MUSIC: The Feelies at RI Record Day, Les Sampou at Sandywoods

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


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The Feelies played a special in-store performance at What Cheer Antiques on RI Record Day. Photo: Richard McCaffrey.

Standing in front of a rack of vintage Playboys at What Cheer Records and Antiques last Saturday, it was clear that the spirit of rock and roll is alive and well. The Feelies were there, playing a special in-store performance on Record Store Day.  Although the acoustics may not have been ideal, the acoustic performance was, to the delight of the 30 or so fans that squeezed into the store.

The band played to a much larger crowd later that evening at The Met. It was an epic show from a group that has influenced many who have come since, especially Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, R.E.M. In fact, I would argue that they do “early” R.E.M. better than R.E.M.

Led by guitarists Glen Mercer and Bill Million, they are best known for their post-punk, jangle rock sound. They are celebrated for their twitchy style and experimental rhythms heard on their debut album Crazy Rhythms (1980). Released to widespread critical acclaim, Rolling Stone magazine declared it one of the Top 100 Albums of the 1980s. These guys are not pretenders.

Performing songs that spanned their career, the Feelies sounded best on jangle-pop songs like "The High Road" and "Let’s Go." They played several song from their latest album Here Before (2011), including "Nobody Knows" and "Should be Gone." With an updated sound, this album belongs on every Indie music enthusiast’s playlist.

Mixed in among their originals were revved up covers including the Stone’s classics "Get Off of My Cloud" and "Paint It Black." And for one of their many encores, they played a blistering version of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" – a rock anthem if there ever was one!

So can a bunch of “fiftysomethings” still sing about teen angst and alienation and make you believe it? You bet!  The Feelies are not an under-rated band, but they are perhaps the most under-appreciated band out there. They rarely tour these days – when they do, be sure to see them!

Photo of The Feelies at What Cheer: Richard McCaffrey

Les Sampou at Sandywoods

Sandwiched between the Feelies, I took a ride down to Sandywoods to hear an outstanding set of tunes from Les Sampou. Sandywoods, an arts and agricultural community in Tiverton, has been hosting concerts for a year now.  In their relaxed rural setting, guests are encouraged to bring picnic dinners and, as Les noted, their BYOB policy insures for a little more ambience than the usual coffeehouse venue.

Sampou is a veteran of the Boston folk scene, and has played all over the country. She opened with the Randy Weeks tune “Can’t Let Go,” made famous by Lucinda Williams. Her style is influenced by Williams, but she draws more inspiration from early Bonnie Raitt.  Les showed her guitar prowess on Tommie Johnson's “Big Road Blues,” a song Raitt recorded on her first album. Diving even deeper into the blues canon, she impressed on Robert Johnson’s classic "Traveling Riverside Blues."

Sampou’s original songs are personal, whether singing about her 8 year old daughter (and part-time roadie) Belle, or life on the road.  Her songwriting is outstanding -  in Holy Land, a tune about a trailer park along the banks of the Mississippi River, she slides down to the murkier side of the blues:

Momma died drunk and daddy died straight 
Jimmy left town on that northbound train 
Folks all swore the boy'd go far 
'cuz he played like a demon on a slide guitar 
He said he'd sing for me and the holy land.

With strong vocals, great songwriting and nuanced guitar work, Les is a pleasure to see. Check here for her touring schedule.

Sandywoods has a great line-up featuring various styles of roots, world, and Americana music every weekend. Click here for upcoming shows.


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