Mindy Jostyn
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., October 9, 2003) -- If you think you recognize Mindy Jostyn when you see her but can’t place exactly from where or how you know her, here’s a hint: Billy Joel, John Mellencamp and Carly Simon. If that doesn’t do it, Cindy Lauper, Andreas Vollenweider, Joe Jackson, and the Hooters. No, not that kind of hooters -- the band the Hooters.

Over the years, Jostyn has lent her dynamic, multi-instrumentalist talents to Joel, Mellencamp, Simon and the rest – she’s a whiz on guitar, violin, mandolin, harmonica, accordion, piano, synthesizer and recorder -- in addition to leading her own bands, including the Cyclone Rangers, who performed at an early Mass MoCA gala fund-raiser and then again at the late, lamented Night Shift Café at MoCA.

Jostyn is ready to step out in front as a singer-songwriter – as she will do at the Spencertown (N.Y.) Academy (518-392-3693) on Saturday at 8 – with a batch of her own songs from her new CD, “Blue Stories” (Prime CD). The album’s folk-pop tunes have a strong Anglo-Irish folk influence, and the music veers towards barrelhouse jazz on “Empathetic Woman.” Carly Simon lends backup vocals to a few tunes, not including Jostyn’s remake of Simon’s hit, “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be,” which Simon co-wrote with Jostyn’s now-husband, Jacob Brackman.

Voice of the Turtle

When most people think of Jewish music, they probably think of Hebrew prayer music, Yiddish song, klezmer music or Israeli music. But there is another rich vein of music – and Jewish culture -- that grew out of the Spanish expulsion. The Boston-based vocal and instrumental folk group, Voice of the Turtle, gives voice to this 500-year-old Sephardic tradition, singing in Ladino – the language of the Spanish-Jewish exile – and playing instruments and melodies that evoke influences from Spain, Turkey and the other Mediterranean lands to which Spanish and Portuguese Jews fled after the expulsions. The group performs at Drury High School in North Adams on Sunday at 7:30 in a concert sponsored by Congregation Beth Israel (413-663-5830).

Mike Doughty

It’s hard to fathom that Mike Doughty, lead singer and songwriter of the fabulous 1990s rock-funk outfit, Soul Coughing, is now a solo acoustic singer-songwriter, but it’s true. After selling over a million albums with his band, the Simon’s Rock alumnus has now gone back to basics, stripping down his act to just his voice and acoustic guitar and his ever-growing body of literate urban folk songs – some of which wound up as poems on the page recently when Soft Skull Press published “Slanky,” a collection of his poetry. Some day Doughty will undoubtedly regroup and electrify his material, but for now you can catch him in his current, intimate guise as a solo performer at Pearl Street in Northampton on Saturday at 8:30.

Critic’s picks

The first thing that jumps out at a listener from Over the Rhine’s new double-CD, “Ohio” (Back Porch Records), is Karin Bergquist’s crystalline vocals – achy but forceful, intimate with a slight twang, sort of a cross between Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams. Then the lushly-produced kickoff track, “B.P.D.,” brings to mind late-era Beatles, before the next few songs solidly root the group in mainstream American roots-rock. The husband-and-wife-led group (Bergquist is married to multi-instrumentalist Linford Detweiler) – sort of Cincinnati’s answer to 10,000 Maniacs – bring their songs about love, loss, spirituality and the Midwestern landscape to the Iron Horse in Northampton on Monday.

As heard on his album “Story After Story,” Ari Hest – who shares a bill with Stephen Kellogg at the Iron Horse on Sunday at 7 – is a sensitive folk-rock singer-songwriter in the John Mayer/Dave Matthews vein.

Eastern Mass.-based reggae group Jah Spirit – which performs at La Choza in Pittsfield on Friday at 10 -- mixes r&b and Jamaican toasting into a Toots and the Maytals-style rendition of the Temptation’s “My Girl” on its album of mostly original, mostly political music, “Cease Fire.”

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on October 9, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]

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