Maine: the way music should be. From Down East’s Summer Keys program in Lubec, to amazing musicians at Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, on the New Hampshire border, the sound of music defines summer in Maine. And Bangor’s American Folk Festival puts a punctuation mark at summer’s end!

George

We’ve said it before: Stone Mountain Arts Center is the best place to listen to music in the state. Who knew a barn could have such great acoustics?

Well, this is no ordinary barn. With seating limited to 200, it’s an intimate place, more like enjoying a favorite musician in your home than a cavernous auditorium.

And Carol Noonan — a great singer and musician in her own right — attracts some of the world’s best. We’ve enjoyed a wide range of performances here, from readings by author and public radio commentator Sarah Vowell, to concerts by Pam Tillis and Marc Cohn, to a dance with Steve Riley and the Mamou Boys, a Louisiana Cajun band that kept us on the dance floor for much of the evening.

On Sept. 1, Stone Mountain hosts the Quebe Sisters, three amazing sisters who fiddled and sang their way into my heart two years ago at Bangor’s Folk Festival. Carol says “I’m going out on a limb here to say I believe it is one of the best shows we will present here.”

That’s very high praise considering the top talent that has appeared here. But I’ll agree with Carol. These sisters are a must-not-miss event. And at $20 per ticket, this concert is an astonishing bargain.

Actually, ticket prices for all of Stone Mountain’s performances are bargains, including some offered for free! Most tickets range from $25 to $50.

Our most recent visit to hear Lucinda Williams was another revelation. Our friends and neighbors, Jim Kinney and Dona Seegars, asked us to go with them — Jim is a big Lucinda Williams fan. And I’m so glad we went. I particularly loved Lucinda’s words — she’s a wonderful writer who relates personal stories with each song.

As happens so many times in this small state, we found a good friend seated at the next table. We were surprised when he said this was his 15th Lucinda Williams concert! And he returned to Stone Mountain the next night to hear her again!

You’ll also want to eat dinner here. The food has significantly improved since our last visit, with smaller portions, beautiful presentations and tasty creations. I had “Jeff’s Beef Stew Combaroo,” a favorite of Carol’s husband. It was nicely spiced and served in a small pottery bowl. Dona Seegars is an artist and was the one who called the bowl to my attention as a work of art. And it was!

Served with two of my favorite things, cornbread and watermelon, this entrée was superb and well-matched with my Coal Porter from Atlantic Brewing Company in Bar Harbor.

It is a bit of a hike to reach Brownfield, so we often stay in the area. Our favorite place is Noble House Inn located in Bridgton. We’ve also heard good things about Oxford House in Fryeburg.

Linda

We calculated that it takes two hours to get to the Stone Mountain Arts Center from our house, but it looked like we were late for the party when we pulled into the parking lot. It was well before 6 p.m., but the lot was quite full already. People have figured out that Carol’s other historic barn — rebuilt in 2010 by master craftsmen — is now the welcoming center/check-in and a popular place to visit and enjoy a beverage before dinner.

Lucinda Williams had drawn a large crowd, clearly showing just how out of the loop I am on the music scene. Apparently, everybody had heard of her except for me. In fact, she is so popular that they had to have two nights of concerts to meet the demand. One person we spoke with said he’d come to her performance last year and it was the best show he’d ever seen here.

Lucinda has a powerful voice — one that’s unique the moment you hear it. And the three members of her band are each very talented in their own right. I’ve never seen a drummer with talent like that.

This wouldn’t be the performance to see if you’re expecting mellow entertainment! They played straight through for two hours without a break. Amazing. My friend Dona and I decided the hardest part was staying seated, because their music definitely makes you want to dance.

I was pleased to see that the menu had been changed so that the portion sizes are more appropriate. It used to be that when you ordered chili or stew, it came in the exact bowls I have at home — for serving a crowd!

A special that night was the Harvest Pot Pie. It was made with pork tenderloin, sweet potatoes, peas, carrots and topped with the flakiest crust ever. It came with a small salad on the side, cornbread and watermelon. This was a creative dish that was just perfect.

Jim had brought along Lucinda’s other CD’s, so the trip home zipped by pleasantly. And now we can’t wait to go back!

IF YOU GO . . .

FOR THE MUSIC . . .
ON THE WEB: www.stonemountainartscenter.com
PHONE: 935-7292
Bring cash or a check, their
preferred payment, although they do take credit cards.
Reservations for dinner and the show are required. And be sure to print out and follow the directions on their website.

A PLACE TO SLEEP . . .
ON THE WEB: www.noblehousebb.com
PHONE: 888-237-4880

Visit George’s website: www.georgesmithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.

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