There is something about a good song. Something where the words cut deep, the melody is all there, everything is in balance where you are getting enough emotionally to feed the need to feel something. There is also something about a bad song…but we won’t breach that subject here. I spend most of my work days in excel spreadsheets, creating powerpoints, or writing emails asking folks for things. Collecting, collating, processing information. 90% of the time my ears are plugged up with my blue Klipsch earbuds (name drop, sponsorship, anyone, please?). The point here is that I receive and listen to A LOT of music. A bunch of that music is real good. Some of that music is not so good. Very rarely that music is absolutely phenomenal and blows me away. There are a million songwriters in the world, probably more. You likely won’t hear about most of them, you probably don’t really need to…but here are 7 you do need to hear based in, around, or with roots in New England of some sort.
Ian Fitzgerald – I have said it over and over again, but I firmly believe that Ian is one of the most talented songwriters period, never mind in New England in present day. With a direct, unassuming delivery, a dry wit, and a focus on literary tools to truly tell a story not just sing a string of words that rhyme. Genius songwriting, thoughtful and occasionally dumbfounding. With a new release on the horizon I think 2015 is going to be a big year for this gent. Example tune – “Walks Like Tussaud”, the concept, the descriptions, the true storytelling capacity is incredible.
Haunt the House (Will Houlihan) – Will has a way of silencing an audience to a completely still silence with his songs and when he is finished they erupt into a fervor of applause. His moniker (whether solo, duo, trio or 8 piece band) is a fitting one as his songs resonant deep and haunting in your soul. His latest record, Jack Rabbit Jones, is a full concept album surrounding characters that represent different parts of his personality. Brilliant, brilliant songwriting and ideas come from this guy and the cast he choose to surround himself with only furthers that fact. Example tune – “Vampyre“, is absolutely gorgeous and sparse and just perfect. (photo courtesy of Jason Rossi)
Dan Baker – Although Dan has seemingly disappeared on the performance front for the past couple of months, his songs seem to always come back to me. Baker has the most subtle, self-deprecating way of saying something so strongly without having to say much at all. Straight laced, no bull, just fantastic songwriting seems to pour from this guy and his he is a great guitar player to boot. Example tune – “This Ain’t My Home“- Baker howls when he sings the line of the song’s namesake. The guitar line, the bass thump, soaring fiddle, his dry humor, everything comes together perfect.
Roy Davis- Davis has evolved his sound over the years, but one thing remains constant: he writes really amazing songs. Blunt and sometimes hard hitting, stories that have a dash of humor added to their dark nature. He delicately balances two ends of a spectrum and churns out wonderful songs as a result. Plus, he is one of the funniest gents to every grace a stage. His new record is phenomenal, and you should all be excited to hear it. Example tune- “Maxine” – with a slightly slow churn of a banjo, plodding along as Davis shares his tale. Its almost as if he is doing just that, telling a story rather than a song and that’s what I love about his songs. You are fully engaged in the listening and visualizing his stories.
Chuck Melchin- Chuck may very well be the one underrated songwriter ever. The guy is just so humble, he writes songs, puts them out there. He shapes stories of old towns, roads less traveled, and has one of my absolute favorite voices telling those stories. Heavy on the sad songs…the best way to be. Example tune – “Down” – Slow picked guitars, the steel howling like a gentle wind, Melchin isn’t going anywhere fast in this song. There is no hurry, because you want to sit down and listen. Subtle harmonies and builds on the chorus, subtly is king for this songwriter and damn, it works everytime.
M.R. Poulopoulos- Three chords never sounded so good. Poulopoulos is straight forward songwriter, no frills, but all he needs is 3 chords to capture your attention and make you a quick fan…but he has many other tricks up his sleeve too. His voice is fantastic, he is an incredible song-smith, and he writes what he knows and experiences in a poetic and beautiful way. Example tune- “Ink Fades” – This tune absolutely tore me up the first time I heard it. His voice is somehow gritty and gruff but soft and vulnerable at the same time.
James Maple- I have been lucky enough to hear some roughs of Maple’s new music, and man this shit cuts deep. Never muddying it up with more complexity than he needs, he has a way of delivering so much in simple arrangements. With a heart felt heartbreak attitude and punch, this guy is going to be releasing some great new material in the not so distant future and I cannot wait to be there to soak it all in. Example tune- “Mount Morris” – A somber and slow waltz of sorts. I love the build of this tune when it finally gets to Maple’s high cry you are revved up and geared into the tune. “Oh come home…”, you can feel the longing deep in your heart. Make me feel, James, make me feel. (photo courtesy of Brian Lima)