Sounds Local: Local recorded music for your listening pleasure

  • The Nields streamed shows during the lockdown from their home studio that can be seen on Facebook and YouTube. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Jim Henry and Tracy Grammer. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Rubblebucket. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For The Recorder
Monday, January 24, 2022

As was expected, the next few weeks are going to be rather quiet in terms of live music as many venues have shut their doors with the hopes that the current COVID-19 spike will calm down in a few weeks. Most of us spend a lot of time at home in January anyway and it provides us the perfect opportunity to delve into some good local music. There are singles to listen to, albums that you haven’t had a chance to check out and all kinds of livestreams and videos to watch. In last week’s column, I had mentioned some of my favorite albums of last year and all of those are deserving of your attention. And if you still need some ideas for your listening pleasure, read on for a few suggestions.

“Up in Smoke” and “Soft as the Mouths” — Cloudbelly

Cloudbelly is the duo of singer-songwriter Corey Laitman and producer and multi-instrumentalist Anand Nayak (Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem) who emerged on the music scene in 2021. This past November, the pair released these two singles that they recorded during the pandemic. “Up in Smoke” is a gorgeous indie-folk song with raw, honest lyrics that explores working through a difficult time with the hopes of finding some light at the end. “Soft as the Mouths” is also in the folk genre but with a bit of a jazzy feel and splashes of synths giving it a slight tinge of pop. Cloudbelly, who took its name from a dearly departed parakeet, will release a full-length album in 2022 on the Signature Sounds label.

“Oops! ... I Did it Again” — Rubblebucket

As we know, Rubblebucket was slated to play at the Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on New Year’s Eve, but the show was postponed until late February. Instead, on this day they released a cover of Britney Spears hit song, “Oops! ... I Did it Again.” Rubblebucket’s version of the song features whirling synths and Alex Toth’s trumpet, and is overall fun and funky. You can hear the song on Bandcamp, but you need to see the video — which can be viewed on the band’s Facebook page — to really appreciate this tune. The video shows vocalist Kalmia Traver dancing out in the snow alternating between shots of Alex Toth dancing in his stocking feet in his apartment. I have to say Toth’s moves, which are especially lively during the trumpet parts, really make this video. The band hinted on social media that it might play the song at Hawks & Reed in February.

“Saved by a Song” — Mary Gauthier

Singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier isn’t local, but she used to record for the Signature Sounds label so she has connections to the area. The Nashville-based artist released “Saved by a Song” this year, a perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter’s night. It’s a memoir that covers her often turbulent past, but it also dives into her songwriting process and how her songs have saved her life. It’s a fascinating read that Rolling Stone magazine chose as one of the best music books of 2021.

“Here” — Eavesdrop

On New Year’s Day, the band Eavesdrop released a new single called “Here.” This is a lovely, dreamy song that is the perfect way to start the new year as it deals with the subject of being present in one’s life. Accompanied by only acoustic guitar, the emphasis here is on the lyrics and the voices of the three vocalists — Kara Wolf, Kerrie Bowden and Laura Buchanan — who as always sound stunning. Eavesdrop released a self-titled album earlier in the year and if you haven’t heard it yet, all I can say is what are you waiting for? Both “Here” and “Eavesdrop” are available on all streaming services.

“Monday Night Live” — The Nields

During lockdown, The Nields launched a weekly series of live shows that band members streamed from their home studio every Monday night at 7 p.m. Sisters Katryna and Nerrissa Nields and guitarist Dave Chalfant establish a theme for each show that has ranged from playing past albums in their entirety to building a show around songs of community. They have played old material, new material and covers, and chat with viewers who write in the comments section. The show that focused on their “Gotta Get Over Greta” album in which they talked about the material and played the album in its entirety was a standout episode. Shows can be viewed on Facebook or YouTube.

“The End as Predicted” — Miracle Legion

During the pandemic, the online music store Bandcamp launched a monthly event called Bandcamp Friday in which all proceeds went directly to the artist. Miracle Legion, the alt-rock cult band fronted by local musician Mark Mulcahy, released various live recordings on these Bandcamp Fridays. “The End As Predicted” is a recording of the band’s final performance at the Chapel in San Francisco in 2017. It’s a great show that features a guest appearance from Pat Sansone from Wilco. The other shows they released on Bandcamp, including a Mulcahy solo show, are also good, but this is my favorite.

“Six Feet Apart” — Tracy Grammer and Jim Henry

Multi-instrumentalist and singer Jim Henry and singer/songwriter Tracy Grammer also jumped in on the livestream concert bandwagon once the pandemic started. Their series is called Six Feet Apart, and it airs on Facebook and YouTube the last Tuesday of every month at 3 p.m. They have done 22 shows so far, and like The Nields, the shows are built around a theme. As an example, past shows have featured the music of Simon and Garfunkel, colors and songs written by fellow troubadours. Henry and Grammer have a great musical chemistry and the sound of their shows is always good. You’ll enjoy dipping into the archives to watch past concerts.

“Perch-Less Bird” — Heather Maloney

Last fall, singer-songwriter Heather Maloney of Northampton released a folk/pop single called “Perch-Less Bird,” a song about a breakup and the role that blame plays. “I see blame/It’s a perch-less bird/It’s an old refrain/It’s a tired vulture,” Maloney sings. The song has such a snappy beat that it sounds like a feel-good breakup song. In addition to being a talented singer-songwriter, Maloney is also a visual artist who specializes in linocut print making. She designed the beautiful illustrations for the video of the song. This is a must see and can be viewed at heathermaloney.com.

“The Essential Western New England Songbook” — Various Artists

Last June, the New Music Alliance released a juried anthology of 151 of the best original songs ever written and recorded by artists who have lived in Western New England and whose careers have a significant connection to the area. Stream this extensive “best of collection” on streaming services like Spotify and YouTube. The songbook is chocked full of Western Massachusetts-based artists — everyone from long-established acts like Ray Mason and Fat to relative newcomers like Old Flame and Weege and the Wondertwins. The songbook provides a great way to dig into our rich local music scene and to get a nice sense of some of the history. This is a virtual who’s who of the Western New England music scene, which also includes southern Vermont and parts of Connecticut.

“Wild Love” — Spanish For Hitchhiking

Northampton-based Spanish For Hitchhiking led by Dennis Crommett has been a fixture on the local music scene for around two decades. The group also features Max Germer on bass, Dave Hower on drums and for this album Dave Chalfant, who was an original member of the band returns to play guitar and be producer. “Wild Love” is the band’s first release since 2015 and it’s a solid rocker. Sure, there are some quieter moments, but tunes like “In Stereo” and “Sikh Man Running” with their powerful drumming and great guitar and bass lines are what make this a winning release. If you’ve been hankering for some good ’ole rock, “Wild Love” just might be the album for you.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who is a native of Greenfield and currently resides in Easthampton. She can be reached at soundslocal@yahoo.com.