On Friday, January 24, the me & thee welcomes back old favorite Chris Smither. With a weary, well-traveled voice and a serenely intricate finger-picking style, Smither turns the blues into songs that accept hard-won lessons and try to make peace with fate. Opening is Jonah Tolchin, who has been called a “New England Americana badass.” At age 21, he’s got the sound and feel and the passion of a much more experienced musician. Doors open at 7:30 PM for this 8:00 PM show. The me & thee coffeehouse is located at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead at 28 Mugford Street.
Like John Hammond and a handful of other musicians whose careers began in the 1960s blues revival, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Chris Smither can take pride in the fact that he's been there since the beginning. Except for a few years when he was away from performing in the '70s, Smither has been a mainstay of the festival, coffeehouse, and club circuits around the U.S., Canada, and Europe since his performing career began in earnest in the coffeehouses in Boston in the spring of 1966. Smither is best known for his great songs, items like "Love You Like a Man" and "I Feel the Same," both of which have been recorded by guitarist Bonnie Raitt. Raitt and Smither got started at about the same time in Boston, though Smither was born in Miami and raised in New Orleans, the son of university professors. “Back in the old days,” muses the resilient troubadour, “writing new songs and making new albums were just chores. My priority was, and still is, performing live. I guess I still write the songs and make the records so that I can go out and play – except that now I actually look forward to it. I’ve learned how to do it, and I’m very eager to get stuff recorded once I’ve written it.” And always wanting to treat his fans well, in 2011 Smither put out two fan projects: a collection of live tracks from newly discovered concert recordings from the 1980s-1990s titled Lost and Found and the rollicking EP, What I Learned in School, on which Smither covered six classic rock and roll songs. All this lays the foundation to this most recent recording, Hundred Dollar Valentine, a studio record of all Smither-penned songs — a first for him. With longtime producer David “Goody” Goodrich at the helm, this newest collection sports the unmistakable sound Smither has made his trademark: fingerpicked acoustic guitar and evocative sonic textures meshed with spare, brilliant songs, delivered in a bone-wise, hard-won voice.
Jonah Tolchin mesmerizes audiences with his impeccable musicianship, foot-stomping rhythms, and lyrical original songs. At age fourteen he fell in love with traditional blues and began playing guitar and harmonica. At fifteen he appeared at Tupelo Music Hall in New Hampshire with blues legend Ronnie Earl. Now he plays everything from roots and Americana music to old time folk & acoustic blues, but likes to settle down in the in-between places. From 2007-2011 Jonah was lead guitarist and vocalist in the New Hampshire band Uncle Fran’s Breakfast, and since then he has been touring as a solo artist, primarily in New England. Right after graduating from high school in June 2011, Jonah produced his first EP, Eldawise, a group of four original songs and a Robert Johnson blues classic; he wrote, produced, sang, and recorded all the instruments. Then he immediately began working on his current release Criminal Man, a predominately acoustic album recorded by Eric Michael Lichter at Dirt Floor Studio in CT and Archibald Taruskin. A masterful guitarist with a deeply resonant voice, Tolchin is joined on this album by Joe Fletcher, musicians from The Low Anthem, Brown Bird, and others. Criminal Man combines the sounds of folk, blues, bluegrass, and Americana music in ten original songs (and one cover by Blaze Foley) dedicated to social change. Jonah sings with passion and originality about the abuses to the environment, a destructive materialistic culture, and the pain of poverty and loss. Jonah is an ardent naturalist, and much of his inspiration comes from visiting America’s exquisite parklands
Tickets for the performance by Chris Smither with Jonah Tolchin opening are $27 in advance and $30 at the door. Tickets are available online at www.meandthee.org and can be purchased in person at the Spirit of ’76 Bookstore or the Arnould Gallery in Marblehead. The Landing Restaurant at 81 Front Street, Marblehead offers a 10% discount on dinner if you show your ticket or receipt. Enjoy a meal before the show! As at all me & thee coffeehouse events, refreshments are available, including homemade pastries, coffee, and teas. The me & thee has a handicapped-accessible entrance and an accessible bathroom, is a smoke-free environment, and is easily reached by MBTA bus.
The me & thee is one of the oldest continually running acoustic coffeehouses in New England, and probably the country. It has been and will always be a volunteer, non-profit organization sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead. For information and directions, call 781-631-8987 or check the website at www.meandthee.org