Caroline Doctorow considers herself a classic folksinger.
Jamie Block‘s a product of the Anti-Folk revolution.
You might not think they’d have a lot in common, but if you want to find out how these two artists manage to walk their separate paths without losing sight of each other, check them out in a rare Rockland County concert appearance at Sparkill’s Union Arts Center on Saturday, March 19.
What you’re likely find is that it’s a natural pairing — they’ve been friends and mutual admirers for a quarter century
The pair spent a little time with Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? the other day to talk about their friendship , Doctorow begins recounting how she met Block.
“I think I met Jamie when,” she began, only to be interrupted off by Block — as he had warned he probably would wind up doing.
IF YOU GO
When: 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19
Where: Union Arts Center, 2 Union Ave., Sparkill, New York
Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 at the door. GO HERE TO BUY ONLINE. More info at firstname.lastname@example.org or 845-359-0258
Interview continues after the jump.
“We met on Long Island, when my mother died and we had a benefit to support the Joan T. Block Memorial Fund,” says Block, a Long Island native who now lives in Haverstraw, New York.
“I was 21 and still in college, but Caroline was there and pushed me onstage with my guitar. That must have been in 1990 or ’91.”
“One of the annoying things about Jamie,” Doctorow says with a chuckle, “was that he always had that ‘it’ factor. He has a blistering talent that always shone through.”
“It was a mutual admiration society from the get-go,” Block concurs. “It’s very rare that you meet somebody who’s such a great songwriter and also a fan of the music.
“Caroline even covered one of the songs I wrote,” says Block.
“That was incredibly flattering” to have her use “Better Than That” on one of her albums, he adds, unwittingly creating an opening for Doctorow to jump in to correct him.
“Actually I covered two songs,” she chimes in, citing “Independence Day” as the other song she covered on her 1996 album “Passing Through Tulsa.”
“I guess I really am a fan,” she says.
“The difference between us is that Jamie is the anti-folk artist, while I am more traditional. Jamie is a little more Dylanesque…
“And a little more Husker Dü,” the irrepressible Block interjects yet again.
Block found his musical center while attending the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and heard the father of the anti-folk movement, Roger Manning, on the campus radio station, WXYC-FM.
Despite their differences, Block says, “the biggest anti-folk artist is Woody Guthrie, and Caroline knows a ton more about him that I do.”
“Another difference between us is that he has had some amazing highs and lows in his career. I haven’t had that. I’ve just tried to climb the ladder incrementally,” she says. “Hopefully I’m sort of the tortoise.”
“To use a financial industry term,” says Block, who’s a financial adviser by day. “Caroline has a less volatile trajectory.”
Block is a gentleman farmer of a singer-songwriter, performing and recording when he has time, and at his own pace, while Doctorow is a steady producer who seems to be on “perma-tour,” as Block calls it.
Asked who her earliest musical inspiration was, Doctorow cites Joan Baez.
“I emulated those singers, who were of the traditional folk era” who sang songs handed down rather than writing their own material. Songwriting was something Doctorow started doing later in her career.
She also got exposure to Baez through her father, the late novelist E.L.Doctorow, who edited the singer’s autobiography “Daybreak.”
In a 2008 interview published by The New York Times, Doctorow described her early encounters with Baez, who visited the Doctorow home in New Rochelle in Westchester County:
“You can imagine, when you’re 8 and Joan Baez teaches you guitar chords. Your destiny is sealed.”
“I really loved Mary McCaslin,” she said, referring to an iconic folksinger. “She and I became friends. I would sort of follow her around. It was a great honor.”
“My parents had a little folk band in the tradition of the Weavers. So I was steeped in the whole folk tradition.”
While Doctorow says she’s not a political folksinger, she tried to instill her work with the spirit of social activism.
While each artist will do a separate set Saturday, they promise to do at least one or two numbers together — probably Dylan tunes, although Block planned to put off deciding until the last minute to avoid being “over-rehearsed.”
If you go, you may witness a bit of friendly competition — sort of a folk vs. anti-folk battle.
“We’re not going to have a crowd-o-meter onstage to see whether anti-folk or folk wins,” Block says, “but we could.”
“We’re celebrating a great friendship that has lasted many decades through a lot of things,” he adds.
They’re also thinking of doing a series of shows together. Another joint show is already in the works for later this year the Stephen Talkhouse in Ammagansett, Long Island.
Doctorow and Block got together on Rockland’s WRCR AM 1700 for a conversation with “Live Song Radio” host Brian Muni. Listen here: