Category Archives: Folk

Marah takes a trip into the past to find something fresh and new

album-cover

An album full of mysteries, discoveries and pure joy

Awhile back, my friends in Marah asked me to do an item on their new single advancing the release of their Marah Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania album.

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? is a labor of love, but sometimes the love of paying the bills takes so much time that there’s not much time for the labor of love. David Bielanko’s request for an item came at one of those times. The idea kept getting moved, of necessity, to the end of the list. Eventually, as happens with many to-do lists — at least mine — it fell off altogether.

So when the album was finally released on Feb. 25, I realized I had to get my hands on a copy and find a few minutes to make up for letting that opportunity slip away.

So I placed my order and waited.

Continue reading

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Mountain Man’s Amelia Randall Meath explores a different sound in Sylvan Esso

Amelia Randall Meath and Nicholas Sanborn are Sylvan Esso.

Amelia Randall Meath and Nicholas Sanborn are Sylvan Esso.

Duo launches a short tour next week

You probably know about Mountain Man, the seemingly guileless female trio that I found particularly enchanting  at the 2010 edition of Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival. Continue reading

Jen Chapin brings her warm, wonderful sound to Piermont’s Turning Point

Jen Chapin

Jen Chapin

You might think that Jen Chapin simply had no choice but to become a musician.

More than most American families, hers was full of musicians.

While her dad, the late Harry Chapin, may today be the best known of the lot, he was just one of many. Harry and his brothers, Tom and Steve, performed as the Chapin Brothers long before Harry found his breakout fame as a singer and writer of songs like the enduring “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Tom Chapin remains a regular performer and the Steve Chapin Band still plays from time to time as well. (Tom’s daughters Abigail and Lily perform as The Chapin Sisters.) And her grandfather, Jim Chapin, was a big-band drummer. Continue reading

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion wow at the Mercury Lounge

20130918-200556.jpg I was expecting a good show from Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion on Tuesday night. But what I and a criminally
small audience gotvat the Mercury Lounge was a sweet, spot on show that focused on songs
from their new Jeff Tweedy/Patrick Sansone-produced album
Wassaic Way.

While focusing on the news material — which sounds fantastic live, with the super-tight band supporting the lovely married couple — the show didn’t scrimp on older songs.

They even went a bit further afield, throwing in a cover of Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend.”

They closed by getting off the stage to do a couple of closing numbers, including the lovely “When the Lilacs Are in Bloom.”

The Melodic opened the early show with a nicely textured, Nick Drake-influenced set.

Susan Cowsill’s 39-year trip to an opening spot with Rodriguez

Susan Cowsill

Susan Cowsill

Former Cowsills member to share bill with legendary singer-songwriter at Barclays Center on Oct. 9

I’m sitting here wondering why I don’t have any photos of Susan Cowsill.

Even before starting this blog, I often took photos at shows to create lasting memorabilia. I’m not sure if I’ve even seen her since 2009, when this blog started. I know I saw her at least once on her own in New York, after catching her perform numerous times with her old band, the late, lamented Continental Drifters.

But nevermind that.

She and her lusty, raggedly-pushed-to-the-edge vocal style will be back in New York in October, when she opens a Barclays Center show for Rodriguez (aka Detroit-based 1970s singer-songwriter Sixto Díaz Rodríguez), who rediscovered the spotlight via the award-winning 2012 documentary Searching for Sugar Man. 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.

 

Speed the Plough: Still going strong 30 years on

An interview published Feb.16, 1996, in The Record of North Jersey, in advance of a Speed the Plough show at Maxwell's.

North Jersey rockers look ahead with 6 new tracks on retrospective out Sept. 17 on Bar/None, play Hoboken Arts & Music Festival Sept. 29

Speed the Plough performs at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, N.J. on July 18, 2013. (Photo © 2013, Steven P. Marsh)

Speed the Plough performs at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, N.J. on July 18, 2013. (Photo © 2013, Steven P. Marsh)

I have to call myself a latecomer to Speed the Plough.

Sure, I knew them in the 1990s, and in 1996 even interviewed then-members Brenda Sauter and Rich Barnes for The Record, the newspaper then based in Hackensack, N.J. But by then the band was already 13 years into its career.
for a long time.

So, mathematically at least, that makes me a relative newbie. But, like most bands in the extended family of The Feelies, Speed the Plough has gone through many changes in personnel and has continued to make new, and often quite loyal, fans, throughout its three decades.

John Baumgartner joins The Feelies on July 8, 2013, during the band's final Fourth of July shows at Maxwell's. (Photo © 2013, Steven P. Marsh)

John Baumgartner joins The Feelies on July 8, 2013, during the band’s final Fourth of July shows at Maxwell’s. (Photo © 2013, Steven P. Marsh)

But this year, two years after its last album, STP is commemorating the three-decade mark with an album.  The Plough and the Stars, available for preorder now by clicking here, may be a box set, but it’s definitely no pine box ready  for burial.

STP has always marched to the sound of its own drummer (now, and often, a Demeski!), with its somewhat pastoral sound. But it’s also never stopped moving forward, however incrementally at times. Continue reading

Johnny Irion and Sarah Lee Guthrie ready to hit the road again

The married music makers open up about new album Wassaic Way, working with Jeff Tweedy and keeping their family life in balance after 14 years of marriage

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion perform atop an artwork in a gallery at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass., during the Solid Sound festival in 2011. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion perform atop an artwork in a gallery at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass., during the Solid Sound festival in 2011. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Alongside a two-lane back road in the Berkshires region of Western Massachusetts sits a solid, simple frame home.

Sited on what appears to be at least a couple of acres atop a hill, its nearest neighbor is farther than you can throw a stone, but not so far as to be out of sight.

The house is far enough from the main highway to provide a peaceful retreat, but with easy access to civilization — whether you consider that North Adams, Pittsfield, Boston or beyond.

The silence — at least outdoors, anyway — is broken only by the occasional animal noise or the air-horn warning and rumble of one of the freight trains that pass through on a regular basis.

Inside, it’s a very different story.

That’s where Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion are raising their kids — “counting the cousins, on any given day there are four to six. But normally, two: Olivia’s 11, Sophia’s 6,” Johnny told Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? in an exclusive interview.

And it’s home base for their business. Downstairs, in a studio-basement-rehearsal space, the married musical duo practice and record their music.

Things are really happening for Sarah Lee and Johnny. They seem like a duo on the verge of overnight success — albeit after one very long and ofttimes sleepless night.

But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s clear up something: While Sarah Lee and Johnny aren’t household names, there’s something about them that rings the bell.

It’s that Guthrie thing, right? Continue reading

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

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion bring Wassaic Way to Saturday’s Wassaic Festival

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion at Wilco's Solid Sound Festival in 2011. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion at Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival in 2011. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion are making a Hudson Valley appearance on Saturday, Aug. 3 at the all-free Wassaic Festival in Dutchess County, which starts today and runs through Sunday (Aug. 2-4).

There’s something nice about hitting the namesake town in the early stages of touring their latest album, the seriously charming Wassaic Way. The husband-and-wife-duo (she’s daughter of Arlo Guthrie and granddaughter of Woody Guthrie) are really proud of the self-released album (which is to be released Aug. 6) they made with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone.

Stay tuned for a full interview with the creative couple. But for now, I just wanted to alert you to their gig coming Saturday. I’ve never been to the Wassaic Project, a center that aims to create context for art making and strengthening local community by increasing social and cultural capital through inspiration, promotion and creation of contemporary visual and performing art. It’s at the very last stop on Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem Line. This is the sixth year for the festival, a free, three-day event featuring art, music, dance, and community featuring over 100 artists, 25 bands, film screenings, dance performances and more.

If you go

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion perform at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug 3.,  on the Luther Barn Stage. The Wassaic Festival began today (Aug. 2)  with various art events. Music and dance start around 6 p.m. This wrap up Sunday with a community breakfast, kids events and more music.

The Wassaic Project is at The Maxon Mills,  37 Furnace Bank Road , Wassaic, NY 12592. It’s in walking distance of the Wassaic Metro-North station with connections from Grand Central Terminal. ADMISSION IS FREE, but tickets are required for some events. Check the full schedule here.