Soundbites: Ghosts of Pasha, Jo Henley
The last we heard from Burlington indie trio Ghosts of Pasha , they had just set a record for the quickest club clear-out in recent local rock memory. But it wasn’t really their fault. The scene was a steamy summer evening at The Monkey House and the band had the unenviable task of following Burlington ex-pat Neil Cleary  and a special pre-wedding performance from local garage rawkers The Cave Bees . Burlington scenesters past and present came out en masse to celebrate the impending nuptials of Bees co-founders Steve Tremblay and Rebekah Whitehurst. By the time GOP took the stage, this particular grand old party was, frankly, rocked the hell out. What else would you reasonably expect from a roomful of hipsters pushing middle age? Apparently, even the cool kids have bed times.
Fortunately, the band took it all in stride and promptly embarked on a lengthy U.S. tour. According to drummer/keyboardist Milo Finch, not a soul walked out on the band during the group’s summer road trip. Kudos!
The group is set to release not one, not two, but three CDs, collectively titled Way to Go Glove, on their brand-spankin’ new label 2LOFI4U . Also in the works are re-releases of the band’s past EPs. Wednesday, February 6, Ghosts of Pasha celebrate the birth of their new sonic triple play at The Hub , the latest (only?) entry into Johnson’s club scene. The band follows up the performance with a taping for local late-nite funny-ish man Tim Kavanagh’s “Late Night Saturday”  show on WCAX, set to air Saturday, February 16.
With all the fretting over the so-called “brain drain” siphoning the state’s best and brightest away for greener (i.e., more lucrative) pastures, it’s easy to forget the phenomenon has been affecting our music scene for, well, about as long as we’ve had a music scene. “Dude, I gotta move to the city,” is an all-too-frequent refrain among struggling local artists and musicians. As if fleeing to NYC suddenly gives your band more cred or, in the most delusional cases, talent. (Pssst . . . it doesn’t.) Anyway, it’s always nice to see local products come home, if only for a visit.
South Burlington High School grad Ben Lee — no, not that Ben Lee — has been living in Boston and playing with a group called Jo Henley . Lee co-founded the band in winter 2006 with fellow Boston-based songwriter Andy Campolieto and released an EP entitled Long Way Home shortly thereafter. The Americana group describes itself as “Neil Young meets Nickel Creek with the dusty backroads feel of Whiskeytown.” Frankly, that’s not far off the mark.
The twangy sextet certainly owes a hefty debt to the likes of Young and early Ryan Adams. And with playful mandolin licks and fiddle refrains, there are definite echoes of the dearly departed Nickel Creek. Their seven-song debut drew rave reviews from Beantown critics and garnered comparisons to the work of alt-country godfather Gram Parsons. But, honestly, what contemporary country-rock outfit hasn’t been compared to the late, great grievous angel? There must be some unwritten rock-critic code that if a band fuses country and rock, you have to mention Parsons in the review. But I digress.
No one will ever confuse Jo Henley with The Byrds or The Flying Burrito Brothers. But Lee and his cohorts craft fine alt-country tunes laced with heart-on-sleeve lyricism and deft, tasteful musicianship. A full-length album is planned for March of this year. In the meantime, Burlingtonians can welcome Lee home this Thursday as Jo Henley opens for Hartford’s The Matt Zeiner Band  at Nectar’s.
Speaking of Nectar’s, in celebration of the fifth anniversary of the venue changing ownership, “the house that Phish built” is undergoing yet another facelift. The changes won’t be as dramatic as when owner Damon Brink and company completely renovated the legendary nightclub, turning the joint from a genuine dive bar to a legitimate venue. But they’ll be noticeable.
Priority number one: overhauling the women’s restroom, which I’m told is pretty nasty. Also planned are more televisions throughout, additional brick décor, new seating, an expanded wine list and a renewed emphasis on barbecue using local meats and produce.
Thankfully, the renovations will include Club Metronome, which will receive new floors, lighting and updated bathrooms. I wonder if that means there will finally be a door on the stall in the men’s room? Or maybe even draft beer at the bar? A guy can dream, right?
The upgrades are a continued response to a survey conducted shortly after the club changed hands, based primarily on suggestions made by patrons. Many viewed the initial modifications with a degree of skepticism — including yours truly. But it appears the folks at Nectar’s really do have the best interests of music fans in mind. And while the awkwardly skinny stage may be gone forever, at least the club is in good hands.
We haven’t heard from local jazz guru James Harvey in a while. In fact, it’s been almost a year to the day since my predecessor, the estimable Casey Rae-Hunter, wrote about the very show  I’m about to mention and used a nearly identical opening line. Weird.
At the time, Seven Days reported that Harvey had taken a bit of a hiatus from composing and performing, citing the inevitable burnout that comes from playing in crowded bars for decades. Shortly after that report, the onetime Giant Country Horns  trombonist — that would be Phish’s horn section — played a couple of gigs and then promptly receded from the public eye. But like February’s groundhog, this Friday Harvey will poke his head out to get a read on the weather — musically speaking — and perform a solo jazz piano show at St. Leo’s Parish Hall in Waterbury.
Though best known for his trombone work, Harvey is also an accomplished pianist, and Friday’s performance will be a rare opportunity to see a master at play. Drawing from an expansive repertoire including works by Duke Ellington, Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hart, the reclusive musician also will present a few of his own weighty compositions.
Harvey is a local legend in the jazz scene, and many of today’s up-and-coming acts, such as guitarist Nicholas Cassarino  and ace trombonist Andrew Moroz , owe him a huge debt of gratitude. As do we all.