Smile Politely

August Writers in the Round unites guitars, harmonies and stories

This is a photo of a band performing on a stage at an outdoor event. The stage is set up under a white tent with a banner that reads “ROSE BOWL” in red letters. The band consists of four members, two playing guitars, one playing a keyboard, and one playing a drum. There are people sitting in white folding chairs in front of the stage, watching the performance. The background consists of trees and a parking lot.
Bonnie Newberry

After an afternoon of rain showers, the weather dried up and I walked into the Rose Bowl to see the tail end of Sara Siders’s (Sass) performance. I got to hear her rendition of “My Neck My Back” before heading out to the big white tent that would soon be full of singer/songwriters and their fans. 

The August Writers in the Round featured host Gloria Roubal, Joe Asselin, Anthony Gravino, and Jill Greenlee.  

The round started and the vibe was a little more communal than last month’s Writers in the Round.  Gravino was the second to play and his first song was “Hippie with Hummers,” a juxtaposition he had read in a comment section in a self-proclaimed rabbit hole of scrolling. Asselin jumped in with some harmonica licks and Greenlee and Roubal added harmonies that filled the song and the tent. While Gravino has not released any solo work yet he is currently working on his own album, “Music for 5 year Olds,” which he assured me has no Paw Patrol references, but “has intentional edges that are purposely not rounded.” A style that makes his music interesting to listen to and keeps your attention. His second song “Hello Mister Moon” showed a lot of dynamics, starting very light and ending with a heavier sound and lyrics.  He also performed a sing-a-long titled “Oh my God” that had everyone singing along and clapping. Gravino had a way of including everyone in the round in his songs that made you feel like they had rehearsed, you could say he’s a musician’s musician.

Greenlee was the next performer and the sweetheart of the round. She shared that although she has been performing for many years and performs regularly this would be the first time she performed her originals. She moved between playing guitar and piano for her songs, starting with “It’s so Nice”, a pretty song that had the crowd on its feet. Her second song, “The Golden Meadow” was in the same ethereal vein that shows off her ability to build a beautiful story for her audience. However with “December” she let us in a little deeper, her lyrics describing a dark night that I, and many women in the crowd, could relate to. Although it was a raw and vulnerable moment, she performed with passion and a sweet smile that embodies the power of the feminine to make something beautiful out of something terrible.  

This is a photo of a band performing on a stage under a tent. The band members are sitting on chairs and playing guitars. The stage is decorated with a colorful banner and a large screen displaying abstract art. There are speakers and other musical equipment on the stage. The background consists of a white tent and trees.
Bonnie Newberry

Asselin was the final performer of the round, he has the charm and style of a good ol’ boy performer with none of the arrogance. A very down-to-earth and friendly guy who had a lot of nice things to say about some mutual venue owners we knew, his performance was polished and fun. His first song, “John Wayne,” came with a “mean song” warning and was reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s storytelling. If his storytelling and laid-back personality didn’t win you over, his finger-picking did. His song “$300 Pair of Blue Jeans” was written in a Jim Croce style and the crowd loved it, especially when he would let the guitar take over. In his words, “I really don’t know what I’m doin’, the guitars doin’ it.” If that’s true I’m sure there are many pickers who’d love to get their hands on that instrument! He also lent his harmonica playing to multiple songs throughout the evening, adding appropriate ambiance to the other writers’ songs and adding to the fullness of everyone’s sound that evening.

Roubal, the talented and gracious host, shared some new music that she is currently recording with Gravino at his studio High Cross Sound. She gave me two of her previously released albums and I’ll admit I am a fan. “Memory Game,” which will be featured on her new album, was a beautiful song that was almost a lullaby. Listening to it was like a walk through time and Roubal’s smooth voice is the perfect company for the journey. “Sea of Apologies” has the “90s chick rock” sound that compliments her vocals and playing style with lyrics everyone could relate to.

You can see these performers for yourself at one of the below-listed dates and venues, and stream them from the following:

  • Gloria Roubal – September 2nd at Tabapalooza at noon, look for her Bandcamp site coming soon.
  • Anthony Gravino – He and his “band of mercenaries” will be at Toast to Taylor Street on September 2nd, his solo album will be available on all streaming sites soon.
  • Jill Greenlee – The first Thursday of every month at Boomerangs and October 7th at Toast To Taylor Street. Her music is not available for streaming.
  • Joe Asselin – Saturday, August 26th at Mount Vernon’s Blues Fest. You can find all of his music streaming on Spotify, iTunes, and all other streaming services.

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