Saturday, January 22, 7:30 pm: ROBINSON & ROHE

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Ask Robinson & Rohe how the duo was formed and they’ll look at each other as if to say, Which beginning should we begin with? The two have known each other for over a decade, developing a friendship as they pursued their separate careers—spanning everything from playing Brazilian jazz gigs to composing orchestral scores.

Over those years, the two grew into powerhouse performers. Liam Robinson honed his wide-ranging skills as an original cast member of the Tony Award winning play “Warhorse,” as musical director and vocal arranger of Anaïs Mitchell’s Broadway sensation “Hadestown,” as a composer in the Red Light New Music collective, and as a member of the Becca Stevens Band.

Meanwhile, Jean Rohe began touring and recording with her band, honing a honeyed, far-ranging voice and collecting accolades along the way (“a sure-footed young singer-songwriter,” says the New York Times.) Most recently, her sophomore record, Sisterly, won Best Adult Contemporary Album at the 2019 Independent Music Awards. Rohe also garnered attention for her unflinching alternative anthem for the United States, “National Anthem: Arise! Arise!” which continues to be performed and recorded by choirs and bands across the country, and was published in the Rise Up Singing songbook sequel.

Despite long days and separately flourishing careers, the two found themselves with a musical itch they hadn’t yet scratched. One afternoon, they sat at Robinson’s kitchen table, swapping harmonies as they sang some of the old folk songs both of them had grown up with. At the end of one song, says Rohe, “we both sat there in silence.” Stripped down to their two voices, they could hear the potential for something big: “It’s a magical thing to phrase with someone like that,” says Robinson, “to breathe together and land language in time, in tune, even pushing and pulling tempo together.”

They started exchanging lyrics and music—Robinson taking a fragment of writing from Rohe and delivering it back to her married to a melody. The collaborative process was the start of what would become their debut record, Hunger. It was also the start of their love story.

Robinson recalls writing a love song about Rohe early on in their relationship. He knew it didn’t belong on any other instrument but the banjo. The only problem was that he wasn’t a proficient enough banjo player for the music he had written. For him, the solution was simple: “I had to learn how to play it for those songs,” he says. “It took a while.” Rohe echoes this uncompromising drive to deliver whatever the songs demanded of them, saying that over the past few years, her guitar-playing has entered a new realm: “It all came from this necessity of expressing these songs the way they need to be expressed.”

All that love and labor resonates throughout Hunger. The record pushes the boundaries of its more formalistic structures, featuring lyrics that delve into questions of tradition and inheritance—even as it serves as a testament to the richness of both. Here, the tendency towards romanticizing often heard in traditional folk and Americana are brought down to earth with powerful, inquisitive lyrics and harmonies that haunt, leaving us with questions about where we might fit in this great shifting promise and myth of America.

Hunger is a record full of songs about love and land—often both at the same time. The tight title track explores the drive to consume and create at the root of some of humanity’s greatest accomplishments and atrocities, all while charting the story of a love affair from youthful meeting to the parting of death: “And we wondered if our love would endure the certain pain/And if this land could withstand the endless strain of our hunger.”

The detailed arrangements of the song come through with an urgency—in part a testament to the way it was produced. Over four days, Robinson and Rohe recorded the entire record in a single room, together with Hannah Read (fiddle), Chris Tordini (bass), and Kyle Morgan (resonator, electric and acoustic guitars). The energy of the performances—recorded at a studio space in an old house up in the Catskills—comes through with a richness that is earthy and immediate rather than overhandled.

That unadulterated sound lets listeners feel the intimacy and magic of the duo’s vocal harmonies. In “Louisa,” a song that gives Rohe’s lithe voice room to travel, a spurned lover addresses her tale of pain and abandonment to the Southern town she gave up her home for. “Shine,” too, traffics in the pains of love, and features some of the more affecting harmonizing on the record—Robinson’s voice rising and breaking alongside Rohe’s—the two moving beyond words to utter sounds that function as a single shifting instrument, while never letting you forget the two minds behind it.

“Shine” raises questions of trust and fidelity: “You say that you’re mine, love, but are you just mine?” The tone evolves throughout the song, and as it travels from ominous to pleading, we get the sense that we know how this will all end. But instead of death, destruction, or heartbreak, a kind of hope is uncovered.

This is no naïve hope. Emblematic of the open-eyed quality that characterizes the entire record, the song ends with a hope built on deep and unfaltering honesty. Hunger captures the awareness of the pain and challenges that are surely to come, and that glorious human decision to forge ahead anyway.

Tickets: FRONT ROW: $25 in advance; $30 at the door; GENERAL ADMISSION: $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

PLEASE NOTE: Because the health of our audiences, artists and volunteers is our first concern, without exception, proof of vaccination will be required to attend any concerts at Common Ground Coffeehouse. All attendees will also be required to wear masks inside the venue, REGARDLESS OF VACCINATION STATUS.. To view all Common Ground COVID protocols, CLICK HERE

Saturday, February 26, 7:30 PM: ANNIE SUMI

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“If you’d like to hear the future of contemporary Canadian folk music, take a listen to the sophomore release from Annie Sumi.” – Penguin Eggs

Annie Sumi is a mixed-race, ethereal-folk artist from Canada. Her music is intimate and expansive, inviting the listener into a familiar otherworld. Inspired by the mirrored relationship between physical and emotional landscapes, Sumi’s music speaks of human experience through the language of the senses.

“In recent years, I have let myself lean into that space between things as a practice of listening, and it feels like I become an animal led by my ear, or my tongue, or my hands, toward a song.”

Since 2015, the Ontario-based songwriter has released two critically-acclaimed albums and toured her music across Canada, parts of the U.S. and Europe. Both Reflections and In the Unknown have been awarded with a number of nominations as ‘Emerging Artist’, ‘Female Vocalist’, and ‘Songwriter of the Year’, and received support from national and international radio. 

Sumi’s third album, Solastalgia, was written at the foot of Sleeping Buffalo Mountain on Stoney Nakoda and Blackfoot territory at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. The album digests terminology found in Dr. Glenn Albrecht’s Earth Emotions in hopes of creating conversation about the ongoing climate emergency.

“Solastalgia is the ‘homesickness you have when you are still at home’. In a lot of ways, this word shattered me: to be a human and feel a deep connection to the Earth as ‘Home’ and simultaneously participate in the structures we have created to destroy it. Now, it seems like we are slowly remembering to listen to the land and follow the lead of people that have been living traditions of connection and conservation. That space of humility, gratitude, and deep listening is where these songs have come from.”

Solastalgia explores the feeling of homesickness in our environment, in our relationships, and in ourselves. Through song, the artist dares to dream about how community and cooperation could restore the symbiotic relationships on our planet. Solastalgia will be released in October, 2021.

PLEASE NOTE: Because the health of our audiences, artists and volunteers is our first concern, without exception, proof of vaccination will be required to attend any concerts at Common Ground Coffeehouse. All attendees will also be required to wear masks inside the venue, REGARDLESS OF VACCINATION STATUS.. To view all Common Ground COVID protocols, CLICK HERE

Tickets: FRONT ROW: $25 in advance; $30 at the door; GENERAL ADMISSION: $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

Saturday, March 26, 7:30 pm: JOHN ELLIOTT

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A legend among songwriters…bold and brave…incredible poet and performer…his shows are not to be missed. -The Austin Chronicle

John Elliott has been called “the Andy Kaufman of folk music,” while his music has variously been described as “post-Seinfeld, post-9/11 eyebrow rock” and “well-crafted and artful songs by a potentially disturbed individual.”

Good Times Santa Cruz says, “Plaintive, soft-spoken and with vulnerability front and center, John Elliott’s music rides a diagonal which crosses the early work of Ben Gibbard [of Death Cab for Cutie]. For those who wish the Death Cab singer’s work had stayed bedroom-sized instead of distending into stadium rock, Elliott’s gentle Rhodes and reverby guitar may have what you’ve been missing.” Chuck Schiele of The San Diego Troubadour says “John Elliott’s lyrics get in, make their statement, kick you in the teeth, and get out before they start talking too much…And this lends to the urge of rolling any track to its beginning for another spin.”

Corey Frye of The Corvallis Gazette-Times adds, “I appreciate Elliott’s singular way with words. He has an affection for the malleability of language, the clever twists of phrase, an appreciation for the liquid kinship between rhythm and sounds — how they collide in beautiful violence, how they stand as ideas and images — even if they ordinarily wouldn’t deign to dance together or be seen in the same room.

Born and raised in Minnesota and now living in California, John Elliott has been releasing albums and performing in every type of venue you can imagine since 2006. His songs have been prominently heard on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “One Tree Hill,” and “Californication.” He has been featured in PASTE Magazine, on NPR, and on Neil Young’s “Living With War” website. His music has a cult-like international following and artists worldwide cover his songs. You can hear his music anywhere and everywhere if you’re in the right place at the right time: on the radio, TV, and internet; in cars and around campfires. John remains an independent, unsigned, and unaffiliated artist and he is proud of that fact. He continues to make a living and build a dedicated following the old-fashioned way: one new believer at a time.

Tickets: FRONT ROW: $25 in advance; $30 at the door; GENERAL ADMISSION: $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

PLEASE NOTE: Because the health of our audiences, artists and volunteers is our first concern, without exception, proof of vaccination will be required to attend any concerts at Common Ground Coffeehouse. All attendees will also be required to wear masks inside the venue, REGARDLESS OF VACCINATION STATUS.. To view all Common Ground COVID protocols, CLICK HERE