The winter crowd that gathers Thursday nights at the Ritz in Oak Bluffs is already familiar with the show put on by Mike Benjamin, Johnny Hoy, Kevin Medeiros, Jessie Leaman, Delanie Pickering, Willie Mason, and a cast of other first-rate musicians who call themselves the Edbury All-Stars one night a week. Band members drop in and out that night, making the sound even better than it was before they joined in. The way they banter and adjust to the different styles of each member makes it clear they make up a community within the Island community.
Starting next week, Tuesday, Jan. 30, anybody can hear these talented Island musicians and others during nighttime jock Alison Hammond’s “Local Music Café” show on MVY. It airs Tuesday nights at 9 pm, and then is rebroadcast on Sunday evenings at 8.
Hammond and Laurel Reddington, production director and head of community affairs for MVY, and another Island gem, vocalist, songwriter, and bartender at the Ritz, Rose Guerin, put their heads together and came up with the idea of recording on-Island performances live to be aired on MVY once a month. Rose went to her manager at the Ritz, Kelly Freitag, and she and Ritz owner Larkin Stallings were willing to give the idea a try. The first recording session took place last Thursday, Jan. 18, with the Edbury All-Stars, and producer Phil daRosa (Philly D to most everyone there) was at the Ritz to take it all down. They’ll tweak the recording at the MVY studios, and best case scenario, next week everyone will hear the show on the radio just like it happened.
DaRosa has produced CDs for Community Chorus performances at the Old Whaling Church, but the audience noise from that show was likely to be a bit different from what he encountered at the Ritz on a Thursday night.
Back on-Island several years now after spending some time recording and producing in Western Massachusetts, daRosa’s already worked with most of the people who play with the All-Stars, either individually or with other musicians. He’s a singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and studio engineer on his own.
“My passion is performing and playing,” daRosa admitted last Thursday while he was setting up his equipment, “but I do also love producing other people’s music.” He said he hopes by airing the Local Music Café sessions, everybody can enjoy a taste of the Island’s homegrown music scene.
A few musicians came early last Thursday, grabbing a bite to eat or a cold drink before the show started at around 7:30 pm. It didn’t seem to matter to them whether they would be recording or not. They would enjoy playing that night no matter what.
“I’m just the harp player,” Johnny Hoy said between bites of a monstrous salad. “I think it’s great though. This place has become the heart of the music community.”
Musician-singer-songwriter Willie Mason sat down with daRosa for a pre-show conversation. He’s back home before heading out on a tour of small venues in the U.K.
“I’m glad there’s going to be a recording of what we’re doing,” Mason said. “Maybe the recording will catch some of the fire we’ve been lighting.”
For MVY’s Hammond, hosting the new local show will be something she’s wanted to do for a long time. “Rose came in to see us about Ladyfest a few months ago, and she stirred up my hope about doing other things,” Hammond said. (Ladyfest was an all-female headliners show at the Ritz back in October that raised money for Community Services’ Connect to End Violence program.)
“When Rose described this, I thought, ‘It’s what I’ve wanted to do for years.’ And here it is; sometimes the universe just makes things fall into place,” Hammond said. “We’ve all been thinking the same thing, we just had to find each other.”
She’s been at MVY for 19 years, and Hammond said she still loves it when artists get excited hearing themselves on the radio. And the indie sound of MVY means she has access to music from all over the world.
“I was in Copenhagen and heard a great band, the Jake Green Band, at a blues bar called Mojo,” Hammond said. “It’s a place that looks like the Ritz, and this band plays the blues. Music really is universal. I brought a CD back for Bill Narkiewicz [morning-show jock at MVY].”
Hammond and Reddington were getting ready to listen to the Edbury All-Stars last Thursday, and it was the first time for Hammond.
“This is my favorite part of the night,” she said. “These are our guys, this is home, and it’s really cool.”
“This place right here, just oozes exactly what every one of us needs … connection,” Reddington said. “It’s our haunt.”
“You don’t have to ask anyone why they’re here,” Hammond said. “We all need a hit of what we’re going to get here.”
Guerin was busy checking on everyone, making sure they were comfortable, and seeming a little nervous, wondering whether the night would be a success.
“They’re the All-Stars, but every person stands alone, and that’s why I wanted to start with them,” Guerin said. “We all have our own little parts. Everybody stands alone, but when they work together you get this magic.”
Listen to “Local Music Cafe” on MVY Radio, 88.7 FM, or at mvyradio.com.