Dec 5, 2011

The Nanoburgh 2011 Music Awards

Jamie Kent & The Options
Improv Records' Series @ Lake George

Artistic creativity generally happens early in life, and early in the career of a performing artist. There's even a theory out there claiming this is due to our genetic makeup, with creativity and innovation being nothing more than a way for us to show off our feathers, so to speak, and attract a mate. There it is, that old mating drive showing its dominating influence again. It's simply beyond our control, folks.

We don't know how Jamie Kent is making out in that mating department. But what we do know is this: the young Northhampton-based crooner is kicking on all 12 cylinders when it comes to crafting catchy tunes that span the full range of human emotion. Furthermore, he is then able to deliver them in a live setting with a passion and sensibility that surprises for both its depth and diversity. We're even tempted to add the word elegance here, if not for the lounge lizard connotation such usage would draw. Trust us; Mr Kent and his Options are the furthest you can get from that type comparison.

The smallish crowd gathered at the picturesque Lake George Ampitheater on this Travers eve night were treated to a set of that pulled generously from the collective band's 2010 Neotoney as well as their upcoming 2012 release. The baseboard of a made-to-order brand of adult-alternative rock was augmented nicely with touches of pop, scat-jazz, reggae and alt-country, all packaged in the confines of a small quartet that was so tight it that you would think it was a bunch of 70-year old jazz freaks up there.

While one is tempted to build a mile-high list of possible influences for both the vocal and compositional styles; save the effort. Mr Kent is both unique and at the peak of his creative powers. Those two facts alone make it worth the effort to see him in the near future.

The thought of his improving even more down the line, though, is downright scary.


Donna the Buffalo
Saratoga - Putnam Den

The Herd keeps rolling. While their tunesmithing of Jeb Puryear and Tara Nevins remain top notch, it is those four or five times each night – when they lock-in to their patented extended groove-driven instrumental jams – that give goosebumps and drive the happy feet wild. The new rhythm section provides an upgrade, and the now-firmly-embedded David McCracken's Hammond organ runs drive them into whole new sonic orbit.

Kyle Eastwood Band
Lake George Jazz Festival

Seeing that Famous Guy's Kid listed as the closing act seemed to many Jazz Fest observers as a yawner, or possibly nothing more than a blatant attempt to add a name to the bill and attract a few newbies to the annual event as a result. But said observers obviously know little of this gig's reputation and track record of being a TRUE jazz fest par excellence, with no patience or desire for such nonsense.

Bassist Eastwood brought in a six-piece ensemble of the highest order and proceeded to lay out a set that channeled early-Crusaders fusion with touches of bebop, cool and even smooth (of the not-so-icky variety, of course) jazz fibers. The result was an electrifying and exhilerating set proving Mr E to be more than just a fine film scorer, but also someone who has earned his own claim to the family name.

Chandler Travis Philharmonic
Albany - The Linda

Seemingly carrying the torch-bearing spirit of NRBQ...

Avett Brothers
Nashville - Ryman Auditorium

The new Americana treasure, performing in the center of the Americana universe. Can it get any better?

My Morning Jacket
Boston - BofA Pavilion

Big room rockers playing in a big room in a big city. Although we rarely go this route nowadays, it's always good to do it now and then as a way of reminding one's self of the rock grandeur experience. MMJ delivers a progressive yet quirky brand of rock and roll with that unique, weird-key vocals on top of layered soundscapes. It works; even in such a poor venue as this one.

Joe Louis Walker
Saratoga - Parting Glass

Blues is a tough genre to make a living in. After you get past the top 3 or 4 names, the other 99% are playing 20-person rooms to get enough traveling money for European trips, where the audiences are more appreciative and supportive.

That's why the Joe Louis Walker turnout was so encouraging, with a full house not only crowding into Saratoga's Parting Glass on a Thursday night, but also hanging on every guitar note and lyric and responding with ovation after ovation. The twin leads of Walker and hotshot-in-his-own-right Murali Coryell were just the trick for the beer-soaked throng of genuine music lovers.

Peter Karp & Sue Foley
Saratoga - Parting Glass

Singer-songwriter Peter Karp is a mighty fine craftsman of deeply Americana tales of woe and hope. Juno-winning Sue Foley is a mighty fine guitar-slinger of electric blues. Combine these two talents into a single act, and the sky's the limit. Right?

Well, it doesn't seem to be quite working out that way, if their local stop was any indication. The couple's He Said/She Said collaboration – a musical interpretation of a series of letters between the two over the years – doesn't quite gel, allowing neither party the chance to shine in an almost Split the Difference kind of manner. This is not to say it was a “bad” show, by any means; it's just that the expectations were set so high given the players.

Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter
Marble Son

Elvis Costello is credited with first saying “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” So maybe we should take that subtle advice, and just say GO LISTEN TO THIS BABY. Besides, it is such a complex and confounding piece of work that we'd have a hard time putting it into words anyways!


Eilen Jewell
Queen of the Minor Key

Cowgirl Cool. The heavy touring has tightened up this gal's chops, and the result is one of the best roots-rock record in years.

Amy LaVere
Stranger Me

Fans of Nanoburgh know that we have long champ'd Ms Amy, with our sister biz having brought her into town for three shows over a twelve-month span a couple years back. In the interim, the Memphis-based hipstress has suffered the death of her legendary producer, the departure of her hot shot guitarist and a nasty breakup with her drummer-boyfriend. With this triple-whammy of losing her major support figures, Mr LaVere is faced with the need to take the proverbial bull by the horns, step it up and take full reins of her future, front and center, for all the world to see. Such a prospect is always full of challenges, fears and mis-steps, of course -- and the view of this tiny dynamo bearing down, clenching her firsts and saying bring it on makes the process all the more intriguing...and ultimately human. This new release offers random looks into new world of hers. Take a peek, if you dare...


The Saratoga by-way-of Greenwich duo continues their climb onto the national scene, complete with fawning press coverage, late night TV shows and festival gigs. Their recent release is downright glorious, which should add a second stage boost to this rocket. For decades, the Albany area has longed for that one breakthrough act it could call its very own. Phantogram is sitting on that very doorstep; right here, right now.

The General Scene

Boston, much like the smaller Albany, is the ultimate up & down music community. When it's good, it's good. But when it's dry, it's dry. The Hub seems to be into the second or third year of an upswing, with a number of local acts percolating around the 'hoods worthy of moving up the food chain.

Revolution Hall

Are we sounding like a broken record here yet...?

A North Shore Venue

You'd think the math (population & incomes) numbers would add up. Anyone?


Jill Andrews
(Knoxville, TN)
Other Lives (Oklahoma)
Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds (Brooklyn, NY)
Great Lake Swimmers (Ontario, CAN)



Anonymous said...


Jam head said...

good stuff. u da man

Kimmy said...

Phantogram is truly fantastic. Their music is so unique that and almost mesmerizing. It has become my preferred zone-out music for a lazy rainy day.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Other Lives looks poise; they've just been announced as the support act for the Radiohead tour.