Eclectic Americana and Good Ol’ Fashioned Fun
Looking to add a little piece of Americana into your music collection? The Ashland-based group One Horse Shy just formed in 2007 but already has a loyal following. Fans appreciate the diversity of their roots. These six multi-instrumentalists hail from throughout the country: Massachusetts, Minnesota, Indiana, California, Virginia and Oregon. Their instrumental repertoire is equally diverse, including a lap steel, a dobro and a mandolin.
Better Life, One Horse Shy’s latest release, is a follow-up to its 2008 self-titled debut album. Better Life is ripe with the same heartfelt lyrics and soulful harmonies that originally caught listeners’ attention. In songs like “Old Muddy River,” Manda Bryn’s silky-smooth voice carries us through musings on philosophical issues like where we go when life ends. A chorus of male voices provides the backdrop for Bryn’s sweetness. The rich storytelling in these songs takes listeners through sagas rich with metaphor and iconography, from talk of revolution to conversations with a devil. Traditional themes give these songs a sense of old-time comfort, like a familiar lullaby or folk song.
The rhyming lyrics and repetitive beats make for upbeat, toe-tapping tunes that are easy to sing along to. The wide array of musical instruments in these songs creates a country-like sound that explodes with surprises, like a well-placed harmonica chord or banjo riff. Yet the twangy melodies still evoke images of small town bars filled with dusty cowboy boots and aging bottles of whiskey. One Horse Shy and Brown Chicken Brown Cow play at 9 pm Thursday, June 17, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Catherine Foss
And the Band Was Happy
Deservedly labeled the greenest band in the land, The Giving Tree Band — an indie, bluegrass-infused, folk-rock octet based in Yorkville, Ill. — is passionate about life, music and saving the fragile world we live in. Their latest album, Great Possessions, was recorded, edited, mixed and mastered at the Aldo Leopold Center in Wisconsin (the world’s first certified carbon-neutral building). It’s packaged with 100 percent post-consumer, recycled materials, printed with soy-based ink and wrapped with nontoxic, biodegradable cellulose made from corn. The band plants 10 trees for every 1,000 CD units made in order to offset any carbon created in the manufacturing and shipping processes. This is not some clever marketing gimmick; it’s a way of life.
The eight members of The Giving Tree Band live and make music communally at Crooked Creek Studios in suburban Chicago. The fresh yet timeless style of these men conjures up frontier settings of centuries past. These tales must flow through the blood of brothers Todd and Eric Fink, co-founders of GTB; they are direct descendants of Mike Fink, the legendary “King of the Keelboaters.”
Although their songwriting styles differ — Todd’s introspective, Eric’s a storyteller and bandmate Patrick Burke’s more of a humorist — they share equal credit under the band’s name. They also share a trait with the tree from Shel Silverstein’s book for children, The Giving Tree — they give their all, wanting nothing in return. The Giving Tree Band and The Slants (playing acoustic) play at 8 pm Saturday, June 19, at Cozmic Pizza. $5. — Blake Phillips
Consider This Mystery
Who is Ash Reiter, and where did she come from? The Bay Area singer-songwriter doesn’t have an internet presence other than MySpace (which pleads “ifyouwannadesignoneformeiwillloveyouforever.com” under “Band Website”) and a neglected Twitter feed, but she does have a whole host of accolades from weeklies and websites. Comparisons to Jolie Holland and Feist abound; folk and jazz and indie pop are cited as reference points. I tell you this, borrowing other people’s words, because Reiter’s songs are fresh, airy, yearning things that don’t need a plethora of adjectives and comparisons piled atop her brisk melodies and heartaching lyrics. “Stumble and Fall” pairs nostalgic lyrics about the ghost in her head (and bed) with a jaunty, poppy song that wouldn’t sound unlike Beulah if you sped it up and turned up the horns. Effortless and precise, with a spare, clean guitar tone and a sweet but perfectly rough-edged voice, Reiter plays with expectations to great effect, pairing melancholy lyrics with the cheeriest, most rhythmically assertive songs. The plucky “Albatross” highlights the smoky side of Reiter’s voice (add a less distressed Cat Power to the comparisons list) and dallies with dramatic percussion; “Paper Diamonds,” the title track from her most recent CD, shows Reiter at her most insistent as she repeats, “Give me love.” It’s not a request, but not quite a demand, either. You could at least consider it. Ash Reiter plays at 8 pm Tuesday, June 22, at Axe & Fiddle, Cottage Grove. 21+. Free. — Molly Templeton
(Not) Too Darn Hot
The names of the members of Frank Vignola’s Hot Club Trio are Italian (guitarists Vignola and Vinny Raniolo, bassist Gary Mazzaroppi) but the band’s moniker evokes Paris, where one of the 20th century’s greatest jazz ensembles, the legendary Quintet of the Hot Club of France, reigned, on and off, from 1934-48. Led by the elegant violinist Stéphane Grappelli and the phenomenal Roma guitarist Django Reinhardt, the ensemble pioneered a lithe, swinging string sound that still echoes in today’s many tribute Hot Clubs all over the world. New Yorker Vignola has earned raves from critics and no less than the late Les Paul himself for his considerable virtuosity, taste and swing. He’s written many guitar instruction books and worked with fellow virtuosos Mark O’Connor and Wynton Marsalis, and although he’s played in rock, bluegrass and pop contexts, has been paying tribute to Django (who died in 1953) for more than two decades now — half his life. His Reinhardt shows in New York have garnered extensive praise, and his new album, 100 Years of Django, celebrates Reinhardt’s centennial with songs Reinhardt wrote and made famous. Sometimes Grappelli’s fiddle tends to seize the spotlight in these immortal tunes, so this Shedd show provides an opportunity to hear Reinhardt’s artistry unimpeded — and in the hands of a fellow master. Frank Vignola’s Hot Club Trio performs at 7:30 pm Thursday, June 17, at the Shedd. $24-$32. — Brett Campbell