Folk Singers to Make Likely Last Appearance at Music Hall (Please Note: This concert has been postponed until November 6, 2020)
by Thomas Staudter –
Ordinarily, singer-songwriters Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky would be presenting yet another wholly entertaining evening of their folk-centric artistry at the Music Hall in Tarrytown on Friday, March 13. Just the usual bounty of stirring and thoughtful tunes, plus good storytelling and some humorous repartee—enough to give the audience an illusion of riding in the back seat of the SUV on a family outing.
Not this time. Their short tour of six shows this month, beginning in Massachusetts and ending back north in Rhode Island, could be their last together for quite a while. So, the upcoming show, and lone New York date on this run, could very well produce some auld lang syne moments, especially in the context of their Westchester and Big Apple connections.
All because last October, Shindell announced on his website that he had decided to stop performing: after meeting his contractual obligations for the shows he had been booked to play in early 2020, he is “stepping away” and saying goodbye to the road.
“My rationale for not touring anymore, or at least not in the foreseeable future, is complicated,” said Shindell in a phone conversation from his home in Argentina. “I feel that it is time to pursue another creative challenge, and I began to realize that the life of an itinerant performer is no longer a healthy one, or at least not in the manner in which I was trying to carry it out. Also, the idea of working on a new and different project is exciting.”
Shindell added, “In terms of performing, I never really felt like I belonged to whatever the music industry is. I’ve earned money for the shows I’ve played, but for me, it is my love of being onstage and connecting with the audience which always mattered most. In fact, the paradoxical things about my stopping is that I love performing more than ever. My family is supportive of my work, but the touring has been a real disruption in our lives. My kids grew up either seeing me arriving back home or getting ready to leave again.”
Together onstage, Shindell and Kaplansky showcase their own compositions, cover a favorite tune “borrowed” from a respected contemporary or revisit an old country chestnut, all the while exhibiting a mutual admiration and deep appreciation. Supportive background singing and knowing instrumental accompaniment further exemplify their close artistic bonds.
Colleagues and collaborators since the early 1990s, when they both emerged from the Fast Folk movement in New York City and established themselves as noteworthy solo artists, each sang background vocals on the other’s debut album—first, on Shindell’s Sparrow Point and then on Kaplanksy’s The Tide—as well as on practically every subsequent recording, over 20 in total.
Shindell and Kaplansky also recorded back in 1998 with folk music star and Chappaqua native Dar Williams in a super-group outfit called Cry, Cry, Cry and toured the following year. The trio embarked on another long tour together 19 years later. In the meantime, Shindell and Kaplansky finally made their own debut studio recording together, funded through Kickstarter, in what they called the Pine Hill Project in 2015. Masterminded by Larry Campbell, a multi-instrumentalist known for his long stint in Bob Dylan’s touring band and subsequent association with Levon Helm, the album featured covers of songs from the likes of Nick Lowe, U2 and Gillian Welch.
You would have to consider the two to be peripatetic recording artists, though. Not stingy but more aptly described as perfectionists who only make a new album when a good collection of new songs has been achieved. Shindell released Careless, his latest album in 2016, but it took three-and-a-half years to make; and Kaplansky’s first solo album since 2012, Everyday Street, came out two years ago (and is available as a download or a CD only sold at her shows).
“I think fans have reasonable expectations when it comes to our creation of new songs, and they’re fine waiting for them,” said Kaplansky by phone from her New York City home. “There are usually a few recently written but unrecorded songs in our sets, which helps keep things interesting. People seem happy to hear new songs, and since they keep coming to the shows, I’m happy to play them.”
Originally from Chicago and blessed with a golden voice, Kaplansky, now 60, made a name for herself as a first-call harmony singer in the 1980s before going back to school to become a clinical psychologist with a big practice in Manhattan. Her friends in the music business bugged her to put her own album out, and in 1994 she relented and released The Tide. The reception for Kaplansky’s music was so strong that she abandoned her psychology career to focus on songwriting and performing.
As for Shindell, he was raised in Port Washington on Long Island, the oldest of four children. As a youth, he joined his father, an amateur singer, in the local Episcopal church choir, and learned to sing harmony.
“Those Wesleyan and British hymns, the way their melodies move and how their chords resolve, definitely influenced my musical sensibilities,” said Shindell. After moving to Valhalla, New York, his musical career benefited greatly in 1998 when folk icon Joan Baez covered three of his songs on her Gone from Danger album and then invited him to join her on tour. Long considered to be one the country’s most literate lyricists (as is Kaplansky), Shindell is now studying poetry and hoping to complete a book during his sabbatical.
And how long will Shindell, who also turns 60 later this year, be absent from the stage?
“My understanding is that Richard won’t be gone forever, that he’s only taking a break and wants to be home for a change,” said Kaplansky. “He’s got music in his blood, so I think he’ll be back. But if I learn otherwise, there better be a box of tissues on the stage during these upcoming shows.”
Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky will perform on Friday, March 13 at the Music Hall, 13 Main Street, Tarrytown, New York, 10591. The show begins at 8 PM. For tickets and more info, call (914) 631-3390 or visit tarrytownmusichall.org.