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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: February 26, 2018

Get ready to get Richard Shindell stuck in your head

Written by: Aimsel Ponti

Photo by Joanna Chattman

Do you ever find yourself fixated on one particular song by an artist? This happens to me all the time, and I’m in the midst of it now with singer-songwriter Richard Shindell’s song “You Stay Here,” from his 2000 album “Somewhere Near Paterson.”

Shindell has dozens upon dozens of songs out in the world, found in an extensive discography that dates back to 1992. His latest album is 2016’s “Careless Amalgamated Balladry.”

Shindell is a New York native who spends most of his time in his adopted home of Pampa, Argentina, with occasional stints in the Hudson Valley and quite a bit of time out on the road touring around the U.S.

He started playing guitar when he was 8 years old while soaking up the tunes of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Paul Simon and several other influential artists. He’s also one-third of the super-group trio Cry Cry Cry, along with Lucy Kaplansky and Dar Williams. They released an incredible album 20 years ago and have recently resurfaced with the release of the single “Cathedrals,” a ’90s gem of a song originally recorded by Jump Little Children.

Shindell told me via email that the trio plans to release individual songs and is about to head out on tour. “It’s so much fun to be back in the band with Dar and Lucy,” he said.

As for another solo album, Shindell said he has no immediate plans. “I’m still trying to decide whether it even makes any sense to keep making them. I’m working on a batch of weird songs though.”

Getting back to “You Stay Here” and its riveting lyrics: “You stay here and I’ll go look for wood/Do not fear, I’ll be back soon enough/Do not let the fire die/Neither let it burn too bright.” There’s an edge of pleading and desperation, as if a family is going through some kind of trauma. With delicate acoustic guitar and Shindell’s comforting voice, the song is both haunting and hopeful and really sticks to your bones.

And that’s the thing about Shindell that I’m so fond of: the combination of powerful lyrics and sublime song crafting. I gave “The Deer on the Parkway” from the “Careless” record a spin and was struck almost immediately by the moment captured in the song with the lines “The deer on the parkway graze right to the edge/I come round the bend, they’re lifting their heads/My headlights, their eyes, what will they decide?/Will the deer on the parkway let me pass by?”

It’s entirely true that last week driving home very late from an out-of-town show on a Tuesday night I came to a dead stop on Highland Avenue in South Portland as four deer passed by my car and back into the woods. It was a magical moment that I won’t soon forget and one that Shindell captured so eloquently in his song. Life truly does imitate art.

I know what my favorite Shindell songs are, but I was curious which three Shindell think best represents his work. His first choice was “There Goes Mavis.” “It offers a kind of musical matrix I never get tired of exploring on stage, and it’s such an odd scene there on the beach.”

Next was “Mariana’s Table.” “I like the way the words and melody sing together and the lyrics paint a picture of the place I live, out on the Pampa in Argentina. I sing it, and I’m there.”

Lastly, Shindell mentioned “Reunion Hill.” “This one has always seemed beyond me, out of my control. It has always seemed to have a mind of its own. Perhaps it’s because of the first-person narrator, a woman, has such a strong voice of her own.”

Catch Shindell live in Portland on Thursday night, and hear for yourself the sincerity and poetic nature of his songs and live performance.

Richard Shindell

8 p.m. Thursday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $30. onelongfellowsquare.com

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