Thursday, June 23, 2011

Somerville’s ‘The Pennies’ Will Play For the Drop of a Coin.

Somerville’s ‘The Pennies’ Will Play For the Drop of a Coin.
By Doug Holder

Pardon the pun, but “The Pennies,” a band of friends and a band of musicians are an unpretentious bunch willing to play at any number of venues for the sheer joy of it…and a little money wouldn’t hurt either.

I met with “The Pennies”, along with band member Chris Mancini’s father, at a Saturday morning meeting of the Bagel Bards at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square.

Chris Mancini, a Somerville resident, plays the banjo in the group and is prone to write love songs for his wife. He also happens to be the newly appointed Director of “Groundworks Somerville” that provides green jobs, gardens for the community, and all that good stuff for the environment. Mancini is very upbeat about our city: its location near Boston, the relationships with other artists he has formed, and because he graduated from Tufts University he has a sentimental attachment to our town.

The group originally “The Pretty Pennies” was founded in 2006, and they play 10 instruments including: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, upright bass, drums, harmonica, accordion, ukuleles, banjo, piano, etc…

The group members describe the genre of music they play as Americana, Roots Rock and Country Music. Mancini described this music: “It’s an older style of country, including the Blues and Soul—a hodgepodge of music—a literal stew.” Mancini added: “Music should be fun—people want to be entertained—you need to play it for yourself and an audience—it is an egalitarian thing.”

The group has a new CD out “The Broken Heart is a Beautiful Thing.” The CDs the group produces are engineered by Dave Tiper, one of the Pennies and a music teacher at a private school in the area.

I was informed that all group members write songs. Tiper said he can be influenced by snippets of conversation he overhears or songs sung by other folks that inspire him to write his own version.

Mancini has written poems about his separation from his wife when he is on the road for work.

Caroline Campbell McCormick, the vocalist in the group (she also plays harmonica) is inspired by her baby yet to be birthed on this world’s stage. She said her other influences include: “The Blizzard of 1978,” books of poetry, turns of phrases, etc…” “Melody is my instrument,” she added.

The group is ubiquitous, playing at the Farmer’s Market in Union Square, The Arts Armory, Sally O’Brien’s, The Precinct and points outside of Somerville and the state. On Aug. 16, 2011 they will perform the national anthem at Fenway Park in Boston.

The group is decidedly grassroots, and nothing smacks of exclusivity or oppressive intellectualism. Be you a tot, or not—-very old or somewhere in the middle, it is well worth your while to check this group out!

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