Okee dokee folks … I read a quote the other day. “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” That quote has commonly been attributed to Elvis Costello, but upon further investigation it seems that it actually dates back to the late 70s and was coined by RISD Alumnus, Martin Mull. Even further research shows that the seed of the statement possibly may date back as far as 1918 and was published by the New Republic “Writing about music is as illogical as singing about economics.” To include this in my column could be considered heresy and is basically mocking what I do, but I do agree with the sentiment. Writing about music IS like dancing about architecture!
I have been “writing” about music for nearly nine and a half years and I have to admit that most of the time I am flying by the seat of my pants. I know that I “write” this column, but I still don’t seriously consider myself a writer. Sometimes I stare at the screen and my mind will be just as blank as the new document I opened. My job, as a “writer,” is to try to compose an interesting combination of words about performers, concerts and recordings that I think you folks would or should like. I read, I borrow, I create, I cut and paste, I rewrite and I interject quirkiness into what I assemble to TRY and describe the music, get your attention and point it toward something that I feel is worth your time and money. It makes me feel good when people compliment me on my musings but I still shy away from the label of writer. I really do TRY to stay away from the long-winded, self indulgent and masturbatory literary descriptions that make every single song seem as though they were written by Nobel Prize winning geniuses, but occasionally I do acquiesce. This kind of writing, in my opinion, was served up best as a bit of dark humor dialogue in the movie American Psycho when Christian Bale’s character recites CD reviews of Huey Lewis and Phil Collins as he wields an ax and joyfully plunges it into the head of his victim. Other than that, the only real use is for an artist to pull a line or two from a review and add it to their press kits. I have done it myself – the quote pulling for my press kit, not the ax-wielding (though I have been tempted to do the latter). I guess it also could be used to pique your interest in an artist, a recording or a venue. So, what point am I trying to make here? I have no idea. It’s late. I am writing in circles. A dervish. Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It’s dizzying, I’m dizzy … read on …
Blackstone River Theatre kicks off their new year season with a new incarnation of The Jammin’ Divas on Friday, January 10. The divas perform traditional and contemporary folk music from Ireland, Australia and the US. The Jammin’ Divas are Aoife Clancy (Ireland), Kath Buckell (Australia), Hadar Noiberg (Israel) and the newest diva, Nicole Zuraitis (USA). Becky Chace recently left the Jammin’ Divas to focus on her solo/band performances and was replaced by Nicole Zuraitis. While each of these talented women is individually recognized as an accomplished player and vocalist, it is their combined artistry that creates an unparalleled musical dynamic. Aoife Clancy, from Ireland, is the daughter of Bobby Clancy of the Clancy Brothers. In 1995, Aoife was asked to join the acclaimed group Cherish the Ladies, one of the most sought-after Irish American groups in history. For the past four years, Aoife has toured extensively doing no fewer than 200 dates a year throughout the United States and Europe. With seven recordings under her belt in the last decade, Aoife has clearly established herself as one of the ‘Divas’ of Irish and contemporary folk music. Singer/Songwriter and pianist Nicole Zuraitis is the group’s newest member and has been turning heads with her huge voice and catchy melodies reflecting a broad mixture of jazz, pop and indie fusion. After recently returned from a tour of Asia and India, she was recognized as a finalist in the 2013 Songdoor International Songwriting Contest. Nicole has opened for jazz legend Dave Brubeck and collaborated with world renowned Indian guitarist and composer Prasanna. Australia’s Kath Buckell is a rising folk/rock artist in the US, having previously toured Australia and Israel. She has found her roots in a project that is preserving traditional Australian poetry put to her original music called “Faces Do Not Change.” Hadar Noiberg hails from Israel and grew up with its eclectic musical culture. Hadar was surrounded by various musical styles that are a part of the Israeli melting pot – Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Yemenite and Moroccan music. Since arriving in New York, the flautist has been one of the leading players in the Cuban and Jazz scenes showcasing at Blue Note, Dizzy’s Club, Central Park Summer Stage and Lincoln Center. Through stunning three-part harmonies bedded against a lush melodic landscape, The Jammin’ Divas draw audiences into an experience that transcends the history of three continents by sharing songs and stories of how each country culturally influences and enriches one another. Blackstone River Theatre is located at 549 Broad St in Cumberland just across from Ann & Hope. For more about this show and a list of upcoming shows, canal you way over to: riverfolk.org
Over on the other side of the bay, in “Tiver-town,” Sandywoods Center for the Arts is keeping’ the faith and presenting some top-notch entertainment. Unfortunately this venue is still kind of an undiscovered gem for many – it’s really a destination location. And sometimes, it can be a little hard for even your GPS to get you there. If attendance for the scheduled shows doesn’t increase, they may have to abandon their concert series. So pack a dinner, pick up a six or a box o’wine and get to these BYOB shows! On Saturday, January 11 Neptune’s Car and Michelle Lewis will be serving up some fine sounds to accompany your imbibing. Holly Hanson and Steve Hayes make up the acoustic duo, Neptune’s Car. The Massachusetts/New Hampshire-based duo play original, contemporary folk music. They are known for their intimate performance style, carefully crafted lyrics, generous harmony singing and stellar guitar picking. In 2010, their song “Lighthouse Keeper” reached number one on the Folk DJ chart. Neptune’s Car’s two albums of all-original material have been featured on many critics’ top lists and NPR’s “Car Talk” has spotlighted their music. “Like pie for your ears” is how Michelle Lewis’ music was described at one time. She finds as much exhilaration in performing her music as she does in the rest of her life. When she performs, she is living the life to which her songs aspire. Her music is caring, vivacious and completely authentic. She sings with a smile. Watch her perform and you will understand. Her fingers articulate every note; her voice picks out every word. But you don’t hear notes and you don’t hear words. When Michelle plays, all you hear is music; it all makes sense and sounds wonderful. SandywoodsCenter for the Arts is located at 43 Muse Way in Tiverton. The magic trick to finding them is to dial in 1735 Stafford Road. Get there, then turn right onto Roosevelt and follow it to Muse Way. It’s simpler than it sounds, really. For further directional information and show scheds, organically grow on over to: sandywoodsmusic.com
It seems as though there is a run on certain dates in January and lots of good stuff is happening at the same time. Best to clone yourself and get out to all of them or try to make an informed decision and get to at least one. Down in West Kingston, just a stone’s though from URI, The Courthouse Center for the Arts has been presenting a lot of evidence to support the case that good things are happening there. On Friday, January 10, Jon Patrick Brennan, Sara Bartel, and special guest Wayne Cabral pay tribute to the music of the 60s. They will be performing songs written or made famous by The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel, The Who, Sonny and Cher, The Mamas and the Papas, Marvin Gaye, Frank Sinatra and more. The CourthouseCenter is located at 3481 Kingstown Road (Rte 138). For more about this show and other Courthouse activities, gavel over to: courthousearts.org
Music at Lily Pads leads off their 2014 season with Roz Raskin and the Rice Cakes and special guests Vudu Sister on Saturday, January 11. Roz Raskin and the Rice Cakes are a modern dance rock power trio that come together to bring forth new, genre-blasting, rhythmically charged melodies, “sounding somewhat like the apocalypse and having a lot of fun while they are doing it. They are constantly manifesting new musical ideas, and are always thinking of ways to engage their listeners. Simply put, they are an amazing live band. Vudu Sister is singer/songwriter Keith McCurdy and violinist, Diane O’Connor. Additional featured Vudu Sister accompaniment will be provided by Amato Zinno and Michael Samos, formerly of The Silks and Brown Bird. Vudu Sister craft dark songs and present them through various mediums of “gothy, grunge-tinged folk.” Music at Lily Pads is located in the sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation Church of South County, 27 North Road in Peace Dale. For more about this and other shows on tap for 2014, float on over to: musicatlilypads.org
Stone Soup starts off their contribution to the 2014 folk schedule with The Boxcar Lilies and Paul Pasch on Saturday, January 11. The beautiful harmonies of the Boxcar Lilies are supported by great songwriting, guitar, fiddle, banjo and washboard, which makes their shows truly entertaining. Paul Pasch is a songsmith and performer whose songwriting has been compared to that of the Guy Clark. For more about Stone Soup’s 2014 of music, boil your boulders to: stonesoupcoffeehouse.com
Chan’s Restaurant in Woooooooooon–Sock—eeeet also has a lot on its plate besides the Asian cuisine. Shawn Holt & the Teardrops – son of legendary Chicago bluesman Magic Slim, do the blues thang on Wednesday January 15. Michelle Willson holds her CD Release Party for “Fortune Cookie” featuring Scott Shetler on reeds, Shinichi Otsu on piano, Mike Mele on guitar, Sven Larson on bass and Steve Chaggaris on drums on Friday, January 24. Commander Cody (not sure if he lost or found his planet airmen) bring their rock and blues on Friday, January 31. Chan’s is located at 267 Main Street in Woonsocket. For more about Chan’s, the food, the music, the man, the myth, the legend, spring roll over to: chanseggrollsandjazz.com
Finally, I will take you into the first day of February, Saturday, when you can catch the internationally known folkster, Allysen Callery, when she will be playing a double set of traditional and original folk tunes at Boheme Artspace, 504 Main Street in Warren. For more about the art space, rhapsody your way to: bohemeartspace.com
This time of year it is best to check the weather and venue website before heading out to an event. If there’s a milk and bread panic ensuing, it may be a sign that it’s snowing just a little and the show might not go on. Better safe than sorry and stuck in a snow bank or an empty church basement.
That’s it for now. “I have to return some video tapes.” You really should watch American Psycho the next time it snows and you are stuck inside. Add it to your Netflix queue. Oops, I did it again, telling you what to do. Oh, btw, does anyone want to give me a massage … free? I am in desperate need! Thanks for reading! John Fuzek www.johnfuzek.com