Pilgrims Highway
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Pilgrims Highway

Hyannis, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Hyannis, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
Band Blues Americana

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By NATE DOW
Not even his devotion to the philosophy of Henry David Thoreau could prepare Alan Arena for the act of serendipity that occurred at Walden Pond. ?It was there, in the serenity of Thoreau’s 19th century refuge, that his musical talents were discovered.
Five years ago on a warm May day, the card-carrying member of IBEW Local 103, the electrician’s union, broke his pledge to preserve the wooded peace and brought his guitar to the pond. Arena wanted only to play some of his evolving original songs — or one of those feel-good Bob Seger covers his co-workers are accustomed to hearing a cappella on job sites.
“I found a nice spot under a tree,” Arena said, “so I sat down and started playing.
As fate would have it, local producer and recording engineer Rob Ignazio was swimming within earshot.
“He paddled over to me,” Arena said, “and asked, ‘Whose songs are those that you’re singing?’ I said, ‘These are my own that I’m singing today.’ And he said, ‘Let me hear a few more.’ ”
Arena , now 46, shakes his head at the recollection. For more than a dozen years he’d honed his hobby in weekend bands, including his current group, Watch City, playing around his native Waltham. Now he was alone under a tree playing to the most important audience of his life.
“I didn’t know who (Ignazio) was,” Arena said. “But he introduced himself and asked, ’How’d you like to play with professional musicians and see how it sounds in the studio?’ I was stunned.”
Ignazio soon had the husky but honey-voiced electrician in the studio surrounded by members of the Swinging Steaks, blues guitar legend Ronnie Earl, soul singer Allyssa Jones and horn men Gordon Sax” Beadle and Scott Aruda, recording the soon-to-be released “Where’s the Rainbow?” Arena’s astonishing, out-of-the-blue debut CD.
The singer/songwriter’s broad range of influences can all be heard on his 12 originals, from the honky-tonk of Hank Williams to the verbal dexterity of John Prine to the jazzy blues of one of his heroes, the aforementioned Earl.
“One of the songs I have on this album is about Ronnie Earl,” Arena said. “And here he is playing on it. How great is that?”

Alan Arena , CD release party tonight at the Common Cafe, 603 Main St., Waltham. Call 781-642-8848. - The Boston Herald


Discography

"Where's The Rainbow," 2007
Limelight Magazine Top 25 Albums of the Year

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Bio

Music is more than just a creative outlet for veteran singer-songwriter Alan Arena. It's a way of life.
Alan was just 17 years old when he wrote his first blues song, Doing 110 at 3 AM a song that has endured and become an audience favorite for its romping blues groove.
Alan started his first blues band The Watch City Blue Notes in 1994. In that group, also known for a time as the Alan Arena Band, the leader honed his chops while playing regular gigs from Marblehead to Marshfield in Alan's native Massachusetts, and as far north as New Hampshire.
That musical evolution led to an album the Boston Herald termed an "astonishing, out-of-the-blue debut CD" the 2007 release of "Where's the Rainbow." The record was under the radar in many ways, but it was, in fact, so astonishing that Limelight Magazine listed it among its Best Albums of the Year, alongside releases by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Neil Young and John Fogerty.
And why not? Alan's burgeoning reputation as a songwriter attracted into the studio some first-class talent that was very rare for an debuting artist. With producer and engineer Rob Ignazio (The Swinging Steaks/Either Orchestra) at the controls, legendary blues guitarist Ronnie Earl (Roomful of Blues) joined the mix, along with Gordon "Sax" Beadle (Jimmy McGriff/Pinetop Perkins), Boston soul singer Allyssa Jones, and Swinging Steaks members Jim Gambino, Andy Plaisted and Paul Kochanski.
Metronome Magazine praised Alan for his "Rich tenor voice, reminiscent of the great Charlie Musselwhite, and some finely penned down-home lyrics."
After family healthcare issues forced Alan to take a lengthy hiatus from active performing, he returns renewed and reinvigorated with his new band, Pilgrims Highway. The band is playing debut gigs in venues from Boston to Cape Cod, where Alan now makes his home. He adopted the band's name from the stretch of Route 3 that connects the Cape with the Hub a path that is now well-traveled by the in-demand artist.
This is life coming full circle for an artist who has performed with fellow musicians as diverse as Original House of Blues fixture Ricky "King" Russell, Duke Robillard, Jay Geils, Gerry Beaudion, Bruce Marshall, Alabama Frank, Brad Faucher and The Gumbo Kings and the Juke Joint Five.
Yes, music is a way of life for Alan Arena. And one that he has spread not only as a soloist and a front man, but as the founder and mentor of the Navy Blue Community Roots Band in Waltham, and as regular host of the Open Mic series at Boston's only true blues venue, Smoken' Joe's BBQ and Blues.
It's no wonder Boston disc jockey Jim Carty says Alan Arena is becoming the sound track to other peoples lives."