‘American Songwriters’ explores the country’s musical landscape | News, Sports, Jobs
“American songwriters”, a festive tour through the American musical landscape with the very talented Chris “Red” Blisset and Trevor Lindley Craft, are on the Millbrook Main Stage for three nights, with the final performance tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Chris Blisset, known from Millbrook for his 2004 performance in the foot-stompin ‘ “Smoking on the mountain”, was visibly touched to return to his main stage.
“It’s so good to be here” he told the audience. “It’s been such a long time. It’s like the sun is out today.
In addition to his musical talents, Blisset is also an accomplished actor, composer and director whose vast theatrical experience allows him to establish an easy and almost immediate rapport with the public.
Trevor Lindley Craft, also a musician / actor, whose credits include performances with several repertory theaters, is – like Blisset – a longtime fan of country music who has toured with country-rock groups around the world. The night I was there, her mom and grandfather were in the audience, and with their help, Craft told several endearing stories from her childhood. He was introduced to music by his grandmother, for example, who insisted he learn to play the Star Wars theme on the piano (when he really wanted to hang out with X-Box). A warm thank you from us to Trevor’s grandmother!
Playing on a variety of instruments including acoustic, slide, electric and bass guitars, mandolin, harmonica and cajon drum, the musicians provided the enthusiastic audience with an evening of music with America as the theme. Sounding the plaintive cries of a train whistle on the harmonica, Blisset began the performance with a shout at the railroad, which not only connected cities across America, but “changed the sound of American music forever.” Johnny Cash, whose music was a focal point throughout the performance, was known to have said: “You know, there is nothing that stirs my imagination so much as the sound of a steam locomotive. “ The idea that music connects us – even though we live thousands of miles apart – became the theme of the night.
The show paid tribute to such figures as Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, John Denver, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen and Waylon Jennings, taking us on a tour through the roaming, honky-tonk and outlaw music of America, the first ending with a call to “Continue to switch to the free world”, with a special performance on bass by the show’s technical director, Walter Pigford.
The artist featured in the second set was George Jones, nicknamed “The Rolls Royce of country music” and who, according to Wikipedia, had over 160 chart singles under his belt from 1955 until his death in 2013. Johnny Cash once said: “When people ask me who my favorite country singer is, I say, ‘You mean besides George Jones?’ “ The tone of the performance became softer and nostalgic as the two sang “Gold ring” and “He stopped loving her today” classic country music.
America was personified, in a way, in this performance, as a restless, seeking, wandering spirit, wanting to come home to love but not always finding it there. If we were asked to provide a slice of American life through his music, the images and songs we choose might be different, but we would still be able to pay homage to the highwayman archetype, whose spirit was so lovingly evoked in this show.
Blisset ended with a tribute to the community for keeping Millbrook open during these trying times. We are fortunate to have David Leidholdt, he said, who is ready to get his hands on whatever needs to be done, as well as the enthusiastic and committed team at Millbrook. Blisset generously offered to donate 50% of the proceeds from the sale of his CDs to the theater.
You still have time to see this show which never ceases to give! Tickets are on sale at the box office until the start of the show.
Karen Elias lives in Swissdale. She has taught English for over 30 years, most recently at Lock Haven
University and Penn College.