Seacoast Scene 5/26/16

Page 56


Raucous roots

Opined Few play Stone Church release party By Michael Witthaus

A couple of Saturdays ago, the pendulum-like weather swung back to the warm side; spring was in the twilight air. In a packed roadside tavern, a band with a curious name for a quartet — The Opined Few — pushed the temperature higher. It was an ambitious move, given their makeup and material. Crowded around a single microphone, playing upright bass, fiddle and two flattop guitars swapped a few times for banjo, mandolin or washboard, they reeled off bluegrassinfused originals, John Prine covers, and traditional songs like “Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad.” The crowd whooped like it was at a Bob Seger show, not a restrained acoustic performance. According to Opined Few co-founder and front man Steven DeLong, that’s not uncommon. “We just go with it,” he said between sets. “I like going back to my roots and I’m a huge Crosby, Stills and Nash fan. I love harmonies. People tell us we fill out a lot of sound.” Musically, DeLong’s “roots” are a bit

tangled. While wearing a weathered Led Zeppelin T-shirt, he spoke of a teenage Rush obsession and playing his mother’s Stones records — “no Beatles; ‘Paint It Black’ was big” — and a father whose tastes ran to Merle Haggard. Meanwhile, several aunts and uncles played bluegrass with the regionally popular Blinn Hill Band. DeLong, a fortysomething Air Force veteran, started his first band in high school and honed his chops while stationed in Korea. “I played over 300 gigs there, mainly to stay out of trouble,” he said. “Acoustic guitar, but a lot of classic rock covers.” He and longtime friend Bob Jubert launched Opined Few in April 2015, recruiting multiinstrumentalist and singer Scott Heron through the STEVEN DELONG musician web site BandMix. “He had this voice that was perfect,” said DeLong. “Plus, he has the presence, and he’s an awesome writer.” Jubert came up with the name after DeLong made one too many weird suggestions. “We said, ‘What does that mean?’ and he said, ‘It doesn’t mean anything,’” DeLong said. “To opine means to have an opinion, but most of the time we don’t — we just play music.” They began playing Seacoast open mikes and quickly built a following. An early gig at Newmarket’s Stone Church caught staff of the venerable music club off guard. “We did a Sunday afternoon, and we surprised them because we filled the room,”

To opine means to have an opinion, but most of the time we don’t — we just play music.

When: Sunday, May 29, at 4 p.m. Where: Stone Church, 5 Granite St., Newmarket More:

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part harmonies raises the band’s sound to a rarified level. Disciplined use of social media keeps shows crowded and callbacks frequent. Upcoming shows include an afternoon set at Eastman Corner Farm’s Anniversary Block Party on June 4, and a main stage appearance at Newburyport Yankee Homecoming in early August. It’s an impressive rise for such a new band, whose beginnings included busking on the streets of Portsmouth. “It’s been a grassroots effort,” DeLong said. “We’ve gotten a really good reception, and we’re having a good time with it.”

Five minute sail to the ocean



DeLong said. “They had to call in extra staff; they didn’t expect that many folks.” As a trio, they recently completed a selftitled EP; a May 29 show will mark its release. Heron wrote all five songs on the disc. The best of the bunch is “Can’t Go On,” a harmony-rich rave-up that rolls like a speeding train and ends with a brilliant tempo change. Also good is the brooding “Don’t Forget the Sparrow,” which opens the record. Fiddler and backing vocalist Betsy Green joined the group a few months ago. A veteran of family band The Green Sisters, she fit in immediately; with her, the shift to three-


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Opined Few CD Release Show w/ The Green Sisters

Opined Few. Photo by Michael Witthaus.