Gifted Songwriter and Storyteller GREG BROWN to Appear Near Harrisburg, PA December 5, 2010.

Greg Brown first gained nationwide recognition during the 1980s and 1990s as a regular on the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion”. A prolific songwriter and a keen observer of the natural world, Brown says that that he likes to think about his work “as stories sanded down into songs.” He has recorded over two dozen records, and has twice been nominated for a Grammy.

Greg Brown was born in the Hacklebarney section of southeastern Iowa and raised by a family that made words and music a way of life. His grandfather played the banjo, his grandmother played the pump organ, and his uncles played the mandolin. He grew up in coal country in an area that attracted coal miners from the Appalachian region. Because of this some of the Scots/Irish traditions associated with the Appalachians had  traveled overland to Iowa. “I grew up in a very fortunate way for someone who wants to be a musician, my kind of musician anyway” he said in a recent NPR interview “I just grew up with the stuff. That and church music.”

An important” training ground” for his magnificent lyrics seems to be his early childhood experiences with poetry. His mother, an English teacher, loved poetry and would often recite it to him. “I never made a big distinction in my mind between poetry and song” he said “I grew up loving both so much. And when I hear a poet read to me it’s the same experience as hearing music.”

The lyrics of his song “Early” show the subtle,  evocative  poetry that Brown is so well known for:

“Early”

Early one morning I walked out alone,

I looked down the street; no one was around.

The sun was just comin’ up over my home,

On Hickory Street in a little farm town.  And

Oooo-ee, ain’t the mornin’ light pretty,

When the dew is still heavy, so bright and early.

My home on the range; it’s a one-horse town,

And it’s alright with me.

Plow broke the prairie, the prairie gave plenty,

The little towns blossomed and soon there were many.

Scattered like fireflies across the dark night,

And one was called Early, and they sure named it right. 

Many dry summers parched all the fields,

They burnt the fine colors and cut down on the yield.

But the rain has returned to wash away our tears,

It’s the fullest green summer that

I’ve seen for years.

Beyond being a poet, Brown is also a gifted  storyteller. “The best songwriters are the ones that tell the best stories” says music critic Meredith Ochs “Greg Brown doesn’t just tell stories in a linear fashion. Instead he appeals to the senses as he creates a backdrop for his characters. The way that he describes sights, sounds and smells draws you right into his songs.”

Greg’s youth was spread across a map of the Midwest as they moved between churches (and even denominations), but music was always a staple. Gospel and hymns, classical, hillbilly, early rock and roll, country, and blues coalesced into a simmering stew of sound. At 18, Greg won a contest to play an opening set for singer Eric Andersen in Iowa City, who then encouraged him to head east. Moving to New York, Greg landed a job at Gerdes Folk City in the Village running hootenannies. Next he tried Portland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but after a few years he moved back to Iowa. He recorded a couple of albums on his own (44 & 66 and The Iowa Waltz), then began working on the renowned national radio show A Prairie Home Companion and touring nationally. After Greg teamed up with Bob Feldman in 1983, they re-released Greg’s first two albums under the name Red House Records — the beginning of the now legendary folk/roots label that has released nearly all of Greg’s 27 albums.

His latest solo album is The Evening Call which was released in 2006. It has charted high on Americana and folk radio, earned him five stars in Mojo and garnered rave reviews in No Depression, Acoustic Guitar and The Washington Post. Greg’s new collection Dream City: Essential Recordings Vol 2, 1997-2006 features some of these new Americana classics along with other fan favorites from his last six studio albums and some previously unreleased material and live tracks.

Greg Brown will perform with sideman Bo Ramsey in a concert sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society beginning at 7:30 on Saturday, December 5. Garnett Rogers will open. The concert will be held at CHUM  in Camp Hill, PA.  Information at http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/GregBrown.html

Written on November 18, 2010 by Jess Hayden from material compiled from Red House Record’s website and NPR interviews.

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Susquehanna Folk Music Society Announces New Season

The Susquehanna Folk Music Society, a folk and traditional arts organization that presents concerts in Harrisburg, York and Camp Hill, announces its 2010-2011 Concert Series. The series will include fifteen concerts showcasing an eclectic mix of folk music styles including Celtic, Old-Time, Blues, Hawaiian Slack Key and contemporary folk music. Forty-four musicians, hailing from Canada, France, Ireland, Scotland, Columbia, and the United States will be featured. Headliners for the series include the seminal Scottish group Battlefield Band, hammered dulcimer wizard John McCutcheon and avant-garde fiddler Darol Anger. Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the series will also showcase three influential American Masters; Irish-American Fiddler Kevin Burke, Prairie Home Companion favorite Greg Brown and Hawaiian Slack Key Guitarist Keola Beamer. The Susquehanna Folk Music Society has programmed events in Central Pennsylvania region for over 25 years. During that time they have produced more than 700 events.

The season will open with Celtic Fiddle Fest; a performance that brings together three outstanding traditional fiddlers from different Celtic cultures; Kevin Burke from Ireland, Christian Lemaître from Breton in France and André Brunet from Quebec. Celtic Fiddle Fest will perform 4 pm Sunday, September 26 at the Yorktowne Hotel in York. During the first concert in October Cimarrón will bring authentic Columbian music and dance to the Martin Library in York for a free performance at 11:30 am on Saturday October  2nd. Later that same day French Canadian Claude Méthé will perform with Dentdelion at 7:30 pm at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church (CHUM). Finishing up the month, Darol Anger and The Republic of Strings will bring their cutting edge music to CHUM for a 7:30 concerts to be held on the 31st.

November concerts will begin with an appearance by the Scottish group Battlefield Band. Under their banner “Forward with Scotland’s Past”, Battlefield Band have been performing on the international scene for more than three decades. Their concert, held at CHUM, will be on Saturday, November 6th at 7:30 pm. On November 20th Canadian Singer/Songwriter James Keelaghan will perform at 7:30 Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg. The last concert of 2010 will feature popular Mid-Western Singer/songwriter Greg Brown who will perform at CHUM at 7:30 on December 5.

The first concert of the New Year will feature New England songwriter and humorist Bill Staines who will perform at the Fort Hunter Barn in Harrisburg at 7:30 on Saturday, January 15th. Later in January on the 29th local favorites Neidig, Koretzky, Gehret & Campbell will give a concert at 7:30 at Fort Hunter. In February folk music’s “rustic renaissance man”

John McCutcheon will perform at 4 pm Sunday, February 13 at the Yorktowne Hotel. Tired of the cold weather, concert goers will be able to enjoy the sounds of the beautiful tropical islands of Hawaii when Hawaiian slack key guitarist performs with his wife; hula dancer Moana Beamer at 7:30 February 20th at CHUM. In early March the lively French Canadian band De Temps Antan will appear on Sunday, March 6th at the Yorktowne Hotel. Later in the month on 19th New England fiddler Lissa Schneckenburger will perform with Bethany Waickman, in a show to be held at 7:30 pm at the Fort Hunter Barn in Harrisburg. April’s concerts begin on the 9th with flatpick champion and blues performer Mary Flower who will perform at 7:30 pm at the Fort Hunter Barn. The final concert of the season will occur at 7:30 on April 16th and will feature old-time banjo player Paul Brown with Ann Porcella, Bill Schmidt & John Schwab. The concert will be held at the Fort Hunter Barn in Harrisburg.

Concert tickets range between $18 and $25. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For detailed information on the 2010-2011 Concert Series, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at www.sfmsfolk.org or find them on Facebook under “Susquehanna Folk”.

Written by Jess Hayden

Legendary Blues and Folk Performer Chris Smither to Play at Long’s Park August 22

Lancaster — Chris Smither is considered one of the biggest names on the U.S. folk circuit. He is a major draw at music festivals and his driving folk and blues-infused style has earned him countless loyal fans. And deservedly so.  He’s spent four decades honing his superb finger-picking style, perfecting his songwriting craft and developing a rapport with audiences that is nothing short of magical. “We were looking for a singer-songwriter who was also a storyteller,” said Stella Saxton, director of the Long’s Park Summer Music Series.  “We selected Chris Smither because he’s a great performer who really knows how to energize a crowd.” The Long’s Park Amphitheater Foundation presents concerts featuring an eclectic line-up of world class musicians on Sunday evenings in the summer. Chris Smither will make his debut performance at Long’s Park on Sunday, August 22, at 7:30 p.m. with his band, The Motivators.

 Longtime fans of Chris Smither who are used to seeing him solo may wonder what his music will be like with a band. “The concert will be all about Chris Smither,” assures band member David “Goody” Goodrich. “We complement Smither’s unique style. We sit close together, play off of each other…and sometimes you can’t tell where Chris’ guitar ends and mine begins.” Goodrich, who plays electric and acoustic guitars as well as piano, is joined by percussionist Zak Trojano. The trio originally formed in 2008 to play for a festival in the Netherlands and more recently worked together on “Time Stands Still,” a Chris Smither CD lauded for its raw energy, sparse arrangements and creative interplay. So as not to drown out Smither’s signature foot-tapping, Trojano beats an old suitcase instead of a bass drum and uses recycled material (like tin cans) along with more standard percussion instruments. Perhaps the most unusual instrument they’ll play is a “Diddley Boo,” a one-stringed instrument with a pickup made from the ignition of an old car. “This was made for us by a friend,” said Goodrich, “in honor of a song that Chris sings about a Chevy Slant Six.”

 “Come up and see me after the show,” invites Goodrich, “and I’ll show you how it works.”

 To find out more about Chris Smither, visit his Website at http://smither.com.

By Jess Hayden. Published in Showcase Now! August-September 2010

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