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Out & About: Liz Frame and the Kickers at One Longfellow Square

Lifestyle

Out & About: Liz Frame and the Kickers at One Longfellow Square

One of New England’s most impressive singer-songwriters and her band are motoring into Portland’s One Longfellow Square on Friday. Liz Frame and the Kickers, who can be roughly classified as alt-country or Americana, recently released their first CD and now they’re making the rounds to promote it.

Also Friday, University of Southern Maine School of Music offers a concert in the Spotlight Series featuring professor Brian Diehl accompanied by pianist Sanae Kandra.

At Bowdoin College on Feb. 4, the school’s resident artist, pianist George Lopez, will team up with violinist Eva Gruesser in a free public program featuring three sonatas by Johannes Brahms.

Good Theater returned to action this past weekend, presenting the Maine premiere of Geoffrey Nauffts’ Tony Award-nominated play “Next Fall.”

Liz Frame and the Kickers

Life begins at 50. That’s part of the story behind the singer-songwriter who is playing Portland’s One Longfellow Square this Friday.

Liz Frame wrote her first song when she was 9 years old, and in her early 20s she seriously toyed with the prospect of a professional music career.

But marriage and motherhood got in the way, and Frame’s hopes for a life in music was put on hold for decades. But a few years ago, with her grown daughter ready to leave the nest, Frame got back in the picture. Somewhat to her own surprise, the 50-year-old has become one of the hottest acts on Boston’s North Shore club circuit. Now she’s venturing into southern New Hampshire and Maine with her highly personal brand of alt-country and Americana.

With a slightly nasal twang in her voice and a writing style that focuses on catchy melodies and heartfelt lyrical approaches to life’s big issues, Frame performs with a group she’s assembled called the Kickers. This past fall Liz Frame and the Kickers self-released their first full-length CD, titled “Sooner."

Over the weekend I listened to a dozen tracks from the album and was profoundly impressed. Frame squarely belongs in the traditions of strong female singer-songwriters such as Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Eilen Jewel. He sound is mostly acoustic, and includes herself on guitar, with additional guitars, mandolin, bass, percussion and supporting vocals supplied by the Kickers.

Rounder Records co-founder Marian Leighton-Levy offers this assessment: “Liz Frame is one of the most compelling, interesting, and emotive voices I’ve heard in a long, long time, with a solid and soulful personality to match. She’s also a wonderful songwriter, just starting to hit her stride, and no one does her songs better than she does! Her band is the perfect complement and foil for her quirky, funky Americana in their own very original way; to me, she’s a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, and a whole lot Americana.”

Catch Liz Frame and the Kickers at 8 p.m. Feb. 3 at One Longfellow Square, at the corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Brian Diehl and Sanae Kandra

The long vacation is over for University of Southern Maine students and faculty, and the School of Music is about to start its new semester of public events. First up is a Spotlight (faculty) Concert this Feb. 3, which stars low brass professor Brian Diehl in a program that features himself on two instruments: trombone and euphonium.

Accompanist will be piano prof Sanae Kandra, and the repertoire will be a mixture of works specifically written for these three instruments, plus a number that have been specially adapted. Two new pieces will be heard. One was penned by Kandra, and it’s so new that it still doesn’t have a title. The other is a new arrangement of works by Astor Piazzola, a 20th-century Argentinean composer who is best known for creating clever variations on his country’s signature tango dance and rhythms.

Catch this concert at 8 p.m. Feb. 3 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.

George Lopez and Eva Gruesser

School is also back in session at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, and the spring semester’s public programs get started this Saturday with a concert by two New Hampshire artists who are closely associated with the college and the region.

Pianist George Lopez is a visiting artist in residence at Bowdoin. He’s given a number of concerts at the college plus he’s been a featured soloist with the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra for the past several years as a close professional associate of maestro Rohan Smith. Violinist Eva Gruesser is the concertmaster of the American Composers Orchestra of Carnegie Hall. She’s also Smith’s wife and has soloed with the MSO.

Their planned repertoire comprises three sonatas by Johannes Brahms, a 19th-century German late Romantic composer.

Catch this free concert at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at Studzinski Recital Hall on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick. Call 725-3375.

‘Next Fall’

A recent play that revolves around the problematic relationship between two gay men is the focus of the current production at Portland’s Good Theater. “Next Fall,” written by Geoffrey Nauffts, was nominated for a Tony Award; Good Theater is presenting its Maine premiere.

The show stars two Good Theater newcomers, Rob Cameron and Joe Bearor as the principal subjects, plus a cast of four supporting actors.

Nauffts narrative approach begins in the present, as one of the two men lies in critical condition in the hospital and the five other characters rotate through a waiting room. Then Nauffts uses multiple flashbacks to highlight key moments in the complex web of relationships that has evolved over the past four years.

The two central characters are both obnoxiously contentious, and I spent most of my time in the theater wondering how they managed to stay together for more than a day, let alone four years. In any case, I didn’t care much for Nauffts’ two pivotal figures, and the tales of the others failed to make up for my lack of enthusiasm.

Good Theater presents “Next Fall” through Feb. 19 at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. (top of Munjoy Hill) in Portland. Call Good Theater at 885-5883.

Edited Feb. 3, 2012, to correct that "Sooner" by Liz Frame and the Kickers was an independent, self-released album.