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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the WCHS TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Posted: December 18, 2017

Dream trio of artists converge in Portland on Friday

Written by: Aimsel Ponti

Maybe Santa Claus is real. Surely he must be, because he’s bringing us all an early Christmas gift on Friday. Three of my favorite Maine musicians all will be under the same roof for a night, and for weeks, I’ve been counting down the days. I’ve seen all three of these women perform live through the years, but never on the same night at the same place. They’re all superstars in my book for different reasons, from vocal amazingness to lyrical brilliance.

Photo courtesy of Sara Cox

Photo of Sara Cox and Viola the rabbit by Heidi Kendrick

I’ll start with Sara Cox. I got wind of her way back in 2001 by way of her “Firewater” EP, in particular the song “Sticking (Not Stuck).” Suffice it to say, the song has stuck with me all these years. Next came “Arrive” in 2003, and the title track of the album is in my top 10 favorite songs by anyone on the planet. Cox told me that this Friday night show is her first live performance in six years, and I sure hope she plays “Arrive.” The song seems like a love song about missing someone but at the last second, poof, it becomes something else. All four minutes and 18 seconds of it are perfect. Cox has a bit of twang in her voice, making the delivery of its lyrics all the more effective. The song is set in an airport and a couple is on the cusp of being reunited when Cox unleashes a sucker punch for the ages: “Now I’m waiting by the exit and the people trickle in/And I don’t care if they see that car that I get back in again/Surprise, I’m gone.”

If Cox had never written another song, I would have been OK, such is my love for “Arrive.” But four years later, in 2007, she released one of my favorite albums of the year, “Crowded Is the New Lonely.” Fun fact, Megan Jo Wilson sings backing vocals on a few of the songs on it, including my favorite one, “At Home With Home.” I thought Cox had reached her zenith with “Arrive,” and yet “At Home With Home” is another one high on my list of favorite tunes. With piano, acoustic and electric guitar, the song is a snapshot of a longterm relationship and about two souls finding their way back to each other; at least that’s my take on it. This line says it all: “So write your number on my hand/Drink this PBR straight out of the can/Follow me home from the bar/I know we can remember who we are.” I hope Cox will bring copies of this CD with her to One Longfellow Square because you need to have it.

Here’s “At Home With Home:”

THIS BRINGS me to the two co-headliners; Megan Jo Wilson and Sara Hallie Richardson.

Megan Jo Wilson Photo by Shoshannah White

Megan Jo Wilson
Photo by Shoshannah White

I’ve been a fan of Wilson since a copy of her album “Seeds, Stars, Galaxies” made its way to my collection in 2006. With eight originals, including “Nine Days” and “Dawn,” and a super cool cover of the Tears for Fears song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” it’s a wonderful record with rich, soulful vocals. Since then, Wilson has been involved with several musical projects, and she’s got the Midas touch with everything she does.

Take a listen to the title track of “Tin:”

Last year around this time, she released the sensational five-song EP “Tin,” and it’s a gorgeously produced, polished but not too polished, funky, hip-swaying release that begins with the feel-it-all “Struggle.” “Sing” opens with squishy keys, and every pulse of bass, keys, horns and percussion is perfectly executed. The song’s inspirational, and you’ll do what the song asks — to sing — because it pulls you in and keeps you there. My favorite track on “Tin” is the slow and moody “So Good.” It’s a pulse-quickening slow jam, sexy and full of longing. Oh, and here’s another fun fact, Sara Hallie Richardson’s backing vocals are all over “Tin.”

Sara Hallie Richardson Photo by Matt Cosby

Sara Hallie Richardson
Photo by Matt Cosby

RICHARDSON won me over in 2012 with the stunning, multi-layered, semi-experimental and 100 percent enthralling “Restless.” No one does quite what Richardson does; she’s one part singer-songwriter, one part innovator, one part risk-taker and one part scintillating vocalist. The crown jewel of “Restless” is “What Would It Be Like” with the opening line: “Sometimes I lay down transfixed by the heat, light, sound.” The song is tremendous — delicate at some moments, sweeping at others. There’s also a corresponding video that’s equally riveting. “It’s Not You” is another sonic trip with the refrain “What I know is what I know, and I can’t offer any more than that,” set atop a wall of drums and synths and god only knows what else she had going on that day in that studio.

Here’s “What Would It Be Like:”

The “Phoenix” album followed in 2015, and it’s a breathtaking eight-song collection of ethereal, dreamy, fierce, lyrically dense and musically vivid tracks. “Deliverance” is like stepping into a confessional and hearing someone else’s story; and it’s a dark and stormy one that has a bright light at the end of the tunnel. One of the standout tracks on “Phoenix” is “Sonorous.” “I’m a rock, and I’m rolling faster than you’ve ever seen/I’m a rock, and I’m rolling, better not try and stop me,” declares Richardson with her all-powerful soprano pipes. The song soars like a hawk into a volcano and out again.

These days, Richardson calls Los Angeles home. She pulled up her Maine stakes a little over a year ago with her sights set on making her musical mark in California and beyond, and she has already made some inroads toward that goal. We get to sit back and watch her fly, but for now, don’t miss this chance to see her live in the tiny room of One Longfellow Square.

Richardson told me the show is meant to be a “full, five sense experience.” This means we can expect signature cocktails, lighting and set designs by John Sundling and Craig DeForest and special guests Anna Lombard, Emmett Harrity and Andy Robbins. “We’re creating a performance that makes this more than just a ‘music gig,’ ” she said.

“We wanted to put together a show that was magical, elegant and intimate, featuring some songs we have written to soothe and inspire our own hearts. With everything going on in the world, it’s our hope that this sweet little show might bring some comfort and delight in the holiday season,” added Wilson.

They also both told me the show will have a surprise ending, but neither could even give me a tiny hint what it will be. So meet me at One Longfellow Square on Friday night and we’ll find out together what caps off what surely will be one of the finest nights of local music this year has seen.

Sara Hallie Richardson & Megan Jo Wilson with Sara Cox

7 p.m. Friday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $10 in advance, $12 day of show. onelongfellowsquare.com

 

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