John Gorka with special guest Amilia K. Spicer

June 11, 2017 5PM
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$35 / 30

From New Jersey, John Gorka is a world-renowned singer-songwriter who got his start at a neighborhood coffeehouse in eastern Pennsylvania. Though small, Godfrey Daniels was and is one of the oldest and most venerable music institutions and has long been a hangout for music lovers and aspiring musicians. In the late 1970’s, John was was one of these aspiring musicians. Although his academic coursework at Moravian College lay in Philosophy and History, music began to offer paramount enticements. Soon he found himself living in the club’s basement and acting as resident MC and sound man, encountering legendary folk troubadours like Canadian singer-songwriter Stan Rogers, Eric Andersen, Tom Paxton and Claudia Schmidt. Their brand of folk-inspired acoustic music inspired him, and before long he was performing his own songs – mostly as an opener for visiting acts. Soon he started traveling to New York City, where Jack Hardy’s legendary Fast Folk circle (a breeding ground for many a major singer-songwriter) became a powerful source of education and encouragement. Folk meccas like Texas’ Kerrville Folk Festival (where he won the New Folk Award in 1984) and Boston followed, and his stunningly soulful baritone voice and original songwriting began turning heads. Those who had at one time inspired him – Suzanne Vega, Bill Morrissey, Nanci Griffith, Christine Lavin, Shawn Colvin – had become his peers.

In 1987, the young Minnesota-based Red House Records caught wind of John’s talents and released his first album, I Know, to popular and critical acclaim. With unusual drive and focus, John hit the ground running and, when an offer came from Windham Hill’s Will Ackerman in 1989, he signed with that label’s imprint, High Street Records. He proceeded to record five albums with High Street over the next seven years: Land of the Bottom Line, Jack’s Crows, Temporary Road, Out of the Valley and Between Five and Seven. His albums and his touring (over 150 nights a year at times) brought new accolades for his craft. His rich multifaceted songs full of depth, beauty and emotion gained increasing attention from critics and audiences across the country, as well as in Europe where his tours led him through Italy, Belgium, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland and Germany. He also started sharing tours with many notable friends—Nanci Griffith and Mary Chapin Carpenter among them. All this brought his music to an ever-widening audience. His video for the single “When She Kisses Me” found a long-term rotation on VH-1’s “Current Country,” as well as on CMT and the Nashville Network.

In 1998, after five successful recordings and seven years at Windham Hill/High Street, John felt the need for a change and decided to return to his musical roots at Red House Records. The choice was driven, in part, by the artistic integrity that the label represents in an industry where the business of music too often takes precedence. The 1998 release After Yesterday marked a decidedly different attitude towards making music for John, and his next release The Company You Keep held fast to his tradition of fine songwriting, yet moved forward down new avenues. Its fourteen songs displays John’s creative use of lyrics and attention to detail. Andy Stochansky played drums and shared production credits with John and Rob Genadek. Ani DiFranco, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lucy Kaplansky and Patty Larkin contributed stellar guitar work and vocals to this fan favorite. Old Futures Gone was informed by his life as husband and father of two young children and also contained the colorful experience of many hard years on the road. Writing in the Margins followed in 2006 and was an engaging collection of sweet and serious songs that spanned many musical genres—folk, pop, country and soul—and featured guest vocalists Nanci Griffith, Lucy Kaplansky and Alice Peacock. Now with this, his 11th studio album, he returns to his roots with So Dark You See, his most compelling and traditional album to date.

In addition to his 11 critically acclaimed albums, John released a collector’s edition box featuring a hi-definition DVD and companion CD called The Gypsy Life. Windham Hill also released a collection of John’s greatest hits from the label called Pure John Gorka. In 2010, he also released an album with his friends and Red House label-mates Lucy Kaplansky and Eliza Gilkyson under the name Red Horse. Getting high praise from critics and fans alike, it landed on the Billboard Folk Charts and was one of the most played albums on folk radio.

Many well known artists have recorded and/or performed John Gorka songs, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nanci Griffith, Mary Black and Maura O’Connell. John has graced the stage of Austin City Limits, Mountain Stage, etown and has appeared on CNN. His new song “Where No Monuments Stand” is featured in the upcoming documentary Every War Has Two Losers, about activist and Oregon Poet Laureate William Stafford (1914-1993).

John Gorka lives in Minnesota and when not on the road, he enjoys spending time with his wife and children. He continues to tour, playing festivals, theaters and clubs all over North America and Europe.

 

http://johngorka.com/

 

It may be her haunting, husky voice that first grabs a listener, the way it glides over melodies like smoke, but it’s the songwriting that Spicer really wants you to hear--The turns of phrases, the wistful poetry, the smart (and sometimes smart aleck) lyrics. They are intimate and visual, like walking into a movie. There is an edge, a turbulence, in many of the places Amilia writes about, but not all of them.  Her songwriting fuses together the different places she calls home. Raised in rural Pennyslvania, currently residing in California, spending half the year in Austin, the topography covers languid farm landscapes, red dirt Americana, and an occasional turn down a dark alley with flickering neon. Her new record makes a stop in Harlan, Kentucky for the first time in her writing. The musical DNA is crowded.

And-- that oft mentioned new record is almost finished. It has been an epic project for Spicer, as a producer and an artist, covering several years and many almost-there's. Over the time of creating this project, Spicer stepped away from the piano, picked up a guitar, and taught herself how to play. Other stringed instruments came next, and each one inspired her writing.  A mixed blessing Spicer will confide, because these newly minted songs each clamoured to be added to the record.

A dichotomy of light and dark, small-town wonder with big city noir, colors the map running over her melodies, with a twist of melancholy in the storytelling. Given the cinematic quality of her music, it makes sense that Spicer’s earlier works can be heard in several movies, HBO, Showtime,  and has been featured in multiple TV shows ("Dawson's Creek", "Roswell", "Party of Five"). Equally at home from the cozy confines of Hollywood's Hotel Cafe, to the Kennedy Center in DC, on a Steinway with an orchestra, or playing a 4 string banjo at an Austin Honkytonk, Spicer’s defiant poetry never gets lost in the mix. 

Her studio prowess as a producer and vocal arranger has become the co-star to the songs themselves.  It's a role she relishes, even if the multiple hats increase the stakes.  As much time as she spends creating lush recordings, her live shows allow her to immediately shine,  with all the layers coexisting on the stage. There, after the cerebral lyrics and the last, barely audible line, she invites the band up and reveals a quirky, light-hearted humor, either by her homespun stories or her left-of-center ditties. It's a packed room on a Saturday night, with the dance floor full of smiling people, and Spicer looks like she's channeling the next, much bigger stage.

Not by accident, she calls her own record label Free Range Records, described in true quirky fashion: "Born a small, fierce critter in the midst of Hollywood sharpshooters". From whisper to wail, there is more than a little attitude under that trademark cowboy hat.

 

http://www.amiliakspicer.com/

 

Please note that the seating chart has recently been updated, so be sure you are purchasing the seats you want.  If you do not purchase all seats at your table, other patrons may be seated with you.  Your ticket reserves you a place at the table you select but not a specific location at that table.  There is no food or beverage minimum.  All tickets are non-refundable.

$35 / 30
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