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
w/special guest Rachelle Garniez
“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
“Many cognoscenti in the New York music scene consider Rachelle Garniez the best songwriter in town, and some would argue that she she might simply be the best songwriter anywhere.”- New York Music Daily
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.”
Opening the evening will be Rachelle Garniez, who is being variously described as ‘a cross between a lost puppy and Lady Macbeth” and “Lou Reed meets Stephen Sondheim”. Her original lyrical and melodic story-songs have been described as “romantic, rhapsodic and casually hilarious” (The New York Times). Over the years she has played music in many bands of many kinds, including Rock, Blues, Tango, Country, Latin, Klezmer, Jazz and Tin Pan Alley classics. Her unique sense of song draws from all of these influences and “…wanders through genres, leaving behind nothing but sweet wreckage” (The New Yorker). bar-band roots to club-kid art-funk; samba fierce-showgirl revue to klezmer and old-time jazz, each of which have contributed significantly to her writing style.
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
An Evening with Mary Gauthier
“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.”