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Imagined: John Lennon Song Project is inspiring PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joyce Grondin   
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 21:35


When I was working on the Live Maine Music Web site a few months ago, I came across a calendar event for Imagined: The John Lennon Song Project, which was held in October at the Chocolate Church in Bath. It looked like a really interesting show put together in honor of John Lennon, who would have turned 70 on Oct. 9, 2010, if he had not been killed 30 years ago.


Unfortunately, I had a lot going on so I couldn’t make it that evening. I noticed the show was touring the Northeast – Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Boston, Maine, etc… and thought it must be pretty darn good.


I got lucky because the show returned to Maine. And this time, there was no way I was going to miss it. On Saturday, Nov. 27, my friends Melanie and Dwain joined me on a trip to One Longfellow Square in Portland – nice venue by the way - to take in songs written by John Lennon, which were arranged by top-notch musicians heard around the Northeast circut for many years - Rex Fowler of Aztec Two-Step and Tom Dean of Devonsquare.


I wholeheartedly believe that John would be proud of the fabulous job these two musicians did in “re-imagining” his songs. The acoustic guitar-playing was fantastic and the three-part harmonies were beautiful, not to mention the classical guitar intertwined in the numbers, played by Robby Coffin of Gardiner; the beautiful sounds of the cello performed by Jordan Jancz; wonderful vocals by Alana MacDonald, also of Devonsquare; and Paul Guzzone on bass. We also had the opportunity to hear Robby Coffin’s teen daughter, Maggie, sing a rendition of “Revolution.” She has a wonderful voice.


I wondered how this project came about and called Tom Dean for the background. It was really quite simple:  It was done out of sheer inspiration. Rex called Tom about a year-and-a-half ago, saying that he wanted to put an acoustic performance together for John’s birthday. The two musicians met in 1979 and have been friends since. They’ve written songs and worked together on many projects throughout the years.


Tom said they met at his house in New Hampshire and talked about it, and the following week they went in the studio. Because Rex lives in New York City, they each did their own creations at home and sent ideas back and forth through e-mail, phone, etc. They ended up recording the CD in a little less than a year.

 “We had an incredible catalog of songs. We really wanted it to be good and do justice without copying them,” Tom said. “It was humbling. We did them the way we felt them as though we had written them.”



Among the songs performed are “I’ll Get You/Imagine,” “Come Together/I am The Walrus,” (wonderfully done, by the way), and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away/Norwegian Wood.”

The only song that was not a John Lennon song was one written by Rex, called "Johnny's An Angel," after John lost his life to someone with a gun.


It wasn’t feasible for him to travel to Portland that night, but Gary Schreiner plays accordion and chromatic harmonica on a few songs on the CD, including “Julia.” Jeff Pevar plays fretless bass, dobro and mandolin on “Come Together/I Am The Walrus,” on the CD.


We also had the opportunity to listen to Alana sing “In My Life,” which is on the CD and “Beautiful Boy” from Lennon’s Double Fantasy album – both very well done.


They’ve got a few performances coming up in the next couple of weeks and they’ll take a break for six or so weeks and start touring again.


Tom said they’ll continue touring as long as the crowds keep coming.

“The shows have been getting better and better. This could go on for a while,” he said.


Those of you who haven’t had the chance to make it to a show or want to learn more about it, can check out the web site:


I give these guys an A+ for there work and recommend anyone go see them, if the opportunity should present itself.








Last Updated on Friday, 03 December 2010 05:40
Welcome to my World! PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 28 November 2010 11:47


        When asked if I would write a blog for, I jumped at the chance to sign on to this awesome idea of a web-site about music, and not just any music...but Maine's music!

         And naturally, I wanted to write about....Hallowell's music.

         So folks, introducing, "The Biz by Liz" dedicated to Hallowell's music and musicians since in my opinion, it has the best of Maine to offer.

         I want the whole world to know just how darn lucky we are to have such a high level of talented and giving musicians that perform in town! 

         I plan to high-light individual musicians, bands and Hallowell's venues, that present the wonderful caliber and diversity of music that we have to choose from each night and the musicians that come here to play from other places.  We ARE so musically blessed here in Hallowell!

         What gives me crediability to write about music?      The Development of a Great Ear......

         Over my life, I have been most fortunate to have been exposed to music and musicality.

        Given my French Canadian lineage and Augusta's proximity to Canada and the fact that my mother was close to the cousins and family that she grew up with in New Brunswick, we visited - alot.

         My cousins from Grand Falls, N.B., were all musicians in one respect or another.  They either played an instrument or they sang.  I have vivid memories of accordians, banjos, guitars, fiddles, and even expertly played spoons , played in the kitchens, garages and yards of my Canadian cousins.  Singing was almost a daily thing.  My older cousin, Marie Morin, had a rich voice that she could project for miles!  The fare of the music menu, "Cagin Music", whose roots lie in the Province of Arcadia, the Southern tip of France.  I always remember the singing, the dancing and the joy of my first live musical experiences.

        My mom played a piano, she was self taught and couldn't read a note of music....but she could play.  Play polkas, boogie-woogie, show tunes, Christmas carols and even managed to figure out how to play 'Memories' from the Broadway play , 'Cats', which is no easy feat by ear.

       My aunt, the Late, Great. Esther Birt Violette, was an accomplished pianest and performer, who played the Restaurant/Lounge summer circuit from Ogunquit to Bar Harbor over a 40 year period.  She also graced the Restaurant/Lounge of the stately Augusta House, that used to be the focal point of Augusta's West Side rotary, a few nights each week.  I used to sneak in sometimes, since my childhood home was a 5 min. walk away.  She would always catch me, order me a coke and sit me on the bench beside her as she played for the diners.

       I went to a musical school.  Parochial school...where the nuns made you sing about everything.  I am not kidding.  We sang greetings, and leavings, hymns (naturally), prayers, times tables, conjugation of verbs, days of the week in name it, the nuns had a tune for it.

       And of course, there is the singing inside of a large church with a vaulted ceiling for every, and I do mean every religious holiday on the Catholic calendar.  And all the practices...I love to sing within a large group.  I love the ebb and flow, the coming together and the pulling apart as the voices dance in the air.  This comes from Catholic school.

       I actually took piano lessons from the late Peggy Cameron of Augusta.  Yes, she was the mother of Bruce Cameron of School St Band fame and it was actually at the School St. house where the band originated all those years ago.  Taking piano, gave me a new appreciation for my mother's talent.  What I struggled with and had to practice for hours, came naturally to her and she didn't even realize it.

       And then...there was The Fleshapoids.   I spent almost a 30 yr. stint as one of the Scumettes, singing background vocals and playing hand held percussion instruments. And in  the early Dani Tribesmen as well.  All those years of dancing lessons with Penny Page, had finally, paid off.

      But mostly I developed a great ear for music.  I hope you will enjoy reading my blog because quite frankly, I will enjoy writing it.!


Last Updated on Thursday, 09 December 2010 06:28
Kenya Hall Band's CD release party a must-see PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joyce Grondin   
Friday, 26 November 2010 13:39


If you want to listen to some beautiful soul and funk music, then I suggest you stop by the Big Easy, located at 55 Market St. in Portland tonight, Friday, Nov. 26, and catch the Kenya Hall Band at its CD release party of “Learning for Miles Vol. 1,” which is named in honor of her newborn son and recorded at Sweet Dream Records in Portland. The show kicks off at 10 p.m.


“It really came together well,” she said of the recording. “We had a lot of fun.”


Joining Kenya on stage will be her band members Frank Hopkins on keys, Josh Robbins on bass, Calvin McIlwain on guitar and Dan Capaldi on drums, with special guests John Maclaine, Derek Ramos, Chas Lester, Phil Divinsky and Lady Zen.


Kenya moved to Maine from Ohio about 10 years ago, landing in Randolph and Hallowell. The folks in the central Maine area have been blessed with her voice for a number of years until she relocated to Portland a few years ago, sharing her talent with the folks in the big Maine city and, quite literally, sparking a Soul Movement. From time to time, she and her band returns to Hallowell to put on a show.


Now 30, Kenya started writing songs about five or six years ago and has been working on the CD for about a year. There are 10 original songs on the CD, including one written by guitarist Stevie Jones.


When asked what inspires her in her writing, she said: “Every song is inspired by something different. It could be whatever happens that day (that she pens a song).”


So, if you have a chance to stop in the Big Easy and listen to Kenya’s beautiful voice accompanied by great music, then I suggest you do so.


Cover is $7 and, of course, CDs will be available for $10. You can also pick up the CD in Bull Moose stores around the state.


For more information about the Kenya Hall Band, check out her web site:




Last Updated on Monday, 06 December 2010 15:57
Bass Box's 'Mother Box' is worth checking out PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joyce Grondin   
Sunday, 21 November 2010 20:07


I took a trip down to Portland Friday night to check out the CD Release Party for Bass Box's " Mother Box" album at the Empire Dine and Dance. Of course, it was especially fun to attend because Jazzy Chas, who spent his youth in Hallowell, was performing. I've known Chas since he was performing in middle school events.


What a fun evening. The place was packed and everyone was dancing up a storm. Nice venue by the way. I suggest paying a visit to the Empire sometime. It has a nice atmosphere, great service and good crowd.


The members of Bass Box include Chas on vocal percussion, claps and vocal effects; Mat Zar on guitar and vocals; Luke Goodine on keyboard and accordion; and Dylan Verner on bass. Other visiting musicians stepped in to play trumpet and guitar, and a few young ladies, called the Box Sets, sang backup vocals and provided great harmony on some tunes.


The album has gotten rave reviews from Chris Busby in “The Bollard.” The original songs include the sound of soul, chain-gang, jazz and ballads.


The band also performs a couple Tom Waits’ songs, including “Damaged,” on the album.

Great dancing music and worth the $10 for the CD.

To sum it up, Busby said: “I haven’t heard a local release this fully realized and richly textured” in five years. 'Mother’ will undoubtedly be considered one of the best .”

I agree; it’s worth checking out.




Last Updated on Monday, 22 November 2010 06:25
Helping others just plain feels good PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joyce Grondin   
Tuesday, 09 November 2010 19:00

If I’ve learned anything about musicians, it’s that they are willing  to come together to help someone in need.

I’ve been to so many fundraisers that I cannot remember them all, but one that stands out is the Hallowell fundraiser a few years back to help the musicians in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck and left so many people homeless and at a complete loss.

In the Augusta-Waterville area, there are a few fundraisers coming up for those who are looking to listening to some good music and donate to a good cause. Here’s what I’ve come across in the last couple of days:


Sunday, Nov. 14, 5 p.m., The Kennebec Wharf, Hallowell. Benefit to raise money for a musical scholarship at UMA in the name of Patrick Sullivan. The scholarship is awarded to someone who wants to study music, and who possesses the determination and creative spirit that Patrick had. Great cause and hats off to the lucky individual who receives the scholarship.


Monday, Nov. 15, Augusta Skateboarding Park fundraiser. $15 donation includes pizza and soft drinks. When completed, this is going to be a premiere skateboarding park at Williams Playground on Bangor Street in Augusta. The kids love it. They want the challenge of skating down railings and steps, like you see them do at various businesses. It’s all in the technique and challenge, and I think the skateboarders deserve something to look forward to as much as someone who plays football. So I hope a lot of people show up to support this cause.


Sunday, Dec. 5,  6 p.m., Warming up for Christmas is an annual show organized by local musician Steve Fotter to raise money for the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, Waterville Opera House, 1 Common St. Steve Fotter, a guitar player and guitar teacher, has worked in the community for over 25 years. The show, now a tradition, features a house band along with ensembles of students and friends. Some of the student groups include The Blues Sisters (teenage girls) The Wise Guys (teenage boys), The All-Men Brothers (adult men), and Steve’s Angels (adult women). Steve is also joined by some local talent to help this cause. Guitar players Doug Wainoris, owner of Down Home Music in Fairfield and Dean Bureau, owner of Uncle Dean’s Good Groceries, harmonica player D.W. Gill and and piano player Gerry Wright will also be there. Cost is $15. 873-7000.




Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 November 2010 22:27
Maranacook teen following his dreams PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joyce Grondin   
Sunday, 10 October 2010 16:17


I caught up with Rob Burnell early Saturday evening at Cattleman’s BBQ on Silver Street in Waterville.

At a mere 17 and a senior at Maranacook Community High School in Readfield, Burnell said that he’s been performing in public in the Waterville area for the past two years, and recently started picking up gigs at Higher Grounds in Hallowell.

He has a sweet voice and does well on the acoustic guitar. He’s even written a few songs of his own, which he incorporates into his performances along with tunes like “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks and songs by Keith Urban and John Mayer, among others.

 A beautiful song called “Love Me Anyway” is one that Burnell wrote at age 11, when he first started learning how to play guitar. He said that the song is about his family and his love for them. Pretty impressive for an 11-year-old child to have such emotional insight which he could channel through his music. His parents, Linda and Doug, must be pretty proud of him. He has a demo CD of original tunes called “Confessions From the Tip Jar.”

He said he was inspired by his cousins who played music, and he took lessons at Perkins Music, which used to be located in Winthrop, for four years.

“It came to me fast,” he said.

He also plays at private parties and hopes to go to college at Keene State in New Hampshire, Berklee School of Music in Boston or New York University, with Berklee being his first choice.

When I asked him what inspires him, he told me that he is inspired by his dreams.

“My goals are the biggest things that keep me going,” he said.

I think we’re going to be hearing a lot more from Rob in the coming months and years, and hope he gets accepted to Berklee.








Club 223 brings in musical treats PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joyce Grondin   
Sunday, 24 October 2010 15:02


If you haven’t been to Club 223 in Hallowell yet, I suggest you check it out. Roger Pomerleau and his son, Eric, opened the club at the beginning of the summer.

Since then, they’ve brought in some high-caliber musicians from the capital area as well as Lewiston, Turner and other parts of Maine.


Every Thursday night, David “Archie” Archibald heads up a jam and there are often many visiting musicians who show up to put on one heck of a show. Let me tell you, the evening of Oct. 21 was an exceptional one.  


That night, some of the regulars – Archie, guitarist Tom Nickerson, bass players Dave Thibodeau and Cony senior Josh Ochmanski, and drummers Ron Bouffard, Tim Gagne and Jamie Lovell – all showed up in addition to a few other out-of-town  guests. Perhaps the biggest treat of all, was the chance to see the great keyboardist Harry King, who played with the Bill Chinnock Band for 38 years, perform.


Now 66, King has made a name for himself throughout the years. Not only is he a great performer, but he's an independent producer who has produced albums and pieces for Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, The Afternoon Delights, to name a few. He has a Gold Record for producing and engineering the hit single “General-Hospitale” and a Gold Single for working on Dick Curless’ “A Tombstone Every Mile.”


Among the many well-known musicians that he has played with are Chubby Checker, Chuck Berry, Danny and the Juniors, Del Shannon, Johnny Tillotson, Bobby Lewis and  Aztec Two Step.


Since he grew up in Maine and his mother and other family members still live here, he splits his time between his homes in Texas and Maine.


He does work for Maine musician Ed Boucher at EAB International, based in the Lewiston area.


What I liked about the jam the other night is that there was a variety of skill level performing together and it’s nice to see a  high school kid invited into the jam.


We also had the opportunity to hear Valentine Green, aka Roger Pomerleau, and Deb Caron sing a few tunes. Both have beautiful voices and the harmony was wonderful.





Last Updated on Saturday, 30 October 2010 14:13
Plenty of venues to choose from in capital area PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joyce Grondin   
Friday, 24 September 2010 18:29

The capital area is really picking up in the way of venues. There are several bars in Hallowell, with a couple of new ones recently opening and a couple of bars under new ownership.


Last weekend, I went and checked out a couple of them. I checked out Hoxter’s because I heard they had good food and I wanted to listen to the Jazzy Chas Trio perform. I’ve know Chas since he was probably in middle school. What a talented young man. He puts on a good performance. The music was great. He was playing the drums at this gig. He usually sings and does beat box – which he is really good at by the way. I think they’re playing again this weekend at Hoxter’s. I’d suggest people stop by to see Chas and his group in action. Oh yeah, the food is good and the atmosphere is relaxed. Nice place to go for a quiet evening out.


Afterwards, I went to Higher Grounds where a couple of fellows named Walt and Ryan were performing. What great acoustic performers and beautiful singers they are.  I was completely in awe of the guitar playing and singing that came from them. Walt belts out some Roy Orbison. That was the first time that I’ve been in Higher Grounds under new ownership, and I think it will be a success. The young man who is running it, Sean Gallagher, has a lot of energy. I think he’s going to bring a wonderful dynamic to the new place.


Speaking of new owners, I had the opportunity to meet Laurie Connelly, who operates The Kennebec Wharf with her husband, Tim. She seems like a really nice person with a lot of energy, as well. I think they’ll make a good fit in Hallowell.


It must be nice for the veteran musicians to have all these venues to play in and to see the younger group of musicians working their way up through the ranks and making a name for themselves.

The musicians who have been around for a while, no doubt, have either given lessons to some of these younger musicians or influenced them through their own passion to play.


I know when I met up this summer with a former intern who worked under me at the paper and saw how much he had learned and grown as a journalist, I felt really good.  It’s rewarding to know that you can, in some small way, help someone out. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re doing it.


Anyway, it ought to be interesting to see how the music scene in central Maine plays out this year. I sure hope that people support all the venues and musicians.


Speaking of venues, there are also a few new ones in Augusta. I’ll be checking those places out soon and writing about them. In the meantime, be sure to listen to the music!


Last Updated on Friday, 24 September 2010 18:35

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