Brattleboro (VT) Scene
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In other news, we're always looking for Volunteers. Since NEMS is based in Brattleboro, this seems like a reasonable spot for bringing it up. Mostly we need people who could write and/or compile material for our newsletter. We also might be able to use help with e-mail correspondence. But we try to cover so much territory that a person who is motivated to take part in this effort and is a self-starter could almost certainly find something worthwhile to do that would fit with his/her abilities and interests. If you'd like to talk over possibilities, please e-mail us by way of the contact link near the bottom of the page.

Current (I hope) Brattleboro music links

This Web page was originally built around a Dave Madeloni column that, by now, has a lot of miles on it. In an effort to revitalize this page, I've put in what I believe to be the most extensive set of Brattleboro music-related links anywhere on the World Wide Web.

Brattleboro area music-related links

But no doubt there's more that can be done.

For our purposes here, let's just say that the Brattleboro area includes the territory within the Brattleboro Reformer's circulation area and the local radio stations' listening areas. Within that corner of New England, a lot has happened recently.

The event that first comes to mind, simply because it hits so close to home (though it happened very late in the year), is the recent Wilder Block fire. The Wilder Block is/was just three blocks from the New England Music Scrapbook's home base. One of the ground-floor businesses, Downtown Photo, relocated to just across the street from here. While listening to records to review for our newsletter, I watched the Downtown Photo folks move in and get set up. Mainly Music ("Where the Music Lives On") was closed because of extensive water damage. I haven't heard what, if anything, has become of that enterprise. A Mainly Music-connected Web site characterized the business this way:

Since 1991, Southern Vermont's first and best source for used, rare, out-of-print recordings of all speeds, styles, and formats.

At the start of 2004, folk musicians Rebecca Hall and Ken Anderson were settling into their new Windham County haunt, after having relocated from New York City in the closing days of December 2003.

One of Brattleboro's big popular music live events of 2004 was presented by Twin Cloud Concerts and featured the David Bromberg Quartet on Saturday, April 17 at the Latchis Theatre. Bromberg is no stranger to Brattleboro. He played at least one benefit concert for the old Chelsea House Folklore Center, and it seems to me he may have played the Latchis about five years ago.

I'm writing this mostly from memory, and I'm sorry to say I'm not at all up to date on the difficulties between Radio Free Brattleboro, a very low-power, non-commercial community radio station, and the Federal Communications Commission. No one representing RFB has ever answered any of my e-mails. The issues, which I believe are much more complex than they appear on the surface, first came to public attention on Tuesday, June 24, 2003, when FCC representatives visited RFB and ordered it to shut down for lack of a broadcast license. Later, the struggle over RFB found its way into the court system, where it has remained ever since. RFB's own chronology of events

has not been updated in a very long time. As of now (January 27, 2005), the latest event recorded in that chronology is dated April 19, 2004; and readers are being encouraged to attend a DJ orientation on August 14, 2004. It's testimony to how effectively the courts can slow things down. Radio Free Brattleboro folks are in no position to do a victory dance in the endzone; but in the early going, court rulings have not been favorable for the FCC.

It seems to me it was summertime when the Blue Force Four, also known as the Blue Force Five, held a series of reunion shows around the area.

The old Estey organ buildings on Birge Street are a really short walk from here, and the Estey Organ Museum is represented below in our set of Brattleboro-area music-related links. But our connection to the historic Estey organ works is much closer than that. For the whole time the New England Music Scrapbook has existed, we have been based in the Jacob Estey Homestead on Canal Street in Brattleboro. It's worth noting, then, that 2004 marked the 150th anniversary of the construction of our building. Happy birthday to the Jacob Estey homestead!

On July 31, 2004, Issue 76 of our newsletter ran this:

Congratulations to members of The Ron Noyes Band for winning the first-ever River Valley Battle of the Bands at Brattleboro, Vermont last Saturday.

The always amazing Flying Under Radar Thursday night concert series at Oona's Restaurant drew to a close. It was replaced by a wide-ranging series of shows at The Windham, also in Bellows Falls. We're beginning to pick up word, in connection with our newsletter, of artists who have gotten fantastic recordings of one or more titles from their appearances at the Windham. Though the room is small (capacity of fifty, I believe), it's impact on this are could prove to be huge.

Early in September, the Western Massachusetts-based Valley Advocate surveyed its Grand Band Slam winners on many topics. One victorious outfit, Trailer Park, when asked what is the members' favorite place to play, picked The Mole's Eye.

Andy Warhol's name has popped up in enough song lyrics that his connection with rock-era music ought to be easy enough to grasp. He particularly made a mark in Boston through his early encouragement of the band, The Velvet Underground. VU was accepted at once in Boston, while the group was nowhere near as popular in its home base, New York City. The Velvet Underground was an unofficial house band at the old Boston Tea Party. This isn't exactly the point of the exhibit, Andy Warhol: The Jon Gould Collection (September 18, 2004 - February 6, 2005) at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, but it makes an appropriate enough lead-in from the point of view of a music Web site. The Warhol show has roused phenomenal interest, and we have been contacted about it by many of our readers. At the time of this writing, the Warhol exhibit isn't so very far from its end point. If you're thinking of going, put off procrastinating and hurry on over to the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center.

Friends of Music at Guilford continued providing rich, distinguished service to the area. Its 2004-2005 season kicked in with the 39th Labor Day Weekend Festival and continued through the 34th Community Messiah Sing ("You are the chorus!").

Brattleboro lost record stores in 2004, including one that was very long running, Rapcity. Mark Rapini of Rapcity formerly managed the record department at Cap'n Bullfrogs (discussed briefly below), giving his own store a real claim to relative antiquity.

In October, Brattleboro's Wild Root Arts hosted the Vermont debut of a grand Boston music and theater organization, The Revels, which is well known for its annual, acclaimed Christmas Revels programs. A new show, There's a Meeting Here Tonight!, imagines a reunion of the Hutchinson Family singers, a popular touring vocal group that played Brattleboro many times both before and after the United States Civil War. The Hutchinson Family was famous for singing in remarkably close harmony and infamous for singing for the unpopular reform causes of the day, the abolition of slavery being chief among them. As far as I can tell, back then literally everyone in the United States had an idea of who the Hutchinson Family was. There is talk of the Revels touring group, Circle of Song, returning to Brattleboro in 2005 during fall folliage season with another Revels show, Harvest Home.

Through the fall, ex-Bostonian Pete Weiss who also has strong Pioneer Valley ties, has been putting in a recording studio nearby. The recording of music seems to be becoming one of this area's main service industries.

The November 6, 2004 Issue 90 of the New England Music Scrapbook's newsletter carried this news item:

The Brattleboro, Vermont rock band, The Main Drags, has been on hiatus for a while. But that group played a show last month and has another scheduled for early next month. From one Brattleboro guy to a bunch of others, welcome back!

Peter Siegel of Guilford, Vermont won the 2004 WRSI Songwriting Contest, coming in on top of a highly competitive field. I've forgotten the exact number of acts who each sent in a demo to Northampton's WRSI-FM, but I'm quite certain it was around 300  -   if not more.

Drummer Don McAulay once was based on this very floor of this very building. Late in 2004, he took part in one of rock's big national and even international news stories, when his latest band, The Bennies, opened a string of East Coast concerts as part of The Pixies reunion tour.

In the last two or three weeks of the year, Saturday Morning with the Oldies host John Ashley, on WTSA-FM ran a listener survey regarding each person's all-time favorite oldies from roughly the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. Since his main time period ends with 1967, I interpreted the years he was asking about to include 1955 to 1967. My votes, in alphabetical order by artist, were for "No Particular Place To Go" by Chuck Berry, "What'd I Say Parts 1 & 2" by Ray Charles, and "Good Golly Miss Molly" by Little Richard. That's what I changed my votes to, after learning that Ashley plans to compile the submissions into a Top 5 or maybe a Top 10. My actual first choices  -  starting with "Slow Down" by the Beatles  -  seemed too obscure, relatively speaking. It appeared highly unlikely that anyone else would match any of the songs I first thought to select.

John Ashley announced the results of this survey on his Saturday Morning with the Oldies broadcast on January 8, 2005; but since the voting took place in 2004, we'll post the list here. The Top 5 records are

  1. Unchained Melody,  The Righteous Brothers (1965)
  2. Rock Around the Clock,  Bill Haley and His Comets (1955)
  3. Twist and Shout,  The Beatles (1964)
  4. Only You,  The Platters (1955)
  5. Good Golly Miss Molly,  Little Richard (1958)

At the end of 2004, Brattleboro fans of live music were awaiting the opening of a new venue, The Church, which is being set up from a base at West Street Arts in West Dummerston. The main performance room has an official capacity of 220; and, as I understand it, there are additional spaces for classes, rehearsals, workshops, and other events. In an earlier and, I think, original incarnation, this building was the All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church. Sometime after the new Unitarian church was constructed on a hill overlooking West Brattleboro, the old building became the home of a light industrial firm, Omega Optical. With any luck, serving this town as a concert hall will prove to be a true calling for this grand old building.

Several national and even international news stories might be of special interest to residents of the Brattleboro area. Artie Shaw was, I believe, the last of the Swing Era's star big band leaders. His passing in late December, at age 94, brought sadness at the close of the year. If you've ever heard a taped interview that Bob Coffee plays from time to time on his Sunday morning Coffee and Jazz broadcasts on WTSA-FM, then you'll be well aware that Shaw could be an argumentative and generally difficult man. But we remember him mostly for his music. As a clarinetist, his touch was simply magnificent. Shaw was a native New Yorker, but he was raised mostly in New Haven, Connecticut. When he was still in his teens (and, I believe, still playing saxophone), one summer he performed in a Yale University band which was then led by Vermont native Rudy Vallée. During his days of leading his own band, Shaw employed a number of Connecticut musicians as well as numerous Bostonians. Many keen observers consider Shaw's signature tune, "Begin the Beguine," to be the record that best represents the Swing Era. And it's worth adding that "Stardust," that standard of standards, was his hit. May Artie Shaw rest in piece.

The final sets by Vermont's Phish at Coventry in August ('bout time those guys had an appearance in their Green Mountain home state) was a huge news story that circled the jamband globe. For decades, the theoretical question has been around as to whether any act could make it big in the popular music business from any base other than in the largest metropolitan areas. So it meant a lot to me and, no doubt, to many, many others that Phish made a whale of a splash from a base along the shore of Lake Champlain.

I have family who owns a Scott Joplin compilation that includes a couple performances by a ragtime piano cat named James Levine. He's great, too. While this site is devoted to popular music, it would be foolish to say that any regional music news story in 2004 was any bigger than the arrival of Levine as the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. As far as I'm concerned, this is the biggest thing to happen to the BSO since the days of Serge Koussevitzky. Twentieth-century music is back. American music is back. Challenging works appear on concert programs. Attendance is up. Prominent people from other arts organizations and from academia are being spotted among the crowds. Acclaim is pouring in from the Boston press. The Boston Symphony Orchestra is on its way up.

What great things do you suppose 2005 will bring?

Since writing this 2004 year-in-review (mostly from memory), we were sent an update on one of the items. Here it is, from Pete Weiss:

"Well, the big news on my end is that after over two years of planning, fretting, construction, delays, etc., my new recording studio in Vermont is complete, functioning, and hoppin'. But it does not yet have a name; will keep you posted on that; and feel free to suggest name ideas. I'm listening.

The venerable 36-channel vintage Neve console that was custom ordered by the BBC in London in 1975 and moved to Zippah Studio in Boston in 1994 has now found a home in the Green Mountain State. Last year it was taken out of Zippah and has now been re-capped and re-commissioned. It's working like a dream and sounds amazing.

The new recording space was designed by award-winning architectural firm Single Speed Design (operated by the Hong brothers, John and Andy.) And I have to say I'm just thrilled with the job they did designing the space; it sounds great and co-exists with its surroundings beautifully. It's an incredibly pleasant place in which to make music. The new studio's main room is an open-concept space which combines the control room 'area' with the live room 'area' and is roughly 40 x 25 feet with pitched ceilings up to 17 feet high. It's especially conducive to tracking with a 'natural' feel. The engineer and artist are in the same room; there's no talkback mic, no glass, no confusion. Of course when separation is needed, there are auxilliary recording spaces, including a classic vocal/amp booth, a 22 x 20 foot lounge which can double as a tracking room, and some remarkably heavy-duty wheeled gobos with double-pane windows (you definitely don't want one of these to fall on you . . . )"

Pete Weiss,  "PW Production Newsletter #15,"  January 14, 2005

This item from Issue 104 of our newsletter has to do with the year, 2005; but because it connects quite directly with the 2004 voting by members of the Saturday Morning with the Oldies audience for their favorite records, I'm adding it here. The following item concerns all-time favorite oldies artists:

While in the early stages of formatting this issue as a Web page, I'm listening to a world-class radio broadcast, Saturday Morning with the Oldies, hosted by John Ashley on WTSA-FM out of Brattleboro, Vermont. Lately, Ashley asked his listeners to write in with the names of their favorite artists from the period roughly covering 1955 through 1967. Then he compiled the results. The Top 5 artists according to his audience are:

  1. Roy Orbison
  2. Elvis Presley
  3. Little Richard
  4. The Beatles
  5. Chuck Berry

Ashley plays a remarkably wide variety of music from his period, and his regular listeners know their oldies. So, it's not so surprising that Roy Orbison came in at Number One as it is that he was the only unorthodox choice. For instance, I could easily imagine the Platters or Johnny Cash making the list. I voted for the Beatles, but what would you expect  -  I'm a Beatles fanatic. Ashley made an excellent choice  -  the Everly Brothers. Various Everly Brothers retrospectives have included one great song after another and lots of them.

I hear that Little Richard is demanding a recount.

New England Music Scrapbook News Number 104,  February 12, 2005

Southern Vermont is more alive and vibrant  with original music than areas much larger geographically and demographically. The diversity of music here is exceeded only by the sincerity, dedication, and discernment of both artists and audience.

Mike Mrowicki

Since I began writing this column  just over three years ago, I have been exposed to the incredible wealth of local musical talent and I confess, it has been a revelation.

For such a relatively small community, there are an inordinate number of gifted performers. Southern Vermont is surely blessed in a number of ways, and the preponderance of top-notch area musicians is one of the most significant. I feel fortunate to be associated with such a dynamic culture.

There are times, however, when I wonder if the relatively small Brattleboro area can fully support the artists who struggle to be heard and who try to make enough money to continue to play. The recent emergence of Twilight Tea Lounge and The Loft in Brattleboro along with The Hooker-Dunham Theater & Gallery, The Mole's EyeThe Common Ground and the amazing "Flying Under Radar Series" in Bellows Falls, which has brought an array of brilliant regional and national acts to our neck of the woods, give southern Vermont the potential to become a hub of live music in New England.

I contacted a number of area artists and promoters to get their insights into the state of the local music scene, and their feedback was generally effusive, reflecting a warmth between the players and audience.

Putney's Mike Mrowicki set the tone. "Southern Vermont is more alive and vibrant with original music than areas much larger geographically and demographically. The diversity of music here is exceeded only by the sincerity, dedication, and discernment of both artists and audience."

The singer-songwriter left the somewhat cutthroat scene of Asbury Park, N.J., more than 20 years ago. "Compared to my experience there in the mid-'70s, this is heaven."

Lisa McCormick

The popular Lisa McCormick concurred. "There seems to be a steady flow of musical culture happening. ... I get the sense that the area is developing its own reputation as a hot-bed of musical talent."

The omnipresent bassist Duke Johnson (who plays with The Ware River Club, The Johnson Boys and Hayseed Chrome) called the scene "mature" and added, "The music fans here, albeit on a smaller scale, compare favorably with those in North Carolina or Austin, where live music is a way of life."

Derrik Jordan added, "It's really exciting actually. Things were really dead in the '90s, but the scene is slowly but surely coming back to life."

But are there enough of those fans? Several of the artists wished more folks would come out. Steve West, part of the fun-folk group Relative Strangers, talked about a poorly attended show a couple of weeks back at The Loft at Cotton Mill Hill, that included Derrik Jordan and Will Danforth. "By the time we got on at 10 p.m., there were about nine people there. That really pops one's baloon. ... This area could (and has) put multiple people on the national map if local folks decided they'd like that, and went sniffing for good music."

Fellow Relative Stranger Rose Gerber added, "Let's face it  -  we live in a small town and have a limited audience. It's hard to bring the same people out night after night. As a musician, Brattleboro is a good home base. But if I want to play shows on a regular basis, I need to travel."

Danforth, a veteran singer/guitarist who transplanted from the Midwest a couple of years ago, noted a lack of places to play. "I'm amazed ... at how few local venues feature music. You'd think this could be New Orleans North, for all the talent, but as I call around to the few places I identified last fall as potential employers, several of them have eliminated music altogether."

As for the support of area musicians to a newcomer? "I feel a lot of support and virtually no resistance or resentment to another musician and potential gig-stealer having moved into the area. Derrik Jordan in particular has been most gracious in bringing me into a couple of good, juicy dates."

Connecticut's Guy-Michael Grande, best known for hosting The Iron Horse Open Stage, also acknowledged the contributions of Jordan. "Brattleboro is a welcoming scene for out-of-towners like me." He and several other singer-songwriters enjoyed their participation in Jordan's monthly series at Twilight Tea Lounge. "Thanks to Derrik's vision and kind hospitality . . . we didn't mind driving some distances to participate."

Richard Epstein, who brings music (and a variety of arts) to the intimate Hooker-Dunham Theater, added, "Local musicians contribute so much to our community  -  they play at events and fund-raisers, often for no pay at all."

It is difficult to measure the importance and impact of local music. It is clear that the Brattleboro area has more than enough talent. One hopes that the warmth and good vibes put out by the players will generate the kind of support it takes to keep our homegrown music flourishing.

-- Dave MadeloniBrattleboro (VT) Reformer,  October 3, 2002

Copyright © 2002 by Dave Madeloni. All rights reserved.
Used with permission.

Many more Dave Madeloni columns may be found via

There's more:  Some information about Brattleboro in years past is next. I've been here since 1970, and I couldn't help myself. After that comes a feature about singer-songwriter Bethanie Yeakle. Links to other Brattleboro-connected items at this Web site follow the article about Bethanie. Happy reading . . .

The New England Music Scrapbook is based in Brattleboro, Vermont, so the subject of the town's local music scene is of no small interest here in our modern and spacious offices. Our thanks to Brattleboro Reformer columnist Dave Madeloni for making this page possible.

Derrik Jordan has been very helpful to us on several occasions, and he sent the following update: "I have been hosting the Brattleboro Songwriter Circle for the past year but have handed off the duty to Michael Mrowicki who will now be organizing and running it. It meets at the Twilight Tea Lounge on the last Thursday of the month and features regional and local singer-songwriters. Three songwriters play acoustically in the round. No cover. ... I am starting a new music showcase called the Wednesday Night Song Jam which meets at the River Garden (corner of Main and High Streets  -  across from the Moles Eye Cafe) in downtown Brattleboro, VT. It features one performing songwriter, duo or group each Wednesday and I host and open the event solo or with friends. Admission is free and donations are encouraged. It begins at 7:30 pm." We have contact, too, with the always impressive Flying Under Radar enterprise, having been on the mailing list for a long time.

Louise Taylor

Not mentioned in the Reformer column  -  probably because she's on the road so much of the time  -  is singer-songwriter Louise Taylor, a local treasure. Taylor is currently mixing the recordings that will become the followup to her excellent Written in Red album. The compact disc is scheduled for a March 2003 release on the Signature Sounds label, and we're looking forward to hearing it.

A very large unknown in the future of Brattleboro's music scene is the Latchis Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. This organization is set to occupy its newly-acquired space on lower Main Street in downtown Brattleboro in the coming year. The Latchis Center will operate on an uncommonly large scale for a town of this size, and it's hard to envision its impact.

WTSA-fm is Brattleboro's dominant radio station. Not only has WTSA recently increased its support of local music, but it just happens to have the best oldies broadcast I've ever heard  -  John Ashley's Saturday Morning with the Oldies. Brattleboro is also in the listening area of what I call the Connecticut River Valley's superstation, WRSI-fm (The River) out of Northampton, Massachusetts.

Dave Madeloni's column mentions some venerable Brattleboro establishments, such as the Mole's Eye and the Common Ground Restaurant. When the Common Ground opened, I believe the downstairs space was still occupied by a paint store. To the right was a little shop where one could buy guitar strings, harmonicas, and the like. That store disappeared and Ralph Baker's Sound Hole opened across the street. Ralph's wife is very nice and I apologize for drawing a blank on her name. Prior to the Sound Hole in Brattleboro, the Bakers had a little coffeehouse in nearby Putney, Vermont. To the left of the Common Ground was a bar with the not-exactly-original-name, Alice's Restaurant. Very close to Alice's was what might be called a hippie department store. It sold such things as earth shoes and other articles of clothing, twirlie things that were used for massage purposes, and lots and lots of records. They had the worst bins for holding their LP stock that I've ever seen. I spent many hours trying to deal with those damned things. Is there any oldtime Brattleborian who can remind me of the name of that store?

For larger concerts, we would often drive or hook a ride to Windham College, which was in the same buildings that now house Landmark College in Putney. Shows that come quickly to mind include Count Basie with Freddie Green on guitar and Roomful of Blues opening, Ry Cooder, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. The last group had recently released the Sonny and Brownie LP, and Brownie McGhee was touring with an electric guitar. It was great! Finally, it seems to me that it was at Windham College where I heard a dynamite Freebo-phase concert by Bonnie Raitt.

The early 1970s brought a couple major institutions of what is now Brattleboro's music past. The first to arrive, I believe, was Capt'n Bullfrog's record store ("Prices for the People") in the Latchis building. As I recall, Captain Bullfrog got his store going on a loan and a prayer. Later on, he moved into a larger space across Main Street and up pretty much into the middle of town. In a way, Bullfrog's never really left. Matt, who ran the audio department, now sells and installs car stereos. Mark, who was in charge of the record department, now operates a terrific record store of his own--Rapcity, in the space once occupied by the old Dutch Bake Shop.

The other major gone-but-not-forgotten Brattleboro music institution that hit town in the early 1970s is the Chelsea House Cafe  -  later known as the not-for-profit Chelsea House Folklore Center. The Chelsea House managed an important concert and contradance series, produced a folk festival for four years running, served as a quality recording studio, and operated Chelsea House Records. A wonderful local modern jazz band, Antares, recorded an incredible demo there. I'd be interested to know whatever became of the Antares tapes. The Chelsea House kitchen is, in a manner of speaking, the spiritual ancestor of the current Chelsea Royal Diner.

Back in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, Brattleboro had a nightclub of decent size called Flat Street. It was in what was once a parking garage and is now a teen center. Certain bands played Flat St. often. The September 1981 calendar lists such familiar band names as Cayenne, Outrage, and Willow. My memory is less certain about the Frightened Fathers, Debra Galli, She, and Tank. There were also concerts featuring national and international artists. I recall Stephane Grappelli, Maria Muldaur, and I think the Pat Metheny Group. Flat Street was the Vermont stop on George Thorogood and the Destroyers' fifty states in fifty days tour. The Boston band, the Stompers, opened that show.

Times changed, as they have a way of doing; and the folk music, granola-rock, and boogie bands of the '70s slowly drifted toward the background. Many of us missed out on what came next, directly on account of a baby-boomlet that struck Windham County in the early 1980s. But by the 1990s, proximity to Boston and New York helped create local interest in alternative rock. New music, more broadly defined, was well served by a now sadly-departed WKVT-FM broadcast, The 5:30 Club, featuring Ian Taylor, ageless radio newsman Tim Johnson, a flock of sheep, and the Ian Taylor Singers and Dancers. The many The 5:30 Club prizes that this kid won  -  piles and piles of CDs  -  are among the factors that led to the founding of the New England Music Scrapbook.

I have less background with classical music, though it seems to me that, at the very least, this page should mention such important organizations as the Brattleboro Music CenterFriends of Music at Guilford,  and the Marlboro Music Festival.

The local popular music community has had its ups and downs over the years, but it is far stronger today than it was in December 1970 when I arrived. We have much reason to celebrate our town's music scene and our many fine local musicians, past and present.

-- Alan Lewis,  November 24, 2002

Brattleboro Vermont

I called her music "old fashioned."

-- Dave Madeloni

"YOU GOT IT RIGHT ON THE NOSE!" Her cadence quickened. "That comes from me coming back to my roots. I grew up listening to live bluegrass ... that is how I learned to play."

Bethanie just completed Small Black Feather, an album that is a throwback to simpler times, a touch of sheer Appalachia blended with old-fashioned, acoustic folk. It is the product of an honest musician who values the purity of performance over the antiseptic studio perfection sought by many modern recording artists. She described her independent release as "not highly produced ... no wild drums, harmoniums and landscapes."

"I'm not digital," she explained. "There are flubs on this album--that is important to me. It is very real. I don't wanna go over something 800 times until I get it seemingly perfect." Consequently Small Black Feather captures the intimacy and quiet intensity of a live Bethanie show.

The collection of Bethanie originals is also very much the product of her two years in Brattleboro. "When I moved to Vermont I had a bunch of old songs. I figured I could just bang 'em out. ... With the musicians I worked with here and the relationships I made with the town and the people ... I found myself writing. And writing some more. The entire album became everything I had written from the time I stepped foot here."

The less-is-more approach and conversational lyrics give the songs a traditional, timeless quality a late-at-night-around-the-campfire feel, covering themes of longing, loss, and movin' on, sung in a twangy, Michelle-Shocked-meets-Gillian-Welch drawl that catches in all the right emotional places.

A mournful tone is set on the opening track, "It Was Raining."

"It definitely deals with the issue of mortality," explained Bethanie. "I lost my best friend--as unpleasant as that can be--and there is a lot I've learned. Simple wisdoms. Simple truths."

The somber tone is balanced by the playfulness of "Everybody's Lucky," a song that transformed in the studio.

"I put on a different persona and started singing in this ornamental manner ... there is a sly undertone of poking fun at the seriousness..." At the end, Bethanie breaks into uncontrolled laughter.

The title track was the song that grabbed the attention of fellow musicians after Bethanie's arrival. "That song encompasses a lot of what is going on in the album. I started writing it when I was sitting on the hood of my truck up in Burlington after I got kicked out of a coffee shop because it was late and they were closing. I wrote a couple more verses on the way down. That was one of those songs that kinda fell out."

Bethanie will be appearing with Small Black Feather co-conspirator Phil Bloch and stand-up bassist Duke Johnson (Ware River Club, Johnson Boys) this Saturday at The Loft in Brattleboro for a CD launch. Expect a loose, old fashioned songfest.

I asked Bethanie, fresh from a successful showcase on the main stage at the prestigious Falcon Ridge Festival, about her aspirations as a musician.

Her answer was as honest and straightforward as her songs.

"I want to be able to keep playing music. Everyone asks that, but I haven't been able to come up with a better answer yet."

-- Dave Madeloni, Brattleboro (VT) Reformer, August 22, 2002

Copyright © 2002 by Dave Madeloni. All rights reserved.
Used with permission.

Many more Dave Madeloni columns may be found via
Brattleboro Music Links

This is a very old page, and there's not time at the moment to update it and spruce it up. We have both older and newer items elsewhere, having a lot to do with Brattleboro's popular music community. Here are links to some of them, along with links to a few Brattleboro music organizations, facilities, etc.:

Do you have a Web address or a business e-mail address for the Brattleboro School of Dance or the Brattleboro Women's Chorus that you could send us? We'd be happy to post either or both here.

I don't know what to make of one site that ought to be very important to the Brattleboro, Vermont area. Radio station WKVT-FM (92.7) has a Web address

and I swear it used to have a functioning Web site; but at the moment, there's nothing there to speak of  -  not even a general contact e-mail address  -  and I know of no alternative WKVT-FM site.

A navigation bar appears at or near the bottoms of pages.
New England Music Scrapbook


Notes copyright © 2002, 2004 by Alan Lewis.
All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Instruments: banjo, banjo player, acoustic bass, electric bass, string bass, upright bass, bass player, bassist, dobro player, drummer, drums, fiddle, fiddle player, fiddler, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, guitar player, guitarist, harmonica, harp, keyboardist, keyboards, mandolin, mandolinist, multi-instrumentalist, orchestra, organ, organist, percussion, percussionist, pianist, piano, piano player, saxophone, saxophonist, pedal steel guitar, pedal steel guitarist, synthesizer, violin, violinist, lead vocals, lead vocalist. Placenames (cities, towns, etc.): . States: Connecticut, Conn, CT, Maine, ME, Massachusetts, Mass, MA, New Hampshire, N.H., NH, Rhode Island, R.I., RI, Vermont, VT. Styles, genres: alt folk, alternative folk, alt country, alternative country, alt rock, alternative rock, bluegrass, country and western, country music, country rock, country-rock, country western, folk singer songwriter, folk singer-songwriter, fusion, garage, hillbilly, jazz, reggae, rhythm and blues, rhythm n blues, rock and roll, rock n roll, roots music, roots rock, roots-rock, ska, string band, stringband, swing band. The Boston Globe, CD Baby, the New York Times, Paste Magazine, Signature Sounds Recordings. General: album, arena, auditorium, backing, backup, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Boston Phoenix, cassette, coffee house, coffeehouse, column, compact disc cd, concert, cover, dance, dancing, entertainment, EP, fest, festival, harmony, instrumental, label, live music, LP, NEMS, New England Music Scrapbook newsletter, nightclub, nightlife, produced by, producer, production, AM FM radio, record, recording studio, release, review, single, show, song writer, tape, theater, theatre, underground, venue, vinyl, written by. Birge St, Blue Force 4, Blue Force 5, Brattleboro music, Brattleboro night clubs, brattleboro nightclubs, Brattleboro nightlife, Brattleboro nightspots, Brattleboro pop music, Brattleboro popular music, Brattleboro rock and roll, Brattleboro venues, Canal St, David Bromburg, J Estey Company, J Estey and Company, Estey Organ Company, A Joe Gunther Novel, Homestead Place, Homestead Pl, the Barbara Keith Band, the Latchis Center for the Performing Arts, the Latchis Theater, live music, David Madeloni, Archer Mayor, the Mole's Eye Cafe, Sound Design Recording Studio, Rudy Vallee, West St Arts. Brattleboro Scene