The wall of fame at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton is filled with dozens of framed press photos that span several generations of artists who’ve played the club since its 1979 opening. Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, Odetta, Jeff Buckley, Wynton Marsalis, and even Camper Van Beethoven are all hanging there somewhere. We need to update the wall one of these days and we will surely include these new faces, tomorrow’s musical vets, all of whom are booked to play at the Iron Horse in the weeks ahead. Dig the new breed.
Sam Amidon, Brown Bird- Monday March 28th 7PM
Sam Amidon favors folk standards that belong to no one and everyone. It sounds quaint, and maybe that's why some people who'd really enjoy his strange, surprising songs have overlooked I See the Sign. But Amidon's no folk purist, and for two albums now he's called on friends like classical/popular music bridge-builder Nico Muhly to help transport old stories into the 21st century. The genre that could comfortably accommodate otherworldly murder ballad "How Come That Blood" has yet to be invented. And R. Kelly cover "Relief", stripped of its contemporary R&B source codes and reframed by Amidon's New England twang, feels kind of unprecedented, even in this cross-pollinating era. The Vermont native is boyish and low-key in person, and on stage could be your roommate taking a break from his Xbox to grab a beer and tell you this sad, incredible story he heard the other day about a man who killed his wife. You may have heard it too. But it was never so moving. --Amy Granzin/Pitchfork
Nicole Atkins – Friday, April 1st 7PM
Three years after her debut album, Neptune City, Nicole Atkins returns with gripping ferocity on Mondo Amore. From the first track, “Vultures”, Atkins’ toe-tapping, foot-stomping, hip-swaying music moves through your bones. With years to perfect it, every note and beat seems crafted with intention and care, accentuating her equally deliberate words. The songs play like anthems, commanding you to sing along as her lyrics tell a long-awaited story.
Through the process of making the album, she broke up with her boyfriend, her band and Columbia Records, choosing to produce it on her own and eventually releasing it on Razor & Tie. “It was like the ending of life as you know it. It’s funny because most of the songs are about those three things at the same time, so in a lot of breakup records you want to point fingers, but I don’t think that this record is like that at all.”
Effortlessly blending rock, blues, country and soul, Atkins has delivered on Mondo Amore with a collection of songs that invites you into her world. Even the more somber songs are sung with a gritty earnestness that carries the energy of her more vibrant songs throughout the entire project.
William Fitzsimmons, Slow Runner -Sunday, April 3rd 7PM
William Fitzsimmons is equal parts songwriter and psychotherapist, creating captivating music, which uniquely melds depravity, honesty, and autobiography into a counter-intuitive seamless whole. Since 2005, Fitzsimmons has created three full-length albums, each thoroughly themed and embossed with matters of family history, intimate disclosure, and bold confession, yielding rich folk music, ranging from the stark and acoustic to the voluminous and electronic. All the while reflecting William's commitment to addressing what is always pressing, and yet all too often ignored.
Fitzsimmons' path into music came at the influence and education of his parents, both of whom filled his childhood home with a myriad of instruments, sing-a-longs, and theoretical instruction. However, far from being a mere pastime in the Fitzsimmons' household, music was a communicative necessity between William and his parents, both of whom being blind, relied on the language of music to bridge the relational gap between themselves and a child who experienced the world entirely differently from them.
Fitzsimmons' new release, Gold In The Shadow, is a musical reflection of his personal resuscitation and psychological renovation, which took place in the years following his divorce. Based on a specific set of psychopathological disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV), he describes the songs as "a real and long coming confrontation with personal demons, past mistakes, and the specter of mental illness that has hovered over me for the great majority of my life."
Sharon Van Etten, Lady Lamb The Beekeeper - Friday, April 15th 10pm
Intimate and hushed, Sharon Van Etten's folk tunes tend to quiet any room she plays them in. These are the type of nuanced songs that can render a crowd breathless.
Van Etten was introduced to an eclectic blend of folk and rock 'n' roll while growing up in Nashville. She worked her way to Brooklyn, and after a national tour in support of her debut album, Because I Was In Love, she turned to Epic, a seven-song LP that was one of NPR Music's favorite records of 2010.
Lined with melancholic heartbreak, Van Etten bears it all — the betrayal, the obsession, and everything that comes along with collapsed romances. But where there is dark, there is also light, and she is not afraid to demonstrate her hopeful side. Epic is definitely an album beaming with learned experiences and growth, leaving every listener with something to take away.
Tickets for all shows are available at Northampton Box Office, 76 Main Street, 413-586-8686, online at IHEG.com.