The Low Down Review – No. 19

4 Oct

LtR – John Rice, myself and Laurence Scudder. Photo by Courtney “Coco” Blackwell

Summer-ville, MA: I had a hell of a good time out in the Boston area this summer. I took quite a few trips out there and raised hell at Porchfest, an informal outdoor festival in Somerville, shook my nerves at the venerable Club Passim in Cambridge, enjoyed the warm and receptive Toad, also in Cambridge, and let it out at the jovial Burren Backroom in Somerville. I even sat for a bit in Harvard Square’s subway station belting out tunes to the stomp of foot-traffic and hiss of train brakes, sneaking sips of whiskey between songs. Courtney Blackwell, the sweet voice in the Blackwell Sinners and on Greenhorn, snapped the above photo at Toad – one of my favorite gigs, and I was very fortunate to sit between two of my favorite, and excellent musicians.

Throughout the vast majority of those Boston gigs, you could hear Laurence Scudder and his viola, laying down melodies that span the globe. He strode with form and grace from Arabic scales to Appalachain flourishes. He’s a tasteful, attentive player and his resume lists him as a steady side-man to not only the Boston area’s finest song-writers and bands, but national acts as well. Here’s a link to a video in which Laurence joins the one-man music machine, Martin Sexton on stage for a hard hitting version of Sexton’s “Gypsy Woman.” For a few years, he toured with the jazz-folk-funk outfit, The Ryan Montbleau Band, and he’s put together some wonderful work for the up-and-coming Brothers McCann.

After Porchfest, it was easier to take the
Tonka to Toad

It’s clear that Laurence is an accomplished and skilled musician, but what I’ve come to know is that he’s a down-to-earth guy and, like I mentioned earlier, a hell of a lot of fun to hang with. He’s been a huge help in expanding my gigging range, and the reason I’ve been able to return to Boston time and again. Both he and John Rice (my tunes would still just be sitting on paper without Mr. Rice, and if you’ve seen me play, you’ve likely heard John’s versatile and learned melodic vocabulary) have taught me, through their example, how to listen and share while playing, and, quite simply, patience. So I’ve got to bring the go-to sidemen to the forefront and say, “Thanks, guys. This shit’s fun, and it wouldn’t be right without ya.”

At the ready..

Not So Desolate a Road: Located right on State Route 146, at 182 Main Street, in Altamont, NY, you’ll find Jim Miller’s Desolation Road Studios, a relatively undiscovered room for regional art and music in the Albany area. The studio space is a perfect size for a warm, acoustic performance, and he knows it. He set up cafe tables in the middle of the shop for listeners.

Recently, Jim constructed a custom frame for a photograph I took and wanted to give to a good friend as a wedding gift; I was honored to be the Best Man, a description a few folks would likely take issue with… He suggested that I consider barn wood for the frame, with a double mat for both depth of perspective and complimentary tonality in color. His suggestion sounded spot-on to me, and as you can see for yourself in the photo below, he did a beautiful job. And… I can tell you that his reasonable custom framing prices would send Michael’s into a fit of confusion. Plus, he’s a small business owner, so he invests himself in each project with dedication to detail; he knows his name travels with each frame and photograph.

A sample of Jim Miller’s framing talents

Pack the car full of folks, and head on out to Altamont and visit Jim (you can catch a wood fired pizza next door at Mio Vino). While at the Studio, pick up some hand-made jewelry or pottery, chat him up for your next framing project, and bring some beer or wine to one of the many shows he hosts on his intimate stage: I’ll return to Desolation Road for a pre-Christmas show on December 22nd. Simply put, Jim’s a good guy, and works hard to make sure that his customers are comfortable and pleased. Give him a go, and say hello for me.

From the Low Down: Tonight (Oct. 4), I’ll be back in Cherry Valley, NY for a two-hour set at The Rose and Kettle. The R&K has one of, if not the best prepared menus in the Capital District. Matt is a serious chef, and a laid-back guy, a righteous combination. Rumor has it that The Black Fox River Project’s lead man, Brad Towle might show for a few beers and a few songs (Check out his new EP at the link). It all goes down at 8:00 p.m., and it’s worth the short drive.

Taking a different track than I did this summer, I have a number of shows scattered around the Albany, NY area in the next few weeks – get complete details here… I’ll call attention to two shows listed, and they’re back-to-back. On Friday, October 19, help me celebrate months of hard work by the old-timey (but no where near old) guys in The Lost Radio Rounders at the Steamer No. 10 Theatre in Albany. You may recall that I’ve teamed up with these encyclopedic performers a couple of times and they’ve decided to release a selection of live recordings from those collaborations on a disc titled, Heaven’s Radio: Gospel Songs of the Carter Family. Here’s a note on the album release directly from their website:

“We’ve had this one professionally mastered, designed and printed; it looks spiffy and it sounds great. Please join us, along with special guests M.R. Poulopoulos and Kim Kilby (who are featured on the record along with harmonica man Ryan Dunham and bassist Cousin Clyde) for our CD Release Concert. This is going to be a wonderful evening in a real sit-down theater, and you’ll have an opportunity to get your own copy of the record. Please tell your friends. We’re very excited about this show.” Me too, guys… Check out all the details for the show here… Hope to see you there, and that you take a disc home.

The second show fits nicely into the new CD theme. I’ve begun pre-production work and practice on the next album (a collection of 10 new, original songs), and some fine players and I are filling out the tunes in order to develop a feel for how the album will sound. Join John Rice, Roger Noyes (Arch Stanton Quartet / Dan Johnson and The Expert Sidemen), Tommy Krebs (Alta Mira), and I on Saturday, October 20th at the recently re-opened More Bread & Jam Cafe in Cohoes, NY. We’re kicking that adventure off at 7:00 p.m., and you might want to bring some dancing shoes. A few of the tunes require them.

It needs to be said that I’m very excited about the songs on this next album, and that you should expect the above players as well as some additional musicians (including Scudder and his viola) to join on for the effort. I am constantly humbled and amazed by the talent that has been, and continues to be supportive of my music and efforts. These folks enrich not only the songs, but my life, and I’m hoping that I do the same for them.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a pen and notebook out to Northampton, MA and wrote a review of the Kelly Joe Phelps performance, and the good folks at Nippertown published the review. Read the review by clicking here…

I plan to be pretty busy over the next few months with recording, gigging, and the daily duties behind a towel and dish-soap, but I’m hoping that I can at least send out a few shorter updates on my whereabouts and to catch you up on how it’s all going (please share the same…). It may be a bit before I have the time to put together another LDR, but then again, that ain’t nothing new.

So, hopefully, I’ll see you out there, and as always, folks thanks for everything. Spread the word and share the song… I simply can’t do it without you.

– Mike

On the spot harmony to Dandelion Wine…

LtR – Jim Trick, Sierra West, Marinna Bell and myself at Club Passim.
Photo by Denise A. Maccaferri

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Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. M.R. Poulopoulos - October 18, 2012

    […] have a pair of shows scheduled for this Friday and Saturday. I know I mentioned both these shows in LDR No. 19 a couple of weeks ago, but I’m very excited about both of them, and wanted to get the details […]

  2. M.R. Poulopoulos - November 15, 2012

    […] at Desolation Road Studios in Altamont, NY. You might remember that I mentioned Jim and his work in LDR No. 19. On Friday, Jim hosts Rosary Beard (Hunter Sagehorn & Matthew Loiacono) and I for a warm night […]