Randy Smith & His Band of Merry Men, Special Guests, Return To Northern New England
emCider Magazine Bellows Falls, Vt. Nov. 2013
ALSTEAD, NH - Randy Smith and His Band of Merry Men are soon returning to the area, which means if you have not yet seen this group of veteran, northern New England musicians… it is simply time to come, listen and experience it for yourself. Sponsored by Drew’s Salsa in Chester, Vermont, Randy and the boys will be performing an intimate show at Alstead, New Hampshire’s Mole Hill Theatre Night Club on November 27, another opportunity to see this great band up-close and personal!
Photos by Joe Milliken 1. Randy Smith and Roy Brown 2. Scott Campbell and Rich Abel 3. Gary Spaulding
Currently based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Smith is a Billboard and International award winner and with his original rock band - Vermont’s own 8084 -Randy has toured throughout the United States and Canada with such national recording artists as Blue Oyster Cult, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter, Foghat and April Wine. 8084’s self-titled debut release in 1987 was produced by former drummer of the band New England, Hirsh Gardner. (Remember that name)
Smith formed the Merry Men over a year ago, which includes fellow 8084 band mates Gary Spaulding on drums and percussion and Roy Alan Brown on bass and vocals, as well as veteran Long Island guitarist Rich Abel and national award-winning and U. S. Fiddler Hall of Famer, Scott Campbell. “The Merry Men began as a simple project, which would allow me to perform and spread my music with a live, singer/songwriter format,” Randy Smith said a in a recent Cider interview.
“Over the last five years my style of song writing has become more intimate and dare I say, ‘mature.’ I look around and based upon my own life experiences, I feel I have much to share with the audience with regards to the everyday struggles and joy that we all experience… creating this connection is what drives me now. For me, I’m simply the conduit that connects perfect strangers together through the songs and various emotions.”
The new arrangements of Randy’s songs combine an alt-country vibe with a certain rock sensibility. A unique, balanced blend of guitar, fiddle solos and pristine vocal harmonies. When you see them perform live, you can sense the connection which all members feel onstage. “The vocal harmonies and vibe from the fiddle,” Roy Brown stated. “Along with Randy’s professionalism and experience, I really can feel the chemistry within this mix of individuals.” Scott Campbell added, “I really enjoy the electricity generated by the guys in this band.”
Guitarist Rich Abel feels much of the same; “I really enjoy playing Randy’s original music in an acoustic setting. The songs cover a gamut of genres and emotions which really moved me when I first heard them - and having come from an acoustic band myself back in the 70’s, this really seemed like a great opportunity. We all love the vocals, which can really be heard and appreciated within this venue, as opposed to a screaming rock band. All the members of this group bring a certain talent, which is quite complimentary to each other… plus it’s just a lot of fun!”
The Merry Men set list includes a selection of songs from Smith’s previous solo CD titled Bittersweet, including “Cowboys,” “All My Life,” “Savannah’s Song” and others, as well as several fan-favorites from Randy’s days with 8084 and killer versions of such rock classics as Kansas’ “Dust In The Wind” and Rod Stewart’s “Handbags and Gladrags.” One can also expect to hear a surprise sprinkled in, as well as a special guest or two.
So how might this band be different from Smith’s previous musical experiences?
“I believe, one of the main differences is the actual purpose of the music,” Randy explains. “When I was younger, it was all about making it big, partying, getting the girls, accolades and bravado… most musicians revel in the spotlight and I believe it is to fulfill something that is missing or needed to make them feel whole. However, at this point in my life, I think I’m very relaxed and content with who I am and my surroundings.”
Smith and the Merry Men will also be performing with a couple special guests, including the aforementioned Hirsh Gardner, who will be opening the show. Formerly of the band New England and an amazingly talented drummer, vocalist, guitarist and producer, Hirsh and Randy have worked together and been friends going back to the mid-1980’s. “I’ve been working with Hirsh since 1986 and over the years we have become close. A few months ago, I reached out to Hirsh and invited him to a show in Concord, NH… he opened the show and performed a few songs by himself. As always, it felt so natural.
“Additionally, he and I have spent a lot of time in the studio on various projects, so we decided to also work together in recording some of the Merry Men material over the next six months. Hirsh is an amazing talent and as a previous “Boston Producer of the Year,” you can bet he really knows his stuff… I mean, this guy has played to a sold-out Madison Square Garden and has worked with such artists as Todd Rundgren, The Ramones, Extreme and others.
“So we asked Hirsh to come along with us for the next few runs to open up the shows and join us on stage. We plan to pull out a few more songs from my previous material, as well as adding another fiddle-based song written by Scotty (Campbell)… it’s a hoot when we do the jig-type thing with this band! We’re planning on having Hirsh on stage for a few songs, including an acoustic arrangement of the New England hit “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya.” (Something this fan cannot wait to hear!)
Also guest appearing at the Alstead show will be the up-and-coming Holly May Brown, a 16-year-old singer from Charlemont, Massachusetts who possesses a powerful voice and bright future. Holly May’s YouTube video for her song “Go Big or Go Home” has gotten over a million views, she recently signed her first record deal with SoNo Recording Group and has been recording at Castle Recording Studio in Franklin, Tennessee. Holly’s debut, five-song EP will be released later this month.
Having seen Smith and the Merry Men perform live on two occasions, this music writer can tell you first hand, the musicianship within this band is stellar and the chemistry for real. “The band has really rounded into form quickly and the treatment and arrangements of my songs have become what I had envisioned with this line up. Like Robin Hood, the Band of Merry Men look to spread positivity and helpfulness, for I have been fortunate in my life and think it is the responsibility of each of us to lend a helping hand and give back as much as we can. So when discussing our band, don’t think green tights and ale, think camaraderie and support!”
Another important aspect is the feeling of family within the band, a team of musicians sharing the same gratitude for the music and the art itself. “Everyone likes the material and there are no egos in this band,” Randy concluded. “This isn’t about making a lot of money and becoming famous it’s about going out there and touching the audience each night. There’s a vibe that you feel, a certain sense of power when everyone on stage is working together to provide each person in the audience with something they can take home with them.”
The November schedule for Randy Smith and His Band of Merry Men include shows at The Arts Block in Greenfield, Ma. (Featuring Hirsh Gardner and Holly May Brown) on the 23rd, the Mole Hill Theatre Night Club in Alstead, N.H. (with Gardner, Holly May and Lonn Livengood) on the 27th and The Venue in South Burlington, Vt. on the 29th (with Holly May and guitarist Ry Malroux of Rumble Doll). For ticket information, please contact each venue individually or visit Randy Smith’s Web site at www.Randotunes.com.