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:

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.
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
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).
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: 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:
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

Jan 5th, 2018: Claudia Schmidt returns to First Friday Concerts with New CD!

CD Release! Claudia is back with new songs, and a new CD.

Hark the Dark is Claudia Schmidt’s 22nd recording in a career spanning almost 45 years of composing and performing. She takes a thematic turn here, offering an homage to the oft-maligned season of the winter. Along with her original pieces, she has gathered some musings of fellow musicians, and thrown in a couple standards. Along with her extraordinary voice, dulcimer, and deluxe pianolin, she is accompanied brilliantly by pianist Miro Sprague, bassist Marty Jaffe, drummer Conor Meehan, and pianist/accordionist Chris Haynes. On Hark the Dark, Claudia is doing what she most loves, weaving genres, moods, and textures in a seamless journey from beginning to end and back around. This disc is best enjoyed as a sit-down musical meditation. Old school. Long-playing. After all, it’s about WINTER! Claudia has never sounded better nor sung with more passion and pleasure. You can find it at her website starting November 1, or at a live concert.

If it were the intention of the creator or creators of this universe to perfectly blend together the night sky with moon and stars, it might have been their intention as well to deliver Claudia Schmidt as their messenger of reminder.

To say that Schmidt is simply a performer with a talent to entertain would be a miscarriage of understatement. Schmidt takes her audiences into her world as easily as the child who discovers the endless universes that exist in a cardboard box.

Claudia Schmidt has been perfecting her craft of performing for almost four decades. It is a quirky and wonderful hodge-podge (her word!) of music, poetry, story, laughter. drama, and celebrating the moment. Work in clubs, theaters, festivals, TV, radio has added depth and dimension, and since she has always included her original work along with very personal versions of the work of others, what you get is a unique look at the world from someone who says what she sees with clarity, humor, and wonder. The San Francisco Bay Guardian said: Schmidt’s shows are a lot like falling in love. You never know what’s going to happen next, chances are it’s going to be wonderful, every moment is burned into your memory and you know you’ll never be the same again.” More succinctly, Garrison Keiilor said “when Claudia sings a song, it stays sung”

December 1st, River Rhapsody with special guests

River Rhapsody is a band based in Western Massachusetts focused on performing original music by their band members and the hidden gems of outstanding Adult Contemporary songwriters (Patty Griffin, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell, Oliver Wood).
The band runs a range of genres and brings strong vocals and unique instrumentation to the mix. River Rhapsody members include: Tom Knight (Bass, Vocals), Gordon Kramer (Piano, Guitar, Percussion, Vocals), Rob Peck (Harmonica, Vocals), Eric Phelps (Guitar, Piano, Percussion, Vocals), Elijah Rain Phelps (Drums, Percussion). While only 10 years old, Elijah has been playing drums since the age of 3 and specializes in world music percussion (dumber, djembe, cajone).
River Rhapsody has opened for Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, Seth Glier, Reggie Harris, Show of Cards, and other regional and nationals acts and performed at festivals and events throughout Western Mass.
The concert will feature surprise guests from the local music community and a juggling performance by River Rhapsody member Rob Peck.

November 3rd – Show of Cards Band (CD Release) with opener, River Rhapsody

Show of Cards merges an intimate singer-songwriter sensibility with lively band-driven musicianship. The band formed as a Cardozo sibling trio, with singer-songwriter Karen (formerly of Chattering Magpies), bassist Joe (of Cold Duck Complex) and lead guitarist Mike (also of Zikina). Featuring drummer Makaya McCraven, they debuted with Leap Year in 2009  (engineered by Justin Pizzoferrato of Sonelab).  In 2013, Karen and Mike on vocals and guitars joined forces with bassist Garrett Sawyer (of Gaslight Tinkers) and drummer Joe Fitzpatrick (of Trailer Park).

With Something Better (2013), producers Mike and Garrett enveloped Karen’s thoughtful songwriting in the textures, rhythms, and arrangements of musical languages from folk-rock to jazz to West African to classical. Engineered by Garrett at Northfire Recording Studio in Amherst,  collaborators included drummer Sturgis Cunningham, cellist Eric Remschneider (of many acts including Smashing Pumpkins), Jeff D’Antona (keyboards), Zoe Darrow (fiddle) and Tim Eriksen (backing vocals).  

The band is currently completing their third album at Northfire (2017), engineered by Garrett andfeaturing Jeff D (on keys), Dave Haughey (cello) and a guest appearance by Platypus Complex (rapper Casey Hayman). Produced by Mike, One Small Good Thing takes Show of Cards to an exciting musical frontier.

Click here for their website!