Ken Maiuri’s Tuned In: Jonathan Spottiswoode and His Enemies and other musicians who will play this week in the Valley

Last modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jonathan Spottiswoode commands a room. The artist/writer from London (who’s been living in New York City since the late ’90s) doesn’t simply sing his songs, he inhabits them. Whether it’s a mesmerizing and hushed lullaby about the pouring rain, a randy cabaret waltz with winking rhymes, or a galloping noir rocker that builds to a psychotic climax, Spottiswoode draws you in.

The dapper (and sometimes playfully unhinged) singer/guitarist is both down-to-earth and as intense as Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen, with a little wild Joe Cocker soul in there, too. Spottiswoode is a showman who gets the songs across with actions as small as opening his often-closed eyes at a particular time, or as big as throwing a hopping tantrum while his fellow musicians kick up some fury.

For more than a decade he’s surrounded himself with His Enemies, a crack band that’s a bottomless well of instrumental inspiration. Accordion/keyboardist Tony Lauria, drummer Tim Vaill, bassist John Young, guitar/glockenspiel ace Riley McMahon, trumpeter Kevin Cordt — each player is tasteful and brilliant, creating arrangements that turn songs into mini-movies.

With at least eight records under their belt (“English Dream” is the latest, and one of the best), they’re the kind of group that’s so good, so talented, you can’t understand why they’re not regularly headlining huge sold-out theaters. But Spottiswoode & His Enemies put on a memorable show no matter how small the venue — and it doesn’t get much smaller than The Basement in Northampton, where they’ll be performing Saturday at 8 p.m.

Do not miss Spottiswoode & His Enemies! A highly recommended show.

Cambridge trio The Tarbox Ramblers has an atmospheric way with old blues and hillbilly sounds, from the bright (“Honey In the Rocks”) to the dark (“Ashes To Ashes”). Robert Plant became an instant fan upon seeing them play live, asking the group to open his upcoming tour. The Tarbox Ramblers play the Parlor Room in Northampton Friday at 8 p.m.

Songwriter and American folk original Michael Hurley made his first recordings 50 years ago — on the same tape machine that captured Lead Belly’s last. Ever since, he’s created a unique world, both visually (he paints his own album covers, many featuring recurring animal characters of his own creation) and in his relaxed writing, where songs unfold in unassuming, homey ways; they refresh the ears and the soul. “Slurf Song” is a favorite, an instantly hummable tune about the fun of cooking with friends, and the aftermath. “Oh I see the dishes over there / they fill me with despair,” he sings as fiddles double and triple the great circular melody. Hurley makes a rare appearance at Flywheel in Easthampton Saturday at 8 p.m. Local band Frozen Corn opens.

Bella’s Bartok got its start on the streets of Great Barrington and has moved onto the stages of Northampton and beyond, with dancers and fans following in the wake of the band’s hyper gypsy-circus-parade-punk anthems. The quirky group has finished a four-song EP (which supporters helped fund via Indiegogo) and it celebrates with a release party at the Parlor Room in Northampton Saturday at 8 p.m. Carinae starts off the night.

The Elevens as we know it will soon be no more. The long-running Northampton venue — which over the last 10 or so years featured local original bands, national/international touring artists, comedy nights, fashion shows and much more — will soon have new ownership and become a different nightspot, with cover bands being the new focus. Before the change, there’s one final night of original sounds with three local groups (all of which include this writer as a member): Spouse, The Fawns and Gentle Hen (formerly School For the Dead). Join them for a “Farewell to The Elevens” Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Scott Lawson Pomeroy (of the bands Orange Crush and Mambo Sons) has a solo project called “Fear No ’80s,” which finds him recasting hits from that synthesizer-minded decade as acoustic songs. Pomeroy performs at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls Thursday at 8 p.m. Free.


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