Intimate North Adams concert assembles New England talent

Hidden away in this corner of Massachusetts, we are still afforded the opportunity to see incredible shows, even in spite of our remote location. Saturday night I went to a concert which featured three of New England’s top bluegrass, country, indie and folk bands right down the road in North Adams – and it’s safe to say  I’ve discovered the next Mumford and Sons.

At the very last minute, Kingsley Flood – the band that had initially enticed me to attend the showcase – dropped out; I had considered not going at all. However, I’m glad I changed my mind and got to hear Poor Old Shine: These guys are absolutely amazing and are sure to succeed in the music world.

Also playing that night were Brown Bird, and Jason Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons. The headliner of the performance, Brown Bird, is also worth a listen; the group was made up of talented musicians and created a great stage show. This charismatic duo from Providence, R.I., has been together since 2009 and should also be headed for greatness: David Lamb and Morgan Eve Swain showcase their strong instrumental talent at a time when these skills have fallen by the wayside for many musicians. Swain, for example, is a classically trained violinist. Alternating between the guitar, banjo, fiddle, cello and upright bass backing their harmonious lyrics and soothing vocals, this flavor of American folk music is a nice, warm treat for fans of bands like the Devil Makes Three or Trampled by Turtles.

Fellow Rhode Islanders Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons were not personal favorites, but seemed quite popular around the North Adams Elks’ Lodge, the local community center in which the show was held. Fletcher makes for a cute, angry-looking frontman with an incredible voice, perfect for fans of George Jones or Hank Williams. Everyone should check out the group’s standout song “Drunk and Single.” While you may not be an avid country music listener, it is impossible to deny the emotion behind the genre’s ballads, and this one is no exception. Their first album, Bury Your Problems, received widely positive reviews after its release in 2007, and was closely followed by their second full-length, White Lighter, in 2010.

Finally, Poor Old Shine took the stage, and put on quite the incredible show. To all you native New Englanders: Poor Old Shine is made up of five guys who met at the University of Connecticut Folk Music Society and have been playing as a band since they were accidentally booked together for a show in December 2010. What a miraculous mistake: Their musical talent is great, they play virtually every instrument found in any folk song (banjo, ukulele, washboard, etc.) and their music, which they write themselves, is perfect. They are still based near their alma mater, in Storrs Mansfield, Conn., and released their first E.P., Treadless Soles, last February; rather endearingly, albums are packaged in little sleeves made of cereal boxes that the band members paint themselves.

The Lodge is very quaint: The walls are mounted with stuffed elk heads and signs promoting “charity,” “justice” and (a personal favorite) “brotherly love.” Throughout the show the audience members weren’t just tapping their toes – they were step dancing! Seeing this band perform in this intimate environment was reminiscent of the Mumford and Sons’ concert in the band’s hometown.

I spoke with Poor Old Shine’s lead guitarist and vocalist, Mark Shakun, and he told me that all he wanted was “to make people feel like dancing, feel like they’re a part of it, that the [music], it’s theirs.” Shakun and Poor Old Shine definitely made me feel like dancing, and I hope you’ll check out their website and give their exciting material a listen.