Hey Mama
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Hey Mama


Band Rock Blues


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"Avi & Celia Concert Review"

It’s good to see that CD release parties are still in style, even if CDs themselves are on their way out. We were pleased to be on hand for native New Englanders Avi & Celia’s release of their new album, Let It Rise, at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge on October 3. The self-described “soul-folk duet” blend steel guitars, electric twangs, washboards, lead pipes and yes, even a hammer, to create a cacophony of sound that perhaps surprisingly works together quite well.

Most memorable of the evening was Celia Woodsmith’s energetic strumming of the washboard. Of course anybody who’s ever seen her play would instantly disagree with the word strumming. Whipping would probably be more appropriate, since she practically beat herself during a couple of the songs. It makes you wonder how just how thick a washboard could be. And while I do remember her announcing to the crowd that she was bleeding, I do not remember if it was the washboard or several guitars she went through to blame. You’ll find no complaints from me as she definitely put it all into the music. While less bloody, Avi Salloway’s multi-instrument talent smoothed out the roughness of the sound and provided the soul of the sound, both literally and figuratively.

Finally, the folksy roots of the music fit well with their unabashed populism. I don’t remember them telling me who to vote for, but I’d take odds that they’d prefer a vote for Barack Obama in November. This naturally went over quite well with their audience and it’s always great to see a band and crowd interact. Avi Salloway got the crowd involved during several songs, but the height came at the end of the set when Avi & Celia plus The David Wax Project and Miss Tess joined together for a crowd-singing version of Beck’s Loser.
- Mel.opho.be Magazine

"In the Globe"

"Sexy roots swagger with populist fire." - Boston Globe

"WERS Interview"

Avi and Celia, the male and female duo hailing from Cambridge, stroll into the WERS studio smiling and acknowledging the staff whole-heartedly. Although newcomers to the Boston music scene, they are no strangers to WERS, as they have been recording the follow-up to their first album, Off the Floor, in our studio.

It is hard to believe that the blues-tinged folk sound of Avi and Celia was born and bred here in New England. They met during their freshman year at the University of Vermont when Celia’s roommate heard Avi playing guitar in his dorm room and suggested they team up. Once they met, there musical chemistry was instantaneous. As they began playing today, what Celia calls their “musical marriage” was on display: her soulful, powerhouse vocals are matched perfectly by his bluegrass guitar picking. “We round each other out,” she says.

It obvious that these 22-year-olds are inspired by the classic rock and folk that their parents listened to, but they are not afraid to blur boundaries between genres and explore a wealth of musical influences. While traditionally informed, Avi and Celia are not afraid to challenge classic blues and folk. The first song they play is “Rollin’ and Tumblin,” a classic blues song by Hambone Willie Newbern. In this version, Avi has written his own lyrics and Celia uses a washboard to create a gritty beat as she croons away, calling to mind one of her great inspirations, Bonnie Raitt.

Their second album features “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and a variety of other tracks, some feel-good and some that take on more serious issues like war and capitalism. “We’re idealists. I think the album tackles dreams and trying to make dreams reality in terms of peace,” says Celia. You can find this idealism in every song, which is rare in the modern folk arena, and that is the main reason that their next album has the potential to make their dreams a reality.

–Alana Levinson

"Avi & Celia Let it Rise (CD Review)"

Who are Avi and Celia? They are, well, Avi & Celia. Or at least they become simply "Avi & Celia" after a few turns through their second release Let It Rise.

The duo seems comfortable in their musical skins. Celia Woods is a multi-dimensional vocalist who is able to go from a breathy coo to a full-on growl in what seem like seconds. Woodsmiths' voice is like a force of nature; it breaks over some words like waves over rocks at sometimes, and barely seems to whisper through colorful Vermont leaves at others. Avi Salloway takes his turn at the microphone on occasion, and his smooth delivery is similarly just what the country doctor ordered.

The story says that the duo, in their early twenties, has been together since their days at the University of Vermont. And they perform like people who spend a lot of time (possibly all of it) together. This is never more evident than in “Gnome Time & Place' Parts I and II, in which the dynamic duo quickly jaunt through various melodies; Woods scatting her vocals and Salloway furiously plucking away at the guitar strings. The two seem in perfect synch, even when rattling off high-speed phrases; sometimes in unison, sometimes in a call-and-response fashion.

Let It Rise is like a Rorschach test of a record – different things will leap out upon each listen. One time, perhaps it’s the musical wonder of “Gnome Time & Place.� Then, maybe it’s Salloway’s set piece “Tecumseh Valley,� a brilliant understatement of a song that immediately sets into the ear. Still later, it might be the vocal dramatics and musical dynamics of lead-off track “Piper.� Let It Rise is sure to cause spirits to rise as it journeys through some dark places and turns on lights in others. (self-released)

-C.D DiGuardia
Performer Magazine - Performer Magazine

"Newport Mercury, Raising Hell"

Raising HELL

Sat., Aug. 29, 7 p.m.
Newport Yachting Center, America’s Cup Avenue, Newport Tickets $20, $16 advance www.newportartsfestival.com
Her sultry, bluesy voice — as stunning as it is soulful — makes me think Celia Woodsmith was involved in some sort of netherworld transaction to achieve her powerful sound.
And just maybe I’m right.
“I did sell my soul. I got it back little by little, a little bartering action with the devil,” the 24year-old frontwoman of Avi and Celia playfully revealed during a recent phone interview.
The Cambridge, Mass., band will play its brand of gritty country-slash-blues at the Newport Arts Festival on the city’s harborfront Saturday night. The two-day festival, which will benefit Looking Upwards, the Middletown-based agency that supports children and adults with disabilities, features 60 national artists from as far away as California, Colorado and Louisiana as well as local talent. Regional and local acts will provide live music during the festival.
“Some of our good friends in Cambridge are playing, (such as) Session Americana. We’re looking forward to catching their set,” said Avi Salloway, also 24, who handles guitar, banjo, harmonica as well as vocals. Avi and Celia is actually a quartet, which also includes Ben Kogan on bass and drummer Jared Seabrook. They’ve toured the East Coast and appeared in concert supporting artists like Taj Mahal, Leon Russell and Big Brother & The Holding Company. The band started when Salloway and Woodsmith met in 2003 at the University of Vermont. Both played the guitar and sang on their own, but their musical chemistry propelled the two to make music professionally only a couple of years later.
“I have to say, I was kind of a late-bloomer with my voice, I didn’t find it until college,” said Woodsmith, who also plays guitar and a mean washboard and reveals she never took a singing lesson in her life. “I think when you leave your comfort zone, and go to college ... all of a sudden I just gained a new level of independence and confidence. That came out especially when I met Avi, because he really pushed me to (make) music.”
Their latest album, 2008’s “Let it Rise,” which includes a rollicking version of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” alternates the main melody between Woodsmith and Salloway, whose vocals are calmer and more introspective. They are planning another release, as yet untitled, for this December, and already have plans for another album after that, possibly in 2010. “It’s funny how it works,” Salloway said. He joked that they get their plethora of material from The New York Times. “They write the songs for us.”
“It’s just amazing how it ebbs and flows,” Woodsmith said, “and sometimes you just get hit with a huge amount of inspiration and you end up writing, like, three songs.”
The duo has played in Providence venues such as AS220 and Firehouse 13. Salloway, who grew up in Barrington, is prepared for the recent spate of heat in the area with not-so-high technology for his Newport concert. “We have eight- foot fans coming out.” Salloway said.
“ We have ladies who spray water on us, too,” Woodsmith joked.
The two share more than music in common, as well. “We both love hiking,” Salloway said.
“ We recently dragged our bassist and drummer out to one of the tallest mountains in Vermont,” Woodsmith said. “They had a hard time, but they did it eventually.” And about the vicious wildlife? “I’m a Vermonter, I can fend off the bears,” she clarified.
The two have plans for their future. “I can see us releasing this (untitled) record and shopping around for some bigger (record) labels,” Salloway said.
Woodsmith predicts one thing her future holds. “ Actually, my voice is deepening. ... It keeps getting lower and lower. I don’t know what kind of voice the devil sold me, but it’s gonna be pretty low by the time I’m done with it.”
Matt Keefer, like Celia, never took singing lessons. He doesn’t need them to break a crystal glass.
The 2009 Newport Arts Festival runs Sat., Aug.
29, 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m., & Sun., Aug. 30, 10 a.m.5 p. m. at the Newport Yachting Center.
Admission is $3, free children younger than 12.
(401) 847-0960. www.lookingupwards. org.

- Matt Keefer

"Music Review"

At first glance, these two University of Vermont grads may seem a little young to be a folk roots duo, but then Celia starts smashing out a rhythm on her washboard and it quickly becomes obvious that this is for real.

Though only in their early twenties, Avi and Celia have been collaborating for seven years, creating a rich, powerful sound that carries the frenetic energy of a tent revival. Avi Salloway, a multi-instrumentalist from a musical family, plays as though he were born with a guitar slide on his finger. Celia Woodsmith, on the other hand, claims that she didn't discover her voice until college, which is surprising, because it's hard to miss. She's blessed with one of those soulful Appalachian wails -- something between a mother yelling at her child and an angel praising God.

Like Grace Potter and The Mammals before them, Avi and Celia are giving a fresh voice to the old genres of folk, country, and blues, translating them for the next generation. With two albums behind them and a growing legion of fans, they should be lighting up the stage for a long time to come, provided Celia doesn't break her washboard in half before then.

For an audio clip and a concert schedule, go to: aviandcelia.com - Yankee Magazine

"I'm With the Band"

Out of school, onto the road
By: Scott Sutherland

Avi Salloway was a dormitory guitar god with a fondness for rootsy American music. Celia Woods-Smith had a big, warm voice and loved to sing. They met in 2003 as first-year UVM students, and they formed an immediate musical bond. Since then they’ve evolved into a seasoned performing duo, melding blues, country, bluegrass, rock, and more into their twangy, down-home sound. Salloway and Woods-Smith hope to make a career together as musicians; they released their first album, “Off The Floor,” in March, weeks before their graduation. VQ caught up with the duo in Charlottesville, Virginia, in late June, part of their extensive summer tour of the East Coast.

VQ: This is the longest stretch of touring you’ve done so far. How’s it going?

Celia: This is totally different than anything we’ve done. We’re living out of a Saab hatchback, which makes things interesting.

Avi: We either make friends in town who offer us a place to stay, or else we camp out in our tent. We camped next to a church in North Carolina a couple nights ago, and the minister woke us up at seven in the morning, asking us what we were doing there. He was pretty nice about it, though.

VQ: What effect do the cramped quarters have on your working relationship?

Avi: There isn’t much tension—it’s working really well. Also, I just bought Celia some deodorant, so things should be even better.

Celia: [laughing] If it makes or breaks the band, I’ll wear deodorant.

Avi: Vermonters wear deodorant, too, you know.

VQ: So are the two of you a couple, in addition to performing together?

Celia: Everyone wonders that. We’re not, actually—I have a boyfriend. But Avi and I have known each other a long time. It feels like we’re brother and sister. We have some tense moments, but it’s a great friendship.

Avi: I think there’s a certain appeal for audiences to watch a man and woman perform together—there’s a certain element of sexuality to it. There’s a little mystery, and that's a good thing.

VQ: Who are some of your favorite characters you’ve met on the road?

Celia: We were playing on the street in Asheville, North Carolina, and this man came up to us and listened and said, “I’m gonna go get my guitar.” He was this large black man named Juju, and he was wearing this leopard-print hat. He wasn’t really invited, but he wasn’t bad.

Avi: He played lefty, in honor of Jimi Hendrix. We named the Saab “Juju” in his honor.

VQ: Have you done much busking on this tour?

Celia: We have, actually. It’s a great way to immediately access the public in a new town. It helps pay for dinner sometimes, too.

Avi: In Asheville, we were playing to promote our show, and we got offered another gig by someone who saw us on the street. We also met this guy who works for a music distribution website—he left his card and bought a CD. We made over $70 in about an hour of playing.

VQ: Are you able to write while you’re touring?

Celia: I’ve written three songs while we’ve been out. They’re definitely inspired by the experiences I’m going through, by the traveling we’ve done, by seeing more of the South. I was born in North Carolina, so I’m writing about the idea of coming home.

Avi: So far it’s been easier on the road. Not being in school has had a lot to do with that. Every day is a fresh palette— a new place, new people, new experiences. It’s pretty inspiring. I’m writing a song about Juju, actually.

VQ: The man or the Saab?

Avi: So far it’s just about the man. But you never know—the Saab might make an appearance, too.
- Vermont Quarterly

"WERS Concert Review"

March 17th, 2010

When Jesse Dee and Hey Mama came to The Paradise Rock Club, the venue looked and felt packed and judging by the amount of sweat, beer and moving feet on the floor all night, it's no question that the events three Boston-based artists rocked harder than you might expect based on their studio material. Live shows display the colors of a band that can't be captured on anything circular.

The show opened with Hey Mama, a Cambridge-bred band fronted by Celia Woodsmith, whose step-team rhythm on washboard holds no candle to her vocal cords—a friend commented, "She sounds like a Janis Joplin meets Christina Aguilera" (think "Beautiful," not "Genie in a Bottle")—and Avi Salloway playing some tight-yet-dirty guitar. "It feels fuckin' great to be here on this stage tonight ladies and gentlemen," Woodsmith remarked before barreling into Mama's third tune, "From the Bottle." The tune's bluegrass pace and lyrics like "I opened up the door and the devil came inside" showed that the strong, red-haired singer never falters on beat, never trips over her own delivery, despite having strands of hair in her mouth.

Woodsmith and Salloway displayed incredible energy on stage, and at times nearly hopped into each other while getting loose on songs like "Drivin' Nails," where Salloway physically abused his guitar, thus pleasing our ears, rocking some filthy slide licks that gave his torn brown boots the possibility of imaginative history (maybe he's wrangled a few rattlesnakes?). At one point, with her eyes closed, Woodsmith tipped over her acoustic and kept plugging away even harder.

As for the headliner, Jesse Dee, 29 and originally hailing from Arlington, Massachusetts, played his heart out, ripping into a few songs, such as "I Won't Forget About You" and "Sweet Tooth," that are not on his 2008 debut, Bittersweet Batch.

JesseDee14Dee and his band—two saxmen, two guitarists, keyboarder, trumpeter, the whole gamut—jammed for what seemed like infinite time on "Reap What You Sow," a track that can be found on Batch, and had everybody in the venue dancing, clapping, singing wordlessly and getting into it.

His standout cuts, and the night's standout performances, did not come until the end of the. He performed a solemn cover of James Brown's ballad "Lost Someone," and dedicated it to those of us who've gone through losing a loved one. Watching Dee, you realize he's got one quality about him that is truly soulful and has nothing to do with his music or his execution or his style. It's something totally natural. He's got this inextricable quality about him that can only be equated with "Papa Don't Take No Mess," a song by James Brown himself. Jesse Dee's regular stage demeanor and Brown's singing on "Papa" both show the singers ablity to sound detached from the music, floating above it.

JesseDee04At the end of the show, every performer got on stage. Dee, singer Tim Gearan, Woodsmith and the rest of Hey Mama performed the get-down anthem of the night, "Whiskey Wash." A note on Jesse Dee's set list says "w/ everyone?" next to the track name, and the crowd loved it. Everybody sang and it was one huge stew of blues, soul and rock&roll served piping hot—all from three local artists who got love and gave love in the city from which they hail.

-Words by David Padula


"Off the Floor (CD review)"

A bright and energetic combination of folk, country, bluegrass and rock, Avi and Celia’s Off The Floor wastes no time in drawing in rock fans who usually avoid music featuring banjos. Each track, including the slower ones, is filled with so much energy that even the most scornful of rock fans won’t be able to stop from listening. The EP is artfully arranged — its pace is perfectly timed, satisfying the listener and creating a twinge of regret when the songs give way to silence.

The first track, “Can’t Feel It,” has a slow, yearning quality about it that is augmented by Celia Woods-Smith’s soulful vocals, and the result is a warm, thick, almost lazy sound that can only be described as a pleasant aching. Woods-Smith manages to summon the weary wisdom and acquiescence of a woman much older than her own 22 years, while also possessing a wide-eyed drifter sort of sincerity. In “Down to You,” the image of the romantic transient behind those vocals is especially present: it’s easy to picture the defiant woman narrating the song while walking down a dusty road after her car breaks down. Yet Woods is versatile — she avoids the pitfall of repetition by being alternately knowing and playful. Avi Salloway’s deep, smooth vocals compliment Woods’ perfectly, possessing all the rugged richness of an appropriate male counterpart. The instruments mirror their sound obediently, each guitar solo exhibiting the same ability to be warm, mischievous and full of spirit.

The liner notes state that for these two, their sound “above all else is about feeling.” This is undeniably apparent in all six tracks on the EP. With a sound that is at times soothing, playful, mournful and wise, this duo never loses touch with the feeling behind each well-executed track. (Self-released)
-Melina Moore
Performer Magazine
- Performer Magazine

"Rock n' Roll"

December 2007
"You can tell right away that this music comes from the very fiber of their souls and it is absolutely spellbinding to listen to." - Rock n' Roll Report


Self Titled Album "Hey Mama" to be released in December 2009.

"Let it Rise" released September 26th, 2008.

"Off the Floor" released March 8th, 2007.

Current radio play throughout North America and Europe.



"Sexy roots swagger with populist fire"
-The Boston Globe

Little did Carlos Santana know that he would have so much to do with the chance meeting of Avi Salloway and Celia Woodsmith. After breaking into a college dorm, to find the man responsible for wailing electric guitar sounds, Celia’s roommate introduced Avi to one powerhouse of a woman. Their creative chemistry and riveting energy was quickly realized which lead to formation of Avi & Celia. Weaving tours in and out of their exam schedule, they built up a strong grassroots following throughout the Northeast. They released their first CD (Off the Floor, 2007) as seniors at the University of Vermont.

Immediately following graduation and a southern tour, they moved to Boston, MA hitting the ground running right into the music scene. By this time in their career they had already opened for Taj Mahal, Leon Russell and Big Brother and the Holding Co, had toured as far as San Francisco and had released their second critically acclaimed album (Let it Rise, 2008).

January 2009 found them plunging into a new era. In collaboration with the talents of Jared Seabrook and Ben Kogan, two accomplished Boston musicians, Avi & Celia tapped into a fiery synergy that eventually exploded; HEY MAMA was born. The band has played more than 150 shows and festivals throughout the Northeast and Canada, and have released a third full length album self titled Hey Mama.

Brendan Hogan host of Blues on WGBH exclaims “Hey Mama is stoking the Rock n’ Roll fire for the next generation.” The Boston Globe calls them “Sexy roots swagger with populist fire.” Fire does seem to have a common thread in their performances, which leave the audience sweating. The band truly believes in freedom, and in every sense of the word embodies their ideals while on the stage. Growing up at a camp directed by Pete Seeger’s brother turned Avi on to folk music and the power of a song. The idea that music can help repair the world is an underlying philosophy of the band. With this force in their voices, washboard and distorted guitar Hey Mama bears the torch for honest and exuberant music: Can you feel it in your bones?

"A rich, powerful sound that carries that carries the frenetic energy of a tent revival."
-Yankee Magazine

"See these folks in concert they're gonna move you; I know they're gonna move you."

"You can tell right away that this music comes from the very fiber of their souls and it is absolutely spellbinding to listen to."
-Rock and Roll Report