Saturday, February 25, 7:30 pm: Cheryl Wheeler

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Common Ground Coffeehouse
At the First Unitarian Society of Westchester
25 Old Jackson Ave., Hastings-on-Hudson, New York

Presents

Cheryl Wheeler

It has always seemed as if there were two Cheryl Wheelers, with fans of the New England songwriter relishing watching the two tussle for control of the mic. There is poet-Cheryl, writer of some of the prettiest, most alluring and intelligent ballads on the modern folk scene. And there is her evil twin, comic-Cheryl, a militant trend defier and savagely funny social critic. The result is a delightful contrast between poet and comic.

Poet-Cheryl writes achingly honest songs of love and loss. Contrasting the prosaic landscapes of her native small-town America with the hopelessly rootless life of the traveling performer, she touches the common chords with any who feel the tug between our busy, noisome times and the timeless longing for simplicity and silence. Her deceptively plain-spun songs have been hits for such mainstream stars as Suzy Bogguss (Aces) and Dan Seals (Addicted), and have been recorded by everyone from Bette Midler, Maura O’Connell, Peter Paul and Mary, Juice Newton, and Garth Brooks. Comic-Cheryl comes on like Groucho-in-a-housecoat; a fiercely everyday woman with a barbed-wire tongue. Shredding the mores of our gossipy, greedy, trend-obsessed culture, Wheeler always aims enough darts at herself to never seem sanctimonious.

Wheeler was born in the small town of Timonium, Maryland. The wistful rural vistas she glimpses so poignantly through her fleeting windshield really do represent the deep pull of place she feels in her wandering life. With the possible exception of Greg Brown, no modern songwriter comes to mind who can write as convincingly about the sheer, simple-hearted joy of a nice day; whether a warm spring one spent driving down southern back roads, or a chilly gray one spent thinking properly dark thoughts at a bayside hotel. Where others seek the startling image, the “Big Event,” Wheeler wraps her songs around the familiar image, the shared event. When it is comic-Cheryl’s turn, the poet simply turns over the mic and allows the comic to be displayed in her native habitat: the stage.

As the two forces smooth their conflict, taking their separate turns and melding into the same artistic vision, Wheeler emerges as a gifted and openhearted songwriter approaching the sure summit of her craft. Her abiding faith in her audience’s ability to find their own life reflected in the sweet spaces of her songs reveals an artist comfortably wearing the austere genius that defines folk music’s best traditions. More confidently and beautifully than ever before, she proves that the poet and the comic are one and the same.

TICKETS

General Admission: $30 in advance, $35 at the door

Eventbrite - CHERYL WHEELER

Saturday, March 25, 7:30 pm: The Mike + Ruthy Band

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Common Ground Coffeehouse
At the First Unitarian Society of Westchester
25 Old Jackson Ave., Hastings-on-Hudson NY

Presents

The Mike + Ruthy Band

“Everything is masterfully performed as Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar sing about the charms of hard work, homemade wine and free parking. Amid the barn dance reverie created by fiddle, pedal steel, horns and more, Ruthy’s versatile alto is the most glorious instrument of all.” – ABCnews

“This is a record about what it is to be human. It’s a record about what it is to have an inextricable allegiance to tradition, while feeling compelled to speak for oneself. It’s a record that will grab you, that won’t let you go.” – No Depression, about “Bright As You Can”

Americana stand-outs Mike + Ruthy have assembled a new band and, as was the case with their last one, The Mammals, fans and critics alike are showing a lot of love. Their debut album, Bright as You Can, was released in June 2015 and top critics had this to say: “One of the year’s standout Americana albums” (Boston Globe), “In the vanguard of today’s vibrant folk revival” (PopMatters), “honoring the great musical traditions of the past while at the same time welcoming, with open arms, the future of what music can be” (Folk Alley), and much, much more.

He’s a songwriting guitar-slinger with a knack for clawhammer banjo. She’s a fiddler and uke-chanteuse who grew up in the American roots underground, the daughter of GRAMMY-winning fiddler, Jay Ungar. These two believe in the transformative power of a great live show. They write top-tier songs (“Some of the best songwriting of their generation” (LA Weekly), tour with their kids and peerless five-piece band (a sound they’ve taken to calling rural rock), and perform for audiences worldwide with a charm and on-stage ease that might make you think they’re your new best friends. Of their own roots music festival the two founded in 2013, their late friend and mentor Pete Seeger wrote, “Dear Mike + Ruthy, Your Hoot was one of the best song-gatherings I’ve seen in all my 94 years. I hope next year I can be there for more than one day.”

Woody Guthrie’s guitar killed fascists. This family carries the torch.

TICKETS:

FRONT ROW: $25 in advance, $28 at the door
GENERAL ADMISSION: $20 in advance, $25 at the door

Eventbrite - THE MIKE + RUTHY BAND

Saturday, April 8, 8 pm: John Gorka and Susan Werner

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Common Ground Community Concerts
Presents
At Irvington Town Hall Theater
85 Main St., Irvington New York

John Gorka and Susan Werner

The leading singer/songwriter of the New Folk movement – Rolling Stone, on John Gorka

“When it comes to crafting a song, Ms. Werner’s only peers are Jimmy Webb and Paul Simon.” – No Depression

Common Ground Concerts is thrilled present two of the leading singer songwriters of this generation, or any generation — together on one night.

Dubbed by NPR as the Empress of the Unexpected”, Werner’s album projects cover the genres of folk, rock, pop, gospel, blues and Americana, all delivered with sassy wit and classic Midwestern charm. Throughout her expansive career, boundless versatility has emerged as a hallmark of Werner’s talent, and has proven to be a quintessential ingredient of her engrossing musical persona. Known for her engaging and energetic live shows, Werner continues her reign as one of the most bold and creative forces on the acoustic music scene today.

Rising from a milieu of lovelorn singer-songwriters, John Gorka illuminates instead with his trademark wordplay, twisting, turning, and tying words and phrases in the way a balloon artist creates complex creatures from simple balloons. Few contemporary songwriters can coax language as deftly as Gorka. For over two decades, Gorka’s keen ear has picked up the stories of those along his path, folding them into poetry and song. His keen perceptiveness inspires people from all over the world to share their stories. By involving those tales in his music, he escapes the trap of introspection that hobbles less gifted singer-songwriters. With his uncanny ability to work every nuance of language, capturing a wide array of topics and experiences woven into memorable melodies, John Gorka’s career continues to prosper and to gain ever-increasing attention.

ADVANCE TICKETS
Orchestra: $40
Box Seats: $40
Balcony: $35
Partially Obstructed View: $25
Tickets on sale soon through Irvington Town Hall Theater box office ONLY

Saturday, April 22, 7:30 pm: David Francey

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Common Ground Coffeehouse
At the First Unitarian Society of Westchester
25 Old Jackson Ave., Hastings on Hudson NY

Presents

David Francey


“…one of Canada’s best loved troubadours” Greg Quill, Toronto Star

“He’s like those Texas songwriters, the Guy Clark’s and Van Zandt’s and such, who take life and set it to music, in such plain but perfect language. Oh, and it rhymes. And it’s catchy. Each song is a bit of common sense philosophy, mixed with a tiny bit of sadness and a lot of love” CBC New Brunswick

David Francey is a Scottish-born Canadian carpenter-turned-songwriter, who has become known as “one of Canada’s most revered folk poets and singers” (Toronto Star). Born in Ayrshire, Scotland to parents who were factory workers, he moved to Canada when he was twelve. For decades, he worked across Canada in rail yards, construction sites, and in the Yukon bush, all the while writing poetry, setting it to melodies in his head and singing it to himself as he worked. A truly authentic folk singer, Francey is a documentarian of the working person who never imagined earning a living from his music. But when he was in his 40s, his wife, artist Beth Girdler, encouraged him to share his songs and sing in public. The reaction was instant. His first album Torn Screen Door came out in 1999 and was a hit in Canada. Since then, he has released eleven albums, won three Juno Awards and has had his songs covered by such artists as The Del McCoury Band, The Rankin Family, James Keelaghan and Tracy Grammer. Francey also had the honour of receiving the prestigious SOCAN Folk Music Award as well as taking home the Grand Prize in both the International Acoustic Music Award and in the Folk category for the John Lennon Songwriting AwardDavid Francey was born in Ayrshire, Scotland where he got his first taste of the working life as a paperboy. At age 10 he was devouring the newspapers he delivered, establishing a life-long interest in politics and world events while developing the social conscience that forms the backdrop of his songs. He was twelve when his family immigrated to Toronto. He says he can trace his love of the land, the history, and the people of his adopted country to weekend family drives exploring southern Ontario. Music played a large part in these family outings. They sang traditional Scottish tunes as they drove through the Canadian countryside. Dad and sister Muriel sang melody, while mother and David sang harmonies. His attachment to Canada grew with travel. He hitched across the country three times, then thumbed his way to the Yukon. This attachment surfaces in his songs of rail lines, farms, and the St. Lawrence Seaway. He grew to understand the people while working in Toronto train yards, the Yukon bush, and as a carpenter in the Eastern Townships. These experiences colour his first CD, Torn Screen Door, with songs like Hard Steel Mill, Gypsy Boys, and Working Poor and his second, Far End of Summer, with Highway, Flowers of Saskatchewan and February Morning Drive. In concert David is a singer and a storyteller. His wry humour and astute observations combined with his openhearted singing style have earned him a loyal following. David lives with his wife, artist Beth Girdler and in the quiet but charming Lanark Highlands in southern Ontario. They are visited often by their son Colin, daughters Amy and Julia and grandkids Tristan and Alice.

Tickets: $18 in advance; $20 at the door
Eventbrite - DAVID FRANCEY

Saturday, May 20, 7:30 pm: Gurf Morlix

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Common Grouond Coffeehouse
At the First Unitarian Society of Westchester
25 Old Jackson Ave., Hastings on Hudson NY

Presents

Gurf Morlix

“Gurf Morlix’s voice could steer a ship through a storm.” – Brian T. Atkinson, Austin Music Magazine

Once, when asked by a promoter for a copy of his biography, Gurf Morlix responded with just two words, “legendary integrity.” He would later admit that his response was perhaps a bit pompous, “but true,” he added. “Well, half true anyway.” The story is a telling one, demonstrating not only Morlix’s directness, which is famous among his musical colleagues – or perhaps infamous, depending on who you ask – but also his dry sense of humor and no-bullshit approach to life, music, and the music business. Had he sent the promoter a more traditional bio, it likely would have noted that Gurf was born in Lackawanna, New York (near Buffalo), saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, formed a band (in which Peter Case made his stage debut), moved to Austin to escape the cold and play music, befriended Blaze Foley and a bunch of other Austin characters, moved to Los Angeles, worked for more than a decade as Lucinda Williams’ guitarist, band-leader and backing vocalist, produced Lucinda’s acclaimed Sweet Old World and eponymous albums, famously left Lucinda, toured with Warren Zevon, moved back to Austin, produced a number of classic Americana albums you likely own if you are any kind of Americana music fan, played on many more albums you probably own if you fall into that category, got inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame, received the Americana Music Association’s “Instrumentalist of the Year” award, went on to make seven critically acclaimed albums of his own, and then toured the world supporting them. He now continues to play live, produce albums for the artists that move him, and make his own albums. He even goes fishing ever once in a while.

That’s the resume, but it’s Gurf’s integrity, combined his near innate sense of music and how to make it sound not just good, but great, that have attracted so many well-respected artists to work with him over the years – folks like Ian McLagan, Patty Griffin, Robert Earl Keen, Buddy Miller, Mary Gauthier, Tom Russell, Butch Hancock, Slaid Cleaves and Ray Wylie Hubbard, just to name a few. And, oh yeah, he can make nearly any instrument with strings either sing or growl, depending on the needs of the song, like no other musician out there.

Gurf’s eighth album, 2015’s Eatin’ At Me, kicks off with wailing guitars and an annual family car trip to “Dirty Ol’ Buffalo.” Never one to shy away from the gritty side of life, the portrait he paints of the rust belt city of his youth, with its rugged roads and smoky orange air, ain’t pretty, but it’s real and authentic to the core. Unlike the shiny city of today, all polished up with money and a thin coat of paint barely hiding the grease below, “Dirty Ol’ Buffalo” is the kind of place that stays with a person long after they’ve left.

The nine songs that follow on Eatin’ At Me have that same lasting quality and clearly come from a man who looks at life and the world around him, with all its grit and glory, unflinchingly. His songs tell tales of love and regret, happy memories and heartbreak, the kinds of things that stay will with a person, eating away at them, if allowed. What makes the songs unshakable is indeed Gurf’s “legendary integrity,” the authenticity of the characters he introduces, the empathy and fearlessness with which their stories are told, and the care with which the songs are made. No word, no note, is out of place, and like the many well-known and well-loved albums he’s produced and played on, Gurf’s own records are infused with his trademark grit and muddy groove resulting in quality that’s so real, listeners will feel it in their bones. Indeed, it’s the kind of album that stays with a person long after they’ve listened.

Tickets:
FRONT ROW: $22
GENERAL ADMISSION: $18

Eventbrite - GURF MORLIX