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Sometimes dates and performers change on short notice. It’s a good idea to check the venue website before attending shows.
Peter Mulvey has been a songwriter, road-dog, raconteur and almost-poet since before he can remember. Raised working-class Catholic on the Northwest side of Milwaukee, he took a semester in Ireland, and immediately began cutting classes to busk on Grafton Street in Dublin and hitchhike through the country, finding whatever gigs he could. Back stateside, he spent a couple years gigging in the Midwest before lighting out for Boston, where he returned to busking (this time in the subway) and coffeehouses. Small shows led to larger shows, which eventually led to regional and then national and international touring. The wheels have not stopped since.
Nineteen records, an illustrated book, thousands of live performances, a TEDx talk, a decades-long association with the National Youth Science Camp, opening for luminaries such as Ani DiFranco, Emmylou Harris, and Chuck Prophet, appearances on NPR, an annual autumn tour by bicycle, emceeing festivals, hosting his own boutique festival (the Lamplighter Sessions, in Boston and Wisconsin)… Mulvey never stops. He has built his life’s work on collaboration and an instinct for the eclectic and the vital. He folds everything he encounters into his work: poetry, social justice, scientific literacy, & a deeply abiding humanism are all on plain display in his art.
In late January 2019, Mulvey and his band, SistaStrings (Chauntee & Monique Ross) with Nathan Kilen on drums, decamped to their home turf, the Cafe Carpe, in Fort Atkinson, WI where they spent just five days making two records in the tiny back room. The live record, “Peter Mulvey with SistaStrings Live at the Cafe Carpe” is out now on Righteous Babe Records. It’s a celebration of a world that is temporarily on hold: a small folk club, packed with listeners, and a band shoulder-to-shoulder, playing and singing with intimacy and abandon.
The other shoe, “Shenandoah” a studio album about love and family in the midst of a dying empire, will drop in early 2021, provided there is still a republic within which to drop it.
After inheriting her grandmother’s guitar and a bag full of handwritten cover songs in 2017, folk singer Lisa Bastoni returned to music after a 10-year absence. The mother of two had taken a break after time spent busking in Boston after college, but finding her grandmother’s lyrics ignited something irresistible inside her: she says she felt the routines of her own life shaking loose. How We Want to Live, released today, chronicles life changes, including songs about the dissolution of her marriage and learning to live a new normal — but more than anything, it finds the songwriter diving deeper into the life she craves.
All of the songs on How We Want to Live were written when Lisa’s marriage was ending — though it’s not a divorce album. Instead, it finds its creator doing the deep work of deciphering what she wants her world to be. Sifting through her thoughts and feelings about her relationships — between her and a partner, both real and imagined; between her and a parent; between her and her children; between longtime friends — and expressing what she would like each of those people to hear and know. It was produced by Sean Staples and recorded at Side Hill Sound in Waltham, MA. The album, which Glide Magazine says offers “expressive, well-crafted folk songs,” also features guest musicians Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland, Mali Obomsawin (Lula Wiles); Rose Cousins; Mark Erelli; and Naomi Sommers.
The first song written for the album, “Pockets Full of Sighs,” was inspired by a line in a hidden notebook of Lisa’s grandmother’s, found after she passed away. As a teenager, Lisa flipped through the pages of her grandmother’s guitar notes, an instrument she learned as a 40-something-year-old. After she died in 2017, Lisa inherited her guitar — a 1971 Gibson J50 — complete with her handprint on the upper bout, where the sweat and oils from her hand wore away the finish while waiting her turn in song circles.
The title track, “How We Want to Live,” with background vocals from Mark Erelli, chronicles her feelings around the time she began digging deeper into her songwriting and recording career, when it was becoming clear her passions and her relationship would not be able to co-exist. The summer after the end of her marriage, Lisa spent a weekend catching up with old high school friends, inspiring “Take The Wheel.” “Silver Line” recalls what it can feel like to end a relationship with someone you love, but need to let go. Billboard premiered “Never Gone To You,” with background vocals from Rose Cousins. The track examines a relationship with a parent who doesn’t have the capacity to stay involved.
Other tracks are a bit more carefree: “Dogs of New Orleans” captures the lesson of being in the moment. “Nearby” is about the moments where love feels just right; Wide Open Country says the song “honors effortless love.” Featuring guest musicians Lula Wiles, “Walk A Little Closer” is a bluegrass-tinged tune about a first date, and aptly premiered with The Bluegrass Situation. “Beautiful Girl,” featuring Naomi Sommers, is an encouragement to Lisa’s daughter — to keep the sometimes-softer edges that can seem like a liability. PopMatters says the “heartening folk song is an ever-present reminder that kindness can be a strength.”
The sole cover on the album is Bob Dylan’s “Workingman’s Blues #2.”
“I keep picturing my grandmother, who was always encouraging me to keep at it — I was just getting started again when she died. I wish she knew what a gift she gave me when she taught me to play the guitar all those years ago.”
It is more than appropriate that Kim Moberg, who won our Performing Songwriter Competition in 2018, returns to split the bill with this year’s winner, to be decided in September 2021. She’ll be joined on March 19, 2022 by fiddler Heather Swanson.
Kim Moberg was born in Juneau, Alaska, the daughter of a classical pianist mother of Alaskan Native Tlingit descent and a US Coast Guard veteran father from Kansas.
Music was the constant in Kim’s childhood, helping her to adjust to the frequent moves associated with growing up in a military family.
At the age of 14, Kim began playing acoustic guitar on a borrowed nylon 6 string. A few years later, Kim taught herself to strum and finger pick to her favorite songs by singer/songwriters of the 1970’s, but debilitating stage fright kept her from pursuing her own dream of becoming a professional performer.
In 2014, Kim set out to overcome her stage fright and wrote her first song.
Kim teamed with Grammy-nominated producer Jon Evans to record both of her CDs. “Above Ground” celebrates the achievement of her goal to bring her music out of the basement and “Up Around The Bend” consists of 13 new original songs and one cover, Cliff Eberhardt’s “The Long Road.” Both recordings have received world wide airplay and critical acclaim, charting on the Folk International Folk DJ and NACC charts.
Kim’s passionate and heartfelt vocals mesmerize listeners while her compositions tug at feelings of melancholy, heartbreak, healing and social consciousness.
Two extraordinary veteran New England singer-songwriters come together for a split-bill show that promises to be one of the most exhilarating musical events we’ve ever experienced. Bill Staines’s music is a slice of Americana, reflecting with the same ease his feelings about the prairie people of the Midwest or the adventurers of the Yukon, the on-the-road truckers, or the everyday workers that make up this land. David Mallett’s songs are filled with passion, evocative imagery, and a sense of the inevitable passage of time. The struggle of the common man and the loss of American towns and landscapes are the subject of many of his songs.
To listen to April Verch and Cody Walters is to be immersed in tradition. To watch them perform is to be transported. Be it regional Canadian roots, American old-time, 50’s Country, Scandinavian folk music, or something original that sounds as though it’s been around for a century—the one common thread is their love and reverence for the music and traditions that have been passed down to them.
Husband and wife duo April Verch & Cody Walters is a true partnership of kindred musical spirits, each a world-class musician in their own right. Combining their unique backgrounds from Verch’s native Ottawa Valley and Walters’ heartland roots in Kansas, their music showcases endless creativity and versatility— transitioning effortlessly from traditional Ottawa Valley step dancing and fiddle tunes, to old-time fiddle-banjo duets with tight-knit vocal harmonies, to innovative sandpaper foot percussion, all contrasted against Verch’s sweet soprano voice.
Verch and Walters began playing together in 2007 when Walters joined the April Verch Band as their bassist. Initially formed as a pickup band centered around Verch’s own fiddle and dance stylings in 2000, the band grew and blossomed into an established trio of world-class musicians, spanning several musical traditions and backgrounds, yet all united in their mission to share the music they love. Together they have traveled to four continents, performed in fourteen countries, and played everywhere from tiny pubs and dusty festival workshops all the way to legendary stages such as the Kennedy Center and the Ryman Auditorium. In 2018—fittingly amidst their ever-busy tour schedule—April and Cody were married.
During the heart of COVID lockdowns in 2020, the couple began performing as a duo out of necessity, and learned firsthand that sometimes, art born of necessity can yield unexpectedly beautiful results. They developed new material, arrangements and a concert performance that hum with the ease and playfulness that can only be cultivated through deep understanding and trust—as musicians and as partners.
The duo’s diverse repertoire and unbridled passion come to life on stage with a presence that is versatile, robust, and masterfully executed. Audiences remark at their sincerity in sharing stories between tunes. Verch’s delicate voice, energetic footwork, sand paper foot percussion and stunning playing (sometimes combined all at once!) are jaw-dropping. Walters’ melodic banjo stylings, solid rhythm guitar accompaniment and tasteful vocal harmonies are at once understated and brilliant, dueting with Verch’s skills in glorious harmony. Their ability to preserve the authentic folk traditions of the past and reintroduce them into the musical landscape of the present is a testament to their masterful musicianship and widespread appeal.
Even now, after more than two decades leading her own band and with 14 albums in her name (two of which were nominated for JUNO Awards, among other honors), there is nothing that fulfills Verch or gives her more joy than playing and sharing her music with the world. “It’s like the reward for everything else,” she says.
Together, she and Walters are exemplary tradition-bearing performers: never forgetting the roots of the music, that connection to the people out there in the audience or on the dance floor, to the community sparked by a good song. “It’s about joining together to celebrate everyday life, through music. We’re all in this together.” And so together they press onward: diving deep into musical tradition, bringing people together and forging connections, and sharing their insight and genuine love for the music they play so well.