Sounds Local: New recordings to delight the ears

  • Erin McKeown has released a new single called “Litany for a Minor Character.” Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 7/21/2021 6:53:08 PM

So far, 2021 has been a strong year for recorded music and more is coming our way. As we know, many musicians spent their time in lockdown writing and recording new music and now we are enjoying the fruits of their labor. Read on to learn about some new singles that are destined to delight your ears.

One of these is “Litany for a Minor Character” by Erin McKeown. This song, which was released last week, is from her upcoming album that will be out in September. We haven’t had a full-length release from McKeown since 2013’s “Manifestra,” but it’s not like she has been slacking. The singer-songwriter from Northampton has most notably written the music for the off-Broadway production “Miss You Like Hell,” a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes. She also released a couple of EPs, did a variety of online concerts during the pandemic and taught at Brown University, her alma mater.

“Litany for a Minor Character” isn’t a song in the conventional sense — it is more of a spoken-word piece with accompanying music. The song was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos who has produced many artists including The Suitcase Junket. It starts with a basic drum beat, then the guitar joins in while McKeown proceeds to speak the lyrics over the music. With a voice full of emotion, she delivers lines like, “For the pair of us, walking, arms twist tight/Seaside nights in that gay town square/For you who broke my heart before I was aware/I swear/But there you were so rare/With your blue eyes and blonde hair/Lord hear our prayer.”

After a few verses that all end with “Lord hear our prayer,” there’s a break and then the music takes off, all wild and loose with McKeown serving up some wailing guitar. The song continues in that pattern with the band, growing in intensity. The words here are fierce and powerful and the music matches perfectly. We’ve always known McKeown is a great guitar player, but she hasn’t rocked out like this before. This song is raw and rockin’ and we can’t wait to hear more from her forthcoming album.

McKeown will launch a tour in the fall and will make a stop at the Shea Theater Art Center in Turners Falls on Oct. 8.

Seth Glier has a new album, “The Coronation,” coming out on Aug. 20. It will be his sixth release for MPress Records. The Shelburne Falls native has been busy during the pandemic, broadcasting shows from his home in Holyoke and playing pop-up concerts.

The album’s title track, which was written during the pandemic, was just released as the first single off the album. Working with his longtime collaborator Ryan Hommel, who served as co-producer, “The Coronation” is a song of hope and the rebirth of society.

“For most of my adult life, I’ve held the belief that humanity is right around the corner from something transformative. If we could only see that our separateness is an illusion, then a future of global cooperation and interdependence would be undeniable,” Glier said about the song. “As the coronavirus locked down the world, I felt this long-held belief inside of me becoming a reality right before my eyes.”

The song has an uplifting melody as he sings, “When this storm is all over/And there’s no risk of exposure/Will we still stand where we stood/Will it be back to business as usual/Or can we build a world more beautiful/Than we ever thought we could.” The song has a great arrangement with interesting creative rhythms and textures. Hommel and Glier made use of instruments from all over the world, including a dan bau (a Vietnamese zither) and viola da gamba (a gut stringed member of the violin family). Griffin Goldsmith of Dawed did all the drum programming and added percussion. Cynthia Tolson (Demi Lovato) played all the violins.

If you are a fan of progressive bluegrass, then you are likely a fan of Mamma’s Marmalade, the band from Northampton that has been delighting fans of the genre since forming in 2016. The band will release its third album, “Rabbit Analog,” on Aug. 21. Mamma’s Marmalade has a new single out called “Louisiana” that is about traveling — something the band has done a lot of — and about the pull between the desire to see the world and the desire to stay put and enjoy the comforts of home. The band members started writing the song when they were on tour in New Orleans.

This song features Mitch Bordage on mandolin and lead vocals, Lily Sexton on fiddle, Sean Davis on guitar and Dan Bisson on bass. Sexton usually handles the lead vocals, but this time she chimes in on harmonies, also adding some nice fiddle work to this lovely tune.

Despite its instrumentation, “Louisiana” isn’t a bluegrass tune. Rather, it has more of an Americana vibe and showcases the band’s ability to comfortably work in various genres. It is a lovely song with a dreamy, relaxing quality. Mamma’s Marmalade will have a CD release party on Saturday, Aug. 21, at the Arcadia Wildlife Center in Easthampton.

The band will also be part of the lineup for Signature Sounds’ Back Porch Bluegrass Festival that will take place at the Pines Theater at Look Park in Florence on Sunday, Aug. 15. Since Signature Sounds was unable to hold a Back Porch Festival — its annual weekend celebration of the finest in roots music that normally takes place in February — organizers decided to hold a one-day event instead. The Del McCoury Band, Sierra Hull and Justin Moses, Tony Trischka with Michael Daves and Bruce Molsky will be performing, among others. Tickets are available at signaturesoundspresents.com.

As we mentioned, the Watermelon Wednesdays acoustic music series held at the West Whately Chapel will reopen on Aug. 4. Tickets for the series are selling briskly and that first show with Karrin Allyson is sold out. So if there is a show you are interested in, I wouldn’t hesitate on purchasing tickets. They are available at watermelonwednesdays.com.

Other big news is that WRSI 93.9 The River is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a big bang of a show on Saturday, Aug. 1, at Unity Park in Turners Falls. The lineup will feature Rubblebucket, local favorites And The Kids and Winterpills. The music begins at 2:30 p.m and it is free. This is going to be spectacular and we’ll have more information about the show next week.

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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