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Rising from a milieu of lovelorn singer-songwriters, John Gorka illuminates instead with his trademark wordplay, twisting and trying words and phrases, in a way a balloon artist creates complex creatures from simple balloons. Few contemporary songwriters coax language a deftly as Gorka. For over two decades, Gorka’s keen ear has picked up the stories of those along his path, folding them into poetry and song.
From New Jersey, John Gorka is a world-renowned singer-songwriter who got his start at a neighborhood coffeehouse in eastern Pennsylvania. Though small, Godfrey Daniels was and is one of the oldest and most venerable music institutions and has long been a hangout for music lovers and aspiring musicians. In the late 1970’s, John was was one of these aspiring musicians. Although his academic coursework at Moravian College lay in Philosophy and History, music began to offer paramount enticements.
Soon he found himself living in the club’s basement and acting as resident MC and sound man, encountering legendary folk troubadours like Canadian singer-songwriter Stan Rogers, Eric Andersen, Tom Paxton and Claudia Schmidt. Their brand of folk-inspired acoustic music inspired him, and before long he was performing his own songs – mostly as an opener for visiting acts. Soon he started traveling to New York City, where Jack Hardy’s legendary Fast Folk circle (a breeding ground for many a major singer-songwriter) became a powerful source of education and encouragement. Folk meccas like Texas’ Kerrville Folk Festival (where he won the New Folk Award in 1984) and Boston followed, and his stunningly soulful baritone voice and original songwriting began turning heads. Those who had at one time inspired him – Suzanne Vega, Bill Morrissey, Nanci Griffith, Christine Lavin, Shawn Colvin – had become his peers.
It may be her haunting, husky voice that first grabs a listener, the way it glides over melodies like smoke, but it’s the songwriting that Spicer really wants you to hear. It fuses together the different places she calls home:
Raised in rural Pennyslvania, currently residing in California, spending half the year in Austin, the topography covers languid farm landscapes, red dirt Americana, and an occasional turn down a dark alley with flickering neon.
As the lyric from her song “Shotgun” implies, singer-songwriter Amilia K. Spicer has a thing for wide-open spaces and mystical places. Even her record label name, Free Range Records, reflects her vagabond spirit, which has carried her from the green hills of her native Pennsylvania, through the hill country of central Texas, to the mountain monasteries of Tibet. Based in Los Angeles and Austin, she might tell you she feels most rooted when she’s heading toward a distant horizon.