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Sounds Local: Zak Trojano and Jeffrey Foucault pair up for Stone Church show

  • Jeffrey Foucault has gained widespread acclaim for his beautiful style of songwriting. He is known for his vivid, poetic lyrics and for crafting songs that seamlessly merge rock, folk, country and blues. Contributed Photo

  • Zak Trojano, a native of New Hampshire who now resides in Greenfield, was working as a member of the popular local band Rusty Belle until a couple of years ago, when the band went on hiatus so its three members could pursue solo projects. Contributed Photo

  • Charles Neville, the saxophone player for the world renowned Neville Brothers and a member of New Orleans music royalty, died last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Contributed Photo

  • HUNTER



For the Recorder
Thursday, May 03, 2018

When Zak Trojano joined Jeffrey Foucault’s touring band in 2007, it was more than just the beginning of a musical collaboration; it was the start of a great friendship.

“I met Jeff years ago when he was putting a band together to do a tour through Belgium and Holland,” wrote Trojano in an email exchange. “I was playing drums a lot more then and got the gig. A year or so later, I showed him how to fly cast and the rest is history!”

In addition to their shared love of music, these two talented singer-songwriters are both fly fishing fanatics who have fished the rivers of our area together many times. They have also shared the stage numerous times, and will do so once again Friday night, when Trojano opens for Foucault at The Stone Church in Brattleboro, Vt., at 8 p.m.

A native of Wisconsin, who now resides in Shelburne Falls, Foucault has gained widespread acclaim for his beautiful style of songwriting. He is known for his vivid, poetic lyrics and for crafting songs that seamlessly merge rock, folk, country and blues. He is gearing up to release a follow-up to his highly acclaimed 2015 release “Salt As Wolves.” The new album, called “Blood Brothers,” will be available on June 22.

Since releasing his first album in 2001, Foucault has spent a great deal of time on the road touring across the United States as well as Europe. After his 2006 album “Ghost Repeater” did well overseas, clubs began asking for a full band tour.

“I hired my friend David Goodrich to play guitar and he put together a band,” wrote Foucault between his sets at MerleFest on Sunday. “Zak was playing mostly drums at that point with Rusty Belle, and Goody recommended him.”

After being in the touring band, Trojano went on to be the second guitarist for Hi-Country, Lo-Fi, a side project that Foucault and his wife, singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst, put together about 10 years ago. The band featured a revolving cast of Pioneer Valley musicians playing classic country tunes, performing at venues like The Rendezvous in Turners Falls and the Green River Festival kick-off party in 2010.

From that point on, their friendship grew, and fishing has proved to be a big part of it.

“Zak taught me a lot when I was still learning the sport,” Foucault explained. “I had learned when I was a kid, but had fallen away from it. Zak knew the eastern stream ecology and we started fishing together probably 10 or 12 years ago,” said Foucault.

Trojano, a native of New Hampshire who now resides in Greenfield, was working as a member of the popular local band Rusty Belle until a couple of years ago, when the band went on hiatus so its three members could pursue solo projects. For Trojano, that meant launching his own solo career. He has released two albums, the most recent being “Yesterday’s Sun” that was co-produced by Kris Delmhorst.

His songs have an honest, raw feel to them and he sings them in a rich baritone that immediately draws listeners in. He has a new album, “Wolf Trees,” coming out Aug. 10.

As he’s launched his own career as a solo artist, Trojano has looked to Foucault for advice.

“I’ve learned a lot from him over the years about writing songs and being a performer,” Trojano said. “Working as a solo musician is a very different job than being part of a band, and he’s one of the people I look to for guidance when I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing.”

Trojano was not sure if he would play songs from his upcoming album at the Stone Church show, but do expect to hear Foucault play many tunes from “Blood Brothers”.

And don’t be surprised if they play a couple of tunes together.

This is a rare show for Foucault, as he hardly plays north of Northampton and he rarely plays solo (he usually has at least drummer Billy Conway with him.) It will also be his only show in the area until he launches the northeast leg of the “Blood Brothers” tour in the fall.

He recently released the title track as the first single off the album, and it is a beautiful song about loss and longing that leaves you wanting to hear the entire album. “Blood Brothers,” along with a couple of other previously unreleased recordings, is available for preorder now at: www.jeffreyfoucault.com.

Foucault described “Blood Brothers” as “a more vulnerable record than I’ve ever made. Not more personal exactly, but more vulnerable in the sense that the songs frequently use very little metaphor, very little art, to hide or disguise the more unbearably poignant parts of life. My life — anyone’s life.”

Tickets are $20 to $25 and available at www.stonechurchvt.com or at the door. The Stone Church is located at 210 Main St. in Brattleboro.

Remembering Charles Neville

Charles Neville, the sax player for the world renowned Neville Brothers and a member of New Orleans music royalty, died last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was recognized around the world for his musical contributions, but to those of us here in the Pioneer Valley, he was more than just an amazing musician — he was a friend. Neville had called Huntington his home for the past 20 years, and during that time he became an integral part of the valley music scene.

I’m fortunate to have seen him perform many times and also had the pleasure of interviewing him on a couple of occasions. He was a kind, gentle soul who was a delight to talk to. I remember asking the Grammy winner a number of years ago why he ever left a city like New Orleans to live in Huntington, and his response was a simple one.

“Love,” he replied. “I met a great woman (his wife Kristin) in New Orleans and followed her up to Huntington. That was 12 years ago. This is home now.”

Neville was a familiar presence here in Franklin County. Over the years he played at many festivals and venues here. From his killer set with the Funky Meters at the Green River Festival last year, to his shows with pal Roger Salloom at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, to his annual stops at the Wendell Full Moon Coffeehouse, Neville delighted audiences everywhere he played.

The Ashfield Community Center, Mocha Maya’s, Starry Starry Night in Orange, the list goes on and on as to the local venues where Neville performed. One of the interviews I conducted with him was for a preview of a show in Wendell, and I recall how he said that it was one of his favorite places to play.

“I love that place, I always try to get out there,” he said of the Full Moon Coffeehouse. “The people are so nice and enthusiastic. They love to dance and they love music out there.”

In February, the Wendell Full Moon Coffee house held a show to honor Neville and raised money to help him and his family. This show coincided with a large all-star fundraising event held at the Academy of Music in Northampton that featured his brother, Aaron Neville, saxophone great Branford Marsalis, and a host of local musicians.

In recent years, Neville focused on performing with his children, especially his son, keyboardist Khalif Neville. Mocha’s Maya’s in Shelburne Falls was one of the spots where they frequently played.

His ever present smile, his warm nature, those bright tie-dyed shirts and all that magical music — there is so much about Charles Neville that we will miss. But we are thankful for all that he gave us and for choosing our little part of the world to call home. Yes, Charles will be missed, but never forgotten.

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 soundslocal@yahoo.com