Quiet riot

Acoustic music is making a lot of noise
By BOB GULLA  |  January 10, 2007

Like the sound of a rolling ocean on a peaceful night, acoustic music is constant, a steady soundtrack to life for those who choose to hear it. Various unplugged styles like contemporary singer-songwriter folk, Americana/roots, and acoustic blues have provided ongoing themes in popular music since Charlie Patton and the original blues players in the late ’20s. The fact is acoustic music has never left us. While other styles have come, stayed a spell, and drifted off, the strummed strains of acoustic music have remained, everpresent and impervious to trends.

Rhode Island has had a healthy acoustic scene for some time now and lately it seems to be grabbing even more rays of the limelight. For one small example, the acoustic showcase that took place at the Perishable Theater on Bright Night, which included Kristi Martel, Heather Rose, Becky Chace, Jason Wilder Evans, and others, was standing room only. Just as electric venues are in a Darwinist battle of survival, competing for a shrinking market demographic, coffeehouses are flourishing and have expanded beyond weekend nights in church basements. Perhaps it’s the low overhead (no liquor license!), the rising tide of the DIY culture in music, or the harsh fact that it’s getting more difficult to hold a band together these days. You pick it, but it’s happening.

A handful of our brightest acoustic talents will be on display this weekend. BECKY CHACE has toned her rock act down in favor of her current duo with Brian Minisce. The change suits her, as she grows more comfortable with her softer character. Becky and Brian will be c0-headlining at Stone Soup on Saturday (the 13th) with Boston’s STINGY BRIMM. Next week at the Soup, it’s THE GNOMES, with Phil Edmonds, Otis Read, and Cathy Clasper-Torch headlining, and Paul Pasch opening. Incidentally, at each performance this month, Stone Soup will be conducting an underwear drive for the Shelter at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Anyone donating new socks and underwear (for men or women) at one of these performances gets a free goodie. Call 401.457.7147.

Another important local acoustic act, ATWATER-DONNELLY, has made news, not with a new album just yet, but with a new configuration. Part-time Gnome Clasper-Torch, a ubiquitous roots talent and perhaps the busiest musician in town outside of names like Juxo and Munslow, now joins Aubrey and Elwood as the group’s third member. She blends the coloring tones of fiddle and cello, as well as a new voice, into what has been an iconic sound of dulcimer, tin whistle, banjo, and limberjacks. Together the trio helps kick off the 2007 season at the Blackstone River Theatre on Saturday. For reservations or information call 401.725.9272; tickets will also be available at the door.

Brewed Awakenings in Johnston is featuring a bill of acoustic performers every Saturday night. FRANK MARTYN is in charge of things over there and he’s beginning to attract some nice talent and good crowds to the Atwood Avenue location (401.275.0765). HEATHER ROSE and WAYNE WHITTAKER are playing on Saturday, and next weekend it’s ALLYSEN CALLERY and KEVIN SILVIA. Speaking of Heather, the dramatic one is doing a little creative fundraising to finance her new album, Operation ABC. Go to her Myspace site myspace.com/HeatherRoseRocks) and check out the details. Brewed Awakenings in Wakefield is also booking acoustic acts and, another Wakefield coffeehouse, the True Brew Café, is getting in on the act, with JOHNNY T. this Friday (the 12th) and MARY ELLEN CASEY on the 19th. Call 401.284.1850.

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