Category: House Concerts

House Concerts, Covered: Anthony da Costa (May 22 @ 2:00)
With special guest Plume Giant! Plus: Meg Hutchinson coming June 25!

May 8th, 2011 — 05:07 pm

A Tree Falls Productions, our little house concert series here in rural Massachusetts, has grown since we first presented Danny Schmidt in our living room, and so has its reputation: both of the headline performers for our upcoming Spring/Summer season concerts came to us, making booking as easy as checking the calendar and saying “yes, please!” Our newest performing space, a restored hundred year old carriage house just up the road, has ample room for 50+, and for our increasingly infamous potluck meals, and we’re eager to fill the house, the better to support artists and fans alike.

As always, house concerts are legally private events, but if you’re reading this, you’re probably a friend already. If you’re interested in joining us for some great covers and originals, and live within driving distance of Monson, MA – that’s less than an hour from Worcester, Hartford, Northampton, and the Berkshires – contact me directly to have us save you a seat for the two shows listed below.

I’ve been a big fan of Anthony da Costa ever since he hit the Falcon Ridge mainstage at the tender age of 17, brought back by popular demand as the youngest ever winner of the Emerging Artist’s Showcase the year before. To have him contact me asking if we could fit him into the Spring schedule was a no-brainer; that he was hoping we could find room for his opening act, up-and-coming harmony-and-guitar trio Plume Giant, was just icing on the cake.

For those who need an introduction: Columbia College sophomore da Costa is a well-deserved darling of the festival and coffee house set, and of folk radio to boot: comparisons to Josh Ritter, Ryan Adams, and a young Dylan are both apt and somewhat of an understatement. His songwriting produces gems aplenty – lyrically wise, aching in performance, and stunning in impact – and his reputation for combining folk and americana in new ways while channeling old souls has marked him as a musician’s musician, cool and confident among a cadre of rising stars who straddle the old and new ways of folk and beyond.

At just 20 years old, Anthony already has eight records under his belt, including Bad Nights/Better Days, an amazing 2008 collaboration with dobro player Abbie Gardner of Red Molly, and his most recent effort, Not Afraid of Nothing, which Twangville cited as having “the lyrical quality of a John Prine album”. His next record, Secret Handshake, will represent a shift in sensibility: heavier on the production, and recorded live in the studio with a live rhythm section, the result is expected to be a bit more rock/pop/Americana, but if Dylan can do it, so can da Costa; even if you can’t make it to the show, I highly recommend supporting the project at Kickstarter, where a ten dollar bid will net you a pre-release digital download of the album, at least until the campaign closes at the end of the week.

As noted above, at his own request, Anthony will be playing with newly-formed “retro-folk” trio Plume Giant, whose tight three-part harmony work, led by guitar, violin, and viola, have already marked them fan favorites in the Northeast and beyond. The Hartford Advocate calls them “sweet, enthusiastic and wildly dedicated to their music”, and rumor has it they’ve been covering both The Strokes and Radiohead on tour – sounds like our kind of band. Here’s a few fave live covertunes to whet your appetite for both acts, appearing May 22nd at 3:00 pm in the carriage house at Lord Manor Bed & Breakfast.

In other Tree Falls Productions news: we packed the house for contemporary acoustic songwriter Meg Hutchinson back in the fall of 2009, and folks loved it so much they’re still talking about it. The lyrical alto and fan-favorite, who has won numerous prestigious competitions and songwriting awards in the US, Ireland and UK, has long been one of my favorite singer-songwriters, and we’re especially honored to be presenting her again on June 25th for an evening show. Here’s a Townes cover Meg performed for us last time she visited, and a Greg Brown cover from her recent winter-themed collaboration with Antje Duvekot, Anne Heaton and Natalia Zukerman.

And speaking of Danny Schmidt, whose appearance in our living room kicked off our seasonal house concert series way back in March of 2009: the Austin-bred singer-songwriter recently released Man of Many Moons, his seventh album, and it’s got a studio version of Buckets of Rain on it that’s just achingly beautiful, crushing and torn and inimitably Danny, just like the live version he dug up for our living room audience. Here’s the pair – live and in studio – and a plug for Man of Many Moons, along with a reminder that we covered Danny and his life partner Carrie Elkin last summer, and that older, now-gone downloads are always available upon request.

House concerts tend to lead to lifelong fandom for a reason: the intimacy of a home setting has an effect both casual and powerful on the relationship between musician, listener, performance and song. It’s quite rewarding to host your own, too. If you or someone you know is interested in bringing an artist into your home, and you think you’d be able and willing to round up a dozen or so friends and fellow audiophiles, let me know – I’d be happy to help you find someone coming through your area. (Hint: check tour schedules for artists you like, paying close attention to any “down time” they might have near your area between tourdates.)

755 comments » | Anthony Da Costa, House Concerts

An Intimate Evening with We’re About 9
(Saturday, October 23 @ Monson, MA)

October 18th, 2010 — 05:24 am

If we ever had doubts about the potential success of running a house concert series in a town of 8,000 people, this season’s offerings have put them firmly to rest. After two years, A Tree Falls Productions has moved on to bigger pastures, thanks to the nice guys who run the B&B at the top of our local food chain, and the cascade effect has been miraculous: our guest list has grown larger, our draw is bigger, and the local building inspector has started sniffing around, trying to decide if our little private occasionals are worth his while.

It doesn’t hurt that we’ve been blessed with not one, but two strong performers in the past few weeks alone. I never truly pushed our late September Chuck E Costa show here on the blog, mostly because his utterly gorgeous performance of Chris Smithers’ No Love Today that evening was the first cover he had performed in a long, long while, and we’d already posted his single studio cover – a take on Mark Erelli’s political folksong Hollow Man – way back when we first discovered him last Spring. But this coming Saturday’s visitors have recorded several covers, and I’ve got a bootleg of another from last year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Fest which the band probably doesn’t know exists. Without any further ado, then: here’s a total teaser, with hopes that, once you hear ‘em, a few of you out there might be willing to join us for an intimate evening with We’re About 9.

Formed in a Maryland parking lot at the turn of the 21st century, contemporary folk trio We’re About 9 have built a vast and dedicated fan base through down-to-earth charm, an engaging stage presence, and an approach to music that the band describes as “short format fiction, large format harmony”. Their quirky, literate writing, catchy, hook-laden songcraft and robust harmonies have brought them strong critical recognition from the most trusted voices in folk radio, and acclaim in mainstage sets at Clearwater’s Hudson River Fest, Philadelphia Folk Fest, Mountain Stage, and countless clubs and coffeehouses nationwide.

Their newest album, a collection of 14 previously released fan favorites aptly titled Amalgam, was released this summer at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, where they were voted “Most Wanted” in 2002, and where I’ve seen them numerous times: on the mainstage, at the workshop stage, wandering the vendor tents like minstrels. But my favorite sets have been the latenight ones, up on the hill in the wee hours. Brian, Katie, and Pat are truly at their best in an intimate setting, up close and personal, where their voices reach out to you and you alone in the dark, and the stories they craft start to crackle like the diary entries of an inner child, scared and joyful and wide-eyed with wonder at the world in all its raw detail.

Which it makes me that much more excited to be presenting them in our friends’ carriage house this coming Saturday. And yes, you’re invited, too, if you can make it.

Most folks in-state have never heard of our tiny town, but Monson is less than an hour from Hartford, Worcester, and Northampton; we’re just minutes from Springfield, and right off I 84. 40 seats are already spoken for, but we’ve got room for a few more, with or without a hot dish for the pre-show potluck, which will once again feature gourmet appetizers, seasonal salads, savory crockpot delights, and the best pies in Monson. And Brian’s even promised a whole mess of new and revived coverage just for us.

So if you’re within driving distance, and free the night of October 23rd, let me know ASAP via email, won’t you? Here’s a taste of what’s to come:

We’re About 9: Northern Cross (orig. Leslie Smith; pop. Cry Cry Cry)

1,017 comments » | House Concerts, We're About 9

An Intimate Evening with David Massengill
(Friday, December 11 @ Monson, MA)

November 28th, 2009 — 09:04 am

Once again, our fledgling house concert series is honored to present one of our favorite artists. But where previous shows have featured young, up-and-coming musicians, this time around, through a serendipitous cancellation elsewhere, we are proud to be hosting a long-standing staple of the folkscene, one whose career I have been following since my father took me to see him at Cambridge folk club Passim as a young lad of fourteen.

Today, we present some coversongs of and from the seminal songwriter, along with an invitation for you to join us as we celebrate his life and music. Ladies and Gentlemen: David Massengill.

Award-winning singer-songwriter, storyteller, and appalachian dulcimer player David Massengill is known throughout the folk world for his wicked humor, his evocative songcraft, and touching, down-to-earth lyrics which, in the best folk tradition, tell extraordinary stories of the trials and troubles of everyday people. Universal in tone and scope, but grounded in the plight of immigrants, orphans, and other timeless archetypes, his songs balance tenderness and hope with wry, often biting social critique, making each of his six solo albums an engaging, accessible collection of astute observations on the human condition.

A rising star of the 1970s NYC folk revival, David’s strong, sentimental, often hilarious songs made regular appearances on the 80s folk vehicle Fast Folk Musical Magazine alongside such fellow Greenwich Village luminaries as Cliff Eberhardt, Rod MacDonald, Suzanne Vega, and Shawn Colvin. In addition to finding success in his own voice, his songs have been covered by the likes of Joan Baez (On the Road to Fairfax County), Lucy Kaplansky (My Name Joe), and Dry Branch Fire Squad (Orphan Train); his most recent album, a tribute to the songs of Dave Van Ronk, is a ringing gem, and a sparse, fitting tribute to a friend and undersung songwriter.

If David’s recent career has been a bit lower-key than so many of his peers, it is primarily because, while Vega and Colvin have moved on to high-production popfolk sound, David has remained true to his roots, keeping his instrumentation and performance limited to strings and voice. As such, what you hear on CD is what you get in live performance: the rich ring of the dulcimer, the warmth of the voice, and the magic of the lyrical narrative. And – having seen him several times in recent years – I can assure our readers that the overall effect is stunningly direct, and as eminently powerful as ever.

As with previous house concerts, David Massengill’s upcoming visit is primarily a friends and family affair. But I consider all my readers family, and this event promises to be an intimate show not to be missed. If you’re free the evening of Friday, December 11, and live within driving distance of Monson, MA – a circle which includes Hartford, CT, and Northampton, Springfield, and Worcester, MA – contact me ASAP to reserve your seat before the house fills up.

Still on the fence? Too far out of range to attend? David hosts some of his most popular originals on his download page; here’s some covers of and from, to further whet your whistle:

We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep on saying it: Cover Lay Down exists first and foremost to support the continued careers of folk musicians new and old. As always, regardless of whether you can join us on Dec. 11, if you like what you hear, we encourage you to do your part to perpetuate the folkways by purchasing music through the links above.

Newcomers to the work of David Massengill are highly encouraged to start their collections off right with his earlier CDs, most especially his 1995 opus The Return, but don’t sell his recent work short, either: both his abovementioned Dave Van Ronk tribute and Partners in Crime, his 2008 collaboration with fellow Fast Folk member Jack Hardy, are worth collection, too.

True historians may also be interested to note that all 105 back issues of Fast Folk Musical Magazine are currently available at Smithsonian Folkways, on both CD and cassette, or as track-by-track downloads. Now that’s a treasure trove of American folk history, right there.

932 comments » | David Massengill, House Concerts

Danny Schmidt covers Bob Dylan & Tom House
Live at A Tree Falls House Concerts, 3/29/09

March 30th, 2009 — 10:36 pm

Texas singer-songwriter Danny Schmidt played a concert at my house on Sunday, fresh from his Red House Records showcase at SXSW, and the whole thing was so incredible, I’m having trouble putting words to the experience.

I’m especially glad it was Danny who came to help us christen our home-as-venue. In person, he’s a gentle soul, easygoing and easy to chat with, perceptive and playful, with a fine sense of humor and a clear affection for kids and the natural world around him. He made the whole thing feel more like having a houseguest than guest of honor — I couldn’t have asked for a better experience, as warm and satisfying as it was overwhelming.

But I suppose I should have expected as much from his records. Danny’s songs delve deep and powerful, and in person they are exquisite. From the fragile and broken to the hopeful and the hushed, the stories he sets to his picked guitar style uncover universal truths like moss under a stone. In lyrics, delivery, and sheer emotive power, they rival the best works of other, older Texas troubadours, from Townes to Robert Earl Keen.

As he notes in the intro to the Tom House cover below, Danny doesn’t play many covers, but he was nice enough to make an exception for a hosting coverblogger. Here’s the two he did on Sunday, raw and unmastered; the whine you hear in the background is probably the fridge, unfortunately, but otherwise, I think the field recording captured the raw power of Danny’s performance pretty well.

Danny Schmidt’s albums are a perfect showcase for his original songs, and they’re pretty incredible too. Head on over to Danny’s website for a whole mess of crisp studio-recorded downloadables, and the usual purchase links; I especially recommend the new album Instead the Forest Rose to Sing, plus older tracks like Company of Friends and This Too Shall Pass, both of which were stunning from two feet away. And if Danny ever plays your neck of the woods, grab a friend and head on over immediately.

Oh, and here’s a bonus cut, too: a great cover of Danny’s Happy All The Time, courtesy of friend Susan, to whom I owe a great debt for bringing Danny to me in the first place. It’s just a touch lighter than the original, but still a strong showcase for the mystical, darkly optimistic lyricism of the original.

Cover Lay Down posts new coverfolk features Sundays, Wednesdays, and the occasional otherday. Coming soon: April showers, May flowers, and school vacation. Plus: collaborative blog Star Maker Machine celebrates its one year anniversary next week!

1,104 comments » | Danny Schmidt, House Concerts