Tuesday, March 01, 2016
And here on the ground
You can still reach the stars
We are all lost and found
And we each play a part ... Knockout Rose
-The Boxcar Lilies (Jenny Goodspeed)
It was a love of great songwriting and sweet three-part harmonies that first brought the Boxcar Lilies together. It started casually enough.
Jenny Goodspeed of Ashfield, Stephanie Marshall of Greenfield and Katie Clarke of Conway were each pursuing solo careers when Goodspeed asked Marshall and Clarke to perform with her at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. As soon as the three took the stage together they knew they had stumbled upon something special. And so began an amazing musical journey.
The undeniable chemistry between Clarke (guitar, clawhammer banjo), Marshall (washboard, guitar) and Goodspeed (electric bass, guitar) and their irresistible vocal power has won them fans across the country. And even though work and family commitments allow them to play music only on a part-time basis, they have still managed to tour half way across the country and have garnered all types of accolades including being named the number one “Most Wanted Emerging Artist” at the 2014 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.
I recently had a conversation with Goodspeed and Marshall (Clarke was unable to join us due to scheduling conflicts), and asked if they had anticipated that the band would be as successful as it has been. They both loudly answered “No!”
“It definitely took off in a way we never expected,” said Goodspeed.
The Boxcar Lilies recently released their third album, “Knockout Rose,” and they are ready to celebrate with a full band show at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Saturday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m.
“Knockout Rose” is currently getting airplay on radio stations throughout the U.S. and is sure to further expand the band’s fan base. The album benefits from the superb production of Lorne Entress, who has worked with Lori McKenna and Mark Erelli, and also produced the band’s second album “Sugar Shack.”
Entress keeps the emphasis on the Lilies’ seamless harmonies, wrapping their voices in a warm, rootsy sound. To do this he enlisted a group of top notch musicians that included local musician Jim Henry on guitar and mandolin, Marco Giovino, from Robert Plant’s Band of Joy on drums and percussion, and Jesse Williams, an in-demand studio musician on upright bass.
“Lorne cares so much about the songs,” said Goodspeed. “Each project that he chooses to work on is because he feels connected to the songs and the music. So when you work with him, you get 100 percent of him. And his musical ideas are really in line with ours.”
The varied influences of the three women are heard throughout this Americana mix that includes elements of country, bluegrass, folk and even some pop.
The Lilies have assembled a strong collection of songs on “Knockout Rose,” with each woman bringing her distinct writing voice to the project. “Knockout Rose” also features three cover songs including a country version of “Freight Train” by Fred Eaglesmith, an upbeat take of “Papa Come Quick,” a song recorded by Bonnie Raitt, and a Karla Bonoff song “Home,” which is highlighted by guest musician, Rani Arbo on fiddle.
“Knockout Rose” covers a wide range of subject matter. Goodspeed writes of the joys of simple living on “House of My Dreams,” a song that Marshall sings, and Clarke contributes a standout track on “Captain’s Seat,” a song about women who dressed as men so they could fight in the Civil War. Marshall’s “Put The Top Down” is a breezy song about living life to the fullest and reminds us to “Always take the back roads/put the top down when you can.”
“It’s a song that I wrote years ago and was on my solo CD,” Marshall said. “That is another thing that the Lilies have done over the years — we have taken solo stuff that we have previously recorded and turned it into a Lilies song. Now it’s hard to imagine singing it without them anymore.”
Goodspeed writes of a community’s fight against mountaintop removal coal mining on “Not in My Name.” The song was inspired by a magazine article she read years ago, but as she was writing it the gas pipeline issue came up in Franklin County and the song suddenly took on a new meaning.
“Not in my name/The time for waiting has passed/Not in my name/Make your spine like steel/Don’t look away/Let their stories change you/Keep them like a fire that burns inside,” she sings.
Marshall and Goodspeed’s excitement and pride in “Knockout Rose” comes through in conversation, but the disc’s arrival coincides with a big change in the band. Unfortunately, Clarke, who has a private practice as a family and marriage counselor, decided that she could no longer both perform with the group and tend to her career. She found herself in the position where her therapy practice was growing and decided she could no longer travel with the Lilies. She recently announced that she would leave the band at the end of the year.
Goodspeed and Marshall are naturally sad to see her go, but they understand the challenges that come with juggling family, jobs and a music career.
“It’s really hard to travel, and I hate to leave my daughter,” Marshall said. “But I do enjoy my time with the band, both on and offstage.”
Goodspeed said sometimes when the fatigue becomes overwhelming she wonders “why couldn’t we have met 10 years ago?”
“When I was younger I wanted to do this, but felt conflicted about it,” Goodspeed said. “But since the Lilies started, I can’t imagine not doing it even on the toughest days. When you are going, ‘Oh my god, I don’t know if I can keep this up’ and then you stop and think what would it look like if we weren’t doing this. And it’s almost impossible because, at least for me, a life-long dream come true — to have a band where you can create music where the harmonies are in the forefront. It is something I have literally been looking for all my life.”
Marshall wholeheartedly agrees. “I started out singing harmonies when I left New Jersey and came here. This is what I was looking for, and found it with this band.”
The Boxcar Lilies will continue as a band and are currently exploring how to fill the void that will be left by Clarke’s departure. The last show with the current lineup will be on New Year’s Eve as part of Northampton’s First Night Celebration
“Right now we are just getting used to the idea that we can’t duplicate what we had with Katie,” said Goodspeed. “She has a very unique singing and songwriting voice. But we are taking our time after the end of this year and we don’t have another gig until March. We are exploring our options.”
It will be an exciting new chapter for the band but for now they are putting all their energy into sharing “Knockout Rose,” a project they are extremely proud of and excited about, with their audience. So don’t miss this show, and pick up a copy of “Knockout Rose” while you are there.
For this full band show, The Lilies will be backed by Jim Henry, Marco Giovino and Jesse Williams. Advance tickets are $15 and available at the Northampton Box Office on 76 Main St., online at www.iheg.com, or charge by phone at 413-586-8686. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
For more information: www.boxcarlilies.com
Green River Festival announces dates and adds camping option
It’s never too soon to start thinking about summer, and Signature Sounds, which presents the annual Green River Festival has just announced that this year’s festival will be a special one as it will mark the festival’s 30th anniversary. The dates for GRF 2016 will be July 8, 9 and 10.
Signature Sounds also announced that they are partnering with the Franklin County Fair to provide camping for the first time ever at the festival.
“Over the years we have had many requests to add camping due to the limited number of hotel rooms available in Franklin County in the summertime,” festival director Jim Olsen said. “Adding camping to the festival will allow us to host more people from outside the region.”
Signature Sounds is having a special presale that begins today and will run through Dec. 31, 2015. The sale prices will be the lowest pricing available and you can only purchase these tickets online at:
Presale prices: Weekend festival pass: $79.99
Camping tickets include a festival ticket, plus parking with free shuttle buses to and from Greenfield Community College.
Weekend with camping: $139.99
Includes three nights camping, parking and shuttle transport to the festival.
Weekend with premium camping: $189.99
Includes three nights camping in preferred camping area with nearby bathrooms and showers, nearby parking, free continental breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, festival gift bag and more. Premium camping space is limited.
RV Camping: $99.99
RV pass is in addition to weekend ticket with camping. Must also have weekend camping ticket for each camper over 10 years old.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at email@example.com