Common Ground Concerts
At Irvington Town Hall Theater
Birds of Chicago
“Real Midnight…finds Russell and Nero memorializing the intense, freewheeling, all-too-fleeting attachments of youth, eulogizing fellow dreamers and meditating on mortality…They show us a way to fully live with the awareness that nothing’s forever and everything’s at stake.” – NPR First Listen
“With Echoes of deep gospel in Russell’s voice as she sings over a mix of electric guitar, resonant piano, and percussion… at once uplifting and a little melancholy.” – Wall Street Journal
In so many ways, we are a word weary culture, ever searching for ways to communicate in fewer and fewer words, letters, syllables…Our online, blogged out, you-tubed attention spans are truncated and fragmented like never before. Birds of Chicago, the collective centered around Allison Russell and JT Nero, reassert the simple notion – radical in these times – that beautiful words and music can still tap deep veins of emotion.
real midnight’s gonna come / real midnight’s gonna come
real wolves at your door / with blood on their tongues
now what you gonna do / with your days left in the sun?
ha da la ha
Stark, elemental imagery that feels like scripture, or a lost folk song recovered; the Birds draw heavily on the gospel tradition and the music feels like a new, secular gospel of sorts. For Birds of Chicago, every word counts. Every note counts. No gold-dusting, no filler. Music is the good news and Real Midnight, the band’s poignant new Joe Henry produced album, throbs with an urgency that feels quietly seismic.
Common Ground Coffeehouse
at The First Unitarian Society of Westchester
The Ana Egge Trio
with special guest Steve Addabbo
“We were always the outsiders,” says folk songwriter ANA EGGE of her early roots in a small North Dakota town of 50 people. “I was taught how to shoot a gun and how to enjoy alfalfa sprouts and tofu, raised by two back-to-the-land hippies. My folks loved the outdoors and eccentric people; I ran around barefoot and learned to ride a motorcycle when I was 5. I grew up with all the time and space in the world.” Egge has since traded the openness of the American Plains for the untamable wilderness of New York City, recorded eight albums, and worked with musical legends such as Ron Sexsmith and Steve Earle. She’s been around the horn of life’s experiences, having gotten married and become a mother, but that childhood spirit of freedom has matured on her latest album, Say That Now.
For the first time in a career with many highlights (including recordings with Steve Earle and Ron Sexsmith), Egge gave herself over to a co-writing/collaborative process, working with Danish indie band The Sentimentals to write and record the songs on “Say That Now” in Copenhagen. Egge’s signature blend of American prairie folk mixed with clarion-call country shines through. On “Promises to Break,” their combined voices rise in glorious church-steeple harmony. It’s a song Egge and Hansen wrote together that speaks to the universality of forbidden love: “On my shoulder’s my hometown I’m trying to escape / On my hand is the number for calling your name / It’s a matter of leaving before my lies come true / Before my hometown finds out about you.” Hansen’s subsequent song “He’s a Killer Now” is a heart-rending meditation on the kind of terrorism currently gripping Europe, looking at the tragic deaths in a 2015 Danish shooting from a mother’s perspective. “Away We Go Again” is Egge’s attempt to grapple with the shock of Michael Brown’s tragic death and the Ferguson protests. With good friends and loving family around her, Ana found the space to create an album that looks both inward to the human journey and outward to the communities we build to survive this trip.
Opening the evening will be Steve Addabbo, a Grammy-nominated producer, musician, songwriter and audio engineer who helped launch the careers of Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin. He had a vital hand in Vega’s hit single, “Luka” and Colvin’s Grammy-winning Steady On. He has produced and/or engineered for artists including Bobby McFerrin, Eric Andersen, Loudon Wainwright III, Jeff Buckley, Richard Barone, The Bongos, Richard Shindell, Ana Egge and The Stray Birds, Jane Olivor, Olivia Newton-John, The Manhattans and Dar Williams. Addabbo is also an acclaimed mix engineer who has, among other projects, mixed the Bob Dylan Bootleg 10 “Another Self Portrait”and the Grammy-winning Bob Dylan Bootleg 12 “The Cutting Edge.” He owns Shelter Island Sound Studios located in Manhattan. Addabbo released his first full-length album Out of Nothing in 2016, 14 songs written or co-written by him.
Common Ground Coffeehouse
At the First Unitarian Society of Westchester
w/ special guest, Crys Matthews
“Peter Mulvey is consistently the most original and dynamic of the US singer-songwriters to tour these shores. A phenomenal performer with huge energy, a quick fire, quirky take on life, and an extraordinary guitar style. A joy to see.” – The Irish Times
Over the past 20 years, Mulvey has pursued a restless, eclectic path as a writer and musician – immersing himself in Tin PanAlley jazz, modern acoustic, poetry, narrative, and Americana stylings. Relentlessly touring as a headliner – his attitude is, “When you love what you do, you can work all the time,” – he has also shared the stage with luminaries such as Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson, Ani diFranco, Indigo Girls, and Greg Brown, and has attracted an audience that stretches from Anchorage to Amsterdam.
Peter Mulvey began as a self-described “city kid” from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He played, wrote, and sang in bands while studying theatre there, and then traveled to Dublin, Ireland, in 1989, where he learned the trade of the street singer. Returning to the States, he relocated to Boston with two self-released CDs in hand: Brother Rabbit Speaks (1992) and Rain (1994). In Boston he took to playing in the subways as a full-time occupation. The seven hour sessions playing to passers-by and commuters not only strengthened his accomplished guitar playing but also sharpened his innate gifts as a communicator. In a few short years he had made the transition to touring songwriter. He signed with indie upstart Eastern Front Records, released Rapture (1995), Deep Blue (1997), and Glencree (1998), recorded live in Ireland.
Having since resettled back in Milwaukee, Peter has continued his touring life while making seven solo records with Signature Sounds, the venerable singer/songwriter label in western Massachusetts’ fertile musical Pioneer Valley. His sixth release, The Trouble With Poets (2000), features the title track which remains among his best-known songs. 2002 brought Ten Thousand Mornings, a CD of cover songs recorded live on Boston’s Davis Square subway platform. The name refers to the collective number of commuters’ mornings Peter hoped he was entertaining, or touching, in some way. His albums have always maintained the spontaneity and edge of his live performances, including his 2004 Kitchen Radio and 2006 CD, The Knuckleball Suite, both of which were recorded in just a few days with a band of sympathetic co-conspirators. He followed the ensemble vibe of these records with Notes from Elsewhere (2007), which consists of solo acoustic recordings of some of his most popular songs.
Whether playing solo or with a band in tow, Mulvey has a rare ability to hold an audience’s attention and transport them, using wit, humor, and a subtle but sophisticated melodic and harmonic sensibility to gracefully introduce complex and provocative concepts and characters.
Collaboration is another source for Peter’s continued growth. In 2003, he released the trio album, Redbird, with fellow songwriters Kris Delmhorst and Jeffrey Foucault. The album’s 17 songs range from jazz standards to old country tunes to contemporary covers, all recorded in three days around one microphone. Peter’s annual hometown holiday in-the-round gigs have become an institution over nearly a decade. He can sit in with nearly any musician or ensemble and improvise in the common language of music.
For the past several years Peter has done an annual Fall tour entirely by bicycle, partly for environmental reasons and partly for the sheer fun of continuing his creative, unorthodox approach to a long and fruitful career as an artist.
In every aspect of his career, Mulvey draws on an extremely broad swath of influence; he is always reading, listening, and eager to hear new poetry, modern minimalist composers, old-time fiddle tunes, Argentinean trip-hop, or top-shelf bar bands.
Still, it is the live performance that defines that work. Night after night, whether performing solo, duo (with David “Goody” Goodrich), or sometimes even with a band, Mulvey attempts to be the sum of his parts, to draw on all the musical legacies he has studied, to make a fresh, vital moment out of everything he and the audience have brought to the table that night. “People need this. I need this. To come together in a room, to try to make music come alive, for real, for right now, and then to let it go…that is the whole deal for me.”
Opening the evening is DC’s Crys Matthews, who blends Americana, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass and funk into a bold, complex performance steeped in traditional melodies and punctuated by honest, original lyrics. Having been compared to everyone from Toshi Reagon to Tracy Chapman to Ruthie Foster, Matthews’ eclectic infusion of genres has won her honorable mentions at the 2013 and 2014 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest and extensive radio play from Woman of Substance radio to WTJU-Charlottesville and WMRA-Harrisonburg to KBOO-Portland.
Common Ground Concerts
At Irvington Town Hall Theater
85 Main St., Irvington, NY
“A gifted melodist, Hitchcock nests engaging lyrics in some of the most bracing, rainbow-hued pop this side of Revolver. He wrests inspiration not from ordinary life but from extraordinary imaginings…” – Rolling Stone
“Beloved of everyone from Led Zeppelin to REM, Hitchcock has only enhanced his status…” – Hot Press
“As a performer, he’s as much a wandering bard as a rock star.” —The Believer
Robyn Hitchcock is one of England’s most enduring contemporary singer/songwriters and live performers. A surrealist poet, talented guitarist, cult artist and musician’s musician, Hitchcock is among alternative rock’s father figures and is the closest thing the genre has to a Bob Dylan (not coincidentally his biggest musical inspiration). Since founding the art-rock band The Soft Boys in 1976, Robyn has recorded more than 20 albums as well as starred in ‘Storefront Hitchcock’ an in concert film recorded in New York and directed by Jonathan Demme.
Blending folk and psychedelia with a wry British nihilism, Robyn Hitchcock describes his songs as ‘paintings you can listen to’. His most recent album is self-titled and marks his 21st release as a solo artist. Out on April 21, 2017, the album was produced by Brendan Benson (The Raconteurs). Hitchcock describes it as an “ecstatic work of negativity with nary a dreary groove.”
Please note: Tickets to this concert are available exclusively through Irvington Town Hall Theater’s box office. Please click below for more information.
Common Ground Coffeehouse
at First Unitarian Society of Westchester
“To be affected by these songs, you don’t have to know anything of Gauthier’s backstory (Louisiana orphan addict chef turned sober troubadour), the respect she commands across gender lines in the Americana scene, or the heavyweight catalog she’s built out of unflinching introspection and Southern Gothic-shaded storytelling.” – NPR Music
“…Louisiana-raised Mary Gauthier has become one of Americana music’s most admired artists—across the U.S. and in her regular tours around the world.” – Wall Street Journal
“Every tune is a rough gem of melody, misery and economy, as Gauthier excavates romantic wreckage like an archaeologist telling the story of a fossilized love.” – Rolling Stone
“…her razor-sharp eye for detail and her commitment to unsentimental self-reflection puts her in a class with greats such as Kris Kristofferson, John Prine and yes, Bob Dylan.” – L. A. Times
Every day. Every single day, which means some days are better and some much worse. Every day, on average, twenty-two veterans commit suicide. Each year seventy-four hundred current and former members of the United States Armed Services take their own lives. Every day. That number does not include drug overdoses or car wrecks or any of the more inventive ways somebody might less obviously choose to die.
It seems trivial to suggest those lives might be saved — healed, even — by a song. By the process of writing a song. And yet. And yet there is nothing trivial about Mary Gauthier’s tenth album, Rifles and Rosary Beads (Thirty Tigers), all eleven songs co-written with and for wounded veterans. Eleven of the nearly four hundred songs that highly accomplished songwriters have co-written as part of Darden Smith’s five-year-old SongwritingWith:Soldiers program. None of the soldiers who have participated in the program have taken their own lives, and there’s nothing trivial about that. Something about writing that song — telling that story — is healing. What Smith calls post-traumatic-growth.
Gauthier’s first nine albums presented extraordinary confessional songs, deeply personal, profoundly emotional pieces ranging from “I Drink,” a blunt accounting of addiction, to “March 11, 1962,” the day she was born — and relinquished to an orphanage — to “Worthy,” in which the singer finally understands she is deserving of love. Maybe that’s where the confessional song cycle ends, for she has midwifed these eleven new songs in careful collaboration with other souls whose struggle is urgent, immediate, and palpable. And none are about her.
Each song on Rifles and Rosary Beads is a gut punch: deceptively simple and emotionally complex. From the opening “Soldiering On” (“What saves you in the battle/Can kill you at home”) to “Bullet Holes in the Sky” (“They thank me for my service/And wave their little flags/They genuflect on Sundays/And yes, they’d send us back”), to the abject horror of “Iraq,” and its quiet depiction of a female mechanic’s rape, each song tells the story of a deeply wounded veteran.
Darrell Scott, returning from one of Smith’s first retreats, called and told Mary she needed to participate. “I felt unqualified,” she says. “I didn’t know anything about the military, I was terrified of fucking it up. I didn’t feel I knew how to be in the presence of that much trauma without being afraid. But Darrell knew I could do it. Turns out, I was able to sit with the veterans with a sense of calmness and help them articulate their suffering without fear. I was shocked by that. And I took to it.” It has become a calling. “My job as a songwriter is to find that thing a soul needs to say,” Mary says. “Each retreat brings together a dozen or so soldiers and four songwriters, three songs each in two days. We don’t have a choice. We have to stay focused, listen carefully, and make sure every veteran gets their own song. And we always do.”
“None of the veterans are artists. They don’t write songs, they don’t know that songs can be used to move trauma. Their understanding of song doesn’t include that. For me it’s been the whole damn deal. Songwriting saved me. It’s what I think the best songs do, help articulate the ineffable, make the invisible visible, creating resonance, so that people, (including the songwriter) don’t feel alone.”
The impact of these songs becomes visible quickly, unexpectedly. Featured in the TV series “Nashville,” the Bluebird Cafe now prospers as a tourist destination.
The room fills twice a night with people thrilled to be in the presence of real live Nashville songwriters. Who, in turn, are thrilled to be in the presence of a paying audience that can do nothing to advance their careers, save give a genuine response to their songs. The gentleman at the next table has handsome white hair and a hundred-dollar casual shirt, and almost certainly had no idea who Mary Gauthier was, nor what her songs might be about, when he came out of the sunlight into the darkened listening room. He knows, now. Thick, manicured fingers cover his face, trying to catch his slow tears. His wife sits close, watches carefully, but knows better than to touch him. He is not alone in that small audience.
Every day we are touched by the veterans in our lives, whether we know it or not. Every single day. Even if it’s only the guy on Main Street, in the wheelchair, with the flag.
Every single day. And, yes, a song may be the answer. “Because the results are so dramatic, this could work for other traumas,” Mary says. “Trauma is the epidemic. You say opioid, I say trauma epidemic. As an addict, I know addiction is selfmedication because of suffering, and beneath that pain is always trauma. Underneath so much
of the problems in the world is trauma, it’s the central issue humanity is dealing with. We’ve found something powerful here, that brings hope to people who are hurting. So they know they are not alone.”
Common Ground Coffeehouse
At the First Unitarian Society of Westchester
25 Jackson Ave., Hastings-on-Hudson New York
“Karen Dalton and Joanna Newsom melt together in the form of Gaelynn Lea and set about absolutely obliterating your heart.” -Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys)
“The way her voice resonates is so unusual and beautiful, like nothing I’ve ever heard before.” -Jess Wolfe (Lucius)
“Gaelynn Lea, the winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, makes music like nobody else.” -Bob Boilen (NPR)
Classically trained violinist and songwriter Gaelynn Lea has been bewitching scores of fans with her experimental and ambient takes on fiddle music, an approach that incorporates her love of traditional tunes, songwriting, poetry and sonic exploration. Her work most recently won NPR Music’s 2016 Tiny Desk Contest, a competition drawing submissions of original songs from more than 6,000 musicians across the country. Gaelynn has been playing violin for over twenty years, developing an improvisational style all her own. She has performed alongside many notable Minnesota musicians over the years, including Alan Sparhawk, Charlie Parr, and Billy McLaughlin. On March 3, 2016, Gaelynn Lea was named the winner of NPR Music’s second-ever Tiny Desk Contest. The video entry of her original song “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun” rose to the top of over 6,100 submissions from around the nation, chosen as the unanimous favorite among the contest’s six judges. The very next week, Gaelynn performed a moving Tiny Desk Concert, at which the show’s host Bob Boilen said “there was hardly a dry eye.”
Gaelynn’s musical reach has expanded significantly because of the Tiny Desk Contest. She began a touring nationally in September 2016, and in December 2016 she performed in Europe for the first time as support for Low’s Christmas tour.
In addition to performing, Gaelynn has had a busy year in the recording studio. She released her debut solo album entitled “All the Roads that Lead Us Home” in November 2015. It pays homage to the traditional fiddle tunes and beloved standards that Gaelynn has been playing for over a decade. But of course, there is a twist! Gaelynn used her Memory Man looping pedal to create winding layers of sound underneath these familiar melodies.
She released a version of her Tiny Desk Contest winning track, “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun“, on May 5, 2016.
Several months later Gaelynn recorded and released a 6-track EP titled “The Songs We Sing Along the Way“, backed by guitarist Al Church. In November 2016, she followed up this EP with a full-length holiday album, “Deepest Darkness, Brightest Dawn“, once again accompanied by Al Church.
In addition to performing, Gaelynn also loves to do speaking engagements about disability, overcoming challenges, and the joy of music. She has a congenital disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or Brittle Bones Disease. Gaelynn is a strong voice in the disability community; she uses her music as a platform to advocate for people with disabilities and to promote positive social change. In October 2016, Gaelynn was invited to Yale to give a TEDx Talk titled “Disability and Sexuality: Forging Identity in a World that Leaves You Out”. Gaelynn Lea believes society must work harder to prioritize accessibility so people with disabilities can participate fully in their communities and use their talents and gifts without barriers or discrimination.