Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Next Right Thing

The opening act was done, and had left the stage. The waitress came around to refill coffee cups as the headliner and his accompanying guitar player made their way to the stage. Maybe 40, 50 people in the audience, twice as many empty seats as filled ones. The singer was a short, slightly-built kid with floppy hair and stubble, 22-years old as it turned out and looking barely that. He popped up on stage, bypassed the piano at the center and bent down to strap a rattle onto his left foot. The crowd, if you could call it that, giggled a little as he picked up a large gourd covered with shells and gave it a trial shake. He tentatively stomped on a wooden bar in front of the microphone, producing a deep thud like a bass drum. He glanced at the guitar player, who was holding a stick in his hand, ready to bang it straight down on the stage. They nodded at each other. And then came one of those moments that took my breath away.

It began with a steady beat and rattle, more a tribal thumping than a melody. In a piercing alto he began: "As the sun goes up over the sea/everyone was singing in a minor key/Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and priest/Gathered around for the jubilee./Two old ladies still waiting on a sign/growing bitter with age like a yellowtail wine./Shouting at the junkies in the court street light/Do The Next Right Thing or The Next Thing Right." Goosebumps went down my spine: Seth Glier was on stage.

Glier may just be the next right thing, but in spite of his tender age he's hardly a newcomer. His first 5 song EP "Why" was released in 2004, and since then he's had 4 more, the most recent being this year's "The Next Right Thing." A native of Shelburne, MA, Glier attended Boston's Berklee College of Music for a year before dropping out: "I wanted to play for people not grades, "he says. With his best friend and accompanist Ryan Hommel, they spent the last year in a blue Prius driving this way and that on their way to 250 performances. "This year," he told me, "I think we'll only do 150." He laughed: "I have a girlfriend in DC now, and want to have a life."

To be sure, his music echoes his influences, people like Joni Mitchell, Martin Sexton and Randy Newman. But he brings his own sensibilities to it, infusing it with an emotional content that's hard to imagine in one so young until you hear some of his back story. "This year is my dad's 20th year of sobriety" he tells the audience at one point. And at another he talks about how, when he's home, one of his responsibilities is to wake up his brother. The audience titters a bit, but stops dead once he continues: "My brother is 26, autistic and non-verbal. I get him up, get him showered and get him breakfast. I learned to communicate with words better once I realized how to communicate to someone without them."

That aside, it all comes down to the music, and Glier's singing and songwriting knocks you over. His songs are soulful, emotional, and on stage he takes each by the throat and shakes it alive, to the point that he's literally falling off the piano stool. In "Walk Katie Home" he talks about being so smitten with a young lady that he would drive 4 hours to New York City where she lived just to walk with her. (It didn't last," he said after. "She's now in Germany dating a glockenspiel player. That's life, I guess"). In "No Place to Land" he feels sorry for those who gain success at the expense of losing their personal moorings: "I lost you, dismissed you, tonight I miss you/I've been flying with my life in such command/that I've got no place to land." And my favorite, "New World I See," as yet unrecorded, is smooth and heartfelt about another girl you just have to meet: "Kentucky, keep your whiskey/ Georgia, keep your peach/My Carolina is sweeter than sweet."

I love live music, and have seen a lot of performers. And while many others have seen 30 Springsteen concerts, or followed U2 to 10 different cities, my particular passion is singer/songwriters or groups which are unheralded or little known. I love passing on discoveries to others, music you might not have heard of, and truth be told, may never really break out. But I don't think that's the case here. So consider yourself tipped off: Seth Glier is making the rounds. Get into him now before others tell you what you're missing. It's The Next Right Thing.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves live music of any type. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at

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