Folk musician Sam Amidon and Celtic harpist/vocalist Maeve Gilchrist headline Revels FRINGE, Sunday, June 14th in Somerville
What: Revels FRINGE with Sam Amidon and Maeve Gilchrist
Where: Center for the Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Street, Somerville, MA
When: Sunday, June 14, 2015 at 7:00 pm
Tickets (General Admission): $35; $25 for fans 35 and under (quantity limited)
Available at http://www.revels.org
Last spring Revels presented Galician bagpiper Carlos Nunez in the first-ever Revels FRINGE program designed for audiences who’d like to see and hear what’s happening on unpredictable edge of the folk process. Revels FRINGE events introduce audiences to artists who are expanding the boundaries of “traditional” in a variety of emerging styles through programs, concerts and workshops.
We’re pleased to announce our second major FRINGE event, an evening of tradition music – some with a twist – featuring guitarist, singer and banjo player Sam Amidon and Celtic harpist and vocalist Maeve Gilchrist who, along with Stan Strickland and Hanneke Cassel, performed with Carlos last spring in FRINGE’s memorable debut.
The pairing of these two extraordinary musicians has us very excited. Revels artistic director Patrick Swanson says “I can’t wait to hear Sam Amidon and Maeve play and sing together. They are both musical shape-shifters rooted in their own cultural traditions and I am really looking forward to hearing how they will push the boundaries to the limits.” And according to Revels music director George Emlen, “This pairing of Sam and Maeve is exactly what Revels FRINGE is all about: putting talented artists together on stage who have deep traditional roots yet are always looking for ways to reinvent themselves and for kindred spirits to collaborate with.”
With half of the program dedicated to traditional roots and the other half to “The unpredictable edge of the folk process,” this will be another FRINGE concert to remember!
About the Artists
Sam Amidon was born in 1971 and raised in Vermont by folk-musician parents Peter and Mary Alice Amidon. Sam sings and plays fiddle, banjo, and guitar. As a teenager, Amidon rose to acclaim as a fiddler, releasing five albums with his band Popcorn Assembly. A musician who glides through a variety of genres from traditional folk to free jazz, Amidon has been a frequent guest on NPR and tours the globe offering his unique brand of independent musicianship. The Guardian calls him “a multi-instrumentalist, singer and arranger who can switch from a sparse, no-nonsense treatment of traditional material to bursts of unexpected experimentation.” Amidon has released six studio albums including his latest, Lily-O featuring frequent collaborator guitarist Bill Frisell, via Nonesuch Records.
“Maeve Gilchrist is a phenomenal harp player who can make her instrument ring with unparalleled purity” (Dirty Linen). Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland and daughter to an Irish mother and Scottish father Maeve grew up immersed in traditional folk music. From her early teens, Maeve was an in-demand member on the traditional music scene in Scotland where she performed at events such as the opening of the Scottish Parliament, the Celtic Connections Festival and the International Edinburgh Harp Festival. Based in Brooklyn NY, Maeve tours internationally as a soloist and with various collaborators. Maeve also plays with the legendary fiddler Darol Anger’s new All-Star Band, the furies and has a solo project called ‘THE OSTINATO PROJECT’, a constantly evolving exploration of the harp incorporating voice and electronics to various degrees.
Revels FRINGE is made possible, in part from support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.
Learn more about the artists and watch them perform at http://www.revels.org/shows-events/revels-fringe/cast/
Order Tickets to Revels FRINGE with Sam Amidon and Maeve Gilchrist at http://www.revels.org or call 617-972-8300 ext. 31
Sam Amidon thought he had a pretty good idea what direction his new album Lily-O was going to go. Then he started recording it. Out now via Nonesuch Records, what turned out to be a collection of distinctive, enveloping songs rooted in folk music didn’t begin that way at all.
In fact, the Vermont-born singer, guitarist, fiddler and banjo player had initially envisioned an album based more on the improvisational material he and jazz guitar great Bill Frisell developed together a couple of years ago while touring New England as a duo.
“I thought it was going to be a much more instrumental, weird album of fiddle stuff and snatches of melodies and a little bit of singing, but really strange,” Amidon says. “I didn’t set out for this album to be as much of a songs record as it ended up being.”
There are 10 songs on Lily-O, to be exact, and they include bright banjo and clickety-clack percussion on opener “Walkin’ Boss,” the mournful interplay of fiddle and guitars on “Blue Mountain” and glimmers of Frisell’s electric guitar framing Amidon’s plainspoken vocals on “Maid Lamenting.”
Amidon first met Frisell as a teenager in the late ’90s, when he would attend the guitarist’s shows at the Village Vanguard in New York and hand Frisell CDs of music he was working on. They were properly introduced years later, which led eventually to the duo tour and then recording sessions for Lily-O.
“Bill has been such a hero,” Amidon says. “I’ve had the sound of his playing in my brain since I was 15.”
Jazz at the time was a new horizon for Amidon, who grew up immersed in folk as part of a musical family based in Brattleboro, VT. His parents, Peter and Mary Alice Amidon, perform and teach traditional forms of song, dance and storytelling; his brother Stefan plays drums with the Sweetback Sisters.
Amidon began adding to the family discography in 2001 when he released Solo Fiddle, an album of traditional Irish tunes that he played by himself, on a fiddle. Subsequent albums have included collaborations with childhood friend Thomas Bartlett (with whom Amidon plays in Doveman) on But This Chicken Proved False Hearted in 2007 and composer Nico Muhly on All Is Well in 2008 and I See the Sign in 2010.
Lily-O, his sixth studio release, consists of songs built around Amidon’s music, with lyrics that he mined from obscure folk songs, some traditional and some that are more contemporary. “It’s a bit of a collage process,” he says. It’s also a standard way of working for a musician who doesn’t think of himself as a lyricist — or, for that matter, as a singer-songwriter.
“I’ve never written a lyric to a song before in my life,” Amidon says. “Of course, I love good lyrics and good poetry, but the whole idea of being a singer-songwriter, where you’re supposed to write lyrics and then write chords, that feels very arbitrary.”
Amidon prefers a more deliberate approach, selecting lyrics to fit guitar parts or melodies in pursuit of a certain mood. It makes for an expansive feel on Lily-O that Amidon says wasn’t there on its predecessor, 2013’s Bright Sunny South. “The previous album is quite dark in content,” Amidon says. “It’s very lonely and lonesome; it’s an isolated figure singing an isolated song, whereas this album has a more social quality in the music and in the lyrics.”
Even the recording process was more social: Lily-O is the first album Amidon has recorded fully live in the studio, with virtually no overdubs.
“As a listener, I’m a total jazz nerd, and I love all those albums from the ’50s and ’60s,” he says. “So much of the excitement of listening to that music is hearing people interacting with each other in space.”
Amidon arrived at the suburban Reykjavík, Iceland studio where Valgeir Sigurðsson produced Lily-O with a long list of music to try with Frisell, Shahzad Ismaily on bass and Chris Vatalaro on drums and electronics . “Before the recording session, I had all these random ideas about what we might do, and I gave us a lot of time to be in there if we needed it, but as soon as we started, it felt completely decisive,” Amidon says.
Not only was the material new to the musicians, they were new to each other: Though Frisell had played with Amidon, and Amidon had played with Ismaily and Vatalaro on Bright Sunny South, all four hadn’t played together as a group until the first day of recording. It didn’t take long for them to lock into a groove.
“Once we got into the room together, and we all sat down, it just felt so good: The songs are just what came out,” Amidon says. “That’s just what felt great at that moment. We tried some weirder shit, some more improv-y kind of stuff on there, and I think I will do something like that down the road, and I hopefully will do something like that with Bill down the road, but at this moment, these recording sessions just had this incredible flow to them.”
The quartet approached the songs as they would a concert set list, with Amidon explaining the structure of a tune before the group played it a few times and moved on to the next one.
“It was all very fresh,” Amidon says. “Musicians are always talking about the magic of the first take. This is definitely a great album of the second take.”