Musical innovation

  • Twisted Pine Contributed Photo—

  • Son Lux Contributed photo/Djeneba Aduayom

  • Twisted Pine CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Jo Chattman

For the Recorder
Published: 11/6/2020 4:38:09 PM
Modified: 11/6/2020 4:37:50 PM

If you are a fan of bluegrass music, chances are that you are familiar with the band Twisted Pine. The quartet, which records for Signature Sounds Recordings of Northampton, has frequently performed throughout the Pioneer Valley. They have taken the stage at local venues like the Green River Festival, the Heath Fair, the Root Cellar and more. This summer was supposed to be a busy one for the band, with a full schedule of festival dates lined up, but of course, that didn’t happen.

What did happen is that Twisted Pine released an excellent album called “Right Now,” which is fun and funky and pushes the boundaries of traditional bluegrass music.

The album was released in August and, of course, the band couldn’t play a proper CD release show. Doing what they can under the current circumstances, Twisted Pine will host a virtual CD release show on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. via Signature Sounds Home Sessions concert series.

The band will all be together on one stage and will also welcome special guests Kevin Barry, Lyle Brewer, Jerry Douglas, Liv Greene, Sierra Hull, Jacob Jolliff and Dean Mahoney. The show features songs from the band’s release “Right Now” alongside documentary-style conversations about releasing an album in quarantine. 

Since the group’s last release, Twisted Pine has experienced some lineup changes. Guitarist Rachel Sumner left to pursue a solo career and was replaced by Anh Phung, on flute. Phung joins Kathleen Parks on lead vocals and fiddle, Dan Bui on mandolin and Chris Sartori playing bass.

When Twisted Pine first came together in Boston, the group was a traditional bluegrass band, which was evident on its 2017 self-titled debut album. But on Twisted Pine’s 2018 EP, “Dreams,” the group gave the string band treatment to songs like “Heart of Glass,” by Blondie and “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds,” by the Beatles, showing they weren’t about to be hemmed in by the confines of any specific genre.

And now, with the recent addition of flutist Phung, a musician with a varied background including schooling in classical and jazz, the once traditional bluegrass band has a non-traditional lineup and are taking its music in exciting new directions. The group is following in the footsteps of bands like the Punch Brothers and mixing funk, pop, and even Latin rhythms into its sound.

All four band members are gifted musicians and their musical interplay is a big part of the band’s success. Just listen to the way Bui’s mandolin and Sartori’s bass hold down the back on the song, “Papaya,” providing the perfect launching pad for a soaring solo by Phung. Her flute provides flourishes throughout this disc and makes it clear what a welcomed addition she is to the band. 

In addition to her talent as a fiddle player, Parks wrote and co-wrote the majority of the material on the album. One of her strongest tracks is a song called “Don’t Come Over Tonight,” where she’s pleading for some space with an overbearing partner. “Don't come over tonight/I would like to be alone/And I would like to hear my thoughts without you telling me/Just what I am thinking,” she sings in a sweet, breathy voice.

Elsewhere, the instrumental tune “Amadeus Party” has the kind of groove going that will get you moving. The band’s cover of the Father John Misty song “Well, You Can Do It Without Me” is downright funky. And the group hasn’t lost sight of its roots, going full-on hoedown on a cover of Tex Logan’s “Come Along Jody.”

If “Right Now” has slipped under your radar, then do check it out now right now.

You’ll find it’s the perfect record to inspire some serious dancing — even if it is dancing alone in your kitchen. And don’t miss the show, it will be the next best thing to actually being at a show.  A $20 donation is suggested. The show can be viewed at signaturesounds.com/homesessions 

Auditory After HoursSeries at MASS MoCA

While we currently are not able to experience live music the way we would like to, MASS MoCA in North Adams is doing all it can to make sure that art and music remain a part of our lives. The gallery was one of the first venues in Western Massachusetts to present a series of socially distanced concerts this past summer and now it’s launching a new musical endeavor called “Auditory After Hours.” This series allows guests to wander throughout the museum while listening to music on headphones. The music featured will be never before released tracks by a select group of participating musicians.

The series will launch Nov. 14 with new music by the trio Son Lux, a group that specializes in experimental music. Son Lux, which describes its music as a “sonic test kitchen,” started as a solo project for founder Ryan Lott and in 2014 expanded into a trio, adding Ian Chang and Rafiq Bhatia. Some of the band’s music has a haunting, eerie quality, making it the perfect soundtrack for wandering about the cavernous museum. Son Lux even had a song placed on Spotify’s Halloween playlist, so that gives you an idea of what the group’s music is all about. 

Listeners will get a chance to hear the group’s upcoming release “Tomorrows II” a month before it debuts. In addition to the Nov. 14 presentation, Son Lux’s music will be featured at the museum on Nov. 21 and 28 at 7, 7:30 and 8 p.m. 

Ticket holders will be asked to bring their own smartphones or other WiFi-enabled listening device and headphones in order to listen to the music. Upon arrival, ticket holders will be provided a link via email that will allow the music to begin streaming. Gallery admission is ongoing and guests can arrive anytime within 30 minutes of their scheduled reservation. Guests will be able to wander the galleries until 9 p.m. and listen until 9:15. 

Other musicians that will participate in this series include Clipping, Sylvan Esso and Kaki King. Others are yet to be announced. This sounds like a very unique musical experience. Admission is limited so do get your tickets in advance. 

Tickets are available at MASS MoCA’s website, massmoca.org. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413-662-2111, ext. 1 during box office hours.

WatermelonWednesdays Update 

If you were planning to check out Watermelon Wednesdays’ Maeve Gilchrist concert online last night, I’m afraid to report that you were disappointed. We can thank Mother Nature for her early blast of winter for causing the concert to be indefinitely postponed. The concert was scheduled to be held in the West Whately Chapel. But with the dramatic change in the weather, it was clear to concert organizer Paul Newlin and harpist Gilchrist that the unheated chapel was not suited for such an event.      

Newlin had thought of using the Whately Town Hall as an alternative, but that space currently does not have a coronavirus policy in place, so it is not suited for use. Once a policy is in place, Newlin said he would consider producing concerts in the venue. So, as it stands Watermelon Wednesdays 2020 is on hold. 

In the meantime, do check out the music series’ collection of videos from past shows at watermelonwednesdays.com/videos.

Correction: In last week’s Sounds Local article, Carrie Ferguson’s song, “It Was All Lies” and upcoming album “The Grumpytown Club” were not identified correctly.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and na tional magazines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com.


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