Happy New Year and welcome to 2020 and another fresh slate for Kingston After Dark. It is always a pleasure to get to share time with you. I think it is hopefully going to be a better year than 2019 and I am already looking forward to a new hard rock record from Nu Metallers Gemini Syndrome (who I caught up in Albany a while ago). This album will have Meegs from Coal Chamber on guitar to help annoy the neighbors in a few months. I also am excited to finally explore more of Kingston’s numerous Pokémon stops, as I finally broke down and started playing the highly addictive Pokémon Go game and can now blindly walk into traffic with the rest of you. If anyone wants to be friends my name on there is PokeKingstoney.
I want to start 2020 off the bat talking about an event themed around possibly the best new year’s resolution — civil disobedience training. Supported by the Hudson Valley Antifascist Network and The Moon: Infoshop and Community Space, Kingston Artist’s Collective at 63 Broadway in Downtown Kingston is hosting a “Civil Disobedience” night on Saturday, Jan. 11. A $5 donation is suggested and you can catch musical performances from the terrific Greg Farley, Lady Kane, Squat Cat and more. Food, literature and films will also be part of the night. Get informed, socialize and shine your light back against the grim forces.
This week’s main subject is the great Shamsi Ruhe, far and away one of the most moving singers I have ever heard in my whole life. Shamsi has a sort of cult following that’s always thrilled when she resurfaces and does stuff; everyone’s been happy to see Ruhe planning gigs again. This Saturday, Jan. 4, you can catch her at The Beverly (224 Foxhall Ave.) with The Jennifer Maidman Band for a moving night of song. British singer-songwriter Maidman (ex-Joan Armatrading band, Boy George, Gerry Rafferty) includes in her band Annie Whitehead on trombone, Jerry Marotta on drums, Chris Pasin on trumpet, John Caselli on bass, Lisa Wexler on percussion and Malley Bragg Heinlen on additional vocals. All that talent plus Shamsi Ruhe’s amazing singer-songwriter material is going to be a thrill. Doors are at 8 p.m.
Morgan Y. Evans: How did this Beverly show come about with the Jennifer Maidman Band and have you known one another long?
Shamsi Ruhe: I asked Lisa Wexler, who plays percussion in their band, if she would hook me up with an opening slot. I had heard Jennifer’s work and she’s got a really tough, sweet sound.
MYE: Over the years I have heard so many people say you are one of the most powerful singers they ever heard! Like, so many. It is inspiring to hear that about someone who I know is a genuine artist and has had your own path, because it shows how feeling can translate and last with people. Are you writing new stuff or what have you been up to?
SR: I’m working on a record. My fourth and the first one that will properly be released! At 45 years old. I started playing in bars at 17. I’m also finishing up a bachelor’s and preparing for a master’s. Still writing music.
MYE: You are an artist to me who kind of does their own thing and I don’t think is limited to one sound. Do you think of yourself as a particular genre or like, a person first? Is the music scene too pretentious or does it feel like hopeful, kinda earthier things are happening too?
SR: I know nothing about the music now! [Laughs]. I listen to the radio and I hear my friends’ music, but I haven’t been out at bars in a long time. I have two kids and am a single mom. I may never know what’s happening in any scene again! [Laughs.] But to your point, there will always be some “all fashion/ no passion” people in every scene. They get weeded out over time. Some of them even get deals and make it to radio. They fizzle out because substance is what has staying power.
MYE: Do you feel like you respond mostly as a singer from a place of immediacy — as in, whatever is going on in your life affects your vibe performing or mood — I mean, that’s inevitable sometimes — or do you try to be more removed and think maybe you draw more from more of some place you want to take people or, “conjure” is a hokey word, but like guide people like a story? Does this make sense?
SR: Each song is its own world. I try to fully inhabit it. I also feel varying levels of connection to different audiences, and that’s what I’m responding to. I give as much as I have. If they give back to me, I have more to mirror back to them.
The strings of Ami Madeleine
One of the first really interesting area shows of note in 2020 is a semi-DIY event on Thursday, Jan. 9 at the cult hotspot Crazy Dan’s Second Hand Hardcore and More in New Paltz (7 Church St, New Paltz). An active punk thrift and consignment store with shows, the shop is keeping options available for more bands in our area looking for non-club shows. The Jan. 9 show is more of an indie and folk affair, with performances planned from rising duo Via Intercom, Michael Hollis, Ami Madeleine and Matthew Parker. The event starts at 8 p.m. and is just $5.
Of all the performers on the bill, I was especially struck by the power of introspective experimental folk artist Ami Madeleine. This is a performer who could make a loud room shush to pay attention to the almost jazzy in an Eartha Kitt way vocals flowing through profound arrangements. Madeleine is an active force within the area DIY scene and gravitates between ukulele, guitar and violin with dexterous enthusiasm. I was particularly impressed by the song “Star Light” from 2017 release Hungry Ghosts, which sort of made me muse for a while on how we can all create universes of import inside our own artwork and, through loving life, that can eclipse the forced entertainment of pop culture rammed down our throats. Be your own star.
“My plans for next year are to finish an album of six newer songs,” Ami tells me. “It’ll have a fuller band arrangement with drums, bass and strings and I’m excited to have some talented friends of mine working on it with me. The songs are close to my heart. And as far as the show … I love playing at Crazy Dan’s because he keeps the true spirit of the New Paltz music community alive. It’s a genuine, intimate spot and it’s always about the people and the music. Good way to start the new year alongside some other really creative and talented folks.”