Recommendations of where to go and what to hear in Westchester in September 2019:
There is lots of fabulous jazz taking place in September. Definitely check out Arts Westchester’s amazing lineup for Jazz Fest in multiple venues. As an alternative, for those who prefer acoustic folk and Americana, in this issue of Frank’s Picks we feature three amazing women folk singers in three wonderful local venues that should be on your horizon: The Schoolhouse Theater/Arts Center/Gallery in North Salem, the Bedford Playhouse and the renowned Emelin Theater. Big hall concerts are fine. You’ll see some of the biggest and best there, but nothing compares hearing superb musicians in small to medium, intimate venues. Not only do you get up close and personal, you pick up every nuance and subtlety, every riff and note. Often you even get to meet and personally mingle with the musicians. These shows are sure to be a musical thrill. Listen to the women sing: Kirsten Maxwell, Sloan Wainwright, and Jonatha Brooke.
Thursday, September 19, 8pm (doors open at 5pm)
633 Old Post Rd., Bedford, NY
Sometimes the unexpected surprises are the best. You might not know the singer. You might not even know the venue, but if you like folk music in a coffeehouse atmosphere, here you go. This is one you will remember. Kirstin Maxwell is a beautiful player and superlative singer who will deliver mix of familiar covers and originals that will delight any folk music fan. There are many different folk singers. Many more famous. Many who have been around longer. Kirstin Maxwell should rank as their equal, among the top tier of rising voices in the genre. That’s what makes this show so special, a brilliant, not-yet-famous wonderful singer/songwriter in an intimate acoustic setting – a talented, natural young woman performing music from the heart, straight, no chaser. This is what folk music is meant to be, the way it used to be in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. The emerging bard is just 23-year-old. Kirsten Maxwell has won or been a finalist at multiple Folk Festival Singer-Songwriter events recently. New York-raised and Nashville-based, she carries on the long and beautiful tradition of American folk music with eloquence and exquisite singing and instrumentation. The Bedford Playhouse is an emerging arts venue that features film, music, poetry and more. See you there.
Saturday, September 21, 8pm
153 Library Lane, Mamaroneck, New York
Jonatha Brooke is witty, sharp and eloquent – one of the important songwriters of our time. You could say she is cerebral, perhaps even creatively genius. Her songwriting reflects that literacy, yet her songs and performances never enter the realm of the pedantic. Expect lovely singing, tight instrumentation and an engaging show. If you don’t know her, you will leave the show loving her. If you already know her, you can expect to be enchanted by a singer who will lead you on an intimate musical journey. All through her performance she usually adorns a smile and when she looks at the crowd you will feel like she is singing just for you. In some ways, she is far more than a singer/songwriter – an actress, a performance artist, a storyteller, yet she is always accessible, down to earth and genial, as if you had always known her. She has the uncanny ability to create kinship with her audience. Most importantly, she can sing and write songs that make you think, laugh, cry, and fill you with joy. Jonatha Brooke has been writing songs, making records and touring since the early 1990’s. After four major label releases, she started her own independent label, Bad Dog Records in 1999, and has since released eight more albums – her two most recent, the companion CD to her critically acclaimed, one woman, Off-Broadway musical My Mother Has Four Noses; and 2016’s Midnight. Hallelujah. In this show, she will perform songs from her new album, “Imposter”, among other favorites.
Saturday, September 28, 7pm
3 Owens Rd., North Salem, New York
Often local musicians don’t garner the same respect in their own community as they do nationally or internationally. Sloan Wainwright, from Katonah, is the exception as she is surely Westchester’s most beloved and favorite chanteuse, a powerful performer. That’s because she puts on a passionate, heartfelt show, whether it is to a small group or a full concert hall. You will never leave a Sloan Wainwright show disappointed. Once you see one of her gigs you’re a lifelong fan. This writer has never heard a better version of Johnny Cash’s famed Ring of Fire and that’s just one song out of her wide and impressive repertoire. She sings with a booming, operatic, yet soulful and warm voice that cuts right through life’s pains and worries. The Wainwrights are the aristocracy of folk music (brother and folk-music luminary Loudon Wainwright, nephew Rufus Wainwright, nieces Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche) are all world renowned. Sloan is all that in her own way! She is not only a superlative interpreter of the wide songbook, but also an excellent songwriter, having written numerous musical compositions for theater and dance. She also teaches at many of the best-known master songwriter series and workshops. The Schoolhouse is an important local cultural venue that offers art exhibitions, theater performances and musical shows. This gig is the right time to check it out.
Frank Matheis is an award-winning music journalist, author and radio producer with an eclectic musical taste that covers the gamut of music from Americana to Zydeco, from Jazz to World Music. He is a regular contributor to Living Blues magazine and other music publications, and the publisher of www.thecountryblues.com. His radio documentaries have been heard on three continents in three languages.