Storytime, With Jeff Pitchell

Jeff Pitchell has stories.

Like the one where he meets Don Imus just days before the legendary shock-jock gets
booted from the airwaves.

Or the time he tried to serenade Red Sox owner John Henry from the dock where his yacht was moored.

How about the fact that Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez is married to his cousin, a marriage that has seen its share of tabloid coverage?

The bottom line is this; Jeff Pitchell, blues-rock guitarist, songwriter, storyteller extraordinaire, gets around. He comes to Infinity Hall on Nov. 25 and tickets are on sale Sept. 17.
“I don’t know how I get myself in these situations,” he laughs. “It’s not like I have that type of personality where I am always pushing to get in front of people. It just happens.”
Pitchell’s baseball ties run deep. Not only does he have the connection to Rodriguez, but he has sung the National Anthem at Fenway Park and his last studio release “Heavy Hitters” has a baseball-themed cover with a picture from the grandstands seats.
“I was playing at Black Eyed Sally’s in Hartford and this guy was there who said he was with the Red Sox,” said Pitchell. “He told me to send a tape in and so the next day I recorded ‘Our National Anthem’ and ‘God Bless America .’ They called me in a week.”

Pitchell played a second gig at the ballpark again, this time in a private party for Boston’s Mayor Menino.

His run-in with Imus has more of a whirlwind feel.

“So the guitar player from the Commitments has a heart attack and the band calls me up,” he says. “They buy out all my dates and I go on the road for 20 straight days. One of the shows is on ‘Imus in the Morning’ and when I get off the bus this lady takes me to a dressing room. I’m sitting there eating a Danish and Imus walks in. It’s his dressing room! He wants to know who the hell I am and I tell him about the guitar player from the Commitments having a heart attack and how I’m the fill-in guy. Four days later he says something stupid and is gone.”

Sweet On You

Bobby Sweet’s a local boy, living over in the Berkshires of Western Mass. (a dumbfoundingly gorgeous place). He’s a country singer/songwriter who’s played with high-profile dudes like Waylon Jennings and Arlo Guthrie.

There’s little to see on the Web, but I did find this charming and intimate recording of Sweet performing with Adam Michael Rothberg. They’re funny, and they have a warm rapport with the audience.

Sweet’s also an activist (is this more aptronym behavior?), working extensively with Habitat for Humanity, a volunteer aid group. You can see pictures of his work in Nicaragua with H4H, as well as his trip to Argentina, where he went on songwriting sabbatical. He’s a local boy, let’s welcome him to Norfolk this Friday.

Gonna try to get in touch with him, too. I’ll keep you “posted” (haha get it!)

Shades of ‘Colour’

Like their sprawling, sophomore offering Time’s Up (1990), Living Colour’s soon to be released 5th studio effort, Chair In The Doorway, is awash in a myriad of genres, influences and technology.
I caught up with band founder/guitarist Vernon Reid recently, who was kind enough to enlighten me on some of the standout tracks’ background stories.

Vernon on: “The Chair”
“You know, the disc is called Chair In The Doorway, and people see the song ‘The Chair’ and wonder if it is a concept album. If it was, it was unintentional. We certainly didn’t set out to say ‘we are going to right a suite about the chair.’ It was just a working title (singer) Corey (Glover) had about a concept of his…chairs in the doorway…. And it ended up becoming a keeper.”

Vernon on: “Young Man”
“This track is like a young dude, getting all decked out for the club. His best shirt, shoes…. Just knowing he’s got it going on. But when he gets there, the women are happening, but of course, there are some in clicks he can’t break in to. Other dudes have more confidence than him and are making moves faster, and other ladies are coming in with men. So his options get more and more limited… we’ve all been there.”

Vernon on: “Not Tomorrow”
“At one point, during the recording, (bassist) Doug (Wimbish) turned to me and said ‘this is Vodoo Chile.’ And it occurred to me then, we were going into Hendrix terrain, and the thought had never occurred to me before that.
Between this and bless those, it’s also the first time I’ve ever played slide twice on one album.”

Vernon on: “Bless Those”
“This is a roadhouse blues rocker, with slide, and we’ve been playing it for some time live. So, we go into the studio, and naturally, we are trying to tweak it…add elements of electronica.. whatever. But the thing is, songs take on lives of their own, and this song was meant to be a straightforward blues rocker, we concluded. And besides, people already liked it, so why fix what ain’t broke? And of all the tracks on the Chair – mostly due to overdubs and the like – this song is really the one that sounds exactly the same live as it does on the disc.”

To take Vernon up on his challenge, check out Living Colour on Sunday, Sept. 7 at Infinity Hall…and/or watch below!

Hay You Guys!

So Colin Hay’s show is this week, and if you all remember, I spoke with him last month. I thought I’d put up a little more from our interview:

Hay’s pals with sometimes-indie-spokesman Zach Braff, who certainly didn’t hurt Hay’s career when he included one of his songs in the movie “Garden State.” And on “Scrubs,” there’s a whole dramatic musical-sitcom sequence, the characters each singing parts from his song, “Waiting for my Real Life to Begin”:

Hay told me he and Braff were friends for years, and that they had a couple of mutual friends. Braff was keen on Hay and landed him his spots on “Scrubs.”

“It really gave me a new lease on my career, if you like,” Hay said, though he added there’s plenty of non-Braff-related stuff he’s worked on, too. Just this month, his new record, “American Sunshine” is coming out.

Really, Hay’s voice is lovely and husky and soft, and his music is soft and acousticy enough to be soothing and sexy with indie cred, but not too singer-songwriter to be ghastly radio garbage. Infinity Hall suits him perfectly.

He’s up on Aug. 27.