In the days of yore - those of Shakespeare, Dickens or Robert Johnson - an arriving minstrel with mud on his boots and lute in hand would be greeted by the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. When an entertainer appeared at a quiet hamlet everyone turned out for the show.
But time and technology has brought Facebook, Twitter, Xbox and Katy Perry - whose blue hair is everywhere. Today a minstrel without amps has a snowball’s chance in Hades to stop traffic. Modern day minstrel Harvey Reid knows this and on April 14 at he’s going to try anyway, and odds are he’s going to succeed.
Comfortable in a minstrel’s cloak, Reid says of what he does, “We're still out there and always have been, but there's no Grammy category.”
Revealing his commonality with a British superstar Reid explained, “Adele's recent smash hit is as close as there has ever been to a pop hit that was a troubadour-type performance. It's basically just a person playing music instead of a computer-made sonic collage.”
He added with regard to his affinity with Adele’s troubadour aesthetic, “I'm a good example of an experienced modern minstrel who's content to be one.”
A father now with a broad view, thanks to middle age and proximity to the sea in Maine where he now lives, Reid started out life in Maryland. Fourteen when he commenced strumming, Reid fully committed himself to music, to autoharp and steel stringed guitar in particular, at 20. Unleashing his art thereafter, Reid took his music to the people in the streets, bars and coffee houses of Washington D.C., then Virginia, Colorado, Los Angeles, Nashville and New Orleans before making a home Downeast.
Sworn to the acoustic, Reid has never felt the need to go electric or morph to fit a mold, be it that of hillbilly or Hollywood. At his concert on the second Saturday of this month, the audience can expect to hear a standard or two from a range of genres including folk, gospel, country and cowboy even.
Said Reid, “I'll probably lean most on some older songs of mine that I have re-released and even released for the first time on a couple recent songwriter CD's. I'm working on a new autoharp album so I may feature it more than usual.
With 27 recordings worth of material at his fingertips surprises and freshness are certainties.
Asked about his writing, about whether lyrics come first or the melody Reid answered, “(My) songs come with ease and with difficulty, and they come on their own and they come when I beg them to. And sometimes they just don't. Sometimes I feel like I have no business making more songs until I have found a home for all the ones I have already birthed.”
His most recent release “The Capo Voodoo: Solo Guitar” is a compilation of Reid's groundbreaking partial capo guitar work.
Judging from reviews and the enthusiasm of his fans Reid’s songs will soon find homes in and around Hamilton-Wenham in private CD collections.
Harvey Reid appears in concert at the Community House of Hamilton-Wenham on April 14. The concert is from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.