Bill Staines at Coho First Friday Dec 7th

Bill Staines in the house Friday, Dec 7th!

(with opening act – our own illuminating Kit Johnson and Swing Set!)

Bill Staines

Anyone not familiar with the music of Bill Staines is in for a special treat.

For more than forty years, Bill has traveled back and forth across North America, singing his songs and delighting audiences at festivals, folksong societies, colleges, concerts, clubs, and coffeehouses. A New England native, Bill became involved with the Boston-Cambridge folk scene in the early 1960’s and for a time, emceed the Sunday Hootenanny at the legendary Club 47 in Cambridge. Bill quickly became a popular performer in the Boston area. From the time in 1971 when a reviewer from the Boston Phoenix stated that he was “simply Boston’s best performer”, Bill has continually appeared on folk music radio listener polls as one of the top all time favorite folk artists. Now, well into his fifth decade as a folk performer, he has gained an international reputation as a gifted songwriter and performer.

Singing mostly his own songs, he has become one of the most popular and durable singers on the folk music scene today, performing nearly 200 concerts a year and driving over 65,000 miles annually. He weaves a blend of gentle wit and humor into his performances and one reviewer wrote, “He has a sense of timing to match the best standup comic.”

Bill’s music is a slice of Americana, reflecting with the same ease his feelings about the prairie people of the Midwest or the adventurers of the Yukon, the on-the-road truckers, or the everyday workers that make up this land.

Many of Bill’s songs have appeared in grade school music books, church hymnals, and scouting campfire songbooks; he is one of only a few songwriters to have eight songs published in the classic song collection, Rise up Singing. Composer David Amram recently described Bill as “a modern day Stephen Foster…his songs will be around 100 years from now.”

Over the decades, you have heard Bill singing on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, HBO’s award winning series Deadwood, and Public Radio’s Mountain Stage. Additionally, his music has been used in a number of films including Off and Running, with Cyndi Lauper, and The Return of the Secaucus Seven, John Sayles’ debut as a writer- director.

In 1975, Bill won National Yodeling Championship in Kerrville Texas. Another important recognition was given to him in 2007. Presented by the Boston Area Coffeehouse Association, The Jerry Christen Award recognized Bill’s contribution to New England folk music.

Currently, Bill has recorded 26 albums; The Happy Wanderer and One More River were winners of the prestigiousParents’ Choice Award, taking a gold medal and silver medal respectively. His songs have been recorded by many artists including Peter, Paul, and Mary, Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, The Highwaymen, Mason Williams, Grandpa Jones, Jerry Jeff Walker, Nanci Griffith, Glen Yarborough and others.

As well as recordings, over 100 of Bill’s songs have been published in three songbooks: If I Were a Word, Then I’d Be a SongMovin’ It Down the Line, and Music to Me, the latter published by Hal Leonard Corporation. His song, All God’s Critters, has been recently released as a Simon and Schuster children’s book with illustrations by Caldecott honor-winning artist, Kadir Nelson.

“Folk music is rich in the human spirit and experience. I’ve always wanted to bring something of value to people through my songs.” With these thoughts, Bill continues to drive the highways and back roads of the country year after year, bringing his music to listeners, young and old.

In the fall of 2015 Yankee Magazine, New England’s premiere magazine, published it’s “80th Anniversary Issue.”In the issue, along with the likes of Stephen King and Katherine Hepburn, Bill was chosen as “One of the 80 gifts New England has given to America.”
A true honor.

 

What Other People Are Saying About Bill

 

“Bill Staines has been my hero since 1977. He carries on where Woody left off-carrying on the tradition of stories and characters you wish you knew.” – Nanci Griffith
“Staines is one of the best songwriters in folk music today, penning lyrics that evoke a sense of place and a generous spirit to go along with his pretty melodies. – Associated Press
“Staines is one of folk music’s best songwriters and entertainers.” – Milwaukee Journal
“There is no better writer of instantly memorable singalong choruses in this genre of music!” – The Boston Globe
“His gentle lilting voice, spacious melodies and common-chord lyrics give his songs a homespun grace that often belies his mastery of the folk form. He is such a pure pleasure too, people forget to notice how damn good at the job of singer-songwritering he really is.” – New England Folk Almanac
“Folk singer Bill Staines’ compositions recall the paintings of Grandma Moses – simple, literal and evocative of a bucolic tranquility that modern times have almost erased.” – Hartford Courant
“Bill Staines is one of our very best folk and country singer/songwriters. He’s a New Englander who dreams of open plains and vast, Western skies, and damn his soul, he writes better cowboy songs than anybody in the Southwest. – The Houston Post
“Bill Staines is a prototypical singer/songwriter, long on the anecdote, quick with the quip, not a stranger to his character’s plights and/or escapades. He’s an old hand at selling you the kind of truisms that crop back into your consciousness a few days after his tunes have floated off into the ether.” – The New Paper (Providence)
“One of the most admired and imitated writers on the contemporary folk circuit.. [He writes] pensive, probing narratives made especially memorable by their ability to translate the common details of common lives into songs of uncommon eloquence and beauty.” – The Austin American-Statesman
“He is a poet with Insight about a world that many of us let pass by. He is a storyteller with a gift for transporting the listener into the body of his songs.” – The Record Roundup
“A craftsman who has cobbled together evocative details, pithy aphorisms and singalong melodies into a trunkful of unassuming, marvelous songs.” – The Washington Post

Alice Howe and Freebo at First Friday Concerts at COHO Friday, 11/2

From Jay: Most folks know Freebo was Bonnie Raitt’s bass player back in the day of course, but I’ve been fortunate enough to sit with him at song circles at the Kerrville and Falcon Ridge Folk Festivals, and really admire him as a fine songwriter and guitar player, his music melodic, and full of depth and beauty. A gentleman, and a true professional.
I haven’t met Alice, but I’ve heard her music, and very much look forward to hearing her in person. She’s building a great reputation on the folk circuit.
On another note, Nov 2nd also happens to be my birthday, and if I find the time, I’ll build a Rube Goldberg candle lighting machine for intermission.
Read more about Alice and Freebo below.

Alice Howe

Photo by Lauren Desberg
With her soulful, impeccably tuned voice and crafted poetry, Boston singer-songwriter Alice Howe is “at once of the moment and timeless, personal and universal” (Mark Walton, Americana UK).  Her pure, distilled sound reflects a musical sensibility rooted in ’60s folk and ’70s Southern California songwriters. Credit is due to Alice’s parents for raising her on a steady diet of Taj Mahal, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Jackson Browne, and Joan Baez. As a performer, she is sure-footed and captivating, familiar to her audience from the very first song.
2017 was the year that Alice began making big waves in the folk world. Her EP You’ve Been Away So Long debuted on the April Folk-DJ charts with a #1 song – “Homeland Blues” – and #11 album. “Homeland Blues” went on to become the #7 song for all of 2017. Alice has been touring consistently in support of the EP, playing at such venerable Northeast venues as Club Passim, Caffe Lena, and Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts. All in the last year, she was a Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artist, an Official Showcase Artist at FAR-West, and a Formal Showcase Artist at NERFA.
Alice is currently hard at work on her first full-length album, Visions, produced by legendary bass player turned award-winning singer-songwriter Freebo (Bonnie Raitt 10 years, CSN, Maria Muldaur, Ringo Starr, Dr. John, and many others). The release is expected in late 2018. To stay up to date on the progress of the new album, upcoming shows, and other news, please join Alice’s mailing list or follow her artist page on Facebook or Instagram.

Freebo

Something to Believe

Freebo is more than a beloved musician, he’s an institution. Most famous for the funkified precision and fluid soul of his bass playing for Bonnie Raitt, he’s also a longtime beloved studio cat, a musician’s musician, sought out for his greatness in the studio by everyone from Ringo and Dr. John to CSN, Aaron Neville, Marie Muldaur and the late great Willie DeVille.

But Freebo is more than one of this town’s best players, as those in the know have known for a long time: he’s also a richly gifted and distinctive songwriter.  Like other famous musicians most often linked in the public’s mind with artists they’ve supported onstage and on recordsers, his own voice as a singer-songwriter hasn’t received the attention it’s been due. But the guy is a seriously good writer, as expressive in his writing as on a bass. If anyone has written a more poignant song about homelessness than “Where There’s No Place Like Home,” I haven’t heard it yet, but I hope someone tries. Because it’s aiming high, to write a song about a subject so hopeless without being hopelessly maudlin or cliché, so most songwriters don’t even try.  Freebo does it with easy grace, as simple and right as the beautifully understated arrangement.  [Read More]

Something to Believe

Freebo is best recognized for the decade or more that he recorded and toured with Bonnie Raitt. In fact, Freebo is a genuine folk, rock and blues icon. For more than 30 years, Freebo has played bass and tuba on recordings and toured with some of the great artists of our time: Bonnie Raitt, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Crosby Stills & Nash, Maria Muldaur, Ringo Starr, Michelle Shocked, Neil Young, Loudon Wainwright III, Dr. John, and many others. He has also appeared on Saturday Night Live, Midnight Special, Muppets Tonight, and in concert with the legendary Spinal Tap.

When I first met Freebo back in 1997, he had just released his debut solo album, The End Of The Beginning, and was just learning to step into the spotlight as a headliner after decades as a consummate side- man. That CD featured appearances by many of his talented friends including Bonnie Raitt, Paul Barrere, Catfish Hodge, Albert Lee, Sam Clayton and others. That CD has a variety of styles and showed great promise for Freebo’s future solo career including some clever song writing, good rock and pop sensibilities developed over decades of working with some of the best artists around, and fine production by Freebo and Michael Jochum. [Read More]

Something To Believe is a great album that sounds as if Freebo is not really singing to you; he’s talking to you. One of the best albums of the year. www.jSITop21.com

Freebo’s intimate and go-down-easy personable vocals are at times reminiscent of vintage Cat Stevens. It’s a voice that can tie in light-hearted fare, social commentary and spiritual quest with love-sweet-love, and make it sound seamless. —Janet Goodman, Music News Nashville

Freebo has more than proven his songwriting chops, but outdoes himself here with the potent “When There’s No Place Like Home,” a tale of a veteran who returns stateside, “had my job and I had my pride/but they shipped them both to China,” leaving him homeless, a plaintive Chris Gage accordion subtly bringing home the point. It is the title track, though, co-written with Eric Lowen (of Lowen and Navarro), who suffers from the debilitating disease ALS, that is the emotional center of the album, a vow “And when it’s finally time for me/To leave this life behind/Sooner than I might wish it would be/Will I hear the angels sing/Will it stop my wondering/Will I finally feel like I am free?” It is what everyone hopes for, sweet release. Freebo’s music provides it in timeless fashion, proving those ideals of peace and love still have currency some 50 years later. —Roy Trakin, Hits Magazine

Colleen Kattau returns on Friday October 5th!

Colleen is a favorite here, and if you haven’t been to one of her concerts here, we encourage you to come check her out. She’s a friend of both Rob and Jay through the Peoples’ Music Network, so she’s going to make wonderful music and hit the issues hard at the same time.

Opening Act: John O’Connor, another very talented songwriter and activist)
https://johnpauloconnor.com/

Here’s more…

http://www.colleenkattau.com

“Ever since childhood Kattau has been imbued with a voice that haunts with its clarity and range”– Syracuse New Times.

“Pitch-perfect vocals, superb sound quality”, Professor Louie (musician and former producer of The Band)

Colleen Kattau is a  bilingual vocalist, song-crafter and dynamic performer of Latin-influenced indy eclectic folk. Colleen toured with Holly Near, and performed on Democracy Now and with Pete Seeger who said “she’s a great singer and organizer at the same time”. Colleen performs solo and with her group Dos XX,  that performs “gringa-grooves from the heart”.  She won the 2016 String-buster songwriting contest at the 2016 Great Labor Arts Exchange, is a selected showcase artist at NERFA, and of course, a long time member of PMN.

She is a musician deeply rooted in her community who performs throughout Central New York and in the Northeast, singing for the Onondaga Nation, the Syracuse Community Choir, and for Renewable energy campaigns in CNY. She often performs in Phil Ochs Night concerts throughout the Northeast.

Colleen will be joined by bandmates, Jane Zell on lead guitar and vocals and virtuoso bassist, Mike “train and catman” Brandt.

Here are some videos:

“Your place of freedom” documenting the 2016 Border Mobilization Nogales, AZ/ Sonora, Mexico: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3EZJ-CFVZk

Live performances: Mni Wiconi March in solidarity with Standing Rock, Syracuse NY 2016:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvIP_XcNMRU

This Hen’s Gonna Crow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYdfiC9MJoU

If I do nothing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8-iMdmExso

Sept 7: Songwriter, activist, road-warrior Marc Black

Opening act: Swing Set. Cohousing’s own Kit Johnson leads this awesome local vocal jazz group!

From Jay: Marc is one of my songwriting and guitar heroes. I hope you’ll come and be with us for this intimate concert. He really must be heard.

Marc at the Towne Crier

Marc Black plays a finger style blues in the traditions of Mississippi Hurt and the great Tim Hardin. A proud road warrior, he was inducted into the New York Chapter of the Blues Hall of Fame in June of 2014. He’s performed and recorded with Art Garfunkel, Taj Mahal, Richie Havens, Rick Danko and Pete Seeger to name a few. He was recently named Folk Artist of the Year on ABC Radio, and a winner at the Kerrville Folk Festival. Noted for his “timeless songs, deep grooves and excellent playing”, Marc was inducted into the New York Chapter of the Blues Hall of Fame in June of 2014.

Marc, No Frackin’ Way

He’s performed and recorded with many luminaries including Art Garfunkel, Rick Danko, Richie Havens, Taj Mahal and Pete Seeger. He was chosen by Levon Helm to play one of the Midnight Rambles and was recently named Folk Artist of the Year on ABC Radio.

Marc is currently working on a multi-media campaign to help folks who have been gagged by corporate bullying, called Sing for the Silenced. But his song subjects range from his love for the New York Mets, to good coffee and just about everything in between. His fingerstyle blues is reminiscent of Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Marc spends most of his time on the road— playing festivals, clubs, arts centers, libraries and house concerts. He was a finalist in the prestigious Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Competition. Sometime a Spark, his song about Mohamed Bouazizi and the Arab Spring, caused an international stir that led to an interview on Tunisian State Radio.

While still in high school, his band, the Blades of Grass, reached the top forty and performed along side the biggest acts of the day including the Doors, Van Morrison and Neil Diamond. He has since recorded more than a dozen CDs including one ‘pick hit’ in Billboard Magazine and another that was recognized as a ‘minor masterpiece’ by famed music producer John Hammond Sr.

Marc’s song, No Fracking Way – recorded with John Sebastian and Eric Weissberg (of “Dueling Banjos” fame), and some 100 Woodstock, NY citizens — has been sung at rallies as far away as South Africa, Ireland and Australia, and has become a worldwide anthem for the anti-fracking movement.

Click to hear more of Mark’s songs

National Recording Artists Adler & Hearne in Concert at COHO – 2nd Friday, 8/10!

The First Friday Concert at COHO Series welcomes national recording artists Adler & Hearne Friday, August 10, 7:30 p.m. at Cherry Hill Co-Housing, 120 Pulpit Hill Road, Amherst, MA. This is an “unofficial” add-on to our series, hosted by our good friend and great songwriter, Eric Phelps, who also will be opening the show.
From Texas’ upper east side, award-winning singer-songwriters Lynn Adler and Lindy Hearne connect with audiences coast to coast. Their music is a signature blend of original folk, jazz and blues with deep Texas roots. With 12+ recordings and decades of touring between them, their repertoire is playful, poignant and poetic – including sparky love ballads, historically based tributes, children’s music, quirky story songs, modern-day spirituals, and anthems of justice and peace. Raised by musical families and nurtured by choirs through college, the two met in Nashville, and now pay it forward together in performances from listening-room venues, festivals and community events to churches, libraries and schools.
Lynn co-wrote the theme song for the hit PBS children’s TV series “Wishbone.” Her diverse writing background brings added experience to the duo’s workshops and presentations. Lindy sang in the famed Texas Boys Choir as a child, and for several years he and his band were Roy Clark’s backup group performing with Roy from Las Vegas to Hee-Haw to Carnegie Hall. How to describe Adler & Hearne’s music and vibe? Think ‘song circle’ between Johnny and June Cash, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto, and Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell.

Eric Phelps of River Rhapsody will be opening for Adler & Hearne. Eric is a singer-songwriter who has performed in hundreds of concerts across the US and UK. He will be playing with his 11 year old song, Elijah Rain, a drummer and performer since age three.

Where: Cherry Hill C-Housing, 120 Pulpit Hill Road, Amherst, MA
Who: Adler & Hearne/ Eric Phelps Opening
How Much: $15.00 at the Door

June 9th – The Everly Set on (gasp!) the Second Saturday

Mark your calendars for this one, folks – Sean and Jack do a delightful and compelling “approximation” of the Everly Brothers. This is a first for us here at Coho, and we hope to see you there. Note from Jay: Sean was at my Bar Mitzvah in 1973, but that’s not why he’s a great performer.

Facebook Event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1891405294237107/

The Everly Set stars acclaimed NYC singer-songwriters Sean Altman (Rockapella founder, Carmen Sandeigo theme song composer) & Jack Skuller (winner of the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame’s Holly Prize in songwriting) in a tribute to The Everly Brothers.

You’ll hear the sparkling hits- Bye Bye Love, Wake Up Little Suzie, Cathy’s Clown, All I Have To Do Is Dream, When Will I Be Loved, Crying In The Rain, Love Hurts, Bird Dog, Claudette, Walk Right Back, and Let it Be Me – as well as rarities and Everly-influenced classics, all sung with the supercharged Everly harmonies that influenced The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, The Hollies, and the Bee Gees.

Wheelchair accessible. Refreshments served. Suggested $10-$20 donation. Doors open at 7.

May 4th: Two Of A Kind

From Jay: David and Jenny are old friends from the People’s Music Network, and I’ve had the opportunity to hear them sing many times over the years. They are very talented entertainers, sweet and funny, very political, sometimes corny, occasionally snarky, and always fun to be around.
Bio:
Two of a Kind is the award-winning duo of David & Jenny Heitler-Klevans.  They do both interactive performances for kids and families, and folk/singer-songwriter material for adults.  For this First Friday Concert, they will do a “family-friendly” 1st set, followed by a more “grown-up” 2nd set.  Two of a Kind’s music for adults is similarly engaging to their family music (they think adults deserve to be engaged too!).  They have an eclectic repertoire with subject matter both personal and political, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.  They do original material as well as songs by the likes of Greg Brown, Dido, John Prine, Peggy Seeger and Tom Waits.  Based in the Philadelphia area, David & Jenny have been performing together for over 30 years.  They have released 9 CDs and a DVD for kids – garnering over 20 national awards – and 2 CDs for adults, including their 2018 CD entitled “Lead With Love”.

April 6 Lisa Bastoni & Libby Kirkpatrick

From Jay: I’ve asked these two talented songwriters to share their songs with us. I met and heard Lisa at NERFA this past year, and thought her songs would be perfect for COHO. Wait till you hear “She Persisted“, written for Elizabeth Warren, of course. Libby is a dear friend, and played for us here just over a year ago. I love her songs. They’ll be meeting each other for the first time, and I expect real musical magic in the room.
More info at http://firstfridayconcerts.com
 
Lisa Bastoni:
Following a ten year break from music, a career change, and two children, Lisa Bastoni has returned with The Wishing Hour (2017). Produced by Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer Felix McTeigue (Anais Mitchell/Lori McKenna), the album debuted as #1 most played on Boston’s WUMB. In the past year, Lisa has been selected to showcase at the New England Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) conference, as well as the Falcon Ridge and New Song Music/LEAF Festivals. Her song “Rabbit Hole” was grand prize winner of the Great American Song Contest. She has opened for artists such as Lori McKenna, The Low Anthem, Regina Spektor and Arlo Guthrie. “Americana of the highest order…along the lines of Gretchen Peters or Patty Griffin” (Maverick-UK).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeXbEOe9Gn8
credit: Andrew Marshall
Libby Kirkpatrick:
Libby Kirkpatrick‘s music is a divine confluence of intimate story telling, haunting poetry, her astonishing vocal range, and skilled and polished musicianship. To experience Libby live is to connect with your own soaring, traveling, and expansive heart. Libby is a defiant, chanting poet like Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones; She’s more like a zany sandbox friend who sings what she dreams and daydreams. She’s an avant-garde force right from set kickoff — a soaring, looping comet. Her streaming lyrics flame and smoke and twist and tail and even shrug if they feel like it. Listen to “Vaulted Heart” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xujoPRW6AEImage result for libby kirkpatrick

March 2nd – Bob Franke Is In The (Common) House!

Bob says the storm will not deter him. Concert is on, 

but check the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/First-Friday-Coho-Concerts-131354646983873
and this site later on anyway just in case something changes.

This is a rare treat for us here at First Friday Concerts – Rob has arranged this Bob Franke concert. Bob has long been known as a “songwriters songwriter”. His songs, and performing style have inspired me ( Jay) and many of my songwriter friends over the years. Read on…

Celebrating 50 Years

“I always think of Bob Franke as if Emerson and Thoreau had picked up acoustic guitars and gotten into songwriting.”

– Tom Paxton, songwriter

“Bob Franke writes the kind of songs that will still be sung a hundred years from now.”

– Christine Lavin, songwriter

“I believe that [Bob Franke’s] ‘Hard Love’ is one of the best songs written between 1950 and 2000 – and that includes Dylan and Joni.”

-Rich Warren, host of WFMT’s Midnight Special

 

How do you measure a hit song? In the pop world, it’s easy: you count how high it got on the charts, how many units it sold. In folk music, it’s more complicated. You ask how far it’s traveled, how long it’s lasted, and most of all, how many people have taken it into their own lives, made it their own song?

By those ancient measures, Bob Franke (rhymes with “Yankee”) is among the most prolific and important folk songwriters to emerge since the commercial revival of the 1960s. Many of his songs, like “Hard Love,” “For Real,” “Thanksgiving Eve,” and “The Great Storm Is Over,” have entered the American folk canon, frequently sung by major stars and open-mikers, church choirs and summer campers, recovering addicts at treatment centers, and spiritual seekers at religious retreats.

 “There is an affection for Bob’s work that is really palpable,” says Noel Paul Stookey, of Peter, Paul and Mary. “It’s like everybody thinks that they’re the one who discovered him – and they’re all right! People know he has given them something rare and powerful, real and uncompromising. I have felt a lot of power in the appreciation people have for him.”

Peruse the stars who have recorded Franke’s songs, and you find singers renowned as champions of the very best songwriters: Peter, Paul and Mary, June Tabor, Kathy Mattea, Tony Rice, Martin Simpson, John McCutcheon, Sally Rogers, Garnet Rogers, Claudia Schmidt, and David Wilcox. When ABC’s Nightline asked Alison Krauss to name her favorite songs, she cited Franke’s “Hard Love,” calling it “probably my favorite tune,” and saying Franke was her hero and “main inspiration.”

But that just scratches the surface of how far Franke’s songs have traveled. His lyrics appear on church marquees and tombstones; his songs are sung at weddings, funerals, and christenings, and appear in the hymnals of several denominations. They are used as templates in songwriter classes, and meditations at seminars for people struggling with real life crises like grief, addiction, divorce, and domestic abuse. People have told Franke that his songs saved their lives.

Popular juvenile novelist Ellen Wittlinger named one of her most successful books after his song, “Hard Love,” and says that the song is still helping to heal troubled children like the ones in her book. “Many of his songs touch a very deep place, melancholy and yet beautiful,” Wittlinger says. “There’s a vulnerability in his writing that lets him get to a place in himself that people don’t often put out into the world. That allows the listener to reach that place, too.”

Throughout a continually productive career spanning over 40 years, Franke has remained a popular concert headliner, but also a beloved teacher of songwriting, always in demand at music camps, festivals, and summer workshops. As with his songs, his goal is to help people see their own lives reflected in music. “I could never picture myself an actual songwriter,” one student gushed. “After Bob’s class, I can.” Another dubbed him “The I Ching of songwriters.”

You might think that a performance by an artist of such depth would be a heady, dense experience. But you’d be surprised. “For me, he’s the whole package on stage,” says longtime fan Wittlinger. “You don’t get a sense that this is some person who thinks he’s a star or a god or whatever. You feel like Bob’s just a guy who likes to make music and share it with people. It makes for a wonderful, lovely night of music.”

Franke learned his entertainment chops in the rough college of the streets, busking at Boston subways stops and street-corners in the 1970s.

“On the streets,” he recalls now. “I saw that if I can let people have a little break in their day, a little fun to take their minds of the stress of their work, I was doing a huge service. My goal when I write songs is to find what I share with my audience – and that definitely includes laughter.”

In concert, his intimate songs and potent ballads are interspersed with revealing anecdotes; sly blues about bicycles, computers, and cagey catfish; and smartly daffy ditties about manic monkeys, psychedelic polkas, and adjusting to our loved ones’ foibles.

Franke fell in love with folk music as a teenager, joining raucous hootenannies at the back of the Westside bus he took to his Detroit school every day. He moved to Boston to attend an Episcopal seminary, but soon discovered that he was called to express his faith in songs, not sermons.

Driven by the best instincts of folk tradition, and his own probing spirituality, Franke never sought a conventional, show-bizzy career. In addition to touring and making records, he founded the influential coffeehouse Saturday Night in Marblehead. The City of Salem commissioned him to write songs celebrating its rich history; and he spent 30 years as artist-in-residence at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, writing children’s plays, liturgical music, and cantatas, including a Good Friday Cantata that is an Easter tradition for many New England folkies. “With lovely music and insight,” the Boston Globe wrote, “Franke’s folk cantata presents the Passion as a deeply human tragedy.”

This desire to make music that joins the fabric of people’s real lives also sparked the creation of his popular “Songwriting From the Center” seminar, in which he teaches everyone how to turn their own day-to-days into the stuff of song.

“I try to give my students the mechanical and psychological tools to write good songs, healing songs,” Franke says. “I see all my students as artists; and every time I turn people on to their own creativity, and take them through this difficult but possible process, it makes me feel less lonely, breaks down that old idea of the artist being somewhere in the clouds, different from most people.”

His performances shimmer with that same desire to meet his audiences eye-to-eye, neighbor to neighbor. His voice is warm, soft and familiar, like your favorite winter gloves. He is a superb guitarist, but you’ll never hear a show-offy trill or “look-at-me” lick. Always, he leads you inside his music, using eloquent riffs and elegant, rolling patterns to underscore each song’s mood and meaning. You don’t focus on what a skilled guitarist he is, because he doesn’t want you to; he wants you to join him inside the song. That is his uniquely personal art, the folksy genius of Bob Franke.

Music programmers Alan and Helene Korolenko have hired Franke for both small concerts and the internationally respected New Bedford Summerfest. “No matter the size of the audience,” Alan Korolenko says, “you’re going to get an intimate evening with Bob. He just pulls everybody in, which is the key. You’ll meet other artists, and they’re not the same as their work. That’s not the case with Bob. He appeals to folk fans and general audiences, because he knows how to create a full, emotional journey, and how to share that journey. By the end, you’ve laughed and thought and cared; you’ve gotten to know the guy. He’s a class act.”

“One thing I love about Bob on stage,” says Rich Warren, host of the weekly Chicago radio show Midnight Special, and the live concert series Folkstage, “is his whole lack of ego, which really helps him get across to audiences. He doesn’t have any of this pretense that a lot of contemporary singer-songwriters have; he gets up there, and he’s just Bob. That works incredibly in his favor – because he can back it up with talent. I would put the word “honest” in capital letters next to his name.”

Wherever he sings, before dozens or thousands, Franke never seeks to dazzle, but to befriend; to coax us to walk awhile with him, searching out life’s common chords, those mystical, crucial places where our lives can truly touch. It is the rarest skill for any performer or teacher; and it is why Franke’s devoted legions have never let him leave the stage, the classroom, or the universe of the song.

“Whenever I sing,” he says, “I’m trying to create in my listeners an awareness of the beauty and sacredness of their own lives, both individually and together, as a community. A woman came up to me recently, and said that my story and my song put her relationship with her dad in a new light, gave her insight into her dad’s love for her. That’s all I need to take home from a show.”

– Scott Alarik, November 2009

Feb 2 First Friday Concert at Coho – Split Bill: Anand Nayak & Polly Fiveash and the Rachel Laitman Trio!

Polly Fiveash & Anand Nayak have been making music together for more than 20 years. Their songs are deceptively simple, often blending the sublime and the ridiculous. Anand’s spare guitar arrangements and harmony frames Polly’s achingly beautiful lyrics and voice. Anand is also the guitarist for Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem.
Rachel Laitman is a singer songwriter originally from Westchester, NY.  They began performing in 2010 as a part of the Antifolk community in NYC, and have since made a home in Western MA where they have been composing and performing since 2014.  Of their 2012 album “Grimace and Grace,” Gideon Irving of ‘My Name is Gideon’ says:  “It’s like chicken noodle soup or yogurt at just the right time and the right time is always.”  They plan on to release their sophomore album in the Spring of 2018