Monthly Archives: May 2014

All those music lessons paid off for Judy Collins

Judy CollinsBy Barry Gilbert 

Her enormous blue-gray-green eyes were half closed, her long hair swung gently across her back and her white-stockinged ankles urged the heavy beat. Judy Collins performed for her friends at the Oakdale Muscial Theater Sunday night.”

This is the lead paragraph of a concert review I wrote for the Hartford Courant on July 16, 1968. I was 19 – it clearly reads that way to me now – and I had quite the crush on the performer.

By then, Judy Collins, a classically trained pianist, had been a teen prodigy in Denver, performing Mozart with the Denver Symphony Orchestra at age 13. She was a veteran of the folk circuit and, drawing on her training, had already expanded her palette from guitar-accompanied folk music to orchestrated pop songs, art songs and show tunes.

She had recorded the groundbreaking “In My Life” and “Wildflowers” albums in 1966 and 1967, respectively, and “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” her eighth, would be released a couple of months later. It would include her own composition, “My Father,” and feature songs by writers she continued to champion: Leonard Cohen, Ian Tyson, Sandy Denny, Bob Dylan and Robin Williamson.

I interviewed Judy Collins before her concert in her green room, a small trailer behind the venue in Wallingford, Conn., sitting across from her in the cramped quarters and staring into those eyes. She was the first celebrity/artist I had ever interviewed. I was starstruck and smitten, no doubt about it. 

Collins turned 75 on May 1. She is a worldwide performer, PBS star and road warrior equally at home with large orchestras or simply with her piano and guitar. She has survived alcoholism and laser surgery to save her voice, and lived through the 1992 tragedy of losing her son to suicide. She wrote about that in bestselling books, “Singing Lessons” (1998) and “Sanity and Grace” (2003), and is an advocate for the mentally ill.

The recent “Live in Ireland” is her 50th release.

So it was a real treat to interview her again after all these years, by phone from her home in New York City in advance of her concert in Edwardsville, Ill., on May 17, 2014.

My only regret is I couldn’t see those eyes.

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The Blasters live up to their name in St. Louis

The Blasters perform in St. Louis. From left: Keith Wyatt, Phil Alvin, John Bazz and Bill Bateman / Photos by Barry Gilbert

By Barry Gilbert

The Blasters brought “American Music” back to St. Louis on Sunday night (May 11, 2014), and like the song says, “it was a howl from the desert (and) a scream from the slums,” with “the Mississippi rollin’ to the beat of the drums” just a few blocks away from the Off Broadway music club.

Phil Alvin’s stoked rhythm & rockabilly band from Downey, Calif., doesn’t make it to the Midwest very often, so it’s always a treat to see them. Unfortunately, Sunday was also Mother’s Day, and the crowd numbered only about 50. But they were largely hard-core fans, and they had their dancing shoes on.

Continue reading The Blasters live up to their name in St. Louis