Jesse Cook 3/10/15

Seven studio albums in fifteen years is, in itself, a measure of Jesse Cook’s artistic success. And, for this latest recording he wanted to trace rumba flamenco back to its roots in Cuba. His instincts though got the better of him and he wound up spending time in Bogota, Colombia. The resulting body of work is sublime, a continuation of Cook’s insatiable appetite for world music in all its forms. Loyal fans will be thrilled with ‘The Rumba Foundation,’ as he has entitled the album, while those who have never before experienced Cook’s creativity will find themselves tapping their feet to these extraordinary Latin rhythms wondering why they have not experienced Cook before. Acoustic Guitar magazine awarded Jesse the Silver medal in its prestigious Player’s Choice Awards. Naturally he was delighted to be on the same flamenco podium as his hero, the legendary Paco de Lucia, who struck gold.

Red Molly 2/7/15

Red Molly consistently brings concert-goers to their feet with stunning three-part harmonies, crisp musicianship and a warm, engaging stage presence. They have earned a devoted and ever-widening fan base, and have begun to tour nationally. Laurie MacAllister, Abbie Gardner and Molly Venter have a lot of fun on stage, and it’s contagious. The Boston Globe says: ‘Everything Red Molly sings is delivered with tick-tight arrangements, crystalline vocals, and caramel harmonies. But what is most striking is the ardor they bring to everything they do, whether snuggling into the sweet parochialism of an old spiritual, or the gritty pathos of a Gillian Welch tune. They come on less like stars strutting for their minions than pals.

Suzy Bogguss 4/17/15

Suzy Bogguss didn’t set out to craft a Merle Haggard tribute record. Some might call that serendipity; she just calls it Lucky. ‘Merle Haggard is a hell of a storyteller,’ says Suzy. ‘When I hear his songs, I feel like I’m listening in on someone’s life.’ On her new album, Lucky, a collection of songs all written by Haggard, Suzy does more than just listen’the CMA, ACM and Grammy Award-winning singer makes the country rebel’s compositions her own, reinterpreting classics like ‘The Bottle Let Me Down,’ ‘Silver Wings’ and ‘Today I Started Loving You Again’ from a female point of view. ‘Merle is one of the most masculine songwriters I’ve ever heard, and I’ve been watching boys cover his music for years. I just thought, ‘Why couldn’t a girl do this?” Suzy says. Turns out, a woman can’especially if that woman is Suzy Bogguss, one of country music’s most pristine and evocative vocalists. With the release of the Illinois native’s 1989 major label debut, Somewhere Between, Suzy quickly became one of the key artists that defined those golden days of ’90s country. She scored a string of Top 10 singles with country radio staples like ‘Outbound Plane,’ ‘Drive South,’ ‘Hey Cinderella,’ ‘Letting Go’ and ‘Aces,’ and her 1991 album of that name was certified platinum. In addition, she scored a trio of gold albums and notched more than 3 million sales.

Samantha Fish 2/6/15

Take cover: there’s a storm coming. With its lyrical thunderbolts, lightning-flash fretwork and ground-shaking grooves, Black Wind Howlin’ is a record to blow your roof off – and Samantha Fish has stood at the eye of the hurricane. ‘It has a rebellious streak,’ says the bandleader of her game-changing new album, ‘and a prevalent theme is, ‘I’m not gonna take your sh*t anymore.” Released in September 2013 on Ruf Records, Black Wind Howlin’ flips a finger at the clich?? of the ‘difficult second album’, firing off 12 classic tracks that chart Samantha’s evolution as songwriter, gunslinger and lyricist. ‘Since completing Runaway back in 2011,’ she reflects of her solo debut, ‘I’ve been on tour pretty much non-stop. I’ve spent a lot of time writing, playing and listening to music. I feel like the themes and the sound of my music have matured. To me, it’s about the human experience from my perspective, as well as people I’ve come into contact with over the last few years.’ While lesser artists work to a template or settle into a pigeonhole, Samantha shifts her shape across the Black Wind Howlin’ tracklisting. She can be brutally rocking on cuts like the tour bus snapshot of ‘Miles To Go’ (‘Twelve hours to Reno/ten hours til the next show’), the swaggering ‘Sucker Born’ (‘Vegas left me weary, LA bled me dry/skating on fumes as I crossed the Nevada line.’) and the venomous ‘Go To Hell’ (‘Oh, this ain’t my first rodeo/You hit yourself a dead end/Your voodoo eyes, ain’t gonna cast a spell/So you can go to hell!’). ‘I’ve become tougher,’ she notes of these head-banging moments, ‘and I think that was reflected in the sound we went for.’

SOLD OUT Jim Breuer 1/24/15

After a sold out performance in 2013, standup comedian and ‘Saturday Night Live’ alum Jim Breuer returns to the Narrows by popular demand! With over 20 years of bringing tears of laughter to people’s eyes, Breuer remains one of today’s top entertainers and continues to win over audiences with his off-the-wall humor and lovable personality. Named one of Comedy Central’s ‘100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time,’ Breuer is one of the most recognizable comedians in the business, known for his charismatic stage antics, dead-on impressions, and family-friendly stand-up. In addition to keeping busy on his current comedy tour, Breuer can be heard on his weekly Sirius/XM Radio show ‘Fridays with Breuer,’ featuring guests such as Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Dennis Leary, and Jeff Foxworthy.

SOLD OUT Tab Benoit 2/26/15

You’ve tried the rest, now try the best! Tab Benoit’s amazing new Medicine, 100% pure musical snake-oil. A melodic potion that provides immediate and satisfying relief for all aches and pain. Benoit’s Medicine is a guaranteed cure for heartache. It’s the genuine article this Medicine is for whatever ails you. Medicine, Benoit’s seventh solo release on Telarc International, a division of Concord Music Group, successfully joins two gifted guitarists/songwriters in a session that proves greater than the sum of its very talented parts. Set for April 26, 2011 release, the 11-track recording features seven new Benoit originals co-written with ace songwriter Anders Osborne (his song ‘Watch the Wind Blow By’) was recorded by Tim McGraw in 2002, hitting No. 1 on the country charts for two weeks and selling over three million albums, and Keb’ Mo’s 1999 GRAMMY-winning album Slow Down, featured two songs he had co-written). ‘Anders and I have been friends for years, and we have a very comfortable relationship,’ says Benoit, a GRAMMY??-nominated songwriter, as well as a guitarist and singer with a repertoire that ranges from swamp-pop classics to gritty blues and rootsy jams. ‘Songwriting needs to feel natural. It needs to flow easily. When he and I went out on the bayou, we came back with seven songs! Anders also played most of the rhythm parts on the album. He does a good job of not stepping on what I’m doing and making it fit the song.’

SOLD OUT 2nd Annual Narrows Winter Blues Festival 1/17/15

5 bands over 7 hours of music 5:00-5:45 Young Neal and the Vipers Today, ‘Young’ Neal Vitullo and his band the Vipers have matured into seasoned musical performers. Vitullo, who has probably played in every bar-room between Boston and New York over the past years, has long been regarded as one of the New England’s best blues guitarists. The path traveled has not been without the usual road bumps of personnel changes and hard times, but through it all, Vitullo has grown stronger and continues to mature musically. If there ever was a local six-string hero that no guitar player would want to follow on stage, Neal Vitullo is that guitar player. A full-time musician for over 19 years, Neal was influenced early on from Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton, white blues musicians from England that often paid tribute to the blues greats before them. Upon researching the ‘influences of the influences’, Vitullo dug into the recordings of McKinley Morganfield (better known as Muddy Waters), Willie Dixon, and Albert King, becoming a total student of the blues. He’s also had the opportunities to perform on stage with his mentors, a perk of the trade that he deeply appreciates. ‘I’ve played with a lot of people that were my influences,’ Vitullo explains. ‘I got to play with Roy Buchanan. I was Willie Dixon’s guitar player for a night..Johnny Copeland’s guitar player for a night. I was very fortunate to be able to do all those things at that time when it was really happening.’ His searing guitar licks, blazing technique, and gymnastic stage show are legendary amongst music fans in these parts. 6:00- 6:45 Mark Small Mark T. Small has been playing music for over 40 years. In his early teens he began listening to Old Time Music. He learned to play fiddle tunes on the guitar in the styles of Doc Watson and Norman Blake and also learned to play the Dobro. In 2000, Mark began to gravitate back to his acoustic roots and the studio became his classroom. After making a decision to pursue a solo career, Mark took all of the lessons that he had learned over the last 25 years and began constructing his solo show. The premise was to develop an act that was as hard hitting as the band, but all in a one man show. The show includes many great traditional Delta Blues numbers with a Chicago Blues slant that transforms each tune into a ‘tour de force’. Included are: the blazing flat-picking techniques that grabbed audiences in Mark’s Bluegrass days, the hot slide guitar playing that creates a mood and timbre change in each set and the showmanship that was developed from 25 years of experience as a band ‘Front Man’. 7:10- 8:25 Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish are one the region’s premier blues bands. They take a soulful approach to the blues with an expansive catalog the runs the gamut from Sinatra to Tom Waits to straight up blues. Finding common ground with a broad range of different American lifestyles and music styles, black soul or white trash, Hoy’s output refuses to be limited to a strict genre category. 8:50- 10:05 Mike Zito and The Wheel he natural habitat of the true musician is not the gleaming studio, a glitzy showbiz party or a five-star hotel. It’s the road. And if multiple Blues Music Award winner Mike Zito had a dollar for every mile of tarmac he’s burnt since his breakout in the early-’90s, they’d be piled up to his chin. ‘There’s just something in me,’ considers the solo bandleader and Royal Southern Brotherhood co-founder (with Devon Allman and Cyril Neville), ‘It’s there in all musicians. You gotta love the road to be a part of this world. You’re right there, looking in people’s eyes, swapping stories, shaking hands” There’s an undeniable romance about a life in motion ‘ and an enduring magic about the moment when the house lights go down, the roar of the crowd goes up and the shadows take the stage. For Mike, who began touring the Midwest circuit at the age of eighteen, and has since crossed twenty-plus countries as guitarist with the Brotherhood, this is when things get serious. ‘In my band, The Wheel, if you’re not already with us, you’d better get on board,’ he grins. ‘Because otherwise we’re gonna knock you down!’ Released in August 2014 in the US as the latest installment in Ruf Records’ Award winning live series, Zito’s Songs From The Road is a two-disc set that captures Mike at full throttle on his adopted home-turf. ‘This DVD and live album were recorded on January 10th, 2014, at Dosey Doe at The Woodlands, TX, to a sold-out crowd of crazy Texans,’ he recalls. ‘The audience was on fire from the first note. The band played with such energy and passion. I was overwhelmed many times throughout this performance by the sheer energy of love that poured out of every soul in that building. It was a truly magical night, one I’ll never forget.’ 10:30-12:00 Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds is a seven-piece powerhouse that puts a modern spin on classic soul. The band is led by Arleigh Kincheloe (Sister Sparrow), whose astoundingly powerful voice and sly demeanor make for a spellbinding presence onstage. She is backed by the mighty force of The Dirty Birds, a flock of seven men who masterfully lay down thundering grooves and soaring melodies. While each of the Birds are capable of lighting up the stage with jaw-dropping displays of musicianship, it’s clear they’re all focused on delivering the band’s infectious music as a single entity. Simply put, the band’s live show is explosive.

Liz Longley 3/27/15

For painters, the joy and challenge of creation begins with a blank canvas. For Liz Longley, it started in an empty room. ‘I was living in Boston and my roommate had just moved out, so I paced the hardwood floors of her room with my guitar,’ Longley recalls. ‘I walked back and forth until the songs were done. It was as though they were stuck in the apartment walls.’ Longley has a gift for culling musical treasures as though straight from thin air. And now, the Berklee College of Music graduate and award-winning songwriter is set to share them with listeners on her self-titled album’her first after signing with Sugar Hill Records in December 2014. The collection of 11 songs was recorded in Nashville with an all-pro band’and in a pulse-quickening fashion so rare in today’s world of overproduced, airbrushed records. ‘I love being in the studio and feeding off the energy of other musicians. It’s not something I get to do often on the road because I’ve mostly toured solo.’ While Longley’s songs and vocals invite complimentary comparisons to Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole and Nanci Griffith’all artists she’s supported live’her latest effort spotlights a style and confidence that’s all her own. You can hear it in the subtle-yet-soaring vocals on ‘Memphis,’ the dagger directness of ‘Skin and Bones,’ the bittersweet farewell that drives ‘This Is Not the End’ (featured in the 2012 season finale of Lifetime’s Army Wives). They’re all cuts that dare you to hold back the goosebumps. In fact, Longley’s singing never fails to thrill and enthrall. Her voice and tone, touched with the slightest of country inflections, pours out like clean, crystalline water. Still, she can roar like a waterfall or flow effortlessly along the bed her backing band lays down, as on ‘Peace of Mind.’ The track showcases Longley yearning after silence and stillness to beat back demons of self-doubt. The new songs grew amidst a period of transition and travel in her life; moving between Boston and New York before finally settling in Nashville, and spending much of her life on the road in a succession of minivans. To that end, the songs have been road tested at Longley’s live shows, their power to connect with fans beyond question. These numbers pack the punch of pages torn from Longley’s journal. And fans have rewarded her transparency with tangible loyalty. For while many acts have no clue how an album will be received, Longley started her project knowing just how much her fans wanted her to succeed. It’s like this: Her Kickstarter campaign, which set $35,000 as an album-funding goal, exceeded that amount by nearly 60 percent, raising $55,000. ‘We reachedvthe mark so quickly and I’m just really, really lucky to be connected to my fans,’ she says. ‘ I feel like they’ve adopted me’like I have this big supportive family.’

Robben Ford Band 4/23/15

Robben played one of the best shows of 2014 at the Narrows and we expect more of the same. Robben Ford is one of the premier electric guitarists today, particularly known for his blues playing, as well as his ability to be comfortable in a variety of musical contexts. A five-time Grammy nominee, he has played with artists as diverse as Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Witherspoon, Miles Davis, George Harrison, Phil Lesh, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McDonald, Bob Dylan, John Mayall, Greg Allman, John Scofield, Susan Tedeschi, Keb Mo, Larry Carlton, Mavis Staples, Brad Paisley, and many others.