People You Ought to Know: Celebrating the life of Jack Hardy

Okee dokee folks… “I Ought To Know” is a song by the late, great singer-songwriter, Jack Hardy. It includes poignant lines such as “I ought to know the songs of Joe Hill, I ought to know Trotsky, Marx and Hagel; I ought to know about the Haymarket hangings, And the H.U.A.C. This I ought to know, but I don’t.”

It is probably the closest Hardy ever had to a pop song, but it still maintained his working of serious, intelligent lyrics. Jack Hardy passed away 10 years ago this month of lung cancer at age 63, presumably caused by the debris at Ground Zero Jack inhaled while searching the site for his brother, who died in the Twin Towers.

Hardy was the champion of the Greenwich Village Folk scene and helped many artists, such as Suzanne Vega, John Gorka and countless others, get their start. He held a well-known songwriters night critique at his Houston Street apartment, which was part of the impetus for him to start Fast Folk Magazine in 1982. The publication included recordings and lyrics from up-and-coming songwriters such as Lyle Lovett, Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, Michelle Shocked, Christine Lavin, Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky.

Fast Folk also had an issue dedicated entirely to Rhode Island when the first Hear In Rhode Island music festival was recorded for the magazine. Hardy was inspirational in the beginning of The Rhode Island Songwriter Association (RISA) and occasionally was a guest host at RISA critiques. Besides all this, Jack was a friend of mine. I met him in the early ’90s when Fuzek-Rossoni did a weekend of shows with him Passim in Boston, and I did many shows with him over the years.

Hardy toured the US and Europe often, but drew more fans abroad. He still had a lot of stories to tell when he died, but he left a body of work containing at least 20 albums and a tribute recording of his songs by various artists. Smithsonian Folkways now owns the Fast Folk recordings, and Hear In Rhode Island is enshrined as well. You ought to know Jack Hardy. For more, “Bandolier” to: JackHardy.com   

Most of you probably know John Juxo and if you don’t know by now, Juxo recently released a follow up to his last offering, Long Distance Driver. Juxo has been part of the RI music scene for decades as a band member or the consummate sideman on keys or accordion. His new album has a title that is near and dear to my heart, Get Off Of My Lawn. This recording was made during the pandemic lockdown. You may have had the opportunity to catch one of his many livestreams from The Rehearsal Space where this recording germinated. While Juxo did not write any of the songs on this disc, he certainly makes them his own. The very first piano notes transform wherever you are into New Orleans. Juxo could easily slide into the line-up of Rhode Island’s Rhythm and Roots Festival and wow the crowd. Throughout the collection Juxo is supported by musicians Benny Banning, Lisa Marie, Jim Morgan and Virginia Stevens. He certainly curated a wonderful collection of tunes from some of the best songwriters the area has to offer like Paul Geremia, Mark Cutler, Bill Harley, Keith Munslow, Dan Lilley, Mickey Scotia as well as the late Barry Cowsill. A couple of notable tracks on the CD are the titular “Get Off Of My Lawn” by Glenn Shambroom and “$20 Gig” by Mickey Bones (we musicians can all relate to this one!). With Dan Lilley’s “Stormy Seas,” he turns the vocals over to Virginia Stevens who beautifully interprets Lilley’s lines. The closing song is Mickey Scotia’s “Something Good Coming,” which leaves you with a quiet, soulful feeling. Juxo’s vocals and piano are simple, yet rich and emotive. He is carrying the torch of the late piano men Dr. John and Leon Russell with some juke joint boogie-woogie stylings of his own. Ironically four of the writers on this recording (Cutler, Lilley, Warren, Scotia) were featured on the Hear In Rhode Island edition of the Fast Folk Magazine I mentioned above. My favorite song from that HIRI disc was Jimmy Warren’s “Wine In a Bottle” that the Flying Ditchdiggers recorded, which Juxo was a member of back in 1994. On this CD, he does his own admirable take on that song. The liner notes quotes Juxo saying, “I love playing songs written by my friends and the many talented people that I admire and have had the pleasure of working with over the years.” You can certainly hear this with every note on the disc. You will want to own this one. For a “Real Good Time” head over to: Facebook.com/JohnJuxo

S-L-O-W-L-Y things are beginning to happen again and S-L-O-W-L-Y is the only way they should. The Greenwich Odeum is offering both livestream and limited in-person shows. Coming up are Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Hubby Jenkins, Hey Nineteen (Steely Dan tribute), Sophie B. Hawkins and more (greenwichodeum.com). The PumpHouse will begin presenting shows on the green again starting April 16 with New Nova, Groovin Confusion, and DudeManBro (pumphousemusicworks.com). The Stone Church Coffeehouse in Bristol is back on April 10 when they bring in The Meadows Brothers (stonechurchcoffeehouse.weebly.com).

Insomnia paid off for me because I managed to score one of the vaccine appointments that seem to become available at 3am. I will be fully vaccinated in time for my first live gig in eons, happening at the end of April. YAY! Anyway, that’s it for now, thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com




Pandemic Dealings: How are local musicians faring?

Okee dokee folks… It has been about 8 months (I know, time flies) since I last checked in with my control group of local musicians, who MAKE THEIR LIVING from music, about their music careers and the pandemic. I wanted to know how they were doing since my last check in. The pandemic is FAR FROM OVER, but it seems that restrictions are being lifted nonetheless. Personally this plague has hit me hard. My life revolves around music and without gigs and concerts I have been lost. My instruments have been collecting dust. I know that with all the time in the world I should be playing a lot but instead it’s the exact opposite. Without any gigs to work towards I have had little motivation to make music. It’s depressing. I do write a lot of lyrics still but haven’t composed any accompanying melodies. Instead I have been building things to satiate my creativity. It is not the same as making music but I am getting a lot of little things done and diversifying a bit in order to generate additional ways to fund my life. It is looking like shows will be slowly coming back, at least outdoors when the weather warms, and indoors as the vaccine is more widely given. I just hope that people are smart and careful. Losing a half million people to this virus is serious and it has already shown that it waxes and wanes. Read on for more about how these musicians are still dealing with the pandemic. I included all they had to say. I think they all needed to have their voices heard and have an opportunity to vent. It’s a long read but it’s all important.   

These are the questions posed to them for this round of curiosity.

Has the pandemic affected your desire to play your instrument?
Have you been playing music or have you been musically idle?
Have you been musically creative-writing/recording?
Are you surviving financially? How?
Have you resorted to other ways of generating income?
Do you have any gigs in the coming months?
Are you currently booking or trying to book any shows?
Do you think it is safe to be playing music live or when do you think it might be?
How do you feel about people who performed/are performing during the pandemic?
Have you done any live/in-person shows?
Will you get a vaccine? If so, when do you think you will get one?
Will a vaccine make you feel like it will be safe to perform in public again?
When do you think we will get back to normal performance schedules again and what do you think will have changed once we do?
Do you think you will have to build back some of your fan base again?

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Betsy Listenfelt says, “I am still collecting unemployment because it is not safe out there in my opinion. I don’t think anyone should be playing inside until this pandemic is under control somewhat. I came down with COVID right after Christmas and it’s not funny and it’s real. It affects not just your body, but your mind as well. I’m hopeful that this summer will bring some relief for me and my musician friends…maybe we might be able to hug one another again? I am depressed but I am hopeful for better days to come.” BetsyL.com

All Star Band of All Stars Band leader, David Tessier tells me, “I find myself practicing different instruments more consistently rather than just concentrating on guitar. I’ve spent a lot of time on violin, piano and drum set as well as getting back to some basic, fundamental guitar exercises. I’ve been very active, working/playing everyday. I’ve had a handful of performances with the band, but mostly I’ve been writing and recording stuff for the next record. We had a great Halloween show at the Rathskeller, and a really fun show at Dusk in December. Our keyboard player just had a baby, so we’re going to be on a little bit of a hiatus until he gets some sleep. I’ve been working on the next All-Stars record as well as setting myself some songwriting challenges like a five song solo EP, and “copy-cat” songs that intentionally sound like other bands. Video editing has also been taking up some of my down time. I’m also an actor and I’ve been fortunate to pick up some part-time work in that area, as well as receiving gig-economy unemployment benefits… I’m always open to new opportunities. There are no All-Star shows booked as of yet. I have some outdoor shows booked with the tribute band I play with (The American Who) starting in April spread out through June, but it’s anyone’s guess whether or not they’re really going to happen. This time has given me ample opportunity to rework my studio, and start on some projects that have been on the back burner. I think it playing can be done safely under certain circumstances (outdoors, distances, etc) but I don’t really think it’s worth the risk at the moment. As for when it might be completely safe from COVID? I couldn’t even guess. I have no feelings one way or another about people who are performing during the pandemic, but I certainly don’t think folks should be congregating too closely. Myself and the band (The All-Star Stars) have had four shows between last September and December, all were outdoors, social distance-conscious and well received, though very chilly. I will get a vaccine as soon as I’m able, I have no idea when that will be possible. It will certainly make me feel safer to a certain extent personally, but I’m more concerned about the audience as they are the ones who are going to be close together. It would be nice for people to be able to safely intermingle again. I don’t really think anyone’s going to start feeling normal until next year after the vaccine has been out for a while, but I don’t know, anything can change at any time, right? Do you think you will have to build back some of your fan base again? As for our fan base, I think those 14 people will still come out, ha, ha!” Facebook.com/DTessier1

Massachusetts blues guitarist and instrumentalist Ryan Lee Crosby replied, “I play everyday. I’ve been recording on multiple instruments and also collaborating remotely. I’ve produced more than 10 new songs in the last 8 months. I’ve been teaching private lessons and group classes on Zoom. I’m playing a Faculty Concert for WUMB’s SAMW group on Monday, March 22 at 8pm. This will be on Zoom but not booking show just yet as it does not yet feel safe to me personally and I hope to begin playing outdoors in a socially distanced setting by the summer, but I have no expectations. I just hope that all people everywhere stay safe. As soon as I’m able, I will get a vaccine. I expect that we will be easing back into things through the next year and that there will be a need to re-establish a sense of well being, trust and community. I will want to play for the people who want to hear me and I hope to play for the people for whom I may have something to offer as a songwriter, musician and teacher. This experience has been a powerful and challenging opportunity to face the truth of who we really are and what we really care about.” RyanLeeCrosby.com

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Lainey Dionne tells me, “The pandemic hasn’t affected my desire to play. I play livestream shows every weekend, co-write with other musicians weekly, go into the studio monthly, and learn new material consistently. The only difference is that I’m not playing live shows in front of a live audience 3-4 nights a week and there’s a huge financial loss from that. I am teaching private instrument and voice lessons to make ends meet but I’ve had to cut back A LOT. I am severely immunocompromised and can only play shows outdoors with an 8ft barrier around my set up. Because it’s too cold to play outside- I can’t perform and it would be too much of a risk to get an indoor job interacting with people. I don’t even leave my house to get groceries. I have booked outdoor shows for the warmer months when it’s safe for me to play outside, but as of now- I only go out if it’s absolutely necessary. Throughout the summer of 2020 I played multiple shows every week and I felt very safe and respected by the patrons and owners. Now that it’s cold and all entertainment is indoors, I don’t judge any people playing restaurants/bars in Rhode Island- it’s simply just too much of a risk for me being immunocompromised to do. I understand that people have to do what they have to do to stay afloat and I think the majority of restaurants and bars are doing their part to make everything as safe as possible for the musicians they hire and their patrons. However, I personally believe it’s irresponsible for big acts to be playing live music venues right now as I don’t believe it’s safe. I honestly believe that we probably won’t be back to “normal” until 2022. As for the fan base question, my family, friends and fans will still be there for me when it’s safe to play year-round. I’ve gained some more fans off of my social media that I’ve been working hard on these past pandemic months. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Please keep supporting your local musicians — watch their live streams and buy their music when it comes out. We appreciate it more than you know!” LaineyDionne.com

Pianist, songwriter, bandleader, Empire Revue host and creative director Keith Munslow sent this to me, “I’m doing all right, holding steady. I think a saturation point got reached as far as how many live stream things people could consume. For me, I have done a handful for schools and libraries. Sometimes they want a pre-recorded show, which I just put as a private link on YouTube. Over the summer, I did a few outdoor events. We did one Empire Revue in Lippitt Park on Hope Street. And I played with Superchief trio at Blithewold, because they have a giant lawn that people can put blankets out on. Everything was safe. Going forward with the Revue, we are currently producing what is basically audio sketch comedy. We did one for the holidays, and it was very well received. It’s an interesting recording process, because I am recording each person individually for the most part. Then gluing all the dialogue together in post production. I think we will try to do some live performances outdoors over the summer, until we can safely get back on stage. I would say the same thing goes for my performance for kids, and with my band. Hoping to do some outdoor stuff over the summer, keeping an eye toward next autumn, hoping things will be able to move back inside. But of course, all of this is subject to the path of vaccinations. I am also producing an album for David Rabinow, which we are safely recording at George Dussault’s studio in Cumberland. That project has been a joy. I’m very much looking forward to finishing it, and getting it out so people can hear it! From a financial standpoint, I am largely in the same boat that I was six months ago. I am doing a few virtual shows. And I receive some royalties for my kids music that they play on SiriusXM. This has been a very long slog. I have joked to many people that I used to often say that one great thing about self-employment is that you can never be fired. I never imagined that I would be fired by a global pandemic! But I would say that in general, I am seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. I am heartened by the arrival of a new, more competent administration. I am doing everything I can to keep my spirits up. I am blessed to have a very supportive wife and family, and a great, close-knit circle of colleagues and friends who are keeping me sane and creative.” KeithMunslow.com

Massachusetts singer-songwriter-guitarist Molly Pinto Madigan tells me, “While I certainly miss playing shows, being less performance-focused has given me the opportunity to devote more time to the songwriting aspect of the singer/songwriter life. I’ve been playing about one livestream concert per month, which is another unique opportunity to reach fans in other parts of the country/world, who wouldn’t necessarily be able to make it to one of my live shows. I released a new album during the pandemic, and came out with two music videos, so that’s been an interesting experience. With the loss of gigging income, I’ve been doing a lot more teaching (online). I don’t have any live shows booked right now, and the last ones I did were some farmers markets outside during the summer. I’m looking forward to getting back in front of a live audience again, but in the meantime I’m enjoying being creative in any way I can.” MollyPintoMadigan.com

Multi-award winning folk artist and one half of the Atwater-Donnelly duo,  Aubrey Atwater says, “Can’t wait to see people in person again. I have been hellbent through the whole thing and enjoying my music more than ever in many ways. Elwood and I run through songs every couple of days, keeping our repertoire muscular and alive. It is a pleasure to play together and sing and play songs in our 30-year repertoire, evoking all kinds of stories of travels and friendship, and a nice way to be together…been doing lots of folk music research, transcribing, teaching, performing on Zoom and more. Having a ball. Expanding my international reach, thanks to years of presence on YouTube and Facebook and a particular niche — the mountain dulcimer circuit. I know, what is that? But, believe it or not, there are thousands in this scene and they have rescued me throughout this whole year. Making about half of what I would be making non-pandemically with music. Have been collecting part-time unemployment when needed and, having been self-employed for almost 30 years and paying my own benefits, was able to lower my health insurance last March which has helped a lot. Plus, who spends money on much but bills these days? As far as gigs, yes, quite a few, many virtual and some in the warm weather months that will be live. I am also fully vaccinated as a therapeutic musician at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and have started back there in the last few weeks. All this is much less than pre-pandemically but it is a start and, I was too busy before anyway! As for live shows going on, not yet inside but yes, in the spring and summer if outside, socially distanced, etc. I am fully vaccinated now so it is somewhat different for me. I am still being safe but feel much more protected. Playing shows now, if we are talking INSIDE, I think it is up to them and the people who go to the shows. I don’t judge this if people are being careful, responsible, and not spreading the disease. Last summer we played several times outside, which was fine although beautiful and strange. And then one time in a coffeehouse in the fall which was was stressful mostly because some audience members where not wearing masks even though they were directed to do so or wearing them under their noses, which just plain hurts my feelings. So, we did that just once and realized it wasn’t worth it. Plus, no one has asked us to play inside since! I believe in science, read a lot about it, have a lot of doctor friends and discuss often. Feel much more protected now that I am fully vaccinated but am still very careful because of the small chance of getting a mild case and spreading it and/or unknowns around virus variants. And also just to stay with the herd and model good and safe pandemic protocol…If we have learned anything it is that we don’t know how things will play out. One thing I feel is that all us live performers will most certainly have JOBS when we can perform again safely and comfortably. Zoom and virtual work is great but NOTHING will every replace live music, live people. People have been so hungry for music. I hear from fans almost every day. Music, as it turns out, is ESSENTIAL. We humans are resilient and when the time is right, I feel we will all adjust quickly to being back in public again. I can’t wait for the time we don’t have to wear masks all the time. I miss people’s faces! I suspect there will be lots of changes in our lives, post-pandemically, as there already have been. Pandemics, historically, radically change societies. I am hopeful, optimistic, intrigued. I think there will be a lot of good changes. Like, maybe people won’t allow themselves to be too busy if they can help it. Maybe some of our meetings will be on Zoom so we don’t have to travel. Maybe some people will work at home from now on. Maybe some folk festivals will be hybrids of virtual and live…I have expanded my fan base…through social media, email, and years of ‘pounding the pavement’, I have had the world’s folk fans at my fingertips. My music has changed its course. This is an ethnomusicologist’s dream study. I now present and teach music I didn’t always have the audience for, before. From here on out, I will always enjoy doing some virtual work. Since last April, I figure I have taught and presented to folks in about ten countries and nearly all the US states. I don’t think we, as a society, quite have language yet for what has happened to our connectivity since last March and for that, I am deeply grateful and fascinated in what has otherwise been a scary, wretched, disheartening year in some many ways. Once again, my music has rescued me as it has over and over and over again in my now somewhat long life!” Atwater-Donnelly.com

RI Music Legend and Hall of Fame member Mark Cutler tells me, “I’ve been playing as much as I usually do. The pandemic has definitely screwed with my mind. I like to think it hasn’t affected my desire. Most of the time I’ve been working on music with usual breaks after I write or record stuff. I haven’t been idle, time is passing by fast and I don’t want to waste it. I’ve been writing a lot and working on my next releases in my home studio. I won’t do any gigs until I get vaccinated. I’ll start booking once I have a better idea of when the vaccine will be available. I don’t know if it’s safe to be playing music live now but I’d rather not take any chances. We’ve lost family members and friends to COVID. I’m respecting the disease and the advice of the experts. I had throat cancer and open heart surgery within a year of each other. I like living and don’t want to tempt fate more than I already have. Probably late this year or early next year will start playing live but I’ll defer to Dr. Fauci. I wish some people wouldn’t be so cavalier about this pandemic. If we had responsible leadership at the beginning, I think we would have had a handle on this earlier. Wearing a mask shouldn’t be a political statement.” MCutler.com

Open Mic Host, music teacher and singer-songwriter-guitarist Beth Barron wrote to me, “As I reflect on this past year, I can honestly say I am so grateful for this community. I was laid off a couple days after partaking in this article almost a year ago. The amount of inner work that has taken place this past year, for myself, has been incredibly humbling. I started my own business from home by teaching guitar and piano lessons to beginners through Zoom… and through word of mouth by parents I was quickly teaching 20 students. It helped maintain some kind of normalcy in regards to keeping a daily schedule. In regards to my own music career, I began to work on truly to get to know myself as a songwriter. I dove into all of my writings… I took the time… because all I had was time. I enjoyed the live streams because it allowed me to just continue to practice and also challenge my vulnerability in sharing my new music. I wrote and recorded with New Castle Sound located in the east bay and produced my first single, “I’m Alive” Which is one of the most honest songs I ever wrote. All I could do during quarantine was to create a new career and sense of new normalcy for myself. Also to take the time to support and fund raise for local businesses  such as The Parlour and Galactic through live streams. Right now I am just working hard and moving forward and I’m grateful.” Facebook.com/Beth.Barron.54

Singer-songwriter-guitarist, music teacher, Providence Folk Festival host Steve Allain responded with, “To say that this has been the strangest year related to music (and life in general) since I’ve been playing, is putting it mildly. As with many musicians that I know, I’ve gone through a real roller coaster of motivation since last March. There have been periods where I have had no desire to write or play music at all. And then the pendulum would swing completely over and I would have super prolific spells of writing and wanting to play. One of the unfortunate impacts of the pandemic, is that I have had to postpone two separate recording projects that I had started. The engineer and the musicians involved all agreed that we would wait until we felt safer to start up again. Up until the pandemic, a significant part of my income came from performing live shows. All of the gigs that I had booked from March through the rest of 2020 got canceled. I had one solo show that was outdoors and a safe distance from the audience that I ended up playing over the summer. And Tracie Potochnik (my bandmate from Cardboard Ox) and I  did play one outdoor show over the summer as well. I was offered a few gigs, but felt that they were not safe or worth the risk. Fortunately, I have been able to teach online lessons, and collect unemployment for the first time in my life. And I have to say, that has saved me from financial ruin. I do not have any gigs booked at all, and have not reached out to venues. I personally feel that until the vaccine has been given to the majority of the population and the numbers come way down, and we start to see some form of normalcy (whatever that means), I will probably wait to even start reaching out again. In the meantime, I’ve done some Facebook live shows online, and Tracie and I have started a bi-weekly show called 20 minutes with Cardboard Ox every other Thursday night streaming on Facebook and YouTube.” SteveAllain.com

RI Blues legend and RI Hall of Fame Member Duke Robillard tells me, “I can’t really say I don’t pick up the guitar as much, but not being able to perform has cut down the amount of playing I do of course. I do weekly online lessons at Sonic Junction. I also have various musical projects I’m working on in my home studio. I just started writing a bit because I’ve just started a new album this week. It was the first time I’ve seen my band members in several months…all masked up of course. I’ll say one thing, getting to play music with your friends after being isolated for most of a year sure makes playing in the studio a joyous occasion! We cut basic tracks in two days and it was a very satisfying experience! We took every precaution to be safe so I feel it was OK to get together being distanced. As far as finances, it’s not great but we’re getting by. I’ve lucked into a few recording jobs I have been able to do at home that have helped. When things get slow I have always been able to sell an instrument or two which I’m used to doing anyway. These days, vintage instruments are something I don’t really care about anymore. I love them, but I look at instruments as tools so I don’t get attached to them so much. Plus I have several contemporary guitar builders that have made me fabulous playing and sounding instruments. So all the vintage ones have gone to new homes of players that can really appreciate them. My agent has just booked a few shows in October for The Duke Robillard Band and I have about a half dozen shows with the New Black Eagle Jazz Band at the end of the year also. But of course the reality is, the new variants of COVID 19 could destroy all that but I have hope that the vaccines will solve the problem. There’s no doubt that the world is suffering from many issues now. Climate change, COVID and economic problems are going to make it tough to beat and when you add in politics…Well no need to go there! One thing I have to say, There’s no worry that Blues will be going away anytime soon with humanity in the shape it’s in…For someone of my age and health it’s definitely not safe to play gigs for me. Once I get both shots of the vaccine I believe it should be safe but I personally, will take every precaution. I am enjoying my life too much at this point to do anything foolish. I am scheduled to get my first vaccine shot in two weeks. When things will be normal again is anybody’s guess. I’m not putting my money on it ever being like it was again. Personally I don’t feel humanity in general, will ever come together as a whole enough to mend the issues that cause the problems. I feel my fan base is pretty strong. I have young kids in schools listening to my music. Just last week I sent a card to a fan in Belgium who was turning ninety. So I’m not worried about my fan base. It took five decades to develop and I don’t feel they are going anywhere. My fans are music fans, they aren’t people who chase after matinee idols. so I feel pretty secure LOL! You could say they’re in it for the long haul. I feel very lucky in every way.” DukeRobillard.com

Award winning band member, music teacher, violinist, Amy Bedard and I talked and she told me,”The pandemic has not affected my desire to play. I still want to play even if I am not performing. I have been working on improv…and I’ve been very fortunate because I have had opportunities to play in churches and weddings. I have had some pit orchestra work start to come back as well but it has been live-streamed…I have also done live streams with Forever Young and a couple of live performances to a limited audience with FY. It was a lot of fun to play for a real audience again! I have a couple of video recording performances coming up for Saint Patrick’s Day with a Celtic Band…and I’m hoping to have some church gigs for Easter…I do feel it’s okay to do in person performances as long as they are limited and carefully planned…I have already received the vaccine and I feel somewhat protected… I’m not sure when things will ever get back to normal, but it seems like venues are making it work with a limited audience and with live streams. They will probably have some combination of both for a while. Hopefully we will have more outdoor performances this summer.” Facebook.com/Amy.Bedard.58, ForeverYoungNeilYoungTribute.com

Award winning singer-songwriter-guitarist, Joanne Lurgio says, ”This entire past year has been a roller coaster ride for sure! I would be lying if I did not admit that I have been playing and writing a lot less as the months have passed. My responsibilities as a caregiver intensified during this pandemic leaving less time, emotion and energy for much else. My mom just received her second vaccine and I am very grateful. I feel a weight has been lifted as I let go of my overwhelming worry to keep her safe. Soon, I can get assistance with her care again. I already feel freer just knowing this; it is lifting my musical soul. Without a doubt, I will get my vaccine as soon as it is my turn! This time safe at home motivated me to finally clear out space dedicated for music making and writing, four years in the waiting, it took a pandemic to get to it. With all that said, I HAVE written a little more than a handful of songs inspired from events over the past year. These songs are different from my usual writing; I think that is a good thing. I am considering recording a simple EP, even if only to document these events and emotions that have dominated and changed our lives. Aside from cantering funerals & memorials services I am not performing live and have not started booking gigs. I do not believe it is safe to perform inside venues yet. I believe science. I will follow the science recommendations. We have all sacrificed for a full year now, why on earth would we rush back in haste? We all feel the loss, but I don’t want to take step backwards out of desperation and impatience. Sorry, I do get resentful when I hear people denying facts & rationalizing around them. I worked in healthcare & safety for 3 decades and remain a rule following nerd … LOL. That’s just my nature. I am optimistic for our musical future. I see music returning but I don’t believe it will be the same for a while. The upcoming warm outdoor weather is a great plus for the transition back, but we will still need to be careful and take precautions even outside. Our overall lifestyles have been changed. Another honest reality, I am unsure exactly where I will fit in when we are back rolling again; this at least has offered inspiration for my newest song; there you have it, music lives on and I I will continue to make music. ‘Everything changes, nothing remains the same.’ Change is good; change is inevitable. It will be interesting to see things unfold and reemerge. ‘Pollyanna Joanna’ remains cautious, yet hopefully optimistic; a bit excited as well.” JoanneLurgio.com

Phew! Your eyes deserve a break now! Thanks (so much) for reading. Thank you to all of the musicians who answered my questions for this column-I do appreciate it! www.JohnFuzek.com




Adventures in Listening: Grandpa Simpson finds a new musician who can stay on his lawn

Okee dokee folks… Most of you know I’m a “get off my lawn” type of guy, and age is finally catching up with my attitude. I will be turning 60 this year — yikes! In general, I don’t find a lot of new mainstream music that I like. I make an exception for local music; that is about the only place I hear anything interesting going on.

Recently I shocked myself by not only liking some new music, but by buying the CD! Admittedly, this artist is not new to a lot of younger folks, but she is new to me. I learned about her when PBS News did a year-end music retrospective and played about 10 seconds of a song that, to me, sounded a lot like Canadian songstress Kathleen Edwards, whose come-out-of-retirement release, Total Freedom, was the only CD I’ve purchased in the last few years.

The performer was Phoebe Bridgers and the song was “I Know The End.” I found her Seth Meyers performance of the song on YouTube and listened to it over and over and over again. I really loved this song so I listened to Bridgers’ album, Punisher. My first impression was “eh.” “I Know The End,” was different from the version I was used to from the Seth Meyers show, and I didn’t care as much for the album version. But I forced myself to listen to the album again and found another song I liked: “Graceland Too.” I was up to two songs that I liked out of the 11 on the disc so I kept listening. I test drove that CD on YouTube for almost two months.

Then I found her Saturday Night Live performance on YouTube and watched it several times. While I like both of the songs that she played — “Kyoto” and “I Know The End” — I thought the performances were weak. Her band was lacking and the violin player — YIKES!, find the note!

Now let’s get to the part of her performance that caused controversy: the attempted guitar smash at the close of “I Know The End.” I have read so many comments about this on both sides and think it’s amazing that something stirred up so much discussion. I found it to be contrived and unauthentic. In general I think any guitar smashing post Pete Townshend (The Who) is dumb. Pete originally did it when his guitar hit the ceiling of the club the band was performing at and it cracked the neck. He got pissed and smashed it. The crowd loved it so he kept it in the act and destroyed a lot of good guitars. But it’s been done to death; enough already. Phoebe needs a good band and should focus on her music because it’s good. At least the SNL stunt got her music more attention. The kid’s got a fu-cha!

Anyway, my point to all of this is, I bought the actual, physical CD and I like it! Give new music a chance.   

Local musicians are still dealing with the pandemic and I interviewed a few of them about it. Check it out at motifri.com/pandemicmusic2021. That’s it for now, thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com




Everything Old Is New: ’80s icons find new life on screen and stage

Okee dokee folks… Most people remember where they were when they heard that John F. Kennedy was shot. Not many remember where they were on July 16, 1981. I do because that was the day that Harry Chapin died. I was doing a service call on a pinball machine (in another life I ran an arcade), and I was devastated when I heard that Harry had been killed in a crash on the Long Island Expressway. Harry was a huge inspiration in my youth. If, per chance, you don’t know who Harry Chapin is, you should — watch the documentary about Harry Chapin, When In Doubt, Do Something. Chapin was an incredible singer-songwriter known for songs such as “Taxi,” “Cats In The Cradle,” “W.O.L.D.” and “Circle.” He also was a tireless activist for the poor and hungry.

The Chapins, a band made up of the Chapin brothers and sometimes their father, formed in the early ’60s and was the impetus for Harry to begin his solo career. He was dismissed from the band and wound up as their opening act. A record company bidding war ensued and Harry secured one of the most lucrative recording contracts at the time. Ironically, my first exposure to a Chapin was though the TV show “Make A Wish,” which was hosted by younger brother Tom Chapin. Tom would sing songs, sometimes penned by Harry, which would accompany various interesting and educational segments. It was when “Taxi” became a hit that I first heard Harry. I remember my mother saying how she loved that song except for the last line, “When I’m stoned,” which was radical for 1970s radio.

I had the pleasure of meeting Harry in the mid ’70s at The Leroy Theatre. Remember the Leroy and the crumbling ceiling? Harry took the time to meet and talk to everyone who wanted to engage. After I met Chapin I marched onto the stage (ballsy, I know) and talked to Big John Wallace, Chapin’s bass player and the voice of the angelic part in “Taxi.” He offered me a hit from his joint, but I had to refuse — I was with Mom!

Harry became evermore involved in social activism and politics. He is quoted as saying, “Politicians wish I spent more time doing music and the critics wish I spent more time in politics.” He began spending more and more of his efforts working to aid those affected by hunger and poverty. He donated the earnings from as many as 150 shows per year to this cause. By 1981 this was taking its toll on his music career and he needed to buckle down and focus on it in order to save that and the fundraising. Unfortunately, he never really got the chance.

Harry’s music can still be heard on the radio and is referenced often on television. His charitable work continues through the many organizations he founded, one being World Hunger Year (WHYHunger.org). The Chapins continue to make music and I have had the pleasure of playing shows with Harry’s daughter, Jenn. She and her husband headlined the Providence Folk Festival a few years back. People who don’t know Harry and his music should really watch When In Doubt, Do Something and introduce themselves to a truly noble songwriter/activist. Older folks, like me, will want to watch for the nostalgia and emotional ride. Do yourselves a favor and stream it (available on Amazon). For more, “Shooting Star” over to HarryChapinMusic.com

I am going to stick with the early ’80s and bring you back to the time when the band Robin Lane and The Chartbusters was climbing the charts. They had hits such as “When Things Go Wrong,” Why Do You Tell Lies,” “It’ll Only Hurt A Little While” and many others. The band had one of the first videos to be aired on MTV, and Lane sang back-up on Neil Young’s first solo album. If you catch her in concert, when concerts come back, she augments the show with Laurel Canyon stories. Unfortunately, despite her success, her record label dropped her early on. The Chartbusters dissolved and she joined forces with RI’s own The Shake, but she eventually faded from the limelight to raise her daughter.

Lane has been back writing, performing and recording for quite a while now. She was one of the first headliners of the Providence Folk Festival and I have worked with her on many other shows over the years. Lane founded an organization called Songbird Sings where she “helps people write their owns songs about their experiences using her musical ability as a form of rehabilitation for those suffering or recovering from heady trauma like domestic violence, sexual exploitation, child abuse or war.”

Lane has just released her latest CD titled Instant Album, consisting of 16 tracks of new, remastered and unreleased older songs. The first single from the album, “It’s Your World,” is “a powerful look at today’s world and the constant choices one faces in life.” Lane’s music has only gotten better over the years. Her songwriting is as solid as ever, and her voice has remained just as strong, but now has a lifetime of experience powering it. She has a new site (patreon.com/robinlane) that will feature concerts, guests, interviews, stories and intimate slices of life through her many years of making music. For more “Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow,” get to TheRobinLane.SquareSpace.com

Pandemic fatigue and denial are setting in for a lot of folks. I want music and entertainment to come back more than anyone, but I think it’s still not safe in public places. Stay home, but if you must go out, double-up on the mask and wash your damn hands! A friend of mine, who is a doctor in San Diego wrote to me, “We have achieved the ‘COVID Hellscape’ that we have feared from the beginning. The hospital is insane right now … so many sick people … people dying every day … working 3 times my normal schedule. The new strain scares the hell out of me.”

She is on the front lines, pay attention! Anyway, that’s it for now, thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com




Singles Ready to Mingle: Don’t miss these new releases from PVD singer/songwriters

Okee dokee folks… There is a quote floating about that says, “We are NOT all in the same boat; we are in the same storm. Some have better boats than others.” This perfectly sums up the inequities people are experiencing in the pandemic even though we are all in the middle of a worldwide health crisis and people are dying! I am annoyed by the folks who cannot find it within themselves to wear a damn mask or abide by restrictions for everyone’s sake. I have stayed home and spent the past few months building things: from a cigar store Indian as a stage prop for my band to a litter box house for my cats. I would rather be playing gigs, but I feel less than motivated to do so with no real outlet to perform live. I played a livestream once and it was fine, but only because it was with my band and that made it fun. I have less than zero desire to do it solo, but I am sure I will cave to livestreaming at some point just out of necessity — that is if we survive the coming year! A week in and it is already insane! Read on…

Back in the old days when we could actually play live, in-person gigs, we were planning the 2019 Providence (now Rhode Island) Folk Festival and decided that Festival board member Lisa Couto should be part of the show. She resisted a bit at first, but relented and her performance at the ’19 fest was memorable. Lisa has a long musical resume that includes multiple CD releases, fronting a band, and a tour in Southeast Asia. Her voice is capable of more gymnastics than Mary Lou Retton in her floor routine. Inspired by their PVD Folk Festival performance, Couto, who besides having great pipes also plays guitar, and Erik Peterson, a Berklee graduate who plays piano, sings and does production work, have been writing and working on recording a full length album. They just released their first single called “After the Trouble.” To hear this marvelous piece of music, Tsukahara on over to: reverbnation.com/soundedground.

Another member of the PVD Festival committee, who was to host a new stage in 2020, is singer-songwriter Beth Barron. She has hosted shows and open mics at The Galactic Theatre, Askew, and other venues, and has been a cheerleader for the local music scene. Over the past pandemic year, Beth played a lot of livestreaming shows and a few rare live gigs outdoors. Barron has been developing as both a performer and a songwriter and it really shines through on her recording of her very first single, “I’m Alive.” Joined by Bob Giusti on drums and Stephen Demers playing electric guitar, Barron’s vocals stretch out and soar. She writes, “’I’m Alive’, is a journey of a song. I dove into my truths, depths, lows and highs.” For more, check your vitals at: soundcloud.com/beth-barron-851791880

RI Music Hall of Fame member Ken Lyon recently passed away at the age of 79. During his long and storied career, he worked at the Brill Building as a songwriter, recorded for Epic, Columbia and Decca Records; criss-crossed through the folk and blues scene; was a member of the Celtic band Pendragon; and shared the stage with Elton John and Queen. But he is best known for his work with The Tombstone Blues Band. Besides all that, Ken was a nice and funny guy and I had the pleasure of working with him a few times. His rendition of “Handsome Molly” during the Pendragon days will always be a favorite of mine. Rhode Island has lost a legend.

Attention songwriters! Entries are now being accepted for the 2021 Kerrville/Grassy Hill New Folk Competition for Emerging Songwriters. The first 800 entries postmarked or submitted online by March 7 will be judged, and 24 finalists will be announced in April. I had the honor and pleasure of playing at Kerrville back in 2000 and if you love the Texas heat, then this fest is for you! For more, mow on over to: kerrvillefolkfestival.org/newfolk

I am looking forward to January 20 when the mango moron leaves the White House for good. I hope to never have to see his vile countenance again! We have had enough and it’s time to heal and repair. That’s it for now, thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com




Do You Hear What I Hear?: Holiday concerts from your couch

Okee dokee folks… I would like to send a big THANK YOU out to the folks who voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. If you were one of the folks who voted for the mango moron, PLEASE begin the cult deprogramming process immediately. Hopefully this nation’s nightmare will soon be over. In the meantime, please start taking the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously or we will just be stuck in a Groundhog Day loop. People are getting sick and dying, and many of those who have corona and live through it end up with long-term health issues. Besides, if we don’t keep it in check, live music and venues may never come back. Read on… 

Singing for Shelter, the 13th annual Christmas concert that features Newport area musicians raising money for local homeless havens Lucy’s Hearth and The McKinney Shelter, will be held online over a period of two weeks, from December 5 through 22. In order to hold some form of a fundraiser, the organizers decided to present a series of shows featuring the musicians playing live from their living rooms on Facebook. Viewers will be urged to visit the shelters’ websites and donate directly. Over the years, Singing for Shelter has raised more than $85,000 for these shelters. All shows are from 7-7:30 and for the schedule, telethon to ChristmasInNewport.org or SingingForShelter-Newport on Facebook.

The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford will be streaming Canada’s most endeared and revered fiddle power couple, Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy’s Celtic Family Christmas At Home on December 5. Partnering with Homeplay.live, the concerts will continue MacMaster and Leahy’s annual tradition for their fans across North America while encouraging audiences to support their local theaters that are struggling with the quarantine. The show will be left up to watch any time from posted the show day until December 27. Also through the Z, Brian O’Donovan’s Virtual Christmas Celtic Sojourn will premiere on Thursday, December 17, at 7:30pm. O’Donovan will host, introduce the artists, chat with them about their lives, read favorite poetry and recount stories from his own West Cork Christmas. Proceeds from this performance benefit both the performers and The Zeiterion. If that isn’t enough holiday “tune-age” for you, then you can listen to the mother lode on December 19 when the Holiday Pops presents a virtual family concert. This show will be pre-recorded at the Zeiterion and presented via YouTube. All ticketed patrons will receive an email on the day of the concert containing a private link for access, and a digital program book will be available to view before the concert airs. For more, tune in to Zeiterion.org

Common Fence Music keeps the streaming going with a couple of new internet installments in December. On Sunday, December 6 at 7pm, The MoNo Guitar Duo, consisting of Italian guitarist Giuseppe Molino and Polish guitarist Anna Krystyna Nowicka, will perform. The two met in 2010 at Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome and the MoNo Guitar Duo was born. These talented musicians perform what is known as “4 hands guitar” where two people play the same guitar at once! On December 13 at 7pm, Samoa Wilson, vocalist and song-stylist, will play a cyberspace concert with her current duo partner, slide guitarist Ernie Vega. Collectively they are known as the Four O’Clock Flowers. Their repertoire of gospel, blues and jazz songs are sung from a woman’s perspective of struggle, transformation and triumph. These events are free, but tips are encouraged and go to the artists. For more, go with the flow to CommonFenceMusic.org

The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River will continues with its Friday night live stream shows until in-person shows are deemed safe once again. They have a stellar line-up that will make your Friday nights fun! Coming up are the Duke Robillard Band, Sarah Borges and The Broken Singles, Gary Hoey’s Ho Ho Hoey’s Rockin Holiday Tour, Ward Hayden & The Outliers, Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez and Roomful of Blues. For schedule information, taper toward NarrowsCenter.org

Unfortunately the RI Music Community lost David Haller to COVID on November 27. He was a mandolin player and member of the jug band The KC Moaners. David was always helping out at festivals as well. He was a forever member of the stage crew at Rhythm and Roots Festival and helped me many times at the Providence (Rhode Island) Folk Festival. He was a good soul and will be missed. Hopefully we can overcome this pandemic before it takes any more good folk. That’s it for now, thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com




Union Glue: Time to stick the country back together

Okee dokee folks… I remember seeing a political cartoon from the 1860s showing Abraham Lincoln patching up the United States with Union Glue — a perfect visual analogy for what the country needed at the time. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have their own brand of Union Glue and are currently the ONLY hope for this country. Drumpf will just pour paint thinner all over the place, light a match and say, “I fixed things.” If you haven’t voted yet, please do. Every vote counts. But I do hope that you will use your vote wisely and vote for progress, decency and reconciliation, not hate, regression and division. These days your politics speak volumes about your humanity. No matter what, we are headed into dangerous and uncharted waters for the next three months. I truly hope we can ride out the coming storm and will fare better on the other side. Read on…

A few months back (okay, maybe longer…time has become a totally abstract concept for me), Common Fence Music had a songwriter contest and the winner of said contest was John McDaid from Portsmouth. One of the songs he performed caught my attention — “Lost In Translation.” The song refers to “The Mango Mussolini” currently squatting in the White House and is included on his debut CD, Trail of Mars. Other notable tracks from the disc are, ”Down To The River,” “Sigmund Freud’s 115th Dream” and he saved the best for last with “Walking Off The Earth,” which features guest performers Craig Akin, Jim Henry, Tracy Grammer and Abbie Gardner. If you are a lover of clever lyrics, then this should satiate your word lust. McDaid delivers his material with a Randy Newman/Leonard Cohen/Dire Straits feel. For more “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride” at: JohnMcDaid.bandcamp.com

Another new compilation recording that is a free download has been released by 75 Or Less Records and is titled Smash Hits Volume 1 (there are two more volumes). The recording was called to my attention by musician David Tessier. His song “Wire” is part of the compilation and is a prog-rock masterpiece. While the entire collection of songs is a bit uneven, there are quite a few stand-out tracks. The Sorry Boys, which is a Mark Cutler project, contributed “Way Out Now.” Though Cutler does have another cut in the mix, “Queen of the Dive,” which is a good track, I preferred the Sorry Boys’ song. Besides Tessier’s mini-opus, Minky Starshine really delivers with “Andrea’s Fault.” It’s a very clever, very well done and slickly produced ditty with lines like: “my heartache is like an earthquake, it’s Andrea’s fault.” Other songs that caught my attention were, Bob Kendall’s Nerve Pill with “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” — a perfect message for today’s political climate, Matt Fraza’s catchy and upbeat “Without Saying” and Gladhouse’s “Mine, All Mine.” The collection is a potpourri of musical styles and artists, and it’s a FREE download. For more, get “Rhode Trippin’” to: 75orLessRecords.com/75orless-presents-smash-hits-vol-1-3.

Though I have not yet seen it, a new film about the legendary Bluebird Cafe in Nashville has just been released. If you are not familiar with this venue you should be. It is a Mecca for songwriters. I have been to the Bluebird a couple of times. One of the nights that I was there, Walter Egan popped in to play a few tunes with the band that was booked that night. Of course he played “Magnet and Steel” and one or two others. It’s common for the Bluebird to have “pop-in” performers. From the outside you would never know the importance of this venue, it is very nondescript and located in a little strip mall, but its influence reaches far and wide. For more about the Bluebird film, flutter on over to: BluebirdTheMovie.com     

The Narrows in Fall River opened for live shows a couple of weeks ago under strict COVID guidelines, but due to Massachusetts’ uptick in cases has been forced to go virtual once again. Check NarrowsCenter.org for updates.

Common Fence Music will present Joel Mabus, a Mid-Western songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, in an online concert on Sunday, November 8 at 7pm. He has been a long time sideman to Tom Paxton and has played on stage with Doc Watson, Dave Van Ronk, Norman Blake and Peggy Seeger. A link to the online concert will be provided at CommonFenceMusic.org prior to show time. Part concert, part workshop, part visit, Aubrey Atwater and Elwood Donnelly will present selections from their repertoire online Thursday, November 12, 7. You can also chat with Aubrey and Elwood during the presentation. Atwater-Donnelly.com

That’s it for now. My band, Forever Young is playing a live show at the Greenwich Odeum on November 14. Only 100 tickets will be sold. Hope you will practice COVID safety and see the show! Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com #DumpTrump2020!




Listen to the Music Play: Live music heats up as the temperatures cool off

Okee dokee folks… Back in 10th grade I spent a good deal of my school time sitting on the floor in the hallway playing guitar. I would skip class or forge a pass to get out of study hall just to play, and I wasn’t alone. A few others also would do this, and we would jam for hours. I credit this, more than lessons, as how I really learned how to play guitar. We would mostly play music by the Grateful Dead, Dylan and Neil Young. Occasionally folks who didn’t even go to our school would wander in and join us.

Someone I remember vividly was Frankie O’Rourke. He was friends with a few of the senior players, was in a band called The Other Half and he wrote his own songs. One of his songs, “Valentine,” was an extremely catchy pop/rock tune that O’Rourke taught us all how to play. To me, this song was just as good as the Dead or Dylan songs that the seniors taught me and it stuck in my head even after high school.

About 10 years later I was photographing a wedding and the band started playing “Valentine.” Turns out that Frankie O’Rourke’s ensemble was the wedding band! A few weeks ago he announced that The Other Half’s 1977 eponymous recording was now available as a CD and he sent me a copy. This EP disc has four original O’Rourke songs: “Valentine,” “Lady of the Night,” “Love Will Find Its Way” and the very timely “America,” as well as covers by Garcia/Hunter and Gram Parsons. The Other Half’s sound has that familiar feel of a Grateful Dead, NRBQ or Asleep At The Wheel set. In addition to O’Rourke, players on the album include Paul Sauvageau, Judy Harrison Choice, Richard Herzog and David Blanchette. If you remember The Other Half or you jammed in your high school hallway, too, pick up a copy. For more, “Listen To Your Heart” and get to reverbnation.com/frankieorourke or find him on Facebook.

The Odeum in East Greenwich is inching its way back into live music and shows. They are advertising a “Rocktober” of shows and films. Live music returns on October 8 with fan favorite Livingston Taylor. Also on tap are The Grateful Dead tribute Playing Dead featuring former members of Dark Star Orchestra on October 17, The Brothers All-Allman Brothers Tribute Band on October 30, and an evening with Tom Rush on November 6. My band, Forever Young – A Tribute to the Music of Neil Young, will be playing its first live show since January at the Odeum on November 15. Only 100 tickets will be sold. The Odeum will also be showing “Movies That Rock” such as The Talking Head’s Stop Making Sense, Almost Famous, Prince’s Purple Rain and more. If you attend any show, follow the Odeum and CDC’s social distancing guidelines and wear a mask! For more, step six feet over to: greenwichodeum.com     

Up in Woonsocket, the Levitt AMP outdoor fall series presents free music to pumpkin spice up your October. On October 9, it’s Rhode Island SON — a Cuban/Salsa band, on October 16 is American Idol’s Erika Van Pelt with Blues/Soul/Pop, on October 23, Kim Trusty plays blues/jazz/soul/R&B and on October 30, it’s the 7-piece, pop-song-playing Kickin Brass Band. Side by each over to facebook.com/LevittAMPWoonsocket for more.

Bristol’s Stone Church Coffee House at the First Congregational Church welcomes The Honk on Saturday, October 24. The Honk is an acoustic jazz, Americana, ballads, blues and funk playing RI band. Their songs are arranged with guitar, mandolin, bass, percussion, keyboards and violin, and they have sold out many performances. The Church is located at 300 High Street (corner of High and Bradford Streets) in Bristol. Seating is limited and reservations are mandatory. For more, roll on over to stonechurchcoffeehouse.weebly.com

As I mentioned in previous columns I have been streaming a lot of TV, and I recently was on another music doc binge. Two that I enjoyed and recommend are 40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie. The Colorado band with the strange name, Magic Music, “could-a, should-a” made it but were hindered by their hippy-dippy lifestyle. If you are a fan of the Grateful Dead’s acoustic material, you might like this. Lee Aronsohn (Two and Half Men, Big Bang Theory) was a Magic Music fan in the ’70s and produced this film.

Who Is Lydia Loveless? is another rock doc I took a chance on and ended up with an appreciation for a new performer. At first I was thinking, “Who is Lydia Loveless, and why does she deserve a documentary?” But I learned why, and you should discover her music as well. Loveless just released her newest CD, Daughter, which is available at LydiaLoveless.com. Both documentaries are available to stream on Amazon.

For those about to vote we salute you! I am imploring folks to vote and to vote for Biden/Harris. This is the most important election in our lifetime. The fate of this country, this democracy and civility are in the balance. I was a solid Bernie supporter and would rather have seen him as the nominee, but Joe Biden is a decent human being and the addition of Kamala sold me on the ticket. Right now they are the only hope to save this country. We are circling the drain, folks, and if you do not see this and see the difference between Drumpf and Biden, you are in need of serious help. The other night’s debate should have made it blatantly obvious who is fit to run this country. No matter what, please stay safe — the time ahead will be tumultuous.     

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com 




Dire Straits: The economy suffers when music events are cancelled

Okee dokee folks… I have been languishing in Facebook detention for more than a week now, and I still have three weeks to go before I am free to speak my mind on social media once again. Then I’ll probably last 24 hours before I am shut off once more. Facebook has put me in a time out about a half dozen times already this year because they claim that I have used the platform for hate speech. Facebook’s definition of hate speech seems to be subjective; using the word “idiot” is hate speech, but trying to rally right-wing nuts with guns to shoot protesters is protected. For the record, I used the word “idiot” when referring to how Americans are handling the pandemic. I did not rally people to take up arms against protesters. 

I joined Facebook over 10 years ago mainly to promote gigs, but I’ve also used it to connect and reconnect with people. I’ve discovered many wing nuts and crazy Trumpers on my friends list, and as I find them, I block them. They are easy to spot. They are the ones who have insane conspiracy-driven memes posted all over their page. 

My grandfather used to talk for hours on a HAM radio to people near and far, most of whom he’d never met in person. Social media is the new HAM radio, but with much greater global participation. It definitely has its perks, but lately it is showing that it’s detrimental to society. Many of my FB friends are closing up their pages and quitting. There is far too much hate. I hate what is going on in this country and need to vent, so I guess I contribute to it as well. I’ve thought about closing my accounts many times, but I moderate at least eight connected pages for music that are essential to promotion.

Right now, those pages are worthless because there really aren’t any gigs. Sure, a FEW people are playing, but in reality the music scene is dead. Venues are closing permanently. Social media seems to be the only place to safely perform. Currently some venues are offering occasional outdoor entertainment while they can, but that will dramatically change in the coming weeks as the temperature drops. Musicians will be heading back indoors to perform in front of their sterile computer screens. I am not sure if the general public truly understands how dire the situation for the music scene has become and how many jobs are reliant upon the music industry.

One local example is the Rhythm and Roots festival that was to take place this Labor Day weekend at Ninigret Park in Charlestown. Think of how many people this one festival cancellation has affected: The hotels in the surrounding area are usually sold out far in advance. The gas stations and local stores that are patronized by festival attendees. The countless food and craft booths that circle the festival grounds. The various rental companies that provide the staging, tents, tables, chairs, decorations, generators, trailers, backline (amplifiers and instruments) and golf carts. The sound company that provides the sound for four stages and the crew that sets up and runs it all. The merchandise manufacturers that make festival t-shirts, CDs and hats. The Ninigret campground. The police, fire and rescue crews that are on hand to provide medical and security. Photographers, videographers and press with nothing to shoot or write about. Then there is the obvious: the performers and festival staff. Performers, many of whom travel from afar, have no gig to go to. That means no bus rentals for transport, no car rentals, no hotels, no airfare; their stage, tech, management, and promo crews are all out of work, no merch sales for the band, no jamming, no networking, no collaboration and no chance to be seen by a new audience and garner new fans. Then there is the big one. No gathering of music fans to enjoy the sounds, meet new people, dance, jam, party and just have fun! I am sure I could go on. Now think about all this and multiply it by just about every festival and concert that has been canceled and you can see why the music industry is in dire straits. Now can you understand why I am so pessimistic and depressed about music? Wear your damn masks and social distance or this will never end! Read on…

In light of the cancellation of this year’s Rhythm and Roots festival, producer Chuck Wentworth has vowed to “Keep the R&B Vibe Alive Online” by presenting recorded sets from Rhythm & Roots festivals past. The event schedule follows the hours of the would-be live festival: 5 – 11pm on September 4, and 1 – 11pm on the 5th and 6th. “Back in May we had to refund everyone’s tickets, which put the festival in financial straits,” says Wentworth, whose Lagniappe Productions has put together the Labor Day weekend festival for the last 23 years. “In order for us  to produce the festival in 2021 in a manner that everyone’s been accustomed to, we’re soliciting donations to help us achieve that.” To experience Rhythm & Roots virtually this Labor Day weekend, go to rhythmandroots.com, Facebook.com/rhythmandroots or youtube.com/user/rhythmandrootsfest. If you have never had the fortune of attending in the past this is a good chance to check it out and make plans for (hopefully) next year!

Finally, AS220 Empire Revue’s Stuart Wilson is challenging incumbent Joseph McNamara for his House District 19 seat in the Democratic primary on September 8.  If you can, please vote for Stuart, he is one of us! That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com #DumpTrump2020!!!




Precarious Pandemic Predicament: Dying for music, but don’t wanna die for music

Okee dokee folks… I am in a bit of a precarious pandemic predicament. One one hand I REALLY want live music to start happening again; I want to get back to performing, writing about what is coming up, and reviewing and photographing shows. On the other hand I REALLY don’t think it is wise to be out because people are still getting sick and dying from the Trump Virus (COVID). Rhode Island WAS doing well, among the top states handling this, but we have started to backslide, so I don’t want to encourage anyone to go out when I don’t really want to go out. These days I only venture to the grocery store, and sometimes I feel like I am one of the few people taking this pandemic seriously because I have seen people publicly flaunting the fact that they are infected with the Moronavirus by NOT wearing a mask in a store or social distancing. People have been going out and having fun; I guess there is just no stopping them even in life-and-death situations. Some venues have been getting creative about presenting live music by holding drive-in concerts, socially distanced performances and livestreams from empty venues. I played one private show a few weeks ago. I felt safe because I was outside under a tent and roped off and distanced from people, and everyone in attendance wore a mask. In all honesty, if I did not feel safe I would have left and not done the show. As much as I agree with the sentiment, “Stay the fuck home!” I can’t force anyone to stay home, not even my parents or my girlfriend. They go out to casinos, restaurants and wineries, but I will not, not until the all clear is loudly sounded. Sure, you can take your chances, but PLEASE practice social distancing and try not to affect anyone else, especially if you have the Moronavirus. By the way, alcohol increases the affects of the Moronavirus, just so you know. Read on…

Festival fans have gotten extra depressed over the past couple of weeks and probably will continue to sink deeper in the coming weeks. The COVID cancellation of festivals like Newport Folk and Jazz, Falcon Ridge, Grey Fox, Rhythm and Roots, and Providence Folk Festival have left huge holes in the souls of the tribes of annual festival gatherers. Many have tried to connect online and listen to streams of past shows or livestreams of some of the artists who were scheduled to perform. While the internet is no match for a true festival experience, the upside is that you won’t have to use a port-a-john!

Some live music is coming back under strict guidelines, though the openings may be changed as the virus progresses. It is very important if you do attend any performance that you adhere to the rules that are in place for everyone’s protection. If they are not followed it could cause problems for the venue and cause another shutdown of that establishment. Don’t be the reason for closure and more importantly, don’t spread your germs!

Here are a few places that are currently presenting performances, though you will need to check for updates because the virus doesn’t play by the rules and can alter schedules at will. If you are in need of a good laugh, the Comedy Connection in East Providence has some big names stopping in for multiple dates. Chelsea Handler takes over from August 10 through the 12th, and you can take a “Break” with Michelle Wolfe, August 28 and 29. Giggle over to ricomedyconnection.com

The Rathskeller Tavern has a nice outdoor set up (according to my girlfriend) and has quite a few bands on the remainder of their summer schedule. Wild Nights, 7 Day Weekend, Paula Clare Blues, Nick Bosse, Another Tequila Sunrise, Steve Smith, Take It To The Bridge, Underestimated Prophet, Dirty Deeds and others are slated for shows until the end of August. For more, hit the back roads to thecharlestownrathskeller.com

PumpHouse Music Works in Peacedale lets the music play on their front lawn! Coming up: Sidy Maiga and Afrimanding with Rhode To Bali, Tai Chi Funk Squad, Dysfunktone, Guess Method & Smug Honey, Troy Gonyea Band, The Honk & Country DNA, Leland Brown Quartet & Blue City Quartet, Slurp & Dudemanbro, Duke Robillard, Will Evans, Fellswater and more. They will have an outdoor bar and food trucks available. Shady Lea to pumphousemusicworks.com for info and reservations.

The Complaints will be at Finn’s Harborside in East Greenwich on August 14 (finnsharborside.com). Strings Bar & Grill on George Waterman Rd in Johnston has Juxo & Lisa Marie on August 8 (stringsbar.com).
On Sunday, August 16, enjoy a Blues Concert with Helen Sheldon and The Trash Pandas at the Lippitt House Museum on Hope Street in Providence (preserveri.org/contact-lippitt-house-museum). The Last Resort in Smithfield has Aerosmith tribute Last Child on August 8 (thelastresortri.com).

Common Fence Music will present Jake Blount, an award-winning banjoist, fiddler and singer in a free online concert on Sunday, August 9 at 7 pm. A link will be provided at commonfencemusic.org at showtime and all tips go to the artist. A Musical Journeys interview with Jake will immediately follow the concert.

Lucy’s Hearth, Newport County’s only homeless shelter for children and their families, announces its virtual summer concert, We Love Lucy’s Hearth, slated to air Wednesday, August 19 at 8pm. Scheduled to appear are Nancy Paolino, Alan Bernstein, Mike Renzi, Slackwater String Band, John Monllos, Joanne Rodino, Dopey Lopes, Jimmy Winters, Carrigan Nelson, Jonathan Perry, Leslie Grimes and Matt Bruneau. Being homeless during this pandemic places additional stress on families and the services provided by Lucy’s Hearth. The suggested donation is $25. Warm up to lucyshearth.org for donation and viewing details.

A few years back, Canadian songwriter Kathleen Edwards quit the music biz and opened Quitters Coffee Shop in Stittsville, Ontario. If you are a fan like me, that was a disappointing decision. Edwards has done a bit of an about face and will be releasing her first full length recording in almost eight years. The album, Total Freedom, will be out the second week of August. To pre-order your copy keep your “Options Open” and get to kathleenedwards.com.

Brianna White, a Motif Music Award Winner, has just released new project called Resonate. White is known for her use of looping devices to enhance her solo performances. Her recorded material is radio friendly, catchy and slick. Check out her video for the song “Jaded” on her YouTube channel. Brianna is definitely one of the bright spots on the Rhode Island music scene. For more, hop over to brianawhitemusic.com 

Neil Young has reworked the lyrics and released the song “Looking For A Leader 2020” as a protest against the squatter in the White House. He is also considering bringing suit against the mango moron for his use of “Rockin’ In The Free World.” Go Neil! You can hear the song and read Neil’s take on things at NeilYoungArchives.com

One more thing, someone made a comment on Facebook last week that there is a lack of coverage for the local music scene by the RI press. That is completely untrue! Remember: If I don’t know about it, I can’t write about it. You have to send a press release at least two weeks before an event to be considered for coverage. It is just that easy. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. If you all get sick from going out I don’t want to hear about it! JohnFuzek.com #DumpTrump2020