The Toads, working hard and playing hard

In all, The Toads have had four releases, totaling 27 songs, in 19 months since January 2016.  This, along with a busy gig schedule, makes the Toads the most prolific and hardworking band in Portland right now.  The thing about the Toads is that they are not only talented and hardworking, but I can honestly say that they are the friendliest guys in Portland’s somewhat clique-ish music community.  Bass player, Matt Dinaro, goes above and beyond the call of duty by supporting the scene with his music blog and editing an online poetry journal that he co-founded, Pom Pom.

Their fourth album, Time, is the second that was recorded by James Collette and Kevin Hoffman, and is the best production yet.  I prefer to hear the Toads live, but this album does a nice job of capturing the energy and enthusiasm of their live show while still retaining the crispness and clarity that makes listening to studio recordings a pleasure. The album kicks off with killer riffs that show off Matt Kane’s tasty guitar wizardry and closes with an anthem of positive vibes, Keep On Keepin’ On.  This country-pop-rock album pretty much captures the essence of Portland Summer 2017 and begs the question that so many people are asking “why aren’t these guys huge yet?”  Thanks guys! Keep on keepin’ on!  You are making people happy!

Ashleigh Flynn at the Sundown Grand Ol’ Country Festival

Ashleigh Flynn grew up in Kentucky and cut her teeth on local bluegrass music. She arrived on the national scene in 2008 with the release of her third record, American Dream, and continues playing national and international stages with the release of A Million Stars (2013). A prolific songwriter, Flynn is also an electrifying performer blessed with unbridled charisma. Other full-length studio records include Chokecherry (2002) and Ashleigh Flynn, self-titled (1999) and a live record, Sneakin’ Out with Ashleigh Flynn (2005).

I was fortunate to catch up with Ashleigh last weekend as she played the first annual Sundown Grand Ol’ Country Festival on July 22nd at McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove with her all-girl band the Riveters: Nancy Luca on lead guitar, Carmen Paradise on bass and Jolie Clausen on the drums.

Jennifer Smieja at the Sundown Grand Ol’ Country Festival

Aware at an early age that music could take her to places that felt better than anything, it wasn’t until years later that Jennifer Smieja grabbed a guitar and started to share the magic with the rest of us. There is nothing flashy about her or her music, it’s all pure and personal, with shades of Gillian Welch, Abigail Washburn and Richard Thompson. To Measure the Sky is the name of Jennifer’s album, released in 2015.

Jennifer played the first annual Sundown Grand Ol’ Country Festival at McMenamins Grand Lodge over the weekend. With her on stage was Greg Paul on guitar and Dave Stricker on bass. Believing the world lacks enough *good* news, Jennifer would sometimes deliver some between her songs. Musically, the show consisted of a great mix of country, folk, alternative and blues, and it’s a blues number, Those Other Days, I’ve captured for you below.

Nate Botsford at McMenamins Rock Creek Tavern

Nate Botsford is an emerging artist based in Portland, Oregon with a style that is unique and memorable — straight from the heart, with relatable music and lyrics. After a good bit of chasing, I managed to catch up with Nate last weekend as he played a Saturday night show at McMenamins Rock Creek Tavern.

He is wildly talented and I enjoyed the wide variety of music he was able to deliver even from a basic 3-piece band. Most impressive was the way he worked the crowd, doing special requests for birthdays with music previously unrehearsed. He is a true showman.

Nate has two albums out so far, with a third in the works. I captured “All We Have” from his second album “Hourglass” during his Saturday evening performance.

Mexican Gunfight at McMenamins Grand Lodge

Portland’s Mexican Gunfight was formed in 2006 by four old friends and musical brothers in arms who had worked together in various combinations since around 1985. While definitely a rock band, the band’s stylistic influences abound: blues grit, country lyricism, the soulfulness of gospel, a rare jam thrown in … occasionally even tinges of Latin and jazz.

Mexican Gunfight is:
Vocals, Bass / Dave Coey
Guitar, Vocals / Alan Toribio
Piano, Hammond Organ / Mike Walker
Drums, Vocals / Ned Failing

From their album “Long Play“, I love “The Road Less Traveled” which is heard on Portland Notes Radio and in the video below shot at Pat’s Corner, McMenamins Grand Lodge.

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