I have a bad habit of bringing twice as many books with me as I’ll ever be able to read. Weekend trip to Vermont, where I’m driving two hours everyday and playing one or two gigs, so I don’t have to read anyway – five books. Backpacking through China and Mongolia – a constant rotation of four books (although I did read everything I brought and picked up along the way and left it where I finished it).
Tonight I need to take a break from reading as we’re mixing the last song coming out on my new (and fourth) record. Unfortunately, I don’t have samples from this record to share yet, but I did release a side-project with the cello player I work a couple of months ago.
So, I brought three books with me to the studio. I’ve just started peeking at Green Oranges on Lion Mountain, about a doctor’s year in Sierra Leone. Keeps me traveling to the different parts of the world.
1. What are you reading right now? Green Oranges on Lion Mountain
2. How many books have you read so far? 2
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Probably the one I’m reading now. That was high on the list of things I wanted to get read.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? I did have to give away an overnight shift for work. I’m probably still going to go in for a few hours though. Late at night I can usually get reading done between calls, and it will help me to not just go to bed.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Yeah, I have had to do some packing today, and now I’m in the studio, but I knew I was just going to have to read in between doing stuff.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I wish I had more time to check out and comment on other folks’s blogs.
9. Are you getting tired yet? Nope, but I was one of the lucky ones to have an 8am start time, so it’s just a normal day so far.
One of these days I swear I’ll get this blog back to being about travel photos and tales. I have plenty of ideas to write about with getting back in the field working on an archaeology project, and having a case of poison ivy bad enough to send me to the hospital, but for now, it’s all about the music.
November Music News
In some sad news, my not-so-trusty Honda Insight that has taken me all around the country, barely big enough for a guitar and a suitcase, was hauled off on a trailer by a nice engineer from Toronto who was looking for a hybrid to fix up. The replacement gig vehicle, actually big enough for a few instruments, amps, and the handsome men that play them, is a jeep cherokee. We took the jeep on it’s first foray to a gig in Hallowell, packed to the gills with gear and people, only to be texted a few minutes down the road by my roommate that my tail lights were out. When AAA proved to be of no help, I called drummer and car lover Dave Burd for some advice. He talked us through changing a fuse, and voila, we were back on the road.
In some even sadder news, as I’m sure most people know, Nick Curran, amazing guitar player and singer, and one of the few Mainahs to make it, died of cancer this month. He was one of the youngest people to ever win a W.C. Handy, played for the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and released amazing solo records. I’ve included a video of Nick along with Dave Burd (the fuse man), and my old friend Hawk Kallweit. It’s a pretty small world, and some folks don’t get to stay in it long enough.
11/1 – Dogfish Cafe, 8pm, w/ Adam Barber on bass, and my bro Kirk Underwood on electric guitar and harmonies.
11/3 – Local Sprouts – organic food and homegrown music – 7 to 9pm, with Adam Barber on Bass and Joe Bloom on harmonica.
11/10 – Local Buzz, Cape Elizabeth, 8pm – with Adam Barber on bass and TBA.
11/16 – Gutheries, Lewiston, 8pm – with Adam Barber on bass and Devon Colella on cello
Vermont bound! Please pass this newsletter on to folks you know in Vermont who are interested in original Americana music
11/17 – Purple Moon Pub in Waitsfield – 7pm
11/18 – The Skinny Pancake, Montpelier, 6pm
11/19 – Radio Bean, Burlington, 6pm
11/20 – The Bees Knees, Morrisville, 7pm
11/23 and 11/24 - Samoset Resort, Rockport, ME, 7 to 10pm – we’re very excited that the Samoset has decided to have music for the off season. Join us in the downstairs restaurant for cocktails and original music.
11/24 – Blue – the Nashville style songwriters round I host every month at Blue will still happen even though I’ll be up the coast. Guest host TBA. 6 pm
11/30 and 12/1 – Samoset Resort, 7 to 10pm, with Devon Colella on the cello.
Also in November is the 20th anniversary of a songwriters’ collective I belong to in Nashville hosted every Sunday by my good friend Kathy Hussey. Although I’m not able to fly down for the weekend to celebrate and pick some tunes with them, Dana Lowe, the resident poet famous for making up poems on the spot containing three random words provided by the crowd, wrote this for me to share with you today:
New England folks: the chance is good
For hearing Shanna Underwood
And her gang come to your town
to lay some lovely music down.
The tickets, relatively cheap;
The mode of transport is by Jeep.
Her poison ivy, some folks say,
is why she’s just itchin’ to play.
Accompanied by the Musical Lads,
her show makes Northern folk feel glad.
She tours the early part in Maine,
then Vermont, when she’s out again!
When choosing towns, Shanna has a habit
of picking names multi-syllabic.
And, if the folks are extra-nice,
she might even play in Burlington twice!
So go by plane or boat or car
to see Shanna and her Gibson Guitar.
(void where prohibited)
c 2012 Dana M Lowe
Hope to see you out and about,
Like on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ShannaUnderwoodMusic/events
Filed under: Music
Playing Dry Water with my two right hand men, Drew Wyman and Devon Colella at Blue in Porland, ME
I’m a day late getting the September dates out while sipping an afternoon coffee and listening to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!. So far I’ve learned that punching Will Smith’s shoulder will result in broken fingers, and that fake moustaches are a sign of manliness (as opposed to the ironic moustache).
At the last minute this month has filled up with dates for folks who are interested in coming out to see music that rides the line between familiar and original combined most often with bass and cello. One of the challenges of live shows is giving folks something familiar enough that they are willing to be open to the original music that is being presented. Last night we got a wide range of requests from people at an adorable venue in Naples called the Lost Lobstah. Everything from Jackson Browne to Tracy Chapman. I keep getting asked for Janis Joplin, and although it is a guilt of mine that I haven’t worked one out yet, I refuse to learn Bobby McGee. That goes on the top of my 100 most over-covered songs right next to Mustang Sally. BUT, if there is a song that you love that you’d like to hear me do, I’d be interested to hear your suggestions!
Tomorrow night! Sept. 3rd, LLBean’s Monday night songwriter’s Series at Coffee by Design. I’ll be answering phones tonight at Northport, and singing my heart out on Monday. Runs from 6 to 8pm at the Freeport Coffee by Design. I’ll be joined by Drew Wyman on bass and Devon Colella on cello.
Sept. 7th, Barley Pub in Dover, NH. This is my first foray into this region, so I’d deeply appreciate letting your friends in the area know about the show. I’ll be joined by Drew Wyman on bass and Rob Sylvain on Dobro. 8 to 11pm
Sept. 8th, Benefit concert for TriCounty Mental Health Services: Help Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan get the counselling and services they need! This is an in-the-round style songwriter concert. I am really honored to have been asked to do this, and hope that everyone who can will support the cause. The round will be myself, Brian Patricks, Kate Shrock, and Peter Alexander. Click here for tickets and more information. Lewiston Middle School Auditorium, 7:30pm.
Sept. 14th, Amalfi’s in Rockland. We love Rockland! Devon Colella and I will be bringing our music to what we’ve dubbed The Bathroom Lounge gig. Seriously, we love this place, the bar, the food and the staff are fantastic, but the location of the musicians is slightly, ahem, awkward. 6:30 to 9:30pm
Sept. 15th, Easy Street Lounge in Hallowell. We had a blast in Hallowell a couple of weeks ago, and look forward to branching out to this new venue. 9pm
Sept. 22nd, Blue, Congress St. Portland. This is a monthly songwriters’ round that I host at Blue. In September I’ll be joined by Tom Whitehead and Bob McKillop. Both fantastic, and wildly different songwriters. 6pm sharp!
Sept. 28th, Local Buzz, Cape Elizabeth. One of our regular and very cozy gigs. 8 to 10pm
Sept. 29th, Andy’s Old Port Pub, a fun joint with lots of atmosphere and music seven nights a week. I’ll be joined by Devon Colella and some other great pickers I’ll wrangle in for the night. 8:30 to 11:30
Thanks and hope to see you out and about,
I’ve come through Buffalo a few times this year, and feel like I’ve already become entrenched in some friendships and families thanks to my friends from the former Redheaded Stepchild. As my new buddy Tim Pitcher and I were talking over Christmas about the winter lulls and being laid off, we got the idea of booking a bunch of shows together in Western New York. Possibly to Tim’s surprise, I don’t joke about these things, so here I am in Batavia, sipping coffee, trading who knows who stories, and rehearsing for a weeks worth of listening room and coffeehouse style concerts.
Our last show of the week will be on Wed. at a fantastic little venue in Corfu, NY called The Union Hotel. It’s an old fashioned bowling alley/bar/music venue. As opposed to my favorite venue in Maine, Bayside Bowl, The Union Hotel in Corfu is genuine retro. The bowling alley is so old you have to keep score on paper. Snoops, the owner, made me feel like a star, and took me for a tour behind the scenes of the pin machine. I got to play pin monkey and photographer for a while.
Tonight: Saturday, February 18th, Black Eyed Susans, Angelica, NY 7:30pm
Tim and I will be pickin’ acoustic original tunes in Angelica. I hope to see some of the folks I talked to at LLBeans on the phone who live in the area!
Monday, Feburary 20th, Nietzsche’s, 8 to 9pm
Nietzsche’s is a Buffalo music staple. Following the showcase will be an open mic. I’m really excited to hang out and here what is happening on the Buffalo scene.
Wednesday, Febrary 22nd, Union Hotel, Corfu, NY, 7:30pm
Beer, bowling, and country music. What the hell else do you want?
This is a new venue in Buffalo that looks great, and sounds better.
I turned on the computer this morning to make my morning rounds, and discovered that I had completely missed the fact that one of my favorite geek-out activities starts today. Dewey’s Read-a-thon is a twenty-four hour catch up on reading, read new blogs, literary-word-fest.
My friend Susan in Korea, who writes a fantastic book blog: Naked Without Books, got me hooked in the first place.
Luckily for me, the only thing I have to do today is play a short gig at the Munjoy Hill Association Fall Festival, but first I’m going to read a little while eating some leftover Indian food from the new best Indian restaurant in Portland, Maine, Haggarty’s. I know, I know, doesn’t sound very Indian does it? It’s Brit-Indi owned by a couple of Scotsmen, and it’s great.
I actually have a purpose for this read-a-thon. I uploaded a bunch of books to paperbackwap and bookmooch, but haven’t had time to read them before (confession) marking them mailed. I know I’m terrible, but they are my books, and this is my method for getting through my monster To-Be-Read pile. So I need to quickly get through:
And for my obligations on Bookobsessed Yankee Book Swaps, I may dabble in:
And just because the opening chapter is really fun, it has pictures, and it’s by two local authors:
I have a wide range of relatively short things to choose from, and tons of leftover Indian and Thai food from the last two days musicians meetings.
For people who are used to seeing my posts on international and national travel, you are about to see a level of book geekdom that you may not have known existed in me. You can choose to follow along, or ignore and wait for more pictures of pretty places to pop up in the future. Although, the limbo my life has been in lately hasn’t been very inspiring for travel blogging. I’ve been in Maine much longer than I intended, and I’ve been in denial about how much I’m actually enjoying being home.
And on to the Read-a-Thon’s official questions:
1) I am reading from Portland, ME today. (My hometown, which I’ve inadvertently returned to after seven years of jaunting around the world.)
2. Three random facts: Well, I’ve already admitted that I post books to bookswapping sites before I’ve read them so that I’ll read them faster. I’m on a diabolical plan to be the best female honky-tonk guitar player. Cambodia and Chile are the two places I’ve never been to that are top of my wish list. Oooo, and one more, my mother recently informed me that I’m a sapiosexual.
3. Goals for the read-a-thon: see above.
4. Advice to new read-a-thoners: don’t feel guilty about sleep.
Filed under: Music
10/21 Harvest on the Harbor , Portland, 12pm – Hear local music and taste the latest innovations from Portland’s best restaurants.
10/21 Wine and Bluegrass, The Hive, Kennebunk, 7pm – Wine tasting and roots music
10/22 Munjoy Hill Association, Community School, North St. Portland, noon
10/28 Trader Joe’s Anniversary (tentative), 6pm
11/5 Slater’s, Bolten, MA 1pm – My internet friend, Beth DeSombre, (from Whole Wheat Radio and Blue Ridge Radio) has invited me to share an afternoon of original music with her in Bolten, Mass.
11/11 The Hive w/Rod Picott, Kbunk, 7pm – Sharing the night at one of my favorite venues in Maine. Rod Picott is a Maine native who has found a good amount of success on the nations Folk Scene.
11/19 Bayside Bowl, Too Broke To Be This Drunk, Portland, 8pm – I’m so glad to be doing this night with the Too Broke crew. We’ll be singing songs by Patsy, Waylon, Dolly, and more.
12/17 The Dogfish, Free St., Portland, 8pm – You know the deal. Come down and drink beer.
In 2007, I lived in Charleston, WV while working on an archaeological project for six months. Partly for the undeniable natural beauty of the area, and partly for the great memories, I feel attached to this small city in the mountains. Some of the folks I met on the crew are still some of the strongest, although not the closest, friendships I have. I was chatting to a couple of those folks on my drive down to the city, which made it all the more emotional to roll into a ghost town. It was Sunday, not a busy day in places that push closer and closer to GOD’s country. Almost everything was closed. And what wasn’t closed was just as often an empty, abandoned storefront.
That’s one thing that comes up as conversation in a lot of arch crews. We roll in, in this crew, as many as seventy people at one time, with per diem checks to burn, a rate of pay probably significantly higher than the average laborer in town, and a cultural hunger that put us on that path in the first place. The impact we must have had on a town like this is probably as big as the impact living there had on me. When is the last time a mud covered bunch of folks rolled into Charlie’s and ordered beers by the case to play pool on a rain day?
Charleston has some of the best small town architecture I’ve ever seen. It’s a clean city (maybe because there doesn’t seem to be anyone around), with really interesting buildings and public art.
While I was looking for effective places to hang up posters, I a guy in what I think was a fake security officer suit starting chatting me up. “Yeah, you’re a lucky gal. I wanted to be a musician once upon a time. I had it all set up after high school. I was going to go on the road.”
This is the point where I start wondering if he’s going to ask me for money.
“I had everything lined up. I was going to be famous.
But then a damn truck came along and ran over my monkey. My music career was over.”
I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that one before, but it still took me a second to get it after he started chuckling and walking away.
These trips are as much about visiting the folks as it is about the music and the places. Morning coffee in Alabama, New York with a friend from Nashville, and his mother, who is one of my favorite people ever. An inspiration of a woman who travels with her mind, and treats everyone with an open heart. Evening picking in Batavia with a multi-instrumentalist friend and then going out to watch his seventy-something year old dad play bass for a classic rock cover band. I’ve been so lucky this summer to be able to travel around and meet great new folks, and spend time with old friends all over the place. If only I could drive to Korea, we could get into some serious trouble.
At least somebody is dancing in Charleston.
On 64, right over the border from West Virginia, there is a giant factory, an oil refinery it seems, on the Kentucky side. I wasn’t able to really capture the magnitude of this place from the window of my moving vehicle, but it’s like a distopian factory-scape rising up out of hills. Another couple of hours past this, one of my longest running close friends, and a bunch of Chinese take out was waiting for me. Now that’s worth driving to Ky for. Today, it’s on to Nashville, baby.
This whole summer has been an experiment in living in the moment and being up in the air. I booked 50 shows in Mexico, and have played at least twice that if you count jumping in on friends gigs and busking on Exchange street. I spent most of the summer wondering if I would make it down south to finish up the touring, or if I would have to cancel everything if I found a real job and/or ran of money. Well, I am almost completely out of money, but since I haven’t found real work, I’m risking the road trip anyway.
8/16 Nashville, The Family Wash, Short Set at 8:30pm
8/19 Knoxville, IndieGrrl Showcase, World’s Fair Conference Center, 6:30pm, $5
8/26 Berea, KY, Main St. Cafe, 6pm
8/27 Charleston, WV, Taylor Books, 7pm
8/28 Thomas, WV, The Purple Fiddle, 1pm
8/29 Pittsburgh, Club Cafe, 8ish
9/9, Bar Harbor, ME, I met this guy at a gig who booked me at his venue, but hasn’t told me the name or location of said establishment. But, hey, road trip to Bar Harbor? I’m in.
Excerpt from show that airs on August 12th on Great Falls TV in Auburn/Gorham and surrounding areas. 9pm
It can also be viewed at www.greatfallstv.net and follow the links to the VOD page.
Filed under: Music, Travel | Tags: busking, farmer's market, Gilsland Farm, Maine Audubon, Music, street music
7/1 – Friday, Blue, Congress St. Portland, 6 to 7:30pm – In the round with Griffin Sherry – further proof that there’s something in the water in Buxton, and Adam Klein on tour from Athens, Georgia.
7/2 – Saturday morning Farmer’s Market in Deering Oaks
7/3 – El Rayo, 101 York St. Portland, 7 -9pm – A great night of music with myself on tune-writing, vox, and guitar joined by one of longest running musical friends Joe Bloom on Harmonica, a new friend and amazing fiddle maker as well as player John Cooper on fiddle and dobro, and Devon Colella on Cello. It will be a really interesting night, and I hear the food is good too.
7/7 – Dogfish Cafe – come on down and sing a few. I have the whole night to myself, but I’d like some other folks to join in too. Leila Crockett and Griffin Sherry will be singing a few.
7/9 – Kennebunk Old Homes Day – The Hive 2-3:30ish
7/13 – Lonfellow Arts Center. Maine Songwriters’ Association night at the Longfellow. Will be joined by Drew Wyman on bass and Joe Bloom on Harmonica.
7/15 – Gritty’s Freeport. Free for all – in more ways than one.
7/16 – Yarmouth Clam Fest – 4:30 on the Green something or other stage. Joined by Zach Ovington on fiddle, Drew Wyman on Bass, and Joe Bloom on Harmonica.
Ant marks the spot. I’m not sure about what. If someone knows what the cool ant is for, let me know. For me, it marks the best spot to play some music during the Wed. Farmer’s Market in Monument Square. First come first serve, and the quality of music in the farmer’s market is pretty spectacular if I may say so myself.
This week I had a really pleasant surprise by running into my old roommate and bandmate Leila. I had just moved back from my first teaching job overseas in Thailand when I met Leila at an open mic. I was talking about needing a place to live and she invited me over later that week to check out her place and her roommates to see how it would fit. It was a great time in a vertible flophouse that included sporty types, musicians, and eventually a couple of eastern european girls who may have been prostituting out of the back door. Leila is an amazing player and scholar of old timey music. The dude is a regular at the farmer’s market, an old-time banjo and clarinet player who worked with Louis Armstrong when he was a teenager. The one thing that can be said about Portland, is that it has no shortage of creative characters.
Playing music in the streets and unamplified in coffee shops have been my favorite shows this whole summer. People tip, buy CDs, and feel like they can come up close and ask a question, talk about the songs, or tell a story or two themselves. Although that has the flip side of people walking up in the middle of a song, like an adorable old lady on Wed., who just started gabbing, ” I got one of them (guitar) for mother’s day. I sure don’t know how to play it though.” I’m not going to stop singing mid song to chat with you, unless you’re handsome and now wearing a ring. Luckily, Leila, who was playing guitar, was able to talk to folks, and responded in a cheery voice, “Get a book!”
Last Saturday, as I was getting my guitar out of the car, a lady walked up to me. Didn’t introduce herself or anything. Just started gabbing about how her husband had a home studio and was looking for clients. Guitar does not equal sucker willing to throw money in your general direction for services rendered in a mediocre manner. Well, actually it does mean sucker, but for different reasons. The music industry has morphed into this system where musicians spend considerably more money than they make putting out what have become “necessary” aspects of self-promotion – from recordings, to photos, to websites, to advertising, to playing shithole clubs that want you to buy beer by the case. If there’s one thing I’ve realized this summer, it’s that I was right to trust my instincts to stay as far away from the meat-grinder and stick to the streets. If I’m in your town, I’ll probably find a way to play a few tunes, but you can pretty much count on the fact that it won’t be at a bar. I hear parking garages have good acoustics these days.
Besides spending every waking moment either playing, advertising for, or practicing music, I am trying to get out and enjoy what Maine has to offer. The Maine Audubon Society at Gilsland Farm is one of my favorite places. They have fields of peonies this summer, and I got away from the computer and the guitar long enough to hang out with the nieces and mom in this sanctuary by the ocean.
6/25 Gorham Grind, Main St. Gorham 10am-1pm
6/27 Champion’s Sports Bar, Travis James Humphrey hosts, 9pm, Biddeford
6/29 Portland Farmer’s Market, Monument Square, sometime between 9am and 2pm
7/7 Dogfish Cafe, Free St. Portland, 8 to 11pm
7/13 Longfellow Arts Center, Maine Songwriters Association showcase, 7pm
7/15 Gritty’s Freeport, 8pm
7/16 Yarmouth Clam Festival, 4:30
One of the things I love the most about Mexico is that there is music in the streets all the time. From people practicing their favorite American rock tunes in their living rooms with the windows open, to mariachis, strolling trova singers, to jazz, to banda bands, to those god awful party bands with all the horns that don’t actually know any of the songs they are playing, or for that matter how to play their instruments.
Some of the best and worst experiences I’ve had coming back to Maine have been as a street musician. For the first time ever, I have enough gigs (plus playing on the street most days since I have no prospect of work in Maine at the moment) that I am feeling a little burn out. I don’t want to sing any of the songs I know, but then I do one particularly well and the feeling subsides. I had the chance to participate in the 4th annual Music in the Square in Eliot Square Cambridge last weekend. For me, the event was ruined by weather, another event happening that drowned out our busking style festival, and a general feeling of malaise and the creating music is hardly ever worth it.
One event that has been worth it is playing in the Portland Farmer’s Market in monument square. This week I snuck in after a trio of tuba, banjo, and clarinet. They are a professional group that has held the same spot on Wednesdays for years. Everyone respects their time and their location, and they have created an institution of free, impromptu music. The banjo player stuck around as I started to play for a bit. He listened thoughtfully, picked up one of my cards, and said, “That, young lady, is some quality work. Not that it’s mine to give, but you have my official permission to use this spot.”
Working through gigs that have no monitors so the hired-hand bass player who was counting on hearing the changes is desperately trying to watch my left hand, trying to wrack my brain for one more fast song to sing over the din of young drunk folks who only want to hear Old Crow Medicine Show covers and don’t know who Neil Young is, and generally feeling like the drunk version of Bad Blake, that one comment from a respected musician can be enough to hold onto for a little while.
Now back to busking. I was busking down by the Casco Bay Lines last week, and a man who clearly didn’t listen to anything I sang, distantly reached into his pocket to throw some change in the tip jar without slowing down or looking in my general direction. One thing that most real street musicians are not, are beggars. Although the money is a necessary and motivational part to continue making music, people stopping to enjoy, a smile, and a compliment are equally appreciated. I think that people are afraid if they stop, they are going to be obligated to donate money, at least for me, that is definitely not the case. Although it is highly appreciated, the point is to create an atmosphere. To expose people to new music, and hopefully find a few people that connect to my version of the art.