Ken Maiuri’s Tuned In: Maxwell Hughes at the Montague Bookmill and other gigs in the Valley

Last modified: Thursday, September 04, 2014
Two hands and a six-string acoustic guitar. Maxwell Hughes starts with those average implements and builds music that lives in the same neighborhood as creative greats like Michael Hedges, Kaki King and Tommy Emmanuel.

Hughes uses alternate tunings and comes at the instrument from every which way. He finger-taps the strings over the top of the neck, slaps the wooden body for sharp punctuation or steady rhythm and flicks crisp harmonics from the frets, often sounding like multiple guitarists at once — even during the one composition that he plays entirely with his left hand hammering on the strings, his right hand relaxing at his side.

It’s no surprise Hughes has won some “Best Instrumentalist” awards and been a finalist at the International Fingerstyle Competition. (He’s also a former member of The Lumineers.)

Hughes plays the intimate Montague Bookmill — a perfect place to see an imaginative musician up close — Friday at 8 p.m. Vocalist/guitarist Alec Hutson opens.

It’s mid-July — Green River Festival time. The yearly music celebration is back with two days and three stages full of performers new and old, from recent critical darlings Lucius to the classic Dirty Dozen Brass Band. More than 30 acts are on tap, with highlights including Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (who put on one of last year’s best shows at the Parlor Room) and the all-star Shinolas Revue (featuring Syd Straw, Freedy Johnston and Fountains of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood). It’s the kind of event that makes it fun to wander from to stage to stage, up and down the hilly field, seemingly walking in slow motion as summer-powered kids race by. The festival is held on the grounds of Greenfield Community College on Saturday and Sunday, with gates opening at noon. The full schedule is available at www.greenriverfestival.com. SOLD OUT

Boston-based band Eddie Japan has always tried to inhabit a grander world than the average group. Its Cinemascope pop shares melodramatic DNA with Spaghetti Western sound tracks, Morrissey and ’60s pop, the band members dress sharply and go for mood rather than attitude. The Boston music scene embraced their big presence with big awards — the band won “Live Artist of the Year” at last year’s Boston Music Awards as well as the top spot in the city’s 2013 “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble.” Eddie Japan takes the stage at the Iron Horse in Northampton Saturday at 7 p.m. The Weisstronauts open.

Moonlight and Morning Star will be joined by their son, pianist Miro Sprague, for a show that will include original compositions plus songs from Abbey Lincoln, Michael Franks and more. At the 1794 Meetinghouse in New Salem Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Earlier this year La Santa Cecilia, named for the patron saint of music, won a Grammy Award for Best Latin rock/urban/alternative recording, and the energetic, on-the-rise Los Angeles band appears at the Iron Horse Sunday at 7 p.m. Part of the Dean’s Beans concert series. (To see a video of the group performing, click on this story at www.gazettenet.com.)

Gordon Lightfoot returns to the area for his “50 Years on the Carefree Highway” tour. The Canadian living legend has received his own postage stamp (not to mention countless Juno awards) and at age 75 — and with a voice that’s become more delicate over the years — he’s still going. Gord brings his gold to the Calvin Theatre in Northampton Sunday at 8 p.m.

Mal Devisa (the popular solo project of Amherst’s Deja Rene Carr); Shy, Low (post-rock from Virginia); Forget, Forget (indie rock quintet from Portland, Maine) and Moving Picture House (from Cape Cod) play the Flywheel in Easthampton Thursday at 7 p.m.