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The genuine article
Stefan Couture and company keep it real on Ghost

Stefan Couture is pretty tired, but it’s a good kinda tired. Last night, he and the band played an unofficial CD release party in New York City at Kenny’s Castaways, where he and his band, the Campfire Orchestra, headlined. They were awake following that party ’til about sun up. "It was so much fun," says Couture. "The place was packed wall to wall."

The fellas will be having a local shindig to celebrate their new disc, Ghost In the Rearview, their first as a real band, at Chan’s this weekend. The show sold out, and the tickets went quickly enough to prompt the venue to add a second show on Sunday. So just what is going on here? Is this one local band that’s actually been tearin’ it up?

"People are diggin’ it, I guess," says Couture. "People can relate to us. We’re not trying to be anything other than ourselves. I think our audience sees us as a bunch of everyday guys; we have no preconceived notions of being rock stars. It’s just genuine. People can see that from their first time at our show."

That regular-guy phenomenon is clearly one thing that’s pushing the band to a good place. Since winning a Phoenix Best Music Poll award for Best Roots Act this year, Couture and company have parlayed that honor into bigger and better gigs in outlying areas. Best of all, they now have an audience everywhere they go. "It’s pretty crazy," says Couture. "Last night, a lot of people came out. The kids are coming out, and some of them are even bringing their folks. It’s not like we’re a cover band or anything, but it’s little things that people see in us that they really ‘get.’ It just connects."

According to Couture, that cross-generational connection is made because his music is universal and "touches upon the human condition." Plus, there’s a little of the old school spirit of songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Damien Rice. "I don’t really understand how we get such a broad cross-section," he says, smiling, "but people come out of the woodwork."

If last weekend in NYC was any indication, the band won’t have much trouble selling their new record. Ghost In the Rearview is a collection of accessible, melodic, and soulful tunes. It has a slightly jazzy, acoustic-based foundation, adorned with funk and passion. Co-produced by Couture and Chuck Ladouceur at Red Dog Studios in Blackstone, Massachusetts, it leaves Couture’s debut disc in the dust with its full-band feel and rhythmic ensemble performances. "We’re all really excited about this record," says Couture. By "all" he refers to bandmates Chris Ryan (bass), Shawn Leonard (drums), Brian Brouillard (sax), and John Cook (keys). While they don’t yet have the luxury of devoting themselves to the band full-time, all of the members work in music-related fields.

"We all believe in what we’re doing — we’re really proud of it," he says. Recording over the better part of the past year, the band put every available dime into getting the disc done and getting it done right. "Chuck is a great engineer," says Couture, "and he’s got a great facility that nobody seems to know about! He does unbelievable work."

Listening to Ghost it’s obvious that Couture and Ladouceur had common goals for the project. It’s an organic work of entertaining intensity and laid-back grooves. "Holden Caulfield" and "Cadillac Road" show incredible promise, and not just on a local/regional scale.

"Every song carves out a different territory. It’s timeless in that way," Couture says. "It doesn’t fade away. It just keeps staying with you."

The official release party for Stefan Couture and the Campfire Orchestra is on Friday, November 26 at Chan’s. A second show will take place on Sunday, November 28. Call 765-1900.

SONG SUNG BLUE. Local girl Diane Blue is building up a little steam. Blue’s most recent momentum-shifter is a germinating musical collaboration with Texas bluesman Sherman Robertson. That partnership finds a home in Rhode Island when Blue and Robertson play a handful of gigs in and around the state.

"Sherman has taken notice of little ol’ me and my blues harp," Blue writes, "and we’re in the beginning stages of working together." Blue cut her teeth singing professionally in the early ’90s in Newport. She started playing blues harp in the mid-’90s when her friend Paul White shoved a Hohner in her face and said, "See what you can do."

Blue has hit plenty of venues around Rhode Island — coffee shops, local bars, outdoor festivals, private parties, wedding ceremonies and receptions, and Catholic church services. Wherever they’ll have her.

For his part, Robertson is slightly more storied. He has played with the rhythm section of Little Feat and recorded with Paul Simon on Graceland. He’s had much success in the UK, and will be touring Europe next spring. Blue and Robertson will perform at the Cape Verdean Club in East Providence on Sunday (the 28th). On Tuesday (the 30th), the duo is doing an unplugged gig at Billy Goode’s in Newport, and they’ll be at the Newport Blues Café on December 2, performing all-electric blues stuff. Click for venue and gig details: www.dianebluemusic.com.

BLACKSTONE BENEFIT. The 8th Annual Blackstone Benefit will be a boon to the Cumberland Animal Shelter. The money will go to the shelter’s volunteer fund, which pays for veterinary care for the injured or sick animals. The benefit runs from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. and will include at least 13 acts — a mix of full bands and acoustic performers. So far, in order of appearance, the evening sounds tres promising: Missi Ryan, Maggie Salzberg, Arturo Got the Shaft, Justin Lyon, Melt, Mark Cutler, Fat Daddy, Brian Twohey (formerly of Veritas), Backlash, John "Crawlin’ Snake" Mac, Path of Logik, Stereopurr and, for the grand finale, the Threats. Tickets are $10 at the door. You can see the event flyer if you direct your browser to www.blackstoneclub.com.

Wandering Eye. The Goners play the Safari Lounge on Saturday (the 27th) with Los Filthys, Sanityz Edge, and the LeftOvers The show starts at 9 p.m. and there’s no cover.

Funkatronic are brothers Justin and Paul Caraher. Justin plays drums while Paul plays guitar, keyboard, and bass. They combine originals with classic funk covers by the likes of James Brown, George Clinton, Rick James, and Kool and the Gang. They ’ll be at the Bon Vue Inn in Narragansett on Saturday. The web address is funkatronic.net.

Not too long ago, Zox released their debut full-length, Take Me Home. Lots of laborious touring and traveling later, and the band has moved a whopping 7500 copies of that sucker, and they’re poised for more — even as they work on a new record. You can catch them in a prime headlining slot at Lupo’s on Saturday with State Radio (with Chad from Dispatch), Toothpick, and Gavin Castleton (of Gruüvis Malt). Incidentally, this is a rescheduling of the late October show at the same venue that was cancelled when violinist Spencer Swain fell off the stage and broke his arm. Darn kooky violinists.

Two awesome shows at AS220. On Friday at 8 p.m., it’s Misery Index, the Nightmare Continues, I Destroyer, Nerve Gas Tragedy, Feed Us Fetus, and Terminally Your Aborted Ghost. Nothing like a little hi-decibel metal and grind for your Thanksgiving come-down. Then on Saturday at 9 p.m. it’s the Angry Pirates (jam rock from Providence), Mirra (Spanish power rock), and Elemento Solo (rock original en Espanol). Cool right?

The Blizzard Of 78 are playing the Century Lounge on Saturday with Too Ugly For Radio and Mustache Ride.

E-mail me your music news at big.daddy1@cox.net.

Issue Date: November 26 - December 2, 2004
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