Bill Copeland Music News
By Bill Copeland
May 3, 2018
Bruce Marshall Group’s latest CD Borrowed Time leans more heavily into blues territory than their previous roots infested recordings. This was a wise decision to make because Borrowed Time is a really cool album that impresses with the band’s array of talent as it soothes the soul with its down and dirty depth.
Opening track “Caught In The Middle” is a pure, old fashioned blues shuffle. Marshall’s pure, matter of fact vocal contrasts well with the brittle, jazzy lead guitar beneath it. His call and response chorus is blues fun and hearkens back to the better days of blues. Lead guitarist Dave Cournoyer picks a dandy of a phrase before saxophone man Steve Roberge lets loose with a thin, breezy line that captures the spirit of this lively piece.
Title track “Borrowed Time” is one of those slow boil blues that works its way into something powerful, emotive. Marshall begins his steady climb toward his climatic finish with throaty authority and deep soul. With guest player Brian Maes’ organ swirl backing him, Marshall unleashes many of the things that have been going on in his heart and soul. He escorts us through his heartache days with true passion. Then, a lead guitar erupts and the song burns brightly, like a bonfire in the night.
“Flat Tire Shuffle” is a jump and jive party number. Its flinty guitar lines and hoofing groove make one want to dance and boogie all night long. The instrumentation in this song is very well drawn, with guitars that make one feel it, a groove that motivates, and a chirpy vocal that makes you like this gem even more.
“Devil’s In The Delta” gets a nice flavoring from Marshall’s dobro, a mesh of notes that percolate with greasy appeal. Cournoyer get his slide on with some tasty licks of his own. This one echoes with the ghosts from Delta past. It has the pain, hopelessness, desperation in its theme and in its sound. I can picture the anguished cotton pickers with each moping dobro note and in the urgent need that comes from the slide.
“Short On Cash” is a witty number that depicts the scenarios that result from cash flow issues. Marshall takes a more easeful vocal approach here. He goes through this mid-tempo piece with finesse and class, making his lyrical trip more of a jaunty joyride for his listeners. The free, jazzy guitar phrasing peppers this with another touch of class. This song has a way of feeling like it’s about the carefree lifestyle of those with nothing to worry about while describing those who don’t have enough. That contrast carries the song beautifully.
“If Dreams Were Money” is another slow boiler. Marshall’s smooth croon milks every drop of the emotive quality out of this. His cup of soul runneth over as he projects his powerful booming vocal over a steaming pot of tuneful guitar licks, simmering organ, and a thumping rhythm section. The ensemble work here is stunning, a band chemistry that finds the players showing their range with arcing parts of their own, coming together with smacking rests and stops.
Marshall must have been hard pressed to pay for this recording because he has so many songs on this album about being broke. “Overpaid My Dues” finds him discussing his financial strain which results from struggling to make it on the blues circuit. Roberge’s harmonica makes it own personal statement, rocking with the band while singing the notes with a steady verve. This one feels more Chicago, and the beat from drummer Pete Premo carries it off with well placed smacks.
“Smooth Ride Up” is exactly how it’s titled. Marshall’s strong solid croon rides along a cushy acoustic guitar line. With his easeful chorus and with the silky Denise Cascione on backing vocals, Marshall makes this into a catchy treat for the ears. It feels more like 1970s singer-songwriter material than blues but it’s still good.
Marshall nods to the musical past with “Victor Talking Machine.” The Group plays this one in a vintage style, when guitars were not as amped and the sound wasn’t as affected with effects. A tender guitar line picks out a timeless melody as the sax celebrates a 1920 jazz theme over a jazzy groove. Marshall infuses this one with a warmth and nostalgia that comes more from personality than his music, and that is just fine.
The down tempo “Sleepwalk” is graced by tuneful guitar lines, shadings that make one picture a person walking slowly down a sidewalk taking in all that surrounds him. While the picking and fret board style is mellow, the colors and tones suggest there is a lot going on in the emotive backdrop. Additionally, a rhythm guitar sprinkles the proceedings with a series of light, happy notes, thickening the vibe. When Roberge’s sax line moves in, the piece feels wider, fuller, and the listener feels that this well conceived piece represents a very important moment in someone’s life. “Sleepwalk” is a deliciously ironic title for a song that has so much going on below the surface.
“Friday Night Shoes” comes in cool and subtle with dual guitars picking flinty, drawling lines. Enter a shuffle beat and Marshall’s firm vocal assertions, and this piece kicks into first gear. One might want to line dance or boogie but no one in the room will be able to resist the allure of the upper registers or the pull of the groove. I can picture bassist Glen DiTommaso working his low end strings with snappy finger movements, pushing out this line with just the right amount of nudge.
Bruce Marshall Group close out with “Seeds Of Doubt,” a down tempo think piece about our society’s current state of affairs. Marshall’s strong vocal projection suggests there is hope for the individual to make his way through the miasma of misinformation and vitriol swirling around the media and public officials. His vocal sounds so firm and bluesy and rides the acoustic guitar blues line perfectly. He belts it with plaintive persistence as the brittle greasy notes sizzle beneath him,
Digging more deeply into their blues roots, the Bruce Marshall Group have come up with another strong album. Recorded at Soup Studio in Spencer, Massachusetts; and Powerhouse Studio in Lunenburg, Massachusetts; engineered at Major Minor Studio in Nashua, New Hampshire and JL Productions in Nashville, Tennessee with additional tracking at Tremolo Studio in Denmark, Maine, Borrowed Time has a nice crisp sound in every track. BMG will cement their bond with their familiars while make more people familiar.
Written by Scott McLennan of the Boston Globe, 3-13:
The Noise Magazine
By A.J. Wachtel
Pulling into the huge parking lot at Patriot Place, I’m thinking, 20 minutes out of Boston and I can eat, drink and be very merry here, and I laugh. Bruce Marshall is just beginning his set when I walk in and he plays a bunch of cuts from his latest CD, Misspent Youth. Marshall is a premier songwriter and his tunes are all hummable with memorable hooks and after many of the melodies you wonder if it was a cover you just heard or if it is an original composition; his radio-friendly music is of the highest-caliber and guitarist David Cournoyer (ex-the Vex) is one of the best unknown six-stringers in the area. “Say A Little Listen A Lot” is one of his typical uptempo power-pop tunes with jazz chords and a bit of swing mixed in and the crowd loves the sound. This is a good opening band for Roomful and everyone in the audience is here to have a good time. Bruce’s band sets the partying mood for the night.
The headliner’s set is so diverse: Jump. Swing. Blues. Rockabilly. R & B. Soul. And the sound system in this club is so good that their eight instruments surround you and sweep you away with them as they crush the room with their musical momentum. “Boogie Woogie Country Girl” by Big Joe Turner. “Jambalaya” by Hank Williams. “T-Bone Boogie” by T. Bone Walker are some of the covers they do and “She Walks Right In,” “Just A Little Love,” and “Time Brings Bout A Change” from their latest CD “Hook, Line and Sinker” showcase vocalist Phil Pemberton’s sweet and personal vocals. Every word he sings sounds like he’s singing it just to you in the audience. Chris Vachon’s great guitar is a treat also. And when trumpeter Doug Woolverton walks through the crowd while soloing in “Jambalaya” the night really catches fire. There is a lot going on during their music. During one song everyone onstage becomes quiet as baritone saxist Mark Earley plays the bass lines for a bunch of measures while alto/tenor saxist Rich Lataille plays the melody. Moments like this really shine the light on how good the musicians in this band really are. A great night just a stone’s throw from downtown Boston.
By Emily Tuttle
Thursday, March 12, 2009
No stranger to New England clubs and concerts, Bruce Marshall has kept impressive national stage company with the likes of Bo Diddley, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Greg Allman and The Marshall Tucker Band.
"I really enjoy the band format because of the interplay with the other musicians," said Marshall. "It's electric guitar and it's a more exciting show." But then Marshall described his solo acoustic gigs when the audience's attention hangs on his quieter melodies and more contemplative lyrics as a musician's dream. "There are some songs I've written that I just never perform with the band. Sometimes they just don't fit." Marshall recently wrote "There Go I" and said his teary-eyed wife insisted that he keep that one simple and away from the band. Yet memories of amped-up hormones at rockin' parties have stuck with the 54-year-old musician. His song "Dancehall Sweat" captures the energy of hot guitar licks and the need to move. "That hasn't ever changed," said Marshall. "I still get fired up for a show. I love the band's energy, and I like to feature my players a lot." Marshall turned pro immediately after high school and formed the eight-piece band Bruce Marshall and the Clue. They stick to their core blend of rhythm and blues, country and rock, said Marshall. The music matches Marshall's description of himself as blue collar. Songs about late alimony payments, delinquent taxes, tough times and needing a raise leave no doubt that Marshall knows a little about the working man. Marshall said he got many of his influences from the Allman Brothers and the late Toy Caldwell of the Marshall Tucker Band. By the way, the name Marshall was just a coincidence, he noted. Marshall played with Caldwell during the late '80s and early '90s and continues to remember his friend and mentor by playing Caldwell's "This Ol' Cowboy." Currently, Marshall and his band are spending studio time trying to complete a 14-track disk called "Misspent Youth. He has reconnected with blues musician James Montgomery and continues to take the stage whenever called. "I've been really lucky to always be able to do what I love. I've always been a full-timer and I really appreciate what that means. I guess you could say I'm a survivor." Despite tough economic times, Marshall said crowds have always been good. He believes that hard times are when people want to get out and hear music the most. Music helps people just feel good for a little while, he said.
BBS Fundraiser for BMG in Memphis a Success
The Bruce Marshall Group got a terrific kickoff on Jan. 18 as they geared up for the International Blues Competition in Memphis at the end of the month. The Boston Blues Society is sponsoring the band. A special fundraiser at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, N.H. nearly filled the classy new venue. Marshall said about $1,300 was raised, including nearly $500 alone from a raffle for the band’s CDs. The show was recorded live that night, with the disc available at the end of the show. The rest of the earnings, Marshall said, came from ticket and CD sales. He said steady donations have also come via the band’s Web site. Besides Marshall, who smoked on electric, acoustic, and resolectric guitar, the band - his regular ensemble - consisted of John Donahoe on electric fiddle, sax and mandolin (yes, he played all three, a lot, all night. And the fiddle is a beautiful shade of electric blue;) Dave Cournoyer on guitar, Jeff Manjeau on bass, and Steve Wolpe on drums. Although Marshall does the bulk of the singing, Cournoyer can hold his own, at times stealing the thunder, and Donahoe is great on backup vocals. They did two sets, and were called back for an encore, sprinkling a few classic blues songs (“I’m Ready,” “Messin’ With the Kid” and “Help Me”) with many original tunes and some country-flavored rock. “Help Me” was the big hit of the night, bringing a group up on the two postage stamps that served as dance floors. The club really could use a proper dance floor – maybe they clear out tables on other nights. It’s a BYOB establishment, but the newly renovated room provides stacks of wine and beer glasses, and plenty of corkscrews. Light meals - wraps, cheese and cracker plates, chili, and sandwiches - are available, at good prices, along with soda and desserts. Marshall said he plans to do six or seven songs the band played in Londonderry for the 25-minute set in Memphis. All of them are originals and include: Last Call, Dancehall Sweat, I Need a Raise, Say Little, If Dreams Were Money, Sorrow’s My Mistress, and Three Chords and the Truth. Marshall, a Sudbury native who has been in the Boston music scene for years, paid tribute to the Marshall Tucker Band, doing “This Ol’ Cowboy” in the second set. It turns out Marshall was in the Toy Caldwell Band, with Caldwell being the founder and lead guitarist for the Marshall Tucker Band. He also wrote many of their tunes. Caldwell, who died in 1993, left the MTB band in the 1980s, and hired Bruce Marshall to be his lead singer, keyboardist and guitarist for two years. Marshall’s own band was founded in 1991, and has toured extensively. They have five CDs released by AMT Records. Marshall, who was the runner up in the 2006 Boston Blues Challenge, performs more than 200 shows a year with his band, and with his duo partner, the fabulous James Montgomery; and as a solo act. He has shared the stage with the likes of B.B. King, James Brown, and Greg Allman. The International Blues Competition, the world’s largest gathering of blues acts, is sponsored by The Blues Foundation and its affiliates, including the Boston Blues Society. Last year, more than 90 bands and 60 solo or duo acts competed, from 34 states and eight countries. The finals will take place on Feb. 2 at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis. Prior to the finals, musicians and bands have a rollicking good time in the famous Beale Street clubs. If the Bruce Marshall Band kicks butt down south like it did that chilly night in New Hampshire, they’re sure to bring home the gold. Let’s all send good vibes, and more donations if you can spare it, with them! To donate, or for more information, visit www.brucemarshall.net. To read more about the competition or The Blues Foundation, visit www.blues.org www.blues.org
Singer-songwriters pump up volume at acoustic open mic
By Margaret Smith
Tue Jul 15, 2008
On a recent Tuesday night, musicians and their friends squeezed into the Forge Village Room at the Colonial Inn in Concord, harkening back just a little bit to the tavern’s 18th century beginnings.
For one thing, the small room was packed, and for another, this was not the time or place for fancy electronics. Save a bit of amplification, the performances were acoustic all the way, with folkish ballads and feisty subway songs. The emcee, Bruce Marshall, a longtime fixture on the local music scene, played a brief set before introducing the performers who had signed up.
When some pals in the audience heckled him good-naturedly, he called for security, which prompted raucous laughter – again, perhaps another echo from spirits of pub sings long past. Among those trying out both new tunes and beloved standards that evening were Rob Rowe, who played his own songs, wistful, angry and hopeful in turns. Marianne Pasts played originals also, with familiar folk themes such as looking ahead after a failed relationship brings disappointment. Kyle Johnson mesmerized listeners with a dreamy rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain.” He also honored one of his musical patron saints, Bob Marley, playing a jaunty “No Woman No Cry,” with audience members following along. The room exploded into hoots, cheers and claps when a subway musician duo, Rev. Busker and Rich, offered some fast finger work and tunes with the gusto that comes from playing over the thunder of approaching trains in the T’s underground stops – themselves legendary places for music. The acoustic open mic, which started May 13 and continues each Tuesday, has drawn performers from immediate towns in the area as well as from around greater Boston and beyond. “The first one we had, there were maybe five performers. By the end of May, the word was out and it had really taken off,” said Marshall, who said typically, about 15 musicians sign up to play during the open mic. Some are newcomers; others devoted regulars. Many have followed Marshall from the open mic he hosts Wednesdays at Firefly’s in Framingham. Among the musicians are veteran professionals who also play steady paid gigs. Others are just starting out; still others enjoy playing music but don’t usually venture beyond the open mic scene to share their talent. Many experiences “It is really a mix. You get people who have never played a gig in their entire lives, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t strong players,” Marshall said. “I’m blown away when they say, ‘I’ve never done anything but open mics.’” Open mics afford a musician the opportunity to test out new material, and for those who play out professionally, a chance to experiment with music in a way they might not be able to at their paid gigs. “There is not a real lot of pressure to just be absolutely impeccable,” Marshall said. “A person will start a song and then start over again. It’s not always going to be absolutely perfect.” In addition to serving as emcee, it’s Marshall’s responsibility to support the musicians in many ways, including adjusting the amplification, keeping things fair by allowing the same amount of time for each player, and in many cases, giving moral support. He also tries to put thought into the introductions for each musician and urges the audience to give their support as well. “People tell me it’s a very warm vibe, and not a stuffy, elitist kind of thing,” said Marshall. While different practices may prevail at various open mics, Marshall said, “I always stick to a first come, first served sign-up list. I don’t take e-mail sign ups in advance, for example. Some people say, ‘Hey, let us sign up the day before…but sometimes the people don’t show.” For Marshall, it has meant a steady opportunity to share his own music as well, and said he has picked up a few music students from the open mic. It has also created a forum of networking both among musicians and fans. The nature of open mics is a fluid history; open mic venues can have a long or short lifespan, and when held at a business such as a restaurant or coffee shop, can depend on how well those who attend patronize the establishment. Marshall said thus far, the Colonial Inn open mic crowd has been a buying crowd – “They eat up a storm,” he laughed -- but said he makes certain announcements a regular part of his repertoire. “As a guy doing this for 33 years, it’s automatic for the words, ‘ Take care of your staff’ to come out of my mouth. I have found that the open mic does better business in some cases than just a solo gig.” ‘A community’ Open mic participant Marianne Pasts, who lives in Falmouth but has family ties to nearby Lexington, has released two CDs and said open mics are invaluable as a means of promoting her work. “Life doesn’t let you do whatever you want,” she said philosophically, adding that she balances her music with being a mom as well as painting, among other commitments. Pasts met Marshall at his open mic at Firefly’s and decided to try out the Colonial Inn open mic as well. “He is unbelievable -- his energy, he is just so caring for all of us, he has helped others get features. She added, “ I have started to (meet other musicians,) had a gig with four bands and four single artists.” Of the circle of musicians she knows, she said, “I see it as a kind of community.” Pasts observed, “When you are committed to going on a regular basis, people come to see you.” But Pasts hope music open mics become attractive not only to musicians and their immediate circle of family and friends, but to others who simply want an entertaining night out. “An open mic would help any business owner, they do not have to pay us, and we are bringing people, it is a win for the owner, and for us.” For those who simply want to listen, she said, “There is quite a bit of quality music there. People can hear them for beer. We need to educate our audience that there is the possibility just to listen to music.”
October 28th was music legend, GE Smith's night - it was great to have him back at the INN. You might not recognize the name, but the strawberry blond ponytail is the style still worn by the former front-man for the Saturday Night Live Band (1975-85), and he's still got the music in him. Opening for GE were crowd-favorites, Bruce Marshall and John Donahoe - his man of a 1000 instruments - performing some of their most notable tunes. While Bruce switched guitars during their set, John moved easily from sax, to fiddle, to mandolin!!! They joined GE and his 'pick-up' band on their 2nd set. GE's back-up (bass player and drummer) had vehicular issues in Massachusetts, but the INN's Joe Lipton dialed a few numbers and found Josh and Frank. It took about half a song for the three to mesh into a cohesive, tight-sounding group. GE Smith, looking comfortable and at ease with his new best friends, did amazing things with his guitar, combined with his guy-on-the street vocals, and produced another memorable evening at the INN on the Blues.
Many Shades of Blues
Marshall knows them, plays them everywhere ...
by Richie Victorino
The Hippo Press
Say hello to Bruce Marshall, music man, blues man. A typical American fella, if typical means playing with BB King, Steven Tyler, Charlie Daniels, James Montgomery and, well the list goes on. Marshall is a New England music staple, in many incarnations. In the '80's he was Bruce Marshall and the Clue but he left that to wok with Toy Caldwell of the Marshall Tucker Band. In 1991 he formed the Bruce Marshall Group, and he continues playing with them. But when they're not touring, he has a comfortable gig alongside Montgomery (Montgomery and Marshall), as well as with Treated and Released, the acoustic version of the bluesy-rock Bruce Marshall Group. Treated and Released includes Buddy MacLellan, who played with Marshall years earlier in the band Whitecap. But Marshall is still not done. He also tours as the Marshall Duo and The Marshall Trio; the list of regular musicians he teams up with goes on and on as well. Last, but certainly not least, Marshall is a part of the philanthropic James Montgomery and Friends Whew, let me catch my breath. Marshall is a 30 year veteran of musician life, and knows what it takes as an independent performer to make it in the business. You've got to be able to play in every type of music venue. Marshall can. Marshall does. Some of his biggest acts are as a solo opener of the likes of The Doobie Brothers at Hampton Beach, Bryan Adams at the Civic Center in Providence, RI. and Chicago at the Verizon Wsireless Arena, Manchester, in 2003. The Bruce Marshall Group's sound varies from southern rock to R & B to country blues. Occasionally Marshall's sister and original member of the band Sally Marshall Griffin makes an appearance on stage with the quintet. The group's first album, "Love of the Ride," was released in '92 and their latest effort, the 14 track "Kalispell", was released in 2003. Two tracks from Kalispell. "Kalispell" - The title track opens with a country-like rhythm, though as opposed to whining about losing his dog, his girlfriend and his truck, Marshall happily sings of the open road and his goal of reaching Kalispell before the rain falls. "Kalispell is an uplifting traditional rock song full of catchy riffs and lyrics. "Can I Change My Mind" - All the musical components of this song make up a good foot taping, head-bobbing beat, but the melody of Marshall's vocals come off a bit like a Tom Jones song; take that as you will.
Interview with Bruce Marshall
By Craig Cumberland
How'd a Yankee end up in the TCB?
In '88 I had disbanded the Boston based Bruce Marshall and the Clue after a 7-year run, and was putting together the Bruce Marshall Group. In early '89 my close friend and agent Bob Duteau from the Don Law Co. told me he'd heard Toy Caldwell was looking for a singer and suggested I send a tape to Toy's manager at the time, Jim Tarabassi, who fortunately had heard of me as he was from Mass. I sent him a 5-song tape of my originals and they especially liked "If Dreams Were Money" and "What Kind of Fool". Jim played them for Toy who liked my voice and songs and agreed to an audition. I met Toy at a guest appearance he made with Charlie Daniels in Gardner, MA. and was told to learn "Desert Skies" and "Searchin' for a Rainbow" and jam with TCB (Herman Nixon on drums) at Meaghans in Scituate MA., during their sound check. As luck would have it, they got in late, there was no check...I sensed a missed opportunity so I took a chance and cornered Toy in his dressing room and played the tunes on my acoustic. He was real nice about it, dug it and told me to sit in during the show. In addition to the tunes they asked about, we did Can't You See, Stormy Monday and a couple others. Later, I got to play with Toy in their dressing room one on one with acoustics and he played some originals like "Texas" and "Answer to Love", the tunes blew me away and he asked me to play some of mine and liked my songs. We ended up passing guitars around to Tony and Pick and jammed until 4:30 AM. We hit it off in part because we had similar songwriting styles - a little jazz, blues, southern boogie, and I think he felt it was a good fit. Toy said the only problem was he mostly needed a singing keyboard player as they had 2 guitars already. I told Toy I played some keys and had the gear and he had me bring it to Sir Morgan's Cove in Worcester, MA and I did the whole show, singing about 5 tunes. After several more gigs with them including a stint on Nantucket I was hired in June of '89 as vocalist, keys and elec and acoustic guitars, and as Toy put it, became "the only Yankee I ever let in my band." After he hired me he said, "we're going to make incredible music together." Tony Heatherly was a huge supporter on my behalf and as Toy's closest confidant in the group; I know he helped get me aboard. It was a lot of work and it paid off. It was an exciting time with all kinds of positive things happening to the band just as I joined.
How long were you with the band?
A little over a year, from June of '89 to Aug. of '90. The logistics got tough at times, especially with one night southern gigs where it was hard to fly me down economically from the East Coast. I ended up getting my own project out in the fall of '90.
How'd you enjoy your time with them?
It was a great experience for so many reasons, I was mostly a New England based performer suddenly thrust at my first real road gig. We played everything from gin mills to theaters to festivals. One of my first shows was "The South Rides Again" with Skynyrd, Outlaws, TCB and Dixie All-Stars at Lowell Mem. Auditorium in Mass., a venue close to where I live (TCB was always strong in New England) All my old fans that came out that night made it real special. These were guys whose music I grew up with and it felt so natural to me. Above all, what still gives me goose bumps was the unbelievable musical chemistry with that lineup and later with Mark Burrell on drums. Of the live shows currently being traded, that lineup was on the Wetlands CD, Sir Morgan's Cove and Ace of Clubs in Nashville. We were so locked in; Toy was great with dynamics and dictating the mood of the band with his guitar. There was lots of room for extended jams and you never knew when he'd give you a "ride" so you had to be ready. We were getting raves from Charlie Daniels and Hughie Thomasson on our vocals and harmonies, it was a nice feeling. Toy got a lot more vocal rest as I'd sing "24 Hours", "Runnin like the Wind", "Take the Highway," "Welcome to the Human Race" "Heard it in a Love Song" and sometimes almost the whole show if his vocals were raw. Pick Pickens had a unique rhythm guitar style that meshed nicely with Toy's playing, Tony Heatherly is rock solid on bass, Herman Nixon was a real groove guy and solid, and Mark Burrell was very talented, coming from a little more of a jazz background like Paul Riddle.
You recorded This Ol Cowboy on your latest CD. Do you do any other Tucker or Toy songs live?
We do "Blue Ridge Mountain Sky", "Desert Skies", "Bob Away my Blues", Can't You See. Naturally we get requests for Toy's tunes because of my association with him. I occasionally get asked if I'm the Marshall from Marshall Tucker...then I tell them the story of the blind piano tuner...
The guitar work on This Ol Cowboy is the closest I've ever heard to Toy's. Did you intentionally try to replicate his sound?
Like so many others, I really liked Toy's tone and got to use his gear both onstage and in the studio and it brought me back to my Les Paul days in the 70's -later I played more Strats. Toy's semi-hollow body Gibson 335 deluxe (the rare blond model with no f holes) coupled with the red knob fender twins (bass and treble on 10, bridged) we were using at the time, gave him a warm bassy tone, especially when he used his favorite neck position humbucker. I must admit his setup was the catalyst for me to pick up a Gibson 335 BB King Lucille (also no f holes) and a Fender Hot Rod De-Ville amp (still my current setup) and naturally I used it on "This 'Ol Cowboy" to stay true to his signature sound. I'd say I didn't "intentionally" try to replicate his sound because for one, Toy's tone had a lot to do with his monster technique and how his thumb was striking the string, if you look at the videos of him, he had about 3 different attacks, the "pinch" (which he loved for rhythm playing) where his thumb and first finger hit multi strings together and then the straight thumb for warmth and the thumbnail harmonic he used for chicken pickin. Once in a blue moon he'd do folk style finger picking too. I think because I played with Toy, some of his guitar work rubbed off on me and it's almost second nature to play that way on his stuff. I've been playing Cowboy since the '70s so my own lines are going to be in there but I hoped I captured the spirit of his playing as a tribute to the amazing talent he was.
You say some very nice things about Toy in the liner notes. What did you learn from him?
So much it's hard to list it all...It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since he left us. I always admired how personable he was to all he met, a warmhearted soul. Toy treated me like a brother when I came aboard, really made me feel at home. Playing next to him taught me how to build a guitar solo, stressing dynamics, something so many musicians miss the boat on. He would bring the band down to a whisper, the crowds mesmerized. Tony counseled me early on and said, "if you don't learn the dynamics in this band you won't last long.." I had a live tape of their show and made sure I knew the music. Toy would do anything for his fans, always treated them like family, how many stories have we heard of Toy playing acoustic in the dressing room hours after a show for a couple lucky fans. I also learned a lot about songwriting, he helped me with some of my stuff and I wrote the lyrics to the second verse of "Texas on My Mind", which Tony and I use to share lead vocals on live. He showed me some original progressions he used for some newer songs and we were starting to bounce ideas off each other, which was very cool. I wrote "Welcome to the Human Race" for the TCB and Toy liked the tune enough to record it with Paul Hornsby. I believe it might be the only tune by a band member recorded by TCB. Those sessions were our first studio recordings with that lineup, it was a learning experience to work with Toy in the studio, he'd nail his solos first take every time. We did 4 tunes in 2 days at Muscadine in Macon.
You play in the New England area almost exclusively. Any plans to branch out to other parts of the country?
I'm hoping with my latest release "Kalispell", I'll get out of New England for a while and see how the rest of the country likes the Bruce Marshall Group. This is my 4th release with a great 5- piece lineup and it's going well, we had a real busy summer and just got off the road for most of Sept.
Who have been your musical influences?
The Beatles, Gregg Allman, Van Morrisson, Marvin Gaye, MTB, Duane Allman, BB King, Marshall Crenshaw, Robert Johnson, Carlos Santana
Is it hard for an independent artist to make a living playing music full time?
It is for many of them. Sometimes the price we pay for complete musical freedom is some rough times. I've been a full timer for 30 years and like many players, make most of my yearly income in the summertime at festivals, clubs, and special events. I found that being able to play as a solo artist helped me immensely as I get quite a few national openers as a solo. I've also had a duo with blues legend James Montgomery for the past 10 years and we've filled up our playing schedules when our respective bands are off the road. It's important to be able to cover lot of different musical scenarios if a major label is not supporting you. In addition to regular gigging, I sing on commercials, play at kids camps, do vocals for other songwriters, play at special events, benefits. I feel very fortunate to do what I love for a living and look forward to the musical adventures ahead.
12 Song CD
“Misspent Youth” (ATM): B+
Since disbanding his Boston-based band, Bruce Marshall and the Clue, in the late ’80s to form this group, it has been a long ride for the Concord singer/songwriter. Thankfully much of it is captured here in the group’s fifth recording. Marshall says the autobiographical core of the album is slightly embellished in its oft-visited themes of addiction, youthful ignorance, lost love and personal remorse, but his songs are so well-crafted that it all rings anew. With a Jesse Winchester-like skill for blending blues, country and jazz and a monster ear for a hook, Marshall’s tunes have a way of taking hold and resonating long after they end. Download: “3 Chords and the Truth.” (Appearing tonight at Smoken’ Joe’s BBQ and Blues.)
Boston Herald 6-11-10
Bruce Marshall Group
12 Song CD
Everything a listener would expect to hear from veteran performer Bruce Marshall's sixth and latest CD, "Misspent Youth", is prominent and evidently clear from beginning to end in this very professional and very listenable release. With many apparent blues influences and a sensible and well thought-out sequence of songs, each Marshall composition on the CD typically has a great melody, intelligent lyrics and a first-rate delivery: Bruce's superb finger-picking guitar playing catches your ear on every melody and whether he's playing the acoustic folk blues of "Slave To My Senses" and "There Go I", the first and last songs on this project, or the varied and more electric performances on the middle ten tunes, all recordings sound crisp and memorable, and each arrangement has the aural consistency, in the bigger picture, of being recognizable as coming only from this incredibly talented individual. Even the songs like "Blues In The House" and "Conscience As My Witness", two straight B.B. King inspired performances, still bear the Marshall imprint as do every other offering on this well-balanced mix of different blues sounds. The rocking blues of "3 Chords And The Truth", the college-radio friendly r&b of "Dirty Side Down", "Restless Soul" and "Gold", the Southern/Country feel of "Misspent Youth", "My Own Bed" and "Procrastination" (all with a stripped-down Marshall Tucker groove); and whether he's using an electric or acoustic guitar, Marshall has an instinctive pop feel to his musical persona and sometimes the strength of the song isn't in what notes he plays but in what tones he doesn't play and in the music's uniquely Bruce Marshall sound. And this sound is all his own and that's a very good thing; this is a strong CD from this consummate local professional.Last year, Bruce was selected and sent by the BBS to represent Boston at The International Blues Challenge, and "Misspent Youth" illustrates why his creativity is a good example of many of the best aspects of what our current local blues scene is all about.
Boston Blues Society
Bruce Marshall Group
Bruce Marshall has been one of my favorite performers ever since I heard him live with the Toy Caldwell Band. He was a member of the TCB from 1989 - 1990 and lent his vocals to many of Toy's classics like "Running Like the Wind" and "Take the Highway" as well as his own "Welcome to the Human Race." He's posted several videos from his days with the TCB at his web site brucemarshall.net. By the way, the TCB version of "Running Like the Wind" is a very cool, a slowed down moody version featuring some very evocative guitar work by Toy and lead vocals by Bruce.
Bruce recently released Restless Soul on ATM Records and it features 15 acoustic tracks. Many are his most requested songs like Angeline. Bruce offers several new tunes as well. Whether new or old, the album is sure to please. I highly recommend it as well as Bruce's other fine CDs including Kalispell, featuring a rousing seven-minute version of "This Ol Cowboy" or "Love the Ride" which features the TCB rarity "Welcome to the Human Race" (Toy on guitar, Tony Heatherly on bass, Bruce on vocals).
The haunting title track kicks of the CD and like all of Bruce's work it's impassioned. He has the ability to paint a clear picture to wherever his songs take you and this one is clearly reflective and definitely inspirational. "Slave to My Senses" is a soulful tune about the the "misplaced" passions and vices that at times can control us. "Sliver of the Moon" takes us on a smooth sail past the point and adventures beyond. Angeline is one of my favorite songs by Bruce and the acoustic version carries with it all of the angst of the original. There's a lot of tasty finger picking on "Impossible Companion" whose lyrics point out "just the same as everyone, we always say how things will be different" but "we cut and run." "Take Back the Night" hits the pain of senseless deaths head on. Bruce has never been afraid to get political and this song is a fine example.
The edginess continues with "Gold," a fervent song about greed and the sins that go with it. The mood lightens up with "Honey Dip" and it's jazziness is infectious. This song would be well served with the backing of a swing band and horns... How about it Bruce? "Calm Before the Storm" takes us on another lyrical journey that only veteran lovers can understand. "Good Things" carries an uplifting message about perseverance and standing tall. Things take a decidedly different turn with "If Dreams Were Money," a song that finds a man struggling with the fact that despite all his hard work monetary wealth hasn't come his way. Relationships are again in the spotlight on the "What We Had Is Gone," a dark tail about a lover scorned. In "Haunts You in the End" Bruce sings about the demons that tend to rear their ugly head just when we'd prefer them not to.
The CD closes out with two instrumentals "Flying Low" and "Crawdad Creek." The former os soft and breezy and the latter comes with a little funk. The whole CD is pleasing from beginning to end. Bruce is one heckuva talent and he has many CDs to choose from. If you're like me, once you give one a ride you'll want to test drive the others as well. They are all worth the time.
Bruce Marshall Group
My first introduction to Bruce Marshall came during the late eighties (or maybe early 90's) when Bruce was playing keyboards for The Toy Caldwell Band. I knew he was quite talented on the keys, b ut I had no idea what a talented multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and songwriter he is.
On his latest release, Kalispell, Marshall turns in a five-star album filled with fifteen great tracks, singing his heart out and playing lead guitar, organ, Dobro, national resolectric and acoustic guitar. Bruce is joined by some terrific musicians, and the sound reflects the best of 1970's Top 40, with hints of that Caldwell/Marshall Tucker sound peppered throughout.
Marshall's songs are great, especially the traveling "Kalispell," featured here in full length and edited versions. It's got all the earmarks of a radio hit. Then again, so do most of Bruce's tunes, the countryish "Dancehall Sweat," the introspective "Can't Cheat Fate," and the blues rocker "What Kind of Fool," which features guest James Montgomery on harp.
As a tip of the hat to his former employer, Toy Caldwell, Bruce does a knockout version of Caldwell's "This ol' Cowboy," it's a perfect fit among the other 14 tunes, adding just the right dash of essence to push this album over the top and into my list of the best of 2003.
-Michael Buffalo Smith
Bruce Marshall Group
Bruce Marshall, former member of the Toy Caldwell Band, recently released "Kailspell" on ATM Records. It features a great cover of This Ol Cowboy... and his rendition absolutely blows me away! While it stays true to the original's vibe, the BMG adds a very cool piece of themselves to one of the coolest songs that's ever been written. What's really amazing is that the tone of Toy's guitar is replicated better than I've ever heard before. If you didn't know, you'd swear it was Toy. It sounds like vintage MTB. Bruce says, "in the spirit of Toy's approach, we cut the song live with no overdubs. Only first take solos allowed!" He goes on to say, "I miss that man so much." If Cowboy were the only good song on the disc, it would be worth the price alone - but the CD is captivating throughout. It's not southern rock, but it some of the most refreshing stuff I've heard recently. Why is it that my favorite music of late has come from independent artists? Perhaps its because they can record whatever they damn well please and they stay true to themselves. This is certainly true of the Bruce Marshall Group.
The CD jump starts with a jazz flavored tune called Last Call and First Light. The horns also add a Big Band era vibe. And the rhythm section. Wow! It reminds me of MTB's George McCorkle and Paul Riddle. Lyrically, I'm reminded of my single days and the frustration those love forsaken nights could bring. The next song takes us to Kalispell; a town near Glacier National Park that Bruce encountered while riding his motorcycle to Yellowstone. This song is just begging me to take it for a ride to the Sierra's so I can roll down the window, crank up the volume and take in the smell of the pines and the freedom that the mountains bring. Great songs take you on a journey and this one takes me for a soul cleansing ride without ever leaving home. There is some sweet, sweet fiddle playing that accentuates this theme. It's an anthem I haven't stopped playing since I got it. The quality of my speakers are being tested for sure.
You Can't Cheat Fate is a powerful message about the angst we all feel trying to figure out why things happen the way they do. The bittersweet feeling is captured perfectly both lyrically and musically. Dance Hall Sweat is a roadhouse rocker that fondly recalls those teenage days when bands played dances (instead of DJs). A Charlie Daniels style fiddle accompanies the track. Actually, this would make a great CDB song... Say Little takes you back to the 40's - I know my Mom would love this tune. The band is versatile and this tune is but one example. While it reminds me of the 40's, the electric guitar solos and interplay substitutes for the horns that would have accompanied the tune back then. And there's a line at the end that cracks me up. Too funny!
Can I Change My Mind is a cover of the R & B song that was a hit for Tyrone Davis. This rendition oozes with coolness and soul. Again, the guitar work is outstanding. And you gotta love that sax! Cold April Rain brilliantly captures the mood of a cold, rainy day. It smolders with subtle intensity. I would love to hear this song performed live - it's the kind of song that's just begging for extended treatment. There's some very fine sax work at the fade. What Kind of Fool picks up the tempo and is highlighted by harmonica and the type of background bass singer that makes women swoon.
I Need a Raise is a rockin' little shuffle that would be a crowd pleasing sing-a-long in concert. Paper Trail carries the monetary theme all the way to bankruptcy and jail. A dark smoky song, it is appropriate for these days of uncertainty and sadly all to biographical for many. The seven minute cover of This Ol Cowboy follows. Rescue is a forlorn song about heartache and 20/20 hindsight. The down on your luck theme continues with Man Out of Time though musically the tempo picks up - and it captures the turmoil of the lyrics nicely. House Lo Mein, an instrumental, reveals the versatility and strength of musicianship of the Bruce Marshall Group. This is one tight band. I hope that a double-live CD is on the horizon because for those of us who can't make it to the East Coast, we need the privilege of hearing this band at what I'm sure is an unforgettable show. I have no doubt they absolutely smolder!
The CD features a ten-page booklet that includes liner notes, lyrics and insight into why Bruce wrote or chose to record each song. He definitely gives his fans their money's worth!
I first heard Bruce Marshall on a live Toy Caldwell tape (Upper Saddle Creek, New Jersey, 1990) and was blown away by Welcome to the Human Race. Paul Hornsby said, "it has all the makings of a hit." That song - performed by the TCB - is featured on the BMG's debut CD "Love of the Ride", released in 1992.
by Craig Cumberland
Bruce Marshall Group
Bruce Marshall has been on the New England music scene for years and has paid his share of dues. His first recognizable project came in the eighties with his band The Clue. For most of the nineties he has fronted his crack band the Bruce Marshall Group, as well as performing as a duo with New England blues legend James Montgomery. During that time he has released vinyl albums (remember them?) and CD's and performed continually throughout the region.
On his latest album "Kalispell," Marshall and his band, Dave Cournoyer on guitars, John Donahoe on saxophone, fiddle and mandolin, Jeff Majeau on bass guitar and Bud MacLellan and Pete Premo on drums and percussion, walk a fine line between pop rock and country twang. Marshall's got a great voice while guitarist Dave Cournoyer doles out some of the slickest guitar licks ever heard. Bruce Marshall's lyric writing and music reflects a true slice of Americana that appeals to everyone from bikers to stoners to baby boomers. Sporting a tight band, great songs and a world-class delivery, The Bruce Marshall Group has a real winner on their hands with "Kalispell."
BRUCE MARSHALL - CONCORD'S ROCK JOURNEYMAN
by Allen Pratt
The Middlesex Beat
PO Box 395
Shirley, MA. 01464
Concord musician and songwriter Bruce Marshall made a brief announcement near the beginning of a recent performance held to celebrate the release of Kalispell, the Bruce Marshall Group's new CD. Car trouble was going to delay the arrival of one of his band members, Marshall explained to the expectant crowd at the Sit-n-Bull Pub in Maynard.
A less seasoned performer might have betrayed some sign of anxiety. After all, CD release parties don't happen every day, and the instruments and equipment for a five-piece band were at their places on the otherwise empty stage. But Marshall is a veteran rock and roller - a "blue collar musician" in his words. He confidently assured his listeners that help for the disabled vehicle was on its way. He then entertained the gathering with a solo set that displayed an agile voice, talented songwriting, and a facile, melodic guitar technique.
The audience was thoroughly entertained by Marshall's performance. And before long, the complete Bruce Marshall Group flanked him on stage. Car troubles forgotten, the band set the crowd on its feet with a revved-up evening of music featuring a rich foundation of classic Southern rock, soul, country, and swampy rhythm and blues.
The Bruce Marshall Group is Bruce Marshall, lead vocals and guitar; Dave Cournoyer, guitar and vocals; John donahoe, saxophone, fiddle, mandolin, and vocals; Jeff Majeau, fretless bass; Pete Premo, drums; and Bud MacLellan, drums and percussion. The band has most recently played nightclubs, ski areas, and other venues in New Hampshire and Maine, and can be heard at eastern Massachusetts's locations including the Sit-n-Bull and Ashland's John Stone's Inn.
Marshall has worked closely with many of the music industry's big names, including Toy Caldwell and blues legend James Montgomery. A prolific songwriter, his "If Dreams Were Money" resulted in a ASCAP Songwriter Award. Marshall sometimes escapes to his old Airstream travel trailer in Vermont, where he says "I light a fire, hang back by myself and promise myself that I'll have a song or tow under my belt when I come home."
Marshall's first professional band, Whitecap, showcased the intricate twin lead guitar style made popular by the Allman Brothers' Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. Whitecap got a steady job at a Leominster club in the '70's, which enabled the band members to quit their day jobs and focus on playing music full time. "I was selling shoes at the time" says Marshall. "I did the math - I was going to make twenty dollars more a week playing music that I was selling shoes. I haven't looked back since."
After Whitecap, Marshall led other band projects, including the long-lived Bruce Marshall and The Clue, which was on the road for much of the '80's and had a significant Massachusetts following.
In the late '80's, a significant opportunity came Marshall's way when he learned that the Toy Caldwell.
Band was looking for a lead singer. Caldwell, a founder and the leader of the Marshall Tucker Band, was the writer and singer of "Can't You See," the band's first U.S. single.
Marshall submitted a demo tape, and Caldwell agreed to give Marshall an audition. "I was on cloud nine at that point," says Marshall, who was asked to learn two songs for the audition. "I lived and breathed those two songs for about a week."
The audition was to take place during the band's sound check at a Scituate nightclub. On the audition date, the band arrived late and the promised sound check didn't occur. Marshall wasn't about to let his opportunity slip away. "I picked up my acoustic guitar," he recalls, "and walked into Toy Caldwell's dressing room. I said, Toy, I know you didn't get a chance to do a sound check. I want to play "Desert Skies" for you right now. I hope you don't mind." And before he could say yes or no, I just started playing the tune. Toy smiled, and said, "that was really good. I'll tell you what, I'm going to have you sit in with the show tonight."
Marshall sat in, but the audition wasn't over. "It was a long, multi-step process," says Marshall, whose next audition was at Sir Morgan's Cove in Worcester. "They really wanted to be sure."
Ultimately successful, Marshall became a full-fledged member of the Toy Caldwell Band, singing, playing keyboards and guitar, and touring with other groups who were major influences on Marshall, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, and the Outlaws.
In 1991, Marshall formed the Bruce Marshall Group, which has performed steadily ever since. Marshall supplements those performances with acoustic sessions, solo performances, and collaborations with the musical partners he's developed in his three decades of performing.
The Bruce Marshall Group's new CD, Kalispell, is available through CD Street, CD Baby, Amazon.com or by mailing a check for $15 plus $2 shipping and handling to:
519 Bedford St.
Concord, MA. 01742.
Marshall performs solo the first and third Wed. of every month at the Walden Grille, 24 Walden St., Concord, MA.
For a complete schedule of upcoming performances, visit the groups website at: www.brucemarshall.net