Mike Dow

Mike Dow

edge staff writer

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Here’s a good problem to have: so much new music, so little time to absorb it all. I’ve chosen five titles worthy of your consideration in rock, blues, country, and folk-pop released within the last two weeks.

CNN is taking a deep dive into late night television history with its six-part docuseries “The Story of Late Night,” scheduled to air Sundays at 9 p.m. through June 6. The series spans six decades of late-night TV history’s most memorable moments while analyzing how the format has survived and adapted to an ever-changing society.

“The Story of Late Night” executive producer Bill Carter has authored four books on television, including 1994’s “The Late Shift” and “The War for Late Night.” Carter was chief television correspondent for the New York Times for 26 years and currently serves as Senior Media Analyst for CNN.

(The following excerpts are from a longer interview that aired last weekend on BIG 104 FM.)

We may not always notice them, but wild things are unrelentingly growing and creeping around us. Even the most securely constructed edifice of the unnatural world has elements of nature growing on, around or through it.

That notion of wildness being found in the most ordinary places – and how the two interrelate – is at the heart of pianist Ben Cosgrove’s fourth studio LP “The Trouble With Wilderness,” a beautiful and fascinating instrumental concept album that celebrates the certainty of nature’s presence in the most unnatural spaces.

The Boston-based Cosgrove has deep ties to Maine and says he plans a return to Portland soon where he feels most at home although in a normal year his home could be just about anywhere.

For a decade prior to the Covid lockdown Cosgrove performed about 200 shows per year around the country.

“It’s the lifestyle that works best for me,” Cosgrove says. “I really get a lot out of talking to a room full of people every night and being able to move around and live lightly. I’m not great at sitting still so the last year has been a bit of a challenge.”

Remember how much fun it was to have a houseful of friends over on a Saturday night? Those days will return. In the meantime, singer-songwriter A.J. Croce, with his friends, have put together “By Request,” an outrageously fun album of diverse pop, rock, jazz, blues and soul cover songs – from Randy Newman to The Beach Boys - that gives us a glimpse of how much fun it would be to crash a Croce house party.

A.J. Croce has become firmly established over the last three decades as one of America’s finest musical craftsmen through nine albums of original songs encompassing multiple genres. It became evident during an interview with The Maine Edge that he’s also a musicologist in possession of an almost encyclopedic knowledge of music history and music-makers. Croce says he did his best to tighten the reins on his broad taste when it came to selecting titles for “By Request.”

“As much as this album is a celebration of different kinds of music I love, it’s about the celebration of friendship, being together and entertaining friends,” Croce said. “This record was recorded live in the studio, and I produced it with that in mind, as if I could welcome the audience over to my place, hang out and play music for them.”

“By Request” features a mix of well-known songs and others that are waiting to be discovered by new listeners, as Croce (who augments his piano by also playing guitar, organ and harmonium) and his touring band deliver each one with a great spirit of fun and spontaneity.        

With a veritable boatload of music titles being issued each week from new and established artists alike, I intend to increase the frequency of these review columns to round up some recent and forthcoming standout releases. This week, we have new albums of note in rock, country, alternative, and Americana/roots.

Ponch would be proud.

Erik Estrada will forever be associated with “CHiPs,” the 1977 to 1983 California Highway Patrol motorcycle cop drama in which he starred as Frank Poncherello. Fifteen years ago, Estrada turned his childhood dream of becoming a cop into reality. These days, he’s busting child predators for the ICAC (internet crimes against children) Task Force through the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia.

Estrada says he was four years old when he decided to become a police officer, after his mother began dating a New York cop Estrada remembers as “the greatest man.”

“My mom fired my real dad because he was stuck on the needle, then she began seeing this New York cop who was just the best,” Estrada said. “He’s no longer alive but he was with our family for about 10 years and he’s the reason I became a cop,” Estrada told The Maine Edge. “The first man I ever loved was a cop, he was my hero.”

Broken heart? There’s an album for that. For many songwriters, music is sometimes the best therapy, and that’s especially true when the songwriter has weathered a personal crisis. Watershed breakup albums like Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks,” Beck’s “Sea Change” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” were all born from relationships gone south, no doubt brutal to endure, but each resulted in high art.

The new studio album from prolific Maine-based singer and songwriter Joel Thetford materialized from similarly dark circumstances with results akin to those aforementioned musical milestones. “January Heartbreak,” out April 19, is his most powerful work to date.

Maybe Neil Young knows something the rest of us don’t. He seems to have amped up his already voluminous archive series of previously shelved studio albums and unreleased concerts like a man racing against time. One of the latest entries is a November 1990 tour warmup gig with Crazy Horse representing what many fans consider to be among the band’s best-ever nights onstage. “Way Down in the Rust Bucket” is two-and-a-half hours of the finest electric Neil Young available, and that’s saying something.

The 1990 studio LP “Ragged Glory” – due for an archival overhaul, expansion and reissue later this year – marked a true return to form for Young and his long-serving barn-rock collaborators in Crazy Horse. The album contained (arguably) his best batch of songs since 1979’s “Rust Never Sleeps,” and it arrived in the middle of a new golden era of great Neil Young albums that signaled his return to Reprise Records after his 1980s wilderness years with Geffen. Remember when Geffen unsuccessfully sued him for delivering work “uncharacteristic of Neil Young?” It was sweet to watch Neil stick it to them by handing Reprise knockout LPs like “This Notes For You” (1988), “Freedom” (1989), “Ragged Glory” and its subsequent tour document “Weld.”

Even better than “Weld” is “Way Down in the Rust Bucket,” culled from three sets performed on November 13, 1990 at The Catalyst, an 800-seater in Santa Cruz, CA, that’s long served as a favored home base for Neil to warm up before a tour.

Actress Taryn Manning made an indelible impression on viewers as Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Dogget through seven seasons of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” Manning says she loved being part of that show but was ready for new challenges when it wrapped two years ago, and she didn’t have to wait long. Manning currently has 10 film projects in the pipeline, either shooting now, or in pre- or post-production, and a new film in theaters and on-demand with the indie comedy-drama “Last Call,” directed and co-written by Paolo Pilladi.

“Last Call” co-stars Manning as Ali and Jeremy Piven (“Entourage”) as Mick. Friends since childhood, the pair lost contact when Piven’s character moved away from his suburban Philadelphia neighborhood to become a real estate developer. When he returns to tend to a family crisis, they reconnect as Piven decides to stick around to help resuscitate his family’s bar which serves as the neighborhood watering hole.

Manning and Piven’s co-stars in “Last Call” include Bruce Dern (“Coming Home”), Zach McGowan (“Shameless”), comedians Jamie Kennedy and Cheri Oteri, and Jack McGee (“Rescue Me”).

During an interview with The Maine Edge, Manning shared some behind the scenes tales from the shooting of “Last Call,” she discusses her passion for making music, and explains why it’s probably for the best that “Orange is the New Black” ended when it did.

Here at The Maine Edge, we really miss the live music experience, and you’ve told us that you really miss it too. Most stages, venues and concert halls have been quiet for more than a year and that silence is deafening. We miss the intimate in-person shows at Bangor Arts Exchange, the magic of live theater at Penobscot Theatre, the symphonies and concerts at the Collins Center in Orono – and we miss seeing legends take the big stage downtown.

We asked you to tell us about the best shows you’ve seen at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, presented by Waterfront Concerts. The votes are in and your picks are fascinating to say the least.

Before we reveal the list of your favorite shows, let’s look back at the rise of Waterfront Concerts and the effect it has had on the area’s economy and entertainment landscape.

It’s been nearly 20 months since Waterfront Concerts last staged a show at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, a venue that was preparing for its biggest season to date when Covid cleared the schedule for 2020.

Over 10 seasons, from July 2010, when Celtic Woman was featured as the inaugural concert at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, through August 2019, when Breaking Benjamin performed with four support bands, Waterfront Concerts staged 152 shows that brought well over one million concertgoers to downtown Bangor. In the process of entertaining all of those folks, the greater Bangor area’s entertainment landscape was transformed as a direct result of the concert series, which some believed to be an unworkable prospect.

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