WUMB December Program Guide

Musical Ramblings Looking Back…Then Forwards Into The New Year/Decade

A happy line in the Cosmic Sand to you! Amidst resolving to stop leaving my cell phone on the car seat to fall undetected on the pavement after I open the door (and if I’m lucky, find it after panicking enough to lose weight via stress), I discovered how nice it would be if certain of my neighbors would pick up after their dogs. “Boot clean up on Aisle 2!” They should get together with the neighbors who regularly park in the middle of the curb in front of the house – where otherwise, two cars can comfortably fit.

And a ranting New Year to you as well! Join in…let’s get the rants out of our systems together.

OK, on to the good stuff. We look back in order to look forward – kind of like driving south on 93 for a mile when you want to go north…oh my, sorry, I forgot that the Ranting segment of the program is over (I am in danger of turning into a Monty Python skit).

So yes, the good stuff. I finally finished my top however many songs of 2019. As is traditional, it morphed into 34 songs. After finalizing that list for friends, NOW I’m starting to cull the cream from the crop. Or maybe it’s just late and the Laziness Urge is digging in. Whatever the reason, you get to be spared the long journey of deliberation. I think my top TOP new artists of 2019 are Ian Noe [Between The Country] and Ben Dickey [Glimmer On The Outskirts]. Add “Mazerati” by Bobby Long w/Jack Dawson, Buddy & Julie Miller’s title song and perhaps entire album Breakdown On 20th Avenue South. I am also moved by the song “Highwomen” by the foursome called The Highwomen. Amanda Shires and Brandi Carlile did a remarkable job in reworking Jimmy Webb’s “Highwaymen,” which we know from the Johnny/Willie/Kris/Waylon foursome. And all four women – Amanda, Brandi, Natalie Hemby, & Maren Morris – give moving vocal performances. Another “supergroup” of this sort made another favorite of mine. That’s the Rhiannon Giddens-led Our Native Daughters. I felt a connection with their song “Black Like Me” (sung by Amethyst Kiah).

I’ll remember more of the 2019 live shows I saw at 2am. But for now, I am still stunned by how awesome The Small Glories (Cara Luft & J.D. Edwards) were at Shalin Liu in Rockport, MA. Josh Ritter’s Mother’s Day concert at the Wilbur was “Wow” level. And it was great to be at the Christian McNeill send off concert at The Burren in Somerville with gobs of his musical friends preforming with him on stage. I actually had to leave the show early…didn’t come prepared with enough caffeine in my system, I suppose. The performances started about 7pm. I hear the show lasted until 12:30.

So with “Looking Back” now under our belts, let us now look into the future with…

The Local Music Corner

Happy New Year and Good Mid-Winter* to you!

*Yes, I don’t know why this is often considered “Mid-Winter,” since it just became Winter on Dec 21st. Shouldn’t “Mid-Winter” be more like late January? Then again with our weather, the Boston area “Mid-Winter” would be about the first day of Spring, late March. But I digress… And I must stop good-naturedly ranting for the rest of the piece! Read on, dear reader.

So as we are heading into the real winter, I am reminded of something that occurred to me on our last snowfall. The snowfall made me think of a February 2018 drive through Melrose on a clear night with gently falling snow. I had Jennifer Kimball’s Avocet CD playing in the car. The album absolutely enhanced the magical feel of that environment. Jennifer is no stranger to enhancing the winter magic with her music. For many years she has had her “Wintry Songs in Eleventy Part Harmony” project that always shows up at the Holidays. She gathers up some of her music making friends and they put on wonderful vocal spins on Holiday and Winter related songs, both live and on at least one record. How many years has she done Wintry Songs in Eleventy Part Harmony? Glad you asked!
Among Jennifer Kimball’s plans for 2020 are making another album with the Wintry Songs in Eleventy Part Harmony group, and releasing it for their 10th anniversary shows next December. She would also love to do a Summer Songs in Eleventy Part Harmony project. Maybe that will be on the 2021 docket, as she says the record would take up a lot of time. And this Spring, she’ll be doing some touring with husband Ry Cavanaugh. Jennifer says that Ry will have a new record out – of his Dad’s songs. Watch for tour dates from March-June. In the meantime, you can hear Jennifer sing on some of the latest Session Americana album Northeast, an album of songs written by New Englanders with guest vocalists from the Greater Boston and New England music community.

Speaking of the Greater Boston & New England music scene in general and Session Americana in particular, Dinty Child – one of Ry Cavanaugh’s musical mates in Session Americana – will release a new solo album on January 17th, called Lucky Ones. Watch for a CD release gig to go with it shortly…

Another Session Americana mate branching out for a side project is vocalist/harmonica spitfire Jim Fitting. Jim has teamed up with Billy Conway and David Champagne to make a record. They will also be doing at least one show together (Jan 19th at Club Passim in Cambridge), and I hope a few more. Does that trio sound a little familiar? They are the surviving core of the band Treat Her Right.

Funny how Session Americana used to be the “side project” band. In the last ten years or so, Session has become the main band. Now suddenly you have a few side projects from Session Americana members. Life is funny sometimes…

I am only now realizing I have all these Session Americana links. One of the guest vocalists on the new Session album Northeast is fingerstyle guitar picker Zak Trojano. In the last couple of years, Zak’s voice has become a solid part of his musical arsenal. I loved his 2018 solo album Wolf Trees. One of Zak’s best recorded vocal performances is the job he does on the late Bill Morrissey’s “You’ll Never Get To Heaven” on the new Session Americana album.

For the new year, Zak is working on a new instrumental record, for release he says “hopefully sooner than later!” Then once that’s done, he’ll buckle down to work on a new “singer songwriter” record.

I think Session Americana is one of the few bands that pedal/lap steel/dobro guitar secret weapon Michael Bean has not gigged with. Although I could be wrong. You may have seen or heard Michael as part of Chris Hersch & The Moonraiders, Susan Cattaneo Band, Tom Haggerty Band, Frank Drake, and many others. Michael is planning on taking a break from his hired hand work for much of 2020…to work on his own music. Whether singles or albums, that should be interesting to watch out for and hopefully hear.

I recently noted that Quincy’s Jesse Ahern will be heading out on tour in February in Europe with the Dropkick Murphy’s and Frank Turner. But Jesse’s recently recorded a few songs with Duke Levine on six string guitar. Jesse has that rough Woody Guthrie-meets-Joe Strummer sound and vibe. My initial inclination is to not think of those two in the same sentence. And yet…it’s a combination that works really well. I love when that happens (i.e; when an unlikely combination turns out great). Jesse will do a few shows here before heading to Europe – for instance, one at Atwood’s in Cambridge January 16th. Wouldn’t that be something if Duke “sits in” as a surprise guest? If that happens, I sure want to be there.

Whether it’s at any of these shows or some others, I hope we see each other at many a great live music event in the new year. Success, good times, and great music to us all in 2020.

~ Perry Persoff

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