Wednesday, March 12, 2014
And just like that, we’re up to our ears in October. Time to bust out the mid-weight jackets and to warm up our vocal chords for, let’s hope, a month’s worth of “Star-Spangled Banners” played at Fenway Park.
Portland singer-songwriter Sammie Francis just released a CD called “The Kite and the Shore,” recorded in the apartment she shares with partner Max Taylor.
Musical partners Joe O’Neill (aka Wooldog) and Clara Berry have recently released a CD called “The Magician’s Wife.”
Turn your radio dial to 102.9 WBLM every Friday at 8:30 a.m. to hear Aimsel Ponti wax poetic about her top live music picks for the week with the Captain and Celeste.
Catch local and national acts performing live at the Press Herald on The Newsroom Sessions video page.
But in the event of an unforeseen implosion, there’s plenty of other things to sing about right here in Maine that won’t cost you a broken heart, or broken TV screen. In fact, I am singling out two local acts that, if you’ll pardon (or love) the pun, hit it right out of the park with their music.
I’ll start with Portland-based singer-songwriter Sammie Francis. She just released a wonderful CD called “The Kite and the Shore.” Francis told me the songs on it date back to 2009 but weren’t finished until earlier this year. The album was recorded in the apartment she shares with partner Max Taylor and the pair handled mixing themselves. You’ll hear Francis on guitar and piano and Taylor plays acoustic guitar.
Speaking of piano, that was Francis’ first instrument. She began lessons when she was about 4 and learned to read notes before letters. She ended up studying classical piano until age 17, and by then was writing her own music and taking voice lessons. Francis also taught herself guitar when she was in the 9th grade.
“I love being able to play two instruments, because one I know in and out and the other I am continually discovering. They both provide a sense of freedom,” Francis said.
The title track of “The Kite and the vShore” is the one that Francis holds most dear to her heart because it’s about how her pepere never got to meet Taylor and how both men are of supreme importance to her.
She also explained that the song is a metaphor for herself and Taylor, in that she tends to fly off easily and can be difficult to hang onto, whereas he is the unwavering shore.
When she’s not out performing, Francis might also teach you a thing or two. That’s because the other hat she wears is that of English teacher at Biddeford High School.
Francis studied English and American literature and teaching at Bowdoin and then got her master’s in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh.
As for influences, Francis cites Joni Mitchell, Josh Ritter, The Head and the Heart, Brandi Carlile, Regina Spektor and, above all, English folkie Laura Marling.
Check out Francis on Monday, Oct. 7, at The Flatbread Company at 72 Commercial St. in Portland.
She goes on at 6 p.m. Francis has a bunch of other live performances lined up, so head to sammiefrancis.com to get her schedule and to take a listen to her music.
ANOTHER CD that’s been in heavy rotation at my desk is “The Magician’s Wife” by Clara Berry & Wooldog. FYI, Wooldog is Joe O’Neill, drummer and musical partner to Berry.
Berry is originally from Kennebunk and got her start playing open mics at Acoustic Coffee and the North Star Cafe, two spots in Portland that are still missed.
As for the CD, to quote Depeche Mode, “I just can’t get enough” because it’s that good. It’s the kind of CD you just want to sink into and let wash over you.
Over the course of 11 songs you’ll hear a ton of piano along with drums, pedal steel and baritone guitars, sax, violin, viola, cello, trumpet, French horn and even a tuba. The title track is my current favorite. It’s mysterious and mist-covered. “Mumbling incantations in my head, draw the curtains closed and be my man,” Berry sings.
I also need to break one of my own rules about not comparing one singer to another. Berry reminds me of both Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple. Her voice can rise to siren highs and sink to the depths effortlessly. Said another way: it’s absolutely lovely.
I wish the best for Berry. May she have fair winds, following seas and an ever-growing audience because “The Magician’s Wife” should bless as many ears as possible. Hear it, love it and buy it at claraberry.com. Then help her celebrate the release of the CD in Portland with Meghan Yates (another incredible singer) and Tom Kovasevic. Fun fact: Kovasevic was Berry’s music teacher for many years and she can’t wait to share the stage with him.
Clara Berry & Wooldog CD Release Show 8 p.m. Oct. 11. Slainte, 24 Preble St., Portland. 21-plus; slaintewinebar.com
Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455or at: email@example.com