The Beat Goes On: Album release shows by Barnstar! and Lisa Bastoni, a Young@Heart Chorus concert with new special guests, and more

Boston-area bluegrass/Americana specialists Barnstar! will play songs from their new album, “Furious Kindness,” when they come to The Drake in Amherst on May 1. 

Boston-area bluegrass/Americana specialists Barnstar! will play songs from their new album, “Furious Kindness,” when they come to The Drake in Amherst on May 1.  Image from Barnstar! website

Northampton singer-songwriter Lisa Bastoni has released a new album, “On the Water,” and will play songs from it  at The Parlor Room in Northampton on April 21.

Northampton singer-songwriter Lisa Bastoni has released a new album, “On the Water,” and will play songs from it at The Parlor Room in Northampton on April 21. Image from Lisa Bastoni website

Lisa Bastoni’s new album, “On the Water,” was recorded live in the studio last summer and has been getting good airplay on The River/WRSI-FM.

Lisa Bastoni’s new album, “On the Water,” was recorded live in the studio last summer and has been getting good airplay on The River/WRSI-FM. Image from Lisa Bastoni website

The Young@Heart Chorus, seen here a few years ago at the Green River Festival in Greenfield, will be joined by some new guest artists at an April 20 concert at Northampton’s Academy of Music.

The Young@Heart Chorus, seen here a few years ago at the Green River Festival in Greenfield, will be joined by some new guest artists at an April 20 concert at Northampton’s Academy of Music. Photo by Paul Franz

The New York jazz ensemble The Hot Sardines will bring their energetic music to the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence for an April 21 evening show.

The New York jazz ensemble The Hot Sardines will bring their energetic music to the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence for an April 21 evening show. Image from Bombyx Center website

Classical ensemble Junction Trio plays an afternoon show April 21 at the Bombyx Center.

Classical ensemble Junction Trio plays an afternoon show April 21 at the Bombyx Center. Image from Junction Trio website

Genticorum, a Canadian trio known for their interpretations of traditional Québécois music, play The Parlor Room April 27.

Genticorum, a Canadian trio known for their interpretations of traditional Québécois music, play The Parlor Room April 27. Photo by Dylan Ladds

Acclaimed jazz/funk/hip hop drummer Blaque Dynamite and his ensemble come to the Marigold Theater in Easthampton and to the UMass Amherst Student Union Building April 23.

Acclaimed jazz/funk/hip hop drummer Blaque Dynamite and his ensemble come to the Marigold Theater in Easthampton and to the UMass Amherst Student Union Building April 23. Image from UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center website

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 04-18-2024 1:43 PM

’Tis the season of gigs by artists dropping new albums.

In early April, the Valley indie-folk band Cloudbelly celebrated a new disc, “i know i know i know,” with back-to-back shows at The Parlor Room in Northampton, and Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini, a duo of trombone and guitar, debuted songs from their latest record, “Guinga,” at The Drake in Amherst.

Now Barnstar! (yes, the exclamation mark is part of their name) is getting into the act. The energetic bluegrass/Americana band, made up of five music pros from the Boston area, will be at The Drake May 1 at 8 p.m., and they’ll come bearing songs from their brand-new album, “Furious Kindness.”

Barnstar! got its start about 12 years ago, with bassist Zachariah Hickman leading the effort to pull together the group — no easy task, as the members have solo careers and are busy sidemen as well who between them have gigged with Josh Ritter, Lori McKenna, Ray LaMontange and many other artists.

Their albums reflect the band’s on-the-go nature: The first one, “C’mon!” was recorded live in the studio, and the others have also been recorded pretty quickly when the members could find time to squeeze the sessions into their busy schedules.

Along with Hickman, Barnstar! is made up of guitarist (and UMass Amherst grad) Mark Erelli, banjoist Charlie Rose, fiddle player Jake Armerding, and mandolinist Taylor Armerding (the last two are son and father, respectively).

Erelli handles a fair amount of the lead vocals, but all the members sing, and at their live shows they’ll sometimes group around a single microphone to give an old-time feel to their music.

But though the band is adept at playing traditional bluegrass, they also love to cross boundaries and cover a range of songs, including Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand,” and “Handle With Care” by the Traveling Wilburys.

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No Depression, reviewing one of their past concerts, called Barnstar! “one of the most fun bands you will ever see perform. The raucous energy emanating from the stage coupled with their talent created a show that thrilled the sold-out audience on this night.”

“Furious Kindness,” which is hitting the airwaves today (Friday, April 19), seems to promise more of the same, a mix of originals and covers that the band summarizes as “unapologetically shouting in your face about how awesome you are.”

 

Northampton singer-songwriter Lisa Bastoni has a new album out, too, “On the Water,” that’s been getting airplay on The River/WRSI. You can hear her songs in person April 21 when she comes to The Parlor Room at 7:30 p.m. (Singer-songwriter Naomi Somers, from Ithaca, New York, opens the show.)

In a recent phone call, Bastoni said her new album, her third full-length release, was recorded live over three days last summer in a Watertown studio with a full band.

“It was so fun,” she said. “Everybody was ready to play and the songs just came together beautifully. It was exciting to record that way — I’d never done that.”

“On the Water” includes 12 songs that vary from upbeat Americana to slower folk to a bit of country. There’s a strain of melancholy running through some of them, a sense of life not having turned out quite as expected, of love that comes with doubts or the pain of separation.

But there’s also the wry humor of “Let’s Look at Houses,” a country-flavored tune with pedal steel guitar that profiles a couple trying to recapture youthful lust when they’re not out eyeballing houses “we can’t afford.” And Bastoni sings this and all her other tunes with confidence and feeling.

She’s been winning particular notice in the last five years, with nominations for four New England Music Awards, and she won a New Folk Award at the 2019 Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. Locally, Bastoni’s become a regular performer in Signature Sounds’ Back Porch Festival series.

At The Parlor Room, she’ll be accompanied by Sean Staples, who produced and played on her new album; Somers will also join the duo on some songs.

 

The Young@Heart Chorus doesn’t have a new album on hand, but as ever, the elderly singers are preparing to share the stage with some new guest artists when they come to Northampton’s Academy of Music April 20 at 8 p.m.

At the concert, “Mash-Up 8,” Y@H will be joined by The Children’s Chorus of Springfield, a group connected with the Community Music School of Springfield; The Pride Chorus, singers affiliated with the Northampton Community Music Center; and Noah Britton, a composer, comedian, and co-founder of Asperger’s Are Us, the first comedy troupe made up entirely of autistic people.

The Pride Chorus, started a few years ago, is a mixed-voice group that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community, according to the Community Music Center, and has proved very popular; open to all teens and adults who identify as LGBTQ+, it’s currently at capacity.

Meanwhile, Britton and the other members of his comedy group were profiled in a 2019 TV series on HBO.

Young@Heart and its new collaborators — the chorus has staged seven previous “Mash-Ups” with different guest artists — will perform new versions of songs by a range of artists including The Who, Blur, Mavis Staples, Fiona Apple, Talking Heads, and the Rolling Stones.

More music on tap

It’s a busy evening of rock-oriented sounds at Luthier’s Co-op on April 20, beginning at 6 p.m., with performances by Chris Goudreau, The Frost Heaves and Hales, Fancy Trash, and Muddy Ruckus.

A busy day also unfolds on April 21 at the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence, beginning at 4 p.m. with a show by Junction Trio, a young classical ensemble of piano, violin and cello that will perform works by John Zorn, Charles Ives, and Beethoven.

Then at 7:30 p.m., The Hot Sardines will pick up the pace with their “hot jazz” sound built around lots of brass, piano and energy. The nine-piece ensemble, out of New York City, has earned a reputation as a unique interpreter of varied material, conjuring the feel of “New York speakeasies, Parisian cabarets and New Orleans jazz halls,” as program notes put it.

The Marigold Theater in Easthampton also has you covered for jazz, starting on April 21 with a double bill of the Ethel Lee Ensemble and Valley stalwarts Juke Jazz Joint. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

And on April 23 at 8 p.m., the Marigold hosts Blaque Dynamite (the stage name of Mike Mitchell), a young drummer and singer who’s racked up numerous Downbeat Music awards and a Grammy nomination with his blend of jazz, hip hop and funk beats. He’ll also play a free show from noon to 1 p.m. in the lobby of the UMass Amherst Student Union.

Musique de Québec: Genticorum is a much-acclaimed trio in their native Canada, combining guitar, fiddle, accordion and intricate harmonies on their fresh interpretations of traditional Québécois music. They play The Parlor Room April 27 at 7:30 p.m.

The Dan Weiss Trio, part of the 2023-2024 Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares series, plays April 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Springfield Community Music School.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.