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October 2013

October 31, 2013

New Tunes: "Island I Would," Nyiko Beguin

Promo_15_closeup.largeThe last we heard from local songwriter Nyiko Beguin he was fronting a promising indie-folk outfit called Whales & Wolves. That band's 2012 release, Up to the Ground, though rough around the edges, was a solid step forward from its 2009 debut, Green and Gray. The record showcased ambitious, if somewhat schizophrenic, arrangements and hinted at a talented songwriter in the making.

Recently, Beguin has been working as a solo artist. He's currently chipping away at a new EP, Always Always, slated for release next year — provided his crowdfunding campaign hits its mark. The five-song EP will be released on vinyl and is accompanied by an art book featuring compositions by some 15 national artists.

Beguin has made the first single from that EP, "Island I Would" available for public consumption. Bathed in dreamy synth that explodes into dramatic hooks, the dynamic, danceable cut suggests Beguin has come into his own. (Bonus points for the crafty use of steel drum. Nice touch.)

Check out that single below. To hear more from Beguin, you can drop by the BCA Center on Friday, November 1, when he plays a Kickstarter launch party with Mixtape Party and Sasquatch BTV


October 30, 2013

Magical Moving Halloweeny Images at Stowe's Helen Day Art Center

Magic-lanternHalloween doesn't have to be about costumed ghouls and overloading on high-fructose corn syrup. For the artistically curious, Helen Day Art Center in Stowe is offering, on Halloween night, a visual smorgasbord of short films, accompanied by an original score by DJ Ikail del Toro. 

The second annual Magic Lantern Show Art Film Festival evokes the bygone tradition of magic lantern shows, which were an important precursor to cinema. The original magic lantern shows, which date back several hundred years, were often put on by itinerant impresarios, who would project light through fanciful, painted glass plates while providing an early form of voice-over narration. 

Continue reading "Magical Moving Halloweeny Images at Stowe's Helen Day Art Center" »

October 29, 2013

Ashley Campbell Has Knives, Will Carve ... Pumpkins

524890_367657223317583_1588840033_nWhen Ashley Campbell moved to Vermont from New Jersey six months ago, it was to join her boyfriend, Michael Orfan, chef-owner of Rustic Roots restaurant in Shelburne. (Alice Levitt interviewed him for Seven Days in June.) Orfan is known for his charcuterie, but he's not the only one with knife skills: Campbell is one hell of a pumpkin carver.

And not just jack-o'-lanterns — she has made incredibly detailed portraits, such as the one here (for a bridal shower; it took her 12 hours) — corporate logos, wedding decorations, and more, as her website reveals.

Campbell says she got into carving pumpkins — along with her father, Steve — when she was still a kid. "When I was a teenager, I started making my own patterns," she says of the overlay designs that guide her knife. And at her previous job in New Jersey, Campbell says there was an annual pumpkin-carving contest, which she always won. "My designs got more and more complicated," she says.

Continue reading "Ashley Campbell Has Knives, Will Carve ... Pumpkins" »

October 28, 2013

No More Time for Procrastinating: 'Wyeth Vertigo' Closes Thursday




You know who you are: the procrastinators who intended to go see "Wyeth Vertigo" at the Shelburne Museum but, for one reason or another, have not yet gotten around to it.

People, people, did you not read my cover story about this exhibit? If that wasn't motivation enough, I don't know what is, except this: The show — one of the best seasonal exhibits at the Shelburne Museum ever — will end this Thursday, October 31. Yes, that is Halloween. Wear a Jamie Wyeth pumpkin head if you must. Just see it. You can thank me later.

Pictured: "Soaring" (1942) by Andrew Wyeth, courtesy of the Shelburne Museum.

October 25, 2013

Oh, Tiger Lillies, You Wild and Crazy Guys

If I didn't already have tickets to the awesome Dr. John at the Flynn tonight, I would be heading to Dartmouth's Hopkins Center to see these weirdly awesome Brits.


Nuf said.

Movies You Missed & More: The Pact

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 11.50.24 AMThis week in movies you missed: In honor of Halloween, I go looking for a scary movie that scares me.

First contender: The Conjuring (just released on video). The first hour was genuinely disturbing, and I wouldn't give it one star. But once they started explaining everything with hokey backstory, my chills evaporated.

Second contender: a super-low-budget indie called Resolution about a dude who chains his buddy up in a Cabin in the Woods to force him to shake a meth addiction. The few critics who saw it, liked it. The concept was interesting, but I didn't find it scary for a second and had trouble staying awake.

Luckily, the third time was the charm. Returning to the deep and indiscriminate well of Netflix Instant horror, I discovered The Pact.

What You Missed

Young mom Nichole (Agnes Bruckner) is alone in her childhood home preparing for her mother's funeral. She's Skyping with her kid when something odd happens. "Mommy," the little girl asks, "who's that person behind you?"

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: The Pact" »

October 24, 2013

Vermont Artists and New York Birds Flock Together

SwanOn a recent weekend, five Vermont artists — Barbara Zucker, Leslie Fry, Lynda McIntyre, Catherine Hall and Meg Walker — flew their coops in the Green Mountain State and landed at the Wild Bird Fund on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The name is a bit of a misnomer; the "fund" is actually a facility that accepts rescued injured birds and nurses them back to health as they're able. Then, says Zucker, the caretakers return the creatures back to whence they came and release them.

The facility also accepts baby squirrels and turtles, she notes, but its mission is primarily avian rehabilitation.

So what have Vermont artists got to do with a New York bird rescue? Zucker, whose step-granddaughter works at the Bird Fund, wanted to do something to benefit the facility's work, which she calls "wonderful." Being an artist, she reasoned that she and some likeminded friends could do what artists do — make art — and then offer the works to the Bird Fund to use as it wished.

And so the five Vermont artist friends headed to the city, drew and painted birds during the day and stayed in various places at night. Zucker described the experience as unexpectedly, and deeply, moving.

"The birds seemed to know they were in a safe place," she says. "They weren't afraid. That kind of intimacy with creatures happens only in very rare situations."

Continue reading "Vermont Artists and New York Birds Flock Together" »

October 23, 2013

7 Questions for Dead North Owner Mike Boudreau


Though it was a fictional story, much of the "Fright Night" piece in this week's print edition was based on actual events that happened on a recent visit to Dead North, the haunted corn maze in North Danville.

My girlfriend and I did pass by a creepy abandoned farmhouse on our way to the maze. We were frightened by various ghouls and spooks moving through the corn. There really is a Marko the Magician. And the chainsaw-wielding gentleman pictured to the right freaked us both into a, ahem, dead run.

(The back story about the Butcher Brothers and the traveling circus was based on literature passed along by the folks at Dead North and is fiction … I think.)

Having just finished its 13th season, Dead North, which occupies part of the massive Great Vermont Corn Maze for two weekends in early October, is a monstrous undertaking. DN comprises about a 3/4-mile walk that leads through dozens of frightening scenes, including eerily quiet paths in the corn, a demented fun house, a slaughterhouse and the ghost town of North Village. Its spooky environs are populated by some 100 ghouls and ghosts. 

The Travel Channel recently documented this year's Dead North fright fest for an episode of the show "Making Monsters," which airs this Sunday, October 27. In advance of that airing, Seven Days spoke with Dead North owner and operator Mike Boudreau to ask him about what goes on behind the scenes of a haunted corn maze.

Continue reading "7 Questions for Dead North Owner Mike Boudreau" »

October 20, 2013

StoryhackVT: Presentations and Voting

StoryhackVermont's first-ever StoryhackVT comes to a close this morning. Participants are hacking together stories based on the theme "And none of this would have happened if you hadn’t arrived 5 minutes earlier." Teams will present their work live at 10:30 a.m. at ArtsRiot in Burlington, but you can watch live or archived video below. Once you're done, head over to the StoryhackVT website to vote for your favorite — voting closes at midnight!

October 16, 2013

Rickie Lee Jones Talks About Her New Album, the Music Biz, and Hitting the Low Notes

Freelancer Ethan de Seife interviewed Rickie Lee Jones via email and contributed this report to Seven Days.

Credit astor morgan 2013Rickie Lee Jones has been surprising and charming listeners since the late 1970s with her distinctive voice, unique phrasing and deft musicianship. She has steadfastly refused to be pinned down by any single genre, ranging instead across jazz, folk, rock, popular standards and numerous other forms. Her fans are devout.

Jones' most recent album, The Devil You Know, is her first since 2009’s Balm in Gilead. On it she has elected not to showcase her own fine songwriting skills but those of others: Every one of the album’s 12 songs is a cover, including material by the Band, Tim Hardin, Neil Young and the Rolling Stones. Against the backdrop of producer Ben Harper’s stark, mysterious arrangements, Jones uses her remarkable voice to reinvent every single song, rendering them both welcoming and unfamiliar at the same time.

In an email interview, Jones discusses her changing voice, the costs and benefits of recent sea changes in the music industry, and her relationship with live audiences.

SEVEN DAYS: How did you choose the songs for The Devil You Know? Are there any links between them, besides your admiration for them and that you plainly enjoy singing them?

RICKIE LEE JONES: I don’t love all these songs, but [The Band’s] “The Weight” and [The Rolling Stones’] “Sympathy for the Devil” were and are pretty strong, and unique, live and so I decided to record them so folks could hear them sung a different way. 

SD: Which of the songs do you feel the closest connection with and why?

RLJ: The two mentioned. And I like the Van Morrison song [“Comfort You”]. Of course, “St. James Infirmary” is a song my daddy used to sing to me. But I did it differently for Ben Harper’s production.  

SD: You're known as one of the great interpreters of popular song. Do you have a "theory" of musical interpretation? That is, what makes for a good or successful interpretation of an existing song?

RLJ: If you hear it inside your head a certain way, then you are meant to sing it. But why bother singing it the way somebody already did it perfectly? Remember, it’s all about singing, being happy that you get to sing a song. It’s not so serious, after all. Just sing it how you feel it. 

Then again, I did not really like the Neil Young song I did [“Only Love Can Break Your Heart”]. I have Young songs I love, but this was not one of them, and I had no real line on it. Ben liked it very much, but this was a case of me going with his feelings. I still have mixed feelings about it. 

SD: Some of the arrangements on the album are pretty stark, even eerie. Why use that kind of "filter" to essay these songs?

RLJ: I guess at this point I am such a control freak that I cannot relinquish the control, and so the very heart, to a drummer and bass player. I hope this phase will end soon. 

SD: How has your previous musical work led you to the particular artistic statement you make with The Devil You Know? Does this album specifically build on or refer to your musical past?

RLJ: It’s all part of a whole. Each leads to the next. It’s all a response. It’s all expression of a time in my life. 

SD: As your voice has changed, do you find yourself, as a singer, drawn to different kinds of songs? And how have you kept your voice in such good shape?

RLJ: Yes, I think so. High end is gone now; low has taken its place. Must be careful not to relinquish femininity for all these wonderful low tones. With menopause and feelings of doubt, I can find myself hanging out in the low register. I have the youth still in my voice, in my heart, and the low tones can bring a kind of emotion, as the high notes do for youth ... to the song.

Women with low tones and voices evoke a certain courage and contentment, I think. So it’s not an elixir but a highly concentrated, magical thing that must be used sparingly, as much as it’s so fun to see how low you can go. Anyway, sounds good. 

SD: I'm sure everyone asks you this, so please forgive this longtime fan: Your phrasing is so unusual and distinctive. How did it evolve? Which singers, if any, shaped your phrasing? 

RLJ: I think I sit behind the beat so far because, in fact, I speak slowly, and I like how it feels to be there. ... Being right on the beat seems so ... impersonal. 

SD: How have the changes in the recording industry changed your approach to making music, and to being a professional musician?

RLJ: Well, I guess we can get the money directly from fans now. That would be good. Lotta people in the middle been making a lot of money and not giving much to the artist. Trickle-down record checks. Now the money will come, can come, directly to me, not half or more to the record company, who you then have to audit, if you can make enough money to do so. 

SD: What are you listening to these days? Do you listen to music in different ways now?

RLJ: I really listen mostly to the same old stuff, though I am delighted to hear and understand new music, its place in the lives of young people today; why they like mechanical voices. Why they like beat and no relief. What does it mean? It’s not my language, and I listen to it with great interest. Then I go home and put on my old records. 

SD: I've seen you perform only once — at First Avenue in Minneapolis, circa 1997. A great show, but I remember some audience members being a little rude, since they were used to music a little more raucous than yours. I imagine that your upcoming show in Vermont will attract a different kind of crowd. How do you "feed off of" your audience, for better or worse, when you're performing?

RLJ: I cannot pretend that I don’t hear them and feel them. Nor they with me. If I am in the right venue, we have a holy night. If not, I have to stop and listen until they remember where they are and stop talking. But that doesn’t happen often. Even in joints, I find they are very respectful and interested and captivated. It’s kind of awesome, and I do not take it for granted. Love my job. 

SD: You are allowed to listen to only one album for the rest of your days. Which album is it, and why?

RLJ: I think “On the Road” by Canned Heat. Just that song.  

SD: How does it feel to be regarded as an inspiration to the many younger singers who have cited you as an influence?

RLJ: FEELS GOOD. I would sure like to read that, because I still have not actually read any who cite me, though of course I figure they might. Well, I don’t read many articles about folks, I guess. 

Rickie Lee Jones performs on Friday, October 18, 7:30 p.m., in the Alexander Twilight Theater at Lyndon State College in Lyndonville. $39/49. 

 Photo of Rickie Lee Jones courtesy of Astor Morgan.


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