The Hippo


Jul 17, 2019








Courtesy photo.


When: Saturday, July 18, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mill Fudge Factory, 2 Central St., Bristol
Tickets: $15

Andalusian groove
Gypsy jazz from Ameranouche

By Michael Witthaus

Ameranouche derives its name from two words - American and Manouche. The latter is a reference to the gypsy tribe of seminal guitarist Django Reinhardt; the trio’s flamenco-based music is rooted in Reinhardt’s Hot Club de France. For Ameranouche, though, style is merely a means toward duende - an essence of expression that Federico Garcia Lorca, quoting Goethe, called “a mysterious power that all may feel and no philosophy can explain.” 

“Great artists,” Lorca said, “know that no emotion is possible without the mediation of the duende.”
“It is sort of like being in the fiery moment of creation,” said Richard “Shepp” Sheppard, the guitarist who founded Ameranouche in 2005. “It’s a big thing in flamenco playing, something of a pursuit, but it’s really evident in everything — country, blues, whatever. When something is really good, it’s really good.”
The band’s recently released album, Sun Shine Soul, finds and surpasses that level. Sheppard and his mates — guitarist Jack Soref and bass player Michael Harrist — serve a cocktail of joyfulness and spellbinding musical chops. Reinhardt’s spirit hovers over the record — there’s a version of his “Clair de Lune” — but it’s a stunningly well-rounded effort, mixing elements of Turkish and Hungarian music, Indian ragas and American soul.
Kicking off the 11-track collection is the euphoric title cut, a showcase for Sheppard’s lightning fast picking with slippery bass solos from Harrist, all carried by Soref’s percolating strumming. On “My Old Home” the trio slow down into a sultry groove, with Harrist bowing his instrument to lovely effect.
A cover of the Spinners’ “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” was an unintended surprise, born spontaneously during sessions for the new record. What Sheppard termed “group enthusiasm” took over. The song began as a loose jam born from an unabashed love of Philly soul and was later polished and rerecorded with percussionist Tobey Sol LaRoche.  
It’s a rare vocal turn for Sheppard. 
“Not that I don’t like singing, it’s just that I’m a part-time singer and full-time guitar player,” he said. “We were having fun in the studio and it just happened to turn out in a way where everyone said, ‘Oh my gosh, you have to record this and include it in the CD.’ So we did.”  
New Jersey-born Sheppard attended Berklee School of Music and later studied with famed guitarist Pat Martino in Philadelphia. After relocating to Vermont a while back, he’s resided in New Hampshire with his wife and son for the past several years. 
“My wife and I were doing a bunch of jobs together and she got a job so we moved over here,” he said, adding with a laugh, “kind of like gypsies.”
Sheppard enjoys the “vibe of the state” and the reception his band’s music receives here.  
“More and more, I see people opening up to wanting to have a more vibrant aesthetic in the music and overall awareness of art,” he said. “In New Hampshire, we connect with them.”
Ameranouche just returned from a two-week East Coast tour and is a familiar presence on the regional festival circuit and area venues like Riverwalk Café in Nashua, Portsmouth Book & Bar and Stone Church. 
On Saturday, July 11, they perform at The Back Room at Mill Fudge Factory. The band last played in the Bristol sweet shop, restaurant and listening room in 2013. 
Sheppard praised Mill Fudge owner Linda Carmichael, who offers weekly ticketed events and Friday night jam sessions from late spring to early autumn. 
“She is someone who supports a lot of artists, and is really nice to us … and of course, with Linda you get an ice cream,” he said. “People that work there are … smiling, nice and make the artist comfortable.  That is the kind of place that the Back Room is, a wonderful little music venue, intimate and friendly.  We are really excited about playing there.” 
As seen in the July 9, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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