Yes, it is possible to hear folk music at CMJ
Among the insanity and irritations of CMJ, it’s a joy to stumble into another venue only to hear an artist onstage who actually makes you want to sit down, sip a beer, and listen closely. The various showcases this year are actually robust with freak-folks, bluegrass punks and just plain talented artists on the verge of greatness. They’re all just as likely as anybody else to prove to you that CMJ (when you’re not trying to use your badge to get into Madison Square Garden) has the capacity to be a damn beautiful week.
Tuesday, October 19
The Living Room, 7 pm
She’s fresh off having two of her songs features on the “Grey’s Anatomy” soundtrack (it’s true, Shonda Rhimes is the new Izzy Young), and her hypnotic style is like being in a coma you don’t particularly want to wake up from, even if your doctor is McDreamy.
Plates of Cake
Union Hall, 7 pm
I first encountered Jonathan Byerley’s bewitching bass voice in a Bushwick basement almost two years ago, and have been waiting for him to break out ever since. The first album comes out this month, and expectations are high.
The Living Room, 7:45 pm
I once got reamed by this Brooklyn duo of elementary school teachers for what they considered a bad review of their album “March Forth,” although all I really said is that they sound like elementary school teachers. Is that necessarily a bad thing? You decide.
The Chapin Sisters
The Living Room, 8:30 pm
Yes, this former threesome (now a twosome) are the nieces of Harry Chapin, but their striking, traditional close harmonies go far beyond the limits of 1970s yacht-rock.
Shayna Zaid and the Catch
Alphabet Lounge, 9 pm
Two words: Ford Edge. You may not know her name, but that’s her breathy voice cooing over a chorus of peppy handclaps in a car commercial you most likely saw yesterday. You forgot it, but you remember the song. It’s called “Morning Sun,” and her others are just as good.
Tall Tall Trees
Alphabet Lounge, 10 pm
Bluegrass, exuberant or haunting, however you like it. Mike Savino’s banjo-heavy songwriting is a wonder to hear.
The Living Room, 10:45 pm
These guys are actual mountain men from Goshen, Vermont: in other words, everything you want a folk band to be these days. They record in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. It’s impossible to make bad music doing that, I’ve decided. They also play Friday the 22nd at 5 pm at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.
Googie’s Lounge, 11:30 pm
A lot of folksingers claim to have their own distinct guitar technique, but very actually do. This quiet young songwriter does. You have to hear it yourself, but good luck putting it into words.
Cake Shop, 11:50 pm
Part of the early-200s trend in dirty, rootsy folk rock, these guys have been laying low for the past few years due to health issues. Frontman Greg Jamie has gone solo, and is also playing Friday the 22nd at 7pm at Bruar Falls.
Wednesday, October 20
Highline Ballroom, 8 pm
It seems like a long time ago (college) when I was first blown away by “Restless.” Sean Scolnick’s 2009 album “Be Set Free,” sounds more produced and less wistful, but it’s still totally worth it.
Drunken Barn Dance
Bruar Falls, 9:10 pm
Your chance to flail around like an idiot to anthemic bluegrass.
We are Trees
Googie’s Lounge, 10:30 pm
The very eccentric James Richard Nee from Virginia Beach plays cloudy, atmospheric folk reminiscent of Beach House. Also plays Friday the 22nd at 10 pm at Bowery Electric.
Thursday, October 21
Bar Matchless, 7 pm
The Tori Amos comparisons must get old, but… Also Friday the 22nd at 7 pm at Spike Hill.
Spirits of the Red City
Coco66, 8 pm
There’s actually quite a few Minnesota-based bands playing CMJ this year, but these folks are my favorite.
Bowery Electric, 9 pm
Like Jewel, this Milwaukee songstress writes lyrics about sleeping in her car, but in her case, you actually believe it, because they’re so vivid you’re right there beside her.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
The Delancey, 9:30 pm
The hype surrounding this guy last year wasn’t altogether necessary, but the twelve-string guitar on “Summer of Fear” probably makes him the closest you’ll come at CMJ to hearing a Byrds disciple.
Googie’s Lounge, 10:30 pm
If you see one folk act at CMJ, make it this weathered Icelandic lady, whose crystalline voice and melodies will stir you, like the Icelanders, into taking the existence of fairies for granted. Thankfully you’ll have two chances; she also plays on Friday the 22nd at 7 pm at Pianos.
Friday, October 22
Vaudeville Park, 7 pm
New York needs more banjo virtuosos like Benjamin Lee, who takes the instrument beyond the front porch and into a new and beautiful universe.
Littlefield, 8:30 pm
From New Orleans, for those who like their folk doused in a little LSD. These days, that seems to be pretty much everybody.
Saturday, October 23
Best Buy Theatre, 9 pm
Melora Creager invented that brand of gothic chamber-folk in which every song is a novel. This year’s “Sister Kinderhook” improves upon the tradition.
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