Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Brook Batteau and the New Cosmology: A review (and preview) of a unique “rock/soul/tribal dance” band.

Brook Batteau and the New Cosmology:
A review (and preview) of a unique “rock/soul/tribal dance” band.

(Last seen in April at the Precinct Bar in Union Square; next to be seen on Friday, May 27th, at “the Loft” at Tommy Doyles, 96 Winthrop Street, Harvard Square. FREE admission before 9:30 pm., when Brook’s band is scheduled to hit the stage.)

In the spirit of full disclosure, the three people in this band are friends of mine. The fuller disclosure: they became friends only after I went to a bunch of their shows, hanging around afterwards to ask questions like, “how the heck do you guys do that?”

For me, the most important “that” that they do, is unleash—in every audience I’ve seen—an uncontrollable urge to dance in an energetic state of bliss.

First, some quick history. Brook Batteau was raised in Cambridge, one of four musically gifted siblings. (That’s a whole other story.) Brook developed a utterly unique, compelling lead vocal style while fronting bands in Boston, L.A., and New Orleans. Some compare his singing to a cross between David Byrne and Roy Orbison. There is some truth to this, but it’s more accurate to say that he sounds like someone from another planet. (I mean this as a real compliment to the other planet.)

Brook is also a very fine, original songwriter and guitarist. His wife Kate Hennessey, with whom he’s performed for years, is the “drum goddess” of the group. Rounding out the trio is veteran bassist Frank Rozelle. Frank reminds me of Keith Moon—the legendary drummer for the Who—who had an uncanny ability to anchor the beat of any song, while simultaneously incorporating constant, brilliant embellishments.

I asked Frank how he manages this. “I used to play with a group that had a wild, wild lead guitarist,” he explained. “It took a lot of work and practice, but I figured out how to hold my own on the bass. It was a matter of pride.”

Fortunately, people with credentials (I’m a musician, but usually write reviews of poetry books) also offer glowing comments about this group. “I felt all my cares floating away,” writes Josh Glenn of the Boston Globe. Lucy Holstedt, prof. at Berklee College of Music, exclaims, “I immediately started dancing and didn’t stop. This is GREAT band.”

I moved to Boston in the 1980’s. There have been a handful of bands that I’d always go to see. First, it was “O Positive.” Later, it was “Morphine,” led by the late, great Mark Sandman. For a few years, no one in particular, Now, thankfully, there’s another group that literally makes me jump and gyrate with joy. After each show, I feel I may have added years to my life.

Brook Batteau and the New Cosmology is based in Western MA, so they’re not in the area as often as I’d like. Whenever I hear they’re coming to town, I cancel any previous plans. I explain “something critical” has come up, and it’s “essential” I be there.

And in all honesty, I’m telling the truth.

Kirk Etherton, Union Square, Somerville, May 23, 2011


  1. Anonymous7:49 AM

    This was an accurate, praiseworthy tribute to the band, Brook Batteau and the New Cosmology. Brook is a gifted lyricist, a poet, as well as musician, with a voice like chocolate and a heart that sits at the base of the rainbow. His band Frank Roselle and Kate Hennesey, is the rhythm and beat that raise this light in that graceful arc across the complex horizon. Unfortunately, the music was silenced this past Friday evening suddenly and without warning because of the The Boston Bruin's seventh playoff game against the lightning. Granted, there truly is poetry in the movement and fierce grace to be found in game of hockey, especially the game that will decide whether the Bruins will make the final Stanley Cup Playoffs, but to take the choice away from the music lover, and take the performance away from the artist is dissapointing. Next time, the choice should be left up to the music lovers. Hopefully, we will have our day soon.

  2. Anonymous3:28 PM

    This band of gypsies, are full of heart, energy,and originality! make your'e way to the New Cosmology