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Cambridge Presents: Red Line Roots, Julie Rhodes, Danny Roaman, Bill Scorzari & More

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Photo Credit: Red Line Roots
Julie Rhodes at Club Passim Photo Credit: Red Line Roots

This weekend marked our very first Heartstrings visit to Cambridge, Mass., for Bill Scorzari‘s performance at Gallery 263 on Saturday night. As it turns out, Cambridge was full of great surprises.

On Friday, we received word that Danny Roaman (Jonah Tolchin‘s guitarist) would be accompanying Julie Rhodes at the famous Club Passim (formerly Club 47) Saturday afternoon, for the “Locals Covering Locals” showcase (produced by musician, Brian Carroll of Red Line Roots). Julie sang several originals and local favorites, including a cover of Jonah Tolchin’s “Mockingbird,” with Danny on guitar, alongside a second electric blues guitar, a thumpin’ stand-up bass and a smokin’ blues harp with that classic, taxi-cab microphone plugged into a dirty amp, howl. They were absolutely incredible! If you haven’t yet heard Julie sing, you need to. Julie Rhodes is the blues done right, with one of the most effortlessly authentic voices I’ve heard in years. There’s no doubt that we all will hear more about this incredible vocalist and her band in the days to come. Look for the release of Julie’s debut album (maybe this Spring?), produced by friend and mentor, Jonah Tolchin.

10325243_283753968474720_2976197881287614275_nAdditional performers featured at Club Passim were Jake Hill, Connor Millican and Haunt the House — a folk trio of guitar, accordion and stand up bass, who played a rousing set, which included Ian Fitzgerald‘s “Melinda Down the Line.” It’s inevitable that something great is on the horizon for this band. I can just feel it.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Haunt-the-house/180700158626369
Haunt the House

The Whiskey Boys took the stage last, with their virtuoso set of bluegrass/folk music of the best kind, which even included a cover of “Feel Good Inc” by the Gorillaz.

We spoke with Brian Carroll after the show, about his vision of organizing local musicians to support each other by performing each other’s music, locally. To say this event was a great success, would be an understatement.

After the show at Club Passim, we headed to Gallery 263 for Bill Scorzari’s show with special guest, Annie Johnson — a 4th-year Berklee student from Idaho, who along with her sister, Katie Johnson, opened with a half hour of Annie’s masterfully-written original compositions.  Check out Annie’s music on Soundcloud.

Bill Scorzari then took the stage.Bill’s debut album was released this past May to critical acclaim, and can now be heard on Pandora. This night, Bill performed a collection of original Americana music slated for his second album, which is currently being recorded and produced by legendary audio engineer, Scott Hull of Masterdisk, right here in New York. Bill passionately delivered these heartfelt, real-life narratives, powered by his intense, pervading voice and sublime guitar.

An impromptu collaboration followed as Julie Rhodes and Danny Roaman joined Bill on stage to close out the night. Julie turned it on like a thousand-watt bulb, as Bill and Danny’s guitar work added to the glow. Check it out out here:

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Guitar Mash 2014 at City Winery: The Photos

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We headed to New York City Sunday afternoon for Guitar Mash at City Winery. Great concept. Great performances. The Greg Allman Band’s musical director, Scott Sharrard started off the show, which included phenomenal performances led by the engaging and animated Mark Stewart (Paul Simon’s guitarist/Music Director) (see our pre-Guitar Mash interview with Mark here), Duke Robillard (Fabulous Thunderbirds), Robert Randolph (Rolling Stone’s top 100 guitarists), Chris Eldridge (Punch Brothers), David Bromberg, Valerie June…and a bunch more. If you couldn’t get there this year, plan ahead and be sure to get there next year.

‘True Story’: Joe Purdy at City Winery NYC

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Despite the relentless downpour taking place outside City Winery NYC on Wednesday night, Joe Purdy fans, as usual, packed the house for this sold-out show. It was the perfect setting for the crowd to sing along to Joe’s 2004 “I Love the Rain the Most,” which we were all secretly hoping would make it onto his set list (and, of course, it did). Some sat on stools at the bar and along the windows, while others sat at the small, candle-lit tables surrounding the stage. I sat at one of those tables beside Joe’s manager, Brian, and his parents who came in from Connecticut that night to see Joe play. They were as enthusiastic about the performance as the other Purdy followers in attendance. I heard Brian’s dad singing along to Joe’s songs as we sipped our waiter’s wine recommendations, which included a homemade specialty of the night. The label on the bottle simply stated,  “Joe Purdy Wine.”

I last spoke with Joe in September (My Hillbilly Confidence: An Interview with Joe Purdy), just prior to his AmericanaFest performance in Nashville.  After spending an hour or so on the phone with him, it was clear that Joe had discovered early on that, creating music is what he always wanted  to do, and that, driven by his passion to pursue it at all costs, Joe was able to avoid doing what others might think he would otherwise have to do. With that ethic, Joe has tirelessly made his music available to us — from the self-titled Joe Purdy (2001) to Eagle Rock Fire (2014) – straight from his heartstrings to ours.

Joe follows his own simple formula– he says what he wants to say and does so with an inspiring mix of raw talent, authenticity and humor — which sometimes takes the form of witty annotation during his live performance.  At City Winery, Joe repeatedly interrupted himself mid-song to say …”true story”… (using humor to accomplish light, yet unmistakable reinforcement of the thought he just sang). When he pauses during the performance of his songs, and uses his humble, confiding voice to speak directly to and personally with his audience, it is a mellifluous gift that Joe Purdy brings. The result is that each participant in his diverse and international fan base, is engrossed and united by that overwhelmingly warm sound and honesty.

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Joe began his set with several songs off of Eagle Rock Fire (2014), followed by “Sinkin’ Low” from Take My Blanket and Go (2007). He then put down his acoustic guitar and walked over to the piano, to give us a unique performance since, as Joe pointed out, it’s unusual that he has a piano available to him on stage. There, he played one of my all time favorite Purdy tracks, “Been Up So Long” (piano) from Last Clock On the Wall (2009), among others. He subsequently played a series of what he calls “short songs,” including “River Boat Captain.” The short songs resemble sonnets — brief, organized and powerful. Each lasted no longer than a minute. As Joe pulls you in, ever-so-quickly on each short adventure, and then releases you seconds later, you can’t help but feel the astounding fleeting embrace.

The newest song in this evening’s performance is what I like to call the “Emmett Till” of songs. For those who do not know the reference, Emmett Till is a young boy, whose murder became the catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. Within this song, Joe collects and brings forth the unsettling injustices of our history into one palpable composition:

My brother was killed by a policeman.
My brother was only 19.
My brother was shot by a sniper.
My brother, he died on the street.
My brother was beat by policemen,
and he died on the prison floor.
My brother, he fought in Vietnam.
My brother was killed on the front of war,
My brother, he died in his hometown…
We wear stars and stripes in the broken heart of the country…

Joe and I had scheduled to meet after the show, as a follow-up to our last interview. Prior to our meeting, I watched Joe come up the basement stairs to personally greet and meet with his fans in the main room. Although more than half of the capacity crowd remained (waiting), Joe spoke at length with every single one of them. But there weren’t just the usual, “great show!” and, “thank you’s!” exchanged. The coolest part was that, as I watched, I saw Joe glad, even eager to directly connect with each one of his fans. Joe’s willingness to make himself accessible to his listeners, both through his music and personally, is just who Joe Purdy is. It can all be summed up in what Joe told me about his experience at AmericanaFest–how he had missed most of the festival’s events because he chose to spend time caring for a friend who had become ill. We see it in his recorded music and live performances, in his post-performances and in the decisions he has made along the way (which are all his own). This night was no different and only increased the appreciation I have for Joe Purdy the musician and for Joe Purdy the man. They are genuinely one and the same. True story.