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Catonsville makes the scene on band's CD

Catonsville is among a number of Baltimore locales featured in songs on a new CD that will be released Saturday at a special performance party at the Creative Alliance in Highlandtown.

Dan Naiman, a Catonsville resident for more than 20 years, plays bass for the Stone Hill All-Stars that will perform material from the "The Stone Hill All-Stars Live!" CD during the Jan. 5 event.

The band, made up of Baltimore-area residents, recorded the music during an Aug. 4 concert at An Die Musik, a downtown performance space on Charles Street.

When they were done, said John Shock, the band's accordion player, they had 15 original tunes for an album.

One song, "The Match Shaking," is set on an icy Frederick Road in Catonsville and evokes a cold day of window shopping, stopping for coffee and waiting for clothes to dry at the laundromat, accompanied by a driving drum beat.

It's the work of Paul Margolis, who wrote the lyrics of all the songs on the CD, and Hoppy Hopkins, the band's percussionist.

"Dizzy," one of three that Naiman co-wrote, is set in Towson while "Slate Gray Day" follows a girl who falls after a baseball game.

"McCarthy's in the Second Row" is a portrait of a chef working through the evening at a restaurant near the Inner Harbor.

In addition to "Dizzy," Naiman also co-wrote "Corporal Smith" and "Watching the Waves."

"We write things that are fun to play and fun to listen to," said Naiman, chairman of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics at the Johns Hopkins University when he's not playing bass and saxophone.

Stone Hill All-Stars is named for the neighborhood of stone rowhouses in Hampden where Shock was living when the band began performing.

Shock, a Baltimore City Public Schools administrator, now lives in Mount Washington.

Paul Margolis, a guitarist and Pikesville resident, is an attorney. Hoppy Hopkins, a silversmith, lives in Mount Vernon.

The CD also features Baltimorean Tim Pruitt on guitar.

The band members began playing together in the 1980s, then went their separate ways to take on other projects and even move out of town.

In about 2007, Shock returned to town and got the band back together.

The musicians have played in other Baltimore area bands. Hopkins still plays drums for Mambo Combo, a local Caribbean-style band. Naiman and Shock, along with Catonsville resident Keith Weiner, were members of Two Legs, a popular band in Baltimore in the 1980s and early 1990s. Naiman also played bass with the Catonsville band Five Oaks until August.

Now known as the Stone Mill All-Stars, they get together to play several times a month.

Naiman has played saxophone for about 40 years. He said he was drawn to the instrument as a teenager who fell in love with jazz.

He blows the horn on two albums Two Legs recorded. And that's his sax on a song on a CD by the Polkats, a band which featured Stone Hill members Margolis and Shock.

The bass is relatively new, he said. He's been playing it for about 12 years.

"When Two Legs broke up, I decided to do something completely different," he said. "The nice thing about the bass is that it is not typically a solo instrument. It is more about keeping the foundation of a tune nice and strong."

It's difficult to categorize the Stone Hill All-Stars' music. There are echoes of a variety of musical traditions: jazz, country, Cajun, reggae, rock and rhythm and blues.

"It has all different kinds of influences," Naiman said.

Since the music is tinged by so many American folk styles, they call it "roots music."

A native of Newton, Mass., Naiman and his wife, Judy LaKind, chose Catonsville for their home since it was convenient to both of their workplaces.

"I fell in love with the area," he said about their older, established neighborhood off Edmondson Avenue where they've lived for more than 20 years.

The couple have two children. Jessie is in law school at the University of Michigan and Josh is a student at the University of Pennsylvania.

This is the band's second CD. The first, released in January, 2011, is available on iTunes and CDbaby.com.

The new CD is expected to be available on both sites in the near future, Shock said.

For information about the CD release party, go to http://www.creativealliance.org/events/2012/stone-hill-all-stars-cd-release-party.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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