(Malletts Bay Records, CD, digital download)
This just in: Tropical Storm Irene was bad. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the devastation the storm caused in Vermont. Millions of dollars in damage. Scores of families displaced. Businesses, homes and roads literally washed away. The weeks since Irene hit have been among the most trying in our state’s history. But in a way, the storm’s aftermath has also proved to be Vermont’s finest hour. The outpouring of goodwill from every corner has been phenomenal.
In particular, the local arts community has become a rock. Whether through the headline-grabbing exploits of Phish and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, or smaller-scale bennies at nightclubs and bars, Vermont’s artists have gone above and beyond the call. But there is still work to be done. As such, the latest help comes by way of tiny local imprint Malletts Bay Records and its charming new sampler, Vermont (Vermont Artists for VT Relief).
The 18-song CD features a who’s who of local contemporary folk, pop and Americana songwriters, from established veterans such as Patrick Fitzsimmons, Aaron Flinn and Patti Casey to fresh faces such as Casey Dubie, Justin Levinson and Hotels & Highways. While the album doesn’t offer much in the way of new material — most of the music here has been previously released — it is nonetheless a fine collection of Vermont music and a worthy addition to the record stacks of local aficionados and do-gooders.
The album bears fairly predictable thematic threads. The bulk of the tunes offer perspectives on the importance of hope (“Work It Out” by Hotels & Highways) or observations on loss (Gregory Douglass’ “Havoc”) or serve as odes to the Green Mountain State (Diane Zeigler’s “December in Vermont”), But the songs are cleverly arranged so as to form a sort of narrative that outlines the events of Irene and the ongoing recovery.
Bluesman Seth Yacovone leads off with “Measured Mile,” from his most recent double album, Land of Split Decision. His blues-rock gives way to Americana star-to-be Erin McDermott and her moody “folk-ass” — that would be a hybrid of folk and bluegrass — number, “Time to Go.” Later, Bow Thayer checks in with “Good Time to Holler,” a rowdy tune from his 2010 release Bottom of the Sky that, amazingly, deals with a river overflowing its banks. How’d he know?
The record’s second half offers a more introspective and hopeful gaze. Lowell Thompson provides a welcome jolt of sneering alt-country angst with “Pictures.” Douglass returns with his sweetly melancholy “What a Long Year It Was,” from his 2010 Christmas EP, Merry. The holiday cheer continues as Amber deLaurentis serves up her second cut of the record with the decidedly upbeat jazz-pop tune “All Year Long.” The album closes with Patrick Thomas’ pretty, yearning yuletide charmer, “Giving My Christmas.”
Vermont (Vermont Artists for VT Relief) is available at malletsbayrecords.com and iTunes. All proceeds from the album go to Vermont Hurricane Irene Relief and the American Red Cross.