WUMB December Program Guide

A Night With Touches of Kismet and…The Local Music Corner

Before I get properly into our local music scene’s happenings, is not the radio station in your ears a local outpost at the time you are listening? I do hope you caught The Small Glories’ in-studio performance at WUMB early in November. The Small Glories are Canadians Cara Luft (one of the original founders of the Wailin’ Jennys) and JD Edwards. They’ve been recording together since 2015. Their new album, The Assiniboine & The Red, is their second full-length record. Once we got them comfortably into the studio they regaled us with three songs full of passion, harmonies, and humorous conversation between the songs. It was interesting to watch Cara sing on her tip-toes to push out the emotion on the first song.

Wonderful as their performance was – and if you a WUMB Member you will have access to this and all the in-studio sessions we’ve posted – it was a mere tease for their show that night at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport. On the first song alone there was footstomping. There was expanded energy. There were lights to enhance the experience. Were we at a gorgeous theatre in beautiful Rockport, MA, or at a campfire under the Northern Lights? Sometimes it was hard to tell. Especially at what turned out to be the last song of the set. But first some background.

I think they hinted at this at the radio station. At the Shalin Liu, Cara and JD talked about a hastily arranged show they once had in Boston where they had not made post-show sleeping arrangements. So after the show, JD went to the band’s social media for help. He basically put out the plea, “hey, anybody here from Boston with a spare couch tonight?” A response came from someone in Vancouver, saying “yeah, I know someone in Boston.” They connected with this guy, a poet named Glenn Bowie. Glenn’s Vancouver friend must have been reliable. While Cara stayed at a nearby hotel, JD stayed on Glenn’s couch. And for a poet, running into musicians couldn’t be a bad thing. They all became friends, and Cara & JD wrote a song out of one of Glenn’s poems. It is track 8 on Assiniboine & The Red. And…it turned out to be the last song of the set that night at Shalin Liu. I don’t know if that was the plan, but it turned out that way. As they started the song…the power went out. The emergency lights were on, but the mics were not. No problem. Cara & JD went to the corner of the stage on our right and belted out the tune, as if we were all around a firepit at music camp under a clear night sky in the summer (Glenn was there to witness it all). For more on Glenn Bowie, you can check out his book of poetry, Under The Weight of Whispers. And for more on The Small Glories – don’t miss them next time they tour – www.TheSmallGlories.com.

And now for the more traditional… Local Music Corner.

“The Season” approacheth. If you have been waiting for a good time to get something special for someone that you just know will tickle their music bone, it’s time to grease that gear. If music is your thing or your friend’s thing, it’s nice that you don’t have to injure yourself in the malls to get something that speaks more to them than anyone else. Just go to your nearby club and purchase that certain band’s CD right from the artist.

Does music that is good for a long drive – or that feels like it takes you somewhere even if you are just sitting at home with the headphones on – appeal to your special person? May I suggest you gift them the newly released Chris Hersch & The Moonraiders CD, Space Lasso. While Chris has added an excellent lead vocalist to the band over the last few months, this is an all-instrumental record. The first six tracks are Chris Hersch originals. The last three are covers that Chris arranged. On the website, the album is described as “an interstellar journey of Western Swing, Country Jazz, and Rock & Roll.” My version of the Space Lasso listening experience? It was like a cool trip to a roadside bar owned by Tim Burton and managed by Tom Waits, probably located near Roswell, New Mexico.

The album goes from boisterously energetic to reflective grooves. The standout track for me is “Blues For Aria,” which Chris had been playing out live for I think close to a year. I’ve also been digging on “Minor Moon” and the peppy cover of “After You’ve Gone.” And if you are a fan of good album closers, Space Lasso lands you gently back to earth with a very nice rendition of “Polka Dots & Moonbeams.” Chris Hersch’s name is on the cover, but all the players are outstanding throughout the record. You’ll find their names listed on the website. Space Lasso is a terrific listen (especially on headphones…). See them live somewhere, or visit www.ChrisHersch.com/the-moonraiders.

A belated Happy Birthday to Tom Bianchi. Over the years he has done more than his share for the Boston music scene, playing music, running open mics, booking venues. He’s been an essential component to WUMB partnering with The Burren for our monthly 3rd Thursdays at The Burren series. And last month a gathering of friends, fans and fellow musicians had a strange yet entertaining way of saying, “thank you Tom, we love you.” They gave him a birthday roast. Sometimes it seemed almost as sharp as Don Rickles. But mostly it was very entertaining and a good time was had by all. Proceeds raised all went to The Somerville Homeless Coalition. Come to think of it, that ties in nicely with what’s next. Read on…

December is the time of year we typically look back on the year, to review what we thought was most notable. In this context, it almost strikes me as a surprise how many artists have told me they are working on something new. You’re right, what we call the end of the year is ultimately just another line in the cosmic sand. And if you are an independent worker you hope you are always working on the next thing. Please allow me the poetic license. And I will tell you of these artists and projects shortly.

First: on the heels of Thanksgiving, if we have a roof overhead, food in our stomachs, and good people to spend life with, it’s never a bad time to pause and “give thanks.” It’s always an appropriate time to appreciate having any of those things. With that in mind, it is nice that at least in December it is traditional to see there are many benefit concerts for organizations that help the homeless. Here are a few coming up in December (hopefully there are more):

There are two annual benefits for the Somerville Coalition For The Homeless. One is at The Burren in Somerville on December 4th. If you love traditional and Celtic sounds, the performers at this show may make it the one for you.
Then on December 12th it’s Chandler Travis’ 14th or 15th annual Christmas Cavalcade for the Homeless, holding forth at Once Lounge in Somerville. Joining Chandler’s merry musical mavens will be multitudes of Boston area musicians from Soul to Rock, too many to mention even in limitless cyberspace and always talented and entertaining.
Chandler & his Philharmonic will also lead a Christmas Cavalcade for the Homeless show on the Cape, December 15th at the Mansion Ballroom at the Ocean Edge Golf Course in Brewster, MA. With a multitude of local musicians that is largely different from the Somerville extravaganza, this show will benefit the Housing Assistance Corporation of Cape Cod.
The city of Lowell has noted a problem with homeless youth. Their third annual Mayor’s Holiday Fest For Homeless Youth – a Rock & Roll Fundraiser, will be December 12th at Zorba’s Music Hall on Market Street in Lowell. John Powhida, Abbie Barrett, and Kelly Knapp (of both The Darlings and Chuck McDermott’s band) are but a fraction of the talent expected to rock for the cause, joining house band Love Train.

And now for a virtual stream-of-conscientiousness run of new projects in the works:

The trio Hank Wonder has completed tracks for its second release. It’s now on to the mixing stage for producer Zach Hickman (Charlie Rose had produced the band’s 2017 debut, Little Mysteries). The band has some A1 talent to back them. Besides Mr. Hickman on bass, they have Sean Staples on mandolin and Dave Brophy on drums. It’s been a prolific few months for Mr. Staples. The album he produced with Lisa Bastoni came out very recently.

Grain Thief, the Americana/Bluegrass pickers led by former snow plough driver Patrick Mulroy (always good to note in Wintertime) has either recorded a new single or they are all singing around a microphone as you read this. Look for the song this month. The band is hoping to record more songs in the spring for a new album. But first, they have to spend the last weekend of January at Folk Alliance in New Orleans. What a terrible time to not be in Boston…

It’s been two years since Dan Blakeslee put out The Alley Walker. The album was clearly an excellent band effort. And if you talk to Dan, he’ll tell you that he loves playing with his band. But sometimes the Muse dances with different moves. And Dan is now excitedly working on a solo effort. He hopes to have the new album ready for release in the summer. Ahh…summer.

This brings us back to Chandler Travis. Chandler is working on three or four albums. Yes, albums, he writes. He is aiming for Groundhog Day to release one of them. Perhaps it will have a Caribbean vibe so we can all feel optimistic, regardless of what Punxsutawney Phil sees in February. You know Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog. You may not know how to spell him, but you certainly know of him. Meanwhile, Chandler & band recorded a song last winter in Jamaica called “Smokey’s” – which definitely does not sound like it was recorded during a New England Winter. Hopefully it will be on one of those forthcoming albums.

That will do it for now. Until next time, support live and local music whenever you can. It supports you.

Happy Holidays, everyone. And let’s raise a glass to all the holiday hosts. If you are one of them – especially if you’ve given a “holiday orphan” a place to be – thank you.

~ Perry Persoff

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