Shining Her Light: Joanne Lurgio’s Latest

Intoned intimacy. A likable lilt. And a powerful pull.

Well-written lyrics speak for themselves. Instrumental flourishes complement one another and ring out. But how do words, reviews, blogs like this do justice to a voice that compels?


There’s a show that purports to find “The Voice.” Well, here is one artist who doesn’t need the hype of a televised self-congratulatory competition to justify her identity.

Just listen to “Young Summer Hues,” on Joanne Lurgio’s latest,

Rise From the Storm

Rise From the Storm. If you haven’t bought the CD yet, here is the link to a tease: the cdbaby site with snippets of the songs. “Young Summer Hues” is the fourth track.

Sultry almost does it justice, but not quite. So click on track No. 10: “Shine Your Light,” and the voice becomes percussive, upbeat, crooning. Rock in your seat listening to this one: the message of a light shining on the singer’s “darkest day” elevates with the tone.

Still need a bigger vocabulary? Yes! Because Joanne Lurgio’s range is not just vocal. It is intellectually rich and deeply empathetic.  All of these lyrics and melodies are her own, enhanced with a roster of performers that includes Vance Gilbert, Duke Robillard and her son, Joe, on mandolin. But it is the slide guitar of Mike “Scatman” Sullivan on Track 12 that best approximates the careening journey of “the slow hard ride down the road to hell” of a drifter who “lost his money, … lost his mind” in “Gun Metal Sky.” And when Joanne sings of other lost souls whose “slivered hearts all have a story to tell,” the cry, a lament, wails like the prayer embedded in these lines — “not too loud” — now a call, now a whisper, for mercy.

Vocals aside, most of the tunes on this CD lift the spirit and mood, buoyed by fiddle, harmonies, mandolin, percussion, upright bass, keyboard and accordian. The themes, nuanced and articulate, are familiar: lost love, beloved family and friends, regret. And the bonus track, an anthem for breast cancer survivors called “Won’t Ever Quit,” includes a rousing chorus from the Friends of the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.

Often, we don’t know who a singer is singing to, and that is the case in the title song, “Rise From the Storm,” but we can tell it’s somebody close, someone who inspires hope and can be a trusted companion in “a place we can go, nobody knows,/ Set down our heavy lodes….” The heart that is kept “in a sacred place,” beyond hurt, is a heart full of feeling. And maybe that’s the best description of this special voice that touches us in ways too unique and special to articulate: it’s a voice full of feeling, that makes us feel cared for and embraced.

For more about Rhode Islander Joanne Lurgio, including two earlier CDs, visit Joanne Lurgio. Or come see her through Rhode Island Songwriters’ Association events, or at her CD release party: April 19, Pub on the Park, Cranston, R.I.

Rock Poems

Imagery and themes of fragility and pain might get lost in Vince Tuckwood’s newest CD, “Grope,” beneath the electric, hard-edged rock. Except that the voice is so clear, the messages resonate and slip through, purposefully.

Vince on Electric

“Don’t ask me how I’m feeling,” he sings in “Centre of My World;” “you might get the truth.”

To understand the vibe, give a listen to “Walking in Circles,” the last track and one that sums up the feeling implied in the title of searching uncertainly for touch, contact and connection.

As in most of these songs, Vince’s voice retains a trademark sweetness, reminiscent of the vocals in his acoustic folk CD “Sparse,” never ranting loudly to make a point. No, the piercing leads on electric guitar, the heavy power chords and driving drumbeats make the point for him. Lyrics are repetitive and deceptively plain. This could be any bewildered voice — groping for meaning and centeredness in a world without a center.

Underlying the search is frustration and intimidation, as when, in “What Do They Know?” others are “laughing at me,” or when hands and gut are aching and powerless in “Painkiller Morning.”

A sense that these songs were written by a younger songwriter comes from the concerns with what others think and the desperate desire, as in “Hollow,” to be “everything” to another. In fact, Vince says that the songs come from his late 1990s band, “Grope,” a group he played in with bandmates Scott Haughie and Matt Hines. Apart from a 3-track EP, “the majority of our set was never captured,” he writes — until Vince picked up his 90s Strat years later and began — by his own accounting, “possessed” — to reinterpret them.

Though Vince here eschews the acoustic instrumentation that made “Sparse” so meditative and gentle, his wayward riffs on electric guitar and percussive underpinnings echo the best of Green Day’s rock anthems. One that comes to mind is “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”

In the most down-to-earth, plaintive song, Vince does sidle up to a gentler introduction: “You Send Me Over the Moon, Brian,” starts out with a soft electric guitar and the intonation, “Did you really think I would walk away?” before cymbals clatter and announce a full-throated Tuckwood crooning, “You send me ….” A kind of chorus reverberates in the background. Not as intense as the rest of the CD, this tune  — with a great solo on lead guitar — is catchy: riddled with doubt and a happy insistence on that ever-so-evasive connection to someone else.

In fact, all of these songs are apostrophes, lamentations to the universe as well as to the individual for whom the singer is “waiting for you to call me out.” And all the elements of songwriting are here: longing, wistfulness, fear and regret. And while angst dominates, the singer gets past it through the music.

“You are one up on me,” he sings in “Tequila in the C Field.” “You are churning inside me. I can’t focus.” And we feel his isolation and confusion, but somehow the wailing guitar and rock beat make it tolerable and win out.

When taken as a whole, the CD is a tour de force, with Vince on vocals, drums, guitar — and powerful accompaniment vocally on just one track: “Sheep (One of Those Days)” features Isabelle Dunlop, Mark Henning, Anne Castellano, Tony Castellano, Elise and Kyra.

With his feet planted in music, no matter the genre, you can find Vince Tuckwood’s uncommon sensibility as a rock poet in these songs.

Dig in.

“Grope” can be heard and purchased here.

Sweet and Soulful

Arlene & Dana

Ear Candy for the Soul is a 12-song CD by Arlene Wow! and Dana Takaki that lives up to its name.

Strings meld seamlessly — whether its rhythmic accents from Dana on violin punctuating Arlene’s syncopated guitar strum on “Breathe” or the stretched out strains of violin sustaining a Melissa Etheridge-like anthem about the anguish of losing a lover in “Wrong Side.”

Arlene has recorded a couple of the songs on this CD before, without the elegant underpinning of Dana’s violin. The addition is at once striking and subtle, here a wail, there an echo, and pulling out just shy of any exclamation, staying pleasantly in the background with Arlene’s guitar. In those songs, and others, that violin lets the voice lift words into a happy place, and “leave the ghosts of the weary world outside/ ’til it feels like spring,” as in the song,”‘Til It Feels Like Spring.”

It’s not always the case that I get to review a CD by people I know well. But with these two I can safely say there is a reservoir of joy and vitality that informs their individual personalities and union as artists. That, in turn, infuses the work — if you could call it work! — effortlessly.

A word about the words: they explore tension and trouble, but avoid desperation, embracing instead understanding and passion, preferring to point to “something to live for.”

The two Spanish songs, “Cielo” and “Si No Me Quieres” — the former rousing, the latter soothing — speak to the soul, leaving translation for us non-Spanish speaking people to the imagination.

Of all the tracks, two share a quality at once universal and existential.

In “Train Song,” Arlene croons softly as the haunting finger-picked theme cedes to the rumble of a real train, leaving us in the “stillness of the night,” in another dimension, alone through life’s passage, though you can still hear her sing.

In “Lullaby,” the gift is both maternal and metaphorical: a song embracing the promise of sleep-time and heaven as home, tomorrow but a thought away, love a promise kept.

And a word about the voice: it is everything that a true virtuoso possesses: power, dynamism, range, and tenderness — whether the message is about overcoming angst or offering the human heart for inspection.

“When you look in my heart, Do you see something there?” Arlene asks in the song, “When You Look In My Heart.” “Something you need to find ….”

Yes, Arlene and Dana: and that something is your music. Thanks for the nourishment.

To quote “Breathe,” it’s “lifting me up.”

Buy “Ear Candy for the Soul” here.





Relaxing Into It

Got a 40-minute set at The Mediator Stage and this is what it looked like from the balcony…


[Photos Courtesy of Scott Lewis and Don Tassone]

When I say “relaxed” I mean, I was chatty and having a good time …


but enough about me,

I want to say that when you over-prepare, and get inspired by new bandmates in a whole different venue (which I’ll blog about another time) and then get to share with a small audience on a rainy night at a familiar venue where you can be yourself…

Well, that’s the way it gets done, mates!

Guess that’s still about me … but:

Look for another blog on the music of Abel Thought — Coming soon!

Those No-good Oldies

I’ve been updating my set lists in anticipation of three upcoming gigs (more about that in a bit) by digging out a few old tunes I thought might be worth resurrecting.

You know the type: songs that hold some sort of sentimental value, be it for content (a song about camping with a lover), that old love affair with metaphor (“Strangers will knock you off key/Sing anyway”) or the happy knowledge that the melody (to a tune called “Dance”) is in fact catchy, and as “danceable” as folk music gets. … Or maybe that’s just my memory of little girls dancing to it at one Shoreline Acoustic Music Festival performance a year or two back.

No matter. Truth is, the songs you write but never play usually remain unplayed because they aren’t very good.

The camping song is nice but repetitive, lacking a bridge, and so wordy I don’t think I could memorize it (and yet, I wrote it).

“Dance” is just the opposite. It evokes happy memories of dance parties with close friends and would-be lovers. It’s easy to play and memorize. It’s just too darn short!

So I added a verse. And may add more. Because this song, unlike the others, deserves an audience.

Speaking of which, I hope you’ll be part of one of the following small crowds I’ll be serenading:

  • Oct. 23 The Mediator Stage, Providence: I will be featured after an open mic
  • Nov. 1 Brooklyn Teahouse, Providence: I will be one of three performers
  • Dec. 11 R.I. Songwriters Association Songwriters in the Round (location to be announced): I will be one of four singer/songwriters.
  • Details will be announced as the dates approach. I will post an mp3 of “Dance” before then, once it’s ready.

    Come listen! And dance!

    New London Redux: A Photo Collage

    Music is best when it’s shared.

    Sailfest is the place where we hold our Shoreline Acoustic Music Festival each July.


    Made it back to the city on July 12-13 and enjoyed two of my favorite acts at SAMS:

    Golden Ratio played,


    followed by Maggie’s Guitar.

    Maggies Guitar

    Later on, I discovered Josie Davis at one of the piers and ran into singer/songwriter Sue Menhart.


    At night, I was treated to a jam session in Pwop Studios with Carl Franklin, John Fries, Mike Rogoff and other talented drummers, keyboardists and guitarists.


    I got to try out a tune of my own or two with a little help from Carl on bass and Jay on keyboards after the jam session. Also saw good friends, made new ones and got a stellar view of the fireworks over the Thames, barges in full view shooting sparks of color at a gorgeous July moon. Will Getschell took this shot.

    Pat & Carl

    Another round on Sunday of wonderful musicians followed, with a 20-minute set in which bassist Joe Cavanagh and violinist Dana Takaki joined me. Photo by Anne Maxwell.

    Shoreline Acoustic Festival 2014

    Filled with gratitude to be able to circulate and play with musicians of such caliber and heart.

    People’s Pick: Daphne Lee Martin

    WELCOME to “People’s Pick.” Each “pick” is an interview with a songwriter and guitarist popular with the public, mostly from places I’ve met them in Connecticut, Vermont or Rhode Island. But they come from everywhere, full of verve and insight into what it means to write a song, pluck a guitar, pound the ivories — and make a joyful noise.


    When a songwriter like Daphne Lee Martin describes her history on, the Ohio-born singer sums up her persona better than any blogger could. She describes her vocal style in three guises: “the chanteuse sticky-sweetness of Blossom Dearie, the twang of Patsy Cline and the indie wistfulness of Neko Case.” Our paths crossed in New London, Conn., where the well-traveled Martin and her husband, Rich, run the record shop The Telegraph. Dynamic and always onto the next thing, Martin here discusses some of her latest work, and why she loves it.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What moves you to write songs?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Everything. I read constantly, and often I’ll trip over a sentence that shows me a point of view that I’d not come across yet and I’ll read it over 10 times, write it down, chew on it for a while and come up with my own way of walking in those shoes.

    Sometimes it will be a memory, my grandfather was a wild character and the more moments in my life that come up reminding me of things he said will move me to want to share that “wisdom” in song. And rarely, it’ll be a flash of inspiration, literally like a lightning bolt and the song will fall out nearly fully formed. It makes you very humble when you think of it that way -that no mater how much you agonize over your craft, this stuff really is coming from someplace greater and it’s a gift that you’re able to hear it.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Alter egos vie for the listener’s attention in “Frost” & “Moxie,” your two collections, one that “treats a queen like a whore” (Moxie) and the other that “treats a whore like a queen” (Frost). Did you conceive of them together or separately and where did the pairing come from?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: They came together, a long time ago. I actually described it in the video we made for my Kickstarter for Frost. Originally, Frost was to come first. Life has a way of changing things. I knew that my songs fell pretty distinctly into two camps: easy sweet love versus unfulfilled desire with all the craziness that comes in tow.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Who are the sultry persona and musical stylings of Moxie modeled on?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: There are a few narrators on Moxie. The first cut, “Sweet & Low Down,” is in the voice of Mehitabel the Cat from Don Marquis’ books about Archy and Mehitabel. The tattered Dame Alley Cat, re-incarnated over lifetimes as great women in history, faded somewhat from her former glory, but there’s a dance in the old dame yet…

    “Molotov” is written from the point of view of Tony Bring in Henry Miller’s novel, Crazy Cock. Basically about going insane as your desires collide with your principles.

    “House That Built Itself” was written from one of [Jorge Luis] Borges’ sonnets.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: How about Frost?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Frost is a little more personal. “Little Birds” was written after some of the lyrical ideas in “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” but it came from a deeply personal friendship that fell apart. “Night We Fell In Love” is completely personal, about my husband.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: “Make It Rain” is contemplative, suggestive and plaintive as it reaches the line “I am not afraid to be caught in the rain.” Who is this song about?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Ha ha! I don’t name names unless it’s my husband. Sometimes I sit on things for years before I come up with a good way of writing through it. Sometimes I take other kinds of relationships and couch them in the “love song” form. The idea in this song is that there are no mistakes, no regrets – just live and do the best you can and sometimes you will fail, no matter how right you try to do.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Congratulations on your two 2014 Whalie Awards for Best Pop Act and Best Pop Performance! You were nominated CT Music Songwriter too, but James Maple nabbed that title. What’s your take on Connecticut’s music competitions?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Thanks! The awards are a fantastic opportunity to rub elbows with other performers and writers. They are also a great excuse to buy a new dress, hug friends, and take pictures and maybe get your name in some press. There are people that get way too competitive and even mean about them – I suppose they take it too personally.

    I don’t make music to get awards, although I do make music for a living. It’s a different approach than folk who make music for a hobby, and every little bit helps. A rising tide lifts all ships, and if the Connecticut music scene is making national waves, then we are all better for it.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: If you could take one songwriter with you to a studio on a desert island to collaborate who would it be?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Tom Waits. The things we could do with coconuts!

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What are your latest touring plans?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: I’ve been on the road much of 2014 already, but I’m going to be home for the summer working on a new record and touring again in the fall and winter. I’m doing a run with Pocket Vinyl out Mid-west again and then South with the great James Maple.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Name three top musical influences.

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: That changes weekly. Sometimes minutely. RIght now I’m leaning hard on Beck, TV on the Radio, and Peter Gabriel.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What do you do when inspiration is flagging and the lyrics or melodies are simply not presenting themselves?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Be quiet. Sometimes the muse just gets drowned out by all the static of everyday life.

    Otherwise, try something new. Anything new. Go for a long drive. Listen to music out of my normal circle. Run. Get crazy. Read something by an author I haven’t tried yet. Tear apart something old and try to think of it a new way, fall in love all over again.

    My musical life is about constant re-invention, it’s like I want to try on every hat in the shop! Some days, it’s a safari, others it’s big pink flowers.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What’s your favorite album, the one that shaped your relationship to singing and writing and still shapes it today?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: I don’t think I could point to one. Honestly, I’ve always been swimming in music, keeping as much of it around me as possible – I opened a record store, if that gives any indication. I’ve seen the questions go out about what records people would take to a desert island, and I always think – couldn’t I just bring a guitar instead?