One of the things I love most about my job here at The Maine Edge is that I’m always encouraged to keep my ears tuned to find some of the best local music and to introduce you to the people who create it. Some of the best music I’ve heard this year has come from artists in Maine, some of whom have had an impact in other areas.
Here are some of the outstanding Maine-based musicians and bands whose projects have been appreciated at The Maine Edge this year. Getting to know them all and writing about how and why they make music has been a real highlight of my year.
A bottom overnight – The Portland-based group formed to make a musical travel story designed by frontman Chad Walls. Originally a trilogy, the concept now graces five studio releases as the group plans a live set for 2022. Inspired by legendary bands from the 60s to the 80s, An Overnight Low focuses on still writing and storytelling. excellent, and they offer great time in a lively setting. Profits from the group’s new vacation single “Tilt One to your Teeth” are donated to the Center for Grieving Children in Portland.
Kurt Baker – The Portland native has grown around the world thanks to Steven Van Zandt’s record label and Little Steven’s Underground Garage satellite radio station. Rocker for whom melody is the key, Baker’s music is inspired by some of the greatest but the results are purely original. His latest feature film “After Party” is a wave of rock and roll fun fueled by Baker’s musical intuition and a commitment to making every moment count.
Halley Elwell – Thanks to Kris Rodgers for educating me about the amazing music of Halley Elwell. Imagine Rickie Lee Jones recording with Norah Jones and Natalie Merchant and you get a feel for the sound of Elwell’s music. Augusta-area artist’s EP “The Last of What I Know” is one of my most listened to records of 2021, thanks in large part to his addictive song “Sisters on the J Train”. He was nominated for a John Lennon Songwriting Award this year and fully deserves the grand prize. Elwell is an amazing songwriter and singer who will now be on my radar.
Dominique Lavoie – This Aroostook County native (technically born in Canada) has been creating his own brand of dreamy, melodic psych-rock that has been accessible for 20 years. Raised on classic rock, Lavoie incorporates a wild array of influences when creating his music which he always records in difficult and expensive ways – on analog tape which he believes is worth the effort and expense for the quality. superior sound. You can hear an example of this on Lavoie’s latest studio LP “Wave With a Broken Arm” which offers a perfect rendezvous of his exemplary writing with an innovative production courtesy of Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. Lavoie’s next album was recorded during the pandemic and is due out next year. You’ll read it in The Maine Edge.
Jacob McCurdy – I first wrote about McCurdy’s music for The Maine Edge 10 years ago when he released his debut album “Sleepless”, a superb collection of original songs he recorded as part of a university project. Since then he has expanded his palette in impressive ways and has proven to be a wonderful singer, producer and arranger. McCurdy followed up last year’s folk indie soul EP “For The Weekend (FTW)” with the powerful new single “Make a Fuss”. He happened to mention in an interview that he had recently collaborated on more than 100 new songs with Boston-based musician Alex Calabrese and that he planned to start approaching them soon in his home studio.
Merther – It’s too easy to classify Merther as a jam group. Yes, they curse boldly but they also rock fiercely with elements of psych, funk, reggae and folk. I was blown away by one of Merther’s recent shows at the Bangor Arts Exchange and can’t wait to see the next one. These guys are serious musicians, but they manage to work with a bit of humor to remind them that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They also keep their audience spellbound with creative instrumentation (a banjo solo in the middle of a trippy jam? You bet, and it sounds amazing), unpredictable covers and smooth flow-throughs.
Kris Rodgers and the Dirty Jewels – One of the funniest records of 2021 came from this Portland band in the form of “Still Dirty”. In my review, I described it as the sound equivalent of opening a window on the first warm day after a long winter. “Still Dirty” has an exciting party vibe that made it such a welcome listen last summer when things started to look like they might be back to normal. Rodgers and his band mates cite a number of vintage influences, from Motown to 60s and 70s rock and soul, but they’re creating something entirely new with them. Like Kurt Baker, Rodgers developed a global following through the broadcast of Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel on SiriusXM.
Joel Thetford – It has been fascinating to witness the expansion of Thetford’s art with each release over the past six years. He’s followed up on the excellent “Jacksboro Highway” of 2020 with even stronger “January Heartbreak” this year and has already released two singles from his upcoming LP (to be released in March) which he says will be unlike anything else. we have heard again. Originally from Texas, Thetford has become a mainstay of the Portland music scene as a solo artist, with his band and in collaboration with some of the area’s top players.
the worst – This Portland punk / grunge band say they were biding their time to release their second LP “Yes Regrets”, but it’s almost here. Singer and guitarist Brooke Binion said her new songs all came from a deeply personal place and the LP will be sequenced in order of composition. “You won’t know the whole story by listening but it’s all there,” she promised, adding “It’s different, but it’s a lot more mature and I’m really proud of it.”