Life. Love. Loss.
Each one is responsible for prompting countless musicians to put pen to paper since time immemorial. Stir the three together as Valley veteran F. Alex Johnson has done with his latest project, Colorway, however, and that’s one potent sonic cocktail indeed.
“I’ve been put through the proverbial mortal wringer over the last five years,” he confesses, “from losing my close family to cancer, parting ways with the Drunk Stuntmen, my band of 15 years... getting clean and sober, traveling the world with the Young@Heart Chorus.”
Joining Johnson on this highly personal audio odyssey are bassist David Hayes (best known for his popular Facebook page "The Weather Nut"), and Drunk Stuntmen on-again, off-again journeyman drummer J.J. O’Connell.
The fledgling trio is currently holed up at Sonelab Studios with esteemed engineer Mark Alan Miller recording tunes for the debut album they hope to release by late May.
A June 29 CD release party proper at the Iron Horse (iheg.com) is also already set in ink.
“The songs are strong and the two guys I chose to share the stage and studio with will bring these stories to life in a new way,” Johnson revealed. “I’m breaking out the ‘61 Strat for a few, acoustic on the others, and I’m finding there really is no alley to hide in when you are in a trio. There’s no other feeling like it, even playing solo, which I’ve done. You’re out there with your guitar and two other guys have your back.”
In other news, Bay State-based singer/songwriter Erin McKeown proves the proverbial poster child for people helping people this month. Her April 26 engagement at Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls (shelburnefallsmememorialhall.org) is both a benefit for the Academy at Charlemont and a CD release party for her newly hatched Manifestra e_SEmDa 10-tune offering that includes a high-tech collaboration with a certain nationally known commentator.
“I’ve never been a fan of songs that sacrifice music for the sake of message, but it became clear to me that as a citizen I had to bring what I believe more clearly into my music,” says McKeown of “Baghdad to the Bayou,” a tune that features lyrics texted in by fellow Western Mass. native/MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow. “It began to feel urgent, and I knew I had to try.”
Speaking of local notables who are no stranger to the national spotlight, Staind frontman/“Country Boy” Aaron Lewis takes to the Mass Mutual Center Exhibition Hall on Friday, June 14 in support of a cause near and dear to his heart.
It Takes a Community is a nonprofit organization founded by Lewis and his wife Vanessa that focuses on reviving rural communities throughout New England. The charity consults with local leaders and community organizations who have firsthand knowledge of the needs of their communities, then works to raise funds and support these community groups.
Tickets for the hometown show are $37 for reserved seating and $111 for a VIP experience that includes a meet-and-greet with the multi-platinum, multi-genre artist. To obtain more info on the man, the mission or the live music, kindly point your browser to massmutualcenter.com.
Last but not least, something to howl about up at Noho’s Iron Horse April 30: namely, Ithaca grads the Howlin’ Brothers, a Nashville-based trio that, as vocalist/upright bassist/banjo player Ben Plasse admits, aren’t remotely related.
“I asked the other guys to join me during a guitar recital, and afterward, one of our teachers from Argentina comes up and says in his thick accent, ‘Who ees these guys? The Howling Brothers?’ he recalls. “So we said, ‘Hell, yes, we are the Howling Brothers,’ and we kept it ever since!”
Tix for this 7 p.m. show are $10 in advance, $13 at the door and available at iheg.com.
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