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Sounds Local: Hilltowns alive with the sound of music

  • Upstate Rubdown, a septet from New York’s Hudson Valley, will take the Heath Fair stage Friday at 7:30 p.m. Contributed photo

  • HUNTER



For the Recorder
Thursday, August 16, 2018

A small agricultural fair located so far out in the country that you’re lucky if you can get cell service seems like an unlikely place to hear some great live music, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Heath Fair this weekend.

As with past years, the 2018 fair will bring in a diverse lineup of first-rate musical talent to complement the more typical fair offerings like fried dough and farm animals. Music plays a part at almost every fair, but what’s different about the Heath Fair is that it’s more like a mini music festival that just happens to be held within an old fashioned country fair.

Friday through Sunday, the fair will host a diverse group of musicians who are all making their first visit. The lineup includes The Green Sisters, The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, Li’l BeeDee & the Doo-Rites, Uncles of the Pioneers, Ageless Waves of Rhythm, the Shelburne Falls Military Band and Banish Misfortune.

These are all local bands. However, the act that will kick the weekend of music off is not from the area. Upstate Rubdown, who will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, is a septet from New York’s Hudson Valley.

The band, known for its Americana sound and high-energy live shows, has played the area before, including at the 2016 Green River Festival. It was at the Green River Festival where the musicians first caught the ear of Carol Sartz, who books music for the Heath Fair.

Upstate Rubdown has been together for six years and has toured across the country. According to the band’s upright bassist Harry D’Agostino, the group often travels to cities and towns with established music scenes, but has found that playing smaller towns can be even more rewarding.

“Cities and ‘scenes’ often bring an audience that’s already inundated with a lot of live music. The really wonderful thing about playing small towns and country events is the opportunity to play for an audience that’s really grateful for your presence as a live band,” he said. “It’s often a lot of people who don’t make going out to concerts a part of their weekly routine, and it makes the work we do as musicians feel more meaningful.”

Wherever it performs, Upstate Rubdown wins over crowds with a sound that draws from all corners of American music, which means you never know what you’ll hear in one of its shows. The group utilizes the interesting instrumentation of bass, saxophone, mandolin and cajon, which is supplemented by the addition of three female lead vocalists harmonizing together. It’s a combination that makes for a true one-of-a-kind sound.

“We’re a band that plays a broad range of music that’s hard to fit neatly into any ‘genre.’ We’re influenced by music from all around the United States and from many decades of its evolution,” D’Agostino said. “We’re also seven very different individuals, and all of our influences find their way into the music we end up making.

D’Agostino added that listeners who are new to the band will find some of the songs appeal to what they are used to, while others will be more challenging.

“They’ll hear some country, blues, jazz, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and a touch of New Orleans, Chicago, Appalachia, Nashville and New York. They’ll also see a real show, with a group of musicians who always make sure to have fun on stage.”

Upstate Rubdown will not be the only band providing a solid sense of fun on stage. The music will begin early on Saturday when Uncles of the Pioneers — the trio of Dennis Avery, John Clark and Chris Romano — takes the stage at 11 a.m., followed by The Green Sisters at 1 p.m., who will delight the crowd with original material and irresistible harmonies.

Then it’s time to break out your dancing shoes when Li’l BeeDee & the Doo-Rites, the rockabilly/R&B band led by Betsy-Dawn Williams and Jeff Potter, kicks things into high gear at 4 p.m. The evening concludes with The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow a collective of singer-songwriters who hail from the hilltowns of Franklin County and the Berkshires. They play a mix of rock, Americana and roots-folk.

Sunday’s music will take a different turn as the day begins with a 10:30 a.m. show from the Shelburne Fall Military Band, followed by Ageless Waves of Rhythm, a drumming group from the Shelburne Falls Senior Center, at 11:30 a.m. The weekend concludes with Irish music provided by Banish Misfortune at 1:30 p.m.

Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 65 and over, and free for children ages 9 and under. For more information, including directions visit: www.heathfair.org.

Charlemont Reggae Fest returns Saturday

The Heath Fair is not the only major music happening in the hills this weekend. It is time once again for the Charlemont Reggae Festival which will be held Saturday, at the Charlemont Fairgrounds.

This day-long event is one of the oldest and best reggae festivals in New England, and it always showcases the many fine reggae acts in our area. This year’s festival features performances by The Alchemystics, Woody & Rebel Alliance, Denroy Morgan, Root Shock, Berklee Bob Marley Ensemble, Rhythm Inc, The Addis Revolution, I Anbassa & The Word Sound Power Movement, Dave Noonan’s Green Island and Total Collision.

This year, organizers have added a second stage which will showcase artists performing either solo or as a duo.

“We get so many requests from musicians every year that we wanted to find a way to expand our ability to showcase them,” said Zach Bond, one of the festival organizers.

The festival found a sponsor, Elision Sound Studios, a recording studio out of Woodstock, Conn., that was willing to fund an additional stage, to be called the Showcase Stage.

Appearing on the Showcase Stage will be Gokhbi System Acoustic, David Boatwright, Ethiopian Dread Abyssinian Spiritual Reggae Band and Mystic I.

The Charlemont Reggae Festival is a family-friendly, rain-or-shine event with children ages 12 and under admitted for free. You are welcome to bring your own food, but there are plenty of vendors present. Parking is free.

Admission is $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Gates open at 11 a.m.

Advance tickets can be purchased at World Eye Bookshop at 134 Main St. in Greenfield; The Enthusiast, 10 Miles St. in Greenfield; Boswell’s Books, 10 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls; Avery’s Store, 127 Main St. in Charlemont; and other outlets. For more information visit: www.charlemontreggaefest.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.