New albums from three Maine artists – one out last month, another coming out on Friday and the third on Saturday – all reference aspects of love in their songs, titles or both, making them perfect additions to your Valentine’s soundtrack, no matter your relationship status.

KGFREEZE “Phalanges” album cover. Photo by Hudson Gervais, layout by Dominic Lavoie

KGFREEZE, whose real name is Kyle Gervais, has been part of the Maine music scene for as long as I can remember, performing with bands like Grand Hotel and Cosades and putting out six solo albums, an EP and a number of singles. His latest album, “Phalanges,” came out on Jan. 20. Like his previous albums, “Phalanges” has a nine-letter title, and it beat out “Alcoholic” because Gervais felt it better fit the tone of the album and had a phonetic similarity to Gervais’ Florida Man character that the album centers around. Florida Man is the fictional narrator of Gervais’ acoustic album, and he’s a hard-drinking, hard living guy who sings, and in a few cases, speaks about his life with his wife, Lori, and their kids and all the mistakes he’s made.

“Amazon Prime” is a spoken word track that tells of spending a grand on Taylor Swift tickets (and the seats were lousy) and another hundred bucks on booze for himself. But the smile on daughter Joyce’s face? Priceless. Gervais manages to put a pretty bow on a sarcastic rant. Which brings me to the one cover on “Phalanges,”  Taylor Swift’s “Lover.” I’m on a Swift high having just watched her Netflix documentary “Miss Americana,” but I really only know a handful of her songs, and KGFREEZE’s earnest and intense cover was the first version of “Lover” I heard. Gervais said he was drawn to the song because of how well written it is and had a hunch it would work in a stripped-down acoustic form. “Lover” also served another purpose. “It provided a kind of template for the rest of the record: simple, straight-forward, but still packed with emotion,” said Gervais.

Gunther Brown: Drew Wyman, Derek Mills, Greg Klein, Pete Dubuc, Mark McDonough, Joe Bloom Photo by Danielle Peterson

Gunther Brown is the Portland-based band that will make you fall back in love with Americana music. If you’re already a fan of the genre but unfamiliar with this act, you can thank me later, or better yet, head to One Longfellow Square on Saturday night for the “Heartache & Roses” album release show. You can pick up a copy of it there, at Bull Moose locations and on digital and streaming platforms.

Gunther Brown’s “Heartache & Roses.” Original linocut by Maine artist David Connor.

Gunther Brown is Pete Dubuc on lead vocals and guitar, drummer Derek Mills, lead guitarist Mark McDonough, Joe Bloom Anderson on vocals, harmonica, keys and guitar, Greg Klein on vocals, guitar and mandolin, and Drew Wyman on bass. “Heartache & Roses” is the band’s third album, and the opening track “New Man” is alt-country gold with well-placed harmonica lines and pedal steel played by guest musician Bill Waldron, who also plays on “Slow Me Down” and the title track. “The Crossing” does slow things down, as Dubuc sings of demons of the past and dreams about outer space. I’d like nothing more than to smuggle this band into the Newport Folk Festival this summer and get it onto one of those storied stages. They’d fit right in and crush it.

Gunther Brown with Jenny Lou Drew
8 p.m. Saturday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $12 in advance, $15 day of show. onelongfellowsquare.com

 

The Ballroom Thieves: Martin Earley, Calin Peters and Devin Mauch Photo by Shervin Lainez

The Ballroom Thieves is Calin “Callie” Peters on vocals, cello and bass, Martin Earley on vocals and guitar, and Devin Mauch on vocals and percussion. Their third album, “Unlovely” drops on Valentine’s Day – timing that the band said was purely coincidental. They’re opening for folk band Caamp at the State Theatre on April 4, and the show has long been sold out, but since then, their own headlining show on April 5 has been added to the Port City Music Hall calendar.

The album’s first single, “Tenebrist,” was released in September. Tenebrism is a painting technique that emphasizes the contrast between dark and light, and in the song, The Ballroom Thieves sing about trying to stay positive in a negative socio-political climate. The song has an urgency to it, and horns further propel its message. “Homme Run,” with Peters on lead vocals, floats like a slow-moving cloud while it rips the patriarchy to shreds. There’s a lot more to say about The Ballroom Thieves. Once based in Boston, the band members are now all Mainers and have been on the national map for several years with previous releases and relentless touring. I’ll be sitting down with the band soon and will share more as the Portland date draws closer. But trust me when I tell you that “Unlovely” is a must-hear album from a band that punches holes in genre boxes with a folk-rock sound all its own.

The Ballroom Thieves
8 p.m. April 5. Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland, $18 in advance, $22 day of show, $35 preferred seating, 18-plus. portcitymusichall.com

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