Roots Report: The Bearded Bard

Okee dokee folks… In 13 years of writing this column I have had two byline photos. Sometimes I try to update them, but for some reason it never gets done. The current pic is about five years old and for the most part is still representative, except for the beard.

I tricked my father into letting me grow a beard when I was 16 during the Blizzard of ’78. He’d been stuck in a fire station during the blizzard and didn’t shave all week. When he finally was able to get home he had a good start on a beard, so we coaxed him into going all the way. We grew them together. He kept his for a short time, but didn’t like it and shaved. He tried to get me to remove mine, but I resisted and have never given in. In fact, lately my beard is now almost full-on hipster length — about six inches. Is that even an appropriate description? I have gotten flack all of my life for having a beard, but of late it has been relentless. Last night I was with some friends at an event and it was open season on John’s beard. Now, it’s not a weird beard — it’s just long. The comments ran the gamut from calling me Jesus to Muslim, Moses, Gandolph and Duck Dynasty. Someone even asked me if I store things in it.

In addition to the ridicule, people seem to think that MY beard is fair game for touching. This includes an incident at the Dollar Store where an old lady repeatedly tried to fondle it. Whatever. It’s my beard and I am sticking with it. My girlfriend likes it. I like it. That’s all that counts. I have never been one to fit in or cave to societal pressures. No one should! Borrowing a term from the ’60s, this is my freak flag and I am letting it fly! Oh, I guess I should talk about music, now! Read on…

The Greenwich Odeum on Main Street in East Greenwich has a slew of shows coming up. I’ll enlighten you more as they get closer. On March 11 and 12, Kevin Doyle’s Roscommon Soles performers will take to the stage with the newest version of a show inspired by their Library of Congress performance in honor of Doyle’s award as a National Heritage Fellow. “Step into the Irish Parlor-St. Patrick’s Day” highlights the traveling tale of Margaret Taylor Doyle’s jigs and reels from the village of Castlerea in County Roscommon. Arriving in Providence in the 1930s, Margaret and her growing family celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with family, friends, and of course, dancing. Part variety show, part cabaret and part storytelling theater, the show always keeps Irish step dancing in the spotlight. Other shows on the Odeum calendar include: Marc Cohn; The Young Dubliners; RI Music Hall of Fame Jazz induction show; Almost Queen tribute; Rusted Root; Peter Noone; Graham Parker; The Oak Ridge Boys; Joan Osborne; Cowboy Mouth; a Presley, Perkins, Lewis and Cash tribute show; and the one I am most excited about (again), Todd Rundgren! So, check their website and don’t wait to get your tix. Shows at the Odeum have been selling out. For more, “Elvira” over to

The RI Songwriters Association (RISA) presents the Songwriters in the Round shows at AS220 on their new night: the second Wednesday of each month. The show features four songwriters and four newly written songs based on a theme chosen by the audience at the previous month’s show. The March installment takes place on March 8 at 7pm and will present songs that were written about holes. Each musician will perform three other original compositions as well. Songwriters this month are host Jan Luby, Mary Ellen Casey, Lainey Dionne, Joseph V DeMaio & Papa Joe DeMaio. Be a part of the audience, enjoy a wonderful night of music and help select the theme for the next month’s songwriters! For more, get write over to

March means Irish music and if you want to see some of the very best, Cumberland’s Blackstone River Theatre has booked a March line-up featuring four of the top touring groups from Ireland. March 4 brings in two acts performing together that have each previously sold out the theater on their own: Lunasa with acclaimed vocalist Karan Casey. Because of their popularity, BRT has scheduled shows at 5pm and 8pm. The very next night, March 5, Sharon Shannon, former member of seminal Scots-Irish band The Waterboys, appears at BRT. On March 11, Teada returns to BRT. An Irish band with a truly worldwide reach, the five-piece band will be joined by vocalist and accordion player Meabh Begley. Local favorites Pendragon will perform a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on March 18. Pendragon has embraced Celtic tradition and created a timeless sound of its own, performing roots music with an unmistakable contemporary edge. Closing out the month of March will be Irish harpist and vocalist Aine Minogue on March 25. Minogue’s ethereal singing reflects the lyricism and richness found in Irish music, mythology and poetry with a voice undeniably her own. For more, green over to

Good things are happening down in South County and collaboration is the name of the game! Wakefield Music, Music at Lilly Pads and Pump House Music Works/Shady Lea Guitars are all working together on various events in the Wakefield area. Pump House Music Works/Shady Lea Guitars and Music at Lily Pads will present Brooklyn songwriter/musician Jean Rohe and her band on Saturday, March 4. They will perform their End of the World Show. Jean and bandmate Liam Robinson have appeared twice at Lily Pads for their winter season performance, The Longest Winter. On March 16, Pump House Music Works/Shady Lea Guitars and Wakefield Music bring in Peppino D’Agostino, who will present a fingerstyle guitar workshop sharing his insights and techniques relating to this method of guitar playing. To participate, bring your favorite guitar and prepare to learn from a true master. You are also welcome to just come to listen and enjoy if you wish.  Espresso bar and refreshments are available at both events. For more, luthier over to or, or email,

Ladies Rock! Well, they do. If you want to rock, then you have your chance to attend Ladies’ Rock Camp from March 10 – 12. Ladies Rock Camp is a weekend day-camp in Providence that provides an opportunity for ladies 18+ to let loose for a long weekend and play rock music together. It is an intensive, three-day music and mentoring program for female-identified, trans and gender non-conforming adults. This is the “grown-up” version of the summer camp for youth. The program brings together folks from different walks of life and all levels of musical experience for a long weekend of instrument lessons, songwriting, band practice and workshops, all culminating in a showcase concert at a professional music venue. “Every song is a debut. Every band is brave.” No prior musical experience is necessary. Participants choose one instrument to focus on for the week: drums, bass, guitar, vocals or keyboards. All instruction happens in small groups and is led by experienced and enthusiastic musicians. For more, runaway to

Finally, here are a few more shows to consider attending. The Park Theatre in Cranston has many concerts on their calendar. On March 12 is Rhythm of the Night: The Irish Dance Spectacular, on March 25 is Spyro Gyra, on April 7 is Ann Wilson of Heart, on April 30 is Buddy Guy, and on May 7 is the Wailin’ Jennys ( The Knickerbocker in Westerly has weekly Sunday shows in their Tap Room. On March 5, Shawn Taylor is the feature ( At the Narrows in Fall River on March 17, the Bluegrass band the Seldom Scene, who have a rich body of work stretching back to 1971 that includes early collaborations with Emmy Lou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Jonathan Edwards, will appear ( The Garde Arts Center in New London, Connecticut, should be on your radar. They have some great shows coming up and in fact, I wish that I had gotten tickets for this theater instead of Boston for the upcoming Kris Kristofferson show. It is a MUCH EASIER drive than going to Boston! I am definitely going to try to keep tabs on shows at the Garde instead of Boston venues. It will be a cheaper and less stressful night out! Also coming up at the Garde is Donovan on June 3 and Classic Albums Live-Ziggy Stardust on May 12. For more, Yellow Yellow to

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.

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