Sounds Local: The Heath Fair's musical soul
The Heath Fair will stage musical performances all weekend — Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 15-17 — beginning Friday night with Parsonsfield.
The Boxcar Lilies, known for their Americana music and heavenly harmonies, perform Sunday, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m. at the Arts Block, 289 Main St., Greenfield.
When you think about country fairs, music is probably not the first thing that comes to your mind; unless, of course, you are thinking about the Heath Fair!
This small agricultural fair, which kicks off tomorrow, offers an impressive musical lineup that consists of mostly local musicians. The music takes place amidst tractor pulls and sheep shows and is a big part of the fair.
Musical performances take place all weekend (Aug. 15-17) beginning Friday night at 7:30 p.m. when Parsonsfield takes the stage. The band, which was formerly called Poor Old Shine, is based in Connecticut and records for Signature Sounds of Northampton.
Parsonsfield is a roots-Americana band that plays foot-stomping traditional music with a contemporary zeal. With influences that range from Pete Seeger to The Avett Brothers, the band members use their voices and a full array of instruments (including a musical saw) to create their upbeat sound. Anyone who caught the band’s breakout performance at this year’s Green River Festival knows that this is a group that likes to have a good time. Parsonsfield will release a new EP next Tuesday titled “Afterparty.” This disc features one original tune alongside six covers, including a rather unique spin on the old Huey Lewis and the News song “Power of Love.”
Parsonsfield will launch a U.S. tour in support of the new EP, which will include a CD release show at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls on Friday, Sept. 26. This band is headed for bigger venues, so the Heath Fair may be one of your final chances to experience it in an intimate setting.
On Saturday, the music will begin early in the day with a Pete Seeger tribute featuring Karen Brooks and special guests taking place at 11 a.m. This show will be followed by a 1 p.m. performance by the Boxcar Lilies, the trio of Stephanie Marshall, Jenny Goodspeed and Katie Clarke, who play a country-folk and bluegrass blend. The Lilies have been doing some touring this summer, including performing at the famed Falcon Ridge Folk Festival earlier this month. They have also recently signed with Charterhouse Music Group and the Granata Agency for artist management and booking.
Later in the day on Saturday, festival favorites Bright Lines will bring its roots and rockabilly music to Heath for a 4 p.m. show. Band leader Abe Loomis, a native of Shelburne Falls, often writes of his own experience of living in the hill towns of western Massachusetts, making his music the perfect soundtrack for an event like the Heath Fair. Beyond the lyrics, Bright Lines is a great band to dance to, so come prepared. The night will end with a performance from long-standing local favorites Small Change, which takes the stage at 7 p.m. This foursome likes to mix it up, so you can expect to hear some swing, jazz, country, blues and even genres that it describes as impossible to categorize.
As the fair concludes on Sunday, Aug. 17, there will be a performance by the Generation Gap Barbershop Quartet at noon followed by the Gaslight Tinkers at 1:30 p.m. If you haven’t had a chance to see the Gaslight Tinkers this summer, then be sure and head to Heath Fair, because this is a must-see live band. The group merges reggae and Afro-pop rhythms as it puts its own contemporary spin on old traditional New England, Celtic and old-time fiddle tunes to create music that was made for dancing.
All the music at the Heath Fair is held under a tent and is included with fair admission, which is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors; children 9 and under are free. For directions and more information visit: www.heathfair.org
In-the-round show at Montague Bookmill
A special in-the-round performance will be held at the Montague Bookmill, 440 Greenfield Road, Montague, on Friday, Aug. 15, at 8 p.m. This show will feature singer-songwriters Katie Sachs and Chris Scanlon and the band Span of Sunshine. Sachs is a Greenfield native who now lives in Austin, Texas. She visited the area this past spring to successfully launch a Kickstarter funding campaign for her upcoming album “The Giantness of Little Things.” Sachs makes a return visit to the Pioneer Valley this month for a series of local shows of which this one is the first. She said that this is the first time these musicians have sung an in-the-round show together. They will each perform two songs during each rotation.
Scanlon is an established singer-songwriter who resides in Northampton but whose lyrics often reflect on his time growing up in New Jersey. He is known for his strong melodies and for the pop edge he brings to his folk-influenced sound. The four members of Span of Sunshine live throughout western Massachusetts and the band utilize layers of harmonies and complex arrangements to create a one-of-a-kind pop sound reminiscent of bands like XTC, a new-wave rock band. Seeing this diverse group of songwriters in the relaxed intimate setting of the Montague Bookmill should make for a unique night of music.
Sachs’ visit to the area will also include shows at Luthier’s Co-op at 108 Cottage St. in Easthampton on Thursday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m. and The Rendezvous, 78 3rd St. in Turners Falls on Saturday, Aug. 30, at 9:30 p.m.
Remember, the Montague Bookmill is a very small room so do come early for a good seat. Admission is on a $5 to $8 sliding scale and the show is for all ages. For more information, call 413-367-9206 or visit www.montaguebookmill.com
Tool Town Live kicks off!
You know it’s getting toward the end of summer when the Tool Town Live concert series in Athol begins. The series, now in its 11th year, kicks off Saturday, Aug. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Uptown Common near 1500 Main St., Athol. This first show will feature a solo acoustic performance by singer-songwriter Ray Hendricks.
Hendricks, a native of Athol, originally worked with the band the Ray Hendricks Revival but currently lives in Boston and fronts a new group called Butterworth & Co. Hendricks brings to this rare solo appearance a versatile, expressive voice along with a varied background in soul, funk and rock. The next show in the series will feature blues musician Mike Patterson and the Gurus of Blues and will also be held at Uptown Common.
For the show on Saturday, Aug. 30, the series moves to Fish Park, which is located Near 140 Union St. (off Main Street). This show will feature the blues/rock band The Reprobates, a Tool Town favorite. The series wraps up on Sept. 6 with barbecue rockers Trailer Park. This final show is also at Fish Park.
All shows are all ages, free and from 7 to 9 p.m. If there is rain in the forecast, the concert will be held in Memorial Hall at 584 Main St., Athol.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org