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In Review: Dar Williams
Mortal City 20th Anniversary Tour
By Douglas Cohen [ Tue Jan 17 2017 11:41 AM ]
Raven Wolfe Photography
In Review: Wendy Rule
By Douglas Cohen [ Mon Oct 24 2016 1:52 PM ]
Wendy Rule is a musical enchantress. She weaves vocal spells with her songwriting and choices of traditional songs. She is a full-throated, deeply resonant vocalist.
Rule performed 10 songs at the North Valley Library as part of AMP Concerts free series in association with the Friends of the Public Library.
Among the most notable songs were several atmospheric ones which embodied her personal strength and earth goddess nature. "Radiate," her final song, was the most powerful in the set and shifted the energy in the room. It was written for her son Ruben, now a young adult who is also a touring musician with two bands in Australia. The lyrics included these lines: "Your heart is true … and blessings are flowing through you."
Early in her set she introduced an old Welsh ballad, "John Riley," a classic folk song that she performed, a capella, to haunting, melodic perfection. Rule makes use of modulation and alternating her strong voice with a softer delivery, as she did on the fine song "Into the Trees." She sang: "A forest dark, a midnight magical, I took a walk, into the trees, to be with you, to see our dreams..,"—This song appears in a new Australian film, Boys in the Trees, that recently won best picture at the Austin Film Festival.
Rule has a highly engaging singing and storytelling style, connecting to the crowd through both anecdotes and a guitar-accompanied vocal performance. In "Winter," she sings, “l build a hearth of stone, and always a fire will be burning … and will fill all the shadows with light … When spirit calls my name, I’ll offer a song … Here by the fire, all I require is stillness."
Australian Wendy Rule, has Pagan leanings and is a musician with a purpose: “I love to help people connect to their own emotional world, and to trust it," she said in an interview with Weekly Alibi. “I hope to help people to honor their connection with nature and the world around them. And I like to inspire them to follow their own soul path."
Rule’s musical origins began with the fact that her father was a huge jazz fan. He introduced her to singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. So Rule became a jazz singer for some years before she began writing her own material. And she performed in musical theater after high school and through college.
Her songwriting process begins with a big emotion that needs to be expressed, or a big idea, such as those found in mythology. Then she takes a walk in nature, lets the process incubate and finds that the lyrics and melodies come through during her long walks. In that way, she opens up to what the universe is offering to her.
Her performing configurations vary from solo—as she did today—to pairing up with her husband Tim. For 20 years she has toured with cellist Rachel Samuel. She has also worked with a big band of up to seven pieces when touring at home in Australia. More recent influences include Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Björk, the Doors and world music.
The audience at the North Valley Library learned that Rule will be relocating with her husband to Taos as of this Winter. We welcome her back to the Land of Enchantment!
Rule has many CDs, is on You Tube and Instagram and keeps up active email correspondence with those who sign up for her mailing list. [email@example.com]
Douglas Cohen is a culture writer and essayist based in Corrales, New Mexico. Find his concert and music festival reviews at [link].
Festival Review: Music on the Mesa
Happiness flowed at Taos event
By Douglas Cohen [ Tue Jun 14 2016 1:53 PM ]
"Raise the window down" – a comment heard from the stage, refering to the kinfolk of recording artist Robyn Ludwick, from Lake Charles, Louisiana.
It was 3 p.m. in Taos, when a thousand post-hippie people gathered for three days for the 2nd Annual Music on the Mesa Festival at Taos Mesa Brewery.
I can’t go any further without expanding on the merits of the venue. TMB produces outstanding, hand-crafted beer in both quality and variety. I was on a roll with their Equinox IPA, offered alongside a Session beer, several ales, Pale and otherwise, their own Kolsch style, Amber, Hefewizen and more. The venue also serves excellent, regionally influenced food: Smoked Mahi, Mahi fish tacos, roasted beet salad and dynamite brats and burgers.
The setting is one of the most spectacular music venues I’ve visited in 43 years of festival going. It ranks right behind Red Rocks Amphitheater and the Pagosa Springs Four Corners Festival.
We were on the West Mesa just north of Taos and minutes from the Rio Grande Gorge within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. The deep gorge cutting into the high desert offers breathtaking views. So it’s like placing a music festival inside a National Park. All this is also minutes from the regionally famed Taos Earthship residential communities.
We visited my old college buddy Marko and his Earthship home that morning before making our way to day three of the Fest. This Earthship is the real thing; artfully built based upon environmentally forward principles and methods. it is placed partially within the earth; utilizes solar heating, re-uses rainwater off the roof and stored in cisterns; is made with numerous upcycled materials including glass bottles, cans, tires and wood from previous eras of furniture.
The vibe at the Fest is a macro-extension of this northern New Mexico counter culture. We recognized folks from our similarly alt-America suburb of Albuquerque, Corrales, N.M., while our friends here ran into their peeps from the architectural and textile design mini-verse that identifies much of New Mexican culture.
The long white hairs and the grey hairs mix easily with the 20- and 30-somethings who diligently follow the musical genres featured here: Rockabilly and Western Swing, a little bluegrass, Singer-Songwriter, Alt-Country, Americana, and smoking Country Rock.
Steve Plyler, founder of Walking Rain Productions, hand picks each act beginning a year out with his team of insiders. The festival is faithful to previous performers who played at the inaugural event last year. The following artists were on last year as well as this year’s bill: Kelly Mickwee, Grace Askew, Band of Heathens, Far West, Sammy Brue, Robyn Ludwick,
This year we were both fortunate and blessed to have as headliners Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle for the final night. These two veterans of the road are notable for their enduring creativity and stick-with-it-ness that characterizes not only their act but their lives.
Across the concert venue were scattered vendors and sponsors. A sleek Airstream trailer featured fine wine and foretells of an Airstream and RV Motel park that will soon open across the highway from the Taos Mesa Brewery.
A fresh juice and smoothie bar, built into half a vintage car was a real thirst-quenching hotspot. And, of course, the well stocked Merch Tent beckons.
The Main Stage beneath the amphitheater is front and center, with the Patio and Indoor Stages serving shorter acts between set-ups. We heard thevenerable Ray Wylie Hubbard ("Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother"), a Texas legend, followed by Colvin and Earle.
We sat in the high desert, 7000 feet in the atmosphere, listening to and anticipating dexterous music meant to revive, inform and inspire those who have been fortunate enough to have made it to the Mesa. Join in next year: You are Welcome, You are Invited.
Acoustic Performer John Gorka Graces Duke City
By Douglas Cohen [ Sat Jul 5 2014 2:36 PM ]
Singer/songwriter John Gorka delivered two highly spirited sets at the Summer Nights series at the BioPark (903 10th Street SW) on Thursday, June 19. The Minnesota-based veteran touring artist wowed longtime fans and won over countless Albuquerque music lovers who were new to his signature mix of deep and clever vocals, guitar and comedic storytelling.
Gorka opened with originals from his latest release, The Bright Side of Down, and continued to sample the collection to great effect throughout the evening. Gorka is nothing if not precise, personal and universal, sometimes all in the same lyric. This ability combined with masterful musicianship across genres including folk, blues, pop, rock, bluegrass and rockabilly makes him a worthy companion for an evening ... or a lifetime. This reviewer has seen him in concert over 20 times. Many of those performances have been in festival settings, as Gorka is a highly sought-after act on the vital, enduring national folk fest circuit. At the BioPark concert, he joked about visiting Scandinavia, a hotbed of singer/songwriter and folk fandom.
Gorka's catalog is extensive, and he plumbed its depths in concert. Selections included chestnuts like “I Saw a Stranger with Your Hair,” “I’m From New Jersey,” “Branching Out” and “Love is Our Cross to Bear.” The modern-day Renaissance man wove requests and selective orchestrated sing-alongs to engage the receptive crowd on the lawn that beautiful night. Many in the audience were obviously longtime followers. And they, along with the newcomers, were rewarded with a varied and holistic representation of the showman’s talent.
In stark contrast to the awkward egotism displayed by Marc Cohn the week prior at Zoo Music, Gorka paid our fair city a compliment during the second set. He praised the enthusiastic audience, noting that he wished all his shows could be like this, in “this corner of paradise.” The key to delivering such a line lies in simplicity and sincerity, and Gorka radiated both.
John Gorka is a deft master of the folk trifecta: penetrating lyrics, unparalleled musicianship and compelling storytelling. When he opened and finished his tunes at the BioPark, he wasn't greeted with mere applause: We’re talking yelps, yoo-hoo's, squeals of joy and all-around exuberant acknowledgment of this well-traveled troubadour.
Dear John, please come back soon and stay longer.
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