The Beat Goes On: Acclaimed dobro player shows her singer-songwriter side in Northampton, an eclectic duo comes to Florence, and more
|Published: 02-08-2024 1:37 PM
The Parlor Room features a steady stream of singer-songwriters, given the Northampton club’s intimate setting is ideal for acoustic music.
The vast majority of those performers come bearing acoustic guitars. But Abbie Gardner will bring her dobro, or resonator guitar, played in her lap, when she performs at The Parlor Room on Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Gardner, who’s part of the Americana/bluegrass trio Red Molly, has also performed with other musicians, and she made two previous solo albums, “Wishes on a Neon Sign” and “Hope,” on which she played dobro guitar and sang, with backing from a full band.
But Gardner, who lives outside of New York City, turned in a completely solo effort on her most recent record, 2022’s “DobroSinger,” a collection of folk- and blues-flavored songs she mostly recorded at her home and which, as the album title emphasizes, showcase her lyrics and singing as much as her impressive slide work.
“I wanted to make a record that would reflect the way I’d been touring — just me and my instrument,” Gardner said in an email. “The challenge of making my arrangements cover all the parts with only those two elements is something I’ve been working on for a long time. I figured it was time to share that on a recording!”
At her Parlor Room gig, she’ll be playing those songs solo, cuts such as her cover of “Down the Mountain,” an old country blues with lyrics to match: “Take my trouble down the mountain, I can’t carry it no more … trouble weighed me down so long.”
“Born in the City,” by contrast, is a more playful kind of straight blues, with Gardner singing about growing up in New York City — “Uptown, Downtown, East Side, West Side / No one’s shocked by what they see” — and adding plenty of crisp slide notes to the jaunty melody.
Given most dobro guitar is played as accompaniment to other music, hearing Gardner play hers as a solo instrument is something of a revelation. On “DobroSinger,” she offers a range of sounds, like the fingerpicked melody and chords of “Three Quarter Time,” a ballad she embellishes with occasional full-chord strums and gentle slide notes.
“A big part of why I wanted to make this record is because the instrument isn’t often used this way — out in front, with no guitar to back it up,” Gardner said. “I wanted to push the boundaries of what it can do.”
Acoustic Guitar says of her album, “The playing and singing are both impeccable and loaded with personality. You can hear every nuance of the slide ... and her intimate, pitch-perfect vocals — wistful, playful, confessional — sound like they’re dancing with the guitar.”
Special bonus: Gardner will also lead a songwriting workshop at The Parlor Room before her show, 4:30-6 p.m.
For some more fine guitar playing and songwriting, you can head to The Drake in Amherst to hear Ryan Montbleau and Brooks Forsyth — though unfortunately they’re playing the same night as Abbie Gardner: Feb. 10, at 8 p.m. A tough choice.
Montbleau, who was born in Peabody, first cut his musical teeth on the Boston music scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s, playing in area clubs including House of Blues and Club Passim. He’s made his mark as both an astute songwriter and a guitarist who mixes melodic fingerpicking with percussive, rhythmic strumming.
Though he tours largely as a solo act, Montbleau also plays at times with a full band, one that has a local connection: The Ryan Montbleau Band previously toured with Northampton singer-songwriter Martin Sexton and backed Sexton on his sets as well.
More recently, Montbleau formed “Yes Darling,” a duo with friend and singer/dancer Hayley Jane that sings “humorous songs about love, romance, and your partner driving you absolutely nuts,” as one description puts it.
Opening for Montbleau is Brooks Forsyth, a North Carolina native and a skilled flatpicker and fingerpicker who’s played with Doc Watson, Sierra Ferrell and a number of other artists.
A songwriter as well as a Nashville recording artist, Forsyth also performs some interesting covers from the blues and Americana songbooks. Check out his take on the Doc Watson fingerpicking standard “Deep River Blues,” on which he turns the bright, swing-blues tune into a minor-chord blues with a very different feel.
Feb. 10 offers some other tough choices for music fans, given the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence will also host a show at 7 p.m. with an unusual duo.
Justin Adams & Mauro Durante, an English electric guitarist and an Italian drummer/violinist, respectively, mix blues, North African rhythms, and Italian folk in their own unique way.
Adams has been a key member and producer of the Sensational Space Shifters, the band fronted by former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant that combines rock and West African rhythms. Adams has also worked with a Saharan desert blues group, Tinariwen, and with groups with African, Arabic and Irish traditions.
Durante comes out of a style of music and dance from southern Italy known as “Pizzica” that his ensemble, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, has reinterpreted for a global audience.
Together Adams and Durante have melded some of these sounds and developed some new ones — what the Guardian calls “a thrilling, spontaneous affair, switching between the laments and love songs of southern Italy and the gritty blues of North Africa and North America.”
Rock and roll is on the playlist tonight (Friday, Feb. 9) at Bishop’s Lounge in Northampton when The Marks Brothers play at 9 p.m.
If you’re looking for cover bands, you can head to the Shea Theater in Turners Falls tonight at 8 p.m. to hear River of Dreams, a Billy Joel tribute led by John Cozolino, who “looks and sounds just like Billy,” according to program notes. There’s also American Elton, with Bill Connors standing in as the Rocket Man.
If that’s not enough, the Shea is hosting Legend, a Journey tribute band, on Feb. 10 at 8 p.m.
More Feb. 10 music: Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield will stage a Mardi Gras celebration starting at 8 p.m. with Zydeco Connection and The Bourbon Street Blasters. If you get to Hawks & Reed by 7 p.m., you can also take a free zydeco dance lesson.
And one other Feb. 10 gig: The Marigold Theater in Easthampton hosts a Beatles open mic beginning at 7 p.m. in a benefit for the Northampton Community Music Center. There will be a backing band and special guest performers; suggested donation is $7-15.
Local heroes Appalachian Still bring their high-energy bluegrass to The Parlor Room Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Versatile rocker Ted Leo, who started in New York’s Hardcore scene and moved on to power pop, indie rock, and a songwriting duo with Aimee Mann, comes to The Drake on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. Songwriter and performer Will Dailey, an eight-time Boston Music Award winner, opens the show.
Steve Pfarrer can be reached at email@example.com.