A Folk Alliance Member Organization

Acoustic Renaissance Concerts
11 West Maple Street
Hinsdale, Illinois 60521
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Schedule - 2021/2022 Season

All shows begin at 7pm.
Proof of Vaccination for COVID-19 REQUIRED for all shows. Masks required at this time.

2021 2022 Season at a Glance: (All shows $20 per ticket)

September 11 2021: Tom Prasada-Rao

October 23 2021: Katie Dahl with special guest Jane Godfrey

November 06 2021: Ordinary Elephant with special guest Wes Collins

January 08 2022: Sons of the Never Wrong

February 19 2022: John McCutcheon

March 05 2022: Ellis Paul

April 09 2022: Sam Baker

May 21 2022: John Gorka with special guest Heather Styka

Details on these shows are all below:

Season tickets at $140

Saturday, October 23, 2021 — Katie Dahl with special guest Jane Godfrey .

Tickets: $20

"Katie Dahl's songs aren't just melodies and words, they're journeys that are firmly grounded in a sense of place-beautiful, real landscapes that help you feel places that you may have never been before. That's the very best kind of songwriting." -Dar Williams

Singer-songwriter Katie Dahl has performed her original songs everywhere from the dusty cliffs of Mali, to the winding canals of southern France, to the cedar forests of the American northwoods. Particularly well-respected on her home turf of Door County, Wisconsin, Katie tours regularly and has earned accolades nationwide for the depth and power of her alto voice, the literate candor of her songs, and the easy humor of her live performances. In 2015, Katie's song "Crowns" hit #1 on the folk radio charts. Her musical play "Victory Farm" premiered to high acclaim in 2012 and has since been made into a live cast album. Karen Impola of Iowa Public Radio says, "Katie Dahl's music combines a love for her rural midwestern roots, a droll wit, and a clear-eyed appraisal of modern life, all served up in a voice as rich as cream." Katie's latest album, "Wildwood" (September 2019) was recorded in Nashville and features Birds of Chicago's JT Nero (producer) and Allison Russell (harmony vocals).

Jane Godfrey has been playing the guitar since she was eleven and singing harmonies with her sisters and brothers since further back than memory serves her. Jane was a shy middle child growing up in a household of nine siblings, where music and art were staples whether at home in St. Louis or at the family cabin in Minnesota. Although Jane didn't realize it at the time, traditions like family sing-alongs and music jams with her siblings were the foundation on which her songwriting imagination was built. Eventually, after getting married, three children, two college degrees and work as an educator of the hearing-impaired and deaf, Jane quit her job and began pursuing creative interests. She tried her hand at creating educational materials and greeting cards while dabbling in songwriting. Just after finishing her first song, in an auspicious twist of fate, a Girl Scout Leaders magazine with an ad for a songwriting contest arrived in the mail. So Jane wrote three more songs and submitted them. Thank You Ms Juliette, a bluegrass tribute to the founder of the Girl Scouts, won the contest and Jane's recording was included in the GSUSA's 2000 CD, Sisters Hand in Hand. In the meantime, always the late-bloomer, Jane realized she had finally found her calling. Jane's passion for songwriting grew, prompting road-trips to Nashville where her skills were nurtured by attending songwriting workshops and performing at writers' showcases, including the infamous Bluebird Cafe. Her original intention was to write for other artists because standing on stage and performing for others was both dream and nightmare for Jane. But realizing that she needed to overcome her crippling performance anxiety in order to get her songs heard, she hit the open mics. To keep herself from giving in to the critics in her head, Jane adopted the philosophy, "Do it badly until it's good". Jane's first real solo gig coincided with her 50th birthday!

Saturday, November 6, 2021 — Ordinary Elephant with special guest Wes Collins .

Tickets: $20

International Folk Music Awards 2017 Artist of the Year Ordinary Elephant captivates audiences with their emotionally powerful and vulnerable songs, letting the listener know that they are not alone in this world. The collaboration of husband and wife Pete and Crystal Damore, their connection, and their influences (such as Gillian Welch, Guy Clark, Anais Mitchell) all meet on stage. "Two become one, in song...hand-in-glove harmonies surprise the listener with focused intensity and musical mastery," says Mary Gauthier. The Associated Press is calling their latest album, Honest, "one of the best Americana albums of the year."

"Keep kind all that rises from your chest to your tongue. Don't ever let your words undo the work you've done," sings Crystal Damore on "Worth the Weight," a song that beats at the heart of Ordinary Elephant's potent new album, Honest. In the song, it's a two-line enjoinder from an adult to a kid. In life, though, it's a mission statement for ourselves as much as for others. And the work that Crystal, along with her husband Pete, has done on Honest is both filled with kindness and worthy of praise.

Interestingly, if not ironically, in order to accomplish this new work, Crystal and Pete had to set aside the work they'd done previously, as a veterinary cardiologist and a computer programmer, respectively. The two met at an open mic in College Station, Texas, in 2009 and soon moved to Houston together. With her on acoustic guitar/lead vocals and him on clawhammer banjo/harmony vocals, the work of music continued on the side as both had full-time jobs, until they threw all caution to the wind and hit the road in an RV.

At age 44, Wes Collins and his wife Anita made a pact to become writers: she started writing fiction and Wes penned his first song. A few years later, they were both multi-award-winners in their fields. Collins more than makes up for lost time with songs so dense with ideas that a first listen only scratches the surface. Come for a haunting melody and some intricate fingerpicking and stay for the wit and deep literary intelligence. There is always more to find in a Wes Collins song.

Wes has played shows from coast to coast including: The Blue Bird Cafe in Nashville, TN; The Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, TX; the Cary Theater in Cary, NC (opening for Dave Olney); and many more. He is a winner of the prestigious Grassy Hills New Folk Competition and a North Carolina Arts Council Songwriting Fellowship, and has been featured as a finalist in The Telluride Troubadour Contest in Telluride, CO; The Songwriter's Serenade Competition in Moravia, TX; and The Wildflower Performing Songwriter Contest in Dallas, TX.

"Welcome to The Ether" is Collins' second record. It was produced by Chris Rosser at the top of a mountain during a historic snowstorm and features guest performances by Jaimee Harris, Danny Gotham, and FJ Ventre. Welcome to The Ether finds Wes at his best: timidly falling in love in "Pelican", coming to terms with a loved one's disability in "Stethoscope", or cavorting with ghosts in "Everyone Dances". The record ends with his perennial set-closer "I Love You Guys", as much an ode to drunken buffoonery as it is a song of gratitude to the listener.

Saturday, January 8, 2022 — Sons Of The Never Wrong .

Tickets: $20

SONS OF THE NEVER WRONG is a turbo-charged Alt-folk trio from Chicago that delivers witty, whimsical songs with their signature soaring vocal harmonies and gorgeous arrangements. In case you're wondering, they're 2 gals and a fella: Sue Demel, Deborah Lader and Bruce Roper. Their odd ball humor and spontaneous stories ignite their live shows and have earned them a cult-like international following for nearly 30 years. Combining influences of folk, jazz, pop and rock, their sound is wildly original, their energy is contagious and their banter is hilarious. However, no bio can outdo what OTHERS have to say about the Sons.

"Sue Demel has one of the most unique voices in folk music today." -Sing Out Magazine
Whether it is scatting, chanting, weaving or arranging, she explodes the preconceived notions of harmony singing. Schooled in jazz and a respected songwriting coach, Sue is a seasoned back-up vocalist whose body of work achieves a rare peace between the boundaries of love and redemption.

"Bruce Roper has written the near-perfect song." -A.P. Newswire
Bruce is both a luthier and a well-seasoned carpenter of timeless songs. His reputation as a brilliant, prolific writer is well known in folk circles worldwide. His songs feel like they were written by a wise old poet, yet sung with a child's innocence. His gift for conjuring melancholy and heartbreak with a wink and a nod gives the listener a fresh take on life's experience, as he makes things that are hard to say easy to hear.

"Deborah has a folk sensibility that hits me where I live." -Art Thieme
Deborah's diverse influences converge and are expressed through her unique and multi-faceted music. An internationally recognized visual artist, Deb is also a multi-instrumentalist, (guitar, mandolin, mandocello, banjo, piano) with a special gift for songwriting, and a sought-after affinity for vocal harmony.

Saturday, February 19, 2022 — John McCutcheon .

Tickets: $20

No one remembers when the neighbors started calling the McCutcheons to complain about the loud singing from young John's bedroom. It didn't seem to do much good, though. For, after a shaky, lopsided battle between piano lessons and baseball (he was a mediocre pianist and an all-star catcher), he had "found his voice" thanks to a cheap mail-order guitar and a used book of chords.

From such inauspicious beginnings, John McCutcheon has emerged as one of our most respected and loved folksingers. As an instrumentalist, he is a master of a dozen different traditional instruments, most notably the rare and beautiful hammered dulcimer. His songwriting has been hailed by critics and singers around the globe. His thirty recordings have garnered every imaginable honor including seven Grammy nominations. He has produced over twenty albums of other artists, from traditional fiddlers to contemporary singer-songwriters to educational and documentary works. His books and instructional materials have introduced budding players to the joys of their own musicality. And his commitment to grassroots political organizations has put him on the front lines of many of the issues important to communities and workers.

Even before graduating summa cum laude from Minnesota's St. John's University, this Wisconsin native literally "headed for the hills," forgoing a college lecture hall for the classroom of the eastern Kentucky coal camps, union halls, country churches, and square dance halls. His apprenticeship to many of the legendary figures of Appalachian music imbedded a love of not only home-made music, but a sense of community and rootedness. The result is music...whether traditional or from his huge catalog of original songs...with the profound mark of place, family, and strength. It also created a storytelling style that has been compared to Will Rogers and Garrison Keillor.

Saturday, March 5, 2022 — Ellis Paul .

Tickets: $20

Ellis Paul is an American singer-songwriter and folk musician. Born in Presque Isle, Aroostook County, Maine, Paul is a key figure in what has become known as the Boston school of songwriting, a literate, provocative, and urbanely romantic folk-pop style that helped ignite the folk revival of the 1990s. His pop music songs have appeared in movies and on television, bridging the gap between the modern folk sound and the populist traditions of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

Paul grew up in a small Maine town. He attended Boston College on a track scholarship, majoring in English. Injured during his junior year, Paul began playing guitar to help fill his free time and soon began writing songs. After graduating college Paul played at open mic nights in the Boston area while working with inner-city school children. He won a Boston Acoustic Underground songwriter competition and gained national exposure on a Windham Hill Records compilation which helped him choose music as a career.

Paul had released 21 albums and received 14 Boston Music Awards, considered the pinnacle of contemporary acoustic music success by some. He has published a book of original lyrics, poems, and drawings and released a DVD that includes a live performance, guitar instruction, and a road-trip documentary. In 2014, his children's CD "Hero in You" was published as a book by Albert Whitman & Company. Paul plays almost 200 live shows a year.

Paul released "The Storyteller's Suitcase" in 2019 to critical acclaim. And then he produced a superb new CD in 2020, "Traveling Medicine Show: Volume 1".

Saturday, April 9, 2022 — Sam Baker .

Tickets: $20

"Simultaneously beautiful and broken...Sam Baker is an artist worth waiting for" - NPR All Things Considered- Sam Baker makes people happy. The characters in his songs face many challenges-alcoholism, car wrecks, racism, drug addiction, a mother's abandonment-but they persevere. Much like Sam himself.

In 1986 Sam got in the middle of someone else's war. When a terrorist bomb exploded in his train compartment, he went from being a young, healthy, tourist enjoying Peru with friends to a broken man surrounded by death and dying. Given his injuries, he too should have died. But through a series of miracles and coincidences he survived.

There were lots of surgeries, and the requisite pain pills. His leg was saved by a successful femoral arterial graft. When the cranial bleed in his brain healed, he had to relearn nouns, and after his right eardrum was replaced, he regained some hearing. With the top of his left hand gone, it seemed that his formerly skillful hands had been transformed into blocks of wood, but eventually those hands learned how to play an upside-down guitar.

Physically, Sam was recovering, but his life was filled with pills, booze, and rage. Then came the voices and messengers that helped him see that the greatest gift is life itself. He learned about forgiveness. He needed to tell his story. Songs started to come from that upside-down guitar. Before he knew it, there were CDs, tours around the world, an interview with Terry Gross, and awards in Rolling Stone.

Sam feels compelled to tell his story-through his music, art, or any means possible-to one person at a time, or to thousands from a festival stage.

Saturday, May 21, 2022 — John Gorka with special guest Heather Styka .

Tickets: $20

"Listening to John Gorka sing, one can get goose bumps all over. There are many reasons: fresh lyrics, a stunning emotional baritone, and his twisted humor."
- The New York Times

John Gorka is perhaps the quintessential iconic singer-songwriter of the 80's folk scene. Hailing from New Jersey, but forged in the Greenwich Village Fast Folk scene, he honed his craft and persona into an unmistakable image. The shy, wry, insightful, and yes, sensitive singer-songwriter has been copied and parodied. But the old coat he wove still fits, and still suits him well. The old songs ring as true as they ever did, and the new ones are just as good."

Music as Refuge: the Life of John Gorka by Brian DAmbrosio on Huffington Post (01/04/14):

John Gorka's technique breaks free from the rules of modern music. ... With a tangle of songs that emotionally connect us all and leave a tender trace, John Gorka stimulates the cerebrum, keeps our smiles agile and fit and reconnects us with what really matters most in music: honesty. His atmosphere allows for the listener to feel his individualized attention, his lyrical tenderness, his care for the guitar and his true presence."

Gorka formed the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band with Doug Anderson and Russ Rentler, which would also include guitarist Richard Shindell. After graduating from Moravian, he began performing solo at Godfrey Daniels coffee house in South Bethlehem as the opening act for various musicians including Nanci Griffith, Bill Morrissey, Claudia Schmidt and Jack Hardy. In 1984, Gorka was one of six winners chosen from the finalists in the New Folk competition at the Kerrville Folk Festival. Since then he has regularly toured Europe and North America.

In 1987, Gorka recorded his first album, I Know. It was released by Red House-beginning a long association with that label. Although his next five albums were distributed by Windham Hill and High Street, he returned to Red House with 1998's After Yesterday and produced eight albums with them over the next twenty years-most recently True in Time (2018).

He has appeared with artists such as Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, Antje Duvekot, Meg Hutchinson, and Lucy Kaplansky. He joined with Kaplansky and Eliza Gilkyson to form the folk supergroup Red Horse in 2010, touring together and releasing a self-titled album on which they performed each other's compositions. Red Horse toured through July 2014.

Chicago songwriter Heather Styka cuts to the truth with gutsy vulnerability. With a heartfelt croon that brings to mind Billie Holiday or Patsy Cline, Styka combines the lyrical intricacy of folk with a catchy melodic pop sensibility and the grit of classic country in songs that are smart and disarming.

After growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Styka moved to the city to studying creative writing, meanwhile honing her song craft among Chicago's long-standing folk community. "Chicago has such a rich musical history, especially with places like the Old Town School of Folk Music," Styka explains. "I was definitely steeped in that tradition." Her 2011 release Lifeboats for Atlantis brought her to national attention, hitting #3 on the FOLK-DJ charts. Styka's honest, image-heavy songs have garnered her a number of awards, including being a New Folk Finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival (2015, 2017) and official showcases at Folk Alliance International, NERFA, SWRFA, and FARM. .

Live, Heather Styka comes off as something like Leonard Cohen crossed with Patsy Cline. Armed with a guileless, unvarnished delivery, she's equal parts wordsmith and entertainer. Styka's energetic shows feel as intimate and candid as late night conversation, peppered with a quirky sense of humor and confessional storytelling.

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