GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

May 16, 2013

'Guitar Insanity': Big Strum concert back after 4-year hiatus, starring top-shelf ax men

By Gail McCarthy
Staff Writer

---- — A guitar extravaganza — The Big Big Strum — takes place Saturday in Gloucester.

The concert at the Gloucester House restaurant features top-shelf performers Cliff Goodwin, who performed with Joe Cocker for 14 years, and special guest Jon Butcher of Jon Butcher Axis.

The Big Strum has been a periodic event on Cape Ann over the years; however, with the addition of Butcher, this event is billed “The Big Big Strum” denoting the large number of guitar players.

“It’s going to be guitar insanity,” said Gloucester’s Fly Amero of Orleans fame, another guitarist and organizer. “This will be electric screaming guitars and the audience will be hearing something very unique. It’s been four years since the last The Big Strum event.”

The fourth guitarist is another Gloucester native, David Brown, who before settling back on Cape Ann performed with the Billy Joel Band.

Amero, a member of Orleans, said the backbone of this all-star band is its solid, deep-groove rhythm section featuring drummer Mike Levesque, who played with the David Bowie Band, and Wolf Ginandes on bass.

In an interview this week, Butcher talked about his new home on Cape Ann and the audience he finds here.

“First of all, I have to tell you Gloucester is my adoptive new home,” he said.

After attending journalism school in Grahm Journalism College in Boston, he went west to California where he worked for more than 20 years.

“When I moved back, I was searching for just the right spot and I met Fly Amero and we became the fastest of friends, so I credit him for making Gloucester my new home,” said Butcher, who has performed here over the years. “I have never in my life met such inviting and warm people as I have here on the North Shore. It’s simply remarkable. I also find being close to the ocean like this is intoxicating and liberating — and it’s done wonders for my creativity.”

He said the Saturday concert gives him an opportunity to play with three of his best friends, Fly, Cliff Goodwin and David Brown.

“They are tremendous accomplished musicians in their own right and I am honored to be part of the program,” said Butcher. “This will be a real treat for people who enjoy guitar-based music and this will have something for everybody. To say that I’m excited is an understatement.”

There is a lot of cross-pollination among these six musicians, who have known each other for many years.

Goodwin, who also served as Joe Cocker’s music director, said as a guitarist, there is no other group of guitar players that he would rather be on stage with.

Amero described the set list as sophisticated and carefully selected material.

“And what you end up with is lightning in a bottle,” he said.

In addition to rock and rhythm and blues, the eclectic set list includes music literally pulled from Joe Cocker’s closet. Cocker, known as a hit-maker of other writers’ material, constantly received demos from some of the world’s finest R&B craftsmen, explained Amero. And one day, Goodwin was visiting Cocker at his home in Woodstock, N.Y., when Cocker offered up the non-published demos to Goodwin.

Years later, Goodwin fished through this old collection and brought some real “jewels” to the table which mainstream listeners had never heard, said Amero.

Goodwin said to Amero that they should check some of the stuff out and see if it could work for them. Saturday’s audience will see the result of their work.

“The Big, Big Strum has put a brand new spin on these rockin’ tunes, extending many of them into ramped-up four-way ‘Guitar Wars’ jams that promise to twist audiences into a frenzy,” said Amero.

One such song is “Don’t Talk to Me,” written by English songwriter Mickey Jupp.

“I love the Gloucester audiences,” said Goodwin. “They are game for anything — they are game to listen and game to enjoy the music. The bottom line is we will have a ball.”

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.

 

If you go What: The Big, Big Strum concert Who: Guitarists Fly Amero, David Brown, Jon Butcher and Cliff Goodwin, bassist Wolf Ginandes and drummer Mike Levesque. When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 18. Where: The Gloucester House at 63 Rogers St. in Gloucester. How much: $20 in advance at The Gloucester House or Gloucester Music, 210 Main St.; $22 at the door.

If you go What: The Big, Big Strum concert Who: Guitarists Fly Amero, David Brown, Jon Butcher and Cliff Goodwin, bassist Wolf Ginandes and drummer Mike Levesque. When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 18. Where: The Gloucester House at 63 Rogers St. in Gloucester. How much: $20 in advance at The Gloucester House or Gloucester Music, 210 Main St.; $22 at the door.