January 2015 Newsletter
Sunday, January 04, 2015
THE NEXT LEVEL
Happy 2015 everybody! At a time of year when we examine our motivations and intentions in hopes of launching the new year on an auspicious trajectory, I'm particularly excited for a beloved side project to step up to command center stage for awhile. Ladies and gentlemen, I am of course referring to my bluegrass group Barnstar! and our new record Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out! which comes out Feb. 3 on Signature Sounds.
My involvement in Barnstar! (yes, the exclamation mark is part of the name) started as a bit of a lark. But what began in 2008 with the occasional Tuesday night showcase at Cambridge's Cantab Lounge evolved into something more serious by the time we released our debut record "C'mon!" in 2011. We took it on the road only sporadically, but always to great effect. Whether we were playing at 10,000 feet above sea level in the Colorado mountains, dressed up like pirates on a boat cruising around Boston Harbor, or playing the mainstage of an English folk festival...I don't ever think I've felt such raw energy coming back at me as I did from those audiences.
I've always been primarily a solo artist, and being part of a band has been a real learning process for me. Though it's been a (clears throat) long time since I've started a new romantic relationship, that process offers an interesting analogy for a band's development. At the beginning, everything is new and fun and you just can't get enough of it, and it's enough to do what comes easy. But at a certain point, inertia isn't enough anymore and you have to decide how to take it to the next level, which means rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. Bands often stumble when they get to this point--the dreaded "sophomore slump"-- but Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out! is the sound of a band that's just getting started.
On this release, we're digging in, stretching out, and striving towards a unique collective voice. Some of our new originals branch out into new musical and geographical territory for the band, like the Cajun drone of Jake Armerding’s “Delta Rose” or Charlie Rose’s Appalachian mining lament “Cumberland Blue Line.” My new contributions tend to celebrate and reaffirm our band's New England roots. “Barnstable County” is a murder ballad that relocates the drama of Knoxville Girl from the mountains of Tennessee to a Cape Cod salt marsh, while “Country John” honors John Lincoln Wright, a honky-tonk legend who never really made it big outside of Boston. Of course, Barnstar! is also known for putting its own stamp on covers, and that tradition continues here as we transform songs by Josh Ritter, The Hold Steady, Patty Griffin and The Faces into something that sounds distinctly like, well, Barnstar!
Just like relationships can feel validated by certain milestones, Barnstar! feels like it's poised to take things to the next level. We have a new website! A new booking agency! A new record label! New fancy pictures and videos! Jake's even taken us home to meet his parents (though we already knew his dad...he's in the band)! Most importantly, we've managed to synch our schedules for a short tour. More dates, locales and festivals will certainly be added, but for now we're heading out for a limited run at the end of this month and early February. Some of these venues will be among the biggest we've ever played. If we're passing through your town, spread the word and for God sakes come out and see the show. You won't regret it.
MILLTOWNS: 2014 was a fantastic ride and I can't recall ever ending up on so many year-end "Best Of" lists. I am so grateful for all the attention the record is getting, and all the light it's reflecting on Bill Morrissey's songs. Though Barnstar! is heating up, I still have plenty of MILLTOWNS shows on the books into the spring. But keep in mind that as the weather starts to turn nicer, I'm going to wind this thing down and get back to my usually eclectic setlists and begin thinking about the next record. If you've been wanting to check out a MILLTOWNS show, NOW is the time.
MP3 of the MONTH: I am really excited about a murder ballad I wrote for the new Barnstar! record called "Barnstable County." We got a (pardon the pun) killer version of it in the studio, where it morphed into something even darker, but this month's track is the demo of the song I first brought to the band. You can get it free at my Bandcamp page for the month of January. Enjoy!
Fri Jan 9th - Old Sloop Coffeehouse, Rockport MA - 7:30 pm
A MILLTOWNS show with my Barnstar! compadre Charlie Rose on pedal steel, banjo and acoustic guitar. Can't wait to sing lines like "it was a cold street on the seacoast, I once tried to call home/where the church steeples rose up above the town like broken bones" in an old white church across the street from the gray January ocean. Charlie Rose will open with a set of his superb original material.
Sat Jan 10th - Fox Run, Sudbury MA - 7:30 pm
All the above, except in a living room in a Boston suburb. If you ever wanted to sit close enough to see how I play a particular song on the guitar, this is the show for you. The wonderful Susan Cattaneo will kick off the evening.
Thu Jan 15th - Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 3), New York NY - 8:30 pm
MILLTOWNS comes to Manhattan! Super excited to play this room for the first time, with Charlie Rose on pedal steel, banjo and acoustic guitar. I'll be playing "23rd Street" just blocks away from the real thing.
Fri Jan 16th - Strand Center for the Arts, Lakewood NJ - 8 pm
Never played this venue before, but it looks to be a fantastic place. You may even get to sit on the stage with us. I might be making that up. Only one way to find out and that's to come to the show. With Charlie Rose accompanying me on pedal steel, banjo and acoustic guitar.
Sat Jan 17th - Backporch Festival, Northampton MA - 7 pm
This here show at the Academy of Music is what they call a no-brainer. I'll open up the evening (accompanied by Charlie Rose), followed by Dustbowl Revival and Dom Flemons (of Carolina Chocolate Drops fame). Um, if you like rootsy folksy twangy stompin' music, this is the place you want to be.
BARNSTAR! CD RELEASE TOUR
Ok folks, this is it. We hardly ever get to do this and we are psyched to hit the road and take this show to YOU. Washington DC...they're letting us THIS close to the nation's capitol? We're headed back to Zack Hickman's homeland of Virginia? And Barnstar! in NEW YORK CITY?!? C'mon. We'll have copies of the new record for sale. You don't wanna miss this.
Thu Jan 29th - The Hamilton, Washington DC - 7:30 pm
(Jimmy Gaudreau & Moondi Klein support)
Fri Jan 30th - The Jefferson Center, Roanok VA - 8 pm
Sat Jan 31st - Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2), New York NY - 8:15 pm
ON THE HORIZON:
Feb 4 - Oberon Theater, Cambridge MA (**big Barnstar! cd release show)
Feb 5 - One Longfellow Square, Portland ME**
Feb 6 - Club Helsinki, Hudson NY**
Feb 7 - Academy of Music, Northampton MA** (HUUUGE show, all hands on deck!)
Feb 27 - Stone Church, Newmarket NH ## MILLTOWNS show
Feb 28 - Circle of Friends Coffeehouse, Franklin MA##