Singing, drinking & weeding Relax with the Martini Gardeners By Erica Febre efebre@hippopress.com What better way to do the mundane task of trimming the hedges than with a Martini in hand — just ask Bob Jr. and the Martini Gardeners, who will tell you the same. The inspirational story of where the band gets its name can be found on the Web site (basically, if gardening alone doesn’t calm your nerves, the addition of a martini will do the trick). As for the music, it’s a sound that’s been in the making for a while, starting with Bob Walker, Jr. Walker is a singer and songwriter from New Durham and also holds the offices of president of the Manchester Local 349 of the American Federation of Musicians and vice president of the New England Conference of the AFM. He works as a freelance guitarist but his biggest project is the forming of the Martini Gardeners. He’s been working on the lyrics and music for the recently released album, Not Like Myself, but was missing that one fundamental element behind the music – the band. Now, with the Martini Gardeners, Walker has his band, which he describes as “a pick-up band that was meant to be,” and the album that he’s been waiting for. Audiences have compared the sound of the Martini Gardeners to John Mayer, Jack Johnson and Rusted Root. “As the songwriter, I had the basis of the songs together and as we (the band) started putting them together for the album, we kind of started to formulate our sound. What we ended up with was almost even better. We were looking for something that had a groove, something with a catch to it, to make it kind of a fun, light rock sound – something that you could enjoy listening to while drinking a martini,” Walker said. The band members, coming from a variety of different backgrounds and experiences, brought to the album more than Walker had originally envisioned. Walker takes on lead vocals and guitar. The bass player, Zach Smith, came from the University of New Hampshire. The drummer, George Reagan, who Walker has worked with in the past, comes from a jazz and theater background. The backup vocalist, Emily Caporello, who replied to an ad Walker placed, was an a cappella singer. “If I changed the lineup, it would definitely change the sound of the band. The bassist comes from a rock and funk background so his lines kind of follow that and the drums tend to drive the groove. What I was expecting as backup vocal parts from Emily ended up coming out front a lot and becoming their own lines. I really liked how it turned out and a lot of the songs turned out better than I had envisioned, just based on the diverse background of the band,” Walker said. Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com
Funny name, big sound Despite some setbacks, Bob Jr. and the Martini Gardeners are on the path to greatness by Brendan Berube Contributing Writer February 22, 2007 NEW DURHAM — They've been compared to David Bowie, Rusted Root, and The Grateful Dead. And they've been playing together for just over six months. Bob Jr. and the Martini Gardeners, formed over the summer by lead guitarist and New Durham resident Bob Walker, Jr., are tight, talented, and well on their way to becoming a New Hampshire success story. During an interview with the band before a rehearsal on Feb. 17, the first question was the obvious one: where did that name come from? To explain that, Walker said he needed to backtrack to the formation of the band. Walker and drummer George Regan met while playing together in the pit orchestra for a musical, and discovered that they had similar tastes in music, and a similar outlook on life. When a friend offered Walker free access to a recording studio to make a demo, Walker considered putting a band together for the occasion, and immediately thought of Regan, who jumped at the opportunity. Bass player Zach Smith showed up a short time later in response to an advertisement he found at the University of New Hampshire, and from the get-go, it was as if the three of them had been playing together for years. When the call went out for a female vocalist, veteran acapella singer Emily Caporello answered, and the band's original lineup fell into place. Walker arrived early to a rehearsal at Regan's house in Dover one afternoon to find Regan trimming his hedges with a pair of garden shears in one hand, and a martini in the other. The image burned itself into Walker's head, and was reinforced when the band went into the studio to record its debut CD. "Every time we made a mistake, George would say, 'Man, if I had a couple of martinis, I'd be all set,'" Walker recalled. When it came time to name the band, he added, the first and only choice was a no-brainer: the Martini Gardeners. On August 24, 2006, the Martini Gardeners celebrated the release of their debut CD, "Not Like Myself," by giving their first public performance at the Bell Center for the Arts in Dover. "We're a backwards band," said Walker. "We were in the studio first, then we started playing live." The reception to that first CD was overwhelmingly positive, but it wasn't long before the band's future was placed in jeopardy by some unexpected personnel changes. Caporello left the band late last year to pursue a graduate's degree out west, and Smith soon followed, albeit for a less admirable reason. "He changed his day job," said Walker, "so if you know any good bass players … " The band is still in need of a bass player, but in the meantime, they have gained a second guitarist: New Durham native Devon Dumais, one of Walker's former students, who was recruited to add rhythm behind Walker's solos. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," joked Walker. The band's prayers for a replacement female singer were answered by Hampton resident Nicole Desjardin, who found the band in what she calls "a moment of inspiration" through an ad on www.craigslist.com. "I needed a creative outlet," Desjardin explained. When she recognized Regan as her high school drum line instructor, she informed the band that they had no choice but to let her audition. "It was my first audition for a band, and I was so nervous," Desjardin remembered. "I had three days to learn four songs, and I know I forgot some things … but I've come a long way, I hope." Apart from one hairy moment when she got a little carried away and accidentally drowned out Dumais' guitar solo during the recording of a new song called "No Time to Die," the band said that Desjardin has managed to fit right in. "It's been an interesting experience," said Regan, who admitted that he is still amazed that such a "rag-tag" group of people, who might never have met otherwise, came together for the sake of music. "It's been a fun ride," he said. "I can't wait to see where it goes." For now, the new lineup is still on the prowl for a bass player, but Walker hopes to be able to book some shows this spring. The band's CD, "Not Like Myself," is available at www.cdbaby/bjrtmg.com, and individual songs can be downloaded from the band's Myspace page, www.myspace.com/martinigardeners. Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com
Spotlight magazine, theater review: Jacques Brel is alive and well in Dover April 26, 2007 6:00 AM "Jacques Brel is Alive & Well & Living in Paris" is a musical review that doesn't play like most — with some silly little tale imposed on the songs to tie them together. This production is simply a compilation of the compelling work by one of France's most loved composer/performers — Jacques Brel. The show played Dover's Bell Center. It's over. You missed it. Believe me, it's a shame. There's a reason Brel was called a poet, and it's apparent in this selection of 25 translated tunes. His words are sometime beautiful and touching, other times harsh and angry. Either way they're always moving. And there are some pretty funny ones as well, though you can bet there's more than a cute little ditty or story to each. Brel's lyrics are fearless really, whether speaking of history, culture, age, war or love. Luckily the cast and musicians were up to this demanding collection. Between Brel's melodies and words and the performers' deliveries, if anyone got through this one without guffawing and crying it was time to hail a hearse. John C. Alexander, Adi Rule, Michael Turner and Linette Miles definitely gave their all to this work. In addition to vocals their performances were wonderful, ranging from comedic to pure grace. Most these tunes were aptly delivered but there were a few real show stoppers. Adi Rule's rendition of "Ne Me Quitte Pas" was phenomenal. This woman's voice is clearly trained and it hasn't had the heart schooled out of it. It's clear, rich, individual and filled with feeling. The only thing that would have made this performance better was if it were longer. "Next" is one of the show's most moving, heart-wrenching pieces. Alexander's performance is so stunning, so raw that you find yourself holding your breath. When Linette Miles finally breaks in with her tender rendition of "No Love, You're Not Alone," comforting the character Alexander built's in "Next," you feel a physical relief. There are times Michael Turner seems to have trouble filling out his notes — but never his characters. You're so taken with his delivery, with pieces like "Jackie" it's easy to ignore the slight shortcomings. And wisely Director Catherine York has given him tunes suited his voice. York and her musicians, Bob Walker, guitar, and George Regan, percussions did an outstanding job delivering Brel's work and accompanying this quartet of fine performers. This show is over. I'd go back in a heartbeat just to see three of these pieces again. The rest — all wonderful stuff — was gravy. Let this be a lesson. Dover has a theater, and it can do some mighty fine work. Be sure to check it out.

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