Blues in the Hills: Timeless genres trounce musical uniformity

Although southern Vermont has a vibrant music scene, by percentage it can be somewhat limited to similar Eurocentric genres: folk, roots rock, hard rock. And, of course, there are classic evenings of contra and New England fiddlers. It is rare that down-home, messy, slinky soul music finds its way to this trickle of the Appalachian Range. Though Vermont is statistically both the second least populous and second least ethnically diverse state in the union, musical energy does not have to suffer proportionately. With fresh circulation of and open ears toward global sounds

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—as well as those of American pop music's back porch

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—Vermont can creep toward the wild diversity needed in entertainment to maintain that distinct hum of bluesy deference.

A way to begin with good marks on a "Vermont dirty soul music" report card is with the Evan Goodrow Band (EGB) this Saturday at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro. Evan Goodrow and his trio of bluesy, funky, old-soul aficionados answered a call to bring a little "shake" to the hills.

Hailed by blues-circuit partner B.B. King as "exceptional," young Boston-based guitarist and vocalist Evan Goodrow is not exactly from the Delta, but his sense of the rawness of expression at the root of soul is evident.

"I would have to say that the essence of blues and soul music is specifically about feeling," said Goodrow in an early-morning interview from his hotel room in Miami. "I think there's something genuine about it, a certain honesty in expression that makes blues and soul good. I don't always see that honesty in pop music."

As a child, Goodrow was steeped in the sounds of Ray Charles and Solomon Burke, then integrated a passion for Jimi Hendrix's electric mayhem into his burgeoning style. He pursued formal jazz training in Boston, though quickly took to the streets of the college town's underground cafés and clubs instead, honing an unidentified hybrid sound that would aptly become described, simply, as modern soul.

"If you're playing to jazz or blues purists, that means you're recreating," Goodrow said. "And once you're recreating, you can't be creating and recreating at the same time. When you play something that's resurfacing a style or a genre

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something that's already happened

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you're actually making it worse. Because you can't necessarily make it better than it was. So the only way to make it relevant is to do something else with it, try to bring it to the next step. I think you pay homage to the musicians who come before you not by recreating their work, but by creating new pieces that are inspired by them."

While opening for the legendary Buddy Guy in Lowell, Mass., last year, EGB was "discovered" by Gail Nunziata of the Brattleboro Arts Initiative and the Latchis Theater, who decided that bringing him to southern Vermont was an imperative. Currently EGB is touring as a trio with drummer Phil Antoniades and keyboardist John Cooke, downsized from their previously robust four-piece.

Goodrow feels that the stripped-down aesthetic allows for less of a veil, less cushion for extravagance. There's "an honesty. It's that thing again about blues, soul and jazz. There's something so honest in it that I love. And I think that's what makes music timeless."

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This article originally appeared in the Rutland Herald newspaper. www.rutlandherald.com Reprinted with the author’s permission.

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