(News-Herald, October 25)Here’s some Venangoland entertainment recommendationms.
* I recently picked up a cd by FHS grad Andy Martin, and it’s pretty good stuff. Andy’s tunes present a nice blend of folk and rock and pop (the cd reminded me most immediately of the Three Bens, particularly Kweller).
There’s a lot here about love and travel and on repeated listenings the cd suggests a young man wrestling with finding his place and making mistakes coming to terms with the woman who may or may not be of his dreams. The closing piece, “Piano Song,” finds him singing “take me where you go,” broken and healed, settled into the business of loving enough to give up complete control of his life. Nice that it’s the track that includes a violin contribution by the woman who is now his wife.
It’s a pretty mature album for such a young guy, which is not to suggest that it suffers from the Deadly Earnestness that often afflicts folky music. There’s a lot of fun here, and a nice range from the Dylanesque pieces (“Falling Off”) to solid rockers (“The Valley Waits”). His vocal styling is loose and relaxed; not always vocally precise, but always personal. The production on the cd matches that—solid, but not overly slick. Overall it’s a nice contrast to the plastic over-produced slickness of top 40 without requiring the listener to endure amateurish experiments in odd noisemaking.
I have listened to this cd over and over and would be happy to own it if I had never met Andy in my life. You can get yourself a copy by websurfing your way to www.andybobmartin.com.
* Last Saturday I headed to the Transit Building to catch Croyle Entertainment’s production of Wine, Cheese & Poe. Matt Croyle has created a theatrical setting for three Poe stories, a framework that helps establish an appropriate mood and provides a bit of Poe background for the uninitiated.
The evening is not particularly long, and the readings of the stories are nicely done. Matt actually makes “The Raven” make sense, and Rob Hoover is appropriately creepy as the narrator of “The Black Cat.” The producers even throw in some wine and cheese at intermission. The show will be presented again this Friday and Saturday night. It’s a fine way to kick off Halloween week, and support a fledgling local theater endeavor.
* Sunday afternoon at 3:00, the Venango Chamber Orchestra will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a concert at the Barrow-Civic Theatre.
Many people tend to be scared of orchestra music. They shouldn’t be. Anyone who watches tv or movies knows how moving and visceral orchestra music can be. But the best movie sound system in the world cannot capture or recreate the sound of a live orchestra. When a full-bodied chorus of strings stretch out on a soft and solid bed of brass and woodwinds, it’s like stumbling upon a full-colored sunrise over the Grand Canyon—it’s impossible not to be moved, impossible not to want to turn to someone and say, “Wow, look at that!”
Every area should have a live orchestra; very few do. It’s just short of miraculous that we have one here in Venangoland, and a testament to the folks involved that it is still thriving after fifteen years. And they play well, too.
What my first three recommendations have in common is a taste of the unfamiliar. When it comes to the arts, many of us tend to fear the strange and new, and sometimes the strange and new require an audience that likes daring stuff out on the edge. But I promise you—none of these treats require you to be edgy and experimental and out on the edge. They’re all easily accessible and thoroughly enjoyable.
* Recommendation four isn’t so unfamiliar. On November 9, 7:30 at the Barrow, there will be a concert headlined by Frank Feroz, who will be backed up by Rae Hanna, Mark DeWalt, Neal Williams and Steve McMurray—as close to a Venangoland Superband as you’re likely to get. I am particularly excited about special guest John Sferra, who was one third of the classic rock trio Glass Harp.
Another third of Glass Harp was Phil Keaggy, probably the best guitarist of his generation. Phil left the mainstream to make some of the greatest Christian rock music ever; Crimson and Blue, arguably one of his best albums, features Sferra as drummer.
Also on the program are the Electracons, about which I know nothing at all, and the River Nymphs. I’ve never actually heard the Nymphs, but I’ve seen pictures and so can vouch for their babe-osity (which is good, because Hanna and McMurray—great musicians, but not so pretty). Advance tickets are $10, and worth every penny.