About Music: Fall 2019
By Mariss McTucker
Chelsea Hunt and Jim Averitt | Music in My Coffee
Gallatin Gateway’s Jim Averitt and Bozeman’s Chelsea Hunt have teamed up for a new album, this one an all-instrumental effort. Averitt is an excellent acoustic guitarist and singer-songwriter, and Hunt is one of Montana’s finest violin/fiddle players.
Guest artists on a few tracks are Randy Tico, a member of Jeff Bridges’ band, The Abiders, who plays acoustic bass and percussion, and well-known Bozeman phenom Tom Murphy, who adds mandolin on “There Is a Love Somewhere.”
Averitt and Hunt co-wrote seven compositions, and Averitt himself, four; the pair shares writing credits with Jonee Degiorgio on the first number, “Hold On.” Songs are a mix of Americana sounds – folk, jazz and blues among them.
Averitt says the duo had fun making the recording, and one can see why. It’s chock-full of good musicianship, clean production, and pretty melodies. Complex arrangements, too. The classically trained Hunt can switch from roots sounds to a more traditional approach with ease; she’s comfortable with any style, really.
“Hold On” sports silky violin, ringing guitar harmonics, and a jazzy and syncopated style underpinned by cookin’ bass. Hunt channels a bit of Stéphane Grappelli, too.
“Playing in the Park” opens with the soft sounds of guitar and violin walking up the scale; it’s bright and airy. In contrast, “Chelsea’s Tune” is contemplative, with lots of intricate interplay among violin, chin cello and guitar. The deep cello sound creates a pensive mood.
“Music in My Coffee” is tightly woven, has cool chunky guitar chords and stutter-step rhythm. “Snoring Dog” and “Bug of Insecurity” appeared on earlier albums, each with a bigger band sound; here, they are given a more delicate touch. Hunt’s tender, bluesy interpretation of “Bug” feels very sweet and improvisational. There’s much to like about this album!
Diagenesis Duo: Hands and Lips of Wind
In geology, diagenesis describes “the physical and chemical changes occurring during the conversion of sediment to rock.” It’s an apt description for former Helenans Heather Barnes, soprano, and Jennifer Bewerse, cello. They are purveyors of “modern classical music,” throwing out accepted musical concepts to create something new.
On their debut album, the pair smash the traditional constructs of rhythm, harmony, melody, and phrasing and morph the shards into new sounds. They have also introduced the genre to children, encouraging them to make their own instruments and write their own pieces.
The two classically trained performers, who met at a contemporary music conference in 2010, clicked when they realized they both chafed at the restrictions of traditional music. So they started working together. Modern classical music is uncharted territory, they say. And complicated, yet varied. You can break the rules, and as Bewerse notes, “for performers, the rule-breaking is often about technique.”
Because they have mastered their respective instruments, that comes easily. Bewerse can decide how to hold her bow “wrong” to achieve a certain crunchy sound, for example, or Barnes must suddenly change register in a composition, or sing microtones, those “between-notes” smaller than half-tones. The fun is in figuring out how to do this, because there aren’t years of tradition showing one how.
Several of the pieces they’ve commissioned appear on the album. “In the Lodi Gardens,” from Hands and Lips of Wind, was written by Mischa Salkind-Pearl. Bewerse’s sustained low cello growl opens, then Barnes’ powerful, full-throated soprano abruptly springs up high on the lyrics. It’s haunting.
“Marche Funebre,” by Stephen Lewis, is riveting and visceral. Barnes hisses as Bewerse plays short, sharp double-stops, dissonant and foreboding. Barnes’ voice quivers as she takes heavy breaths and makes whooshing sounds. There’s more hissing, and wiggly bow-sliding noises, then a double-stop minor chord, then, what? Ambulance sounds? A car-horn noise? Softly, Barnes repeats a plaintive “Gone … gone.”
Astounding, and chilling. Here’s a chance to visit musicians at the top of their craft, playing what they love.
The two recently parted ways – Barnes to China, where her husband is working, and Bewerse to Los Angeles. They are looking forward to new and exciting collaborations, made possible from afar by modern communication.
Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs: Sweet Little Lies
Talented Bozeman group does it all on first studio recording
If you intend to sit and listen to Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs’ first studio album, it won’t work unless you’re driving. The Bozeman-based group is a self-described “relentlessly energetic folk-rock band.” Duh! Most songs are propelled by lightning-fast tempos, supersonic breaks and killer harmonies, interspersed with a few calmer ones. Songs have dashes of gospel, blues, spooky swamp music, country/folk, and the ever-present bluegrass feel.
Laney Lou is Lena Schiffer on vocals, guitar and percussion. The Bird Dogs are brothers Matt Demarais, banjo, and Ethan, bass and percussion; Brian Kassay on fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and tambourine; and Josh Moore, guitar. All the fellas sing except Ethan.
Schiffer wrote three songs, Kassay wrote one (“Carolina”), Moore authored two, and Matt Demarais, the rest. Mostly, whoever wrote the song sings it.
Moore’s “Black Train,” with its clickety-clack rhythm and chain-gang ambience, is riveting. It’s eerie, with a stylish, bent-note instrumental riff and mournful fiddle. A train collects the dead for a trip to the beyond; the southern-born Moore growls out the lyrics in great storytelling fashion.
Schiffer’s mid-tempo bluegrasser, “Time or Tears,” is a bittersweet love song with soaring fiddle and harmony a cappella “oohs.” Love it!
Matt Demarais’s bluesy “Gamblin’ Man” might be a hit. He tears up the vocals, and everyone kicks in with an infectious refrain, “never put your money down on a gamblin’ man.” A blistering guitar riff makes for a great ending.
Schiffer’s wistful “House of Burdens” could be a monster hit as well. Her clear, light voice on the lead is joined on the refrain by Moore and Kassay. “Built our house of burdens just to watch it fall …” they sing. The soft, layered harmonies create a chorale effect. Stunning. This talented group can do it all.
Storyhill: Stages – The 30th Anniversary Album
Guitarists and songwriters John Hermanson and Chris Cunningham have released a live album from their 30-year career performing as the Bozeman folk duo Storyhill. It highlights songs from shows they played from 2003-2015 at various venues in Minnesota, as well as two previously unreleased songs.
The long-lived and much-loved twosome split up to pursue other musical endeavors, and attend to family obligations. They reunited, and then went on a long hiatus in 2015. They are touring again and getting rave reviews.
The men’s voices share a style popularized by the Everly Brothers starting in the mid-’50s, and later by groups like Seals and Crofts, Stills and Young, and others. Too, wisps of Dan Fogelberg come to mind at times. They swap leads and chime harmonies with flair to some smooth and masterly acoustic pickin’, and you can hear how their voices have matured over time.
Cunningham’s is the higher voice. He sings a pretty falsetto with ease on “Background for Your Blue,” from 2003. On “Highlight,” from 2015, Hermanson’s deeper baritone complements Cunningham’s sound and provides contrast.
“Better Angels,” from 2008, has a gospel feel and a little John Denver magic woven in. They channel a bit of Simon and Garfunkel on “World Go Round,” from 2015; and “Sacramento” (2014) is a quiet, thoughtful ballad with a clever bend in the chord progression to go along with its pretty melody.
“Well of Sorrow” has unison lead and some cool “oohs.” Both singers possess terrific control, making it easy to synchronize breath and phrasing.
They lull us with their well-paced dynamics and lovely inflections, reminding us how terrific they have been over the years. You’ll find lots to love on the 16 tracks of this immaculately produced recording. Hooray for retrospectives!
Visit the artists at storyhill.com.
Regan Clancy: Give Up Your Salt
Helena’s Regan Clancy, a self-taught guitarist and songwriter, has released an album of rockin’ originals. Clancy, who has fronted various bands and enjoyed a solo career ever since he picked up a guitar at 16, is also the bassist for the synth-punk-disco band Hard Hugs.
His “indie folk rock” amalgam is heavy with fuzzed–up guitar and pretty melodies. He is joined here on various tracks by Jon Anderson, drums; Joshua Loveland, pedal steel, keyboards and horns; Ryan Rebo, bass; and Lenny Eckhardt, keys. Harmony vocals are courtesy of Jennifer Murphy.
Clancy counts among his influences older bands like Nada Surf, and current groups such as Parquet Courts and Broken Social Scene. He admires the Beatles, too, and Built to Spill, with its heavy electric guitar sound, has also played a role in his writing.
“Losing Steam” has a mesmerizing, Beatle-esque riff and dreamy layers. “Do You Feel” has a slowly rockin’ feel and building energy; and “Gravity,” featuring just guitar and drums, has massive, Bonanza-sounding guitar chords.
“Race to the Middle,” with its cool intro riff of hi-hat and guitar, is an uptempo rocker. And “Love to Share” is a tightly wrapped cooker with sci-fi guitar effects to open. Clancy sings, "You're part of the working class now, you settled on a heart of glass."
Clancy’s robust baritone and guitar chops are perfect for rock ‘n roll, and, like his promo states, you should turn up the volume!
Britchy: Call Me
Missoula’s singer/songwriter duo Richie Reinholdt and Britt Arnesen, aka Britchy, have released their fourth album together. The two sport solo albums too, and several songs on the CD were previously recorded on them. Reinholdt is a long-time staple of the Missoula music scene, and plays in Lochwood Bluegrass Band as well as in The Acousticals. Arnesen, who moved here from her native Alaska a few years back, is also in The Acousticals, and Pinegrass as well.
After her arrival in Missoula, the two soon hooked up to play, write and perform. Reinholdt is a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitars, banjo, mandolin and bass on the CD. He also engineered the album. Arnesen contributes acoustic guitar, upright bass and piano. Special guests include Victor’s Jack Mauer on Dobro and master fiddler Isaac Callender, who lives in Great Falls.
The title tune, “Call Me,” is Arnesen’s broken-hearted ballad from her album Middle of the Rainbow. It’s a soft, country-folk number with a pretty chorus.
“Home Now,” from Reinholdt’s Night and Day, is his look back at a bucolic, yet mercurial, way of life. Pancakes, coffee and snoozing dogs give way to subways and college life. His tasty mandolin links the ideas together. Arnesen sings harmony on this and other songs; the duo’s voices mesh in inflection and tone for good synchronization.
Mauer’s wiggly Dobro provides a melodic interlude on Arnesen’s “Tight Rope,” and her “Eagle Cove” features the welcome addition of silky fiddle from Callender.
“Three A.M,” Reinholdt’s dark, somber loper, has a great chord progression and an exotic feel. His adept guitar notes almost whisper a Spanish style. There’s even a slight Beatle-esque nuance. Good atmosphere here. “Sleep won’t last through the night …” go the lyrics, “… letting go and holding on are having a fight.” I like this un!
Visit the duo at britchymusic.com.