Zachariah Hickman’s Songs & Strings
Due to popular demand, Zachariah Hickman is adding a new chapter of Songs and Strings: two nights of intimate performances featuring some of the Northeast’s favorite songwriters, accompanied by newly arranged string quintets. Each night is completely different – and most arrangements will be debuted for the very first time. The string ensemble (two violins, viola, cello, double bass) will include members of the faux-classical ensemble ROSIN. This performance is assisted in part by a grant from the 2019 Iguana Fund.
March 25: featuring Carsie Blanton, Mark Erelli, Taylor Ashton, Rose Polenzani, & Annie Lynch
March 26: featuring Tim Gearan, Alisa Amador, Jesse Dee, Maya de Vitry, and Peter Mulvey
Zachariah Hickman is known as a bassist, producer and bandleader for such artists as Josh Ritter, Ray LaMontagne, Barnstar!, and many local luminaries. He once spoke to Tom Waits in an elevator, and used to wear a beret non-ironically. This is not his first time performing at Club Passim.
Buck Up, the new studio album from singer and songwriter Carsie Blanton, due out February 15 2019, opens with a siren.
The warning – or call to (dis)arms – segues into the first notes of “Twister.” Finger snaps alone accompany Blanton’s smoky vocals, before piano, upright bass, cello, trumpet, and drums join the proceedings. You’re immediately drawn in to her riveting tale of natural – and erotic – disaster. Brimming with catchy hooks, sensual vocals, and lyrics boasting a gift for rhyme and meter, Buck Up is Blanton’s melodic mandate for survival following the 2016 presidential election: passion, lust, and humor. “There are two themes on this record,” says Blanton of Buck Up’s ten electrifying tracks. “One is the feeling of catastrophe happening in American politics, and the other is this feeling of personal catastrophe”: when you fall for “That Boy,” for example, a reckless wild child, the type who populate her life and imagination. Though Buck Up may be “basically about being depressed,” according to Blanton, “if there’s not a sense of humor or playfulness, I don’t want to listen to it. Music is about play.”
Over the past dozen years, Blanton has been making music that personifies play. Her work has been called “impeccably catchy” by critic Robert Christgau, with musician John Oates admiring her songs’ “sly wit and urbane imagery” that remind him of Cole Porter. She’s toured across America and Europe sharing stages with Madeleine Peyroux, The Weepies and others. Though based in New Orleans since 2012, the self-described “proud socialist” has been on the road since her teens.
“All the things that brought me comfort, they just seem tired and worn, what always used to work ain’t working anymore,” sings award-winning, Massachusetts-based singer/songwriter Mark Erelli, a few songs in to his forthcoming release Blindsided.
Mining the same gritty yet soulful territory as John Hiatt’s Bring The Family or Bonnie Raitt’s Nick Of Time, Erelli contemplates the delicate tension between love and commitment, faith and family, disillusionment and hope. But this isn’t a confession from the therapist’s couch, it’s rock ’n roll, and Erelli is clearly taking his cues from heroes like Petty and Prine.
Erelli has forged a colorful career by making the art of “being everywhere all the time” seem effortless. It’s hard to think of another artist who seems equally at home serving as a sideman for GRAMMY-winning artists like Paula Cole, Marc Cohn, and Josh Ritter, or producing albums for Lori McKenna, as he does writing and producing his own material, like last year’s “By Degrees,” on which he was joined by a host of voices including Rosanne Cash and Sheryl Crow. That song was nominated for “Song Of The Year” at the 2019 Americana Music Awards, and served to reintroduce Erelli to a wider audience. And just in time, because Blindsided combines the exuberance of Erelli’s signature sound with the wisdom that comes with over 20 years of songwriting, capturing an artist at a point in his career where he is clearly digging deep and swinging for the fences.
Born in the last year of the 1980s, Taylor Ashton grew up surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the old growth rainforests of Canada’s west coast. His songs are inspired by the primeval crookedness of traditional old-time music, the humor and heartbreak of Randy Newman, the cosmic emotionality of mid-career Joni Mitchell, and the sage vulnerability of Bill Withers. Somehow, he finds a way to make this all work on the clawhammer banjo.
He spent most of late teens and 20s as the frontman of Vancouver-based five-piece Fish & Bird, releasing four albums of heady progressive folk and gracing stages like the Winnipeg Folk fest, the Vancouver Folk Fest, and Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival. In the past few years he has increasingly spent his days in New York City. His most recent release finds him swapping songs with Grammy-nominated songwriter and guitarist Courtney Hartman, on the pair’s 2018 duo album Been On Your Side. The album is an acoustic, stripped-down affair, which Rolling Stone had to admit, “packs a punch in today’s mainstream”.
Between other projects, Taylor has also written or co-written songs on albums by Boston’s Laura Cortese, Brooklyn’s Benjamin Lazar Davis, and Nashville’s Rachel Baiman. And after well over a decade of varied and fruitful collaborations, Taylor is excited to finally release his debut solo recording in 2020. Keep your ears peeled…
Rose Polenzani was born in the midwest to a musical family, learning harmony at her parents’ knee, hiding out under the family piano; she was always surrounded by music.
She began writing songs in college, and left school to start her life as a singer-songwriter. She was discovered by Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, signed to Ray’s Daemon Records for two releases, and spent a decade touring the US, supporting such acts as the Indigo Girls, Over the Rhine, Joan Baez, David Gray, and Freedy Johnston. Though she started as a solo act, collaboration has become the driving force behind her songwriting, as evidenced by her recent work in Wintery Songs in Eleventy Part Harmony, the Sub Rosa collective, and her lush, live-in-studio recordings “The Rabbit” (2011) and “When the River Meets the Sea” (2006).
Known for his “guttural voice (that) bears a captivating, rustic quality-similar to the smoky style of M. Ward,” (The Northeast Performer) Tim Gearan was raised in New York, yet is lovingly claimed by the legendary Boston music community, where he has been playing music for over 25 years.
After 10 years of touring nationally and abroad as a sideman guitarist for Toni Lynn Washington, Gearan lived in Somerville, Massachusetts for 18 years, performing his own music with a remarkable band of Boston MVPs almost exclusively, occasionally stripping down his songs at several listening rooms to a full house.
To say Gearan’s fans are loyal and adoring is an understatement; his cast of ever expanding and long-time followers show their devotion by showing up to his weekly residencies week after week. “Tim’s songs are near enough to the source of things that any player wants to get near them, it’s like a watering hole, just a natural phenomenon; it’s where the critters gather.” (songwriter/collaborator, Peter Mulvey)”
And gather they do. Music lovers, friends and Boston’s most prestigious musicians have packed Gearan’s weekly residency at Atwood’s Tavern, a musician-favorite venue in Cambridge, Friday after Friday for years and counting. Gearan continues to collaborate with an amazement of artists in Boston and beyond.
- Folk Rock
Alisa Amador’s music is a synthesis of the many styles she’s voraciously absorbed: rock, jazz, funk and alternative folk, all wrapped in the spirit of the Latin music she grew up with. With a sound described by Vance Gilbert as, “Shawn Colvin meets Joni Mitchell has lunch with Amy Winehouse meets Suzanne Vega and Diana Krall,” and NPR calls, “a pitch-perfect rendition of my wildest dreams,” her soulful singing, poetically incisive lyrics, and syncopated rhythms, are likely to make you cry, laugh, and dance all within one set.
Boston’s Jesse Dee is a singing, songwriting, guitar-playing soul man-a modern day trailblazer inspired by the old school. Dee’s passion is exploring and updating soul music for contemporary audiences.
With his warm and honest sound, his instantly memorable melodies and positive, slice-of-life lyrics (evoking the heyday of the Brill Building songwriters), he accomplishes just that. His inventive, hook-filled songs are delivered with buoyant, youthful exuberance. Live, he always brings down the house, and keeps his ever-growing fan base coming back for more. His band lays down driving, infectious grooves while Dee’s expressive vocals put him in a class by himself. On the strength of his fervent live shows, Dee plays to packed clubs in New England and has toured across Europe, earning new fans at every gig. The Boston Herald declares, “Dee has an explosive voice. He possesses a powerful, raspy tenor and an uncanny phrasing ability that can’t be taught.”
Maya de Vitry
There’s a lot of freedom to be found in solitude. On her own, an artist is free to express her voice authentically and without reservation, can make art that reflects who she is at her core. But going it alone can be daunting sometimes, particularly after years spent collaborating with others.
For Maya de Vitry, striking out on her own to write her debut album Adaptations was a metamorphic experience marked by liberation, exploration and deep personal growth. A member of the acclaimed string band The Stray Birds, de Vitry had long wanted to release music under her own name, but, as she explains it, had to summon both the “patience” and the “determination” to put her music out into the world.
While Adaptations may be de Vitry’s first venture as a solo artist, it listens like the work of a seasoned artist with an impenetrable sense of self. De Vitry may have had to go it alone to make Adaptations, but these songs invite us all to join her on her musical journey for years to come.