Acoustic Festival Acts: A Few Random, Obscure Facts


Performers playing at the 10th anniversary of the Shoreline Acoustic Music Festival on July 10 at the Hygienic Arts Park in New London have that acoustic vibe in common, but some also have agreed to share revealing tidbits about themselves that their fans may not know.

The line-up on Sunday includes 11 acts playing 20-minute sets.

Here, then, is a brief run-down of a few of the performers who want you to know something more about them.

The band, Blonde Furniture, has been releasing songs over the past several months as part of a project dubbed “Music For Early Century Modern.”  Four tracks are available on their website.

Band frontman Bill Dumas also shared a story that not may not be common knowledge. There is a mystery track on Blonde Furniture’s first vinyl release in 1984 of Dumas playing drums on “Wipe Out” over the phone with David Letterman’s band on “Late Night with David Letterman.” Letterman called Dumas during viewer mail and asked if he would play with the band over the phone. Here, then, about a minute in, is the recording of that live performance on the show:

 

Also, meet Jim Lampos, a singer-songwriter known for his insightful lyrics and finger-style guitar work. Entangled States, his eighth CD, was released in April and is currently getting airplay on nearly 100 stations worldwide, and charting on leading NPR and college radio stations across America.

Lampos has toured extensively across the United States, and made numerous appearances on network television, including two episodes of VH-1’s Midnight Minute.

What you might not know about this accomplished artist is that he also has published poetry and local history. His latest book is “Remarkable Women of Old Lyme,” published by the History Press.

And a new book will be coming out later this year entitled, “Revolution in the Lymes: from the New Lights to the Sons of Liberty.”

Then, there are the Carolans, a group of five musicians who enjoy arranging and performing music from a variety of genres, including folk, Celtic songs, traditional instrumental music and a smattering of country and pop. Arrangements blend vocal harmonies with guitars, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, dulcimer, penny whistles and percussion.

Jake Wysoski, Steve Fagin, Tim Lambert and Cathy & Paul Smith-Carolan make up the ensemble.

And what’s special about them? They radiate a joy while performing, they say, that the audience can feel. You have to come to the festival to soak up the experience.

Yours truly also has a slot at the show, and a bit of the poet coursing through my veins as well. In fact, it took a slew of rejections from established poetry journals and a couple decades of relative inactivity despite playing the guitar since age 10 before I broke down and wrote “Letting Go,” circa 2008. But what I am happy to admit here is that, since the CDs emerged in 2008 and 2010, I’ve grown a bit musically, even playing in a fabulous, if short-lived band called We Were Strangers in Rhode Island. So I promise: You won’t hear more than one song about unrequited love when I play my set.

Other subjects include the joy of childhood, inspired by my niece, the darker side of friendship and the complex uncertainties, comforts and pleasures of — what’s that? — a real, committed, loving relationship.

Join us!

 

Back in the Saddle (or is it Guitar Case?)


A few short months ago I promised major changes were coming to this blog, and to me, though I couldn’t reveal them because they involved relocation and a job change.

Okay, so I over-hyped a life transition. But, to be honest, my songwriting, and blogging, had taken a back seat to that overdue evolution for longer than I care to admit.

Well, I’m back to say, Yes, please come here to find songwriting stories and inspiration. Too much time has passed undocumented since I wrote about what moves me most in life and the comrades who likewise are making something of their art.

I commit here and now to breathing life back into both my music and this blog. As a show of good faith, I even ponied up the twenty bucks to add mp3 files for another year. I also published pix here of the wall in a shared study dubbed “the music room.”

So, what exactly is this momentous transition? you ask. In fact, it’s been a life-changer.

I have moved back to Connecticut and am developing a new freelance writing career along with a future with my lover — the subject of much long-distance angst until now and a few songs as well. I am also exploring new open mic venues, starting with one in Cheshire at C.J. Sparrow Pub and Eatery, where Ken Safety’s dynamic house band hosts.

And I’m trying to figure out what exactly to do with all the songs that have emerged since the lovable Mike Bailey, irrepressible Mike Ball and irreplaceable Ron Gletherow blessed me with production of the CD, “Love Is Hard,” an unfathomable six years ago.

As impetus for this re-dedication, of sorts, I am blessed to be collaborating again with bass guitarist Joe Cavanagh for the 10th anniversary of the Shoreline Acoustic Music Society’s Folk Festival at Sailfest. SAMS was the impetus for my musical growth as a songwriter and as a performer. We play Sunday, July 10 at 1 along with a host of other talented performers.

The newly resurrected Wailing City website has all the details.

Please continue to follow my songwriting musings and those of others here. We only go around once – how could I abandon my domain name, “userloseit”? Too symbolic. Too meaningful. As are you, my friends. Thanks for visiting. Come back soon!

 

2016: A Year of (Key) Changes


Minor keys have always attracted me, but major changes may warrant brighter tones going forward.

Without giving too much away, I just want to say what a pleasure the past five years have been in seeing the traction and interest in musical musings, shared songs and interviews here. More to come, so please stay tuned, and thank you for sticking around.

We Were Strangers At the Telegraph in New London


Here are three of the most talented, warm, funny, intelligent people I ever had the chance to bump into. We met at an event called Jamathon, sponsored by Music Town, a social networking site for musicians, and I and my music have never been the same.

Knowing them has changed some of my songs for the better. Now, I am no longer that shy girl “looking the other way,” as one of the songs says, but rather, as another song says,  I love who they are, and find I’m loving who I am more, too.

‘Trying to Make Everybody See’: Frank Nerkowski


There’s a guy with a guitar and way with a song, and his name is Frank Nerkowski.

Frank Nerkowski

His CD, “days gone by,” has got a country but roots-y feel and a strong persona defined by man comfortable in his own skin.

“Trying to make everybody see” is a line from the fourth track, “I’m Still Me,” and reflects the modesty of a guy who admits to struggling to fully express his vision, despite a desire to bust through society’s walls. His down-to-earth message is underscored by equally down-to-earth vocals.

Perhaps the introspection speaks to those of us inclined to reflection, yet that is hardly the scope of Frank’s repertoire. The opening “High and Low” is a foot-stomping lament in which the upbeat fiddle and drum belie the message of a man rejected by his woman. Adamant “she’ll come back to me … and see … I’m right for her and then she won’t say, ‘No,'” the singer has a passion and persistence in the face of obstacles that make it easy to relate to him.

“Since You Left Me” works in this vein as well, celebrating moonshine, Cubans and siestas — “doing anything I like” — with “everything I need in my backyard.” Tongue-in-cheek attitude accompanied by vivid imagery make for an amusing take, especially when he’s “still doing fine” even though “half the town in my vineyard [is] tasting all my wine.” Don’t we all have an ex like that, from whom we need, mostly, relief?

Nerkowski also isn’t above needing and asking for help: crooning about having a good life yet needing more in “On the Floor,” for instance.

He also calls on some melodic banjo and a chorus of singers to accompany him on the title track, “Days Gone By,” as he meditates on work, his grandfather and making a living.

Throughout this CD, Nerkowski, of Clinton, Conn., has dynamic accompaniment from Eric Lichter, wife Robin Nerkowski, MorganEve Swain, James Maple, Gordan Ingram, Tim Engle, Laura Funk, Nick Borzillo and Ed Iarusso.

Swizzle sticks and ice cubes clinking glasses punctuate the closing tune: “Drinking to Keep from Thinking (About You Babe).” This song’s country feel has just the right amount of bemusement mixed with relationship angst to keep from turning maudlin — and a rocking percussion that keeps the track tight.

Check out the full CD and take it for a spin on the open road. You won’t be sorry!

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?

Joanne

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.