Saturday, September 26, 7:30 pm: BOBTOWN

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

BOBTOWN

“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 review

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

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

SEAN ROWE

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.”

Saturday, Dec. 5: Dar Williams, with special guests The Nields

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

DAR WILLIAMS

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.

 

Saturday, February 27, 7:30 pm: AMY SPEACE

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

presents

AMY SPEACE

“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.

Saturday, March 26, 7:30 pm: HARPETH RISING

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

presents

 HARPETH RISING

Harpeth Rising chose to name themselves after a river because water is both dynamic and powerful. These words also describe the music created by the three women – Jordana Greenberg (violin, vocals), Rebecca Reed-Lunn (banjo, vocals) and Maria Di Meglio (cello, vocals). Unapologetic genre-benders, they fuse Folk, Newgrass, Rock and Classical into a sound that is organically unique.

Hallmarks of their music include expansive three-part harmonies, consummate musicianship and a deft yet soulful lyrical perspective. Harpeth Rising’s roots run deep – from their varied ancestry across Eastern Europe to the musical hotbed of the Mid-South they now call home, they weave together ancient and modern ideas, expressing themselves through the common thread of all peoples: Folk Music.

Born from the desire to write and create original music, Harpeth Rising began on a cross-country road trip. After spending a summer jamming at campsites and attending bluegrass festivals, Jordana Greenberg (violin) and Rebecca Reed-Lunn (banjo) decided to keep the adventure alive. They started writing songs and playing out 4 to 5 nights a week, developing their sound and honing their chops. But it was with the addition of Maria Di Meglio (cello) that Harpeth Rising truly found its sound. Despite the presence of only three string instruments on stage, the three women produce a profusion of sound generally created by a much larger ensemble. Di Meglio transitions fluidly between providing the bass line and taking the melodic lead, while Reed-Lunn’s highly original style of claw hammer banjo–learned mainly by watching YouTube–is both surprisingly lyrical and intensely driving. Greenberg takes on the role of concert violinist and accompanist with equal facility, and ensures that a lead guitar is never missed.

Their live performances are high-energy kinetic events in which both their abilities and their passion for performance are obvious. Harpeth Rising can create a listening room from a rowdy bar crowd, and can inspire even the weariest of audiences. After only a few months as a band, they embarked on a self-booked tour of England, which included a performance with The Bath Philharmonia. They were invited to perform at The Cambridge Folk Festival the following summer, and have since played folk festivals across England and the United States. Building their fan base in the tradition of all wandering minstrels – passionately and by word-of-mouth – they now perform to sold-out audiences internationally.  They have released four albums in as many years – Harpeth Rising (2010), Dead Man’s Hand (2011), The End of the World (2012), a collaboration with master wordsmith David Greenberg, father of Jordana, and their brand new project, Tales From Jackson Bridge, which released October 1, 2013.

Sat. April 30, 7:30 PM: ERIN McKEOWN

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

presents

ERIN MCKEOWN


Erin McKeown is an internationally known musician, writer, and producer. With 9  full length albums, 2 EPs, and numerous soundtracks to her credit, she has spent the last 15 years crafting a reputation as an original musical voice and compelling live performer.

An active voice on social justice issues and culture, Erin was a 2011-12 fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Recently, she’s also added radio to her resume- blogging and hosting for WNYC New York Public Radio. A former board member of the Future of Music Coalition, McKeown also works closely with Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) on immigration issues.

2015 finds McKeown in high demand as a teacher with a full studio of private students, and she has three records for other artists in production. She is currently writing an original musical with Tony & Pulitzer winner Quiara Alegria Hudes for the world renowned La Jolla Playhouse. Her most recent record, MANIFESTRA (2013), is her seventh studio album and the first to originate on her own TVP.

Given McKeown’s well known activism around musician compensation and technology, the choice of how to fund MANIFESTRA was obvious. Using the PledgeMusic platform, McKeown’s fans funded her project in a mere 6 days. In addition to covering recording and promotional costs, the fundraising campaign allowed Erin to make the first music video of her career.Fingers crossed for a new solo record in 2016. Meantime, read about her latest record, MANIFESTRA.

McKeown concludes, “At this point in my career, I am most concerned with cultivating relationships that are mutually fufilling. I want to give my fans the best possible music and experience. I have loved getting to know them better and better. I want to work with musicians who inspire me, and I want to provide opportunities for artists to collaborate in new ways. I want to learn how to be a better activist, and I want to be a part of my community. It is no longer enough for me to just make records and tour. I’ve got to do more.”

Saturday, May 21, 7:30 PM: SLEEPING BEE

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

presents

SLEEPING BEE


Sleeping Bee is the new musical endeavor of four longtime friends and multi-instrumentalists, Lindsey Horner, Andy Goessling, Randy Crafton and Timothy Hill. Their style can best be described as “Transcendent Acoustic Alt Folk Jazz Celt Grass” and their music showcases their wide range of musical expertise and a depth of feeling gathered from years of experience.

The first instrumental recording, Heyday Maker, exists in that unique early 21st century area where Folk, Jazz, Celtic song forms, melodic improvisation, and original ideas all happily co-exist and vitalize each other. The recording features original pieces by both Andy and Lindsey, one by the great Keith Jarrett, one by the also great Bob Dylan and a rethinking of two compositions by the 18th century Irish bard, Turlough O’Carolan. Lindsey plays bass and various tin whistles while Andy is heard on guitars, mandolins and bouzouki. Valued friend and percussionist, Randy Crafton, adds his artistry to the proceedings.

While Andy and Lindsey have known each other since they were teenagers, their musical careers have moved in somewhat different orbits over the intervening decades. Andy grew up in rural New Jersey and Lindsey in the heart of New York City so it is perhaps not surprising that Lindsey has been more associated with Jazz and improvised musics of that urban center while Andy has been more involved in the bluegrass and roots music scenes. They have talked for years about pooling their talents and resources and doing something together but could never quite find the right time to get that promising idea off the ground – until now. Indeed, it could be fairly said that both of these musicians have spent most of their careers making other artists sound good. This recording could be seen as their chance to have their say.

With Heyday Maker completed and released, Andy, Lindsey and Randy expanded the concept by adding singer and guitarist, Timothy Hill. Timothy is a unique artist who specializes in harmonic singing whereby two or more notes can be sung at once – as well as the more conventional types of singing.