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TONIGHT: Check out Kelly Flint opening for Jane Siberry in Beacon

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If you can get to the Towne Crier Café in Beacon tonight, your in for a double-barreled blast of great music.

Jane Siberry, the headliner, has been making her idiosyncratic music for three decades. She’s a consummate performer whose songs are quirky and full of surprises.

Kelly Flint hasn’t been on the scene as long as Siberry, but she’s got quite a bit of performing under her belt, too — along with a ton of great, folky, self-penned tunes and that tremendous voice.

kelly flint - drive all nightFlint was the lead singer of the popular New York lounge noir band Dave’s True Story from 1992 to 2007, making waves in indie music circles with her vocal interpretations of Dave Cantor’s quirky, jazzy tunes with his smart, idiosyncratic lyrics.

In recent years, Flint has been writing her own songs and performing sporadically under her own name — just her and her guitar, sometimes with ex-husband and former DTS bandmate Jeff Eyrich supporting her on bass.

The Westchester County woman has been regularly headlining shows with her singer-songwriter material at the Bronxville Women’s Club. Opening for Siberry tonight will expose Flint to a new audience and could open the door to more shows.

Flint, who’s a longtime pal, spoke to me in November about her career and her life raising her son, Ben. Check out that conversation, published by The Journal News/lohud.com, here.

Be sure to get to Beacon and check out what she’s up to. If you remember her from DTS, you won’t be disappointed. If you didn’t follow her back then, be sure to arrive early to give her a listen — you’re in for a real treat.

IF YOU GO

What: Kelly Flint, opening for Jane Siberry

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 4.

Where: Towne Crier Café, 379 Main Street, Beacon, NY 12508 MAP

Tickets: $25. Go here to reserve online or call 845-855-1300.

 

‘Surface Noise’: A self-effacing title for Jennifer O’Connor’s brilliant new album

The cover of Jennifer O'Connor's album "Surface Noise" (March 4, 2016, Kiam Records) features an ambitious abstract painting, "There 48," by Brooklyn artist Joan LeMay.

The cover of Jennifer O’Connor’s album “Surface Noise” (March 4, 2016, Kiam Records) features an ambitious abstract painting, “There 48,” by Brooklyn artist Joan LeMay.

I’ve never been one to make best-of lists when it comes to music. I enjoy so much of what I hear that it’s difficult to pick favorites.

So I won’t say that Jennifer O’Connor‘s forthcoming album, “Surface Noise,” out March 4, 2016, on Kiam Records, is a sure-fire pick for my best of 2016 list, since I’m not likely to compile one.

I can say it’s the best new album I’ve heard so far in this still-young year — and I fully expect to feel that way about it when this year is winding down.

“Surface Noise” is packed with 12 songs that explore love, loss, and the challenges of life with a casual brilliance about this album that makes it the best work this talented artist has produced so far.

ORDER JENNIFER O’CONNOR’S “SURFACE NOISE” VIA KIAM RECORDS NOW — GO HERE

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Late discovery: Robert Earl Keen revisits his past by going where he’s never been before

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Listening to Texas singer-songwriter icon Robert Earl Keen‘s new collection of bluegrass, “Happy Prisoner,” for the first time can be a bit of a shock — in a good way.

I know, it was released 10 months ago, but I avoided listening to it. I guess I feared it would feature more of the frat-boy, Shiner Bock-swilling tomfoolery that has defined much of his career.

Truth be told, I fell in love with Keen’s broken-down-sounding voice and folksy sensibility in 1984, when he (with “Jr.” appended to his name in those early days, though it’s hard to imagine anyone would have confused him with his geologist father) released “No Kinda Dancer” on Rounder Records. It was a nearly perfect document of one of that era’s freshest new singer-songwriter voices.

He quickly moved from the one guy, one guitar sound to a the bigger, boisterous sound he’s known for today. And, while I liked the persona much less, I continued to follow his music and went to his shows from time to time. Despite his over-the-top fans — I witnessed one of Barbara Bush’s troublemaking friends get expertly cut from the herd at an REK show at  the Bowery Ballroom in 2001 — I have to admit I still love that voice and sensibility.

“Happy Prisoner” may be Keen’s first, and probably only, dalliance on record with bluegrass. But I’ve got to say that it feels like it has far more in common with the singer-songwriter he started out being than it does with the Texas icon he’s become.

Tradition sounds good on him.

His take isn’t one of hidebound traditionalism, though, on any of the tracks. Keen — with a little help from his Texas A&M pal and onetime roommate Lyle Lovett and Natalie Maines of Dixie Chicks fame on a couple of tracks — serves up a fresh, entertaining helping of  rootsy storytelling.

I can’t get enough of this album, which includes bluegrass classics such as “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Hot Corn, Cold Corn,” alongside his peppy take on Richard Thompson’s “52 Vincent Black Lightning.” He even does a credible job on 1959’s “Long Black Veil,” first recorded by Lefty Frizzell but most closely associated in my mind with Johnny Cash, who released two versions of it — a studio cut in 1965 and a live version on the 1968 album “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.”

In all, this project went a long way toward reminding me what a genuine, original voice Keen has. And I have little doubt that it will help me — and maybe you — hear his back catalogue with fresh ears.

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly Flint’s true story: From music to mothering

I used to see the band Dave’s True Story at a lot of music venues around New York City. The band started as a duo — David Cantor and Kelly Flint — with sidemen until Jeff Eyrich joined as bass player, manager, and, eventually, Kelly’s husband.

Although I saw them perform quite a bit, I didn’t get to know them until one fateful night at the old Living Room at the corner of Allen Street. It was in 2003, after Kelly’s pal Norah Jones won her first five Grammy Awards. The New York Post, where I was then a metro editor, had recently published a story with a front-page photo of Jones’ modest, $1,400-a-month apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in full color, with a circle around her window. Norah was outraged, and reportedly left the place and never went back.

Story continues below playlist.

On the night I saw DTS play at the Living Room right after the story appeared, Kelly was furious. Not one to break her character — the funny, sexy, slightly chilly jazz chanteuse —  in DTS, Kelly let loose, angrily condemning the Post and, as I recall, spouting negativity about journalists in general for what the Post had done. She was in high dudgeon.

Kelly probably recognized my face as a regular member of the DTS audience, but I don’t think she knew my name, let alone the fact that I worked at the Post.

After the show, I approached her and told her where I worked and that I wanted to assure her that journalists weren’t all evil incarnate — even at the Post.

I don’t know whether she was inclined to believe me, but she agreed to talk to me about it. For all I knew, she could have been hoping for an opportunity to dump on me for all the wrongs, real or exaggerated, that she felt had been perpetrated by the media.

As it turned out, we had a good conversation and parted on friendly terms. In doubt I changed her mind about members of the media in general, but I think I got her to understand that we’re not all alike. That, alone, was a pretty satisfying outcome.

Kelly and I have remained friendly since then and have kept in touch since Dave’s True Story broke up in 2007 and Kelly got busier with her special needs son, Ben, and focused on her company and on her solo music.

We recently got together to catch up after not having seen each other in a number of years. Click here to read my interview with Kelly for The Journal News/lohud.com. 

 

Stew’s stoked about James Baldwin

Stew in the Harlem Stage theater, where his "Notes of a Native Song" premieres in June. (© 2015, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Stew in the Harlem Stage theater on March 11. His new show “Notes of a Native Song” premieres there in June. (© 2015, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

‘Passing Strange’ creator to challenge and honor author in Harlem Stage commission

Stew rarely takes the predictable route — at least in public.

So when the pop-song writer and founder of The Negro Problem took the floor at Harlem Stage on Wednesday night for “Behind the Curtain: Stew,” a talk about his upcoming show in the beautiful Gatehouse theater, I had few expectations.

Would he talk? Would he offer a cynical take on “Notes of a Native Song,” the piece he’s creating as part of the Year of James Baldwin, which celebrates the 90th anniversary of his birth? Would he read from the show in progress? Would he perform some of the songs?

He did a little of most of those thing — with remarkable engagement and not a touch of cynicism.

The Gatehouse, a Romanesque Revival former water pumping station that's home to Harlem Stage. (© 2015, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

The Gatehouse, a Romanesque Revival former water pumping station that’s home to Harlem Stage. (© 2015, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Maybe the venue — in Harlem, in front of a crowd that seemed earnest and engaged, exhibiting little of the hipster affect often on display at the downtown and Brooklyn venues where Stew more often appears — had something to do with it.

But it was more than that.

“When artists talk, they, for the most part, lie,” Stew said at the outset of the evening.

I’m in no position to judge his truthfulness, but his presentation came across as warm, personable, and, honest, without a trace of pose or ennui. Stew appeared deeply engaged with his subject — his reaction to Baldwin, and Baldwin’s  relationship with mentor and impediment Richard Wright.

If the artist was lying, it was a beautiful lie.

Stew held forth with only his guitar to accompany him as he opened the program with his laugh-inducing song “Black Men Ski.” While it wasn’t clear that he intends to include that song in the June show, it set the tone for the fun to follow.

He performed four other songs and fragments that apparently are part of the show, at least as it stands at this point in its development. Based on lyrical fragments, I’ll dub the three fleshed-out numbers “Brave, Suffering, Beautiful,” “Me, and You, and Jimmy,” and “Don’t Pray for the Boy Preacher” (with music, he said, by his longtime collaborator Heidi Rodewald). The fourth, of which he sang just a fragment — with some help from the audience with a spaghetti Western backing vocalization — cast Baldwin and Wright as gunslingers at High Noon in “Paris town.”

Given Stew’s position as a Tony-winning writer of rock musicals and other musical plays, such as “Passing Strange,”  you might expect “Notes of a Native Song” will be another of those, given that it will have its premiere in a respected theater.

But, based on Stew’s description, that’s not the case. He said it’ll feature “some musicians” performing the songs with scripted rants between them, because he’s comfortable with the structure of a concert.

And don’t expect the “Ken Burns, PBS James Baldwin” in this show, either. Stew promises the unexpurgated Baldwin — a detail he underscored with his unrestrained language throughout the evening — including a declaration of love for speaking all of the names that used to label African Americans over the years.

Stew seems as engaged and exited by this project as anything I’ve seen him do in years. So by that measure, it’s a safe bet that “Notes of a Native Song” will be a gem.

Get your tickets now, because it’s a short run in a small theater (just 200 seats) and it will sell out quickly.

“Notes of a Native Song” will receive six performances (fours shows at 7:30 p.m., plus two 2 p.m. matinees) from Jun 3-7, at Harlem Stage, 150 Convent Avenue, Manhattan. Tickets for the show, featuring cabaret-style seating, are $55 and available by tapping or clicking here. Call 212-281-9240 or tap or click here for more information Harlem Stage and its offerings.

Freedy Johnston, a songwriter’s songwriter, brings his well-crafted songs to Hastings on Saturday

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Throughout his 25-year career, singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston has developed a loyal following with his finely detailed story songs. His compositions tend to be filled with dark, broken characters, set to lithe, almost jaunty melodies — and are always highly original.

The title tune from his latest album, last fall’s “Neon Repairman,” breaks that tradition a bit because it sounds so familiar. It evokes Jimmy Webb’s 1968 classic “Wichita Lineman.”

I got a chance to talk to Johnston recently for The Journal News/lohud.com in advance of his show on Saturday night at The Purple Crayon in Hastings-on-Hudson. You can read it by tapping or clicking here.

Jonathan Demme proves his love for The Feelies

Jonathan Demme introduces The Feelies at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, N.Y., after a screening of "Something Wild" on Jun 1, 2014. (Photos © 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Jonathan Demme introduces The Feelies at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, N.Y., after a screening of “Something Wild” on Jun 1, 2014. (Photos © 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

The promo line on the front page of The Journal News on Thursday  said it: “Jonathan Demme Loves The Feelies.”

On Sunday night at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, N.Y., Demme proved it.

“I guess I don’t get to the venues as much as I used to, because maybe I hit the sack a little earlier than I used to,” Demme told me when I interviewed him for lohud.com/The Journal News. “But definitely… I’d go anywhere to see The Feelies. I’d stay up late to see The Feelies.”

The Feelies onstage at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, N.Y., on Sunday, June 1, 2014.

The Feelies onstage at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, N.Y., on Sunday, June 1, 2014.

At the Burns Film Center, Demme had his dreams fulfilled without having to stay up too terribly late. The movie ran from about 7 p.m. to just before 9. It took Continue reading