The Red Hot Stove Tops: Weaving memory into song

Nancy Parent of the Red Hot Stove Tops performs her song "Iris" in a scene from the online video at theday.com.
Nancy Parent of the Red Hot Stove Tops performs her song "Iris" in a scene from the online video at theday.com. Peter Huoppi/The Day Buy Photo

BIO: The Red Hot Stove Tops are the local equivalent of a supergroup, featuring three popular local singer-songwriters who come from disparate styles and musical backgrounds. Nancy Parent is a member of the alt-country/roots band the Rivergods; Daphne Lee Martin has been in many recording and performance situations and leads the jazz-folk-cabaret-country fusion act Raise the Rent (formerly the Roadside Attractions); and Sue Menhart leads the classically inspired blues-rock act called the Sue Menhart Band.

SOUND: A rich variety of interpretive material from across the roots, blues and folk spectrum - all gorgeously arranged for Milky Way harmony clusters. More intriguingly, as with "Iris," the group is slowly beginning to work on original material.

HOW "IRIS" CAME ABOUT: Parent had written a poem inspired by her late father. The words evocatively capture a snapshot-style series of scents, images and memories she's associated with her dad over the years. The poem suggested song lyrics, and Parent sat down on her couch one night and resolved to turn it into an appropriately balladic tribute. She was strumming a few chords when a verse melody came into her head and fastened itself there in barnacle fashion.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: The haunting melody worked well with the words and the chords - but Parent wasn't sure what to do with the skeletal structure. She decided to take it into one of the early rehearsal sessions and see what Menhart and Martin thought. After Parent played it through, Martin suggested a chord pattern that could serve as a chorus, and they then adapted one of the verses to work as hook lyrics. The last step was that Menhart and Martin created their own harmony lines over Parent's original melody. In fluid fashion, the voices at once melded even though the traditional harmony pattern - a third and a fifth over the tonic - was instinctively nuanced.

GET TO THE HYGIENIC! NOW! To see the Red Hot Stove Tops, head to the third annual New London Americana Music Fest in the Hygienic Art Park, 79 Bank St., New London. The Red Hot Stove Tops take the stage at 8 tonight.

- Rick Koster

Sue Menhart, left, Nancy Parent, center, and Daphne Martin are the Red Hot Stove Tops.
Sue Menhart, left, Nancy Parent, center, and Daphne Martin are the Red Hot Stove Tops.

New London Americana Fest:

The third annual New London Americana Music Fest continues today with a full schedule of roots, alt-country, rock and titular Americana music at the Hygienic Art Park. The schedule:

2 p.m. - Chris Mackay & the Toneshifters

3 p.m. - John Fries & the Heat

4 p.m. - Lonely Sparrows

5 p.m. - Paul Brockett Road Show Band

6 p.m. - Rivergods

7 p.m. - Black Marmot

8 p.m. - Red Hot Stove Tops

8:45 p.m. - Ken Atkins & the Honkytonk Kind

9:45 p.m. - Hey Mama

The festival takes place at the Hygienic Art Park, 79 Bank St., New London; free, suggested donation is $10; beer, wine, band merch and food from Raiders Roost is available for sale; americanafestival.net.

- Rick Koster

‘Iris’

Twinkling ice blue eyes
Laughter belly deep
Mystery only you
Would keep…

Sawdust, tools and rust
Spaces smoke-filled dust
Shifting light to dark
Turned to black…

Gardens full of light
Butterflies in flight
Earthen hands to find
The One…

The pain in your body grew
Leaning, curling back
Fragile, flexed, removed
To ash…

Inward then I went
Searching for you still
To know who I am and have
Become…

Gardens full of light
Butterflies in flight
Earthen hands to find
The One…

Now your purple iris stand
Against my rock wall deep
Years of family past
Live on…

Words by Nancy Parent
Music by Nancy Parent/Daphne Martin

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