The Beat Goes On: Peter Lehndorff’s new album, Mary Chapin Carpenter at the Pines Theater, and more

  • Singer-songwriter and humorist Peter Lehndorff, who’s just released his first new record in years, plays at Luthier’s Co-op on Aug. 5. CONTRIBUTED/JULIAN PARKER-BURNS

  • One of America’s pre-eminent singer-songwriters, Mary Chapin Carpenter, plays the Pines Theater at Look Park in Florence on Aug. 13. CONTRIBUTED/DSP SHOWS 

  • Klezmer with a Scandinavian accent: Danish band Mames Babegenush plays the Bombyx Center in Florence on July 30. CONTRIBUTED/TOBIAS WILNER

  • Indie folk duo High Tea will join four other groups at the Valley Music Showcase, the friendly band competition, at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton July 31. CONTRIBUTED/MARK SHERRY

  • Life on the road: blues and country singer Charley Crockett, a late bloomer in his late 30s, plays Race Street Live in Holyoke Aug. 11. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHARLEY CROCKETT WEBSITE

  • Ladama, whose members hail from Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil and the U.S., bring their mix of Latin music and pop to the West Whately Chapel Aug. 14. PHOTO BY SEA ROBIN STUDIOS

  • Bluegrass specialists Punch Brothers will join two other Americana artists at the Pines Theater in Look Park in Florence Aug. 17. PHOTO COURTESY OF PUNCH BROTHERS WEBSITE

Staff Writer
Published: 7/28/2022 4:28:30 PM

Back in the late 1990s, singer-songwriter Peter Lehndorff released his debut album, “Love on the Line,” on Signature Sounds, a disc full of droll songs about the absurdities of daily life, from a tune about Murphy’s Law (“Everything Takes Longer”) to a tale of suburban blandness (“East Longmeadow”), in which the song’s narrator wanders into the wrong home in his neighborhood of identical houses.

Lehndorff, who lives in Hampden, has a deadpan voice and delivery to match his wry lyrics and fingerstyle guitar playing. “Love on the Line” received some fine reviews, but Lehndorff for years has also run a busy graphic arts business, meaning music has been something of a sideline for him.

But in more recent years, he’s continued to perform and win notice. His car-related tunes have been featured on NPR’s “CarTalk” radio show; in 2020, he was a finalist in the Connecticut Folk Festival Songwriting competition. Now he’s coming to Luthier’s Co-op in Easthampton on Aug. 5 at 7 p.m.

At the show, where Lehndorff will be joined on some songs by his friend Sue Hill on vocals and ukulele, he’ll play cuts from his newest album, “Don’t Be Discouraged,” which includes more of his unique wit. But he’s got serious songs as well, mostly reflecting on the loss of his wife, Kathy, to Huntington’s disease several years ago.

For many years, he became Kathy’s full-time caregiver, making performing almost impossible, and he now devotes proceeds from sales of his music to the Huntington’s Disease Program at the University of Connecticut Health Center, where his late wife received treatment.

To make “Don’t Be Discouraged,” Lehndorff has tapped some key musical names in the Valley. The album is produced by Jim Henry, the Shutesbury multi-instrumentalist (he also plays on the disc); other contributors include Tracy Grammer, Chris Haynes, Paul Kochanski and J.J. O’Connell. Most of them played their parts remotely, as the album was first recorded during the worst of the pandemic.

The title cut, the album’s kickoff track, is vintage Lehndorff, a song he calls “an anthem to realistic pessimism,” with a chorus that ends with “Don’t be discouraged if things look bad at first / No, don’t be discouraged. It’s bound to get worse.” There’s a funny, bittersweet tune about attending his 50th high school reunion, and “Please Mr. Squirrel” is aimed at a pesky rodent that gets into a hiker’s food supply.

But titles such as “Guilty Survivor” and “Tonight I Wish” examine the difficulty of moving on from the death of a partner. In “It Just Depends,” Lehndorff considers the old things from his wife he still has in the house and sings “I tried to join that dating site, but I quit halfway through / They kept asking what I want / I kept describing you.”

“I’m still proud of my early stuff,” he writes on his website. “But I hope you enjoy my newer songs and the fact that it goes toward a good cause.”

In keeping with the rootsy vibe at Luthier’s that evening, Lehndorff will be followed at 8 p.m. by Lonesome Brothers, the venerable Valley country rockers, and at 9:30 p.m. by Daring Coyotes, a guitar/mandolin duo playing old-style country tunes.

 

Mary Chapin Carpenter became a megastar in the 1990s with country-rock albums like “Come on Come On” and radio-friendly hits such as “Shut Up and Kiss Me.” She won four consecutive Grammy awards for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, became a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and had her songs recorded by a number of other artists.

But for a good part of the last 20-odd years, Carpenter, who comes to the Pines Theater in Look Park in Florence on Aug 13, has been writing more intimate and introspective songs that connect with her folkie beginnings, or music that focuses on societal and political issues. Most recently she released “The Dirt and the Stars,” a 2020 album that was recorded live in Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in England.

“It’s Ok to be Sad” is a good example of the approach that Carpenter, who has gone through periods of depression, takes on the “The Dirt and the Stars.” It’s a sort of “note to self” about not shutting yourself off to feelings, even if those feelings are painful ones: “Could there be healing instead / Instead of breaking, I’m hoping / That the cracks beginning to spread / Is me breaking open.”

The album’s title cut, with its haunting melody and beginning mix of acoustic guitar and organ, touches a range of emotions, the kind you might feel looking at old photos of friends and family and sifting through the memories they trigger. The song also offers an affectionate nod to the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” the country-flavored tune from 1971.

By contrast, the bluesy feel of “American Stooge” recalls some of Carpenter’s earlier music: It’s an indictment of political corruption and sycophancy, inspired by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s abrupt turnaround from being a Donald Trump opponent to one of his most ardent supporters.

“Three decades into her career, one of country music’s most reliable and empathetic songwriters offers a profoundly intimate record, full of hushed revelations,” Pitchfork writes of the album. “Mary Chapin Carpenter can set an identifiable mood with just the sound of her guitar … [and] her smooth and precise singing voice.”

More music on tap

Danish Klezmer? Is that an oxymoron? The members of Mames Babegenush, which comes to the Bombyx Center for Arts & Integrity in Florence on July 30 at 7 p.m., would say no. This six-piece band from Denmark plays a mix of Jewish traditional music and Eastern European folk styles with “a bit of Nordic atmosphere,” as program notes put it. Lap steel guitarist Myk Freedman opens the show.

The Valley Music Showcase, the friendly band competition that was finally prepared to go live this spring after two years of pandemic shutdowns, got rained out in May. Fingers are now crossed for better weather on July 31, when five groups — Hue Blind, High Tea, Hawkns, Sadish Radish, and Stoner Will & the Narcs — will offer a mix of folk and rock from 3 to 7 p.m. at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. No admission fee, but donations are requested.

Blues and country singer Charley Crockett, a Texas native (and distant descendant of Davy Crockett), has been getting a lot of attention in recent years, moving from a hardscrabble upbringing to busking on the streets of New Orleans to releasing 10 albums in the last six years. He comes to Race Street Live in Holyoke on Aug. 11 at 8 p.m. Nashville singer-songwriter Emily Nenni opens.

Ladama, which plays the West Whately Chapel on Aug. 14 at 7:30 p.m., represents a change of pace for the Watermelon Wednesdays series and its focus on Americana and Celtic music. This four-women group blends sounds from South and North America to form “a musical hurricane of harmony, rhythm, and instrumental/vocal power,” according to program notes.

There’s more music slated for the Pines Theater in August, starting with Southern rock jam band Gov’t Mule on Aug. 10 at 7 p.m. The group is led by guitarist Warren Haynes, a long-time fixture with the Allman Brothers Band. And Aug. 17 features a triple header of bluegrass and country-folk, courtesy of Punch Brothers, Watchhouse, and Sarah Jarosz.

Pop music legend Elvis Costello, with special guest Nick Lowe, also plays The Pines, on Aug. 16 — but that show, sadly, has long since sold out. You can try hanging out beyond the gates to hear what you can hear.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.


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