Jay N. Miller
Wise men might suggest that there are more cows than opera singers in Hanson, but this bucolic South Shore town has produced its fair share of exceptional musicians in various genres. Valerie Barretto is the latest to hit the bright lights, and while her biography of the classically trained opera singer-turned-country songwriter sounds set for a TV movie, the simple truth is that when her striking vocals combine with unique snippets of – lyrics from the heart, the effect is simply dazzling.
Barretto releases his debut album, “Hurt & Healing”, on September 8 with a show at Soundcheck Studios in Pembroke.
Barretto has been performing in the area for several years, mostly doing pop and rock covers, and mixing in more and more country. But it’s a course she didn’t seem destined to take when she graduated from UMass with a degree in classical vocal performance, focusing on opera. It turns out that there aren’t many opera concerts on the South Shore.
“I had started taking music lessons at 13, and it was almost exclusively classical training,” Barretto recently said. “Opera has always been a focus and I studied classical vocal performance at UMass. After college when I wanted to perform, I realized I needed to do more pop and country. , and I’ve been doing this for a few years.
“During COVID-19, when we were all away from the game, I listened to a lot of country music,” Barretto explained. “I think that’s really where my origins are and I’ve always loved storytelling and that’s a big part of country music, obviously. Listening to a lot of Maren Morris and Miranda Lambert, I started thinking, “Why don’t I just play country music? The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that this was what I had to do.
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Barretto had been playing local venues for a few years, but the urge to start creating his own songs really kicked in during this pandemic shutdown.
“I had been playing on and off, pretty much right after college,” she noted. “But this break of a few years that we all had with COVID made me evaluate my life. Like many people, I spent time looking within and wondering what I really wanted to do? Now music is my full time job and when I play I still do a lot of covers but also mix my own originals.
Barretto’s turn to fight for his own identity as a country artist came with some risk, of course, but fans in the region were supportive from the start.
“I can honestly say that I encountered no resistance and I think the public appreciated that it set me apart from most singer-songwriters,” Barretto said. “I get it, if you don’t like country music, that’s fine, and I’ll keep doing pop and rock numbers. But I think the audiences we have here on the South Shore have been kind of a blessing and the response I’ve received has always been positive.
With the new album ready to be released, hosting the CD release show at Soundcheck Studios was natural.
“I’ve been very much affiliated with them ever since they started doing their open mics,” Barretto said. “They usually host a lot of jam bands and Grateful Dead type bands, but they try to expand their music menu. They were kind enough to book me in for this and it’s a little gem of a place, close to my home.
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Barretto quickly found a kindred spirit in Annie Brobst, the North Shore country singer who headlined the recent Country Music Festival on Quincy Common. Barretto asked her musical pal to join her on one of the songs from the new album, and Brobst will open Thursday’s show.
Barretto’s songs have a strikingly candid quality to them, as well as a knack for tackling the familiar subject of romance in new ways. “Cheers to Space,” for example, is about the experience of a partner deciding they need space away from a relationship. “Another Love Song” is about the weariness one feels when you realize you’re the only one invested in a romance. And the stand-alone ballad “John’s Song” is a poignant memory of a young man gone far too soon.
“I guess 99.9% of my songs are about things that happened to me,” Barretto said with a chuckle. “I have yet to write a song without a personal affiliation. ‘Cheers to Space’ is about an ex, and kind of like my revenge. And yes, I’m a Taylor Swift fan and I realize the similarity .
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“‘Another Love Song’ is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written,” said Barretto Saud. “Actually, I’m quoting a word from Taylor Swift there, sort of to pay homage to her. This song is about breakups and losses, how to get over them and move on. I’ve been through all of this and I know how you can be so hurt that you’re afraid to enter into another relationship. But you have to go beyond that, and so the song is about coming full circle. ‘I don’t want to write another love song, but what can I do?’ It’s about getting back on my feet and becoming a new person. The whole album is about this “full circle” concept, and I hope people can relate to it in their own way. »
“John’s Song” is something else, a tribute to the memory of a friend’s brother who died in 2021.
“On what would have been his 31st birthday, a group of us put together 31 acts of kindness, in his memory, and to help raise awareness for mental health,” Barretto explained. “My act was to write and record this song. The response was absolutely overwhelming, and one of his family members came up and said, ‘You gave me John.’ I don’t know how. you could hear something like that and not start crying, and I couldn’t. But it was good to see one of my songs have such an impact.
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Barretto’s album is available on CD. The digital release is scheduled for September 30, and after that it will consider wider distribution. She’s taking it one step at a time, but the first step in creating a memorable collection of her own songs has been a solid success.
Barretto also plays at Anna’s Harborside in Plymouth on Friday night; at Tolson’s Tap Room in Pembroke on Saturday; and at the Mad Hatter in Weymouth on September 15.
More local countries
Proof that the South Shore area has a thriving country scene comes from the return of Norton’s Timmy Brown, which headlines the Southside Tavern in Braintree on Friday night. Brown’s latest single is “Hey There Heartbreak,” and fans may have heard his recent singles like “Play It By Beer” or “If You Were Here.” Despite releasing her debut album during the COVID spring of 2020, Brown’s work has generated over half a million streams to date. Brown was also voted Local Male Artist of the Year for 18/17/2016 by the New England Country Music Awards.
Readers may recall our note on the excellent Americana band from Maine, The Ghost of Paul Revere, who performed a stellar show at Boston’s Paradise a few weeks ago. Last Saturday the band played their last show in Portland, but there was also a cool announcement last week. The band’s latest album, “Goodbye”, will be released on Americana Vibes, and this label will also release the band’s previous albums. Griffin Sherry, Sean McCarthy, Max Davis and Chuck Gagne have crafted indelible music since debuting The Ghost of Paul Revere in 2011, and we’ll be on the lookout for their solo endeavors in the years to come.
Narrows Music Festival
We estimated over 1,000 fans were in attendance for Sunday afternoon’s opener by Mark Cutler and the Men of Great Courage at the Narrows Center Music Festival in Fall River, and the crowd kept growing. Cutler’s set included music from all eras of his long career, but the finale was one of his best. “Too Many Stars (and Not Enough Sky)” from the Raindogs’ debut album was once again proof that the ’90s band were one of New England’s all-time greats. The middle set was perhaps the most country we’ve ever heard Ward Hayden and the Outliers and Hayden had a great voice. The newest Outlier, from the vast prairies of (checks the notes) Brockton, bassist Greg Hall, also stood out singing a rock version of George Strait’s “I’m the Fireman”. Shemekia Copeland’s headliner had much of the crowd dancing and her fiery finish was “It’s 2am (Do you know where your baby is?)” which, as usual, is the one of the so-called hardest blues numbers you’ll ever hear.
Aerosmith at Fenway
On Thursday, Aerosmith lands (perhaps for the last time?) in Fenway Park, while My Chemical Romance wraps up its two-night stand at TD Garden. …on Friday, legendary blues guitarist Walter Trout burns down the Spire Center; New York’s female punk trio Thick at Brighton Music Hall; while Chet Faker hits the House of Blues; Bruno Mars performs at the MGM Music Hall (and again on Sunday); and German metal team Rammstrein take on Gillette Stadium. …Saturday has The Doobie Brothers at the Orpheum Theatre; Axis Jon Butcher rocks the Spire Center; Wu-Tang Clan at the Xfinity Center; composer James Bay at The Paradise; iconoclast Todd Snider at the Narrows Center; and She + Him (the duo of Zooey Deschanel and Mr. Ward) at the House of Blues. … Sunday night catch incendiary blues rocker Marcus King at the House of Blues; Lupe Fiasco at Big Night Live; and King Khan + the BBQ Show at Brighton Music Hall. … Tuesday, look for Nathaniel Ratcliff and the Night Sweats lighting up the Leader Bank Pavilion. …Wednesday, wait while Tom Jones walks into the Orpheum Theater.
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If you are going to
Who: Valerie Barretto
When: 8 p.m., September 8
Where: Soundcheck Studios, 150 Corporate Park Drive, Pembroke
Tickets: $20 in advance or $25 at the door
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