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Emotional drama, lush sound

Singer-songwriter Rachel Sage performs at Mocha Maya’s Sunday

Columnist Sheryl Hunter

Columnist Sheryl Hunter

Strolling through picturesque downtown Shelburne Falls is the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Add some live music to the mix and a perfect afternoon just got better. The folks at Mocha Maya’s know that, like an afternoon movie matinee, an afternoon concert can be a delectable treat, so they routinely present Sunday afternoon shows. This weekend they will welcome pop singer-songwriter Rachel Sage on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 2 p.m.

In addition to being an accomplished singer-songwriter, the New York City-based Sage is also a poet, actor, visual artist and longtime president of her own label: MPress Records, which is also the label of Shelburne Falls resident Seth Glier.

Sage has been involved in music all of her life. By the age of 3 she had taught herself to play piano and later started writing songs as a way to cope with being bullied in school. In her teens, she won the ASCAP pop songwriting contest and, upon hearing her winning entry, producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T Rex) offered to produce a demo for her. She released her debut album “Morbid Romantic” in 1995. Sage has toured throughout the United States and Europe and shared the stage with musicians like Judy Collins, Sarah McLachlan and Shawn Colvin.

Sage is touring in support of her 10th album, “Haunted by You,” an album full of sweeping string arrangements and dramatic vocals. It is an album that combines the emotional drama of Adele with the grand, lushly produced sound of Rufus Wainwright. Sage had a host of guest musicians on the album, including Glier and his guitarist Ryan Hommel. She also wrote its 13 songs in the wake of a break-up, so it’s full of loss, loneliness and love. While these are not exactly new topics for songwriters, Sage is able to put a fresh, heartfelt spin on the subject.

“I fell recklessly in and out of love multiple times while writing this record,” Sage said about the project. “I broke a couple of hearts and I also had my heart broken pretty badly.”

Expect to hear a lot of material off this new album when Sage performs at Mocha Maya’s. Songs like the melodic “Invisible Light,” a song about finding love, and the acoustic-based ballad “Everything” should be excellent when played live.

While Sage is a gifted singer and pianist, she is first and foremost a wordsmith and “Haunted by You” is full of lines like “It’s a little ironic you wear tight jeans/Every time I think about it I’m jealous of the seams/Everything that you have chosen to reveal is like a dream.” Or she sums up a lack of love as “you are one mitten in Grand Central’s lost and found,” and describes her pains as “I’ve got a crystal rhinestone scratching up my heart.”

The nice thing about hearing a strong lyricist in a venue like Mocha Maya’s is that you will actually be able to hear the words. If you are a fan of musicians like Glier, Sara Bareilles and Regina Specktor, chances are good that you will like Sage. So don’t miss out this chance to see her in this small and comfortable room. As an added bonus, the show is free, but tips for the performers are always encouraged. Mocha Maya’s is located at 47 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls. For more information visit
www.mochamayas.com or call 413-625-6292.

Valley Rising Compilation II
CD release party Sunday

Also happening on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. is the CD release show of “Valley Rising Compilation II” at the Iron Horse Music Hall at 20 Center St. in Northampton. This disc, which is being released by the Collective Music Group, features 10 of what the compilers feel are the best rising independent musicians in the area.

The Collective Music Group is based in Northampton and was founded by musician Jamie Kent. Its goal is to help independent musicians find success. The idea behind the CD is to help boost the exposure of musicians that the collective believes have the potential to achieve national attention.

The first Valley Rising Compilation was released last year and featured artists like Heather Maloney, Darlingside, and The Sun Parade, among others.

This new compilation features an assortment of musical styles from the self-described junkyard folk of Wishbone Zoe to the ragged garage rock of the Walking Ghosts, to the country-influenced music of Billy Keane and also the hip-hop sounds of Vesuveo. In addition, Jamie Kent & the Options and John Brandoli have pop leanings, while Lux Deluxe and Doug Ratner & the Watchmen are rock bands. Matt Gibbs’ music has a roots quality while And the Kids plays its own brand of quirky indie rock.

It’s quite an eclectic mix that will make for a great show as all of the artists that appear on the album will perform at the Iron Horse show. In addition, every concert attendee will receive a download card with their ticket, giving them access to the full album.

“We are going 100 percent digital with this release in an effort to distribute download cards on a much bigger level then we were able to distribute CDs last year and get the tunes out to even more people,” Kent said.

If you can’t attend the show but still want to get your hands on a download of “The Valley Rising Compilation II,” they are available throughout the valley, including Replay Records, 229 Main St., in Greenfield and Mocha Maya’s,
47 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls.

A percentage of all proceeds from this show will benefit the Northampton Community Music Center.

Last year’s Valley Rising show was a sellout, so I recommend getting tickets in advance. They are $12.50 in advance and $15 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased at the Northampton Box Office, 76 Main St. in Northampton, online at www.iheg.com or charge by phone at 413-586-8686.

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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