Deb Pasternak's jazzy folk
by Seth Rogovoy
(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., September 4, 2003) – There has always been a strain of jazz running through Deb Pasternak’s singing and music, but perhaps never moreso than on her terrific new album, “Home,” which includes at least one full-fledged, standard-style original, “No Need to Venture Outside.” Pasternak -- who kicks off the fall season at the Railway Café (413-664-6393), at St. John’s Parish House, 59 Summer St., in North Adams on Saturday night at 8 -- hasn’t totally opted for jazz – long-time fans of the Boston-based singer-songwriter and Boston Music Award nominee will recognize her funky soul side on “Can Be” and her Crazy Horse, roots-rocking side on “The Road,” the slow, lazy soul of “Amy and Me” recalls Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” and the state-of-the-art folk-pop of “The Race.”
The Berkshires’ own Bruce Wheat warms up the crowd for Pasternak. A member of the Vermont-based band Dafe Brudajo, Wheat recently released “This Morning,” a low-key collection of a dozen original, mostly acoustic ballads about marriage, children, nature and music, featuring a who’s who of Berkshire folk music talent, including vocalists Bernice Lewis, Robin Lehleitner and Ferrilyn Sourdiffe and musicians Dale Ott, Jared Polens, Jared Shapiro. Wheat is the primary instrumentalist and voice, however, and his rich, shimmering guitar playing compliments his organic vocals.
Coming to the Railway later this season are Peter Mulvey (October 4), Billy Jonas (November 1), and Lori McKenna (December 6).
Joseph Fire Crow: Cheyenne chic
It was through the flute that Joseph Fire Crow initially reconnected as an adult with his native legacy. Born in Montana and raised on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation until he was nine, he was then placed with a foster family in Seattle, who brought him up as a Mormon and sent him to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Just before gradutation, he returned to his reservation, where at first he was kept at arm’s length, viewed as an outsider. But Crow found his place in his tribe through music, and after winning respect for his essential role as a flutist at life-cycle events like weddings and funerals, he successfully reintegrated among his people.
Through the 1990s, Crow released several recordings of traditional Cheyenne flute music. On “Legend of the Warrior,” his most recent album, Crow adds a rock ‘n’ roll backbeat to the traditional Cheyenne folk and instrumental melodies. The result is hypnotic but also respectful of the tradition. Crow performs on Saturday at 4:30 at Bartholomew’s Cobble in Ashley Falls, in a concert sponsored by the Trustees of Reservations. Call 413-229-8600 for information.
Don White: Funny folk
“Live in Michigan” captures Don White’s two-pronged attack, featuring his witty, topical songs and his comic raps – not the typical funny, between-song banter, but genuine humor routines, mostly drawn from disarmingly mundane tales of contemporary life. The eastern Mass.-based performer – who performs at the Common Grounds Coffee House (413-499-0866) in the First United Methodist Church at 55 Fenn St. in Pittsfield on Saturday night at 8 – honed his comedian’s skills at comedy clubs like Catch a Rising Star, and conducts a performance skills workshop at Cambridge’s famed Club Passim. A perennial Boston Music Award nominee, White has released several CDs, including “Little Niche,” “Brown Eyes Shine,” “Rascal” and “Live at the Somerville Theatre.” Upcoming performers at Common Grounds include Lui Collins on October 4, Redding, Mandeville and Sweet on November 1, and Bill Staines on December 6.
Ember Swift: Funky folk
The word of mouth following Ember Swift’s May debut at Club Helsinki was unusually strong. The Canadian singer-songwriter evinces a dizzying command of styles on her latest album, “Stilt Walking,” a veritable three-ring circus of old-fashioned, piano-laced soul (“Ten Feet Tall”), Pretenders-style reggae-rock (“Rubber Bullets”), psychedelic western swing (“Boinked”), samba (“Slipping to My Knees”) and Gershwiniana (“Lick Your Lips”). She brings her outspoken, political folk-funk, heavily indebted to Ani DiFranco (in fact, DiFranco’s booking agent just added Swift to his roster), back to Helsinki (413-528-3394) on Sunday at 8.
[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on September 4, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]
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