I’m a little bit country…
And I suppose it’s fair to say that I’m also a little bit rock and roll—but truth be told, I’m all over the place when it comes to genres of music that move me. Born in the ‘50s, I heard the smooth sounds of Sinatra and Perry Como emanating from the hi-fi as my parents entertained with swizzle sticks in hand and got my groove with The Beatles and Stones during the ‘60s while making my way through the “wonder years,” before hitting my stride at the disco (don’t judge!) dancing to the strains of Donna Summer and the Bee Gees. In between, there were bands like Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers, who all made an appearance at Bethel Woods in the last week.
As for country? I kept my proclivities in the closet, but secretly listened to Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette, before moving to Sullivan County, aligning myself with Thunder 102 radio, (“Lightning Hot Country!) and publicly declaring my admiration for contemporary country artists like Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley and crossover artist Darius Rucker—all of whom are slated to appear locally as the 2018 concert season unfolds.
Of course it’s no secret that the Upper Delaware River region plays host to music of all styles reverberating through the mountains, and last week was no exception as I managed to squeeze in a performance by singer Bryan Gordon, whose style is self-described as “a unique blend of rock/pop/folk.” Appearing last Thursday at the Bethel Lakeside Music series, Gordon is equally at home in large venues and intimate arenas like the outdoor park in Bethel, where he played a solid set of mostly feel-good ‘60s tunes that momentarily made me yearn for the old days as I reminisced with like-minded (mostly) silver-haired enthusiasts.
The next day, I was definitely feelin’ a little bit country as I photographed “American Idol” alum Lauren Alaina, who claimed that it was her “first tour”—even though we saw her at Bethel Woods opening for Luke Bryan just last year. She’s grown more comfortable with performing for large crowds, but should probably keep notes, since she not only forgot her last appearance here in Thunder Country, but also repeated at least one of her down-homey country tales that make less impact (IMHO) the second time around. Luke Combs followed Alaina before the tailgate parties ended, and headliner Jason Aldean strutted onstage to the hoots and hollers of his legions of adoring friends, belting out hit after hit as part of his “High Noon Neon” tour currently making its way across the country.
As if in tribute to my college years, Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers have teamed up for their “Summer of Living Dangerously” tour, which also made a stop in Bethel last Saturday, where I was joined by author Laurie Graff (“You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs,” “The Shiksa Syndrome”), who was a classmate at SUNY Binghamton back in the day. Graff trekked from the city specifically for Steely Dan, and although I was taking pics for The River Reporter, I managed to sit with my college chum for much of the Doobies, who sounded pretty freakin’ good. I repeatedly abandoned poor Laurie to photograph both acts, and then fled during the ensuing thunderstorm. But she stuck it out, having a blast and enjoying the show along with thousands of (mostly) silver-haired fans who probably attended college around the same time as us.
I must be a little bit rock and roll, because I do enjoy the original sounds of husband and wife duo JANTURAN who describe their own material as “indie rock.” I hadn’t heard the two in more than a year, and Ramona Jan suggested that their performance at the Rock Valley Schoolhouse in Long Eddy would be a “perfect opportunity” to hear them anew and check out the one-room schoolhouse that remains untouched since being built in 1885. One of the original 29 one-room schools in the Hancock Central School district alone, Rock Valley still has many of the original desks and a library of historic school books. While it is included in the New York State and National Registers as a historic site, sponsors are needed to contribute to the upkeep, and JANTURAN joins a growing list of performers who donate their time and talents in order to help maintain the building and grounds.
JANTURAN has indeed changed a good deal since I saw them last, and their original storytelling songs have become a YouTube sensation, with fans clicking on tunes like “Big Black River,” “Heartbreak Purgatory” and my personal favorite “Sally Vagabond.” House concerts of all varieties and tours of the schoolhouse are scheduled through August. For more information call 845/887-5459. For more photos of the concert visit www.riverre porter.com.