He has been called “the crown prince of the New Folk Movement” by Rolling Stone magazine.
He has toured all over the world for more than two decades.
His songs have been recorded by a wide range of musical artists in a diverse variety of genres.
And, after years of dangling carrots in front of him, our own Mad River Valley folk music impresario Bruce Jones, visionary founder of the Valley Acoustic Showcase, has finally convinced John Gorka to come and play at the Valley Player’s theater on Sunday night, May 16.
How good a songwriter and performer is John Gorka?
“Listening to John Gorka sing, one can get goosebumps all over,” observes The New York Times. “There are many reasons – fresh lyrics, a stunning emotional baritone voice, his twisted humor – but to focus on one limits the experience.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Check him out at www.johngorka.com.
I’ve listened to John Gorka for years, and seen him perform at festivals and venues all over the country. I never grow tired of the experience.
I think of Gorka as the Stephen Wright of folk music. He is wickedly funny in the most understated of ways, and almost deadpan on stage, but when he opens his mouth to sing, his voice – by turns haunting, melancholic, and wryly witty – captures the whole universe of human emotions in keenly observed turns of phrase. His mojo is hard to describe, really – Gorka must be heard to be believed.
And his writing is truly unique. Perhaps his most famous ballad is an old tune called “I’m from New Jersey,” in which he sings of the promise and peril of being a denizen of the Garden State.
I’m from New Jersey / It’s like Ohio
Only more so / imagine that.
Girls from New Jersey have this great big hair/
They’re found in shopping malls / I will take you there.
What makes Gorka a gifted songwriter is his ability completely empathize with his subject. He sings on a wide range of topics: war, love, peace, lust, and the often-wrenching changes the world brings to the unsuspecting, as is the case with one of his most powerful tunes, called “Houses in the Fields” (which I’ve heard him play on both the guitar and the piano):
They’re growing houses in the fields between the towns/
And the Starlight Drive-In Movie is closing down/
The road has gone to the way it was before/
And spaces won’t be spaces anymore.
His newest CD, entitled “So Dark You See,” delivers more of his trademark wit and wisdom voiced with his remarkable delivery. Only Gorka would dare to put an old Robert Burns poem to music, deliver an old Utah Phillips classic cover called “I Think Of You,” and then turn around and throw down a moving meditation on growing up in “Ignorance and Privilege,” in which he sings of the sacrifices Depression Era parents made for their sometimes-unappreciative progeny.
And if this review doesn’t convince you to see Gorka live, Bruce Jones has invited local up-and-comer Nikki Matheson to open the evening. Matheson has just finished recording a beautiful new CD entitled “Invisible Angel,” a project she started eight years ago while living in Paris, and has just finished with Vermont uber-producer Colin McCaffrey. You can listen to her at www.nikkimatheson.com.)
Two fabulous performers in our Valley on one spring evening.
Don’t miss it.