Thursday, December 13, 2012

A "Big" opening

Big Jon Short (Ted Theodore photo)

The trails are open, and the tunes are flowing. Besides being Central Mass’s go-to place for skiing and riding, Wachusett Mountain also offers up as good a music schedule as any traditional nightclub you’ll find in the area.

The Coppertop Lounge music series kicks off in high style Friday, Dec. 14, with the return of Big Jon Short. Short is a reservoir of blues knowledge; he goes to Mississippi every year to perform and immerse himself in traditional blues culture, and he teaches students in public schools all around the state about America’s roots music.

But when he plays, there’s nothing academic to it. Instead it’s joyous. Or mournful. Or mesmerizing. I’ve seen Short belt out tunes from a hill next to Worcester’s Park Ave, near the steps of a county courthouse, and while parading around a crowded bar room. In each case he simply made the old blues feel young and vital again.

Short’s solo show at the Coppertop comes on the heels of releasing his latest record “34 Special,” a collection of original and traditional songs performed on National Resophonic guitar. Short recorded the tunes in a shack that’s behind Vincent’s bar in Worcester, sort of recreating the field recordings from the South that have served as his own texts for learning the different styles of country blues.

By focusing on songs that he wrote or was performing around the time he first met his wife, Short imbues his new record with heart and soul, even when the hard times are knocking on his door. “Skin & Bones” and “Skinny Jean Mama” are originals that seamlessly fit alongside Short’s fresh arrangement of “Crossroads” and lesser-known country blues staple “Long Hair Doney.” He somehow pushes his own sound back in time while pulling the old music forward, all of it settling into a comfortable meeting spot that honors the tradition without getting shackled by it.

Short plays from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Coppertop (you know there's no cover, right?)  for the start of another round of impeccable “small stage” bookings. I'll give you a deeper look into the schedule tomorrow. Now, go hit the snow.

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