Tuesday, April 1, 2008

More Local Music Friends

As I hinted last post, I will feature a lot of local musicians in this blog.  This time I'll branch out to some of the ladies out there who are long time friends.

I first became aware of Maria Gillard with the release of her vinyl LP (that long ago!) back in the 1980s on Local Folkel Records and through the buzz in Rochester's Golden Link Folk Singing Society.  I saw her play a number of times into the 1990s at coffeehouses and festivals, but it wasn't until we worked together at Borders Books & Music#22  in Henrietta, NY that we became friends.  She was already working in the music department when I joined the staff in 1994 and we soon became fast friends due to our compatible age group and love of all this acoustic-wise musically.  We actually did a little singing together, most notably a version of the Kendalls' "Heaven's Just A Sin Away" that made us both laugh.  I admire Maria for her unrelenting commitment to writing her own songs and her ability to reach so many people with her stories and music.  I know she struggles to give birth to each new song and consequently each one is special and has a great impact on her audience. Currently she is a music teacher at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, NY, out there doing her solo shows and joining with John Dady, Steve Piper and Scott Regan in The Crandels.   Maria's catalog spans over 20 years now.  
I wonder if she's getting ready to do another CD soon?

Lisa Bigwood kind of appeared out of nowhere to a lot of us in the early 1990s.  I was living with my buddy, Tim Clark (of children's music faves The Dinner Dogs, Dang! and Stone Boy fame) while a student at R.I.T. and we were working on promoting his career with a newsletter and staging a songwriter-in-the-round called The Big Drum.  I don't know where Lisa came from; maybe Tim or Kate Silverman found her, but the next thing you knew she was mesmerizing all of us while her dusky alto pipes, dark musical dramas and intricate finger-picking.  I featured her on WITR-FM at R.I.T. while I was the program director there and also running the weekly live music show.  Her songs were drawn out of a cross-cultural meld of backwoods Appalachian characters dipped in Natchez delta mud. She quickly cranked out a couple of CDs and got nominated for Folk Grammies fer Pete sakes.  She's in the midst of finishing up not one but TWO CDs, one soon to drop and the other close behind.   

I knew of Connie Deming long before I really met her.  Her passion for music was obvious hearing her two CDs released in the 1990s.  We carried them at Borders while I was working there and if memory serves (which it sometimes doesn't!) she also performed in the Music Department.  Connie made an appearance when Don Christiano and I hosted our songwriters invitational nights  at the Honeoye Pub in Honeoye, NY (alternately known as  'Sing For Your Supper' and 'Send More Money, Ma!').  Though her own 
songs were very strong personal statements and musically very sophisticated,  when she stepped outside her originals she blew us away.   As she dug into Patsy Cline and Emmylou Harris territory I realized this lady had talent to spare.  Besides that, she is a tireless crusader for Autism research & support, fueled by her experiences raising her son which fill the pages of her gutsy book, 'The Thing That Heals You: Gifts From A Wondrous Autistic Son'.  All this and more at her website.

Still to come in future posts...Rita Coulter (currently with Hunu? and ex-Colorblind James Experience) , my old friend Kate Silverman and late singing partner Lisa Hopkins.  This is just for starters, okay?

Don't forget to check these ladies websites out and go out and see them soon...and if you're from out of town and like what you hear online, buy a CD and let them know where you read about them, please!

Next Time...more history...

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