Valley artists offer new sounds for spring: Singer-songwriter Lisa Bastoni and folk-rockers Eavesdrop release new records

Northampton singer-songwriter Lisa Bastoni has released her third full-length album, “On the Water,” this spring.

Northampton singer-songwriter Lisa Bastoni has released her third full-length album, “On the Water,” this spring. Photo by Thomas Lingner

Lisa Bastoni’s “On The Water” was recorded live in the studio in eastern Massachusetts last summer.

Lisa Bastoni’s “On The Water” was recorded live in the studio in eastern Massachusetts last summer.

Valley folk-rockers Eavesdrop have a new EP out, “Evergreen,” that includes some acoustic-based tracks as well as some more pop-flavored material.

Valley folk-rockers Eavesdrop have a new EP out, “Evergreen,” that includes some acoustic-based tracks as well as some more pop-flavored material. Image courtesy of Eavesdrop

Close to two dozen Valley musicians have issued a new recording of John Sebastian’s 1976 hit “Welcome Back” as benefit for the the revived Iron Horse Music Hall.

Close to two dozen Valley musicians have issued a new recording of John Sebastian’s 1976 hit “Welcome Back” as benefit for the the revived Iron Horse Music Hall.

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 05-17-2024 2:20 PM

Modified: 06-03-2024 10:01 AM


The Valley continues to be a fertile place for music, with a number of groups and artists releasing new albums this spring. Here’s a look at two of the records, with female singers at the forefront.

On the Water: Lisa Bastoni

Lisa Bastoni has been making some noise in the last several years.

After putting her music on hold for some time after she got married and became a mother of two children, the Northampton singer-songwriter released her first full album, “The Wishing Hour,” in 2017 and began performing again.

It all paid off, as within the next five years Bastoni was nominated for four New England Music Awards and also won a New Folk Award at the 2019 Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. 

Bastoni has since released a second album and an EP, and this spring she’s taken another step, releasing her third full-length album, “On the Water,” which was recorded live in a Watertown studio over three days last summer with a full band.

It’s a rich mix of Americana, folk, and a bit of country: 12 songs on which Bastoni sings with conviction and feeling, whether recalling a past relationship, remembering the details of a childhood friend’s home, or profiling a young couple forced to grow up fast (“They were just babies having a baby … Honeymoon in Disneyland”).

Indeed, there’s a bit of melancholy running through some of her songs, a sense of life not having turned out quite as expected.

But in a recent phone interview, Bastoni sounded quite upbeat when she talked about “On the Water” and its recording process.

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It was the first time she’d ever worked with a full band or recorded her music live in the studio, and she says it was a great experience.

“All my other albums were layered,” she said. “I’d record myself singing and playing guitar, then the other musicians would add their parts separately.”

Recording live gave her new material a real jolt of energy, Bastoni said. “Everybody was ready to play, and the songs just came together beautifully. We really just trusted each other that we could make it work.”

The album was produced by her boyfriend, Sean Staples, who played a variety of instruments on the songs. Bastoni got contributions from other players on drums, keyboards, bass, and guitar; some fellow singer-songwriters, including Kris Delmhorst and Mark Erelli, added backing vocals on different tracks.

The production varies from the bright piano of the album’s opening track, “Right Side of the River,” to pedal steel guitar on the wry, country-flavored “Let’s Look at Houses,” a tale about a couple who examine real estate they can’t afford.

But the other instruments never overwhelm Bastoni, who sounds a bit like Lori McKenna (an artist she’s opened for) and can summon a range of emotions.

There’s her guarded view on “Right Side of the River,” a song about the emotional trials love can bring: “I’ve been worn down by the water and the wind / I swore I’d never go that way again / I’m on the right side of the river / I won’t drown for love.”

“Cheap Wine” also explores the weighty subject of love, wondering whether it can survive too little money and problems like “It’s the middle of September / The thermostat’s still broken from last year.” The aching melody is carried along by Bastoni’s fingerpicked acoustic guitar and some haunting riffs on pedal steel by Rich Hinman.

Bastoni’s art extends beyond music. She’s a longtime public school art teacher, currently working part-time in the Hatfield elementary school, and she also creates hand-painted lyric videos for musicians, for some of her own songs and for artists such as Cloudbelly, Sandy Bailey, and Barnstar!

“These are all jobs I genuinely love,” she said. “I feel really fortunate that I’m able to do these different things.”

That arrangement also gives her more time to be with her children, a daughter and son who are now 12 and 10, respectively.

Bastoni hopes her new album will also lead to some more gigs (she played last month at The Parlor Room in Northampton). And how about a show with the band she recorded “On the Water” with?

“That would be my dream gig,” she said.

Evergreen: Eavesdrop

Started about 10 years ago as a folk/country trio, Eavesdrop has built its sound around the rich, intricate harmonies of friends and vocalists Kara Wolf, Laura Buchanan, and Kerrie Wert and their shared songwriting.

But the Valley band, with Buchanan on acoustic guitar and Wolf and Wert on hand percussion, has broadened its approach over the years, recording and performing at times with additional musicians on electric guitar, keyboards and drums to play what they call Americana folk-pop; they previously released two albums and an EP.

The six-member version of the band now includes Jared Quinn on guitar, Darby Wolf on keyboards, and Andrew Ricketts on drums, with different bass players for shows.

And on the band’s newest record, the EP “Evergreen,” they’ve brought in additional textures, adding a bit of funk and R&B-flavored pop, with bright guitar lines, tight drumming, a little saxophone and some prominent bass as well, played by Reed Sutherland, who’s gigged with many other musicians in the area.

In a recent phone call, Wolf said the new songs evolved in part from some demos their producer, Spencer Hattendorf, developed from basic recordings that she, Buchanan and Wert had made of some new but incomplete songs.

“He took the skeleton of our songs and added all these different parts, and he said ‘What do you think?’” said Wolf. “We loved the vibe, and we thought, “Let’s do it like Spencer did it.’”

The EP shows its more poppy sounds at first, beginning with “Only One,” which includes some bouncy, funky guitar and synthesizer, with a chorus of “You’re the only one who knows me .. You’re the only one who moves me” on which the three singers come together seamlessly.

“Up North” offers catchy folk-pop, beginning with a muted riff on acoustic guitar and a single singer and then kicking in with washes of organ, drums, and electric guitar on the choruses, with Buchanan, Wert and Wolf summoning a bit of Fleetwood Mac in that part of the song.

“The guys in our band are so talented and have played with so many other groups, so we just give them creative liberty to come up with different things when we’re recording,” said Wolf.

The group closes “Evergreen” with more of its traditional sound, employing strummed acoustic guitars and their most tightly woven harmonies, especially on the last track, “Hold Her Own,” an ode to a strong woman who knows what she wants: “She can take care of you and herself, too.”

Wolf said “Hold Her Own” was recorded semi-live, with Buchanan first recording an acoustic guitar part and the three singers adding a combined vocal to that.

It’s a solid collection of songs, engineered and produced at what’s become one of the go-to studios in the Valley, Ghost Hit Recording in West Springfield.

Eavesdrop will play June 28 at the Iron Horse Music Hall as a full band, in a double bill with singer and songwriter Grayson Ty and his band (some of whom also are part of Eavesdrop).

And one more recording: Area musicians and a veteran engineer have joined forces to produce a new version of John Sebastian’s 1976 pop hit “Welcome Back,” the theme song for a period TV show, “Welcome Back, Kotter,” about a teacher now working in the Brooklyn, N.Y. high school he attended. (The show featured a young John Travolta as a student.)

The new version of “Welcome Back” is a fundraiser for the revamped Iron Horse, which featured its first shows this week since March 2020. Featuring some two dozen musicians on vocals and varied instruments, the recording was engineered and mastered by Dave Clafant and is available as a download at theparlorroomcollective.bandcamp.com.

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