'Tunes-Day' is a day for song, a day to play

One Tuesday each month becomes ‘Tunes-day’ – a day when local musicians join together to jam

Story and photos by Richard W. Dionne, Jr.
Posted 5/28/24

Voices singing traditional Irish folk music resonated throughout the small, two-room café known as the Archive Book and Snackery on Market Street in Warren during the bar’s …

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'Tunes-Day' is a day for song, a day to play

One Tuesday each month becomes ‘Tunes-day’ – a day when local musicians join together to jam


Voices singing traditional Irish folk music resonated throughout the small, two-room café known as the Archive Book and Snackery on Market Street in Warren during the bar’s “Tunes-day Tuesday, which occurs, on the down-low, every first Tuesday of the month. 

Uriah Donnelly, former director of the Collaborative, owns the tiny haunt and came up with idea for “Tunesday” with his musical parents, Elwood Donnelly and stepmom, Aubrey Atwater, widely known as Atwater and Donnelly.

“It’s like a jam but more structured,” said Uriah Donnelly, in-between making snacks and serving drinks. “You can’t just roll in with your banjo and sit down and play like a regular Jam. They take turns playing, it’s casual, and we like that about it.” 

Musicians sat in a circle. Elwood Donnelly played the harmonica. The Vox Hunters, Armand Aromin and Benedict Gagliardi, played fiddle and the English accordion. Other musicians played guitar and more fiddles, as Aubrey Atwater danced on a wooden floor in clogs and kept the beat to a traditional Irish song. 

“It’s not super exclusive, but these guys know what they’re doing,” Uriah Donnelly said. “I guess it would be intimidating for some younger guys coming in to play. But Aubrey is incredibly warm and welcoming, so when young artists show up, they’ll invite them to play.”

A legendary duo

The Atwater-Donnelly duo has led the quietly-known jam for about two years. The duo settled down in Warren in 2012 and have left their mark on the town ever since. Elwood, known in Warren for producing the Warren Holiday Festival and for booking concerts and other annual events in town, has played a variety of instruments in bands for more than 50 years.

“My uncle Charlie gave me a harmonica when I was 8 years old. I continue to play today,” he said. 

Elwood was the lead singer of a garage band in the 1960s.

“The band was called The Lonely Things. We put out a record, a 45,” he said. 

The band lasted two years, then broke up as musicians headed off to the Vietnam War, including Elwood, in 1969.

He was an Air Force fire and protection specialist in DaNang, Vietnam, from 1969 to 1970. He helped rescue pilots who had emergency landings and secured the planes and helicopters. He also put out structural and grass fires from mortar and missile attacks. 

“I picked up the guitar in Vietnam, and from that point I sang, played guitar and harmonica,” he said.

He spent the last two years of service in Texas, held several jobs, raised a family and continued to play music. 

Elwood met Aubrey Atwater, a self taught guitarist and singer, while volunteering at a folk concert series at the Stone Soup Coffee House in Providence in 1987. The couple has been together ever since, moving to Warren in 2012.

“We immediately began to play music together and started to perform under the name Atwater-Donnelly,” he said. 

Aubrey grew up singing and playing contemporary acoustic folk songs of the 1970s. 

They played music together on their first date and started performing together soon after. 

The duo play a variety of instruments, the banjo, tin whistle, harmonica, mountain dulcimer, mandolin, guitar and some percussion. Aubrey performs American clogging. 

“Our specialty is traditional American and Celtic folk music and dance. Most of our repertoire was collected in Kentucky and North Carolina and some of the other southern and western states from friends we made along the way.”

They have performed statewide, regionally, nationally, and at times internationally, and have released 14 albums and nine books, including songbooks, poetry, and a cookbook.

The origins of Tunes-day

Before the jam got started, in walked another duo, the Vox Hunters, Armand Aromin and Benedict Gagliardi of Providence, self proclaimed “seekers and singers of old songs, cultivators of local music, and chronic multi-instrumentalists,” whose mission is to, “Uncover and revive Rhode Island’s musical heritage.”

Their band name is a play on the Irish song about “Fox Hunters.” 

“We like a lot of different kinds of music,” said Aromin. “Whatever interests us at that moment, we’ll kind of just dive in and explore it.”

He spoke about how “Tunes-day” came about.  

“Elwood and Aubrey were like, let’s just have a get together, but in a public space. I thought it was gonna be a one-off, and then we got an email. This June it will be two years. Yeah, it’s been a nice monthly thing to come back to.”

The hosts – books and snacks

“We’re a used bookstore. We have a bar with cocktails, mock-tails, beer, wine and other soft drinks, and a snack menu and our food menu,” said Uriah Donnelly. 

“We started out calling it a snackery.”

They started off making small dishes, but now make larger plates and both hot and cold dishes. 

“That’s our normal stuff, besides Tunes-day,” he said. “We also do a sit-down dinner once a month, on the second Sunday of every month. It’s about 20 people,” he said. 

“We usually bring in a chef from out in the world to come and create a menu,” he said. “Usually four or five courses, served family-style. Everybody sits together. It’s been quite fun.”

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.