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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: June 11, 2018

Three singer-songwriters, one spectacular night at One Longfellow Square

Written by: Aimsel Ponti

Don’t get me wrong, I am ecstatic to be seeing Paul Simon in Boston on his farewell tour. But man alive, there must be 50 ways I’m super sad to miss the show happening on the same night in Portland featuring three stellar singer-songwriters.

I’m going to tell you all about it so that you’ll consider going and will maybe let me know how it was. Self-serving? Entirely. But I’m mostly kidding.

The main reason I’m telling you about this show is because two out of the three acts I’ve loved for years and the third one can count me as his newest fan. The fact that all three of them will be in the same place at the same time is incredible.

Ellis Paul Photo by Matt Beard

Let’s start with Ellis Paul, since he’s an Aroostook County native from Fort Kent. These days he’s in Virginia, but as we all know, once a Mainer always a Mainer. Paul’s been at it for three decades with a rich discography that dates back to 1989. I’ve always appreciated what I’ll describe as an emotional gravity to Paul’s singing voice. And he’s not too shabby on the lyric front with the 2014 “Chasing Beauty” album being but one example of comprehensive discography that dates back three decades.

Lastly, Paul put on a riveting, engaging show and somehow manages to sound even better live than he does on his records.

Antje Duvekot photo courtesy of the artist

Bostonian singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot released her first album, “Little Peppermints,” in 2002 and six studio albums and one live one have followed. I’ve long loved how Duvekot stitches together songs with her crystalline voice and poetic lyrics, and I’m not the only one who shares this opinion. Duvekot is a winner of the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Competition and is also a Best New Folk Award winner at the long-running Kerrville Folk Festival. If I had to pick a favorite Duvekot song, it would have to be “Diamond On Your Hand” from her 2006 release “Big Dream Boulevard.” “What if your ice castles melt down to water? What if your great walls remained as little more than cellophane at the end of the day?” she asks.

Last year Duvekot had to take a break from singing after throat surgery but shared on her Facebook page that, although the highest range notes might not be hit, she’s back to singing and is happy for all the support during what she described, understandably, as a terrifying time. Fun fact: There’s an audio clip kicking around on YouTube of Paul and Duvekot singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” so don’t be shy about requesting that one if you’re at this show but be prepared to be leveled by it.

Sam Baker photo courtesy of the artist

I’m incredibly to the Sam Baker party but am happy to have finally found my way here. It’s not possible to talk about the Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter without mentioning the life-changing event that happened when he was 32 years old back in 1986. Baker was on a train in Cuzco, Peru, that was blown up by terrorists, killing seven passengers. He sustained profound injuries to his hearing, hand, leg and brain with the latter impacting speech and memory. Out of an ongoing struggle to sometimes remember certain words, Baker found his writing voice and released three albums called The Pretty World Trilogy consisting of “Mercy” (2004), “Pretty World” (2007) and “Cotton” (2009). I have every intention of exploring these albums in the coming months but what I did carve out time to listen to is “Land of Doubt.” It was released last year and is stacked with 15 songs. His voice is like soft-grit sandpaper with just enough texture to leave its mark and yet it’s warm like a sepia-toned photograph. Baker paints quiet portraits of characters and places with songs like “Margaret” and “Summer Wind.” “Breathing hard like summer wind/Waiting for the rains to come/Waiting for these dreams to subside/I hear you are still the merchant, the dealer in spoken things/The one who dresses truth in colored lies.”

Then there’s the song “Leave.” It’s a stark meditation on a breakup and it’s hard to know – perhaps intentionally – if Baker is on the delivering or receiving end of the unfiltered words. “Leave and you must/You have squandered my trust/You may not stay, you may not stay/please go.” The message doesn’t get any clearer than that, and Baker sings it with calm restraint which actually adds to the gut-punch quality of the song. There’s also a horn in there and some piano, and despite only being two and a half minutes long, the song is a hornet’s nest of bitterness packaged in a lovely tune.

I do hope some of you will consider buying a ticket to what I can’t imagine will be anything less than a wondrous night of song from three compelling voices. Either way, all three of these artists have a lot of music you can dig into, and I hope you’ll spend some time doing just that at ellispaul.com, antjeduvekot.com and sambakermusic.com.

Ellis Paul, Antje Duvekot and Sam Baker

8 p.m. Friday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $25 in advance, $30 day of show. onelongfellowsquare.com

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