March 12, 2010

Musicians give us much to anticipate in 2009


— By . PONTI

You may require those around you to speak in hushed tones today and you may sleep right through breakfast. 2008 was a tricky, erratic and occasionally edifying year, and over-the-top New Year's Eve celebrations were certainly warranted.

I hereby raise my mug of decaf to toast the arrival of 2009. The year is full of promise, the likes of which I for one haven't felt in some time.

I also look gleefully forward to writing about all of the incredible musicians who will play to audiences big and small. They will play to sell-out audiences and to a handful of week-night, diehard music fans. They will play for gas money and tips. They will play because they love to.

You might hear a song this year that will forever change you or a song that will make you dance like a giddy fool. Anticipation can be a beautiful thing. Hoorah for that.

Boston songwriter, Miss Tess, has just made it to the top of my new favorites list. She's been kicking around for a couple of years, but I just got wind of her about three weeks ago.

She describes her music as ''modern vintage'' and released a record under that name full of nouveau-retro songs that make me smile, skip and appreciate her captivating voice and all-around nifty style that embodies ragtime, swing, jazz and a few of my other favorite things.

Her songs are charming. ''Pokey McMumbles'' goes a little something like this: ''Well I drink my milk from a carton, whiskey I drink through a straw, I stumble along as I mumble a song, would you catch me if I fall?''

''Stormy Baby,'' is a gem that the likes of Billie Holiday would have been thrilled to cover. ''I'm as gray as the day that I met you and the skies couldn't keep us apart. But you left me the day the sun shone your way, stormy baby, you're breaking my heart.''

Seriously people, take the time and venture to and give a listen.

Miss Tess & the Bon Ton Parade with Dos Eckies, 9 p.m. Saturday, One Longfellow Square, Portland. $10 in advance/$12 at the door.

or call 761-1757. www.misstess

Rock/blues/jazz/twang instrumentalists Greenhead recently welcomed sax player Dan Nogar to the fold and will be showing him off Saturday night at Gritty's.

Greenhead delves into off-the-beaten-track covers from the '60s and '70s soul and funk heyday, while also playing plenty of originals. They are also no strangers to improvisational jam ventures.

Greenhead, 10 p.m. Saturday, Gritty McDuff's, 396 Fore St., Portland. No cover, 21-plus,

I've raved more than once about local chanteuse Audrey Ryan and will continue to do so because I am terribly fond of her unconventionally fantastic music. Visit www.audreyryan. org for a sampling.

Her Saturday night show, however, gives me the opportunity to also rave about another local act with the far-off name South China. They're actually out of Biddeford and are the husband and wife duo of Jerusha and Jeremy Robinson.

Jerusha sings and plays cello and Jeremy is on guitar, accordion and also sings. Both were in brown bird, another feather in the Peapod Recordings hat, and South China started as an off-shoot of that band. South China seems to be their primary focus as of late and that suits me just fine, as both incarnations are musical bliss to my ears.

The music is soothing yet labyrinthine (thanks, Roget, for that 10-cent word!). Jerusha's vocals float down to earth on the wings of cello and guitar.

This is the kind of music that is best served by candlelight when you have too much on your mind and need to be transported out of your own head and into the Robinsons' world of halcyon sounds. The music beckons as if to say, ''give me your hand, give me your trust.''

So when I say that the North Star stage will be doubly blessed on Saturday night, I am not foolin' around. Enjoy.

Audrey Ryan and South China, 8 p.m. Saturday, North Star Music Cafe, 225 Congress St., Portland, 699-2994.

A line from a recent Steve Bailey e-mail: ''I am putting the wheels back on the Truckbody Jones bus and taking it for another spin around the old neighborhood.''

Bailey also mentions that the Friday night show at Brian Boru will include some ''top secret special guests.'' Bailey is all about the blues, and his band, Truckbody Jones, delivers the goods via mostly original tunes with some well chosen covers interspersed. Take the truck for your own spin at

Truckbody Jones, 9:30 p.m. Friday, Brian Boru, 57 Center St., Portland, 780-1506, 21-plus

Aimsel Ponti is a Portland freelance writer. She can be contacted at:

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