Roots Report: Come Sail Away and See Some Fall Shows

Okee dokee folks … Last month at the Rhythm and Roots Festival in Charlestown I ran into Abigail Washburn just before the reunion set of her band Uncle Earl. Abigail Washburn also is an amazing solo performer as well as musical partner and wife of the banjo master Bela Fleck, and they’ll both be at the Columbus Theatre for a show on October 21.

After the Uncle Earl performance, Abby invited me onto her tour bus so that we could have a chat about her music, motherhood and the upcoming show at the Columbus. We headed to the back of the bus, which looked more like a nursery than a vehicle that transports and houses touring musicians. Her 3 and a half year old son, Juno, was along for the tour. As I sat on a diaper pad, Abby proudly showed me Juno’s training toilet that sported flashing lights and sort of looked like a slot machine, and told me that by the time they get back to RI for the show at the Columbus he should be using the “big person toilet”! She is obviously very happy to be a mom. I wondered if Juno had any interest in music and she told me that currently he wants to play golf. “He is his own person and we will let him choose what he wants.”

I asked her about Uncle Earl and if this reunion was just for the half dozen shows that they performed across the US and she replied, “We hope to make it an annual reunion tour!” She said the Columbus show will be a vocal and banjo affair. They will play a variety of banjos: cello, banjuke, baritone and fretless. I was curious about how many banjos they had. Bela has about 80 and Abby has five. She laughs, “Bela is a banjo nerd and just loves them. They are all unique and special.” The performance at the Columbus “will have an intimate feel … like being in our living room. There is a lot of humor about being a couple.” I asked if Juno would join them on stage. “He loves music and goes everywhere with us, but he is sometimes inconsistent with his nap so it really depends on that.”

Abby also does a bit of public speaking about US/China relations through folk music. She has traveled to China 15 times and speaks fluent Mandarin. I initially become interested in Abby’s music when I heard her singing in Mandarin and playing banjo — it is quite an interesting combination. Besides her musical collaborations with her husband and Uncle Earl, she has performed with Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. I expect the show at the Columbus to be quite fun and entertaining. Abby has a warm personality, and that coupled with her musical talents and the masterful banjo playing of her husband Bela add up to an experience not to be missed. For more, clawhammer to

The Manhattan Transfer and Take 6, two of the most acclaimed, award-winning vocal groups in pop music history, will perform at the Park Theatre in Cranston on Saturday, October 8. The two groups have won 20 Grammy Awards, and cover nearly every genre of popular music — from jazz to swing, gospel and R&B. As Manhattan Transfer mark the 40th anniversary of their debut recording on Atlantic Records, original members Janis Siegel, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne, along with Trist Curliss (who stepped in to replace the late Tim Hauser), will roll out a thrilling career retrospective, while Take 6 shares their innovative arrangements and funky grooves, demonstrating why this sextet is recognized as one of the best a capella groups in the world. This double bill could turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Also coming up at the Park are Fame — the musical; Blood, Sweat and Tears; Brian Culbertson: Funk! Tour, and Robert Cray. For more about these shows, croon over to

Get your last blast of Block Island for the season on Sunday, October 9. If the normal island treasures aren’t enough of a lure, this will make it even more enticing. The Harbor Church will host the second annual Block Island BeatleFest from 4 – 6pm at the Empire Theatre. This fundraiser helps keep the Common Ground Coffeehouse at the church going year-round. The Coffeehouse features Friday night performances by islanders and mainlanders and feeds attendees. The costs of the food and performers are primarily funded by donations. This year’s BeatleFest line-up includes performances by Ed McGuirl, Cardboard Ox, Kala Farnham, Virginia Dare, Kat McLaughlin, Vaux Finnemore, Jayme Hennessy, Cameron Greenlee, Jake Douglas & Mac Brown, David Frye, and Dave Flamand. For more, ferry over to

Arena rock was at its peak in the late ’70s. Styx was one of the biggest bands of that genre and “Lady” was one of their first big hits. The album Grand Illusion with the single “Come Sail Away” brought them mega success. Over the years the band began to squabble about musical direction, which eventually caused the band to break up and then later re-form with a few new members. The current version of Styx will appear at Twin River in Lincoln on October 22.

One of the funkiest songs from 1974 was “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus. I loved that song back then even though it was a departure from my musical tastes. It featured a talk box sound and the powerful vocals of frontwoman Chaka Kahn. I didn’t really follow her or the band and it was years before I heard anything of hers again. Songs such as “I’m Every Woman,” “Ain’t Nobody” and “I Feel For You” were the songs that I remember from her, but she had many more hits with Rufus and as a solo artist. She has won 10 Grammys and sold over 70 million albums worldwide. She will be performing at Twin River on Friday, October 28. For more about Styx and Chaka Kahn, renegade over to

In 1981 I got tickets to see the Rolling Stones at the Hartford Civic Center, and they brought along opening act Garland Jeffreys. Does anyone ever remember opening acts, especially opening acts for the Rolling Stones? Obviously Garland Jeffreys made an impression and I remembered him. The soon-to-be inducted Long Island Music Hall of Famer will be performing an intimate performance at The Purple Cat Vineyard & Winery in Chepachet on Friday, October 14 as part of a new concert series called Downtown Live! Opening the show will be The Shivers with their  rock, folk and soul-infused blend of music. The show starts at 7pm and doors are at 6:15. Don’t be late! If you don’t know where Chepachet is you’d better program your GPS. For more, cabernet sauvignon to

Here are a few more shows to consider for your “get to” list! The Acoustic Open Mic at Pub on Park, hosted by Joanne Lurgio, happens every Tuesday night at 7pm. Features coming up are Chuck Williams on October 11, Back Porch on October 18, and Julie Dougherty & Sonya Heller on October 25. The RI Songwriters Association Songwriters in the Round show at AS220 takes place at 7pm on Thursday, October 13 with Joanne Lurgio, Dean Petrella, Rodney James, and Mary Bee. On Sunday, October 16 at the Warwick Public Library, UK-based singer-songwriter-guitarist Sarah McQuaid brings her US tour in for a stop at 2pm for a free show. Check out her stuff and surely you will want to see her live ( They recently released their first CD: Old Songs, New Hats. At Common Fence Music in Portsmouth, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Martin Grosswendt and vocalist Susanne Salem-Schatz will be performing on October 22 (

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.

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