I’ve been a working writer my whole adult life, and I’ve always loved music — but I only became a working musician within the last decade.
These days, playing in two groups in the Middlebury, Vermont area, and being involved in several recording projects, has brought me new appreciation for the beauty of local music. We’re not trying to be stars! We just love to play — and people come to hear us and to relax, smile, and dance. It’s a wonderful thing.
I play the conga drums, which are Latin hand drums that came out of Cuba, with roots in West Africa. I also play the harmonica, which has a rich history in American blues, country and rock music. And I play a wide variety of hand percussion instruments: shakers, scrapers, bells, tambourines, beaded gourds and more. All this lets me fit into songs in a diversity of ways, which is really fun.
For many years, I’ve been interested in music from a diversity of cultures — American roots music and also traditions and innovations from the Caribbean, Brazil and Africa. I’m not an expert by any means, I’m just interested!
My top conga hero is the late Eddie “Bongo” Brown, a Detroit jazz percussionist who played on most of the Motown records of the 1960s and 70s, adapting the drum patterns that Cuban congueros had brought into American jazz. My favorite harmonica player of today is Kirk “Jelly Roll” Johnson, a Nashville session musician who has played on many dozens of recordings by country, pop and rock artists and has several recent albums of his own.
If you’d like to see or hear the bands I play with, here are some links:
Deb Brisson and the Hay Burners play amplified Americana, alt country and R&B, with a lot of original songs. Here’s our Reverbnation page:
And here’s an hourlong episode, with songs and interviews, that we did for the program “Havana Fairfax Connection” on Vermont’s CATV:
The Avant-Garde Dogs play highly danceable rock ’n’ roll. Here’s our Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/avantgardedogs
If you’d like to learn more, please email me at