Sounds Local: Old-time, metal on Greenfield’s weekend set list

  • Bassist David Ellefson of Megadeth is bringing his Basstory tour to Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Sunday. Contributed photo

  • Ron “Bumblefoot” Thai, formerly the lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses, will perform at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Sunday, accompanying Megadeth’s David Ellefson on his Basstory tour. Contributed photo

  • Multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins, who is best known for his work with the old-time string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, will play an acoustic show at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Saturday. Contributed photo

  • HUNTER

For the Recorder
Published: 11/14/2018 12:28:24 PM

Whether you’re interested in hearing old-time acoustic music or head-banging metal is more your thing, Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center has you covered this weekend.

The Greenfield venue is presenting two very different but equally exciting shows that will appeal to a wide range of music fans. On Saturday night at 7 p.m., it’s multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins, who is best known for his work with the old-time string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Then on Sunday, it’s time to shift gears when bassist David Ellefson of Megadeth brings his “Basstory” show to the venue at 5 p.m.

Jenkins is a New York City-based musician who plays banjo, guitar and bones, and has made his mark in the music world as an interpreter of traditional American music. While many think of old-time music as fiddle and banjo folk tunes, Jenkins takes a broader view of this music, playing blues, traditional jazz, early country, ragtime and even gospel.

Jenkins grew up in Brooklyn and was immersed in music at a young age, playing saxophone in school and later gravitating to other instruments. In his late teens, he became a huge Bob Dylan fan and through Dylan, he became interested in country blues. From there, his interest in old music, particularly banjo music, and its connection to African-American history deepened.

“The first time I heard ‘Devil Got my Woman Blues’ by Skip James, I was amazed at how powerful one person with a guitar could be. That track led to a deep interest in pre-war music of all kinds,” Jenkins wrote in an email exchange. “After learning that the banjo is an instrument created by black slaves, I felt a sense of empowerment that exists to this day.”

Jenkins took to playing this music in the streets and subways. He later graduated to playing clubs and coffeehouses. In 2010, his life changed when he was asked to join the Grammy award-winning string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

“I jumped at the chance to join an all-black string band,” said Jenkins, who connected with the band through a friend of their manager as well as a chance encounter with band member Dom Flemons. “We all shared the mission of educating people about the black influences on American music.”

He toured the world with the band, playing as many as 250 shows a year, which proved to be an invaluable learning experience. He even met his idol, Bob Dylan, when the Drops opened for him.

“Touring with CCD taught me a lot about how to travel, how to perform and inform, and from hours and hours of performing, I got some chops, too,” Jenkins said.

The members of the Carolina Chocolate Drops are all pursuing solo careers. Jenkins has continued to work closely with the lead singer of the group, Rhiannon Giddens. He’s played on both of her acclaimed solo albums and accompanied her on tour. Jenkins has also released his own self-titled album, so expect to hear some material from that project when this talented musician takes the stage Saturday.

“People can expect to hear some banjo bangin,’ guitar pickin,’ bones clackin’ and voice shrieking. There may be some book reading as well,” Jenkins said. “Most of all, I hope people will enjoy the music and walk away with a better understanding of the music and it role in our country today.”

Local musician Eli Catlin will open the show. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 day of show. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Megadeth’s David Ellefson to host night of riffs and repartee

It will be a night of heavy metal madness when bassist David Ellefson of Megadeth brings his Basstory tour to Hawks & Reed on Sunday. The bass player will be joined by guitar virtuoso Ron “Bumblefoot” Thai, who was the lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses and is currently working in the band Art of Anarchy with Scott Stapp of Creed.

Metal bands Disguise the Curse from Springfield and Dead by Wednesday from New Haven, Conn., will also be part of this one-of-a-kind evening that combines storytelling and music.

Ellefson formed Megadeth with lead singer Dave Mustaine in 1983, and during the band’s lengthy tenure, he has won a Grammy, amassed a nice collection of gold and platinum albums, and won over a loyal legion of fans.

Ellefson, who is often called “Junior” to differentiate from Mustaine, left the band in 2002, but rejoined in 2010. Megadeth celebrated its 35th anniversary this year and shows no signs of slowing down. Even with a full schedule of Megadeth activity, including a 2019 MegaCruise and opening for Ozzy Osbourne’s “No More Tours 2” next summer, a couple of months ago, Ellefson launched Basstory.

The bassist described the project as an intimate evening of riffs and repartee as he plays some of his famous riffs and also tells stories about his life in the rock world.

“These shows are sort of like a solo bass concert/spoken word/storyteller master class clinic,” said Ellefson, who took time out of his busy schedule to speak with me by phone on his birthday on Monday from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. “It’s a mash-up of all the things I’ve done, woven into a nice evening.”

The idea for the tour was sparked when he was on his book tour for his 2014 biography, “My Life with Deth: Discovering Meaning in a Life of Rock & Roll.” In his book, Ellefson discusses his struggles with addiction, his road to sobriety and his commitment to the Christian faith. (A follow-up “Life with Deth 2” will be released next year.)

“I love communicating. I go into colleges and schools and book tours. I find that it’s a personal experience,” said Ellefson, who also owns his own record label, EMP Label Group, and plays in various side bands. “I turned 54 today and this past weekend, I did a Q&A at the first Headbangers Con in Portland, and I realized that I can legitimately do storytelling because there’s so much that I’ve experienced.”

And getting the chance to share these experiences with his fans is really what Basstory is all about. As much as Ellefson loves playing the big arenas with Megadeth, he wanted this project to be something he could bring to small venues where he could really communicate with intimate audiences.

As for the format of the evening, Dead by Wednesday and Disguise the Curse will open the show, followed by a solo set by Bumblefoot. After theses acts perform, Ellefson will grab his bass and take to the stage.

“I go out there and kind of wing it. I never know what I’m going to talk about, then I do some licks and start to invite some guests on stage,” Ellefson said. “I’ll have a drummer come up and then add a guitarist. For this show, I’ll be joined by some of the guys from Disguise the Curse and Bumblefoot. By the end of the night, we’ve built a band and it turns into this rousing all-star moment.”

“I’ve even brought fans up on stage to sing and play guitar, and it turns into a very fan-interactive experience,” he added.

A big part of what makes Basstory special is that every night is different.

“With Basstory, the audience lets me know how they want the night to go,” Ellefson said. “My role as the host is to have each night be improvisational, and tailor it accordingly.”

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 day of show. Doors open at 4 p.m. Tickets for both shows can be purchased at hawksandreed.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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