Sounds Local: Good music, good times
Franklin County-based roots and rockabilly band Bright Lines will perform during this Sunday’s acoustic jam session at The Parlor Room in Northampton.
Ben Barnhart photo
Looking for the recipe for a bona-fide good time? It’s simple! Gather together some talented musicians from western Massachusetts and seal the union with some fine whiskey. That was the basic idea behind The Whiskey Treaty, a musical event that was held at The Arts Block in Greenfield last September.
Susie Hanna, an event planner originally from Colrain who now lives in Brooklyn, was the driving force behind that show. Having grown up in the hill towns of Franklin County, she was aware of the many gifted musicians from this area and wanted to have a forum to showcase some of them.
Hanna assembled the musical lineup of Greg Smith and the Broken English, Tory Hanna and the Pondsiders, Bright Lines, Marlene Lavelle and Billy Keane. And being that these musicians have all sung about whiskey at one time or another and have a bit of a liking for drink, the event was christened the Whiskey Treaty.
The festival was a huge hit with area music fans and, as result, The Whiskey Treaty will return to the Arts Block, 289 Main St., Greenfield, on Black Friday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m.
Hanna figured that she couldn’t go wrong if she stuck with the same lineup that she had last year.
“They have stayed connected, collaborating this past year and playing together at venues in New York City and western Massachusetts,” Hanna said. “They have a great energy together and I think they are all going places, so I wanted to continue to bring out the western Mass. support.”
“Tory released an EP, ‘Pondside,’ and Greg Smith is releasing a brand-new, full-length album called ‘Ramblin’ Road,’” added Hanna. “Bright Lines has been making a huge wave in western Mass., playing at the Green River Fest and other venues in the area, and Billy Keane has moved into a solo career and is working with a Grammy Award-winning producer. And Marlene Lavelle has stayed pretty consistent locally, writing new music and playing the local scene.”
And each of these musicians brings their own special contribution to the mix.
For starters there is Lavelle, a Greenfield singer/songwriter who accompanies herself on ukulele and sings in a beautiful alto voice. Lavelle will perform on the second stage, which will be based downstairs in the Wheelhouse. Keane, who is from Pittsfield, will open the night with a solo show on the main stage that will feature his rootsie blend of blues and folk. Bright Lines, led by Abe Loomis on banjo, is guaranteed to have the crowd moving with a high-energy sound heavily influenced by both rockabilly and country. All of the band’s members live in Franklin County.
Then there is Greg Smith and the Broken English. Smith, a native of Buckland who now lives in Brooklyn, is in the process of releasing his new CD, so expect to hear plenty of these new songs at this show. Smith’s music is a country-rock blend and, like the other musicians performing in this lineup, Smith’s lyrics are informed by his experiences of living in the hill towns of western Massachusetts.
Tony Hanna (the husband of the event’s producer, Susie Hanna), will be closing the night out and expect him to draw heavily from his EP “Pondside,” a collection of songs that pays homage to Hanna’s western Massachusetts roots. Hanna grew up in Buckland and the title “Pondside” was taken from a childhood gathering spot of family and friends located on the dirt road where he grew up. Hanna’s lyrics often reference his childhood here as he sings in a soulful voice wrapped in a bluesy rock sound.
“These are undoubtedly my favorite musicians to collaborate with,” Tony Hanna said. “There’s incredible talent in western Mass. and just so many good people. These are my friends and The Whiskey Treaty feels like that annual gig that you get excited for all year round.”
People have plenty to get excited about what with five acts performing on two stages and in addition to all the music, there will be food available from the Smithsonian Chowder House, local beer and whiskey specials. Susie Hanna is also bringing in a fun photo booth this year and will have Whiskey Treaty merchandise for sale.
This year, things are pretty dialed in and we are just trying to make sure everyone can get in the door!” she said. “I love western Mass. and the people there. They are such good people and really know how to have a good time!”
Advance tickets are $13 available at www.theartsblock.com or can be purchased at the door for $15.
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