A lively ‘Reboot’ in Belfast

By Dagney C. Ernest | Nov 07, 2018
Photo by: Neal Parent The Leaky Boot Jug Band

Belfast — Leaky Boot Jug Band has been feeling the love — and wants to return the favor. The Belfast-area band is celebrating the release of its second CD with a fan appreciation concert/CD release party Saturday night, Nov. 10, at the Crosby Center, 96 Church St.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the music will flow from 7 to 9 p.m. Leaky Boot fans will find plenty of stage-view seating, as well a room to dance in the auditorium. Out on the circular drive, the YumBus will be serving up food and drink for all tastes and requirements, including vegan, vegetarian and meat tacos on gluten-free tortillas. Tacos are quickly made and can be taken back inside, where Rollies Bar will offer libations featuring Lake St George Brewing Company Beer, as well as nonalcoholic drinks.

“We just decided one night at practice a couple of weeks ago that we wanted to do some kind of a CD release, but make it just by donation,” said Jon Kerr, one of the original Boots. “We've gotten so much response from our local towns coming out to support us when we play, so let's give back something.”

Kerr, who plays banjo, lives on Islesboro, but has a place to stay overnight in Belfast when needed. And the Quicksilver runs Thursday nights, when the band usually practices, “so I'll jump on that and come home.” The rest of the band members live in or near Belfast, and the band’s origins are right downtown.

“It all started in Neal Parent's Gallery,” said Kerr. “We used to get together to just play for fun and people showed up; Russ was there quite a bit, the guitar player.”

Russ Lloyd of Brooks is another original member of the band, and his contribution has been vital over the past seven years (including the band’s name). Earlier this year, Our Town Belfast commissioned him to write a song about the city; the result was “Belfast, Maine,” which appears on the new CD and can be enjoyed on YouTube, thanks to a Rachel Epperly-produced music video.

It was Lloyd who first suggested the group try its hand at jug band music, said Kerr.

“He always wanted to start jugging! So people started getting on board with it and it kind of took off from there. And we said, 'Hey, this sounds pretty good, let's bring it out, see what we can do with it,'” Kerr said.

Originally a 1920s mix of blues and folk using improvised instruments, jug band music was revived and reworked in the early 1960s. Kerr describes what Leaky Boot plays as not bluegrass and not folk, but somewhere in between.

“It definitely has a bluegrass flavor to it. But a lot of the original Grateful Dead songs were jug band songs; the original band that Garcia started was a jug band. So, well, we said, let's call it a jug band,” he said.

The jug itself came into play when James Bryant started stopping in during the weekly play-together nights.

“He's a local guy, kind of just collects bottles and hangs out in town. We gave him a jug to kind of play along with us,” said Kerr.

Bryant, who doesn’t drive, now lives in Swanville, but local fans still expect to see him.

“The last time we played in Belfast, people asked where's James? He was actually camping with a group of people that weekend,” Kerr said, adding that while Bryant is not on the new CD, “he was in spirit on this one, for sure.”

The current Leaky Boot Jug Band lineup comprises Annadeene Fowler, Tom Fowler, Jon Kerr, Russ Lloyd, Dan Miller, Sean Ociepka, Neal "Harpo" Parent and John Pranio. The Fowlers first saw the group during a New Year’s by the Bay appearance; Tom started playing in Leaky Boot shortly thereafter and then Anadeene came on board.

“Tom’s a great mandolin player, and Annadeene's got a lovely voice that added a whole new touch to it that we all loved,” said Kerr.

Vocals have always been one of the band’s strengths.

“Even with the original lineup, we've been pretty lucky in that everybody sings. Russ sings and I sing and Neal would sing harmony. And Dan and John do pretty good,” said Kerr.

A number of people have come in and out of Leaky Boot, especially in the early years. Russ Lloyd’s son Travis, a singer/songwriter and recording artist, was the original bass player and still steps in from time to time. The group’s first CD, released in 2014, included Dave Lewis on upright and David Johnson, credited with playing paintbrush percussion as well as guitar. Wes Cotton played Leaky Boot fiddle at one point, “and we had a dobro player at one time, and a guy that played spoons,” said Kerr.

The Crosby Center event will feature the current lineup, which has been grooving along nicely for a while now, but “we're going to open it up to anybody who played with us in any way, shape or form. They can get up there and play a tune,” said Kerr.

“We're more than happy to have that happen,” he said. “And we’ll probably drag Travis up there to play a few tunes, too.”

Also possible on the stage Saturday night, coming from Downeast, are guest artists from the new CD: accordion player Sepp Huber; and pedal steel player Peter Davis.

“Many of us have played with Peter historically; Tom certainly has, and I played with Peter years ago, he's a great guitar player,” said Kerr.

The new CD, “ReBoot,” was recorded in Belfast at audio engineer Lincoln Clapp’s home.

“He's quite a master, and we're more than pleased with the outcome of what he did for us,” said Kerr. “He's actually done sound for us the past couple of gigs. We played The Wrinkled Pickle [in Birch Harbor] and Lincoln came down and did our sound for us.”

Kerr called the music on the new CD “a real real big big mix of tunes!” That mix includes a little reggae, a little bluegrass, a little Americana. Bruce Springsteen, Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch numbers and a few originals by Travis Lloyd and Russ Lloyd.

“And Dan plays this number on an upright bass that is a really kind of beautiful, beautiful song,” Kerr said.

Appreciating each other’s talents and commitment is a big reason Leaky Boot Jug Band is still at it in a big way.

“One of the things that I think we have found with this band is that it's more like a family. When we get together, we talk about other things. I've been in a lot of bands, you know, where temperaments and personalities get in the way,” Kerr said.

Not that such moments don’t happen once in a great while, he said.

“But one of the best things about our band is that we all really like playing with each other,” he said. “And we really like playing for our town. You can feel the intention up there.”

“ReBoot” can be heard fairly regularly on WERU-FM, on MPBN's “In Tune Sunday” with Sara Willis and the local WBFY. The CD will be available at Saturday’s event. For more information, visit the band’s Facebook page.

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Staff Profile

Dagney C. Ernest
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
(207) 594-4401/4407, ext. 115
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Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional for more than 30 years; and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.

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