A Folk Alliance Member Organization

Acoustic Renaissance Concerts
11 West Maple Street
Hinsdale, Illinois 60521
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Schedule - 2023/2024 Season

All in person shows begin at 7pm.
Call 630/941-7797 for all tickets.
Streaming tickets are also available.

Saturday, September 30, 2023 — The Kennedys .

Tickets: $20

The Kennedys release their first CD of all newly-minted original songs in five years!

"If you get a charge from a rich folk rock vibe, love a super sharp guitar lick, or appreciate a moving story song, you will find all of that on The Kennedy's Headwinds. Pete Kennedy's astonishing range on any guitar he touches deftly underpins every mood of Maura Kennedy's warm, lyrical voice. You'll get no resistance from these Headwinds, only pleasure." - Marilyn Rea Beyer, Host, WFMT's The Midnight Special & Folkstage

Songwriting duo Pete and Maura Kennedy make a strong return to the studio and stage after three years of weekly live-streamed lockdown-era concerts. They took the opportunity to explore classic songwriting in depth, performing over a thousand songs during the pandemic. That vast overview strengthened and refined their own writing and laid the foundation for this new collection of original, socially-conscious songs.

"After such a deep dive into American roots music, we felt like we had a new set of writing tools. We were ready to create this body of work, and there's just SO much to write about," says Maura. "During our five-year hiatus from writing and recording, America changed in massive ways, divisive ways that have shaken our whole foundation. That has to be addressed by creative artists, those of us who have a voice to speak for others. Our love of the great things about this country, things that are under threat, is the reason we decided to make "Headwinds" the title track of the CD. Political and social headwinds are making it hard to get back "home' to our greatness as a nation. We want to push back in a positive way against those winds."

In addition to singing and writing, Pete and Maura are multi-instrumentalists. The thirteen songs are cast in a soundscape that draws from the classic canon of American roots, in keeping with the theme of getting back "home" as a nation. Acoustic and electric guitars, a vintage steel guitar, a gospel-inflected piano/organ mix, and even a slide ukulele all add colors to a songbag of sounds that have drawn us together during hard times. Pete and Maura believe that those sounds still have the power to pull us through again.

The Kennedys began their writing and touring life three decades ago as members of Nanci Griffith's Blue Moon Orchestra, developing their own sound as a frequent support act on Nanci's tours across America, Ireland, Scotland and England. Collaborations with Nanci continued, culminating in Pete and Maura producing her final album, "Intersections." Along the way, they hosted a nationwide radio program, "The Dharma Cafe" on Sirius/XM, wrote and released sixteen CDs of original music, and have been core artists on folk radio, expanding their audience further with the inception of the AAA and Americana formats.

Saturday, October 28, 2023 — Vance Gilbert with special guest Ashley and Simpson .

Tickets: $20

- "If Joni Mitchell and Richie Havens had a love child, with Rodney Dangerfield as the midwife, the results might have been something close to the great Vance Gilbert." As the above quote from Richmond magazine suggests, Vance Gilbert defies stereotypes. It's little wonder then that he also exceeds expectations. In this case, those two qualities go hand in hand. "I'm black, I sing, I play an acoustic guitar, and I don't play the blues," Gilbert insists. That may be a broad statement, but it rings with truth.

What he does do is make memorable music, as evidenced by the 14 albums he's released so far, as well as the mark he's made on the folk and acoustic music scenes in general. Over the course of a prolific career that extends back to the early '90s, he's recorded with his good friend Ellis Paul and shared stages worldwide with Aretha Franklin, Shawn Colvin, Arlo Guthrie, the Milk Carton Kids, George Carlin (150+ shows), Anita Baker, the Subdudes, Paul Reiser and any number of others.

He's also made a prominent presence at some of the world's most prestigious gatherings, among them the Newport, Winnipeg, Rocky Mountain, Calgary, Ottawa, and Falcon Ridge folk festivals, the Kate Wolf Music Festival, and Australia's Woodford Folk Festival and Mullum Music Festival. "There was also that one nude festival in Maryland," Gilbert recalls. "I don't recall the name of that one, but I have to admit that the name wasn't the first thing I would remember."

His superb new album, "The Mother of Trouble", was just released this summer!

Comprised of Jennifer Ashley and Joel Simpson, Ashley & Simpson quickly became folk scene favorites, incorporating elements of traditional folk with modern songwriting. The duo's instrumentation and beautiful vocal harmonies are reminiscent of famous duos such as Ian & Silvia and The Everly Brothers. With their sophomore release "Off To Here Land," they pushed the art of folk to a new sound with an all-traditional track list that will delight fans new and old.

Both bringing a classical perspective to their duo, Jennifer Ashley & Joel Simpson have reached a new level by incorporating elements of jazz, popular music, and other modern styles in their arrangements. Their forthcoming release, "Hello Mrs. Sun," will feature all original material in their signature style.

Saturday, November 18, 2023 — The Refugees .

Tickets: $20

The trio of artists that is The Refugees emerged on the music scene as a verifiably unmatched force of talent, diversity, and experience. Each successful in their own right as a solo artist, Cidny Bullens, Deborah Holland and Wendy Waldman formed their unique and innovative group in 2007 and since that time have been wowing audiences, radio DJs, and music critics alike with their soaring harmonies, indelible musicianship, and unforgettably humorous stage presence.

Individually, The Refugees have logged almost five decades in the industry, with more than twenty solo albums and multiple Grammy Award nominations to their credit, featuring musical styles that blend country, rock, folk, blues and Americana. To describe them as eclectic would be an understatement. These three artists have utilized their intense drive and relentless passions to create an entirely new sound.

UNBOUND, their debut release on Wabuho Records was released in January of 2009 and garnered many awards. The album received rave reviews and is still a favorite on folk and Americana radio. The talented trio plays guitars, dobro, bass, mandolin, harmonica, accordion, and percussion, and features a mix of innovative new co-writes and fresh arrangements of a selection of their previously recorded radio favorites, including "Save the Best for Last," and "Fishin' in the Dark."

Their second CD, THREE, was released in January 2012 on Wabuho Records (Burnside Distribution) and in April in Europe (Blue Rose Records). Three features the trademark Refugees sound but with the addition of drums (Scott Babcock) and special featured performances on fiddle by the world-renowned Sam Bush. Since its release Three has garnered rave reviews and charted in the Top 10 on Roots Music Report for many months.

HOW FAR IT GOES, 2018, is a 6-Song EP that came about during a touring hiatus. The trio got together in Los Angeles a few times to write, and this was the result. It's a mix of genres recorded with a rhythm section and for the first-time keyboards are included. In a mix of genres and storylines, these songs reflect their wide musical range and talent.

There newest album, CALIFORNIA, ten cover songs of iconic, harmony-focused California bands of the 60s and 70s was released on May 19, 2023. One of the strongest components of The Refugees are their 3-part vocals. Cidny had suggested The Refugees record an album of some of the bands that featured 3-part harmonies and were a big influence on all three members.

The band combed through many songs and finally narrowed it down to this list. These recordings are a tribute to, and, The Refugees own unique take on, classic recordings by The Beach Boys ("Good Vibrations," "Sail On Sailor"), The Mamas and the Papas ("Monday Monday," "Dedicated to the One I Love"), Crosby, Stills, and Nash ("You Don't Have To Cry," "Carry On,"), The Byrds ("So You Want To Be a Rock and Roll Star") Sly and the Family Stone ("Stand"), The Flying Burrito Brothers ("Sin City") and Buffalo Springfield ("For What It's Worth"). Of course, The Refugees put their own unique stamp on each track, making California not only a celebration of what was, but a revelation of the power these songs still hold today.

Cidny Bullens (formerly Cindy) got started as a studio back-up singer for Bob Crewe and then toured with Elton John. Cindy garnered two Grammy Award nominations for her work on the Grease Movie Soundtrack and her own album Desire Wire, has had several Nashville co-writes on the Country charts. Cindy's album Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth (1999, written after the death of her 11 year old daughter Jessie) won AFIM's Best Rock Album in 2000 and became a worldwide phenomenon for bereaved parents. In 2016, Cidny premiered his one person show Somewhere Between: Not an Ordinary Life. Cid performed the show all around the country between 2016-18, and it was voted Best Solo Show for 2016 by The Nashville Scene. His memoir, TransElectric: My Life as a Cosmic Rock Star, with forward by Sir Elton John was released on June 6, 2023

Deborah Holland began her career as the singer and songwriter for the critically acclaimed band, Animal Logic (with Stewart Copeland of the Police and virtuoso jazz-bassist Stanley Clarke). From 1987-1991 they released 2 albums, toured internationally, had videos on MTV, VH-1, and Much Music, made numerous TV appearances (David Letterman, The Tonight Show, etc.). One of the songs on Animal Logic II "Another Place," is a duet with Jackson Browne. Deborah has released 6 solo albums, has scored and had dozens of songs placed in film and TV (Circuitry Man, Longmire, Highlander 11, My Name is Earl, The Beast, etc.), was a long-time music professor at California State University of Los Angeles, and then Langara College in Vancouver, BC. In 2022, Animal Logic released 2 new singles. She is a dual American-Canadian citizen.

Wendy Waldman is recognized as one of the leading recording artists and songwriters in music beginning with her acclaimed solo Warner Bros. records and then as a member of Bryndle (Karla Bonoff, Andrew Gold, Kenny Edwards). In 1973 Rolling Stone named her first album "singer-songwriter debut of the year." She is responsible for penning dozens of songs for other artists including some of the best loved and most well-known songs of the past several decades including Vanessa Williams' "Save the Best for Last," and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's (and then Garth Brooks) version of "Fishin' in the Dark." She is highly regarded for her work as a record producer as well, overseeing countless projects in multiple genres, including Suzy Boguss, New Grass Revival, John Cowan, and international pop star Meitek Szczesniak.

Saturday, January 13, 2024 — Michael J Miles with cellist Jill Kaeding, co-bill with Ariane Lydon .

Tickets: $20

In a daring collaboration, Miles and cellist Jill Kaeding breathe new life into J.S. Bach's Cello Suites. Miles puts the original cello melody on the banjo and Kaeding plays a contrapuntal continuo accompaniment.

Sound impossible? Perhaps. But this is consistent with Bach's brazen imagination. And when Miles debuted this concept for the first time in 1997, it was warmly embraced by artists, critics and one of the world's greatest living cellists, Janos Starker.

Jill Kaeding has played throughout the classical world and with the likes of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. ss, Chicago Sun-Times "Miles has dared to take on some of the most dramatic and profound music ever written...and succeeded" - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

Ariane Lydon

BBC Radio 2 - Mike Harding
"I just caught you on Folk Alley"-- loved "Winter's Run".

DIRTY LINEN - Steven Ide
"Her songs are truly melody-driven, not piggybacked on chord changes; as a result, her compositions are crafted and elegant. Lydon's is a voice that must be heard."

"...a superb performance by the multi-talented and multi-cultural Ariane Lydon. Performing in concert at the Jubilee Theater, Lydon closed her show to a standing ovation and encore as the audience chanted, "One more! One more"!

CHERISH THE LADIES - Joanie Madden, at the Xavier Performing Arts Center in WI
"After an evening with Ariane Lydon as our stand-in lead singer, we all wished she would join our group. She is a great, sultry singer and a funny, funny girl who can make 2,000 people roar with laughter."

For the past 2 decades, Ariane Lydon has toured and performed at Folk Festivals, Performing Arts Centers, Listening Venues, Radio Stations, and House Concerts throughout the US and Canada. She has shared stages with such performers as John Renbourn, John Gorka, Loreena McKennit, Tom Paxton, John McCutcheon, Chris Proctor, Duck Baker, Harvey Reid, Jean Ritchie, Cherish The Ladies, and many more.

Saturday, February 3, 2024 — Bruce Molsky .

Tickets: $20

Grammy-nominated, described as "an absolute master" (No Depression), Molsky transports audiences to another time and place, with his authentic and personal interpretations of rarities from the Southern Appalachian songbook and other musical traditions from around the globe. Best known for his work on the fiddle, Bruce's banjo, guitar and his distinctive, powerful vocals also resonate with listeners. His combination of technical virtuosity and relaxed conversational wit makes a concert hall feel like an intimate front porch gathering.

Bruce's take on tradition has landed him in collaborations with some of the world's most highly respected players from roots to rock. He is a special guest on legend rocker Mark Knopfler's recent CD, "Tracker."

His 1865 Songs of Hope & Home with Anonymous 4, was on Billboard's top 10 for weeks. Along with Andy Irvine & Donal Lunny, Bruce is a founding member of the supergroup Mozaik, with three recordings. You can see Bruce on the BBC TV "Transatlantic Sessions" with Aly Bain and Jerry Douglas, and on "David Holt's State of Music" on PBS.

He stays active touring and recording with longtime collaborators Darol Anger, Tony Trischka and Mountain Drifters' Allison de Groot. February 2022 marked the long-anticipated release of Bruce's solo guitar CD: "Everywhere You Go," a coming-together of new interpretations and arrangements of a wide swath of styles.

"Bruce Molsky is one of those great players who 'gets it': has all the links to the past but is happy not to be chained to it" - Mark Knopfler

"The effortlessness and ease with which Bruce plays and sings has always been something I've deeply admired. It is a rarity to hear music that lacks ego and puts soulfulness and a respect for tradition at the forefront. Bruce is simply one of the greatest musicians there is, period." - Sarah Jarosz"

"After a long career that stands as a fiddle masterclass, comes a beautiful eclectic album of song and six-string wizardry, a rare treat indeed." - John Paul Jones

"Love what you and the band have done with the song Bruce [Between the Wars]" - Billy Bragg

"Molsky is easily one of the nation's most talented fiddlers...he transports you ... geographically, historically, and most of all emotionally" - Mother Jones

Saturday, March 2, 2024 — John Gorka .

Tickets: $22

"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." - 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.

Saturday, April 6, 2024 — Claudia Schmidt .

Tickets: $20

Almost four decades as a touring professional have found Michigan native Claudia Schmidt traversing North America as well as Europe in venues ranging from intimate clubs to 4,000 seat theatres and festival stages in front of 25,000 rapt listeners.

Claudia has been astounding audiences with her beautiful voice, superb instrumentation and continually evolving songwriting style. (Claudia is reluctant to be categorized and prefers to call herself a "creative noisemaker.")

Audiences can expect anything at a performance: hymn, poem, bawdy verse, torch song, satire, and the gamut of emotions. She is well known for her many appearances on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. Claudia has released fourteen of her own CDs of mostly original songs, exploring folk, blues, and jazz idioms featuring her acclaimed 12-string guitar and mountain dulcimer playing which beautifully archive the musical journey she has undertaken.

Her performance background is not limited to the folk stage. She has collaborated in several theater productions, including Bertolt Brecht's Good Person of Szechuan at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

Don't miss this opportunity to experience one of America's most renowned singer/songwriters!

Saturday, May 18, 2024 — Joe Jencks and Deidre McCalla .

Tickets: $20

Joe Jencks is a 25-year veteran of the international folk circuit, an award-winning songwriter, and celebrated vocalist based in Chicago. Merging conservatory training with his Irish roots and working-class upbringing, Joe delivers engaged musical narratives filled with heart, soul, groove and grit.

Having penned several #1 Folksongs including the ever-relevant Lady of The Harbor, Jencks is also co-founder of the harmony trio, Brother Sun. From Festivals like Falcon Ridge, Kerrville, Mariposa, and Old Songs, to venues like Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, Jencks has enthralled diverse audiences with his approachable style.

Joe is noted for his unique merging of musical beauty, social consciousness, and spiritual exploration. Blending well-crafted instrumentals and vivid songwriting, Jencks serves it all up with a lyric baritone voice that has the edgy richness of a good sea-salt caramel.

In August of 2022, Jencks released his 17th recording, The Coming of the Years, an album that stands firmly in the modern Celtic traditions and is still quintessentially a Joe Jencks record.

Centered around songs Jencks wrote while on tour in Ireland over a 12-year period, this album emerges as a synergistic blend of past and present merging with themes of immigration spanning multiple generations. The album has been received with critical acclaim.

Deidre McCalla doesn't merely take the stage - she owns it. Her songs embody hope and celebration, struggle, loss, and longing - sometimes all in one song!

A Black woman, mother, lesbian, feminist, Deidre McCalla has long been in the forefront of Black musicians redefining the understanding of how Black folk do folk. Deidre is riding high on her current release Endless Grace which dominated the June 2022 Folk Radio Charts as the #1 Album with the #1 Song - Shoulder To The Wheel and the #3 Song - I Do Not Walk This Path Alone, and finished for the year as the #13 Top Album.

PopMatters, Rhythms Magazine, and the Folk Alley Listener Favorites Poll ranked Endless Grace among the Ten Best Folk albums for 2022. In 2023 Deidre's song Shoulder To The Wheel won the 19th Annual International Acoustic Music Award for Best Folk/Americana/Roots song.

Deidre McCalla's songwriting reveals an unyieldingly honest perspective expressed with a lyric touch that relentlessly celebrates the power and diversity of the human spirit.

Sing Out! praises Deidre as one of our generation's most important singer-songwriters and the Austin-American Statesmen describes her as a highly distinctive voice in a crowded field of contemporary folk music. With five independent albums to her credit, Deidre McCalla has touched audiences from Maui to Maine, church basements and college coffeehouses to Carnegie Hall.

2023 2024 Season at a Glance: (Most shows $20 per ticket)

September 30 2023: The Kennedys

October 28 2023: Vance Gilbert with special guest Ashley and Simpson

November 18 2023: The Refugees

January 13 2024: Michael Miles with Jill Kaeding, co bill with Ariane Lydon

February 3 2024: Bruce Molsky

March 2 2024: John Gorka ($22 tickets)

April 6 2024: Claudia Schmidt

May 18 2024: Deidre McCalla and Joe Jencks co-bill

Details on these shows are all below:

Season tickets available

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