By MIKE CHAIKEN
Fans wanted it. The fans got it.
The Northstar Session’s Matt Szlachetka explained the band’s decision to record and release its latest double-album, the live “Echoes from the Canyon” was based on the requests of its fans.
Matt, calling from his home in the Laurel Canyon in California explained The Northstar Session’s previous three albums—- 2011’s “Late Bloomer,” 2010’s “Winter Collection,” and 2008’s “New Prehistoric Times”— were all studio recordings. Each album had a variety of approaches to The Northstar Session’s music. There were full-blown arrangements, guitar driven songs, acoustic tracks.
Matt said fans told them that every album by The Northstar Session, which includes Matt on guitars and vocals, Kane McGee on drums, and Dave Basaraba on keyboards— was great. But none of the studio recordings really represented the group’s acoustic shows.
So, Matt explained the band found some time in its schedule to record its acoustic show. And they decided to do it. The result was “Echoes from the Canyon.”
The Northstar Session plays Bristol’s Ingraham House on Saturday, Sept. 29.
Time was bands would regularly release double-album live records. Think Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive” or Kiss’s “Alive” or Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same.” They were all double albums that became hits and fan favorites.
But in today’s music market, a double live CD set such as The Northstar Session’s “Echoes from the Canyon,” is a bit of an anomaly.
Matt explained when the band considered the live set, they wanted to do something that offered a little bit of a twist to make it interesting for fans. Initially, he said, they considered a CD/ DVD combination where they would release part of the show on a CD and offer the entire performance on a DVD. However, they scrapped the idea for the video (opting to use it for promotional purposes only) and decided to include the entire concert on the CD. And then they spent more money on making the packaging special.
Matt said The Northstar Session was happy with the final result. And he said the fans have latched on to it as well.
As for how the band decided what and what not to include in the set list for the album, Matt said it was reflective of what the fans wanted to hear. The band also wanted to offer a good retrospective off their first three albums. And they were looking for songs with really great harmonies.
Additionally, Matt said The Northstar Session often would perform cover songs in concert, songs that had never been committed to record. Fans often thought those songs were the band’s own. And they were clamoring for them to be preserved on an album so they could listen to the performances when they left the show.
One of the most striking covers on the album is “I Shall Be Released,” which was written by Bob Dylan, recorded by Joe Cocker, and made most famous by The Band.
Matt said the decision to perform that song was a result of his love for the movie, “The Last Waltz,” which was a documentary by Martin Scorcese that caught The Band’s final performance before the members amicably went their separate ways. And “I Shall Be Released” was one of the tracks performed in the movie.
“I always loved that song,” said Matt of “I Shall Be Released.” And the rest of the band and the audience fell in love with it as well. So they knew it had to be on “Echoes…”
When The Northstar Session arrives in Connecticut, this will be the second time the band has performed at Ingraham House. The band was last there in February.
“The Ingraham House really stood out (on that tour),” said Matt. “It was one of the best, if not the best, show of the tour.”
The venue, which is an old New England mansion set up for acoustic musical performances, was a nice change up from performing at a nightclub, said Matt. Matt, who comes from New England originally, and he said he has a great appreciation of old homes such as Ingraham House.
Looking back at the February gig, Matt said, there was so much energy from the audience in Bristol. There were 50 people in the audience, and you would have thought there were 5,000. “We were just blown away… The reception we got, we just couldn’t believe it.
Matt said The Northstar Session was excited about getting a chance to play the venue again on Sept. 29. The show is the only house performance on the current East Coast swing of the band’s tour. “It’s a real treat.”
Although the band is currently focusing on promoting “Echoes from the Canyon,” Matt said The Northstar Session does have its sights set on its next studio release. “We have tons of songs we haven’t had time to rehearse. We’re writing and collecting ideas.”
Matt said the current tour its second to last of the year. It will be going out across the Northwest and playing two Los Angeles gigs in October. Then the band members will hunker down at home and reconnect with their families for a couple of months. Toward the end of January, Matt said The Northstar Session looks to regroup and begin rehearsing for its next album.
Although the direction of the next album is still in flux, Matt said he believes, given its more acoustic approach on “Echoes of the Canyon,” The Northstar Session will be more musically stripped down for its next release. He expects the musical balance to be tipped more toward the acoustic side of The Northstar Session’s personality than the electric.
The Northstar Session arrives at Ingraham House, 156 Summer St., Bristol at 7 p.m. The show is a $20 donation.
The band also has a gig scheduled for The Half Door, 270 Sisson Ave., Hartford on Wednesday, Oct. 17.
For more information, go to IngrahamHouse.org, TheHalfDoorHfd.com or TheNorthStarSession.com
By MIKE CHAIKEN