The Local Music Corner – November 2023.  By Perry Persoff.


Halloween is behind us, the leaves are growing more orange and crimson red, and some of the trees are already looking like the botanical version of being “follically challenged.”  That is, they are already losing much of their leaves.  Toss in local elections plus commercials for Christmas themed movies and the signs are undeniable.  Yup…it’s November.

Before the holidays arrive, we have a couple of local music anniversaries to celebrate that both had somewhat unassuming beginnings.  We also have a few extremely cool feather-in-the-cap achievements.  Let’s get to it.

Once upon a time, a band that included drummer Billy Beard and singer-songwriter/guitarist Ry Cavanaugh finished their opening set at Toad in Porter Square, Cambridge.  After chilling out for a bit at a table by the stage…it became apparent that the next band was not going to make it.  So as Billy Beard tells it, Ry took the microphones off the stage, and then duct taped them to their table, and started playing songs from the table with whoever wanted to join in.  Such was the model for what became the band Session Americana.  As with all bands, Session has always had core members.  But for Session, having a revolving cast of collaborators from the Boston music scene has also always been part of the band.  In the early days, the core of the band was Ry Cavanaugh, Billy Beard, Jim Fitting, Dinty Child, Kimon Kirk, and Sean Staples.  Then John Bistline came in for Sean as a regular.  In 2018 Kimon moved to LA.  Around that time Jefferson Hamer joined for two albums or so.  But regardless of the core members at the time, a Session Americana album  was often a microcosm of the Boston folk/roots/rock music scene.  New to the area?  Look at the credits of almost any Session album and you’ll get a sense of many of the key players.  It’s a real sense of community.  Funny, there’s that word again to describe so much of the Boston music scene.  “Community.”

That first night I mentioned for what became Session Americana?  That was in late October 2003.  Let’s do a little math there and…the band is 20 years old!  They have been doing a 20th anniversary tour, which hit Club Passim in Cambridge in early October.  The band is hitting Pennsylvania, Maryland, and DC early this month.  Then after a six week break they will return to New England, including a Dec 15th gig at the Narrows Center For The Arts in Fall River, the Word Barn in Exeter NH on Dec 16, and then up to Waterbury Center, VT on Dec 17th.  Then it’s off to Switzerland and the Netherlands in March.  Could they do some surprise local gigs in the interim?  Who knows…

In addition to the 20th anniversary tour, a 20 year retrospective called The Rattle And The Clatter:  20 Years (So Far) of Session Americana is either available now or will be soon.

But anniversaries don’t have to be occasions solely for digging into the past.  Perhaps they are also inspiration for something new.  2024 will include a brand new Session Americana album.  For those of you into the Boston vs. New York sort of thing, could Session with their sense of friendship and collaboration be turning that on its ear?

The new album will be produced by “acclaimed NYC musician and producer” Alec Spiegelman.  Alec may be based in New York now, but he sure has some Boston music cred in his past.  He is a charter member of the David Wax Museum, he produced Jennifer Kimball’s last studio release, and he’s also worked with members of Lake Street Dive and Darlingside (not to mention many artists from all over…even New York).  Search out Alec’s production credits.  He’s been a part of multiple artists you’ve heard on WUMB over the years.

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Relative pups to Session Americana, there is a Boston area band that began at some of Tom Bianchi’s Open Mics that is turning 10 years old.  Carrying the accurate motto, “Soulful Americana,” that is the trio Hank Wonder.  Yes, the band inspired by and named for Williams and Stevie (Hank and Wonder…).  They don’t really sound like either, but they do have a sound that honestly embraces all the Country/Folk roots of “Americana” with a genuine soulfulness.  That comes from the fiddle playing of Annie Bartlett, the acoustic guitar picking of Michael Loria, and lead singer Darren Buck – who also has played in a soul band on the side, and has guested with the Baker Thomas Band on a few occasions.  Darren also has the vocal power to more than get by if power to the PA goes out.  Locally, Hank Wonder will have a 10th anniversary show on Thursday November 30th at Club Passim in Cambridge.  They are also slated to make their debut WUMB in-studio on November 29th.   They are also working up some new songs.  Could a third studio album be simmering in their musical kitchen?

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Congrat’s to Danielle Miraglia.  She is going to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January, representing the Boston Blues Society.  On October 15th at the Fallout Shelter, she won the competition among challengers for that honor for Solo performer.  Winning the nod for Band was Robin Hathaways’s Big Mouth Blues Band, out of Providence, RI.  Congrat’s to both!

In the discussion of all the great guitar players in Boston, Danielle Miraglia definitely has her stamp in my humble opinion.  She can pick the strings delicately.  She can strum ‘em hard.  And she does some fine slide guitar work (maybe some of that will come to the fore in her classes at WUMB’s Blues Music Camp this first weekend of November…).  And she’s got a great voice that stands out.  Good luck and have fun, Danielle!!

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Fresh off of playing a block party in Cambridge on Halloween – as Ms. Tyrious & the Wolf Spiders – Amy Kucharik will have a nice feather in her cap for November.  Yes, she’ll be teaching some Ukelele classes.  That may not be new.  But she’ll be teaching a ukelele blues jam at the Passim School of Music.  Hey hey!  It’s a five week ensemble class for all levels of play, starting November 1st.

But back to Halloween…I just love Halloween…and if you want to keep some Halloween with you beyond Oct 31st, Amy also has a new single on Bandcamp that has the Halloween spirit called “Ms.Switch.”  The song takes its influence from a 1980 animated TV special called  “The Trouble With Miss Switch,” that in turn was based on an eponymous 1971 children’s book by Barbara Brooks  Wallace.

And Amy’s monthly “First Sunday Blues” residency at The Burren in Somerville with her band Tiger Moan continues on November 5th.  They always have a special guest, who this show will be Boston born and raised harmonica player Shane Sager.  Shane has worked with the Gabe Stillman Band (you’ve heard them on Holly Harris’ Spinning The Blues on WUMB).  Amy points out that Shane has also spent the last five years playing with some guy named Gordon Sumner…aka Sting.  Not too shabby.

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Well, it’s happened again.  I didn’t think there was a whole lot to tell you about for this article.  But then like Audrey the plant in Little Shop of Horrors (have I told you I like Halloween…it’s still with me), it keeps growing.  Let’s finish with another big honor for a longtime Boston area musician who has already had a pretty triumphant year, despite some personal adversity.  Mark Erelli has gotten wonderful notoriety for his 2023 album Lay Your Darkness Down, which in many ways came out of his Retinitis Pigmentosa diagnosis – something he has been publicly open about.  The 2nd Shift series in Waltham that he curates continues to bring in great artists, including Anna Tivel on November 2nd.  Now – on November 4th – Mark gets to be part of the Midnight Ramble house band, and to lead the band for a few songs.  Yes, as in the late Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble, at The Barn in Woodstock, NY.  Congrat’s on the honor, Mark.

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And if you are still reading, thank you for sticking with me this long.  Thank you even more for supporting local and/or live music.  Thank you even more than that for supporting WUMB on our very successful October fundraiser.  Your generous donations made it successful.  Thanks also to the many volunteers who gave their time and effort.  See you next time,