Tag Archives: Lucy Kaplansky

Ellis Paul with Laurie MacAllister

Saturday, December 29, 2018

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was my 50th Ellis Paul show! I saw him for the first time at my alma mater, Bowdoin College, back in 2002. I actually had to pass on a few of his shows in Maine over the last year so I could see my 50th show in a venue I really like, and One Longfellow Square fit the bill perfectly. Ellis and his friends have been warming up for their annual Club Passim New Year’s Eve shows at OLS for a solid decade or more, and that festive year-end energy felt like the right time for a milestone 50th show. I’d had a vision that I’d get to sing a song on stage or at least get a shout out from Ellis, and even though neither of those dreams came true, this was the best Ellis has sounded in a couple of years, so my 50th show was still an understated success.

I arrived early at OLS because this show is usually sold out and grabbed an extra seat for Colin in the front row. Ellis’ girlfriend, Laurie MacAllister of Red Molly, opened the show with Red Molly’s bassist, Craig Akin, on upright bass. Laurie put out The Lies the Poets Tell earlier in the year–a record of cover songs about love–and she played a handful of songs from that album for us. She told us that she hadn’t been able to write a song in many years, but her friend and collaborator, David Glaser, who we’d seen play at this very show last year, passed away unexpectedly, and “Out of the Darkness”–a song for David–poured out of her. She covered “Vertigo” by Mark Erelli and Antje Duvekot and “Ten Year Night” by Lucy Kaplansky. Laurie has a pretty voice and is humble and a bit shy on stage. I’d love to hear her singing her own songs in the years ahead.

Laurie MacAllister

Ellis Paul took the stage with Radoslav Lorkovic, Craig, and Laurie, and they entertained a warm crowd with a variety of Ellis’ songs spanning many years. Laurie sang lead vocals on “Home,” which she also covers on The Lies the Poets Tell. Laurie is a great support for Ellis on stage. It’s clear that his voice has struggled to hit the higher notes of his older songs given his rigorous touring schedule, and Laurie is able to supplement his vocals nicely, though it does feel like more of a duet act than a solo singer-songwriter one these days. The quartet dazzled with three covers in their annual end-of-the-year cover songs portion of the setlist–David Glaser’s lovely “Concrete River,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Africa” by Toto. Ellis joked that Don Con nearly quit the band years earlier the first time they tried to cover Toto, but that they’d worked it out.

 

 

I think Rad was “Kicking Out the Lights” in this one!

The band took an intermission after playing ten songs, and I decided to say hi to Ellis in the lobby and let him know it was my 50th show. I really don’t like talking to musicians for the most part because I’m weary about being an annoying fan, but I did want him to know. I said hello and told him it was my 50th show and he very kindly pulled me in for a hug and said a genuine thank you for the ongoing support.

After the break, Ellis and the gang played seven more songs for us. Ellis showed us his beautiful guitar made by George Krakat with Ellis’ signature on the headstock. He charmed us with the story of his family in Aroostook County’s Washburn, Maine, and the incident at the 1979 family reunion that inspired “Five Alarm Fire on the Fourth of July.” He laughed while he told us that he hadn’t changed the names of any of the people in his family in the song, and that “every generation of my family since the Civil War has produced a potato farmer until now–because everyone knows the big money is in folk music.”

Ellis told us about his upcoming album, The Storyteller’s Suitcase, which is funded by supporters. On his website, Ellis writes–”The music will be a collection of stories I’ve gathered from around the country. The Storyteller’s Suitcase will be an autobiography of songs. It’s about love, heroes, and family across the decades of my life. In the past five years since my last album Chasing Beauty I’ve left a marriage, a business partnership, a booking agency. I’ve lost my voice and regained a new one. I’m looking at this project as a new start, after a few years of regrouping and healing.” He told us that the album comes out early in 2019, and I’m eager to listen, especially after hearing “Afterlife,” which is a song Ellis wrote about explaining the death of his father to his then 5-year-old daughter. It was incredibly touching, and I had tears in my eyes while he played it. He did make us laugh, too, when he told us that this had been the “first profound conversation” he’d ever had with his daughter, but that “she’s 14 now, so our conversations are more often profoundly awkward these days.”

I am always happy to hear Ellis play Mark Erelli’s beautiful and timeless “The Only Way.” They dedicated the last song of their set–“The World Ain’t Slowin Down”–to their friend David Glaser and we sang along. We asked for an encore and Ellis and the gang unplugged and sang “Annalee” from within the crowd on the floor. It was the best Ellis show I’d seen in awhile, and a nice one to mark 50 Ellis Paul shows with, too.

xo,

bree

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Lucy Kaplansky

Saturday, December 2, 2017

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was such an excellent Saturday! I spent part of the day volunteering at Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center’s Festival of Trees in Gardiner (I’m on the Board of Directors), enjoyed Gardiner’s Parade of Lights down Water Street from the second story window, and made my way to One Longfellow Square where my steadfast concert buddy, Colin, kindly saved me a front row seat for the show.

Festival of Trees at Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in Gardiner

I love seeing folk singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky live. She is consistently warm and open with the audience, and seeing her in person feels intimate–like sitting around together in her living room. I first saw Lucy open for Ellis Paul back in 2007, and have seen her maybe ten times since then. I always look forward to hearing updates about her beloved husband, daughter Molly, and Janie the beagle, and it feels a bit like catching up with an old friend. Lucy writes songs about her life, and I’m humbled when songwriters are so willing to share their life experiences with strangers.

One of the things I appreciate most about Lucy is how much she loves and respects her daughter Molly. She played a bittersweet song on mandolin about how fast her daughter is growing up. Lucy told us she’d be happy to play our requests, and even if she hadn’t played the songs we requested in ages, she still gave them her best shot. Someone asked her to play “This is Mine,” and she told us it was a poem her husband Richard Litvan had written for her. When she finished, she said, “and that’s why I love my husband so much.” She also played “Ten Year Night,” which is also about him.

One of the things that makes a concert a true concert experience is when artists discuss the inspiration for their songs. Lucy never disappoints in this area. This time, I learned about her song “Don’t Mind Me.” Her daughter Molly had been assigned to read a book by Sherman Alexie last year, and Lucy told her, “I know him.” Best known for his film, Smoke Signals, Alexie ended up coming backstage to meet Lucy, Dar Williams, and Richard Shindell after a Cry Cry Cry show twenty years ago in Seattle. They hit it off, and he asked them to write a song for a particular scene in a movie he was writing and directing. He told them to think “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” but with Joni Mitchell singing it. Dar gave it a shot and wrote “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono” and Lucy and her husband co-wrote “Don’t Mind Me.” Alexie liked it so much that he wrote Lucy into the movie to play herself as a street singer. The movie didn’t end up getting made, but Lucy did get the song out of it.

I follow Lucy on Facebook, so I see a lot of pictures of her beloved dog, Janie. Janie is Lucy’s first dog ever. Her mom had been afraid of dogs, so she grew up without them. Lucy’s daughter kept asking for a dog, and they finally said yes. Lucy said, “it was a revelation to me that I could fall in love with a dog. I have at least a hundred photos on my phone of her if you want to see her after the show.” She wrote a very sweet song for her NYC dog and their “Everyday Street.”

Lucy’s dad, Irving Kaplansky, was a mathematician, a professor, and a musician, and Lucy sang one of his quirky songs, “On an Asteroid with You,” about honeymooning in outer space for us, as well. She’s also recorded an album of his songs aptly titled Kaplansky Sings Kaplansky. You can only get that EP at her shows.

Lucy told us about another audience requested song, “Manhattan Moon,” as well. She’d worked on a song for months, but it wasn’t right, so she sadly threw it away. She took a few of the best lines from that song, though, and wrote a new song in four hours, which became “Manhattan Moon.”

Lucy draws attentive, polite audiences. That matters to me. She appreciates it, too. She told us a few times that she really appreciated playing for us and complimented us on how nice we were to play for. She told us that she truly enjoys her fans, and invited us to come chat with her after the show in the lobby, adding that “you don’t have to buy anything–I just want to meet you!” She closed the show with a cover of Elvis Costello’s  “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” but came back to play an encore after a standing ovation.

Lucy ended the night with one of my favorites–“This is Home.” I’ve heard Lucy say that she wrote this song when she and her husband were first starting the adoption process about 15 years ago. They knew there was a little girl waiting for them in China, but hadn’t met Molly yet. I don’t think of myself as much of a sap, but I shed a tear when Lucy sang “when we find her/we’ll belong to her/we won’t see her first smile, we won’t hear her first word/But ours will be the first heart she holds in her hands/She can keep them beside her in her very own room.” What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday! Thanks, Lucy!

xo,

bree

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Lucy Kaplansky

Saturday, December 11, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I was shocked to find out I’ve never blogged about the fabulous Lucy Kaplansky on whatbreesees.com. I first saw the New York City songstress open for my beloved Ellis Paul in 2007, and have had the pleasure of seeing her live a handful of times since then. Lucy’s music is autobiographical–she boldly shares her life through song. It’s a humbling experience to witness someone pour their heart out on stage like she does. To me, one of the best things an artist can do in person is interact warmly with the audience–and Lucy does this beautifully. I love hearing stories about her family’s new dog (Janie the beagle) or what her beloved daughter Molly is up to these days. (You can follow Lucy on Facebook for more about her day to day.) Lucy tells us the stories behind her songs and is incredibly open with her audience. Seeing her live makes me feel like I’m catching up with a good friend over a cup of tea. There’s something genuinely warm and honest about a Lucy Kaplansky concert experience. I chose this show to be my last of 2016, and it exceeded every expectation and closed out my concert year perfectly.

Lucy opened with “Bird on the Wire” by the recently departed Leonard Cohen. She was chilly and the fan directly above her was blowing, so someone from One Longfellow Square ran downstairs to grab her a long sleeved shirt while nearly every nearby audience member offered her a coat. It was cute. She played a new song that’s a work in progress about old friends and sang a birthday song for her daughter Molly who is shockingly already 14 years old! Lucy spoke so sweetly about Molly. She told us Molly is generous and kind and tough and won’t let anyone mess with her, and that “I’d like to be like her when I grow up.” Lucy played one of her most well known songs, “Ten Year Night,” and told us she and her husband were celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary. It was her last show of 2016, as well, and she gladly offered to play requests from the crowd.

Lucy told us about discovering Spotify and that her cover of Bryan Ferry’s More Than This” was on Spotify’s “Your Favorite Coffeehouse” playlist. It has been streamed (and she checks every morning) over 10.5 million times. She told us that she feels so lucky that people have listened to this recording that she’s really proud of. The reason she started playing the song was because she was doing an interview on the BBC in London and Bryan Ferry was listening and liked her voice and invited her to come sing with him on his Frantic album that very night. So, to commemorate the event, she learned a Bryan Ferry song to play at her gigs from then on.

Lucy also covered Paul McCartney’s “I’m Looking Through You.” Lucy showed us the mandolin that Duke Levine (who I saw back in March) gave her, and played a song on it for her dad called “Reunion.” Her dad, Irving Kaplansky, was a mathematician, a professor, and a musician, and Lucy played his “Song About Pi” for us, as well. She’s also recorded an album of his songs aptly titled Kaplansky Sings Kaplansky. She also played a song for her mom (who passed away six years ago) called “For Once In Your Life” shortly after.  

Lucy wrapped her set by playing all of the songs folks in the audience had requested, and she asked us to come say hello after the show. She told us that she’s always amazed at how nice people who come to her shows are and as someone who sees her shows, I agree. She played a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” which she played without rehearsal for the first time as a request at a show on the Jersey Shore. We sang along. It was a lovely way to close the show. The crowd asked for an encore, so Lucy gladly came back to the stage and played “Guinevere” for us. Seeing Lucy live feels intimate like a house concert, and she made One Longfellow Square feel like we were in her living room that night. Thanks, Lucy! See you next time! Happy 2017, All!

xo,

bree

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