Mark Erelli

Mark Erelli

Growing up in the years between LPs and CDs makes Mark Erelli a member of the cassette generation, a vintage of music fan that fondly remembers the mixtape. Making these homemade compilations required a certain degree of dedication and craftsmanship, with hand-lettered fonts and drawings on the label signifying a personal touch. “Before dragging, dropping or streaming,” says Erelli, “I waited by the stereo, finger hovering over the ‘record’ button, to capture my favorite songs as they were broadcast.” Erelli vividly recalls how the whole process felt like “so much more than just a collection of songs. Working up the courage to give someone a mixtape didn’t just say ‘this music matters to me,’ it also said ‘you matter to me.’

This joint declaration of appreciation—for both his favorite music and his audience—is plainly evident on Mark Erelli's 11th album, Mixtape, his first collection exclusively of cover songs. ”I remember taking my time with mixtapes for some special people back in the day,” Erelli admits, “but this is the first time I ever spent 13 years making one.” Mixtape features songs culled from thirteen years’ worth of Erelli and friends’ annual Under The Covers shows, performed each December at Harvard Square’s famed folk mecca Club Passim. The covers show provides a valued tradition for Erelli and regulars like Lori McKenna, Rose Cousins, Jake Armerding and Mixtape producer Zachariah Hickman. “It’s the organizing principle of my entire year,” claims Erelli. “The day after each year’s show, I start compiling a new list of potential covers for the following year’s gig.”

Mixtape draws on inspiration from the past 50 years of popular music, covering artists Erelli considers to be fundamental influences (The Band, The Grateful Dead, Richard Thompson) alongside newer favorites like Neko Case and Arcade Fire. According to Erelli, “groups like The Dead were ‘gateway bands,’ because in the process of getting hooked on their music I also got exposed to bluegrass, jazz, early rock n’ roll and so much more.” Erelli’s elegiac take on Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter’s “Brokedown Palace” kicks off the album, with a string prelude that signals he is forging ahead into new sonic territory. By the time Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage” hits, deep on Mixtape’ssecond side, Erelli’s is howling with abandon, his voice surfing a veritable maelstrom of strings, skittering drums and thunderous, dark piano chords.

Hayley Sabella

Hayley Sabella hails mostly from the New England coast. Inspired by the dramatic landscape and vast seasonal changes that range as much in temperature as they do in color, she reaches for the earth itself in its various forms to give her a sense of belonging. As the daughter of musicians and missionaries, this brought her to experience pivotal years of her childhood in Central America. Naturally, music became a tool through which she could make sense of the world and put down roots, despite a lingering feeling of displacement.

As evidenced in her songs, there is a lustrous display of tension and relief; a relationship between vulnerability and strength, death and rebirth, pain and love. Existing in performance as much as in song, this ongoing conflict allows audiences to gain a glimpse of Sabella’s true persona; she may break your heart, but shortly thereafter will invite you in for a cup of tea, enjoyed most with whiskey.

After experimenting with fresh palets and uncharted terrain, Sabella has established a sound she’s been ever yearning for with Forgive the Birds, the second full-length studio album, to be released this April. Forgive the Birds is both earthbound and ethereal, revealing gripping melodies and intimate lyrics with an unabashedly earnest delivery. Her voice, described as “honeyed, but with a mild rasp” by Redline Roots, dances over a finger-picked 1965 hollow-body Gibson; a signature sound of the record and a staple in performance, they make for a pair that seems to know one another, trusted companions both in writing and in travel.

Working with Daniel Radin of The Novel Ideas to produce Forgive the Birds, and enlisting the engineering talents of Harris Paseltiner, of Boston-based band Darlingside, this is, without a doubt, a homegrown record. Let it draw you in, feel the tug and pull, feel something.

$17/Adv, $20/Door

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