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Sounds Local

Sounds Local: Randy Smith

Randy Smith believes that musicians are in a position to help those in need.

The Shelburne Falls native, who now lives in Charlotte, N.C., has proved that he lives by these words every time he comes back to his hometown to perform. In recent years, he has held fundraising concerts for renovations for Memorial Hall, the Doug Turner Scholarship fund and to aid victims of a Shelburne Falls house fire.

He will now return to the area with his band the Merry Men for a show on Friday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m,. at Mocha Maya’s, 47 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls. The coffeehouse and live music venue has faced hard financial times this winter and, earlier in the season, it announced it might have to close their doors. The venue has since received a tremendous amount of support from the community.

Smith will now do his part by donating partial proceeds from this show to Mocha Maya’s.

Smith is a Billboard and international award-winning musician. He started as the leader of the Vermont-based band 8084 and later moved to North Carolina, where he is now working as a singer-songwriter. He has performed throughout the United States and Canada and has shared the stage with Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, April Wine, Foghat and many others. Smith is currently working with the band the Merry Men, an acoustic group that includes his former 8084 band mates Gary Spaulding and Roy Brown and also violinist Kenny Butler from Conway. Long Island guitarist Rich Abel rounds out the group, which describes its music as a rock and Americana mix.

“I began the acoustic band as I have been focusing on becoming more of a singer-songwriter and found the coffee-house-type atmosphere the perfect match,” said Smith. “It really allows my songs to breathe, as well as allows a more organic interaction with the audience. We also have Conway resident Kenny Butler playing violin, which really adds a new dimension to the sound.”

This show at Mocha Maya’s is one of five New England dates that the band will perform this month. As for recording plans, Smith said that’s in the works.

“I do have plans to record in the future as I have been busy writing new material over the past few years. It would be under my own name, not the Merry Men,” Smith said. “However, I plan to use Kenny Butler and his violin skills on a few of the tracks. I have even considered, perhaps, doing a live recording at Mocha Maya’s in the future. Nothing like walking a tightrope.”

Smith’s commitment to making good music is rivaled only by his belief that all people have an obligation and duty to help others in need and that performers in particular are in the position to use the power of music to do this.

“We use the Merry Men as a vehicle to perform various benefits throughout our travels,” Smith said. “As I become older, I realize the importance and joy of giving to others. And I try not to mess with karma!”

www.randotunes.com

Tickets for this are $12 and available at Mocha Maya’s. Contemporary country artist Keeghan Nolan will open the show.

Western Massachusetts musicians hit the road for Austin, Texas

Next week marks the start of the South by Southwest music conference, which is held in Austin, Texas, each year. The conference is different from other music festivals because it emphasizes up-and-coming musicians who are there to showcase their music in the hopes of catching the attention of the many music insiders at the six-day event. This year, Danny Bernini and Paul McNamara from SpiritHouse Productions of Northampton decided that they would bring a touch of the Pioneer Valley to Austin.

“Our goal is to bring national attention to the valley music scene and to lend support to many of the young local artists who are primed, ready and working very hard to get noticed on the national level,” said Bernini.

“Right now, we have some special talent in the valley that comes around maybe once a decade, if that,” Bernini explained. “These artists are ready to be seen by the music industry’s movers and shakers who all attend the SXSW music festival each year to search out new talent.”

To accomplish this goal, they have rounded up some great local sponsors (everyone from Signature Sounds to Berkshire Brewing) and have rented a recreational vehicle and equipped it as a mobile recording studio. Local musicians Jamie Kent, LuxDeluxe, Sun Parade, Matt Hebert and Erin McKeown will be joining them at the conference.

The RV/mobile studio will travel the city and will broadcast live on WRSI 93.9 ‘The River’ in Northampton. DJ Bill Childs will be on hand to conduct interviews and host performances from these bands and WRSI will run a “Live from SXSW” broadcast three to five times a day. This way, those of us here at home will get a sense of what local musicians are up to as they connect with the music industry at this important national musical event.

In addition to the live broadcasts, Spirithouse has rented a bar in Austin for Thursday, March 14, and Friday, March 15, where our area’s bands will perform from 3 p.m. to midnight both nights. The showcases will culminate on a riverboat cruise down the Colorado River on Saturday, March 16, on which Shelburne Falls native Seth Glier will also perform.

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

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