Classic acts from multiple musical genres are the top picks on this week’s performing arts calendar in southern Maine. In Portland on Friday, a tribute to The Band, a classic roots group from the 1960s and 1970s, will hold forth.
The following night, Joe K. Walsh, a contemporary exponent of classic Appalachian mandolin, will officially release “Borderland,” his new album. Several of his collaborators will join him at a public release party in Portland.
Also on Saturday, Vinegar Hill Music Theatre in Arundel will wrap up its inaugural season with one of the classiest pop groups from the 1960s and 1970s: The Association.
The name Ludwig van Beethoven is synonymous with classical symphonic music. On Sunday and Monday, the Portland Symphony opens its Classical Series with a concert that features Mr. B’s No. 4.
When folk singer Bob Dylan committed to going electric in the mid 1960s, he needed a backing band both for touring and recording. He hired five musicians hailing from Canada and the U.S. who provided a rootsy ambience and backing for his own new sound.
With no formal name, they were simply referred to as “the band.” When these five started working independently on their own side projects, they simply adopted The Band as their moniker. They enjoyed great success in the late 1960s into the 1970s, with the soulful country voice of drummer Levon Helm anchoring their distinctive Americana sound.
The Band recorded a string of hits that remain staples of the American country rock, including “Up on Cripple Creek,” “The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down” and “The Weight.”
Before he died in 2012, Helm said he hoped that The Band’s music would be carried on by others. Today there are several tribute groups in the U.S. that recreate the live concert experience of The Band.
One of these, calling itself The The Band Band, is active in the northeast and will visit Portland on Friday. I’ve seen this group before and they’re very good.
Catch The The Band Band at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland, at 8 p.m. Oct. 7. Call 761-1757.
One of America’s foremost proponents of traditional Appalachian, string band and bluegrass music lives in Maine, but he performs and teaches all over.
Portland resident Joe K. Walsh teaches mandolin at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, plus he’s got an online course at Peghead Nation. He also co-directs Berklee’s American Roots Festival and conducts clinics all over the U.S. – including one in South Hiram each July.
As a performer Walsh toured for years, nationally with the Gibson Brothers and locally with Joy Kills Sorrow.
Walsh and some friends have recorded a new album that’s being officially released on Saturday. “Borderland” mostly comprises virtuoso work by Walsh himself plus a group of his favorite and frequent collaborators: fiddlers Bruce Molsky and Brittany Haas, guitarist Courtney Hartman, banjo wiz Gabe Hirshfeld and bassist Karl Doty.
“Borderland” is a good listen. Most of the 11 songs were written by Walsh, but there are some covers. Five tracks are purely instrumental, with each of Walsh’s guests featured. Six involved singing; Walsh’s voice has been described as “sawdust-tinged” tenor.
Catch the “Borderland” CD release party at 8 p.m. Oct. 8 at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757,
Back in 1999, in the waning days of the 20th century, Broadcast Music Inc., the prominent rights-licensing agency, issued its list of songs credited with the most radio airplay in history. Coming in at No. 2, with more than 7 million spins on radio stations, was “Never My Love,” performed by The Association.
The Association also scored two more in BMI’s Top 100. “Cherish” placed 22nd and “Windy” ranked No. 61. All three of these hits were recorded during the group’s golden years of 1966 and 1967.
The six-man group was formed in California in 1966 and embodied the West Coast counterculture. It was also one of the first bands to embrace the interrelated twin concepts of “folk rock” and “soft rock.” Among its honors, The Association was selected to lead off the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, a milestone in American music.
Following those two golden years, the band went through multiple personnel changes, but it’s still very much in business on the concert circuit. This year’s tour marks The Association’s 50th anniversary. For the final act of Vinegar Hill Music Theatre’s inaugural season, artistic director George Dvorsky has booked The Association this Saturday.
The current lineup includes two of the original members, Jules Gary Alexander on vocals and lead guitar and Jim Yester on vocals, guitar and keyboard. The current sextet also includes a brother and a son of two of The Association’s original members.
I’ve got my tickets already. Saturday’s concert will mark my sixth visit to Vinegar Hill, and I plan to congratulate Vinegar Hill owner Tim Harrington and Dvorsky for creating such a superlative concert venue and surrounding ambience – definitely the best in Maine south of Portland. Re-purposing a barn and attached farmhouse that date from the 1880s, they’ve rehabbed the buildings and greatly beautified the grounds. The Association will be the 55th act to perform since Vinegar Hill opened in May.
Catch The Association at Vinegar Hill Music Theatre, 53 Old Post Road, just off Route 1 in Arundel at 8 p.m. Oct. 8. Call 985-5552.
The nine symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven are considered the gold standard of classical music. Four years ago Portland Symphony Orchestra maestro Robert Moody announced a program where all nine would be performed over the course of the following three seasons.
Moody is entering his last full year as maestro, and this Monday he’s going to start to finish the Beethoven cycle. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, often described as “sunny and cheerful,” is the featured work. That will leave No. 2 for February and No. 9 for April.
Also on the program is a cello concerto by Mason Bates, a contemporary composer that Moody has championed for years. Guest artist Joshua Roman will perform the cello solo parts in Bates’ piece. The concert will conclude with a perennially popular work, Ottorino Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome.”
Two performances are slated for Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: 2:30 p.m. Oct. 9 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
Joe K. Walsh is a contemporary exponent of the classical Appalachian style of mandolin picking. This Saturday Walsh will release his newest album, “Borderland,” with a concert at One Longfellow Square in Portland.