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Four More Vermont Albums You Probably Haven't Heard


Published July 30, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.

So many records, so little time. Seven Days gets more album submissions than we know what to do with. And given the ease of record making these days, it's difficult to keep up. Still, we try to get to every local release that comes across the music desk, no matter how obscure or far out.

To that end, here are four albums that likely flew under the radar of your average Vermont music fan. In some cases, they represent the outermost boundaries of local music. Others simply slipped through the cracks. But each is worth a listen.

Mary Ellen Melnick, Sacco and Vanzetti (The Italian Years)

(Self-released, CD, digital download)


Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian-born anarchists who were arrested — and many say framed, due to their extremist political views and the anti-Italian prejudice of the era — for murdering two men during the armed robbery of a Braintree, Mass., shoe factory in 1920. Despite ballistic evidence and eyewitness accounts to the contrary, the two were found guilty in 1921 and were executed in 1927. Protests and riots erupted around the globe.

On her new album, Sacco and Vanzetti (The Italian Years), local composer and pianist Mary Ellen Melnick brings their famous story to life. Presented as a single, hourlong work, Melnick's composition is stirring. The solo piano piece is in some moments elegant and serene. In others, it rumbles with mounting fury. Melnick's playing is sophisticated and precise throughout. But the emotion she evokes through her graceful keystrokes and dynamic passages is what resonates, and somehow cuts wordlessly to the soul of Sacco and Vanzetti's tragic tale.

Deb Brisson & the Hay Burners, Heart Shaped Stone

(Self-released, CD, digital download)


Deb Brisson is a Middlebury-based songwriter who claims the likes of Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt as her primary influences. On Heart Shaped Stone, her latest record with her backing band, the Hay Burners, Brisson lays those inspirations bare. Over 11 tracks, engineered and produced by the Grift's Clint Bierman, she delivers a roots-fueled take on rock that aims for Raitt's swagger and Harris' sensitivity.

While she doesn't break molds, Brisson largely succeeds at synthesizing the music of her idols. Along with co-songwriters Pete Ryan, Mark Pelletier and Mark Brisson Jr., she presents an agreeable take on heartland rock that should find a welcome audience with local Americana fans. Brisson is no Bonnie Raitt, but she knows her way around an alt-country hook and sings with fire.

Falgar, Lejanía

(Self-released, CD, digital download)


Falgar is a pseudonym of multi-instrumentalist and composer Etienne Goldberg Santini. Santini began work on his latest album, Lejanía, while living in Puerto Rico in 2007. He has since moved to Vermont, where he finally finished and released the album, some six-plus years later. A note on the CD's back cover states, "Lejanía is dedicated to a young woman who I love and who visits me in dreams. May this album find you."

If it does find her, Santini's mystery woman will find a sweeping, emotionally bold 45 minutes of instrumental music that sounds something like Mogwai on Prozac — in a good way. Dark and elegiac, Lejanía is beautifully disorienting by design. It hypnotizes and seduces through a shimmering array of guitar-based suites, urging you, likely at your own peril, to follow Santini into the mouth of madness.

The Irregulars, Waiting for Wisdom

(Epact Music, CD, digital download)


If the Irregulars seek wisdom, then accepting the tutelage of local folk and traditional music guru Pete Sutherland ain't a bad place to start. The Shelburne-based band is composed of six high school students who have been performing together since 2007. Their debut album, Waiting for Wisdom, released last year on Sutherland's Epact Music label, is a lively collection of originals and traditional fiddle tunes from the British Isles, Québec and Cape Breton that suggests they've heeded their mentor and really don't have long to wait after all.

The band's takes on trad tunes such as "Big John McNeill" and "Big Scioty" are well considered and executed. But the album's true source of strength is its original works. Accordion and banjo player Laura Harris' "The Morning Person" has a timeless lilt and is a wonderfully crafted fiddle tune. Mandolinist and fiddler Oliver Scanlon emerges with clever reels on "On the Morgan Deck" and "Descent of the Snark." And the two team up on the album's ninth track, "Amidst the Clouds/Waiting for Wisdom," a cut that veers more toward contemporary acoustic music than the preceding jigs and reels, yet maintains a vibrant traditional feel. Kids these days...

The original print version of this article was headlined "File Under '?'"

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