Tag Archives: guitar

Where Marah is headed now

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Marah: Dave Bielanko and Christine Smith perform an acoustic number mid-crowd at the Benefit for Lucinda's Kids at The Bowery Electric in Manhattan's East Village on Sunday, April 29. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Dave Bielanko and Christine Smith talk about Mountain Minstrelsy, living (almost) off the grid and whether Serge Bielanko will rejoin Marah

How many lives has the rock band Marah had?

It’s hard to say, but it’s one of those bands that has survived surviving changing lineups, internal strife, and wildly fluctuating stylistic directions, all the while being encouraged and praised by celebrities.

Marah with flugelhorn at The Bowery Electric on April 29. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Started in Philadelphia, Marah quickly became notable for the stage antics of its core duo, brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko from Philadelphia suburb Conshohocken. They had a loose but seemingly perfectly choreographed stage presence together. Their sound, early on, featured rootsy, Americana-flavored rock and roll with a particular treat for anyone who has an affinity for Philadelphia: jangling banjos played in the style of Philadelphia Mummers Parade string bands.

A band version of Marah at Bowery Electric in 2010. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

This is a band that novelist Stephen King in 2005 dubbed probably the best rock band in America that nobody knows.” They’ve also been the darlings of writers Nick Hornby (who did a tour with the band) and Sarah Vowell.

It’s a band that became pals with Bruce Springsteen and got him to sing and play on one of their albums. And Steve Earle liked them enough to add them to the roster of his now defunct record label.

It’s also a band whose list of former members on Wikipedia at this writing tops out at 20 — a lot for the 19-year-old a band, which generally has performed as a quartet or quintet.

In working there, they’ve discovered something magical, something that has returned the band to its roots in a way, and turned it in a new direction in another way.

Dave and Christine are working with a handful of local musicians in their Pennsylvania hideaway on a project they call Mountain Minstrelsy. (Check it out on Facebook, too.) They’re holed up in an old church that they’re using as a recording studio.

Basically, one of their musical pals in Pennsylvania showed them a book of collected lyrics, “Mountain Minstrelsy (as sung in the Backwoods Settlements, Hunting Cabins and Lumber Camps in the “Black Forest” of Pennsylvania, 1840 – 1923)” by Henry W. Shoemaker. It struck a chord, literally and figuratively, with Dave and Christine, so they set out to build an album around their new music for the found lyrics. They’ve been recording the new-old songs with some of their friends and neighbors for an album they hope to release late this year.

After the jump, read the full interview, plus a video of Dave, Christine and friends in a Mountain Minstrelsy rehearsal.

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Sam Amidon and friends at Rockwood Music Hall

Banjo and guitar onstage before Sam Amidon's set at Rockwood Music Hall.

The first clue that Sam Amidon wasn't really going to be performing banjo only at Rockwood Music Hall 2 on Wednesday. (Photos © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

UPDATE: New photos added!

Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

As predicted, Sam Amidon‘s solo banjo show at Rockwood Music Hall on Wednesday night was neither solo nor banjo only. But we’re not complaining. The multitalented Amidon took to Rockwood’s Stage 2 along with a banjo, guitar, fiddle, baby grand piano and a handful of mics.

Sam Amidon at Rockwood Music Hall.

He treated the solid crowd to about 70 minutes of his lovely, mournful folksongs. Just a few numbers into his set, Sam was joined by longtime collaborator Thomas Bartlett, the pianist and singer better known as Doveman.

Then, maybe 15 or 20 minutes into the show, Sam started looking for another guest. “Paul, do you think Beth went to the wrong Rockwood? I told her 2, but I didn’t tell her there was 2.” The man he addressed as Paul got up from his stageside table briefly and came back with the lady in question — Beth Orton, his collaborator of the last year or two and, by appearances, his partner in life. (Sam’s loving looks toward Beth and the tiny baby she carried with her were hard to interpret as anything other than paternal!)

It didn’t take long for Sam to drag Beth onstage with him for a couple of numbers, too.

Sam Amidon and Beth Orton at Rockwood Music Hall.

While this show broke no new ground, it was a great, thoughtful way to move toward the end of 2011. Thanks, Sam, Thomas and Beth!

Who needs roadies: Pete Seeger is 90 and still carries his own gear!

Pete Seeger is still carrying his own gear – at 90 years of age! (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Pete Seeger is still carrying his own gear – at 90 years of age! (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

The crowd in Nyack’s Memorial Park was getting antsy after dark fell last night. The several hundred people gathered in the park on the banks of the Hudson River were waiting for one man: legendary folk singer Pete Seeger.

He was the headliner for the Health Care for All rally. The organizers kept assuring the crowd that Pete was on the way, racing to Nyack after an appearance in Manhattan’s Central Park. But by shortly after 7, it started looking like the rally’s 7:30 end time would come and go before Pete got there.

The crowd crowded the stage for a glimpse of Pete Seeger.

The crowd crowded the stage for a glimpse of Pete Seeger.

Then someone near the park entrance shouted, “He’s here. Somebody just saw him.” That caused some in the back of the crowd to turn and face the driveway into the park, expecting to see a livery car racing in. Instead, through the gathering darkness strode a rail-thin man in a chambray shirt and jeans, a floppy hat on his had, with two gig bags, one slug from each shoulder.

Yes, it was the 90-year-old folk icon, walking into the park, carrying his own gear. A roar rose up from the crowd, which seemed to double in size as people pushed forward to get a glimpse of Pete.

He apologized for being so late, explaining that this was is fourth event of the day — which he spent racing between his home in Beacon, to NYC to Nyack. And then he launched into energetic performances of  a handful of familiar songs, including a “rap” version of “English is Crazy,” a singalong of “This Land is Your Land,” and a beautiful rendition of his 1950 chart-topper “Goodnight, Irene.”

The energy was intense. And I’m sure that the doubters who left before Pete arrived are kicking themselves for missing out on such a vital performance.

A number of other musicians performed brief sets during the nearly four-hour-long rally, including the Roues Brothers of West Nyack, Tom Chapin of Piermont and Emory Joseph of NYC.

Check out the Nyack News & Views report here.

Click through to the jump for more photos. Continue reading