Category Archives: Blues

Amy Helm’s Hudson Valley roots keep her anchored

Amy Helm

Amy Helm

I was thrilled to chat with Amy Helm the other day ahead of her appearance this Saturday at the 10th annual Pleasantville Music Festival in lovely downtown Pleasantville in Westchester County, N.Y.

Helm talked about her famous surname and her recent move out of ensemble work and into the spotlight as the leader of her own band, Amy Helm & The Handsome Strangers.

Read the full interview with Helm at lohud.com by tapping or clicking here, or see it in print in Friday’s editions of The Journal News.

 

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Mary Bridget Davies: More than a Janis Joplin tribute artist

Mary Bridget Davies does Janis Joplin and a whole lot more at B.B. King's Blues Club in Manhattan. (© 2014 Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Mary Bridget Davies does Janis Joplin and a whole lot more at B.B. King’s Blues Club in Manhattan. (© 2014 Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

If you go to see Mary Bridget Davies‘ show at B.B. King’s Blues Club in Manhattan, don’t count on an evening of Janis Joplin.

If you do, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment, like the woman standing near me at the bar on Monday night. She was wearing a muumuu and a multicolored headband, which made her look like she was ready for a psychedelic Sixties sort of evening.

But when Davies kicked into a set that was heavier on non-Joplin songs, including some massive versions of some Amy Winehouse hits, the woman started getting antsy, asking people around her if they knew whether Davies would be doing “songs from the show” at some point. Continue reading

Last-Minute Music Tip: Check out today’s Rockland-Bergen Music Festival

Joe Durso

Joe Durso

Rockland County-born rocker Joe D’Urso is celebrating his 50th birthday this month by taking over the German Masonic Park in his hometown of Tappan, N.Y., all day Sunday and throwing a music festival featuring his musician friends.

The result is the Rockland-Bergen Music Festival, with gates opening at 11 a.m. , with music starting at 11:30 a.m. and running nonstop through 7:15 p.m.

It’s the first festival of its kind in the Rockland County area in my memory. It should be a blast. The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day at this point, an hour before the music starts.

The festival brings together in my backyard a bunch of artists that I’d happily go to New York City to see play separately: Willie Nile, Marshall Crenshaw, Joe D’Urso & Stone Caravan, Jesse Malin, John Eddie, Piermont’s Tom Chapin and many, many more.

Willie Nile

Willie Nile

But here you don’t have to travel as far, pay outrageous parking charges, or deal with all the hassles of a drive into the city. And with a family-friendly vibe and tickets priced at $50 (free for anyone 12 or younger, and for anyone born in 1964) at the gate, you can afford to bring the kids and introduce them to some of your favorite musicians without breaking the bank.

I interviewed D’Urso and Nile for a preview in The Journal News/lohud.com. Tap or click here to see what they have to say and find out more about the festival.

IF YOU GO

Where: Rockland-Bergen Music Festival, German Masonic Park, 120 Western Highway, Tappan, N.Y.

When: 11 a.m.-7:15 p.m., Sunday, June 29; rain or shine.

Tickets: $50 at the gate; 12 and under free; free for anyone born in 1964 with driver’s license proof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Stampfel pushes banjos to the limit

Peter Stampfel torturing a banjo and assaulting our ears at the Gerdes Folk City 50th Reunion in 2010. (Photo 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Peter Stampfel on banjo at the Gerdes Folk City 50th Reunion in 2010. (Photo 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

The granddaddy of freak folk is still going strong with his latest album, ‘Better Than Expected’

Peter Stampfel defines freak folk.

It’s a category that didn’t even exist when Stampfel, now 75, was starting out as a young musician, releasing his first album, “The Holy Modal Rounders,” in 1964.

The genre developed to describe the work of current musicians such as Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Akron/Family, and the like. But Stampfel was there first, and has provided inspiration and collaboration all along.

The  Holy Modal Rounders cofounder is an acquired taste, for some, with his cracked vocals, inimitable fiddling and banjo playing, and genre-busting choice of material.

His is a restless mind, and his art challenges the conventionality at every turn.

Continue reading

Dave Van Ronk gets his long overdue time in the spotlight

Terri Thal and Dave Van Ronk at their home at 190 Waverly Place in Greenwich Village, in August 1963 (Photo by Ann Charters, courtesy Terri Thal)

Terri Thal and Dave Van Ronk at their home at 190 Waverly Place in Greenwich Village, in August 1963 (Photo by Ann Charters, courtesy Terri Thal)

Moviemakers Joel and Ethan Coen have gone to great lengths to let us know that their new movie, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” is not about Greenwich Village folksinger Dave Van Ronk.

The movie, which has been making the rounds of film festivals throughout the year and started playing in major cities a couple of weeks ago, opens nationwide  this Friday.

LEARN MORE about the real Dave Van Ronk

Terri Thal (© Martus Granirer 2013)

Terri Thal (© Martus Granirer 2013)



Check out the interview with Terri Thal I wrote for The Journal News.  Thal, a Rockland County woman who was married to him during the period covered in the film, and don’t miss her first-person account for the Village Voice.  And read Van Ronk’s memoir, “The Mayor of MacDougal Street.”





Yes, Llewyn Davis, as played wonderfully by actor and talented singer Oscar Isaac, affects a Van Ronk look of sorts with his facial hair. And yes, many people, me included, took to calling the flick in early days the “Dave Van Ronk movie.” (That probably was before it had gotten a formal title.) Continue reading

The Walking Dead? Maxwell’s planning to reopen in Hoboken

Preparing for the wake at Maxwell's on July 31, 11th Street next to the club was blocked off. (Photo © 2013, Steven P. Marsh)

Preparing for the “wake” at Maxwell’s on July 31, 11th Street next to the club was blocked off. (Photo © 2013, Steven P. Marsh)

Something feels wrong — no, make that preposterous — about the idea of saying farewell to an old friend at a raucous wake only to see that friend return to the land of the living a matter of weeks later.

But that’s just what seems to be happening at Maxwell’s, the much-loved bar-restaurant-music venue in Hoboken, N.J.

Erica Seitzman/Facebook

(Erica Seitzman/Facebook)

The place has seen limited action — as a rain venue for a concert and a one-shot studio for a Justin Timberlake concert-cum-Target-commercial.

But over the Labor Day weekend, some eagle-eyed Hobokenites spotted “Help Wanted” posters seeking staff of the restaurant-bar.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like I’m in the middle of an episode of “The Walking Dead,” which, if nothing else, has taught us that while the Walkers look like those we knew and loved, they’re not who they appear to be.

Maxwell's founder Steve Fallon, left, and booker/co-owner Todd Abramson at Maxwell's "wake." (Photo © 2013, Steven P. Marsh)

Maxwell’s founder Steve Fallon, left, and booker/co-owner Todd Abramson at Maxwell’s “wake.” (Photo © 2013, Steven P. Marsh)

After 35 years, Maxwell’s closed on July 31 with a block party outside and a long evening of shows — punctuated by plenty of reminiscences and a few tears — inside the music room. The end came after Todd Abramson, co-owner, music booker and public face of the club, decided he’d had enough of the problems that come running such a business in the uber-gentrified Mile Square City.

Justin Timberlake's Maxwell's tweet.

Justin Timberlake’s Maxwell’s tweet.

On Aug. 8 — barely a week after the shutdown — the lights were back on and the restaurant was pressed into service to host a show by Swingadelic, originally scheduled for nearby Frank Sinatra Park. It was part of Hoboken Administrator of Cultural Affairs Geri Fallo‘s backup plan, the Cliffview Pilot reported, to avoid a rain-out.

It all made sense. First, Swingadelic’s founder is bassist Dave Post, who also happens to be a co-owner of Maxwell’s. Second, despite the extensive partying there in the club’s final days, the place apparently was left with a decent amount of quaffables to keep the bar stocked.

Then along came Timberlake, a musician who I’m guessing never set foot in Maxwell’s while it was in business.

Hundreds of fans lined up and then flooded the streets around Maxwell's in Hoboken where Justin Timberlake is filming a commercial for Target. Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. -- Joe Shine/For The Jersey Journal

Hundreds of fans lined up and then flooded the streets around Maxwell’s in Hoboken where Justin Timberlake is filming a commercial for Target. Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. — Joe Shine/For The Jersey Journal

His crew took over the empty club for a one night fan concert (well, a one-SONG appearance for a Target commercial) in the still-equipped music room. Thousands crowded the streets outside the shuttered club, The Jersey Journal reported. Fans weighed in effusively on Facebook and Twitter, often with disparaging comments.

Timberlake drew some particularly amusing snarkiness on Twitter from Yo La Tengo, a band that got its start in Hoboken and is indelibly linked to the club.

YLT Tweets

And now, there’s the reopening. Yes, Maxwell’s is hiring staff to reopen the bar and restaurant, but, apparently, not the music room.

Post tells Tris McCall of The Star-Ledger that Maxwell’s will reopen as a bar and restaurant only, staying in operation until the place sells. (The business and a 10-year lease can be yours for just $625,000.) He said he wasn’t sure when he’d be reopening.”Hopefully, it won’t take too long to make a sale,” Post told McCall. “But even if I sold Maxwell’s tomorrow, it would take 90 days for the license to transfer.”

The Star-Ledger reports that Abramson — who was a constant presence in the restaurant, seating diners, delivering orders and overseeing proceedings — is not involved in the reopening.

 

New collection skims the cream of Caffè Lena’s rich musical history

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Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013 is slated for release on Sept. 24.

A review of Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013, with buying and streaming links after the jump

I’ve always meant to visit the legendary Caffè Lena, the tiny coffeehouse at 47 Phila Street in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Devonsquare, the sweet-harmonizing folk-rock trio, first piqued my curiosity about Lena and Bill Spencer’s cafe (or caffè, as they dubbed it, using two f’s) with their song “Caffè Lena” on the  1987 album Walking on Ice.

Caffè Lena was a place of mythical proportions to me then. For one reason or another, I never found myself in Saratoga Springs.

After all, I live close to The Turning Point in Piermont, N.Y., a music cafe that is, while 16 years younger than Caffè Lena, has a similar mission and musical profile.

And then there was the Towne Crier in Pawling, N.Y.,  from 1972 until closing in June with plans to reopen soon in Beacon. That gave me a backup option just a bit farther afield than The Turning Point.

So  I never got myself motivated sufficiently to make the trek to Saratoga Springs.

I should have known I was missing out. And now the Tompkins Square record label has  shoved into my face some very real evidence of exactly how much I’ve missed. Continue reading