Review: Opal Canyon's sonic approach

Debra DeMuth at Celebrate Holyoke in August.

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BRATTLEBORO — Debra DeMuth's earliest performances occurred as a pre-teen, in her living room, after her family would leave the house to watch her brother play sports. "I couldn't wait for my family to go ... so I could set up the pillows, pretend they were my audience, put on a record and sing my heart out. The records varied from The Supremes, Dusty Springfield, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and some '70s hits like Neil Sedaka and Carole King. I loved it all."

These days, DeMuth is singing her own songs (as well as some tasty covers) fronting Opal Canyon, who will be bringing their soulful, psychedelic-tinged country to real human beings (rather than pillows) at The Stone Church this Saturday on a bill that includes Fancy Trash and Sun Parade's Chris Marlon Jennings.

The recently formed band features her husband and Fancy Trash frontman Dave Houghton on vocals and guitar, backed by an all-star ensemble that includes the venerable Ray Mason on bass, Bob Hennessey adding guitar and mandolin, and drummer Jason Smith.

Opal Canyon grew organically from And The Neighbors, which began as a DeMuth/Houghton duet. "We would open for Fancy Trash gigs and soon found that having the rhythm section behind us felt right," recalled DeMuth who shrugs off any suggestion that she is fronting a `supergroup.' "So, when I started writing songs again, Dave was hearing more instrumentation. We first added Bob Hennessy who played mandolin on the And The Neighbors record. Jason Smith was our obvious choice for drummer having played with Dave since high school in Keene (N.H.). The legendary Ray Mason came on board because he really enjoyed and appreciated my writing and melodies ... The guys teach me something new every gig and their support has grown my confidence and ability to deliver on stage."

The band has enjoyed positive press and grown its fanbase this summer with gigs in Woodstock and Boston as well as a prestigious opening slot for Los Lobos. Their debut record, "Beauty and Loss" is getting some airplay on a couple of area radio stations.

I asked Houghton about Opal Canyon's sonic approach. "We wanted to create a sense of place with the music. A place you could escape to. Debra writes country-based songs and really has a country-tinged voice. So, we wanted to put these elements together to create "modern country with a psychedelic escape."

DeMuth talked about the inspiration for her songs. "I began in music as a writer so my influences early on were from poetry, essays, and books. Mary Oliver, Anne Sexton, EE Cummings, Joan Didion ... finding language that can move me in the way that it expresses an emotion or experience is an ongoing quest. Lyrically, I am influenced by my day-to-day life as a mother, therapist, wife, daughter, friend - the every day. I use the words and melody to channel an emotion I'm having ... A lot of the record reflects my changing relationships with my sons as they grow from boys to young men. I realized that I am now the mother of men. The joy and sadness of that realization is where the title of the album comes from, "Beauty and Loss."

As for Fancy Trash? Houghton reflected on his expanding vision for the band and how it's sound has grown over the years. "We are in our 17th year and have some exciting new songs just completed. Fancy Trash started as an Americana, roots-based band with. Now, we are more rock-based with a bigger sound. I like to call it, "folk-thrash."

DeMuth is chomping at the bit to bring her crack band to southern Vermont. "We are ready and psyched to premiere Opal Canyon at The Stone Church. We think that our modern country groove will connect with the vibe of Brattleboro. Fancy Trash will add some sonic edge and Chris Marlon Jennings of Sun Parade will add melodic pop to the night. All in all, it will be a fantastic night in a beautiful venue."

Opal Canyon/ Fancy Trash/ Chris Marlon Jennings: Saturday, Sept. 14, at 8 p.m. at The Stone Church, 210 Main St. Tickets are $10 at or 802-579-9960.


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