For this listener and avid audience member, it doesna€™t hurt that theya€™re both at home with a retro a€™50s appearance. Rebecca had continued to play guitar and write all the way through college and played her first gigs every two months at a coffee shop in Providence. Rebecca just liked making music and didna€™t know what she wanted yet, so she performed in all sorts of bands, including funk bands and a Bulgarian choir.
Apparently, they were sensible about getting serious, so it wasna€™t until the summer of 2012 that they got married.
When Rebecca explained Richa€™s influences to me, it became clearer why I was so besotted with the soundscapes he creates. Rebeccaa€™s education seems to have allowed her to approach her songwriting and playing in a manner less inhibited than most of her contemporaries. Likewise, shea€™ll take her guitar and put it in a strange tuning to move herself outside of her comfort zone.
In 2007 she released her first full-length album, Departures & Arrivals with Nine Mile Records, and began touring seriously. Rebecca plans to get back to touring in late spring, doing local and regional shows and a U.K. We had rolled into New Bedford, Mass., for the annual Summerfest on Saturday morning, July 2nd, spit out of a twister. By Saturday, I shoulda€™ve been caught up on sleep, but struggled to find the energy for the game of musical chairs at Summerfest. Over the weekend, each of seven stages off the cobbled streets of the Whaling Museum district grew packed to overflowing.
There was no mad dash for us for the first performance at the small canopied area at the National Park Garden Stage. That first act was a€?Introducing Liz Longley.a€? This proved to be a priority-changing event. I also managed to squeeze in an on-the-spot interview at a surprisingly subdued side room at the nearby, bustling Celtic Coffeehouse. Her father was a a€?really gooda€? jazz musician who played saxophone and had his own band.
Exposure to chorus was minimal in grade school, but when she reached her early teens, she started singing with her dada€™s jazz group and continued until she was 18. Having begun writing on piano, Liz began performing with a friend, Sarah Zimmermann, who provided guitar backup. Additionally, Liz and Sarah performed at fundraisers, in particular a€?Relay for Life,a€? held every year to raise money for cancer research. They also played professionally at local Pennsylvania folk landmarks Steel City (Phoenixville) and The Tin Angel (Philadelphia). After high school, Berklee College of Music in Boston was the only college Liz applied to because it offered songwriting as a major. She still performs on piano when the opportunity presents itself, and thata€™s illustrated by two slow ballads on this CD where she uses her keyboard skills. Her upcoming shows dona€™t include anything in the New York metro area, but wea€™re hoping this article will change that. The photograph we found online for our a€?Radara€? July ad showed a drop-dead beautiful face, and we wondered if there was matching talent to back it up. High school proved to be the seeding ground for this musical maelstrom, this force of nature.
On a Thursday night in late July of 2011, I was at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival on the night before the festival was to begin.
I was at a performance area called a€?The Loungea€? in the campground high above the midway.
Months later, in November, they would win a highly coveted formal showcase slot at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) Conference and also appear in Acoustic Livea€™s guerrilla showcase (and many others).
We conducted a recent conference call with songwriters and group leaders Ethan and Jake that would reveal the source of the brains, talent and heart of Pesky J. In his sophomore year of high school, Ethan started running a€?coffeehousesa€? out of his parentsa€™ house (with their consent).
Ethan wrote a little of his own material, but focused more on learning as many Ellis Paul and Martin Sexton songs as he could, plus some acoustic versions of pop material.
From seventh grade through high school, Jake was always in the school choruses and orchestra.
Jakea€™s first attempt at solo songwriting occurred as he was riding a ski chairlift and was about a girl he was dating. Jake had a checkered college career at Brandeis University, enrolling and dropping out, then re-enrolling and dropping out again. After leaving college, Jake spent time singing a€?semi-professionallya€? with the a cappella groups Altavoz for two years and Six Appeal (later renamed Playback), also for two years. In the spring of 1998 Jake had left Brandeis again but Spur of the Moment a€?quietlya€? kept him on until they could hold auditions.
Emerging from the heart of Red Sox Nation, the band chose its name from three Red Sox icons. Another member joined the group when Ethan decided that he, Dan and Jake should attend the a€?Americana Ensemblea€? music classes that Boston folk club Passim runs once each week. Two years ago, Pesky played its first show at Passim with the Wea€™re About 9 duo (Brian and Katie).
After 2009, the year of the near-tornado touchdown at Falcon Ridge, artistic director Anne Saunders needed to shorten the festival from four days a€” Thursday through Sunday a€” to three days a€” Friday through Sunday.
Ethan credits Scott Jones as the a€?technical masterminda€? behind pulling off The Lounge stage. Scott had heard about the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival from Ethan and Jake and decided to attend with his wife and five children, setting up camp with the Pesky J.
Ethan hopes to become more involved in community action using what he calls a€?tribal mischief,a€? a formal and informal art of social engineering. On a Thursday night in late July of 2011, I was atA  the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival on the night before the festival was to begin.
Jake had a checkered college career at Brandeis University, enrollingA  and dropping out, then re-enrolling and dropping out again. As a lightning bolt of illumination splits the sky, a thunderclap of enlightenment follows. Somewhere around 1999 or the early 2000s I went with a group of co-workers to an early show at the now-defunct, sorely-missed Manhattan nightclub, The Bottom Line. In an effort to pin down the exact date of the show, I checked the "Timelinea€? on the Bottom Line website that lists the performers for each show.
Although he couldna€™t answer my question (a€?There were so many appearances!a€?), he was eager to weigh in with his own recollections and praise. Later, her father graduated from Rutgers University and began teaching in the New Jersey public school system.
At nine years old, Janis heard Odetta for the first time on a Harry Belafonte television show. In junior high, shea€™d go to Greenwich Village, meeting with others from camp, to stand around the fountain in Washington Square Park and sing. Her father subscribed to Broadside Magazine which published songs by people like Bob Dylan and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Her recording career got its rocket-propelled start after she wrote a€?Societya€™s Child (Baby, Ia€™ve Been Thinking)a€? based on her observation of an interracial couple. The psychological battering from pressure to constantly write, tour and record, and the disintegration of her family took its toll.
While we cannot be sure that poem was written exactly during that time, it seems to capture her frame of mind. She played a tough weeklong gig in California, but realized that the weather and atmosphere was what she needed. The album Stars (1974) was followed by her biggest success, Between the Lines (1975) which contained the song a€?At Seventeen,a€? another revealing tract that cut so deep, she was initially afraid to play it to audiences. In 1982, feeling depleted, Janis walked away from a multi-million-dollar record deal with Columbia which had three more albums contracted. In 1986, her new publisher MCA suggested that Janis work with Nashville writers to improve the marketability of her songs. The years of being a workaholic caught up with her and she became ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
As she finally regained the upper ground in her battle with CFS, Patricia Snyder came into her life, bringing her physical and emotional comfort. The initial album coming out of this period, Breaking Silence, would be her first in ten years.
The book describes in detail the relationships Janis has had, over the years, with both men and women. Janis had been approached by the gay-oriented magazine, The Advocate to write a monthly column for them.
After her moma€™s death, to honor her, Janis established Pearla€™s Foundation, a scholarship fund to help people in their efforts to seek higher education, Her mother had forged ahead and graduated from Goddard College, in spite of her illness, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Janisa€™s most recent albums, God and the FBI (2000), Billiea€™s Bones (2004) and Folk is the New Black (2006) show that her writing is still razor-sharp. Those of us who have been fortunate to stand face to face with Janis will never forget the steady gaze behind which sits one of the formidable minds of our generation. I was shocked to discover how little I actually knew about Janis Ian.A  It wasna€™t until I picked up a copy of her autobiography, Societya€™s Child, that I understood the full depth of Janisa€™s connection to folk music. The FBI would shape her early life.A  Her family was already being scrutinized before she was born.
The book describes in detail the relationships Janis has had, over the years, with both men and women.A  What was horrific about most of Janisa€™s earlier relationships was the amount of betrayal her partners displayed. A couple of years ago, Sir Mix-A-Lot revealed that Jennifer Lopez was the inspiration of the hit 1992 song.
Her parents arena€™t musically inclined, so shea€™s not sure where her musicality comes from.
One of the ways this manifested itself was that her voice teacher, in addition to instruction and exercises, spent hours a€?hanging outa€? and listening to music, exposing Rebecca to the singing styles of people like Bonnie Raitt and Leon Russell, analyzing not only featured players, but albums of supporting players.
The overall spirit of Early Hours is decidedly far jazzier than anything else Ia€™ve heard from her.
She released her second full-length album, Viewfinder, and made successful tours in the U.K. Wednesday night, finish the July issue, then get two hours of sleep; Thursday, pedal-to-the-metal from NYC to Fall River, Mass. Newly appointed chair police at the main Custom House stage prevented attendees from saving seats for hours at a time. Seats opened up after each act and the first attendees to dash to freshly vacated chairs near the front became winners.
As usual, we arrived at the festival at about 9:00 am and the first show didna€™t begin until 11. Liz was scheduled to perform 10 days later on July 12 at the Living Room in New York Citya€™s East Village.
From the very first notes, it was obvious that we were going to want to see and hear a lot more from this brilliant 23-year-old. I would not be jumping from tent to tent, looking for the best seats, hoping to find something near the front at the big Custom House tent. For her first eight years her family lived in West Chester, Pa., then they moved a little further west, to Downingtown. Her mother was an aspiring singer, but lacked the time and opportunity to pursue it as a career. Through her dad, shea€™d gotten exposure to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and they were her favorites, the ones she focused on. Other events included the high schoola€™s talent show and the senior prom, with both girls performing in their prom dresses.
Liz said that she entrusted major decisions in the studio to producer Glen Barrett and enlisted feedback from her parents to help her decide what, in the end, would be the right sound for her on each track. These include a€?Little White House,a€? seemingly a farewell to her childhood, and a€?Unraveling,a€? another farewell of sorts to her grandmother, suffering from Alzheimera€™s.


Her dad told her, a€?If youa€™re going to learn to have a career as a musician, youa€™d better start now.a€? Actually, performing after college was a continuation of what shea€™d been doing since high school and during her four years at Berklee. Onstage, performers ecstatically sang songs round-robin, as much for each other as for the 450 festival-goers in front of them. It was the second year it was being held, but I had no idea what Ia€™d find after picking my way up the hill in the dark.
A song from that CD, a€?Breathe in Autumn,a€? was a haunting reverie, with layers of harmonies and soaring instrumentation that echoed in the mind far past its last notes. In his sophomore year of high school, he started his own a cappella group that he named a€?Swingtown.a€? That continued until he graduated in 1998. His early experience with music included piano instruction when he was 5, with a a€?severe teachera€? not unlike Miss Havisham in Dickensa€™ Great Expectations. He went over the verses and chorus in his head all day as he went up and down the mountain.
His primary focus was singing with the universitya€™s a cappella group, Spur of the Moment.
Not a student, he was technically not allowed to be a member of the group, but he was too valuable to let go, so they kept him on. Nixon has been working with a non-profit called the SAMFund, a foundation that raises money for young adult cancer survivors to help them pay their post-treatment bills.
Seeking to meet other musicians, Anthony da Costa, Abbie Gardner and, coincidentally, Chris Oa€™Brien, whose CD Ethan had produced, came upon the Pesky campsite. A former radio DJ with an engineering background, Scott was the startled next-door neighbor of Ethana€™s parents when Ethan brought the a cappella singers home (he was deathly afraid hea€™d moved next to a frat house). Nixon album, named Red Ducks (a€?reduxa€?), is a collection of songs of the musicians that the band has performed with and been influenced by over the last four years, featuring songs by artists such as Anthony da Costa, Gillian Welch and Tom Waits. Lured by a bill that included Tom Paxton and Janis Ian, we knew we were in for an evening of top-notch folk music.
She took center stage and began playing fingerstyle guitar with an almost impossibly pristine sound.
I know that earlier in my life -- through my 20s possibly into my 50s, I viewed her as a pop artist with a social conscience. A precocious toddler, Janis writes that her father used to say, a€?Janis started talking at seven months and never stopped.a€? At two-and-a-half years old, she persuaded her father, also a master music teacher, to give her piano lessons. The FBI would contact each school administration every two years when hea€™d be up for tenure. With her fathera€™s guitar perched on her lap in the back of the family station wagon, she played it for them. Janis made a lead sheet like those in the magazine, added the melody, chords and lyrics, put her name and phone number on the page and submitted a€?Hair of Spun Gold.a€? Two months later, her father got a call from the editors. Janis took guitar lessons with the Reverend Gary Davis, and after the lessons morphed into social occasions, began hanging out with him. She played regularly after that, which got her noticed and led to a meeting with legendary producer a€?Shadowa€? Morton.
Chapters dealing with their separation and divorce and Janisa€™s emotional upheaval are particularly sad.
All the Seasons of Your Mind (1967) sold enough to make the national charts, but followup albums, The Secret Life of J. Harrowing passages describe how a diligent psychotherapist there, Gerry Weiss, pulled her back from near death and personally nursed her back to health. It was provoked partly by a critic referring to her, still a teenager, as a a€?washed-up has-been.a€? It was also partly inspired when she heard Don McLeana€™s a€?Vincenta€? for the first time. She needed to get off the merry-go-round to explore other areas of life, to regenerate her resources. She had talent and wrote deep songs but Nashville writers had the craft to make them more commercial.
After she declared her homosexuality, he stood by her and issued an authoritative warning to anyone who might give her trouble: a€?Dona€™t mess with hera€¦a€? He would bolster her confidence in her guitar playing, stressing her individuality. Tragically, her mother, Pearl, had become ill with Multiple Sclerosis and would decline over a 20-year span.
She refused, saying a€?I dona€™t write prose,a€? but Pat and an editor provided the idea that Janis would poke holes in the stuffiness of its image and that concept sealed the deal. Janisa€™s father owned every copy of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction ever printed.
Janisa€™s stint as a columnist for Performing Songwriter plumbed her depth of knowledge of the music business. An initial auction of Janisa€™s own personal effects, held on the internet, brought in a total of $66,000. I also became aware of the route by which she developed her sense of social justice, and the emotional, physical and financial hurdles she has overcome.
Her father, then a chicken farmer, was inexplicably picked up by FBI agents after attending a meeting about the price of eggs. Her marriage to her husband descended into physical abuse, psychotic behavior and Janisa€™s near-murder at his hands.
Anna€™s in Brooklyn, was Montessori-like in allowing students to select and control their own curriculum. A key factor in her partnership with Rich is that he will follow her and work out on guitar (or piano) what will work with her composition. She played Celtic Connections, a winter music festival in Glasgow, Scotland, which features artists from around the globe alongside the best Scottish talent. Then, with breathtaking suddenness it darted upward, taking the hollow in my chest along with it. The chairs were empty and there were no chair police to prevent us from saving a couple of seats for the first act.
Wea€™d see her then, of course, since we never miss WFUV DJ John Platta€™s monthly a€?On Your Radara€? series. Instead, I followed Liz from one stage to the next, seeking the best photos and videos of her that I could get (below).
Her earliest memories involve driving around with her father in the family VW convertible with the top down and music blasting from the car stereo. The lone cover, a€?People Get Ready,a€? demonstrates a command that allows her to take ownership of the song.
While it did come up in our interview, her Facebook page states it more succinctly: a€?In high school, I was a marching band nerd. There was a€?nothing much to do except listen to music on the stereo.a€? He listened to Dylan, The Beatlesa€™ Sergeant Peppera€™s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Best of Gordon Lightfoot and Harry Chapina€™s Gold album. Also during that time, he heard a live folk act for the first time at the Me and Thee Coffeehouse in Marblehead, Mass. By the end of high school, there were 70 to 80 in attendance and performances went on from 5:30 until midnight. Hea€™d left the first time, worked odd jobs back home, then went back for a year and then dropped out again.
In the fall of a€™98, he didna€™t have a vote, but was asked to give his opinion during auditions. As Ethan described her, a€?She had a wry and sarcastic sense of humor and, at the same time, she was a fierce member of the songwriting community in western Massachusetts.a€? He continued, a€?I started volunteering as sound guy at the open mics and the two of us became close friends. The child of a bassist father and drummer mother, Dan studied bass and drums for almost 10 years before focusing his attention on percussion when he reached college. Ethan talked Eric into joining them in the studio while recording Monkey Business & Mislaid Hopes, then got him to join the band. From that point forward, Pesky received a lot of airplay for Monkey Business from Bostona€™s premier folk radio station, WUMB-FM, raising its profile even higher. The album is a stripped-down living room recording offering a more intimate sound than Monkey Business & Mislaid Hopes while maintaining the same energy and humor. There was a€?nothing much to do except listen to music on the stereo.a€? HeA  listened to Dylan, The Beatlesa€™ Sergeant Peppera€™s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Best of Gordon Lightfoot and Harry Chapina€™s Gold album.
He sounded amused as he recounted the reactions of colleagues when they discovered how well Janis played guitar. My longest-standing memory was (and still is) the way I would get choked up listening to a€?At Seventeen,a€? especially during the ache-filled refrain, a€?a€¦who call to say, come dance with mea€¦a€? Ahh, yesa€¦ Ia€™d had my share of a€?wallflowera€? years and there were more than a few missed dances. It ended a year later because, at three, she was already getting into arguments with him over interpretations and fingering. In kindergarten she objected to learning her a€?ABCa€™sa€? because she already knew how to read. Theya€™d see interracial and gay couples while being totally ignored by adults -- a completely opposite atmosphere from conservative New Jersey.
She did one more album, Uncle Wonderful (1983) with an Australian publisher, then walked away from the music business.
She discovered that her a€?accountanta€? (a bookkeeper without a proper CPA) had embezzled her money and falsely represented her income tax payments. She teamed with accomplished songwriter Kye Fleming both creatively and romantically and found some success and some brief happiness. At the time of the printing of her autobiography, $300,000 had been raised.This preceded, but could have functioned as a road map for eBay.
Hunger (1997), completed after a difficult studio experience and filled with glittering gems from start to finish, has become a personal favorite of mine. Janis has finally found happiness in a stable 20-year relationship, a testament to her resilience and intelligence. She said: a€?I try to write without anything in mind and then I see what comes out a€¦ songs are a bit like dreams.
While the vocals are a bit more controlled and perhaps a little purer, it seems, to these ears, to lose nothing in terms of style, so this is apparently a jump further past her a€?post-collegea€? phase. Ia€™ve listened to all of Viewfinder and find that its bigger sound and spaciousness with guitar reverb could have added to the tendency to erroneously lump her in the country mold. In the summer, she and Rich played in the Emerging Artists Showcase at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Therea€™s a cool video of her song a€?Better That Waya€? (see still above) and youa€™ll also be able to find out when and where shea€™ll be appearing next.
As she states on her Facebook page: a€?I grew up listening to Joni Mitchell and Karla Bonoff. James Taylor, Karla Bonoff, Joni Mitchell and Sarah McLachlan were among the names she cited. I was surprised that she hadna€™t sought feedback from anyone at Berklee, but kept to the formula stated above.
One is a version of Joni Mitchella€™s a€?Rivera€? in which Liz hits some high notes that Joni herself might not be able to handle anymore.
As I approached the end of a long line of cars and tents, high up on the ridge, my jaw dropped as I saw the floodlights and a stage equipped with microphones, amplified instruments and a soundboard, all run by a generator. Pesky was scheduled to play the festivala€™s Emerging Artists Showcase the next day and Ia€™d invited them to Acoustic Livea€™s unplugged showcases at our booth on Saturday afternoon. As luck would have it, he was seeing Ellis Paul, a songwriter capable of a high level of sophistication and a€?telling a story within a story.a€? It made a huge impact on what Ethan would expect from his own abilities. Talking about his parents, he said, a€?God bless them, I have no idea why they allowed me to do these things.
He cana€™t quite recall, but thinks he mighta€™ve gotten rapped on the knuckles with a ruler if his hands werena€™t positioned correctly. He said he a€?wasna€™t mentally prepared for college.a€? Oddly, his chosen major was psychology.
She was the kind of songwriter who would write two fantastic songs a week and she just intimidated the heck out of me, but at the same time she was remarkably warm and nurturing when it came to helping folks bring out the songwriters in themselves. At the University of Pennsylvania, he sang with the Jewish a cappella group Ra€™nanah and performed Gilbert and Sullivan musicals with theA Penn Singers.
Back home, they were playing one show every four to five months at small cafes, just for the sake of having a gig.
As soon as he heard their a cappella-honed harmonies, he said, a€?Let me introduce you around.a€? He then took them to meet all the key personalities in the campground. When they decided to create The Lounge stage, Ethan and Scott pooled their equipment, the bulk of it coming from Scott.


Then, Gary insisted that Janis open for him at a Gaslight Cafe gig and the owner reluctantly agreed after Gary threatened to walk out.
Shadow disagreed with her a€?Baby, Ia€™ve Been Thinkinga€? title, so when her first record came out, it became a€?Societya€™s Child,a€? with the prior title in parentheses. Although it brought a halt to her relationship with Peter, they remain friends to this day.
The albums Aftertones (1975), Miracle Row (1978), Night Rains (1979), and Restless Eyes (1981) followed. Janis found it liberating to study in areas, such as ballet, where she had no innate ability. She attended her first Worldcon, the largest gathering of science fiction writers and fans, at the prodding of two of her heroes in the genre, Mike Resnick and Anne McCaffrey. Her article on a€?The ABCs of being the Boss,a€? geared toward musicians, contains a wealth of helpful information for anyone in a supervisory capacity. The agents would hang around, always recognizable in their black suits and ties, even in the heat of August. The albums Aftertones (1975),A  Miracle Row (1978), Night Rains (1979), and Restless Eyes (1981) followed. Bodega owners in her neighborhood of Park Slope called her a€?the whistling baby.a€? In school, she sang in choir. She owned two books of Beatles sheet music for each of their compilation CDs (1962-1966, the Red Album and 1967-1970, the Blue Album) and put in many hours transforming the complex chord structures into simpler versions she could sing along with. She had done a lot of musical theater in high school, but found it mannered and boring by the time she moved on.
One critic said about Frisell, a€?there was this odd whiff of country music in his improvising.
You make them and then you interpret them, but where they came from is a bit of a mystery and I wouldna€™t want it any other way.
The lead track in particular, a€?Hard Times,a€? reminds me of Nancy Sinatraa€™s country hit a€?These Boots Are Made for Walkina€™.a€? However, there are other tracks which show a breadth of expression. But we didna€™t know her, so we figured it would be a good idea to get acquainted before seeing her at the Living Room.
The first two use a full studio band, complete with drums, bass, lead guitar backup, pedal steel a€” the works. The second is Van Morrisona€™s a€?Moondance,a€? which gives Liz a chance to show off her jazz vocal skills. When I wasna€™t on the field, I was writing music (on piano & guitar) and playing shows. Toward the rear, on the outskirts of the audience, performers swarmed everywhere either waiting to go on or socializing in respectful, hushed tones. It produced a small, insular group of people who were really interested in learning about this stuff.a€? Ethana€™s at-home a€?coffeehousesa€? foreshadowed the type of gatherings that Pesky J. He wanted to quit after six months, but his mom convinced him to try studying with another teacher who had just moved to town and whose reputation included the term a€?wonderful.a€? She must have been, since Jake studied with her for the next 10 years.
Recently he found an old notebook in the bench of the familya€™s piano in which hea€™d written songs during his teen years. On the second day of his freshman year, Ethan auditioned for Spur of the Moment and easily made the group. She kind of battered me into playing the open mic and after a while I started sneaking originals in when I thought no one was paying attention, but she could always tell. In his first studio experience, he provided percussion on a project with pop singer John Legend. After her mom had a talk with the principal, Janis was allowed to read while the rest of the class did their drills. She practiced, listening to all the records in her parentsa€™ collection, plus some borrowed from family members.
A huge success in Japan, she became an iconic star and was (and still is) treated like royalty there.
She also studied acting under Stella Adler, who became a close friend and mentor until Stellaa€™s death in 1992. An avaricious IRS agent appropriately named Granite seemed to take sadistic pleasure in erecting barriers to Janisa€™s attaining any kind of solvency, despite her complete cooperation. After the relationship ended, although Kye, a Nashville native felt awkward, Janis felt that Nashville had become a€?home,a€? and decided to move there permanently.
They pushed her to involve a number of other authors to contribute to Stars, a compilation book of short stories based on her songs.
Also available is the article Janis wrote for Performing Songwriter, on the free downloading phenomenon, a€?The Internet Debacle.a€? When she reported that downloading actually increased sales, not the opposite, as the record industry had charged, she was called a traitor.
She practiced,A  listening to all the records in her parentsa€™ collection, plus some borrowed from family members. Peter became her love, her rock, an oasis inside of the whirlwind.A  On the music trail, she became friends with stars such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, who tried to protect her from drugs, but the proximity led to some experimentation. A lot of folks embraced the musical style of Chris Isaak, who turned up the reverb and recycled the a€™50s sound in 1984. Her music teacher told her parents (paraphrasing here), a€?This little girl has a big voice. She also found an online website that transcribed Jonia€™s songs, complete with the various tunings that Joni used. In her junior year, the elite members of the school choir, including Rebecca, traveled to Austria and Hungary to perform. She also played numerous shows at many other venues, some long-disappeared, like Bar B and Kavehaz. His most imitated stuff a€” the volume-pedaled notes swelling up from silence, his whammy-bar bent tones and his slow drowsy vibrato a€” conjured pedal steel guitar.a€? This explains why some people think Rebecca and Rich are heavily influenced by country music.
Ia€™m better off just seeing what comes out of my brain when I have an instrument nearby, just singing melodies and words and seeing what happens. This included a a€?concert night,a€? wherein the school invited students and parents to come to a performance solely by Liz and Sarah.
In contrast, her third album, the latest, Hot Loose Wire, completed right after graduation, is stripped down a€” just her, solo, with either guitar or piano a€” pretty much what we see in concert.
They also got to meet Brian Gundersdorf, Katie Graybeal and Pat Klink of Wea€™re About 9, who came over to their campsite the next night.
A local librarian helped Janis a€?retain her sanitya€? by allowing her to take out more books than the usual allotment and picked out more advanced works for her to read.
At the Village Gate, she played alongside some of her heroes (sitting between Tom Paxton and Len Chandler) and, after each song, she got a standing ovation.
Although she still wrote, and had songs covered by others, she issued no recordings for around 10 years. After sixteen years, the magazine has just ended its publication, but for eight years, Janis imparted her wisdom to the songwriter community. She started making some of her songs available as free downloads and watched her sales shoot up. Over the span of eight years together, the couplea€™s sound has evolved into something similar, with the added kick of Rebeccaa€™s dreamy, enigmatic songwriting. She should get training.a€? Thus began a nearly continuous stretch of vocal training that began when she was 8 years old and lasted through college and a bit beyond. For six years, from the end of high school through college, Rebecca swung back and forth changing her guitar from standard tuning for Beatles material to alternate tunings for Joni songs. In fact, Rebecca, Brooklyn-raised, and Rich, from Staten Island, had never listened to country.
An example of Richa€™s skill in accommodation occurred at the 2013 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference. Theya€™d bring in a song and other students would dissect it, asking questions like why a word was used in a particular place.
Ethana€™s major in college was English Literature and Music Composition but, as Ethan explains it, his parents told him that his major was actually a€?a cappella.a€? There were enormous chunks of time spent practicing and the groupa€™s performances were frequent (three to four practices a week for three hours each and 15 performances per semester). Our plaster monkey butler Newman, that is in most of our press shots and the monkey of Monkey Business & Mislaid Hopes, is something I inherited from her.
Ironically, it was Wea€™re About 9 that Ethan had pointed out as a model for Pesky when it formed a€” a€?Therea€™s this trio that writes great songs and sings great harmony.a€? a€” Ethan recalled saying a€¦ and here they were, soon to become their cohorts in a burgeoning career. In school, her fellow students at the High School for Performing Music and Art were respectful. She also attended The National Guitar Workshop (now defunct), a summer guitar camp in New Milford, Conn., for four years. It was only after people made comparisons that they did some investigating and found it appealing. Considering portability, Rebecca brought her tenor guitar for its small size and Rich brought an acoustic guitar, leaving his electric at home.
Rebeccaa€™s cats-eye horn-rimmed glasses would look right at home in my high school yearbook and I fought off the temptation to scan and Photoshop it into existence. There were classes where songs by famous writers were analyzed, and Liz loved it all, soaking up every learning opportunity that came her way. I had just gotten a big, warm introduction to the technical and community organizing skills of the group known as Pesky J.
The group had to organize and arrange their own music and put out one CD every year (all self-funded).
The day after she passed away she was published in Glamour magazinea€™s annual non-fiction writing contest [a heart-wrenching story of her battle with cancer]. During the following year, Pesky shared gigs with Anthony and Wea€™re About 9, doing four to five shows. We sat there slack-jawed as Janis unleashed a barrage of guitar histrionics that crossed a line -- to borrow a phrase from Star Trek -- where no folkie has ever gone before. Once a week, past her bedtime, shea€™d secretly listen to a folk show out of Newark at 10pm, a towel stuffed under the door to avoid being heard. In the first tale, a€?Come Dance With Me,a€? Janis herself makes a thinly veiled appearance. She was a student for the first two summers a€” two weeks each time a€” and an employee for the second two years, taking classes as well. In their late-night Acoustic Live guerrilla set, Rich fingerpicked melody patterns in harmony with the songs Rebecca sang. In 2008 and 2009 she and Rich solidified the band lineup and toured a€?a ton.a€? In 2010,they embarked upon their first United Kingdom and European tour.
Ethan took charge here, moving all 20 singers in the group into his parentsa€™ house to record in his home studio. As a cornerstone founding member of the group, Dan runs counter to the stereotypical view of drummers. Jealous of her success, they penalized her for absences resulting from performing, even though she got good grades on tests.
Janisa€™s own story, a€?Second Person Unmasked,a€? not unsurprisingly deals with a shifting sexuality and the issue of powerlessness.
The lead track on Only Daughter, a€?Rise Up,a€? urges the listener to shake off the restrictions that hold them down: What was it you used to be living for? As they left the room after their set, I overheard WFUV DJ John Platt compliment Rich on his choice of accompaniment. The lead track on Only Daughter, a€?Rise Up,a€? urges the listener to shake off the restrictions that hold them down:A  What was it you used to be living for?
Hea€™s their most organized member, keeping track of important logistics for practice and gigs. Asked in a later interview if she had any regrets, she replied, a€?Not for an eighth of a second.a€? She always knew there was no place for a person like her in the American school system. Sometimes an idea is really great but ita€™s just not linking up with anything else and I need to let go of trying to control that as soon as I can.



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