The setting of the Hudson Valley Resort is drop-dead gorgeous, especially an a beautiful Autumn day. We’re usually too eager to check in and set up our exhibit hall table and prepare our room for our guerrilla showcase to stop and take pictures on our way over the mountain.

I stole the above photograph from the Hudson Valley Resort website. I don’t think they’ll mind.

As usual, there were too many acts to see, and exhaustion kept us from getting to the very special “Wisdom of the Elders” seminar. We were fortunate that Robert Corwin got plenty of photos and let us use one of his.

All the other pictures, though, are mine. I hope you enjoy them.

    — Richard Cuccaro

Toronto’s Jory Nash with Lisa MacIssac of  the Canadian duo, Madison Violet

David  Buskin & Mary Sue Twohy

Marci Geller & Cathy Kreger of Lucky 13

At far left, the button seems to be encouraging Gordon Nash to express himself to Jay Mafale. Jay seems to know that the button is unnecessary. Next, Karyn Oliver is seated next to the very lucky Bob Gramann. Below,  we get a glimpse of “The Wisdom of the Elders,” an inspiring chat with (L-R) Oscar Brand, Theodore Bikel, and David Amram. To their right, John Platt moderates.

Formal Showcases

Tricentric Showcases

Guerrilla Showcases

While we love the sense of community everywhere, the real party begins for us at around 11:45pm in the guerrilla showcase rooms

Canada in da house!


Photo: Robert Corwin

Sultans of String

Angel Band

Joe Jencks

The Good Lovelies

Kevin So

Lynn Miles

Madison Violet

Jean Rohe

Layah Jane

Oliver Johnson

Carolann Solebello

Karyn Oliver

Jory Nash

Beaucoup Blue

Spuyten Duyvil

Siobhan Quinn & Frank Solivan

Joe Iadanza

Loretta Hagen and Sara Gallman

Jenee Halstead and her all-male chorus line!

NERFA… Good to the last drop…

When you play music all Saturday night, as Phil Minissale has, it’s time for a short Sunday morning nap on a lobby couch.

Anna Dagmar - Let the Waves Comes in Threes

The title track that kicks off this album bears a strong resemblance to the sound of 70’s prog-rock band Renaissance. Anna’s trilling piano arpeggios borrow from the classical genre. Her voice on this track sounds like a bit like that band’s lead vocalist, Annie Haslam. While there is a similarity in its straightforward attack, Anna’s voice is softer, with an intimacy that draws the listener in and makes her songs of relationships and human foibles more effective. “Daydream” shows her voice at it’s best, gliding from phrase to phrase, as she sings: Why are you willing to live in a daydream / and dream of a day you will find / are you ready to give up a daydream / abandon illusions behind…? The song’s beauty would not be out of place in a Stephen Sondheim musical. The last track, “Can We Be Old Friends?” is an atmospheric tour de force, suggesting loss and passage of time. We’ll be hearing a lot from Anna.

Barnaby Bright - Wake the Hero

Nathan and Rebecca Bliss were doing their Tricentric sound check, playing “Don’t Look Down” from this CD. I was thrilled when they launched into the same song for their first number. Rebecca’s vocal was so pure and powerful, it seemed otherworldly. Her voice seemed to shoot into the stratosphere as she sang: We never knew the trouble down the road / We just hit the gas and kept on driving… We didn’t wanna know / Didn’t wanna see the ground… When the song ended, I turned to my wife, Viki, and, trying to sound clever, said, “I think I just saw God.” At the very least, there’s a celestial gift here. The entire album is brilliantly conceived and executed. When Rebecca sings:  At the bottom of a blackhole / Under God’s blue eye / Here we are and close together / I will not let go (“The Stone”), we’ve had yet another moment of exalted pleasure. There is a sage awareness (and sharing) of current public emotional mood. As Time Out New York has noted: “Nathan and Rebecca Bliss make up the sweetly melodic folk-ish duo Barnaby Bright, whose songs have soundtracked heavy emotional moments on Days of Our Lives and ER.”  If their music hasn’t found its way into the background or outro of your favorite nighttime TV melodrama, it soon will.

Brad Yoder - Excellent Trouble

Multi-instrumentalist Brad Yoder might have produced the album that puts him on a plateau with some of the heavier hitters in the singer songwriter arena. The clever verbal gymnastics I noticed when I first heard him several years ago are in full evidence. The CD opens up with “Again,” which implores: Would someone break my heart again, so it can mend the right way next time. The boundary-breaking lyrics keep coming. In “Someone to be Lonely With,”  he sings, …when I have burned my pack of days, when I have nothing left to say, will I find love, or pine away for someone to be lonely with? … In “Keep it to Yourself,  we hear: Jesus was a misfit, hung out with the queer kids / scandalized the priesthood, it’s pretty clear where he stood. Facing the subject of death is never easy. Brad meets it head-on with  “Leave Like This,” singing: …you shone bright as any light / why’d you have to leave like this? / I see you when I close my eyes / why’d you have to leave like this? This is a heavyweight album from a major talent. Let’s hope the rest of the world notices.

Brittany Ann - The Good In That

After listening to some tracks online, we invited Brittany Ann to sing in our guerilla showcase this year. This album cements that first impression. She’s just 19, but has a masterful vocal command. While the title track, a song of unrequited love, may not break new ground lyrically, her vocals show why we expect great things from her. Her voice dips and swoops through surprising changes as she sings: I’m missing the sight of your shoes in my front door. However, there is a wiseness throughout, as she ends with, and this is my letting go song / I am letting go of you. That sagacity continues  in “Take You Where I Go.” If it were my choice we’d stay together / but we must blow with life’s harsh weather / oh, I take you where I go/ my light. Venerated WXPN folk DJ Gene Shay has said, “This young lady is the future of folk music.” We couldn’t agree more.

Carolyn Currie - Waves Of Silence

In a delicate, but distinctive voice, Carolyn Currie pulls the listener in immediately. She approaches each song with child-like softness, but exudes a maturity in her lyricism. The first track “Rain” is perfectly executed, the notes and melody suggestive of a light, summer night rainfall. The second song cautions, “Don’t run with scissors, don’t play with fire. In “I Am an Island,” she sings, you are the sea. As with the metaphor of that sea cloaking that island, these songs invite the listener to become enveloped. They have the capacity to allow us to sink in and lose ourselves in them.

Chasing June - EP

Good harmony from a male-female duo might be my favorite thing. Judy Aron and Steve Coleman provide a good example. Mostly a collection of romantic relationship songs, their EP is supposed to be an advance for their new CD, Under the Slate Grey Sky (it doesn’t appear to have arrived yet). I believe I’ve heard Steve before, perhaps judging for Falcon Ridge or NERFA showcases. According to their website, their minds work in sync enough for them to write lyrics together through back-and-forth emails. In “Found,” they sing, I’ll go anywhere with you… So lost, I feel found… when you’re around. I think listeners will “find” something special here.

Chris Kokesh - October Valentine

Her bio tells us that she toured for 12 years as the lead vocalist in the Northwestern band Misty River. Seeking her own voice, she released October Valentine in 2010. Her somber picture on the cover seemed like an overeager attempt of a newcomer to be taken seriously, and I almost missed this one, rushing to squeeze in other artists I was more familiar with. Good thing I decided to look past the first impression. The voice is pure, and gives an honest delivery of genuine emotions. In “Wishing time,” a love-lost ballad, she sings: I am a young girl’s diary with secrets never spoken / I am a letter tucked away, kept but never opened…  Now the wishing time is gone. Thanks for the Valentine, Chris. Mighty glad I took the time to open it.

Ellis - Right On Time

Ellis has a way of making contact with her audiences with her earthy warmth and open emotionality. This CD represents her perfectly. Throughout, she’s reaching out to someone, no holds barred. The title track showcases the singer’s husky, expressive alto, sung over a fast-rolling fingerpicked pattern. It’s a sprightly performed song of gratitude to a lover or friend who showed up at the titular opportune moment. It’s also an attempt to bolster the spirit: Sometimes you need shelter and space to be / a little tough, not tough enough, a little lost at sea / Right on time, you are right on time. In “No More Running,” she approaches the thornier aspects of relationships — trust and heartbreak. I don’t know how to do it / how to face the fear and doubt / from the highest mountain / jumping headfirst to the ground. As a wandering troubadour, it may be easier to run from a broken relationship — But all that running makes it harder to stay next time

Additionally, the album’s inside cover introduces those of us previously uninitiated, to the paintings of Ann Getsinger. Ellis’s frank expressions of need complement the allegorical artwork.

Elly Wininger - Part Time Paradise

I was listening to the third track on this CD, “Rock Me Baby,” and I had to check the liner notes. Was that Elly playing that gritty blues guitar? Oh, yes it was. Checking her website, I found out that David Bromberg was her teacher and that she’d been chosen for a feature in Guitar Goddess Magazine. There’s an intriguing slowed-up version of the Jefferson Airplane nugget, “Somebody To Love.” “Rock Me Baby” is a highlight of this album, along with the final track “Don’t Wait.” Over a rock-solid baseline and a heart-tugging melody on the treble strings, “Don’t Wait” urges listeners to open up their hearts without hesitation. Overall, there’s a whole lot of good pickin’ goin’ on here.

Frank Solivan And Dirty Kitchen

We ran into Frank in a guerrilla showcase room as he sat on a bed and checked out David Roth’s ukulele. He handed me this CD and we had our second NERFA exposure to bluegrass. This CD has the tight, fret-blistering pyrotechics that are the hallmark of any good bluegrass band. The singing is smooth, nasal-free and palatable to the ears of a listener of singer/songwriter fare. Far more knowledgeable sources than this reviewer, found online, have proclaimed Dirty Kitchen “the best new bluegrass band.”

Jan Krist - Fallow Ground

In person, with only casual observation, Jan Krist appears demure, returning your gaze with a quiet intelligence from behind her eyeglasses. The demure impression disintegrates as she spins her gossamer, yet turbulent tales in her light, elegant alto. In “Never Was Enough,” we hear her sing, Your heart, oh your heart is a hurricane / and you blew through my life / like a fist through a windowpane. In a heartbreak-laden melody, the notes arch hopefully upward, then swoop downward in melancholy.  “Burn Down Love,” gives us, Load the bullet in the chamber, give the chamber one spin… / My soul’s a tinderbox of need / you go get the matches and I’ll pour that gasoline / and we’ll burn down what’s left of our love. Whew! There’s an awful lot going on here. East coast folks need to get better acquainted with this Midwesterner.

Jim Gaudet And The Railroad Boys - So Far So Good

Jim Gaudet has taken his earlier incarnation as a singer/songwriter of topical story songs and applied it to the bluegrass genre. There’s plenty of fiddle, banjo and mandolin to satisfy any bluegrass devotee. As listening to “Get Up John” will attest, the four-part harmonies are dead-on. “This Time” is my favorite. Jim seems to revisit the contemporary singer/genre, albeit still in bluegrass mode. It’s a slow, achingly beautiful song of love and loss, with fiddle and mandolin back-up. Another trip around the sun and I’ll make the changes / just to make you realize / I’m serious this time. The title track is a rockabilly treat for these old ears and “Kill Railroad Bill” also adds some  twangy electric guitar, once again sending this reviewer down rockabilly lane.

Jory Nash - New Blue Day

In the liner notes, Jory states that the first track “Our Time Again,” was designed to get the listener’s attention. It is very good, but the real attention-getter for me is track two, “Atlas Takes A Ride.” A wicked blues number using some nasty electric slide guitar and “Stax/Volt” horns, it allows the mythical Atlas to take the earth off his shoulders and go for a spin with a sweet young thing: Buckle up baby / I ain’t gonna move in slow / you know why you’re here / and I know that you know. In another favorite, “Before You Get There,” the lyrics unfold in a loping manner typical for Jory. He draws upon the recession that is hitting everywhere, the chorus intoning: …when you get to heaven, you’ll be that much stronger / When you get to heaven you’ll be happy longer… just don’t forget to breathe before you get there. Jory says he doesn’t know how to recreate “A Kiss For The Great Unknown” for live performance. That’s unfortunate. It’s lushly gorgeous, and, even though the chorus gets repetitious, I don’t mind. … but I’m alright, I’m alright, alright…(do you think it’s alright). It’s that good. There are too many good songs on this album to dwell on here. Suffice to say, this album reaches new heights.

Karyn Oliver - Red Dress

Karyn’s voice puts us in mind of Janis Joplin without the rasp or perhaps Lucinda Williams on steroids. We’re lucky to get her in the singer/songwriter realm. With that powerful instrument, she could be a star in the rock arena. Her voice has a swagger. She flexes its muscle in “Drag Your Angel Up,” which, lampooning male arrogance, admonishes a woman to not be too eager to put her feminine wares on display. On “How Long,” she lets it all hang out: How long ‘til you see what you lost in me… I’m surviving after all. Her voice is every bit the match for the wailing lead guitar. “How long,” indeed, before this woman is a major player on the singer/songwriter circuit?

Ken Whiteley - Another Day’s Journey

Like the map that slides out of the cover pocket of this CD, Ken Whitely makes some broad jumps, stylistically. Ken is one of Canada’s guitar monsters and it’s all here on this CD. “Butterfly” has the feel of a rollicking tent revival number, with Ken doing some great dobro and electric gospel slide licks. Kim and Reggie Harris add vocal backup. There are more slide licks, acoustic this time, on Ken’s slow, evocative version of the Joni Mitchell classic “Urge for Going.” On “I Want to Live So God Can Use Me,” he does some sacred steel slide that could rock any tabernacle. Whether it’s blues, gospel, old-timey or folk, Ken’s going to make you glad you went along on this trip. 

Pesky J Nixon - Monkey Business & Mislaid Hopes

“Who Will Love You” kicks off the album, a barn-burner call-and-response between the lead singer and a female chorus as fiddle and banjo tear up the scenery. The lyric “when I’m gone…” finishes the title’s agonized, yet joyously expressed question. “Breathe in Autumn” follows — a slow, melancholy reverie, delicate and lovely — an electric slide accentuating its sense of longing. This finely crafted collection of “love-lost” songs presents roots/folk rock at its best. I missed seeing the band live at Falcon Ridge campfires and NERFA showcases, but after listening to this CD, I’ll be catching the next local show, for sure.

Rich Stein  - Counterclockwise

When Martin Stone handed me this CD, just before I left the conference, I didn’t realize what a treasure I was getting. While the album is purely instrumental, it is dense with variety and virtuosity. Searching online, we found only two others from Rich Stein. It’s surprising, since he has been around long enough to have performed at long-gone Greenwich Village clubs, The Speakeasy and Sun Mountain. A guitarist/composer/educator, he has pulled together an ensemble of musicians to create a satisfying orchestral pastiche, combining traditional folk and classical forms. He began writing “3 Views of the Mississippi” in the early ‘80s and performed it for years, but didn’t care for it as a recorded “studio piece.” Having added more instruments, he feels it has come to fruition, and we certainly agree. We’ll be looking for more by this guy.

Robby Hecht - Late Last Night

This is a beautiful collection of mostly sad love songs set to acoustic guitar, banjo and fiddle. Robbie’s near-perfect singer/songwriter voice, with its soft burred edge, wraps around the lyrics of the title track, Late last night I was holding you tight, I blinked my eyes, you were in flight, but  I did not move; I just watched you fly away… Take off now, think of me another day. Spread your wings; Ain’t no one gonna make you stay. One after another, the songs unfold, like flowers, each as lovely as the one before.

Winterlings - The Animal Groom

This is a lovely blend of lush contemporary atmosphere and traditional sensibility from the duo of Amanda Birdsall and Wolff Bowden. While the reverb creates big spaces, fiddles, banjos and bagpipes take us back in time. The lyrical content gives us a lot to chew on. In “The Postman,” full of stark beauty, Wolff sings: Yes I’m just a postman / I’ve been working all my life / Come wind, come snow, come rain, come heartbreak hurricane / I’m on my way.  The burr in Amanda’s voice is accented by a deliberate stutter-step in her delivery. Akin to Buffy Sainte Marie’s vibrato, it might be distracting from another singer, but here it works beautifully. We look forward to hearing more from them.

We also enjoyed:

Round Mountain - Windward

Josh Joffen - Postcard from Antigua

Peter Siegel - Living in Rome

Putnam Smith - Goldrush

Stuart Kabak - No Matter Where You’re Going

Sultans Of String - Yalla Yalla!

Jo Williamson - Be the Man

Peggy Atwood - Northern Country

Madison Violet - No Fool For Trying