Out & About: Pieta Brown tops parade of pop musicians

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An intriguing variety of popular music dominates this week’s picks of the tix in Portland, with artists ranging from singer-songwriters to rock ensembles.

All are booked into a trio of Congress Street venues that are within a few minutes walk of each other. Maybe they should parade down Congress Street.

Pieta Brown, a singer-songwriter with the distinctive vision of a poet paired with a seductive soprano voice, is my pick for the most interesting act. She’s appearing Sunday evening.

Perhaps the best-known act is Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, long-time masters of blues.

Followers of Maine musicians will want to hear fiddler and singer Joyce Andersen, who hails from York, playing selections from her newest album.

Port City Music Hall is hosting a twin-bill of rock ensembles that sport a retrospective outlook: The Revivalists and Red Wanting Blue.

Pieta Brown

She’s a Midwestern poet with a universal vision, a fine soprano voice and a gift for songwriting. That’s a quick summary of Pieta Brown, a singer-songwriter who will be visiting Portland this Sunday.

Brown, who has attracted much media attention over her relatively short career, is touring in support of “Paradise Outlaw,” her latest CD on the Red House label.

The creative restlessness that drives “Paradise Outlaw” has been a constant in her life. Born in Iowa, she grew up around artists and musicians – her father is folk singer and guitarist Greg Brown – absorbing all manner of bohemian influences. By the age of eight, she was writing poetry and instrumental music on the piano, eventually picking up the guitar and merging the two into songs. Most recently she learned to pick the banjo, which imparts an ethereal, other-worldly quality to many of her tunes.

“Paradise Outlaw” was released six weeks ago. I’ve listened to MP3s of most cuts – 14 songs total, all but one penned by Brown – and I’ve already reserved my tickets for Sunday’s show. I concur with Jamie Anderson’s review of the CD for Sing Out! magazine:

“Her songwriting is centered on fleeting images, with an emotional content cultivated through arrangement and delivery. If you’re looking for story songs like the kind found in classic folk, it won’t be here. But if you crave an emotional landscape of thoughtful images and well-played modern folk, rest your ears in this release.”

On this tour, Brown will be accompanied on stage by husband Bo Ramsey, a guitarist and Grammy Award-winning producer. The concert is slated for 8 p.m. Nov. 16 at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters

Two weeks ago, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters celebrated their 26th anniversary as a team, but the eponymous frontman’s distinguished career dates from a decade and a half earlier.

Since the mid-1970s, Earl has been a fixture on the greater Boston music scene, logging 10 years as lead guitarist for Roomful of Blues and a decade-long stint teaching guitar at the Berklee School of Music.

Regarded by musicians and critics as one of the premier blues guitarists of his generation, Earl has played alongside such greats as Carlos Santana, Muddy Waters, Big Joe Turner, Otis Rush, Earl King and Duke Robillard. Earl also replaced the latter in Roomful of Blues in 1979.

He’s also got a roomful of trophies and honors, including three W.C. Handy Blues Awards. Most recently Earl topped the balloting for Best Instrumentalist – Guitar at the 2014 Blues Music Awards in Memphis.

Expect to hear a number of selections from “Good News,” the new CD the band released last June. It debuted at No. 7 on Billboard’s Blues chart, demonstrating that 40 years into his professional career, Earl still has his mojo.

Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters appear at 8 p.m. Nov. 15 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Joyce Andersen

Joyce Andersen is a rarity among singer-songwriters: She accompanies herself on the fiddle.

Female singing fiddlers are quite uncommon – Alison Krauss being a notable exception – but those who also perform solo, write their own material and draw inspiration from a vast array of pop artists add further degrees of rarity. Andersen, a mother of two who hails from York, will be playing Saturday evening in Portland, supporting her newly released, fifth CD, “Swerve.”

Although she started playing classical violin as a child, Andersen’s musical passion and prowess accelerated during her teen years when she discovered and explored diverse pop styles. Among those who have inspired Andersen: Louis Armstrong, Sheryl Crow, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holliday, Otis Redding and the Rolling Stones. Two months ago I met her when she was playing duets as a guest artist at a Richard Thompson concert.

She’s known to many in southern Maine as side performer with singer-songwriter Harvey Reid (her husband) but over the past few years Andersen has been venturing into her own artistic realms and coming into her own as a solo act.

I’m playing a few of her MP3s as I write this, and I’m intrigued by her lyric to one song in particular, which seems to sum up Andersen’s approach to writing and performing, as well as her considerable musical territory: “She’s a thirsty girl,” Andersen sings. “She’s drinking in the whole wide world; there’s so much from which to choose.”

Catch Joyce Andersen in concert at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at Acoustic Artisans, 594 Congress St. in Portland. Call 671-6029.

The Revivalists plus Red Wanting Blue

Look into the future of rock by looking back. That’s a musical message conveyed by two bands that are playing this at the Port City Music Hall this Saturday. But don’t expect retro-rock; these bands are both cutting edge contemporary.

Hailing from New Orleans and closely identified with the Crescent City’s burgeoning indie-rock scene, The Revivalists comprise seven guys who are committed to writing and performing at festivals and clubs all over the U.S. Their name has a dual meaning. First, they frequently employ the warmer, danceable sounds of rock’s classic era. Second, their festival performances recall the fervor of old-time southern tent preachers.

The opening act is Ohio-based Red Wanting Blue, five fiercely independent guys who are on their own musical quest to remake rock with an eye on the genre’s past. Their latest album, “Little America,” came out this past June and quickly hit Billboard’s “Heatseekers” chart.

Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St. in Portland, presents this double bill beginning at 9 p.m. Nov. 15. Call 956-6000.

Sidebar Elements


Pieta Brown is a singer-songwriter who will be appearing Nov. 16 in Portland.

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