The Beat Goes On: One banjo master salutes another in Amherst, big stage in Deerfield opening for the summer, and more

Banjo master Tony Trsichka has a new album out that pays tribute to another great banjo picker, Earl Scruggs, and Trsichka  and his band will play songs from it June 7 at The Drake in Amherst.

Banjo master Tony Trsichka has a new album out that pays tribute to another great banjo picker, Earl Scruggs, and Trsichka and his band will play songs from it June 7 at The Drake in Amherst. Photo by Gregory Heisler

Indie rockers Winterpills come to the newly reopened Iron Horse in Northampton June 1.

Indie rockers Winterpills come to the newly reopened Iron Horse in Northampton June 1. Image from Iron Horse website

Sounds local: Valley pickers Appalachian Still bring their driving mix of bluegrass, rock, old-time mountain music and more to the Iron Horse June 7.

Sounds local: Valley pickers Appalachian Still bring their driving mix of bluegrass, rock, old-time mountain music and more to the Iron Horse June 7. Image from Appalachian Still Bandcamp site

Roots rockers Donna the Buffalo, whose devoted fans are known as The Herd, play the Iron Horse June 12.

Roots rockers Donna the Buffalo, whose devoted fans are known as The Herd, play the Iron Horse June 12. Image from Iron Horse website

The Grammy-nominated roots trio The Wood Brothers will be at Tree House Brewing’s summer stage in Deerfield June 18.

The Grammy-nominated roots trio The Wood Brothers will be at Tree House Brewing’s summer stage in Deerfield June 18. Image from The Wood Brothers website

Get your tickets soon: Multiple award winning singer, composer and folk/roots singer Rhiannon Giddens comes to Tree House Brewing July 31. A number of shows in the venue’s series have already sold out.

Get your tickets soon: Multiple award winning singer, composer and folk/roots singer Rhiannon Giddens comes to Tree House Brewing July 31. A number of shows in the venue’s series have already sold out. Image from Rhiannon Giddens

Dance the night away: Shokazoba brings its horn-heavy sound to the Marigold Theater in Easthampton May 31.

Dance the night away: Shokazoba brings its horn-heavy sound to the Marigold Theater in Easthampton May 31. Image from Shokazoba website

Devisa

Devisa Image from Mal Devisa Bandcamp site

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 05-30-2024 2:49 PM

Over the past few years, Tony Trischka, considered one of the most influential banjo players around, has been delving deep into the music of another banjo master: the late Earl Scruggs.

Scruggs, in the 1940s, developed a unique three-finger style of picking that revolutionized bluegrass, making the banjo a much more prominent instrument in the genre. That’s the music that convinced Trischka, as a 13-year-old in the early 1960s, to drop his folk guitar and take up the banjo.

Now Trischka, who will play The Drake in Amherst on  June 7 at 8 p.m. with his crack band, has taken his interest in Scruggs a step further: That same day, he’s releasing a new album, “Earl Jam: A Tribute To Earl Scruggs,” that’s based on some rare recordings of Scruggs jamming with John Hartford, another bluegrass titan, in the 1980s and 1990s.

Trischka, who’d discovered this music on a thumb drive, devoted himself to transcribing all the solos and other parts Scruggs had played on some 200 songs, then called in a host of standout bluegrass pickers — Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Vince Gill, Molly Tuttle, Brittany Haas and more — to play on the new record.

“Whether or not you’re a banjo player, if you play bluegrass, you’re influenced by Earl,” he says. “So it was easy to get world-class players on board.”

Trischka, who’s now 75 himself, knows this music backward and forward by now. For the last few years, he’s been touring a show also called “Earl Jam,” in which he and his band trace Scruggs’ history and musical journey, from his childhood in North Carolina to his final years (he died in 2012 at age 88).

“The depth of his genius becomes ever more apparent when I transcribe his solos,” Trischka explains. “Discovering new twists and turns in his playing is pure joy and in fact is the inspiration for this tribute show.”

 

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

High-speed police chase in Hadley ends in crash, arrest on Hampton Inn lawn
Ashfield Lake House reopening under new ownership, management
Yankee Candle consolidation prompts loss of 100 jobs
Music in the sky: Summit House Sunset Concert Series returns to its 173-year-old home
Demographic changes fuel enrollment fears at UMass
Herrell’s Ice Cream to open pop-up shop in North Amherst this summer

The revamped Iron Horse opened with a bang in mid-May, selling out its first three shows. The club also sold all the tickets for two July concerts by Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, seemingly within hours of the shows being announced.

Some other advance shows have also sold out — Gaelic Storm, Kathleen Edwards — but there’s plenty of music on tap over the next couple of weeks, beginning on June 1 at 7 p.m. with Winterpills, the venerable Valley indie rockers.

Led by guitarist and chief songwriter Philip Price, the band has long been known for the intricate harmonies of Price and Flora Reed and a sound that draws from a number of pop and rock sources including Elliot Smith, Big Star, Radiohead and the Beatles. “I don’t know why Winterpills aren’t one of the most cherished pop bands in the world,” Rolling Stone once said of the group. 

Another local favorite, Appalachian Still, brings its driving mix of old-time mountain music, bluegrass, and rock to the Horse on June 7 at 7 p.m. Opening for the band is Louie Phipps, the young (he’s now 12) Northampton singer-songwriter who made his first album with several noted adult players when he was in third grade.

On June 8, The Suitcase Junket, aka Matt Lorenz, brings his guitar, homemade drum kit and imaginative songs to the club at 7 p.m. And to round out these shows of roots music, Donna the Buffalo, the upstate New York band that’s described as “a lifestyle for its members and audiences” (longtime fans are known as The Herd), will be at the Iron Horse on June 12 at 7 p.m.

 

Summer’s not far off, and that means outdoor shows are now on the docket. And at Treehouse Brewery in Deerfield, a number have already sold out — so it’s worth giving a shout out now to some of the coming concerts still available.

Last year, Tree House won approval from Deerfield officials to triple its occupancy for outdoor concerts and other special events, from 500 to 1,500 people, and the brewery brought in some major names such as Yo La Tengo, Jeff Tweedy and Aimee Mann.

This year’s first show (June 6), the Texas-based blues/rock artists Gary Clark Jr. and Ricky Duran, has sold out, but you can see The Wood Brothers, the Grammy-nominated roots band based around brothers Chris and Oliver Wood, on June 18 at 7 p.m.

The two brothers, on upright bass and electric and acoustic guitars, and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix play a mix of folk, blues, jazz and some rock and gospel, too.

Their most recent album, “Heart Is The Hero,” was recorded analog to 16-track tape to capture, as much as possible, the band’s live sound while still recording in a studio. And as one critic put it, the music is “played brilliantly by a trio that sounds like a band twice their size.”

In July, Tree House will welcome some other roots and folk-oriented artists: Amos Lee (July 8), Old Crow Medicine Show (July 18) and Rhiannon Giddens (July 31).

And in August, the rock and indie bands come to town, including Toad The Wet Sprocket (Aug. 12), Andrew Bird (Aug. 15), and Big Head Todd and the Monsters (Aug. 19).

More music on tap

Tonight (Friday, May 31), the Marigold Theater in Easthampton is hosting what’s billed as an “Ecstatic Dance Party!” with the horn-driven sounds of Shokazoba and music spun by DJ Luminus. Doors open at 7 p.m.

This month’s Song & Story Swap, hosted by the Pioneer Valley Folklore Society, will be an Acoustic All-Beatles Night, which takes place on June 1 at 7 p.m. at First Church in Amherst. Singers can sign up to do one or two songs by the Beatles or by a former Beatle.  

Brown Eyed Women, which plays at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield June 1 at 8 p.m., is a Grateful Dead cover band with a unique twist: The five members are women who come from different bands and different states.

Mal Devisa is the solo project of Deja Carr, a Valley singer, songwriter, guitarist and more who’s been playing the local scene for years in different incarnations, including as a member of Who’da Funk It? and exploring hip hop, folk, lo-fi, and jazz. She’ll be at The Drake on June 8 at 8 p.m. along with Cowperson and bobbie.

Joey Pesce, a founding member and keyboard player for the new wave band ’Til Tuesday (the first major gig for Aimee Mann), will play Luthier’s Co-op in Easthampton on June 7 at 7 p.m. (Pesce is also a visual artist here in the Valley). He’ll be followed by singer and songwriter Bob Chabot, with accompaniment by Dennis Avery.

Roots musician and ethnomusicologist Tim Eriksen will open the annual Wednesday Folk Traditions concert series at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum in Hadley on June 12 at 6:30 p.m.

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