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Worcester’s “Hip Swayers” Combine Different Musical Genres

Saturday, December 01, 2012


It’s been said that all the best songs have already been written, and while that may or may not be true, in an ideal world, we would get to hear both old and new great songs and enjoy them all.

This is where Worcester's Hip Swayers, a local four piece country/Americana band, fill the bill.  
“People get kind of blown away by our song selection – we may start our set out with a few classic surf numbers and then roll into a Patti Smith tune and follow that up with a Johnny and June Carter Cash duet.  We aim to please!” says Hip Swayers’ bass player and co-lead singer Toni Ostrow.  The band plays their own compositions as well, a number of which will be included on their new album, “Hips are Happenin,” is slated to be released early in the new year. 

Formed almost two years ago, the Hip Swayers actually consist of two acts; the “Duo” of vocalist /rhythm guitarist/accordionist Dave Blodgett and Ostrow, and the full or “Deluxe” version of the band, which adds lead guitarist David Niles and drummer Mark Cherrington. 

The Duo play frequently at pubs and cafés and their shows invoke such classic country musical greats as George Jones & Melba Montgomery and Johnny & June Carter Cash.  “We love those classic songs – they are so much fun to sing and the while the lyrics seem simple, they are really quite clever and funny and poignant," says Ostrow. 

A Hip Swayers Deluxe show is a more rocking performance and good to dance to, you can usually catch one of their sets at Vincent’s or the Hotel Vernon’s Ship Room.   Humor is often in evidence at a Hip Swayers show, they joke and quip with their audiences and seem to be having a lot of fun on stage, especially when they play a crowd pleaser like the Green Acres theme complete with extended drum solo.  

“We are having fun and the audience senses that and then they’re having fun – that’s what it’s all about.” says Cherrington.
And why “hips”?

“Hip is a great word  - literally, our music gets people’s hips swaying – tho’ sometimes it’s the beers!” jokes Dave Blodgett.  Ostrow adds, 

“And then there’s hip in the sense of hipsters and we are swaying what people’s sense of being hip is – if that makes any sense…I mean I love that Tower of Power record “What is Hip?” and the concept of the definition of hip being ever changing.  Of course we’ll change too…in a couple of years we won’t be the Hip Swayers,  we’ll be the Hip Replacements!”

While not ‘over the hill’, the member of the Hip Swayers are certainly veterans of the music scene.  

"Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.” says Blodgett, “actually, I could sing before I could talk, as I had a profound stutter as a kid.  But somehow I was able to sing the hymns in church and along with pop music on the radio just fine," he explains.  

“I was fortunate to have a 6th  grade teacher who recognized my singing  ability  and cast me as the lead in a school production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore – that launched my performing career!"  

As a teen, Blodgett played drums in the Westborough rock band Ground Zero. In college, an interest in Irish and English folk music led him to Appalachian, bluegrass, old-timey, and hard-country songs.  He was recruited and performed with Christmas Revels and the Revels Repertory Company for several years and then formed the countrified good time band Sons of Hiram, which included Ostrow on bass.

“I had never played this style of music before.” says Ostrow, who was the bass player in the NYC punk band Killdozer (later Sharky’s Machine) formed by Mike Edison back in the 80’s.

“We used to play the hardcore matinees at CBGB’s  and got to tour in Europe a couple of times, and open for bands like Sonic Youth and the Ramones.”   

More recently Ostrow formed the pop punk band Opposites Day with her then 12 year old son and his pal. 

“Joining Sons of Hiram and then Hip Swayers was an education for me – I enjoyed hearing country music when it was on the jukebox, but I had never played and certainly had never sung it before.”

About lead guitarist Dave Niles, one local fan had this to say “played a Tele--bluegrass, country, slide, surf-all going' on. Nice treat for an old city boy!"  

Says Niles “It may sound cliché, but I decided I wanted to learn guitar after seeing The Beatles on television. I've played with many rock, blues and country bands all over New England, upstate New York, New York City, Ohio and Colorado, and in venues such as the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland and Max's Kansas City in New York.” 

Niles played with many greats including the late Maynard Silva, a long-time fixture in the Boston blues scene, Strangers (a popular 80's era N.H. dance band), The High Street Band (a Worcester favorite), Mad Jack and the Screaming Alligators from Cleveland Ohio, who had been playing many of the same venues Joe Walsh and The James Gang had cut their teeth on, as well as a band called Nazareth (no, not that Nazareth, a different one!).

“I got interested in country music early on, and remember watching the Porter Wagner Show and Clyde Joy and of course Rex Trailer on WBZ in Boston.  My first exposure to playing country was with Mercy Wiggins and Dakota, both popular country-rock bands in New Hampshire. Later on I did a tour with Tina Welch, who is now in the New England Country Music Hall of Fame, and played with country legend Dick Curless, who had several hits in the 60's including ‘Tombstone Every Mile.’ “ 

Besides The Hip Swayers, Niles also plays with the Massachusetts-based R&B band The Bone Dogs.

Hip Swayers drummer Mark Cherrington, who also plays with Niles in the Bone Dogs, recalls his start in music.

“I got my first drum on my first birthday, and started taking lessons when I was six.  My first appearance on stage was in sixth grade, playing a jury-rigged kit consisting of my father's marching snare drum, with its case turned on its side for a bass drum, and a trash can lid for a cymbal (the rest of the band was a guy playing a one-octave electric organ and another kid playing a baritone sax). I was nervous when the curtains opened, but once I heard the applause, I was hooked, and I've been playing ever since. I studied with the percussionist from Arturo Toscanini's orchestra and several other luminaries from the classical world, but most of my playing has been with rock, blues, and country bands.” 

Cherrington’s drumming skills can be heard on the band’s website where some selections from the forthcoming album are already posted.  Recorded by renowned Tremolo Lounge engineer Roger Lavalle, the new tunes include the up tempo ‘Drive Me Home’.  

“It’s a song about drinking and not driving, but fun not preachy” explains Ostrow, “we are hoping it gets picked up as a public service announcement.”   

Also on the web is  the original and endearing ‘Broke Down Lover’, about which one fan wrote “I really enjoyed it, as an anthem for us old couples who ain't dead yet." 

"The record will also  have covers of songs by Captain Beefheart, Bob Dylan, The Who, Southern Culture on the Skids, the Louvin Brothers and Porter Wagoner. In other words, an eclectic and enjoyable mix," describes Ostrow.

When asked about what the future holds for the band, the singer and bassist adds that, overall, they just "want to keep playing, singing and recording music.  Of course, we haven’t quit our day jobs…yet!”

For more information on the band, including concert dates, and to listen to their music, please click here.


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