Nothing worth a damn comes easy, does it? Just ask Gary Shane. The North Shore rocker, a fixture on the local music scene for, like, evah, decided to put together something for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a benefit concert. Raise some bucks for the organization, you know? About time, right? I mean, the guy has been living with MS since the mid-1980s, when his band, The Detour, broke with the monster hit "Shadow World," and over the past few years has organizaed multi-band benefits for disaster relief in Japan and Indonesia, so it makes sense that he would do somethng a little closer to home, so to speak. So, in April, Shane put together a bill that combined local scenesters like EJ Ouelette and Crazy Maggy and Wade Dyce and Imojah and the Skylight Band with the crowd from Tavern at the End of the World, the Charlestown venue, Natalie Flanagan and Trusty Sidekick, as well as the current versions of Shane's Detour and Silvertones bands and the Heygoods, a country-soaked duo featuring Dave Champagne, who goes back with Shane to the pre-Detour days, who played with Boston blues legends, and Morphine prototype, Treat Her Right. And, for whatever reason, and we're not pointing fingers, the benefit didn't do quite as well as everyone had hoped, pulling in only $800. Which, although more than a little bit disappointing, financially, especially considering the amount of work that went into putting the thing together, did help finance a live recording from the show, which will also benefit MS. And that's when everything started falling off the rails and, unexpectedly, opened the door for something truly special.
Recorded live April 28 at the Rowley VFW, site of Shane's 2004 benefit for Tsunami victims, where he opened, a la Spinal Tap, for a sock puppet collective, Benefit Concert for MS, the rather bland title for the 14-song collection, was a breeze. The performances cherry-picked, edited down to two songs per band from the eight-hour show. The disc, which is available at Dyno Records or through Shane's website, garyshane.com, opens with the words "Rowley, this is for you" and a stirring, silky and soulful cover of "Sweep Over My Soul," the reggae classic, by Imojah and the Skylight Band, the reggae act fronted by ex-Cultural Roots singer Wade Dyce, which was actually one of the last songs of the night, but a performance that, in leadoff position, sets a hopeful tone for the album. Standout tracks include "Oh Mary," EJ Ouelette and Crazy Maggy's irrestible take on the spiritual classic; Flanagan's "All For Your Love," scorching, steeped-in a Crazy Horse vibe, garage energy, with her trademark languid, breathy vocals; a powerful, anguished performance of "Black Rose" by Tim Carey and Trusty Sidekick; and, dug deep from the repertoire, the Silvertones' "Joy Ride." Shane and the Detour close things out, naturally, with Shane's signature rocker "Johnny's Coaltrain."
The two-song-per-band dictate was also in effect, although, luckily, it turns out, not enforced at an impromptu (re)performance at Tavern at the End of the World, built around a photo shoot for the album. Only, and this was kind of a problem, attendance was kinda shabby. Oh, an audience turned out, just not the bands — not many of them, anyhow. Shane was there. No one from his bands, though. Flanagan and the Sidekicks were there. It's home court for them. Ouelette and Maggy had other commitments. The Heygoods were there, but Champagne, due to scheduling difficulties, looks like he would like to be some place, any place, else, judging from the photograph. The highlight of the evening was a killer set by Dyce and Imojah, which will be released as a full-length album later this year.
Then, shortly before collecting the tracks from the Rowley concert, the hard drive on Shane's Mac shed its virtual coil, wiping out not only the mastered tracks, but also the complete sets the bands played as well as untold gigs of other music files. It could have been a disaster, but, luckily, Shane had burned the test disks of the Rowley show, so the project went forward.
Technically, the recording is a little ragged. Lots of crowd noises, sometimes you can even follow individual conversations. It also has one or two typos in the documentation, but the album captures the mood and hopefulness of the event. It is available at Dyno Records or through Shane's website, garyshane.com.
And, for the record, so to speak, Shane will be a part of another MS benefit this month, this time taking a back seat to Tony Sarno, the former Blood, Sweat and Tears guitarist, at 3 p.m. Sept. 22 at Weirs Beach, Laconia, N.H. The concert, being billed as Tony Sarno and Friends, will feature Gary Shane and the Detour, Imojah and Eric, Don Beane & The Nonames and other, as-yet-unnamed, special guests. A portion of the ticket price will be donated to the MS society. If you purchase a block of 5 or more tickets you can be listed as a sponsor on the T-shirt if you so desire. The show will be held in "the big white tent" next to Heat Restaurant on Route 3 in Weirs Beach, just across from Funspot. Concert tickets are $20 and can be purchased at www.tonysarno.com. To donate directly to the National MS Society, check out nationalmssociety.org and specify "Jam for MS." For tickets,visit the store at www.tonysarno.com.