Category Archives: Folk

Donovan’s ‘Mellow Yellow’ sound comes to Peeksill on Suday


Whether you were around in the Sixties, or even if you were born years later, you have head the psychedelic folk-rock stylings of Donovan, whose greatest hits include “Sunshine Superman,” “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” and “Mellow Yellow.”

On Sunday, Sept. 18, the 70-year-old Scotland-born singer-songwriter brings his 50th anniversary tour to the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater in Peekskill.

In an interview for The Journal News/ tied to his first-ever Westchester County gig, Donovan tells me he’s still going strong doing creative work he loves – and has no intention of stopping.

“I love making music and I do it every day… I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop doing that. In that way, my motivations haven’t changed at all. I’m an observer and my music is a commentary on life. I love that job.”




How Ron Wasserman’s visit with Fred Hellerman, the last living member of The Weavers folk quartet, resulted in a world premiere

Ron Wasserman, front left, with the New York Jazzharmonic. (Mihyun Kang)

Ron Wasserman, front left, with the New York Jazzharmonic. (Mihyun Kang)

Fred Hellerman, the sole surviving member of the famous 1950s folk quartet the Weavers until his death on Sept. 1 at the age of 89, wanted to be more than just a folkie, his son, Caleb Hellerman told The Washington Post.

The quartet – which Hellerman founded with Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, and Lee Hays — was immensely popular for its vocal harmonies and faux naïve guitar-and-banjo versions of songs like Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” other now-standard folk songs including “On Top of Old Smoky” and “The Hammer Song.”

Hellerman, the son of a poor immigrant couple, taught himself to play the guitar while serving in the Coast Guard during World War II and never studied music.

As a result, he longed to be taken seriously as a musician, and was always self-conscious about his lack of musical education, his son said. “He wanted to be seen as a serious musician and composer,” he said.

On June 28, just two months before Hellerman died, the New York Jazzharmonic gave him just the boost he wanted by giving one of Hellerman composition’s, “Fourths of July,” its world premiere at the Washington Square Music Festival.

It was almost by chance that Ron Wasserman of New City, the Jazzharmonic’s artistic director, found out about the piece a year ago and began the process of bringing it to the world.

“When I started talking about this with him, it was really kind of thrilling, because I felt like I’d made a discovery,” Wasserman explains.

Hellerman was old friends with Wasserman’s mother, retired singer Joan Wile.

“She sang with him in another group he had after the Weavers, called the Neighbors. The Weavers were blacklisted for a while, so he formed the Neighbors, and my mother was in that group.”

Hellerman and Wile had fallen out of touch, but reconnected in the last several years, says Wasserman, who soon learned that Hellerman possessed some demo recordings he had produced for Wile.

Hellerman wasn’t able to email digital copies of the recordings, so Wasserman paid the elderly musician a visit.

“I went over to his house and got the recordings, which are actually really good, some of the best recordings I’ve heard of my mother singing back in the day.”

Hellerman was intent on getting Wasserman’s attention for something else.

“He was like, ‘I’ve got to play you this piece I wrote,'” Wasserman says. “He had a MIDI computer realization of the piece. He says, ‘I wrote this 30 years ago and nobody’s played it…

“It was a good piece, it was a patriotic kind of piece that the Boston Pops would play, sort of like a theme and variations on ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy.’ So I was like, yeah, I’m gonna do the piece,” Wasserman says.

Wasserman learned that the germ of Hellerman’s idea came from his son, Caleb, who was then an infant.

“When his son was a baby in the crib, he used to scream. In the morning he would wake up like an alarm clock screaming out ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy,'” explains Wasserman. Hellerman learned to turn the noisy distraction into something productive by composing countermelodies in his head. “Eventually, a number of years later, the piece had stuck with him, and that’s how he wrote it. So he dedicated it to his son.”

Because it was written for conventional string orchestra, Wasserman had to recorchestrate it for his 17-piece jazz band.

Over the months between Wasserman’s initial discussions with Hellerman and the June concert date, Hellerman’s health deteriorated. He was too frail to attend the premiere at New York University’s Frederick Loewe Theatre.

“That’s the great irony, the irony of ironies. But his family was there, and they had a great time,” Wasserman says.

Though Hellerman couldn’t attend the premiere, Wasserman found the Washington Square Music Festival audience was very aware of its composer.

“I said to the crowd, ‘You guys remember Fred Hellerman?’ And of course, down there in the Village everybody remembered Fred Hellerman.”

Jamie Block and Caroline Doctorow: Longtime friends forge musical partnership at Union Arts Center Saturday

Caroline Doctorow and Jamie Block

Caroline Doctorow and Jamie Block

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.


What: Caroline Doctorow and Jamie Block in concert

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 or 845-359-0258

Interview continues after the jump. Continue reading

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


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/, 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.


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.


Continue reading

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