Category Archives: Folk

Hamell on Trial is guilty — of speaking his mind

Ed Hamell, ordinary suburban single dad by day, is a ferocious punk-folk singer-songwriter who goes by Hammell on Trial. He has a new album, “The Happiest Man in The World. ”(Photo: Joe Larese/The Journal News)

Ed Hamell, ordinary suburban single dad by day, is a ferocious punk-folk singer-songwriter who goes by Hammell on Trial. (Photo: Joe Larese/The Journal News)

I had the great pleasure a few weeks ago of spending an hour or two at lunch with Ed Hamell, a unique singer-songwriter I’ve admired for many years. He’s a doting dad by day who’s been living quietly in Ossining while unleashing his raw, punk-influenced songs on the road.

He’s on the road at the moment, and should be in Las Vegas getting ready for a live album recording session at Southwestern Recording Studios on Thursday. He’s waxing all new material that he feels really good about.

“I think its going to be my toughest, most uncompromising stuff yet,” he tells me. “It’s about the decline and fall of America.”

Heady stuff, indeed.

His next show near home is scheduled for Aug. 7, when he appears on a bill with Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez at Daryl’s House Club in Pawling, New York. Doors open at 5 p.m., with the show at 9. Tickets are $15.$25 and available by tapping or clicking here.

Meanwhile, here’s a taste of our conversation:

Offstage, he’s Detroit’s dad, a regular guy — albeit an unusually outgoing one.

Onstage, as Hammell on Trial, he’s a sweaty, Red Bull-fueled ball of energy, singing his highly opinionated lyrics loudly while bashing away furiously on an amplified pre-war Gibson acoustic guitar. He even does what he calls a “face solo,” shaking his head wildly from side-to-side, relaxing his facial muscles to achieve a thoroughly comical, rubbery effect.

Read the full interview on TAP OR CLICK HERE NOW.


Ron Fierstein, longtime music manager, returns to his roots with new book about Polaroid-Kodak lawsuit

Ron Fierstein’s new book takes is about Edwin Land, one of the founders of Polaroid Corp. Land and Polaroid launched an epic battle against eventual rival Kodak. “It’s a fantastic story almost of operatic dimension,” Fierstein says. “They went from being mentor-protégé to arch-enemies over 60 years.” (Photo: Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News)

I knew Ron Fierstein’s name from his successful career managing singer-songwriters such as Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. And it occurred to me that he might be related to a Broadway macher.

What I didn’t know was that Fierstein, who moved to Chappaqua from Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood two decades ago, had a successful career as a patent lawyer before he helped Vega navigate to her early success.

He’s quit the music business and spent the last several years writing a book about the historic case he worked on while an associate at Fish & Neave in New York City: Polaroid vs. Kodak.

Fierstein took some time the other day to meet me in his Bedfore Hills office and talk about his life, his multiple careers, and the new book: “A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War.”

The book is a remarkably detailed account of a Land, a fascinating and brilliant man, and the souring of the relationship between his company, Polariod, and Eastman Kodak, its longtime “mentor” and friendly competitor.

Tap or click here now to read the full interview at

Over the Rhine hits the Hudson Valley (ticket discounts included)


The husband-wife duo Over the Rhine, whose songs deal thoughtfully with life’s “big questions,” hit the Irvington Town Hall Theater on Saturday night, after stops Thursday at the Towne Crier and Friday at Club Helsinki Hudson.

I got the chance to speak with Linford Detweiler about his thoughts on the band’s 25-years together and what’s ahead, including a barn raising to create a venue and studio at the home he and Karin Bergquist share in southern Ohio. 

Special ticket prices are now available for the show. Orchestra seats are available for only $20, balcony seats for $15, and a few select seats as low as $10. Type in the discount code OTRIRV at checkout when you buy online here. 

Tap or click here to read the full interview on or pick up a copy of Friday’s edition of The Journal News.

Sharon Van Etten, Diane Cluck, Lucinda Williams and more record ‘lost’ Karen Dalton songs

cfe97723-df5a-4bcf-883b-db3feb010d45Over the last few years, it seems that every last known recording of the late Karen Dalton — who in recent years has become a role model for women singers, particularly of freak folk variety — has been released, regardless of quality.

Her studio recordings, just two albums, don’t include anything Dalton wrote. Nor, as far as I know, do the three collections of unreleased tracks issued after her death.

More than a few articles about Dalton even say definitively that she never wrote her own songs.

Once again, we see proof that you should never say never.

Tompkins Square Records is about to release an album of songs Dalton wrote, made available by Peter Walker, who handles her estate.

The label, which has done much good work with Daniel Bachman, Bessie Jones, the Imagination Anthem series and other releases, will release the collection on May 26.

“Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs of Karen Dalton” features 11 songs, each recorded by a different notable female artist, including veterans Lucinda Williams and Tara Jane O’Neil, DIY darling Diane Cluck, and indie icon Sharon Van Etten.

The artists were given Dalton’s lyrics, but, with the exception of the title track, no clues to Dalton’s intentions for the melodies or harmonies she intended. Van Etten, who did the title track, had a chord chart to work with. 

I haven’t heard any of it yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.

In the meantime, here’s the tracklist:


INTERVIEW: Suzy Bogguss: ‘I’m still out there playing’

Suzy Bogguss

Suzy Bogguss

Country singer brings her eclectic sound to Daryl’s House on Saturday

If you even half paid attention to country music in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the name Suzy Bogguss will surely ring a bell.

She was on fire, releasing one platinum and three gold albums, along with six top 10 country singles. She was named top new female vocalist of 1988 by the Academy of Country Music, and won the Country Music Association‘s Horizon Award in 1992.

After taking a few years off after the birth of her son, Ben, in 1995, Bogguss returned with a decidedly folkier, indie approach to her craft. It’s kept her flying a little farther under the radar of mainstream country music, but hasn’t prevented her from having a decent career of touring and recording.

After Ben’s birth, “I was only doing about 40 to 45 shows a year when he was in his younger years,” Bogguss tells Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?  “Now I’m really having to rebuild a lot and just let people know I’m still out there playing… I never really went away.”

On Saturday (March 28), her tour brings her to the Hudson Valley, where she’ll play at Daryl’s House, rocker Daryl Hall’s club in Pawling, New York.

It’s a good thing she didn’t disappear. Her latest album, “Lucky,” is a collection of 11 well-chosen and beautifully performed versions of songs by honky-tonk legend Merle Haggard, one of the originators of the swinging Bakersfield Sound.

Casual listeners may know Haggard best for the 1969 hit “Okie From Muskogee.” Bogguss’ collection omits that tune, and yet it’s still crammed with familiar numbers, including “Today I Started Loving You Again,” “If We Make It Through December,” and “The Bottle Let Me Down.”

‘I like where I’m at in my life’

At age 58, Bogguss sounds like an artist who’s enjoying her career more than ever, even side of being an independent artist who has to lug her equipment around without a road crew

“In my head, I still look like I’m 21 doin’ that,” she says. “But then I think about how ridiculous it must look to see a 58-year-old woman schlepping her gear around like a teenager. I think that’s probably pretty funny to some people, but for me, it just feels like, ‘Hey, that’s what I do.’

“I’m a working musician. We schlep our stuff through the airport. Sometimes I actually find myself with a giddy, stupid smile on my face walking through the airport with my guitar on my back going, ‘Yeah, I got a good job,'” she adds with a laugh.

“I like my freedom. I like where I’m at in my life. I like playing these smaller places,” she explains.

“I know what I’m doing, I choose my own gigs, I make my own choices, and I really like that a lot.”

‘Glad I’m not doin’ that anymore’

She says she’s reminded that she doesn’t miss her days of mainstream country stardom when she watches the ABC prime time soap opera “Nashville.”

“It doesn’t compare to the life that I have now, but it does compare to the life that I had in the ’90s. A lot of that stuff is true, especially when you get to the drama of record labels, and publishers, and just the everyday ‘I need to think of something that will make me be in the public’s eye.’ Like, ‘Here’s a new recipe for dip,’ you know. ‘What can I do to get people to look at me right now,”’ she says.

“That gets old, that really gets old — especially people coming to your house and showing you racks of clothes and sticking makeup brushes in your face every second. I feel for them when I see that stuff on the show. I go, ‘Oh, I’m glad I’m not doin’ that anymore.'”

Always eclectic

While she’s always been what she calls an “eclectic” country artist, making an all-Merle album was a bit of a risk, but one that was probably inevitable. It certainly got fan financial support, with 964 backers kicking in at total of $75,211 on the album’s Kickstarter campaign, which had a goal of $50,000.

But she admits that some fans have been a little leery of the idea of her doing Haggard songs.

“Some of my fans are going, ‘Honky-tonk music, that’s not what we’re used to from you.’ But then when they hear it, they’re like, Oh, that’s a Suzy Bogguss record, not a Merle Haggard record. Sometimes you have to get over those little perception hurdles. But, all in all, once they hear it, they’re delighted,” she explains.

deeper connection to Haggard

Her own connection to Haggard deepened as a result of making the album.

“My first song that actually got on the charts was a Merle Haggard song. It’s called “Somewhere Between,” and that was my first album title on Capitol. So I already had an affinity for him from my youth,” she says, adding that the process of making the album gave her a deeper appreciation for Haggard’s music.

“Listen to what an amazing craftsman this guy is,” she says. “I think I came out just thinking, wow, before, I always thought Merle Haggard has a gift, he can just sit down and write these songs that sound like this happened to him last night and it’s real easy for him.

“But as I got into arranging the songs, and these melodies and stuff, I was like, this is not easy stuff. He has worked his ass off to hone these things down to where there’s not one extra word in there.

“Half the time he didn’t even sing the chorus twice. He would just go, ‘OK, here’s a 2-minute song that’s gonna break your heart. Listen to this.'”

Album of originals up next

The experience also challenged her to do more songwriting herself, with husband Doug Crider.

“We took all of January off and we’ve been writing like crazy,” she says.  “I really got inspired by doing these Merle arrangements to go back and really hone my songwriting chops again. I will probably go back in at the end of the year and cut an album of all originals.”

  • What: Suzy Bogguss, with Craig Smith on guitar and Charlie Chadwick on bass
  • When: 9 p.m., Saturday, March 28 (doors at 7:30)
  • Where: Daryl’s House, 130 Route 22, Pawling, NY 12564
  • Tickets and info: $25 standing, $45 seated, available online by tapping or clicking here or calling 845-289-0185






John Cohen: ‘I’m drowning in my past’

John Cohen  (Photo: Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News)

John Cohen (Photo: Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News)

I got the chance recently to spend an hour or so talking to John Cohen, one of the legendary figures of the musical and artistic scene of Greenwich Village in the 1960s, for The Journal News/

Cohen, the founder of the New Lost City Ramblers is still making music — now with a trio of much younger musical traditionalists in the Down Hill Strugglers — promoting his documentary films, working creating a cultural center in his hometown of Putnam Valley, New York, and preparing to start painting again.

The 82-year-old says he has explored so many ways of expressing his creativity over the years that “I’m drowning in my past.”

Check out the full interview online at by tapping or clicking here. Or pick up a copy of the Tuesday, March 10, edition of The Journal News.

Jennifer O’Connor Launches Free Music Series at Nyack’s Prohibition River

Singer-songwriter Jennifer O'Connor moved to Nyack in 2012.

Singer-songwriter Jennifer O’Connor moved to Nyack in 2012.

You may recognize singer-songwriter Jennifer O’Connor‘s name — perhaps for her two critically acclaimed Matador Records: Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars in 2006 and Here With Me in 2008.

Since the end of her contract with Matador, O’Connor has continued to make music, which she’s released, along with the work of other artists, on Kiam, the record label she operates.

While she continues to perform her own material — she opened for Laura Cantrell at Rough Trade NYC in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, last month — she says lately she’s been doing music for TV shows, movies, and commercials.

O’Connor’s also became a Rocklander, moving to Nyack from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, late in 2012.

“I really love it out here,” she tells Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? by email.

Jennifer Castle

Jennifer Castle

Recently, she added concert promoter to her list of vocations. She’s presenting shows in the upstairs room at Prohibition River, a bar and restaurant at 82 Main St. in Nyack. On Friday, Nov. 7, Jennifer Castle, a Toronto-based singer-songwriter,  will do 2 sets, starting at 9 p.m.

The open-ended series will feature free concerts by artists — including O’Connor — from 9 midnight, mostly on Fridays.

O’Connor says she started the series because she saw a need.

“I started booking shows at Prohibition because I think there is a need for more music (especially from touring acts) to come through town,” O’Connor says. “And it’s also proven to be a great way for me to get involved with the community — musically and just in general.  It’s been a lot of fun so far.”

Here’s the schedule as of now, but O’Connor says to stay tuned for more artists to be added:

• Friday Nov. 7
Jennifer Castle (indie folkie from Toronto who’s worked with Constantines, Fucked Up)

• Friday Nov. 14
Michael Purcell Trio (jazz)

• Saturday, Nov. 22
Jennifer O’Connor

• Friday, Dec 5
Ryan & Ryan (folk)

• Friday,  Dec 14
Doug Gillard (Guided By Voices, Nada Surf)

• Friday, Dec 26
Regret The Hour (indie rock)