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Calendar

Jul
19
Fri
Old Crow Medicine Show at State Theatre @ State Theatre
Jul 19 @ 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Old Crow Medicine Show at State Theatre @ State Theatre | Portland | Maine | United States

Old Crow Medicine Show

“If this is any indication of what Old Crow Medicine Show still has in store so many recordings in its career, we should count ourselves lucky.” – NPR Music

Old Crow Medicine Show got their start busking on street corners in 1998, from New York state and up through Canada, winning audiences along the way with their boundless energy and spirit. They eventually found themselves in Boone, North Carolina where they caught the attention of folk icon Doc Watson while playing in front of a pharmacy. He invited the band to play at his festival, MerleFest, and the rest is history. It’s been over twenty years since these humble beginnings. The band has gone on to receive the honor of being inducted as members of the Grand Ole Opry and have won two Grammy Awards: “Best Folk Album” for Remedy (2014) and “Best Long Form Music Video” for Big Easy Express (2013). Additionally, their classic single, “Wagon Wheel”, received the RIAA’s Double-Platinum certification in 2019 for selling over 2,000,000 copies while the band’s debut album O.C.M.S. has been certified Gold (500,000 copies). The band’s latest release is ‘Jubilee’ (Aug 2023) released via ATO Records.

Willie Watson

For over two decades, Willie Watson has made modern folk music rooted in older traditions. He’s a folksinger in the classic sense: a singer, storyteller, and traveler, with a catalog of songs that bridge the gap between the past and present. From his early days as a founding member of the Old Crow Medicine Show to his current work as a solo artist, he is a celebrated musician with a rich vocal range, a top interpreter of the folk canon and a highly skilled multi-instrumentalist.

On the road as an active touring musician, Watson often plays alone with his soaring vocals accompanied by his guitar, banjo and harmonica, but most recently has been traveling with his new string band, featuring fellow Old Crow alum Ben Gould on upright bass, Sam Schmidt on guitar and mandolin, and Rosie Newton on fiddle.

Playing in Old Crow Medicine Show, Watson learned how to be part of a string band, but as a solo artist, he’s perfected everything from gospel to blues to Appalachian folk to Irish traditional music. With his two solo albums, Folksinger Vol. 1, and Folksinger Vol. 2, both produced by David Rawlings at Acony Records in Nashville, Watson has never sounded more commanding, more confident or more connected to the music that inspires him. His albums carry on the spirit of a time nearly forgotten. They tap into the rich core of roots music and further the legacy of American folk. And perhaps most importantly, they show the full range of Willie Watson’s artistry, matching his instrumental and vocal chops with a strong appreciation for the songs that have shaped a genre. “I try to take songs I can relate to and that I can sing with urgency, that I can feel,” he says, humbly. “I’m just happy if people dig it.”

These days, Watson juggles his time as a touring musician with his other two passions, his own clothing company, the Willie Watson Manufacturing Co., and his newest side job — acting. He had a featured role in the Coen Brothers movie The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, where he sang the Oscar nominated song “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” and is currently in the Old West drama Redeeming Love.

Jul
20
Sat
The Crane Wives at State Theatre @ State Theatre
Jul 20 @ 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
The Crane Wives at State Theatre @ State Theatre | Portland | Maine | United States

Born of the 2010’s folk boom and now comfortably stationed in their rock and roll era, The Crane Wives epitomize the evolving sound of the indie genre. Having performed hundreds of shows on stages across the country, they gravitate toward high-energy melodies, featuring the kinetic percussion of Dan Rickabus, the silky, driving bass lines of Ben Zito and playful guitar leads from front women Emilee Petersmark and Kate Pillsbury. Counterbalancing their lively stage presence, their lyrics extol the shadow side of the human condition, delving into mythology and themes of darkness and inner conflict. The band softens the blows of their emotional candor with soulful three-part vocal harmonies, like a 21st century Cerberus, the hound of Hades reimagined as an emotional support animal. To date, they have released five full length albums, including their 2020 live album, “Here I Am”

Jul
21
Sun
Hiss Golden Messenger (solo) at State Theatre @ One Longfellow Square
Jul 21 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Hiss Golden Messenger (solo) at State Theatre @ One Longfellow Square | Portland | Maine | United States

“I went looking for peace,” says songwriter M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger about his new album Quietly Blowing It, out March 26, 2021, on Merge Records. “It’s not exactly a record about the state of the world—or my world—in 2020, but more a retrospective of the past five years of my life, painted in sort of impressionistic hues. Maybe I had the presence of mind when I was writing Quietly Blowing It to know that this was the time to go as deep as I needed to in order to make a record like this. And I got the time required in order to do that.” He pauses and laughs ruefully. “I got way more time than I needed, actually.”

Quietly Blowing It was written and arranged by Taylor in his home studio—his 8’ × 10’ sanctuary packed floor to ceiling with books, records, and old guitars—as he watched the chaotic world spin outside his window. “Writing became a daily routine,” he explains, “and that was a ballast for me. Having spent so much time on the road over the past ten years, where writing consistently with any kind of flow can be tricky, it felt refreshing. And being in my studio, which is both isolated from and totally connected to the life of my family, felt appropriate for these songs.”

Between March and June, Taylor wrote and recorded upwards of two dozen songs—in most cases playing all of the instruments himself—before winnowing the collection down and bringing them to the Hiss band. In July, the group of musicians, with Taylor in the production seat, went into Overdub Lane in Durham, NC, for a week, where they recorded Quietly Blowing It as an organic unit honed to a fine edge from their years together on the road. “We all needed to be making that music together,” he recalls. “We’ve all spent so many years traveling all over the world, but in that moment, it felt cathartic to be recording those particular songs with each other in our own small hometown.”

Throughout Quietly Blowing It, Taylor brings his keen eye to our “broken American moment”—as he first sang on Hiss Golden Messenger’s critically acclaimed, GRAMMY®-nominated Terms of Surrender (2019)—in ways that feel devastatingly intimate and human. Beginning with the wanderer’s lament of “Way Back in the Way Back,” with its rallying cry of “Up with the mountains, down with the system,” Taylor carries the listener on a musical journey that continually returns to themes of growing up, loss, obligation, and labor with piercing clarity, and his musical influences—including classic Southern soul and gospel, renegade country, and spiritual jazz—have never felt more genuine. Indeed, Quietly Blowing It is a distillation of the rolling Hiss Golden Messenger groove, from the rollicking, Allman-esque “The Great Mystifier” to the chiming falsetto soul of “It Will If We Let It,” to the smoky, shuffling title track with its bittersweet guitar assist from Nashville legend Buddy Miller. The album ends with soulful lead single “Sanctuary,” a song about trying to reconcile tragedy and joy, with references to John Prine (“Handsome Johnny had to go, child…”), economic disparity, and the redemptive quality of hope. Indeed, when he sings, “Feeling bad, feeling blue, can’t get out of my own mind; but I know how to sing about it,” it feels like the album’s spiritual thesis. Throughout Quietly Blowing It, Taylor reckons with the tumultuous present in wholly personal terms, encouraging listeners to do the same. “These songs always circle back to the things that I feel like I have a handle on and the things that I’m not proud of about myself. When I think of the phrase ‘quietly blowing it,’ I think of all the ways that I’ve misstepped, misused my gifts, miscommunicated. ‘Born on the level, quietly blowing it.’ That’s what’s on my mind there. Always fuckin’ up in little ways.”

Surrounding himself with a trusted cast of collaborators that includes Miller, songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov, songwriter and Tony Award–winning playwright Anaïs Mitchell, multi instrumentalist Josh Kaufman, Dawes’ brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, and his oldest musical confidant Scott Hirsch, Taylor has made his most audacious and hopeful work yet with Quietly Blowing It; it’s an album that speaks personal truth to this moment in which the old models of being feel broken and everything feels at stake. “I don’t know that the peace that I crave when I’m far from home exists, actually,” says Taylor. “It’s more complicated. I still don’t know what peace means for me, because I can be sitting on the couch watching a movie with my family and be completely tangled up in my head. But if I keep on doing my own personal work on myself—writing records like Quietly Blowing It—I have to think that I’m getting closer.”