"Sweet Elise" opens as a bit of a gospel piece, rootsy with martial drums in the backing, and Bettencourt doing his own sweet-voiced backing vocals. Then the guitar gets quicker in its up and down runs and comes back out into the countrified open. There's some very nice electric guitar work here.
Bettencourt also throws in a Ray LaMontagne cover, "I Wish I Could Change Your Mind," which has been kicking around on various bootlegs. He gives it the full-band, 12-bar blues treatment, keeping things as dark and broody as LaMontagne likes them, but infusing it with an almost Christmas cheer in the turnaround.
This is a nice record, with some very good ideas fleshed out, but it may be that Bettencourt's future lies more in producing and songwriting than with fronting a solo act.
JANUARY 16 You've heard about the Refugees at this point, a three-gal collaboration between local Cindy Bullens and her fellow music-industry veteran Deborah Holland and Wendy Waldman. Well, now's the time to come out and see what all the fuss surrounding the singer-songwriter supergroup is about. They'll play a hometown CD-release show of sorts for Unbound, their debut record. Between the three of them, they've released 19 solo discs, so they're old hands at this release-show business. Should be a good time at One Longfellow.
JANUARY 17 No lie: The Port City Music Hall finally opens tonight, with headliner Fear Nuttin' Band and local opener Sidecar Radio. Fear Nuttin' apparently fuse metal, hip-hop, and Jamaican Dancehall, and their new album, according to their Web site, "might be the first album in history to cause a mosh pit that ends in hugs and high fives." Anyhoo, they're typical of the types of bands you'll start seeing come ripping through the PCMH, mid-level touring acts that have a good national fanbase, a one-hit wonder to fall back on, or solid Internet buzz that hasn't quite translated into mainstream appeal yet.
As the rest of the month and winter unfolds, look for appearances by Zen Tricksters (January 23), Collie Buddz (January 29), the Derek Trucks Band (February 6), Johnny Winter (February 15), the Jazz Mandolin Project (February 19), Duncan Sheik (March 12), OK Go (March 13), and Assembly of Dust (March 20). Many of those bands have played the State Theatre in the past and certain have the ability to fill the 600+ capacity the PCMH boasts. This looks to be the start of something we've been missing in Portland for a long time now.
JANUARY 24 The Loups release their debut disc, Holding Hands with the Crooken Man, with opener EverySmithEver, a collaboration between the Cambiata's Chris Moulton and Mike Koharian that resulted in a nifty little album last year. The release combined with the rare opportunity to see EverySmithEver live (Koharian lives in England now) makes this a must-see date at the Station. The Sober Dead and at least one other band will fill out the show.
Finally, SOME OTHER THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO First of all, if you happen to be thinking about picking up the re-release of Rustic Overtones' Rooms by the Hour, which has three unreleased tracks at its finish now and just came out last Tuesday, here's more incentive. Apparently, and this is straight from drummer Tony McNaboe, there is a "golden ticket," crafted by Pat Corrigan, hidden in one of the discs. That ticket gets you lifetime admission to all Rustic shows. The band are also working on a new album that might be ready by late spring.