Saturday, September 26, 7:30 pm: BOBTOWN

Posted on Updated on

Common Ground Coffeehouse
at The First Unitarian Society of Westchester
25 Old Jackson Avenue Hastings-on-Hudson NY


with special guests, The Shovel Ready String Band

“With multiple singers, songwriters, and influences, Bobtown is a well-rounded, richly talented quintet that’s poised to enter the top tier of Americana groups.” – John Platt, WFUV Radio

With their distinctive original songs and vocal arrangements, NYC-based Bobtown is recognized as taking an unconventional and refreshing approach to the tradition of folk and Americana. WFUV’s John Platt chose the group as one of his top three music discoveries of 2013, and Americana UK perhaps summed up the band best when they said, “If you’re looking for acoustic, Gothic-folk-Americana kissed with gorgeous harmonies then look no further.”

The band formed in the summer of 2007 when New York City resident Katherine Etzel wrote some field hollers, a song form she had became aware of while working the corn and bean fields of Iowa as a kid. On a whim, she then recruited several more songwriters, Fred Stesney, Jen McDearman, Karen Dahlstrom and Gary Keenan, as an outlet to perform the songs, calling the project Bobtown after a neighborhood along the river near where she grew up. After a year, the group expanded to include wider instrumentation, and by 2010, Bobtown had released their eponymous first album of original material, which received positive reviews and airplay both domestically and internationally, as well as being featured on NPR’s All Songs Considered.

August of 2012 saw the birth of Bobtown’s second full-length album, Trouble I Wrought, and Alan Lee Backer’s addition to the group (replacing Keenan). The eclectic theme continued on this release as the band again called upon traditional roots precepts, but realigned them in a cross-genre, contemporary context. Trouble I Wrought charted on multiple Cashbox/Roots Music Reports, including the 2012 Top Radio Airplay, International.

The band’s third full-length CD “A History of Ghosts” recently released (November, 2014) and debuted with the #1 song on the Roots Music Report’s Weekly Top 50 Contemporary Folk Songs. The album itself spent 3 weeks in the #1 position after release and continues to enjoy extensive radio airplay while garnering rave reviews.

Opening the evening, the versatile Shovel Ready String Band performs heartfelt original songs alongside up-tempo fiddle tunes, country blues, bluegrass, and traditional ballads of love and loss. The music features tight vocal harmonies and polished arrangements, and showcases the exquisite fiddling of Ted Kuhn. The band has appeared at the Towne Crier, the Jacob Burns Film Center and the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 at the door.
(Please note: There is an additional $1.98 service fee for advance tickets)
Eventbrite - Bobtown

Friday, Oct. 2, 8 pm: GLOBAL CROSSROADS: An Evening of Indian Raga and Guinean Afro-Jazz with The Neel Murgai Ensemble and The Mandingo Ambassadors

Posted on Updated on

Common Ground Community Concerts
in Association with Irvington Town Hall Theater
85 Main Street Irvington NY


An Evening of Indian Raga and Guinean Afro-Jazz with The Neel Murgai Ensemble and The Mandingo Ambassadors

As one of world’s greatest cultural crossroads, New York City is where musical tradition and invention meet. Join us for a very special evening featuring two Brooklyn-based groups blend America’s greatest musical export — jazz — with meditative classical Indian raga and rousing West African dance music.

Neel Murgai Ensemble combines Indian classical music, jazz minimalism and more into “raga chamber jazz.” The ensemble is the realization of Murgai’s many years of experimentation in Indian classical music, free improvisation, modern compositional techniques, mathematical rhythmic structures and droning overtone minimalism. This group of stellar musicians, features Sameer Gupta on tabla, Carnatic violinist Arun Ramamurthy, Western and Carnatic trained violinist Trina Basu, and classically trained Marika Hughes on cello. Together they create jazz with Indian melody and rhythm, orchestral textures and ecstatic flights of improvisational fancy.

The Mandingo Ambassadors was founded in New York City by griot-guitarist Mamady Kouyaté in 2005. As a veteran of the great orchestras of the golden age of Guinean dance bands, Mamady is a living library of musical science inherited from his ancestors and from a half century of experience as an arranger, band leader, accompanist and soloist. Mamady Kouyaté carried this heritage with him to New York, where he has collaborated with members of the West African diaspora and Western musicians to continue the great tradition and sound of Guinean Afro-jazz.



All Irvington Town Hall Theater events are charged a per ticket fee which is used to cover the cost of running the box office. The per-ticket fee for most events at ITHT is $1.70 for online sales and $3 at the door.

Saturday, October 24, 7:30 PM: SEAN ROWE

Posted on Updated on

Common Ground Coffeehouse at The First Unitarian Society of Westchester
25 Old Jackson Avenue Hastings-on-Hudson NY


Rowe, with his voice the way it is, like the sound of an anvil or train car hitches crashing into one another when the engine decides to stop short, sounds like Zeus delivering messages to us. Rowe cuts straight to the bone and we want him with us when we’re entering, face-first into the unknown fires.  – DAYTROTTER

Sean Rowe has spent much of the last year traveling the country with just his guitar, performing in people’s living rooms. “It’s like I’m some kind of a bearded salesman,” he says, “Going door to door but instead of vacuum cleaners I’m selling all these feelings that come with the songs. It’s a really intense experience for listeners to have me there in their homes playing. They’re not used to having a stranger show up, play music, drink their beer and eat their food. But I think that’s how we’re supposed to be. It only feels strange because we’ve made it that way.”

It is this same sense of unflinching connection that has shaped Rowe’s extraordinary new album Madman. The singer, who The Wall Street Journal wrote “recalls the ecstatic intensity of late-’60s Van Morrison and stark subtlety of late-era Johnny Cash” has created a beautifully primal work. Madman is deliberately, if not defiantly, simple in both arrangement and composition. It is soul music in the purest and most literal sense, hypnotic rhythms, warmly distorted guitars and Rowe’s incredible voice recalling a time, real or imagined, when music and people seemed distinctly more connected.Rowe’s previous Anti- release, The Salesmen and The Shark, was a far more polished affair recorded in Los Angeles with the accompaniment of West Coast session players. This time around, Rowe is intent on replicating the immense emotional power of his live performances. The process began with Rowe alone in an upstate New York recording studio with his guitar, laying down riffs that would become songs. For Madman, an album he was self-producing, Rowe wanted to strip away much of the production and focus instead on the voice and guitar style he had perfected in theaters, nightclubs and living rooms. “I came to this realization that the songs don’t have to be structurally heavy to be intense,” he explains. “It’s more about the honesty and emotion behind the delivery. A lot of these songs are pretty simple but I was really thoughtful about that, it was intentional. I wanted to go right to the heart.”The record begins with the title track Madman. A rhythmic guitar, lilting piano and melodic bass, punctuated by horns all of it in the service of Rowe’s incredibly soulful voice. “My singing is definitely more playful on this record,” he says. “Lyrically the song is about living this life when you’re on the road more than you’re at home.” It is an immensely personal and heartfelt song for the recent father and dedicated naturalist, with Rowe singing, “When the road takes me to the other side of the world/Let a walnut tree replace me/Give my body back to the birds”.Rowe came of age listening to a father’s record collection that included The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley and more. But in his late teens it was soul and blues that spoke to the bourgeoning singer-songwriter. Rowe says the sound of Madman is influenced, in large part, by the hypnotic driving guitars of Delta blues. “I was listening to records by R.L. Burnside and John Lee Hooker and others which are basically just guitar and drums and really raw sounding. I was also listening to the early soul records like Otis Redding and Ray Charles. I didn’t want to try and duplicate those sounds, just take aspects of them and make them my own.”

TICKETS: Advance Tickets: $20, Tickets at the door:$25

Eventbrite - Sean Rowe

Sat. November 21, 7:30 pm: FRAZEY FORD

Posted on Updated on

Common Ground Coffeehouse
at The First Unitarian Society of Westchester
25 Old Jackson Avenue Hastings-on-Hudson NY


The Canadian singer Frazey Ford and her band have figured out a cumulative average from the sounds of two old records: Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together and Neil Young’s Harvest… But Ms. Ford’s voice has little to do with Al Green or Neil Young. It’s light, throaty, flickering. She deals out soul and mountain-music style and Scots-Irish lilts in bold ways. It’s hard to think of another singer who suggests Dolly Parton, Ann Peebles and Feist. She phrases intuitively, waiting on a word and then drawing it out, and turns good lyrics to oatmeal, adding strange new colors to vowels, making whole syllables vanish. There’s an eerily calm conscience… stoic or forgiving or just blank and you find yourself listening hard for the wisdom in her mumbles. She’s good at this. — Ben Ratliff, New York Times

The line between country music and soul is a lot thinner than one would think. Frazey Ford first gained attention as one third of The Be Good Tanyas—a group that was more Kentucky bluegrass than Memphis soul—but as a solo artist, Ford has proven that she’s got more than one trick up her sleeve. Ford’s most recent solo album Indian Ocean was recorded in Memphis with none other than Al Green’s amazing Hi Rhythm Section backing her up — a dream come true for a Vancouver girl with a soulful spirit. While the soul thing may sound like a departure for Ford, it couldn’t sound more natural. Her voice still carries that familiar timbre, she’s just choosing to take it to different, groovier places. With elements of gospel and her old friend folk woven throughout, Indian Ocean is a natural extension of Ford’s first solo effort, 2010’s Obadiah. Bold, sensual and confidently fragile, Ford is obviously not afraid to explore what lurks inside her, either musically or emotionally. She’s still singing the prettiest songs just like she did with her friends The Be Good Tanyas, just with an added dose of soul.


Front Eow: $25 in advance, $30 at the door
All other seats: $20 in advance, $25 at the door

Eventbrite - Frazey Ford

Saturday, Dec. 5, 8 PM: DAR WILLIAMS, with special guests The Nields

Posted on Updated on

Common Ground Community Concerts
at Irvington Town Hall Theater
85 Main Street, Irvington NY


with special guests The Nields

“I don’t really have the vocabulary to do her work justice, so I’ll just say that her songs are beautiful. Some are like finely crafted short stories. They are, variously, devastatingly moving, tenderly funny, subtle without being in any way inaccessible, and utterly fresh—not a cliché or a clunker in her entire songbook, which now numbers around a hundred recorded original compositions. – Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, on Dar Williams

“Imagine if Natalie Merchant had a sister with an equally good voice singing perfect harmony with her…intimate and electric.”
– Sing Out! Magazine on The Nields

DAR WILLIAMS’ growth as an individual over her two-decade career has gone hand in hand with her evolution as an artist. This is perhaps best typified by the release of “Emerald,” a timely and brilliant album of new songs and collaborations with friends such as Jill Sobule, Richard Thompson, the Hooters, Jim Lauderdale, Lucy Wainwright Roche and her mother Suzzy Roche. Raised in Chappaqua, N.Y., Williams spent 10 years living in the thriving artistic community of Northampton, Mass., where she began to make the rounds on the coffeehouse circuit. Joan Baez, an early fan of her music, took Williams out on the road and recorded several of her songs. The rest is history. Along with her numerous studio albums, she has released the onstage document Out There Live (2001) and the DVD Live at Bearsville Theater (2007). She has also released a live recording celebrating the 20th Anniversary of her legendary album The Honesty Room. In addition to being a touring artist, Williams is an author, teaches at Wesleyan University, and conducts annual songwriting seminars. Williams devotes much of her time to environmental issues and causes, and has created “Give Bees A Camp” which combines concerts and the planting of bee-friendly gardens for young campers.

Opening the evening are The NIELDS, whose albums are often an eclectic mix of ideas and music styles, but clear themes emerge. Love and China (2002) was  about the fragility of love and relationships. The Full Catastrophe (2012) exploredthe messy experience of raising a family. XVII (2015) has the Nields looking out from midlife, focusing on themes of time, love and community. The primary inspiration behind XVII was Nerissa and Katryna’s hero, Pete Seeger, who died in January of 2014. His love of sharing music and his passion for justice had been a part of their lives since before they were born (their parents fell in love at a Pete Seeger concert). His death affected them profoundly. Pete is clearly on the album in songs like “Joe Hill” and “Wasn’t That a Time,” but the entire album is infused with his spirit. It’s there in the Nields’ delight in sharing music and in using it to build a community. And it’s there in the title XVII: when compared to a career and life like that of Pete Seeger, they’re not even out of their teens.

TICKETS: $40/$35/$25

All Irvington Town Hall Theater events are charged a per ticket fee which is used to cover the cost of running the box office. The per-ticket fee at ITHT is $1.70 for online sales and $3 at the door


Saturday, January 23, 7:30 pm: Joseph Arthur

Posted on Updated on

Common Ground Coffeehouse
at The First Unitarian Society of Westchester
25 Old Jackson Avenue Hastings-on-Hudson NY


When I first heard Jo’s music, his lyrics jumped out at me. I love his words, love his music. It’s great to see some of his best written work assembled. His words rattle and rumble and prise open the cage. —Peter Gabriel

To riff off a riff; to update Ginsberg’s holy HOWL; to stand this naked; to wrestle an attention deficit world into a moment’s shivering standstill, just for a spiked breath of reflection: Wow. Joseph Arthur writes, builds, paints, draws, and creates because he has no choice. It is our luck that he does so. —Michael Stipe of REM

Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s in Akron, Joseph Arthur’s musical life started off like many others, with mandatory piano lessons. But once he realized he could use the piano to conjure up his own musical worlds, he took to the instrument and began writing songs, eventually playing in bands while in high school. Days after graduation, he moved to Atlanta with a band, playing bass and supporting himself with day jobs at a music store and tattoo shop.

At the time, Arthur aspired to be a world-class jazz or fusion bass player in the vein of the late Jaco Pastorius. But when a demo tape of Arthur’s songs somehow made its way to Peter Gabriel and his Real World Records label, “I came to find out that Peter thought the bass playing was weak on my stuff, but what he liked was the lyrics.”
Next thing Arthur knew, he was playing at Gabriel’s WOMAD festival (despite having played solo acoustic “maybe one time before”), jamming with Gabriel and Joe Strummer in Real World studios in Bath, England, and was subsequently signed to Real World Records. “It was crazy,” Arthur says. “I think I like repeating the story more the older I get.”

And while Arthur’s 1997 debut, Big City Secrets, attracted a substantial following abroad, the artist didn’t connect with Stateside listeners until Come To Where I’m From, which features his signature song, In the Sun. That track was covered by R.E.M.’s Stipe and Coldplay’s Chris Martin in 2006 on a charity single to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina, having previously been recorded a decade earlier by Gabriel for a Princess Diana tribute album.

Previously nominated for a best recording package Grammy for his 1999 EP Vacancy, Arthur is an accomplished painter, having displayed his works in galleries around the world. His online-only “Museum of Modern Arthur” serves as a repository for his creations.


Front Row $25 in advance, plus $2.37 processing fee; $30 at the door
All other sections: $22 in advance, , plus $2.20 processing fee; $25 at the door

Eventbrite - Joseph Arthur

Saturday, February 27, 7:30 pm: AMY SPEACE, with MaryLeigh Roohan

Posted on Updated on

at The First Unitarian Society of Westchester
25 Old Jackson Ave, Hastings-on-Hudson



with special guest MaryLeigh Roohan

“There are voices that serve as a bridge from the past to the future and act as soul connectors,and as a people we need them to keep singing. These voices open hearts with this rare, one in a million quality. Amy Speace has such a voice. Just ask the legendarily discerning Judy Collins; she’ll tell you. Amy’s got it, and then some. She is a timeless artist, a time traveler. Part past, part future. And that’s a good thing, a really good thing.” – Mary Gauthier

“Amy Speace channels the classics,” writes Billboard Magazine of  her latest release “That Kind Of Girl”. Jon Pareles of The New York Times described the record as “grace over drama” and No Depression wrote “The next time someone tells you they don’t make good music anymore, tell them they must not have heard of Amy Speace. She is a timeless singer/songwriter who has captured this writer’s attention with a record which should be a topic of debate on several year-end award lists.“  Recorded in East Nashville with producer Neilson Hubbard and a small ensemble of musicians, the record is spare and direct, honest and focused.  Holly George-Warren, celebrated author and music critic, calls it “breathtaking.” And just as critics were raving about her new album, she was hired by The New York Times’ Financial Section to write an original song and an accompanying essay about the financial challenges of being an artist.  The song, “Spent” was featured on NPR’s “Marketplace.”  She has also written pieces for The Nashville Scene, Blue Rock Review, Performing Songwriter Magazine, among others.

Baltimore–born singer- songwriter Speace started her creative career out in the theater. She studied classical acting in NYC after graduating with high honors from Amherst College and spent a few years carving out a life spent rushing from lower east side theater rehearsals to film and commercial auditions to many support jobs which ranged from legal secretary to personal assistant for actress/singer Lainie Kazan. After a spectacular breakup with a boy in a rock band, she bought a cheap guitar and started putting her poetry to music and began appearing at local folk clubs like The Sidewalk Cafe, The Bitter End and The Living Room. She was discovered by Judy Collins in 2005, releasing her debut in 2006 on Collins’ Wildflower Records, “Songs For Bright Street” to rave reviews.  “The Killer In Me” was released in 2009 with NPR comparing her to a young Lucinda Williams.  She moved to Nashville from NYC in 2009, releasing “Land Like A Bird” on Thirty Tigers. Her song “The Weight of the World”, which Judy Collins has called “one of the best political folk songs I’ve ever heard” was named as the #4 Folk Song of the Decade by NYC’s premiere AAA radio station WFUV.  In 2013, she received the best reviews of her career with”How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat,” a song cycle inspired by Shakespearean characters, winning 4 stars from Mojo Magazine and a feature on NPR’s “All Things Considered”.   Her songs have been recorded by Judy Collins, Red Molly, Memphis Hall of Fame blues artist Sid Selvidge and others.

Opening the evening will be MaryLeigh Roohan, who was nurtured as a writer and performer at the celebrated Caffe Lena before shipping off to play pubs in Scotland for a year. Since moving back to the States, she has played everywhere from intimate cafes to wild festivals and has had the pleasure to open for acts like Milo Greene, Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, and Sean Rowe, and tour alongside Erin McKeown, Chris Pureka, and Melissa Ferrick.


Front Row: $20 in advance, $22 at the door
All other sections: $18 in advance; $20 at the door

Eventbrite - Amy Speace