Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Discovering a New Sound: The Shana Stack Band

Many moons ago (okay, it was only a few months ago), my friend and colleague Ed invited me to listen to his band, The Shana Stack Band, play at a local venue.  As I was already familiar with a few of their tunes, and was also aware of their recent win at the New England Music Awards, AND the fact that they have opened for the likes of Reba McEntire and Sugarland, I knew it was going to be a great show and said yes immediately!  I put in a call to my friend, Ms. K., as I knew she would be up for an evening of good music, food, and fun. 

After a great dinner, we headed to the Tupulo Music Hall to see Ed and the band play. So, a foreword. Well, I guess it's a mid-word as we are already well-into this post. Until about a decade ago, I was never a huge fan of country music aside from my love of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton...I mean, how can you not love them???   Anyway, country music always seemed so sad and mournful and I just couldn't get into it.  However, thanks to the many great cross-over artists that have created some amazing music over past ten+ years, the genre has grown on me tremendously.  For one, I really appreciate the simple, honest story-telling aspect of country music; also, its melodies can be really comforting and familiar... they sort of make you feel like you are home getting a big hug from mom.  And after this concert, I like it even more!   In fact, Shana mentioned that one of her favorite things about performing is turning people on to country music.   She says: "I love 'converting' people to country music.  We hear frequently 'I don't like country but I LOVE you guys.'  Such a great compliment when people have a preconceived notion of what a genre of music is and you can turn it around for them."  Shana: you may have another convert on your hands!!!

Anyway, let's get to the good stuff!  They started out with some covers which got the crowd up and moving and clapping their hands, and then moved into their own songs which were thoughtfully written and artfully sung. Shana and Ed also took the time to introduce numbers, and chit chat about the stories behind several of the songs, and engage those of us in the audience to make sure we were enjoying ourselves. 

One thing I noticed right off the bat is the rocker edge their music has.   It is definitely country but lined with a great, edgy rocker beat.  After having asked the band members about this, it turns out that this is no accident.  Shana Stack, the awesomely fierce front-woman of the band, cites Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood and Carrie Underwood but also Pat Benetar and Heart as her influences.  A quote from Shana on the latter: "Man that woman could sing!"  I would have to say the same of Shana - she has some seriously mad vocal skills!

John Sanchez said his influences include Brad Paisley, Albert Lee, Brent Mason and Doug Seven, but hopes his own sound shines through.  It does and in spades!  AND....wait for it...he plays the mandolin!  And ROCKS it!

Other influences run the gamut from Haggard, Wynette, and Cash to the Beatles, Neil Diamond, Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin and funk disco.  And this diversity really shines through in not only their music but also their performance.

Here's my buddy, Ed, singing his heart out!!!

Ed provides lead vocals and rhythm guitar and writes most of their music - and I am trying to not be biased as he is a friend -  but his lyrics are fantastic - truly thoughtful, moving, relevant, and reflective. In fact, I recently found out that one of his songs was in the movie 'Compliance', which premiered at Sundance a few years back. Who knew I was working with someone so talented???!!!

At the concert, the one song I found especially moving was the song he wrote called 'Give Back' which is about just that - paying forward the good things in life to those who might need some help.  They performed this number (and a few others) acoustically and it was such a quietly moving way to take in their music.  Acoustic sets are not a usual part of their performances so if you happen to catch one you are in for a treat.

Band members from left to right: Ed Leavitt, Shana Stack,  Billy Moedebeck, Kurt Ekstrom, and John Sanchez.

And towards the end of the more laid-back, non-electronic set they transitioned right back into their high-energy show, making sure that the audience was up and out of their seats, dancing away!  Also, did I mention that their band manager Conrad was in the back of the room teaching people how to line dance?  It is really a show that absolutely everyone can enjoy.  You can hang out up front and listen to the story-telling and do a bit of dancing with others in the crowd, or you can head to the back and do some good old-fashioned country line dancing.  It's a win-win in my book!

Billy Moedebeck, rockin' it out on bass guitar!

I was so happy Ed invited me out to see their show as it was just awesomely good fun.  I danced, I sang along, and left feeling a little hoarse - just the way one should leave a concert!

If you get the chance, you should definitely try and catch one of their shows.  They are smack-dab in the middle of a heavy touring schedule all around the Northeast (in fact, this past weekend they opened for The Band Perry at Meadowbrook in NH!!), and you can find their schedule here.

And, should you feel be feeling impulsive and want to listen to some of their tunes straightaway, check them out on iTunes!

Meghan xoxo

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Friendly Visitors!

One of my oldest and dearest friends lives three hours away -  thankfully, she and I made a deal with each other years ago to make plans to do something fun every couple of months.  We did not want to let the years slip by until one day in our dotage we realize too late that we should have seen each other more often over the years.  It is easy to do, especially as we all grow older and busier.

Ms. K and I have been friends since college and even roomed together for a bit when we both lived in the city.  She is still there (lucky girl!) and I am now up living in the wilds of VT.  Another friend had invited me to cover his band for my blog (that post will be out later this week!), and I knew Ms. K would be up for a concert, dinner, and catch-up time.

Ms. K arrived on a Saturday afternoon and after a quick chit-chat, we headed outside to run around in the yard (newly freed from snow!) to play with Didi and The Mister.

After spending a good bit of time watching Deeds run after her coveted soccer ball, we got dolled up and headed 'into town' for dinner and some great live music. First on the agenda: dinner at Elixir in White River Junction.  I love Elixir. Any place up here where one isn't surrounded by wood paneling and ceilings decorated with antlers or outdoor gear is okay in my book. For the record, I like those places too, but our area is over-run with them for tourist purposes, and finding a place that has even a hint of cosmopolitan flair takes some work.  And oftentimes, some driving. Elixir is well worth it.

After perusing the menu, we quickly ordered cocktails and some nibbly bits to share.

There were truffled fries with a yummy roasted shallot aioli and then baked figs, bacon, and blue cheese delivered alongside lovely little toasts.  And because one can't have too many carbs, (right???), there were also chewy bits of bread to be dipped into an herbed olive oil.  Once we had our fill of those, we moved on to the main course.  For Ms. K it was the risotto cakes with shrimp, pancetta, and peas; and for me, the crunchy and delicious peanut chicken served alongside perfectly roasted fingerling potatoes and savoy cabbage.

I apologize that some of my pics are upside down or odd-looking...blogger and my photo-formatting platform are not playing well together today.  Sigh.  That said, the food was awesome and the service lovely.

Anyway.  Once Ms. K and I had our fill we walked around the corner to Tupulo Music Hall to see my friend Ed's band play (more on that later this week!). It was a great concert and made for a great end to a fun day.

After a fun evening out 'on the town' up here, we headed back to the house, watched some SNL, and then got some sleep.  Thankfully, I knew we would be up late and I would have to rustle up an easy but still delicious brekkie for us all the next morning.  I had just the meal.

If you want to wow the pants off of friends or family for brunch, I highly recommend this winner.  And, not only is it super-healthy, it is delish.  Although I didn't go there this time 'round, a well-cooked serving of bacon or sausage would be the perfect accompaniment.  You'll need some eggs, onion, green peppers, freshly chopped parsley, some juicy limes, and some peeled-and-chopped butternut squash (sweet potatoes would also work well).

First, throw your squash into a big pan along with a splash of good olive oil (and salt and pepper).  I also like to add some freshly chopped rosemary but it isn't necessary.  Whilst that is slowly cooking over medium heat, chop up your peppers and onions.  Once your bits of squash begin to soften and take on some color, throw the lid on your pan and let them soften up a bit more.

Once they are a tiny bit softer (but not too soft!), take the lid off add some freshly grated lime zest and lime juice to taste.   Move your squash off to the side.

Next, throw in your onion and pepper. Let them cook a bit...again, you want them to wilt a bit but not so much that you have a pan full of mush.  I know, I am very precise.  :O)  Once they begin to soften, mix everything together.

Next, pull your pan off the heat and create some little divets or 'holes' for each of your eggs.  And then pour each of your little eggy-weggs into a divet.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pop into a 425 degree (F) oven for 10 minutes or so. You want the whites firm but the yolks just the tiniest bit runny...or, to your taste.  Top with some freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley.

Didi, this meal is not for you.  

As a visit to my side did not pay off, Deeds went off to nap next to Ms. K while we watched some good but seriously cheesy TV.

And then, we had some surprise visitors traipsing across the lawn.  A mamma moose and her baby made a surprise visit to The 1839 House!   I know everyone outside of VT thinks we see them all the time, but we do not.  They are very private animals and do not want to be seen.  Driving hither and yon, (i.e., to work and back), I see deer, wild turkeys, guinea fowl, foxes, the occasional bear, and wolves...moose not so much. They are elusive and a personal visit makes one feel privileged. Since moving to VT 8 years ago, this is only my third moose sighting in our fair state.


I can't think of a better way to wrap up a great weekend with one of my dearest friends!

Meghan xo