Solo Series: The Mammals

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The Mammals, led by founding members and principal songwriters Mike Merenda (guitar, banjo) and Ruth Ungar (fiddle, guitar), are a contemporary folk rock band based in Woodstock, New York. A warm-blooded party band with a conscience, the group is equally inspired by their folk predecessors and Americana peers. On their just-released new album, Nonet, The Mammals can hear the Earth calling, and they’re asking us to listen. Why is the societal pain and political-environmental challenge they address on Nonet actually so listenable? Our ears can hear it because it’s been composed with great care by two of folk- Americana’s most heartfelt topical songwriters.

Order the album ‘Nonet’:
Tip the band! PayPal: or Venmo: @Ruth-Merenda
Support The Mammals on Patreon:

Solo Series: Abbie Gardner

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Abbie Gardner is a fiery dobro player with an infectious smile. Whether performing solo or with Americana darlings Red Molly, her acclaimed tales of love and loss, both gritty and sweet, are propelled by her impeccable slide guitar chops. Her live show is truly unique – as both an award-winning songwriter and interpreter of folk styles, a captivating vocalist, and a world-class lap style dobro player, she has an unmistakable sound all her own. Her latest CD, Wishes on a Neon Sign was released in January 2018 and features twelve original songs, including a co-write with Chris Stapleton. She has opened for Lori McKenna, Hot Rize, and Martina McBride. Craig Akin on bass.

Solo Series: Danny Schmidt & Carrie Elkin

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It’s a special treat when Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin share the stage together. These two great songwriters from Austin, TX generally tour solo and separately, but if the chemistry seems especially amorous, they come by it honestly, as they are a rare breed: a romantic partnership in real life, as well as a musical partnership in artistic life. And the two together on stage makes for a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Danny Schmidt is best known for his riveting poetic lyrics, which have drawn favorable comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Townes Van Zandt for their depth and complexity. And gypsy spirit Carrie Elkin is best known for her incredibly soulful and dynamic vocals, which have drawn favorable comparisons to Patty Griffin at her most powerful, and Nanci Griffith at her most intimate. Together, the respective strengths they each bring, individually, merge into a much greater whole, a performance of great energy and spirit, and one that audiences seem to be able to connect with on a multitude of levels, at once: Emotionally, Spiritually, and Intellectually.

About Danny: Named to the Chicago Tribune’s list of the “50 Most Significant Songwriters in the Last 50 Years,” Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter Danny Schmidt has amassed a cult following for his stunningly poetic, poignant lyricism. With comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Townes Van Zandt, Schmidt is considered a preeminent writer. Sing Out Magazine proclaimed: “Schmidt is a force of nature: a blue moon, a hundred-year flood, an avalanche of a singer-songwriter. His songs are a flood of poetry, mythology, folk wisdom, and surprise. He is perhaps the best new songwriter we’ve heard in the last 15 years.”

On Carrie: Carrie Elkin is one of those rare artists with a tidal wave singing voice, and a stage whisper writing voice that brings you to the edge of your seat, emotionally. Like Patty Griffin or Brandi Carlile, she straddles the Americana, Folk, and Indie Rock worlds, where meaningful songs meet the fierce-yet- fragile voices of powerful women. Like these other seminal artists, Elkin has the gift of projecting very personal intimate moments into transcendent universal experiences that move us all. Maverick Magazine said it best, after a recent festival performance: “I have never seen a performer so in love with the act of singing. That’s the gospel truth, and from what I’ve subsequently learned, I’m not the only one to believe or state that. Onstage, Elkin was simply a force of nature.”

Carrie’s website:
Carrie’s PayPal:
Carrie’s Venmo: Carrie-Elkin
Danny’s website:
Danny’s PayPal:
Danny’s Venmo: TheDannySchmidt

Irvington Theater Solo Series

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A Summer Series of Pre-Recorded Video Sessions Curated by Common Ground Concerts

Dear friends of Common Ground,

I hope each and every one of you, as well as your loved ones, are managing just stay healthy and sane in these crazy times. As you know, Common Ground was forced to prematurely end our 2019-2020 season back in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like many of you, we look forward to the day that we can all gather safely once again in person for live music at Common Ground Coffeehouse, Irvington Theater, or another favorite venue near you.

In the meantime, I’m pleased to announce that Common Ground has been working with Irvington Theater on its terrific online “Solo Series”, which the theater describes as “[a] collection of artists from all areas who are bringing our home to yours in a virtual solo series.”

Each Thursday morning, the theater posts a new session in the series, and emails out a link to the video to its supporters. This Thursday, June 18, the first of four Common Ground-curated sessions Will debut. We will also be sharing each of the four sessions with our supporters via email, Facebook, and this website.

You will notice that our schedule actually includes more duos than solos, but we assure you that no CDC guidelines have been breached in the making of these videos!

Our schedule is as follows:

Thursday, June 18: Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin

Thursday, July 8: Abbie Gardner (with Craig Akin)

Thursday, July 23: The Mammals

Thursday, August 6: Joe Crookston Workshop

Many thanks to all the artists who have participated in this online series — both those listed above as well as the others hosted by the theater. Music and the arts in general are more critical at this time than ever. Although each of these sessions is free, we hope you will do your part in generously tipping each of these artists — who are unable to perform live in concert.

Again, we look forward to the day we can see you in person at Common Ground, and hope you stay healthy in the meantime.

— Carter Smith, Common Ground


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Dear Friends of Common Ground Concerts,

As the coronavirus begins to have a larger impact on our lives, I wanted to share how we at Common Ground are responding to the situation.

As you probably know, we hold monthly Common Ground Coffeehouse concerts between September and May at the First Unitarian Society of Westchester in Hastings-on-Hudson as well as a few concerts each year at Irvington Theater in Irvington. Following a wonderful show with Darlingside, our season at the theater is now over. We do have three concerts remaining on our Spring 2020 calendar at Common Ground.

Last week, we announced the postponement of our March 28 concert with the stellar Boston-based group, Session Americana. In keeping with the guidance of local, state, and federal health officials, we regretfully announce that the remainder of our spring 2020 season is postponed. Please note that I said POSTPONED, not canceled. As soon as we know more about how long this pandemic will last, we will notify all ticket buyers of the new dates, and post more information on our website and on Facebook.

If you have purchased a ticket or tickets to any of our postponed shows already, that ticket will be honored on our rescheduled date. If you would prefer a refund, please contact us at

One more thing… many of us have the option to work from home in a situation like this. On the other hand, for many of the artists who appear at Common Ground, inspiring, entertaining and performing for us IS their work. That means they lose necessary income with each cancellation. So please, while keeping yourself healthy, please consider doing the same thing for the local music scene by visiting your favorite artists’ websites and purchasing their music, T-shirts, posters and more. Many artists have taken to streaming concerts from their living rooms, asking for voluntary donations in the process. I strongly encourage you to tune in and show your support!

It’s a cruel irony that at a time when the arts — with their power to connect us all — are needed more than ever, we must stay apart to keep healthy. But the while the era of “social distancing” won’t last forever, great music and great art certainly will. With that in mind, I will leave you with this short essay by my good friend David Steven Simon.

The Art You Left Behind

By David Steven Simon

Despite what you think, the water lilies will still float in the river of paint, Frank and his fedora will still be sitting at the bar in the wee small hours of the morning, Papa Hemingway will still be consumed by that moveable feast and the ever illusive marlin, and Rick will still be fighting the Nazis in Casablanca while looking at you, kid. Because the potency of art can neither be defeated nor diminished by time any more than the radiance of your soul or the resonant voice of your forever singing heart.

Art in any form, is here not only to inspire us but to remind us that there is unimaginable beauty yet to be found at nearly every turn.

It has, after all, survived everything.

Wars, sickness and financial collapses have not reduced the luster of Van Gogh’s haystacks, silenced the songs of Sondheim or strangled the words of Jane Austen.

Think of yourselves for now, as soldiers who have been sent off to fight a war in a foreign land, where nothing of your current reality exists.

While the days spent fighting on the scorched earth viral battlefield are littered with corpses and fear, the night, like Mother, gives you cover and safety, but best of all the light of the moon, which allows you to write home which in this case is the art you left behind, that is counting the days till your return, ready to greet you with a head-spinning, train station kiss.

The kind that tells you emphatically that you are loved


Carter Smith

Common Ground Concerts