Artist Profiles, Concert Reviews, Music

Oshima Brothers: A Maine Treasure

The state of Maine is known for its rocky coastline, lighthouses, lobster, moose, blueberries, Acadia National Park and LL Bean.

Rarely does anyone outside of the Pine Tree State ever think about Maine’s music scene. I predict that will be changing when those outside of New England learn about the Oshima Brothers.

The Oshima Brothers are a musical duo composed of two siblings, older brother Sean, 24, and Jaime, 21. The brothers were born and raised in a rural area near the Maine state capital of Augusta, and now call the mid-coast town of Belfast, Maine their home.

Sean and Jamie have been playing music together as siblings since they were young boys. Their parents are also musicians.

Mom Toki and Dad John regularly played music during contra dances across the state of Maine and gave their sons an appreciation for music by playing multiple instruments. Music has always been the focus for the entire Oshima family.

So you may be wondering: What type of music do the brothers Oshima play? Here is a quote from the Oshima Brothers official website:

“…[T]he brothers have honed a harmony-rich blend of contemporary folk and acoustic pop. On stage, Sean and Jamie create a surprisingly full sound with dynamic vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, octave bass, loops, and percussion.”

Brothers Jamie and Sean both have distinct roles within their band and harmoniously blend individual strengths together to create the unique sound of their musical partnership.

Sean Oshima

Sean is the chief songwriter, business manager, and public relations director and handles all communications for the duo. He plays rhythm guitar, harmonica, and cajón at shows, along with vocal duties. Sean has an exceptional falsetto vocal range.

Jamie Oshima

Jamie is the music maestro, producer, recording/audio engineer and filmmaker for the band. He plays multiple instruments including the electric guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, mandolin, banjo, and fiddle while also recording songs and videos at the Oshima Brothers home studio. Jamie also shares vocal responsibilities with his brother.

I first came to be familiar with the Oshima Brothers band the day before they came to Roanoke, Virginia for a concert. My sister, Kathryn Larson, who lives in New Gloucester, Maine, has actually known Jamie and Sean since they were young boys.

Kathryn is a contra dance caller throughout the state of Maine and the Oshima Brothers, along with their parents John and Toki, have played at many contra dances over the years where Kathryn is the caller.

With Kathryn’s connection, I met Sean and Jamie three hours before their concert at The Spot on Kirk in downtown Roanoke on Monday January 14th. The Oshima Brothers were the opening band for singer-songwriter Caitlin Canty, as both were part of a 13-stop tour that was sponsored by the Americana Music Association.

During my interview with Jamie and Sean, I found out that they formed their band in 2015 and released the self-titled, “Oshima Brothers” album during 2016. They also have a 5-song EP called, “Under the Same Stars” that is currently not released to buy online but was available for purchase for those who attended their concert in Roanoke that evening.

Sean and Jamie Oshima

To get to know the Oshima Brothers better, here are some of the questions I asked Sean and Jaime about their band:

What artists influenced you when you were growing up?

Sean: We have been obsessed with The Beatles forever. We also listened to Jackson 5, Gillian Welch, Jack Johnson. Funk, reggae, traditional fiddle tunes, old country duets.

What type of artists do you listen to in 2019?

Sean: We love all types of music from groovy pop to smooth jazz. We listen to Ray Charles, John Mayer, Tom Misch, The Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver and on and on and on forever.

What is the one thing you most admire about your brother?

Sean: His clear focus. He’s obsessed with all things music. I admire the eagerness with which he dives into musical projects, new recordings, new videos. Jamie’s patience and relentlessness is amazing.

Jamie: I admire Sean’s ability to match his sock color to the occasion, mood, and atmosphere of an event, and his outfit. I don’t know, but he might have 100 pairs of socks. I also like his poetry. It’s pretty good.

Describe the type of music you play?

Sean: It’s sort of like indie-folk-pop. A little mix of everything. It can be groovy and dreamy and smooth and chill and acoustic and electric all at the same time. Rich with harmonies and bass and big drums then stark and sweet with acoustic guitar.

Oshima Brothers equipment

For their Roanoke concert, the Oshima Brothers performed 8 songs. Here is the setlist:

Nine Mile Kite

Ellie

Letter

Hearts As Full As The Moon

Broken

How Deep Is Your Love

These Cold Nights

Calling Your Name

Before Sean and Jamie opened their show, I gave each brother a bottle of Poland Spring water as a welcome to Roanoke and to help them have a pleasant reminder of their beloved home state of Maine.

The opening selection of “Nine Mile Kite” started out with Jaime and Sean wonderfully singing a capella before finishing their song with playing of instruments. An excellent tune to begin their show.

Wonderful harmonies were part of every Oshima Brothers song that was played at the Roanoke show. The concert was a good mix of up-tempo tunes and pleasing slow ballad grooves.

One of the highlights of the evening was the performance of a brand new single, “Ellie” which Sean said that Portland Maine Triple A radio station, WCLZ 98.9 FM is now playing and how it was thrilling hearing their song receiving air play in their home state. With the right radio exposure, I believe “Ellie” could become a hit with a wider audience.

Halfway through the set, Jamie broke out his fiddle for the toe-tapping song, “Broken” which was a crowd favorite. Two other songs that were highlights for the band were “These Cold Nights” and “Hearts as Full as the Moon.” There is a freshness with the Oshima Brothers’ music, with no two songs sounding alike.

Seven of the eight songs performed that evening were original tunes by the brothers. The one cover song they played, “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bees Gees was superb. The falsetto vocal range and harmony of Sean and Jamie equally matched the singing by the Brothers Gibbs on their number 1 song from 1977.

Jamie and Sean’s songs are well crafted. Their harmonies are smooth and flow together beautifully, no matter which song they are performing. I especially enjoy the chord progressions on many of the tunes played by the brothers.

After the Oshima Brothers performed, Caitlin Canty took the stage with her acoustic guitar, laying down excellent tunes with folk, country and introspective storytelling. Accompanying Canty at this concert was Miss Tess, who did an outstanding job playing her upright bass.

Caitlin Canty and Miss Tess. Photo by Jamie Oshima

Since Caitlin toured with the Oshima Brothers on this 13-day January journey, I asked her if she could share some comments about the brothers and their music. Here are Caitlin’s thoughts to me via email at Caitlin Canty’s official website:

“The post-show chatter from the audience was always positive about OB [Oshima Brothers] – my favorite eavesdropped comment was, ‘they are a breath of fresh air.’ They are sweet and hardworking people and I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more good music from them in the years to come.”

Sean and Jamie Oshima

I absolutely agree with Caitlin’s assessment on the Oshima Brothers: I am confident that Sean and Jamie’s music will become popular to a wider audience and we will be blessed to hear much more new music from the brothers in the future. The Oshima Brothers are a Maine Treasure!

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Concert Reviews

James Taylor Concert Review: Greensboro, NC (May 18th)

James Taylor performing in Greensboro, NC. Photo credit Kaye Ferrell.

In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina

Can’t you see the sunshine

Can’t you just feel the moonshine

Maybe just like a friend of mine

It hit me from behind

Yes I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind

These, of course, are the beginning lyrics to “Carolina on My Mind” by James Taylor. The North Carolina raised singer appropriately opened with this song during his concert in Greensboro on Friday May 18th. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer performed a total of 25 songs and was backed by a 10-piece band and vocal performers.

Promotional signs in the venue. Photo credit Kaye Ferrell.

Originally the legendary singer-songwriter and musician Bonnie Raitt had been slated to open up for Taylor but she could not attend the concert due to a medical condition. Right before intermission Taylor sent Ms. Raitt a video message of the crowd shouting “We love you Bonnie.” It was an extremely touching moment for those of us in the crowd.

Taylor, known for laid-back ballads during his career, played many of those types of songs but he wasn’t limited to just that kind of tune. The first few songs tended to drag a bit as the tempos to those songs were slow, ballad-style.

However, all was not lost as Taylor’s band brightened up the consecutive slow songs with outstanding musicianship during the beginning stage of the concert. I was most impressed by these excellent musicians and back up vocalists. Some of the stand outs from the band include Jimmy Johnson on bass, Lou Marini with saxophone, flute and clarinet, Michito Sanchez on percussion and Steve Gadd on drums. On the vocal side, Arnold McCuller and Kate Markowitz were exceptional, providing wonderful harmonies alongside Taylor.

James Taylor performing in Greensboro, NC. Photo credit Kaye Ferrell.

Being 70 years old, Taylor still has an outstanding voice and can carry his songs just like he did when he was a hit maker on Top 40 radio. He also has a wry sense of humor and was extremely nostalgic in between various songs. I came to appreciate these attributes as the concert proceeded.

The set list included all of the big hits but Taylor also selected some lesser-known favorites that struck a balance with his music selection. He performed “Something in the Way She Moves” which became one the first songs he recorded for Apple Records in 1968 with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Another song from his debut album, “Carolina on My Mind,” was a crowd favorite as Taylor spent his childhood growing up in North Carolina.

The 70-year old singer kept the hits coming: During the first set, crowd favorites included “Country Road”, “Cooperline”, “Handy Man” and “Mexico.” His Junior Walker and the All Stars cover of “(I’m a) Road Runner” was also a satisfying up-tempo tune in the beginning portion of the show.

The second half brought more crowd favorites such as “Up on the Roof”, “Steamroller”, “Sweet Baby James”, “Showing The People” and “Your Smiling Face.” My favorite performance of the night was Taylor’s signature song, “Fire and Rain.” The song received a standing ovation and was a highlight for me at the concert. He then finished the 2nd set with “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). That had the crowd clapping hard with enthusiasm.

For the encore, Taylor performed a Wilson Picket cover “In the Midnight Hour” and his first number 1 hit from 1971, his cover of Carole King’s “You’re Got a Friend.” Then Taylor ended his concert the same way he opened up the show: singing “Carolina on My Mind.” It was no mind game: Taylor was actually in North Carolina as he closed out his time with us in Greensboro.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience to have the opportunity to see James Taylor in concert. Taylor‘s tour is continuing through the summer, so if he comes somewhere in your part of the country, I would highly recommend buying tickets to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer in concert.

If you were at the Greensboro concert like me, or any of Taylor’s other May shows, I would love for you to share your thoughts on the concert you attended.

Setlist for Greensboro, NC – May 18, 2018 

Set 1

  1. Carolina in My Mind
  2. Country Road
  3. Jump Up Behind Me
  4. Never Die Young
  5. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
  6. (I’m a) Road Runner
  7. Nothing Like a Hundred Miles
  8. First Day of May
  9. Copperline
  10. Handy Man
  11. Mexico

Set 2

  1. Something in the Way She Moves
  2. Sunny Skies
  3. Walking Man
  4. Up On the Roof
  5. Steamroller Blues
  6. Sweet Baby James
  7. Fire and Rain
  8. Your Smiling Face
  9. Shower the People
  10. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)

Encore

  1. Shed a Little Light
  2. In the Midnight Hour
  3. You’re Got a Friend
  4. Carolina In My Mind
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