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Our January cover story about the decimation of the live music scene in the wake of Covid hit home for many of our readers that rely on freelance performance to keep the lights on. Musicians everywhere saw their performance schedules disappear overnight which meant no regular income, and for many musicians no qualified unemployment benefits.

We told you about the formation of the New England Musicians Relief Fund (NEMRF), created in response to the needs of New England area freelance musicians struggling to hold on. The 501(c)(3) non-profit philanthropy was established to provide a temporary safety net for musicians to meet emergency needs in the form of $1,000 grants.

Since its inception last year, the NEMRF has issued more than 500 of those grants to struggling musicians in every New England state. The organization is in the midst of an awareness-raising campaign to reach new grant applicants, potential new donors and the general public.

The fund may have been established in the aftermath of Covid’s silencing of the live music scene but it was designed to continue to serve musicians in the New England area for years to come, even after the virus becomes a memory we’d sooner forget.

As many sectors of the economy began to sputter back to life this year, many music venues were still closed or operating with a greatly reduced schedule with little evidence things would improve in the short-term. The unknown impact of the Omicron variant currently has many venues and musicians on edge that the encouraging progress made this year toward a rebound could vaporize at any moment.

This is how you make the most out of a pandemic. When singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jacob McCurdy saw all of his scheduled gigs evaporate when Covid struck, he pivoted to a period of unbridled creativity. McCurdy established a year-long virtual composer symposium he billed as Songwriters in the Round, a series of songwriter get-togethers utilizing the Zoom app streamed live to Facebook each Sunday. He met a bunch of creative new friends and eventually connected in person with some of them to collaborate on a series of songwriting retreats.

“Make a Fuss,” one of the songs inspired by those sessions, has just been released as a single. It’s a soulful and powerful song of thankfulness.

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. It isn’t every week that two rock icons that first rose to prominence together in the same band happen to check in with The Maine Edge just days apart for interviews related to their solo endeavors.

Keyboardist and vocalist Mark Stein and drummer and vocalist Carmine Appice of the legendary psychedelic rock and soul band Vanilla Fudge are promoting respective solo projects so it makes a lot of sense to include them in the same issue, especially since they both shared similar memories related to their first visit to Maine, circa 1967.

Guitar enthusiasts can thank a celebrated drummer for one of the most impressive guitar rock collections ever assembled. It’s no secret that drummer and vocalist Carmine Appice has performed with many of rock’s greatest guitar-slingers. Nearly 40 of those collaborations form the basis of the new box set “Guitar Zeus 25th Anniversary,” a 3-volume project Appice conceived in the mid-1990s that has been unavailable for years.

The “Guitar Zeus 25th Anniversary” edition includes exclusive recordings from Queen’s Brian May, Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Neal Schon of Journey, Ted Nugent, Dweezil Zappa, and more than 30 others. The original recordings (and two previously unreleased tracks) have been compiled for the first time as a 4-LP or 3-CD box set with photos and interviews.

Wednesday, 08 December 2021 12:27

The Beatles’ ‘Get Back’ caps a Fab year for fans

Written by Mike Dow

Now that director Peter Jackson’s epic myth-shattering three-part "Get Back" series is out on Disney+ (no spoilers here, only a few teases), Beatles fans can enjoy what is arguably the most significant release under the group’s name in more than 25 years.

Jackson spent more than four years trying to make sense of 80 hours of footage shot in January 1969 for what The Beatles and original director Michael Lindsay-Hogg thought might be a TV special. Halfway through the sessions, in which we see the group working up a batch of new songs, jamming, joking, smoking and arguing, the decision was made to turn it into a movie to fulfill their deal with United Artists.

That film – “Let It Be” - was released in May 1970, one month after the world found out the group had broken up, and as such, had been edited to reflect much of the conflict that went into its creation.

More than half a century later, it is a sweet surprise to discover how emotionally maturely they handled the more intense moments left out of the original film, not to mention the priceless enchanting scenes of joy on days when that good old Beatles wizardry found its way into the studio.

Musician Ryan Hamilton struck upon a brilliant idea just over a year ago when it looked like Covid was going to wipe another year of concert dates from his schedule. The Texas-based power-pop rocker issued a daunting challenge to himself: Release a strong new single each month for a year then compile them all for an album at year’s end. That collection, “1221,” is out now, and true to its inception, it sounds like a greatest hits record, which it is in a sense.

Hamilton is a prolific musician who has the best of both worlds. During normal times, he tours furiously across America and across the pond. He records solo albums and he records with his British band, Ryan Hamilton and The Harlequin Ghosts, in both cases for Little Steven’s Wicked Cool Records label.

A few days after I spoke with Hamilton for this story, he received word that “1221” debuted in the top 10 on the U.K. independent artist albums chart.

“1221” refers to the commission Hamilton assigned himself. Each of the 12 singles represented was released this year on the 12th of each month. It had to be an all-killer, no-filler affair, and even though Hamilton is sitting on enough unrecorded songs to fill more than 10 albums, he said it was important to him to come at it fresh every month.

Hamilton says when he first approached his label with the “1221” concept, he was afraid they might say “What do you expect us to do? Promote a song every month for a year? Are you crazy?” but instead, they championed the idea.

“They were incredible,” Hamilton says, adding “Credit to them for embracing this idea immediately.”

Wednesday, 01 December 2021 13:32

Talking a life in music with producer Richard Perry

Written by Rich Kimball

Anyone who followed music in the 1970s and 1980s knew the name of Richard Perry. He became the go-to producer for some of the biggest names in the business and was seemingly at every awards show and every social event of note.

He helped the quirky Herbert Khaury achieve success in a new persona, reaching the Top Ten with his debut album, GOD BLESS TINY TIM, turned Barbra Streisand into a pop star with STONEY END, and produced career standouts like NILSSON SCHMILSSON for Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr’s RINGO. Perry started his own label, Planet Records, in 1978 and ran the company for six years, teaming up with the Pointer Sisters for a number of hits and paired Rod Stewart with the great American songbook in a series of best-selling albums.

Perry recently published his autobiography, titled “CLOUD NINE: MEMOIRS OF A RECORD PRODUCER,” that tells the story of overcoming childhood challenges and rising to the heights of the music world. He was gracious enough to time to answer some questions about his upbringing and career via email.

It’s that magical time of the season when I sit here in my tiny office, which slightly resembles an all-music episode of “Hoarders,” and make my way through an imposing stack of the year’s holiday-themed releases. I love Christmas music and this year’s offerings have a little something for everybody, whether you jingle all the way, halfway or not at all.

Prolific Maine music maker Joel Thetford has had a lot of labels attached to his music over the years: Singer and songwriter, country artist, alt-country artist, indie, Americana and myriad other tags that he says are all pretty much irrelevant. Thetford’s next project just might cause the label-makers’ heads to explode as the artist continues expanding his craft to include new sounds and genres. Two recently released singles are a bellwether that changes are afoot. 

In early October, Thetford released “Walk Through the Dark,” a very ‘80s-inspired track augmented with synths and vocal effects that surprised a lot of listeners. The track has given Thetford first time airplay on WCYY, Portland’s alternative rock station, and WHSN, the alt-rock station in Bangor operated by students at the New England School of Communications. 

After concert stages were silenced for more than a year by the pandemic, box-office management system TicketSource has released research data outlining the most frequently searched artists and tours by state for 2021. Nashville superstar Chris Stapleton dominated the list for Maine and 18 other states.

Rounding out the top five most searched artist tours of the year, according to the research, were pop icon Harry Styles, country singer-songwriter Morgan Wallen, superstar Eric Church and jam-band behemoth Phish.

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