I don’t often get to have an in-depth conversation with our local musicians, but last Monday night I found myself at the bar at Charlie O’s next to local songwriter Kelly Ravin, whose projects include the rock band Waylon Speed as well as Americana rock act The Welterweights. Next to him was his most current collaborator (who also happens to be his partner) Haile Jade. The two just got back from recording in Joshua Tree, California. In what Kelly describes as an “exceptional” experience, the two recorded 12 songs over five days.
Along the way they changed the name of their act from their surnames to Cowboys and Angels, an apt name for an act that brings to mind the work of John Prine and Emmylou Harris, among others. Kelly describes their act as “sweet yet smoky,” with his smoky being supplied by guitar and voice and the sweetness provided by Haile’s vocals. The whole thing has a “nice wholesome girl with a jerk” feel to it, summing it up by calling it “classy dive music” (which probably means we are bound to see them in the spot of this very interview one day).
You don’t have to wait for that to pop up on the schedule at O’s, however, as you can head out to Calais, just up the County Road from the capital on Friday night to catch Cowboys and Angels in the intimate confines of The Whammy Bar, the cozy space having served as somewhat of an incubator for the project. The result of the Cali recording sessions has a working title of “Horns and Halos,” and we can expect the release of that material sometime in the near future. In the meantime, they’ll be performing those songs and more starting at 7:30 p.m.
One of the most enjoyable things about talking with Kelly about his music is the complete lack of ego he presents despite his prolific output and local success. Truly the embodiment of the humble, grateful artist. If you head out to the Whammy tonight, you can catch open mic starting at 7 p.m., and on Saturday night, another male-female duo takes the diminutive stage when Jenn and John play at 7:30 p.m. All shows at the Whammy Bar are by donation.
Burlesque has been all the rage around the area for awhile now, and that trend continues at Positive Pie II on State Street in the heart of the capital this weekend. ”Nautical Naughtiness” is the title of the evening’s festivities, so expect a variety show with plenty of sailor attire, pirate pizzazz and seafaring shenanigans. The adult-oriented fun starts at 10 p.m. for $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
Hopping over to Waterbury Center, Guptil Road hotspot ZenBarn continues to impress this weekend with strong regional programming. Hailing from Boston is Billy Wylder, an act led by Avi Salloway, who had a great run when living up here in Vermont with his duo Avi and Celia. Billy Wylder has evolved from an Americana/folk rock act to one with a more political bent and significant African influences in its latest work, which has been hailed as having “... a sense of mystery and majesty” (No Depression). Golden Oak hails from Maine, a soul-folk act fronted by siblings Zak and Lena Kendall. The band has won numerous awards and accolades in the Portland, Maine area folk scene, including being named “one of Portland’s most important up and coming bands” by Dispatch Magazine. A great Friday night double bill starting at 8:30 p.m. for $8 in advance, $10 at the door. For those and more information, check out www.zenbarnvt.org.
Back in Montpeculiar, there’s lots of action at Sweet Melissa’s on the corner of Elm and Langdon. Tonight you can catch Mel’s co-proprietor Jason Jack (who incidentally built the stage he’ll be playing on) at 8 p.m., with Andy Frolich filling the early slot at 6 p.m.
On Friday night, The Abby Sherman Band takes the black box stage at 9 p.m. On Saturday night Sweets gets the party started early with Umlaut rockin’ out at 6 p.m. Then, in the 9 p.m. slot, it’s local gal-led act Liz Beatty and the Lab Rats. Their blues-based sound would be pretty straightforward were it not for Liz’s powerful pipes and New Orleans-inspired influence, which puts the act over the top; the girl can straight up sing in addition to being a sweetheart of a person. Overall a great night to spend at Melissa’s. Expect a nominal cover at Mel’s on the weekends.
And, in the end, there’s always Charlie O’s, though the music is not going until last call anymore these days. Friday night you can catch Z-Jazz in the early slot at 6 p.m. At 9 p.m. a new act invades the back of the barroom when Western Terrestrials bring their brand of roots country and modern honky-tonk to our local dive for nice people.
On Saturday night, it’s new acts once again when oddly named Burlington-based bands Stolk and Be-er play the land beyond the pool tables. Be-er’s description as “Burlington garage rock” makes sense more than the name, but Stolk purveys in a genre it has dubbed “killer moose rock,” which is a bit more mysterious. No doubt this one should be interesting, starting once again at 9 p.m.
That wraps up this week. Support your musician community both local and regional and go see live music!