Friday, March 15, 2013

St. Paddy's slope style

Katie McD

Katie McD returns to the mountain for St. Patrick’s Day. Born in Ireland and now living in Boston, McD blends traditional fare and original work. Here’s what she had to say in response to a few question we sent her way. Katie McD will set up on the back deck and get the tunes flowing at 1 p.m.

What Irish songs do you never get tired playing? “Caledonia” written by Dougie MacLean. And “Bonnie Laboring Boy,” a traditional song by Oisin. Those are two of my favorites.

Which traditional songs and artists have most influenced your original work? Dolores Keane, Mary Black, Eleanor Shanley & Maura O' Connell, Cathy Jordan & Karen Casey are the artists that have influenced me. The songs by these artists that influenced me include “Anachie Gordon,” “Bonnie Laboring Boy,” “My Irish Molly O,” “Ar Éireann Ní Neosainn Cé Hí,” and “Young Roger the Miller.”

Do you like to perform traditional songs the way you learned them or do you like to put your own twist on them? Every artist dusts a song with a little magic. Otherwise it would all sound the same. When I sing a traditional song, I draw from all the life experiences I have had, be it love, hope, loss, despair, death. Irish music is about sharing, not about how good you sing but how you deliver the song, in effect, with all heart. The magic is fulfilled when the song is felt more than heard, and it in turn assumes a life of its own.  When the huddled crowd hangs on every word, with not a din in the room, and they bend their ears to every note, and delight in the delivery of lilting pure tones of a female singer - that we call “Sean Nós,” or traditional style singing.

Songs that most remind you of home? “The Galway Girl” is set in my hometown. This catches my heart every time. The promenade is a big part of the city and there is a prom is South Boston so that is why I live there _ I don't get homesick. In Galway, we kick the wall at the end of the prom, an acknowledgment that we did the walk. Now there is a sign there asking not to kick the wall. Talk about trying to kill an old tradition.
The old version of “Galway Bay” is so beautiful. One line gets me every time: "I will lay mee bones 'neath Church yard stones beside you Galway Bay, and I hope my soul to soar forever more above you Galway Bay!"
And then, there is “Caledonia.” Dougie MacLean wrote this song and when his roommates heard it, they all moved back home! No matter where or when I sing it, it is a big hit. The song has a way of fitting into everyone’s life.
In terms of my original songs, “Immigrant Soul” is about living in America and always wanting to go back home and walk along Barna strand with the nephews. More recently, I was commissioned to write a soundtrack for an Irish movie “No Eye to Pity Her” set in my hometown of Galway city. Based on Irish history, it reminds us that our ancestors fought all the way for us to have the Ireland of today.
 On another occasion, I was involved with a play called “Man from Inniskeen,” and one of the actors didn't want to recite the Patrick Kavanagh poem, “Inniskeen Road July Evening.”  I said, “Give it here to me,” and I wrote the music for it in the next room in the House of Ireland. It has since become an anthem for all my friends and fans. When we sing it, we know the next signpost is home or at least it should be! Believe me!

To hear Katie McD's music and see some of the other projects she is involved with, check her out online at

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Astronauts" ready for take off

Singer Antonio Casasanta sizes up the dilemma his band We Were Astronauts faced before making its debut record this way: “We feel like the industry wants a song it can sell. Musicians want to make something full of depth.”

We Were Astronauts took the musicians’ route in making “Outside Boston,” a collection of 10 songs with plenty of varied textures.  Rooted in alt-pop and indie rock, “Outside Boston” boasts the airy meanderings of “Skin,” the rumble of “The Circus Within” and “Rubber Tramp” and anthemic sweep of the title track and “Soapbox Shimmy.”

The band released the record in January, and Casasanta says gamble paid off with nothing but  positive feedback.
We Were Astronauts

We Were Astronauts makes its Coppertop debut Saturday. Show time is 8 p.m. 

The band came togethr in Milford little more than a year ago, corralling members of other groups around a new batch of songs and songwriting ideas. Casasanta says that while he had a bunch of  material written, much of it was shaped as each member of the group brought his own style to the material (and these are guys who have played everything from heavy music to jam-band stuff).

We Were Astronauts then headed to Nashville, backed with Kickstarter funding, and made “Outside Boston” at Welcome to 1979 studio, where all the gear is old-school-style analog.

“The kind of music we’re making is like the music by Black Keys or Kings of Leon. The analog gear draws more attention to the human element in the sound,” Casasanta says.

For an initial effort, We Were Astronauts hit all the right buttons; it’s accessible, lively, and independent. Catch ’em  locally before they blast off

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Extra Irish on tap this week

Katie McD will be at the mountain on St. Patrick's Day

There will be a couple of shots of Irish music in this final round of regularly scheduled shows in the Coppertop. Mick Carr, who performed earlier in the season, returns Friday to set the mood for St. Patrick’s Day, then Katie McD (who also played a St. Paddy’s show last year at the mountain) arrives Sunday with her blend of original and traditional Celtic fare.

But like they say on the infomercials _ That’s not all.

The Drunken Uncles get things started on Thursday. Uncle Tom Hurley has a video for his song “Running Out”  (watch it above) in the running for video of the month on Charter TV’s “WooTube” program. Go to the WooTube Facebook page to vote and see which clips are also on the ballot.

And on Saturday, We Were Astronauts makes its ’Top debut. This is alt-pop troupe just released the album “Outside Boston” which was made way outside Boston in a studio in Nashville. Check back for that story later in the week.

Good spring or what?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Marshall's mixed bag

Bruce Marshall may have gone pro in 1974, but that’s not when he started playing guitar and singing for audiences.

“I found a set list from my 8th grade band,” the 58-year-old Marshall says, noting he just may resurrect one of those blasts from the past when he plays a solo show Sunday at the Coppertop.

Of course, Marshall is bound to play just about anything. A musical omnivore, Marshall can deliver with the blues, primal rock ’n’ roll, R&B, and country. He knocks out more than 200 dates per year, some as a solo artist, some with his namesake band, and some with fellow travelers _ he and James Montgomery make a pretty nice team, and for a few years Marhsall was a mainstay in former Marshall Tucker Band member Toy Caldwell’s band.
Bruce Marshall

“It’s been good for my head, maybe not for my career,” says Marshall of his genre hopping; more than one record label has praised his craft but passed on signing the artist who does not fit a niche.

But over a series of self-produced albums and handful of recordings for independent record labels, Marshall has kept a pretty recognizable voice to his work regardless of the stylistic slant he gives a song.

Most things begin as a chorus or title penned in Marshall’s “Book of Hooks.” Technology makes it pretty easy to capture and flesh out ideas on handy devices such an iPhone; there’s no more having to call his own answering machine to preserve a melody or lyric.

Marshall and his band recently made a video for his song “Victor Talking Machine,” included above. The clip is in contention for “video of the month” to be aired on WooTube television program. Public balloting determines the vid to be aired. To vote on videos, go to

Regardless of the voting outcome, the song is a winner _ a nice rocker with swing blues beat paying homage to the days of vintage vinyl. Look for it on Marshall’s next album now in the works.

To sweeten his debut at the ’Top, Marshall has set up some lift-ticket discounts. For details, email Dave Giammatteo at Show time is 4 p.m.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Threshold on the brink

You’d think Kier Byrnes would be pretty psyched that the rest of the world is catching on to the sound he’s been chasing for years with his band Three Day Threshold.

“In popular culture right now there are a lot of folk-rock acts like Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers. The music style we’ve been doing seems to be peaking,” Byrnes says. “But I’ve never been one to sit there. I want to push forward and stay ahead of the curve while staying true to our sound.”
Three Day Threshold

To that end, the forthcoming Three Day Threshold record is going to have some traditional Gypsy rhythms sitting alongside the Celtic, bluegrass and country influences already in the band’s rollicking rock-meets-tradition sound. Byrnes, who plays guitar, banjo and mandolin,  also suspects the new songs will reflect some of what the band heard musically while on a U.S.O. tour of Qatar and Kuwait about a year-and-a-half ago.

And the experimenting doesn’t end there. When Three Day Threshold plays Saturday night in the Coppertop, it’ll be the first time that bassist John Stump wields an acoustic upright for a show. Byrnes says the performance will also be heavy on Irish tunes, something the band likes to do around St. Paddy’s Day. The Coppertop show starts at 8 p.m.

Besides the Irish fare, count on Three Day Threshold to bang out its energetic brand of songs about big hearts and bad behavior (you don’t get a personal invite to play the Jim Beam distillery like these guys did by being choir boys).

Another highlight for the band is coming up this summer when it performs with the Avett Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show in New Hampshire during Bike Week, a massive gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts.

Three Day Threshold has shared the stage with big names before_ Trace Adkins, Zac Brown, and Quiet Riot among them_ but Byrnes says he’s especially psyched for this upcoming event.

“We’ve played with members of Old Crow before and we’ve covered some of their songs,” Byrnes says. “It’s great when you get to play with people you admire.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The fresh stuff just isn't on the slopes

The music is as good as the snow at the mountain these days. Andy Cummings is back Thursday night in the Coppertop, playing songs off his recently released “Backyard Superhero” album and putting his stamp on classics from Sinatra to the Who.

Then on Friday it’s a return trip for McAlister Drive. Go wish ’em well ahead of their trek to the South by Southwest Music conference _ that magical music fest in Austin where careers get stoked.
Three Day Threshold performing overseas for U.S. troops

Three Day Threshold’s Coppertop date Saturday likewise comes ahead of a busy run for these country-rooted rockers. Three Day Threshold has a new album in the works and gig with the Avett Brothers this summer. TDT singer Kier Byrnes lays it all out in a post later this week.

Music begins at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Then Bruce Marshall, a staple of the Boston scene for decades who when not leading his own band has at times teamed with blues man James Montgomery and Southern rocker Toy Caldwell, wraps up the weekend with a show Sunday that starts at 4 p.m.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Party for shore and slopes

A beach band works pretty well on a mountain too, or so learned Straightjacket Slumber Party.  When the band formed in 2009, Straightjacket Slumber Party focused on Cape Cod gigs.  Then a friend of the band wooed it to Sugarbush where SJSP now plays annually.

This year the group grabbed a winter gig closer to home and hits the Coppertop Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m.

“We found the same vibe,” SJSP bassist Ted Wyman says of beach and mountain. “In both cases people are coming to see us after they’ve been doing some other planned activity and just want to unwind. It’s like coming off the beach and grabbing a lobster roll or coming in from skiing and grabbing a thick ale.”
Straightjacket Slumber Party

In either case, SJSP’s mission is clear: “We play short and danceable rock 'n' roll songs,” Wyman says. “We keep an eye on what keeps people interested and gets them up dancing.”

SJSP guitarist and songwriter (and snowboarder) Bob McKelvey taps into English pub rock, garage-punk,  and reggae/ska for his songs. The band puts out songs every few months, with a couple of fresh tracks worth checking out online at

Wyman recalls SJSP's  early days when clubs only wanted bands that were playing cover songs. “We had to teach them they didn’t want that,” he says. “If we’re playing three sets, then we’ll definitely put in some covers, but plays songs you never hear other bands playing live.”

Wyman points to tunes by the Pixies and Lemonheads (a little Mass love) and by the Clash and English Beat as examples of artists that SJSP likes to cover when necessary.

That’s good company to keep, but SJSP's songs sound like the band doesn’t get overwhelmed by its influences. The slinky “Be Alive,” for example, really shows off the group’s originality.

“That song has such a different groove that at first we didn’t see people dancing,” Wyman recalls. But it eventually sunk in and this past summer, “Be Alive” had people “going nuts."