WUMB July Program Guide

Perry Persoff — Looking Back to Look Forward…

Funny how looking back – looking at what was – can be a springboard to going forward. I might get dinged in Logic Class for that sentiment. But of course, the poets would say, “but of course.”

November 27th or 28th of last year (i.e; 2017) I was walking up Holland Street in Somerville and suddenly noticed what I should have seen a couple hours earlier when a bus dropped me off in the area: after standing in darkened silence for most of 20 months, Johnny D’s had become a hole in the ground. I guess it was Monday the 27th that the building was imploded. Now there is nothing but construction equipment where lots of great musical performances stood for 47 years. Wednesday night of that week I saw a small group of people gathered in front of the spot. I asked them if they were having an impromptu memorial rally for the club. “What? Hey, that’s an idea,” said a woman in the group. The two of us then swapped a couple of Johnny D’s stories. It felt good. Now… we know that Johnny D’s is really gone. So much for holding out hope that someone with deep pockets would come along, buy the club, revive the name and get back to booking live music at 17 Holland Street.

But how ironic that in 2017 the Fallout Shelter in Norwood should get a reprieve after having gone dark? You may remember that WUMB had a member concert there a couple years ago, featuring great music, great food, and getting to see a concert TV show filmed. After a few hiccups with construction, City Winery in Boston opened in Haymarket Square (learn from my mistake, you’d rather take the Orange Line than try to park around there…especially if the Celtics or Bruins are home that night). And after hearing about it for two or three years, I finally experienced a special outdoor venue that has become a favorite.

So yes, nostalgic sniffles for Johnny D’s and TT’s and other recent additions to the pantheon of passed Boston area live music venues. But the live music scene here still breathes. And people who leave the area continue to espouse the following about seeing live music: “I miss Boston soooo much.” The latest being Suze of “Suze Reviews The Blues.” Suze and her long-lens camera were common sites at club shows all over the Boston area for years. She’s moved to Florida. And while she’s OK not being in a blizzard, she pines for a good music scene – like Boston’s. Come back in the summer, Suze! And in the meantime, let’s not take for granted the live music and the talented musicians we are fortunate to have in our metaphorical backyard.

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OK, let’s take a look back at some of 2017’s best albums in my humble and subjective opinion. First, how about some of the Boston area’s bands (aka, “local”)? Alright, you talked me into it.
Dan Blakeslee and Greg Klyma put out fine albums. Both are examples of artists getting to record songs they had written or performed in some cases for about three years, maybe more. The production on Dan’s THE ALLEY WALKER is the best of his records to my ears. He’s working with his band and it’s solid ensemble work. The songwriting on Greg’s NEVER KNEW CAROLINE is very strong. It also never hurts to have guest artists like Peter Case, Gurf Morlix, and Bill Kirchen helping out (Bill is also on Susan Cattaneo’s 2017 album). The band Hank Wonder put out their debut album with the help of producer Charlie Rose, called LITTLE MYSTERIES. The songs range from near-delirious happiness to tear-tugging sadness. The writing often imbues sentiments you can identify with from various life experiences, literal or metaphorical. And the musical performances are top notch.

Other area artists I’ll watch for in the coming year include Paul Hansen of the Grownup Noise, Chuck McDermott to see how he might follow up on 2017’s engaging GIN AND ROSEWATER (which included a jaw-dropping dark rendition of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line”), Samantha Farrell with new music on the way, the progress of Twisted Pine. Danielle Miraglia has a very good new album. Uh oh, I can feel myself slipping down the rabbit hole of artists to see.

More kudos to local bands for 2017 go to artists like Tim Gearan (Trio), Say Darling, Girls Guns & Glory, Danielle Miraglia & Peter Parcek, and the many who delivered memorable performances for our monthly Third Thursday at The Burren shows. I will no doubt remember more who should be on this list at 1:00 am…

Are there other local bands who delivered great albums and shows in 2017? No doubt. I can’t see or hear ‘em all. Let’s get out and experience as much live music as we can in 2018.

And finally, the more traditional list of my picks for favorite albums of 2017, in no particular order:

His Golden Messenger — Hallelujah Anyway
Peter Mulvey – Are You Listening?
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
Rose Cousins – Natural Conclusion
Kacy & Clayton – The Siren’s Song
Greg Klyma – Never Knew Caroline
Aimee Mann – Mental Illness
Band of Heathens – Duende
Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters – Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters
Rhiannon Giddens – Freedom Highway.

Thanks for your interest. And thanks for being part of us at WUMB.

Now…I’m off to shovel snow.

~ Perry

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