(This story was first published in the April 3, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Dillon Walsh, Standard Correspondent
HARTLAND — Before they were a band, members of Miles To Go were friends. Two of them even family — they just didn’t know that yet.
Originally formed in 2001, founding members Jaxon Morgan, Jan Crow, and Alan Goldblatt would later add guitarist Tom Davis and singer Kerry Rosenthal to the group.
“We already had our friendships, and through those friendships discovered that we had musical interest,” Morgan said. “We just spent some time at potlucks jamming and playing together and it evolved from that. We decided to sort of formulize and learn a couple of songs together so we could play at gatherings.”
Part of a line in a Robert Frost poem, the name Miles To Go was picked after Goldblatt presented an arrangement of the poem to the group. Aside from playing violin, baritone violin, bass, guitar, and providing vocals, Goldblatt also builds and restores instruments as well including the violin, viola, cello, and bass.
Meet An Artist: Alan Goldblatt
| Alan Goldblatt attended the North Bennet Street School in Boston, Mass. where he learned to restore and build instruments including the violin, viola, cello and bass. He is a Hartland resident and member of the Hartland-based band Miles To Go. He talked with the Vermont about how he got into the craft… Read more
Goldblatt also had a part in discovering the guitarist Davis, who would join the band soon afterwards. While meeting for the first time at a family funeral, Goldblatt and Davis discovered they were distantly related. Morgan explains that it took off soon after that.
“They struck up a conversation where they realized they had some family ties,” Morgan said. “Tom was a guitarist, and we were looking for a guitarist so Tom came and tried out and we immediately knew it was a good fit.”
It was soon after that Morgan discovered he had deeper ties with Davis as well. Both born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pa., Morgan realized Davis’ father was the surgeon who performed his appendectomy when Morgan was just 10 years old.
“Pretty crazy set of coincidences there with Tom,” Morgan said.
It was around that time that Morgan’s interest and experience with music and instruments took off.
“I got my first drum when I was 9 — a rinky-dink little kit. I took up harmonica when I was 18 and heard a song by the J. Geils Band called ‘Whammer Jammer,’ and that song inspired me to pick up a harmonica,” Morgan said. “At the time, I was doing a lot of traveling — hitchhiking all over the continent — and I carried a harmonica with me all the time.”
The members of Hartland band Miles To Go: from left, Tom Davis, Kerry Rosenthal, Jan Crow, Alan Goldblatt and Jaxon Morgan.
Advertised as playing a mix of Celtic, bluesy and jazzy folk-rock, Morgan says the band’s wide-range approach to the music keeps it fresh and not tied to any one genre.
“We do improv on some traditional stuff as well as popular stuff — kind of give it our own flair. I think it’s what we enjoy doing most,” Morgan said. “We have a pretty broad base in Celtic folk music. We like to do jazzy stuff, and we even play some Latin stuff as well as some blues.”
This approach makes the band’s large repertoire of music familiar, yet unique in their approach to performance. Morgan supplies the 1960s song “Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry as a prime example of this technique.
“The original style of doing that was a very country folk approach. We add some different instrumentation with flute and violin and hand drums that give it a whole different kind of feel,” Morgan said. “It’s still recognizable — the root of the song is still very present but it swings in a different kind of way.”
With the band members living very busy lives, Morgan says it is always difficult to carve out time for all of them to play together. However, Morgan explains the band does play gigs and certain places when they can.
“We do play private parties and gatherings and concerts — we just played at the Common Man Restaurant in Claremont N.H. for St. Patrick’s Day and that has been a standing gig for us for the past several years,” Morgan said. “Other than that, we like to get together and play music.”
For general inquiries or booking, visit the band at alangoldblatt.com/ milestogo/index.html.