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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: April 20, 2017

A Maine-made trio and a self-made band play in Portland

Written by: Aimsel Ponti

 

Lula Wiles Photo by Louise Bichon

Lula Wiles Photo by Louise Bichon

The three women who make up Boston trio Lula Wiles met and started playing together as kids at Maine Fiddle Camp in Woolwich.

Fiddler/guitarist Ellie Buckland, fiddler/guitarist Isa Burke and standup bassist Mali Obomsawin all ended up at Berklee College of Music in Boston. At first, Buckland and Burke started playing as a duo, but a year later, Obomsawin joined them, and they became Lula Wiles. The three of them sing standing around a single microphone. For the past few days, I’ve been getting to know their self-titled debut record, which they released about a year ago.

It opens with “Sorrow Be the Bird,” a sweet and breezy song: “Well I’ve had my wings broken a time or two/Doesn’t mean that I won’t try to fly with you/A breeze is blowing through the pines/Maybe I can trust that sorrow be the bird and the wind is love.” It’s a honeyed little tune that will put a smile on your face, setting the tone for the rest of the record.

Here’s “Sorrow Be the Bird”

You’ll kick up your heels on the next song, “One More Night,” which describes catching someone’s eye at a show and hoping to make a connection. “If this ends tonight, then let’s end it right/I just want one more dance after the sun goes down.” You’ll find yourself cheering on the narrator who promises to wear black with wine red lipstick the next time she encounters this fella. Then it’s right back to the tender side of the street with “Don’t Ask Why.”

The second-to-last song on the record is called “Lost,” and it’s a gorgeous yet melancholy tale of two souls trying to find their way back to one another. The fiddle alone will make you misty-eyed.

Fun fact: At the moment, Lula Wiles has a Facebook page, but there’s also an elderly woman in Missouri with that name. Here’s hoping that the band plays in her town just to confuse – and, of course, entertain – all of her friends.

Robt Sazarin & The Letters Photo courtesy of the artist

Robt Sazarin & The Letters
Photo courtesy of the artist

Co-headlining the show is Robt Sarazin Blake & The Letters who released “Recitative” earlier this month. I listened to just about every song on the double-album before schooling myself about this act. I heard sometimes scorching, sometimes sublimely mellow horns, smart and snarky lyrics that were at times more spoken than sung by Blake, a borrowed refrain from “Walk On the Wild Side,” a surf music inspired electric guitar, thumping bass, an eight-minute epic tune called “Work” that seems like something someone with the last name Guthrie, Dylan or Waits could have penned, the old school rock ‘n’ roll tune “Rock & Roll Dream,” a slow and thoughtful heart-breaker called “Own House, Own Guns” and the almost 10-minute long coda “Really Hard.”

Said another way, I enjoyed the heck out of “Recitative.” It grabbed my attention right out the gate and kept me there. When my listening session ended, I took off my headphones and learned about Blake by visiting the bio page on robertsarazinblake.com. It was a revealing visit. Based in Bellingham, Washington, Blake dropped out of college 20 years ago and took his early songs out on the road for a 30-show tour around the country. Eleven albums later he continues on his journey, playing on average 200 shows a year here and abroad.

Take a listen to Robt Sarazin Blake & The Letters performing live

Blake’s musical influences include Bob Dylan, John Prine, Shel Silverstein, Christy Moore, Joni Mitchell and Lou Reed. His storytelling and stage presence draws inspiration from Arlo Guthrie, Garrison Keillor and Spalding Gray. What’s more, Blake’s outlook is informed by Noam Chomsky, Naomi Kline, Jim Page and Amy Goodman. Lastly, his essence is influenced by James Baldwin, Henry Miller, Jeanette Winterson, John Steinbeck and Philip Roth.

Here’s “On the Corner of Saturday Night”

As for contemporaries that have his attention, Blake cites Anais Mitchell, Louis Ledford, Hamell on Trial, The Heligoats, C.R. Avery, Jeffrey Lewis and Jinx Lennon. Blake started his own label, Same Room Records, and, from a suitcase, has sold more than 10,000 CDs. Oh, and if you’re wondering why he likes to spell his name Robt instead of Robert, Blake says there’s no big mystery. “Robt is simply an abbreviation of Robert. It is pronounced the same, but takes to less letters to spell.”

Lula Wiles and Robt Sarazin Blake & The Letters

8 p.m. Sunday. One Longfellow Square, 191 State St., Portland, $12 in advance, $15 day of show. onelongfellowsquare.com

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