After the Fall: In which our resident roots expert ponders the next season and beyond

Okee dokee folks… We are in the home stretch of summer, and it is unclear how the pandemic is going to affect fall schedules. I am seeing many cancellations already, so it’s best to check directly with venues before you head to any show to make sure the show is happening and find out their vaccination policy. I am glad that places are mandating vaccines for attendance; this is a public health crisis that takes cooperation to get beyond. Outdoor shows will probably be the norm until the temperature gets too chilly. I’m looking forward to cooler weather and hopefully more live music, but who knows? We have global warming issues and a lingering pandemic. We need to worry beyond the fall, we need to worry about the next decade and beyond. Too much to ponder? Too heavy? Read on…

Farm Aid 2021 is coming up on September 25 in Hartfod, Connecticut. The event is sold out, but you can still help to save family farms by donating to Farm Aid. Cash over to www.farmaid.org. Last year’s concert was virtual, but, so far, this year’s will be a live, in-person event. Unfortunately Neil Young has dropped out of the show due to COVID concerns, but the line-up still lists Wille Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, Nathanial Ratecliff, Promise of the Real, and many others. I will be attending this year’s installment of Farm Aid and will have photos and a review to publish. Look for it the first week of October!

The third annual River Bend East Songwriters Festival will take place on Saturday, September 11 from noon – 5pm on the grounds of historic Slater Mill, 67 Roosevelt Avenue in Pawtucket. Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame Member Mark Cutler and award-winning singer/songwriter Rachel Sumner will co-headline the event. Other songwriters include J. Michael Graham, Kala Farnham, Kevin Williams and Allison Rose. The National Park Service will provide free tours of the museum and family-friendly activities. For more about the festival, compose on over to fb.com/rbesongwriters.

The Bluegrass Throedown happens every Wednesday at the heavenly dive bar in PVD, Nick-a-Nees. If you are a fan of pickin’ and a grinnin’ then get there for 8:30 so you don’t miss a note. Nick’s is dog friendly, so if Fido likes tunes bring him/her along, but only if they like people! Coming up you can catch the sounds of Rock Hearts on September 8, Poor Monroe on the 15th, and The Splinters on the 29th. There is no cover, but they do pass the hat, so be generous! For more, mow over to bluegrassthroedown.com

The third season of the Levitt AMP Woonsocket Music Series continues on September 10 with the always busy Adam Ezra Group and wraps on the 17th with Sidy Maiga and Afrimanding (West African Drums) with Chachi Carvalho and the International Players (hip-hop). In addition to the free admission, attendees can purchase dinner or snacks from the food trucks, enjoy an adult beverage at an on-site bar provided by Ciro’s Tavern, or just gaze at the sprawling view of River Island Art Park. For more, side by each over to grant.levittamp.org/woonsocket

If you read my interview with Jon Anderson of Yes last month, then you know how much of a Yes fan I am. I mentioned to Jon about how hard it is to cover Yes’ music and that I had seen a tribute band that did a pretty good job of tackling this. Awaken is the band, and Anderson was very familiar with them. Reaching the virtuosity of Steve Howe, Chris Squire or even Rick Wakeman is daunting for any musician. Awaken’s set list runs through all the various incarnations of the band. The classic roster of Yes is no more, but the touring band is still worth catching when they are in the area. Rick Wakeman will be at the Narrows in Fall River on October 19, so that will be a rare opportunity to experience an intimate performance with this master keyboard player. If you want to hear Yes’ hits and deep cuts sooner than later, then hit the District Center for the Arts in Taunton on September 10 when Awaken tackles the tunes. For more, get “Close to the Edge” at districtartcenter.com.

I just realized that I have now been writing for Motif for 17 years!  Wow. Hopefully I have another 17 in me! That’s it for now, thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

Yes!: Jon Anderson head to Woonsocket

Okee dokee folks… Back in the mid ’70s, my friends and I would drive around in my 1965 Rambler station wagon. I had an 8-track tape player sound system and often Yes songs would make the endless loop in the deck. We would always find it amusing how you would hear the clank of the track change mid tune. Those Yes songs were long! Their prog-rock albums were a staple of my record collection and was the perfect soundtrack for headphone listening or night time cruising. I have been fortunate over the years to have seen Yes many, many times and in almost all of their band configurations. I even caught the show where the Buggles (“Video Killed the Radio Star”) merged with Yes. Nowadays Yes is like most bands of that era — a couple of original members and hired gun fill-ins. Long time bassist Chris Squire passed away a couple of years ago. Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman haven’t performed with them in quite a long time. I saw Yes at Bold Point Park a couple of years ago and I was still able to get a good fix of the music.

Two members of Yes will be playing solo area shows. Jon Anderson will be at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket on August 28 and Rick Wakeman will hit the Narrows Center for the Arts on October 19. I had the opportunity to speak with former Yes frontman, Jon Anderson. I always record these conversations so I can transcribe them accurately but unfortunately there was a glitch. Somehow because of either an equipment malfunction or a brain fart (I had experienced a concussion days prior) there was no recording. After realizing this I quickly jotted down a few notes from the conversation so I could make the best of the interview.

When I called him his initial comment was that he was sitting and staring at the ocean. He was in Connecticut and had played a show in Ridgefield the night before. The first thing I noticed about speaking with Jon Anderson was the feeling that I was engaging with a character from The Lord of the Rings. He had a magical way of speaking and he had the most interesting UK accent I’d heard. It was a fun chat. We laughed a lot. I commented that I noticed he had played Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, MA a few nights prior and that my band had just played there as well. I told him we play Neil Young music. He said that he wanted to sing on one of Neil Young’s album but Neil never called him back. I mentioned to him that I was tied up with my own music stuff and was not sure if I was going to be able to get to his show. He told me that doing music was a gift and that I should be grateful; it was far better than “shoveling shit”! He said he should know as he actually used to shovel shit in his youth! I told him that while I was photographing Yes a couple of years ago guitarist Steve Howe gave me a “finger wag” as I snapped shots of him. I asked Jon “what’s up with that?” He replied that Steve can be a bit of a curmudgeon about having his pic taken. The more I talked with Jon the more I thought to myself “I HAVE to get to this show!” Anderson has collaborated with many artists over the years, some examples being Vangelis and Jon Luc Ponty. I asked Jon about what he is doing with music these days. He exclaimed that he has enough for ten musicals to present over the next few years. He added, “I just keep thinking of more music to make”. I then asked his age as I wondered if this would be a factor. Anderson is 77 but he is a youthful and spry 77 so I imagine that we will be blessed with much more of his work. Then I thought again, “I HAVE to get to this show!”

I asked what he was doing on this tour. He mentioned that he is working with Paul Green, the founder of The School of Rock. His band is made up of past members of School of Rock bands. If you have ever seen a School of Rock performance you already know how talented these kids are. Jon and I talked about our experiences with School of Rock bands and how we are always amazed by them. I inquired about what songs we could expect from him at the Stadium show. He immediately mentioned “Hear of the Sunrise”. This song came up a few times. He also told me that he would be covering songs such as Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, and something by INXS. He added that they would be playing a LOT of the classic Yes music that he is known for. Again I thought “I HAVE to get to this show!”. We went on to talk about how Yes bassist Chris Squire and Anderson added how lucky he was to have been able to work with him. After about 20 minutes we had to wrap the call as he needed to hit the road to his next destination. I thanked him and said, “I HAVE to get to this show!”. I decided then and there that I will MAKE THE TIME to get to this show. It will be worth it. If you are a Yes fan as I am you owe it to yourself to hear the true voice of Yes once sing these timeless classics.

Jon Anderson and the Paul Green Rock Academy Band will be at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket, RI on Saturday, August 28. Seriously, It’s “Your Move”, get your tickets now. For more, “Roundabout” to StadiumTheatre.com   

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

On the Road Again: Southside Johnny talks touring in advance of his PPAC show

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will be at Providence Performing Arts Center on August 20. I recently spoke with John Lyon, aka Southside Johnny, about touring post pandemic, porch performances and how it all started.

John Fuzek (Motif): So, are you in New Jersey now?

Southside Johnny: Yes, I am about a five minute walk from the Atlantic Ocean.

JF: How does it feel to be back out performing after the pandemic?

SJ: It was odd at first. We played a couple of shows. We had a rehearsal, which we never do because we’ve been playing for so long. It all felt great, seeing people’s actual faces! It’s a wonderful thing. Every show’s been fun. Being off for that long you wonder what kind of shape you’re in. It’s like riding a bike, I guess. You get back on and you fall over a couple of times and then you’re good.

JF: Yeah, I am kind of in the same boat. I am just getting back to performing again, it’s been a tough year.

SJ: I was lucky that I have some neighbors that play guitar. I play harmonica and we would sit on the porch just like it was 1922 or something like that before radio became big and sing and have cocktails, of course, and people would come around. It was really a small town enjoyment.

JF: Did you do any recordings of it?

SJ: No, but someone filmed a bit of it once. It was very informal, you know three verses of a song where there are four verses and you get to the fourth and you and you start humming or whistling the last one.

JF: I do that on a good day!

SJ: I do that on stage with my band. I get the words all screwed up sometimes. The audience knows me and they laugh they say, “There he goes again.”

JF: Maybe you should do a porch recording album. It might be a fun thing to do.

SJ: it might be, I’d have to have a few more musicians to make it, well, who knows, I’ve thought about it, but I just enjoy the spontaneity of it, so I don’t want to make it any formal thing.

JF: That’s true. You had a guy in your band a while back Joel (Cage) Gramolini, I did some gigs with him way back and he used to tell me he had been in your band.

SJ: Yeah, he was great. He decided to go solo…he was a terrific player, great singer, we had a lot of fun.

JF: He’s Gary’s brother from Beaver Brown but you know that already!

SJ: Yes (laughs).

JF: Who is in the band these days?

SJ: It’s the same band I have had for five or six years. The drummer is probably the newest guy. and he’s been around for quite a while. It’s people that have been with me for a long, long time and we are a well oiled machine, and it’s probably the best band that I’ve ever had so I am really enjoying it, I can relax and let them play and not have to worry about anything and it makes it a joy for me on stage and they can all solo, they can all improvise, and they all get along which is a blessing, believe me, you ride on the bus for 10 hours!

JF: I have a band, I KNOW!

SJ: You don’t want any conflicts, a little bit of sniping here and there is okay, but no real conflicts or the tension ratchets up and everybody’s miserable.

JF: How long will you be out for with this tour or is it just a one up for this show?

SJ: We have lots of make-up dates, we were in Florida and we got shut down in March last year when we were on the road so we have a lot of those dates to make up where we promised that we’d play and we’ve go other gigs coming in so it’s going to be a very busy second half of the year. I’m grateful for it, but I look at schedule and I think “Oh, boy, I hope we can make it through this one.”

JF: I have a little bit of a concern that we might go through a shut down again in the fall. What do you think?

SJ: I haven’t really kept up with it as much as I used to, I know there’s the Delta variant and now there’s another one. I don’t know, I’ll take it as it comes. I’ve been vaccinated and the the band’s been vaccinated, so we’re not too concerned about catching it but we certainly don’t want to carry it to anybody. You know with large gatherings you have to worry about those things these days, things will develop, I can’t control it, so whatever happens, happens, just like the weather. We played outdoors the other day and it rained during the day, but it cleared up at night and it was beautiful. I had a great time so you can’t really worry about things that you can’t control. 

JF: Beaver Brown is playing with you at PPAC. Are they on tour with you or is the only show you are doing together?

SJ: I think that it’s one of a few that they are playing with us, usually when we come up that way they join us, we are going all over the country but we are not going to Europe this year, which I am kind of miffed about, but I guess it’s a little bit more restrictive over there. Maybe next year, if I am still playing next year (laughs).

JF: How old are you now?

SJ: 72. The years on the road takes its toll on you, but I still love being in front of the audience and singing, just closing my eyes and singing makes me feel, it’s just a satisfying thing to do, it’s like a great gift has been given to you.

JF: That’s great! One of the things that I like to hear from musicians they’re grateful for the gift of music and they don’t take it for granted. I know I certainly appreciate being a musician all of my life. I’ve been doing this for almost 50 years.

SJ: Yeah, you have to be. Especially if you’ve done it for a long time you start to realize that in the arrogance of youth you think, “Yeah, I can do this, this is cool.” But you get a perspective on it you are being ALLOWED to do it. People actually come and see you play, and it doesn’t always work that way. There are plenty of people that are better than I am that don’t get out to play as much as I do.

JF: So where did Southside come from? 

SJ: Chicago, where a lot of blues players come from. One time someone said, “Here’s Southside Johnny.” I don’t remember who said it. IT might have been Gary Tallent, we all had to have nicknames for this one band and that became mine and I can’t get rid of it now.

JF: Tell me a little bit about the beginnings with Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt.

SJ: Well, there was a club called the Upstage Club. It was open to teenagers, no alcohol served and it was open until 5 o’clock in the morning in the summer. Of course all the musicians gravitated there. They had a stage, drum kit, keyboard, guitar amps, and all you to do was bring your instruments and jam and form bands and do things like that and that’s where I met most of those people. Gary I went to school with, then when Steven and Bruce came down and played we were all in little jam bands and someone conned a bar owner into letting us play, maybe even paying us some money. We put together a band, we all knew every Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, a lot of Rolling Stones, so we knew  lot of songs and we had rehearsals, then we’s go and play and try to make some money.

JF: Having a place to play and making money is always a good thing!

SJ: It was. It was a wild club, it used to Show silent movies and we played music behind them, WC Fields shorts and things like that. It was the ’60s and it was a crazy time. We were very fortunate to have it. It was our education.

JF: When did the Jukes formerly form or did they just evolve out of something?

SJ: They evolved out of a band called the Blackberry Blues Band and it’s a long history, Steven (Van Zandt) and I wanted to add horns, it was really tough to get three different horn players but eventually we did and it became Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and we played at the Stone Pony for about four years, maybe more, we still play there in the summer at the outdoors thing, but we didn’t get to do this last year but we will in September this year, so, it’s very fortunate to have places to matriculate I guess you could say.

JF: I have not seen you band in a long time, my brother was a huge fan of yours, I think I saw you last at an amusement park called Rocky Point.

SJ: Hopefully you will get to see us when we come to Providence!

JF: I put it on the calendar, but a lot of times I have my own gigs and cannot go. It’s a good thing to have gigs but it’s a drag not to be able see people I want to see.

SJ: The same thing happens with us, so many people are playing the same nights as we are and we want to see them and you just can’t if you’re working, it was like watching a television series that was on Friday nights, we never saw them, we played every Friday night.

JF: Now all you have to do is stream it!

SJ: It’s not a problem anymore but it used to be funny to hear people talk about that they just saw this and we just saw that and we would say no, we didn’t see any of it

JF: Did you do any live streaming while you were on the pandemic break?

SJ: No, Jeff did, my keyboard player, and a couple of the other guys, I am not proficient enough on that kind of thing, besides, I need an audience, I need people around me, I am mush better live than just sitting around playing

JF: I am right with you on that, I did one live stream with the band, there was a little bit of an audience there but that was it, I kind of feel the same way as you do, it’s kind of sterile. So, what are your live shows like nowadays?

SJ: We try to do two hours, we do a lot of the songs from the past, but we haven’t had an album in a few years, but we try to hit every album, we improvise everything on stage, there’s no real set list, I make a set list but they just laugh, and you know, we’re open to anything, the other night people called out a couple of requests and we did them, it’s easy to do with this band, they’re so good

JF: It’s great that you can do that, not everyone can do that nowadays, they are so set in a format, and newer bands don’t have the performing legacy to pull stuff like that off

SJ: Yes, and also it’s just the years of being a musician, you know a million songs, just by osmosis almost, and if I start singing a song that they don’t know they can fake it, it makes for an exciting moment for us on stage and I think it translates to the audience, they love to see us stumble and fall (laughs)

JF: it’s REAL! Being a musician as long as I have I have watched things go and when I see a band play and hear music I LIKE the imperfections in performances but now musicians try to make everything so clinically perfect it has no personality., I like the cracks in people’s voices, the forgetting of the words, the blown notes, that makes it real

SJ: You won’t find any perfection in a Juke’s show I’ll tell you that right away. (laughs)
Some bands will play the same set every night, I don’t want to work in an office where everything is the same, I always want it to be a little bit challenging, I always want it to be a little bit what’s going to happen next? I don’t know what’s going to happen I want to be surprised by some moment in the show

JF: that’s what makes performing fun and what makes a concert experience good for an audience member, I have been to multiple night shows where it has been the exact show including between song banter, whereas I have been to others where it has been a totally different show each night and that is more exciting

SJ: it’s more exciting for the musicians too, anyone can get complacent doing the same thing over and over, I don’t want complacent musicians, I don’t want to be complacent myself, i want to be challenged and i want to carer about what I am doing, if i just go through the motions that’s not healthy for me

JF: It keeps you young, too!

SJ: Well I don’t know about that (laughs) But it keeps you interested, and I’m going to do what I want to do on stage and that’s the way it is

JF: that’s the good thing about music, you’re the boss, well, Springsteen’s the boss, but you’re in charge!

SJ: (laughs) I am in charge, I am the officer in charge

JF: and I am sure it shows and hopefully it will for years to come! Bands like the Jukes are a rarity and there aren’t new ones coming along, everyone is so American Idol-ized… they don’t understand the music business, they look at it completely different, you happened organically, you worked your ass off over the years, now people just want to plug in and be famous

SJ: There’s always an audience for live music, there’s a lot of good bands…and there are lots bands that matured playing live, it’s just, as you say, there is a lot of manufactured stuff, but there always was, there are always producers and record companies dictating who sings what and all that, that’s not what we do, I don’t worry about that, I don’t think about it that much, people come to see us because they know they’re going to have a god time, we have a good time, the audience has a good time, and that’s all it’s really about

JF: “We’re Having a Party” that’s your song so…

SJ: That’s right!

JF: When I was growing up that was a great song to come on and sing along to while you’re drinking at a party, that was it

SJ: We do have some songs that are a little more thoughtful but basically when we’re onstage we’re just having a good time and I think that’s all people really want from us, I’ve written some political songs, I’ve written some angry songs, but in the long run they come to see us and they want to forget what’s going on in their world and be reminded that there’s some fun to be had and joy in life and that’s what we do.

JF: and you have horns which is great, not a lot of folks have that anymore…

SJ: No and there’s a reason for that (laughs)

JF: why is that?

SJ: All horn players are crazy! (lots of laughter) I love my guys, it elevates music to another level, when they kick in everybody gets a jolt and I think that’s great

JF: I love horn bands, the power of the horns and the arrangements, that adds a layer to music that you just can’t get with synths, and like you said the horn players are usually crazy and the antics on stage are always interesting to watch as well

SJ: Luckily for me I’ve got my back turned to them! (laughs)

JF: So you get all the spit from the horn section on you?

SJ: That’s exactly right!

JF: Anything else you want to throw in before we wrap this up?

SJ: Just if anyone is looking for a good time they certainly should come to the show

On Friday, August 20, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will be having a party and you’re invited! They are famously known for their horn driven renditions of “The Fever,” “Walk Away Renee,” “Talk To Me” and, of course, “Havin’ a Party.” Their shows are always a lot of fun, and they are bringing along Jon Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to make it even more so! For more, toot over to PPACRI.org

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

It Takes a Village: Town crier talks music and medicine

Okee dokee folks … I honestly thought that we would be beyond pandemic discussions by now, but we’re not. GET A F**KING VACCINE!!! We have the capacity to eradicate the virus, but it takes a village and we are learning that the village has more than one idiot. It has throngs of them. As long as the unvaxxed walk among us, the virus has human fuel to burn and MUTATE. This is on you now — science has done its part. Smarten up or everything is going to get locked down again. I don’t want to live in a bubble with no live music again. I am fine with natural selection weeding out the covidiots, but seriously enough is enough. GET A VACCINE so we can ALL be safe and get back to normal. Thank you. Now read on…

The 7th annual Rhode Island Folk Festival (formerly the Providence Folk Fest) will take place on Sunday, August 29 at Rose Larisa Park in Riverside (East Providence). It’s right across from the carousel so you can dash over for a painted pony ride between sets. This year’s fest features three stages of music with over 40 acts, and best of all, it’s FREE. There will also be food and crafts. For more, get the folk over to RhodeIslandFolkFestival.com There is still time to donate $$ to help fund the fest!

The Rhythm and Roots Festival will take place Labor Day weekend at Ninigret Park in Charlestown. Though this year’s fest will be a bit smaller due to the pandemic, the Motif award-winning event will still retain the charm and fun of previous years. This year’s line-up includes Richard Thompson, John Hiatt, Donna the Buffalo, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi, and way too many more to list. R&R has instituted safety protocols: “To gain admittance, all attendees entering the campgrounds and/or the festival grounds will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result taken within 72 hours.” For more, root-a-toot to RhythmandRoots.com

The Providence Performing Arts Center will be presenting shows once again! On Friday, August 20, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will be having a party and you’re invited! This Jersey band formed in the ’70s and had a close association with Springsteen. They are known for their horn-driven renditions of “The Fever,” “Walk Away Renee,” “Talk To Me” and, of course, “Havin’ a Party.” Their shows are always a lot of fun and they are bringing along Jon Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to make it even more so! I had a chance to speak with John Lyon, aka Southside Johnny, and you can read that interview at MotifRI.com/southsidejohnny. PPAC is back in action and there are lots more shows to come. Elvis Costello was just added to the calendar! For more, palace over to PPACRI.org

The chartbustin’ Robin Lane comes to Providence on Saturday, August 14, to perform a benefit in support of her nonprofit, Songbird Sings, which helps trauma survivors heal through songwriting and music. The show will be at Dusk and besides Lane will feature performances by Kid Gulliver, Justine and The Unclean, Nightspell, and The Jacklights. To learn more about Robin’s organization, tweet over to SongbirdSings.org. For more about the show, dash over to DuskProvidence.com.

The Z in New B has shows for FREE! The City of New Bedford in partnership with The Zeiterion Theatre present Summer Sound Series, free concerts in Custom House Square in downtown New Bedford! The beer garden opens at 2pm, with live music from 4–7pm. Bring a lawn chair and lounge in the park, or sit under the tent and have a drink from the on-site bar. On the schedule is Kim Trusty on August 12, The Jethros on August 19 and Rebecca Correia on August 26. For more, X, Y over to the Z at Zeiterion.org

Even though John Chan is retiring and getting out of the food/music biz, there are still great shows happening at his venue. Blues-rock singer-guitarist Mike Zito will be performing with special guest Anthony Geraci on piano on Thursday, August 19 at Chan’s in Woonsocket. With numerous Blues Music Award honors under his belt, Mike Zito just released his new album with Hillside Global, Resurrection, on July 16, and recently won two Blues Music Awards from The Blues Foundation. Also at Chan’s: The Peacheaters, Michelle Wilson & the Evil Gal Orchestra, Duke Robillard Band, Diane Blue & Friends,Confounded Bridge and much more! Order up to ChansEggRollsandJazz.com for more.

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. Please, please, please get vaxxed. Don’t be part of the reason we shut down and raise the COVID numbers again. Be part of the solution! www.JohnFuzek.com

Giving Him the Six Degrees: An interview with Kevin Bacon as he comes to The Odeum

Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael will be bringing their band, The Bacon Brothers, into the Greenwich Odeum on Friday, July 16. I had the opportunity to speak with Kevin via phone last week in advance of his show.

John Fuzek (Motif): We actually played a show together quit a while back. You played in Newport, probably 2004ish. I opened for you. I guess I can do “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” with you.

Kevin Bacon: You know we’ve actually played around with the six degrees thing with music, which is actually pretty easy to do because, you know how it is, you played a gig with us, you end up working with people or playing on records with people who played with other people, you can get pretty far down the six degrees road just with the music thing…

JF: How did the pandemic affect you? Both in music and film…

KB: I can tell you that the Ides of March, that moment that we all remember when everything seemed to go bye-bye, I was shooting  TV show that I’m on in New York, City On A Hill, and I got the call that we were going to suspend production, we’d kind of gotten wind of this pandemic. I’d got the call that we were going to suspend production for a couple of weeks, and we were in the studio finishing up our last record and I just had this sense that it wasn’t just going to be a couple of weeks. My whole family was out in Cali, and so I booked a flight and left NY and that was it for another, whatever it was, months. I was in LA and I ended up going back and starting up again, we ended up shooting the remaining six episodes, we had shot two. I guess started back in June and we were able to  mix the record, sort of remotely, you know, pass mixes around. I also wrote a song In LA, and we cut that, again using file sharing. I did go into a studio that a buddy of mine owns down the street from our place in LA, put on masks, and he mixed it and we were able to get some guitars and some drums in isolated rooms, you know, it was just all that crazy stuff. So, yeah, this is the first time back.

JF: You haven’t played any shows yet? Will this be the first one back to playing at the Odeum?

KB: No, we did play one show. We went to Iowa. We went to a Casino in Iowa and played a single show about a week ago.

JF: Are you in Rhode Island right now?

KB: I’m not right now, I am actually on my way overseas this weekend, I’m doing a film in Bulgaria. 

JF: What are you working on in Bulgaria?

KB: I’m doing a film called The Toxic Avenger.

JF: I think I have heard of that. You WERE in Rhode Island because Kyra (Sedgewick) is working on a film here, right?

KB: Yes, Kyra is up there now, it’s very serendipitous that we’re playing in RI while we’re working in RI.

JF: You have played the Odeum in the past, correct?

KB: I believe we have, yes.

JF: It’s a great room, I have played there a couple of times, good sound, good people.

KB: I seem to remember having a good time. We really like those old converted movie theaters, we’ve played a lot of those all over the country.

JF: When you started out, did you want to be a musician or an actor or both or just whatever came your way?

KB: I was kind of on the fence about it. We’re talking about when I was maybe 11? I knew it was going to be one of the two. I think when I really started taking acting classes and tried to sing in theaters in Philadelphia, I was a pretty driven kind, I really got out and started getting my feet wet when I was really young. I was writing songs and my brother was already off to the races on a music career and I think that for whatever reason I should probably do something different and that, in combination with the fact that I just loved acting, I mean I just immediately felt nurtured by it.

JF: Do your other siblings do anything musical or acting-wise?

KB: My sister Hilda was really more into music even before my brother. She was a Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins type acoustic folk singer when she was in high school. She never really pursued it as a career, but she was good. Had a really good voice and then her and my brother put together a jug band. They used to practice in our little house in Philly, so when I was a little kid — she’s 10 years older and he’s 9 years older than me — if you picture they’re probably about 13 and 14 and I’m probably about 3, and I’m sitting on the steps to our — unfinished would be the understatement, when you talk about our basement — and they’re down there playing away with jugs and washboards, you know the whole thing.

JF: Your brother Michael plays cello as well, correct?

KB: Yeah, he’s a good cello player, over the years we have capitalized on that and have added it. When we first put the band together we didn’t really use cello, but we use it more and more now. Michael’s first band was a rock band called Peter and the Wolves when he was in college. When they broke up he came back to Philadelphia and he was in a pretty successful band that was just acoustic guitar and cello, but Michael didn’t play the cello, his friend Larry played the cello. His friend Larry was like a virtuoso cello player and they were called Good News and they were great and very popular, especially in and around Philadelphia. There was a very specific kind of music scene in Philly.

JF: Do you both handle the songwriting in this band?

KB: Yes, and we used to write together, but we really don’t write much together anymore.

JF: I am sure that is tough because of the travel and such.

KB: Yeah, I mean I think that when I was first starting to write, first I started writing without knowing how to play an instrument. So I was just writing melodies and lyrics and then bringing them to my brother and he would kind of figure out the changes and structure the song. Once I started playing a little bit of guitar I just started writing on my own. Once in a while he’ll send me, there’s a song on our last record that he had a great, cool lyric and he had a sort of rhythm and he sort of spoke the lyric into the phone and sent it to me and I put it aside for like almost a year and one day I just kind of busted it out and said, “Now I’m kind of hearing something.” In that case we co-wrote it, but he did the lyrics and I did the music, a lot of people write that way.

JF: Yes, I’ve written that way with others as well. When did you start playing guitar?

KB: I was probably about 13 or 14.

JF: That’s about when I started as well. I think that’s when everybody starts.

KB: A lot of people start when they’re 14 and stop when they’re 14. I’m one of those guitar players that really didn’t put in the hard work and as a result, I’m sort of stuck in a certain place. I got plenty of knowledge in order to write, but that is kind of where it stopped. And that was just the process for me. Everyone has a different kind of process. There’s a big difference — the 14- or 15-year-old kid who opts to not go to run around on the street or go to a baseball game or whatever, but opts to stay in his room and really shred. Then you get to a certain level that I’ll never get to, but I am very happy to have any kind of facility on any kind of instrument. I don’t need to tell you it’s a nice thing to have.

JF: Has the Bacon Brother’s music been used in any of your films and has he appeared in any films with you in a band capacity?

KB: He never appeared in any film in a band capacity. There was a time when we were constantly trying to write something and get it into one of my movies and constantly unsuccessful. It’s funny, we do a song in the set now that I actually dragged out from our last record or the one before, I can’t remember, that I wrote for Tremors. But the funny thing was at the time the movie was called Beneath Perfection, so the song is called “Beneath Perfection” and then they rejected the song and the movie came out and they changed the title of it. We’ve had a couple of songs not only in one of our movies, but in other ones as well. I wrote two songs for a movie that I did called Telling Lies in America that was about an early ’60s DJ and a relationship, he was kind of a slimy DJ, he had this band that he was trying to promote, and they they needed a couple of ’60s R&B tunes for the movie. The writer, great writer, Joe Eszterhas, wrote a title of a song that was supposed to be the hit for this young band, the song was called “Medium Rare,” and I read that title and I thought that was the worst title I have ever heard for a song, so let me see if I can write it. So I ended up writing that one and another one that ended up in the movie. So that was kind of fun. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to specifically write in a style of an era or a kind of genre. It’s kind of a fun challenge, it’s not something that you necessarily get to do all the time.

JF: One movie I remember you playing guitar in was Stir Of Echoes. I think you played guitar throughout that one.

KB: If I remember correctly, he was a musician. 

JF: And he was hearing a song in his head. 

KB: Yeah, it was like “Paint It Black” or something like that. And the funny thing about it, I wrote a song for that one and it didn’t end up in that movie, but i think it ended up another movie. I’ll tell you a funny story about that one was that the prop guy came to me and said, “You need to have a guitar. What kind of guitar would be lying around in this guy’s house?” And I was like, hmmm, let me see, I think it would be a J-45 or a J-50 Gibson with a sunburst from the ’60s. Basically thinking of a guitar that i kind of wanted (laughs) and sure enough they went out and found me one and I most definitely kept it. I still have it! So if you look at that movie I still have that J-45.

JF: I don’t blame you. It’s a nice guitar! What can we expect at the Odeum?

KB: It’s a lot of new music. I’m sure there’s a lot of new music from the last time that we played there. We are playing in a five-piece configuration. We don’t have keys, but we have cello, guitars, ukulele, different kind of percussion situations, harmonica, you know, all that kind of stuff. We like to have a good time, we’re looking forward to playing.

JF: I remember it was a fun show. How long has the band been around?

KB: We started in, I think, ’94 or ’95.

JF: I know that this is probably a dopey question, I know you did it when I opened for you, but do you still do the Footloose song and dance a bit?

KB: We sometimes do it.

JF: I am sure you are tired of it.

KB: Well, there’s two ways of looking at it. One is that bands talk about how hard it is when fans just want to hear their hits. My feeling is that, “Shit if I had a hit I’d play it!” In our case we don’t have a hit, so if it’s going to give people pleasure and they’re going to have a good time, just as a goof, to hear, what I like to call “The F song,” sometimes we’re happy to do it!

JF: That’s good. I am sure that people like to hear that. That’s the reality of the band is that as much as it’s about music, you tend to be the focal point just out of default.

KB: I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. I kind of feel like, it’s just a reality. I can’t tell people to come in and close their eyes and pretend that I wasn’t in a movie. There’s nothing I can do about that. I’m happy it gets people in the seats. We don’t pretend that’s not part of who I am.

The Bacon Brothers play the Greenwich Odeum on July 16. For more about this show and the many others at The Odeum sizzle over to: GreenwichOdeum.com

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Roots Report: Puff Puff, I’ll Pass: Music should be the only thing smoking

Okee dokee folks… This bit is going to annoy 14% of you folks. Who are these 14%? Smokers! Because I haven’t been many places in the past year and a half, I haven’t really had to deal with cigarette smoke, but now that things are opening back up I again have to contend with this vile scourge. When I started performing publicly in the mid-’80s, people smoked just about everywhere. Back then you were even still allowed to smoke on planes. In addition to playing solo gigs I was a bartender. When I came home from slinging drinks or a gig I would reek of cigarette smoke. It permeated everything — my clothes, my body, my music gear, even the money I made. I took a hiatus from performing to produce for a while, and by the time I got back to gigging again smoking had been banned indoors. But now that the pandemic and summer have pushed a lot of shows outdoors, the smoking issue is a bit unclear. Folks figure that if you are outside it is okay to smoke. Rhode Island prohibits smoking in public places and people smoking are supposed to be at least 20 feet away from the entrance of any business, but it seems like no one pays attention to this. Most large, outdoor concert venues do not allow any smoking, so why do the local nightclubs? Well, smokers tend to drink.

You would think after the pandemic that maybe fewer people would be smoking and everyone would take better care of their lungs. Smokers, please be courteous to the majority of people in the world who do not smoke; let us breathe clean air and take your pollution elsewhere. Here are some lyrics for you from the 1947 song,”Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” written by Merle Travis and Tex Williams, “Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette, Puff, puff, puff and if you puff yourself to death, Tell Saint Peter at the golden gate, Lord, you hate to make him wait,You gotta have another cigarette!” Please do us all a favor and quit. Read on…     

A lot of you may know Rick Couto as drummer of Rhode Music Hall of Fame bands Rizzz and the Schemers, but did you know he was an amazing photographer who documented lots of RI concerts and musicians in the ’70s and ’80s? The pandemic gave Rick time to go through his immense collection of photos, and the culmination of this is a virtual exhibit by the Narrows in Fall River called To Have Been There. To view, snap over to NarrowsCenter.org/to-have-been-there-video-exhibition. The accompanying drum music is a Couto original called “The Other Other One.”

A couple of the photos in the Couto exhibit are of John Hall (Orleans, John Hall Band, and former US Congressman). He is best known for his songs “Still The One” and “Dance With Me” as well as the No-Nukes Concerts/Musicians United For Safe Energy. John Hall is a Providence [Rhode Island] Folk Festival alumnus and one of the musicians/people I most admire. His 1981 “Crazy” is one of my all-time favorite songs. Hall just released his 6th solo CD called Reclaiming My Time. Check out the video for the oh-so-timely song “World on Fire”: youtube.com/watch?v=qgc7yc3MFoI. For more, “Power” over to JohnHallMusic.com.

The Bacon Brothers are coming to the Greenwich Odeum on July 16. Believe it or not, you can play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with me. I played a show with the Bacon Brothers years back and according to Kevin, that counts. I spoke with Kevin Bacon the other day and you can read our interview at motifri.com/kevinbacon.

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Rockin’ in the Free World: Welcome back to the folking music

Rhythm and Roots Festival, 2019; photo by Phil Stewart

Okee dokee folks… This summer should be dubbed the “Summer of Laxity.” Mask restrictions have been lifted or loosened and some folks are living life “like someone left the gate open” already. I am not ready for this.

A few months ago I designed a t-shirt that read “All Vaxxed Up And Nowhere To Go” and put it for sale in my Etsy store, but I might have been a little late to launch because there are plenty of places to go. I have started scheduling shows, and my first show in more than a year will be this weekend in NH. “Live Free Or Die”? Well, hopefully not.

Anyway, music is mostly happening again, but even though things are returning to normal, my band has a show that was just postponed once again until July 22. This was the sixth date change since spring 2020, so who knows for sure about the concreteness of any schedule. In the meantime, read on to find out what is what at this point in time…

Common Fence Music has paired up with the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown to present a series of outdoor concerts over the next few months. Dick Lynn, the new program coordinator at CFM, says, “I had crafted putting together an outdoor series in April while doing spring Facebook live series for CFM and while COVID was still a major issue. I approached Kaity at Norman Bird Sanctuary and she immediately and enthusiastically said yes. I put together the series and Kaity is putting together a wonderful setting for the shows.” For the series lineup, flap over to commonfencemusic.org or NormanBirdSanctuary.org.

The Town of Westerly presents another summer of Tunes on the Dunes at the Westerly Town Beach. This series happens from 6 – 8pm with Monday Night Jams and Wednesday Night Blues on the Beach. Highlights include a couple of my favorite acts — Aztec Two-Step 2.0 and David Tessier’s All-Star Stars, as well as Beaver Brown, Dave Howard and the High Rollers, Roomful of Blues, Greg Piccolo and many more. For the complete schedule, drift over to TunesontheDunesRI.com       

The Rhode Island Folk Festival (formerly The Providence Folk Fest) will be happening on August 29 at Larissa Park in East Providence. This year’s line-up includes the Lisa Couto Trio, How’s About Charlie, Michelle Cruz and many others. This community event needs lots of hands to make it work and is recruiting volunteers. If you would like to help, please contact HearInRI@gmail.com. For more info, get the folk over to RhodeIslandFolkFestival.com.

The 2021 Rhythm and Roots Festival is something to look forward to this year. Labor Day weekend, the 23rd R&R Fest will once again bring the best musical party and Motif award winning festival to Ninigret Park. Some of the performers for this edition of the weekend gathering are Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi, John Hiatt, Uprooted featuring Michael Glabicki of Rusted Root and more. Festival organizer Chuck Wentworth says, “Live music eases our minds in troubled times. After the year we’ve just had, the 2021 festival will be a real celebration, but a safe one.” The Labor Day weekend festival brings together music fans, dancers, campers and families for dozens of performances, food of every variety, artisan’s handmade wares, and a reunion-like vibe that’s been described as “chill but lively at the same time.” Health and safety mandates require smaller crowds than in the past so tickets are limited. For more, zy-de-go-go to RhythmAndRoots.com

Catch the Vox Hunters and Atwater Donnelly on June 4 at the Bristol Maritime Center in Bristol. The Empire Revue presents The Directions Show live at Prospect Terrace Park on June 27. Providence’s premier sketch showcase will happen socially distanced and safe, out in the wilds of Providence! Space is limited so advanced ticket purchase is required, and masks are mandatory (fb.com/EmpireRevueProvidence). The Spindle City Fest in Fall River, presented in part by the Narrows, will feature 20 art vendors, two great bands, activities for the kids and food trucks on June 5 from 11am – 4pm. Admission is free. The Narrows also has a lot of great indoor shows coming up as well. Check out their lineup at narrowscenter.org. And the Greenwich Odeum also is hosting some indoor shows. Check out their lineup at greenwichodeum.com. Your favorite Dive Bar, Nick-A-Nee’s, has the Bluegrass Throedown on Wednesdays and lots of outdoor live music all summer (fb.com/nickanees). So far Bold Point Park in East Providence only has one show on the schedule for this summer, The Brothers Osborne on August 1, but check back from time to time at waterfrontconcerts.com/venue/bold-point-park.

Anyway, I am typing this column with blurry vision. I managed to have a metal splinter lodge in my eye while grinding metal for a new RI Folk Festival stage. Yes, I had safety glasses on, but it breached those. It took me a week to decide go to the eye doctor and have it removed. Did I ever mentioned that I am VERY stubborn, in addition to my get-off-my-lawn personality? On another note, my band, Forever Young, has a live, in-person show at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River on July 16! Yippee! Time to start “Rockin’ In The Free World” again! That’s it for now, thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

The 60s!: One of our favorite folk enters a new decade

Okee dokee folks… YIKES! I am 60! How did this happen? I still think I’m 30, but my body feels like I’m 90, so I guess that averages out to 60. The first time I met Pete Seeger, he was 60 and he seemed old to me then. I don’t think I am old, but I suppose that I really am. At least I am coming out of the other side of the pandemic alive and healthy unlike 575,000-plus Americans. I am fully vaccinated and now have immunity. Getting the vaccine was a relief. Both shots were painless and neither bothered me in any way — except maybe that pesky third nipple that popped up. KIDDING!!! The same applied for my girlfriend and parents, they were all fine. It is a huge step toward hope — hope that we can start playing gigs again and can get back to whatever normal will be. I was supposed to play a show last week but it was canceled because of COVID restrictions. I was disappointed, but understood. This thing is winding down, but it’s not done with us yet. Jumping the gun is a mistake and precautions still need to be taken. I wish that more people would understand this. I still see people arguing against mask mandates and won’t get vaccinated. I have actually seen a man standing by the side of 295 protesting mask wearing. Seriously? When I went to Japan in the late 1980s I was freaked out when I saw people wearing surgical masks. I didn’t understand why. I found out that it was polite to wear a mask if you were sick. Thirty five years later and this is something that many Americans are CHOOSING to complain about: common sense! Until society comes together completely over this and complies, the pandemic will linger longer than it has to. Venues are beginning to open and host live music. Some of it will be outside, some of it is limited indoors while some still remain shuttered. Safety precautions will hopefully remain in effect for a while. A handful of festivals will take place this year, such as Newport Folk Fest, Rhythm and Roots Fest and The RI Folk Festival (formerly PVD Folk Fest). Details about these events are still being hammered out. As far as the Rhode Island Folk Festival in East Providence, this year will be a lower key event. It takes months and months to raise the money, coordinate the artists and volunteers and do all the other things that go on behind the scenes. It is hard to pull together with less time as well as gamble on the whims of an unpredictable pandemic. I am sure that this will apply to other events that require lots of advanced planning, so take this into consideration if you are going to be cranky about abridged affairs. I know you are tired of hearing this, but wear a mask and get your damn vaccine! Read on…

The Narrows Center for the Arts continues its Friday Night Streaming Series with Heather Maloney on May 14, The Blue Ribbons on the 21st, and Tom Rush on the 28th. George Winston is performing a limited audience show on May 7, but that is only because Winston is strictly piano music and there is no singing, which is currently prohibited indoors in Massachusetts. Alas, this show has already sold out. The Colby James show on June 12 is already sold out as well. For more, navigate to narrowscenter.org for updates on in-person shows as well as the streams.

With the weather warming up, the Millrace Music Series will be getting underway. On May 7th, this eight-week, Friday night series kicks off with The Kickin Brass Band outside on the patio of The Millrace Kitchen, 40 South Main Street, Woonsocket. The free shows begin at 6pm and continue to 8:30pm. The series continues with Kim Trusty on the 14th, Lisa Bello May on the 21st, Dynamite Rhythm on the 28th, High Planes on June 4 and Eastern Medicine Singers on the 11th. Seating is limited and all COVID-19 capacity limits will be enforced. For more, side by each to: Facebook.com/MillraceKitchen

The Greenwich Odeum is presenting a livestream in May with Marielle Kraft and The Naticks to help raise some clams for the Odeum. The Odeum’s calendar also boasts a few limited capacity, in-person shows so it’s best to get your tix before they go. Coming up: Hubby Jenkins from The Carolina Chocolate Drops on May 15, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins on May 21 (it will be streamed on the 22nd as well), The Verve Pipe on May 22, Richard Shindell & Lucy Kaplansky on June 10, and The queen of mall concerts, Tiffany, on June 25. To stay in the know about the O go to greenwichodeum.com

The Evening Sky band’s One Mic, Two Weekends was recorded over two weekends in 2020 by musicians Eric Hastings, Gino Rosati, Chris Brooks and Joe Potenza, with amps and drums strategically placed in the same room around just one stereo ribbon microphone. The eight-song disc features guitar and pedal steel instrumentals with a country twang, bluesy-jazzy-funk feel. Some of it even leans into the Allman Brothers’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” territory. You may even hear echoes of the Grateful Dead and Asleep at the Wheel in there as well. Slide over to eveningskyband.com for more, or catch them live at the Pump House on May 14 or The Music Mansion on May 30.

Unfortunately, we lost another member of the Rhode Island music community to COVID last week. Bill McGrath, a musician who was also a staunch supporter of other local musicians and produced showcases for up-and-coming artists, passed away after a month-long battle with COVID. This loss has heavily affected many in the music community as well as his daughter, singer-songwriter Allison Rose.

Anyway, chin up, mask up-over the nose, please. That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

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