It’s Spring Fever – Fresh Albums!

It’s that time of year again, springing forth into the biosphere are albums from some extraordinarily talented people who are associated in one way or another with the Long Island City music scene. I’m talking about Niall Connolly, Shelly Bhushan, Natalie Mishell and Anthony Mulcahy. Well that’s just some of the albums that are in the can, wrapped and ready to go, then there is music in the pipeline from Casey BlackMatt Sucich (already available), Little Embers and Jeneen Terrana.

But first my hearty congratulations to Gus Rodriguez and Anthony Rizzo for writing and performing the music for a new TV series, “Maron” featuring comedian Marc Maron.

Gus Rodriguez

Gus Rodriguez

Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo

Check out the title song here::
https://soundcloud.com/search?q=White%20Iris%20Records%2C%20Four%20on%20the%20Floor%20-%20Poisoned%20Well

And the trailer for the  IFC show:

http://www.ifc.com/maron/videos/maron-trailer

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Niall Connolly with Dennis Cronin and Brandon Wilde at Rockwood

Niall Connolly with Dennis Cronin and Brandon Wilde at Rockwood

Cork man, Big City Folk convenor and LIC Bar regular Niall Connolly has just returned from a European tour, playing music from his new album Sound. Check out his video for the single from the album, “Samurai”:

“Sound”  is Niall’s best album to date, it is  blessed with superb musical colaborators: Brandon Wilde (bass, piano, guitars and handclaps), Warren Malone (guitar and vocals), Dennis Cronin (trumpet, piano and Vibraphonette) and Len Montachello (drums)  plus guests Chris Foley, EW Harris and Christy McNamara, and great production from Brandon Wilde.

“Sound” shows off Niall Connolly’s wit, political acumen, romance and humanity in a selection of memorable songs that make you think, sing along and sometimes to simply shout out from the rooftops. Niall is clearly a popular man around town; the audience at his shows know his songs and sing along to such favorites as “Skin and Bones” (from the album “Brother the fight is Fixed”) and the newer anthems like (on this album) “Lily of the Mohawks” which moves along like a flaming house on a backyard trailer. “Come back to the table” is aimed at those who are with us , but not with us, as they message on their  devices instead of being present, a song that is brilliantly followed (on the physical album only, not the download) by a surprise track.

I’ve listened to this album many times now and it nevers tires on me; in fact it grows and grows and still sends shivers down my spine. The songs are so good.

Sound is an album that rocks in the ways that Dylan and Lennon rock, with biting rhythms and sharply articulated lyrics. It is pop of the best kind – organic and grown-from-the-roots, not plastic genetically modified pop. Niall Connolly clearly cares about people and the country that he now calls home.

Niall Connolly at the launch of "Sound" at Rockwood Music Hall, New York

Niall Connolly at the launch of “Sound” at Rockwood Music Hall, New York

You can buy “Sound” here:

http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/NiallConnolly

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/sound/id633535655

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Shelly Bhushan‘s new album “Something out of Nothing” is the fruit of much serious songwriting and performance. Her collaboration with bass player Harry Cordew, Ben Hoffstein on keyboard  and husband John Celantano on drums is well known around New York and Long Island City. They are a well rehearsed band who know each other well enough to produce tight performances that support but don’t dominate Shelly’s strong soulful voice.

Shelly Bhushan launches "Something out of Nothing"

Shelly Bhushan launches “Something out of Nothing”at Rockwood Music Hall

“Something out of Nothing” contains some songs that are new and others that have been sharpened in performance over the past few years and which are now recorded for the first time. At her album launch at Rockwood Music Hall (probably the best listening venue in New York) Shelly almost apologized for the number of ballads on the album. She has no need to apologize. Although well known for her powerful soulful voice (that can really rock) the slower songs offer variation and give her the chance to show herself as a sensitive singer who can pour a different kind of soul into her work. I especially like “Intoxication”, a moody track that uses a simple guitar, bass and drum backing to support Shelly’s smokier vocal style. The same goes for “Moon”, the simple piano accompaniment giving a sense that Shelly is performing just for you in a small club, or even your living room. In songs like this Shelly reminds me of India Arie; but she is no imitator and has a distinct style of her own that shines in recording and performance. “Digging in deep” is a bluesy song that resonates with Shelly’s earliest work as a singer with a swing band, drawing from a considerable pedigree of performance across many styles.

In a shift of genre Shelly shows her country music side with “Blinded”, a memorable song that, in its simplicity, makes its points directly and without fuss. In general this sums up my feel for this album. Although it has some sophsticated production elements (sound effects) the overall impression is of an honest album that shows off performance and talent rather than complex production. Shelly’s songs are strong and stand to be simply sung with guitar, piano or band, yet I can see that they also have potential in more elaborate arrangements, with perhaps strings and horns. In that way I believe that this album will help Shelly’s progress as a musician – singer AND songwriter. It’s good to have this new album on the shelves, joining her three other solo albums: Picking Daisies, The Shelly Show  and Beautiful Me as examples of her work as a singer of great talent and musical personality.You can buy all her albums, including “Something out of Nothing” here:

http://www.cdbaby.com/artist/ShellyBhushan

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/something-out-of-nothing/id646625866

SB_ALBUM_ART_10

Check out also my biographical “Artist Portrait” interview with Shelly on itunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/artist-portrait-shelly-bhushan/id523786622?i=118277415&mt=2

or:
Listen to this episode

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Anthony Mulcahy at the Big City Folk Festival at LIC Bar in July 2012

Anthony Mulcahy at the Big City Folk Festival at LIC Bar in July 2012

Another member of the Big City Folk Collective is Anthony Mulcahy. Originally from the small seaside village of Bonmahon in County Waterford, Ireland, he has the launch for his 2nd CD  coming up at Rockwood Music Hall on Saturday May 18th. “For My Sins” follows the successul “Lazy Days” album with the launch show this week featuring  his regular band of Jenny Dunne – Vocals, Taryn Lounsbury – Violin and Vocals and Barry Kornhauser – Cello; with the addition of the ubiquitous Brandon Wilde – Bass and Vocals, and Shawn Crowder – Drums.

Anthony is another regular performer at LIC bar, in the winter Sunday shows organized by Niall Connolly. Although quite the joker he is very serious about his music, with high standards in performance, writing and recording. He’s also a very generous man, recently raising funds for the Bonmahon lifeboat station, from which the lifeboat foundered in January 2012, with the loss of two crew and three seamen.

http://anthonymulcahy.bandcamp.com/track/tit-bonhomme-lifeboat-fundraiser

From what I have heard so far “For My Sins”  is a an album of melody and melancholy. Check out the track “Carry On”, featuring Niall Connolly.

Talking about the album Anthony says:

The ideas for the songs is kind of split in two: on the one hand I hear my New York friends telling me stories of crazy stuff that has happened in their lives and I built ideas from that, on the other hand as a way to deal with my never ending homesickness. I try to remember certain things from my childhood or from a night out during the hey day and try to bring those memories back to life.
I’m very pleased with how it turned out and I feel the same way about it as I did with my first record “Lazy Days”. It’s more to do with the personal achievement for me really, rather than looking for popular success.

I penned 9 of the 10 tracks. The only one which was co-written was “skipping stones” which was lyrically put together by Jenny Dunne and I and was drawn up from an original idea I had done with Welsh singer/songwriter Fflur Dafydd back in 2005. Niall Connolly features as a guest vocal on “Carry On” and is actually the only guest on the album. Nialls contribution to the original live music scene in New York is the backbone of a lot of these Big City Folk albums.

 Check out Anthony’s single “Lovers of the night”, performed here live on his recent tour of Ireland.

you can buy the single (and the album, when released) from:

http://www.mulmusic.com/music.cfm

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/AnthonyMulcahy

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Natalie Mishell in performance at LIC Bar

Natalie Mishell in performance at LIC Bar

Last of the new albums for this edition is the latest from Natalie Mishell; another regular singer at LIC Bar, performer across New York and wider still. Her new album “Goodnight Stranger” will be launched at Rockwood on Thursday May 24th. This is her first full length album, following her earlier EP “In My Shoes”. I’ve heard three tracks from the album and am impressed by the range of style and authenticity of Natalie’s writing and performance. Goodnight Stranger is the result of a colaboration between Natalie and producer J.P.Bowerstock (ex. Ryan Adams),  with songs that originated from what she calls a “grey period” in her life, though they are not all miserable songs – just reflections on life and change.

As Natalie Mishell & Co. she’s joined on the album by long-time drummer Neil Nunziato, newcomer (and “Walking for Pennies” member) Neeley Bridges, guitarist Neil Cavanagh, Billy Grant on keyboard  and bass player Tony Oppenheimer. The basics of the album were recorded in a 10 hour stretch, with vocals added later, except for one track, “My Peace” which survived untouched from the original studio session.

Check out “Blue Moon” from the album:

https://soundcloud.com/natalie-mishell/02-blue-moon#play

Natalie Mishell

Natalie Mishell

Also check out my full length biographical interview with Natalie in the “Artist Portrait” series which includes two tracks from the album, including “My Peace”:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/artist-portrait-natalie-mishell/id523786622?i=153661157&mt=2

or:
Listen to this episode

goodnight strangerNatalie Mishell and Co. play at Rockwood Music Hall 2, Allen Street, just off E. Houston, at 7pm on Thursday May 23rd. Opening performer will be the very talented Julie Kathryn, in a solo set.

Julie Kathryn at Spike Hill in a Rockethub Showcase

Julie Kathryn at Spike Hill in a Rockethub Showcase

More and Even More Music

The last few weeks have offered great musical fare in LIC, some old favourites and some new discoveries. I’ve also had the chance to check out some new recordings. This will be my last blog for a while as I’m off overseas for a  few weeks, so it’s longer………….. .

Blogcast

Check out the first ever podcast of “Sometime in Long Island City” .:- http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sometime-in-long-island-city/id523786622 or

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)

PHOTO EXHIBITION

If you’re n New York check out an exhibition (until mid-June) of my photos of local and international musicians: “EarthSouNZ – A World of Diversity in Music” at Cranky’s French Creole Restaurant (http://www.crankyscafe.com/) on the corner of Vernon Boulevard and 49th Avenue in Hunters Point.

Salif Keita – Great Malian musician and advocate for the rights of alibino poeple.

 

(http://www.salifkeita.us/)

(http://www.myspace.com/music/player?song=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.myspace.com%2Fsalifkeitamusic%2Fmusic%2Fsongs%2Ffolon-69436465)

Jazz

It’s been good to catch up with Anthony Cekay‘s saxophone playing at LIC bar (www.LICbar.com ) for a couple of sessions recently. I’ve heard two late night improvisation sessions with Christian Coleman (drums) and Broc Hempel (keyboard) that I’ve really enjoyed. Readers of this blog will know that I am no expert on Jazz. I’m beginning to appreciate different types of improvisations having heard some that are very “free” to others which slightly free within modes and others which are around established melodies and/or chord progressions. I would put Anthony’s between the last two categories, but am open to contradiction (and education!). These two sessions (one just saxes and drums and the other saxes, drums and keyboard) were interesting and enjoyable. It’s was a pleasure to hear two talented musicians listening intently to each other and producing engrossing music that expressed a range of emotions, especially when you know that it is all improvised.

Anthony Cekay – Improvised jazz at LIC Bar

I’ve also caught Broc Hempel and Christian Coleman playing at Domaine Wine Bar (http://www.domainewinebar.com/), with Peter Brendler on bass and Dave Scott on trumpet. This is a really good venue for this understated kind of jazz. Dave Scott came across as a thoughtful player of intricate music that matched well the playing styles of the other musicians. For those of you who do not know the Domaine Wine Bar (my University of Wine and Jazz) it is a small space that, at most, would house around 45 people (check out my “Jazz in Small Spaces” blog (http://wp.me/p1ZFJu-12). It is not somewhere where you would want to be blown to the back of the room by a pounding bass and tough brass section. As such it suits interesting and well played music in a range of styles,with vinicular accompaniments.

Dave Scott at Domaine Wine Bar

Christian Coleman, Broc Hempel and Peter Brendler

I’ve appreciated the Avalon Jazz Band (http://www.avalonjazzband.com) playing at Domaine. They are a French-style Jazz group who I would hesitate to call a “Band”, which to me sounds like a “Big Band”, which is certainly not the case. They are  Violin (Adrien Chevalier), Guitar (Koran Agan), Bass (Eduardo Belo) and Voice (Tatiana Eva-Marie) a group who offer themselves as a nostalgic look at Paris in the 1940s, playing in a mix of styles that they describe as ” … a bridge between the old world and the new, between French charm and American glam, with just a pinch of burlesque and a spoonfull of swing”.  I liked the Django/Grappelli-style Gypsy swing Jazz, but not so much so much some of the sweetly sung romantic French songs. Fortunately there wasn’t too much of the latter and I enjoyed Tatiana’s singing of standards, with a little bit of scat that showed  off her vocal ability. The guitar and violin playing was very stylish and showed great skill. Bass players rarely come forward but I appreciated the solos that Edourdo offered in the sets that I heard whilst I gave in to the temptation of freshly shucked oysters and a glass of chilled Jurançon, a wine that matched perfectly the Blue Neck Oysters on offer that night from sommelier Chip behind the bar.

Avalon Jazz Band at Domaine Wine Bar


Occasionally in New York you meet people in unexpected places. As a follower of musicians around town I get to know those that have a really distinctive sound. One of these is the combination of Charlie Rauh (guitar) and Concetta Abbate (violin). I first heard them accompanying Ali Silva’s reconstruction of 1940s radio plays at the LIC bar winter “Fireside Ghost Stories” series (check out my blog “Live Radio in LIC” – http://wp.me/p1ZFJu-4X ), where they produced improvised mood music (check Anthony Cekay’s Podcast of this on http://page4music.com/2012/03/18/podcast-ghost-stories-by-lucille-fletcher/) . Then I came across Charlie playing with Mossa Bildner in her musical adaption of T.S.Eliot’s “Four Quartets” (see my “Now and again in Manhattan” post (http://wp.me/p1ZFJu-bL). A couple of weeks ago I went down to LowerEast Side to catch Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent (http://www.myspace.com/humanequivalent) in an early evening set at a hideaway little bar (the “Recoup”) and who should I hear playing in the Delauncey Street subway station – Charlie and Concetta.

Charlie Rauh and Concetta Abbate

A few days later I went on to hear them play at LIC bar. I think when I listen to improvised Jazz I’m listening for fragments to which I can relate, whether fragments of melody or mood. If the latter I think I those fragments have to fall on fertile ground. If they dont quite fit my mood of the moment then they fall on stony ground. Not they have to match, it’s great when music can lift me out of the moment. If they jar, though, whether in mood or tonalities or just in the sound the instruments make, then I might be distanced. The latter is not the case  with the music I have heard from Charlie and Concetta. It is interesting and does not jar. even  when the tonalities wander. The styles of the players, and the timbres of the two instruments match well; with Charlie playing with a muted amplified guitar that supports the flight of the fiddle as it winds around melodies, scales and arpeggios.

Queens of Queens

Readers of this blog will know that I have been enthusiastic about the Queens of Queens residency at LIC Bar Wednesday nights during May. So far we’ve had two sessions from Michele Riganese, Shelly Bhushan, Little Embers and Jeneen Terrana; the first where they sang all their own material and the second where they mixed their own songs with songs by other writers. The first was dogged by some technical hitches but the four women showed how much their good humour and obvious cameraderie would get them through. The second show presented them more as a cohesive unit, helped by their agreement to each wear black and not to overcomplicate their instruments by expecting too much from the small PA system: handling four vocal mics on top of guitars proved tricky in session one. In session two they only ever had one guitar, plus keyboard and mic-based instruments like the Melodica and harmonica. The more I hear these women the more I appreciate their individual talents and the chemistry of this combination. It was good to hear old favourites from the singers – including Michele’s “Learn to Love” – as well as classics like Dolly Parton‘s “Jolene” (this must be one of the most played American Country songs ever) and “You’re no Good”, written by Clint Ballard Jnr and associated in the US with Linda Rondstadt and as a hit in the UK for 1960’s Merseybeat band The Swinging Blue Jeans ( I’m slightly embarassed to say that I might still have a 45 of that back in NZ).

Check out Little Embers song from the first show:

Before your name  ( an audio file that should play in your default audio player)

And this video

Julie Kathryn

Regular LIC Bar singer/songwriter Julie Kathryn has just released a new EP of her music, “Broken Love” (http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/julie-kathryn/id366405519   or http://juliekathryn.bandcamp.com). She showcased this at the Rockwood Music Hall on 22 April in a superbly professional show which started an evening of LIC Bar- related musicians, with Brian and Silbin and friends and Toronto-based Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party ending the night with their mix of European style rock.

Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party. An exciting band from Toronto who rock the night with their blend of klezmer/circus rock and good time rolling.

On stage Julie shows great skill in relating to her audience and performing finely crafted songs in ways that  show an almost visceral sense of rhythm as she supports herself on guitar or piano and links with the group of fine musicians with which she surrounds herself. So we had cello and violin as well as the usual bass, guitar and drums. Check out this video from Carly Massey.

The EP “Broken Love” has just four songs, each of which is emotionally direct and disarmingly personal. Listen to all four at one sitting and you’ll need to sit back and process for a while. Julie sings with an understated intimate style and an exquisite sense of timing that makes you feel that only you and she are in the room.  “I don’t want you back”  is a  lovely subtle production and arrangement for a nicely crafted and performed song. “Not the Same” – presents a nice change of tempo and mood,  I like the lilting simple child-like rhythms and chorus. “Broken Love“, is a  gently rocking song  with spotlit  bass and sweet downward-flowing guitar arpeggios – a song that anyone who has had a broken first love will relate to, a song of lost, but not forgotten innocence that Julie’s singing so beautifully puts across. The last song, “Let this be” is my favourite, (being an incurable romantic and of a generally melancholic disposition). I challenge anyone to listen to this and not reach for the Kleenex! This EP is a gem that I hope will do a great job of taking Julie a long way in her career.

Julie Kathryn at Rockwood Music Hall, Lower East Side

Rachel Wolf

Now, Rachel (http://rachelwolf.bandcamp.com/)is a performer who will take you by surprise, especially if you have no idea what to expect. I saw her play at the LIC Bar in what, I believe, was her first perfomance there. She stands on stage and plays an Indian portable harmonium that has its origins in instruments carried by Christian missionaries and which were used to accompany those Victorian hymns that were a gift from the Queen to an Empire of cheap labour and raw materials. Not that Rachel sings anything like those often turgid and predictable tunes (not all, I should say). As soon as she opens her mouth you know that this is a young woman of great talent. She has a bluesy soulful sound which reminded me of Adele and Pink, with rich texture and accuracy that knocks you back. You just don’t expect this. It’s not just bluesy though, there’s a Joanna Newsom quality too, not just in the way she sings some of her songs but also in the ways she has crafted her music, a  story-telling aspect that also reminded me of 1960s UK folk group “The Incredible String Band”  especially when they incorporated the girl singers Licorice and Rose (not they had anything like Rachel’s quality of voice. At times I would  have appreciated a little more variety in the accompaniment – the portable harmonium isn’t exactly a Hammond and I think some of her songs could have used that  kind of sound. She sings quirky, original songs, check out “Murder Ballad” –

“I’d have been your lovin’ wife, right ‘til the day you died
But cross me and you’ll cross the river Styx.
I’m young and I’m sweet and I’m ripe as a peach,
But bite too hard you’ll get the bitter pit”

Watch out for this young woman, she has a great future!

Rachel Wolf

Kat Spina

Another bluesy voice comes from Kat Spina (www.katspina.com), a who played a set at LIC bar recently. There she played guitar with a  partner Brian Forbes on nicely wrought and understated Fender Strat. Kat has a good accurate voice and takes care to carry the meaning of the words she sings, whether her own or “covers” such as Dylan’s “It’s all over now baby blue”. (When does a cover become a “standard”?). LIC Bar is not an easy venue at the start of an evening. There might just be a dozen in the audience, and some of those might be the supporters you’ve brought along. Some artists just get on with it and others, who look for affirmation from the audience might feel constrained in their delivery. I sense that Kat was a little restrained in this way. I dont think she’s naturally extravert and the sensitivity of her singing requires a steady confidence that for some is inner driven and for others is a product of audience response. Most singers like to get energy from the crowd, making early evening shows a hard road to take.

I enjoyed hearing Kat and have since appreciated her 2009 album “Engaging the Muse“. This is not an album that makes you go “wow!” It’s more of a sit down and listen, or put-in-the-background work. Kat’s easy singing style comes across as more bluesy than in her LIC Bar set and she has the advantage of a backing band that supports her in a range of songs, all of which (except for a Beatles song – “I’ve just seen a face”) she has had a role in writing. What comes across most with Kat is the quality of her voice, soulful yet not strongly so; accurate, yet not sterile; pleasant to listen to, yet not boring. The album has a rather old-fashioned feel, older than 2009 yet not really dateable in the styles and types of music put across by Kat and her band. The heritage is clearly 60s soul, with bluesy shifts; late night music when you need to relax, not get hyped for a night on the town. The track “Constant” is a nice example of Kat’s songwriting, and more in the style that I heard at LIC bar. It’s mainly guitar and voice, with a touch of sensitive violin from Gwen Laster and background keyboard bass; my favourite on the album. I also enjoyed Kat’s take on the Lennon/McCartney song – “I’ve just seen a face, I can’t forget, the time or place, where we just met” a superb example of their talent for lyrics – cleverly adapted slightly by Kat in a  way that reflects the way a pop song can wedge itself in your own life where the universal meets the personal. I also like the way she takes a new look at the rhythm of what was originally a relentlessly fast moving song from the movie “Help”.

Kat Spina and Brian Forbes @ LIC Bar

Quick Mentions:

Really appreciated Chris Michael at LIC Bar – looks as if he’s going from one bar to another if he passes his final exams!! (http://eatthatguitarchrismichael.wordpress.com/)

Chris Michael in the Open at LIC Bar

And last but not least some photos from Brian and Silbin‘s gig at Rockwood Music Hall:

Silbin Sandovar, Brian Meece and Jeneen Terrana

Brian Reece, Jeneen Terrana and Jens Kramer, violin

Anthony Cekay on Sax

Jeneen Terrana, Danny Mackane and Jens Kramer

Rachel Swaner

COMING UP

 LIC Bar

Wednesday, May 16th
8pm ZOE SUNDRA
9pm MIEKA PAULEY
10pm QUEENS OF QUEENS MAY RESIDENCY

Thursday, May 17th
9pm BRAIN FART COMEDY AND TRIVIA SHOW
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 19th
11pm
Fiends and Fools

Sunday, May 20th
5-8pm
Big City Folk Sunday Social
Emily Mure, Kevin Goldhahn, and more

Monday, May 21st
8pm LEIGHANNE SALTZMAN
9pm EMILY WOLF
10pm AYAL TSU BERRY

Wednesday, May 23rd
8pm MEGAN KERPER
9pm FIFE AND DROM
10pm QUEENS OF QUEENS MAY RESIDENCY

Thursday, May 24th
9pm BRAIN FART COMEDY AND TRIVIA SHOW
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 26th
11pm
Magic Bones

Sunday, May 27th
LIC BAR’s MEMORIAL DAY FEST!
Live music outdoors in the garden (weather permitting)
from 2-8pm

Monday, May 28th
8pm ROKI SOFI
9pm KAT CALVOSA
10pm BECKY MIMIAGA

Wednesday, May 30th
7pm LAUREN ELDER
8pm MELODY KILLS
9pm SWEET SOUBRETTE
10pm QUEENS OF QUEENS MAY RESIDENCY

Thursday, May 31st
9pm BRAIN FART COMEDY AND TRIVIA SHOW
w/Stephanie Holmes

Honoring Lennon in LIC plus……………..

Tribute at LIC Bar

I was fortunate to visit John Lennon’s childhood home in Liverpool a couple of years ago. It left a lasting impression on me as I felt the similarity with the London suburban home of my grandparents, a house which must have had the same design – shared around Britain in the 1930s as part of massive investment in housing that was the Keynesian solution to the great depression. I knew where the small bedroom would be, and the bathroom ; and also the downstairs kitchen where my grandmother found her husband, dead having collapsed whilst shaving at the kitchen sink. Of course it was not Lennon’s parent’s home it was his mother’s sister’s, his auntie Mimi had given him a home away from his mother’s troubled life and eventually her death in a road accident. His father was absent. These experiences and the the way he made sense of them, found expression in his music. You don’t have to have had the exact experiences to be touched by songs like “Mother”, it speaks to the experience of all who have been parented, and who may be parents themselves. This is the gift of the artist, to speak for all of us. Younger artists who interpret his songs and make them their own are passing on his art in ways that connect with our familiarity with the music, and yet offer the opportunity to hear something new.
So, when a group of diverse musicians get together to pay tribute to a man who died 31 years ago you can expect something special. It doesn’t matter that most, if not all, of the musicians would never have seen Lennon play. But the power of his, and the Beatles music still survives enough to inspire committed performance and, in the case of 14 year old girl in the audience, a kind of fan worship that would not have been out of place in 1964.
The John Lennon tribute at LIC bar on Wednesday 7th Dec went on late into the night, fittingly moving from a tribute on the eve of the anniversary of Lennon’s death, just a couple of miles away, to a jam session of his music that gathered an energy that reached high into the cosmos as it moved from one day into the next. It certainly left me with a sense of the energy of live performance in clubs that Lennon will have known and that I have appreciated since being a teenager in London in the mid sixties.

LIC bar isn’t a club it’s a pub, with, a small performing area. Curator/impresario Gustavo Rodriguez had organised a collection of musicians to perform a selection of songs from Lennon’s time as a Beatle in Liverpool, Hamburg and the world to his time in New York City; the city that was a witness to his death and which still carries a sense of being Lennon’s home. The mix was diverse, from local singer Audrey Leopard’s first public appearance ( top marks for her confidence and interpretation) to Kathy Zimmer’s vocal trio and Gus himself (under his performer identity of Silbin Sandovar, singing and playing a Lennon-style retro  guitar loaned by Gibson NYC) both as part of the programme and eventually leading the jam session – his responsibility as a curator finished for the night.

Gustavo Rodriguez

I don’t want to talk about the individual performances one by one. There were some that were under-rehearsed but beautifully done, others that were perhaps over ambitious. There was real talent there last night and some gems of performance that remain in my memory. I’m thinking of Pauline Pisano’s “Come Together” and “She Said, She Said” – which she made entirely her own,and Alicia Lemke’s “Real Love” and “Imagine”.

The “formal” part of the evening ended with “All you need is love”– when the musicians all got up on stage and were joined by the audience in song – and then there was the ‘Apple Jam” – in which Gus, Neil Nunziato on drums, Anthony Cekay on tenor, Antony Rizzo on guitar and sundry other artists from the floor let their hair down well into the next day. Yes, there was a lot of love here, not just for Lennon and the Beatles but also around the venue and the undaunted efforts of Gus Rodriguez in bringing these people together.

Another kind of Tribute

Gus was fêted the weekend before at what could only be described as a celebration of his talents as an impresario and as a singer/songwriter. There’s a small venue in Brooklyn called “Pete’s Candy Store”, which I guess used to be one before it became a bar and venue. At the back is what can only be described as a railway carriage with a small stage at one end. Here Gus sang 12 songs, each in duet with one of his female proteges. Such was the size of the place that Gus, supported by Dan Ke’entaahal on Bass and Neil Annunzio on drums, plus the 12 women, nearly filled the place on their own!  Some I knew and others were new to me – it was a great pleasure to be there that evening and to hear a range of talent in such a co-operative venture. Highlights for me were Shelly Bhushan – what an amazing soulful voice she has, Julie Kathryn and her little xylophone, Alicia Lemke and Rachel Swaner (normally an accordian/piano player) with her melodiya.

Rachel Swaner and Gus

A different kind of girl band

Another spin-off of this grouping was the appearance, later that evening, of four of the women – Michele Riganese, Little Embers, Jeneen Terrana and Shelley Bushan in another cooperative venture, billed as the “Queens of Queens” at “The Living Room” in Lower East Side. This is a nice venue, with good sound and lighting, plenty of space for audience, including tables and chairs. There’s a band every hour and  the Queens were on early, at 7pm.

(One of the risks of these venues is that the people who come to hear the band before you start to leave as you begin your set, but then you do get the advantage of the crowd for the next band arriving half way through your set – so it’s a bit of moving audience.)

Jeneen Terrana and Michele Riganese

This is a group of four very different voices and characters. This is what makes a great band, the interplay between them providing a tension that gives an occasional positive edge to the performance. Basically this is a group that is in its early days – they provide harmonies for each others’ songs, many of which will be familiar to fans in the audience, but in doing this they are offering new arrangements. I’d like to see them moving on from this to joining each other instrumentally as well as vocally – this takes time but will be well rewarded as their group identity becomes another vehicle for their talents. I’d particularly like to see some lap steel guitar, Michele rested her guitar in that way but it remained silent.

"Queens of Queens"

Little Embers

Shelly Bhushan

The Music: Part One

New York is a city of Music. On any night of the week you can catch live music being played anywhere from Carnegie Hall through subway stations to the many pubs and clubs that play host to musicians struggling to make a living from the dollar bills placed in a jug that is passed around. My first live music experience here in NY was a trip to a venue in Brooklyn called the Bell House. I know, this isn’t in Long Island City, it’s across the border into another of the five boros that make up New York City. However my excuse is that I wasn’t living in LIC at the time and was attracted by a chance to hear an artist who I hadn’t heard for over 40 years, Bert Jansch.

Jansch was part of a folk revival movement that spanned the late 1960s and early 1970s. I had seen him in a club in London called Les Cousins. A friend of mine insisted on pronouncing it as if it was French, not the name of the guy who ran the club! At that time Jansch was famous as a solo artist for songs like “Needle of Death” and was a classic singer songwriter of the era, someone who’d hitch hiked around Europe and played guitar with a style that mixed the English folk tradition with that of American finger-style blues. I had been around a few folk clubs, most of which were rooms upstairs in pubs where the crowd drank cider and or beer and joined in with songs they knew, often in that rather pinched folk style that often required a finger in the ear to ensure pitch. Les Cousins was more like a London music club, still serving beer and more dimly lit. Jansch went on to join another guitarist, John Renbourn to create the first folk supergroup, Pentangle, along with bassist Danny Thompson, singer Jaqui McShee and drummer Terry Cox.

Bert Jansch at the Bell House, Brooklyn

This was my first chance to hear Jansch for many many years, and the first of two occasions in New York; and now he has passed away, from the lung cancer he would have been carrying as I listened to him, voice hardly changed and guitar playing still immaculate. He had fairly recently formed an friendship with Neil Young and was not surprising that on this occasion at the Bell House the support band was Pegi Young, Neil’s wife. The thrill was (and this is sooo New York) that husband Neil was playing rhythm guitar in the band. He did not play the star, just standing there in the background playing in his check jacket and his trademark white Gretsch, only once letting loose and taking the band to heights that it may not have anticipated.

So that was my first NY music experience, I since went on to hear Young and Jansch at a much more expensive venue a few months later. (more of that another time).

Back to LIC – it took a while after moving here to discover the LIC Bar. This is a real pub, over a hundred years old, with a wonderful ornate tin ceiling, wooden panels, alcoves and a really warm welcome. The story is that it was owned by two brothers, who one day argued and locked the place up – not to be opened  for years, finding glasses still on the bar.

The place consists of a bar, narrower at one end than the other, a courtyard area (with dramatic lighting and a giant willow tree) and a room the other end of the courtyard which is known as “The Carriage House”. LIC bar (www.licbar.com) has music at least three times a week: always on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays, sometimes late Saturday nights and occasionally other nights. On Thursday they have a quiz and comedy show. The music here is curated by Gustavo Rodriguez, a talented singer/guitarist/songwriter whose other talent as an impressario is spotting and connecting with talented musicians from the area. Another talented musician, Irishman Niall Connally, organises the Sunday evening show in the winter, a show that has a folk orientation, whereas other nights might be a mix of jazz, country, rock and blues.

LIC Bar

The space at LIC bar is well used for music. In the summer the wall of the carriage house draws back to enable the space to be used as stage for music to be performed to an audience in the courtyard and through the open windows of the bar. In the winter an area of the bar provides accommodation for bands and singers.

Jefferson Thomas Band in the Carriage House – Gustavo Rodriguez on guitar at right

Enough of the location, what about the music? Well I’ve been here a while now and have heard a large number of musicians at the LIC Bar. Rarely have I gone and not been pleased with the quality of the artists. Some stand out, for various reasons, and it speaks volumes for the skills and taste of Gus Rodriguez that the standards are consistently high. Some of my favourites are Matt Sucich, Redwood Summer, Jefferson Thomas, Emily Mure, Michele Riganese, Sam Trapchak, Tammy Scheffer, Julie Kathryn and Mieka Pauley. Each deserve lengthy reviews, as do others that I’ve had the pleasure of hearing and meeting. These will come as I balance recent gigs with those that are yet unblogged.

Matt Sucich is a singer songwriter in the tradition of Paul Simon and David Gray, with a light country/folk feel that shows allegiance to early rock and roll. He writes intelligent personal lyrics and moves with his music in a way that lets you know that these are his songs and say things about him as a man and a musician. Catch his latest album http://music.esmatteo.com/album/jubilation-jealousy; an album that emphasises Matt’s deeply personal approach to melody and lyrics. The songs are, to use an old fashioned word, “catchy”, with memorable choruses that stay with you from the very first hearing. The production has sweet, simply layered guitars, voices, keyboard and percussion that allow Matt’s understated, breathy voice to lay his heart in front of you. This is not soppy romantic stuff; there can be an edge to Matt’s songs such as in “Brake Lights” a classic rock metaphor with a strong mix of acoustic and electric guitars. I’ve heard Matt sing on a couple, of occasions now and appreciated his use of pedal steel player to augment some of the songs. This is only hinted on the album through his use of reverb and tremolo.  On the album he plays most of the instruments and has engineered the album himself, with excellent post production and mastering from Devon C. Johnson.

Matt Sucich at LIC Bar Labor Weekend 2011

I like Matt’s sense of realism in his songs. “All Love” talks about the ups and downs of relationships, about staying for the long haul through light and dark times. The album is rooted in New York, not in a brash, show-biz sense but one that expresses the everyday life of subways, classic cars and emotions that are softly spoken, not screamed across the street.

Check also his “Holiday 7 inch Digital EP” – http://music.esmatteo.com/album/yule-a-holiday-ep

What you don’t get from the album is the sight of the way that Matt moves with his music; yet you can actually sense it here. You know that his feel for the pace of his songs is embedded in each performance, he has that exquisite sense of timing that is the mark of a true artist.

This is an album that survives repeated listening and is deserving of wider exposure