The American Songbook series returns for a 17th season next Tuesday the 19th with a performance from Ryan Scott Oliver, the lucky recipient of the greatest number of votes to earn the spot. The series features great singer-songwriters, many of whom hail from the world of Broadway and theater. But Lincoln Center always throws in some alternative or indie rock talents too and this year is no different.
Given the unique stage and the cultural significance of the series, the artists who perform often take a different approach to their show than on a regular stage. The most exciting name on the list for us happens to be Laura Jane Grace of punk band Against Me! The band’s last album Transgender Dysphoria Blues highlights some of Grace’s personal experiences so it will surely transfer over to the Appel Room nicely. Grace performs on February 19th.
Diverse voices are quite present this year. La Santa Cecilia, the 2014 Grammy winners for Best Latin Album for Someday New, are a group of Latino Americans from L.A. who fuse “cumbia, bossa nova, rumba, bolero, tango, jazz, rock, klezmer” and more into a highly engaging performance. They’ve covered the Beatles, maybe they’ll figure out an arrangement of Bowie (my own speculation) and they perform on February 25th.
Indeed the diversity continues with the aptly titled “Swimming in Dark Waters—Other Voices of the American Experience” evening featuring Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Leyla McCalla and Bhi Bhiman (who recently opened for Josh Ritter) presenting atypical American views as musicians of color. Giddens is powerful with her Drops and will perhaps be the “headliner” but Bhiman has well-crafted and humorous songs and McCalla applies her Haitian background to the cello. They hold court at The Appel Room on February 24th.
But diversity isn’t required to expect a great show. Craig Finn, of The Hold Steady, released a new solo album near the end of last year. Faith in the Future was partially funded through a PledgeMusic campaign and features a slew of songs that push his song-writing craft. As Pitchfork wrote, “Instead, he has entered what you might call the Peter Wolf phase of his career, when the old band has sputtered out and the frontman tries to re-establish himself as a serious songwriter.” Enjoy his stories on February 3rd.
Other acts to look for include The Songs of Todd Almond with special guest Courtney Love on February 4th, Janis Ian (a folk artist Ben Watt mentioned to me) on February 5th and Luluc in the more intimate Penthouse on March 16th.
American Songbook runs from January to April 2016 including a few shows outside of New York City — in Arizona. Check out the whole line up below but visit their site to get information on artists and to purchase tickets.
Tue. Jan. 19 Ryan Scott Oliver
Wed. Jan. 20 Vanessa Williams
Thu. Jan. 21 Is That All There Is? Remembering Peggy Lee
Fri. Jan. 22 Loudon Wainwright III
Sat. Jan. 23 Rita Moreno
Wed. Feb. 3 Craig Finn
Thu. Feb. 4 Todd Almond with special guest Courtney Love
Fri. Feb. 5 Janis Ian
Sat. Feb. 6 Jerry Dixon & Mario Cantone
Wed. Feb. 17 Foreigner: The Hits Unplugged
Thu. Feb. 18 A Coffin in Egypt: An Opera in Concert featuring Frederica von Stade
Fri. Feb. 19 Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!
Sat. Feb. 20 Andy Karl & Orfeh
Wed. Feb. 24 Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla & Bhi Bhiman
Thu. Feb. 25 La Santa Cecilia
Fri. Feb. 26 Charles Busch: The Lady at the Mic
Sat. Feb. 27 Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project: Love and Soul
Wed. Mar. 16 Luluc
Thu. Mar. 17 Anaïs Mitchell
Fri. Mar. 18 The Cooper Clan All Together
Wed. Mar. 30 Liz Callaway sings Maltby & Shire
Thu. Mar. 31 Imani Uzuri
Fri. Apr. 1 Grace McLean