The Roots Report: Headin’ Out on the Highway

Okee dokee folks … I am once again writing my column in a speeding car. Last year I did the same while coming home from South Carolina, this time I’m heading up to Burlington, Vermont. No, I am not going to visit Bernie Sanders, though it would be cool to meet him. I am going to a wedding. Not mine! Obviously I am a passenger or I would be putting a whole new spin on texting while driving. But I am not a good passenger because I like to be in control. I’ve been playing with the radio for the past three hours and changing stations almost every song. I have gone through half a bag of veggie chips, two pizza strips, an aloe vera drink and am thinking about what I can snack on next. I am not really hungry, I’m bored. And I’m trying not to be a side seat driver. I don’t like to drive as much as I used to, but I really don’t like to be a passenger either. Many years ago my friend Denise described someone as being “a passenger of life,” and that term has always stuck with me. I DEFINITELY don’t want to be a passenger of life. I want to be in control. I want to drive!

Last night, during a political argument on Facebook, someone told me I should leave the state more, but I am probably more well traveled than many. I have been to seven countries and more than half of the United States. One of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain sums up my feelings about this perfectly, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Read on…

The Knickerbocker in Westerly has a couple of great shows coming up on Saturday, August 6 and Sunday, August 7. First up is a night featuring two New England Music Awards Winners: Gretchen & The Pickpockets and Daphne Lee Martin. Since banding together at the University of New Hampshire over a mutual love of jazz, soul and rock and roll, Gretchen & The Pickpockets have performed all over the United States. Named after a hometown road with a history for larceny, the group quickly gained attention with their uniquely polished blend of genres and energetic live shows. After becoming a global finalist in the Hard Rock Rising competition and garnering nominations for best song and favorite act at the Seacoast Spotlight Awards, the band released their eponymous debut album and toured across the country to promote it. With their album used as a soundtrack for the award-winning web series “Staying in Boston,” G&P won best theme song at LA Webfest 2015. Recently nominated as the best band in NH at the New England Music Awards and showing no signs of slowing down, the group has earned a reputation as one of the most promising young bands in existence today.

Daphne Lee Martin blends genres in the legacy of Tin Pan Alley songwriters. She also takes traditional southern roots sounds and runs them through megaphones, mellotron, an old tube amp or even a dark alley. Her lyrics are “fermented and distilled in a bathtub full of misfit Interbellum prose.” Martin has been touring nationally for the last few years, and recently released her fourth full-length album, Fall On Your Sword.

On Sunday, August 7, the always entertaining, bluesy, rockin’, boogie-woogie, pianist and singer Marcia Ball brings her infectious, intelligent and deeply emotional brand of southern, rollicking, roadhouse music and heartfelt ballads to the Knick. Over the course of her three-decade career, Ball has earned a huge and intensely loyal following all over the world. Her piano playing and passionate, playful vocals fuse New Orleans R&B with Austin’s songwriting tradition into a sound all her own. For more, en garde over to

The seventh annual Waterfront Reggae Festival will take place on Saturday, August 13 from noon to 10pm along the waterfront at India Point Park in Providence. The festival line-up features the late Bob Marley’s legendary reggae band The Wailers, as well as Maxi Priest, Etana, Jesse Royal, The Cornerstone and The Ravers. In addition to the 10 hours of music, there will be a Reggae Pit with authentic Jamaican food options, multiple bars serving festive island cocktails and much more. “We are thrilled that Maxi Priest will be joining us for the 7th Annual Reggae Festival as he is another reggae superstar to add to the 10 hours of live music,” said Michele Maker Palmieri, President and CEO of Waterfront Productions, the parent company of Rhode Island Waterfront Events. “We already had secured several traditional reggae bands, most notably The Wailers, so the reggae fusion of Maxi Priest helps satisfy our goal of creating different reggae vibes throughout the day and night.” For more, “ya mon” to

The New Bedford Whaling Blues Festival returns to scenic Fort Taber Park overlooking Buzzards Bay and the Elizabeth Islands on Saturday, August 13 from 11:45am – 7:45pm. The 2016 New Bedford Whaling Blues Festival features platinum selling guitarist Kenny Wayne Shephard, the “new Queen of the Blues” Shemekia Copeland, Grammy-winning New Orleans funk master Jon Cleary and The Absolute Monster Gentlemen, New Bedford’s Quinn Sullivan and Martha’s Vineyard’s Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish. In addition to the main stage artists, The Festival also dedicates a stage to local talent. This year’s artists include Shipyard Wreck, Neal McCarthy and Craig DeMelo. “The idea of bringing back the Festival has been stoked over the years by many fans who expressed how much they missed the event,” says festival founder, Sean Moriarty. For more, harpoon to

Saturday, August 13 at The Mediator Stage, The Four Corners show returns. Performers for the night are Elad Vilk, Kala Farnham, Mark Calhoon, Heather Waxman, Leonard Levander, Mike Laureanno, Lisa Couto, Megan Gilbert and host Don Tassone. The song theme for this concert will be “Cold Steel Wire.” Fore more, bale over to

Current music director of Common Fence Music in Portsmouth, Tom Perotti, will step down from his position at the end of this year. Common Fence Music is currently searching for a new musical director to take over in January 2017. The individual they seek will begin training in fall 2016 by attending several CFM concerts and observing the work of Perrotti. In order to apply for the CFM musical director position, send a cover letter indicating your interest in the job as well as your resume to Common Fence Music board member and grant writer, Irene Glasser, at by August 22. For more about Common Fence Music picket to

Got an old beginner instrument lying around? The Rhode Island Bluegrass is looking for instruments to loan to aspiring bluegrass musicians. Their “Learner Loaner” program will provide a banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, fiddle or dobro to a member or member family for six months at a time so that they can learn the basics without having to purchase the instrument. If you can donate to this program or need more info please email

Squeezing this in! The Sweet Little Variety Show will present Baby Oil, Joe Conscious, Banjo player Kate Mick and more! It all happens August 11 at Aurora in Providence. Hit ’em up at for more.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.

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