The Beat Goes On: Valley music Nov. 27-Dec. 10

  • Matt Lorenz, better known as The Suitcase Junket, brings songs from his album “The End in New” to the Shea Theater Nov. 27. Courtesy Bill Foster

  • Twisted Pine, which blends bluegrass, pop, and jazz, plays The Parlor Room Dec. 10. Photo by Jo Chatman/Gazette file photo

  • Valley singer-songwriter Kimaya Diggs will be joined by a number of musical friends for a holiday-themed show at The Parlor Room Dec. 4. Signature Sounds website

  • Acclaimed singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz kicks off the Northeast tour for her newest album, “Blue Heron Suite,” on Dec. 1 at Northampton’s Academy of Music. Sarah Jarosz website

  • Will Evans, the frontman for roots rockers Barefoot Truth, will play a solo show at Gateway City Arts in Holyoke Nov. 27. Photo from DSP Shows website

  • The Dan Weiss/Miles Okazaki Duo bring their jazz compositions to Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield Dec. 1. Photo from Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares website

  • A well-traveled man: Amherst native Mtali Banda, who has lived and traveled in several states, Israel, and Africa, plays Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield Dec. 3. Photo by Jeffs’ photography/Teresa Cooper-Gordon

  • Stringband/indie rockers Mamma’s Marmalade come to New City Brewery in Easthampton Nov. 27. Photo from Mamma’s Marmalade website

Staff Writer
Published: 11/25/2021 3:59:14 PM
Modified: 11/25/2021 3:58:58 PM

In some ways, Matt Lorenz, aka The Suitcase Junket, may have been a bit better suited than other musicians to ride out the pandemic. After all, the guitarist/singer/songwriter is a one-man band who plays a personally designed drum kit with his feet. The Valley-based artist also raises chickens and vegetables at his home.

But the isolation imposed by COVID-19 was hard on him, too — which made recording his newest album, “The End is New,” a good way to connect with others. Working mostly remotely with his producer, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, and Valley sound engineer Vincent Pizzoferrato, Lorenz recorded 10 new cuts on what he calls a “doom-folk” record.

“The things I value are under attack,” says Lorenz, who comes to the Shea Theater in Turners Falls on Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. “And writing songs and making art are the methods I have for responding.”

The new tunes look at the ravages of climate change, gross disparities in wealth, and keeping love alive in uncertain times. On “More,” he links Rachel Carson’s warning from the 1960s about environmental devastation caused by chemicals to the problems of today: “Silent spring won’t bother most folks / Birds are falling no more to sing / But profits doubled will triple the trouble / Our time down here, its ending is so near.”

And Lorenz always seems to find new ways to deliver his music, such as on the cut “When the Battle is Won,” for which he plays a drum and cymbals with a drumstick in his right hand — while using that same hand to strum his guitar. Amazing.


Sarah Jarosz, Dec. 1, 8 p.m., Academy of Music, Northampton — Critics have about run out of superlatives to describe Jarosz, who at just 30 years old has already won four Grammy Awards and been nominated for nine others. A stellar mandolin and banjo player — she plays guitar, too — she’s won particular notice for her folk- and bluegrass-flavored songwriting.

The Texas native also released a new album earlier this year, “Blue Heron Suite,” a song cycle that was actually recorded late in 2018 after Jarosz’s mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

In an interview earlier this year with the Nashville publication MusicRow, Jarosz said her mother’s illness, and the damage inflicted by a hurricane on a Texas coastal town her family visited for years, led to that collection of songs.

“Those two events caused me to think back to the early morning walks my mom and I would take along Mustang Island beach,” she said. “[W]e would always spot the great blue herons along the shore … The bird came to be a symbol of hope for my family during a difficult time.”

At the Academy show, Jarosz will play all the cuts from “Blue Heron Suite” with the two musicians she recorded it with, bassist Jeff Picker and guitarist/harmony vocalist Jefferson Hamer, as well as other tunes from her catalog.

“I can’t wait to bring the Blue Heron Suite tour to the Northeast in December,” Jarosz writes on Facebook; her 10-show stint in these parts will kick off at the Academy.

Back to the Parlor Room

Signature Sounds, which had planned to reopen its cozy Northampton listening room, The Parlor Room, in October, instead shifted programming to the more spacious Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield when the Delta variant came along in late summer.

Now, though, The Parlor Room will again host live music, with a number of shows scheduled for December, while Signature will continue to produce shows at Hawks & Reed as well. 

Signature President Jim Olsen said the label has had a good experience in Greenfield, giving staff the confidence that they can now host shows “safely and comfortably” in the smaller Northampton venue.

“We’ll be reducing the capacity of the Parlor Room shows by 25%,” Olsen noted in an email, “and we’ve added an air filtration system to make people feel more comfortable. We’ll be requiring proof of vaccination and masks at all times.”

The Parlor Room reopens Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. with a show by the indie duo Oshima Brothers, who use live looping to combine vocals, percussion, guitar and piano for a “roots-based pop sound that is infectious,” according to NPR. On Dec. 4, Valley singer-songwriter Kimaya Diggs plays a holiday-themed show at 7 p.m. with several special guests.

And on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m., Twisted Pine brings its eclectic mix of bluegrass, jazz and pop to The Parlor Room; Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Will Leet opens.

More music on tap

Will Evans, the frontman and chief songwriter for New England roots rockers Barefoot Truth, brings his solo show to Gateway City Arts in Holyoke on Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. The bluegrass trio The Wildmans and young local singer-songwriter Holland Silva will open the gig.

The Leafies You Gave Me, the Valley 10-piece band/avant-garde theater troupe whose shows have been described as “Broadway on Acid,” will offer their latest production on Nov. 27 at The Workroom at 33 Hawley in Northampton. Doors open at 8 p.m.; $10 sliding scale for tickets.

Mamma’s Marmalade, the Valley stringband with indie rock energy and dynamics, plays New City Brewery in Easthampton on Nov. 27 at 8 p.m.

Bridgeside Cypher, a Boston hip-hop performance organization, will host a free event on Nov. 28 at 10 p.m. at Bishop’s Lounge in Northampton, at which rappers, singers and urban music enthusiasts can take turns performing over a series of pre-recorded beats. It’s the first time the “Cypher” has been held in western Massachusetts.

Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares continues Dec. 1 when the duo of Dan Weiss and Miles Okazaki comes to Hawks & Reed at 7:30 p.m. Drummer/percussionist Weiss and guitarist Okazaki have been playing together for 20 years and, as a duo and in separate gigs with other musicians, have earned accolades for their chops.

Saxophonist and singer/composer Mtali Banda, an Amherst native who grew up variously in the Valley, Wisconsin, Georgia and Brockton — he also lived in Israel for a while — has honed a style that embraces jazz, funk, soul, folk, R&B, family history and more. He plays Hawks & Reed Dec. 3 at 8 p.m.

CitySpace, the nonprofit group that manages Easthampton’s Old Town Hall, recently reopened the building’s first floor for arts performances and other events. On Dec. 5 at 7 p.m., you can see Big Yellow Taxi there, a six-piece band that will perform the cuts from Joni Mitchell’s album “Blue” to recognize the disc’s 50th anniversary.

Sweet Honey in the Rock, the venerable a cappella ensemble of African-American women, comes to the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m, where the group will perform traditional American holiday spiritual songs, as well as hymns and songs from other places ranging from Africa to Israel.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at


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