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Sounds Local: 'Party Up in Heaven'

  • Wildcat O’Halloran

    Wildcat O’Halloran

  • <br/>Franklin County-based roots and rockabilly band Bright Lines will perform during this Sunday’s acoustic jam session at The Parlor Room in Northampton. <br/>Ben Barnhart photo

    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

  • Wildcat O’Halloran
  • <br/>Franklin County-based roots and rockabilly band Bright Lines will perform during this Sunday’s acoustic jam session at The Parlor Room in Northampton. <br/>Ben Barnhart photo

The question Wildcat O’Halloran of Sunderland poses on “Party Up in Heaven,” the blues rockin’ title track of his new CD, is this: “If there’s a party up in heaven, where the hell they gonna find a band?” What a perfect title track it is. “Party Up in Heaven” is full of Paul Provost’s boogie-woogie-style piano playing, the backing vocals of the Harp Girls and the kind of sizzling guitar work we have come to expect from The Wildcat O’Halloran Band.

This is O’Halloran’s 12th album and it was produced by Karen Traub of Shutesbury and recorded at SpiritHouse Studios in Northampton. On the 11 tracks here, O’Halloran is aided by his ace band — drummer Jopey Fitzpatrick, guitarist Devin Griffiths and bass player Loverboy McManamon. He also brings in a host of guest musicians — everyone from sax player Emily Duff to Provost. The material here ranges from bluesy slow burners (“Gypsy Deadend Track”) to raucous guitar-fueled tunes (“Rollercoaster”) that, like the majority of the material here, will be favorites on the dance floor.

While blues albums are often full of love-gone-wrong tunes, on a song like “Drownin’ (Flu Bug)” O’Halloran would prefer to direct his pain to a bout of the flu, growling out lines like “you got your health one day but not the next/ feels like you are drowning in a sea of Kleenex.” A trumpet solo provided by Nick Borges (Primate Fiasco) is a nice addition to the overall good-time, old-school-rock vibe of this song. O’Halloran also sets his aim at the music industry on “Livin’ By My Wits” (“the club owners are still paying the same they did in 1972”), a tune with a slight bossa nova flair that’s propelled by a pounding beat provided by Fitzpatrick.

For the most part, this is a high-energy disc packed with swirling keyboards, wailing harps and the twin guitar attack of O’Halloran and Griffiths. O’Halloran is comfortable writing humorous lyrics, like those heard on “Probably Dead,” and serving up plenty of the feisty guitar solos he’s known for.

But the centerpiece of this disc is the point where he steps out of this comfort zone and performs the kind of song we don’t expect from him. “Crossin’ Off” is a ballad that begins with a pretty melody played on an organ, followed by a sparse guitar and drum accompaniment. O’Halloran brings his singing down a few notches and gently croons out lines like “I’m crossing you off the list of the people who understand me/the problem is you were the only name on that list.”

“Crossin’ Off” is not only a touching love song, but it is the kind of song that will endure and that other artists will be clamoring to cover.

You can hear material off the album when The Wildcat O’Halloran Band holds a CD release party for “Party Up in Heaven” on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 4 p.m. The release party will be part of the weekly jam session that O’Halloran hosts at City Sports Grille, which is located at Spare Time Bowling, 525 Pleasant St., Northampton.

O’Halloran has been hosting these weekly jam session for the past couple of years and it has proven successful both for the musicians and listeners alike. The jams run from 4 to 8 p.m. and are free. Each week there is a special guest musician who performs before the jam part of the program begins. Previous guests have included Art Steele, Janet Ryan, Eve Cappelli and many others. For this CD release show the guests will be most of the musicians who played on the CD, including sax player Emily Duff and harp player Wally Greaney. As for the jam portion of the evening, that is open to all musicians. You just bring your guitar, drumsticks, whatever you play, then sign up and wait your turn to play with the musicians onstage.

The jams are a good time, in part, because you never know who will show up or what songs will be performed. The City Sports Grille also has a good-sized dance floor, which the crowd takes full advantage of.

The Wildcat O’Halloran Band will be also be at Deja Brew, 57A Locks Village Road, Wendell, on Saturday, March 1, at 9 p.m. This show is free. It will also be making a trip to Harrisburg, Penn., to appear at the Millennium Music Conference and Showcase on Feb. 21.

“Party Up in Heaven” can be purchased at these shows. For more information: www.wildcatohalloran.com

Bright Lines lead jam at the Parlor Room Sunday

And while we are on the subject of jams, the folks at the Parlor Room, 32 Masonic St., Northampton, have been running Sunday night “beat the winter blues” acoustic jam sessions, which they refer to as “Parlor Sessions.” As this long winter is fast coming to an end, so are these sessions. But, there are a still a few on the schedule.

This Sunday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m., the Franklin County-based roots and rockabilly band Bright Lines will lead the way. Bright Lines, fronted by banjo player and lead singer Abe Loomis, will perform a concert of its own material. Then, there will then be a break so attendees can enjoy hot soup and bread. After the break, the Parlor Room’s house band will come together to lead the jam. For this show, it will include Loomis, guitarist Dave Chalfant, fiddler Eric Lee, guitarist Scott Hoffman and drummer Sturgis Cunningham. They will lead a jam that will focus on the roots of rock ’n’ roll. But it’s a jam, so who knows where it will go! Everyone is welcome to listen or play. This is a BYOS — bring your own strings — event!

Admission is $10. Advance tickets can be purchased at www.parlorroommusic.com.

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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