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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at and a music writer for 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 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 News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk of course.

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Posted: July 25, 2016

Mesmerizing tunes from SHEL on Friday and new tunes from Samuel James on Saturday

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
SHEL Photo courtesy of the artist

SHEL Photo courtesy of the artist

You need almost every finger on one hand to count the number of sisters in SHEL. SHEL is Sarah Holbrook (violin, bass guitar, vocals), Hannah Holbrook (keyboard, piano, vocals), Eva Holbrook (Mandolin, electric guitar, vocals) and Liza Holbrook (drums, beatbox, percussion and vocals). The band got its name by simply taking the first letter of each of their names. They’re from Fort Collins, Colorado  and are now Nashville residents. SHEL will be in Maine for a Friday night show at One Longfellow Square and a Saturday performance at the Ossipee Valley Music Festival in Hiram.

At present, I’m in full swoon-mode over the opening track on “Just Crazy Enough,” SHEL’s new record. The song is called “Is the Doctor in Today,” and it opens with Eva’s mandolin and lovely vocals singing “Hello, is the doctor in today? Would you tell him that I can’t recall my name? I’ve been swinging from the stars so long, not sure where my mind has gone, safe to say we’re never really whole.” Hannah’s piano and Sarah’s violin come in, along with Liza’s drums and Hannah’s exquisite harmonies.

Check out this live version of “Is the Doctor in Today”

“Just Crazy Enough” has nine other songs, including the hypnotizing “You Could Be My Baby” and the infectious “Rooftop.” The band worked with Grammy Award-winning producer Brent Maher as well as producer Dave Stewart. Yes, the Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame.

It’s worth noting that “Just Crazy Enough” has one very unexpected cover on it. But even I can rock out to Metallic’s 1991 smash hit “Enter Sandman.” Shel’s take on it is mesmerizing and more conducive to having dreams set in ancient forests than head-banging. A bold choice for sure, but it works. “Just Crazy Enough” closes with “Stronger Than My Fears,” a sweet as honey anthem that picks up steam and inspires rallying when things are at their hardest. The Holbrook sisters took to music at a young age, thanks to their singer-songwriter father. Now in their 20s, these women have carved out something special with their sound and will likely have long careers. Here’s a chance to get in on the ground floor at an intimate venue.



WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $15 in advance, $18 day of show


SHEL will also be at the Ossipee Valley Music Festival on Saturday. Details at

Samuel James Photo by Ted Theodore

Samuel James Photo by Ted Theodore

Guitar genius and roots and blues man Samuel James is celebrating the release of “Already Home Volume I” with a Saturday night show in Portland. Expect to see some video equipment kicking around as a video shoot will also be taking place. “Already Home Volume I” has three songs on it recorded as solo, acoustic arrangements and it has the same three songs recorded with a full acoustic band. James said in a press release that he recently discovered a new piece of family history that inspired the new material. He’s been inspired for years by his paternal grandfather who was a musician of the African American folk tradition. James now also knows that his maternal great grandfather was a musician of the white American folk tradition. To merge the two, James opted to create traditional arrangements inspired by both sides of his family in what he calls a “sort of bi-racial folk music.” If you purchase “Already Home Volume I” you’ll receive a subscription to the next three volumes and within a year you’ll have 24 songs to enjoy by one of Maine’s finest acts. And if you’ve never seen James live, trust me. You won’t believe your ears.

Samuel James

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

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