows Alums in Rolling Stone

Not that it really makes a difference, but it is nice to see mentions of Narrows alums in Rolling Stone magazine. Just perusing the April 28th issue I noted that:
  • Richie Furay, who played the Narrows in 2009 (check out the blog post about the show here) is officially back with Neil Young and Stephen Stills for Bonnaroo and other tour dates.
  • David Johansen, who played the Narrows in January (blog post here), will be touring as a member of the New York Dolls with Motley Crue and and Poison. I'm a huge metal fan, so I'm probably digging this item more than you are.
  • Jake Shimabukuro, who played the Narrows in 2008, is Rolling Stone's "Best Ukulele Hero." The magazine writes "One of the hottest axemen of the past few years doesn't actually play guitar..." Jake returns to our stage in July.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Roomful Debuts at the Narrows

It's been a long wait, but we were proud to host Roomful of Blues for the first time in our history on Friday night. And it was a sell out!

And get this: the Narrows is announcing that Roomful will be playing for FREE at our annual Festival of the Arts, Sunday, September 11. Mark it down!

Of course, Roomful filled our Friday night with lively and loud jump blues! Our friends at mvyradio.com streamed it live, and we hope the performance will be posted in their archives soon.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Tuesday is for Total Relaxation

Ottmar Liebert and his group Luna Negra brought their soothing sounds to the Narrows Tuesday night.

Quiet, yet at times lively flamenco guitar and accompaniment soared through the performance area, underscoring, no doubt, that the Narrows can't be topped as a listening room.

The 5-time Grammy nominee may be the first Zen Monk ever to perform at the Narrows. He's also probably the first musician to have opened for Miles Davis AND performed on recordings by Diana Ross, Celine Dion and Kenny Loggins!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Congrats to Andrea! On to Bonnaroo!

Congrats to Berklee student Andrea Belanger on being chosen for Bonnaroo!

Details courtesy of the Herald News here.

Andrea is a true "daughter of the Narrows." Congrats to her mom and dad as well!

Learn more about her music here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

It's Summer and the Livin' is Rhythmic

How does one describe Entrain's sound? Rhythmic, for sure. Jam band? Yep. Rock 'n' roll? Works for me. Funk, R & B? Could be. World? At times and maybe even jazz.

Most of all, they sound like summer.

They've been around since the early 1990s after drummer and founder Tom Major returned from a trip to West Africa where he sampled the local sounds. As he writes on their website, he came back more determined than ever to start a rhythm heavy band.

Friday night at the Narrows they showered us with their rhythms, energy, musicianship and, yes, joy.

Welcome to summer!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Winning

  • This week's Providence Phoenix published the annual "Readers' Picks," and guess what? The Narrows is, once again, "Best Folk Venue." Won it last year and 2008. The Phoenix writes: "It's sizable but intimate. It's rustic to a degree. And best of all, it has a homey vibe." We're just regular folks here, see, looking to spread music that matters throughout the world--or at least our little part of it. Thanks Phoenix readers!
  • Have you seen Patrick Norton's blog? He's the Narrows' executive director, bookings guy, etc. He brings a unique viewpoint on the music world. Check out his write up about record stores here. Kinda choked me up. I love hanging out in record stores, and am sad when one closes its doors. I like the Newbury Comics in Attleboro and the Providence Place Mall, FYE in the Swansea Mall too. And, almost forgot, the Time Capsule on Route 6 in Seekonk.
  • At this writing, Roomful of Blues is close to a sell-out. They're coming Friday, May 6. First time at the Narrows, believe it or not. Long overdue.
  • Yes, Judy Collins is sold out.
  • But Rickie Lee Jones isn't. Michelle Shocked tickets still available.
  • Don't forget, John Popper makes his Narrows debut April 28. Blues Traveler guy.
  • Really like the new Narrows t-shirt. Grabs the eye.
  • I don't care what you think. I like American Idol, and enjoy seeing Steven Tyler on the show. Plus, interesting performance tips from Jimmy Iovine.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Groove

Morphine was an alt-rock band based in Boston led by Mark Sandman, who collapsed on stage in Rome, Italy and passed away from a heart attack in 1999.

Since then former members have pursued various projects, with the latest involving Narrows' regular Jeremy Lyons and Morphine members Dana Colley, on baritone sax, and Jerome Duepree on drums. They created a groovy, dark, bluesy vibe Thursday night.

Looked at that big old baritone sax! Puts a real bottom on the sound.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Learning the Truth

Above all there's the voice--compelling, on the note, with feeling. Janis Ian, a pro in the finest sense.

An accomplished guitarist. A musician.

The songs, "Society's Child" etc. Etc. understates, of course.

Her personality, her humor, her stories--about playing "Society's Child" in concert as a teenager and being attacked with vile taunts; leaving the stage before the show was over; crying, then returning after the promoter told her that he couldn't believe that the writer of that song was a coward.

If you missed Janis Ian this time round, you can check the archives at mvyradio.com and see if the recording of the show is posted. Better yet, catch her live, preferably at the Narrows.

Poignant.