WUMB February Program Guide

The Local Music Corner

A kind of homecoming (for one who’s never left), a film soundtrack project, and a clever stage revue for our times – and before. It’s…The Local Music Corner.

As mentioned in last month’s article, Dinty Child of Session Americana – and many more bands over the years – has released his debut solo album, Lucky Ones. It was released on January 17th, and what a show he had at Oberon in Cambridge to send his baby out into the world. With Dinty’s history in this town and the family of musicians he has worked with over the last couple of decades or so, this really had the buzz of a big homecoming…even though he’s never left. Sure, Dinty’s done gigs in New York and outside of New England. But he has stayed here.

When Dinty was in studio at WUMB, he was asked how he got all these musicians together for a night, as they all have very busy schedules with their own bands and projects. The only part of his answer I recall was along the lines of, “it probably won’t happen again.” Dinty had on stage a dapper yet casual looking Sean Staples, Isa Burke of Lula Wiles on fiddle and various guitars (she plays all the electric guitar on Dinty’s album), Zach Hickman on upright bass and guitars, and Sean Trischka doing the propulsive drum work. Doing heavenly harmonies were Rose Polenzani, Lauren Balthrop, and Rose Cousins. Each Rose also did some solo work. How good were they? Enough to make you run to see the film 20 Feet From Stardom, which put the spotlight on amazing background and harmony singers throughout the history of popular music. Also on stage were some marvelous string players (including Annie Bartlett of the band Hank Wonder). Sometimes it was a trio and sometimes a quartet. There was a moment in the show where Dinty started a song and after about half a verse, just stopped. “We’ve got to do this again,” he told us, “I skipped the bit where the strings play and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard; I’ve been looking forward to this all week.” So he started the song again. They got to that part of the song and this time the string riff played. Dinty rolled his eyes and gave an expression that seemed to say, “you see what I mean?” We did.

The night was such a celebration. Not just of the release of Dinty Child’s debut solo album, but it also felt like a celebration of the second family that so much of the Boston music scene seems to be. You can tell the players feel that connection to one another. They have gone through so much together in music. They are supportive of one another’s projects. They’ve played on each other’s projects. And they seem to welcome those of us who are fans/non-musicians as part of that connection. They know that music can be a powerful force for us, too. The “concert proper” finished with a song that wrapped up all of that notion. Written by Kris Delmhorst, it is the closing song on Dinty’s album. More than being the title track, the song “Lucky Ones” will make you appreciate how lucky we are to have music in our lives. That’s whether you are an enthusiastic fan, a musician, or both.

After such generosity to the musicians and a two hour show that gave so much lift and energy to the songs on the album – as a good concert will do – the traditional encore (Dinty called it an “epilogue”) crushed us with two stripped down performances. First, Dinty did a solo take on a song he wrote with Mark Erelli called “Look Up.” This is the song that looks at the scene of Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel from three different character perspectives. Then with some of the band, he closed with “Dark Clouds,” which he wrote long ago with Sean Staples (recorded by Jess Tardy as well as Session Americana). Both fine versions of very touching songs. A perfect way to close a show that indeed was…a celebration.

Watch out for Didi Stewart. Yes, she’s been involved in music in Boston for years as a performer (Girls Night Out, solo albums, etc) and as an associate Voice professor at Berklee College of Music. She has now written a stage revue with extremely, sometimes excruciatingly clever lyrics. Called Cocktails With Fascists, it is more than a critical look at our current state of affairs. It also looks at the things that lead up to where we are now (and those that have been factors since before America was born). Probably the most direct plea is that we keep ourselves educated, aware, and therefore not easily flummoxed. Which in turn is a plea for fairness and an honest playing field. There are lyrics that make you laugh and those that make you cringe with recognition – as the truth does sometimes. I think Phil Ochs would have been proud of that aspect. One number flays both sides of the “Go Fund Me” life. Another song has echoes of what’s becoming the new East Boston and what is the new South Boston Waterfront. In general, though, much of the show is hysterical. At times it is very touching. The musical performances were generally pretty astounding. And the lyrics…just amazing in scope and very clever throughout. All the words and music written by Didi Stewart.

She’s kind of workshopping the show. On Jan 26th at The New School in Cambridge, Didi was joined by Will McMillan and Leslie Sterling (yes, the Leslie Sterling who was the PA announcer at Fenway Park after Sherm Feller). Allizon Lissance (of The Love Dogs and long ago Girls Night Out with Didi) provided the soundtrack on piano.

There will be future performances throughout the year, culminating near Election Day. So the show will likely evolve. But again, the writing – both words and music – is tremendous. The lyrics are very creative and clever, the performances dynamic. So keep an eye out for Didi Stewart. Keep an eye out for when she does the show again. And then if you can, go out and treat yourself to it.

Here is more great album news. I believe local music hero David Johnston has a new album out for the first time in nearly a decade, the last being 2012’s Carnival of the Soul. If it isn’t out yet, the new album is on the way. The track that I’ve heard has got that relaxed “Rolling Stones practicing their Blues heroes’ licks in the basement with Peter Wolf on hand” vibe. I look forward to more of it. You can hear David live on many club stages throughout the week every week.

Katy Boc & Todd Nickerson from Massachusetts’ South Shore, perhaps better known as the duo Sparrow Blue, have not been playing out as much lately. But they have been busy just the same. Among those things that have been taking their time is a film. They have recorded music for a film soundtrack. The film is called The Last Beyond. You can research it online by that name. And when you are done with that, you can check out their debut full length record from 2018 called Rabbit In The Moon, which has some good atmospheric tracks.

Sure as the sun will shine again (my favorite wintertime rumor), Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us. So as a teaser, here are just a few dedicated “Valentine’s Day” shows I’m aware of that you might want to check out. Ironically, they are on February 14th. Go figure, huh? Scott Damgaard (he of the gorgeous outer space cover art on last year’s Hiding Out On Titan album) is performing on Valentine’s Day and the day after at The Square Root in Roslindale.
Catherine David has gotten another troupe of performers together for a revue of the spectrum of Valentine’s Day emotions in song. “Tongue In Cheek Valentine’s Day” will be at Arts At the Armory in Somerville.
If you missed the Wolff Sisters’ excellent show for WUMB’s “3rd Thursdays at the Burren” show last October, make up for it with your Valentine. They’ll be at the Red Room at Cafe 939 in Boston on Valentine’s Day.
Wherever you stand on Valentine’s Day, there is sure to be a show for you out there. Just look into your favorite entertainment listings paper, website, or whatever medium…

Then there is the Presidents’ Day Weekend. At the Grotonwood Camp & Conference Center in Groton, Hanneke Cassel is hosting a veritable fiddle-off. It’s called the “Pure Dead Brilliant Fiddle Concerts,” Thursday Feb 13th to Monday Feb 17th. Most of the shows are sold out. But not the Thursday show as of this writing. A small sample of the performers include Natalie MacMaster, Emerald Rae (who was pretty fantastic at WUMB’s Folktales Hootenanny last November 23rd), Mike Block, Jenna Moynihan, and of course Hanneke herself.

Following the calendar, that leads us to the 3rd Thursday of the month…which means WUMB will be at the Burren for our monthly series. Doing the honors will be Amy Kucharik. Whether Amy is doing ‘20’s/’30’s music, more of an edgy blues style, or music that feels comfortable for a Swing night…and no matter which of her band incarnations Amy is playing with…she tends to be a real hoot live. The show is of course open to the public, but WUMB members will get in for half price. And my guess is this will be another Thursday night that will feel like Friday ahead of time. Hope to see you there.

Wow, that’s a lot for a short month…

~ Perry Persoff

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