Vineyard vocals sounding out

Vineyard Sound 3

By Julian Wise - August 9, 2007

Twelve years ago, photographer and music aficionado Peter Simon embarked on a project to document the musical talent in the Island community, from local to international artists. The result was "The Vineyard Sound," an album of songs produced by Mr. Simon that would go on to spawn three more full-length albums in the series. This summer Rhino Records is releasing "The Best of the Vineyard Sound," a two-disc compilation that culls tracks from the first four albums while adding newly recorded singles by up-and-coming artists.

The collaboration with Rhino Records came about serendipitously when Mr. Simon met Scott Pascucci on Lucy Vincent Beach through mutual acquaintances. During their conversation, Mr. Simon discovered that Mr. Pascucci is the president of Rhino Entertainment and had been aware of Mr. Simon's previous Vineyard Sound recordings. The two met the next day at Mr. Simon's house to discuss releasing a best-of album on Rhino, and before long, the wheels were set in motion.

Mr. Simon, a longtime fan of the Rhino label, describes the collaboration as "one of the most breathtakingly exciting things that could happen to me."

Last winter he mapped out the project and started compiling a set list. In March and April he booked studio time with local recording engineer Jim Parr and recorded four new songs ("Wake Up to the Rising Tide" by Miguel De Braganca, "Into the Mystic" by Joanne Cassidy, "Levitate" by Lucy Vincent, and "When You Leave Your Body at Home" by Nina Violet) to mix into the previously recorded tracks. The final list includes 30 songs in the

folk/blues/rock/reggae genres. Local artists include Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish ("Rockin' My Life Away"), Maynard Silva ("Stand On Your Head"), Entrain ("Shine On"), Michael Benjamin ("Traffic in Paradise"), Willy Mason ("Oxygen"), and Jennifer Kish ("Natural Beauty"), while familiar artists with Island connections (Judy Collins, Jonathan Edwards, Tom Rush, Richie Havens, Toots Hibbert, John Hall) appear on the disc. The Taylor family is represented on the discs by members Livingston, Kate, and Ben. Carly Simon's "Never Been Gone," an ode to Martha's Vineyard, appears in the collection as well as "Island Vibration," a song by the late Jamaican drumming legend Winston Grennan.

While Mr. Simon is accustomed to recording Island life visually through photography, he says there are parallels with audio recording.

"It's very much the same for me because I try to get to the essence of what makes the Island unique, either visually or with music."

He says the ocean is an important factor in quantifying the Vineyard Sound, with the lyrics and song themes inspired by waves, boats, fishing, and other maritime themes.

"It's folk rock with a rural, nautical quality," he says. "It's melodic and easy on the ears."

Julian Wise is a contributing writer to The Times.