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Every time Ia€™ve seen him live over the years, Ia€™ve chided myself for not having remembered to grab him for a feature article.
Brooks has been living in England with his wife, Jo, who is British, for four years at this point. Speaking with Brooks from a€?across the pond,a€? I found someone who is so acclimated in his new life that he speaks in a clipped, slightly British, almost Cockney manner, sort of like the way a Northern visitor to the U.S. Brooks appeared a couple of times at The Fast Folk Cafe in the mid-a€™90s, where I was a volunteer manager.
In addition to New Everything, which he mailed to me, I remembered owning How the Night Time Sings (1991) and Knife Edge (1996).
Red Guitar Plays Blue is a self-issued collection of vintage recordings of songs written during 1986 and 1987. One instrumental track on How the Night Time Sings, a€?Look What the Cat Dragged In,a€? is itself cat-like, aurally walking the top edge of a fence and nimbly leaping from one tiny surface to another.
The opening instrumental track of Live Solo, a€?Chasing The Groove,a€? is typical Brooks a€” a bouncing fret-skipper that easily beguiles the audience who will now hang on every note and syllable of the eveninga€™s performance. His new CD, appropriately named New Everything, is at times a good-time, jump-out-of-your-seat, get-up-and-dance guitar clinic.
When he lights into a€?Deep River Blues,a€? the classic made famous by Doc Watson, my body does a giddy flinch of joy.
The title track is a skewed version of the old country song a€?Flowers on the Wall,a€? by The Statler Brothers (a€?countina€™ flowers on the wall, that dona€™t bother me at alla€?). This batch of stories reflects his expressed career goal to continue following the primal urge to express reactions to life events with sung poetry and a guitar riff. Brooks is quick to remark how welcome and appreciative his British audiences have been and continue to be.
Brooks appeared a couple of times at The Fast Folk Cafe in the mid-a€™90s, where I was a volunteer manager.A  His first appearance was on a co-bill with Frank Christian. The opening instrumental track of Live Solo, a€?Chasing The Groove,a€? is typical Brooks a€” a bouncing fret-skipper that easily beguiles theA  audience who will now hang on every note and syllable of the eveninga€™s performance. The path to such early recognition was taken eagerly, like a runner catapulting from a starting block.
Our interview, in exploring her lifea€™s path, revealed a person who, for all her dazzling gifts, is still down-to-earth, quick to say a€?thank youa€? to any accolades a€” and a delight to talk to.
As far as influences go, she says a€?It was all over the map,a€? To a listener, ita€™s easy to see that jazz really got in, and got in deep. About her mom and dada€™s rearing skills, she continued: a€?The daring does come from a place of being supported as a child and as an artist.
Her grandfather, who was a jazz pianist and a composer, had passed away when Sonya was very young, and had left her mother his grand piano. Wikipedia, in a somewhat dated post, states: a€?As a 10-year-old, she performed at the 1999 Special Olympics World Games in North Carolina.
Sonya has said that she developed as a jazz singer through her studies with Sheila Jordan, a renowned vocalist and educator (Jordan initially became known as an interpreter of the music of Charlie a€?Birda€? Parker and later studied with Charles Mingus and Lenny Tristano). Although she had started studying guitar with June Millington (followed later by lessons with Michael Daves), she was, at this point, fronting the band strictly as a singer. Sonya continued to strictly sing out front with the band as back-up until she was forced to start playing guitar with the band. Her fourth CD, released in 2010, Convict of Conviction, (more of an EP - 7 tracks) is another distinct departure and was, as she says, a€?a collection of music from winter, done with a string quartet.a€? We hear more piano here, as this is where Sonya decided to seriously make use of it. Sonya got a camera from her father when she was 12 and has been an avid photographer ever since. The foundation for Sonyaa€™s dream to be a singer was built brick by brick, one teacher after another.
Ia€™ve had my favorites among the more contemporary performing songwriters -- Greg Brown comes most readily to mind -- but, for sheer longevity and ability to cover the big three in subject matter -- social commentary, satire, and personal relationships -- there just isna€™t anyone in his league. If you were to dream about an American everymana€¦ someone with the ability to verbalize every quality needed to uphold the ideals of democracy, then demonstrate it to the masses, this would be your guy.
Wea€™d normally cover the artista€™s life story in an interview, but Tom has put it all down in print. Through high school, in an area where country music was king, it seemed that he was the only person who liked folk music. After a brief, unsuccessful stint in graduate school, Tom followed an impulse he now derides and joined the Army. After his discharge from the Army, he was sitting in the Gaslight Cafe and was prodded to audition for an opening in the Chad Mitchell Trio.
Tom had begun working on and off at The Gaslight after his discharge, beginning a 9-month run on the 4th of July weekend in 1962. In January of 1963, he got what he calls, a€?the biggest break of my life.a€? It was while he was playing at the Gaslight that he met Midge Cummings, the woman who would become his wife. In spite of Toma€™s prodigious songwriting ability, he watched others get record contracts while he went without. Our observation of Toma€™s a€?deana€? of songwriters status is, of course, not without precedent. In 1963, just before Tom married Midge, he got his first invitation to sing at the Newport Folk Festival.
After the British tour, with stops in Paris and Cannes, Tom and Midge returned to New York.
During the 60a€™s when I was making my first attempt to join the legions of amateurs trying to play folk music, like many others, I made a€?The Last Thing On My Minda€? a part of my repertoire.
The film segments on YouTube of Tom sitting at a table with Pete Seeger, chatting about his impetus for writing a song, then singing it, are treasures. Tom had a way to take a polarizing subject like the Vietnam War and present it in an a€?everymana€? fashion. One of his songs that I will always find haunting is a€?Crazy John,a€? written for John Lennon.
These include some songs that first saw the light of day during the 60a€™s and 70a€™s and came in handy during our current run of madness. Lyndon Johnson told the nation, have no fear of escalation, I am trying everyone to please. He ends the narrative in his songbook with these words: a€?So I teach, I write and record, I travel and perform -- all with my partner, Midge, without whom none of this would be still be happening. Ia€™ve had my favorites among the more contemporary performing songwriters -- Greg Brown comes most readily to mind -- but, for sheer longevity and ability to cover the big three in subject matter -- social commentary, satire, and personal relationshipsA  -- there just isna€™t anyone in his league.
During preparations for the 2010 Huntington Folk Festival, Acoustic Live was sending invitations to all performers in its email showcase folder.
When August 2011 rolled around, diverted by a yeara€™s worth of other featured performers, Ia€™d forgotten exactly what Ia€™d seen last summer. Anthony stepped away from the mic at the title line, turned his head slightly, saying a€?What night was it?a€? encouraging audience response, and they didna€™t disappoint. Like any good spinner of contemporary tales, Anthony can move his audience with more serious material.
The song depicts a grave situation during a€?The Troubles,a€? as the IRA fought the British in Northern Ireland, Anthonya€™s childhood home. Even though his childhood was marred by the rending apart of the population, he managed to inject some humor into his repartee. When I asked how a€?The Troublesa€? affected him, he replied, a€?I was affected mostly by living in a society without any sense of real community or togetherness and I hated that.
To the question of early musical influences, he answered, a€?My earliest feel for music came from the radio which was always on and the old record player which was always used in the house. There were obstacles, both financial and emotional, to overcome for Anthony in the process of becoming a performing songwriter. Once Anthony gained the respect of others in the folk arena and the support of music business professionals, he was able to quit teaching and sing for a living. One of the most rewarding ways to get acquainted with Anthony is to stream the instructional videos titled a€?Anthony John Clarke Songbooka€? on YouTube. Late Addendum: Unfortunately the show mentioned above has been cancelled due to a change in Anthonya€™s USA tour schedule.
The first one I watched was a rendition of a€?Tuesday Night Is Always Karaoke,a€? perhaps his most requested song.
His music is what some would call a€?adult acoustic rock,a€? full of catchy phrases and big hooks. Recently, Grega€™s new album, Maybe the Sun, drew the attention of WFUVa€™s John Platt, who featured Greg on his a€?Sunday Breakfasta€? radio show and in his monthly a€?On Your Radara€? live show at the revered East Village songwriter mecca, The Living Room.
Elements of bold performance, musical chops and clever wordplay in the family lineage hint at what was to come for Greg and his brothers.
Louis Tannen, Grega€™s grandfather, was an influential magician who opened a magic shop in New York City in 1925.
At around 9 or 10 years old, Greg studied clarinet, but said, a€?I was terrible at it.a€? After maybe a year of cacophonic practice, he switched to guitar. After that, they both left Colorado and together went to North Carolina, where the third Tannen brother, Robert (today a successful screenwriter), was living. Greg and Steve wrote together quite a bit in Colorado and, in New York, theya€™d hang out together at their respective apartments and at open mics. Greg was visiting Steve at his place and while jamming, the basic riff emerged and by the end of the evening, they had the melody and the chorus. Roam, released in 2000, was about traveling around and it kicks off with a€?I Feel Lucky,a€? a joyous and twangy guitar rocker that matches anything Tom Petty ever wrote. Maybe the Sun, released in late 2010, is a lot less New York-based and wide-ranging in its themes.
One time, however, when Greg was in California, he appeared with them during one episode as part of a sub-plot on the TV series Dirty Sexy Money (2007-2009). After eight hours of hanging around, they got all of three seconds of screen time, playing secretly in a hotel room for the Lucy Liu character, who couldna€™t be seen in public attending a concert with her illicit lover (deep-pocketed, since how else are ya gonna afford a private Weepies concert?).
Although Greg went on tour in late 2010 for two weeks behind the new album and played some one-off shows, performance plans at present are minimal.
We want to encourage our readers to order Grega€™s CDs online and look for upcoming appearances in our listings pages in the months to come. In high school, he got his first band together called Talking to the Wall, with Greg on vocals and his Fender Telecaster (which he still owns). Returning to the States after one year, he settled in Boulder, Colo., (a€?A fairly good music towna€?) for about two years with older brother Steve.
Given Grega€™s uncanny knack for radio-friendly tracks from the first album on, our conversation turned to songwriting. I was driving home from the 2010 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, the two-lane blacktop of Route 22 South stretching out in front of me. While I tend to invest a lot in the psychology of the farm lifestyle, Susan sees things in more practical terms. Susan counts her blessings when it come to the education she got in her small-town high school. But what good fortune to have this unusual talent in the middle of the cornfields that my teacher and friend Alan Jacobsen was able to provide this unusual kind of encouragement and understanding.
Susan also recalled: a€?My high school piano teacher would record all the Marion McPartland shows and give me cassettes of them. Susan went to college at the University of Iowa and received a bachelora€™s degree in voice. While she was at Temple, she played jazz piano in nightclubs and restaurants to make ends meet. After seeing Nancy Griffith in concert at a club in Philadelphia, she came to the realization that writing and singing songs based on personal experience was a perfectly valid way to expend her musical talent. She surfaced again and again through the a€?90s, always giving a dynamic, thrilling performance. In 2004, she released the first of her a€?themeda€? projects, I Cana€™t Be New, which drew on her experience with pop standards. This got her the aforementioned appearance on the Marian McPartland show and also, brings us to the issue of her ingrained sense of humor.
The most recent of Susana€™s projects, Classics, takes pop songs and weds them to classical themes. When I remarked about the impressive diversity in her songwriting a€?projects,a€? and not playing it safe, she expressed appreciation. When I made comparisons to the diverse approaches Ia€™ve used as a visual artist (drawing, painting), her emotional core showed its strength.
In parting, I mentioned that it seemed as if her audiences were bigger and more appreciative these days. Susan has a strong connection to her audienceA  and looks forward to interaction with them.
Ita€™s difficult to express how much enjoyment I got out of hearing the old chestnut, a€?Wild Women,a€? written by Ida Cox and sung by Wool&Grant on a recent John Platt Sunday Morning Breakfast Show on WFUV-FM. Their joined voices provide a wealth of pleasure, no matter what direction their music takes them. A big formative experience came from Ina Maya€™s connection with a member of a frienda€™s family, Davidine Small, whose mother and uncles were vaudevillians and musicians. One of Ina Maya€™s big money gigs was the town Christmas party at Abbott Hall in downtown Marblehead.
After high school, she moved to Manhattan and went to Barnard College, the womena€™s school affiliated with Columbia University.
In a short-lived episode after college, Ina May moved to Santa Cruz, Calif., to continue working in a rock band with her boyfriend. As she described it: a€?I booked myself at coffeehouses and colleges as a solo act but after a few months, the bass player from the rock band moved to town from where hea€™d been in California to play with me.
One of my solo gigs without the band was at Sandya€™s (also a famous jazz club) in Beverly, Mass. As she saw it: a€?I missed playing out live and New York gigs were always high pressure showcase kinds of things. The next change in her life came through her friend Jon Albrink, a session player and singer who also had bands playing his original music. It was the era of singing sister acts such as The Lennon Sisters (The Lawrence Welk TV Show) and The McGuire Sisters (The Arthur Godfrey TV Show).
Bev felt intimidated by the jazz people who surrounded her and stopped doing music for a time. She was finally on her own and became involved with protesting the Viet Nam war and in overarching societal problems. She got introduced to and became heavily involved in the womena€™s movement, resulting in a greater level of self-awareness. Bev gave birth to her second child in 1982 and The Human Condition re-formed as a world-beat band, singing in different languages about international struggles. Ten years ago, Bev formed a trio called The Dissident Daughters with two women were recruited from the Brooklyn Womena€™s Chorus. Beva€™s involvement with Ina May evolved from a Dissident Daughters recording project with Ina Maya€™s husband Daniel. While Bev brings a higher political sensibility and Ina May writes a greater amount of personal songs, they complement each other. She got introduced to and became heavilyA  involved in the womena€™s movement, resulting in a greater level of self-awareness. Youa€™d need to know a lot of those ways if you were to count the places Brooks Williams has been referred to in that manner. If you watch a YouTube video like his version of a€?Weeping Willow Blues,a€? recorded at Uncle Calvina€™s in Dallas, the guitar seems like ita€™s been grafted onto him.
With the release of his new CD, appropriately named New Everything, wea€™re finally getting that corrected. Southern states might return northward, dragging the expression a€?ya€™alla€? across the Mason-Dixon Line.
Whenever they got to a new town, the first thing shea€™d do was call a music school or store and ask who taught violin. He noticed that not many other boys his age were inside on sunny summer days playing violin. Rather than accept an offer from Berkelee School of Music, he attended a liberal arts school for a couple of years. A check of our CD shelves uncovered a forgotten treasure trove: Red Guitar Plays Blue (1994), Nectar (2003) and Live Solo (2004). It carried me back in time to when Brooksa€™ jackhammer-steady rhythm and pristine clear picking were a new revelation. Knife Edge illustrates Brooksa€™ love for Ireland in the rollicking instrumental track a€?Belfast Bluesa€? and the stomping slide romp a€?Rotterdam Bar,a€? which recounts the time he played Belfasta€™s legendary Rotterdam Bar alone on stage to an empty room after it had been closed down (a favorite playera€™s venue during the a€™90s, an Internet search as to whether it was saved from demolition is inconclusive).
He plays fingerstyle on a resonator guitar while Martin Simpson, British guitar monster, adds background slide licks on a second resonator. Maverick is an Americana festival held every year in eastern England during the 4th of July weekend. It dips, swoops and flips up into a falsetto at times, not commonly used by women singers a€” like a female version of Al Green. The first album, Words Came Back to Me, released when she was just 16, put her on the aural map, not just locally, but worldwide.
Her parents, both full-time professional artists, had a big impact on their toddler daughter. Although the family lived in a rural area, it was part of the a€?Happy Valleya€? and home of a€?Five Colleges,a€? including Smith and Amherst. For four years she has taken part in the Vermont Jazz Center Summer Program with Sheila Jordan, and she has won an a€?outstanding musiciana€? award from the University of Massachusetts High School Jazz Festival and a scholarship to its Jazz in July summer program. She had always kept a journal, but the events of that day would become more than just a journal entry. By the time she started performing, she had written about three original songs, and filled out her sets with covers of jazz standards. Quoted elsewhere, she said: a€?One of the main things I remember doing when I was young, was driving ridiculous distances, just to sing one song at a jam session here, or a show there.
Speaking about her development in general, she said: a€?Everythinga€™s happened almost, because I had to [learn new skills]. A sponsorship deal with Starbucksa€™A® Hear Music label brought the CD into coffee shops around the world. In an interview with Howard Berkes of NPR, we hear: a€?Once I started writing I couldna€™t stop.


Between the covers of his songbook, Tom Paxton, The Honor of Your Company, is a treasure trove of stories and photographs from his childhood and his career. When his dada€™s health began to fail, for his convalescence, the family moved to Wickenberg, Arizona, a locus for dude ranches.
He first heard a€?Shenandoaha€? from the Fred Waring singers Even in that a€?dressed-upa€? version, it drove straight to his core. It wasna€™t until he got to the University of Oklahoma, that he discovered other classmates who shared his musical tastes. While stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, he whiled away the boring hours in a clerk typist class writing his first commercially viable song, a€?The Marvelous Toy.a€? While stationed at Fort Dix, he began visiting the clubs and cafes in Greenwich Village on weekends, crashing at the apartment of a former classmate.
He won the slot, but it lasted only a week when his voice didna€™t blend well with the other two. With no record contract and not much money, initially the apartment was threadbare, with almost no furniture.
After four years, his manager, the legendary Harold Leventhal, convinced Electraa€™s Jac Holzman to listen to Tom. The workshops were hosted by Pete, who joined Tom on a€?Ramblina€™ Boy,a€? a real thrill for Tom.
The folk clubs there were really clubs with memberships, not just commercial establishments that, in New York, might be nearly empty on a Monday.
Along with others making it in folk, the college circuit opened up a new and better source of income than clubs. Of course, it would also speak reams to any college kid who wanted to wrap its meaning around his own scared, searching existence. Pete, the standard-bearer of the first American folk wave welcomes Tom, the most literate of the newer generation. The tragedy of a€?Jimmy Newman,a€? for anyone ready to listen, reached across the gulf between the a€?longhairsa€? and their parents. For those who attempt to run their con game on the American populace, Tom Paxton watches, ready to pounce and skewer the miscreants. Though it isna€™t really war, I am sending 50,000 more, to help save Vietnam from Vietnamese. Tom has kept his touring at around 40 shows per year, so ita€™s a good idea to catch him any chance you have. He first heard a€?Shenandoaha€? from the Fred Waring singersA  Even in that a€?dressed-upa€? version, it drove straight to his core.
The tragedy of a€?Jimmy Newman,a€?A  for anyone ready to listen, reached across the gulf between the a€?longhairsa€? and their parents. We hadna€™t filled all of our slots for the unplugged afternoon showcases at our booth and were accepting suggestions for newcomers.
Somewhere halfway through, an older balding gent resembling a Shakespearean actor began his set and got our riveting attention. However, I knew Ia€™d earmarked September 2011 for Anthony and I knew it was for a very good reason. Another video, for a€?The Broken Years,a€? found him standing in front of a banner on which a€?Folk Cluba€? could be read on the right side.
It focuses on the divided state of mind between Catholics and Protestants and a wish for a coming together, a communion of souls.
Over rolling fingerstyle guitar, he sarcastically recounted the remarks of North Irelanda€™s iron-willed leader, Ian Paisley about a€?sharing power with representatives of the south over a€?his dead body.a€™a€? Paisley, of course, would eventually capitulate and north and south Ireland would achieve a truce. He grew up in Belfast and was in school there from the start of the struggle between Northern and Southern Ireland. I made the decision to leave Ireland in 1974 when there was a nationwide strike and no one trusted anybody. I remember Ray Charles, Jim Reeves and some classical stuff, old 78s like Phil Harrisa€™ a€?Woodman Spare That Treea€™ and fun stuff like that. As a teacher, it was possible for me to perform some evenings and still work in school during the day, but if one wants to expand and travel to shows, then it becomes too hard to do both.
I got Songs for Anton from him when he played the Huntington Folk Festival and downloaded Sing A Chorus With Me from eMusic (the only one they had at the time). Sitting in what appears to be a room at home, with plants in the background, he affably expounds on the motivation behind his songs and demonstrates guitar chords and fingerings for anyone who wants to learn the songs. Over rolling fingerstyle guitar, he sarcastically recounted the remarksA  of North Irelanda€™s iron-willed leader, Ian Paisley about a€?sharing power with representatives of the south over a€?his dead body.a€™a€? Paisley, of course, would eventually capitulate and north and south Ireland would achieve a truce. We began in June of 1999 with a cover story on Steve Tannen, the older brother of this montha€™s featured performer, Greg Tannen.
Over the years, while I kept getting distracted by Fast Folk Musical Magazine alumni or someone new whoa€™d catch my ear, Greg just kept getting better and better, winning and placing in songwriting competitions (John Lennon, UNISONG, USA, ISC) and awards in festivals (Sierra Songwriters, Telluride, Rocky Mountain Folks). However, after reacquainting myself with all of Grega€™s albums, I found that ita€™s really a continuation of a body of beautiful and compelling songs. Although Louis died in 1982, there is still a Tannena€™s Magic showroom near Herald Square and a Tannena€™s Magic website where magic products are sold. His family moved to Toronto right after his first birthday and stayed for around six years. The first names to come tumbling out of Greg were: a€?a lot of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Bill Evansa€? (Pete is a huge Bill Evans fan). The band played covers of the Rolling Stones and REO Speedwagon, among others, and some of Grega€™s original songs. At home, in more private moments, he was writing on acoustic guitar, focusing on songwriting, under the influence of acoustic-based songwriters such as Bob Dylan and those in Dylana€™s lineage.
Taking his acoustic guitar and travel bag, he went to Australia, a€?doing the vagabond thing,a€? staying in youth hostels part of the time. They played gigs together as a duo called The Kahluas (named after the familya€™s dog) and made a recording.
Then, as Greg tells it, during their respective a€?crap part-time jobs,a€? at their computers, they started emailing lyrics back and forth to each other. This is followed up with the gorgeous a€?Everything I Said,a€? a haunting reverie about a girl named Vanessa who stands by the clock in Grand Central Station with her hair up. An attempt to do an extended riff turned into a laugher and is tacked on as a short bonus track. The title track is another soulful rendering of a breakup that somehow seems a bit more sharply rendered than its predecessors.
I posed the idea that brother Roberta€™s screenwriting connection had something to do with it. He said, a€?Ia€™ve made a bunch of trips down there, written with some great people, had some great meetings, buta€¦ they want me in Nashville, and Ia€™m just not ready to live there.a€? Thata€™s good luck for us. There may be a stronger sense of purpose, a drive to overcome any obstacle, an unshakeable emotional center.
As she recalls, a€?My older brother learned guitar from Sister Marie Claire of the Franciscan nuns of Saint Marya€™s Chapel School in Manchester, Iowa.
If you have parents who enjoy what you do, you will never stop doing it for your entire life. When pressed further, she distilled the varying elements of a rural personality for me this way: a€?Other people who grew up in the countryside, people Ia€™ve met who grew up on farms or ranchesa€¦ therea€™s a practicality to those people, a straightforwardness, a plainspokenness that I find really wonderful. Afterward, she moved to Philadelphia and earned a mastera€™s degree in voice at Temple University. She had a gig every Friday night at the Pen & Pencil club (an after-hours Journalista€™s club) The man who ran it, Ron Patel, wanted to have a a€?Chantoosiea€? in the corner. Alan Pepper, owner of the Bottom Line saw as much as I did, and more, and created the Bottom Line record label, of which Susan was the first to be signed. She wrote an entire album of her own Cole Porter-like songs, utilizing her considerable chops as a pianist and guitarist, her razor-sharp lyrics and her muscular vocals. I like somebody who can turn a phrase, who can put words together in a way you cana€™t see coming. I searched Eddiea€™s Attic online and found that Susan was playing during my visit, so I bought two tickets. She became became interested in the project after attending the Chicago Gospel Music Festival. There are some songs where shea€™s a lot more generously hopeful about religious practices that many of us disillusioned lapsed practitioners would be. Then, with mock seriousness, she said, laughing, a€?I really feel bada€¦ theya€™ll throw me in the grave, saying, a€?Well she took that all too far.
She said, a€?a€?When you see someone over the course of a career and they always have something to bring to an audience, youa€™ve got to respect that.
Her teacher, George Walkey, hired her as a helper for his group guitar lessons at the Marblehead Y. During their visits from New York, everyone made up songs and wrote plays, then performed them.
She played the venerable Postcrypt Coffeehouse and other concerts on campus, opening at one point for legendary jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams. A drummer hea€™d met in California also moved in, and we met some local musicians, and we started doing some of my solo gigs as a band.
I opened for Paul Pena who wrote (Big Old) a€?Jet Airliner.a€™ He invited me to sing with him that night, and I jammed with him onstage.
Musicians that I knew were able to play a€?cluba€? dates, weddings, anniversary parties, bar mitzvahs, etc., and I thought it would be good for me to get better as a singer and to learn material, not just work in a band based around me a€” and to earn money. Her oldest sister bought some stock arrangements and thata€™s how Bev learned to sight-read music.
She listened to the greats like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and thought a€?I cana€™t do that.a€? She played the role of the musiciana€™s a€?old ladya€? for a couple of years and then ended the marriage. It was liberating for Bev to finally see her own involvement in an abusive relationship as part of a greater issue. The project never went anywhere, but Bev and Ina May had gotten to know each other through a song writing workshop and started singing together. They got to know each othera€™s life stories and saw that they had similar sensibilities as young performers.
If further proof of his prowess is needed, in another video, apparently from the same set, he laughingly tosses off a guitar medley of the most famous rock and folk riffs.
They hit it off immediately, but didna€™t see each other for another year, so their relationship developed a€?at a slow burn,a€? he said. He would get tired of one line of work or things would get slow and hea€™d switch back and forth. Bored with playing classical pieces and with the instrument itself, he wandered off and came across an older boy, a teenager, playing guitar. It kept him away from the drinking and racial conflicts that pervaded the lives of many Southern teenagers.
He also bought a book of the greatest hits of the a€™70s a€” Beatles, Carly Simon, CSNY, Arlo Guthrie a€” and it showed him how to play chords.
He left for another couple of years, but went back and re-enrolled, this time at Salem State College in Massachusetts and graduated with a B.A in English. I played anywhere that would have me a€” cafes, bars, open mics a€” and lots of restaurants. The title track invites the female listener to walk with him on the insecure a€?knife edgea€? of a relationship. If further proof of his prowess is needed, in another video, apparently from the same set, he laughinglyA  tosses off a guitar medley of the most famous rock and folk riffs.
Brooks said he was a€?in awe.a€? Frank was a damn fine picker himself, so the evening was a thrill. Lost in a reverie, she questions an inner voice that says a€?walk away a€¦ walk away a€¦ walk away.a€? The lover she is contemplating comes with a lot of baggage and the mic shea€™s singing into lets us hear every breathy syllable. Her newest album, Convict of Conviction, reveals an artist eager to break new ground every time she puts pen to paper or sets her instrument(s) in motion.
Ita€™s a wonder that we havena€™t heard stories about her first cries carrying a melody as she emerged from her mothera€™s womb. Their studios were a€?a stonea€™s throwa€? behind the house they lived in and both played recorded music while they worked.
The area is also rich in music and home to many bands, such as Fountains of Wayne, The Nields and Winterpills. That didna€™t happen, she has said, but the lessons have obviously been a huge success in every other regard.
She said: a€?I think it was the first time I really understood the worlda€™s suffering and felt really bad about it. In 2003, an article by Seth Rogovoy, of Berkshire Living Magazine, described 13-year-old Sonya this way: a€?poised and well-spoken a€¦ shea€™s not at all haughty and doesna€™t come across as particularly precocious. It was made with Grammy-winning producer Malcolm Burn (Daniel Lanois, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris) after her tour with Hancock ended. We cana€™t possibly include the myriad of experiences he relates or capture the range of wry humor, but will hit some of the high points.
When most of us were young, many of us had dreams of being firemen, soldiers anda€¦ cowboys.
He and his friends would borrow albums by Josh White, Theodore Bikel and Oscar Brand and share the job of transcribing the lyrics. He got to hear acts like Ed McCurdy (an early hero), The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Josh White and Len Chandler. Tom OKa€™d the use of his song a€?My Doga€™s Bigger Than Your Dog,a€? for a dog food commercial. It was a thrill, even though that first time he was only slated to perform at two afternoon workshops.
Night after night, even Mondays, when Tom played, the club members packed the rooms (sometimes upstairs at a pub). What other songwriter could write: a€?Ita€™s a lesson too late for the learnina€™ made of sand, made of sanda€¦In a wink of an eye my soul is turnina€™a€¦ in your hand, in your handa€¦a€? Ita€™s fingerstyle patterns were perfect for a beginner learning new licks. Seeing Pete join Tom on a€?Ramblina€™ Boy,a€? playing banjo and harmonizing in his high tenor, is a gift to all those who couldna€™t be there at Toma€™s first Newport Festival. As an injured soldier waits to ship out for home, he continues to entreat his unmoving friend lying in the next bed to, a€?Get up, Jimmy Newmana€¦ youa€™ve only to open your eyes,a€? we know his friend is dead. His ignorance is met, first by an ultra-hip Captaina€™s, a€?Wassa matter witchoo, baybee?a€? and a€?Waddya think you been sittin on? Tom still recalls the shock, fear and anger.A  Not long afterward, he got his first stringed instrument, a ukulele.
Night after night, even Mondays, when Tom played, the club members packed the rooms (sometimes upstairs at a pub).A  His album, Ramblina€™ Boy had preceded him there and people knew the songs. Seeing Pete join Tom on a€?Ramblina€™A  Boy,a€? playing banjo and harmonizing in his high tenor, is a gift to all those who couldna€™t be there at Toma€™s first Newport Festival. We got an email from Sibyl Moser of the Huntington Folk Society highly recommending someone who we thought was British, Anthony John Clarke. A few clicks later I was looking at one of the many YouTube videos of Anthony and it all came back to me. A resounding a€?Tuesday night is always Karaoke!a€? burst forth.The Brits love their sing-alongs and they love their Anthony John Clarke. The left side was out of the camera frame, so we dona€™t know what town or organization it belonged to. I wanted a guitar when I heard Barry Maguire singing a€?Eve of Destructiona€™ and I loved the seriousness of the lyrics without fully understanding what it was about. I played support tours and shows with names like the Dubliners, Fairport Convention and so on and learned the business over many years. I asked him why and he said he owned a factory and employed twenty women who gutted and cleaned out salmon and he liked to get them all the same thing as a gift. The latter contains all the audience favorites and was a great help in writing this article. The videos shift from a sepia-toned grayscale to full color during the instructional part, suggesting added updates. Since wea€™re only now getting around to younger sibling Greg, you might say wea€™re running a little bit late. Ia€™d run into Greg often over the years and hea€™d greet me warmly, seemingly knowing it was only a matter of time before Ia€™d recognize his mastery of the songwritera€™s craft.
Pete had been admitted to the Berklee School of Music for jazz, but his parents told him, a€?Therea€™s no money in music,a€? so he didna€™t attend. He picked that up and started playing it, saying he didna€™t want to study clarinet any more, and began taking guitar lessons from a female jazz guitarist.
When Greg was 17, the band came into New York City and recorded its first (and only) album a€” material that a€?will never see the light of day,a€? he wryly states. Toward the end of high school, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, he performed his original work at open mics and at the end-of-the-year senior talent show. While at Oberlin, Greg did more performing on acoustic guitar, doing small gigs and open mics. He always had his guitar out and busked in Sydney and Cairns (up the coast from Sydney near the Great Barrier Reef). After less than a year, Greg moved to New York City, and Steve followed a few months later. Rosanne has been very supportive of Greg, twittering to her fans about him during his opening sets, and generating lots of CD sales.
His take is that when you collaborate with someone, a different style emerges, a hybrid of two people. Grega€™s in the middle of a writing spurt and hopes to have enough material for a new album next year.
When Greg was 17, the band came into New York City and recorded its firstA  (and only) album a€” material that a€?will never see the light of day,a€? he wryly states.
I was passing through farmland, marvelling at the quiet beauty of corn rows, of the silos that peeked out from beyond them, and the stately, weathered white of the homes and barns. Case in point: A musically gifted girl raised on an isolated hog farm in Manchester, Iowa, surrounded by a loving, supportive family.
Alan Jacobsen was a Buddy Rich-type drummer working as a music teacher at the Manchester High School.
Ia€™d hear Marian McPartland talking to this one, or that one a€” Oscar Peterson a€” and listen to how they did it. He said to her, a€?I have this picture of a rummy bar, so go over in the corner and sing something and play something.a€? Susan bought Gershwin and Cole Porter songbooks and enlarged her repertoire of standards. Somewhere around the time that her third album, Last of the Good Straight Girls was released (1995), maybe a little before, I saw her play live, at the now-defunct Bottom Line nightclub in NYC.


The next album, on that label Time Between Trains might contain the most of my favorites in her repertoire.
When she cradles that song in her big voice, it becomes a call to find every woman who has ever been mistreated and do battle for her.
For me, there has always been a discrepancy between what religion professes to be and what its practitioners actually are.
In another interview, she states: a€?There is a religious left that is stepping up and into the fore and has a real case to make in making this country a better place. Therea€™s nothing more to be gained from thata€” unless you feel the need to show of and have people clap for you, which is kind of pathetic. They choose wisely, the prioritize wisely and theya€™re giving people something very, very real. I knew it was Ina May and Bev because Ia€™d heard them before and their sound is immediately recognizable. Both women started making music when they were very young and both of their paths make fascinating stories. She would help tune studentsa€™ guitars and at the end of the class, would sing and play a song. Although she cana€™t be sure, Ina May thinks that Davidine might have helped her get her first local gigs.
Paul Penaa€™s producer and booking agent were there and approached me about working with them. The gig organizer told Ina May that a€?Danny Weiss would be playing the evening gig and was a genius.a€? Ina May was skeptical. Always a high-energy person, Bev had a full-time job and was a single parent throughout this time. Their first gig as Wool&Grant was a co-bill with Bev and The Dissident Daughters at The Good Coffeehouse in Brooklyn. The violin practice and concerts brought him in contact with other youngsters, so early on, it was fun. He thought, a€?I want to do that.a€? Brooks returned the next day and asked the boy to show him how to play. During this time, in the late a€™80s, stalwarts such as Vance Gilbert, Ellis Paul, Jonatha Brooke and Catie Curtis were beginning to make their mark. In addition to all the guitar pyrotechnics, I came away with the indelible image of Brooks cleverly easing forward and using the mic stand as a slide at the finish of one song.
Teachers were within reach and, with her mothera€™s help, she eagerly studied with quite a few. Her other vocal coach during this period, Rebecca Parris, is a jazz singer similar to and on a level with Carmen McRae and Sara Vaughan and is known as the First Lady of Boston Jazz. I felt the need to do something a€” I had the desire to fix it, even though you cana€™t fix the worlda€™s suffering. She just happens to be the youngest performer to have sold out the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton two times in a row. If I dona€™t write a song for a couple of weeks, I feel something pent-up inside of me that needs to come out.
In 1956, he got a second-hand Gibson guitar for Christmas and it accelerated his growth as a guitarist. Although he took some teasing for a€?selling out,a€? he managed to furnish the apartment with the money. The first album, Ramblina€™ Boy, contains one of Toma€™s most covered songs, a€?The Last Thing On My Mind,a€? and a slew of others that found their way into many a folkiea€™s song-bag. The old bluesman was only three years from the end of his life, but was able to soak up the adoration of players and audiences in that time. About a year later, someone sat on it and, as he writes, it was a€?Aloha, the ukulele.a€? Soon after, an aunt in Chicago gave him his first guitar, dug out of the back of a closet. Wea€™d just been introduced to the Irishman transplanted to British soil, Anthony John Clarke. Over and over, as often as they can get him a€” the folk clubs, the festivals and over the years, the pubs.
So the protest element in that song and others by traditional singing groups like the Dubliners and the Clancys was highly influential to me and very important.
Also enormously helpful was a copy of Anthonya€™s songbook, An Acquaintance, containing 50 songs, loaned to me by Sibyl Moser. Ita€™s an intimate house concert and I plan on being one of the lucky few to see him again. Listening to his father play and hearing the melody digressions in jazz were a big part of Grega€™s formative experience (still a€?a€¦my favorite thing to listen toa€?).
His most rewarding experience was working as a first mate, cooking and playing guitar on an 80-foot charter sailboat that was also an Americaa€™s Cup challenger. Stevea€™s song a€?Brother Uptowna€? on his debut CD Big Senorita describes him coming in late and crashing at Grega€™s apartment. Although free of drug references and busts, to these ears, stylewise, ita€™s a cousin to the Grateful Dead hit, a€?Truckina€? with some a€?Friend of the Devila€? thrown in. Two tracks later, wea€™re treated to the award-winning a€?Mary,a€? in which wea€™re young again and transported to a summer night car ride with a girl in a white dress.
They think that the head of the show was a big Deb Talan fan and wanted her on the show, so The Weepies were written into the script.
He good-naturedly referred to the results of the combination of his efforts with others as a€?Frankensteina€? in nature. The girl blossoms as a musician whose talent usually dwarfs those around her and leaves audiences enthralled. When you grow up and therea€™s your corn out in the field and here comes the hail storm and there goes your seasona€¦ therea€™s an acceptance of things beyond your control that in a healthy way counteracts neuroses.
Her version of the title track, performed live these days, with Trina Hamlin on harmonica and percussion (Natalia Zuckerman on slide at certain shows) is one of the most thrilling concert experiences I can recall in years.
A well-written comedy song can hang around for a long time, but it takes more effort and it takes more brains. Therea€™s something of a country twang in Ina May Woola€™s voice that increases the veracity in her songs about lifea€™s travails and victories. Her mother graduated from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and was an oil painter and then later a prolific printmaker.
She played kidsa€™ parties in junior high and high school and would get $10 for each party during which shea€™d lead singalongs. She didna€™t play acoustic for a while and hung out with rock musicians, did studio work and was in a rock opera, The Last Words of Dutch Schultz. It took her a while to extricate herself from that relationship, but she managed to do it around 1966. She learned to use the concept of a€?story songsa€? to make a political point, and on the first album, wrote about a working-class woman, a€?Janie,a€? from Ironbound, N. Ina May has learned more about harmonizing from working with Bev, who is still a choral director. Brooksa€™ first time playing guitar in front of an audience was in a concert on his last day of high school. When I finally got it together enough to make a little money from playing a€” and I decided thata€™s what I wanted to do a€” I was playing five to six nights a week in the little clubs, bars and coffeehouse of New York and New England. Red Guitar Plays Blue is out of print and I dona€™t see it in the iTunes store, so I feel pretty lucky to have it. On the drive home, a full moon hung in the sky and awoke reminiscences of people who werena€™t there that day, specifically Michael, who had passed away. When I finally got it together enough to make a little money from playing a€” and I decided thata€™s what I wanted to do a€” I was playing five to sixA  nights a week in the little clubs, bars and coffeehouse of New York and New England. Feeding a habit I started at the Cafe, I bought CDs from Brooks and had him autograph them.
The rock band The Slip joined her for the recording sessions and then later accompanied her on tour. Often when it finally comes out, ita€™s not about me, but ita€™s a song and I feel lighter. One night a rancher paid a visit and sang a cowboy song a€?Tying a Knot in the Devila€™s Tail.a€? It was a€?one more stepa€? in his growing love for folk music. Years later, he writes, with typically arch humor, that, down the road, he got to tell Burl, in person, a€?I just want to thank you for ruining my life.a€? He got no sympathy, he says.
John played the Gaslight a number of times and Tom and others, lucky to be on the same bill, got to listen and absorb through many sets. One night a rancher paid a visit and sang a cowboy song a€?Tying a Knot in the Devila€™s Tail.a€? It was a€?one more stepa€?A  in his growing love for folk music.
The WW I soldiers shouted greetings to each other and exchanged small gifts.A  The false report to headquarters in the last line, a€?We have met the enemy and he has been smashed!a€? also recalls that the opposing soldiers in WW I recognized their foea€™s humanity in spite of objections from their superiors. After our showcases ended, we had a brief chat and found that he intended to visit the States in the fall of 2011.
No doubt, Anthony had been in front of them many times before or they had listened to his albums over and over.
Another six albums are out of print, but Anthony states on the website that he will provide copies upon request for a reduced price. I left the guitar in the case and worked, played poker, tried squash and read the paper worrying about Thatcherism.
A never-opened wooden a€?mystery boxa€? Abrams got as a boy at Tannena€™s Magic Shop played a seminal role in shaping his suspense-heavy career vision. Over a throbbing bass line we hurtle down the road and, the dash board lights set our sights way up higha€¦ hold on tight to mea€¦ Mary. Under the cerulean blue of the sky, with clouds like cotton pulled apart, floating in tufts, there were no people in evidence. I also think that the best songs contain things that people dona€™t say, people cana€™t say, people are afraid to say. Therea€™s a Buffy Sainte-Marie-like quaver and a power in the voice of Bev Grant that helps raise a persona€™s social awareness when it happens to be her goal. It was a whole other world, some rock and pop and also some standards and jazz singing with pickup bands. Another band person was explaining to Dan how Ina May sings a€?this songa€? and a€?that song.a€? Daniel said in response (not aware that Ina May was standing there) a€?Oh, I know all that female stuff!a€? Ina May stepped up and said, a€?Oh, really? Bev was known as a€?the little girl with the big voice,a€? and sang songs like a€?Blue Suede Shoesa€? and a€?Heartbreak Hotela€? as well as Teresa Brewer covers.
As part of that group she made a documentary about the Miss America pageant protest in 1968 and she took many photos surrounding that event.
She has written songs to illustrate those issues.] After the Human Condition disbanded, she formed the Brooklyn Womena€™s Chorus, a 40-person vocal group.
While Ina May focuses on rhythm guitar and finger picking, Bev has taken on lead guitar work.
He was really nervous, a€?shaking in my boots,a€? he said, but he loved the experience and was determined to do more of it. The midweek gigs were in loud bars where I could barely even hear myself and I played for four hours without stopping.
Looking at the a€?Listeners Also Boughta€? thumbnails in the iTunes store below Brooksa€™ albums, one sees Kelly Joe Phelps, Taj Mahal, Susan Tedeschi and Muddy Waters. Sonya saw the gospel choir and thought a€?It was the coolest thing ever,a€? so she asked her mother if she could take voice lessons with Evelyn.
I eventually started writing more, then suddenly [the set] was mostly originals and then it was all originals. Sometimes, her father, Peter Kitchell, a highly regarded abstract painter, would hold infant Sonya in a Snugli against his chest and play bongos along with Latin music. Ita€™s really important to me that my songs mean something to people and Ia€™m trying to write songs that are universal.
Later, after some much-deserved success, theya€™d find a house in East Hampton, Long Island where theya€™d live for 27 years, except for three years (1970-1973) spent living in England and touring Europe. While ita€™s doubtful that much shared humanity was recognized by either side in a€?Nam, the common lot of all soldiers is certainly there in Toma€™s song. Then, with an assist from an inspired co-written add-on, things really spin out of control a€¦ She lifted up her skirt, she grabbed the nearest priest, she began to flirt a€¦She got on stage to strut her a€?Londonderry Aira€?a€¦ Therea€™s nothing like a little irreverence to reach the heart of a folk audience.
About that magic booka€¦ it sits on a shelf and, when pulled, it opens the door to Abramsa€™ secret bathroom (really).
When faced with enormous expenses for his kidsa€™ college tuition, he spent years as Creative Director of various advertising agencies in New York City, Sydney, Australia, and Toronto, Canada.
To many of their fans, ita€™s their most popular song and they still perform it together when touring schedules coincide. It centered around relationships and darker themes crept in, albeit always with beautiful melodies. In all that quiet beauty, I could not help pondering the delicate, sometimes brutal, sometimes violent contract made between the farmer and nature. Thata€™s all I wanted him to do.a€? Her brother played in the folk mass and then, Susan followed suit. Thata€™s a great gift, because they didna€™t need to express themselves through our success in the arts. A small town in rural Iowa, that you would have a high school band teacher who had a phenomenal amount of jazz talent. Later, while promoting her album of self-penned a€?standards,a€? I Cana€™t Be New, released in 2004, Susan appeared on Mariana€™s show.] She continued, a€?That played a role and, years later, there I am, on the Marian McPartland show!
When I told her of this, she responded, a€?Give me a room of 200 people or less, and wea€™re gonna have a good time. People like Greg Brown and Richard Thompson, who stay true to it, who always find something new to say, and new ways to do it. Together, Wool&Grant possess a sweet blend and a one-two punch that invites all kinds of a€?strong womena€? references. Are you married?a€? and wound up telling him about her relationship problems after the gig. Her oldest sister had taken several years of piano lessons and learned electric bass, while her middle sister took up lap steel. Theya€™ve each brought earlier work to the new album and have collaborated on one of the new songs, a€?The Last Man on the Mountain,a€? about strip mining. He gave Brooks a fresh push back in the early 2000s, lining up gigs in numerous venues, when Brooks was struggling. I had basic skills, understanding music, but I never considered myself a piano player.a€? That would change many years later. As two or three years went by, I started to live all of those songs and understand them more deeply.
Toma€™s ability to write songs for children is a strong part of his repertoire and catalog. We might envision the same thing happening over and over again in the many pubs throughout England. I was at a frienda€™s house one evening and he put on Jackson Brownea€™s album The Pretender. When you make your own entertainment, if you have music around the housea€¦ You might wind up playing your instrument longer, you might wind up actually practicing, you might wind up experimenting with it. Pretty rare, because most music teachers, most band directors at the high school level, are all about the marching band.
Everything else dwindles in comparison.a€? If religion has something to offer society outside of individual comfort in our darkest hours, that would be it.
Songwriting requires a commitment to doing it and not getting it right for a long timea€¦ expecting it all to work right away is a mistake in any endeavor. Later I realized that when you change the words, the chords, the melody and the rhythm of a song, it might be called a€?writinga€™ a song.
Abruptly, her husband and a bass player friend moved to New York, where they looked for gigs.
I had watched a lot of local acts in Belfast (and then Liverpool where I moved to) who I thought were not properly cooked [fully developed] and attempting to go too early into the paid shows. Thata€™s what theya€™re supposed to doa€¦ keep those kids marching, keep them organized, doing something as a group.
You have to give yourself a long runway to take offa€¦like a big plane,a€? she said, laughing. They really want to be surprised, engaged, a little scared or uncomfortablea€¦ or deeply moveda€¦ or surprised at how deeply moved they are.
Shea€™d only heard him doing pop and rock on synthesizer at the gig and was flabbergasted to hear him playing a€?gorgeous acoustic jazza€? on a piano. Sonya got a band together with older students she knew and thus, Sonyaa€™s performing career was launched. He followed that with Russians and Americans, the Al Stewart masterpiece, and we finished the evening off with John Martyna€™s Solid Air, which to this day is still the greatest living collection of songs.
Theya€™ve been married 25 years now and Daniel has produced both of Ina Maya€™s solo albums. While he immediately felt at home with the guitar, he kept that promise for four more years. He sent me home with some Count Basie records, some Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, Carmen McRae, some Sarah Vaughn.
Thata€™s where all discovery is at.a€? She has also tried ballet and a few other disciplines outside her comfort zone.
Then you wona€™t be bored.a€™ [laughs] Thata€™s the first obligation of a show that it not be boring!
Then you wona€™t be bored.a€™ [laughs] Thata€™s the first obligation of a show that it not be boring!A  If I want boring, I can stay at home and put on background music and vacuum! His mother approvingly noticed that he was enthusiastic about guitar a€” the violin, not so much. Most of the people there have maybe never played with a band before and I never played solo before. This really tilted my head - a€?What is THIS?a€? I worked on jazz chords that I heard on the records, from, like, Freddy Green Style Guitar Comping [a book on swing rhythm strumming].



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Category: Getting Back With My Ex



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