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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Meet Turnip Truck, the Next Winter Concert Series Act

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

January wasn’t very January. Some snow, but not too snowy. Some cold weather, but not too cold. Some mud thanks to a January thaw, but not too muddy.

It wasn’t much to bear to have the reward of later sunsets. Tomorrow, the sun sets at 5pm. That’s the first time since early November when we set the clocks back. Though I admit I try hard to convince myself of this every day, it is getting lighter earlier in the morning.

Around this time of the year for the last four years, Bill and I head up to Gardener's Supply to buy seeds for the garden. By mid-February, I will plant my Brussels sprouts. They'll have the grow lights all to themselves for about a month. Then I start planting seeds regularly for the next several weeks.

I’m getting ahead of myself, of course. We still have February to get through. Maybe at the end of next month, I won’t be able to repeat my claims about snow, cold, and mud. We shall see.

As I promised last week, I have some more information to share about the band that will be playing the second of the four winter concerts. The band is Turnip Truck. The five members of the band hail from north of Reading, specifically the towns of Corinth, Topsham, and Randolph.

As noted on their website, the band members are David Richard (guitar), Dan "Rudi" Ruddell (guitar and harmonica), Andy Mueller (fiddle), Peter O' Connor (mandolin), and Brian Carroll (bass).

I chatted with Brian on the phone while he was driving around Philadelphia last week for work. Like me, he is a recent transplant to Vermont. After years of visiting with his wife and asking why they were leaving after some time in the state, they decided to stop asking and moved up from Boston’s South Shore.

Brian was already a musician, skilled at playing guitar. He and Dave had been friends for a while, so he had someone to jam with when he got here. In time, Dave invited Brian to make music with his friends. Andy, Pete, and Rudy were playing in another band, but they weren't playing bluegrass, roots, or folk, which all three of them enjoyed. They brought Dave in and then Brian to form Turnip Truck. Since the band already had guitar players, a banjo player, and a mandolin player, Brian picked up the bass, an instrument he had never played before, and the line up was complete.

Turnip Truck’s music is more than just the genres mentioned above. Their influences also include gypsy jazz and swing. Andy likes Bob Dylan, and Brian told me he leads a “bluegrassified” version of Neil Young’s “Helpless.”

For the last two winters, I've chatted with all the bands who play at the concert series. I was delighted to speak with Dave Richardson and Spencer Lewis in 2019. I was thrilled to chat with OldBoys and Turnip Truck this year. One of the things I have learned is that these musicians all use their talent for community building.

Closer to Turnip Truck’s home, Corinth holds a coffee house. Like the Winter Concert Series, the concerts are benefits. They do seven shows a season and donate the proceeds from each show to a different beneficiary. One of the bands that played a previous coffee house show is Still Hill, which features Reading’s Niles Franc on standup bass. Brian sees Turnip Truck’s playing our show as returning the favor. Plus, Brian told me that the band is excited to come down this way, an area they don’t often play.

Whether it is in Reading or Corinth or any of the other places they perform, Brian says one of the things he loves about playing in Vermont, especially compared to playing around Boston, is that the music is not just filler, the band is not playing to the backs of people’s heads. Here, “it’s an attentive audience,” Brian said. “There is something special about how you can connect with people.”

One of the other ways they connect is with their audience is by getting people off their seats. “We love when people dance. That feeds into us, which we try to feed back out to the audience. That's really awesome to make that kind of connection with folks.”

I assured Brian that people who come to our shows love to dance. So, clear your calendar for February 8, find your dancing shoes, and come out for the Turnip Truck show. It starts at 7pm, and doors open at 6:30pm. We’ll have dinner food provided by the Reading/West Windsor Food Shelf. They, along with the Reading Green Spaces Committee, the Reading Recreation Commission, and the Ottauquechee Health Foundation, are the beneficiaries of the series. Admission is $10 for adults. Children 15 and under are free.

Also, don’t forget to bring non-perishable food items that are not beyond their expiration date. We will donate them immediately to the Reading/West Windsor Food Shelf.

I'm going to end by squeezing in a couple of reminders for other events. February 9, from 4pm to 7pm, is Mama Mia Bistro at Reading Elementary School. This delicious evening is sponsored by the Reading PTO.

On February 15, the Reading Historical Society will hold its annual meeting at Town Hall. The business part of the meeting starts at 4:30pm, with dinner at 5pm and a presentation in conjunction with the Vermont Humanities Council beginning at 6pm titled "Getting from Here to There: A History of Roads and Settlement in Vermont.”

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on January 30, 2020.

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