If you’re a musician or avid music
listener, especially if you’ve been at it for awhile, you’ve heard so
much crap out there that you’ve come to genuinely appreciate a
well-crafted song when you hear one. Good songs tug at the heartstrings
and can temporarily transport us from this sometimes dreary
brick-and-mortar world into a calmer, dreamier version. Or the
songwriter expounds so well on the realities that surround us, you find
yourself relating on a level you didn’t know was possible. Or hell,
maybe the tune’s just got a really catchy riff.
At this year’s Words and Music
Songwriter Showcase Series, coming at you once a month now through
April, some of Central New York’s award-winning songwriters are on
display, and will perform the songs that put them on the map.
“I’ve always wanted to celebrate the
stylistic diversity in the music scene here,” says series host Jeffrey
Pepper Rodgers, contributor to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, founding editor of Acoustic Guitar
magazine, author, teacher and John Lennon Songwriting Award winner.
“And the headliners in the upcoming months are great examples.”
The first of those examples is Syracusan and Syracuse New Times Syracuse
Area Music Award (Sammy) winner Lisa Gentile, who kicks off the
showcase on Saturday, Jan. 23. Her Sammy was in 2007 in the Best
Country category. The girl’s got Motown in her blood (her dad worked at
the Detroit record label) and singing in her heart (her mom was a
Motown and Decca recording vocalist), and she writes in a pop-country
Gentile’s folks carted her off to New
York City when she was a kid, where she got into showbiz full time.
Since then she has put out two full-length, independently released
albums, Becoming and A Very Country Compilation, and an EP, Three. Gentile’s fourth recording, This Crickety Old House,
is in the works. You might have caught her around town hosting the
Wednesday open mike at Opus Lounge, 218 Walton St., or at one of her
many area gigs, but if not, this is your chance to see her perform live
when she headlines the first night.
Saturday, Feb. 20, will see Joe
Driscoll, a one-man band/folk/hip-hop artist who was discovered and
signed by Buttercuts Records, a label out of London, when he toured
Great Britain and turned heads with lyrics, instrumentation and
hard-hitting performances of his own design.
Sammy Hall of Fame member Isreal Hagan
is known for his rhythm’n’blues-based songs, as well as his 25-year-old
local history fronting the local band Stroke. Hagan plays Thursday,
March 25. And closing out the series is acoustic artist Ryan
Fitzsimmons, also from Syracuse, who has toured the United States and
is making a name for himself at gigs from New England to Montana.
Fitzsimmons plays on Thursday, April 22.
Each of the Words and Music shows
involves more than a single, straight-up performance. In keeping with
the often collaborative nature of music, a “Songwriters in the Round”
session will open each night, during which musicians, armed with their
pipes and other instruments, trade off songs and sometimes accompany
each other in what host Rodgers calls “a very interactive and
spontaneous format.” The session is followed by a full set by the
evening’s featured performer in the intimate Jazz Central venue.
After the headliner, you can join in
what organizers call “The Song Schmooze,” where everybody gets to rub
elbows over food and drinks. Special guests and surprise collaborations
will also be part of the showcase. Each evening ends with the
“Soundbite of the Night,” when Rodgers shares tidbits from his
interviews with Jerry Garcia, Joni Mitchell and other music celebs.
The Words and Music Songwriter Showcase
Series holds court at Jazz Central, 441 E. Washington St. Doors open at
7 p.m. and tickets are $10 for each show in the series. Call 479-5299
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets. For more
information, and to hear song samples, visit
www.myspace.com/wordsandmusicshowcase or www.wordsandmusic.info.