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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: November 13, 2017

Much to be thankful for this week in music, including a pair of shows by Emily Saliers

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Annie Hoffman (left) and Sonia Sturino (right) with their new Fenders. Photo courtesy of Weakened Friends

Annie Hoffman (left) and Sonia Sturino (right) with their new Fenders.
Photo courtesy of Weakened Friends

Wow. This week is turning out to be absolutely joyous, music-wise, and since it’s the week before Thanksgiving, I guess I’ll thank my parents for taking me to our town’s library when I was a kid so I could borrow Monkees records because that’s pretty much where my love affair with music began, and I’ve never looked back, not even for a second.

Which brings me to this week. On Thursday night, you’ll find me in Brownfield at Stone Mountain Arts Center seeing Emily Saliers. In case the name doesn’t ring a bell to you, Saliers is one half of Indigo Girls, the folk duo I’ve bowed to since I saw them open for R.E.M. back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. More on Saliers in a moment.

IT FEELS LIKE CHRISTMAS came early this year because a bunch of sensational shows have been booked for the coming months. The State Theatre hit us with a one-two punch of an acoustic performance from Lucius in March and Sylvan Esso in April. Not to mention local singer Mat Zaro has put together another David Bowie tribute that’s happening at Port City Music Hall in March, during which he and his band will perform the entire double live “Stage” album.

Oh, and hello, Rodriguez is at the State in April. This is all assuming I survive the Dec. 1 St. Vincent show at the State that I’ve been counting down the days to since June. And if I make it through that show, it’s off to the Fogcutters Super Fantastic Christmas Extravaganza on Dec. 15 and the eighth annual Stevie Wonder tribute with Kenya Hall and friends on New Year’s Eve, both at the State.

And lest I forget Aura, where I still need to catch a show, it just booked Rickie Lee Jones on March 28. Thank you to all the talent buyers at all the venues. Do yourself a favor and check out all of their sites because there’s something out there for everyone. Trust me.

Lastly on the good news front, huge congrats to local rock trio Weakened Friends, which just got endorsed by Fender Guitars and was gifted two shiny new instruments. Singer and guitarist Sonia Sturino and bassist/backing vocalist Annie Hoffman got to pick them out, and they arrived a few days ago. The band has been making hay with its latest single, “Hate Mail,” featuring guest guitarist J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. The song is a fuzzy gem with Sturino’s gasping vocals and, as with everything else I’ve heard by Weakened Friends, it’s fantastic.

NOW WHERE WAS I? Oh yes, I was trying to tell you something about Emily Saliers. Saliers released her debut solo album, “Murmuration Nation,” in August. She has always loved globally inspired music, and this project incorporates world and many other elements.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Emily Saliers photo courtesy of the artist

The album was produced by violinist and frequent Indigo Girls collaborator Lyris Hung, and a dazzling list of musicians hit the studio with Saliers, including bassist Tim LeFebvre, who has worked with Elvis Costello and Sting and played bass on David Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar.” “Murmuration Nation” also features keys player Rachel Eckroth, drummer Robert “Sput” Searight and Will Calhoun. Saliers also enlisted vocals help from Lucy Wainwright Roche, Jonatha Brooke and Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles.

“It was so freeing to pursue the kind of music I truly wanted to make without regard to what I’d done before or who I’m expected to be,” Saliers said in a press release. “I hope that this record can take people who think they know me already on a journey that’ll really surprise them.” To that I say, mission accomplished, because although there’s no mistaking the gorgeous vocals, first-rate songwriting and scintillating guitar that Saliers is known for, she’s made enough of a departure from the Indigo Girls sound to make me sit and up and take significant notice. The album starts with the searing “Spider,” a song that pulses with electric guitar, thundering drums and not-so-subtle political undertones: “Welcome to a strange feast/Your host, the fundamentalist or capital beast/The ones expected expect it the least.”

“Fly” slows way down with piano and a lush arrangement, but ultimately shines the brightest with Saliers’ voice and lyrics. “I’ll be honest, there are times I hang on hour to hour/But the clear voice of my conscience speaks to me like a higher power.”

This is not to say, however, that “Murmuration Nation” doesn’t also have its tender love songs. “Match” is one of them. “Light the match burn the room/This is the sound of my heart going boom.” Quintessential Saliers, as is “Sad One,” which speaks of stolen moments and unrealized love between two star-crossed souls. The last song I’ll mention is the momentous “Serpent Love,” which features spellbinding strings, intricate acoustic guitar, sweeping harmonies and a bass line from LeFebrve that you’ll feel down to your shoelaces.

Take a listen to “Match”

You’ve got two chances to see Saliers and her band in Maine this week. Figure out which one works for you, and make it happen. I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll be hearing an Indigo Girls song or two slipped into the set and that the resting soul of “Galileo” might make its presence known. This is, of course, entirely perfect, but know that “Murmuration Nation” is a solid album that Saliers has wanted to make for a very long time, and even if you walk in there not knowing any of its songs, you’ll walk out loving many.

Emily Saliers

8 p.m. Thursday. Stone Mountain Arts Center, 695 Dugway Road, Brownfield, $50. stonemountainartscenter.com

7:30 p.m. Friday. The Strand Theatre, 345 Main St., Rockland, $30 in advance, $35 at the door. rocklandstrand.com

 

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