LEOMINSTER -- The Bruce Marshall Group will swing into motion this Sunday at the Leominster Elks Lodge for dancers who want to cut a rug under Alan Cormier of Dance2Swing. Sharing the stage with hundreds of national acts for more than 20 years, BMG features blues, R&B, Americana and Southern boogie.
With Dave Cournoyer on vocals and guitar, Peter Premo on drums, Glenn DiTommaso on bass and Bruce Marshall on lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, and Dobro (wood-bodied, resonator guitar), the band will rip through original material, offering songs from upbeat to loved lost and back again.
The band's first CD, "Love of the Ride," was released in 1992 and featured 10 originals, including the award-winning "If Dreams Were Money," followed by "Sneak Preview Volume 2," released in 1997. "Kalispell" came out in 2003 with 14 songs, 11 new Bruce Marshall originals, and covers by Tyrone Davis, Toy Caldwell and Chris Rhodes, followed by "Misspent Youth" out in 2010. The single "Three Chords and the Truth" features duo partner James Montgomery on harp.
"A lot of producers are stressing these days looking for simple concise stuff that's to the point, and sometimes I have to remind myself of that -- swing can cross over into jazz, and I can get too involved in the chord progression. So I try to be simple and to the point, so that it is understandable and relatable," said Marshall, who strives to be an articulate singer and speaker for his audience. "I kind of get into this kind of thing because I am an open-mike host and I coach people.
Marshall is host of two open mikes a month in Concord, two in Marlboro and two in both Sebago and Bridgeton, Maine.
"That keeps me busy during the week as a full-time musician. I am giving something back to the community and reserving weekends for gigs and projects," said Marshall.
He chuckled and said his childhood is kind of cliché when it comes to music.
"I was 9 when the Beatles came on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.' Seeing them made me want to perform. Music was in my house. My parents sang, and we were taught harmony at a young age," said Marshall. "For me, it was British invasion, and a few years later, it was Allman Brothers at The Fillmore East -- I wore out three copies of the 8-track tape. That and 'Fresh Cream' with (Eric) Clapton were the two most influential and my blueprint on how to play blues and rock," he said.
Marshall played with guitarist and songwriter Toy Caldwell in the Marshall Tucker Band, then with Caldwell in 1989-90 after he left the Tucker Band. They toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniel and The Outlaws.
"We are gonna to do a fair amount of swing blues -- in fact, that description describes us aptly," said Marshall. "It's danceable, blues-based, and it's gonna be a smattering of our stuff and blues swing and R&B chestnuts, older tunes."
Marshall expects people will feel the fun resonating from the stage.
"And that makes the audience have fun. We love what we do," he said.
He hopes dancers will view the band and see that they are fairly polished. He calls the band a "tight band" with not a lot of dead air.
"We feature everybody in the band," said Marshall, whose name is front and center, but he makes a point to let his band members shine.
"I am convinced Dave will take it over the top, and with the rhythm section, they are so locked in. Hopefully, people will say, 'their songs stayed with me,' or 'their original tunes were catchy,' or 'I was hummin' the hooks on the way home in the car,'" said Marshall, who lives in Maine.
Marshall recalled a recent show at the Art Center in Cotuit. He got a couple of emails from people afterward saying that they were still singing the tunes in their head.
"Some of those were, 'I Need A Raise,' a Bo Diddley-type tune and another, Three Chords and the Truth' -- the title came from an old country slogan that Hank Williams used to use it a lot," said Marshall.
Bruce also has a duo with James Montgomery for 20 years.
"We just opened for Shemekia Copeland, and now that I am in Maine, I have a new band called the Nor'Easters and we perform in the Lakes Region and in the Winnipesaukee area," he said.
Between all of the jobs, Bruce scratches out a living full time.
"I have always enjoyed doing it and felt incredibly lucky. I can go out and play a solo gig, too -- you have to be able to adapt -- the solo stuff is the bread and butter. Yeah, I can do a gig without the help of others and I also love band work. It's a nice balance, and I get to enjoy a lot of different musical experiences and have had a lot of national acts," he said.
"I'm closing in on my seventh CD, the bluesiest CD I ever put out. I have always been a little bit of a stew -- so my band doesn't typically get invited to blues festivals. Maybe we're not Chicago-style enough," Marshall said. "This latest CD focuses on swing blues, this may be the one that critics finally say that I am focusing in on a particular style."
Although Marshall has shared the stage with some big acts, he has never had a major recording deal.
"I have come close, but they have said, 'We don't see a particular niche for it,'" said Marshall.
And that's OK. He's an independent artist and he has the freedom to put out what he wants.
"I don't have that pressure, but I am working the song angle a little bit more. James Montgomery told me, 'We want to walk out to the mailbox to pick up checks instead of walking to a gig,'" he said with a laugh. "But we are road warriors."
Marshall, who did his very first professional gig in Leominster in a little gin mill called Spencer's, recalls it as a spot where he and his band learned how to perform -- that was in 1974.
"If you had told me then, 'You will be back in 43 years playing a private swing-dance club,' I'd a said, 'No.' Glad I was wrong!"
The Bruce Marshall Group will take the Elks Lodge stage for the first time, and he hopes that folks will enjoy the swingin' show.
"We're going to make a lot of new friends in Leominster on the 19th of February," he said.
To learn more visit http://www.brucemarshall.com