Signature Sounds to throw post-Thanksgiving anniversary bash

Date: 11/26/2014

NORTHAMPTON – Signature Sounds knows how to throw a party. On Thanksgiving weekend, the Northampton-based record label will celebrate its 20th anniversary with concerts spotlighting 18 artists from its roster. The label will be presenting four events at the Academy of Music from Nov. 28 to 30. For ticket information go to

“We wanted this celebration to be about the second 10 years,” said label co-founder Jim Olson. “We’re happy to still be here in the ever-changing music business. “

The anniversary weekend kicks off with a special nod to Chris Smither, in honor of the New Orleans-born, and Massachusetts-based, singer-songwriter’s 70th birthday and half century as a performer. In addition to a two-disc sampling of his discography (“Still on the Levee”), the label released an all-star tribute, “Link of Chain - A Songwriter’s Tribute to Chris Smither.”

In addition to performing at the Academy of Music with his band, The Motivators, and guests, Mark Erelli, Jeffrey Foucoult, Kris Demholtz and Peter Mulvey, Smither will be interviewed in-depth before the show at the label’s music showcase Parlor Room at 32 Masonic Street. “[Smither] came to Signature Sounds six years ago,” Olson said, who will be asking the questions, for his album, “Leave Your Light On.”

He added, “He’s one of the great contemporary folk artists, still going strong – writing, singing, performing as good as ever – and I don’t see him slowing down. His father lived to be 94 and he was still ballroom dancing. Chris has that same fire and energy; he’ll be mentoring younger musicians for years to come.” 

The Parlor Room is the site of a multi-artist tribute to the memory of singer-songwriter Dave Carter (1952-2002), hosted by his former musical partner Tracy Grammer.         “There was something magic about [Carter’s] music,” Olson said. “He was a brilliant songwriter, par with Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, or Townes Van Zandt. He was super prolific, but there was no waste. He was just coming into his own when he passed away. There was something spiritual about his music that you do not encounter much.”

Led by Boise, Idaho-born Americana songstress Ellen Jewell, Saturday evening’s gathering at the Academy of Music also includes Heather Maloney, The Winterpills, The Sweetback Sisters and Texas-based singer-songwriter, Zoe Muth and her Lost High Rollers. Barnstar, a contemporary bluegrass band featuring ex-Northern Lights mandolinist/vocalist, Taylor Armading, his son Taylor (fiddle), Mark Erelli (guitar/vocals), Charlie Rose (banjo), and Zachariah Hickman (bass) will also be appearing.

Sunday afternoon’s show at the Academy of Music features the long-anticipated reunion of alt-trad bluegrass band, Crooked Still, featuring mandolinist Chris Thile, along with performances by Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem and Ellen Jewell’s gospel group, The Sacred Shakers. The evening is reserved for a sold-out show by the most successful artist in Signature Sounds’ catalogue, Brooklyn-based Lake Shore Dive, featuring the smoky alto vocals of Hendersonville, Tennessee-born Rachel Price, at the Academy of Music.

“Lake Shore Dive’s album [Bad Self Portraits] is the best-selling album that we’ve had on the label (over 50,000),” Olson said. “When I saw them the first time, I was in an audience of six people at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls. Now, they’re selling out 2,000-seat venues.” 

Signature Sounds started in 1994, recalled Olson, with “really modest ambitions.” He recalled, “I worked at the commercial alternative station, WRSI. We had a show, ‘Homegrown,’ which featured local music, and put together some CDs as fundraisers for the local food bank. It ended up being a series of three. It just grew from there.”