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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: January 23, 2017

Megan Jo Wilson for the soulful win with ‘Tin’

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Megan Jo Wilson's new EP "Tin" Image courtesy of the artist

Megan Jo Wilson’s new EP “Tin”
Image courtesy of the artist

Maybe you know her potent, gorgeous pipes from hearing her sing with The Fogcutters. Maybe you’ve heard her backing vocals with any number of other local acts like Anna Lombard, Kenya Hall, Dean Ford or Sara Hallie Richardson. Or maybe – just maybe – you’ve never actually heard the one and only Megan Jo Wilson sing.

Regardless, please stop what you’re doing and either get out your phone or mark your kitchen calendar with the nearest Sharpie because Saturday night MJW is going to shine like a supernova atop the Portland House of Music stage, and I, for one, can’t wait to bear witness to this.

The show is a celebration of Wilson’s brand new EP, “Tin.” Her last release, from way back in 2004, was “Seeds, Stars and Galaxies,” which, as she describes it, is “nine country folky mellow songs very different than this record.” But it’s also really great and I especially dig her take on Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

But back to the here and now. “Tin” is home to five fantastic funky, soulful tunes.

“I had a list of about 15 songs that I thought could be turned into something great,” Wilson said. “But as I started listening to the songs, it was clear that about half of them were folky songwriter-ish tunes, and the other half were these sort of neo-soul, sassy, sexy R&B numbers. There was no way they would go together on the same record.”

Fear not, those other songs will see the light of day on another EP she’s got simmering on the back burner.

The idea for “Tin” began more than four years ago but, about three-quarters of the way through recording it, something happened sooner than expected that was entirely wonderful for Wilson.

“I got pregnant,” she said. “I was determined to finish the record before my baby way born, but we, of course, ran out of money and also, hormones.”

Her daughter was born and, for about two years, Wilson said there was little time to focus on anything but her. Other life stuff cropped up and the project was put on ice in an unfinished state. That is, until recently. Through the encouragement of sound engineer Jim Begley at The Studio and Wilson’s friend, singer Sara Hallie Richardson, “Tin” was finished a few months ago and is now out in the world. Pick up a copy at Bull Moose or, better yet, get one at the show.

“Tin” opens with the sway-inducing jam “Struggle.”

“Little girl standing on a corner on a summer day/Oh and she watches as her daddy drives away/How come he don’t live here no more, she cries/How come he keeps walking out the door, she cries/And she don’t know what to do/And she don’t know what to say/So she gets down on her knees and hears a little voice inside her say/It’s not meant to be a struggle, it’s not meant to be a struggle, it’s not s’pose to be hard.”

Listen to “Struggle” in all its magical glory

Next up is “Sing,” which opens with some big, squishy keys and is soon joined by thumping bass lines and horns. The tune is a give-and-take between settling for mediocrity and busting out of the daily grind to do your own thing. Richardson’s backing vocals are perfect, and the song is bursting with hope. By the end, you’ll hear fingers snapping and will be snapping your own.

The title track, “Tin” is a scorching, bouncy love song. “I’ve been holding out so long, but baby you’re so beautiful, I’d never do you wrong/And suddenly my armor is made of tin, so come on in, come on in,” Wilson proclaims atop a vivid tapestry of keys, percussion, beats and other magical sounds conjured from the superb musicians she gathered to record these songs.

“So Good” is my favorite track. The song has Wilson laying it on the line for the object of her desire, but it’s the horns that really kill me. Matt Day on flugelhorn and Lucas Desmond on saxophone are absolutely mesmerizing.

“Tin” closes out with “Disappear.” The song tells the fella on the receiving end of things to essentially step off. “Boy, you don’t even know me, and you’re gazing in my eyes/Why you staring at me like I’m a plate of chili cheese fries?” And it does so in groove-alicious fashion. Yes, I just made that word up, but it had to be done because the song transcends the usual thesaurus offerings.

You’ll hear all of these songs on Saturday night, along with some other new soul gems from the likes of Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, as well as a freshly-penned Wilson original. Aforementioned vocalists Kenya Hall and Anna Lombard will both be duetting with Wilson on tunes. The stage will be occupied with several of the “Tin” players and other local luminaries, including Emmett Harrity, Adam Frederick, Chas Lester, Sean Morin, Matt Day and Lucas Desmond. Wilson is also bringing friends Chanel Jones, Alyssa Lewis and Marion Sloan from the AME Zion Church, borrowing their pipes for the evening. “They’re killer vocalists that no one outside of church has really heard,” Wilson said. “Watch the (expletive) out,”

Hip-hopper Lady Essence opens the show and will do so in magnificently fierce fashion, so arrive on time. Wilson also told me she’s putting serious thought into bringing some Twizzlers and chocolate to share, but no promises on that front. The reward will be the live experience of seeing and hearing Wilson and her crew shine so brightly.

Megan Jo Wilson “Tin” EP release show with Lady Essence

9 p.m. Saturday. Portland House of Music, 25 Temple St., Portland, $8 in advance, $10 at the door, 21-plus. portlandhouseofmusic.com

 

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