From the Daily Hampshire Gazette
photo CHARLES ABEL
Ina Iansiti of Northampton, leader of the band Whiskey Ina, marshals her own musical talents and those of other area performers, to live her dream of playing alongside some of the big names in the music industry. 'I always thought the pinnacle would be to play the Iron Horse and do a good job,' she says.
As pictured in a recent drawing of the band by Ina Iansiti, Whiskey Ina includes, from left, Jason Smith on drums, Frank Padellaro on bass, Iansiti on guitar, Jim Armenti on fiddle and Doug Beaumier on pedal steel guitar.
Whiskey Ina handles the hard stuff - Band leader Ina Iansiti of Northampton makes her musical dream come true
BY KEN MAIURI
EDITOR'S NOTE: Readers who remember Ken Maiuri's 'Clubland' will be happy to hear that he and his column are back. A talented musician, playing drums, bass and other instruments, Maiuri brings with him an insider's understanding of the music, bolstered by his experiences over the last three years touring with bands across the country and internationally. Replacing Johnny Memphis' music column, 'Clubland' will run weekly in Thursday's art section.
Ina Iansiti, onstage at the Iron Horse leading her band Whiskey Ina, was not the average opening act. For one, she was barefoot. Also, her musical dream was coming true.
Last Wednesday night the Northampton-based singer-songwriter opened for Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, a tight retro rockabilly-swing combo from Los Angeles that's toured ceaselessly for nearly two decades. Whiskey Ina has existed for less than two years, with sporadic shows sprinkled throughout.
But Iansiti didn't get nervous. She got prepared. She sent out 150 postcards to friends (which began, 'My musical dream has come true!'). She assembled a band full of area favorites - Jim Armenti on fiddle, Doug Beaumier on pedal steel, Frank Padellaro on bass and harmonies and Jason Smith on drums. And she rehearsed.
About 75 people were there at the Iron Horse when Iansiti began her seven-song set with '222-blue,' an original that dates back to when she was still learning how to change chords without fumbling pauses on her just-bought acoustic guitar. Onstage, in front of a paying (and eating) crowd and leading a band full of pros, Iansiti was focused and smooth. She didn't once check her hands, but instead looked determinedly out at the audience.
Iansiti explained in an interview at her Northampton home last week that her unflinching solidity was really a pleasant by-product of anxiety: 'I couldn't think of what to do with my face, because the lights were so bright!'
She followed the introductory oldie with a brand-new song called 'Lay Down.' Padellaro chewed gum with conviction as he sang backup, putting some English on the bass as he stepped back and forth. Beaumier's pedal steel and Armenti's fiddle traded solos (in that order) on every tune, but on this one in particular they built up a fiery conversation. The sound of the band was casually raggedy, the kind of vibe reminiscent of folk festival jams or sprawling laid-back dances.
Iansiti's a mother of two, drummer Smith's a father of two, and their young children were in attendance, front and center on the roomy, dinnertime dance floor.
'This is the first time my daughters have ever seen me with my band,' Iansiti announced warmly between songs. During 'Dandelion Heart,' another original, all four kids ran around in joyously spastic, out-of-breath circles, swaying arms with their guardians, hopping animatedly.
Iansiti's countryish, swingy songs, influenced by the Carter Family, Willie Nelson, Dylan and Townes Van Zandt, among others, live in a timeless world where 'sad' doesn't exist - only 'blue,' which is sadder than 'sad' could ever be. Yet at the same time, 'blue' lets you get away with using it in up-tempo songs, which works for Iansiti, since she's not a moper - she's a dancer (as any regular local show-goer can attest, since Iansiti's often out in the audience, dancing supportively).
'Close Enough Is Good Enough for Me' was another catchy old original with a super-sprightly gait. But otherwise Iansiti used her time on the big stage to pay tribute to some of her local songwriting heroes, covering songs by Armenti ('Hammer and Tongs'), Ray Mason ('Ain't That a Lot of Lonely') and Matt Hebert, whose 'One Thing' was one of the night's lyrical highlights.
'Stay out of my house/ away from my yard/ stay away from the ones that I love/ you can't win my heart/ and if you push me too far/ you'll meet the sweet lord above,' sang Iansiti, without batting an eye.
In less than half an hour, Iansiti was off the stage, having done what she'd always wanted to do since moving to the area more than a decade ago.
'I'll never be a professional musician, but I want to put on a professional show,' she said, talking about her musical career as her two daughters pitched Legos around on the sunny porch of her Northampton home. She added, 'I always thought the pinnacle would be to play the Iron Horse and do a good job.'
Suddenly the oldest daughter yelled happily, 'You did a great job!!' and ran to hug her mom, plastic bricks tumbling to the floor.' Now I can retire!' laughed Iansiti, her arms full. 'And have a reunion show next year.'
That retirement's not coming anytime soon - she will appear as part of the Armenti Family (as the Carter Family) in this year's Transperformance at Look Park on August 15.