Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Frame kicking out the jams for schools

Fans have been bugging Liz Frame for product for the past two years, ever since the Newburyport musician jump-started the career she had all but abandoned for marriage and motherhood and put together the Kickers — a tight, country-tinged acoustic act known for solid playing, tight harmonies and just plain looking good on stage. Not a bad problem to have, if you think about it, but frustrating if you can’t give the fans the answer they want. But the long dry stretch is just about over: The first official Liz Frame and the Kickers CD will be released next week, just in time for Music Matters — a Kicker-powered Oct. 2 Firehouse concert that will directly benefit music programs in the city's public schools. It's not the full-length Frame fans would like to see, but it's a nice taste of what the band does. It includes three originals and a cover — a haunting take on Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love," which strips all the groovy from the flower power classic to reveal a wold of hurt spinning in a subtext of sin.

The band, which takes its name from a Gram Parsons song ("Grievous Angel." the lyric is "Out with the truckers and kickers and cowboy angels.") came together two years ago. Frame, who bounced around a lot as a kid, landed in Boston in the 1980s and 1990s. She was 20 years old and had been playing guitar and writing songs for about a third of her life, and established herself in the country music/rockabilly scene in Boston. Marriage and motherhood pulled her away from the kind of commitment needed to make it in music. She moved to Newburyport in 1993 to be closer to her parents. She raised her daughter and opened Fancy Schmancy, an artists' outlet that also sells vintage jewelry and accessories, and settled in. She got back into music two years ago, after her mother died, hitting the open mikes, including the one run by Lucian Parkin and Kristine Malpica, a percussionist who owned and operated Imagine Studios, at J. Bucks. Malpica, who plays a cajón percussive box, introduced her to multi-instrumentalist John Longo, late of Crazy Maggy, and a band was born. Lynne Taylor, long a presence on the Port scene, joined the band after seeing the then-trio open for the Mystixs. Since then, they've been growing a fan base — quite successfully.

The eponymous and long-overdue Kickers release caps an unusually creative and productive  period for Frame, which included a month in which she wrote 10 new tunes — all of them keepers. "I don't know what came over me," she says. "That never happens to me. They started coming out faster than I could write them down. They just came through me. I must have been channeling something."  She took them to the band, which. she says, is more or less a democracy, and they got it almost immediately. "At this point they stop being mine and become the property of the band. They make the song come alive," says Frame. They were recorded live at Kray Studio, a new Newburyport recording studio run by Benny Zanfagna, the Port guitarist and saxophone player. The songs that did not make it onto the CD, including "Don't Cry," originally meant to be the anchor for the new EP, and three non-Kicker tunes recorded with ex-Mystics guitarist and all-around local ace Bobby Keys, will be released as singles on iTunes and with other Internet distributors.

For the Firehouse show, the Kickers will be joined by the Dearhearts, a sister act from Frederick, Maryland, whose tight harmonies and well-crafted original material reflect their love of and connection to Appalachian culture. They even do a cover of "Old Susanna." Yeah, the old Stephen Foster song. Taylor will perform a solo set. “I am so lucky to have her in my band,” says Frame. Guest musicians will include Zanfagna and Bill Plante.

Proceeds benefit the Newburyport Education Foundation and, ultimately, the city's music programs. "Nothing beats making music," says Frame. "It has been a terrifically important part of my life for my entire life, and it really pains me to think that, because of budget cuts, kids aren’t getting the kind of education in it that they deserve. If I can do anything to promote and encourage musical growth in kids, I will. Hopefully, this Firehouse show will do just that.”

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Liz Frame and the Kickers will headline Music Matters, a concert that will directly support music programs in the Newburyport public schools, at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Firehouse Center for the Arts. Also performing will be the Dearhearts, a rootsy sister act from Frederick, Maryland, and a solo set from Lynne Taylor. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or by calling 978.462.7336. Special guests will include Bill Plante, of on piano, and Ben Zanfagna on saxophone and slide guitar.

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