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June 29, 2000

Alive at 5 Capital Songwriters

Featuring program host MotherJudge and her special guests Amy Abdou, Michael Eck, Paddy Kilrain, Marykay Connors, George Muscatello, Rob Skane, Bryan Thomas, and Maria Zemantauski.

Such a great evening of music. Hanging with new friends and old friends alike. (Pix up soon - the Thomas promise.) Much props to the City of Albany for having us, and to Michael Lisi of the Daily Gazette for the review (see below). And a big big hug to that sweet soul MotherJudge for making it all happen. Peace y'all.

Songwriters show talents

By Michael Lisi for the Daily Gazette

ALBANY - You might not know it, but there are some impressive, if not amazing, songwriters in the Capital Region.

Musicians like Bryan Thomas, Michael Eck, Rob Skane and Paddy Kilrain are vital performers who tell soul-baring stories with their music.

Then there's flamenco guitarist Maria Zemantauski and jazz guitarist George Muscatello who tell their stories through the notes they squeeze from their strings.

Those players, plus Marykay Connors, MotherJudge and the Urban Holiness Society and Amy Abdou shared the stage at the Corning Preserve on Thursday night as part of the "Capital Songwriters Night" installment of the city's Alive at 5 concert series.

More than 1,200 people came out on a cool, overcast evening to see the show, which was moved underneath the I-787 overpass because of the threat of rain.

Rain aside, the show went off without a hitch; the eight songwriters each played a three-song solo set, with Caroline "MotherJudge" Johnston and her group joining in at times as the show's house band. She also hosted the show.

MotherJudge and the Urban Holiness Society - with Pat Perkinson, George Schacher, Sten Isachsen, Bob Girouard and Sam Whedon - also played between sets, no doubt winning new fans with their eclectic mix of country, rock, bluegrass and even zydeco.

Songs like the hilarious "When I Was Drunk" and "Give Me Back Love" were wonderful, Johnston's strong voice propelling the music.

The question on my mind after the show was why Thomas, Kilrain and Zemantauski aren't signed to big fat record contracts.

Bryan Thomas has this aggressive punk/soul thing happening musically, his sensual, undulating voice - a la Prince - caressing you one minute and clawing you the next. Get his autograph now because he won't be here for long.

Paddy Kilrain, dressed in drag, was riveting, her attack folk sound poignant and passionate offset only by her playful smile.

Maria Zemantauski is a gifted, world class musician who effortlessly strummed out perfect versions of "Malequena" and "Mrs. Laughinghouse."

And the rest:

  • Michael Eck: Eck turned in a solid, satisfying set of songs in the traditional folk vein; "Pony (Ride Away)" is a keeper.
  • Marykay Connors: The leader of local modern pop band MK4, Connors knows how to write a catchy, biting pop song; one listen to "Stupid Song" is proof of that.
  • Rob Skane: Skane's music aches with honesty. The newly penned "How Many More Times" was yearning, raw and intense.
  • Amy Abdou: The comparisons to Kate Bush are obvious, but Abdou's floating voice and unexpected dark pop twists are unsettling and original enough to set her apart.
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