The Beat Goes On: Kimaya Diggs launches new album in Amherst, hot blues in Florence and more

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 03-02-2023 9:06 PM

The official start of spring is less than three weeks away, though it’s anyone’s guess when the weather will really warm up. But as if she’s anticipating that time, Kimaya Diggs has a new single out that could serve as a wonderful soundtrack for that first really balmy post-winter day.

“If You Love Me” is a breezy pop-soul tune built around acoustic guitar, keyboards and drums, with touches of flute, electric guitar and glockenspiel. It’s a great vehicle for Diggs’ sweet and sometimes breathy voice, with engaging intonation and a catchy, harmony-infused chorus.

The song is also a key cut from Diggs’ new album, “Quincy,” which the Valley singer-songwriter will celebrate with a release party at the Drake in Amherst on March 11 at 8 p.m. She’ll be backed by her band, which includes her husband, Jacob Rosazza from Valley indie rockers Lux DeLuxe, and some “special guests” are also expected to appear at the show.

“Quincy,” Diggs’ second full album, is named after a dog she and Rosazza had for a few years, an animal she says gave her much comfort in the weeks and months after her mother died.

And, she notes, “If You Love Me” was itself inspired by a hike she took with her pooch, on a spring day that offered a promise of renewal amid the sounds and sights of the natural world.

Quincy “was a former racing dog, who came to me full of trauma, fear and pain,” Diggs writes on her Bandcamp site. “Although we had only 22 short months together, he saved my life in so many ways, and his cautious love and his immense growth was a gift.”

The new album also includes the bouncy, pop-flavored “I Hafta Try” and the jazz-inflected “Bloom.” Diggs says she’s tapped a number of influences on the record, including contemporary female singer-songwriters such as Reveena and Tess Henley and soul-pop legend Marvin Gaye.

She co-wrote some of her songs with Rosazza, who will be joined onstage at the Drake by Naomi Nye, Maisie Dolan, Reed Sutherland, and his Lux Deluxe bandmate Jake Edwards.

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Mtali Shaka Banda, the Amherst-born saxophonist who melds jazz, soul, hip hop, blues and more, will open the show with his band.

 

For something a little more raucous, you might make a trip to the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence on March 4 at 7 p.m. for a blues party featuring Joe Louis Walker and Misty Blues.

Fittingly enough for a guy whose first two names recall the legendary American boxer, Walker is a hard-hitting electric guitarist who’s been gigging for years (he was born in 1949 in San Francisco) and, according to press notes, has “shared stages with Muddy Waters and Thelonious Monk, roomed with Mike Bloomfield, and partied with Jimi Hendrix.”

A member of the Blues Hall of Fame and a six-time Blues Music Award winner, Walker’s won accolades for his fiery fretwork — Rolling Stone calls his playing “ferocious” — and he can really belt out a tune.

“Walker is a singer with a Cadillac of a voice,” writes the New York Times. “His guitar solos are fast, wiry, and incisive, moaning with bluesy despair.”

He’s also steeped in blues history, with his own songs reflecting a range of styles, from the classic slow blues of “I Won’t Do That” to the rocking “I’m Tide” and the Chuck Berry-flavored “Too Drunk to Drive Drunk.”

Misty Blues, based in Williamstown, is led by singer Gina Coleman, who started her career in a folk/rock band and also did some gospel singing. Since founding Misty Blues in 1999, Coleman has broadened her palette, with the band playing a range of traditional and original blues, including a nod to contemporary female singers.

Walker has just released a new album, “The Weight of the World,” and he’s been paired with Misty Blues in part because he played on the band’s most recent album, “One Louder.”

It’s not just that: Misty Blues “slayed at Millpond Live last summer,” according to Bombyx. Should be a fun show.

 

And on yet another different note, the monthly Song & Story Swap in Amherst, produced by the Pioneer Valley Folklore Society of western Massachusetts, will feature Ken Perlman, a pioneer of the five-string banjo style known as melodic clawhammer, as the guest artist.

This month’s event, which begins March 4 at 7 p.m. at First Church, 165 Main St., has a hybrid format, so you can register at https://pvfs.us/register-for-swap to attend via Zoom or watch live on YouTube at https://pvfs.us/livestream-swap.

Perlman, who lives in eastern Canada, is known in particular for his adaptations of Celtic and Appalachian fiddle tunes for the banjo and for fingerstyle guitar. He’s also spent years collecting songs and oral histories from traditional fiddle players on Prince Edward Island, according to the Folklore Society.

Attendees are invited to contribute a song or story on the topic of “War” for the event’s opening rounds. Admission is free, with a suggested minimum donation via virtual tip jar to the artist of $7.50. In-person attendees are asked to wear a face mask when not singing or speaking.

More music on tap

Don’t forget: The Back Porch Festival takes place March 3-5 at numerous downtown Northampton venues, with 50-plus artists and bands playing a range of rootsy music. Check for ticket availability at backporchfest.com.

Bassist and composer Avery Sharpe will join the Amherst Jazz Orchestra and members of Holyoke Community College’s jazz faculty Nov. 4 for a big band concert that’s part of HCC’s annual Jazz Festival. The show begins at 8 p.m. at the school’s Leslie Phillips Theater.

The Jorge Sylvester Quartet, which blends African-Caribbean rhythms with new music, plays at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on March 4 at 7:30 p.m. A Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares show.

Valley Classical Concerts sponsors a March 8 concert at 7:30 p.m. at Sweeney Hall at Smith College by cellist Zlatomir Fung and pianist Richard Fu. Music by Beethoven, Mozart, Rossini and others is on the program.

Area favorites Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem bring their patented mix of bluegrass, swing, gospel and fine musicianship to the Bombyx Center on March 10 at 7 p.m. And on March 12 at 7 p.m., dazzling Irish-American fiddler Eileen Ivers comes to the Florence Center with her crack band, UnIVERSal Roots. Could be quite a weekend.

Willing to get up early for music? Consider going to The Parlor Room in Northampton on March 12 at 10:30 a.m. for a show that’s part of the club’s “Klezmer Brunch Series,” this time featuring Myrtle Street Klezmer, a new project led by clarinetist Jason Ditzian.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

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