BILL STAINES to appear in Harrisburg, November 22nd

Iconic American folk musician and songwriter Bill Staines, who is now in his fifth decade as a treasured folk performer, comes to Harrisburg’s Fort Hunter Centennial Barn for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Saturday, November 22, 2014, at 7:30 p.m.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at


This is a updated reprint of a conversation with Bill Staines from December, 2010

Folkmama: Now you played for Susquehanna Folk a few season ago and I’m just curious about changes since then. Any new CDs, interesting tours?

Staines: Well my last CD Old Dogs has been out for a couple of years and I’m not sure if it was out when I played for Susquehanna Folk. But now I’ve done a children’s book called All Gods Critters, published through Simon and Shuster with illustrations by this fellow Kadir Nelson who is a wonderful artist.

I’ve been writing and am about ready to start on a new CD. And the group CELTIC THUNDER has picked up on one of my songs. But basically it’s been just a whole lot more of touring.

Folkmama:  Which song is it that Celtic Thunder has picked up?

Staines: “A Place in the Choir”, of course (laughs). The only song I ever wrote.

Folkmama: Well, I have to say that I like that song. It’s certainly one you’ve been identified with.

Staines: You know” A Place in the Choir” came very close to going into the circular file. I was so used to writing pretty ballads and love songs; it was pretty much sort of a cartoon or a doodle. It happened in ten or fifteen minutes. I wasn’t sure I liked it and my wife wasn’t sure she liked it, but then I played it for some folks in Fredonia, New York and they sort of jumped on it. So I said, OK. I won’t throw it away.

Folkmama: I’ve always been impressed with the poetry of your lyrics and the vivid images that they paint. Are your songs autobiographical, and if you so, would you like to share the story behind one or two?

Staines:  Well I think everybody puts a little bit of themselves in whatever song they are writing. I think when I am working on an album this comes through for me because I might write about a train or a relationship or whatever, and then I look at all the songs that I have written and I ask myself what the common thread is. Of course the obvious common thread is that they were all written by one person. And then you kinda have to do a self analysis and where ever you are in your life and your thoughts and your heart becomes the concept for the new recording.

You know I’ve never been a truck driver, but I’ve been on the road and I’ve stopped and truck stops. I may not know anything about truck driving regulations or rules, or drive a truck or anything like that, but I do know the human element of it. So, even though I’ve never been a rodeo rider or a truck driver, I think there is a whole lot of myself in all of the songs.

Folkmama: The bio on your website says that you travel about 65,000 miles and play about 200 gigs a year. Are you still traveling that much?

Staines: The driving is pretty accurate. I think I’m doing between 150 and 175 concerts a year.

Folkmama: As much as you travel, and I’m sure you go back to a lot of venues, you must have some real favorites.

Staines: Well, there are places like Club Passim in Boston. I’ve been playing in that space (it used to be Club 47) since the 60s where Joan Baez started out and Tom Rush and all these other people. And then there are places like Café Lena in Saratoga, NY where I just did a show with a fellow by the name of Jackie Washington, a Porto Rican fellow who I am a huge fan of. He just did all these great songs. I learned the “Black Fly” song from his early recordings and “Little Brown Dog”. Anyway Jackie had performed opening night at Café Lena’s. For the first five months of 2010 they did one concert a month that was billed as a decade concert [in recognition of their 50th anniversary]. They asked me to play in January [for the 60s era] and they asked me who I wanted to split the bill with and I said Jackie Washington, he opened the club. And so they found him, he’s now an actor in L.A. and the local guitar shop flew him out so I got to do this concert with one of my heroes. So, places like Café Lena, Club Passim and I’ve played at Swallowhill out in Denver.

Folkmama: You write about our countries’ different geographical areas. Have you toured in all of them?

 Staines: I’ve played all over. I’ve been booked in 49 states. And then I went to Hawaii in 2004 for a family vacation and I actually walked into a Karaoke Bar and did a karaoke song so that I can say that I’ve sung in all 50 states!

Folkmama: Now for the folks that have not seen you tell them a bit of what they’ll hear at the November 22nd Susquehanna Folk concert in Harrisburg?

Staines: Well, I grew up in the 60s and I consider myself a folkie. If there were words to describe it I’d say it’s country folk music without being Country and Western. For me to consider myself as a folk musician, I want my music to be bigger than myself. When you look at songs like “This Land is Your Land” and “Deportee”, they’re bigger than Woody Guthrie. When you look at “Blowing in the Wind” that’s bigger than Bob Dylan. Or the contemporary song “Maryellen Carter” is bigger than Stan Rogers. I strive to bring something of value to people when I am writing. And there is a lot of singalong and story stuff, it’s pretty much a living room kind of thing. I love audience participation. I don’t know what to do if people don’t sing. I say here’s the chorus and nobody sings and it’s like, OK, what do I do for the rest of the night?

Folkmama: Do you still do some yodeling?

Staines: I still do some slow yodeling. But I don’t yodel as fast as I used to. I just can’t quite play the guitar that fast anymore.

Folkmama: I just remember hearing you years ago at the Fox Hollow Folk Festival and you did that song that went faster and faster and in verse you’d be yodeling faster and faster.

Staines: Yes, and my heart would be going, “Ker Plunk, Ker Plunk”.

Folkmama: I just have one more question. Your songs, as I mentioned before, are just so poetic. Are you a big fan of poetry, did you grow up listening to poetry?

Staines: I think it was just my own sensibility. You know, in order to be a good melodist, you listen to people who write great melodies. In order to write great lyrics, you listen to people who wrote good lyrics. I think that listening to people like Pete Seeger and the songs that he wrote back in the 60s and having that sensitivity and perception of life. Having the role models that I had as writers back then was probably what molded me more than anything like listening to poetry. I didn’t really even read books until I was in my late 20s. But listening to people like Gordon Lightfoot and once again Pete Seeger, plus traditional music—there is a lot of really beautiful poetry in traditional music. It was really a blend of all of that.

Lyrics have never been an easy thing for me. You know when I sit down to write lyrics and I have a tune and a first verse, I have to work hard to bring the story forward and bring the values that I want to present to people in my song. I know when I’m stumbling. And I also think, not just for me, but for any writer who has been relatively successful, you’re constantly trying to raise the bar. When you are in the middle of writing a song, you know when it is not quite as good as you know that you can write. So I think there is an editing and filtering process that happens there that is really a lot of work. So when the song is done and you’ve got these really good lyrics to it, there has been a lot of work behind it.

Folkmama: Do you change the songs sometimes after they are written?

Staines: No, I think that happens during the creative process. I will say that I’ve heard other people do my songs and they might have changes a word or changed a line and I’ll end up performing it the way that they do it. And so I can tell when something works a little better than the way that I wrote it.

Bill Staines CDs and books are available at

SFMS concert goers offered reduced price tickets to Janis Ian concert

The Susquehanna Folk Music Society is partnering with the Rose Lehrman Arts Center to help promote the upcoming concert (November 21st, 8 PM) with multi-Grammy Award winning pop star JANIS IAN.

Because of this the Rose Lehrman Arts Center has generously offered 20 reduced price tickets on a first come, first serve basis to those on our mailing list. SFMS seats are located on the left side of the theatre in the B section seating: rows D through G – seats 13 through 21 in each row. The ticket price for our group is $27 (regular B section price is $34)

If you are interested in going, please (1) Respond to this e-mail letting us know how many tickets you want us to hold for you and (2) Send a check made out to SFMS to SFMS 378 Old York Road New Cumberland, PA 17070. We’ll be sending Rose Lehrman a list of names and you’ll be able to pick up your ticket at the Box Office.

Please send your check no later than November 18th.

To learn more about Janis Ian, please read the article below which appeared in the November issue of The Burg Magazine.


Melodies Across Time: Janis Ian brings a lifetime of song to Harrisburg.

OCTOBER 30, 2014 | by Jess Hayden

Janis Ian brings a lifetime of song to Harrisburg. Known for her smart, beautifully constructed lyrics and timeless songs, songwriter Janis Ian is still at the top of her game.

Forty years ago, she wrote the ballad “At Seventeen,” which won her a Grammy Award. Just last year, she received her second Grammy, this time for Best Spoken Word Album for her autobiography “Society’s Child.”

Ian now will bring her prolific singer-songwriter career to Harrisburg, specifically to the Rose Lehrman Arts Center for an intimate, one-night concert on Nov. 21.

Throughout the history of pop music, many stars have used their art to draw awareness to important social and political issues. Recently, Melissa Etheridge’s hit “I Need to Wake Up” (the theme song for the film “An Inconvenient Truth “) focused on global warming. Stars like Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews tackle the plight of the family farmer each year during the hugely popular Farm Aid concert. And today in Liberia, pop stars are raising their voices to warn about the dangers of Ebola.

Back in the 1960s, a youthful Janis Ian was soaking in the counterculture ideas of that era. She recalls it as a time of optimism for her generation; a time when young people thought that anything was possible. The gay rights and women’s rights movements had started, and race relations had improved through a new Civil Rights Act. The music industry was also changing.

“The music in the ‘60s was so heavily influenced by the rise of FM radio and the ability to connect across long distances,” she said. “Music was no longer regional; an artist could now have a much bigger impact.”

In 1965, when she was just 14 years old, Ian had her first hit, “Society’s Child,” a song about an interracial couple. She remembers getting the idea on the school bus one day when she saw a black boy and a white girl holding hands. The song was banned by radio because of its controversial subject matter, and it wasn’t until Leonard Bernstein featured her on his TV special that it became a top-10 hit.

That song established Ian as a writer of substance, but there were places in the country where she wasn’t welcome to tour. It provoked a hail of hate mail, and she said there were times when people would spit on her on the street.

Ian left the music industry soon after and didn’t return until Roberta Flack had a hit song with her composition, “Jesse.” The following year, her album, “Between the Lines,” was nominated for five Grammy awards and produced what she calls her “career song,” “At Seventeen.” Ian said that the song, which was a commentary on adolescent cruelty told from the perspective of an adult, was so difficult to write that it took her three months.

It’s a tribute to Ian’s songwriting abilities that other artists have covered many of her songs. Most memorably, Amy Grant recorded her song “What About Love” and Bette Midler recorded “Some People’s Lives.” Her songs also have been covered by Nanci Griffin, Joan Baez, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Dusty Springfield, Mary Black, Cher and John Mellencamp.

These days, Ian said she enjoys being in the lucky position of only doing the dates that she feels like doing.

“I’m ramping down,” she said. “I was doing up to 200 dates a year at some point, putting my partner through law school, but that was quite a while ago.”

She said that she also likes being able to pick her own projects and that the Grammy she received last year was “pretty cool.” She currently has another project up for Grammy consideration, an audio book about the life of Sister Miriam Therese Winter, a Medical Mission Sister.

Ian said that her Rose Lehrman show will be solo—just her and her guitar.


“I come out knowing pretty much what I’m going to open with and what I’m going to close with, and then I have a list of about 35 songs that I can pick and choose from,” she said. “Sometimes, someone in the audience will leave me a note asking for a particular song and, when that happens, I try to oblige.”

She added that the show will be pretty casual, with a lot of storytelling.

Attendees are welcome to come and talk to her after the show. She said that she will be glad to sign CDs and that people may bring their old vinyl to be signed, as well.

Janis Ian will perform at the Rose Lehrman Arts Center, HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community on the Harrisburg Campus on Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. For more information and tickets, call 717-231-7673 or visit


Matuto November 16th show at Appalachian Brewing in Harrisburg will be part Brazilian, part American

With an honest love for roots music, genuine imgallery-Matuto_Quintet_1 styles, and improvisational experimentation, Matuto brings its unique and inspired sound from the heart of New York City’s diverse musical culture to Harrisburg on Sunday, November 16, 2014, for a 4 p.m. matinee concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society at the Appalachian Brewing Company Abbey Bar, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg.

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society Web site at

Below is an exclusive story written by Sarah Chain for FlipSide. It was posted on 11/06/2014


How do you combine the Latin flavor of Brazilian roots music with the folk traditions of the American South? For New York City-based Matuto, it’s all about the rhythm.

Led by Clay Ross on guitar and vocals and Rob Curto on accordion and vocals, Matuto — Brazilian slang for “country boy” — formed in 2009 to explore how roots in folkloric music could connect with the international music scene.

The freedom to explore different musical styles was a boon for Ross, a native of South Carolina who began his musical career in jazz but found himself in Recife, Brazil, in the mid-2000s where he fell in love with the region’s folkloric music. When Ross connected with Curto, a renowned accordionist celebrated for bringing forro — accordion-driven country roots music out of northeastern Brazil — to the U.S., the rest fell into place.

They added a bassist, a drummer and another percussionist with experience in several Brazilian percussion instruments: the cavaquinho (a Brazilian ukelele), the zabumba (a large bass drum), the pandeiro (a Brazilian tambourine), the triangle and the agogô (a pair of small, pitched metal bells).

“It’s an unlikely combination on paper, but not in person,” said Ross. “On the dance floor, it just feels right.”

Their unique style has taken them on a busy touring schedule — more than 150 shows a year for the past two years.

“We’ve been very fortunate to tour several times as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. State Department,” Ross said, where the band is there specifically to spread awareness of the nuances of American culture and provide a chance to collaborate with local musicians in each city.

They’ve learned to pull these international influences into their new music, as well. Their most recent release, an EP titled “Africa Suite,” arose from a challenge to pull the name of a country from a hat and compose a piece of music about it. The process provided an opportunity for the group to pay tribute to the people and cultures they interact with during their tours, Ross said.

On Sunday, Nov. 16, Matuto swings into Harrisburg for a concert at the Appalachian Brewing Company, sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society. The group will play a mix of music from its latest three albums, inspired by band members’ many different backgrounds and influences, from bebop piano and American swing music to jazz and blues.

“They’re a wonderful, high-energy group,” said Jess Hayden, executive director with Susquehanna Folk Music Society.

Meet the band

Members: Clay Ross, guitar and vocals; Rob Curto, accordion and vocals; Michael Loren Lavalle, bass and vocals; Aynsley Powell, drums; Ze Mauricio, percussion

Formed: February 2009

Online: Find them online at , on Facebook at and on Twitter at