Sounds Local: Two all-female bands to play Pioneer Valley venues, one in celebration of debut CD

  • She Said will be performing an album release show at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Saturday. Contributed photo

  • The Boxcar Lilies annual show on Dec. 8 will feature a familiar face — former band member Katie Clarke, who hasn’t played with Stephanie Marshall and Jenny Goodspeed since leaving the band in 2015. Contributed photo

  • HUNTER

For the Recorder
Published: 11/28/2018 4:32:54 PM

“So don’t tell me what to do/Don’t tell me what to say/Don’t tell me what to wear/It’s time women had their way,” sings Margaret Fitzpatrick on “Women Rule the World,” a driving rock anthem celebrating female power that is one of 13 tracks off the self-titled debut CD from the all-female band, She Said.

And considering that 2018 has been a year when women have fought hard to have their voices heard, there couldn’t be a more relevant time for a strong all-female group of 50-somethings to release its music. She Said will celebrate the new CD with a show at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 7:30 p.m.

The Franklin County-based band features Tanya Bryant of Shelburne Falls on guitar and harmonica; Torie O’Dell of Haverhill on acoustic guitar; Margaret Fitzpatrick of Hawley on keyboards; Nina Rossi from Turners Falls on bass; and Gail Hegeman of Greenfield on drums.

The band formed a couple of years ago as the brainchild of Bryant, who grew up singing and playing music with her sister, Torie, on their mother’s horse farm in Leverett. Music was a big part of her life, and both she and Torie started writing songs when they were teenagers.

Bryant went on to play music with friends when she was in college, but looking back didn’t have the courage to play her songs in public. So for most of her adult life, music was on the back-burner. That all changed once she turned 50.

“As I got older, I realized that music was my first love,” Bryant said. “When I was younger, I didn’t have the sense of self and security to put myself out there, which is unfortunate. As you get older, you start caring less what people think, and you realize there is less time before you then there is behind you.”

“I wasn’t intimidated anymore,” she added. “I started writing stuff that was just coming to me, and a lot of the songs on the album are songs that I started writing when I was 50.”

Her sister, Torie O’Dell, was also doing some songwriting, as was Bryant’s wife Margaret Fitzpatrick, so they formed a band as a vehicle to share their songs with others. Bryant liked the idea of it being an all-female band, so they brought in Rossi and Hegeman to round out the group. From the start, She Said was a band with no designated lead singer or songwriter. They would all contribute material and, for the most part, sing their own songs.

She Said was now ready to rock. There was only one problem: Hegeman was the only member who had played in a band before, so the rest of the women had to learn how to perform in public.

The five women cautiously waded into the live music arena, playing at Underdogs Lounge in Shelburne Falls, which was conveniently owned by Fitzpatrick and Bryant. This led to gigs at other venues, and they soon found that their honest brand of rock music and spirit of fun that they brought to the stage clicked with audiences. After two years together, She Said has played at all types of venues and festivals in Franklin County.

“As a group of middle-aged women doing this for the first time, there is a certain level of self awareness, spiritual and political maturity, and for many of us, for the first time, confidence to finally put ourselves out there,” Bryant said.

And the members of She Said really put themselves out there on the album, which is a collection of 13 honest, uncompromising rock tunes that reflects the five women’s various influences. You will hear everything from gritty bar band rock (“Forehead”), to country (“Unguard”), to swampy blues (“Don’t You Give Up”). There are also traces of pop and even jazz in these catchy tunes that feature some nice harmonies.

The lyrics are written from the heart, with a song like Fitzpatrick’s “Piece of Peace” recounting an incident that occurred in Greenfield, when a young black boy was frightened when a neighbor hung a Confederate flag on his door. “Refugee,” written by O’Dell and Bryant, deals with a timely political subject, and Bryant’s “We’re All Dying,” discusses aging, a topic that isn’t often explored in rock music.

The album “She Said” actually opens with that track, an upbeat blast of rock ’n’ roll complete with a backing shimmering tambourine and a catchy sing-along chorus. “I’m dying, you’re dying — we’re all dying/On the way we’re trying to live everyday of our lives/I’m waiting, you’re waiting — we’re all waiting/For the pending end and our last rites.”

“That was one of the first songs I wrote,” Bryant said. “My brother had died and my father was in the process of dying, so you start looking at your own life. I often refer to this song as our middle-aged anthem. It describes our middle age, coming of age, dealing with becoming our parent’s caretakers while facing our own mortality. A big deal indeed.”

Aging comes up again in her song “Shiny Things,” that opens with the line “Life feels awfully special these days as I watch it quickly slipping away.”

“For me personally, it’s about aging,” Bryant said of her material. “There’s a whole lot of us baby boomers and this is where we are at now. I’d like to believe that our audience is our age group. I’d love to see younger people enjoy us, but I really think it’s more our age.”

As She Said moves forward as a band, its members hope to expand their audience and play shows in Hampshire and Hampden counties. A country album and establishing an all-women’s music festival are also among their long-term goals. She Said is proof that it’s never too late to chase your dreams and have a whole lot of fun while you’re doing it.

Tickets are $10 in advance and can be purchased at hawksandreed.com, or $15 day of show. Doors open at 7 p.m.

The Boxcar Lilies reunite for Iron Horse show

Since we are on the subject of all-female bands, Franklin County’s favorite folk-country band, The Boxcar Lilies, will hold its annual show at the Iron Horse Music Hall, 20 Center St. in Northampton, on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m.

The Lilies (Stephanie Marshall and Jenny Goodspeed), will be backed by Dave Chalfant on bass, J.J. O’Connell on drums and Jim Henry on guitar, dobro and mandolin. But the biggest news about this always special show is that for one night only, Goodspeed and Marshall will be joined by former Boxcar Lilies member Katie Clarke.

Goodspeed and Marshall formed the band with Clarke back in 2009. The group was known for it’s striking harmonies, but after a successful run that included two albums and tours throughout the Northeast, Clarke made the decision to leave the Lilies in 2015 so she could devote more time to her work as a therapist.

In subsequent years, Clarke has continued to play locally with Larry LaBlanc while Susan Cattaneo joined The Boxcar Lilies. (Cattaneo left earlier this year to focus on her solo career.) Marshall and Goodspeed have continued as a duo and are frequently joined by Jim Henry when they perform.

This reunion concert will take place almost three years to the day from Goodspeed, Marshall and Clarke’s last gig as the original Boxcar Lilies.

“It’s been really exciting digging some stuff out of the vaults that hasn’t seen the stage in ages,” Clarke said.

“We weren’t sure what to expect getting together to rehearse again, but the spine-tingling harmonies are still there,” Goodspeed added.

This is a not-to-be-missed show for fans of The Boxcar Lilies, so get your tickets now. Advance tickets are $15, and are available at iheg.com or by phone at 413-586-8686. Tickets are $18 at the door. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

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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