Not far into the first moments of an evening with the Alison Pipitone Band you sense something different. Yes, there are the “familiars”: the petite dynamo with a blistering axe and a voice that swings easy from sultry singeing soul to slow sweet syrup; the lazy elegance of a band so smart and tight that cohesiveness dwells only in the subconscious of the players; avid – even rabid – fans, from their home base in Buffalo, NY to far-flung outposts such as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Memphis, St. Louis, Nashville and more.
Yes, in that way it is the same old story. But you know there’s something different.
The Alison Pipitone Band has racked up their share of street cred, of course, warming the stage for a who’s who of rock pioneers and practitioners: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Bacon Brothers, Martha Wainwright, Barenaked Ladies, 5440, Lowest of the Low, Billy Bob Thornton Band, Michelle Malone, Vienna Teng, Exene Cervenka and Tarbox Ramblers. And while impressive – and that is impressive – it’s not making the difference that you hear. And there is a difference.
Certainly unique is the history: having boomeranged between both coasts, Alison settled herself in Los Angeles for a spell, long enough to help found an exciting, though ill-fated, rock outfit called the Monas. Feeling the shadow of grunge filling the canyons of Southern California, she exiled herself to Western New York, where she found instant acceptance in the local music scene, gathering honors, gigs, contracts, phone numbers and plenty of free drinks. But it wasn’t because she was the new girl in town, as Alison has proved her staying power having locked up the Buffalo Music Awards’ Top Original Female Vocalist Award for the last six consecutive years. No slouches themselves, her band enjoyed the Top Original Rock Band Award in 2005.
And about that band! Patrick Shaughnessy keeping everyone in line on the drums while Graham Howes expertly fills in the sound on guitar and, underneath it all, either Jim Whitford or Ben Clarke lovingly, groovingly lays the bass line. Often the band will expand to fill the need, employing Natalie Howes on backing vocals and Sheila Connors on accordion, Cajun rubboard and additional vocals.
And even with all of the history, talent and musicianship, you know there’s something different about the Alison Pipitone Band. And as you listen, it hits you.
The difference is the fun, the rock & roll humor, the feeling that you’re not just at a club with a roomful of strangers tapping toes. Rather, you’re at a backyard party with a few hundred friends, the drink is flowing, the mood is good. No one cares that you can’t dance, and no one cares if you can. You came to see the band, but you leave with the distinct impression that they were actually here for you. The difference is the heart. The difference is the attitude.
The difference is the difference.