Buddy M
Photo by Jimm O'D

Review of Buddy and his band in Northampton MA at Progression Brewing Dec 7, 2019 by Jimm O’D

It felt like the good ol’ days, back at the CatJam Sunday afternoons half-a-decade or so ago. Back then, though, when Buddy McEarns was still moist under the ‘lobes you know, he wouldn’t have had the grapes to do like a show like he had played tonight.

It would not suffice to say that McEarns engaged the crowd. It’s much more than that as he steps offstage, wireless (not ‘air’) guitar still spittin’ out sound, and he struts on over to Ray Chaput, local hero and semi-elder, and hands the stringed thing over to the guy. Ray, of course, he knows what to do and walks with Buddy back to the stage… almost. Chaput pulls up short of the high-rise, which is where the lights are shining, and he stays in the dark all the while he’s playing Buddy’s git-fiddle.

This is not much help to the humble scribe and wannabe video-documentarian hoping to get away with some good footage. Ray’s boss and benefactor shows a little more sense, though, when she steps up to the vocal mic. Janet Ryan and her “Straight Up” compadre were regulars back at the CatJam, as was Special Guest drummer Aundra Brock. And for that matter, bass-man Joe Dulude was so regular, in his irregular way, that all his talking-it-up was what first brought a certain humble scribe into the local music community (along with some other jammers and young-uns from the surrounding region).

Now, some six years later… the lad has swapped his one-man acoustic stand-up raga-billy thing for a full band and a whole lot more playful panache in the public eye. This feller really has style. As soon as he came around and started up, he was a hit. He doesn’t even need to play off his Holly-Costello manner; he stands on his own- and he stands with some of the area’s finest. He’s a nice guy; as soon as any of the local musicians chatted with him, they all took a liking to the lad.

He went in pretty short order from skinny kid to a duo gig with none other than Joe (Watershop Studios) Carvalho, evolving through a phase as Buddy and the Valley Players, with whom he recorded his first release. In this period, the expert and solid drummer Jeff Turcotte came on board, and the four-piece, with long-time stalwart Tom Sawyer on bass, got to playing around just as often as all the old-timers and the many already-known names hereabouts.

Over the next few years, Buddy busied himself with the business of transforming from a solo-singer-songwriter to a guy with a band, then to a charming front-man, and now he qualifies as a bona-fide band-leader. Also, all through this period he had himself an on-call ‘extra body’ in the form of Smokin’ Joe DeLewd, always at the ready with six strings or four.

So, what’s next? Just because it was a thing to do, Buddy started working on his licks and honing his chops on lead guitar. And now, the Budddy McEarns Band can play out as a power trio, a full four-piece, and these days the band has five regular members with the addition of keyboardist Abe Purertz. A concurrent event is the advent of Smoky Joe’s promotion to full-time bass player.

The music community gets a big charge from Buddy, and that’s a bonus. Audiences dig all this personal and band development, too. Buddy has even managed to further the range available to most locals, playing more kinds of places and farther afield, as well as getting on the roster at some impressive municipal and community events.

Buddy McEarns’ particular knack, besides writing his own material, is re-working others’ numbers in such a way that it takes just a minute to place the song, and then it’s like, “oh, COOL!” Zeppelin’s “Rock & Roll” is one such, or George Harrison’s “Taxman” another, and he comes packin’ a full quiver of such treats. Many of these are left over from Buddy’s Daddy days, when he was the neighborhood’s go-to Birthday boy band, like “My Bonnie,” or the one with something about monkeys jumping on the bed… which hasn’t popped up lately.

What did not escape notice tonight at Progression Brewery was the people dancing. Which Anyone who danced continued to do so regardless of whether the song was a ‘version’ or an original song of Buddy’s. Of course, with the new keys, the soulful substitute drummer, and especially Joey D with his party new fretless bass, the band might have a little something to do with the funk factor.

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