John Gorka

John Gorka

Amilia K. Spicer

Sun 6.9.19

Doors: 6:00 pm / Show: 7:00 pm

$20.00

This event is all ages

John Gorka
John Gorka
From New Jersey, John Gorka is a world-renowned singer-songwriter who got his start at a neighborhood coffeehouse in eastern Pennsylvania. Though small, Godfrey Daniels was and is one of the oldest and most venerable music institutions and has long been a hangout for music lovers and aspiring musicians. In the late 1970’s, John was was one of these aspiring musicians. Although his academic coursework at Moravian College lay in Philosophy and History, music began to offer paramount enticements. Soon he found himself living in the club’s basement and acting as resident MC and sound man, encountering legendary folk troubadours like Canadian singer-songwriter Stan Rogers, Eric Andersen, Tom Paxton and Claudia Schmidt. Their brand of folk-inspired acoustic music inspired him, and before long he was performing his own songs – mostly as an opener for visiting acts. Soon he started traveling to New York City, where Jack Hardy’s legendary Fast Folk circle (a breeding ground for many a major singer-songwriter) became a powerful source of education and encouragement. Folk meccas like Texas’ Kerrville Folk Festival (where he won the New Folk Award in 1984) and Boston followed, and his stunningly soulful baritone voice and original songwriting began turning heads. Those who had at one time inspired him – Suzanne Vega, Bill Morrissey, Nanci Griffith, Christine Lavin, Shawn Colvin – had become his peers.

In 1987, the young Minnesota-based Red House Records caught wind of John’s talents and released his first album, I Know, to popular and critical acclaim. With unusual drive and focus, John hit the ground running and, when an offer came from Windham Hill’s Will Ackerman in 1989, he signed with that label’s imprint, High Street Records. He proceeded to record five albums with High Street over the next seven years: Land of the Bottom Line, Jack’s Crows, Temporary Road, Out of the Valley and Between Five and Seven. His albums and his touring (over 150 nights a year at times) brought new accolades for his craft. His rich multifaceted songs full of depth, beauty and emotion gained increasing attention from critics and audiences across the country, as well as in Europe where his tours led him through Italy, Belgium, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland and Germany. He also started sharing tours with many notable friends—Nanci Griffith and Mary Chapin Carpenter among them. All this brought his music to an ever-widening audience. His video for the single “When She Kisses Me” found a long-term rotation on VH-1’s “Current Country,” as well as on CMT and the Nashville Network.

In 1998, after five successful recordings and seven years at Windham Hill/High Street, John felt the need for a change and decided to return to his musical roots at Red House Records. The choice was driven, in part, by the artistic integrity that the label represents in an industry where the business of music too often takes precedence. The 1998 release After Yesterday marked a decidedly different attitude towards making music for John, and his next release The Company You Keep held fast to his tradition of fine songwriting, yet moved forward down new avenues. Its fourteen songs displays John’s creative use of lyrics and attention to detail. Andy Stochansky played drums and shared production credits with John and Rob Genadek. Ani DiFranco, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lucy Kaplansky and Patty Larkin contributed stellar guitar work and vocals to this fan favorite. Old Futures Gone was informed by his life as husband and father of two young children and also contained the colorful experience of many hard years on the road. Writing in the Margins followed in 2006 and was an engaging collection of sweet and serious songs that spanned many musical genres—folk, pop, country and soul—and featured guest vocalists Nanci Griffith, Lucy Kaplansky and Alice Peacock. Now with this, his 11th studio album, he returns to his roots with So Dark You See, his most compelling and traditional album to date.

In addition to his 11 critically acclaimed albums, John released a collector’s edition box featuring a hi-definition DVD and companion CD called The Gypsy Life. Windham Hill also released a collection of John’s greatest hits from the label called Pure John Gorka. In 2010, he also released an album with his friends and Red House label-mates Lucy Kaplansky and Eliza Gilkyson under the name Red Horse. Getting high praise from critics and fans alike, it landed on the Billboard Folk Charts and was one of the most played albums on folk radio.

Many well known artists have recorded and/or performed John Gorka songs, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nanci Griffith, Mary Black and Maura O’Connell. John has graced the stage of Austin City Limits, Mountain Stage, etown and has appeared on CNN. His new song “Where No Monuments Stand” is featured in the upcoming documentary Every War Has Two Losers, about activist and Oregon Poet Laureate William Stafford (1914-1993).

John Gorka lives in Minnesota and when not on the road, he enjoys spending time with his wife and children. He continues to tour, playing festivals, theaters and clubs all over North America and Europe.
Amilia K. Spicer
Amilia K. Spicer
As the lyric from her song “Shotgun” implies, singer-songwriter Amilia K Spicer has a thing for wide-open spaces and mystical places. Even her record label name, Free Range Records, reflects her vagabond spirit—which has carried her from the green hills of her native Pennsylvania, through the hill country of central Texas, to the mountain monasteries of Tibet. Based in Los Angeles and Austin, she might tell you she feels most rooted when she’s heading toward a distant horizon.

The songs on Spicer’s new album, Wow and Flutter, capture the vastness of those horizons with a cinematic quality, somehow sweeping us into the panorama as we listen. It should surprise no one that she pursued a career in film before music became her muse. The dichotomy of shadow and light, grit and wonder, are in the sonics, rather than on the screen.

Wow and Flutter represents a metamorphosis, shedding a few skins in the making, like Spicer herself, until it emerged as a 12 song collection. During its production, Spicer – a piano player- picked up a guitar for the first time. Other stringed instruments followed, each one inspiring her writing. “Every time I picked up a new instrument, I wrote a song. It was the best sandbox ever.” It also was a mixed blessing, Spicer confides with a grin, because each newly minted song clamored to be added to the record. Her album title refers to an audio term regarding pitch and speed variations.

Moon, tide, heart fluctuations—and other natural-world phenomena—are part of Wow and Flutter’s essence. Its songs carry titles such as “Lightning,” “Windchill” and “Wild Horses”; they mention hurricanes, open flames and stones polished in the rain. A hoot owl calls at the start of “Shotgun,” which turns Native American- and African-influenced vocal undulations and delicate slide guitar into a truly hypnotic reverie. The richly textured songs are sung in a honeyed alto that’s equal parts earthy and airy. Her sound is like glass: spun from sand and fire into something smooth and clear. And sometimes beautifully etched with acid.

​Spicer describes her Americana/folk rock style as red-dirt noir, evoking majestic vistas—and shadowy mysteries . On the lead off Appalachian-tinged track, “Fill Me Up”, when she sings, Shenandoah’s got secrets so deep, we can infer she’s talking about more than a mountain.

Called “Fearless” by the San Antonio Express- News, Spicer drew attention the first time she played an LA club on a whim. Ears perked, and she was on her way-—to a rare Mainstage Kerrville Folk Festival debut, three Kennedy Center performances, song placements in several high-profile TV shows (Party of Five, Dawson’s Creek), and quirky indie films. But Spicer initially regarded music as something she could walk away from any time—until a potential record deal fell through. As she envisioned the future slipping from her grasp, she had a startling realization. “I finally figured out,” she says, “this is not what I do. This is who I am.’” With that faith came a new fierceness to her work.

During the making of Wow and Flutter, her wanderlust meant there were detours, including producing tracks for other projects. Among these, lauded contributions to compilations tributing Neil Young (alongside Kristen Hersh, Tanya Donnelly), and Peter Case (with John Prine,,Hayes Carll).

She also appeared on the Safety Harbor Kids Holiday Collection, (Billy Idol, Jackson Browne). A sought after harmony singer and arranger, Spicer’s featured on albums by John Gorka and the final Rounder release from the late Bill Morrissey.

Contributors to Wow and Flutter include Stones/Dylan bassist Daryl Johnson, Wallflowers/Foo Fighters keyboardist Rami Jaffee, Bonnie Raitt/Taj Mahal keyboardist Mike Finnigan, pedal steel player Eric Heywood (Son Volt), guitarists Tony Gilkyson (X, Lone Justice), Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams). Spicer produced; multi-instrumentalist Steve McCormick co-produced and engineered.

Spicer enlisted Malcolm Burn to mix: “Malcolm has worked on so many of my favorite records of all time. I was honored he wanted to be involved.” Poetic too:, because enigmatic nature aside, Spicer has earned comparisons to Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Neko Case, Daniel Lanois.

A spectral beauty permeates the understated “Harlan,” which smolders with a slow-burn intensity as Spicer sings, Whiskey runs thru me, like Mississippi mud
/Just leaves you thirsty, can’t water down your blood. The key word there is “thirsty,” which hints at the restlessness propelling every explorer toward the unknown.

Indeed, Spicer made life-changing excursions to Southeast Asia in 2012 and 2014, accompanying a philanthropist friend who was funding a documentary about Nepal’s civil war. At the time, she was struggling to rekindle enthusiasm for her own project. As she visited monasteries, she recalls, “I was searching for new sounds, and new sanctuary”. She was also trying to lose something: the bonds of a dying romance. Spicer addresses those frustrations in various songs, including “Shake It Off”—which, she’d like to note, was written and recorded before Taylor Swift’s hit. Its sinuous, syncopated groove is enhanced by Daryl Johnson’s funky counterpoint vocal. “I’d love to have ‘Shake It Off’ used as a walk-out theme for an MMA fight,” says Spicer, a fan—not surprisingly, given her feisty streak.

This, of course, emanates from the same artist who whispers, “Let me be your lightning” with an unabashed sensuality.

In the soaring “What I’m Saying,” she declares her intent to find her purpose and place in the world. “I want to be a force to be reckoned with,” Spicer asserts. “I want to cause a beautiful commotion.“ With the slow, majestic gospel of the final track, “Shine,” she affirms that she’s found that force—whether the magic comes from the stars, the moon, the sun … or within.
Venue Information:
SOhO Restaurant and Music Club
1221 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA, 93101