Chasing the Dream with “Black Eyed Susan”

By on May 16, 2017 in Interviews, Uncategorized |

A few years back, I came across a video by a group billed as “The Suspects and Guests” — I think an all Irish crew — that covered Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” with his blessing to raise funds for a tragedy that took place in Ireland. I do love me a solid cover, so I dug in and was getting deeper into their rendition, when out of nowhere, somewhere around the 1:12 mark, this monster of a voice rang out, “Then I got Mary pregnant, and man that was all she wrote…” The voice was sandpaper perfect, smoked out, hypnotic, downright gorgeous with echos of the throatiest female rock stars in history bleeding through it. This well structured instrument is owned by a young woman of 26 years from Dublin, Ireland named Susan O Neill. And although O Neill, who grew up in Ennis, lives way, way outside the Granite State, I mention her name...

Showdown At The Brew

By on May 4, 2017 in Interviews |

This Sunday at the Strange Brew in Manchester, there will be a battle royal of sorts taking place, a straight up grudge match verses some of the best blues musicians from the region. The annual Granite State Blues Society Blues Challenge is always a good take with an easy Sunday vibe and solos, duos, youth and full bands playing all forms of the blues — Delta, Memphis, R&B, boogie — each hoping to hitch a ride on the “Road to Memphis” for the International Blues Challenge in January. And this year, like last, I was asked to be a judge. Thankful for the opportunity, I still find myself worrying about my capacity to judge a blues competition. For one, I am not a musician. Not even close. I listen to music, lots of it. I run my chops about music, not so much about how it’s made, but how it feels in my bones spilling out the speakers. See, the blues comes...

Slogging Towards “The American Dream”

By on Apr 27, 2017 in Interviews, Uncategorized |

Few weeks back, Jake Davis of the Whiskey Stones, came into the WKXL studios and played a few songs. I was looking forward to hearing Davis, 25, sing again after a couple years. I always liked his voice, sort of husky but controlled with really smart lyrics and strong arrangements. Immediately after Davis played “Top Scholar, Bottom Dollars,” a song about getting slapped across the face with a grueling dose of workforce reality, Davis, a recent graduate from UNH with two environmental degrees, responded to my follow up questions in a way that touched me. His emotions were palpable, familiar even, as he described the savage, spinning, debt-saddled world many graduates live in as they try to get ahead without losing touch with who they are – or hope to be. Soundcheck wasn’t done with the Newmarket resident so we reached out with a few more questions. Here is what Davis had to say: Do you...

A “Glorified House Party”

By on Apr 20, 2017 in Interviews |

For a performance venue like “The Word Barn” in Exeter to fly under the radar — as it seems to be doing — is pretty remarkable. Makes me wonder if that’s how it was planned to be, on the hush-hush, a slow build into something special. Then again, the place was packed last Saturday night. People staring down from the upper level, listening from the yard through the large windows, from the seats and stools inside, getting knocked backward by the beauty of Sean Rowe’s monstrous voice and ninja finger moves on his guitar. What the owners, Ben and Sarah Anderson, are providing for the region’s art community is quality creativity at an honest price. Set in a barn attached to a house off Newfield Road, tucked so quietly close to the road — we drove past the entrance four times heading to the show — this is the ideal place to visit if you...

The Dobros Declare: “Time Ain’t Gone To Be A Kid…”

By on Apr 13, 2017 in Reviews |

It’s over, folks. Come out from under your house clothes, carry those rags to the fire pit out back. She’s gone, Old Miss. Winter, the wrecker that she is and always will be. When I felt the sweet touch of the sun hit my face the other day, well, it was bliss. So no winter. Something in my mind broke open, something clogged with vast amounts of winter feedings. I felt a new craving descending on me. Suddenly, I broke out my Joe Cuba Sexltet CD and listened to it for three hours as I peeled around Nashua, Keene and Peterborough, windows down, heat OFF. “Latin Boogaloo” was calling me home after a six month hiatus. This is what I walk around my yard listening too during the summer months, burning the night off. And that first jump in the lake of the season should be accompanied by something new or from the past that’s been buried in the folds of your music...

Of music and musings

By on Apr 6, 2017 in Blog |

Bear with me, please. It’s been a hellacious week. The hour calls for a mash up of thoughts, some musical, some not. Nothing solid, just a string of loose ends to untangle, a series of observations that should be recorded before they are forgotten. Or, in other words: I don’t really have a story this week. Just a gaggle of thoughts. Like I said, the last seven days were an utter train wreck. DRIPPING My bathroom tub faucet ran a leak. Small potatoes to some, a simple drip, maybe a washer or a fresh cartridge will make life bearable again. But no, not to someone like me, an anxious incompetent when it comes to tools or anything with a chain on it, my life was thrown a millions ways. I lost weight. My hair thinned. Three teeth fell out. I don’t think I listened to a Springsteen song for, like, six hours. After ripping a knuckle trying to work a nut loose under the...

Teaching on the music scene

By on Mar 23, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

In one week, I’ll be doing something I never would have imagined I’d be doing, not in 100 years. And I’ve done some things — some good, some wicked, some better left forgotten. But teach a class? That was not on my “Do Before Dying” list. Visit Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colorado? Yes. Shave my head? One of these days. Interview Springsteen? God willing. But stand before a real class with real students, real people, people that have signed up for this class called “A Look Inside the NH Music Scene?” Well, that’s just weird. When Phyllis Benoit from Granite State College in Concord emailed me in the fall saying that she reads my weekly music column in the Concord Monitor but doesn’t know what I’m talking about half the time, all I could say was, “Neither do I.” Then Phyllis proposed that I teach a class at the...

Smokestack Lightnin’

By on Mar 15, 2017 in Interviews | 1 comment

“It’s not just a pub,” says the owner of Area 23 Pub in Concord, Kirk McNeil. “It’s an experience.” I love that. I like when a pub, a bar, a cinema or music venue strives to be more than just a “get em’ in, get em’ out” type of joint. And for McNeil and his strong-minded, forward thinking, hearty staff of creative people, there seems to be a sense of, not just service, but a purpose, that goes into any working day. And, well, it has worked — big time! Area 23 Pub, located in the Smoke Stack Center on North State Street, has a little bit of everything going for it. There’s the Gonzo flair, inspired by the late, great writer, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. There’s the creative food, the Korean ribs and Surprise Sandwiches. Then there is the poetry, the cribbage tournaments, rant nights, movie nights, and of course,...