Zak Trojano, Sorcha Cribben-Merrill, and Lisa Bastoni
Zak Trojano is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, a finger-style guitar player, a fly-fisherman, and a beer drinker. He watches more than he talks, the guy at the end of the bar nursing a drink while the afternoon light angles in, letting the conversation pile up around him like snowfall. He grew up in New Hampshire, outside of town in a cabin built by his parents. His father was a drummer who held down a regular country gig, and nights after work he would loosen his tie and show his son the finer points of Ginger Baker and Elvin Jones. In New Hampshire they drove around in trucks, and Prine and Dylan cassettes showed up in most of those trucks. Zak made Eagle Scout, got his knots down. Then it was college and out, wandering the country from the desert Southwest to Great Plains until he ran out of money, washing windows to work up the bus fare home. After a while it seemed like he ought to write some songs, and he did: heavy songs with a light touch; an AM radio throwback voice and an intricate finger-style technique framed by a drummer’s rhythm and sharpened by years of immersion in the work of players as various as John Fahey, Merle Travis, and Chet Atkins. In over a decade writing, recording, and performing music professionally – sharing studios and stages with his band Rusty Belle, or supporting touring acts like Chris Smither, Kris Delmhorst, Jeffrey Foucault, and Peter Mulvey – Zak Trojano has evolved his own thing: a warm baritone paired with an old Martin guitar, floating above spare lines of cello and lap steel, horns and brushes, with a deceptively simple lyricism that on repeated listening shows that the fellow at the end of the bar doesn’t say much, but he’s worth hearing.
Sorcha Cribben-Merrill is a singer-songwriter from Maine with a voice of unexpected power and depth of presence. She writes stirring songs steeped in blues, folk, jazz and soul.
From haunting ballads to charming vignettes to funk grooves, her songs unveil “a suite of musical styles that shows a wide-ranging songwriting ability. . . witty verses with smart rhymes.” (Portland Phoenix)
Sorcha tours nationally solo, duo and with her band ‘Sorcha & The Clearing.’ She is equally at home performing in folk festivals, rock clubs, weddings and living rooms. A multi-instrumentalist who started writing songs on an old piano in the laundry room, she performs on guitar, banjo and ukulele.
She was selected as an Emerging Artist at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (2012), has sung her original songs with The Fogcutters, Maine’s contemporary nineteen piece big band, and has opened for celebrated artists such as Tom Rush, Bill Morrissey and Leyla McCalla (formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops).
Sorcha believes in the transformative power of music and her work often incorporates healing and creative learning. She gives regular jazz performances for assisted living & memory care audiences, and she works with young moms to write lullabies for their babies as part of the ‘Lullaby Project,’ a Carnegie Hall Musical Connections program. She co-created a music and literacy program for the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine and teaches early childhood music education classes at 317 Main Community Music Center in Yarmouth, Maine.
Sorcha’s third studio album, Quiet, was co-produced with Jeff Oehler of Beehive Productions and was released in September 2016.
After a break of about a decade away from music, a career change and two children, Lisa Bastoni has released The Wishing Hour (2017), produced by Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer Felix McTeigue (Lori McKenna/Anais Mitchell). Lisa’s visceral and personal songs have recently earned a number of awards – in the past year, she has been selected to showcase at both the Falcon Ridge Folk and NewSong Music/LEAF Festivals, and her song “Rabbit Hole” was grand prize winner of the Great American Song Contest. The Wishing Hourdebuted as #1 most played album on Boston’s WUMB.
During her break from music Bastoni had a “job in a cubicle,” went to graduate school, became an art teacher and for the past few years has been raising two young children. While she was on a hiatus from music, Bastoni said she found inspiration. “I played just a handful of concerts in all that time, and thought I was done with music for good,” Bastoni said. “But one afternoon, while out for a walk around the neighborhood with the kids, I started to get ideas for song lyrics. And soon it was like a flood of song ideas – and as the songs started to come back, so did the desire to perform and record them.”
While some of the album was recorded in studios in Nashville and New York, large portions were performed right in Bastoni’s Watertown home. “I had a 6 year old laptop set up in the kids’ playroom, and I’d just go in there after their bedtime and get to work, writing and recording song demos, often pretty late into the night,” Bastoni said.
For the album, Bastoni brought in her old friend Josh Kantor, who she first met in the early 2000s when she was busking in Harvard Square and on Red Line platforms. The two played together in those days, with Kantor playing upright bass. Since that time, Kantor has become the Fenway Park organist and a well known side player and session musician.
She also reached out to Felix McTeigue, a producer and songwriter from Nashville. He had contacted Bastoni several years ago about working together. “To my surprise, he remembered me and the process was off and running pretty quickly,” Bastoni said. “There was a period of just generating ideas and material, and selecting a few songs to start working on.”
Before she could start recording, Bastoni needed to find the funds to create the album. She put together a crowdfunding campaign, and “some very generous fans from my early days performing” helped meet the goal within hours.
Other musicians who played on The Wishing Hour include Chris and Eleanor Masterson of The Mastersons – Steve Earle’s backing band — as well as Kelly Hogan (Neko Case/The Decemberists), John J. O’Reilly, Jr. (Rachael Yamagata/Fun), Lula Wiles’ Ellie Buckland, and Bastoni’s friend and frequent singing partner Naomi Sommers.
Lisa Bastoni currently maintains an active performance schedule. She has shared the stage with artists such as Lori McKenna, Regina Spektor, Little Big Town, The Low Anthem, Kim Richey, Ellis Paul and Arlo Guthrie.
—by Charlie Breitrose, excerpted from Watertown News (MA), January 2017