Sounds Local: The sounds of summer: A roundup of new releases and shows to celebrate them

By SHERYL HUNTER

For the Recorder

Published: 07-19-2023 3:12 PM

We are halfway through summer, and although we have coped with more than our share of heat and rain, we have enjoyed plenty of great music.

During these warm weather months, some of our local musicians have released excellent new music, and since you might have missed some of these new recordings, we’ll look at a couple of them now.

Many of you know Dennis Crommett from his work with the bands Spanish For Hitchhiking and Winterpills, but he also has enjoyed a long solo career. Earlier this summer, he released “Get Gone,” a collection of 10 songs with an easy, relaxed quality; the perfect soundtrack for a lazy summer day.

The disc opens with “Three Cheers for the Weekend,” a melodic tune with the kind of chorus that begs for repeated listening. You’ll find yourself singing along to lines like “Three cheers for the weekend, it’s about time/It feels like years, since on Friday we could unwind/And it’s time to feel that free.” The track nicely sets the tone for this enjoyable collection of songs showcasing Crommett’s songwriting skills.

He gets help from top-notch valley musicians, including Ray Mason on bass, Jason Smith on drums, Jeff Hobbs on keyboards and Dave Chalfant on electric guitar. Chalfant also serves as the album’s producer, taking a no-frills approach, which was also Crommett’s goal. Whether he’s begging for some quiet on “Baby, I Need Calm,” or reflecting on a lost love on “Hard Candy,” the emphasis here is on the emotions in the vocals.

The talented group of musicians featured on the album provide these songs with the sonic touches that they need, be it the jangly guitar that runs through the title track or the overall indie vibe on “Tigers.” While these songs have a rock edge, others like “Silver and Gold” are quieter and lean more toward folk.

“Easy to Run,” about a relationship gone wrong, has a melody that goes down like lemonade on a hot day. Crommett asks, “Was it easy to run from me?/Did the breeze make you feel free/Like a blank from a stunt gun, was it easy to run?”

Crommett said that he wanted to make an album that fulfilled his specific vision and in pursing that goal, he dived into a variety of styles including rock, folk and even some Latin-leaning sounds. He’s also crafted an impressive batch of songs that are some of the finest of his career.

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Do seek this one out.

Dennis Crommett and his band will perform at the Marigold Theater in Easthampton on Saturday, July 22, at 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit DennisCrommett.com.

‘Is There Wiggle Room?’

Local legend Ray Mason recently released his 14th album, “Is There Wiggle Room?” This album is a Mason solo project that finds him joined by drummer Jason Smith, keyboard player Kim Maiuri, and multi-instrumentalist Tom Mahnken (who also produced the disc at his studio in Ashfield).

With his trusty Silvertone guitar in hand, and his pop sensibility and sense of humor firmly intact, the 11 tracks here are classic Mason. The singer-songwriter, who has been making music since 1966, is known for writing whimsical tunes, and he continues that legacy on this disc. Taking stock of the simple things in the world around him, Mason writes about hair wash day, strolling through the supermarket, and hanging out at home wearing “relaxin’” pants.

Smith’s straight-ahead drumming adds some musical heaviness to “Sleepyheads,” a song about living with people who want to stay in bed all day. “Day Trip to Heaven” is a bouncy pop tune. “It’s Hair Wash Day Hooray” is a stripped-down number with Mason softly singing against guitar, “Hooray, Hooray it’s hair wash day/seems like it happens every three days/ taking the place of the latest dance craze.”

Mahnken’s pedal steel work on the title track gives the song a country feel.

The sidemen add some nice touches, but this album is really about Mason and his Silvertone. Mason’s ability to craft a great hook, interesting chord changes and memorable lines is what has endeared him to so many over the years. Let’s face it; nobody can write pop songs like these.

We are so lucky that after all these years, Mason is still out there releasing music that brings us a smile.

Mason performs frequently, and you can view his touring schedule at raymason.com. His next visit to Franklin County is at the Whately Library on Tuesday, Aug. 15. “Is There Wiggle Room?” is available on Bandcamp or at Turn it Up! in Northampton.

New releases on the horizon

Frost Heaves and HaLeS will release a four-song EP called “You Double-Crossed My Mind” on Sept. 8, and will celebrate with a show at CitySpace in Easthampton. You can hear the band tonight at the Coop Concerts at the Energy Park in Greenfield at 6 p.m.

Sandy Bailey will soon release her album, “Daughter of Abraham,” on Red Parlor Records. Last week she released the powerful title track, inspired by enslaved African-Americans who made the trek to freedom on the underground railroad. You can preorder the disc at sandybaileymusic.com.

The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow will release “Late Night, Laid Back and Live (From the Egremont Barn)” this weekend when they play the Mountain Day Festival in Pittsfield on Saturday, July 22. They’ll next be performing in Franklin County at Berkshire East on Aug. 12.

Young musician Louis Phipps is in the studio working on a follow-up to his 2021 debut, “Louis Phipps & Friends: We Are Together.” Phipps is an 11-year-old songwriter whose talent surpasses his age. For this album, he is teaming up with some of the musicians that he worked with on his first album, including Sierra Hull, J.J. O’Connell, Jim Armenti and more. I’ve heard a sneak peak of some of the new songs, and all I can say is you are in for a treat. Phipps was scheduled to open for Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem this month at the Blackbirch Vineyard in Hatfield, but that show was postponed due to weather and will now be held on Wednesday, Aug. 16. Tickets are available at signaturesoundspresents.com.

Brother Sal to open for Dustbowl Revival at the Shea Theater

Brother Sal Blues Band will be opening for Dustbowl Revival at the Shea Theater Arts Center in Turners Falls on Saturday, July 22, at 8 p.m. The band plays Chicago-style blues and they are the perfect choice to warm up the crowd for the Dustbowl Revival show.

The California-based Dustbowl Revival call themselves an eight-piece “roots orchestra,” which is an accurate way to describe their genre-blurring sound. Dustbowl Revival has always been about pushing the boundaries of what American roots music can be. This group of string and brass players plays a wild mix of styles. The band has frequently played throughout the Valley over the years, and this time they are coming back with some new members, having endured a lineup-shakeup during COVID.

Paste Magazine describes their live shows as having “playful improvisation, a contagious sense of humor, stomping dance rhythms and heart-on-the-sleeve ballads.”

This promises to be a fun energetic show and do get there early to check out Brother Sal.

Tickets are $22 in advance and $28 the day of the show. For tickets and more information, visit sheatheater.org.

Sheryl Hunter is a freelance writer who resides in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national publications. She can be reached at Soundslocal@yahoo.com.

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