Sounds Local: ‘Beauties’ among Heath Fair’s offerings
When we think about the Heath Fair, we think of farm animals, truck pulls and gymkhana, but what one doesn’t always associate with a small town agricultural fair is music. And when I say music, I mean the kind of high-quality musical acts that you would hear at venues like the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton or Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls.
Yet each year, the Heath Fair includes top-flight musical talent along with all the other fun stuff one would expect at a fair. The Heath Fair will take place this weekend (Aug. 16-18) and the musical lineup is a first-class one that includes the Appalachian folk music of Fireseed, the alt-country sound of the Lonesome Brothers, the swing/jazz of Small Change, the classic rock of the Brattlyn Brothers and the eclectic string band music of Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem.
Singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey and his band, the Crumbling Beauties will be the first musical act to appear when they take the fair’s stage on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Mulvey whose music ranges from Tin Pan Alley jazz to Americana is a well-established singer-songwriter who sings of life, love and even politics in a slightly gravely voice. He also is a great acoustic guitarist and musical risk-taker — his albums range from collections of offbeat covers, an album composed of letters written to his nieces and nephews and a disc recorded in the Boston subway.
Mulvey, a resident of Milwaukee, Wis., routinely tours the U.S. and Ireland and unlike most of the musicians who play this little fair, he is not a local musician. However, when we look beyond his mailing address, we see that he has very deep connections to our area.
“I lived in Somerville in the early 1990s, and then for a year in Cummington. I moved back to Wisconsin in 1996, but truthfully I’ve never lost my connection to Massachusetts,” said Mulvey. “David Goodrich, who produced many of my records, has lived there until just this summer. I write with Tim Gearan in Boston, and I play with all kinds of western Mass. and Boston-area musicians. Probably 10 out of every 150 gigs I’ve played over the past 17 years has been in Massachusetts.”
Mulvey, who launched his career in the early 1990s, has recorded seven albums for the Signature Sounds label of Northampton. He also is a member of the sideband Redbird which includes Franklin County-based musicians Kris Delmhorst, Jeffrey Foucault and David “Goody” Goodrich, who recently moved to Austin.
Then there is his band, the Crumbling Beauties, which consists of three western Mass.-based musicians: Jason Smith on drums, Paul Kochanski on bass (both of Fancy Trash) and Matt Lorenz (Rusty Belle) playing suitcase and other assorted “junk” and Barry Rothman from Boston on phonographs.
“The Beauties were formed as a project band, in David Goodrich’s “LP’s” series, where he picked a singer, assembled a band and the band played a given LP all the way through, live at a bar. He picked me as singer and assembled the band so that we could play ‘Rain Dogs’ by Tom Waits,” said Mulvey. “We enjoyed it so much that we kept assembling once or twice a year to play ‘Rain Dogs’ in a bar somewhere. (The group performed “Rain Dogs” at The Rendezvous in Turners Falls in 2010.) Then, I gathered the same band to play on ‘The Good Stuff.’”
“The Good Stuff” is Mulvey’s most recent album and was released last year It’s a collection of covers and standards but not exactly the kind of standards you would find on say a Rod Stewart “Great American Songbook” album. Mulvey and the Beauties dig a little deeper putting their own spin on songs like “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen, “Ruby, My Dear” by Thelonious Monk and “Old Fashioned Morphine,” by Jolie Holland.
Mulvey said he will definitely record again with the Crumbling Beauties but it will not be on his next album. He will begin work on that project in September in Los Angeles and will team up with singer/songwriter Chuck Prophet, formerly of the band Green on Red. For the time being, though, he is looking forward to playing at the Heath Fair and said listeners can “expect a bunch of my new tunes, and a bunch of my old tunes, and some of the covers on “The Good Stuff,” and some Waits tunes.”
The Heath Fair runs Friday, Aug 16, 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 17, 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m, and Sunday, Aug. 18, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7; Seniors $5, children aged 9 and younger, free. Parking is free. For details and schedule visit www.heathfair.org
Tool Town Live 2013 kicks off with Zoe Darrow and the Fiddleheads
The annual Tool Town Live concert series , now in its 10th year, will kick off on Saturday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. with a performance by Zoe Darrow and the Fiddleheads. The show will be held on the Uptown Common, which is near 1500 Main St. in uptown Athol and like all the shows in the series, it is free.
Darrow, who lives in Blandford, has been playing fiddle since she was 4 years old and joined with her dad Phillip on guitar and Tom Coburn on piano to form the Fiddleheads in 1999. You can count on this being a lively show that features Scottish, Irish and Cape Breton fiddle tunes.
Next up on Saturday, Aug. 24, it’s the classic rock and blues music of the Reprobate Blues Band, which will also be held on the common. Then on Aug. 31, the shows move to Fish Park, near 140 Union St in downtown Athol. Performing that night will be country band Haywire. Rounding up the series on Saturday, Sept. 7, will be folk-pop singer-songwriter Jonathan Edwards, who is best known 1972 hit song, “Sunshine.” Joining Edwards will be special guest singer/songwriter Ethan Stone.
If there is a chance of rain in the forecast, the concerts will be held in Memorial Hall at 584 Main St. in Athol. Refreshments will be sold. For more information about Tool Town Live, listen to WJDF online at www.wjdf.com or visit www.tooltownlive.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 firstname.lastname@example.org