April 4-10, 2002
Laurie Lewis says the bluegrass craze is for real this time.
Back when Alison Krauss was still in high school, winning fiddle contests but not telling the other kids ’cause bluegrass was so uncool, she had Laurie Lewis’ fiddling, singing and songwriting to inspire her. Needless to say, bluegrass and acoustic country music are now very cool, thanks to you-know-which-movie, to which Krauss contributed both vocal and fiddle tracks. Bluegrass is also now a genuine career opportunity for women, but when Lewis started out, it was rare, and even rarer for a woman who was born, bred and continues to reside in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some things are meant to happen despite the odds. Early violin lessons let her translate an irresistible attraction to bluegrass into immediate action. By the early ’70s she was winning fiddle competitions in her native California.Since then Lewis has built a career not only on her smooth fiddling and sweet, high singing, but also her songwriting. “You can’t choose who you love/ love chooses you” is the refrain that has haunted us for better than a decade with its wise look at life and love. Like most prolific songwriters, she can’t call one song her absolute favorite. “I only have favorites for various moods, and moods change. As a writer, I don’t like to repeat myself thematically, so I’ll have the brokenhearted love song, the requited love song, the tree song, the bear song, et cetera et cetera -- a song for each season and eventuality.”Touring either with her full band, the Bluegrass Pals or, as she will be at the Cherry Tree, with a trio formed of guitarist/vocalist Tom Rozum and bassist/vocalist Todd Sickafoose, Lewis has seen the O Brother phenomenon affect her audiences. “I am heartened to see lots more young people at gigs. I get requests on occasion for ‘Man of Constant Sorrow,’ and that can’t be anything but a positive sign. Old-time songs like ‘Keep on the Sunny Side,’ which I’ve been singing for the last 20 years, get a much bigger response these days. I’m old enough to remember the big bluegrass craze following ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ back in the ’70s, but then everyone just wanted to hear ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown.’ It’s different now that people want to hear the singing, not just the hot picking.”
Good news for one of the best songwriters in acoustic country music.
Laurie Lewis, Sun., April 7, $15-$18, Cherry Tree Music Co-Op, behind St. Mary’s Church, 3916 Locust Walk, 215-386-1640, www.cherrytree.org.