Hometown reveal

Dakota Smart holds release show for debut LP

Like many performers, Dakota Smart used the pandemic’s forced down time to woodshed new material. He wrote over 100 songs, a few of which are part of his first full-length album, Leap of Faith. He plans to perform several more at a release show for the new record on July 8 at Foster’s Tavern in Alton.

The Lakes Region hamlet is Smart’s home town, and the venue was the site of his first paying gig. His high school band Organized Chaos performed there when it was called JP China; the restaurant/bar reopened with a new name on Memorial Day and features live music on Fridays and Saturdays.

“It was my first introduction to actually doing what I love professionally,” Smart said recently by phone. Now that his first proper long-player is complete, “being able to play in my home town for people who have watched me for years is really moving … a special experience.”

Smart brought his piano and ukulele skills to make the pop/rock effort at Rocking Horse Studios in Pittsfield. Produced by Brian Coombes and Josh Kimball, members of the studio’s house band backed him — guitarist Myron Kibbee, Eric Wagley on drums and bass player Brenden Harisiades, with extra spice provided by cellist Jeremy Harman and Wesley Thurber on trumpet.

Thurber’s interplay with Smart’s ukulele elevates standout track “Lovely Lady,” first released as a single last September. “I love trumpet, and I think it works really well with ukulele songs,” Smart said.

The rousing “Believe” finds Smart on his primary instrument, piano, and showcasing his songwriting talents. The tune is a rousing “climb on a back that’s strong” number, with rising horns evoking Fleet Foxes, with impressively mature lyrics.

This sophisticated wordplay isn’t entirely surprising, given that he wrote about being a lonely college boy on “Sunrise In New York” while he was still in high school. “It was a song about me, predicting the future,” he said of the 2019 track.

Lately, he’s become more comfortable telling other people’s truths.

“I got to a point where I was writing songs about my own experience, but I felt as though I didn’t have a lot to write about,” he said. “One of the things I often say is I believe the best songwriters start off as the best listeners. There are thousands of stories out there, between friends, families and people you’re going to meet in your everyday experience. A lot of them motivate you more than your own.”

There’s still a confessional element to the new disc, which ranges across “a bunch of different moods between slow songs, fast songs, happy and sad stuff,” Smart said, adding, “I have a pretty good fluctuation between writing about myself and other people … there’s definitely a mix between the two, and I’ve definitely expanded upon that.”

Along with Leap of Faith, Smart plans to unveil some even newer material at the upcoming show.

“I’m actually going to be playing a lot of songs that have not been released yet,” he said. “I’m going to be not only showing people the brand new album, but I’m also going to be giving them a sneak peek of stuff that is going to come.”

Smart received multiple New England Music Awards nominations in 2021, and he recently made a career-building trip to the music Mecca of Nashville.

“I was invited through the Extreme tour,” he explained. “You go down and partake in the Nashville Objective.” He was one of 20 finalists who played for a panel of industry leaders, A&R types and Grammy nominees, after surviving a selection process that began with over 1,000 artists.

“It’s not a talent show, you’re not being judged,” he stressed. “It’s a group of people who are passionate about music that really want to help out upcoming artists and be a part of their upbringing. The real goal of going down there and doing what I did was to make connections and nurture these new relationships. It turned out really great; I made a lot of new friends within the industry, and it was amazing.”

Dakota Smart
When: Friday, July 8, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Foster’s Tavern, 403 Main St., Alton Bay
More: dakotasmart.com

Featured photo: Dakota Smart. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/06/30

Local music news & events

British roots: As punk rock was rising up across England in 1977, Steel Pulse formed after hearing Bob Marley & the Wailers, releasing politically charged songs that got them banned from several U.K. clubs, but the punks welcomed them to places like London’s Hope & Anchor and Electric Circus in Manchester. Founding member David Hinds carries the torch for the group, the first non-Jamaican act to win a reggae Grammy. Thursday, June 30, 8 p.m., Bernie’s Beach Bar, 73 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach, $30 at ticketmaster.com.

Stress test: A six-band show with an edge has post-hardcore stalwarts Actor|Observer topping the bill. Formed near the end of the aughts in Newfields, New Hampshire, the group released a debut album in 2018, and dropped the frenetic, intense “Cargo Cult” in the pandemic’s early days, its “lost on an island in despair” theme quite fitting for those fraught times. Sleepspirit, Girih, Godseyes, Alions and Dead Fiction round out the 18+ show’s lineup. Friday, July 1, 7 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, $12 at eventbrite.com.

Rolling on: After being postponed for two years, the Tedeschi Trucks Band finally brings its Wheels of Soul tour back to the Granite State. Always a summer highlight, the First Couple of blues rock have barrio rockers Los Lobos and Gabe Dixon along for the sixth edition. In early June, TTB released Crescent, the first of the four-album I Am the Moon series. Others will come out in successive months. Saturday, July 2, 6:30 p.m., Bank of NH Pavilion, 72 Meadowbrook Lane, Gilford, $25 and up at livenation.com.

Foolish Fourth: Enjoy Independence Day with an outdoor performance by The Fools — next to fried clams, the most famous thing to come from Ipswich, Mass. Known for their late ’70s hit “It’s A Night For Beautiful Girls” along with irreverent rockers like “Psycho Chicken” and “She Looks Alright In The Dark,” the group is fronted by the very funny Mike Girard, who also leads the brassy Big Swinging Thing. Monday, July 4, 6:30 p.m., Tuscan Village Lake Park, 9 Via Toscana, Salem, tuscanvillagesalem.com.

Midweek music: An evening at the fringes of rock hosted by independent label Deciduous Records has Seed, a Boston-based doom band given to songs with lines like, “drown in the blood of your oppressor.” Also appearing are Rong, billed as noise rock — their latest collection wormhat leads with “Struggling At The Dearth Of Discourse” — and Oahk, an Ashland band performing gloom folk. Wednesday, July 6, 5:30 p.m., Riverhill Grange, 32 Horse Hill Road, Concord, $10 at the door, BYOB, deciduousrecords.bandcamp.com.

Goners back

John Hiatt returns with beloved band

For his 1987 album Bring The Family, John Hiatt had a band of heavy hitters: guitarist Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe playing bass, and drummer Jim Keltner. But he knew they wouldn’t be with him to tour in support of that career-defining disc. So when Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson suggested he seek out Sonny Landreth, Hiatt listened.

“He spoke of him in terms of, ‘He’s the other slide guitar player,’” Hiatt recalled in a recent phone interview. “He knew Ry wasn’t coming out with us, so he was recommending Sonny as the other guy who could do the job…. Indeed, it turned out to be the case.”

Landreth brought a rhythm section of David Ranson and Ken Blevins to audition for Hiatt, a process that took one run through “Memphis In The Meantime” to complete. After months on the road elevating that and other Bring The Family tunes, the band, now called The Goners, went into the studio with iconic producer Glyn Johns to make Slow Turning.

The band reunited in 2018 to celebrate that album’s 30th anniversary. Now, fresh from touring with Jerry Douglas in support of their 2021 collaboration Leftover Feelings, Hiatt is back with his old group and an expanded setlist that includes songs from the two albums they made together in the early 2000s, The Tiki Bar is Open and Beneath This Gruff Exterior.

“We’re extending out to them, with the exception of the first A&M album (Family); but we toured that so extensively it feels like it’s theirs in my mind,” he said. “Mainly drawing from those four, and there are things included in those records that I haven’t played in a long time. So we’re kind of excited about that.”

Asked about the ease with which his infrequent touring unit gets back into form, Hiatt chuckled. “We’ll see,” he said. “We don’t like rehearsing too much — save it for the night. We’re kind of a weird, I don’t know, punk band — except for Sonny, who’s a virtuoso. The rest of us are good at what we do, but we just do one or two knuckleheaded things.”

Along with his own output, other artists have recorded Hiatt’s tunes extensively, from Three Dog Night to Bonnie Raitt, whose version of “Thing Called Love” helped reboot her career. Bob Dylan did Hiatt’s “The Usual” for the soundtrack to Hearts of Fire. Hiatt can’t name a favorite, though hearing the Neville Brothers do “Washable Ink” stands out. “Because I love them so much … but there’s been a lot of thrills, spills and chills getting songs covered.”

As to his own songs, Hiatt is taciturn. “They’re like kids [and] you don’t have a favorite child — it’s against the law,” he said. “I love them all; they grow up and go out, and some of them excel in different ways than others. But again, it’s like children — you love them all until the bitter end.”

With two dozen albums spread across almost 50 years, Hiatt allows that the muse is easier to summon as he approaches age 70 and awaits the birth of his first grandchild, courtesy of daughter Georgia Rae — but only a little bit.

“The biggest problem I think you have to get by is you gotta get past that guy, John Hiatt, who writes songs,” he said. “I do remember when I was younger and I got a little bit of notoriety, the sort of modest career that I’ve had, you kind of get scared by your own ghost, you know? So in that respect, I think it’s easier. But they’re maybe fewer and farther between.”

That said, he has enough new material for a record and hopes to hit the studio sometime in the next six months. “I don’t know what it will be, if I’ll do it acoustic, just me,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to make just a solo record.”

The upcoming tour has Hiatt considering another possibility. “I have thought about getting The Goners back together with Glyn Johns and making a record,” he said, rising at the notion that watching the Get Back documentary may be part of his inspiration.

“Wasn’t he amazing in that?” he said of Johns, who also helmed the follow-up to Slow Turning, 1990’s Stolen Moments. “And no different, no different — that’s what’s so great about him. I mean, we’re no Beatles, and he was a much younger man, but he was just as forthcoming and easy going with us back in ’88 as he appeared to be on the Let It Be tapes. He’s a great guy; he’s holding a lot of cards.”

John Hiatt & the Goners Featuring Sonny Landreth w/ Chris Trapper
When: Saturday, June 25, 8 p.m.
Where: Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia
Tickets: $49 and up at etix.com

Featured photo: John Hiatt. Photo by David McClister.

The Music Roundup 22/06/23

Local music news & events

Piano double: Led by doppelganger Ben Eramo, Cold Spring Harbor offers a very convincing evening of Billy Joel’s music. Eramo began at his baby grand as a 4-year-old. He became enamored of Joel at age 11, when his piano teacher gave him the song “My Life” to learn, and he did so quickly. Thus inspired, he then continued to work his way through the rest of the Piano Man’s songbook. Thursday, June 23, 8 p.m., LaBelle Winery, 14 Route 111, Derry, labellewinery.com.

Blues & country: A touring performer since his teen years, James Armstrong is steeped in blues music. In his 20s, the guitar slinger became the youngest member of Smokey Wilson’s band and went on to form Mama Roo before getting signed to marquee label High Tone Records, home to Robert Cray and Joe Louis Walker. “Harvard Square busker turned rising goddess of twang” Ashley Jordan opens. Friday, June 24, 8 p.m., Lakeport Opera House, 781 Union Ave., Laconia, $30 and up at lakeportoperahouse.com.

Big four: The final performer of the 47th annual Market Days Festival, Andrew North & the Rangers are celebrating their fourth year together with new music. The Hippo called their 2020 debut album, Phosphorescent Snack, a multitracked gem, with elements of funk, soulful pop and progressive jazz, as if “Steely Dan meets Frank Zappa at a 1969 Chicago Transit Authority listening party.” Saturday, June 25, 8 p.m., Hometown Stage, Bicentennial Square, Concord, full schedule at marketdaysfestival.com.

Crescent combo: Among its achievements over a quarter century together, Galactic has appeared at its hometown New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 22 times. They’ve also brought their signature funk and soul sound to the Bonnaroo and Coachella festivals, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and provided the soundtrack for the movie Now You See Me. Singer Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph became the band’s newest member in 2019. Sunday, June 26, 7 p.m., Cisco Brewers, 35 Corporate Dr., Portsmouth, $30 at portsmouthnhtickets.com.

Side hustle: Led by twice Grammy-nominated Scott Sharrard, Eldorado Slim is a step away from the guitarist’s work as music director for the late Gregg Allman’s band and his current gig in Little Feat. The group exudes an analog vibe with a Hammond B-3 organ, percussion, drums and a horn section, with music inspired by vintage acts like Eddie Harris, King Curtis and Chico Hamilton. Wednesday, June 29, 7:30 p.m., Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club, 135 Congress St., Portsmouth, $30 and up at jimmysoncongress.com.

Big weekend

Northlands Music & Arts Fest is a packed affair

An effort that began as crisis management in the pandemic’s early days is poised to be a highlight of this summer and many more. The Northlands Music & Arts Festival is a cultural buffet sure to please many palates. It includes five heavy hitters at the top of the bill: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Twiddle, Lotus, Lettuce and Melvin Seals’ Grateful Revue, a collaboration that promoters believe might not happen again. There’s also a stellar undercard.

After indoor venues shuttered in the dark spring of 2020, Seth McNally and Mike Chadinha of M.E. Productions launched socially distanced Drive-In Live shows at Cheshire Fairgrounds. As restrictions eased the next year, it became Northlands, with audience pods and close to two dozen more events.

This time around, they’re packing an entire season into one weekend. They hope to do two festivals in 2023.

Starting with Russo as a linchpin, the duo built a blend of big-name anchors and curated support acts, like buzzy Jersey jam band Dogs In A Pile, who kick off the show on Friday, June 24, and Blue Star Radiation, a supergroup that includes moe. members Rob Derhak and Vinnie Amico alongside Tim Palmieri of Lotus, and Percy Hill’s Nate Wilson.

Also eagerly anticipated are sets from progressive bluegrass stalwarts Yonder Mountain String Band, and Haley Jane & The Primates playing together for the first time following a long hiatus. Local favorites Dopapod, Lespecial, Pink Talking Fish and Joe Samba — the latter debuting a new album — are other highlights.

Chadinha brought experience organizing the charity-based Uplift Festival in his hometown of Peterborough for several years, and playing drums with circuit veterans Roots of Creation. McNally’s resume includes booking the Flying Monkey in Plymouth and a few other facilities. Professional chemistry is a big part of their success, the two stated in a recent videoconference interview.

“Our dynamic works because we bounce a lot of things off one another,” Chadinha said. “I have the artist angle, he has the back of the house booking angle, and somewhere in the middle of those two, we make things work perfectly for artists and the venue.”

The hope that doing only one event would mean a quicker process turned out to be over-optimistic. “I thought it was going to be maybe a little less work, but it’s the same amount as an entire season,” McNally said. “A hundred times harder than I thought, and 1,000 times more than anybody in the audience knows.”

In an inverse of horn-honking concerts necessitated by the Covid-19 outbreak, scaling back became the only option when the Swanzey facility returned to its normal schedule of fairs and agricultural events. But both McNally and Chadinha are glad things are returning to normal, as they’ve thought about doing an event like this for a while.

“It was the perfect time to take the leap, because a season wasn’t an option,” McNally said. “We decided to pull the trigger almost right after the end of last season and it’s good…. We needed every moment to prepare. Booking alone took four months at least before we got it fully wrapped up. It’s a long process.”

Along with music, there will be a caravan of food trucks, far more than at last year’s Northlands concerts, and more than a dozen craft artisan vendors. There’s also tent and RV camping available. “A lot of unique things are going to be happening for campers; some of them are going to be surprises,” McNally said. “We’re going to keep them occupied and happy the whole time. It’s going to be 24/7 for us as a crew.”

Music will be nonstop, as setup teams quickly transition between two main stages, different from big festivals that force fans to inevitably skip an act or two. “We like being boutique,” Chadinha said. “The stages aren’t far from each other, so you can do a quick shift. With no overlapping sets, there’s no chance you’ll miss anyone.”

The fans in both of them are eager for everything to begin.

“I can’t wait for the music to actually play,” Chadinha said, adding, “I know Dogs In A Pile are going to come out of the gate smoking, because I know the feeling of being the first band on a big festival and thinking, ‘We’re going to get out there and with the first note we’re going to hit it, we’re going to get this started.’ So get there early, and make sure you see them.”

Northlands Music & Arts Festival
When: Friday, June 24, 1 p.m. and Saturday, June 25, 11 a.m.
Where: Northlands (Cheshire Fairgrounds), 247 Monadnock Hwy., Swanzey
June 24 – Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Lotus, Lettuce, Dopapod, Dogs In A Pile, Blue Star Radiation
June 25 – Twiddle, Melvin Seals Grateful Revue, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Movement, Lespecial, Pink Talking Fish, Haley Jane & The Primates, The Trichomes, Joe Samba Band
Two-day: general admission $166.35, VIP $254.95, children $43.76
One-day: general admission $95.62, VIP $201.71, children $25.77
Add-ons: Two-day on-site camping $220.75 (RV or tow $237.07), parking $20 and up

Featured photo: Northlands Music & Arts Fest 2021. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/06/16

Local music news & events

String thing: Mandolin wizard Jacob Joliff left the West Coast for Berklee College of Music in the early 2000s and has captivated roots fans ever since, winning a national championship, then playing in Joy Kills Sorrow and Yonder Mountain String Band, then kicking off a solo career and releasing Instrumentals Vol. 1 in 2018. He’s worked with Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, John Popper and Widespread Panic. Thursday, June 16, 8 p.m., The Press Room, 77 Daniel St., Portsmouth, tickets $12 to $15 at eventbrite.com.

Blues crew: A pared-down version of Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers with Harpe and her husband Jim Countryman performing as a duo appears at a new tapas, craft beer and wine bar. Their sound is inspired by the likes of Memphis Minnie and Sippie Wallace, along with newer contemporaries like Bonnie Raitt and Rory Block. In 2020, Harpe released Meet Me In The Middle, her first all-acoustic album in a dozen years. Friday, June 17, 6 p.m., Luna Bistro, 254 N. Broadway, Salem, luna-bistro.com.

Family act: The inevitable musical career of The Brubeck Brothers Quartet began seven years after their father, Dave Brubeck, released “Take Five,” a song that would become the greatest selling jazz single of all time. Drummer Dan and bassist, trombonist and composer Chris Brubeck made their first album in 1966, and accompanied their dad onstage for years in the Two Generations of Brubeck group. Saturday, June 18, 7:30 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, tickets $39 to $49 at palacetheatre.org.

Funny fathers: An all-inclusive comedy brunch dubbed Dads Gone Rogue will likely include a few eye roll-inducing jokes like “I thought the dryer was shrinking my clothes, but it turns out it was the refrigerator all along.” The four-comic lineup includes Boston standup Joe Flynn, support from Robbie Partridge and Bryan Muenzer, with Ben Davis hosting, and a deluxe spread of food. Sunday, June 19, 10:30 a.m., Backyard Brewery and Kitchen, 1211 S. Mammoth Road, Manchester, $75 eventbrite.com.

Classic echo: A free al fresco concert from the Brian Maes Band has support from guitarist Barry Goudreau, who’s best known for his time in Boston. Though sometimes dismissed as corporate rock, the group was anything but — founder and tech wizard Tom Scholtz made their chart-smashing debut record in his basement, then duped the label into believing that a re-do was recorded in an L.A. studio. Wednesday, June 22, 7 p.m., Londonderry Town Common, 265 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, concertsonthecommon.org.

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