Roots Report: Bitter Fingers

Okee dokee folks …”It’s hard to write a song with bitter fingers.” That line comes from the Elton John/Bernie Taupin song from the Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy album, and I’ve always identified with it. Writing songs when you are not in the proper frame of mind can be a difficult task. Writing anything in general can be challenging when your head isn’t in the game. One’s emotions can fuel inspiration, but they can also dampen it. I have heard a lot of songwriters say, “Never piss off a songwriter. They will write a song about you,” but in my case, it may take a while for the bitter fingers to compose a wrathful rhyme. Unfortunately I’ve had a lot of experience doing this. I really don’t need anymore ill-tempered inspiration, but it just keeps coming. Can you tell that I am in a foul mood? I will stop my venting and get on with writing about music stuff.

We are full swing into winter and it doesn’t matter what Punxsutawney Phil has to say; we still have 43 days on the calendar until spring. Just make sure that you have a warm coat and good snow tires and plan your forays well. Even though it may be inhospitable outside there are a lot of great songs to hear inside. Not all of them sour. They are probably, mostly, inspiring and happy. Maybe I need a dose of this musical medicine. Read on.

Common Fence Music has a fabulous February in store. Sat, Feb 7, Patty Larkin brings her folk-urban pop music, inventive guitar wizardry and uncompromising vocals and lyrics to Portsmouth. Larkin began busking on the streets of Cambridge and studying jazz guitar at Berklee College of Music and with Boston area jazz guitarists after her graduation from the University of Oregon. Since then she has released 13 albums, her latest titled Still Green. This collection of new songs chronicles Patty’s search for relief, respite and solace during a time when she lost both of her parents, and witnessed a sister suffer a serious health issue. On Feb 14, the gentle urban Americana band, Tall Heights, present delicate melodies and gentle harmonies for the Common Fence crowd. In summer 2010, Tim Harrington and Paul Wright were playing for spare change in Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace. In the past few years, Tall Heights has played hundreds of shows and headlined packed listening rooms across the country. Lori McKenna returns to Common Fence Music on Feb 28. Since her 1998 debut, Paper Wings & Halo, Lori McKenna has conveyed an intimate understanding and honest expression of the realities of domestic life through her songs. She was thrust into the limelight when Faith Hill included three of McKenna’s songs on her hit album Fireflies. McKenna released her seventh album, Numbered Doors, in September 2014. For more about CFM shows, picket to


Over at Stone Soup in Slater Mill there are a couple of great shows coming up. On Sat, Feb 7, Westerly’s Marc Douglas Berardo will be headlining. Berardo uses keenly chosen words and music to beautifully “paint” songs about circus retirees, expatriates in Florida rum bars, union iron workers, old poets, aimless New York City debutantes, near death car crashes, hard-nosed fishermen and of course, the changes that experience brings to everyone. He is a hard working singer-songwriter who spends a lot of time on the road sharing his songs. Opening the show will be Steve Allain and Tracie Potochnik, who are now known as the duo Cardboard Ox. Well-established as solo performers in Rhode Island, Tracie Potochnik and Steve Allain joined forces in spring 2014, when Tracie showed up on Steve’s doorstep with her mandolin and said, “Let’s write a song together!” Happily, Steve invited her inside, and the two have since formed a duo featuring sweet and soulful harmony, thoughtful musicianship and delicately crafted lyrical storytelling. On Feb 21, Chris Trapper hits the mill’s stage. His music can best be described as lyrically driven roots–pop with a knack for telling everyday stories filled with extraordinary characters. His live show is a favorite among fans of alt–acoustic music. Trapper began his career as the front man for ’90s alternative rock band The Push Stars. With four CD releases and several high profile national tours – including a run with Matchbox Twenty – The Push Stars served to establish Chris as an authentic talent. As a modern day singer–songwriter, Chris is most known for his song “This Time,” the chart topping song from the Grammy nominated film soundtrack August Rush. Hayley Reardon opens the show. For more, industrially revolute to

If you are looking for some February entertainment, here is a selection of shows to choose from. The Sandywoods open mic night switches from once a month to every Tuesday night, 7 – 10 pm, with host Gary Fish. All musicians, performers and spoken word artists are welcome to take the stage. Admission is free, but donations for the host and the evening’s featured performer are much appreciated. Also at Sandywoods, on Feb 13, this year’s Benefit Concert takes place featuring Michael Tarbox, Allysen Callery, The Bluebird Orchestra, Ryan Lee Crosby, The Willard Grant Conspiracy, Possum (formerly Russell Feathers) and Bob Kendall. The Narrows has the AMAZING Samantha Fish on Friday, Feb 6. Get there if you can; this gal can play guitar! On Feb 12, The Debra Mann Quintet plays a Tribute to Joni Mitchell. Many more great shows are happenin’ on the other side of the Braga Bridge.  Joe Russo, drummer of Further (Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead), among many other critically acclaimed acts, has assembled a jam band super group to pay tribute to the Dead. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead show will be at Fete in Olneyville on Sun, Feb 8. The Thursday Night Open Mic at the Mediator Stage has some wonderful February features: on the 12th is Dennis Stephen, on the 19th is Megan Gilbert and Friends, and on the 26th is Mardi Garcia.

Thurs, Feb 12, Ray Cooke and Friends play classic covers and originals at the Greenwich Hotel. The Indigo Girls first performed with an orchestra in 2001, doing a series of shows with the Atlanta Ballet. Amy Ray says, “Ever since then I have pondered how cool it would be to have a set of musical scores to bring to orchestras around the country and play in a completely different setting.”  You can hear how this sounds when Indigo Girls perform with the RI Philharmonic on Feb 13 at PPAC. Aurea, the Alchemy of Music and Words, presents Love and Other Difficulties on Sun, Feb 15 at Slater Mill. This Valentine’s program merges Brahms G Major String Sextet, Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade, Gershwin’s Lullaby and Respighi’s Il Tramonto, with poetry of Shelley, Novalis, Rilke & Nigel Gore, and improvisations of Chris Turner. John Ford Coley (of “England Dan and …” fame) states his case with hits such as “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight,” “Love Is The Answer,” and “Nights Are Forever Without You” at the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston on Feb 21.

Get your tickets early for these shows. Dare to be stupid! Weird Al is coming to New Beige’s Z. His 100-City Mandatory World Tour hits the Zieterion in New Bedford on Aug 4. After over 30 years of poking fun at the pop music world, his latest recording, Mandatory Fun has become his best-selling album to date, and the first comedy album in history to debut at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 charts. I know talking about an August show in February may be odd, but you will want to get tix for this now before it sells out! For more, Jackson Park Express over to

John Cougar Mellencamp’s (I still use the “Cougar;” I am old school) Plain Spoken Tour will crisscross North America for a total of 80 shows, including a stop at the Providence Performing Arts Center on Thurs, April 16. The show features special guest Carlene Carter. Tickets have been moving fast so buy ‘em now. For more, Key West Intermezzo over to

Neil Diamond, the iconic Grammy Award-winning rock and pop singer/songwriter and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, will be at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Tues, March 10. Throughout an illustrious and wide-ranging musical career, Neil Diamond has charted 37 Top 40 singles and 16 Top 10 albums in the US. See him while you can. Who knows how many more times the 74-year-old Diamond will tour! For more, cruller over to, “If You Know What I Mean!”

Hopefully my mood will improve by the next issue. Until then I want to put a hit out on Cupid. Anyone want the contract? Thanks for reading.