She may currently live outside of Boston, but Diane Blue is, in her heart and on record, an Ocean Stater. (OK, so she lived in Newport for 10 years. Good enough.) Blue’s new disc, Here I Am, features an all-star Ocean State crew, headed by the ubiquitous Marty Ballou on bass and the almost-as-ubiquitous drummer Vinny Pagano, plus pianists Steve Burke, Johnny Juxo, and Mark Taber, and guitarists Mike Duke and Chris “Stovall” Brown. What do all these names mean? Well, for one it means that the songstress has assembled a band with about 300 years of cumulative blues and R&B experience, which also means Here I Am is a beautifully seasoned and elegantly performed recording. Things kick off with “Muddy Water,” a swingin’ delight highlighted by Gordon Beadle’s playful sax. “Since I Fell For You” is a tasty bit of soul, and “Restless,” a Blue original, simmers with sensuality. The disc balances Blue’s tunes with a bevy of interesting cover selections: Sam Cooke’s “Good Times,” Rufus Thomas’s funky R&B classic “Walking the Dog,” and a sweet rendition of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child.” Throughout, Blue sings the heck out of her material, with enough tunefulness and sophistication to offset the power and the glory of her visceral harp playing.
Blue and her band, the Explorers, including Ballou, drummer Mark Teixeira, and guitarist/singer Mike DiBari, perform on the first and third Thursdays of every month at the Hi-Hat. The CD release party for the appropriately titled Here I Am is scheduled for March 25 at the Water Street Cafe in Fall River, Massachusetts. You also catch Diane’s act next Thursday, March 16th, at the Hi-Hat. Call 401.453.6500.
The big monty
Big, big news. Monty’s, formerly Monty’s Fan Club, has officially signed with Stolen Transmission/Island Def Jam. The Cranston bunch was inked by ST president Rob Stevenson, the very same guy who signed Fall Out Boy, Thrice, the Killers, and the Bravery. And if that doesn’t make for a good enough vibration, well, Monty’s album will be produced by Matt Squire, the guy responsible for Panic! At the Disco’s fast-rising debut. It’s scheduled for release in July. Right now, they’re about to head into a studio in Baltimore. It’s a happy day for the local music scene. Congrats!
RISA night at stone soup
On Saturday, March 11, Stone Soup Coffeehouse will host its second annual Rhode Island Songwriters Association show, featuring two sets of four artists taking turns crooning their ditties “in the round,” then backing each other on guitar or harmony vocals. If you go, you should pick up a copy of the artist-friendly org’s newish disc, RISA Round 3, Vol. 1, a cross-sectional compendium of tunes by group members recorded live at AS220 over several Sunday nights. It’s a nice souvenir from the songwriting circle, with four tracks by host/ringleader Ryan Fitzsimmons, including the opener “North Central Line.” Joanne Lurgio, John Fuzek, Marcy Lang, Dan Lilley, Anna’s House, Jan Luby, Mary Ellen Casey, and Heather Rose all contribute, along with many other worthy talents. Lilley, Lurgio, and Fuzek will all take the stage on Saturday at the Soup, with Fuzek, the fearless leader of RISA, serving as MC. Also joining the festivities will be Josie Crosby, Mardi Garcia, Ian Fitzgerald, and the estimable tunesmith Mark Cutler. Doors open at 8 pm and it takes place at the Soup’s new venue: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 50 Park Place, Pawtucket. Tickets are $12. Call 401.457.7147.