Tuned In: Remembering Jeff Martell

  • Libby Volckening and Jeff Martell. Photo by Amy Kemp

  • The Mountain Goats.

  • Premier Swing Band. 

  • Mikey Sweet.

  • Show of Cards.

Friday, November 03, 2017


Northampton singer/songwriter Jeff Martell filled his life with music, working with The Green River Festival for years, performing solo and with bands across New England, and practicing the devotional yoga known as Kirtan, which incorporates call-and-response chanting. In January 2016, he was killed in an automobile accident on the way to a gig. He was 50.

He and his Kirtan partner Libby Volckening were in the middle of making a CD of original songs. With the help of their mutual musical friends, Volckening finished those final recordings to create a 10-song, one-hour album entitled “Heart Centered Kirtan,” and she will celebrate the release of the CD at the Hawks & Reed performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Saturday at 7 p.m.

The record combines accessible music and a spiritual vibe. “Om Cecilia” is a mix of acoustic classic rock and choral music, while “Maha” could be a Neil Young song, with electric guitar leads over the soothing drone of Volckening’s harmonium. “Govinda” features bubbling reggae organ, and the album ends with “Ishvara,” which has the refrain “Let it go” and a warm horn section forming mellow chords under the words.

At the CD release party, Volckening will be joined by guitarist James Robinson, bassist Garrett Sawyer, drummer Dave Noonan and vocalist Melissa Stevens, along with special guests Brian DiMartino (electric guitar) and Andy Soles (harmonica)

Volckening, a longtime yoga teacher, said her early training involved learning the repetition of mantra as a way of training the mind. “I found the practice immediately useful. It made me feel calmer, more grounded and focused.” 

When Martell asked her to sing with him, she developed a personal relationship with Kirtan. “For me, and I think for Jeff, too, setting the mantras to music made them somehow more accessible, more direct.”

And, she added, “Being around Jeff when he was singing anything, especially Kirtan, was like being next to a light bulb. He just radiated light and warmth, and it really affected me.”

Premier Swing Band brings its “Name That TV Theme” trivia show to the Amherst Senior Center today, Friday, at 2 p.m. The band will perform 30-second snippets of TV themes and ask audience members to name the show, its stars and other details. Free!

Northampton singer/songwriter Mikey Sweet, still touring behind his 2016 album “Road Dog Gospel,” plays The Parlor Room in Northampton on Friday, tonight, at 7 p.m.

Show of Cards is a local group based around siblings Karen and Mike Cardozo, and the band celebrates the release of its latest CD, “One Small Good Thing,” with bandmates bassist Garrett Sawyer (who engineered the new album) and drummer Joe Fitzpatrick. It happens in the Great Room at Pioneer Valley Cohousing on Pulpit Hill Road in North Amherst (a smoke and fragrance-free venue) on Friday, tonight, at 7:30 p.m. The opening act is River Rhapsody.

Superteen (from Salem, MA), Tundrastomper (bracing math/experimental rock from Easthampton) and Nanny (pop/punk from Northampton) make up the triple-bill at The Basement in Northampton on Saturday at 8 p.m.

The Security Project: the Timeless Music of Peter Gabriel is a tribute band featuring the vocals of Happy Rhodes and a lineup that includes members of King Crimson, Shriekback and Gabriel’s original band. At The Iron Horse in Northampton on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Mountain Goats, the long-running, critically acclaimed band led by singer/ songwriter/author John Darnielle, plays the Calvin in Northampton on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Mothers, a quartet from Athens, GA, starts off the night.

Acoustic singer/songwriters Beth Wood and Connor Garvey join forces at The Parlor Room on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Mali guitarist Habib Koite and and his group Bamada return to The Iron Horse on Thursday at 7 p.m. Says big fan Bonnie Raitt, “First there was Hendrix, then Stevie Ray, and now Habib.”

 Local bands The Provolone Brothers and Arvilla share a bill with Lung (on tour from Cincinnati) at the latest Reanimate the Bay State show at The Sierra Grille in Northampton on Thursday at 10 p.m.