World tour

Some local artists are known better elsewhere
By TODD RICHARD  |  February 21, 2007
Sumner McKane

Yeah, we know — there’s tons of touristy stuff stamped “Maine” for sale all over Portland and the rest of our fair state. But our land of lobster does more than ferry blueberries across the border. Maine’s performing artists, whether we see it or not, work hard at taking their music to other locales. Some have even succeeded in finding global attention and acclaim for their efforts. Here are but a few of the local flavors that have broken through the ever-congested media space:

Portland’s post-rock purveyors CERBERUS SHOAL seem to be so graceful that they are often missed in their own backyard. This nebulous collective of forward-thinking artists have released numerous albums on local label North East Indie and garner plenty of local press. But, through their touring and the work of NEI, they have a significant presence on the definitive barometer of indie cool, Home of the “gratuitously in-depth album review,” Pitchfork has blessed Cerberus Shoal with no fewer than six favorable reviews in the past few years. While Portland (and the rest of the world) works to understand them, this major independent media outlet seems content to just applaud.

EMILIA DAHLIN has traversed the country several times, just a girl and a guitar in a car. Dahlin’s been named a finalist in the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and has also competed closer to home in the NEMO Songwriting Contest. All this work seems to be paying off, as hometown fans, and those all over the world, can read a review of her God Machine CD in the upcoming March/April issue of Performing Songwriter magazine.

A strong contender for the award of “Flying Lowest Under the Local-Music Radar” is SUMNER MCKANE. This virtuosic guitarist, originally from Damariscotta, has been living in Portland and making spacious, majestic instrumental music heard the world over. Persistence and talent have gotten him not just recognition, but heaps of praise from National Public Radio’s Echoes program. The producers have put McKane’s compositions in rotation in the program, named them to Top 10 lists, featured them as a pick of the month, and have even travelled to his home for a special “Living Room” concerts. Another of these concerts will be airing on NPR within the next few months. Until then, McKane will be making some exceedingly rare local appearances in the area, with dates on the way for Slates in Hallowell, as well as in-store appearances at local Borders Books and Music.

And, while we are giving out awards, the hip hop community in Southern Maine deserves serious kudos for their reach out of the Northeast, out of our country, and into far-away lands. Indie hip hop lacks the mass-market audiences with lowest-common-denominator tastes, and is often dismissed by Old Port nightclub audiences who expect more show than snow in their music. Maine’s thriving hip hop scene has responded by demonstrating their connection to audiences abroad. SONTIAGO is preparing a much-anticipated follow up to Abuse My Adoration, to be released on Montreal’s Endemik Music label. There is also a significant synergy between local MILLED PAVEMENT RECORDS and Clothes Horse Records of . . . Saskatoon? Indeed, from one cold clime to another, these two labels have been featuring each other’s artists and, when possible, helping to distribute each other’s releases. And, with honors for distance, Maine’s favorite ice-fishing MC JDWALKER inked a deal last year with Japanese label 6months, who re-released his most recent disc Them Get You Them Got You.

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